Sermon for January, 18th Epiphany 2: Come and See

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John 1:43-51

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

Come and See

When Phillip found Nathanael, he tells him, “We have found him…. Jesus of Nazareth.”  We have found him.  And Nathanael questions.  “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”  Phillip’s reply is not an explanation, or a debate.  Rather he shares three simple words in the form of an invitation.

Come and See

Because to truly know this Jesus, you cannot simply hear about him…  You cannot know facts about him.  You have to know him.  You have to experience the presence of God in Jesus for yourself.

Come and See

Today in our scriptures we see three call stories.  One of the young prophet Samuel from our Old Testament reading, and two apostles, Phillip and Nathanael, in our gospel reading.  In each of these stories we see that God if first moving.  God calls the prophet Samuel when he is just a boy, and he does not even recognize the voice of the Lord, because he does not yet know him.  But God had been working in Samuel’s life long before Samuel could be aware of it, long before he could choose to respond to God.  In fact, God had been working in his life before he was even born.  Samuel’s mother’s name was Hannah.  She was a faithful woman, but she was barren and could not have children.  It brought her a great deal of pain and unhappiness.  Her husband Elkanahhad two wives and his second wife had children and would, ‘taunt and provoke’ Hannah because she had none.  When they went to offer their sacrifice to the Lord at the Ark of the Covenant, Hannah prayed to the Lord.  She prayed for a son and vowed that if she conceived this son, she would give him to the Lord’s service.  The priest Eli hears her desperate prayers, and at first thinks she is drunk.  But soon, he realizes that she is simply pleading with God to grant her prayers and he takes pity on her and prays to the Lord that this prayer will be granted.

Hannah conceives and bears a son, and names him Samuel.  And when her child is weaned she is faithful to her vow and she brings him to the house of the Lord and presents him to Eli.  And instead of bemoaning her great sacrifice, Hannah sings a song of victory!  She tells of the faithfulness of God who, ‘raises the poor from the dust.”  Every year Hannah would make her son a little coat and bring it to him when they came to offer their yearly sacrifice.  Hannah went on to bear three sons and two daughters, and Samuel was raised in the Lord’s presence.  Samuel went on to be a just prophet and judge of the Lord, and eventually anoint the first two kings of Israel.

God was working in Samuel’s life before he was even aware of it.  God called Samuel first, and Samuel responded.  When God began calling Samuel, Samuel mistook the voice of God.  It took his mentor Eli to help him see that it was God’s voice.  Samuel had been responding, “Here I am.”  “Here I am.”  And yet, it seems this was not the response that God was looking for.  Rather, when Samuel responds, “Speak, Lord- your servant is listening,” God does speak.

God often calls us before we are even aware of it too.  God works in our lives before we make the conscious decision to have faith or become a Christian.  Look at our baptism.  In our church, we baptize babies along with children and adults.  Somehow we believe that God gives faith to that person who is baptized, even though they are unaware of it.  And the same is true with all baptisms and all lives of faith- God first calls us.  God gives us the gift of faith.  It is not a decision we make for ourselves.  It is not a work that we do.  Rather it is a gift.  The call of God is a gift.

And what is our response to God?  Maybe we can learn a lesson from the boy Samuel.  “Speak Lord, your servant is listening.”  How are we taking time to listen to God in our lives?  What is God trying to tell us?  Personally and as a church?  In order to respond to our call from God, we first have to listen.  We have to pray and discern where God may be leading us.  We need to watch for the signs as we learned from our epiphany story where the wise men are led to the baby Jesus. Listening and watching for the rare and precious word of the God, is our response.

In our two call stories from John’s gospel, we see Jesus acting first.  Jesus decides to go to Galilee.  He finds Phillip.  He says, “Follow me.”  He seeks us and finds us too.  Jesus knows us even as we stand afar.  We all have a desire in this life to be truly know, and truly loved.  And we find that in our relationship with God.  God knows us completely- and loves us completely.  Part of Phillip’s call to follow Jesus is to bring others to Jesus.  He says to Nathaneal, “Come and see.”  And truly that is the call of every Christian- say, “Come and See.”  Come and see Jesus- this God who knows you and loves you.  What a gift we can offer to the world.

Come and See

There was once a time when it was sort of assumed that people in America would go to Church.  Maybe that’s the way that some of you grew up in the beginning to middle of the 20th century. Most people were Christian and most people were engaged in a faith community.  The truth is, that is no longer true today.  There are many competing viewpoints in our world.  There are many more things to do on a Sunday morning.  The world is different.  And evangelism was in many ways, simply an invitation to our church.  Come to us, come to our building.  But today, we have to think deeper about what it means to invite people to Come and See Jesus.  Because many people will never make it into a church building.  That is why we try to think of Church today more as a way of life and less as a building.  When we are serving at the community table and beacon house, we are saying, Come and See Jesus.  When we are packing kids meals so that kids at Sam Davey don’t go hungry on the weekends, we are saying Come and See.  When we give quilts to people all around the globe, we say Come and See.  When we welcome children and families here at Rachel’s Place we say Come and See.  When we go to El Salvador and participate in medical missions we say Come and See.    When we provide a safe space every week for groups like AA and Al-anon, we say Come and See.  When we embody God’s love, by loving the world- we say Come and See.

We love because God first loved us.  God called us first.  God gives us the gift of faith, and the gift of knowing Jesus.  Come and See.

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