Epiphany 2A 1/16/2011
The next day (John) saw Jesus coming towards him and declared, ‘Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, “After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.” I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.’ And John testified, ‘I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, “He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.” And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.’
The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, ‘Look, here is the Lamb of God!’ The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, ‘What are you looking for?’ They said to him, ‘Rabbi’ (which translated means Teacher), ‘where are you staying?’ He said to them, ‘Come and see.’ They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon. One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his brother Simon and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (which is translated Anointed). He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, ‘You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas’ (which is translated Peter).
In 1978, three young Virginia Conference United Methodist pastors, Ken Horne, Ray Buchanan, and Jeff Allen, and their families began praying about how God might lead them into a shared ministry based on simple lifestyles, deep spirituality, and ministries of justice. Ken and Ray went to Bishop Kenneth Goodson the next year and asked him to appoint them to a ministry beyond the local church. In June of 1979, the Hornes and Buchanans moved into a farmhouse in Big Island, Virginia, where they could follow God’s leading into a new ministry. Ken and Ray decided they would call their work “The Society of Saint Andrew,” based on this morning’s gospel lesson about the man who, after meeting Jesus, found his brother and brought him to the Savior. Ken and Ray weren’t sure what shape their ministry would take, but they simply wanted to bring people to Jesus. Three years later God handed Ken and Ray a blueprint for their work when, at a hunger awareness workshop at Franktown Church on the Eastern Shore, a farmer named Butch Nottingham challenged Ray’s statistics about how much usable food was wasted in farm fields every year. “You get a group of people to walk behind my potato harvester this summer, and you can have all the left-over potatoes you want,” Butch told them. Twenty-eight years later, the Society of St. Andrew has grown into a world-wide gleaning ministry that has involved 400,000 volunteers and retrieved 164 million pounds of food for local food banks. I’m thankful to say Ken and Ray are good friends and I’ve been involved over the years in a number of gleaning projects with the Society of Saint Andrew – again, named for a man who simply brought his brother to meet his new friend, Jesus.
This week and next week, I want us to think about how we bring people to meet Jesus. The season of Epiphany, which begins with the visit of the foreign wise men to the manger, focuses on mission and evangelism. Epiphany ends on Ash Wednesday, which this year is March 9th. The forty-day season of Lent, not counting Sundays, leads us to Easter. This year, during Lent, I would like us to take up the challenge issued at last year’s Virginia Annual Conference to enter a season of fasting, prayer, and repentance as we consider how we have not shared our faith with our brothers and sisters and neighbors and friends. Church attendance and membership have been in decline in our congregations for fifty years. The population of Virginia has grown dramatically, and our churches have shrunk. We need to take a long, hard look at ourselves, because we have not followed the example of Saint Andrew.
This morning’s story involved no advertising, no praise bands, no door hangers or tracts, no sophisticated demographic analysis of the community. It began with a simple identification: John the baptizer recognized Jesus coming his way, and declared, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. . . This is the Son of God.” Every Jew listening knew what Son of God meant: this was the heir to David’s throne, the king who would restore the nation of Israel to glory. They would have been puzzled at the other label John imposed: the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. That echoed sacrifice, and suffering, and death. Those listening that day would not understand how Jesus was the Lamb of God until after the resurrection.
Nevertheless, John points to who Jesus is. That is the first act of witness: we tell it like it is. Jesus Christ is Lord was the first affirmation of faith of the Christian Church.
There is a quiz on Facebook you can take to see how much you know about your friends. You are asked questions about your friend’s honesty and likes and dislikes and activities. If your friends and relatives were asked about you, would they know your favorite football team, or favorite college, or TV show, or movie, or musician, or politics, or hobby? Probably. We have absolutely no qualms about broadcasting our beliefs about politics or sports or TV or who makes the best pizza. We try to convince our friends they should root for our team, go to our college, or vote for our candidate. Why, then, is it so difficult for us to simply point, like John, to Jesus, and say Look! There is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world?
It only takes a spark, the song says, to get a fire going. One of John’s followers, named Andrew, heard John identify Jesus as the Messiah. Immediately, Andrew followed Jesus to the place he was staying, and spent the whole day with him, no doubt listening to him and asking questions. That’s the second movement of evangelism. We go where Jesus is staying, listen, and ask questions. When people tell you that they get just as much out of staying home or playing golf or walking on the beach as by going to church, ask them how much they talked about Jesus at home or on the links or at the beach. Andrew spent time getting to know Jesus. That’s what this place is for. And, let’s be honest and say that sometimes we do a whole bunch of stuff here at church that has nothing to do with Jesus. Retired United Methodist preacher and songwriter Kirk Mariner has a song that says No bazaars when Jesus comes, no jelly jar terrariums, no Brunswick stews, no an-t-cues, no bazaars, and that’s the good good news. This year our church council is going to take a long, hard look at our process of making disciples, and whether we’re doing anything that’s not focused on that mission. If we are, why?
Andrew goes to the place Jesus is staying, and learns who he is. But Andrew doesn’t stay there. He has to tell someone what he’s found. Have you had the experience of discovering a new restaurant, or seeing a new movie or TV show, or a new song or musician, and you just had to go tell somebody about it? My first year in seminary, as we were trudging through Systematic Theology and Supervised Ministry and Church Administration and Old Testament, the movie Blazing Saddles came out. A seminary friend, Jess Jones, and I went to see it. We had grown up on Westerns and Hoppy, Gene, Roy, Maverick, and Marshall Dillon. Blazing Saddles was the funniest movie we’d ever seen. The next night we took my roommate. The next night we took three other seminarians. We saw it eight times, bringing a different group each time. Mel Brooks owes me a commission. It was just too wonderful for us to keep to ourselves. Do you have a movie, a restaurant, a team, a musician, a whatever, that you’ve just thought too amazing to keep to yourself? Remember when you fell in love, and brought your new love home to meet the family, or your best friends? We all want the people we love to love what we love.
Andrew finds his brother, Simon, and drags him to meet this rabbi. That’s it. Jesus takes over from there. Jesus looks deep in Simon’s soul and says I know you. You’re Simon Johnson. I’m going to call you Rock.
That’s mission. That’s evangelism. That’s what I want us to start doing as a congregation. It’s not hard, it doesn’t require that you know how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. It takes three steps:
Name Jesus Lord.
Go where he’s staying, and listen to him.
Go tell the person closest to you, and bring them with you to Jesus.
Somebody who knew Jesus loved you enough to bring you with them to Jesus’ place. Maybe it was a parent or a grandparent. Maybe it was a husband or wife. Maybe it was a friend. Maybe it was a teacher or preacher. Somebody was your Andrew.
Now, whose Andrew are you going to be? At the beginning of today’s worship I asked you to write on your bulletin the name of someone who needs to know Jesus. You are their Andrew. God gave that person to you, and their name this morning, so you could go tell them about the time you spent with Jesus today, and bring them back to Jesus with you.
Next Sunday we’re going to look at Jesus’ call to Simon and Andrew to learn how to fish for people. We’re going to talk about what it is that really attracts people to Jesus. In the meantime, let you love for Jesus, and you love for the person whose name you wrote down, be the irresistible lure that leads someone to Jesus. Go, be an Andrew. As Ken Horne and Ray Buchanan discovered, you can’t begin to imagine where it might lead.