Exploring the Word | Spreaker

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Come and See

Isaiah 49:1-7
1Listen to me, O coastlands, pay attention, you peoples from far away! The LORD called me before I was born, while I was in my mother's womb he named me. 2He made my mouth like a sharp sword, in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me a polished arrow, in his quiver he hid me away. 3And he said to me, "You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified." 4But I said, "I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity; yet surely my cause is with the LORD, and my reward with my God."

5And now the LORD says, who formed me in the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob back to him, and that Israel might be gathered to him, for I am honored in the sight of the LORD, and my God has become my strength-
6he says, "It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the survivors of Israel; I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth."
7Thus says the LORD, the Redeemer of Israel and his Holy One, to one deeply despised, abhorred by the nations, the slave of rulers, "Kings shall see and stand up, princes, and they shall prostrate themselves, because of the LORD, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you."

John 1:29-42
29The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, "Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 30This is he of whom I said, 'After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.' 31I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel." 32And John testified, "I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, 'He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.' 34And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God."

35The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, 36and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, "Look, here is the Lamb of God!" 37The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, "What are you looking for?" They said to him, "Rabbi" (which translated means Teacher), "where are you staying?" 39He said to them, "Come and see." They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o'clock in the afternoon. 40One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. 41He first found his brother Simon and said to him, "We have found the Messiah" (which is translated Anointed). 42He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, "You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas' (which is translated Peter).

43The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” 44Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” 46Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” 47When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” 48Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” 49Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” 50Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.” 51And he said to him, “Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”

            I was hanging out with friends of mine recently, watching their kids play. It struck me that one of the reason little kids are so much fun to watch is that they have such a sense of amazement about the world. You can see them taking everything in with wonder in their eyes. For them, the rules aren’t set; they don’t know how the world works. Every time they drop a toy and watch it fall, it’s an experiment. As far as they know, the next time they let go, the block might fall upwards.

            Colors, shapes, people, their own feet: the world is full of mysteries for little ones. Each moment is full of possibilities; they have no idea what might happen next. Part of the joy of children is that endless sense of possibility and wonder. The world is new and amazing to them and when we watch them we catch a glimpse of the world through their eyes.

            As we get older it sometimes feels like the world loses its wonder, but that’s not really true. We might lose our sense of wonder, but the world is no less wonderful than when we were small. Part of that change is necessary. We have to learn the basic rules of the world: gravity, cause and effect, rhythms of the days and weeks. We would have a hard time building anything if we didn’t know that gravity always pulls things down. We wouldn’t be good drivers if we forgot that turning the wheel left makes the car go left every time. We’d have a hard time making it to work if the sunrise caught us by surprise each morning.

            We need to understand the patterns in the world to navigate life effectively, but we don’t have to lose our appreciation for the glory of creation. It is a tragedy to lose our sense of wonder for the miracle of God’s world. The sunrise may not be surprising, but it is glorious; the wetness of water isn’t unexpected, but the majesty of the waves can still take our breath away. We understand the science behind a sunset; but God still paints us an incredible picture most evenings here in Rochester.

            The openness I love in children is the sense that anything is possible, that the world is new and exciting. That’s part of what Jesus is talking about when he encourages the disciples to welcome the kingdom of God like children. Jesus asks his hearers to be open to new possibilities, new communities, new ways of life. We see that openness in our story from John, and we can cultivate that openness in our own lives. Come and see.

            Picture John the Baptist out in the wilderness on a riverbank with his disciples. The crowds are lining up to be baptized as a symbol of their repentance and desire for God’s kingdom. All of a sudden John spots Jesus nearby and shouts out, “Look, it’s the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” You can hear the excitement in his voice as he sees God’s plan falling into place. He hadn’t known when he started his ministry who the Messiah was, but he knew his job was to get people ready, and he knew what to expect when the Messiah came. Now he recognizes Jesus and the signs are clear.

            Not surprisingly, John’s disciples get curious about this “lamb of God.” A couple of them follow Jesus to see what’s going on. Jesus turns and asks what they’re looking for. I think the question catches them off guard because they ask where he’s staying, which can’t be very interesting in itself. I think the question they really want to ask is, “Who are you?” Jesus invites them to follow; he invites them to “Come and see.”

            The next day Jesus and his new disciples hit the road; Jesus finds Philip, who goes right out and finds Nathaniel. He tells Nathaniel that they’ve found the Messiah, that of all places, he’s a man from Nazareth. You can hear the skepticism in Nathaniel’s voice as he asks, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Philip responds, “Come and see.”

            John’s Gospel isn’t about facts and proof; it’s about giving us glimpses of Jesus. It’s about telling us the stories, showing us what happened when the Word of God became flesh and lived with us. John’s Gospel is about showing us what we need to see so we can believe in Jesus and follow him today.

            One of the hard things for many of us about Christian faith is that we haven’t seen Jesus. We weren’t there for the miracles and the stories. We weren’t there to see Christ risen from the dead. We live in a world that’s so driven by facts and evidence, a world from which we have stripped the magic and mystery, a world where seeing is believing. We haven’t seen, so we have a hard time believing.

            Sometimes we feel jealous of those first disciples; we feel jealous of Peter and Andrew and Philip. They were curious about Jesus because of what John said, so they followed him back to his room and watched him do his thing. For them it really was as simple as coming and seeing. It was easy for them to believe because the evidence was right in front of them. Wouldn’t it be nice?

            It’s been two thousand years and sometimes we feel so removed from those early days. We can feel so far from the reality of Jesus that faith becomes something in our head, something we do for an hour a week or with a Bible at bedtime, but not something that shapes our lives. We hear those voices that remind us how important it is to believe in Jesus, those voices that tell us we have to be believe so we can be saved.

            Then there are all those other voices we hear that question our faith, that announce other messages. We hear voices of skepticism that say faith is something for children or for the foolish. We hear voices that tell us success is all that matters. We hear voices that call for security and urge us to lock our doors and watch strangers suspiciously.

            Amid all those voices and across all those years, Jesus’ voice still calls us: “Come and see.” We don’t see Jesus in the carpenter from Nazareth walking in front of us, but when we follow we will see Jesus. We’ll see Jesus in the faces of little children when we go to tutor in under resourced schools. We’ll see Jesus in nursing home beds when we sit with elderly people no one else visits. We’ll see Jesus in the hungry and homeless men and women we serve at Cameron or Demitri House. We’ll see Jesus in the faces of unknown neighbors who come to the Laurelton CafĂ© for a hot meal.

            When we follow Jesus we’ll be surprised because through Christ we can do things we never dreamed of. We can talk to strangers and be a blessing. We can teach kids and warm a heart. We can lead worship with joy and power. We can pray with the dying and watch tears fill their eyes and peace fill their hearts. Our minds sometimes make us skeptical; our worries sometimes make us afraid. But when we trust Jesus enough to follow we will see amazing things, so come and see.

            I’m not telling you to switch your brain off or cover over your doubts. Instead, bring your questions with you as you follow Jesus’ calling. Take some time each day to pray; open your heart to God and try to see what God might be calling you do to. Open the Bible and see where the story leads you; then go. You can even think of following Jesus as an experiment; you can follow, not sure what you’ll find, not sure if you believe what Jesus said: come and see. Like a child who doesn’t know what’s going to happen when she drops a stuffed rabbit from her hand, we don’t have to know what’s going to happen next. The only way to find out is to be open to new possibilities, to come and see.

Jesus doesn’t usually tell you what to believe. Instead, he asks people to be open to the message of God’s love; he asks people to open their eyes and see for themselves. For the disciples in our story and for most of us today we will see Christ’s amazing work by following. Most of the time people not going to be convinced of the truth of Christianity by intellectual arguments. Instead faith grows through experiencing God in action. Jesus spends more time walking with the suffering than sitting in your armchair at home. It’s always been that way. Don’t wait to believe; come and see.

One of my favorite shows growing up was called Reading Rainbow. The show was all about books and reading. The host, Lavar Burton, would tell the audience about a book he liked, ending with why he liked it. His last line was always, “But you don’t have to take my word for it.” Jesus says the same thing to his disciples: Come and see for yourself. Philip says the same thing to Nathaniel when Nathaniel wonders if anything good can come from Nazareth, “Come and see.”

I can preach each week about Jesus and his calling. Our tradition firmly believes that in scripture and preaching, God speaks, so you can meet God here in this service. But to really see Christ at work, you have to follow him out into the world. I’ll tell you that Jesus loves you and wants you to share that love with others through your actions, but you don’t have to take my word for it. Come and see.

Thanks be to God.

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