St. Andrews Episcopal Church, Amarillo, TX

"The Word is Very Near You," a sermon for St. Andrew's Day by the Rev. Claire Cowden

What a magnificent feast! How joyful is this day!
Today we share in a doubly glorious, great feast as we celebrate both the Lord’s Day and the patron saint of our congregation, St. Andrew, Jesus’ very first disciple.

Every year in mid- to late November, we devote Sunday worship to celebrating St. Andrew.
Because we bear his name, we clearly hope to be shaped by - to embody - to inhabit - some of his remarkable qualities as a disciple.

For today, I want to reflect on only one of Andrew’s remarkable qualities:
∙his readiness to respond to Jesus Christ’s call to follow him.

We hear Andrew’s call story today in Matthew’s Gospel. As Jesus walks along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he notices two brothers, Simon Peter & Andrew, engrossed in their daily work of fishing. As Andrew & Peter cast their nets, Jesus calls to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people!”

This call must have caught the brothers’ attention because it is preposterous - what can it mean to fish for people? However odd the call sounds to us today, Andrew responded wholeheartedly to Jesus.

Andrew followed Jesus - without reservation or hesitation - with lots of curiosity & devotion - immediately leaving his nets, perhaps letting them sink in the seashore's shallow water.

Andrew had a heart prepared to hear & to heed Jesus’ call, with all that he had & all that he was. Because Andrew’s heart was prepared for Jesus, he did not have to be in a particularly holy place or going about particularly holy work to perceive Jesus’ call to him. Andrew heard Jesus call in the midst of his ordinary life, his routine day, at a moment when he is casting a fishing net out into open water.

Andrew’s heart was prepared because he lived the truth of which Moses speaks in the lesson from Deuteronomy:
The word is very near to you. It is in your mouth & in your heart for you to observe.

This word that was very near to Andrew was the word of the Lord - all the law & commandments God gave to God’s people through Moses.
The word as summarized in the 10 Commandments.
The word as condensed by Jesus into the two great commandments,
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. And love your neighbor as yourself.

This word - this instruction for living in a way that brings both self & neighbors closer to God - was lively in Andrew’s life - it was on his lips & in his heart.
Jewish people living in Andrew’s time & for centuries before had studied God’s word - had engaged God’s Holy Scripture - in very active, dynamic, & relational ways:
by reciting it out loud to one another & in groups;
by soaking up the spoken words & paying close attention;
by the struggle that is teaching & learning;
by discussing what this word meant for them in lively, curious, creative, & probing ways.

This encounter with God through the Word — through the living of Scripture in everyday life— enabled Andrew to perceive so much more than the written word come to life in him.

Andrew was able to perceive the Word made Flesh, Jesus Christ, in the midst of an ordinary, routine day… as he hears over his shoulder Jesus’ intentionally humorous call to come & fish for people.

The word is very near to you…to you…to each of you…to all of you.
It is in your mouth and on your lips, & in your heart, your soul, and your mind for you to observe.

The Word made Flesh, Jesus the Christ, is very near you…singing & calling through our sacred scripture…through the bread & the wine… through the hands which share the Peace…through the voices lifted in song, prayer, and praise…through the faces & personalities which annoy, confuse, intrigue, & delight you here in church and in your everyday life.

May you … may we all together… learn from Andrew how near these words of God are…how they seek unceasingly to engage & dwell with us…that we may respond wholeheartedly to Jesus when he calls…that we may participate together, in community, in life everlasting and abundant, here & now, beginning anew this day. AMEN.


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