Saturday, January 14, 2012

Second Sunday after Epiphany: Come and See

Readings for this Sunday:  1 Samuel 3:1-10; Psalm 139 1-17, 1 Corinthians 6:12-20, John 1:43-51

Disclaimer:  I originally wrote this sermon for the Second Sunday in Advent 2008.  It still contains references to the events of that year.  Tomorrow, I am preaching an updated, revised, extremely shortened version of this sermon

The hockey season started very soon after my husband and I were married.  He loves hockey and really, really wanted me to go to a game with him.  Since I don’t like most sports, I was sure I would hate hockey.  I thought hockey was just a bunch of guys chasing after a puck, beating each other up. 

But since I loved my husband, and wanted to make him happy, I accepted his invitation to go to a game with him.  I had no clue what was going on, but I was amazed at the athletic skill of the players.  I couldn’t believe that men in such bulky uniforms could move so gracefully on ice.  I loved the rituals – the songs, the games between periods- and the community of the fans.  Eventually I learned to follow the game.

Hockey continues to be a part of my life.  It is a joy my husband and I share with each other, with his family, with my cousins, and our children.  I have many fond memories of “the Jungle” – the home rink of the Fort Wayne Komets.  I would have missed out on something good, had I not accepted my husband’s invitation to just check it out, to come and see.

Come and see.

That’s Phillip’s invitation to Nathanael.  Phillip found the guy predicted by Moses and the other prophets and he is so excited by his discovery that he goes immediately to a friend and invites him to share in that discovery.

Phillip invites Nathanael to come and see.  Nathanael scoffs that the Messiah could come from a podunk little town like Nazareth.  (We might say here, could anything good come from New Rome or perhaps from Michigan).  Phillip wasn’t concerned with Nathanael’s skepticism.  Phillip just invites Nathanael to come and see.  And Nathanael did see – he proclaims that Jesus is the son of God, the king of Israel.

Tradition has it that Phillip goes on to invite people in Greece, Syria and Phrygia to come and see.  Tradition has it that Nathanael Bartholomew goes on to invite people in Armenia, Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Egypt, and maybe India, to come and see.

Come and see.

We hear those words again echoed in the story of the Samaritan woman at the well.  She is so moved by her encounter with Jesus, she runs back to her town and invites everyone, Come and see the one who told me everything I have done!”  They came and saw and believed.

Come and see.

In the 1500’s, a young monk wrestles with his fear of a judgmental god and his inability to please that god.  His spiritual father, the abbot of his monastery, invites him to come and see the grace of God revealed in Jesus, by sending him to study in Wittenberg.  And through his study of the Scripture, he did indeed see.  He saw a loving God whose grace and mercy became the guiding light of his life, his preaching and his teaching.   Martin Luther passionately began inviting others to come and see and experience the grace of God.

Martin Luther’s passionate “come and see” echoes through the centuries.  In 1934, an American family visiting Germany was so moved by Martin’s witness and work, that the father changed both his and his son’s names to Martin Luther, in honor of the great reformer.  Michael King Jr. became Martin Luther King Jr.

Come and see.

Martin Luther King Jr. did not only inherit his name from his father.  King Sr. was a pastor, and the example of his daily living and his preaching invited his son to come and see.  And Martin Luther King Jr., whose life work we remember tomorrow, experienced in the Risen Christ a vision of God’s reign where every human, regardless of the color of his or her skin, is fearfully and wonderfully made by God.  His work for civil rights flowed from his firm belief that all humans are equal in the sight of God.   

Tuesday, we will see the first African-American president take the oath of office, a historical event made possible in part by Martin Luther King Jr.’s tireless work to invite other’s to come and see his dream of God’s reign realized in the world here and now.

Come and see.

His mother was an agnostic, a seeker.  During his childhood. he was exposed to Catholicism, Islam, Buddhism.  He also became a seeker, until he started attending an Abyssinian Baptist Church.  There, the life and witness of the congregation invited Barak Obama to come and see, and he found Christ’s gift of salvation.  He learned that salvation was not just an individual experience, but a gift to the community of believers.  In response to that gift, the faith community has the responsibility to reach out to others in God’s love, to help the needy, to invite those they encounter to come and see.  We will soon see how these beliefs influence his leadership of our country in this time of uncertainty and change.

Come and see.

As a child, every Sunday, my grandmother would pick me up for church.  I didn’t understand it then, but by bringing me faithfully to worship, she was inviting me to come and see.  Later, as an adult running from a religion full of “thou shalt nots” and shame, Father Andrew Greeley invited me, through the unfailing grace God extends to the characters of his novels, to again come and see, to reconnect to a faith community.  And the support and encouragement of my home congregation encouraged me to come and see, to explore God’s call at seminary.

Come and see.

We have a visitor today.  Stella Mandago will tell us about her vision for ministry.  I don’t know who invited Stella to come and see.  I do know that a missionary to her small town in Tanzania encouraged her in her dreams and her pursuit of education.  As a result of her invitation to come and see, she now seeks to “pay it forward” by working to build libraries in rural communities in Africa.  It’s a mission that meets a desperate need. 

Our missions both here and overseas, meet human needs for food, shelter, clothing, education, and medical care.  Sometimes we don’t realize that the very activities of these missions invite the recipients of that care to come and see the One behind the vision.   Jesus is met through the work of people who care with his heart.

Come and see.

Who invited you to come and see?  Was it your parents, by your baptism?  Was it a grandmother who brought you faithfully to church?  Was it the warmth and welcome you found in a community of believers?  How did the Holy Spirit work to bring you to faith?  How can the Holy Spirit work through you to bring others to come and see?

Come and see. What kind of assumptions and beliefs got in your way?  What prejudices and preconceptions keep you from asking the people in your life to ‘come and see”? Can we let go of our fear and anxiety of what other people might think of us to share the good news of God’s love through Christ for each and every person?   

Come and see.  God wants a vital living relationship with us.   God is calling “come and see and taste and hear and experience my love through Jesus to you and to everyone.  Come and follow, seek my guidance, let me comfort and encourage you.”

Come and see.  See how the Holy Spirit gathers us together, reveals the light of Christ to us through the word spoken and the water sprinkled and the wine poured. 

Come and see. God speaks “Come and see” through the gathered community.  The community lives out the vision of God’s reign here and now, in worship and in work, in service and in support, in fellowship and love. 

Come and see.  Come and see this guy we found – Jesus, the son of God, the light of the world revealed.  Come and see and experience and never be the same.  Come and see, and then go and tell everyone!

Come and see!

1 comment:

  1. curious, the comment you received about this being political...I guess some people were so upset by the election of Obama that even mentioning him, or MLK, Jr. feels political, even if all you are doing is reciting general public knowledge about each of them and our commonality as Christians in following God. It's a good sermon!