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Sunday Service, 6th September 2020

Call to Worship

From Bethlehem to Nazareth – from Jordan to Jericho – from Bethany to Jerusalem – from then to now. COME LORD JESUS.

To heal the sick – to mend the broken hearted – to comfort the disturbed – to disturb the comfortable – to cleanse the temple – to liberate faith from convention. COME LORD JESUS.

To carry the cross – to lead the way – to show love and forgiveness in the face of accusation and injustice. COME LORD JESUS.

Come into our homes as we worship you today. COME LORD JESUS.

Hymn 336 – Christ is our light

There is no YouTube video for this hymn, but you can read about it and hear the tune here.

Prayer  

Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary.

He gives power to the faint, and strength to the powerless. Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted; but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40: 28–31)

Come Lord Jesus, you blessed the children and dined with outcasts, spared the sinner and forgave the offender; speak to us through your word. We long for a sense of your presence especially during our absence from each other.

Come Lord Jesus, you humbled the proud and exalted the humble, proclaimed the good news to the poor and release to the captives; speak to us again of justice. We long for our world to be changed.

Come Lord Jesus, you faced the torture of oppressors and died abandoned on the cross; the suffering of many surrounds us today. We long to meet you in our pain, as you identify with us having experienced darkness and loneliness yourself.

Come Lord Jesus, you left the tomb empty and promised us the Spirit; speak to us of new light, light at the end of our dark tunnel. We trust you for our future, for the dawning of a new day.

Lord, we miss each other’s company, the excitement of meeting together and sharing the peace. May your presence be just as real in the quietness of our homes as it was in our worship together. Speak to us, encourage us, challenge us through your Word, equip us for the living of our lives in these difficult days, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come; thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory. For ever. Amen.

Scripture Readings

John 1: 35–42, 6: 5–9, 12: 20–22 (NRSV)

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).

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When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming towards him, Jesus said to Philip, ‘Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?’ He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do. Philip answered him, ‘Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.’ One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, ‘There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?’

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Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus.’ Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus.

Photo by Mitya Ivanov on Unsplash

Sermon by Rev. Robert Gemmell: Andrew – follower, disciple and apostle

Andrew has the distinction of being the patron saint of at least three different countries – Russia, Greece and of course Scotland. He is also the patron saint of singers, spinsters, fishmongers, fishermen, women waiting to be mothers, gout and sore throats! Although there isn’t a great deal of direct information recorded about him within the pages of the New Testament, the information to hand paints a picture of a man with a zeal to share his faith through bringing others to the Lord.

In the first three Gospels, Andrew isn’t even given a mention apart from his inclusion in the list of our Lord’s disciples. It is in John’s Gospel that he is given his own particular identity, a person with a very definite personality and a unique ministry to exercise.

On three different occasions Andrew emerges from the shadows and a common denominator appears on every occasion. We find Andrew introducing someone to Jesus.

Prior to responding to our Lord’s call to follow, Andrew had identified himself with the ministry of John the Baptist. However, on the occasion that John the Baptist proclaimed Jesus as, ‘The Lamb of God who will take away the sin of the world’, Andrew made his first contact with our Lord and transferred his alliance to him. And almost at once we see a definite pattern appearing as far as his future ministry was concerned. According to John’s Gospel, he sought out his brother Peter and introduced him to Jesus. For Andrew, it would seem as if this was the most natural thing to do.

On the second of the occasions we come across Andrew within the pages of John’s Gospel we find him bringing the young lad with the five loaves and the two fish to Jesus. We don’t exactly know what Andrew thought Jesus could do with the lad’s contribution as far as feeding the crowd was concerned, but it would seem that if anybody could do anything with such meagre fare, it would be his Lord.

And on the third occasion we come across Andrew we find him bringing some Greeks to the Lord. The Greeks had actually presented themselves to Philip with a request to meet Jesus. Philip, it would seem, didn’t know what to do in the situation, but he approached Andrew who in turn brought the enquiring Greeks to Jesus, assuming that Jesus would be eager to talk to those who were searching after the truth.

From these three brief episodes is it possible to conclude that Andrew had found his own niche within our Lord’s overall ministry, that of bringing others to Jesus, a ministry that he no doubt developed and expanded upon in later years? Andrew, follower of John the Baptist, disciple of our Lord and Apostle within the life of the Early Church.

In the Greek Orthodox tradition he is known as ‘the first called’, and according to tradition he was crucified on an x-shaped cross in Greece, but his remains were moved to Constantinople hundreds of years later. During the 13th century they were moved again to Amalfi in Italy.

I don’t know about you, but I find that there is something refreshingly attractive about the life and ministry of Andrew. From the rather scant information we have within the pages of Scripture it would seem that he was content, perhaps even at ease, accepting a position slightly in the background, not one of the inner three, like Peter, James and John, who accompanied Jesus on the Mount of transfiguration and in the Garden of Gethsemane, but just off centre stage.

I often wonder how I would have felt and reacted had I been following in Andrew’s footsteps during the years of Jesus’ ministry. First of the disciples to be called by the Lord, responsible for bringing Peter to Jesus, but then finding himself being excluded from the intimacy of the ‘inner three’, always, it would seem, to be found living in the shadow of his illustrious brother, and often referred to as ‘Peter’s brother’ rather than being recognised for his own sake. From the earliest of days even before their call Andrew must have realised that his brother was one who was born to be an instinctive leader, his personality, his ways, his drive evident for all to see, and yet knowing all of this there was no hesitation in Andrew’s part of introducing him to Jesus.

It takes a very special kind of person to accept the role that Andrew played. He seemed to be someone who didn’t mind playing a relatively minor role, one of a rare breed of human beings prepared to accept second place, a team player who didn’t mind the fact that others within the group seemed to be outstripping him in the pecking order. The important thing for him, it would seem, was to be faithful in his own ‘unique’ ministry. No resentment, no bitterness on his part, just a deep-rooted desire to serve his master rather than shine a light on his own endeavours or bring glory to himself.

Let us never forget however that Andrew did have a ‘unique’ ministry to exercise. During the years of our Lord’s ministry he seemed to see his task as that of bring others to Jesus. George Milligan in his article on Andrew in the Dictionary of Christ and the Gospels makes an interesting point, suggesting that Andrew could be looked upon as the first Home Missionary, bringing Peter and the young lad to the Lord, and the first Foreign Missionary when he brought the Greeks to Jesus, thus being the first to accept the universal nature of the Gospel. At the time, it may have been unthinkable for a Jew to accept, in any kind of positive way, a member of another race; Gentiles were seen as outside God’s interest and love and grace, but Andrew somehow knew instinctively that his task was to introduce the Greeks to Jesus. Andrew’s ‘unique’ ministry was one that I am sure he carried forward into the life of the Early Church when, like the other disciples, he responded positively to our Lord’s commission to go out into all the world and preach the Gospel.

Many of us could identify more closely with Andrew than with the flamboyant leader, Peter. Often it is those who are the most visible and who speak loudest who get attention. Much has been said recently about how Black Lives Matter. I would entirely agree with that and it needs to be said to remind us all that for so long – far too long – black lives have not mattered. While white slave traders have been celebrated, slaves had not had recognition. They were not leaders and they had no voice. In God’s eyes ALL lives matter – men and women, all races, black and white – and Andrew’s as well as Peter’s.

As far as our place in church and our service to Christ is concerned, we may feel that we come far down the pecking order when compared to the contribution made by some of those around us. We may feel that we are an Andrew or a Philip rather than a Peter or maybe even a Paul, a Martha rather than a Mary. But ALL lives and all forms of ministry and service matter. Our faithfulness within the role we have been given is what is important at the end of the day rather than the position or place we aspire to occupy within God’s Kingdom or within the Church.

Let me finish by quoting the words of the third verse of Carl P. Daw, Jr’s hymn, ‘Sing of Andrew’:

Sing of Andrew, bold apostle,
sent to make the Gospel known,
faithful to his Lord’s example,
called to make the cross his own.
So may we who prize his memory
honour Christ in our own day,
bearing witness to our neighbours,
living what we sing and pray.

Prayer of thanksgiving and intercession

Gracious God – rejoicing in your blessings and trusting in your loving care – we bring our prayers for the world.

We pray for the created world – for those who rebuild where things have been destroyed – for those who fight hunger, poverty and disease – for those who have power to bring change for the better and to renew hope.

We pray for our country – for those in positions of leadership – who frame our laws and shape our common life – who keep the peace and administer justice – for those who teach and those who heal – for those who serve us in our community.

We pray for those in need – those for whom life is a bitter struggle – for those whose lives are clouded by death or loss, especially those from within our own church family – for others whose lives are lived through constant pain or disability – or in the midst of discouragement or fear, shame or rejection.

We pray for those within the circle of friendship and love around us – children and parents – sisters and brothers – friends and neighbours – and for those especially in our thoughts today.

We pray for the church in its stand against poverty – in its love for the outcast and the ashamed – in its service to the sick and the neglected – in its proclamation of the Gospel – in this land and in this place. At this particular time we pray that you will bless the work of our Nominating Committee. Give them wisdom and understanding as you lead them to the one who is chosen by you to lead the congregation into the next chapter of their history.

Eternal God – hear these our prayers, the spoken and the silent. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be all praise and glory. Amen

Hymn 509 – Jesus call us o’er the tumult. Listen here.

The Blessing

God our Shelter in the Storm, protect us
God our Rock, be our strength
God our Father, nurture us and discipline us
God our life-breath, inspire us
God our Beginning and our End, hold us forever in your love.

And now may the blessing of Almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, rest and remain with you, and all whom you love, now and evermore. Amen