Today we celebrate one of our patron saints – Andrew – one of those after whom this Cathedral is named. This church is dedicated in honour of Peter, Paul and Andrew. Andrew has tended to be overlooked and lost, overshadowed by his more prominent brother Peter. But Andrew’s story is worth spending a few moments to reflect on. His cross adorns the south ambulatory by the site of Mary Queen of Scots former tomb here. The saltire, the white X-shaped cross on a blue background, is very familiar to us. The word ‘saltire’, comes from the Middle French ‘saultoir’ for ‘stirrup strap’ – the supports into which the feet are placed to help with riding a horse, based on the Latin ‘to dance’. Legend has it that Andrew was crucified on an X-shaped cross, as if straightforward crucifixion was not bad enough, and the x looked a bit like a stirrup, hence the word play.
This gives us the first of our aims to reflect with Andrew, a stirrup, to help with riding, with travelling in hope and faith and trust as we too seek to follow Jesus. Andrew responds to the call from Jesus to follow, straight away, and begins his journey into the unknown, in faith and trust. The saltire stirrup is a reminder that Christian faith is a journey, not a static resting place, but one that moves us in a dance of hope.
Andrew is mentioned in all four gospels, though the details vary a little. Matthew and Mark describe him as a northern fisherman, from Galilee, casting the nets with his brother Peter. Luke only tags him to his brother Peter. It is John who gives him a more prominent role. Andrew is one of those with John the Baptist when John exclaims, ‘look, here is the Lamb of God’, pointing to Jesus as he walks by (John 1:36). Those two disciples, the other unnamed, follow Jesus straight away. Jesus asks them what they are looking for. What do they desire so much. They ask him where he is staying, where does he abide, dwell, live. Rather than giving them his calling card with an address just off Priestgate, one they can follow up later perhaps if they want to, he invites them to come and see, to come with him. Seeing is deeper than knowing. It is not just about having information to store in a file, but a call to enter a relationship, one which delights the heart and changes us as we journey with him and go so much deeper than would otherwise be the case. As we follow with Andrew, we are taken into the deep riches of faith, of what it means to be a disciple. The journey, which begins with stirrups, goes deep, has profound depths to be plunged.
Andrew’s next action is to go and find his brother Peter. It is Andrew, in John’s Gospel, who introduces Peter to Jesus. It is Andrew later to whom Philip brings some Greeks wanting to find Jesus and he effects the introduction. It is Andrew in John’s Gospel who finds the small boy with the expandable lunch box at the feeding of the 5,000. Andrew is the introducer. And our task if we are to be followers of Andrew, as he follows and journeys with Jesus, is to introduce others to know and love and follow Jesus, to dive into the profound depth as they come and see, as they behold the Lamb of God, as they are drawn into the relating with him.
As an introducer, who knows where that will lead those we introduce. So much missionary work, introducing others to this rich and profound faith, leads the other into places we see nothing of and can’t imagine. Who’d have thought that history would remember Andrew’s brother over him? We can be the agents of something beyond our imagining in God’s grace. It requires a bit of humility to let another flourish, to even take a role beyond ours. To do this our own pride and ego need to take a back seat, otherwise we build the wrong Kingdom. John the Baptist had to let Andrew go and follow. Andrew actually followed his first teacher’s example well. John the Baptist introduced him to Jesus and pointed beyond himself. Andrew does likewise. So his being over shadowed, overlooked is perhaps the third great example that he gives us. This is not about us, about me or you, this is about Jesus, of the hope of God we see in him, which comes through him and our call to follow him above and in and through all things. What we do here is not about stone and notes, candles and events. Important as these things are in helping us journey, find the stirrup to ride in faith, they are the introducers. And that is important to keep in front of us, we serve a risen Lord, to whom our true allegiance is due and like John the Baptist and Andrew we stand back and let him be the focus.
So today we celebrate Andrew, one of our patrons, with his X-shaped cross, reminding us to journey in faith; Andrew with his following Jesus immediately and going deeper as he finds where Jesus abides and sees; Andrew who is the introducer and reminds us that we are not the focus. May Andrew lead us in hope and faith and trust as we too journey into a deeper love and joy of the hope of God in Jesus Christ and introduce others to follow as well.
Sermon preached on St Andrew’s Day at Peterborough Cathedral, 30th November 2017