Notes for a sermon preached at St. Matthew’s Anglican Church, St. Albert, Alberta, January 19, 2020. Text: John 1:29-42
On a cold day in January, we might forgive someone for asking us why we are here, although I sometimes wonder the same thing on a beautiful summer day.
Every one of us has made the decision to be here today. If we started asking each other about our reasons, we might well be into a long discussion. Every one of us has a unique story, and every one of those stories is worth telling and sharing—but maybe not this morning!
I once had a conversation with a person who was bothered that other parishioners didn’t seem to share their level of commitment. As we talked, the person started to disparage others’ reasons for church attendance. “He only comes because his wife doesn’t drive.” “She’s only here to hang out with her friends.” … I managed to call a halt, and then I said something that I meant with all my heart, and which I firmly believe to this day.
No matter how they might articulate their reasons, every person who walks through the doors of this (or any other) church, has been led here by the Holy Spirit.
It’s not for us to judge their motivation, but rather to give thanks that they are here, and then to seek the Spirit’s guidance about how to minister to them and with them. The act of walking through a church door, whether for the first time or the ten-thousandth, is a decision to accept Jesus’ invitation to “Come and see,” as he gave to the first disciples, and which continues to come to people today.
When Jesus invited Andrew and his companion to come and see, it did not come out of the blue, but was a vital step in a longer process. The two were already disciples – of John the Baptist. They were seeking the Messiah. They had no doubt gone to John in the hope that he was the One, but John pointed away from himself, to the one on whom he had seen the Spirit descend and remain.
John’s testimony about Jesus presents us with a full-blown doctrine of Christ: pre-existence, the Spirit remaining on him, God’s Chosen One. John knows who he is, and when he sees Jesus passing by again, he points to him and says to his disciples “Look, here is the Lamb of God!” They leave John and follow Jesus, apparently without any question.
Jesus asks them a very simple question: “What are you looking for?” to which they answer, “Rabbi (‘Teacher’), where are you staying?”
This response may seem odd to our ears, but it would not have been out of place from someone seeking to follow a new teacher. To follow a teacher meant to spend time with him, not in a formal school setting, but staying or traveling with him. Today we might call it “hanging out.”
Jesus said, “Come and see.” They went, and they stayed with him for the rest of the day. We are told that it was four o’clock in the afternoon, which might mean that they stayed only a few hours, or perhaps that they stayed into the next day. Either way, they were with Jesus long enough to become convinced that he was the One whom they had been seeking. They were convinced enough to find Simon and to take him to Jesus, who then gave him the name by which we remember him, Peter.
And that’s the beginning of the story of Jesus’ disciples, as it is described in this Gospel. The story of Jesus’ disciples continues today, not written in the Bible, but in the stories of billions of followers of Jesus over two millennia. It continues here in this church today, with people who in some way have heard Jesus say, “Come and see,” who have come, who have seen, and who have believed.
It is the work of the Holy Spirit – the same Spirit who descended upon Jesus at his baptism – that has brought us together today. We come. We see. We believe.
The work of the Church began with people seeking God and God’s salvation, going to John for baptism, hearing John testify about Jesus, and then following Jesus at his invitation.
The work of the Church continues today with people seeking God, entering the Church through baptism, learning by word and example how others have followed Jesus, and then following – each in our own way.
Every one of us has his or her own story of how we came to follow Christ and how we continue to do so day by day. Every one of us made the decision to be in this place on this day. Every one of those decisions is one more step in our story as individual disciples and as a small part of the Body of Christ, the Church.
It has been said that the most important point of the liturgy is the dismissal. “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord,” is not just someone telling us that it’s time to put on our coats and go home. Rather, it is a charge to go out from this place and BE the Church in the world, doing the work of God wherever it needs to be done and wherever we are able.
Andrew and his companion went out from their first time with Jesus and found Peter. They got to work spreading the news.
The Spirit of God called them to find and to follow Jesus, and then sent them out again.
The Spirit of God has led us to this place, to find Jesus once again in Word, Sacrament, and fellowship. Renewed, refreshed, and reinvigorated, may we be sent forth by the Spirit to do the work of God’s mission.
May we go in joy and peace and with love in our hearts.