Lectionary Reflection for the Second Sunday after Epiphany
January 15, 2012
Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” — John 1:46
You are invited, like Nathanael, like Philip, like James, John, Andrew, and a whole passel of folks throughout time. Yes, you are invited to come and see Jesus in action. You are invited to get up out of your pew, off your sofa, or out from underneath those covers and follow Jesus. Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, however your faith walk is working out, you have a standing invitation to come and see, to taste and experience, to know what Jesus is up to in the world, to be completely shaken up and turned inside out and upside down. You are invited to find out what the God-in-walking-around-skin is up to in this broken, beautiful world.
Chances are if you’re reading these words, you are already living into the invitation to come in see. Quite possibly you are actively involved in some form of leadership in an established worshiping community. Your faith is integral to your understanding of who you are. That means you, dear friend, are on the inside looking out, which also means your vision might have blurred a bit with time.
Here’s a handy dandy completely unscientific “assessment” of how well you are “seeing” Jesus:
1) Do you ever wonder why the world is passing right by your beloved and carefully kept congregational property?
2) Do you struggle with what it means to be “relevant” in your Christian message and faith walk?
3) Do you assume that the way things have been are the way things ought to continue to be?
4) Have you heard friends and family members respond to the idea of “church” in a more “Nathanael-esque” manner? Maybe you’ve heard lines like these:
“Can anything good come out of the Mainline church?”
“How can it possibly be worth it to come and sit when I can sit at home in front of my 55-inch LED Smart HDTV?”
“Church is for hypocrites and judgmental stick-in-the-muds.”
“I’m going to commune with God in the woods. No bad hymns in nature, and I can wear what I want.”
5) Do you squirm at the prospect of change and entering into communal worshiping life with folks who are way out of your comfort zone?
If any of this sounds familiar, then perhaps you need to get some new lenses in those old 20th century Christian frames. No wonder the word “evangelism” sends many good Christians running or staring at their shoes hoping no one will ask them do any of whatever is involved with that dreaded word. Evangelism might involve change, and change might be uncomfortable, and they might have to go places they don’t really want to go and do things that make them squirm. Small wonder we spend hours upon hours developing programs and initiatives and drives and projects–anything to avoid that invitation.
Whoa! We’re insiders, right? We know what that invitation’s all about, don’t we? We know the order of worship, we can sing the comfortable old hymns, we have our favorite spot on our special pew, and we like things just the way they are. It’s human nature after all to seek out folks who think like us, look like us, and who share our values, experiences, and culture. Nothing so unusual about that, right? Nothing wrong with tradition is there?
Remember that old saying, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions”? I’ve laid down my share of pavers on that highway, and I have done it desiring to be right and good and faithful. And when I’ve experienced something different or way out of my comfort zone, I have thrown up my hands and asked, like Nathanael, “Can anything good come out of (fill in the blank)?”
Yes, I believe that something good CAN come out of Mainline churches. I believe that God is not done with us yet. I am convinced that Jesus keeps tugging at you and me, saying “Come and see.” Thankfully, Jesus never gives up on us and knows that we will “see greater things than these.” The invitation is open-ended and eternal. It is for you and it is for me. It is for all of us. It leads down a road less traveled to be sure, but hey, who wants a superhighway and fast food anyway? Open your eyes. Take that first step. Something good, something that’s always new and fresh is coming when God is involved. Come and see. Come and be. “Come,” Jesus says, “and follow me.”
Consider presenting all worshipers with an invitation printed on nice paper. On the outside print “You are Invited.” Make sure to seal the envelope or use tape to seal the invite if you use folded paper without an envelope. On the inside customize wording suited to your context that invites the community into a time of experiencing Jesus and the discipleship journey in a new and/or deeper way. The lessons of this season offer many good opportunities to weave a theme of exploring our callings together and strengthening the body of Christ
Using the epistle lesson, talk about what it means that our bodies are “a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own?” (1 Corinthians 6:19). We live in an individualistic culture where the idea of mutual accountability and interdependence are not touted as key values. How can we “glorify God” with our bodies? What might it mean to fully develop the potential of our mind, body, and spirit in service to God?
Consider using the Old Testament lesson from 1 Samuel 3:1-10 to talk about how God even calls a child to follow and serve. Talk with the children about how God might call us today. How can we prepare ourselves to be ready to say “Here I am …. speak for your servant is listening”? Be sure to stress to the children that God’s call is for everybody, and that we all are invited to God’s house and God’s way of living.