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God's Shadow Cast

The following sermon was preached by Preston Hoffman, LSTC Senior M.Div. student, in Augustana Chapel at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago on Thursday, November 30, 2006.


John 1:35-42

There are a few things about the Apostle Andrew that I think you should know today. We often think about Andrew as being in the background, in the shadow of Peter. It's Andrew and his shadow I would ask you to consider today for our lesser festival meditation.

Not much is known about Andrew. I was able to track down some interesting projections about him in the Eastern Orthodox sphere. Most of that information was unverified legend. There is a lot on the internet, contemporary scholarship is sparse.

The Greek tradition highlights that he was the first disciple to follow Jesus. When the Eastern Church and the Western Church finally decided to try to be on the same page, the Eastern Church wanted an apostle to represent them. Rome had Peter, so they picked Andrew; he was Protokletos (Proto-cleet-oos) or "First-called".

In the Roman church Andrew is patron of the following places: Achaia; Amfli, Italy; Patras, Greece; University of Patras; Russia; Romania; Ukraine; Scotland; Greece. He is patron of the following people: fish dealers, fish mongers, fisherman, maidens, old maids, singers, spinsters, unmarried women and women who wish to become mothers. Andrew is patron of the following conditions: sore throats; gout. I mention these because I know that you are always on the look out for resources.

Andrew was an occasional questioner to Jesus. In addition to asking the question in today's lesson, "Where are you staying?" He has a part in the feeding of the five thousand. He is the one who mentions to Jesus that there is a boy who has five barely loaves of bread and two fish. Then he asks, "But what are they among so many people?"

He has a role in John's gospel when some Greeks come to the temple to see the Lord. Phillip gets Andrew to ask Andrew if they can see Jesus. Andrew is only mentioned by name in the other gospels. In the book of Acts it is noted that he is in the upper room when Mathias is chosen to replace Judas.

In our text, Andrew is introduced as a disciple of John. He hears John exclaim, "Look here is the Lamb of God." The lesson says that when Andrew heard John say this he followed Jesus and Jesus turned around and asked him what he wanted. Andrew first said, "Rabbi" (which is translated teacher). Later in John's gospel, He(As I mentioned) has a part in the story of the feeding of the five thousand. A boy has five barley loaves and two fish. He tells Jesus this and then asks, "but, what are they among so many people?' The fact that he calls Jesus "teacher and that he hasn't a clue about how to feed the crowd tells us something about him. It is evident from these two examples that Andrew doesn't yet know God.

I was thinking about why others in the gospels are so much more prominent in our perception today. For example, Mary and Peter and the beloved disciple stand out. We hear precious little about Andrew. When I looked at this reading, Jesus doesn't call Andrew, he invites him to come and see where he is staying. The gap between scholarship and Wikipedia lead me to think that Andrew has a shadow.

I mentioned that Andrew didn't know God. I wonder sometimes if I know God. I thought I did. This last week I was shocked, stunned and saddened by the story of Kramer and his racial remarks. For those of you who don't know, the character Kramer, an actor on the Jerry Seinfeld show made numerous painful and hateful remarks while doing his comedy act in California. Someone taped it and released it to the media. Kramer appeared on the David letterman show, via satellite while Letterman interviewed Seinfeld, to say that he was sorry. It was strange and weird to hear him say that he was not a racist after hearing his routine. My first reaction was to not want to believe what I was hearing. But as I reflected on what happened, I realized that what came out of Kramer lurks in a corner of my heart as well. I could give examples of how I have colluded in a way that perpetuates this sin, but this isn't a confessional. Racism is such a systemic part of our lives that I'm convinced that it is not possible for us in the dominant culture not to be so. I love LSTC and I am here to say that systemic racism is real here. Racism is the sin I wish to name. I am talking about racism against a particular people, African Americans. I have a shadow. We have a shadow. We know because God's people who are its objects keep telling us so.

This past Monday I attended the funeral of a man I was just getting to know. He was to be my son's father in law at my son's marriage to his daughter next July. His name is John and he died of a heart attack the day before Thanksgiving. As I was sitting in the church before the mass, I was thinking about what I was feeling about a man I hardly knew and I was wondering about what the hundred or so people had on their minds. What I felt was "troubled" and I was thinking about Psalm 25 and reflecting on the psalmist's words, "Deliver Israel O God from all her troubles." As I wept and others wept, I recalled that Jesus wept. I longed for a word of deliverance from my troubles. As I sat there I was thinking about all of us too. Jesus is speaking to us today through the mouths of those who are the recipients of this sin. It is the preacher's task today to point us out of trouble.

There is one other important thing I wanted you to know about Andrew. When Jesus said to Andrew, "come and see", he knew that Andrew had a shadow and that it was dark. He knew that Andrew didn't know God. Still, the text says, Andrew stayed with Jesus all day. What follows in the scripture is curious to me. The text says, "It was about four O'clock in the afternoon." I puzzled over this statement and then I understood. Andrew had stayed the day. He had spent the entire day with the Lamb of God. He was so excited, that when he left Jesus, the scripture says he "First went to find Simon, his brother. And told him they had found the Messiah" Here is what I think. When Andrew left Jesus he knew God.

When he left to tell Simon, the sun had not gone down, it was still shining! Andrew had a new shadow. His shadow was different because he was different.

What is the Good News? The Good news is that through his encounter with Jesus, God's grace and acceptance has cast a new light on Andrew in spite of what is dark about him. The Light of the World creates a holy shadow. The Jesus that we know and follow has cast the same light of grace on each of us so that now we may realize that in our baptism there is liberation and deliverance. In baptism, we are God's children, living in God's world, doing God's work, within the will of God.( As Leslie Weatherhead says) Wherever we go, whatever we do in Christ's name we are called to cast the shadow of God's love. When we know God, racism dies within us.

In John's gospel Jesus identifies himself in seven different ways with his I am sayings: I am the Bread of Life; the Light of the World; the Gate; the Good Shepherd; the Resurrection and the life; the Way, and the truth and the life; the Vine. In our own experiences we might identify most with any one of these metaphors. For Andrew it seems that the Light of the World image fits best, at least for this homily. In that light God is casting a new shadow for Andrew then and for you and me today.
The one who images himself in these ways has cast a shadow that is reflected in these words: "On each of our dieings shed your light and your love, may the shelter we seek be that shadow of your cross. Keep calling to us until that day comes when with your saints we may praise you forever." It was on the cross that he valiantly struggled and became faithful to God on our behalf. He hung on! Just as the objects of our oppression hang on to their hope of justice. Thank God that they continue to remind us of what is wrong. Therein lays our gift this pre advent day. In his living and his dying and his rising he has provoked God in such a way that we may trust his work, confess our sin and double our efforts toward healing in the shadow of his cross.

The living Christ invites us to know God, realize our forgiveness and sin no more. Empowered by such love we are free to live with a new shadow, like Andrew's, by being an ally to the children of God who are the objects of injustice and oppression in this place. How might your shadow be cast in such a way? You might consider becoming a part of the seminaries anti-racism team or a member of Lutheran Human Relations Association. Please consider these words from them on How to be an Ally:

An Ally:
• Understands the nature of structural oppression
• Chooses to align with the objects of oppression
• Believes that it is in his/her best interest to be an ally
• Is committed to the practice of personal growth which is required
• Is quick to take pride and appreciate any successes
• Realizes that those we ally with are capable of taking care of themselves
• Is able to acknowledge and articulate how their patterns operate in practice, without self blame.
• Expects to make mistakes but does not use it as an excuse for non-action
• Knows that each side in an ally relationship has a clear responsibility for their own change whether or not the other person changes.
• Knows that the most empowered ally relationship that persons in the traditionally dominant role initiates the change toward personal and institutional equality
• Knows that he/she is responsible for humanizing or empowering their role in the institution, particularly as that role relates to people of color.
• Promotes a sense of community where he/ she works.
• Has a good sense of humor.

Let us go forth -aware of our Andrew shadow.

Amen

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