Epiphany 2-B/January 14, 2018/Community Lutheran/Pr. Joe Vought
Three revelations have come to us from God over the past several weeks: 1- God sleeps in a manger, taking on our flesh and blood. 2- In his Baptism by John the Baptist, Jesus steps all the way in to the stream of our lives blessing our humanity with His divinity. 3- Today God uses disciples, like you and me to help others see God. Unless you had a vision like St. Paul on the Road to Damascus, I suspect most of us learned about Jesus from other people. Samuel a young boy needed Eli to help him hear God calling. And Philip found Nathanael. The saying goes that “One lighted torch serves to light another.”
Look at the Gospel: Philip has the enthusiasm of a convert, “We have found him…” Nathanael is not impressed. “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” It was like saying Jesus was from the wrong side of the tracks. The only thing worse would be to say something bad about Jesus’ momma. Philip’s reaction? “Come and see.” Sometimes the best thing is not to argue with a cynical person. The best thing is to speak from our experience and stay open. Philip simply said, “Come and see,” and let Jesus do the rest. Who was the person(s) who told you about God, invited you on the journey?
I was a religion major because I was a confused Pastor’s kid. Mom and dad baptized me, told me stories of Jesus and introduced me to some real live saints and sinners in church, people who followed Jesus and loved me like Jesus. That was fine at home but in college I had to test it for myself to make it my own. While I joined a fraternity and did what college frat boys do, I went to chapel every Sunday, sang in the choir and listened to the chaplains. Their sermons about doubt and faith touched me. They allowed me to bring my questions and we had many long talks. Pr. Steve Samuelson said, “Joe I’m a pastor’s kid too and it’s okay to have doubts. You and I were blessed to meet Jesus in others who loved us when we were unlovable. That’s grace. And even if the Gospel isn’t true, it’s the best story there is. And while there are many other religions that people believe in, I believe God is for them and there is Good News for the whole world.” Pr. Karl Mattson, the other chaplain, invited me to “Come and See” Jesus and to serve like Jesus when we lived for a week and a half with Appalachian miners and their families, hearing their stories. Another time we lived, farmed and went to church with poor black families, descendants of slaves in South Carolina. Those chaplains met me where I was, with my doubts and invited me along. There have been countless others.
Jesus met all kinds of people where they were. According to one count, the gospels record 132 contacts Jesus had with people. Six were in the Temple, four in synagogues and 122 were with the people in daily life. He realized what many don’t understand. Farmers have to get in the field to harvest. Fishermen have to get in the water to catch fish. You my brothers and sisters are out there in the world, at work, in your neighborhoods and you could be the one to meet someone searching. Stay open, stay alert. You don’t have to quote scripture. Just tell your story, invite them to “Come and see.” It is an invitation to encounter a gracious God who knows us and accepts us wherever we come from.
We have seen this past week how words, even words spoken by our leaders in the Oval Office, can hurt, divide people and bring harm to the human family. Or we may be attractive witnesses who make a difference, touch lives and proclaim good news. On this ML King Jr. weekend we remember his witness calling us to live out our American creed, “That all people are created equal and that we would judge people not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” One of our members said to me just this morning, “After this week’s terrible headlines, how proud I am of the banner in front of our church, “No matter where you are from, we’re glad you are our neighbor.”
Jesus uses Philip, a skeptic like Nathanael and he can use you and me. The invitation to meet Jesus is “Come and see.” We need others to see Jesus and be Jesus. We all yearn for Good News and Jesus who knows us better than we know ourselves and loves us anyway. The truth of the matter is this: God is not finished with any of us yet. May God help us always to be people of grace, Good News and Godly love for others. In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.