Saturday, 30 November 2013

Thoughts about Andrew

I would like to wish you all a very Happy St Andrew's day!

I can claim no Scottish connections, so this may seem like a slightly odd occasion on which to write a blog post. Then again, I am more-than-slightly sceptical of the story of Andrew's bones coming to Scotland so I am not entirely sure he can claim much of a genuine connection with Scotland either. But I have had a half written blog post about St Andrew for quite some time and today seemed like as good a time to put it up as any.

I think I quite like St Andrew. Admittedly, we don't know a lot about him, but it strikes me there are some interesting details in the few mentions of him in the gospels and I thought I'd share them here on the off chance that others might find them vaguely interesting too.

In Greek, Andrew (Ανδρέας) means man; incidentally the same meaning as Adam. It is surely intentional that Jesus' first (or second, depending which gospel account you read) disciple is Andrew, or man, or perhaps we could say humanity. Perhaps the "new Adam" is not just Christ, but his disciples and followers.

Andrew is introduced to us with his "brother" Simon. But Simon (שִׁמְעוֹן) is a Hebrew name, while Andrew (Ανδρέας) is from the Greek. It seems probable then, despite all our assumptions, that these were perhaps not biological brothers, and yet there is no doubt that we are encouraged to think of these, the first of Christ's followers, in terms of the closest of familial relations. Already, in this first call, we have a call not just to be followers of Christ, and 'fishers of men', but to be brothers to one another.

I'm not sure, apart from his calling to be a disciple, whether Andrew appears much at all in Matthew, Mark and Luke's Gospels, but he pops up three times in the Gospel of John. He has, more-or-less, the same role in each appearance: in John 1, having met Jesus, he immediately goes and calls his brother and brings him to Jesus too; in John 6, it is Andrew who brings the boy with the loaves and fishes to Jesus which makes the feeding of the five thousand miracle possible; in John 12, in Jerusalem, Andrew (admittedly, together with Philip this time) brings 'some Greeks'  to Jesus.

I guess I like the idea that every time Andrew appears, his role is sharing what he had discovered and that he brought others in to contact with the life that he himself had found. And if Andrew's name speaks of his humanity, by extension humanity has a role in bringing others to God. In none of these stories does he preach, or tell others what to think or believe, or tell them how to act or what to say, he simply brings them to a place in which he has found life and where they just might discover something for themselves. It is a model that many of us, the humanity who shares his name, could probably learn from.

But I think it is about still more than that too. Peter would come to play a very important role among the disciples and in the early church; the Greeks, welcomed towards the end of Jesus life helped show the universality of Jesus mission; and in the story of the feeding of the five thousand, Jesus needed that little boy with his loaves and fish, in order to welcome and feed all who came to him. God needs us in order to work miracles with what our humanity brings to him. We are not passive observers or mere messengers, but co-creators of the miracle.

So thank you, St Andrew, model of our own humanity, and Happy St Andrews Day!

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