Posts Tagged ‘Evangelism’

Come and See 1-19-14

This morning’s sermon comes from John 1:29-42. It includes the story of John the Baptist recounting the baptism of Jesus and John encouraging his own disciples to move onto the Jesus. Andrew, one of the first invited by Jesus himself in turn becomes the one to issue the invitation to his brother Peter.

You can listen to the sermon here:

You can follow along with the sermon here. Note that there is a portion where I break off from the plan, and this short portion is not included in the text.

Grace and peace to you from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen
Well, it happened again…it was one of those Friday’s for me again…sitting in the office…pleading with the Holy Spirit to give me some insight into this week’s gospel text…not lost persay…I knew what I wanted to talk about…but as per usual in these situations…struggling to find a good way to start things up.
So instead of beating my head against the wall…I first tried to distract myself with a few run of the mill administrative tasks that needed to get done…and then once I had that wrapped up I dove into a Biblical commentary…trying to find some little nugget of insight to get me going in the right direction.
As I sat there in the my office, the book in my lap, I heard the front door open. Admittedly, it’s pretty difficult to sneak up on me in the church…and so I sat there for a brief moment waiting to see who would walk around the corner and come to my door. Turns out…it was our very own LaVern Leaders. After a moment of small talk LaVern told me, “I was talking with JoEllen Darrington yesterday, and she said that the sanctuary felt kinda warm when she was in there…so I thought I would come and see what’s going on.”
In this case, it wasn’t enough for LaVern to just hear about what was going on here at church…he had to come here in person…take a gander for himself.
Well, it took me a little while to realize that in God’s normal fashion, he’d sent me an answer to my quandary…I’d just been too distracted to notice it…but as a mentor of mine has often told me…ministry happens in the interruptions…or in this case…writer’s block is broken in the interruptions.
Come and See…sounds kinda familiar today doesn’t it? We hear this exact phrase in today’s Gospel lesson. Jesus tells Andrew and another unnamed disciple of John to come and see what’s happening…to come and experience things for themselves. (pause)
Actually, there’s a lot of “seeing” going on in today’s lesson isn’t there? John the Baptist sees Jesus walking…then John testifies about seeing the Spirit resting on Jesus…then he testifies that God had already told him that he would see this and that it would be the messiah. Then John says it again…I’ve seen this happen…and one more time…the next day…John see’s Jesus again and tells two of his disciples…Hey…look there.
Well then we shift away from John…who apparently has seen enough at this point…and Jesus see’s the two guys following him…and he asks them, what are you trying to see? And then what does he say? The famous Come and See…and then what happens? Well, they went and saw. After awhile, Andrew goes and get’s Peter, who comes along…and Jesus see’s him…seems like everyone is seeing everything here.
But seeing isn’t the only thing happening a lot.  There’s also a lot of abiding or dwelling happening…though the translation we’re using presents it as staying, or remaining…sorry now, gotta go Greek for just a second…but the same Greek word that we hear earlier in John 1, For the word became flesh and DWELLED among us…is present here…a lot.
The Spirit Abided on Jesus at baptism…John sees it and testifies to it…Andrew and the 2nd disciple as Jesus where are you Abiding?  They went to where he was abiding…and abided alongside for the day…So we see the Spirit dwelling with Jesus…and Jesus dwelling with humanity…Jesus inviting humanity to dwell right along with him…and humanity doing just that…and that right there…is a great big key to understanding John’s gospel.
We all know that Jesus entered into humanity for a specific purpose…to experience life as we know it, to be fully tempted by sin, to die in our place, and by doing so to beat the power sin and death…but sin, that’s a little tricky here in John’s gospel. (pause) Notice I didn’t say sins…I’m not talking plural here…Sin is singular…but if sin is just a single thing, then what is it? (pause)  Well, here in John’s gospel, sin is quite simply, not believing that Jesus is God…not believing that this man who walked the earth some 2000 odd years back was God while simultaneously being human. That’s it. (pause)
But if that really is it, then what’s going on here? Why all this seeing and dwelling? (pause) Well, quite simply, the Word became flesh and dwelled among us so that the word, which was with God and was God, could come into relationship with us.
Because who do we have relationship with?  Certainly not ourselves…as much as I have the tendency to talk to myself, it’s a pretty one sided conversation when I get honest with myself…no, we have relationship with each other…when we interact with each other…or when we, quite simply…abide together.
And that’s what Jesus is up to here.  By putting on flesh and dwelling among us, God creates the ability to be in relationship with us…and it happens…by simple invitation. You might notice that Jesus made the first invitation…telling Andrew and the other disciple to come and see…and they dwelled together for the day…and in a way that I find true time after time, the experience of dwelling with Jesus changes the person…and Andrew changes from the invited…to the inviter…bringing his brother to Christ.
One could argue that we are witnessing the birth of evangelism here…pointing other’s towards Christ…bringing other’s to Christ…and perhaps…as soon as I said that word…you squirmed just a little bit. Evangelism…proclaiming Christ out in the world…perhaps images of loud obnoxious street corner preachers just popped in your head…or perhaps you got images of people knocking on your door and asking “Have you found Christ?” (pause)
After all, we’re Lutherans…and if there’s one thing that we don’t do very well…its evangelism…we’ve always just relied on the next generation to keep filling our pews…but you know what…that’s not working anymore…Mainline Christianity…which includes Lutherans…is on a decline in America these days…I don’t think any of us doubt that…and though we have a wonderful congregation here…I think we all know plenty of people outside those doors who aren’t coming through those doors don’t we? (pause)
But you know what…evangelism…it doesn’t have to be scary…it doesn’t have to be intimidating. And we get that message in today’s story…evangelism doesn’t have to be confrontational…it can, and according to the example of Jesus, SHOULD…be as simple as “Come and see.”  (pause) “Hey, this is my experience…come check it out.” (pause)
John did it….I saw the spirit descend on him…and look there he is.
Andrew did…we found the messiah…come meet him. (pause)
And if we stop and think about it…each and every one of us is here today because at some point, I don’t know when it was for each of you…but as some point…someone had the gumption to invite you to come and see…and you are still here today because when you accepted that invitation…the time you spent dwelling with Jesus, had the same effect on you that it had on good old Andrew.
(pause) If you are to run a poll of new people in churches…across the board…regardless of denomination…they’ll tell you that they started showing up because someone invited them. 
Gone are the days when people come to church because that’s just what you do. That’s not our reality anymore…but if you care about something enough that you want to share it with other people…all it takes is an invitation.  Maybe they’ll accept it…and maybe they won’t…that’s a reality…some people won’t…but think about those people in your life that aren’t here…and you wish they were…think about the people in your life that you don’t know if they have faith or not….think about those people who’s final destination is in question…and imagine how wonderful it would be if someone…anyone…invited them to come and dwell with Jesus…and they said yes. (pause)
Jesus came to earth and dwelled among us…bringing the possibility of relationship with God to humanity…and the really great thing is…he dwells among us despite the not so great aspects of our personalities.  Just like we find ourselves in relationship with people despite their flaws…despite their shortcomings…despite those aspects of their personalities that rub us the wrong way…we’re still in relationship with them…and through Jesus…God comes into relationship with us in the same way…and all he’s asking us today…is to invite other people…to come and see.  Amen.