Lloyd Menke | Our Saviour’s
The Bible reference for this sermon is John 1-35-51. It can be found by clicking here.
By Publisher of Bible Cards [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Do you ever feel like there has got to be something more? Something more substantial – more meaningful – more significant – more real?
Advertisers know the yearning. There was a long running commercial by a soft drink company in the 1970’s. Coca Cola came out with a commercial with people singing, “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing” The commercial ended with the tag line. “It’s the real thing.” Channel 4 and the Sunday Times ranked Coca Cola’s commercial in the top 100 ads of all time. In 2007, Campaign magazine called it “one of the best-loved and most influential ads in TV history”. It served as a milestone—the first instance of the recording industry’s involvement with advertising.
In a world where a false emergency alert warning of a ballistic missile threat sent the people of Hawaii into a panic for 38 minutes on Saturday – don’t we all wish for someone who could “get the world to sing in perfect harmony?” Aren’t we all still looking for “the real thing?”
The yearning for something more substantial – more meaningful – more significant – more real – is age old. The gospel of John knows this deep yearning. The gospel writer John tells us, the next day after Jesus’ baptism, John the Baptist sees Jesus walking by and exclaims, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!” Two of his disciples, Andrew, and Simeon Peter, start following Jesus.
When Jesus sees them following he asks them what they are looking for? They ask Jesus where are you staying? Only the word translated “staying” is the Greek word μένω “meno.” Meno is a loaded rich word. It can mean: “await,” “remain,” “lodge,” “sojourn,” “dwell,” “continue,” “endure,” “abide”. The disciples are asking more than where Jesus is sleeping. They want to know where he is living – in the largest sense. They want to know if there is something more substantial – more meaningful – more significant to who Jesus is. They want to know if he’s the real thing.
Rather, than trying to persuade them he simply invites them to discover that for themselves. He simply, invites them to “Come and See.” Jesus understands that there is an experiential component to faith.
The next day, Jesus goes to Galilee. He finds Philip and invites him to follow. Philip then finds Nathaniel and tells him he has found the real thing. Only he didn’t use those words, what he said was, ‘We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.’
Nathaniel is skeptical. Promises, promises. He wonders if anything good can come out of Nazareth. Following Jesus example, Philip doesn’t argue – he doesn’t try and convince Nathaniel – he simply invites Nathaniel to come and see for himself. Are you picking up a pattern?
Too often we think our job as Christians is to convince people – or to share our intimate, deeply personal faith story. Not surprisingly, because it is intimate, because it is deeply personal there is a sense in which its meaning is hard to put into words.
How does one adequately talk about a relationship? It is not surprising to me that the Hallmark and other card companies do an extraordinary business – as they seek to give words to our human relationships. So, it should not surprise us if we struggle with knowing how to begin to talk about our faith or our connection to God.
The good news here is that being faithful in our call to share Jesus doesn’t have to be about convincing anyone. We don’t have to somehow find the words to describe our faith life. All that is needed is to offer an invitation for others to discover the wonder of Jesus for themselves. Martin Luther understood this. As he states in the explanation to the third article of the creed:
“I believe that by my own understanding or strength I cannot believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to him, but instead the Holy Spirit has called me through the gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, made me holy and kept me in the true faith, just as he calls, gathers, enlightens, and makes holy the whole Christian church on earth and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one common, true faith.”
According to some recent research, most Christians believe that the unchurched people they know simply aren’t interested in church. They believe if they would be turned down if they asked someone to come with them.
But actually, 82% of the unchurched are at least somewhat likely to attend church if invited according to Dr. Thom Rainer’s research published in his new book, “The Unchurched Next Door.” There is more. Only 2% of church going people ever invite someone to church in a given year. And, seven out of ten unchurched people have never been invited to church in their whole lives.
Do you know what is special about growing churches? Most people think that it is the style of music – or the exceptional preaching – or the content of the messages. There may be some truth to that. But, there is something else that is true of growing churches. Their people invite! They invite people to “Come and See”
These churches also work hard to make sure that when people do invite – they are not embarrassed for having done so – they put a lot of effort into making the worship experience exceptional. Again, there may be something to that – at least for the church as an organization. Of course, the goal is not just to make good church attenders – the goal is to make followers of Jesus – hopefully there is some connection between what happens in church and being a follower of Jesus. Hopefully, people discover Jesus in the things we do here at Our Saviour’s.
When I think back on my own journey of faith it is much like what Douglas John Hall describes in his autobiography, Bound and Free. He writes:
“If the first lesson in my autobiographical attempt was to convince me that I’d enjoyed an undeservedly meaningful existence, the second was even more illuminating: it was that I owe such happiness as I have had to one Source — namely, the sheer grace of God as it is mediated through the lives of other people.” [pp. 29-30, italics in original]
We all can look back and see God’s grace being revealed to us and calling us through the lives of other people — people, as Hall describes them, who:
“…are not public figures but ordinary folk — old ladies and gentlemen of my youth, people in the various workplaces of my life, members of my one and only congregation, and, of course, my students and colleagues of more then four decades in academic life.
Most of these people did not know they were giving me gifts of insight and support, affirmation and critical acumen, but were simply being who they were and doing what they do.” [p. 30]
In the next paragraph, he turns the roles around:
“Every one of us plays the role of giver, wittingly or unwittingly, in relation to all whom we meet.
And if we know this about ourselves, we may be inspired to pay a good deal more attention than otherwise to the way that we are with one another, the things we say to one another, the deeds we do and leave undone.” [p. 30]
The Gospel of John, and especially these opening verses are about being such people — mediators who invite others to Jesus.
I also like what Fredrick Buechner has to say in “Adeste fidelis. He writes:
“…the only answer I know for people who want to find out whether or not this is true. Come all ye faithful, and all ye who would like to be faithful if only you could, all ye who walk in darkness and hunger for light. Have faith enough, hope enough, despair enough, foolishness enough at least to draw near to see for yourselves.”
Even now, it is no different even for us – who find ourselves at times still wondering. The invitation is also for us. Hear anew Jesus invitation. Come and see. Amen.