Listen to the sermon here:
Scripture: Isaiah 49:1-7; Psalm 40:1-11; 1 Corinthians 1:1-9; John 1:29-42
It is quite exciting to hear someone invite us to come and see. Sometimes we know what we will see and sometimes it is a blind experience. We don’t know if it will be pleasant or unpleasant. We don’t know if it will have a charge attached – an energizing charge as in electricity or if it will be a responsibility that we don’t want.
But there is something in our nature that excites us when we hear the words “Come and see.” In the Gospel today Jesus is doing the inviting. That makes the invitation breath-taking. One of the new disciples of Jesus asks him, “Where are you staying?” That is when Jesus says, “Come and see.” They follow Jesus, go into the place where Jesus is staying and don’t leave for hours.
That is how the news spreads. We invite people to come and see. Now I don’t invite people to come to my home because I don’t have time to have my home as nice as I would like. I invite people to come to church where they will see Jesus. You know, picture of Jesus, talk about Jesus, hymns about Jesus, a creed that includes Jesus. Is that enough? Will these persons return? Maybe so, maybe not. Do you know how the “returning Spirit” works? It is in feeling the presence of Jesus. Intellectual knowledge of Jesus is fine and to be sought. However, for a magnet-pull to return, Jesus needs to be felt – felt in the mind, felt in the heart, felt in the bones and every cell of our being.
We may say, “Hmmmm, I don’t know that I ever had that kind of experience.” Just wait. Be open! Enter worship service with high expectations! Do you know when astonishing closeness to God comes to me? When I least expect it. It is something I can’t “will” to happen. The Holy Spirit likes to be a bit whimsical. Something like jumping from behind us saying, “Boo!” Then I hear the call to “come and see.” Often I don’t need to go anywhere because the presence of the Holy Spirit is where I already am.
But there are times when I need to change the direction of my feet. God has something for me to see elsewhere. It could be several miles away. It could be next door when I was headed to the airport. It could be in a sad, sad home. It could be at a party. God knows how much I would rather be sitting in my office rather than attending a party. But sometimes God’s work is at a party.
Sometimes I find a wealthy person whose heart is without feeling and who is desperate for meaning to come into that vacuum. Sometimes I find a person who had been close to God when life fell apart and the closeness to God got lost. Sometimes I find a person who has been charged by God to speak to my heart; to embrace me in my wandering. Sometimes God sends a person to me to share my knowledge of resources for hungry or homeless people and I fail to do my part. I fail to remember the best way to help this person. Sometimes God sends someone to me and I do the right thing despite people on my right and left saying my action was foolish and wasteful.
When Jesus said, “Come and see” to whom was he speaking exactly? “Exactly” is a funny word here because one of the persons was this person named Simon, brother of Andrew. Andrew found Jesus because he was with John the Baptist when John said, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!” Andrew followed Jesus to his place of lodging that day. He was one of the two disciples who went with Jesus and stayed for hours. Andrew was so excited that he ran to find this brother, Simon.
It is interesting that this Simon became the better known of the two brothers and yet if Andrew had not been excited enough to find Simon, history would be a bit different. You may say, “Simon, who is Simon?” This Simon became known as Cephas, translated as Peter. Jesus, later called Peter the Rock of the church. Jesus gave the symbolic keys of heaven to Peter. You may have heard the jokes about Peter being the gatekeeper of heaven. All of this because Andrew ran and invited Simon Peter to come and see.
There is this fellow who walks the sidewalk beside the door of the church which I serve in Pottstown. Do I ever say, “Come and see?” Well, actually I have said that quite a number of times to people in Pottstown who notice my collar and strike a conversation with me about their relationship to church and to God. Of course, most often the relationship with church has fallen by the wayside. But these persons love to talk about God and his goodness even though they appear not to have adequate clothing and they are probably not able to buy healthy food. Maybe they are doing this to impress me. That is okay. I am impressed that these people feel a desire to share their beliefs and experiences with me all because I am easily identified as one who is associated with organized religion.
They are actually saying “come and see” to me before I open my mouth to ask if they have a church family. And then if they have not already asked me, I tell them where I “do church” in Pottstown. I invite these people to take the steps into that church building, knowing that it is not just a matter of physical steps and physically opening that door. It is with trembling that people return to church. But I can assure them that in this particular church, they will be welcomed with eagerness. They will be accepted even with clothing in rags; even if a good measure of the congregation is wealthy. All people are accepted. No matter the various handicaps which can be named, each of God’s children is welcome.
Can we say that about every church? Oh, what a great experience it is for people taking that entering step to find Jesus inside! Jesus abides in this place. Not just one physical place but after he ascended in return to the Father, Jesus abides everywhere. Call it the Holy Spirit who represents Jesus with us or call it the presence of Jesus. Either way, it is the presence of God around us, in us, under us, above us. We can open the pores of our skin, we can open our eyelids just enough, we can be alert for words, we can shed our shoes of hustle and bustle and be still, we can shed our hostilities because they take too much space in our beings. We can get the most benefit possible if we change our demeanor.
Jesus appeared on earth for his fellow believers in the Jewish tradition. Yes, God seemed to give this great gift to the people called “Israel.” As is often the case, people called Israel were not ready. The responsibility was to keep their faith pure. Their eyes were on the rules, their eyes were on the institution of faith instead of on the gift of faith and the fact that God was sending a new thing for them. We who are Gentiles – that is everyone who is not Jewish in genealogy – seem to have benefitted by this closed-door attitude of our Jewish friends. Because God moved the blessing of salvation to a wider circle – not eliminating the welcome for people Israel, but making the circle inclusive.
Since we are the beneficiaries of this reception, are we excluding anyone from our personal circle or congregational circle? We may say, everyone is welcome but do our actions prove it? Do we make an effort to greet that disheveled person who just walked in the door? Do we even make an effort to greet that nicely dressed person or the well-dressed person? Is it so hard to say, “My name is Joe. I am glad to see you today.” But, you say, “What if that person is a member already? Won’t it look silly for me to hear that?” No, it is not silly when the person you have just greeted, thinking he or she is a visitor says, “I have been a member of this church all my life.” Well, is it not strange that if that is true, where has this person been that you don’t recognize? Make the mistake; take the chance of looking foolish. This person you have just greeted may be totally in need of a greeting that day, member or not member.
Talking of being inclusive, is your building handicapped accessible? There are people who have been active members all of their long life and now need to feel welcome inside their church rather than to fall into the category of homebound when it could be different. Of course, do we make every effort to visit our homebound people; to keep them informed; to take communion if they desire.
“Come and see!” said John the Baptist. “Come and see!” say we! Great and kind words these are. What else? Oh, yes, Go and Tell, yes Go and Tell. That is one of the main points of Epiphany. Do you remember the words in the Palm Sunday scripture which say that if the people don’t shout, the stones will? The people who were trying to keep order on that day when Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey, told Jesus to quiet his followers. Jesus responded with this response about the stones. Do we want stones to shout what we are afraid to shout? Maybe you are saying, “Yes, that would be great. A talking stone may have more effect than I do.”
But Jesus expects us to be saying, “Hosanna. This is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!” Are we going to let another Epiphany and Lent and Easter go past waiting for the stones to take our place?” Join me in praying that we will accept this Jesus in our hearts and then be bold and go about saying, “Come and see” to everyone we meet.
Dearest Jesus, are we ashamed of you? Is that why we are quiet? Don’t we trust you? Are we afraid that you will not receive the person we invite? Are we afraid that the person will accept our invitation? Oh, dear, Lord Jesus, we have so many excuses. While we talk to ourselves about developing the needed courage, a little child comes along and says, “Come and see!” While we are waiting to be friendly, a teenager extends the invitation and says, “Come and see!” Dear Jesus, surprise us and open our mouths for us. Furthermore, Lord Jesus, when we hear you say “Come and see,” help us to immediately cease whatever we are doing and follow. These fishermen let their nets lying on the sand by the shore. Help us to let our date books fall where they will. That is another life. We long to be the servant you planned for us to be. Amen