Saturday, April 6, 2013

Come and See

Second Sunday of Easter
6 April 2013

Saint Faith’s Anglican Church
Vancouver BC

            If I were ever sent into exile and told that I could only take one of the four gospels with me, I would quickly answer, “John”.  I think that John is the best story-teller of the evangelists and has an ear for dialogue.

            Take, for example, one of the earliest conversations recorded in John:  Philip, Nathaniel and Jesus (John 1.43-51).  Philip has just met Jesus and has become convinced that there is more to this rabbi from Nazareth than meets the eye.  Philip goes t his friend, Nathaniel, and tells him that he has found the one foretold by Moses and the prophets.  Nathaniel’s cynical response is well known:  “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”  All that Philip says to his friend is this:  “Come and see.”  And Nathaniel rises up and goes and sees.  For Nathaniel nothing will ever be the same.

            There are two aspects of this story that I want to point out to you.  First, Philip has a life-transforming experience.  Second, Philip does not keep that experience to himself.  He goes and searches out his friend so that Nathaniel has the opportunity to decide whether he wants to share in that experience.  Perhaps Philip knew that Nathaniel needed what Jesus was offering or perhaps Philip was counting on his friends curiosity, we don’t know.  Might we go so far as to think that Philip believed Nathaniel had something that Jesus needed?  Who knows?

            Then we have today’s story about that first week after the events of Holy Week.  Peter and the remaining apostles have an extraordinary encounter with the risen Jesus.  Out of that experience, they arise themselves, empowered to overcome the blindness to what God is doing in the life and teaching of Jesus, a blindness that the evangelist John calls ‘sin’ (The New Interpreter’s Study Bible, 1949).  It will be their mission to make God known in the world so that everyone will have the opportunity to make the same decision that they have made, the decision to follow Jesus and to participate in God’s saving work in the world.

            So, what is the first thing Peter and the other apostles do?  They go and find Thomas, the only member of the community who has not been with them to see and to hear Jesus.  We can only guess why Thomas had not been with them:  fear, disappointment, disillusionment, anger at God’s failure to protect Jesus.  Thomas’ response to his colleagues gives us a hint:  It is not doubt but Thomas’ own deep longing that their words are true.  His longing is so deep, so painful, that he cannot bear to hope without fearing to despair.

            Despite all these emotions, Thomas joins them and, just like Nathaniel, Thomas has a life-transforming experience.  From Jerusalem Thomas is thought to have gone east, if Christian tradition is to be believed, as an apostle to those peoples who lived beyond the boundaries of the Roman empire.  It is possible that he ended his days as a missionary on the southwestern coast of India.

            “Come and see,” said Philip to Nathaniel.  “Come and see,” said the Eleven to Thomas.  “Come and see,” generations of believers have said to their friends, friends who might be like Thomas, disillusioned, doubtful, seeking or simply unaware.

            All of us who are gathered in this ‘upper room’ of Saint Faith’s have had some experience of the risen Christ that has transformed our lives.  Perhaps we were lonely and found in this community a home where we have been treasured and nurtured.  perhaps we found ourselves in some need or trouble and discovered or were led to this community to receive the help we required.  Perhaps we were disillusioned or uncertain about the meaning of our lives or our relationships and found in this community hope and a purpose to believe in and to work for.

            Whatever the reason, someone said to us, “Come and see.”  Like Nathaniel and Thomas, we rose up and followed, discovering here or in some place very like this place home, help and hope.

            All around us are people, some whom we know, some whom we do not, who are homeless, helpless and hopeless.  For some the needs are material, for others emotional and spiritual.  But whether material, emotional or spiritual, the needs are real.

            Whether friend or stranger, whether rich or poor, they all await someone who will say to them, “Come and see.”  May God’s Spirit awaken in us the courage that is already in us so that we may speak those words to those who need to hear them.  Amen.

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