Thursday, 29 November 2018
A sermon for St Andrew's day
It is not just our patronal festival, but also the anniversary of the first service on this site.
In 1829 on 1 December, the first Anglican worship was celebrated here in what was then Большой Чернышевский переулок.
That, however, was not in this building. This building, St Andrew’s, saw its first service in 1885. It was named after St Andrew because many of those who paid for the work were Scottish merchants and business men who lived in Moscow, and St Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland
It seems a highly providential patronage
St Andrew is someone who can unite us.
He points us to the very beginning of the undivided church. He is honoured in both East and West.
And of course, St Andrew is not only the patron saint of Scotland but also of Russia.
St Andrew is reported in the gospels as being the first of the disciples called by Jesus.
That was not a calling not just to honour, but to responsibility and ultimately to great personal sacrifice. The call to Andrew was the call to follow Jesus: to follow him in his way of life, in his obedience to and trust of the Father – even to the extent of laying down his life. It was the call to share in the mission of Jesus: which is to draw all people into a relationship with the Father.
St Andrew was called to call people to Jesus.
And he does that:
He calls his brother. He says to Simon Peter, ‘We have found the Messiah’. He brought Simon to Jesus
He brings the little boy with five loaves and two fishes to Jesus. When the other disciples are standing around and not sure what to do – because Jesus has told them to buy food for a crowd that was at least 5000 strong – it is Andrew who says, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish”. I wonder whether that might have been Andrew trying to make a joke: ‘5000 people. Don’t worry Lord, we have 5 loaves and 2 fishes’. But the thing about Jesus is that he turns our jokes into miracles.
And Andrew brings the Greeks to Jesus. They wanted to see Jesus, but they weren’t Jews and so they were nervous about approaching a Jewish rabbi. So they talk with Philip and Philip talks with Andrew, and Andrew tells Jesus.
And according to the tradition, Andrew continued to draw people to Jesus. After the resurrection he preached in Scythia, in Kiev and even – possibly - Novgorod. He preached in Thrace and founded the church in a small town that was then known as Byzantion.
And St Andrew followed Christ to the cross, quite literally. Because of his faith he was crucified on an X shaped cross
My prayer for the people of St Andrew’s Church is that we will learn to be like St Andrew
That we will know ourselves as called by Jesus – beloved by him, chosen by him and called by him to follow him, and to share in his mission.
And my prayer is that we will have a deep conviction that Jesus is the Messiah, that he can turn 5 loaves and 2 fish into a feast that provides for 5000 people, that he would draw all people to himself.
And my prayer is that we will be people who bring others to Jesus. That we will bring those who are closest to us to Jesus – that is often the hardest task; that we will bring those who seem the most unlikely or the most insignificant to Jesus; and that we will bring those who are outsiders to Jesus.
I am, probably as a result of living here, becoming much more aware of the gift of the church and of the communion of the saints. As the writer to the Hebrews says, ‘We are surrounded by a great host of witnesses’. One of those witnesses is St Andrew. And I thank God for him, for his communion with us in the fellowship of the saints, for his obedience to Jesus’ call, for his passion for Jesus and for his willingness to give everything and to follow him