Come and See
Based on Isaiah 49:1-7, 1Corinthians 1:1-9, John 1:29-42
We have now entered into Epiphany Ordinary time – that time sandwiched between the end of the holy days of Christmas, Epiphany and the Baptism of Jesus, and before the Transfiguration and beginning of Lent. Throughout the Epiphany season the Church gathers to remember and reflect on the mighty acts of God in and through the birth of Jesus who became the Christ. We come together to continue our 2000-years long Advent, hoping for the light of the Christ to overcome the darkness in ourselves and our world. We see Jesus revealed through the lens of scripture as He is characterized as prophet, healer, teacher, Son of God, Lord and Savior. While we will spend the rest of the year telling the narratives of our faith, the bible readings in the season of Epiphany remind us of how this sacred life interacted with our world – and how that life calls us out of our everyday lives to come and see our world in a new and transformed way.
Two and a half years ago I participated in my first Vacation Bible School week here on the Madison Charge. VBS weeks are always filled with a lot of energy and fun. However, I find that the information shared with the young folks often departs from my mind almost as soon as it enters – replaced by the everyday issues of life and ministry. This VBS was different because of an inexpensive give-away – a yellow plastic bracelet with the saying “Watch for God”. I wore it during the week, and then instead of trashing it or stuffing it in a drawer, I placed it on the dashboard of my car. It has served to remind me to “Watch for God” every time I get behind the steering wheel. Those three simple words remind me no only that God is always at work but that my call as a disciple is to expect to see God in everyday moments and to seek to join in with what God is doing in the world.
It got me wondering, do you see God at work in our community; in your daily travels, in your jobs, school, sports activities or the gym? Additionally, it got me wondering about the converse…what and who do we not see? That is, what or who remain hidden from our sight because they are not visible within our everyday activities? Jesus asks his first Disciples, “What are you looking for?” and because they didn’t know how to answer, He tells them to come and see. Let us focus ourselves on God in prayer and ask God to show us what we are all looking for and how it is we are called to invite others to come and see what God reveals to us…
All of our scripture readings today have to do with being called by God to use our gifts to transform the world. The reading from Isaiah has the prophet telling the people of Israel about his call to be God’s servant from before he was born. The prophet tells the people that God is in charge and that no matter how humans labor, if their cause and reward is not with God then all is wasted strength and vanity. God tells the prophet that not only will God redeem Israel and bring them back to God, but that the survivors of the Exile will be restored as a light to the nations “…that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth….” All peoples and rulers will come and see what God has done.
Paul’s opening salutation to the believers in Corinth reminds them how they have been gifted and called by God through the testimony of Christ to be strong in the faith until the Christ comes again. Paul reminds them that they are graced to be one in Christ and one with each other – called to be saints in fellowship, “…together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ…” Paul wants them to understand from the very first lines of the letter that the grace that has been given them in Jesus the Christ causes them to come together and see that they are all one in the Body – no matter what disagreements they have with one another (and there are many to come in the rest of the letter).
There are 14 verses in our reading from the Gospel according to John, and there are 12 variations on the word “sight” used in them. Clearly, the author of this Gospel wants the reader to perceive that seeing AND realizing that Jesus of Nazareth is the “Lamb of God”, the “Son of God” or the “Messiah” is critically important. Embedded in the revelation of John the Baptizer that Jesus is indeed He who has been promised by God from of old, is the calling of the first three Disciples. Two of the Disciples of Jesus were originally followers of John but left him when he identified the divine nature of Jesus. Jesus saw these two men following Him and asked them, “What are you looking for?” In other words, Jesus is asking, “Do you really know what it is your heart desires or are you just following the next fad?” The new Disciples didn’t answer Him but decided to stay with him. Jesus saw into their hearts and invited them to come and see what He was up to. Later, one of those disciples of John named Andrew, who saw Jesus as the Messiah, invited his brother, Simon Peter, to come and see this Messiah for himself.
Come and see…this gentle yet compelling invitation which consists of just three small words, meant everything to the spread of Christianity. Disciples throughout the last 2000 years have said to non-believers, come and see that in Jesus there was abundant life at its truest and best; life lived as God intends it to be lived. Life that (according to the Gospel of John) came from God, walked with God in the world, and one day will be fully with God in the world to come. Come and see that the life of Jesus is revealed to us as our light and model for how we too may choose to live. Come and see that as we recognize the image of our true humanity in the life of Jesus the Christ, we also begin to understand that we have come from God, are invited to walk in faithfulness with (and in service to) God and one another in this world, and one day we will all return and be welcomed fully into God’s kingdom. Come and see what a difference it makes that during our life journeys we are always with the God who loves us beyond our capacity to fully understand.
Yet, even having all that in front of us, we are like those first two Disciples who find themselves slack-jawed and speechless when Jesus asks them, “What are you looking for?” Many believers would struggle to answer Jesus’ question, possibly because they haven’t spent time considering their faith journey in this way. As a follower of Jesus the Christ, what is it that you are looking for that is different from what you get from the world? For you see, if we can’t answer what it is we are looking for from God/Jesus that is different from what the world offers, then it is no wonder that we are not able to choose between our world and the divine kingdom of God.
Sometimes, even when we try hard to do so, we just don’t see God in our everyday lives or in the events of our troubled world. However, the grace of God and the Holy Spirit are always at work in us and our world. God is just as loving as God has ever been – and so God continues to reach out to us to ask us what it is we are looking for from God. Seeing our awkward silences and inability to answer the question, God then calls to us, “It’s ok that you don’t know that what you’re looking for is all around you. Come and walk with me for a while and I will transform your vision.” The liturgical season of Epiphany gives us the time and the resources to watch, wait, listen, look, anticipate, and discern the light, life, and truth of what it means for us individually and as the Body of Christ to have the Lord’s presence in our midst. Jesus invites us all to come and see what it is that we are looking for – the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and then to invite others to come and see what has been revealed to us. Amen.