No Fortunate Son
Creedence Clearwater Revival had a 1969 hit titled "Fortunate Son". What does that song against monied privilege have to do with St. Andrew? Like the song says, he "ain't no fortunate son." Beyond what the Bible says not much is known about him. His day has been November 30th for 1,600 years, but accounts of his life are largely unreliable. Because his day falls at the beginning of Advent and there were no church weddings permitted from now to Christmas, Andrew became the patron saint of unmarried women, and his day became the day girls could find out the name of their husband by fortunetelling.
Sorry, not our Andrew. He's no fortunetelling son. He can't help us, married or not, to find out about tomorrow. He does tell us something about today. Today is suppose to be the First Sunday in Advent, but we're celebrating St. Andrew, Apostle. The big deal is not supplanting Advent. The big deal is moving Easter. Have you noticed that Sundays in Advent and Lent are never "of" but always "in"? This isn't true of the latest church calendars used by liberal Lutherans and Episcopalians, but Confessional Lutherans still follow the historic practice of marking Sundays in Advent and Lent. That means strictly speaking Sundays in Advent and Lent aren't penitential. They are breaks from the fast. A pastor I knew of began every Sunday sermon with, "Happy Easter." A member of his told me how that use to brighten her up every time he said it. Yes, even though we begin Advent today, even though there is red on the altar meaning we're remembering one who shed his blood for the faith, even today: it's Easter. Even today, Covid or not, political unrest or not, Sin has been atoned for; Death has been Swallowed, and the Devil defeated.
This takes us to Andrew. Aside from John the Baptist, he is the first one named to follow the Lamb of God. And he is so much like me it's scary; no, it's comforting. Yesterday, John had pointed Jesus out saying, "Behold the Lamb of God that carries away the sin of the world." The next day our text says Andrew was there with an unnamed disciple of John's and again John says, "Look, the Lamb of God." The first time it says "John sees Jesus." This next time, it says he emphatically, intensely sees Jesus. There is stress, strain, emphasis in his voice when he speaks to Andrew and the other. "Look, behold, right there is the Lamb of God." Now Andrew gets it. This was the one John meant for him to follow. Are you amazed how slow you can be to pick up things spiritual? How many times the Lord has to tell you something before you get it? How something can be plain as the nose on your face and you still don't see it? Andrew can be your patron saint.
O brother! We say that as expression of exasperation. It supplanted the older expression "Oh bother" which you recognize from Winnie the Pooh. O brother is fitting here. Andrew is best known for being the brother of Simon Peter, the first among the apostles. Most don't like going through life as someone else's anything. Be it husband, wife, child, son, daughter, or brother. The Holy Spirit has recorded Andrew's name 12 times in the New Testament. Six of those times He refers to Andrew as the brother of Peter. O brother, can't a guy get a break?
There's more. You know Jesus had His special 3: Peter, James, and John. They were selected by Jesus to go with Him as witnesses of the Transfiguration. They saw who the Man Jesus really is: God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very Godof one substance with the Father. While they were seeing that Andrew was with the others down below struggling and failing to cast out a demon. And Jesus takes the same 3 when He raises Jairus' daughter from the dead. Again, Andrew is left with the other disciples to listen to the crowd mocking Jesus. Of course, not being in the inner 3 meant, Andrew didn't have to see the horror that was Gethsemane. He didn't have to see what happens to God's Lamb when the sins of the world fall with all their weight on Him. He didn't see Jesus in so much anguish begging for God's cup of wrath to pass by Him that He sweat blood. Andrew didn't see God answer by sending an angel to strengthen Jesus to bear the strain.
There is one time that Andrew is included with the Big Three. And remember James and John, 2 of the 3 are brothers, even as Peter and he are. Maybe you don't know about sibling rivalry. Maybe you think the apostles really had halos and were above our petty sins, our jealousies, our hurt feelings. They weren't. So, it had to sting every time Jesus said, "You 3 come with Me; not so fast, Andy, I'm just taking your brother." One time Andrew got to go. Actually, Mark 13:3 gives the impression that Andrew tagged along with Peter, James and John, and Jesus let him stay. They came to Jesus and asked Him about the end of all things. And Jesus told them about His Second Coming.
This is why Andrew is fitting to remember on the First Sunday in Advent. He's the apostle associated with all 3 comings of Jesus. Andrew is there at Jesus' first coming when He is revealed as God's Lamb to carry away the sins of the world. And Andrew is there when Jesus reveals how His Second Coming will bring all things to an end and be a new beginning for His elect. And Jesus covers His continual coming today by telling Andy and the others they can watch even now as He comes among them. He's just outside the door, He says. Put in our terms. Jesus is just on the other side of your Baptism. Nothing between you and Jesus but a thin sheet of Water. His lips are on the other side of these Words. The Body He gave on the cross and the Blood He shed there are as close as the Bread and Wine you eat and drink for His forgiveness, to have His life, and the joy of His salvation.
No, Andrew ain't no fortunate son, but he is so much like me that I am comforted. Roman Catholics and the Orthodox think the saints are more approachable than Jesus and so pray through them. We don't pray to them or through them but we honor them and are comforted by them. Roman Catholicism condemns us because we don't "require the invocation of saints." In 1530, we said their proofs for praying to saints only prove 2 things: departed saints should be remembered and living saints should pray for others. We went on to say, none of the ancient writers before Gregory in the 6th century mention invocation of the saints. And then we outline the 3-fold way saints are to be honored: First, by giving thanks to God because He has shown examples of His mercy in their lives. Second, we use the saints to strengthen our faith when we see what sins were forgiven them and that truly God has more grace than men have sins. Third, we honor them by imitating first their faith then their works (AP, XXI, 1-5).
St. Andrew can't tell you about your future but he can tell you about God's grace. He is the stumblebum apostle that you are glad Jesus chose because if a guy like that can be graced that much, so can you. In the Feeding of the 5,000, Andy's the guy who just has to say the obvious. First, he's the one who finds the boy with 5 loaves and 2 fish. Well, in Jesus' hands that's going to be the answer. But Andrew has to say what all unbelief is thinking. Note how John records it: "One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, says to Jesus, "There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are these for so many people" (John 6:8-9)? All I got here to face a Pandemic of disease and fear What am I saying, all I got to face my Sins, my impending Death, and the Devil himself is God's Word in Water, God's Word in Absolution, and God's Body-Bread and Blood-Wine. What are these for so many problems? In Jesus' hands, from Jesus' hands: They're everything. Simply everything.
Okay so my boy Andy fumbled here, as I have too many times to count. But Andrew is a bit like brother Peter. Bold, assertive one minute and brazenly wrong the next. He starts out right. Sure it took John rubbing his nose in the Lamb of God for 2 days running, but he got the message and followed Jesus. And what's the first thing he does after staying with Jesus all day? "The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, We have found the Messiah' (that is, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus (John 1:41-42). This guy who never made it to the podium in the Apostolic Olympics, who never gets even bronze let alone sliver or gold, who at best comes in 4th, is first here. And note Andrew doesn't say, "I have found" but "We have found." And he actually says, "Forever found." This is no flash in the pan faith. After staying with Jesus all day, he confesses Jesus is the promised Messiah, the One anointed by God to be His Prophet, our Priest and our King.
But there's more. In the last days before Calvary, once more the faith of Andrew shines through. John records the scene. "Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the Passover. They came to Philip with a request. Sir,' they said, we would like to see Jesus.' Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philiptold Jesus" (Jn. 12:20-21). What are you suppose to do when someone wants to see Jesus? Duh, evidently Philip doesn't know, but Andrew does. Tell Jesus. Remember Jesus had been saying that He was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel. Did the coming of the Greeks indicate a wider mission had begun? Jesus says as much in reply. Him being glorified by being lifted on the cross draws all men to Him as shown by the seeking Greeks.
Andrew wasn't fortunate to be involved with all 3 comings of Jesus. He was blessed. He was graced. And he got the message: Jesus was the answer to God's promises, for his brother, and for what to do next. Even though he didn't see what Jesus could do with so little bread and fish, he took them to Jesus. I don't see what Jesus can do given all my problems, my sins, my fears, and the apparently unstoppable Devil, World, and Flesh but Andrew teaches me: take them to Jesus, God's Lamb, Messiah, and Savior. Amen
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
St. Andrew, Apostle (20201129); John 1: 35-42