Day Four of An Advent Calendar: The Feast of St. Andrew

Wednesday, November 30, 2016     The Feast of St. Andrew
Morning:  Is 49.1–6      1 Cor 4.1–16
Evening:   Is 55.1–5       Jn 1.35–42
The text of the readings follows after the comments.

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Today we take a break from Advent to mark the Feast of St. Andrew. Andrew is mentioned in the Gospels as one of the Twelve, a brother of Simon Peter and like him, a fisherman in Galilee. Whereas Mark and Matthew describe him as being called by Jesus in Galilee at the same time as Simon Peter, the Gospel of John describes him as a disciple of John the Baptist who decides to follow Jesus after the Baptist describes him as “the Lamb of God”(this is narrated in the gospel reading for today). After that there’s not much in the New Testament about him. He was one of the witnesses to the resurrection when Jesus appeared in the Upper Room, but we hear nothing after that. Pious legend suggested many things about him, perhaps the best known story being that he was too humble to suffer martyrdom on a cross that looked like the one Jesus died on, so the Romans in Greece executed him on an X shaped crucifix, instead of one that looked like the “t” of a Latin cross.  Subsequently certain nations adopted Andrew as their patron saint, including Scotland. As a result the pattern on the Scottish flag is an X shape known as the Saltire, which was subsequently incorporated in the Union Flag (“Union Jack”) of Great Britain and the United Kingdom.

As it is a feast day the Daily Office Lectionary prescribes two readings each for the morning and evening. In both cases the first readings are from what I described on Monday as “Second Isaiah” (i.e. Isaiah 40-66, or perhaps 40-55). In both cases you will see that dramatic difference between today’s readings and the passages from the past three days from the first chapter of Isaiah. Whereas Isaiah 1 is full of condemnation and warnings, here we have comfort and encouragement. The reading in the morning, Isaiah 49.1-6, is the second of the “Servant Songs”, passages which describe a servant who has suffered but who is called and exalted by God. Jewish rabbis and Christian biblical scholars have puzzled over the identity of the servant. Some have suggested Moses, maybe the prophet Isaiah himself, others a prophet yet to come, perhaps the coming Messiah, and still others see it as the personification of redeemed Israel, returning from exile to the Promised Land. Christians have always read the Servant Songs as a reference to Jesus of Nazareth, and the fourth (52.13-53.12″) seems to have influenced the narratives of the passion in the gospels.

The apostles, including Andrew, can also be seen as suffering servants. Like their master the suffer persecution for preaching the good news, and ultimately undergo martyrdom. The passage from First Corinthians echoes this theme when Paul describes himself and the other apostles: “we are hungry and thirsty, we are poorly clothed and beaten and homeless, and we grow weary from the work of our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we speak kindly. We have become like the rubbish of the world, the dregs of all things, to this very day.”

Both readings from Isaiah pick up on the theme of evangelism: “I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth” (49.6) and  “See, I made him a witness to the peoples . . . See, you shall call nations that you do not know, and nations that do not know you shall run to you” (55.4-5). It is truly an outstanding vision, given that at the time this prophecy was made in the 6th century BC the whole of Judaism probably numbered in the tens of thousands, and yet it looks to a time when the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob would be worshiped to the very ends of the earth (which I always understood to be British Columbia). This prophecy has been fulfilled.

– + –

Today is also the 40th anniversary of the Ordination of women to the presbyterate or priesthood in the Anglican Church of Canada. In four dioceses on November 30 a number of women and a few men were all ordained; the services were timed so that they all started at more or less the same time, and no one person could claim that she was the first woman to become a priest in the Canadian Church. I’m not sure why this date was chosen, as I see no obvious connection between St. Andrew and the ordination of women, so it was probably just a matter of logistics.

In November of 1976 I was quite oblivious to all this, being a 14 year old boy in a boarding school in Quebec, and I suspect the Anglican chaplain did not approve and made no note of it at the time. But I do remember meeting a United Church minister a couple of years before who happened to be a female, and even though the UCC had been ordaining women for decades it was something novel to me, and a little unusual. I did not meet my first female Anglican minister until I arrived as an undergraduate at Trinity College in the University of Toronto, and it was probably someone like Ansley Tucker (then a priest in a two-point rural parish north of Toronto) or Victoria Matthews (who I think was working on a Master of Theology). Later, when I was ordained in the Diocese of Niagara two of the first women ordained, Bev Shanley and Mary Lucas, were still very active in the Diocese –  it had still been only twelve years, after all. I say all of this because women as priests seems to be so much of a given in the Canadian Church today, but I remember when it was not. The Diocese of BC only ordained its first woman as priest in 1986, and it is only recently that we have seen women in senior church positions on Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands. When I arrived here in 1995 there was still a sizeable minority of male clergy who were opposed to the ordination of women and refused to accept their ministrations. That is no longer the case, but what we think of now as “normal” was something that took a long time coming.

Today, although I am still on medical leave, I’ll make my way to Christ Church Cathedral for a service marking this 40th anniversary. I will celebrate the gift that ordained women have been to the church and the many ways in which female clergy – deacons, priests, and bishops – have challenged and encouraged me. At the same time I will also pray for ongoing change, so that we do not simply have women in male-patterned roles in leadership in our churches, but that we who are male are transformed by the full inclusion of all genders within the ordained.

 God be with you! Bruce +

Isaiah 49.1–6
Listen to me, O coastlands,
pay attention, you peoples from far away!
The Lord called me before I was born,
while I was in my mother’s womb he named me.
He made my mouth like a sharp sword,
in the shadow of his hand he hid me;
he made me a polished arrow,
in his quiver he hid me away.
And he said to me, ‘You are my servant,
Israel, in whom I will be glorified.’
But I said, ‘I have laboured in vain,
I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity;
yet surely my cause is with the Lord,
and my reward with my God.’

And now the Lord says,
who formed me in the womb to be his servant,
to bring Jacob back to him,
and that Israel might be gathered to him,
for I am honoured in the sight of the Lord,
and my God has become my strength—
he says,
‘It is too light a thing that you should be my servant
to raise up the tribes of Jacob
and to restore the survivors of Israel;
I will give you as a light to the nations,
that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.’

1 Cor 4.1–16
Think of us in this way, as servants of Christ and stewards of God’s mysteries. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they should be found trustworthy. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. I do not even judge myself. I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore do not pronounce judgement before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive commendation from God.
I have applied all this to Apollos and myself for your benefit, brothers and sisters, so that you may learn through us the meaning of the saying, ‘Nothing beyond what is written’, so that none of you will be puffed up in favour of one against another. For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you received it, why do you boast as if it were not a gift?
Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! Quite apart from us you have become kings! Indeed, I wish that you had become kings, so that we might be kings with you! For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, as though sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels and to mortals. We are fools for the sake of Christ, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honour, but we in disrepute. To the present hour we are hungry and thirsty, we are poorly clothed and beaten and homeless, and we grow weary from the work of our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we speak kindly. We have become like the rubbish of the world, the dregs of all things, to this very day.
I am not writing this to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. For though you might have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers. Indeed, in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. I appeal to you, then, be imitators of me.

Isaiah 55.1–5
Ho, everyone who thirsts,
come to the waters;
and you that have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without price.
Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
and your labour for that which does not satisfy?
Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good,
and delight yourselves in rich food.
Incline your ear, and come to me;
listen, so that you may live.
I will make with you an everlasting covenant,
my steadfast, sure love for David.
See, I made him a witness to the peoples,
a leader and commander for the peoples.
See, you shall call nations that you do not know,
and nations that do not know you shall run to you,
because of the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel,
for he has glorified you.

Jn 1.35–42
           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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About Bruce Bryant-Scott

Baptised 1962. Anglican priest. Fly-paper brain. Husband & Father. Refugees welcome! I remember when Facebook was on paper.
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