Thursday, November 30, 2006

St Andrew's Day

Andrew, one of Christ's twelve disciples is known as the Patron Saint of Scotland, and today Scotland celebrates St Andrew's Day. For many it's a day when they think nothing of the apostle and what his life represented. For them, the day holds no significance whatsoever. Yet for others, it's a day to "salute our Scottish heritage" while still many more find it's significance in superstition: it's a day when single ladies "pray" to St Andrew for a husband and look for a sign that he has heard their plea. St Andrew is also expected to "look after" gout, singers, sore throats, stiff necks, unmarried women, women who wish to become mothers, fish dealers, fishmongers, fishermen and old maids!

Yet I'd like to stress that I find none of these worthwhile reasons to celebrate having Andrew as our Patron. I have never really taken to, or thought much about, having a patron saint. But today, since November 30th remembers Andrew, perhaps for all the wrong reasons, I would like to think about his life and death which display an incredible witness to Christ and pray that this reason becomes the central focus of why we have this Apostle as our patron.

Andrew, the first-called of the disciples, brother of Peter, fisherman and devoted follower of Christ is probably mostly known for his life beyond what we read in the Gospels.

Tradition has it that Andrew left the holy land after Pentecost to spread the Gospel in Greece and Asia Minor. In 60AD, during the reign of Nero, Andrew was in Patras where it is said that he baptised the wife of the Governor, Aegeus. The Governor was incensed by this and ordered his death. He is believed to have been martyred by crucifiction on an X-shaped cross. This was to become the inspiration for the cross that forms the Saltire, Scotland's national flag.

There are many legends that explain how Andrew's relics came to Scotland, suffice to say that St Andrews became the religious centre of Scotland during the medieval period. Despite the many tales and thinking behind Andrew becoming the patron saint of our country, my guess would be that he himself would not want this day to focus on him. Neither would he want it to be a day to purely "celebrate Scotland" or become the centre of superstition. I suspect that he would not want this opportunity for a National Day go unnoticed if his life and death meant that it could point to his Lord.

Upon recognising his Messiah and following him, we read in John's Gospel that 'the first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, "we have found the Messiah". And he brought him to Jesus.'

My prayer is that Scotland's National Day will be remembered for the life and death of Andrew whose witness indeed brought people to Jesus. Let it be an encouragement to us that we might go and tell others we have found the Saviour, and that he alone should be the focus of our nation.

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