Saint Andrew was a pioneer in many ways. His festival is often the first major Christian feast celebrated after the beginning of the Christian year to commemorate his status of being the “first called.”
As the Gospel of John recalls the story, Andrew was a disciple of John the Baptizer, the forerunner of Jesus. As Jesus walked by one day, John, who was talking with Andrew and an unnamed disciple, points at him and says, “Look! That’s the One we’ve been waiting for! There goes the Lamb of God!” Andrew and the other disciple follow without giving it a second thought. After spending time with Jesus, Andrew goes to tell his younger brother, Simon Peter, what he has found. Through this exchange, Andrew becomes the midwife of his brothers’ relationship to Christ.
On the later end of his life, legend has it that Post-Resurrection-and-Ascension-Andrew traveled to what is now Ukraine, planted a cross in the ground, and prophesied the foundation of a great Christian city there (modern day Kiev). Up to this point, Christianity was focused mainly in Greece, Asia Minor, and Judea, with a few scattered Christian communities throughout the rest of the Roman Empire. But the place where Andrew would plant his cross was beyond the furthest expanse of the Empire. It was wilderness. It was the fulfillment of Christ’s words in Acts, that the Holy Spirit would empower his followers to carry this transforming message to the “ends of the earth.”
What I appreciate the most about this excerpt from the Radziwiłł Chronicle depicting St. Andrew’s Prophecy is that it reveals two, equally plausible, outcomes. As he plants the cross, there is a man who appears to be either building or planting. It is either true that the man was building and planting when Andrew got there (which meant that Andrew was sharing the Gospel with those who had not yet heard its transforming power) or he is building or planting in response to Andrew’s evangelism. Perhaps both are true and worth holding together.
When I consider the modern task of evangelism, I like to think local. There are some who are called to travel the length and breadth of continents to bring the Good News – in word and deed – to those in need of it. But for many of us, the call is much closer. The frontier to which God is calling you in faith might be as close as a relative or friend in need of a message of joy, compassion, peace, justice, and mercy. As I shared recently with my congregation, “Evangelism works best when it works its way through the organic connective tissue of our relationships.”
Either way, there is work to be done on either side of the sharing – gardens that needed tending and new worlds that need building. Andrew’s shows us how this can happen, when we dare to believe the Gospel at first sight and to venture boldly beyond the edges of our comfort into the wildness of God.
Where is God calling you to share the gospel?