Epiphany 2: Come and See!

Opening Hymn

Reading

John 1:35-end (NLT)

35 The following day John was again standing with two of his disciples. 36 As Jesus walked by, John looked at him and declared, “Look! There is the Lamb of God!” 37 When John’s two disciples heard this, they followed Jesus.

38 Jesus looked around and saw them following. “What do you want?” he asked them.

They replied, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are you staying?”

39 “Come and see,” he said. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon when they went with him to the place where he was staying, and they remained with him the rest of the day.

40 Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of these men who heard what John said and then followed Jesus. 41 Andrew went to find his brother, Simon, and told him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means “Christ”).

42 Then Andrew brought Simon to meet Jesus. Looking intently at Simon, Jesus said, “Your name is Simon, son of John—but you will be called Cephas” (which means “Peter”).

43 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Come, follow me.” 44 Philip was from Bethsaida, Andrew and Peter’s hometown.

45 Philip went to look for Nathanael and told him, “We have found the very person Moses and the prophets wrote about! His name is Jesus, the son of Joseph from Nazareth.”

46 “Nazareth!” exclaimed Nathanael. “Can anything good come from Nazareth?”

“Come and see for yourself,” Philip replied.

47 As they approached, Jesus said, “Now here is a genuine son of Israel—a man of complete integrity.”

48 “How do you know about me?” Nathanael asked.

Jesus replied, “I could see you under the fig tree before Philip found you.”

49 Then Nathanael exclaimed, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God—the King of Israel!”

50 Jesus asked him, “Do you believe this just because I told you I had seen you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than this.” 51 Then he said, “I tell you the truth, you will all see heaven open and the angels of God going up and down on the Son of Man, the one who is the stairway between heaven and earth.”

Homily

I have to confess having a bit of a soft spot for Nathanael. I have known many Nathanaels in my life – straight-talking sorts who aren’t afraid to call a spade a blooming shovel. They don’t do it out of any sense of badness, but just with that good-humoured, good sense that seems to see the world as it really is and doesn’t get bitter. I am sure you have all met the sort, and can imagine the scene as his friend comes jogging up to him, breathless and excited, spouting news of a Messiah…

“Can anything good come from Nazareth?” scoffs Nathanael, much as an Nuneatonite might joke about Hinckley and vice versa. But he has a point. The Scriptures all say that the Messiah would come from Bethlehem, not this scrubby Galilean backwater, so Philip has clearly got the wrong end of the stick. You can almost see Nathanael roll his eyes. But Philip neither loses his belief that he has encountered something special, nor does he get defensive. He doesn’t need to. Nathanael just needs to encounter Jesus for himself. “Come and see!” Philip tells his friend. And like those good-hearted if somewhat bluntly skeptical folk we all know and love, Nathanael doesn’t actually need much to convince him. He doesn’t need fireworks and angel sky writers or even to see Jesus in all his glory. Jesus’ simple words and welcome are enough to convince this bloke that he is the real deal. A little authenticity goes a long way. Nathanel, who makes a art form out of seeing the worst, recognises a good thing when he sees it. Skepticism is out the window. He’s following Jesus now…

So often, we make sharing our faith so difficult, but it is as easy as “Come and see!” It is about living authentic lives as followers of Jesus and having the courage to ask those around us to share it. It is about daring to believe that in our worship and small groups and Christian living, our friends and family might spot something real, something of Jesus. This is, of course, made a little more difficult when we cannot invite friends or family to physical church events or to share the hospitality of our homes. However, on another level, it has never been more simple to invite someone to join in. Anyone with internet access can pop into one of our services and see what we are up to. Anyone with a phone can call our telephone service and hear a little of what we believe.

Now this is a little daunting as our tech isn’t swishy, the sermons aren’t always engaging, most of the participants have lockdown haircuts and many have their devices at interesting filming angles, but people aren’t primarily looking for high production values. They are looking for something real. And as long as we offer our worship in faith and love and with prayer, so long as by God’s grace, God’s Spirit is amongst us, and she is, what we share together week after week will be real. People don’t need fireworks and miracles and glory (although because God is generous, we do get glimpses from time to time) – people need to meet Jesus, the authentic Jesus who joins us in the ordinariness of life and transforms it.

I will be completely honest – I have found this week something of a struggle. My Covid recovery still isn’t complete and it is frustrating to need to rest when there is so much to be done. The news from both our country and beyond is enough to make me weep. While the vaccination programme brings some hope, it is against a background of such a tide of illness and death, that it is difficult to rejoice. And as my Mum, my daughter and I all celebrated our birthdays this week, the long wait to be together as a family seems interminable.

The one thing that keeps me going is the sense that God is in all this somewhere. There is work to be done, love to be experienced and shared, hope to be proclaimed because all things matter to God. The God who did not shy away from the ordinariness and struggle of a normal human family, who spent 30 years in a less than salubrious Galilean town, will not shy from joining us in all the unseen hopes and heartaches, strains and struggles of this year. This I believe with all my heart. This is real.

So don’t be afraid to invite your friends and family to share in what you believe. It doesn’t need to be swishy. It just needs to be real. And if you are someone who is a bit skeptical about all this stuff, a bit like Nathanael, well, firstly, keep being real! But anytime you want to come and see what we are up to and why, you are welcome. We truly hope that you will catch a glimpse of Jesus.

Intercessions

We pray that Christ may be seen in the life of the Church.
You have called us into the family
of those who are the children of God.
May our love for our brothers and sisters in Christ
be strengthened by your grace.
Jesus, Lord of the Church,
in your mercy hear us.

You have called us to be a temple
where the Holy Spirit can dwell.
Give us clean hands and pure hearts
so that our lives will reflect your holiness.
Jesus, Lord of the Church,
in your mercy hear us.

You have called us to be a light to the world,
so that those in darkness come to you.
May our lives shine as a witness
to the saving grace you have given for all.
Jesus, Lord of the Church,
in your mercy hear us.

You have called us to be members of your body,
so that when one suffers, all suffer together.
We ask for your comfort and healing power
to bring hope to those in distress.
Jesus, Lord of the Church,
in your mercy hear us.

You have called us to be the Bride,
where you, Lord, are the Bridegroom.
Prepare us for the wedding feast,
where we will be united with you for ever.
Jesus, Lord of the Church,
in your mercy hear us.

Jesus, Lord of the Church,
you have called us into fellowship with all your saints.
We unite our prayers with theirs
and ask for grace to serve you with joy
where you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for all eternity.
Amen

Closing Prayer

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