"Come and See, Go and Show" – John 1:29-42
The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.” And John testified, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I 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.’ And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.”
The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. When 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?” He 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. One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Anointed). He 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).
[Upon entering for worship, worshippers were given a card on which to write some way they have been moved or inspired, thanks to their faith, in recent days. I begin by rattling of some of their responses, as well as my own.]
Dave Duff funeral… Steve Beebe’s “O Holy Night”... sharing money from the Pastors' Discretionary Fund to help pay someone's rent...etc.
Thanks for playing along. That’s all great stuff… holy stuff… moving things that remind me of how and why it’s good to be the church around here. And my hunch was correct because what most of you shared was just as telling as what wasn’t.
No one said anything/there wasn’t much about doctrine or dogma or denominations. No one said a word about the abstract rules and self-righteousness that so many Christians fight about out there in the world. No one mentioned anything that had to be thought about or reasoned or rationalized in too many ways – I didn’t ask for an essay, after all. The most meaningful things to most of us are things we have experienced, witnessed, seen, heard, tasted, touched, felt in some real, human way.
And I think this is something like what the disciples of John the Baptist were hungry for – whether they would have explained it that way or not – when they first saw Jesus and started to follow him in this morning’s Gospel. John points them in the right direction, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!” And they follow, because “Lamb of God” for 1st Century Jews meant sacrifice, forgiveness, redemption – and who wouldn’t want to see and get their hands on why John would have ever thought to call Jesus any of those things?
They meet up with Jesus, and they call him Rabbi, which means “teacher,” like maybe they were expecting a lecture or a reading or a sermon or something. But Jesus doesn’t do any of that. He just says, “come and see.” “Come and see.” And so they do.
And, ultimately they saw him heal and forgive and tell great stories. (Even his teachings were experiences, really – parables that painted wonderful pictures about the Kingdom of God, alive in their midst.) They watched him live and move and breathe with and among everyday people, just like they were. They watched him touch lepers and be touched with the oil and tears and hair of a sinful woman. They saw him love others, purely and plainly. They watched him suffer and struggle and sacrifice and die – like a “lamb of God,” after all. And they suffered the sting of that loss as a result. And they felt the joy of his redemption, on the other side the empty tomb, even more.
And all of this changed them, transformed them, and changed the world around them by the grace they learned to receive and to share because of all they experienced. And that’s still God’s hope for us as followers of Jesus: that we would come and see – which so many of us have, based on the simple, holy, profound experiences we can share about our time in this place. And God’s hope is that, once we’ve come and seen, that we will go and show, too, so that others might be changed by the same grace we’ve experienced.
One of my favorite one-liners from Shane Claiborne – a Christian, theologian, activist, worker for justice, author, and whatnot – is something you’ve probably heard me say it before – and I give Claiborne the credit, though I’ve seen it attributed to others, too. Anyway, Shane Claiborne said (at least once), that the Gospel spreads best, not by force, but by fascination. …Not by force but by fascination … when we demonstrate our salvation – not earn it, not explain it, not prove or try to make sense of it, but demonstrate that our salvation already is – with acts of love and grace and mercy; with acts of justice, peace, welcome and hospitality.
And this seems to be just how Jesus operates – and how he calls us to be just the same: to be a disciple, to follow the way, to share the Gospel not by force but by fascination. To put flesh and bones – to give life…our life…our flesh and bones – to the good news and grace we experience from one day to the next.
It’s one thing to stand here in our white robes or fancy clothes, with our hymnals and our bulletins in one hand and our best intentions in the other. It’s another thing altogether, to be loving and forgiving and patient, to be sacrificing and sharing and generous beyond reason, to be tasting and offering up the fullness of God’s kind of grace and mercy with the world.
Whether it’s the bread and wine of communion or the water of Holy Baptism or any of the things you scribbled down to share this morning, the stuff of life and faith that matters most, just has to be experienced and shared to matter. You just have to come and see it – as much as anything – in order to believe it, or buy it, or be changed by it in some way.
This life of faith is meant to be felt – which God proved by showing up in the skin and bones of Jesus. This life of faith is meant to be practiced – not just preached about. This life of faith is meant to be shared through worship, learning and service. This faith matters most – for us and for others – when we come and see it in flesh and blood, through sweat and tears, in laughter and love and when we become it and go and show it to such an extent that others are fascinated by the light our very lives share with – and for – the sake of God’s world.