January 17, 2021
Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church
I Samuel 3:1-10
Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18
I Corinthians 6:12-20
John 1:35-51 (augmented)
Some years ago, I went to see the Cirque du Soleil when it came to St. Petersburg. Have you seen it as well? There is music and gymnastics and acrobatics and juggling and clown foolery. You hardly know where to look because there is so much happening. It was a fantastic afternoon. Our senses were delighted and we left quite full of sights and sounds.
Today’s Gospel is similar in that there is so much going on. But at the same time, each vignette, each exchange, is witnessed and experienced by a few. And they may each experience this differently.
So hear this story. Once upon a time there were six blind brothers who all lived in the same village. One day, one of the villagers told them that a circus had come to the edge of town and it had a elephant. The brothers had no idea what an elephant was. But they decided to go to see what all the fuss was about. When they got there, they could plainly hear that there was a lot of excitement among the rest of the villagers, but there still had no idea what was so special about this creature called an “elephant.” Finally, one of them suggested that even if they couldn't see the animal, they could at least try to touch it and maybe understand what was going on.
The first brother touched the elephant's leg. "Oh, the elephant is a mighty tree!"
The second brother touched the tail. "Oh, no! It more like a rope," he said.
The third brother touched the trunk. "I think it's more like a snake."
The fourth brother felt the elephant's ear. "It feels like a big wide fan," he said.
The fifth brother was touching the animal's side and said, "It is a huge wall made of mud."
The sixth brother reached out and felt the elephant's tusk. "Oh no. An elephant is like a piece of smooth solid rock," he cried.
This parable describes how there are many different ways for us to perceive the world. All of the brothers were right, of course. And all of them had a better understanding of the elephant than they had before they started, no matter how incomplete their understanding was.
Today's reading from John's Gospel is about the first people to follow Jesus as disciples. After he baptized Jesus, John the Baptist sees Jesus walking along the road and points him out to a couple of his own disciples. “There is the Lamb of God!” he cried. The two men decided to spent the afternoon with Jesus and called him, “rabbi.” Then one of them, Andrew, runs to find his brother, Simon. And when he finds him, he calls Jesus, “Messiah.” Later, Jesus runs into Phillip, who in turn tells Nathanael, “he is the one of who the prophets wrote, Jesus, son of Joseph.” And in that conversation, Jesus is called both, “Son of God” and “Son of Man.”
Lamb of God
the One of whom the prophets wrote
son of Joseph
Son of God
Son of Man
Each of us has a different name for Jesus. Each of us sees Jesus differently. For some, Jesus a friend and companion and shepherd along the way. This Jesus is the perfect human being, the one chosen by God to help the rest of us along the way.
For others, Jesus is the king of heaven, God's only Son, who sits at God's right hand and will come again to judge the world. For others, he is a teacher; still others the perfect sacrifice.
All of these names are right, of course. All of them describe an aspect of who Jesus is. And that's what makes his call to each of us so unique. Because no matter how many times we think we have Jesus all figured out, there is always some another side, another way by which he can be seen and understood.
And you know what? That's perfectly fine with Jesus. Because when Jesus was building his band of disciples, he didn't say, “Now this is how it's going to be. You first have to believe this, and then you have to do that. And you have to stop doing so-and-so, and start doing this other thing.” No. All Jesus said to those first disciples is, “Come and see.”
Come and see. In these three simple words, Jesus strikes the nail on the head about the reason each and every one of us is here today albeit virtually and digitally. All of us are looking for something; all of us are seekers and travelers on a journey of the spirit. All of us are looking for that which gives our life meaning.
Some of us are looking for a deeper relationship with God and a deeper understanding of God's action in our lives. Some of us are looking for a closer relationship with our loved ones. Some of us are looking for forgiveness; some want a way to forgive another person. Some of us are looking for ways to help other people. Some are looking for fellow travelers on the journey of life.
The fact of the matter is that all of us want something, need something, or we wouldn't be here. All of us are wounded somehow, we all have holes in our souls. We travel through life, bumping and bruising our way from one day to the next looking for healing, looking for hope, looking for happiness, looking for love.
The fact of the matter is that Jesus began to build his following with an invitation. His first words weren't that they had to accept him as our Lord and savior in order to be saved. He didn't threaten them with eternal suffering and damnation if they didn't come. No. It all began with an invitation – he simply invited them to come in and see.
And so it is with us. We, too, are invited to simply come and see. Come and see how to live life more abundantly, by watching those who are living it. Come and see what it is to be forgiven, by watching others forgive. Come and see how to share with other people, by understanding all that God has given to us. Come and see how God is working in our lives every day. God is with us, and through Christ, all of us are invited to be in relationship with God. All of us are invited to into Christ's own fellowship to become part of his ministry.
Jesus knew that all it takes is an invitation to change a person's life. And by his simple invitation, his ministry grew. Because just as Jesus invited Andrew, Andrew invited Simon, and Simon invited others. And Jesus found Philip and Philip found Nathanael and told him the good news. And so it continues even today. The faith is spread through invitation; we grow by sharing our faith with others.
Many of us gathering this morning have had this faith shared with us when we were young by those who were older – a generation or two older. And, those in that generation were taught the faith by those generations older than they. My friends, we stand on the shoulders of many.
This Christian faith that we share is passed on person to person. By the witness of our lives and by the invitations we extend. We don't have to be pushy or manipulative. We don't have to be able to quote scripture by heart. We don't have to know all the answers to the great eternal questions of life, the universe, and everything. All we need to do is invite those around us to come and see what we see.
Each of those disciples experienced Jesus in a different way. And each of us today, see him differently, too. But no matter how you see him, the fact of the matter is that we each know that we are loved by God, and are called to love others in God's name. And that's enough of an invitation for anyone.
So this week, I'd like you to think about two things. The first is to think about why you are a part of Grace, a part of the very Body of Christ, when you could be doing lots of other things. What is it that draws you?
And the second is to think about who you know who might be looking for a church to be a part of. They don't need to think about Christ the same way you do. They don't need to believe anything, or do anything. All they need is an invitation from somebody – somebody like you.
“Come and see.” That's all you need to say.
Thanks be to God!