traditional sermon Epiphany 2
We live in a culture that floods us with words … yes, we literally drown in information of every kind imaginable. Social media platforms … newspapers … 24-hour TV with a couple of hundred channels … emails … texts … conversations … radio … snail mail pamphlets and newsletters … robo-calls ……… need I go on? And the majority of these come to most of you on your cell phones.
I only have four communication apps on my cell … and that is about six too many for this introvert. Because every morning I am reminded that I have a few dozen messages from the FB, Gmail, Twitter and Instagram communities to which I am supposed to respond.And that is just one solitary communication channel in my life. It is no wonder that so much of our communication is ignored or trivialized. When everything that comes to you is “high alert” … or “must see” … or “can’t miss” … or “high priority” … or “latest and breaking news” …. In short, when everything you hear is important and imperative … then nothing ends up being important and imperative.
This is the culture in which we proclaim our Christian message that is almost 2000 years old now … a book of words that have remained relatively unchanged over those two millennia … a proclamation that has maintained a mostly static written record of language over that long period of time. Yes, it is an old fashioned message. And in a world where you seem to need glitz and glamour to be heard … and an edginess and unorthodoxy to garner attention … it is remarkable that anyone listens to these words that we cherish.
“The Lord is my shepherd…”
“For everything there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven …”
“Our Father, who art in heaven …”
“In my Father’s house are many rooms …”
“For unto you a child is born …”
Yet they do … why? If we had the time, we could have a pretty interesting conversation around that topic, couldn’t we? But it wouldn’t fit within a 12-15 minute sermon, would it …. Plus, it would make you late for the 1:05 kickoff of the Steeler’s game. I suspect you would talk about things like our worship life … our commitment to serve in our community … the educational offerings for your children and for parents who have interest … and the spirit of community that touches many of you in one or more ways. Each reason would be true for you and some others here. eyond those major expressions of communal life here at St. Peter’s, would also be some smaller hubs of activity that draw you here more Sunday’s than not. These might be the fact that this is your family church … or you may have found a unique place of service within our walls that brings great satisfaction to your life … you might connect in a powerful way to one of our staff leaders … or you may simply be a life-long Lutheran, and are here primarily because of that identity. We come to churches and continue to honor this particular biblical message for lots of reasons. It is why the church has been resilient over the decades and centuries of its existence. Because many different experiences can connect you to a community that proclaims this 2000-year-old message … hopefully … in everything that we do.
But … and this is a heavy “but” … But … the real reason you are here, is because at some point in your life ,… someone shared their belief that this story was important to them … and they invited you to a community somewhere where this story was lived out … faithfully, if imperfectly. It may have been your parents … it may have been a grandparent or an aunt or uncle … it may have been a friend … it often has been a neighbor … it may even have been an impersonal preacher on the TV who captured your heart enough to lead to into a real Christian community made up of people you could interact with. But someone … somewhere … told you about Jesus … and invited you to meet him through words … or through service … or through a particular community of Christ in all its beauty and imperfection. “Come … and … see,” Phillip said. We call it “Phillip evangelism.” But it is much more than evangelism. It is a statement that strikes at the heart of how we encounter this magnificent Lord who leads us in life and challenges us to do the same for others in his name. We meet Jesus in each other … in face to face fashion … one encounter at a time. It is an invitation that comes directly from Jesus himself … no, Phillip is not the first person to coin the phrase.
In the verses that lead up to today’s familiar lesson, we read about Jesus encountering Andrew and Phillip, who at the time were disciples of John the Baptist. And John speaks here of Jesus, as he does in the height of his baptismal ministry when he sees Jesus and says, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!” Hearing that, Phillip and Andrew decide to follow Jesus … and when Jesus sees them following him, he utters his first earth-shattering and highly theological words to Phillip and Andrew. He says … “What are you looking for?” The two followers respond with the most mundane answer they could have ever come up with, when they respond, “Rabbi, where are you staying?” And Jesus response … his second sentence spoken in the Gospel of John is ……… “Come and see.”
So when Phillip offers the same “Come and see” invitation to his friend Nathaniel, we are reminded that this invitation to step into the life and world of Jesus of Nazareth is never a deep theological concept. It is quite simply a human invitation. Come … and … see. How much simpler can it get. If you like what you experience in your Christian walk, then all you need to do is invite someone else to see if they might like it, too. Folks, this is not gobble-de-goop theology or complex Christian doctrine. This is not something you need a seminary degree to understand. It is a simple reminder of where we find the presence of Jesus in our world … in each other.
For you, maybe that happens when you serve food across the table to someone who is struggling with life a bit at one of our community meals.Or maybe it happens when you tell a friend how much you love our choir … and choir director, of course, and invite them to come and hear them some Sunday. It may be nothing more difficult that asking your neigh who has three little ones at home to come with you to the Easter Egg Hunt and have some fun with other friends and neighbors.