Sermon text: John 1: 29-42
Vicky Poe is a force of nature. She is of medium build and medium height with long, brown hair, and she was always dressed well. Full of energy and spunk, she’s gregarious, a good listener, quick to laugh, and connects well with strangers. Despite being a few decades older than the teens she was working with she was able to create strong bonds. Vicky is the wacky great aunt that you wanted to see at family reunions. All of her personality traits meant that she was great at her job, because Vicky was an admissions counselor at Thiel College.
As an admissions counselor, her job was pretty straightforward: sell the school. Help prospective students envision their future on this particular campus. Connect their hopes to the offerings provided by the school and secure their commitment.
Vicky excelled in this position. I have no idea how many students she convinced to go to Thiel, but it had to have been a healthy percentage of the student body. And after she secured students, she would remember them too.
Thiel was one of four schools that I was seriously considering when I was making my decision about college. For a number of reasons, it was at the top of my list, but when I met with Vicky and tour the tour and spent the night on a campus visit, I was still making my choice. In the early sping I needed to travel back to Thiel for a scholarship competition. A few weeks before the event I received a card in the mail from Vicky with three tickets to the Thiel Players’ production of Fiddler on the Roof—it was running the weekend of my scholarship event. She ended the note with “David, come and see. You won’t be disappointed.”
Come and see. I cannot think of a more basic invitation to share with someone, and yet, I cannot think of a more effective invitation to make. Come, be part of this event. Come, put yourself in the midst of what is happening. Come, experience this thing firsthand.
And see. See for yourself the value offered here. See how you could be a part of this event. See how there is space for you and your gifts to be added to the group.
Come and see. Show up and witness. Be welcomed and find opportunity. Come and see.
Those are the words of welcome that Jesus spoke to Andrew and his friend, these two disciples of John the Baptist who were intrigued about the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” These two men followed Jesus as he walked the Galilean countryside. When Jesus turns and asks them a very basic question they seem to falter, not knowing exactly how to answer.
Jesus asks, “What are you looking for?” They reply, “Rabbi, where are you staying?” And Jesus says, “Come and see.”
Yes, come and see answers that basic, off the wall question that the two men ask, but it also opens the door to so much more. Because, in the end, these disciples really aren’t looking for Jesus’ lodging place so they can put a review on Trip Advisor. No, they’re looking for the Messiah, for the anointed one who will change the whole world. They are looking for the light that will shine into the darkness of the world and save it.
With those words Jesus answers their questions and invites them into a life far surpassing anything they could imagine. That is why they are encouraged to “Come and see.” If we are wise, we will follow Jesus’ example to invite and we will speak those three words again and again. Come and see.
So very often we are afraid of this thing called evangelism. Evangelism is a four-letter word amongst mainline Protestants, especially us Lutherans. The idea of sharing our faith, of being vulnerable and speaking the story of God to another person, it is so entirely unpalatable and mortifying that we simply don’t do it. We ignore it. Or, we as the church have relied on cultural norms and a passive attractional model for too long and we have failed to teach and pass on the basic spiritual practice of sharing why our faith is important and impactful in our lives. We have lost our witness.
I was reminded of this on Friday night when a group of us went to the Winter Jam Concert at the PPG Arena in Pittsburgh. While we were there we heard again and again the artists and speakers share their witness of where they see God at work in their lives. And yes, these are professionals who speak these words at every performance, but I sat and watched the thousands of people who were gathered there for that event and you could see, you could feel the power of those words of witness. We can learn from that. We need to learn from their example.
And while the idea of evangelism, of sharing how God’s story and our story intersects, may seem a little too risky, Jesus shows us another model. A model of invitation and participation. Come and see.
Come and see. It is so simple and yet so powerful. Come and see removes us from the equation and shifts the focus on God’s activity and power. Come and see is an invitation that we can speak to invite our neighbors here, to see how God is at work in the ministry of Zion.
Come and see God in our worship and music.
Come and see God in our fellowship.
Come and see God in our mutual support and care.
Come and see God in our learning.
Come and see God in our service.
Come and see God in our small groups.
Come and see God in our interaction with the community.
God is alive and present, come and see. The invitation is so simple, and yet the epiphany that comes from it can be so profound.
“David, come and see the show. You won’t be disappointed.”
I went and I saw Fiddler on the Roof, and I was amazed. I was on fire. I was able to see myself on that stage, on that campus, as a member of that student body. The invitation sealed the deal for my decision to got to Thiel and before I knew it I was up on that stage.
Come and see became “I’m here and I’m ready to participate.” I took on new life. And then I issued the same invitation to other perspective students who came for visits.
The Gospel for us today is that we know the boundless riches of grace that Jesus has for all his children. As his disciples we know the light that shines in our darkness. We know the importance of our faith. And while it may be hard or fearful for us to express those thoughts into words and to share them, we can certainly invite others to come and see God in action.
Therefore, our gospel becomes our challenge. Invite others to come and see God at work in our church and in their lives. Come and see, for they will not be disappointed. AMEN