Come and See

January 15, 2017

John 1:29-42

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

How many of you remember the first invitation that you received to a birthday party? Or perhaps it was a wedding or a graduation party. I am sure that at some point in all of our lives, you have been invited to join the party. It is exciting to receive that invitation. It gives you something to look forward to.

In the Gospel of John this morning, the two disciples receive an invitation like no other invitation that they have received before. It is an invitation from Jesus, whom they have figured out is the Messiah. The invitation is to “Come and see.” Come and see for themselves what Jesus is all about and to not just take John’s word for it, but truly experience what it means to follow the Messiah. The invitation from Jesus will lead them to uncomfortable places and eventually to the cross. We are invited to be part of the story as well.

The thing is, once we receive the invitation, we at many times keep wondering if there is anything else out there. Is there by chance something better? Is it because of a lack of faith? Is it because we do not trust the person telling us? By chance, it is a combination of the two.

I personally wondered, as I read the passage from John this week, how long have Andrew and the other disciple been looking for something? How long have they been searching? How many different so-called Messiahs have they wandered upon during their journey? The gospel of John is the only gospel of the four that has two of John the Baptists disciples following Jesus. We do not hear of them leaving John the Baptist to follow Jesus in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, or Luke. Yet, Andrew and his brother Simon, are an integral part of the stories of Jesus calling his first disciples, as we will hear next week in the gospel of Matthew.

While Andrew and Simon were busy fishing, they could have also been on the lookout for the Messiah. Through the years, many self-proclaimed Messiahs probably crossed their path. Yet, John the Baptist seemed to be onto something. He was different from the rest. He did not dress the part, rather, he looked like he should be begging for food. When he spoke of someone greater than him coming, there was a sense that this could finally be what they were waiting for. It is at the Jordan River, as we heard last week, that John the Baptist’s prophetic voice was answered and Jesus was named the beloved.

It is in this hope that Andrew and the unnamed disciple accept Jesus’ invitation to come and see. In their searching, I am reminded of a song from U2. “I Still Haven’t Found What I am Looking For.” Perhaps it speaks to you the same way it has spoken to me over the years. The lyrics are:

I have climbed the highest mountains
I have run through the fields
Only to be with you
Only to be with you.

I have run, I have crawled
I have scaled these city walls
These city walls
Only to be with you.

But I still haven’t found
What I’m looking for.
But I still haven’t found
What I’m looking for.

I have kissed honey lips
Felt the healing in her finger tips
It burned like fire
This burning desire.

I have spoke with the tongue of angels
I have held the hand of a devil
It was warm in the night
I was cold as a stone.

But I still haven’t found
What I’m looking for.
But I still haven’t found
What I’m looking for.

I believe in the Kingdom Come
Then all the colours will bleed into one
Bleed into one.
But yes, I’m still running.

You broke the bonds
And you loosed the chains
Carried the cross of my shame
Oh my shame, you know I believe it.

But I still haven’t found
What I’m looking for.
But I still haven’t found
What I’m looking for.

Even after we have received the invitation to come and see, we still search. Part of that is human nature. Part of that speaks to our doubt, our lack of faith and our lack of trust. That searching can also be a means to get to know the invitee even better.

Our desire to get to know God. Our desire to experience Jesus walking along side us. Our desire to feel the Holy Spirit at work in our midst and in our community. We search through prayer. We search through reading. We search through being in conversation with one another. We search for a reassurance of Christ and the entire Trinity working in and around us.

This reassurance can be found every week as we confess our sins corporately and are reminded of the grace of God that is full in the forgiveness of those sins. It is found in the font as we are reminded of our baptisms. In the waters of baptism, we die to our sins and are born anew as members in the community of Christ. The reassurance is found in the bread and wine as Jesus gave his life for us, so that we can fully receive God’s grace and eternal life.

What then should we be compelled to do now that we have been reminded of this reassurance that comes to us in the invitation and saving grace of Jesus Christ? We shall follow the example of Andrew when he went to tell his brother, Simon Peter, that “We have found the Messiah!” The joy that abounds in this proclamation is one that is to be shared. We too, shall invite others to “Come and see!”

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Life in the Water

Water surface

 

Matthew 3:13-17

Grace and peace to you from the Triune God. Amen.

The Christmas season has left us. Many of us have already taken down our Christmas trees and decorations and have packed them up until this next year. We will be doing the same after worship this morning. While we may be moving forward in the liturgical year, the idea of Emmanuel, God with us, is something that we should carry with us through Epiphany, into Lent and Easter, through Pentecost and right up to next Christmas. God with us, Emmanuel, never leaves us.

There could not be a better reminder than the one we get this morning in the baptism of Jesus. In the very waters of the river Jordan, Jesus is named and called into service. If there had been any question in the past about his calling, that is answered now in his identity received in baptism, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” You too, receive your identity in the living water that washes over you in baptism.

As God swept a wind, or the Holy Spirit, over the face of the waters in Genesis, that same Spirit is present with Jesus in his baptism. Water is essential to life in more ways than one, and it is through the water that we enter into community with one another.

As we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord this morning, I am also reminded of its personal significance in my life. It was on this day eleven years ago, that I was baptized alongside the rest of my family. It was in the waters of the font at Peace Lutheran Church in Charlotte that we now had the visible sign of our new identity in Christ washed over us. We had been walking alongside our newfound community for close to a year and were now called to serve in a greater capacity. In that calling, our identity was confirmed, and the Spirit flowed through that breathing water. It is no accident that I personify the water.

The water that we encounter in baptism is full of life and as it is washed over us in baptism, or as we dip our fingers in it to mark the sign of the cross on our bodies, we are reminded of its life-giving characteristics. In its life, it gives us life. In our baptisms, God is present in the water and through the Word as it is spoken to us. For many of us, this may be our first real encounter with the Trinity, as we are baptized in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. I don’t believe many of us truly stop to think about this. Do we stop to think about the significance of this sacrament, or do we just take it for granted as something that we do?

I will be honest with you. I did not look too deeply into it when I was baptized eleven years ago. I knew it was the next step in the journey. Yes, I talked to my pastor about it and what it meant, but did I truly understand it? Heck, I had already been coming to the table for at least 7 months and had met Jesus in the bread and wine, and was now opening to the waters of baptism. I did not experience anything special in the water, no aha moment! Yes, it was moving, and I was excited, but I did not see angels coming down from the rafters.

But after that day eleven years ago, God started working in mysterious ways in my life. I was called out of my comfort zone into new and exciting opportunities in the church. And I am still learning. I am continuing to learn from Christ working in my life and the Spirit calling me and pushing me, and at times pulling me in new directions. I have recently been reading The Divine Dance by Richard Rohr and he tackles the subject of our lack of truly experiencing the Trinity. He writes:

Do you ever wonder why Western atheism is on the rise? Why does the Christian West, by far, produce the highest number of atheists? What I believe, and have dedicated my life to reversing, is that we have not moved doctrine and dogma to the level of experience. As long as “received teaching” doesn’t become experiential knowledge, we’re going to continue creating a high quantity of disillusioned ex-believers. Or on the flip-side, we’ll manufacture very rigid believers who simply hold on to doctrines in very dry, dead ways with nothing going on inside.

And so we have two big groups in the landscape today: those who throw out the baby with the bathwater (many liberals and academics)—and those who seemed to have drowned in the bathwater (many conservatives and fundamentalists).

How about allowing the bath water to keep flowing over you and through you?

It is anyway, but we can considerably help the process by gradually opening up the water faucets—both the cold and the hot.

The water that is washed over us in our baptisms is alive with the Spirit. It calls us into relationship so that we can encounter God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit in everything that we do. Yes, we are not always going to get it right. Look at John the Baptist, he denied Jesus’ request at first to baptize him, because he thought it should be the other way around.

In this relationship, we are asked to be in conversation, because that is how a relationship works. There is some give and take. There is some struggles and questioning. There is doubt and belief. Through it all is Emmanuel, God with us. The God that we encounter in the waters of baptism, and the God that comes to us full of hope in an infant child in a manger are forever with us. In this presence, we are given our identity as a “child of God.”