After the dark events of late, first in Martin place, Sydney, and then in the fair city of Paris with all its history and beauty, I wanted to reach out to those gunmen and those satire cartoonists and invite them all to see something I have been enabled to see but for whatever reason they seem unable to see.
I am in solidarity with that march of millions and those 40+ world leaders last Sunday in Paris, and with Prime Minister, Tony Abbot, in saying that if we let fear and hatred alter in any way our freedom and our fairness for each other, then we have been undone by this phenomenon of terrorism driven by religious fundamentalism. I find some direction and hope in this scene of the calling of those very first disciples.
We hear in this account of the calling of everyday people by Jesus that one of these first inquisitive followers of Jesus is Andrew. As he encounters Jesus, Andrew then goes and tells his brother Peter about Jesus and then brings Peter to meet Jesus.
The day after that, Jesus calls Philip to follow. And Phillip does. And again, Philip, like Andrew before him, goes and tells someone else about Jesus.
Except the one Philip tells is Nathanael. Now Nathanael doesn’t appear nearly as keen or open to following Jesus as the others. In fact, he comes across as a sceptic as he throws out a dismissive put down about it all:
46 “Nazareth! Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Nathanael asked.
Jesus turns him around quick enough, but that’s not what caught my ear.
I am interested in Philip. I’m guessing he knew what kind of a guy Nathanael was. Andrew goes and tells his own brother, and I’m guessing Philip went and told a really good friend, Nathanael. Which means that Philip would have already known that Nathanael was likely to scoff, or make fun of him, or ignore him all together. But Phillip goes to his sceptical friend anyway – because Jesus is good news and Nathanael is a friend who needs the good news. Both what Phillip had heard and experienced in Jesus, and his friendship with his friend Nathanael must have been worth the risk!
What interested me even more was that in the wake of scepticism and put down by a less-than- keen person, Philip doesn’t throw something back in pay back or just feel hurt or angry. Phillip does not get defensive. He does not walk away, vowing never to share anything with Nathanael again. No, Phillip stays open, and willing and careful yet clear.
“Come and see.” He says. That is interesting. The day before, that’s exactly what Jesus said when Andrew and the other unnamed person (which I am thinking is probably John the Apostle himself) asked Jesus where he was staying.
“Come and see”. Such simple, open, and inviting words. Words, that are not pushy or demanding or assuming anything of a person. Not judgemental words but welcome words.
According to “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (John), these words of welcome invitation to another are the only fit response to having witnessed the grace and mercy of God taking shape among us, enfleshed in the babe of Bethlehem, crucified at Golgotha, raised on the third day…all for our sake – no matter how cynical, sceptical, dismissive or antagonistic we or the Nathanael’s of the world may be.
“Come and see”. These are the words of invitation we’re invited to say to the stranger, the friend, the sceptic, the enemy.
Yes, come and see, young, poor, disenfranchised, angry, young man indoctrinated by people who have been bitterly misled about the way to peace and blessing and life.
Yes, come and see hardened ex-church goer who has replaced God with nature or science or wealth and material prosperity.
Yes, come and see older-brother, long term church member man or woman, who have fallen for the trap of being self-righteous and judgemental of those who are not good enough – or not as good as you anyway.
Yes, come and see interested but unsure man or woman who know there is a God but are not sure which one or what God is like of if God has anything to offer you.
Yes come and see, fearful, cut off one who is lonely, disconnected, uncared for and feeling lost. We are invited by the Evangelist to simply invite. In a sceptical culture that is bordering or antagonism now, sharing Jesus really needs to be about invitation not litigation.
“Come and see” – words of trust really… We’re just invited to invite and then let Jesus use us and others to work his Word.
These words to another show that when they come and see and hear we trust that Jesus will speak and act. He works the faith in the human heart and then he uses us to help each other learn and grow.
But the other thing that is included in “Come and see” is “Come and see with me”. To say “Come and see” means, “Come with me and see”. So the invitation is not the only thing we do and it may be given more than once and when there is a glimmer of possibility that they might just come and see, we stick with them.
I remember visiting Willow Creek Community Church in 1993 and Bill Hybels, the Senior Pastor preaching. He said he was so proud of his people whom he could see week after week waiting in the church foyer, waiting for the person to whom they had said, “Come and See’. Often, of course, the Nathanael did not arrive. I think he called it the “Fools Foyer”: The foyer of people who laid themselves on the line and invited a Nathanael to come and see with no sure fire guarantee that he would ever turn up.
Maybe that is what our foyer and car park could be – the places where we “foolishly” wait for the Nathanael we have invited to come and see not once, but many times.
And if there is a miracle and he comes, we do more. We give up our Sunday morning comfort zone and give the morning to our Nathanael. We give up our Sunday to be with our friend or stranger who has come to see with us. We sit with him. We pray quietly. We just be present to guide, to respond, to sit and stand with and never leave his side so he always has someone to talk with and never looks and feels alone – for that would be his major fear.
Come and see. Over time, with practice, these are words anyone can say. Philip said them. You can say them. I can say them, too. Maybe not right away, but over time, with practice, these are words all of us can say… and eventually might even enjoy saying. Because sharing something that matters to you with someone that matters is, as Philip found out, pretty satisfying and pretty good for the one we invited and for the community of those who follow Jesus! Amen
Share your thoughts/feelings about what has been happening in Paris and Sydney etc these last months and what your response has been to these tragic things and this phenomenon of terrorism…..
Read the text carefully (starting from verse 35) noting who is speaking to who and watching for repeated words. One thing you may notice are the repeated words of “Come and see, or “Come and you will see”, first said by Jesus and then by Phillip. Is Phillip a quick learner?
When you hear someone say that to you, ‘Come and see….”, what response does this bring from you?
“Come and see seem to be an invitation that is not too pushy or demanding. Are we to be like Phillip in speaking these words of invitation even to people like Nathanael who may at first be very sceptical or unwilling to come and see? if so, what happens when they don’t come and see? What have you done in the past when this has happened to you…Share your experiences…
Notice how Phillip remains untroubled by Nathanael’s sharp response. Maybe he trusts that his relationship with Jesus will remain in tact even if Nathanael does not come and see. maybe he also trusts that when Jesus is present, people can change and there may come another time when Nathanael will finally come and see. Maybe he knows that his friend really needs to come and see Jesus and so he is willing to wait and keep at it for a long time.
I sense this about this account of the calling of the disciples. I said we are invited to invite. How do you respond to that and how have you or would you go about this task?
What do you make of that image of the “fools foyer” I mentioned. Is this part of being a “:foll for Christ” as paul puts it? We invite with no guarantees but trust that Jesus is at work through our words and actions. When there is a sign of coming and seeing, we jump to it and stand with our friend whom we have invited.
One of people’s major fears is to be in a public place with no one to stand with or talk to. it is a horrible feeling of loneliness. So, if we invite someone to “come and see” and they actually come to see, we need to stick with them like glue and never leave them standing alone. Do you think this would be a good thing to do and would you do this if it ever happened – why, why not?
Lord, hep us to invite “Nathanael” into our lives and into seeing and hearing your word. Use our efforts for your heavenly purposes and bring many into a living relationship with you through our church. Amen.