2nd Sunday after Epiphany
January 19, 2014
After six years of effort, I finally had my Bachelor’s Degree in hand and there I was, sitting in Greek class at Pacific Lutheran Seminary. Summer Greek would be eight weeks and fulfill the requirement of learning to read the Gospels in the antique Greek in which they were written. Here I was with the smart kids in Graduate School. I’d made it. I was about the get the scoop of real religion from big guns at seminary. Beginning Greek students start with the Gospel of John. Even though it is the hardest Gospel to understand, it is written in the simplest Greek. It was the same each morning, stumbling through a few verses, translating them, discussing noun cases and verb tenses. It was very mechanical. Where’s the religion, I wondered? This doesn’t feel like theological training. Until we came to the verses we have before us this morning.
You’ll notice that John’s account of the baptism is a little different than what we heard last week. He is telling the story to disciples, explaining that now he knows for certain that this was the one whose coming he’d awaited. He saw the Spirit descend on him just as he had been told would be the certain sign that he was meeting the Son of God, the Messiah. It’s enough to send these faithful followers of John to meet Jesus when they see him the next day. And here’s where the story gets good. We’re stumbling along in our shaky Greek, and translating for our professor, when he stops us. “What are you seeking?” Jesus has just asked the two men who are following him. Dr. Smith said, “Notice these are the first words that Jesus speaks in John’s writing. The first words of the main character are always important because they set the stage for the whole story to unfold. The Evangelist is asking you, the reader, ‘What are you looking for in this story?’” It gave me goose pimples; it still does. What is it that you need? What is it that you are hoping to learn? What is it that only meeting Jesus can give you? The rest of the story will be his answer to these questions.
The disciples question was to find out where they could study with him, how they could learn more about him. And Jesus’ answer is the best answer to all the questions that the initial question raises, “Come and see.”
It was my answer, too, to the question of how something as mechanical as learning an ancient language with a different alphabet could open the doors of faith for me at the beginning of the grand adventure on which I was embarking. Come and see.
It is still the invitation to which all of us respond. You may be here because you grew up in church and it’s become part of who you are as you navigate the joys and sorrows of life. The Spirit of Jesus has been quietly opening the door to understanding and trust all your life. Inviting you over and over to “come and see.”
Some of you may have had some baggage from previous church experiences, but you still felt God’s invitation “come and see,” God’s Spirit calling you over and over again.
And maybe some of you voiced to a friend that you felt the need to look for God in a church community, and were invited to “come and see.” What ever your reason for being here, you have responded to God’s question, “What are you seeking?” and to the invitation to “come and see.” You find a love that’s been waiting for you, forgiveness for your failures, and ease from your guilt. You find hope for the world and a call to share your hope and to stand up for justice, as one of Jesus’ disciples.
We northern European, non-evangelical types are not very good at talking about our faith, and often hesitate because we have been accosted in the past by “Evangelism” in a form that pushed us away rather than invited us to be part of God’s family in a church community. But the pattern we see here really is the way to share our faith and invite people into fellowship with God in Jesus. John talks about what he saw, what happened to him, and what it meant. He shared his own experience with the people closest to him, the ones he wanted to experience it for themselves. So he pointed them in the right direction. They followed Jesus, and heard his own invitation to them to come and see. And notice that on the way, Andrew grabs his brother, who will become one of the foundations of the Way of Jesus. Peter comes with them to study with Jesus because Andrew tells of his own experience, “We have found the Messiah.”
These are ‘call stories,’ stories that tell of invitation and action. Each of us here has one, a story of how we got here. Each of us has a story of responding to God’s invitation, of asking how life has meaning and how we can function in a chaotic world. Each of us has shared our own experience of God at work in our lives and the world, and have been the vehicle for God’s invitation to someone to come and find out for themselves how a life of faith works. And it’s not just about our own comfort, it’s also about learning to see with God’s eyes and heart how much the world needs what we know about God’s love and forgiveness. I sometimes think that the answer to all our questions about mission and ministry and to our friends who ask why we bother with church at all are the words of Jesus, “Come and See.” Amen.
Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.