2 Epiphany B
January 18, 2015
Who was it that said to you, as Phillip said to Nathaniel, “Come and see”? How were you invited into the relationship you have with Jesus? For most of us, I suppose it was an invitation we cannot remember, when our parents brought us to the waters of baptism. And Baptism reminds us that this relationship we have with Jesus is not something we initiate, but it is because God has claimed us as beloved daughters and sons, we are in a relationship with Jesus before we understand anything about what that means.
Perhaps a more interesting question is how did you get involved in the life of this congregation? What was it that drew you to live out your response to God’s love through your involvement with this particular group of people who are seeking to live their lives in relationship to Jesus? Who invited you to ‘come and see’ Jesus alive in the lives of the people here at Our Savior’s?
I remember when I became a part of St. John’s Lutheran Church in Pittsburg, Kansas. I was 22 years old and a graduate student at state university there. (This was years before I had any inkling that I might someday become a pastor.) For some reason, I can’t really explain, I decided one of my first Sundays there to find an ALC Lutheran church. St. John’s was the only ALC or LCA congregation for over 50 miles. I biked passed the church a couple of times before I finally made up my mind to go in. People were talking in the entrance area, but almost immediately this tall man with a beard and broad smile welcomed me with a handshake. His hands were somewhat callused from hard work, but they were warm and welcoming. I sat with him and his family for worship, and after worship I was invited to join his family for a country fried chicken dinner at a local restaurant. I sang in the choir during my year there, and deeply appreciated the friendships I developed with the people there. They were a small congregation without a lot of programs or projects, but I remember there was a spirit of welcome, generosity and grace among the people there and I was not the only university student that felt welcomed by those people.
In our Gospel today, Phillip invites Nathaniel to “come and see.” It is the Gospel’s introduction to the seven signs of God’s presence in Jesus. And though Nathaniel recognizes Jesus as the “Son of God” immediately, he also sees all the signs of what God desires for creation. The abundance of wine at a wedding and the healing for all sorts of people, but especially those who are isolated from community because of their infirmity. Then there is food in abundance for those who are hungry; then Jesus demonstrates his authority over chaos in the stilling of a storm, and finally he raises a dead man back to life. But it is not only what Jesus does that Nathaniel witnesses. Jesus also sends his disciples out and they announce God’s good news and they exercise authority over destructive spirits and they bring healing and wholeness for people in distress. When Nathaniel response to Phillip’s invitation to “come and see” he becomes a part of the life of Jesus in the world, and the signs are not only what Jesus does, but what Jesus does through his followers. Those who “come and see” are witnesses and participants in God’s presence transforming the world into a place that is filled with God’s compassion and grace.
So “come and see”— come and see what God is doing here in this place. How does the abundance of God pass through our lives to fill others with joy and hope? How do we become channels of healing for those cut off from community by? How do we provide a calm in the midst of the chaotic storms that people experience in their daily lives? How are we feeding and nurturing those who are hungry of body or spirit? And what are the signs that God is raising us out of death to new life in Jesus Christ?
During this time of transition we are encouraged to open our eyes and see. God is at work among us, but we need to take note and recognize how God is here, and how God is transforming the world into a place that is filled with God’s compassion and grace through this congregation. So how do we imagine the signs of God’s presence? Are they visible in the way we welcome those who are new and make them feel valued and part of our community? Are they visible in the way we provide clothing and shelter and water and food to those who are in need among us? Are they visible in the way visit the lonely, the grieving, and the sick? Are they visible in the way we live together like family supporting and strengthening one another in our faith and life? Are they visible in the way we nurture the fruits of the spirit among us – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control? And are they visible in the way we live out the affirmation of baptism promises – to live among God’s faithful people, to hear God’s Word and share in our Lord’s Supper, to proclaim the good news of God in Christ through word and deed, to serve all people following the example of our Lord Jesus, and to strive for justice and peace in all the earth. Are the signs visible now< and how do we participate in making them more visible for those who come and see? They become visible, not when we sit back and just watch God make the signs happen, but when we open ourselves to the movement of the spirit, so that God can work through us to make the signs of God’s presence visible among us.
So, may you—may you be among those who let God’s spirit work in your lives and in this life of this congregation, so that you can become part of what God is doing to transform this world into a place where God’s compassion and love can be experienced by all people. And may you keep on praying, “thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” and may we also pray that it be done among us and through us. AMEN