Where Have You Gone St. Andrew?
"Where have you gone St. Andrew?" This title is a play on the Simon and Garfunkel line, "Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio?" That was their way of lamenting in the 60s the loss of the heroes of the 40s and 50s. At first DiMaggio was put out by the line saying that though retired in 1951 he was still here in 1968 (http://pagesix.com/2014/03/07/paul-simon-clears-mystery-behind-joe-dimaggio-lyric/). Likewise, the festival of St. Andrew has always been on the Lutheran Church calendar, but I've never celebrated it and probably neither have you because it frequently falls on the First Sunday of Advent and is sometimes in it. So having found St. Andrew today just what have we found?
X marks the spot. You know that expression from treasure maps, but in St. Andrew's case it might not. The Symbol of St. Andrew is the Saltire or X shaped cross. While ancient church history knows where and about when he was martyred on a cross, it wasn't till the 13th century that an X shaped cross was mentioned. The Dictionary of Saints says anything beyond what the Bible records about Andrew is "very unreliable" (45). That's probably why he is the patron saint of six countries and more.
There is an apocryphal work called The Acts of St. Andrew. It dates to the early 200s (ODCC, 51). It's a very moving account of his martyrdom. Andrew confesses the glory of the crucified Christ which astounds the Roman proconsul Aegeates. Andrew offers to teach him the mystery of the cross. To which Aegeates says unless Andrew worships the Roman gods you'll learn "the mystery of the cross in thyself." Andrew answered, "If I had been afraid of the tree of the cross, I should not have proclaimed the glory of it" (ANF, viii, 511-512).
The Acts of St. Andrew don't mention him dying on an X shaped cross, and that doesn't matter because what Andrew testifies to in life and in death is not his cross but the cross. Well what first captivated him wasn't the cross but the One who would die on it. Andrew was a disciple of John the Baptist. John identifies Jesus as the Lamb of God who carries away the sins of the world and off Andrew goes to follow this sin carrying Lamb, and then what does he do? "The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell Him, We have found the Christ.'"
Out Lutheran Confessions say, "Our churches teach that we are to remember the history of the saints so that our faith may be strengthened when we see how they experienced grace and how they were sustained by faith. Even more, their good works are to be an example for us, each of us in his own calling" (XXI). I probably won't have a chance to follow Andrew dying on a cross, X shaped or not, but what about telling his brother right away that the Messiah had come? In this holiday season, you tend to see people you haven't for awhile. So there is a lot of first things to tell. I've told first of: special things, big things, maybe sad things, but why hasn't a first thing ever been about Jesus?
But hey, I may be a pastor, but I'm no apostle. Well Andrew was always the groomsman. You know the expression, "Always the bridesmaid never the bride?" Andrew was one of the first two disciples to follow Jesus, and the only one named. Yet the brother he later brought to Jesus became the chief apostle. You can say that's because Peter was brash and outspoken. He put himself out there; Andrew didn't. But how come Andrew didn't at least make the inner circle of Peter, James and John? Did Andrew wince when those three were chosen to witness the raising of Jairus' daughter, the Transfiguration, and Gethsemane?
The only time Andrew makes the inner circle of the two brothers James and John and his brother Peter is quite a downer. It's during Holy Week and he is sitting with Peter, James, John, and Jesus across from the temple. They privately ask Jesus what did He mean when He said not one of these building will be left standing. And so Jesus told them about the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the world. Andrew didn't get to witness the ecstasy of resurrection and Transfiguration or the angel sent to strengthen Jesus. He gets an earful about persecution, destruction, and how only the one who endures to the end will be saved.
Oh how it would irritate me to be the first to follow, and not make the top tier! Oh how it would annoy me to see my brother chosen before me after I was the one who brought him to Jesus! And the dissing doesn't end here. At the climax of Jesus' ministry when He is in the process of being lifted up on the cross so as to draw all men to Himself, Greeks come asking to see Jesus, but do they go to Andrew? No, they go to Philip who failed the test about how to feed the 5,000, Philip who can't see the Father in Jesus. And what does the dunderhead Philip do? He goes to Andrew and Andrew decides the matter needs to be taken to Jesus.
Always the groomsmen never the groom. Centuries later we legitimately ask "Where have you gone St. Andrew?" but no one says "Where have you gone St. Peter?" How is it that Andrew who wasn't number one on Jesus' list, the apostles' list, or anyone's list has Jesus first on his own list? Question, questions, and more questions. That's the life of Andrew. As soon as Jesus has ascended, poof he's gone from the New Testament. Peter isn't. John isn't, and then a nobody named Paul comes and takes center stage. We're left with more questions then answers, but this is fitting in the case of St. Andrew because in the Bible questions are a big part of his life.
When Andrew and the other disciple of John follow John's direction to Jesus, Jesus turns and says not as the insert interprets, "What do you want?" But, "What do you seek?" Ain't that a good question as we start a new Church Year? What do you seek? If you say fame, fortune, or fun, turn around right now. Do you think following the Lamb of God carrying the sins of the world on His shoulders is going to lead to fun, happiness in this life? Do you think the One who went to a cross and led all but one of His apostles to a martyr's death is the key to fortune? Do you think the One who promised that men will cast out your name as evil for His sake is going to lead you to fame? No, at best only infamy.
Yet Andrew followed and got his brother to follow too, but to do that what did he have to know? Where Jesus was staying. In response to Jesus asking, "What do you seek?" Andrew replies, "Where are you staying?" What a great question to ask as we enter the secular holiday season. Yes, there's two things going on this time of year for Christians. There's the Advent season of preparation and penitence as we look for the Jesus, who came the first time, will come a second time, and still comes today. But there is also an end of year festival of good will among men called the holiday season. Enjoy the two, but don't mix the two. And asking where Jesus is staying helps keep them separate.
The One who redeemed the world by living a perfect life in place of all sinners in the world is not found in good natured elves, magical snowmen, or in It's a Wonderful Life. The One who redeemed the world by suffering in place of and on behalf of all sinners is not found in the suffering of Scrooge, George, or the little girl looking for a miracle on 34th street. He's not found in all the legends, traditions, and hearty good will among men this time of year, so don't look for Him here and certainly don't think you've found Him here.
"Where are you staying," the forgotten St. Andrew asked, and the always to be remembered Jesus says, "Come and you will see." Come to Advent services and you will see Jesus. Come to Sunday services and you will see Jesus. Come to Baptism, Absolution, and Communion and you will see Jesus. This is Andrew-like following. Andrew came to the Man Jesus to see the Lamb of God. Andrew came to the sin carrying Lamb to find the answer to His sins. So you come to a building on earth to find heaven. You come to Water to not only drown but to rise. You come to the words of man to be forgiven for sins against God. You come to Bread to find the Body of Jesus and to Wine to find His Blood.
Deck the Halls, break out the eggnog, hang those stockings, and give those presents to celebrate this end of year secular holiday just as you grill burgers on Fourth of July and carve pumpkins on Halloween. But don't stay here because Jesus doesn't. He stays where He promised to be with you even to the end of the world. With you in Words that are life. With you in Water that is regenerating. With you in Bread that is His Body and Wine that is His Blood. Stay in these and you stay where Jesus is.
St. Andrew asked one more question. It was at the Feeding of the 5000 and at first it seems a faux pas. After finding the boy with the bread and fish he asks Jesus, "But what are these among so many?" But what are our divine services, our season of repentance, our time of preparation over against the onslaught of the secular holiday season? They use our hymns as mood music in stores. They use parodies of our carols to flavor their commercials. They rip the Christ out of Christmas as well as the Mass, which is Holy Communion, and still have the gall to wish us, "Merry Christmas!"
What is our small season of Advent among the biggest secular celebration of the year? What was weak Andrew among the might of the Roman Empire? What was Andrew's confession of faith in the face of the Roman leader's demand to worship false gods? Everything, absolutely everything. Whether or not Andrew died on a X shaped cross, the world knows St. Andrew's Cross is an X. What do they know about the Roman official who killed him? Nothing. Likewise, the secular holiday will be gone in about a month leaving in its wake crumpled paper, a dead tree, and people glad it's over. But Jesus is here to stay. For that matter so is St. Andrew. Though we might have forgotten him. Jesus never has. Amen
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
St. Andrew, Apostle (20141130); John 1: 35-42