January 18, 2015 – Come and see

1 Samuel 3:1-10

Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord under Eli. The word of the Lord was rare in those days; visions were not widespread. At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see, was lying down in his room; the lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was. Then the Lord called, “Samuel! Samuel!” and he said, “Here I am!” and ran to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call; lie down again.” So he went and lay down. The Lord called again, “Samuel!” Samuel got up and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call, my son; lie down again.” Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. The Lord called Samuel again, a third time. And he got up and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” Then Eli perceived that the Lord was calling the boy. Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down; and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place. Now the Lord came and stood there, calling as before, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”

John 1:29-34

The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.” And John testified, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I 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.’ And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.”

John 1:35-51

The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. When 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?” He 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. One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Anointed). He 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).

The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip 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.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.” And 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.”

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Epiphany 2     January 18, 2015   Psalm 139, 1 Samuel 3:1-10, John 1:29-51   Come and see

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Seeing is believing, it’s said…. And all our readings from John’s gospel today are all about seeing so as to believe.

John the Baptist sees Jesus first, and proclaims “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!…. I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him… And I myself have seen and testified – this is the Son of God.”

The next day, John sees Jesus again, exclaiming now “look, the Lamb of God.” Two of John’s followers hear – see – follow Jesus – who turns and sees them, asking “what are you looking for?” “Rabbi, teacher, where are you staying?” they ask. “Come and see,”Jesus says.

The next day, Jesus sees Philip and says, “follow me.” Philip finds Nathanael and says “we’ve found the one Moses and the prophets wrote about, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Nathanael asks. “Come and see,” Philip says.

Sixteen times in a few verses, we hear variations on the verbs look and see… Several more times the related verbs watch and watching are heard…

This is sounding almost a little like those Look and See Dick and Jane story books in first grade, where the plot revolves around “Look Jane, look! See Dick run!” And our readings from John’s gospel today really are a bit like a My First Reader for Christians. Though unlike Dick and Jane of old, these scriptures are deep enough to keep us pondering long as we live…

Which is a good thing because – as adults we know seeing is not always believing. Seeing is not always a simple matter. Yet seeing can mean the difference between life and death. Proverbs tells us “without vision the people perish.” And John’s gospels calls us back to God’s original vision for us, as people made in the image of God…

In the beginning God says “let there be light!” And there is light. And God sees that the light is good. Only when God sees that it is good is the first day of creation complete… And day by day, God speaks and creation happens… As God sees, again and again, that it is good, and at the end of the week, God sees it is all Very Good..

Now in the beginning of St John’s gospel we have a series of days of new creation… On each day someone sees Jesus is Son of God… Messiah, Christ. Though in each case, people are not yet seeing anywhere near the fullness of what these titles mean…    In some instances, not yet seeing much at all…

Well, even God doesn’t see that his work is good on day two of creation – not till day three, when God sees it’s good, twice. So it’s understandable, probably, when Nathanael is not seeing, at first, that Jesus is good news… Nathanael’s apparently from Bethsaida, same hometown as Philip, Andrew and Simon Peter. Jesus is from Nazareth nearby. (Apparently. Actually he’s from heaven… but…) Maybe there’s some kind of first-century football rivalry between these two towns, since Nathanael’s first words are“Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (His mind is on the AFC Championship more than on who’s Jesus…)

He’s not initially persuaded by Philip’s description of who Jesus is. But he’s curious enough to be willing to go, see for himself…when Philip keeps inviting…

And now Jesus sees Nathanael coming, and says “Here’s an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” Reminding us of Jacob the deceiver, back in Genesis, who stole the family birthright from twin brother Esau, then spent 20 years in exile, working for a father-in-law who deceives him back, many times over…And Jacob has a vision from God, with angels going up and down a ladder extending into the heavens, and God telling him, ‘through you and your descendants all the families of earth shall be blessed…”

Later Jacob the deceiver wrestles an angel of God and receives a new name, Israel, meaning God-wrestler…Now here’s Jesus, perhaps teasing a little, perhaps also giving Nathanael credit for honest questions – calling Nathanael an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.

And we’re not sure how much Nathanael’s understanding Jesus, but he’s clearly amazed. “Where did you get to know me?” he asks. Jesus says “I saw you before Philip called you, under the fig tree.”

“Rabbi, you’re the Son of God, you’re the King of Israel!” Nathanael says. (Again, we’re not sure how much Nathanael understands – he’s impressed for sure – but he may be excitedly using poetic language – like “you rock! you rule my world!” or like the Cole Porter song, “you’re the top, you’re Mahatma Gandhi – you’re the top – you’re Napoleon Brandy…”)

There may be something along these lines going on, because Jesus says “Do you believe because I said I saw you under the fig tree? You’ll see greater things than these. You’ll see heaven opened and the angels of God going up and down on the Son of Man.” Turning the Jacob-Israel metaphor inside out…and upside down. And in each new day of seeing Jesus… Faith grows and becomes more fruitful…

Hearing and believing that Jesus is truly God and truly human – hearing and believing in the Word of God who has become flesh and lived among us – This is how God’s new creation begins… And –

Seeing – deeply and yet more deeply – Who Jesus is – is how new creation is made complete, day by day…

And the new creation, the church, the rough draft of the kingdom of God on earth is beginning to be fulfilled…As we see Jesus – and, keeping the eyes of our hearts focused on him, we become more and more like Jesus…

And as we become more and more like Jesus, together – others are also more and more able to see Jesus…and become like him… And this is how God’s making all things new happens on earth… as it is in heaven…

Jesus calls us. Jesus teaches us to call others. Jesus keeps it simple. Come and see. Follow me. Greater things than these you will see.

Starting with the simplest of invitations – Come and see – Jesus instructs us in how to be his people…and call others to be his people with us.

And just as Jesus himself went unrecognized much of the time… So we too shouldn’t expect applause or special recognition. Like Jesus, we too should be ready to hear many variations of Nathanael’s first take on Jesus – ‘Can anything good come from out of Christianity? Can anything good come from the Christian church?’ These are the kinds of things we should be ready to hear spoken (or implied) when we invite friends, family, neighbors, anyone… to come and see…

So – we need to keep practicing – saying, persistently, creatively, in many ways, with many variations – ‘Come and see.’ We need to keep saying ‘come and see’ from the heart. Communicating the love of Jesus, whom we’ve seen by his grace…

As we invite others to come and see Jesus at work in us – especially together as the church, because together we’re the body of Christ, with many gifts and graces. Our congregational witness together is greater than the sum of our parts.

We don’t need to be heavy-handed in evangelism. Come and see is often all we need to say. We can also say the church is made up of everyday people like us, learning to follow Jesus together. This too is part of the message – but whenever Jesus can be seen alive among us, people will be able to understand a lot, even without many words spoken.

Of course we won’t succeed in communicating Jesus every time to everyone. The apostles of old didn’t succeed all the time either. They were rejected more often than accepted, in fact. And when we do succeed in helping people find their way to Jesus, even then, most of our victories in Jesus won’t make a big impression on the wider world…at least not in the short-run. (Like mustard seed growing in secret, the kingdom comes in under the radar…)

Most of our acts of witness for Jesus…will be like these first responders we see in the gospel today. Philip makes only three brief appearances in John’s gospel, and has no speaking lines anywhere else, and here in his first chance to talk about Jesus, all he can say in answer to Nathanael’s snarky question, ‘can anything good come out of Nazareth?’ is “come and see.”

Yet these three words are enough… A few words, well spoken at the right time is often all it takes…

Then, once we get to Jesus, we find, as Nathanael and Peter also find – here’s the one who knows and sees us already – far better we can ever see and know ourselves. Now we’re right there with the psalmist of psalm 139, who says, “Lord, you have searched me and known me – you know when I sit down and when I rise up – you discern my thoughts from afar…”

Something in the presence of Jesus lets us know – we are in the presence of Someone who knows us, completely and perfectly. Someone who loves us in spite of our every failure… Who calls us into his community of faith and love…. in which we share in his work of new creation… Share in the joy and peace of his gracious presence…

God is making all things new in Christ.

Like the first week of creation – new creation is happening, day by day…

And we too, are invited to play our appointed roles in God’s grand and wonderful work…

Like all the disciples before us – we’re called by God to continue to come and see the One who first sees us – and –

Come, share with one and all the invitation we have received –

Come and see.

Come and see.

Come and see.

Amen.