Sunday, January 14, 2018
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church – Loudonville, NY
“Come and see.” Children love to grab the people they love by the hand and show them what they made. Whether it’s a drawing, or something molded out of clay, or a lop-sided cake that they made themselves, they are excited to show it off. Or maybe it’s a gift they received for their birthday or Christmas. They can’t wait to see the look on someone’s face when they see that great thing. And so they seek out someone so they can say, “Come and see.” Come and see this great thing!”
And that doesn’t change as we become adults. We go on a vacation and we want to show off the pictures. We receive a gift or get a new car, or a new house, or a new haircut and we can’t wait to show it off and say, “Come and see!” It’s exciting and we want to share that excitement with other people. We don’t want to keep it hidden. In fact, it’s almost impossible to do that, because we are just bursting to share the news. When something makes us that happy we just can’t contain ourselves.
We feel that way about friends too and people who are close to us. We want to introduce them to the other people in our lives. This new person is now a part of our inner circle. They bring joy to our life, and we want to share that with the people we love. People were created to be in community. No one can live a healthy happy life without relationships. We need interactions with other people. They show us who they are and reflect back to us who we are. People need other people and when someone means a lot to us we want to introduce them to others, just like Phillip in today’s story.
Phillip couldn’t wait to invite Nathanael to meet Jesus. After just been called by Jesus to follow him, Phillip now invited Nathanael to come and meet Jesus. Phillip believed that Jesus was the one they had been waiting for. He was the fulfillment of the prophesies of Moses and the prophets. Phillip was overwhelmed with gratitude that Jesus had called him. And now he wanted to invite Nathanael too.
But Nathaniel was doubtful. Why? Why on earth he wondered would he go and meet Jesus, the son of Joseph the carpenter from Nazareth. Nathanael said, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” It was an ordinary town and Joseph and Mary were just ordinary people. What would make Jesus so different?
We hear similar words today from individuals insulting certain countries or groups. “Can anything good come out of…………name the place? But God’s goodness is found in the places people reject, perhaps especially in those places. Phillip knew that and was insistent. He didn’t want his friend to just take his word for it, so he said, “Come and see.”
Phillip could have spent a lot of time explaining why he believed Jesus was the one that they had been waiting for. He could have engaged in long arguments with Phillip as to Jesus’ identity, but he didn’t waste any time. Phillip followed Jesus because something about him compelled Phillip to follow. And now he wanted Nathanael to see for himself. So he invited him.
And when Nathanael met Jesus he was changed. He professed that Jesus was the Son of God and the King of Israel, but Jesus hadn’t done anything! Unlike we, the readers of John’s gospel, Nathanael didn’t know Jesus’ identity. He didn’t know He was the Word made flesh. Jesus only said he saw Nathanael under the fig tree. Certainly this was not enough to profess such allegiance! Or was it? What was it about Jesus’ voice that captured their attention and their devotion?
Phillip and Nathanael followed Jesus just from listening to Jesus’ voice. They didn’t see any miracles. They didn’t see the heavens open up or hear God’s voice proclaim that Jesus was God’s Son. No, simply hearing the voice of Jesus was enough for these men to drop everything and follow him. They heard the word of the Lord and that word changed them. They encountered the Word in the flesh and they were transformed.
In our first reading we heard that “The word of the Lord was rare in those days; visions were not widespread.” But just like Phillip and Nathanael, when the voice of God spoke, Samuel was listening and Samuel was about to be changed. He didn’t just ignore the voice. He didn’t go back to sleep, but got up and answered that call. Urged by Eli, Nathanael heard God’s invitation to Come and “see I am about to do something in Israel that will make both ears of anyone who hears of it tingle.” Almighty God was inviting Samuel to “come and see” what wondrous things were going to take place. Even God was sending an invitation and God is still sending invitations.
God is still speaking. The focus of today’s readings are not the people whom God is calling, but that God is still speaking. We live in an age where people can easily say “the word of the Lord is rare in our days; visions are not widespread.” But that does not mean that visions are not still happening. They are, but we must be attentive to hear God’s voice speaking to us. Perhaps the visions and dreams are still as prevalent as in centuries ago only we are not listening. Maybe we are so busy that we cannot hear God speak amongst all the other things we have going on.
That’s why gathering together for worship is so important. Because here, in this place, we take time to focus on God and not let the distractions of our daily lives pull us away. For this brief time in our week, we can devote all our attention to worshipping God, thanking God, and preparing our hearts to hear what God is speaking to us today. We have so much to be thankful for ! We have a God that loves us so much that God became flesh for us. Jesus suffered for us. Jesus died for us and Jesus rose again for us. And when I say us I mean all of us, even those people we may not like, even those people who do not yet know him. Jesus came to save all of us.
How is anyone going to know Jesus if we don’t invite them like Phillip to “come and see.” The best way for people to meet Jesus is if we invite them to experience Jesus like we have. When someone means that much to us, don’t we want to tell everyone about them? Don’t we want to introduce them to this amazing person? What better place than to invite them to worship with us. We don’t need to have long theological conversation with them. We can simply invite them to come and experience Jesus here at Christ Lutheran Church. We can tell them to “come and see.”
And the time is now. The time is now to extend that invitation. It’s tempting to say we will wait to invite someone after our annual meeting, or when things aren’t so hectic, or……when our lives are less stressed, or when we have more time. No, the time is now. God is speaking and people are hungry to hear God’s voice right now. There is no time to wait. For someone, that invitation could make the difference between life and death.
Tomorrow the nation celebrates the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., preacher, civil rights activist, and prophetic voice of God. In his book, Why We Can’t Wait, he said, “For years now, I have heard the word ‘Wait!’ It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This wait has almost always meant never We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that ‘justice too long delayed is justice denied.’” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. understood the urgency of the gospel message. That was his passion. He understood that God is speaking words of freedom and justice for all people and that voice must be heard. We cannot wait to speak the words of God’s truth.
The time is now. People are hungry. They are hungry for food and for justice. People are hungry for freedom and compassion. People are hungry for peace, but peace can only be found when there is justice. Jesus spoke constantly of caring for the poor and the outcast and we who follow Jesus must do the same. This is not a political platform, but a movement started by God, fulfilled in Jesus, and continues through us as followers and disciples of Christ.
People are hungry to know they are loved by God. Life is short. This may be the day that someone need to be at our worship service. It may not be a time convenient for us, but it is God’s time. The Holy Spirit is leading them to come and hear God’s word and to perhaps speak God’s word to us. We cannot wait to extend the invitation to “come and see.” The time is now. There is no time to wait.
Martin Luther King, Jr. had a dream, but it was only a fraction of the dream that God has for all people. We have a God who will fight on our behalf. We have a God who is stronger than any problems we face. We have a God who will never give up on us. This is the God we worship when we follow Jesus. And Jesus is calling each and every one of us to stand up and follow Him. He is calling us to invite others to “come and see.” He is inviting us to listen to God’s word and respond. He is inviting us to open our hearts and allow God’s dream to become our dream. The time is now. We cannot wait. Let God speak through me and you and invite others to come and see what God is doing. Amen.