2nd Sunday after Epiphany
January 15, 2017
John 1: 29-42 You can click on this link to read the text in Oremus Bible Browser
When’s the last time you got an invitation? Invitations are a little thrill every time. It means someone wants your company enough to ask for it. It means you have been chosen, picked out for an occasion. That is what we see in this morning’s reading. Invitations.
This story includes Jesus first words in John’s Gospel, so the writer wants you to pay attention. In telling a story, the main character’s first words are an important indication of what is in store for the reader. It is as if the writer is asking you why you are embarking on this tale, and what you hope to gain by following the story he’s about to give you. In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus’ ministry starts with an exorcism. In Matthew, Jesus ministry begins with the Sermon on the Mount. In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus quotes from the prophet Isaiah, that the Spirit of the Lord has anointed him. Here, his ministry begins with a question: “What are you seeking?” The disciples want to know where he is teaching, and if they can spend some time with him there. “Come and see,” is Jesus’ invitation.
In a very real sense, the Gospel writer is asking you, the reader the same question. What are you seeking? What are you hoping to find in this story I am about to unfold for you? What is it about Jesus that you need? And Jesus’ invitation reaches out across the centuries to you. “Come and see.”
Often church, along with all the other institutions in our lives, has been about telling us what we need, and how to behave. There are limits on everything – from how long you can keep a library book to the tax rate you pay as a citizen to enjoy the institutions of government. Advertisements and peer pressure are always telling us that we need more – whiter teeth, a newer car, more activities, more friends, better nutrition. For many, church has been about rules – no communion unless you are a good enough Christian, enough service to your community to earn you credit towards your salvation, condemnation was easy to find, grace not so much. Church rules could decide for you who you can marry, and kick you out if you divorce. Sunday school teachers telling kids that babies that die before they are baptized are going to hell. Fellow “Christians” watching to see how well you behave and talking behind your back when you fall. How often has church been the place where you are asked, “What are you seeking?”
I’ve been following Father Richard Rohr’s meditations each day for the last two weeks. This week he has been talking about Scripture, it’s gift and its interpretation. One line of his meditation grabbed my attention as I have been thinking about Jesus’ invitation. Father Rohr says that Jesus is our hermeneutic as we take Scripture into our hearts and lives. Hermeneutic is a fancy seminary word that means the lenses we wear to understand what it means and how it applies to us today. So, look at what Jesus says and does if you want to understand what God wants you to know. If you want to kick out people who have been public sinners – look at how Jesus treated them. If you want to be really strict about who can be a member of your assembly, look at who Jesus included. If you are afraid that God can’t forgive you or love you because of what you’ve done, look at who Jesus embraced. You get the idea! Look to Jesus if you want to understand God’s love, Christian practice, healing of individuals and their restoration to their communities.
As we look to Jesus to understand God’s actions in the world brought to us through sacred scripture, we find today, not teaching or preaching, but invitation. Our story begins with two seekers trailing Jesus. He notices their curiosity as if he’s just been waiting for someone to ask him something. Andrew – my favorite disciple – even runs to get his brother Simon to join their little rendezvous with Jesus, another invitation. I’ve often thought “Come and See” would be a great mission statement for a church. An invitation instead of statement about who we think we are.
So here are somethings to think about this week: What was your invitation to meet Jesus? Are you here because someone invited you? Did you re-discover Jesus invitation after you’d been away for a long time? What was your “Come and See” moment? Did it happen more than once?
“What are you seeking?” Jesus asks. He is still asking, and this is the place where we want to hear your answer. Are you looking for loving community in a world of self-serving individualism? Are you looking for the chance to see how your love for God connects to your service to your community? Are you looking for God’s love to lift you from some deep shame you have carried too long? How has Jesus invitation made a difference in your life? Come and share your story with us. Amen.