Thursday, 28 November 2019

The call of Saint Andrew and
the mission of the Church

Saint Andrew the First-Called … an icon in the chapel in Saint Columba’s House, Woking (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Patrick Comerford

28 November 2019,

7.45 a.m.
, USPG Trustees residential meeting,

Saint Columba’s House, Maybury Hill, Woking, Surrey

Readings: Isaiah 52: 7-10; Psalm 19: 1-6; Romans 10: 12-18; Matthew 4: 18-22.

May I speak to you in the name of God, + Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen

I love the football transfer window: waiting to see who is going to move here. As an Aston Villa fan, I can always live in hope.

Today, we have transferred Saint Andrew the Apostle. We ought to be celebrating him on Saturday [30 November 2019], but we have transferred him to today.

Appropriate he should get that call, for Saint Andrew is known as the first-called of the disciples.

Before he was called, Saint Andrew was a fisherman, an every-day ordinary-day commercial occupation, working on the Lake of Galilee in partnership with his brother Simon Peter. It is said that when Saint John the Baptist began to preach, Saint Andrew became one of his closest disciples.

When he heard Christ’s call by the sea to follow him, Saint Andrew hesitated for a moment, not because he had any doubts about that call, but because he wanted to bring his brother with him. He left his nets behind and went to Peter and, as Saint John’s Gospel recalls, he told him: ‘We have found the Messiah … [and] he brought Simon to Jesus’ (John 1: 41, 42).

1, My first point: The call in today’s Gospel reading – to Peter and Andrew, to James and John, the sons of Zebedee – comes to us as individuals and in groups. It is not a story of an either/or choice between proclaiming the Gospel to individuals or groups, but a both/and choice.

And this is a two-way call, as Saint Paul reminds us in the Epistle reading: God calls us, and we call to God.

2, My second point: Saint Paul’s inclusive language – ‘Lord of all’ … ‘generous to all’ … ‘Everyone who calls’ … ‘all the earth’ – is unambiguous in ruling out all discrimination: ‘For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek.’

But that particular form of discrimination is already, inherently rejected in the Gospel reading. There are two brothers, one with a very Jewish name, Simon from the Hebrew שִׁמְעוֹן, meaning ‘listen’ and ‘best’; and one with a very Greek name, Andrew, Ἀνδρέας, meaning ‘manly,’ even ‘brave’ … ‘strong’ … ‘courageous.’

From the very beginning, the call of Christ rejects the most obvious discrimination between Jew and Greek. Standing against discrimination is inherently built into the mission of the Church.

3, My third point: On my way to and from trustee meetings, I try to visit one or two London churches, particularly one of the surviving Christopher Wren churches. One of these churches, Saint Andrew-by-the-Wardrobe on Queen Victoria Street. It is two blocks south of Saint Paul’s Cathedral and close to Blackfriars station, and is the last of Wren’s city churches.

The church was destroyed by German bombs during the Blitz in World War II, but was rebuilt and rededicated in 1961.

As the bitter weather of winter takes hold, I am reminded of this prayer, appropriate for Advent and this winter weather, I found at Saint Andrew’s and which the church offers for people who have no shelter on the streets:

God of compassion,
your love for humanity was revealed in Jesus,
whose earthly life began in the poverty of a stable
and ended in the pain and isolation of the cross:
we hold before you those who are homeless and cold
especially in this bitter weather.
Draw near and comfort them in spirit
and bless those who work to provide them
with shelter, food and friendship.
We ask this in Jesus’ name.
Amen.


Saint Andrew-by-the-Wardrobe is the last of Christopher Wren’s city churches (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Collect:

Almighty God,
who gave such grace to your apostle Saint Andrew
that he readily obeyed the call of your Son Jesus Christ
and brought his brother with him:
call us by your holy Word
and give us grace to follow without delay
and to tell the good news of your kingdom;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Post Communion Prayer:

Father,
may the gifts we have received at your table
keep us alert for your call
that we may always be ready to answer,
and, following the example of Saint Andrew,
always be ready to bear our witness
to our Saviour Jesus Christ.

The cloister-like colonnade on the north side of the former Saint Andrew’s Church in Suffolk Street, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Matthew 4: 18-22 (NRSVA)

18 As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the lake – for they were fishermen. 19 And he said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.’ 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed him. 21 As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. 22 Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him.

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

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