Homily for St Andrew 2010

In Uncategorized on December 5, 2010 at 3:27 pm

What, I wonder, do we know about St Andrew?
Patron Saint of Scotland.

Actually, Andrew’s patronage is shared quite widely.
He’s patron too of Russia, Ukraine,
Romania and Prussia, as once was.
He’s said to look after fishermen, his first profession,
and to assist unmarried women, would-be mothers,
old maids, mariners,
singers, performers, golfers
and is even good against gout.

The veracity of all those invocations
of St Andrew’s name and support
I cannot vouch for,
but he is a significant figure
in the story of the Church.

Andrew was Simon Peter’s brother,
his name meaning “manly” or “brave”.
He was a disciple of John the Baptist
until Jesus of Nazareth appeared.
On John’s prompting, Andrew followed Jesus,
and brought his brother Peter
to meet and follow him also.

He was an Apostle,
once of the inner circle of twelve disciples
who was sent out to carry the Gospel of Christ
into the far-flung corners of the Mediterranean world.
Early tradition has it he was a Missionary to Asia Minor, into the Caucasus,
and up the Black Sea coast into the Volga and Kiev,
also that he founded the bishopric of Byzantium,
modern Istanbul.

He paid for his witness to the gospel
with his life,
a Martyr in Patras, Greece.
And legend has it that his death
was on an X-shaped cross or “saltire”.

Quite how St Andrew came
to be associated with Scotland
has several possibilities in legend,
all of which may to some extent be true.

Relics of St Andrew
were said to have been taken centuries before
to found the settlement that bears his name in Fife.
Ninth Century King Angus MacFergus,
facing down an invading Angle army,
was said to have seen a white cloud
floating like a saltire cross across the blue sky.
After his victory he decreed
that Andrew would be his people’s patron saint.

It may also have been a statement of defiance
after the Roman Catholic Church
had become established in the South,
overshadowing the indigenous
Celtic Christianity of the British Isles.
When the Church of Rome, of St Peter
appeared to have won the day,
I’ll just bet a few soon-to-be-Scots took issue.
It was after all St Andrew that led his brother Peter
to Jesus, and not the other way around.
Peter might be called junior to Andrew.
And the ancient Celtic Church had certainly been there first.

But back to more solid ground.
Andrew was called as a disciple by Jesus,
but had first been following in anticipation John the Baptist.
John is called in Eastern tradition the Forerunner,
last of the Prophets and first to recognise Jesus.
His call of course is to take the words of Isaiah:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.'”

I had a bloke from the Council come this week
and show me the plans for road-works near St Luke’s.
It affected us not-a-lot.

The call of the Prophet, the call of John the Baptist,
the call of Christ that was St Andrew’s and is surely ours
takes us on a journey that could and should and would
have us discover something more than just
a reseal, or some new cobblestones laid down.
Something is called of us
more than just going through the motions this Advent.

The Kingdom of God, and repentance, metanoia,
literally, turning around.
John the Baptist called people away from their homes
into a barren land that offered very little
but the challenging message of a voice in the wilderness.

John’s call is made to us also,
in these days of Santa Parades and special offers,
we are called to self-examination,
an enlargement of the space we give God
in this Advent season of preparation,
and we are called to a commitment to justice,
forgoing some of our privilege,
or at least using it to make some voices heard.
As we journey through this Advent season,

God grant us an openness to repentance,
a willingness into preparation,
and a vision to challenge presumption and privilege,
in ourselves, and our world.

May the God of the journey give us vision to see the road-works needed on our path,
the places to be made smooth, the mountains to be levelled,
the valleys to be raised, direction to be changed, hope to be reawakened,
a place to be prepared for Emmanuel, God-with-us.    Amen.


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