Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Peter's Brother


"You're Peter's brother, aren't you?" I wonder how many times the Apostle Andrew heard that as the Christian movement spread. In every account of the twelve disciples, Andrew is listed by name, yet he is often thought of as Peter's brother. In the synoptic account of their calling, as we have in the gospel lesson appointed for the feast of St. Andrew, Peter and Andrew and James and John accompany each other inseparable, but, when it is time for Jesus to take with him only his very closest followers, it's Peter, James, and John who go with him--no Andrew. The perennial fifth wheel, Andrew has his own contribution to the Way of Jesus, but it's rarely remembered without peering into the shadow of his boisterous brother.

In John's version of things, Andrew plays a different, more prominent role. In the disciples' calling story, it is Andrew who overhears John the Baptist remark that Jesus of Nazareth is the one about whom he had been speaking, and it is Andrew who goes and finds his brother Peter and brings him to Jesus. In John's account, it is Andrew who brings to Jesus a boy who has five barley loaves and two fish when they need to find some way to feed the 5,000 people in the wilderness. In John's gospel account, it is Andrew whom Philip consults when some Greeks ask to see Jesus, and it is Andrew who decides to bring their request to Jesus. Maybe John the gospel writer was a younger brother who knew too well what it feels like to go to school and be compared with an older sibling. At the very least, he allows us to recapture some of Andrew's identity without needing to receive it through the legacy of Peter.

Isn't it nice to remember that you don't have to be an oldest child to be a saint of God? In a spiritual way, Paul makes that case in Romans 10, when he reminds his readers that there is no distinction between Jew and Greek. In the next chapter, Paul will use a botanical image to describe how the Gentiles have been grafted into the stem, the root, the people of God, the children of Abraham. For Paul, although our path into salvation history may be distinct, as citizens of God's reign there is now no distinction among us--there is neither male nor female, Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, first nor last, older nor younger. Instead, all of us have been given gifts to share with the work of salvation.

"Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved," Paul quotes emphatically, "But how are they to call on the one in whom they have not believed?" Paul knows that those who turn to God and call out to him will be answered and saved, but not everyone knows that. "And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him?" How? The God who answers all who call is calling all who know God to share that good news with others. "How beautiful the feet of those who bring good news!" Paul writes, quoting Isaiah.

One of the beautiful challenges of believing in a God who loves everyone and who makes no distinctions is recognizing that the good news of that love must be delivered to everyone. Evangelism isn't someone else's job. There may be more prominent people in the Christian community who get credit for doing impressive things, but they might not be standing next to you when a prophet calls out. They might not be the ones whom some seekers approach with a question about the Way of Jesus. They might not be on that elevator, in that shopping line, on that park bench, in that waiting room when the opportunity to share good news comes. It's not someone else's job. As a child of the good news, it's yours.

You don't have to make speeches like Peter. You don't have to lead a company of apostles, bear witness to magistrates, argue with intellectuals, or become the patron saint of Scotland, dying on an X-shaped cross. But, if you spend your life hiding in the shadow of those who do, you'll miss the chance to be fully you and share the witness God has given you to share. Do you believe in God? Do you believe that God loves everyone? Do you believe that God answers prayer? Then you have good news to share because there are plenty of people in your life who do not know those things. And how will they call, how will they believe, how will they know unless you tell them? How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!

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