January 19, 2014
Grace and Peace to you this morning. Grace and Peace.
Our reading in John this morning is full of titles for Jesus:
Here is the Lamb of God
who is taking away the sin of the world.” (1:29)
The one who existed before John (1:30-31)
he one on whom the Spirit descends and remains (1:32-33)
“This is the Son of God.” (1:34)
In five verses, we get five different descriptions, five different ways of understanding who Jesus is. It is interesting to note that the Greek word meaning “rest” or “remain” or “abide” or “stay” is used four times in this small passage. Twice it refers to the Spirit which descended upon Jesus and stayed with him, and twice it is used when the disciples of John come to follow Jesus, and they ask where he is staying, and they stay with him.
In the midst of this passage full of explanations and descriptions of who Jesus is, there is a difference from the other Gospels. In the other Gospels, when Jesus comes across people like Andrew and Simon and Matthew, he says “Follow me.” And they do.
Here, two of John’s disciples hear John’s testimony about Jesus and they start to follow.
Jesus turned, and saw them following, and said to them,
“What do you seek?” And they said to him, “Rabbi”
(which means Teacher), “where are you staying?”
He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where he was staying;
and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour.
Here Jesus does not say, “Follow me.” He says, “Come and see.” Come and see. You have heard about me from John. Come and see for yourself.
A couple of weeks ago, I got a phone call here at the church. The man on the phone said that he and his family were in town that coming weekend, and might come worship with us. He wanted to know what Bible we read in worship. I told him it was the Revised Standard Version. He was pleasant enough but I was pretty sure we would not see him or his family that coming Sunday. I don’t know that I have ever had that conversation where the “correct answer” wasn’t the King James Version.
I wish I had the wherewithal to have answered “Come and see” instead.
Brian Stoffregen tells the story about “come and see.” He says: At some church event, I picked up a refrigerator magnet with two pictures on it — actually it’s the same drawing of two people, but presented twice. The first picture is called “Reality Evangelism Part 1”. One person says to the other, “Yeah, I go to church.” Reality Evangelism Part 2 shows the same person saying, “Wanna come?” What could be more simple than that?
There are a lot of assumptions about what church is and what church is not, held by people both inside and outside the church.
A 2008 study of over 1,400 people who had not attended church in the previous six months revealed some interesting disconnects:
A full 72 percent of the people interviewed said they think the church ‘is full of hypocrites,’”… “At the same time, however, 71 percent of the respondents said they believe Jesus ‘makes a positive difference in a person’s life.’”
As a hypocrite myself, I cannot argue with the assumption. I say that not to boast, but to be honest about the difficulties of life, and the fact that I make assumptions and mistakes and I get the feeling I am not alone in this.
I am reminded of the quote by Lillian Daniels. She is talking about people who view themselves as “spiritual but not religious.” She says that when people say they find God in the sunset or a rainbow or newly blooming flowers, she gets that. But it is not like churchgoers cannot also find God in a sunset or a rainbow or new blossoms. She says, “The miracle is that I can find God in a church full of people just as annoying as I am.”
The Barna Group, a think tank for churches, did a poll in 2010 about how people view the church. Its findings were a little harsher.
“One out of every four people (25 percent) said they could not think of even one positive contribution made by Christianity in recent years. When asked what they thought were any negative contributions of Christianity, one out of five Americans mentioned “violence or hatred incited in the name of Jesus Christ.””
These are sobering indictments and we need to hear them. The church does have some repenting to do. But to all of these criticisms, I think we have a good response: “Come and see.”
Come and see KidsHopeUSA, where we start mentoring children in the first grade so that we can help them before their difficulties get bigger and firmly entrenched.
Come and see what Bible study is like when there are no questions off limits, where we expect you to not leave your brain or your heart at the door. So too with worship.
Come and see what it is like in a church where when someone comes out as gay to the congregation and says his old church did not see him as fully human and our church has welcomed him like family, the congregation erupted into spontaneous applause.
Come and see where we gather to find new ways to meet the needs of our members and neighbors in the event of an emergency or a disaster.
Come and see where rambunctious children are blessed and loved, because we remember that Jesus said we are supposed to become more like them than the other way around.
Come and see a place that can pray their pastor and his family through not one but two open heart surgeries on his kids.
Come and see what God is doing with a group of people just as annoying as I am.
Thanks be to God.