Come and See
There are times in my life that I wish the person who invented email could be dragged out back and shot. Now I am not a violent person but there are some issues with this form of communication. I love to communicate through email because it is quick and easy to use. The part the inventor should be shot for is the forward button. That little option has clogged up inbox for years now. Most of them…from my mother-in-law, aka, the email-queen. If she was here she would gladly take a bow. She forwards anything and everything. If the word God is in it, she thinks I should read it. If a baby falls asleep while eating a birthday cake, or if a monkey passes out after smelling his finger, she thinks I need to see it. If a person takes a picture of a potato chip in the shape of John the Baptist, then she definitely thinks I cannot go on with life without seeing it. I never knew I needed to see and read so much junk in my life, until that darn forward button was invented.
Yet the forward button is almost the same as someone giving a testimony. When a person gives a testimony they are telling a story of an interaction with God. They are professing a time when God interacted in their lives in a powerful way. Last week, I got emotional telling you about Dean’s baptism, that was a testimony to the power of God. When we had people stand up here last homecoming and tell you why Trinity was so important to them, those were testimonies. Good testimonies are done by people who want to tell you how great something is, in our case God. Bad testimonies are ones that people say to make themselves look better.
Last week I was going through all the junk mail we get at church and I came upon a letter from a stain glass company. In it were two pieces of paper. One piece told a little bit more about the company and the services they offer. The other piece was two testimonies about the company. Those people professed their gratitude to this company for the work they did at their church. They said they did wonderful work and that they would recommend them to any other church. They also said come and see their work if you want proof of what they can do.
Come and see. Come and see. That is basically what the forward button says and what testimonies profess. Come and see this hilarious video of a ninja cat or two guys reuniting with a lion they raised and then set free into the wild. Come and see this great deal I got down at Target on a new microwave or the new furniture from an after-market store. Come and see this cute video of my kid or the newest picture of my grandchild. Come and see, share my happiness, share my joy, share in my experience. Come and see.
These nine verses of John’s first chapter are full of come and see. Right after Jesus’ baptism, in the Gospel of John, he calls some of his twelve disciples. Today we get the story of Jesus calling Philip and Nathanael. Phil and Nate’s story is very similar to the other gospels. Jesus decides to head to Galilee and when he was there he found Phil and he said to Phil, follow me and Phil did. Phil was so excited about this Rabbi who came and chooses him as one of his disciples that he runs off to tell his friend Nate. Phil gives Nate his testimony. He says, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”
Now we can relate to this next moment because ingrained in every congregation in North Carolina is a healthy and fun rivalry of the schools of higher learning on Tobacco Road. No matter what congregation you go to you will find fans of Wake Forest, NC State, Duke and what’s the name of that other school…oh yeah, the University of NC at Chapel Hill. This is a fun little rivalry because everyone seems to have a favorite and now that we are in the ACC basketball season we poke fun of the losers and gloat as the winners. I’ll stop there because I don’t want to pour salt into any wounds. But with our ACC rivalry on our mind we can then look at Nate’s reaction to Phil’s testimony.
Remember Phil tells Nate, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” And then Nate looks at him and says, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Nate hears about the Messiah coming from a little town of 200-400 people; a little town that if you sneezed you missed it on the highway. The Messiah has to be from somewhere more glamour than little Nazareth. Nate had a preconceived notion of the town of Nazareth and the Messiah. It is like this, do you know the best thing that comes out of Chapel Hill? Highway 15/501 to Durham! Do you know what you call a Carolina fan with half a brain? Gifted! As a Duke fan I have preconceived notions about Carolina and those who are fans of their sports teams. I also have them for Wake and State too. There was a chant we said at Duke games that went, “If you can’t go to college go to State, if you can’t go to State go to Wake, if you can’t go to Wake you’re a flake.” Now that I have equally offended everyone, except Duke fans, let’s move on.
Phil’s rebuttal to Nate’s comment is simply, Come and see. Fine you don’t believe what I’m telling you, well just come and see for yourself. When Nate does he is astounded and put back on his heels, when Jesus tells him that he saw him under the fig tree and invites him to come along on his journey. Through a simple testimony of what Jesus did in Philip’s live, Nathanael is invited and brought into this journey.
That is the point of testimony, to invite people into the journey. By sharing your experiences and how you were touched by God people are invited to come and see for themselves who this God is. You do not need to worry about if they will accept this invitation or not, that part isn’t our job, that’s God’s job. Our job is to simply share the story.
In order to be able to share this story though we need to learn to talk about God. We need to learn Jesus-ese. It can be a foreign language like Japanese or Chinese, but we need to learn to speak it. These nine verses have six different ways of describing and naming Jesus. First it simply says Jesus, the name his parents gave him. Then Philip describes him as the Jesus of Nazareth, son of Joseph. Then Nathanael calls him Rabbi, or teacher, Son of God and King of Israel. Finally Jesus uses the reference the Son of Man. All six are different but still talk about the same person. This is Jesus-ese.
You can learn to speak this by on your lunch break or at the grocery store telling people what God is doing in your life. If you are uncomfortable with that you can attempt to tell them what is happening at this church. You all are a part of this congregation and you can claim the amazing things God is doing here. You can claim proudly that we have had someone pregnant every month except three for the last ten years. You can claim the joy in knowing that one third of our congregation on Sunday mornings are children. You can claim that by paying 100% of our apportionments, participating in the Meals for Learning event, and through our other budgeted items that we spent over $8,000 on missions and outreach in 2008. This doesn’t even include what UMM, UMW, and the other groups have to do. Plus that is just the money aspect. We helped build two habitat houses, collected canned food, toys and shoe boxes for CCM, the YoYos visited nursing homes, had two blood drives that collected over 50 pints of blood, and had three free community events (Fun Day, VBS, and a Trunk-r-Treat) which had more people from the community attend then our members. This doesn’t even scrap the surface of how God used this congregation to offer up prayer, comfort, and support through hard times we are living in and through.
God is at work in this place and we need to spread the word. Our sign is not big enough out front to tell the rest of Thomasville what is happening here. Plus even if we were able to put something out there that told the people passing by that God is doing amazing things, it still doesn’t resonate with people like hearing it first hand from you. You need to be telling them come and see. Come and see for yourself what God is doing, this son of Joseph from Nazareth, this Rabbi, this Son of God, this King of Israel, the Son of Man.
In Galilee, Jesus walked and invited Philip and Nathanael to come and see the glorious things that are yet to come. He looks at Nathanael and he says, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You shall see greater things than that…. I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” Jesus looks at Nathanael and tells him, if you are impressed with that, just wait, you haven’t seen anything yet.
If you are sitting in the pews today, beaming with joy about what God has done in this congregation, just wait. If you think you have seen great things, let me be the first one to remind you of what Jesus promises. Jesus looks at us today and says, “You believe because of what happened in 2008? Come and see. Just wait and see what I have in store for you, Trinity United Methodist Church. Come and see.”
Today we huddle together on this cold winter day to bask in the glory of our God, to worship and celebrate the ways he has shown himself to us, and to get ready for what is in store for our future. Great things have happened, wonderful things are happening, and even more is yet to come. We need to share that story. We need to share our testimonies with our neighbors and tell them of the wonder that is God. Can anything good come out of Thomasville? Can anything good come out of Trinity? Come and see. Come and see, share our happiness, share our joy, share our experience. Come and see. Come and see. Come and see.
And all God’s people said…Amen.