Friday, January 16, 2015
Come and See (Jan 18 2015)
Yr B P2, Jan 18 2015, St. Albans
Readings: 1 Sam 3.1-10; Ps 139.1-6, 13-18; 1 Cor 6.12-20; Jn 1.43-51
I remember when my daughter was back in elementary school. Whenever the school had an open house for parents, we used to go together. And even before we’d get to the door of her classroom, as we were walking down the hall, I’d sense her rising excitement, a bit of a bounce as she walked, and as we stepped into the classroom, there would be this tugging on my arm, and my daughter would say to me, “Come and see”, and we’d head straight over to the place where her latest artwork or writing project was displayed, and she’d show it to me.
Over the past few years I’ve gotten really excited about the basketball rivalry between Ottawa and Carleton U, the two best university basketball teams in the country. The games are skilled, intense, and exciting. It’s a big rivalry, and the two teams play with a lot of passion. And so when I found out that Carleton and Ottawa were playing a week ago Saturday, I called one of my friends, told him about the game and said, “Come and see the game with me”. And we went, and it was the best game I’ve ever seen in my life, with the Ottawa Gee-Gees sinking a basket with 4 seconds left to win the game 68-66.
“Come and see.” It is the simplest, and the most effective, of all invitations. It conveys passion and excitement. I've found something that’s valuable to me, and I want you to come and see. It conveys a sense of on-going personal investment. It’s different from saying, “you should go and see that.” It’s more like saying, this is important to me, I want to share this with you. Come with me, and see.
In today’s gospel reading, Philip is excited. He’s seen something that he’s passionate about, he’s found something that he and his ancestors had been looking for, longing for, for hundreds of years.
“We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus, son of Joseph of Nazareth.”
Philip has met Jesus, and he’s excited about it. You can imagine him running to tell his friend Nathanael all about it. That’s what we do when we’re passionate about something. But Nathanael, well, he’s a bit of a wet blanket. “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” His sarcastic tone provides the answer to his own question. His words aren’t just negative, they’re downright insulting.
Now, Philip could have responded to Nathanael in a number of ways. He could have said, “fine then, you stay here, I’ll go find someone else.” Or, he could have started arguing with Nathanael, arguing about the merits of Nazareth, or trying to convince him by telling him more about Jesus. But instead of rejecting Nathanael and instead of arguing with him, he does something which is much more grace-filled. He simply invites him to come and see. Philip is convinced that what he has found in Jesus is so good that if Nathanael just comes and encounters Jesus for himself, he too will see.
And Nathanael does go, and that’s not surprising, because when one of your friends is so excited by something, and invites you to come along, that’s what you do, and when Nathanael does encounter Jesus, neither he nor Philip are disappointed, because Jesus kind of blows his mind.
And that is the heart of John’s gospel, the gospel we read from today. John’s gospel is all about the encounter with Jesus, one mind-blowing encounter after another. Nathanael, Nicodemus, the woman at the well, the lame man, blind Bartimaeus, the Roman Centurion – one mind-blowing encounter after another. The encounter with Jesus speaks for itself. All Philip had to do was say, “Come and see.”
That simple, grace-filled invitation is at the heart of Christian evangelism.
Now, sometimes the word evangelism makes us uneasy. Jesus urges his followers, people like us, to proclaim the good news and to make disciples. And we have, over the course of history, responded to that calling in a whole variety of ways. We have tried to argue with people, to convince them that we’re right. We have tried to force people to see things our way, we’ve even, shamefully, resorted to violence at times. But the best way, the most grace-filled way to proclaim the good news of our faith is to follow the example of Philip, who was in turn following the example of Jesus, and that is to simply invite people to come and see.
Will people respond? Well, that depends. Mostly it depends on how excited we are, and the extent to which we are able to convey that this really is something that we love and value. There was no way that I was going to turn down the invitation from my daughter to come and see her Grade 1 art project, she was just way too passionate about it for me to not go and take a look.
Same thing with Nathanael. Despite his skepticism, despite his negativity, there was no way that he was going to turn down Philip’s invitation, Philip was just too excited about his encounter with Jesus. And once Nathanael had accepted the invitation to come and see, Philip didn’t have to do anything more, Jesus took care of the rest.
Now, I have to acknowledge that it’s a bit more complicated for us. We can’t just invite people to come and see Jesus the way that Philip did. I wish that we could.
But we can invite people to come and see the community of those who are inspired by Jesus enough to follow him, the community that Paul calls the ‘body of Christ’.
We can invite people to come and see how God continues to work in the world and in our lives.
We can invite people to come and see this community of people whose lives have been changed for the better and who do amazing things inspired by their faith.
We can invite people to come and experience for themselves the Spirit of God in our midst on a Sunday morning.
But we’ll only truly be able to say ‘come and see’ if we’ve seen it for ourselves first. And our invitation will only be compelling if we ourselves enjoy and value what we’ve seen, and we’re excited and we’re passionate about it. And our invitation will only be comprehensible if we can actually name what it is that we’re excited about.
I saw a great example of that this week. On Tuesday, Zack, Colin, Lisa, Eliot and others were on campus at uOttawa for clubs day, and they had a table, and they were serving hot chocolate and inviting people to answer the question “What is God for you?” with a few words on a big poster that is posted on the wall at the back now. And there was a buzz around the table. The young adults who are part of our student club were passionate, and they were able to name what they were passionate about, the sense of the community they experienced at their Tuesday night meetings, their joy in being able to ask and explore any questions about faith that they wanted to, and the fact that anyone was welcome regardless of beliefs or background. Come and see, they said. And this past Tuesday evening, on a frigid winter’s night, there were four new people who came out in response to that invitation.
That’s what I saw. And I’m excited about it. I’m excited about so much of what I see in this community of St. Albans. There’s awesome stuff happening here. The spiritual growth taking place among our interns when we gather on Tuesday mornings. The one who came to us at a rough point in his life, was baptized in our midst and then a year later became engaged right in the middle of our evening service. The person who had a sense of looking for something in their life, who just wandered in on a Sunday and over the course of few months now thinks they’ve found what it is they were looking for. The amazing work being done by Peter and the folks at Centre 454 on a daily basis. The amazing things that many of you do in your paid work and your volunteering. The powerful sense that God is with us and that God’s Spirit is calling us forward on our journey together. That’s what I see. That’s what I value and get excited about. That’s what I want people to come and see.
What do you see? What are you excited enough about, what is important enough to you that you want to share it with others? And are you inviting people to come and see?