Sunday, November 17, 2013

Little Brothers and Big Gifts (John 1:35-42)

(Delivered as a Guest at Stokesdale United Methodist Church, Stokesdale, NC)

The next day John again was stranding 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).

It is a joy to be with you in worship this morning.  I am grateful for the invitation of your beautiful, kind, compassionate, wise, and overall “Git-R-Done” pastor to be here today.  Being part of a clergy couple carries both certain joys and challenges – one of those challenges is that though we are both called with a deep passion to lead the in life-transforming worship, ministry, and mission, we rarely get to do that together.  And so, as a spouse, it is simply a rare treat for us to be in worship together.  We enjoy getting to work together, so thank you for letting that happen today.

I am also grateful for this congregation and the role you play in this community.  Not to put too fine a point on it, but your authentic commitment to a distinctly Wesleyan theology and way-of-life is not only unique, but is a tremendous gift to your neighbors.  That is something our world today desperately needs, and you have it here!  You should be proud of that, because you have something here worth offering!

Ashley has probably told you this many times already, but let me reiterate how happy we are to be here, to call NW Guilford County home, and to be so warmly welcomed and graciously received into both the Morehead and Stokesdale church families.  Thank you for helping both of us feel right at home; we are glad to be here.  Let us pray.

Little Brothers
Today, I’d like for us to think about little brothers.  Who in the room has a little brother?  Take a look around, I want everyone to note this.  Now, who in the room is a little brother?  Those of you who raised your hand the first time, I want you to take special note of these little brothers around you!  Little brothers have it tough, growing up in the shadow of their older siblings.

I am both a younger brother and an older brother.  I did have the advantage of being the first boy, however, so as I grew up and went through school, many teachers did not expect me to be very much like my older sisters, which was a good thing, because our personalities are very different.

However, six years after I came along, my younger brother, Dave, went through the same teachers, and those who made the connection about who he was and who he was related to expected him to be like a little mini-version of me, which—thanks be to God—he’s not.  I know what’s it like to be a little brother, and what a pain in the proverbial they can be, and I know what it’s like to have a little brother, and the great gift they can be.

In today’s text we find Andrew, kid brother to Simon Peter.  We hear all about Simon Peter throughout scripture: his questions, his doubts, his walking on water, his confession of Jesus as the Messiah and then his denial of ever having known Jesus.  Before the story is over, we will remember him as chief among the apostles and the primary leader of the early church. 

But what do we know about his kid brother, Andrew?  Not much.  His personality fades in comparison to that of his outgoing, gregarious, head-strong older brother.  Andrew all but disappears in his older brother’s shadow.  But, as both a little brother and an Andrew myself, I know that little brothers and Andrews play an important role in the story of Faith.  And indeed, had it not been for ordinary, little Andrew, Christianity as we know it may not have even gotten off the ground.

Who was Andrew?
So, who was Andrew?  Andrew was Simon Peter’s kid brother.  When they played a game, who decided what they would play?  Simon Peter.  When a joke was being told, who was telling it?  Simon Peter.  When someone asked them a question about fishing, who jumped in with an immediate response?  Simon Peter.  In the background, playing second fiddle, was Andrew.

Andrew is much more ordinary than his gregarious older brother, Simon Peter.  Simon Peter loves the limelight and has no problem being the life of the party.  Make him the center of attention and know that he’ll share his opinion on anything, whether he knows what he’s talking about or not – anyone here know anyone like that?  No finger pointing!  Because he’s so much larger than life, Simon Peter is a rare species – you distinctly remember meeting someone like him.

But Andrew is just a normal, ordinary guy – someone just like you and me.  And that’s what I want us to remember about Andrew – he is a regular, ordinary, normal person – someone just like you and me.

For every Simon Peter, there are 10,000 Andrews.  Abraham Lincoln said, “God must love ordinary people; he made so many of them!” The amazing thing is that God can and does use all of those ordinary people, you know, people like us.  It’s easy to overlook someone as plain and ordinary as Andrew, but if faith has taught us anything, it is that God so often uses the ordinary to accomplish the extraordinary.  So it was for Andrew!

Andrew was a disciple of John the Baptist, whose message was one of preparation for Jesus.  In our text today, Jesus walks by when John the Baptist whispers.  “Pssst.  Hey Andrew.  That’s him.  That’s the guy.  You know, the one I’ve been telling you about from the beginning.  You know, the Lamb of God.  The one who will take away the sin of the world, who will change the world, the one who will bring about reconciliation between all the world and God.  That’s him!”

Andrew doesn’t need to hear anything else.  Before John has even stopped speaking, Andrew is off.     Andrew follows Jesus and ends up spending the better part of 24 hours with him.  We don’t really know what they talked about, or what happened.  We simply know that spending time with Jesus changed him, and Andrew, who up until now has been a disciple of John the Baptist, will become a follower of Jesus.

I doubt he knew what he was getting himself into in following Jesus – honestly, who among us does!  But whatever happened to Andrew, whatever he and Jesus talked about, whatever it was like to spend time with Jesus, it must have been wonderful, because Andrew just couldn’t keep the news to himself.  First thing the next morning, Andrew ran to find his larger-than-life big brother and shared the wonderful news, “We have found the Messiah.  The one for whom we have hoped for so long is here, he is among us.  I have met him, and I want you to meet him too.”

Andrew is an evangelist.  The term “evangelist” comes from the Greek word euangelion – which means “good news” or “gospel.”  Andrew is an evangelist in that he shares the good news of Jesus, with others, including his big brother.  Andrew knew that Jesus was good news, plain and simple, and he just had to tell someone about it.  He simply said “I have met Jesus, and I would like you to meet him too.  Let me bring you to Jesus.”

You ever have someone tell you something, or you come across an article or a piece of news or some particular experience, and you think, “Oh, this is just too good not to share!  I just have to tell someone or I will literally burst!

Back in the early 80s, Apple Computers hired a special group of salesmen who they called “Apple Evangelists.”  It was their job to spread the good news of Apple Computers, which was easy because these guys were so excited and believed with every geeky fiber of their being that Apple Computers were the best thing to happen to humankind since perhaps sliced bread or the invention of the wheel.

It’s easy to share good news when you genuinely believe it, and believe everyone else needs to experience it, as well.  Friends, good news is meant to be shared, and what greater news do we have than new life in Christ?

Andrew – an ordinary evangelist
Andrew was an ordinary person who met Jesus and wanted others to meet him, too.  And so, he went and found his brother and brought him to Jesus.  Andrew did not try to convert his brother.  Andrew did not try to change his brother or convince his brother.  Andrew just said, “Come and see.  I would like you to meet Jesus.”  Andrew’s life had been transformed because he met Jesus, and he just wanted others to meet him too.

In fact, everywhere we meet Andrew throughout the rest of the story, he brings people to Jesus.  When Jesus had been preaching to a great crowd that was starting to get hungry, Andrew had been talking to a little boy who had a sack lunch with five loaves of bread and two fish in it.  Andrew said, “I would like you to meet Jesus.”  Jesus transformed that little boy, transformed his meager meal, and transformed the crowd.  Then later, Andrew meets a few Greeks and he says, “I would like you to meet Jesus,” and they become disciples.  Andrew doesn’t make many appearances through the Gospels, but every time he does, he is bringing people and introducing them to Jesus, and lives are changed because of it.

Be an Andrew
Sometimes we think that evangelism is best left to the professionals.  Leighton Ford tells this story:

“I was speaking at an open-air crusade in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Billy Graham was to speak the next night and had arrived a day early. He came incognito and sat on the grass at the rear of the crowd. Because he was wearing a hat and dark glasses, no one recognized him.

“Directly in front of him sat an elderly gentleman who seemed to be listening intently to my presentation. When I invited people to come forward as an open sign of commitment, Billy decided to do a little personal evangelism. He tapped the man on the shoulder and asked, ‘Would you like to accept Christ? I'll be glad to walk down with you if you want to.’ The old man looked him up and down, thought it over for a moment, and then said, ‘Naw, I think I'll just wait till the big gun comes tomorrow night.’”

Friends, inviting people to meet Jesus is not just a job for the big guns, it’s for the small shot, the little brother, the regular, ordinary person.

Scripture is filled with examples of people who didn’t feel qualified to be about the task to which God had called them.  They offered all sorts of excuses: “I’m too old” or “I’m too young.”  “I’m not experienced enough,” or “I’m too tired.”  “I’m not trained” or “I am not a good public speaker.”  Those are human excuses, and they are no barrier to God.  The difference was made by those who simply responded to the call, regardless of their qualifications.

If you’re here this morning and you’re thinking, “I’m just a regular, ordinary person,” then let me tell you this: yes, you are!  You are wonderfully ordinary!  The good news today is that God uses the ordinary to accomplish the extraordinary; the more ordinary you are, the more extraordinary things God can do through you.  So, thank you for being an ordinary person!

Andrew simply says, “I would like you to meet Jesus.” Simple words of invitation are more crucial to the life of faith than our carefully worded theological statements.  The church begins with an invitation, and it spreads, person to person, with the simple words of a heartfelt invitation.

Andrew invites Simon Peter to come and see; Andrew welcomes because he was welcomed himself.  Likewise, we invite others to come and see; we welcome because we were welcomed ourselves.  We invite because we were invited.

The world could use a few more Andrews.  Stokesdale could use a few more Andrews! We could use a few more people who bring people to Jesus.

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