Great Invitation 1: Come and See!
Sermon preached for Epiphany 2A January 15, 2017 at Cedar Park United
We all have them…
Those small and great Ahas;
the new app or gadget,
or those light dawning realizations that help things fall into place,
or that change everything,
That hard-learned skill finally mastered,
a new baby, a new love….
Whatever it is that makes our voice
go up an octave,
our eyes dilate with excitement,
and cast around for someone,
anyone to whom we can say,
“Come and See!
“You gotta try this, see this!
So we know then what is going on here
in this story.
Not once, but at least three times.
This ancient story is not beyond our own experience;
we know what this feels like.
Let’s take a look.
John the Baptist was the “It guy”
for many in Judea.
He was your latest crush,
the Next Wise One,
the new headliner on the speaker circuit,
you new favourite author, spiritual guru.
He was the news in town.
“Come, See!” Everyone was saying,
“You gotta come and see this guy!”
What little we can glean from the Gospels,
is that John was indeed a character!
We know his backbone was truth.
We know that John owed nothing
to the power brokers of influence.
We know that his religion was not about rules,
but about living, fully immersed, baptized,
drenched in the Dream of God
for global justice,
for human flourishing,
for covenanted care,
for sanctuary for lost souls,
for a healed and healing community of care.
I imagine a Bernie Sanders or a Malala
or Martin Luther King, or a Raging Grannie,
dressed in goatskins,
prepared to hold up posters in the Senate,
to protest in the rallies outside Herod’s palace,
marching out there in the snow, cold
or blistering heat on behalf of those whom the powerful want to trample or ignore.
We also know that John
knew he wasn’t the It Guy everybody wanted him to be.
Every time they tried to put him on that pedestal as a hero or a saviour,
he’d climb right down again.
With increasing clarity,
he defined who he was not,
and who he was.
“I am not him.” he kept saying.
It’s not me, I baptize with water….
I shouldn’t even tie his shoelaces….
I am not the It Guy.”
This famous painting by Mattias Grunwald
epitomizes John’s vocation:
“I am just the pointer.
The first disciple of the One you’re seeking.”
John lived the Great Invitation to participate
in the great Epiphany, the Great Aha!
“Come and See!
See this One, this human being
who embodies God’s Dream in flesh and bone.
In word and deed.
In heart and soul.
In life and death.
When Andrew accepted the invitation,
his life was changed.
At 4 in the afternoon.
That peculiar specificity in the Gospel
is like all our life-changing epiphanies;
the first born arrived at 6:19 pm
I encountered God’s real flesh at 4 pm.
Andrew is turned into a pointer too, an inviter.
“Simon, you gotta come, see!”
When something so momentous
is encapsulated in so few biblical verses,
inevitably something is lost.
We don’t get to read the proofs, the growing realizations,
the vacillations, the conversations,
the personal demons that needed to be fought
so that these men, John, Andrew, Simon could indeed make way in their lives
for the Real Thing.
We just have to take the Gospel, these people at their word.
And employ our own imaginations and spiritual memory.
We do know when someone or something real
and worthy our fidelity is in front of us.
We do know courage, dignity,
luminosity of character when we see it.
We know when love conquers fear.
We know when community is born,
or grows stronger.
We do know what happens to us when we’re called upon to testify to this
We point beyond ourselves,
“You gotta Come, See! This is real!”
But can we be John? Andrew?
Do we have that going on inside us when it comes to Jesus?
To church? To faith? To being religious in today’s world?
More than once, and with increasing urgency,
you people are asking me – one another –
How on earth do I explain why I’m here on a Sunday?
How do I wear the name “Christian” given its ugly deformations?
How can I share even the simplest stories of this Christian heritage with my grandchildren?
How can I be not rejected in the job market, at high school, CEGEP?
Is there enough here, in my experience of God in community
for me to want to say “Come, See!”
I am increasingly convinced that there is no formulaic answer.
What I am learning, still, and in large part, from you, is this;
“This – this… Cedar Park United, this faith thing we share,
it’s not about propositions,
not about doctrine and polity,
not even so much words either.
And it’s certainly not about me, but
it’s about this “One, this “Other”
who walks among us,
full of grace and truth, authenticity.
It’s about this God Dream
that’s become enfleshed among us.
Jesus walks here.
Jesus breaks bread and shares curry
alongside transplanted Iranians, Egyptians, Brits and Maritimers who come to share community together.
Jesus enfolds the weary and the sick,
the lonely and the frightened
in shawls of care.
Here, Jesus listens on the phone,
walks the woods with friends
who need an ear to hear their grief, or their secret shames.
Here, Jesus weeps for the plight of Syrian refugees stuck in administrative limbo,
and waits, actively,
advocates for these and all whom power forgets or oppresses.
Here, Jesus celebrates love, regardless of gender, because love is love!
Jesus stays, abides here, in prayer,
connecting earth and heaven with God’s gifts of hope, vision, Spirit presence.
Jesus keeps company here with partners, friends and allies
who are searching for the same value-centred meaning:
this God Dream of global justice, human flourishing,
for covenanted care, sanctuary for lost souls,
and for community, belonging.
And this, all this.
It changes our life.
You gotta tell someone, anyone, everyone,
this great invitation of God’s escapes from our lips,
You gotta come, see!”