Saturday, January 13, 2018

Year B, Epiphany 2, John 1.43-51, Come & See

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ.  Amen
“In my career, what I've always tried my best to do, whether on television or through film, is to say something about how men and women really behave. To say how we experience shame, how we love and how we rage, how we fail, how we retreat, persevere and how we overcome. I've interviewed and portrayed people who've withstood some of the ugliest things life can throw at you, but the one quality all of them seem to share is an ability to maintain hope for a brighter morning, even during our darkest nights. So I want all the girls watching here, now, to know that a new day is on the horizon! And when that new day finally dawns, it will be because of a lot of magnificent women, many of whom are right here in this room tonight, and some pretty phenomenal men, fighting hard to make sure that they become the leaders who take us to the time when nobody ever has to say "Me too" again.”
It has been described as a “Stirring Speech”, these words of Oprah Winfrey delivered at the Golden Globe Awards this last week.
Inspiring.  Moving.  Hopeful.
“A new day is on the horizon!”
No sooner than those words had been spoken, social media erupted with two other words:
Oprah, 2020.
We long as a people to be inspired.
Donald Trump got elected because his message:
“Make America Great Again” inspired people.

And before him Barack Obama was elected on the basis of his message:
“Change we can believe in.”

And Ronald Reagan famously shared a simple message of hope to the nation when he said:
“It’s morning in America.”
One of the most intriguing aspects of modern American politics is that we are quick to turn to those who have inspired and entertained us, and asked them to lead us.
Ronald Reagan was an actor.
Trump’s fame was built on a reality TV show, the Apprentice.
And now Oprah, both an actor and a talk show host inspires people to think of her as a potential candidate for president.
It probably should be no surprise that in this day and age when our lives as a nation so often revolve around the media, that professionals from the entertainment industry are the one’s capable of carrying the messages that inspire us.
We crave inspiration.
One might think that competence and qualifications would be the most important criteria for a person to be elected President.
I’m saying “No.”  It’s the ability to inspire.
One example of this is that President Obama was given the Nobel Peace prize, basically before he had done anything.  It was given purely on the basis of the message he shared that inspired not only Americans, but the world. 
Jimmy Carter had been given the Nobel Peace prize as well.  But he was honored for having negotiated the Camp David Accord, which ended the hostility between Egypt and Israel, a peace which endures even to this day.
That’s actually an accomplishment.  Not just an inspiration.
There is a hunger in America to be inspired.
A craving.
A deep longing within our souls.

And so we are quick to anoint the next great communicator, to carry the message that inspires us.
Our modern day messiahs.

John the Baptist introduced Jesus with the simple words:
"Look, here is the Lamb of God!"
Israel, even more so than us, was longing for hope and inspiration.
For almost 800 years, 800 years mind you, Israel had been overrun by one foreign power after another.
They remember the former times of the glory of the Kingdom of David, and his son, Solomon, and they longed for the day that the Kingdom would be restored.
They had their own slogan:
“Make Israel Great Again”
There were many would be Messiahs that arose in Israel, and all of them disappointed in the end.
But the hope remained.

"Look, here is the Lamb of God!"
“Lamb of God.”
A Messianic title.

In the Gospel of John, Jesus is introduced as the “Lamb of God”, and then at the end of the Gospel, he is crucified at the hour that the Passover Lambs were sacrificed in the Temple.
This sets the context for understanding the Messiah’s role in the deliverance of Israel from their bondage.
It would be the sacrifice of the Lamb that set them free.
But that was not the message that inspired.  All of Israel hoped for a Messiah that would be victorious over their enemies, not one that would die under Pontius Pilate.
But Jesus would be a Messiah like no other.
What we don’t know from the text is just what inspired those who would become Jesus’ disciples.
All we know at this point is that John introduced him as the “Lamb of God” and Jesus called his disciples with two simple words:  “Follow me.”
Phillip declared then:  "We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth."
Nathaniel replied:
"Can anything good come out of Nazareth?"
And then, another invitation:  “Come and see.”
Come and see.

“Follow Me.”
Isn’t this the basic message of every Presidential campaign.
Ronald Reagan said “Follow me.”
Bush said “Follow me.”
Clinton said “Follow me.”
Bush said “Follow me.”
Obama said “Follow me.”
Trump said “Follow me.”
And perhaps, now, Oprah is saying “Follow me.”
Each one offered us promises, promises intended to inspire.
But none of them were, or are, the Messiah.
We know that.  That’s why we are here.  We sing a different song.
“My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus' blood and righteousness;
No merit of my own I claim,
But wholly lean on Jesus' name.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.”
Sinking sand.
I don’t have to tell you that Reagan, both Bushes, Clinton, Obama, and Trump are not the Messiah, nor will Oprah or anyone else be.
We are here because we believe that "We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth."
“A new day is on the horizon!”
Make America Great Again
“Change we can believe in.”
It’s morning in America.”

Jesus had a different message:
“The Kingdom of God is at hand.”
This we believe.  This is our hope.  This is the promise that inspires us.
It is Jesus, and only Jesus.
It all seems so simple, and yet it is not.
You see, when Jesus says “Follow me” he has something completely different in mind than the peace, prosperity and happiness promised by the would be messiahs of this world.
“Follow me”, he said.  And we want to know where.
He is talking about the way of the cross, the way of love, self sacrificial love, for the sake of the other.
It is Jesus, this we know.
But are we willing to say to the world, so eager and longing for something, someone to believe in, someone that inspires them, “Come and See.”
Come and see Jesus, of Nazareth.
One of the first things I said to you as a congregation is that it is not enough to be a welcoming congregation, we have to be an inviting congregation.
If Jesus is truly the Messiah, we need to answer the call to follow him, and then invite people to “come and see”.
Come and see the One who loves you.
Come and see the One who has redeemed you.
Come and see the One who invites you to die with him, that we might also live with him.
"Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man."
Come and see a day full of grace.
Oh day full of grace that now we see appearing on earth’s horizon, bring light from our God that we may be Replete in his joy this season. God, shine for us now in this dark place; Your name on our hearts emblazon.


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