John 1:43-51 • January 15, 2012
Brothers and sisters in Christ grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus. Amen.
I’ll admit it. I like Facebook . I also admit that I watch YouTube videos on occasion and even post a video or two once in a while. I admit that I feel a little lost if my phone is not connected directly to my body in some way. I’ll admit that I enjoy posting random thoughts and sermon manuscripts on my website. I actually feel that its part of how I live out the ministry I’m called to serve. On my Facebook and Youtube pages, I have no problem with being identified as someone from North Dakota. And as I post things to my website, I have no anxiety about what someone who reads my thoughts in another part of the world might think when they find out that my family and I call this city on the prairie – Bismarck – our home.
In the time of Jesus’ encounter with Philip and Nathanael from our gospel reading in John today, where you were from was important and a significant part of your identity. Saying that you were from Nazareth on your Facebook page or in a text message or posted on your website would not have been a good idea. Nazareth was not a place to be identified with. It was kind of a dump. Nazareth was nothing. Nazareth was nowhere.
Jesus was from Nazareth.
In today’s text, Philip comes to Nathanael and says that he has found the one whom Moses wrote about. Jesus of Nazareth. Our text doesn’t give us a clear picture of what Nathanael’s facial expression may have been, but I can almost see the sneer that his statement seems to reveal, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?”
Can you relate to that? Aren’t we all like that from time to time? We sit back in the shadows of our individually created self image with a sneer on our face and say, “Can anything good come from ______?” You can fill in the blank. I know for myself, it’s pretty easy to fill it in at times. Nathanael’s take on people from Nazareth isn’t much different from our own thoughts today, is it?
I’m an Oakland Raider fan, it’s easy to say, “Can anything good come from a Denver Broncos fan?” I have a job and think I work pretty hard to do the best I can in my vocation, it’s easy to say, “Can anything good come from that unemployed person who I don’t think wants to work anyway?” If I’m a Republican, it’s easy to say, “Can anything good come from a Democrat?”
Many of you have probably heard this story before. I know it’s an old and overused story, but I think there is a lot for us to think about in it today, so I want to share it with you. There are four men who were neighbors that all went to the same church. Fred Everybody, Thomas Somebody, Peter Anybody, and Joe Nobody.
Fred Everybody went fishing on Sundays or chose to stay home and sleep in since it was his only day to do so during the week. Peter Anybody wanted to go to church and worship, but he was afraid that Thomas Somebody would talk to him. So, guess who went to church and worshiped on Sunday – that’s right – Nobody. Actually, Nobody was the most engaged neighbor in this group.
One day in the church bulletin there was a call for help with an upcoming Vacation Bible School event. Everybody thought Anybody would answer the call; Anybody thought Somebody would answer the call. So, guess who answered the call to assist with teaching the youth of this congregation about their faith at Vacation Bible School? Yep – Nobody.
In his book Finding God in Unexpected Places, author Philip Yancy tells a story about a time when his family visited Old Faithful at Yellowstone National Park. They were having lunch at the Old Faithful Inn, watching the digital clock count down the minutes until the reliable geyser would do its magical water dance again. When the clock reached one minute, everyone quickly left their table and rushed toward the windows of the Inn to see the big event. As Old Faithful erupted and all of the tourists were ooohing and aahing, Yancy couldn’t help but notice that the busboys and waitresses were descending upon the tables to refill water glasses and clear the area of garbage and dirty dishes. He was struck that not a single employee who worked there made any effort to look out the windows with the tourists. They had become so used to this spectacular display of God’s good creation, that it no longer impressed them. It no longer held their attention.
These stories that I’ve shared – are they reflections of how we receive the invitation to “come and see”? Do we sit in the shadow everything that consumes us and say, “Can anything good come from this?” Do we see ourselves more often like Fred Everybody, Thomas Somebody, or Peter Anybody – instead of Joe Nobody? Or has the presence of Jesus in our life become so boring and so routine that we no longer care enough to stop and look around at the amazing things that God is doing right in front of us?
When Philip invites Nathanael, he doesn’t try to defend his claim about what he has seen or found. He doesn’t make sure that Nathanael has passed all the right theological tests or asked Jesus into his heart. He just says to his friend, “Come and see.”
Nathanael sees Jesus for himself. And he is changed forever. Nathanael now knows that something good can come from Nazareth; Nathanael now knows that life in Christ is not about waiting around hoping someone else will do what needs to be done; Nathanael now believes that life in Christ is never boring or routine.
In a reflection this week on this gospel, Pastor Alyce McKenzie wrote this, “Jesus already knows us, even if we have no recollection of many of our prior encounters with him, even if we do not name or recognize his presence and efforts at the depths of our lives.”
Brothers and sisters in Christ, Jesus already knows you. And thankfully Jesus never gives up on any of us. After all, it’s Jesus who offers us words of assurance today in verse 30 that we will “see greater things than these.”
As you and I seek to follow this Jesus in the days and months that lie ahead – we are not called to be children of God who are waiting around for somebody else to show up and serve our neighbors for us; we are not called to be apathetic in our faith to the point that we no longer see the great things that God is doing in our lives. You and I are being invited each and every day to “Come and see.” Take time this week to do just that. And while you’re doing that, maybe you can even extend that same invitation to someone else just like Philip did. Amen.