COME AND SEE

SERMON FOR EVENSONG AT GORDON CHAPEL ON SUN 14 JANUARY 2018                             John 1:35-51     Come and See

Given by Jeff L at Evensong.

When it comes to putting together a dream team to work for him, Jesus picks some unlikely men – but they got there in the end. I wonder – do you think that he would choose you or me to be a member of his new dream team?   If someone said to you ‘Come and see’ what would you do – would you go? Have you asked someone to ‘Come and see’ – what happened?   Lets look at how it happened for others!

Two of John the Baptists disciples went to check out Jesus and he told them to ‘Come and see’.   One was Andrew, who brought his brother Simon to Jesus – an introduction!

In our reading tonight Jesus finds Philip and says ‘follow me’.     Philip told his friend, Nathanael about Jesus – another introduction! Interestingly, Nathanael, from Cana in Galilee, is only mentioned in John’s gospel; the other three gospels identify him as  “Bartholomew.”

Nathanael asked ‘Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?’. After all, it was an insignificant little hill town where not much ever happened. Perhaps a bit like us wondering if any good thing came out of Dufftown or Tomintoul – other than whisky of courseJ   Oh – have I just made a racist remark – even in jest?

Here’s a thought – racism takes many forms, even from those who should know better.   It’s now in the news because President Trump asks why the USA keeps taking people in from ‘xyz’ countries (I wont repeat his language).

In our reading Nathanael makes that well known remark about nothing good coming out of Nazareth.   Galilee was in the North, well away from Jerusalem. People from there were regarded as backward and Nazareth was an insignificant village – in Donald Trumps terms – an ‘xyz’ place.

But – we know where Jesus came from.   So, when we welcome the people who come from those places that Donald Trump seems to despise, we welcome Jesus – perhaps Jesus himself may be one of them when he comes once more?   But Trump doesn’t want them in his country – so by keeping them out he would be keeping Jesus out of the USA – and his people would not be able to ‘come and see’ – there would be no introduction to Jesus.

So, why did Nathanael make that remark about Nazareth. Well, perhaps it should be taken in context.   However, some commentators believe that Nathanael was a Hebrew scholar studying the scriptures, and so he wasn’t really criticising Nazareth – it’s that he knew Micah had prophesied the Messiah would come from Bethlehem.

Something special had happened to Nathanael – he had felt God’s presence while sitting under a fig tree. He hadn’t told anyone about it, yet Jesus mentions the incident right away when they meet. Jesus invites him to follow, and he becomes a disciple.

We need all our senses on this journey of faith.   One night God calls to the boy Samuel. Eli the priest tells him to listen and obey when the voice speaks again – Samuel does so and becomes a pivotal figure in the history of Israel.

So we need to see and we need to listen – to see behind the obvious and to hear what may be a still small voice – so that we in turn may obey, make introductions and find disciples for Christ.

When you look in the mirror what do you see?   What do you see in newspapers and the tv – a world of rocks – or do you see cathedrals? “A pile of rocks ceases to be a pile a rocks when someone has a cathedral in mind.”

When Jesus first laid eyes on potential disciples he didn’t see a pile of rocks, he saw the beginnings of a cathedral. He didn’t see stones, he saw diamonds in the rough. He looked at the likes of many, including Andrew, Simon, Philip, Nathaniel – and saw potential. He didn’t see a bunch of simple fishermen, he didn’t focus on “what appeared to be,” but “on what could be.”   Jesus’ vision stands in contrast to ours.

Perhaps modern living is wearing us down, for it seems that criticising and putting people down, has become a habit these days instead of praise and building up – it’s certainly like that in the media and it’s catching.

I catch myself doing it even in the supermarket.   I look at their shopping and pass judgement on people – perhaps based on outward appearance, and what’s in their trolley.

Their choice, their values, their necessities of life – it’s there in the trolley – how can that obese women choose such rubbish to eat – why does that shabby man have a trolley of fags and drink – I hope they don’t use the food-bank – that’s for the really needy!!  But, I don’t know their story – I haven’t walked in their shoes!

We all tend to judge others based on appearance, colour, clothing, accent, and more. We make snap judgements, often based on unimportant things. And most of the time those judgements are critical, negative – and wrong.  

Does our fast pace of life and stress, make us more like that. Are we more judgemental and negative than previous generations? Importantly, have our eyes become dim to the God-given goodness that we and others possess.

Well, having said that, here is some Good News.   In God’s eyes it is not how we see – but how we are seen, and by whom.

When Jesus calls Simon to be a disciple, he gives him a new name – Cephas.   Jesus didn’t just see a fisherman, he saw a Rock, he saw great potential.   And when Jesus called Nathaniel to be a disciple, he saw a person of integrity, honesty, and great potential.

Time and again, Jesus sees within people what the world doesn’t see – and in a way, part of his ministry is to seek and bring out that God given goodness and potential – he still does! When Jesus looks at us he doesn’t see a pile of rocks, he sees that cathedral – he sees all that lies within us individually and as a church.

To him, our value is not in our economic earning power, clothes or physical appearance. Paul says that we were bought at a price, that our value comes from outside ourselves, it comes from God. The fact that we are priceless in the eyes of God is not because we have made it so, but because God has made it so, through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

So, when you look in the mirror do you see someone worth dying for? When you look around this church, our community or out into the world, do you see people worth dying for? Well, that’s how God sees us.

It’s not about simple optimism or freedom from all critical judgements, it’s about holy eyesight, and holy insight, it’s about a whole new way of life. It is to have the eyes of Christ.

It’s to see ourselves as priceless creations endowed with goodness, called to a holy vocation; and to see others in the same way. The calling is to see ourselves and our neighbours as God does: not as rabble, rubble or rocks, but as cathedrals and a kingdom under construction.

It is a calling because God calls you, and keeps calling you, by name, so that the phone in your heart rings incessantly.

That may be all fine and good for you and me.   But for many people, the notion of ‘a calling’ is not on their radar. Rarely will they think of their normal daily work as a calling – but perhaps it is, and God may be asking for more.   God is mysterious, the divine voice has power but may speak softly so we must be open to surprise.

Samuel was surprised, Nathanael was surprised. Perhaps all the disciples and apostles were surprised – though often and not without difficulty, they recognise their callings. Their lives having a new purpose and direction. Think of Saul to Paul. So, there’s hope for the rest of us too.

We can start to perceive our calling. If we have begun, we can continue to recognize and build on it. Almost certainly, it will involve surprise simply because God has better things in mind for us, than we can ask or imagine.

Notice I didn’t say things more profitable, glamorous or respectable. I said better things. Frederick Buechner’s writings have been praised for his ability to inspire readers to see grace in their daily lives. As Buechner puts it, there exists that place where our deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet. God wants to lead us there, and so calls each of us by name, pointing in the direction we should go.   Unfortunately, our satnav may need fine tuning to help us get there.   We need each other to be companions on the journey.

We can be inspired by the stories of those in scripture, and even others in our own time, and through our calling we too can say, as they did over 2,000 years ago – “Come and see.” 

Those are the very same three words we must continue to use to invite people in the 21st century.  But the problem is, we tend to invite people to come and see things other than Jesus Christ.   Come and see our magnificent organ, our church’s beautiful stained glass windows, our wonderful choir.  Come and see …  

The problem with those invitations is that none of them has the capacity to change a person’s life.  All we really have to offer for that – is our Saviour, Jesus Christ. 

Perhaps as an older generation we rely on what happened in the past – the good old days – forgetting the context in which they appeared to work. But that doesn’t seem to be enough, so we raise the stakes with our lovely buildings, guest speakers, modern music, and all that. .   Oh, and we may just mention Jesus and perhaps be a touch embarrassed about it.

But people need to hear about a God who has the power to change their world. They need to know there is a community where people do not weep alone, and encouragement and prayer are precious gifts.   We need to extend the invitation once again: Come and See. Come and see Jesus Christ at work.  Come and hear how God has touched our lives.  Come and know that there is a God who knows your name.”

The story is told of Karl Barth, that he had scrawled into his pulpit the words: “That they might see Jesus.”  And so every Sunday, in that pulpit, he was reminded of his singular task.  He wasn’t there to entertain, scold, or to impress them.  But to teach and preach the word of God.

I apologise to you because I am not an inspirational or clever preacher – I just hope that some of my words may be enough for God to know that you too want to ‘come and see’.

And this is what I trust you’ll take home with you tonight: Know that God has chosen you to play in his team.  Every time you pray for someone, share a meal with one who’s hungry, or give a cup of water to one who’s thirsty, or show kindness to one in need, you honour Christ and further his Kingdom.   So, when you leave here to love and serve the Lord – will you say to those you meet ‘Come and See’.   AMEN