A few weeks into the new year and we find that the trials and sufferings of 2020 have not magically disappeared. And yet, I do not know why they would. We hope that as 2021 continues the challenges will be tamed. But how does that happen? I think this reading from John gives us some further insight.
The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” 44Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” 46Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” 47When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” 48Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” 49Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” 50Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.” 51And he said to him, “Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” (John 1:43-51)
A few weeks into the new year, and we find that the trials and sufferings of 2020 have not magically disappeared. And yet, I do not know why they would. We hope that as 2021 continues the challenges will be tamed. But how does that happen? I think this reading from John gives us some further insight.
I am struck by the Gospel of John’s account of Jesus’ invitation to discipleship. We heard John’s words in the Christmas season that Jesus, the Word made flesh has come to dwell among us. Last Sunday, we envisioned Jesus being baptized by John the Baptist in the River Jordan in Mark’s account. Just as Jesus is coming up out of the water, the heavens are torn apart, the Spirit descends like a dove and a voice from the heavens announces, “You are my Son, with you I am well pleased.” Now, on this second week after the Epiphany, we see the revelation of Christ shine through an invitation to some unsuspecting men. We meet John, Peter, Andrew, Philip, and Nathanael. They were all friends or at least knew each other having come from the same small town, but now they are receiving an invitation to follow Jesus. Jesus finds Philip and says, “Follow me.” Philip is from the same town as Andrew and Peter. Philip finds Nathanael and invites him to “Come and see.” Nathanael is a bit skeptical, wondering if anything good could come out of that hole in the wall called Nazareth. Contrary to what Nathanael thinks, Philip gives a good report on Jesus being an upright person.
Notice, the invitation: “Come and See.” In this time of pandemic suffering, political strife, and division, we wonder where is the light of Christ revealed today? Where is the new day? How do we get through the tough times? The disciples have little to go on. There must have been something about Jesus that was compelling because they followed him. “Come and see.” Someone must have said that to you at some point. It was parents and godparents as water was being poured on your head. Come and see what Jesus has in store for you today, tomorrow, and forever. Come and see what this community of faith is like and walk with them alongside Jesus. Where is that light of Christ? It is represented in the candle given at baptism, that you are now that light of Christ alive in the world.
One of my favorite stories is from John, often called, “The Woman at the Well.” Considered an outcast in her own community, she would fetch water in the hot noon day sun so she could avoid the demeaning remarks of others. Mornings were the coolest part of the day, but also the busiest at the well. Yet in the hot noon day sun, Jesus came to her. It is surprising for many reasons. Culturally a Jew does not speak to a Samaritan. Certainly, a man does not talk to a woman in public. Yet, she received acceptance from him, and the gift of “living water.” This Samaritan woman was filled with life, hope, faith. After receiving this gift, she ran to the towns people, the people she used to avoid, and told them, “He told me everything I have ever done.” It was different with Jesus. He knew everything she had done, yet welcomed her, accepted her, and gifted her with living water. As a result, she invited the people of her community to come and see! The Samaritan people asked him to stay with them and he did for two more days. Because they accepted the invitation to come and see they heard Jesus speak directly and believed.
Come and see. This is what a neighbor needs to hear right now. Come and see Jesus in the comfort of your own home watching worship. Perhaps come and see means sharing your story of how you came to see Jesus as the one bringing hope to your life. Perhaps come and see, means sharing why you serve Jesus in the ministry of Family Promise this week, or any other serving ministry.
In a world of suffering, in a divided nation, the invitation to come and see Jesus through your experiences, your service, and through your welcoming love is a way to bring the light and hope of Christ to the troubled, the suffering and the hopeless, one person at a time. We do not have all the answers, but we follow the one who does and invite others on the journey.
Pastor Pam Schroeder