How many times have you had someone say to you, “Come here; you’ve got to see this” whether it was something funny, or beautiful, or amazing, or something you just plain shook your head at? We want to share things that pique our interest, that catch our attention; that why we share photos or posts on Facebook, or forward an interesting article via e-mail, or even call our spouse in from the next room to look out the window or see what’s on TV. That’s a little bit of what is happening in this morning’s Gospel – of course using John’s highly charged and poetic theological language.
"Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”, John says when he sees Jesus walk towards him, perhaps after baptizing Jesus in the Jordan – the text is a little unclear here. But the point is, that John calls attention to Jesus, points him out to his own followers; He calls Jesus “the Lamb of God.”
As Christians, we are very used to hearing that phrase used in connection with Jesus – we sing it every week as the Agnus Dei after the large Communion host has been broken, the symbol of the Lamb of God is on our parish banner, and another version of it is on our bulletin covers this morning. In our minds “Lamb of God” equals Jesus.
But for first-century Jews, which included the Gospel writer, “Lamb of God” referred to the Passover lamb, the animal that was sacrificed each year at the great and wonderful feast of freedom and new life that is Passover, commemorating the Israelites’ escape from slavery in Egypt. It was the central fact of their religious and national life.
So for John to call Jesus “the Lamb of God” was really startling; no one ever thought of the Lamb as a person, and to think that a single person might signify and symbolize God’s great saving action was pretty amazing. And yet, John knew what he knew – and he had to share it with those around him, two of his disciples. And just for good measure, the next day John saw Jesus again, and repeated himself: "Look, here is the Lamb of God!” The two disciples (one of which was Andrew) follow after Jesus, and they ask him more about himself, where he was staying, what he was all about; and Jesus’ answer to them is direct and pointed: “Come and see.”
This is the Season after Epiphany, which is all about seeing, about the shining of the light, the previously hidden being made manifest, Jesus moving onto the human world stage. And he bids those around him – us included – to “Come and see” what he is all about. Jesus invites Andrew, and Andrew goes and invites his brother Simon who will soon be re-named Peter − “The Rock” – and before you know it, the pattern repeats itself, until Jesus has gathered quite a following.
What are they there for? These disciples gather around Jesus and follow him from place to place because they want to hear what he has to say, they want to be in his presence; there is something of the Passover power and freedom and joy about him, and they are drawn to that. To think that God’s saving presence was among them in the flesh was pretty amazing – no wonder they wanted to see and hear more; and no wonder they invited their friends and relatives to come along a take a look.
We have had our own manifestation of Christ’s power and presence among us this past week as we – All Saints’ Church – have responded to two very difficult circumstances that have happened in our midst: the death of a child and the disappearance of a friend and Scout leader in our community.
In both instances people stepped up to organize, usher, tend to the altar, purchase supplies, make signs, fliers and service leaflets; direct parking, set up candles and luminaria, clean, set up and put away tables and chairs; make meals, serve food, postpone meetings, welcome guests and the wider community; share love and concern, cry, laugh, offer an open heart, and most of – pray.
You prayed for and with families in great need, even in your own grief and sadness, because that is the way the grace of God comes through to us. You stayed open to the Holy Spirit’s direction, you noticed what needed doing and you did it and I am so proud of you and of this Church family; you know in your heart of hearts, in your very bones, what it means to be the Body of Christ and you took action in very tangible and visible ways.
And I heard over and over again Monday night and Tuesday afternoon what a difference that made to those who gathered here for the prayer vigil and for the funeral; people felt strengthened, comforted, they felt calmer, they didn’t feel so alone, they felt they had been given hope by God through the actions of this parish church.
Another way of thinking about what we did was that we stood alongside those who were hurting and we said, “Look, here is Jesus, with us and among us; come and stand with me until you can see him, too; let us stand here together until we both know the strong love of God.”
Come and see; that’s evangelism, that’s sharing the Good News of God in Christ, that’s offering hope and new life and binding up the broken-hearted. Come and see – look to Jesus, discover what God is doing all around you every day, share that good news with someone who really needs to hear it.
Now the Good News is not a doctrine, nor a theological construct, nor even a set of beliefs – as important as doctrine, theology and believing are. Sometimes when we think about trying to share the Good News we get tripped up by thinking we have to have all the answers – when, in fact, all of us have lots of questions; or we think we have to be able to debate and argue and convince someone else to believe the same way we do; or we hesitate to speak, for fear we will offend.
All God asks us to do is to say “Come and see” – see what life can be like when you love and trust God, in response to being loved and trusted by God. “Come and see” how you can learn to live according to the principles Jesus offers us. “Come and see” that you do not have to be alone; God is with you, and there is a community of people – just as flawed and questioning and perhaps as fearful as you are, yet experienced in seeing, knowing and receiving the grace and forgiveness of God – a community of people who will walk with you in a journey of faith and discovery.
The Good News is a message about what God does for us in and through Jesus; a message that we can see by looking at him.
That’s why we are here – we, God’s people, the Body of Christ – sharing strength, courage, hope and love that has been given to us by God.
Come and see.
Let us pray.
Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art.
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light. Amen.
Victoria Geer McGrath
All Saints’ Church, Millington, NJ
Second Sunday after the Epiphany
January 19, 2014