There he is!

A sermon for Epiphany 2; Isaiah 49:1-7, Psalm 40:1-12, 1 Corinthians 1:1-9, John 1:29-42

John has everyone’s attention; the Jewish leaders; and the people’s. He has a group of followers, disciples, people who are committed to his different teachings and expectations. We expect disciples to be dedicated and committed to their teacher or leader. We also expect the teacher or leader to expect their followers to, well, follow.

So, the other day, John is in a town near the Jordan river and has an encounter with Jewish leaders from Jerusalem, who want to know who he is. He says he is not who they think he is. His tell them someone else is coming.

The next day John is walking through town and shouts out “There he is! ‘The Lamb of God.’ The one who will take away the world’s sin!” He shares the story of Jesus’ baptism. It is a testimony to who Jesus is.

A day later John and a couple of his disciples are walking through town. John sees Jesus again and shouts out “There he is again.” The disciples may have made a curious face as John calls this unknown person the Lamb of God, which is a new title. Whatever their faces may have revealed, their action is unexpected. They give up their relationship with John and turn and follow Jesus. It’s almost like someone giving up their loyal following of the Hogs and becoming a fanatic Boll Weevil follower; it is unimaginable.

Jesus notices they are following him, and turns and asks them “What do you want?” They ask him “Where are you staying?” Jesus tells them “Come and see.” They followed Jesus till late in the day. Then Andrew went to find his brother, and tells him about their unusual day; and then claims to have found the Messiah, another new title for Jesus. Simon follows his brother to meet Jesus, who on first sight calls him by name and then renames him, Peter. It is such a simple story. But not really.

To begin with, ‘The Lamb of God’ is a completely new term, it has never heard anywhere before, and is not used anywhere else in the bible (Hoezee; Gaventa and Petersen). It is a reference to multiple ways God is present to Israel:

  • their liberation from slavery in Egypt
  • the sacrifice of Isaac
  • the Temple cultic sacrificial system and
  • the suffering servants from Isaiah (Gaventa and Petersen; Harrelson; Boring).

John says Jesus will take away the sin – singular – the sin of the world. Jesus’ purpose in not individual, it is universal. It is not about our specific moral misconduct. It is about the consequences of any action that

  •  creates distance in our relationship with God/Jesus/Spirit (Jacobson, Lewis and Skinner)
  •  contributes to alienation and darkness or (Gaventa and Petersen; Harrelson;
  •  the world’s collective brokenness (Boring; Gaventa and Petersen; Harrelson).

So, this is not about me, or you, or even us. This is about everyone, the entire world, all the cosmos.

Secondly, the conversation between Jesus and John’s two disciples is simple. And not so much so. Jesus asks “What are you looking for?” But, because this is a bible story and because Jesus is asking a question, we know Jesus does not think these two strangers have lost their keys or its 1st century like thing. Jesus is inviting them to share from the depths of their hearts

  •  what are they seeking (Jacobson, Lewis and Skinner)
  •  what they are longing for most hope for (Lose) and
  •  what motivates them (West).

The disciples’ answer is another question “Where are you staying?” Now, it is not unusual for a teacher to answer a student’s or follower’s question with a question. It is unusual the other way around. So, we know something is up which is that ‘staying’ is not reference to Jesus’ Inn number. What they want to know is where Jesus abides. (Clavier; Gaventa and Petersen). Later we will hear Jesus say:

Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. (John 15:4.)

and a little later

… Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, … (John 15:5)

and just a bit further

and If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. (John 15:7)

All of which is about our relationship with Jesus, which reflects Jesus’ relationship with God. The disciples want to know about Jesus’ relationship with God (Boring). It also is their way of saying “We want to stay with you.” which really means “We want to follow you (Lose).” “We want to be your disciples.” There are also implications that they are also seeking some stability, some purpose in life (West; Boring).

Jesus’ answer “Come and see.” sounds equally ordinary, but as the question is more than it sounds so is Jesus reply. “Come and see” is an invitation, but an invitation to what (Clavier)? Well, invitations usually have some sort of relationship feature (Lose). Here it is an offer to come to know Jesus through the eyes of faith (Boring).

The structure of the story also teaches us something about Jesus’ invitation to “Come and see.” We know the disciples spend a good deal of the day with Jesus. The next thing that happens is? Well – what does Andrew do? That’s right, He goes and tells his brother, Simon, they have found the messiah. The invitation to come and see Jesus is evangelism (Lose).

And here the story links back to John. John’s witness leads to his disciples becoming Jesus’ disciples (Harrelson). Their story of hearing John’s witness, and moving into Jesus’ presence is not complete until they witness to someone else (Harrelson; Boring). We cannot see it in English, but the form of ‘see’ is a completed past action whose effect continues into the present (Boring). So, just as John’s witness of Jesus’ baptism is not complete until he witnesses to his disciples, and the disciples’ witness is not complete until they witness to someone our witness of their witness, which we experience by reading and hearing scripture, is not complete until we invite someone else to “Come and see.”

A final observation. In the other Gospels, the disciples give up a way of life to follow Jesus. This morning, John’s disciples give up their previous religious commitment as disciples of John to become disciples of Jesus (Boring). Together with the new title of “Lamb of God” this is a reminder for us not to limit God/Jesus/Sprit to our preconceived ideas, and to always be open to new images or metaphors for understanding and experiencing different relationships to the faith community (Boring).

God/Jesus/Spirit does not change; however, the world, the time and space we live in does change (Lewis). This means the nature of our relationships with each other and the universe changes, and so the way others encounter God/Jesus/Spirit will be different, and the way, the language others can receive our witness to our experience of God/Jesus/Spirit changes. Which mean to be open to new expressions of the presence of God is to be faithful to God’s presence right here, right now. It means that you are free to witness, share, your new experience of God/Jesus/Spirit as you dive deep into what in life you are looking for.


References

Boring, M. Eugene. New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary The Gospel of Matthew. Vol. VII. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2015. XII vols. App Olivetree.
Clavier, Anthony. “There Goes a Lamb, Epiphany 2(A).” 15 1 2017. Sermons that Work.
Ellingsen, Mark. Lectionary Scripture Notes. 8 1 2017. <http://www.lectionaryscripturenotes.com/&gt;.
Epperly, Bruce. The Adventurous Lectionary. 15 1 2017. <http://www.patheos.com/blogs/livingaholyadventure/author/bruceepperly&gt;.
Gaventa, Beverly Roberts and David Petersen. New Interpreter’s One Volume Commentary. Nashville, n.d.
Harrelson, Walter J. The New Interpreters’ Study Bible. Abingdon Press, 2003. E-book.
Hoezee, Scott. The Lectionary Gospel John 1:29-42. 15 1 2017.
Jacobson, Rolf, Karoline Lewis and Matt Skinner. Sermon Brain Wave. 6 9 2015.
Lewis, Karoline. Timely Matters. 15 1 2017. <workingpreacher.org>.
Lose, David. Epiphany 2 A: A Question, Invitation, and Promise. 15 1 2017.
Sakenfeld, Katharine Doob. New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible. Nashville: Abingdon, 2009.
West, Audrey. Commentary on John 1:2942. 15 1 2017. <http://www.workingpreacher.org/&gt;.

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Divine, Humanity, All the Rest

I have been absent for some time, mostly enjoying the beauty of the South Carolina beach. Today I return to the discipline of sharing thoughts about the coming Sunday’s lections, or other spurious contemplations. It seems unfair to be saddled with the Trinity as a reset point; on the other hand Genesis and creation coupled with Matthew’s great commission is full of relevant provocations. (12 + pages of notes so far.)

Perhaps it’s because just before I left for the shore I finished this session of Family Systems Conferences I’ve been seeing triangles all over the place. Yes, sometime the symbol (apparently I need to yield a lot), but far more often in relationships. It is important to know that triangles are not bad by definition but descriptive; the trouble comes with imbalance and meshing of self with other; but I wander. The same is true for Sunday’s readings (not the wandering, the presence of relationship triangles).

In Genesis we glean a relationship triangle between God, creation, and humanity – empowered to dominate creation as God created, i.e with inestimable love, which we better hear a tending to.

In Matthew we glean a relationship triangle between Jesus, the newly commissioned disciples, and all nations.

I’m noting that when we distance God and or Jesus in either relationship domination becomes exploitation and discipling becomes making. The focus shifts from the intricate  balance between God/Jesus, humanity/disciples, and creation/others to us. In short we try to be like God. Oh wait that comes later in Genesis 3; and oh what a mess that story reveals.

The Kingdom of God is near.

Hear my sermon at St. Stephen’s Web site: http://www.saintstephensblytheville.org/sermons-2013.php, (Generally available mid Monday.) or read it below

July 7, 2012 Proper 9
2 Kings 5:1-14
Psalm 30
Galatians 6:(1-6), 7-16
Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

When we got to our daughter’s there were hamburgers stacked high on gigantic gilded platters, hotdogs stacked like cordwood, mounds of potato salad, deviled eggs beyond counting, and later fireworks brilliantly flare against the darkened night sky. All in all it was a good day, a really good day. I hope you enjoyed your July 4th celebrations; Angie, Marcel, and I did. But, I must say, I think I’ve a bit of Naaman in me at the moment. Not that I see myself as a great man, not that I have some incurable socially debilitating, degenerating disease, not that I have a letter of introduction to a neighboring state leader; nope none of that stuff. It’s rather strangely like Naaman’s behavior after Elisha’s servant, from behind the partially opened door, tells him to wash in the Jordan seven times and he will be cured. Naaman gets angry, he expects the prophet, this [quote] man of God, to come out say some fancy words, make some intricate motions to effect his cure. And that’s the bit, his cure. For Naaman, this is all about “The Great and Powerful Naaman,” when in it truth, it’s all about God. And, at least as I was pondering all this Friday morning, as I struggled to write my blog bit, and the Facebook posting, and two orders, and a sermon, and facing our daughter’s rapidly approaching wedding, it was suddenly becoming all about me. In my experience, that is never a good thing. Oh I recover, but what I do to myself, and what I do to others it’s simply not as it should be.

That realization, jumped over to how we, as church, get on about our role as one of the 35 pairs Jesus sent ahead. When it goes well we are all about “The Kingdom of God.”
When it doesn’t goes as planned, we are about “Woe is us!” “Will we survive this crisis?” and so on. Sometimes we actually get angry at the people Jesus sent us to. We may not say anything to them, but the curious requirements we’re quick to put around benevolence quickly begins to look like vengeance: “You won’t listen to me about God, I won’t help you with food, clothes, housing, gas, medicine and so on. And if someone in our church begins to miss-behave, which, excluding sex and money, really means going to another church, we are, all too often, quick to chide them; because it’s all about us and their going else-where isn’t good for us.

Fortunately for Naaman he is surrounded by a bunch of no named, literally they are not named in the story, people who come to his aid: the Jewish slave girl, the Aramaean king, the unmentioned Jewish courtier who says something to Elisha, (He had to find out somehow.) and finally Naaman’s aides. And the good news is Naaman listens, is healed of his leprosy, and )a couple of verses later) comes to believe in God, so much so he carries two mule loads of dirt home, so he can properly worship God.

Now I know, than none of these unnamed characters are knowingly evangelist, but you’ve got ta acknowledge their actions, by hook or by crook, proclaimed to Naaman The Kingdom of God has come near you. and he got the message. And that is my vision for us. No – no, not for us to be unknown evangelists, and certainly not to be unaware evangelists, but to be those who whenever we meet someone be it a welcoming interaction, or a flat out rejection, lets it be known that “The Kingdom of God has come near you!” When Jesus sends those 70 out into a hostile world he tells them what to do when they are welcomed, and what to do when they are rejected, and both sets of instructions include saying “ The Kingdom of God has come near you!”

As I mentioned, I know what it is like to get sucked into that Naamanesque [quote] it’s all about me! mindset. I also know what it’s like for congregations to fall into the same [quote] It’s all about us! behavior. Now, we do not have a cast of unnamed aides to guide us as Naaman did. WE have something better, we have Paul, and he does share a bit of wisdom, with the Galatians, that seems to combat Naamanqesque quite nicely. Note, Paul is speaking about new members who fall under the influence of those preaching a corrupt Gospel. But what he writes applies to prophets, priests and kings, apostles, disciples, missionaries, evangelist, and just plain ordinary people of God, trying to go on ahead of Jesus.
         First,
             be gentle,
                 judgment is God’s work;
         then be careful you are not tempted,
             take care of each other;
        test yourselves;
        do not grow weary in doing what is right;
        work for the good of all;
        boast of nothing except Jesus the Christ;
        and finally, always remember
             that there is no divine division
                 among God’s people,
                 everyone is a new creation.

Do these seven little things and God’s peace and mercy will be upon you, and you will be a living sign that “the Kingdom of God is near!”

 

lectionaryscripturenotes.com http://www.lectionaryscriptureno tes.com/
Proper 9 | Ordinary Time 14 | Pentecost 7, Cycle C

episcopaldigitalnetwork.com
http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/stw/2013/06/13/7-pentecost-proper-9-c-2013/
7 Pentecost, Proper 9 (C) – 2013
By the Very Rev. Antho ny F. M. Clavier

cep.calvinseminary.edu http://cep.calvinseminary.edu/thisWeek/index.php
This Week at the Center for Excellence in Preaching
Next sunday is July 07, 2013 (Ordinary T ime)
Luke 10:1-11, 16-20, Scot t Hoezee
2 Kings 5:1-14, Scot t Hoezee
Galatians 6:(1-6), 7-16, Stan Mast
Psalm 30, Doug Bratt

workingpreacher.org
http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=1685
2 Kings 5:1-14, Karla Suomala
Galatians 6:[1-6]7-16, Sarah Henrich
Luke 10:1-11, 16-20, Michael Rogness