Andrew’s Big Contribution
15 January 2017 RUMC
In the spring of 1992, a group of fourth grade students from Portland, Maine carried out a social and scientific experiment. They had learned how the Gulf Steam flowed along the East Coast where it turned toward Europe. I suppose if they were to do this today it would be frowned upon by environmental regulations, but their 4th grade teacher encouraged her students to put messages in empty wine bottles with their return address. The teacher had arranged with a local fisherman to take the twenty-one bottles several miles off shore to drop them into the ocean. As you can imagine, the students were pretty excited as they crafted their messages and sealed the bottles. They had great hopes that some of the bottles would follow the Gulf Stream and drift to England. About three months later, two of the bottles washed up in Canada, and the students heard from the people who retrieved them. The class heard nothing more and assumed the other bottles were lost at sea. Two years later one of the students, Geoff Hight, received a surprise letter from a girl in France who found his bottle on the beach.
When we share the love of Christ with someone, it may seem like tossing a bottle with a message of hope into the ocean. We may not see any response and think what we had done or said is forgotten. But years later, we are surprised to see how the Spirit of God, like the mighty Gulf Stream has carried our message to its destination.
My scripture text is how the Apostle Andrew shared the love of God with his brother Simon. It is a message of how we can use those opportunities that may come our way to share the love of God with others. My text is John 1:35-42.
35The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, 36and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!” 37The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38When 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?” 39He 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. 40One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41He first found his brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Anointed). 42He 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).
This is the Word of God.
This morning, I would like to focus on three verses: 40, 41 and 42. “One of the two who heard John the Baptist 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” He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas.”
In those early days, when John the Baptist preached at the Jordan River, he pointed out to others that Jesus was the Messiah. When Andrew heard that message, he immediately began to follow Jesus and, in his excitement, told his brother, Simon, about his new relationship with the Lord. Even though Andrew would eventually become less famous than his older brother, he too was used in the Kingdom of God, but in a more quiet way.
The story of Andrew and Peter is similar to what happened in 1934 North Carolina. A 24 year old farmer named Albert McMakin went to a tent Christian camp meeting and became a new believer in the Lord. Albert was so enthusiastic about his new found faith, that he would go around town in his pick-up truck and take his neighbors to the Camp Meeting, which back then had lots of music, testimony and preaching. Now there was one particular young man that Albert wanted to bring to the Camp Meeting, but he was difficult to persuade; it seemed that he was too busy falling in and out of love with different girls, nor was he too interested in Christianity. Somehow Albert managed to persuade the young man to go to the Camp Meeting with him. Once there, this young man became “spell bound.” He went back night after night until he invited Christ into his life. Since that day, that young man was used mightily by God. The name of the young man was none other than Billy Graham.
You see, the Billy Grahams’ and the Apostle Peters’ are few and far between. They are the ones who write the books, preach sermons to thousands, and get most of the attention. But most of us can be like Albert McMakin or like Andrew the Apostle; we can do things for God without much fanfare or attention.
It is truly a privilege to do things for God. Share an encouraging word. Give people we know the Upper Room magazine. We can provide some food assistance, or tell someone that we will pray for them. We can invite those without a church home to come to ours. If a person starts to ask questions about what you believe, you can go a step further and tell your story. This is not supposed to be a burden to bear, but just another way to be partners with the Lord.
Let me go back to my gospel text with additional background information. Andrew followed John the Baptist and Jesus for about a year before he returned home to the fishing business. The returning Andrew was a changed man, and his brother could see that. The change in Andrew helped Simon see his path to Christ.
You see the Gospel is supposed to be good news, and for most Christians, it is best shared in personal encounters. Unfortunately we have all seen negative examples: the television evangelists with their strong appeal of money that turns people off; perhaps you had someone from a fringe cult come to your door wanting to convert you; or the religious relative everyone wants to avoid because he or she is too pushy. I am sure you have seen people preaching outdoors and how they looked and what they said made you cringe. Then there are those who talk the talk on Sunday, but do not walk the walk on Monday. Because of all these things, it is easier and safer to keep your mouth shut. You don’t want to be ridiculed; I understand and I get that.
However when the Gospel is shared in the right way–among friends, acquaintances, certain family members–it can be a beautiful thing; that is how our church is to grow. When our District Superintendent comes to visit our church, he will give a benediction where he quotes St. Francis of Assisi who said, “Preach the Gospel, when necessary use words.”
Here are more quotes.
“May your life preach more loudly than your lips.”
“Be careful how you live: you will be the only Bible some people will ever read.” William Toms.
There is a story of how a Christian traveled to China and met with the pastor of a fast growing Baptist church. The tourist asked the Chinese pastor how he was able to get so many people to come to his church. His answer was a surprise. He said, “I don’t do much searching out for people. They come to me.” He further explained that during the Chinese Cultural Revolution of the 1960’s, he had been forced to leave his church and work in a radio factory. The pastor was not allowed to speak about Christ, but he whistled while he worked. That was significant, for nobody in the factory could summon up the joy to whistle. When the days of the Cultural Revolution were over, the man returned to his work as a pastor. Soon a steady trickle of people from the factory knocked at his office door. They wanted to discover the secret of his joy and learn how it carried him through those difficult days.
In sharing our faith, we don’t need a 13 week theology course on what to say. If someone was to ask what gives us hope, we could mention our faith and how Rockville UMC helps us in our spiritual journey. If you are not comfortable with words, then make a prayer sign or point up towards the sky. That works.
Matthew 5:14-16 gives us good advice. “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
Tradition tells us that Andrew left Israel and went into Turkey where he shared the gospel with others until he was arrested and sentenced to die on the cross. As he hung on the cross for two days, he urged others to come to Christ.
Let me close. Do you remember how the fourth grade students sent messages in empty bottles off the coast of Maine? In the course of time there were three responses out of twenty-one.
When we are ourselves and do things in Jesus name, it is a privilege and honor. So as we go forth, be aware of what we have and at the right time and place be open to share.