Tag Archives: Andrew

TWO KINDS OF FAITH

(Proper 12B ) John 6, verses 1 – 13   In the well-known story of Christ feeding the five thousand, we come across two very different attitudes toward the situation from Jesus’ disciples.

  1. Firstly, when Philip saw how many people were there and needing to be fed he said ‘It would take two hundred silver coins! – about eight month’s wages – even to give them just a bite!’

Philip’s was a pessimistic faith. A pessimist is one who defines hope as wishing for something you know isn’t going to happen. Twin boys – one a pessimist, his brother an optimist – discovered where their parents had hidden their Christmas presents.  There were two rooms one full of brand-new toys, the other full of hay and horse manure.  Two children are taken into them, one a pessimist, the other an optimist.  The pessimist looked at the first room and cried because all those wonderful toys would soon be broken.  The optimist was in the other room shovelling.  “I know there’s got to be a horse in here somewhere,” he said. A man said to a pessimist, “Isn’t this a bright, sunny day?”  The pessimist replied, “Yes, but if this heat spell doesn’t stop soon, all the grass will burn up.”  Two days later, the same man said to the pessimist, “Isn’t this rain wonderful?”  The pessimist replied,  “Well, if it doesn’t stop soon, my garden will wash away.” Philip represents someone with a pessimistic faith.  He needed to see his faith for what it is — pessimism. Pessimistic faith sees money and human resources, and that is all.  It sees only the available resources.  It stresses hopelessness. It forgets God and his glorious power in the past and how that same power controls the present and future.  It says that the problem is too big for God.

  1. Then, there was Andrew.

Andrew is an example of an optimistic, though questioning faith.  Andrew was a follower of John the Baptist before he met Jesus.  It seems that he always willing to take second place.  He was not only the very first to follow Jesus, but he was also one of the very first to bring another to Christ (his own brother Simon Peter).  But Andrew was called to take a back seat to Peter; he lived under his shadow.  And throughout the New Testament, Peter is always mentioned first, but from all I can see, Andrew never resented his place.  TO BE WITH JESUS AND TO DO WHAT HE WANTED WAS ENOUGH FOR HIM. “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many”, he asked An optimistic faith but questioning faith loves the Lord and is committed to the Lord.  Andrew sees Christ concern and he goes among the crowd and searches for food.  HE FOUND AND GATHERED ALL THE RESOURCES HE COULD. An optimistic, but questioning faith lays what it can find before the Lord.  No matter how little the resources or how poor the quality, it is placed all before the Lord. But the problem with an optimistic but questioning faith it does QUESTION. Whatever the need may be; we all need once again to learn to trust Christ and not question and doubt His love, care, and power in our lives.

Supremely, there is Jesus himself. Christ Himself demonstrates for us the kind of strong faith we are to have in God. He takes what He has and gives thanks to God for what He has which is a meagre supply of bread.  In fact, He could hold all that had in the palm of His hand.  Jesus gave what He had, and all He could do was distribute what was in His hands and trust God.  This he did – simply gave what he had, and God did the rest. All any of us can do is give what we possess, what we hold in our hands [our lives, our time, our priorities, our gifts].  And if we so give, God does the rest.  Our needs will be met.  And as the story tells us, more than met.

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The Servant – a Sermon for the Second Sunday after Epiphany

(preached on 14 January 1996 at St.Michael’s, Inveresk – edited)

John 1 verses 29-42

Service these days – despite the efforts of Downton Abbey to semi-glamorise it – has certain negative connotations.

It implies subservience, a sense of surrendering personal rights, an abrogation of identity.

If you go to the “People’s Story” museum in the High Street in Edinburgh, you’ll see a display of how it really used to be – a tableau of a young lassie, at the crack of dawn, lighting a fire, working as a very minor servant at Carberry House – in bleak conditions.

Or perhaps some of you had a grandmother or great grandmother who, as a young woman, was in service – and although many were treated well, many others had a miserable existence.

That was the past ….. but……

When I was working in Trinidad, I was distressed by the conditions in which our church “servants” lived – our janitor and his wife. Their home was really just a basic shack with a corrugated iron roof – situated next to the church building.

I brought the situation of the Cordiners (that was their name) before the Kirk Session, only to be told that they were better housed than most in their position.

And I was further surprised when the Cordiners themselves said that they were perfectly happy, indeed “blessed”, to be living in this lean-to shed, and were honoured to be called to serve.

These are the very words that Henry and Cordelia Cordiner said to me, “We are honoured to serve”

I was thinking of these words, when I looked at today’s Gospel Reading –

– here’s John the Baptist, who had already said that, in modern terms – he was only the warm-up man for the Messiah; he said this about Jesus, “He who is coming after me is mightier than I am; whose sandals I am not worthy to carry”

And here he is again today, once more in a secondary role – handing over, as it were, to one who is greater than he is – and feeling honoured to do so.

What is our conception of greatness? Is it someone who is rich and powerful and who can bid others do his will?

H.G. Wells was once asked to select the three greatest men in history. The first thing Wells did was to decide upon a test to determine what makes someone “great”. He came up with this: what did a person do to start people thinking in new directions in a way that eventually changed the course of history? Using this criterion, he narrowed the field to three, Aristotle, The Buddha and (in first place) Jesus of Nazareth.

And should you think that Wells was biased – he was an agnostic

Jesus was the greatest who ever lived.  John the Baptizer certainly thought so, and was honoured to bow, as it were, before Christ’s greatness.

Then there was Andrew, one of the first called by Christ – who was honoured to serve and follow.

And look what he does: he doesn’t feel that his place is to feel superior – rather, he fetches his brother, Simon Peter, to meet the Christ.

I have the feeling that Andrew felt that this was an honour – as we find later in the Jesus story – an honour to be working away in the background.

And, if you look at Peter’s story several pages onward, you’ll see that we have a chain reaction of service.  And service here is regarded as the highest kind of calling and sacred duty

Christ shows us that service is the new greatness.

Let’s move on now from the very beginning of Christ’s ministry and towards its close.

Here we discover the disciples having an argument about greatness

Their minds were entangled in contemporary ideas of greatness.  When Jesus was born, the Caesar at Rome had the title “Augustus” – or “Majestic”.  The ruler at Jerusalem was Herod THE GREAT.  A common title in Syria and Egypt was “Benefactor”

The Pharisees of Jerusalem and the Galilean towns were clothed in prestige, as were the Temple Saducees

And the disciples, and especially James and John, wanted some of this status.  These two wanted to sit on Christ’s right and left side in his glory – that’s the ambition of power!

These men needed a new idea of greatness and Jesus gave it to them.

And he did so by washing the feet of his disciples.  A menial task.  And Peter quibbled at this; but Christ replied, “If I do not wash you, you have no part of me”

And he says to US – May the leader be the one who serves.

Greatness is to be found in service!

Since he said that, this new concept of greatness has inspired such servants as Peter and Andrew, Francis of Assisi, Florence Nightingale, Albert Schweitzer, Mother Teresa, pope Francis ….and so many unheralded others.

And to us today

A personal remininiscence:  in my first charge in 1974,  I visited this particular parishioner, an elderly lady who was housebound.

On one particular visit, it was desperately cold and her home-help hadn’t managed to come along that day; as a result, the fire wasn’t lit.

The obvious thing was for me to go to the coal bunker outside, bring in the coal, and light the fire.

She would have none of this!  Scandalised: “you CAN’T do that!”  Explaining that a “man in your position” should not stoop …. etc

Of course, the word “Minister” comes from the same root as “minor” – lesser, and so one who serves.

In our ministry, as the people of God and as disciples of Christ, let’s never lose track that we have been called to serve – the highest calling, the greatest honour any of us could possibly have.

And that is to bring light to the World and news of salvation to all.

Was there ever a day when such need for such service was so great and pressing?

(a post note:  after almost half an hour and virtually a whole box of matches and umpteen firelighters, I still couldn’t get the elderly lady’s fire to light – maybe she was right when she  asked me not to bother!)

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