January 15, 2017-Come and See

John 1:29-42

29 The next day he saw Jesus coming towards him and declared, ‘Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 30This is he of whom I said, “After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.” 31I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.’ 32And John testified, ‘I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, “He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.” 34And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.’

35 The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, 36and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, ‘Look, here is the Lamb of God!’ 37The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, ‘What are you looking for?’ They said to him, ‘Rabbi’ (which translated means Teacher), ‘where are you staying?’ 39He said to them, ‘Come and see.’ They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon. 40One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41He first found his brother Simon and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (which is translated Anointed). 42He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, ‘You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas’ (which is translated Peter).

This is the word of God for the people of God. Thanks be to God. Amen.

Last week we celebrated Baptism of the Lord Sunday and included a service of remembrance so that we might remember our own baptism or anticipate the day when we will be baptized. I hope that over the course of the year, you look back on last Sunday and remember that in baptism God’s love claims you and gives you a calling to serve God and neighbor. It was a holy day to watch Betty Blair and John Paul serve communion to the congregation and for so many of you to come and splash in the baptismal font, take beads to help you remember, and make the sign of Christ’s cross on your hand or forehead.

It is especially fitting that today we would baptize Nolan and celebrate the baptismal covenant once again.

This morning’s text again picks up with John the Baptist and Jesus but it’s more focused on the response of Nathaniel, Philip, Andrew, and Simon Peter when they encounter Jesus. We’ll get back to them.

In the weeks after Keeli and I bought our house back in August 2015, we were out shopping for furniture one day and a particular dining room table caught her eye. I remarked, ‘I could build one like that and it’d be way cheaper.’ Well a few weeks later, I called her up at work and suggested that I had found the plans for a farm table and was on my way to pick up the lumber to build our dining room table. I think with an immense amount of skepticism in my woodworking ability, she agreed to the plan. Every chance I got, before breakfast, a few minutes before bed, while waiting for water to boil for dinner, I would head to the garage to plan and make the next steps in the table’s construction. Finally, the time came when the table was together and actually looked like a dining room table. Whoever came to the house, parents, friends, grandparents, my mother and father in law, I would eagerly wait to usher them to the garage after the tour of the house to see the newly constructed table, especially after Keeli and I labored into the wee hours of the morning night after night applying stain and polyurethane.

Come and see the table I would say to them. Even if they had already seen it from cell phone pictures, they had to come and see it for themselves. After the completion of each major piece of furniture, the invitation to friends and family visiting was always, come and see.

And many of you have offered that same invitation to me these past few months, to see your homes, your art work, your kids’ sports games, and musical performances. Come and see is such a warm invitation to experience what someone else already knows to be delightful, joyful, and exciting. Of all these invitations to come and see, the one that especially stands out to me was not directed to me at all. It came from amidst this congregation, as someone shared the excitement they have in wanting to invite others to come and experience the living grace of God that abounds in this community of faith.

I think this excitement of inviting others to come and experience the living grace of God in Jesus Christ gets exactly to the heart of the gospel this morning.

The scene opens with John the Baptist on the banks of the Jordan River in the region of Bethany. The day before Jesus comes to visit John, John is instructing those who have come to see him that he is not the Messiah. He assures the people that he is not the prophet Moses and he is not the prophet Elijah. Instead he points to the one that will come after him; he notes that he is not worthy enough to even bend down and tie up the sandals of Jesus who will come after him. The next day, Jesus goes out to John and as he approaches, John declares, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.’ He goes on to say, to even testify as if he were a court witness, that Jesus is God’s own son, the chosen one of Israel, the Anointed One.

Then the next day as John sees Jesus walking by, he makes the declaration a second time, Look, the Lamb of God. Two of John’s disciples heard this remark and they begin to follow Jesus. Jesus turns to them and asks poignantly: what are you looking for? They ask where he is staying, which really means, where is your spirit abiding? Where have you planted your feet and decided to stay awhile so that we can go there as well? Jesus invites them, come and see.

Andrew, one of the disciples who had decided to follow Jesus, goes home and gets his brother, Simon, and tells him, we have the found the Christ, God’s anointed one. They return to Jesus and upon approaching, Jesus no longer calls him Simon but Cephas or Peter, the rock upon which the church will be built.

Although the scene is quick, it is richly layered. The whole ordeal begins with John the Baptist declaring, behold the lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. This phrase is John’s and John’s alone. It doesn’t show up in any other gospel but it helps the hearer recall the great story of salvation in which God Almighty provides a lamb to Abraham as the appropriate element to use in a sacrifice. Abraham was instructed to sacrifice his son Isaac and at the height of the scene, just as Abraham prepares to end his own son’s life, God provides the necessary lamb for the burnt offering. And a hearer might also recall the salvation story of God as it takes place in Egypt as Moses prepares to lead the people to freedom.

The 10th plague is coming-the taking of the firstborn across all of Egypt. But God has instructed the people to take the blood of the sacrificial lamb and wipe on the doorposts of their homes with hyssop branches so that when the plague unfolds, the Hebrew homes will be passed by. 26 When your children ask you what this ceremony means to you, 27 you must answer, ‘It’s the Passover sacrifice in the Lord’s honor. The Lord passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt and spared our homes when he killed the Egyptians.’”

Or perhaps John makes this declaration to evoke the image of Isaiah’s Suffering Servant in which God’s chosen one is depicted like a lamb being led to slaughter. Indeed, Jesus’ life will emulate Isaiah’s Suffering Servant as he approaches the crucifixion without much resistance, giving himself for all of creation.

Whatever the two disciples heard or remembered in John’s declaration, it captured their curiosity and their heart strings for they follow Jesus. Jesus probes into the depths of their being. What are you looking for? What is lacking in your life? What feels hollow?

They’re drawn in by this question because it resonates deeply-no matter what they have, how they spend their day working, how good or bad family life is, they’re still searching for matters of the heart. They’re searching for life with God and when they hear John’s declaration of Jesus’ identity, they’ve hit jackpot. The one they’re searching for is right there in front of them.

They want to know, where does Jesus’ spirit abide? Where does he draw his wisdom and Spirit led calling from? They’re seeking far more than just his lodging whereabouts. Jesus warmly extends the invitation, come and see.

I know this invitation, come and see, has been extended to many of you by your closest friends, family, and neighbors. It’s quite possible that Mrs. Ginger Harris extended that invitation to you and that’s how you find yourself here this morning.

Come and see the mysterious love and grace of God at work in the world. Come and see the grace of God poured out in water over the young and the old as a sign of the forgiveness of sins. Come and see, bread broken and the cup poured out as a symbol of what Almighty God is doing to make things right in the world. Come and see a community that knows the depth of love and the expanse of compassion and justice.

And when you’ve seen for yourself, this mysterious grace at work unlike anything else in your life, you can replicate the invitation to another, come and see. You may not declare enthusiastically, we have found the Christ, God’s anointed one. Maybe you didn’t know you were even looking for God’s chosen one but when you encountered him, you ended up like Simon, living under a different name, now called Beloved.

In other words, one way or another you’ve shown up in this place either on the elbow of someone close to you or at the warm beckoning invitation of another. Maybe you didn’t know what you were looking for in life-maybe you walked into this place in the throes of grief and found an inclusive community that wrapped its arms around you until the pain didn’t hurt so bad. Or maybe you had everything going for you and the marks of success looked ever so good but you couldn’t shake that feeling that there is more to this life than burning through your earnings. So you took a risk to come and see the one who would rather spend time with the sick and sinful than high society.

When you went and did likewise, you discovered the redemptive power of grace. Yes indeed, we have stumbled into the mysterious grace of God and now we can say to others come and see, we have found the Christ.

With whatever company you keep, my ask of you is this: consider saying, why don’t you come and see what we’re doing in worship one Sunday or come serve with me next time we host guests at church who are homeless through Room in the Inn?

Bless you in the name of God’s Anointed One, the one who wants to know, what are you looking for? Amen.