They immediately left their nets and followed Him., … and immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him. Matthew 4:18-22
We celebrated the feast day of the Apostle Andrew the First Called on November 30th. Fr. Adam Sexton and the members of the St. Andrew Parish (Orthodox Church of America) in Ashland had special services and prayers for their patron’s day. Orthodox Christians are not expected to know every saint (there are many who have not been recognized beyond local areas). But, Andrew was one of the first four of the Lord’s inner circle. Some sources say that Andrew evangelized as far north as Scotland. Others say his relics were brought there in the 4th century. Either way, he is a patron of the Scottish people and their diaspora.
When he, along with his brother Peter (and later James and John) was called by Jesus to “Follow Me,” Andrew did something that runs counter to what we expect in our modern society. He left behind his valued material possession, his fishing net, and his means of living, fishing. The two other brothers uped the ante by leaving their familial ties, their father, behind on the fishing boat. Jesus does not offer them any promise of a better livelihood, luxurious gifts, or many friends. He tells them, “I will make you fishers of men.” This is a high cost for such a strange offer.
This time of year people are bargain hunting for popular and special gifts. Retail and shipping companies are hiring additional staff, some with very good salaries and bonuses because of the recent employee shortages. As with Thanksgiving, there will be many family gatherings to celebrate Christmas and New Years. Yet, Jesus is calling these first disciples to do something radically different. Is there something wrong with what we are doing?
Unless the Lord has called you to be a monastic (monk or nun), able bodied and minded adults should have employment (and I know monastics with jobs). There is nothing wrong with owning needed possessions (I like wearing a coat in the winter), or a splurge item. And maintaining family ties is good and honorable. However, these things cannot be the meaning of our existence if we are to be Christians.
If anything, material possessions, worldly occupations, and human relationships can be hinderances in our Christian journey if taken too seriously. Consider the rich young man who really wanted eternal life.* The guy could have become the thirteenth disciple had he sold his possessions and given to the poor as a prerequisite to follow Christ. But, he was too attached to his wealth. In a parable, Jesus described how two men turned down an invitation to a great banquet because they were busy with their land and oxen and a third rejected it because he was a newlywed.** The field wasn’t going anywhere. The oxen could have been put in a barn until the next day. Heck, bring the wife, or let her do her thing and see her later. Having land, animals, or a spouse was not the problem. Putting these things before God cost these men a place at His table.
Our service to God must mean more to us than making a living. *** Loving Jesus has to be more important than loving our own family members.**** Andrew, Peter, James, and John did not give the calling a second thought. They immediately followed the Lord. Later, Peter would mention all that they had forsaken.***** And Jesus did promise them full blessings in the world to come. But true faith often begins with a willingness to follow Christ on a vague and uncertain word.
I’m not trying to stop anyone from shopping, working and getting ready to see family and friends again. But, St. Andrew’s calling is ours as well. Christ must be first in our lives to the point of being the only thing that really matters. I look forward to celebrating the baby Jesus. But I (try) to live for the God-man who conquered death by His death and calls us to die with Him so that we can live.