“Come and see!” I heard this invitation just over a week ago. It was said in excitement and anticipation…and I couldn’t hurry fast enough. The person inviting me didn’t want me to miss out. “Come and see!” she exclaimed. When have you heard an invitation like this one?
We hear this morning from the Gospel of John chapter 1. Jesus offers this phrase to a couple of excited disciples. These followers had been with John the Baptist, but when John sees Jesus pass by, John does what he was born to do–he points and declares “Look, here…right here in our midst…is the Lamb of God.” And this declaration sends these seekers, these would-be-disciples onto the path.
They don’t get far before Jesus turns and asks something like,
“What are you seeking?”
These yet to be named followers ask,
“Where are you staying?”
That question always seemed a bit odd to me.
Do you want Jesus’ street address?
Do you want to be his pen pal?
But maybe we can get to the heart of things when we phrase the followers’ question as, “Where are you dwelling?”
As in “the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” (John 1:14) These followers…these seekers are saying in one way or another, “wherever you are, that’s where I want to be. Whatever you are into, that’s what I want to be into. Wherever you go, I will follow.”
And in a nutshell that is the life of a disciple.
Where you are, is where I want to be.
Where you go, I will follow.
It is so deeply connected to who we are. And in baptism who we are depends on whose we are. In our baptism God adopts us and makes us part of the family of God. And wherever God goes, we follow.
When we talk about the Christian faith, I think sometimes we get so attached to conversations of salvation and eternal life that we forget that Christian faith is about right now. Christianity is a way of being, a way of doing things that reflect Christ. Discipleship is a life-long discipline of following the one who we call the way, the truth, and the life. Jesus our Savior, our leader.
As a community of faith we have a vision statement and it’s Biblical beliefs are grounded in loving God, loving neighbor, and making disciples. I think from an early stage of life and growing in faith we get our heads around what it means to love God and what it means to love neighbor. Don’t get me wrong–it’s not always easy to follow the commands to love God and love neighbor, but we can envision what that looks like with words like faithfulness, trust, compassion, endurance. But that whole making disciples thing…that might be harder to envision.
How does one make a disciple?
I can tell you it’s much easier to make a snowman!
In fact, the “come and see!” invitation that I heard, was from my daughter, yelled at the top of her lungs during a snowfall. The snow was falling and her face was plastered to the window looking outside. From the living room up the stairs, down the hall, to the bedrooms above, I could hear her invitation. “Come and see!” With hands fully pressed against the glass, she turned and said, “Come and see the snow. Can we build a snowman?!”
I have never used a snowman making kit before. Back when I was a kid you didn’t have kits like this, you had to forage through old stockpiles of hats and mismatched gloves and get hung up in the woods finding branches for arms. So I can tell you, I was glad that all this making business could be found in a handy dandy kit.
And as we went out into the world making this snowman, I found myself wondering if there wasn’t something to be also learned about making disciples.
Both need water and spirit. Have you ever tried to make a snowman when you’re in a bad mood? It’s a horror show. You need a good spirit to do good work. In our baptism we believe the good spirit of God, the Holy Spirit is in, with, and above the water drowning out the old, and placing new life in us. The life of Christ that gathers us into the unending family of God. And we baptize, we do so with water–a good tangible element for God to do holy work.
For the snowman–the H20 levels need to be just right or you won’t be able to gather the snow into something more–something solid. Solid like the family of faith in which we’re gathered. All of us like snowflakes that can so easily be scattered in the wind, but gathered up together we form one body.
As we were out in the snow, I quickly realized that Elsa–though VERY excited about making a snowman–had very little experience. She needed a master craftsman in the art of snowman building. In the absence of a master, she got me!
She knew that she was supposed to clump the snow together, but how to get a good amount and begin rolling it on the ground to pick up other snow–that kind of experience needs a mentor. As I was crawling on the ground rolling the snow from a small ball to a larger boulder of white cold, I remembered my brother and sister and mom and dad mentoring me in the same way. And when it came to piling one large snow boulder onto another, I recalled how I needed someone to help me with the heavy lifting. And here I was doing the same for my daughter. Mentoring by modeling. Teaching through action. Correcting where correction was needed. Encouraging to not give up even if it’s hard.
How important this is as we build disciples. As we ourselves, as followers of Jesus, are built up in the faith. We need to be mentored. We need guides and companions to help us with the heavy lifting of life. It’s one of the reasons why our church’s vision statement includes phrases like “model our faith” and “seek to teach” and “share the good news in creative and authentic ways.”
It doesn’t mean that we are perfect followers of Christ…by no means. I can tell you that I’m not a perfect maker of snowmen, but we go out into the cold world to build something up because our love spurs us on. Our love that is God flows through what we do. It’s why we follow Jesus, who shows us the way to live life fully. Completely.
And if you have ever made a snowman, and rolled up one really big snowball to place upon the other, what is it that we really, really need? A good foundation! Didn’t Jesus say something about that?!
Oh how many a snowman have collapsed because of a lack of a good base. Or in the case of last week, trying to put the smallest section of the snowman on the bottom and trying to build wider and bigger on top. It doesn’t work. I’ve frozen half my fingers off realizing how everything goes so much more smoothly when we allow for a strong, firm foundation.
Perhaps Jesus wasn’t talking about making a snowman, but in his Sermon on the Mount he is teaching about discipleship and says, “everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.”
How often do we try to go into discipleship by only using our heads–rather than our hearts?
How often do we fool ourselves into thinking we are firm in our faith without being grounded in God’s holy word?
How often are we asked to make a complicated ethical decision and we haven’t stopped to first and foremost be settled in prayer?
And everyone knows that a snowman is not a snowman without certain key accouterments… things like eyes, arms, and a mouth!
Same thing with building up our discipleship.
God wants to use our eyes–eyes of faith– to see holy moments unfold and witness where God dwells.
God wants our arms to work in and love as God loves this world.
God wants our mouths to speak in love. Have you ever considered how the two most important commandments about our relationship with God and with each other begins with the imperative “Love.” How do your words reflect that? Growing as a disciple is growing in ways to act, to speak, to listen, to dwell, to be in communion with God. To follow the ways of the Lord.
Oh, and let’s not forget a scarf. That scarf sets our snowman apart from the snowbank and snowdrifts nearby. It’s a mantle around him-a yoke upon our snowy friend so that anyone passing by can come and see this snowman for who he is.
As disciples, we’re set apart as well. We are marked by the cross of Christ, sealed by the Holy Spirit, bound to God forever. How do you where God’s scarf, God’s mark upon you?
I ask this question, not because we’re meant to be showy or fake in our piety. I ask this question because in baptism we hear Jesus’ words, “let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
How do others see your Christ light?
Discipleship isn’t about fire insurance. Discipleship isn’t focused on eternal salvation. God has already taken care of that.
Discipleship is about how you choose to follow Jesus. How you choose to be where he is, to learn from him. Discipleship is how you choose to model and mentor and be with another.
Come and see! Making a snowman is all about making it when the time is right…you can’t wait too long. Building up in discipleship is a timing thing too. And God is inviting you to come and see.