COME AND SEE – A Sermon for the Second Sunday of Epiphany

15/I/17, 9.30 a.m., St Mary’s Fordingbridge

I Cor 1:1-9,  John 1:29-42

The Reading we have just heard from St John’s Gospel is one of a sequence given to us during this Epiphany Season.  Last week it was the arrival of the Wise Men, the first non-Jews to visit Jesus.  This week it is the equivalent in John’s Gospel of the Baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist, and we hear John’s testimony, ‘I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him’ [Jn 1:32].  The next day John exclaims, ‘Look, here is the Lamb of God!’ [Jn1:36], and that leads to the calling of the first disciples.  Next Sunday we shall hear Matthew’s description of the calling of Simon Peter and Andrew, along with James and John, and that will lead us to the Feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple, on January 29th, when we shall hear from Luke’s Gospel the words of the Nunc Dimittis, ‘For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel’ [Lk 2:30-32].  So there is a clear pattern in this Epiphany Season of the presence of Christ, and who he was, being manifested, being shown, more and more in the world.

But this morning, I want to offer a brief meditation on just three words from today’s Gospel – ‘Come and see’ [Jn 1:39] – ‘Come and see’.  And I want to reflect on this in three ways: firstly, Jesus’ invitation to his first disciples; secondly, his invitation to us; and thirdly our invitation to others.

Firstly, Jesus’ invitation to his first disciples.  The words, ‘Come and see’ are part of a strange conversation which I’ll just repeat – you’ve got it in Partners if you want to have a look.  John says, ‘Look, here is the Lamb of God!’ 37 The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38 When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, ‘What are you looking for?’ They said to him, ‘Rabbi’ (which translated means Teacher), ‘where are you staying?’ 39 He said to them, ‘Come and see.’ They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon [Jn 1:36-39].

It is a curious sequence – John says ‘Look, here is the Lamb of God!’, and the two disciples follow, which is quite logical.  Jesus turns and asks what they are looking for, and they ask him where he is staying.  He says come and see, and they went and spent the rest of the day with him – and all this happened, curiously, at about four o’clock in the afternoon.  Clearly, something very significant is going on here.

One of the two disciples was Andrew, and he went and fetched his brother, Simon, whom Jesus immediately named as Peter, the rock.  And they stayed with him for the rest of his earthly ministry.

Jesus’ call to his first disciples in John’s Gospel is very invitational – come and see.  ‘John has pointed to me; you’re following me, so, came and see. Come and see what I’m doing, who I am – and by doing that, you may want to follow me always’.

But these words are also words for us – come and see.  Other parts of the Old and New Testaments point to God’s creation of us, to his intimate knowledge of us.

Psalm 139, verse 12 onwards, reads: ‘For you yourself created my inmost parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb… My frame was not hidden from you, when I was made in secret and woven in the depths of the earth.  Your eyes beheld my form, as yet unfinished; already in your book were all my members written, as day by day they were fashioned when as yet there was none of them’.

We are created by God, known by God, loved by God, and invited by him to join the journey of faith by following Jesus – come and see.  Come and walk on the journey of faith, come and commit your life to me and see where it leads.  Come and join me in the dance, and see where we get to.

One of the traditional carols puts it like this:

Tomorrow shall be my dancing day;
I would my true love did so chance
To see the legend of my play,
To call my true love to my dance;

Sing, oh! my love, oh! my love, my love, my love,
This have I done for my true love.

Then was I born of a virgin pure,
Of her I took fleshly substance
Thus was I knit to man’s nature
To call my true love to my dance.

In a manger laid, and wrapped I was
So very poor, this was my chance
Between an ox and a silly poor ass
To call my true love to my dance.

Then afterwards baptized I was;
The Holy Ghost on me did glance,
My Father’s voice heard I from above,
To call my true love to my dance.

Sing, oh! my love, oh! my love, my love, my love,
This have I done for my true love.

And one of the ways in which we are called to follow, to ‘come and see’, is in the sharing of the Eucharist, in the breaking of bread together.  George Herbert, writing in the seventeenth century, in his famous poem, ‘Love’ puts the invitation to ‘come and see’ like this – we have to imagine a guest arriving at a feast of some sort:

 

Love bade me welcome. Yet my soul drew back

Guilty of dust and sin.

But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack

From my first entrance in,

Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning,

If I lacked any thing.

 

A guest, I answered, worthy to be here:

Love said, You shall be he.

I the unkind, ungrateful? Ah my dear,

I cannot look on thee.

Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,

Who made the eyes but I?

 

Truth Lord, but I have marred them: let my shame

Go where it doth deserve.

And know you not, says Love, who bore the blame?

My dear, then I will serve.

You must sit down, says Love, and taste my meat:

So I did sit and eat.

‘Come and see’ was the call to the first disciples, and ‘come and see’ is the call to us.

But what about us?  Do we have good reason to want to say ‘Come and see’ as well?

Mission, or evangelism, is described in lots of different ways.  But it seems to me that it is essentially about invitation.  There is Good News to share – come and see.  Come and see whether it makes sense of your life.  Come and see whether taking a first step on your walk with God brings you closer to the God who made you, loves and wants you to be with him for ever.  You don’t have to have a clear view of the end of the journey at this point – just come and see.

If we believe that what we do in Church makes a difference to our lives, then we should want to share that Good News with others, to invite them to come and see.

Some will have seen the Diocesan Rule of Life which we distributed and spoke about in November.  It’s called ‘Sharing God’s Life’, and there are copies by the door if you missed them last time – or have lost yours in the Christmas chaos!  There are three headings for reflection: Loving, Living, Serving – and we are all invited to think about our Christian lives in the context of those headings, and to make simple commitments to help us to respond to God’s invitation to come and see, and to offer that invitation to others.  If you’ve not yet had the chance to look at the Rule of Life, the beginning of this New Year, and this Epiphany Season, might be a good time to do so.

I want to finish by reading George Herbert’s poem, ‘Love’ again, followed by a pause for reflection.  Listen to God’s invitation to you to share in his banquet, and reflect on what that might mean for your life in 2017.

Love bade me welcome. Yet my soul drew back

Guilty of dust and sin.

But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack

From my first entrance in,

Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning,

If I lacked any thing.

 

A guest, I answered, worthy to be here:

Love said, You shall be he.

I the unkind, ungrateful? Ah my dear,

I cannot look on thee.

Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,

Who made the eyes but I?

 

Truth Lord, but I have marred them: let my shame

Go where it doth deserve.

And know you not, says Love, who bore the blame?

My dear, then I will serve.

You must sit down, says Love, and taste my meat:

So I did sit and eat.

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