Epiphany 2 Year A 2017 8am and 9.30 with baptism
1 Corinthians 1. 1-9
John 1. 29-42
“Come and see”
When the Royal School adopted these words as the strapline for its advertising, I was deeply disappointed. The parish hasn’t yet found a phrase or sentence to be our vision statement, mission statement, whatever, and I had always thought this might be it. Words of Jesus inviting those very first disciples to find out for themselves who he was…. to experience his teaching and his presence and so learn more about God. It would have been quite a challenge to adopt the words, the invitation of Jesus, inviting people not only to join in our worship, to listen to our teaching, but also – hopefully – to see from the way we behave, the love we show one another within our parish community and beyond it, something of the love of God.
Perhaps its as well that TRS got there first – we are still searching for our vision…..
Come and see. Actually, it’s quite an odd little story that John tells us about the calling of those first disciples. Let’s have a closer look. Here we are at a particular spot, probably by the R Jordan, 20 miles or so as the crow flies from Jerusalem, sometime, we guess, around the year 30 CE/AD … and here is John the Baptist who has been preaching and baptising and telling anyone who will listen about the messiah for whom he is only the messenger. And today … John sees Jesus coming towards him and tells his disciples who he is, in rich and resonant language. “Here is the Lamb of god, who takes away the sin of the world”, going on to tell the story of Jesus’ baptism – very appropriate – and how the Holy Spirit descended on him like a dove…. And then again The next day after that 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!’
These two disciples have clearly been thinking all night about what John told them. Their curiosity has been whetted and so there and then a new stage in the story of God’s purpose is begun: 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’ ‘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. (how precise can you get!)
I love this part of the story – it’s so profoundly human. It’s almost as if the two – Andrew and his friend – are following Jesus a little furtively, at a distance, unsure if they really want to speak to him or even be noticed by him… but intrigued by what John has told them, wanting and not wanting to know more, to see what this potentially extraordinary man will do… so when he turns round and asks them what they want they jump, start, and say the first thing that comes into their heads. Not “Teacher, who are you? What is your message? are you the messiah…. but “Teacher, where are you staying?”.
And this is when he says those words: “Come and see”, and they do. They go with him and it seems that they spend the day…
“Come and see”…. Jesus understands their uncertainty, sees through it to the curiosity and deep hunger it hides. His invitation to them in response is without commitment… if they come and see and believe, well: if they come and see and choose to go away, to turn down all that he is offering, they are free to do that too…
Wouldn’t you love to know what happened that day, between the first meeting and four in the afternoon? It must have been pretty amazing, because, one of the two –Andrew – then goes off to find his brother Simon and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah’. He has moved in those hours from the nervous uncertainty that just about allowed him to speak to Jesus at all, to an extraordinary clarity of vision and belief: We have found the Messiah’ the successor to King David, the one for whom the Jewish people had been waiting generations, the one who was to restore Israel. And so He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, ‘You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas’ We’re told that this is translated Peter but more important is its meaning of rock. So here is our first encounter with Simon Peter, the rock on whom Jesus will build his church….. Making this story the very earliest beginning of the church.
Now there are three disciples – Andrew, his friend, and Peter his brother : the first of the twelve who after a short three years of following Jesus will be able through the Holy Spirit to preach and teach his word.
And 20 years or so later that preaching and teaching will have begun to spread… there will be the beginnings of churches from Judea to rome, including the one in Corinth, that Paul was writing to in our first reading. Those churches – which had no buildings at all but met wherever they could, in houses or in the open – were the direct descendants of those first disciples, and we are direct descendants too. Paul’s description of them also describes us. ..those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours. Our presence here today, worshipping in this church, links us directly to the Corinthian church and to that day by the Jordan when two men whose hearts had been prepared by John accepted Jesus’ invitation – challenge – to come and see, and who did see, and immediately went to tell others…..
Abigail and Freddie are their descendants too – the very latest to join the church that began that day. In a few moments we will be welcoming them into our family … praying that as they grow they will see more and more of whatever it was Andrew and his friend saw that day – the love and compassion and wisdom and power of God, the friendship of Jesus – and that in the power of the spirit they will draw others to come in their turn and see for themselves.
And meanwhile for those of us who are part of the church, part of the community of faith here in Haslemere or elsewhere, there is an ongoing challenge, a question we need to ask ourselves… how are we witnessing to what we believe, to the love of God for all of his children? If seekers come to our churches, searching like the first disciples for the messiah, how will the way we live help them to find him? Will they recognise in us the grace for which Paul gives thanks….?
4 I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus, 5for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind— 6just as the testimony of Christ has been strengthened among you— 7so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ.…