January 15, 2017
John 1:29-42, Isaiah 49:1-7
“Who’s on First?”
If we took a survey of favorite church seasons, I’m guessing few, if any would choose Epiphany. We make a big deal about the birth of Jesus. There are presents, carols, decorations, and food. Epiphany is like the forgotten p.s. of Christmas. Imagine if we treated every birth like that. The baby is born and it is BIG! There are announcements, visits, pictures, presents. It is grand! We have waited for this baby! We are so excited this baby has arrived! Then we just go back to our lives as if nothing ever happened.
You and I know that it is NOT an option to go back to your ordinary lives after a birth. In fact, that is when things start to get interesting. This baby starts growing and doing things – smiling, talking, crawling, walking…you wouldn’t want to miss that, would you??
It’s funny that as Christmas approaches, we are all in…the baby is coming! Let’s sing carols and buy presents. We don’t want to miss this! The baby arrives and then we go back to our lives just like we put the decorations away for another year. Are you kidding me??
Things are just getting interesting! God is here! The season of Epiphany is about God becoming manifest in Jesus. In other words, now we get to see what it looks like to have God walking around in the world. If we watch, we may learn something about how to be God’s beloved.
Today, we have chapter one of Jesus in the world. It’s an odd chapter. I love this weird little vignette! It reminds me of the Abbot and Costello routine “Who’s on First?” Do you remember it?
You and I know that they are talking to each other, but listening to them, it sounds like they are having two different conversations. That’s what the text from John sounds like. John is standing around with some of his followers when Jesus walks by. John says, “If you really want to follow God, go with that guy.” They do. They walk over to Jesus and have a very strange conversation that goes like this…
Jesus turns around and doesn’t say, “Hi” or “How are you doing?” He says, “What are you looking for?” It sounds a little abrupt. They don’t seem to hear that question and respond instead with, “Rabbi, where are you staying?” They don’t really care if he’s at the Motel 6 or the Hyatt. They want to know the depth of who he is. They don’t just want some quick platitudes or an elevator speech. They want more. Jesus responds, “Come and see.” He isn’t inviting them to stay at his hotel, but to walk with him and really follow him. They do. That’s how they learn to be disciples. There aren’t four easy steps or an online class teaching them to be a disciple. In fact, being a disciple is mostly something we do on the fly.
BUT, it is built on the foundation we create with prayer, reading scripture, and worship. Last week I told you my baptism story and that somehow even as a young teenager I knew that I would spend my life living into that decision. That’s how discipleship works too. We don’t become instant disciples. It happens over time.
Can anyone here say, “I’ve mastered this disciple thing! I snapped my fingers and it’s been easy ever since?” I’m guessing all of us no matter where we are on our life journey would say we are still becoming disciples amd learning as we go.
It’s not a bad thing to stop and think about what we are seeking as disciples. Can you imagine the same encounter today? We are standing around with Martin Luther King, Jr. We love this man. We admire his courage. We want to be like him so we are hanging out with him trying to absorb every bit of him when can when Jesus walks by and Martin points to him and says, “That’s the guy you want to follow.” So we walk over there and he says to us, “What are you looking for?”
Can you answer that question? Do you have any idea what it is you are seeking? Discipleship isn’t an intellectual discussion, but a lived experience. We cannot learn how to ride a bicycle without getting on one and pedaling. We cannot learn to play the piano if we never sit down and put our hands on the keys. We cannot follow Jesus if we don’t show up and practice being like him. When we learn to ride a bike, we are going to fall. When we play the piano, we are going to hit sour notes. When we follow Jesus, we are going to make mistakes. But we keep showing up.
If we are willing to stick it out through the mistakes and missteps, we will find ourselves growing into his likeness. This story is full of verbs: follow, see, seek, stay, and find. That’s because discipleship is an active process. It is a relationship and it requires active cultivation on our part. It isn’t something that happens through osmosis, but by actively engaging our faith. It is one reason we have churches. They are communities of practice to allow Jesus to leave his mark on us. We come here to deepen our relationship with Jesus and with one another. Jesus didn’t call us to be isolated from one another.
I went to a luncheon this week for area clergy. Mayor Berry spoke about the initiatives happening in Albuquerque. You have heard of some of these – the Kindness initiative, ABQ Heading Home, There’s a Better Way – there are so many good projects that are making Albuquerque a better city. I was struck as I listened to him talk about these at how they depend on relationships to happen. In each one, one person reaches out to touch another. It is like a domino effect. Our city is a better place to live because people are investing in one another. In this time of fear about the future of our country, we need to invest in one another and in our community more than ever.
After worship today, you will hear from a graduate of the Crossroads for Women program. This week, we will serve a meal for homeless people at Project Share. Jefferson Middle School has invited us to help tutor kids at their homework diner. After church, we will gather in the kitchen and make lunches to deliver to homeless people. Before church, a group is gathering to ask what it means to be the church today because it is clear we have to find ways to bridge the divide in our country. We cannot isolate ourselves as individuals or just those who think like we do. There is too much work to be done.
Epiphany is the season of light. It is the time where Jesus begins his ministry and he invites us to walk with him. His invitation to us is to “come and see.” That really is an invitation to roll up our sleeves and get involved. It isn’t a call to passively observe, but to give the best that we have. Isaiah calls us to let our light shine. We reflect God’s light to the world and it is needed now more than ever.
Robert Fulghum was attending a seminar one day in Greece. On the last day of the conference, the leader walked over to the bright light of an open window and looked out. Then he asked if there were any questions. Fulghum laughingly asked him what was the meaning of life. Everyone in attendance laughed and stirred to leave. However, the leader held up his hand to ask for silence and then responded, "I will answer your question." He took his wallet out of his pocket and removed a small round mirror about the size of a quarter. Then he explained "When I was a small child during World War II, we were very poor and we lived in a remote village. One day on the road, I found the broken pieces of a mirror. A German motorcycle had been wrecked in that place. I tried to find all the pieces and put them together, but it was not possible, so I kept the largest piece. This one. And by scratching it on a stone, I made it round. I began to play with it as a toy and became fascinated by the fact that I could reflect light into dark places where the sun could never shine. It became a game for me to get light into the most inaccessible places that I could find. I kept the little mirror, and as I grew up, I would take it out at idle moments and continue the challenge of the game. As I became a man, I grew to understand that this was not just a child's game, but also a metaphor of what I could do with my life. I came to understand that I am not the light or the source of the light. But light - be it truth or understanding or knowledge - is there, and it will only shine in many dark places if I reflect it. I am a fragment of a mirror whose whole design and shape I do not know. Nevertheless, with what I have, I can reflect light into the dark places of this world - into the dark places of human hearts - and change some things in some people. Perhaps others seeing it happen will do likewise. This is what I am about. This is the meaning of my life." (from It Was On Fire When I Lay Down On It, by Robert Fulghum)
Jesus says “come and see.” I don’t know what the coming year will hold ask of us, but if we show up and follow Jesus we will find our way together. Together we can reflect the light of hope and compassion into our world.`