January 15, 2023

"Come and See”

Rev. Scott Landis

John 1:29-42

The gospel of John begins with these familiar words often referred to as “the prologue:”

In the beginning was the Word,
And the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
He was in the beginning with God.
All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being.
What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of everyone.
The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it. (John 1:1-5)

We read these words ever Christmas Eve. They remind us that The Word (code for Jesus) was with God from the very beginning of creation and eventually became incarnate – or human – like one of us – as Jesus entered our earthly world through his birth to Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem.

But John (the gospel writer) quickly shifts gears to let us know the primary reason for his writing. John writes to WITNESS to the action and intention of God as best he understood them. He does this by describing the testimony of John (the baptizer):

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.
He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him.
He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light.
The true light (Jesus), which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. (John 1:6-9)

John’s (the baptizer’s) primary mission was to witness to the coming of Jesus. He does so through the act of baptism and then by his announcement or witness that Jesus was, indeed, the Son of God.

I remind you of all this background because it is very important to Jesus’ first words that he speaks in John’s gospel. Did you catch them? Jesus first words were not “greetings children,” or “fear not – all shall be well.” Rather, he began by asking those nearby a question that complemented John’s prologue. His question was simple and yet profound when he asked, “What are you after?” Or better translated, “What do you seek? What are you looking for?”

It's a timeless question that is as relevant today as it was when Jesus first asked it. The folks then were no more or less religious than we are today. They were trying their best to get through life, caring for their families, and living with lots of uncertainty about their future. So, when they encountered Jesus, they began to hope – once more. They took a chance. Could this be the Messiah? Might he be the one who will lead us from our uncertainty to a new place of peace and prosperity? [Pause]

What are you after? What do you seek? What are you looking for? I wonder how you might answer that question today. [Pause]

Those who followed Jesus answered in what might first seem a rather peculiar response. They said, “Rabbi, where are you staying?” Again, a puzzling translation into English. A better interpretation might be, “Who are you? What are you all about?” Or even more accurately, “Where will you abide so we can spend some time with you and learn more?”

Then Jesus invited them into the relationship they would have profound consequences for their lives. It was an invitation – not coercion. He simply invited them to, “Come and see.” He welcomed them to walk further with him to discover for themselves truly what they were seeking – what they needed to be complete – whole – and at peace. [Pause]

I want to pause for a moment and point out just how important this approach is for us as we seek to welcome folks into our ‘ohana and invite others to experience the joy of Christian fellowship. Notice, force is not used, guilt is not used, the necessity to believe a specific creed, or doctrine, or live a proscribed lifestyle is not demanded. Simply “come and see.” Your questions are welcome. Your doubts are as important as your convictions. All that is asked is that you give it a try and bring who you are – as you are – to the table. You will be welcome here. But I digress.

The invitation to “come and see” also opens us to deeper learning about ourselves as we explore what we are looking for in life. We can do that as we attend to those first century disciples in the biblical text. AND we might also learn from contemporary disciples as well – as they heeded the invitation from Jesus to “Come and See?” [Pause]

This week we celebrate the lives of two amazing individuals who, I believe, embraced that invitation with their whole heart. They witnessed the powerful and divine presence of God in their own lives because they spent time abiding with our Lord. And then they became witnesses to that same presence through the action of their lives.

Monday marks the celebration of the witness of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. As an ordained Southern Baptist preacher, his was a voice folks would travel great distances to hear. But it was his insistence on peace and justice for all through means of nonviolence that became the hallmark of his witness. This did not happen of his own volition or ability. No, it came through his desire to abide with the Holy One and inviting others to “come and see” the possibilities of a world that could exist – the beloved community where all might live in peace, in harmony, and in mutual respect.

On Tuesday, we celebrate the legacy of Queen Lili’uokalani who also, accepted the invitation to abide with ke Akua and through that relationship realized the importance of reconciliation – not revenge as a MUCH more powerful means to her desired ends. Predicated on her sincere desire to offer forgiveness she demonstrated that justice, and peace for all was within the realm of possibility even with all evidence to the contrary. Along with Dr. King, her witness was also remarkable and while neither saw the total fulfillment of their dreams – both live on as amazing examples of how a peaceful witness in the midst of turmoil is far more powerful than any reliance on violence. They invited us to see a new possibility and gave of themselves completely as they envisioned a better way forward. [Pause]

Probably few of us will be able to muster the strength or tenacity of King or Lili’uokalani as we seek to be faithful beings, yet the same invitation is extended to us. “Come and see,” come and abide with the Holy One. Come and drink from the well of living water, and gain strength from the Spirit that is life and light for everyone. You will not be forced, but you will be invited. It is only in that relationship that we will find what we are looking for. [Pause]

Several years ago, one of my favorite bands - U2 - offered a song that spoke to the lament of this constant search. Bono expressed his frustration, despite having climbed high mountains and run through many fields with the repeated line, “But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.” To be sure, his search was a tad more shallow as it appears to be his search for the perfect mate – but maybe not. Maybe he was looking for something much more and his words were all metaphor to describe the importance of the search.

I invite you to sit with the question – and then re-read this story. If you accept the invitation, I promise, you will discover the answer – your answer. Come and see.

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