Saturday, 17 January 2009

Come and See

Reading: 1 Samuel 3 v 1-10
John 1 v 43-51

In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Its 6 months now since I came to work at Castlehill. Feels like so much longer. Take that whatever way you like! J
I’m sure by now you’ll have cottoned on to some of my eccentricities, some of my habits, even some of the lingo that I routinely use. Most of us have wee things that distinguish us in one way or another, ways that we like to do things, ways that we like to put things – things that have become, for us ,routines that we’ve fallen into.
But just because things have become a habit doesn’t mean that they are any the less important.
One of the things I like to say every week as I welcome you to worship is that I hope you’ll take away your order of service – with all the intimations on it – that you’ll read it and leave it handy, that you’ll join in what you can and that you’ll invite your neighbour to come along to our fellowship too.
Do you do that?
When you get home, do you pin your order of service on the fridge or leave it on the coffee table as a reminder of the service and as a reminder of all the things you can join in during the week? All the things to which you can invite your neighbour?
Or do you perhaps just find it the next time you wear that coat or that jacket to church?
Or is yours left in the pew, done with before you even leave the building?
In our gospel this morning, Philip is called by Jesus to follow him. So what does he do?
He goes and finds Nathanael and tells him about Jesus of Nazareth.
Nathanael would have done well in the church of Scotland – a true cynic.
Can anything good come out of Nazareth?
And Philip replies: Come and see.
The most natural invitation.
Come and see.
When is the last time that we invited our neighbour to: Come and see.
When was the last time we encouraged them to check out where we’re going and what we do together?
Come and see.
One of the measures of our relationship with God is the state of our relationship with our neighbour.
The two are inseparable.
I heard a story this wek, from the Moderator of the Church of Scotland, David Lunan.
He was at a dinner with Alex Salmond and Alex said to him: you know when I went to university my mother hoped that I would become a Church of Scotland minister. (she obviously didn’t have very high hopes for her sonJ) when he became a politician she said: I always knew with you it was too much left and right and not enough up and down.
In our Christian life, the up and down must be matched by the left and right. Our relationship with God must be reflected in our relationship with our neighbour.
Come and see.
One of the simplest invitations but one of the most profound.
When we are not ashamed of what we do but want our neighbour to join in - we must have something worth sharing.
The conference I took part in at the beginning of the week had as its theme “Homecoming”.
The Scottish Government has ear marked this year 2009, as a year of homecoming – a year when that great Scottish diaspora will be welcomed home – a year when all the stops will be pulled out to welcome back the exiles.
It coincides with the 250th anniversary year of the birth of Robert Burns – more on that next week as you’ll see in the intimations.
The Scottish Government is launching all sorts of initiatives and programmes to encourage all those who feel they have an affinity with Scotland to visit this year and there’s no reason why the church should not be involved in that welcome. Indeed it is vital that the church IS involved. Spirituality is an integral part of Scotland’s growth and history.
But how can we welcome the stranger if we cannot welcome our neighbour?
Come and see.
The church is being called to rediscover its ministry of hospitality.
Its not enough to welcome folk back to a cold building where we sing dirges with dour faces. And that, I’m sure will be the memory that many folk have of the kirk – or the story that’s been handed on to them even if they have never experienced it themselves.
You and I know that things have changed drastically.
But how will others know if we don’t encourage them to Come and see?
Come and see – inviting others to be a part of the story.
Philip wasn’t put off by Nathanael’s cynicism. Can anything good come out of Nazareth.
Nathanael had obviously swallowed the party line, was prepared to be unimpressed.
But did that deter Philip from persisting in his invitation?
From challenging him to look again?
Let’s face it – the history of the church and the miserable encounters tat many folk have had through the years is not something to boast about.
Folk might well take quite a bit of coaxing.
So we shouldn’t be knocked back by an initial reluctance.
That’s to be expected.
But what we do have to do is ensure that those who have had negative experiences with the church will experience something very different when they respond to our invitation this time around.
When Philip urged Nathanael to come and see – he wanted him to check out for himself who Jesus was.
Jesus didn’t fulfil expectations. He didn’t fit the pattern. He wasn’t what people wanted.
He didn’t entertain, he challenged – and he demanded a response.
Folk were surprised by Jesus – he was unpredictable.
And so is life.
Often, we find answers, we find help in the very last places we would think of looking.
Can anything good come out of Nazareth.
Well, not if you don’t look there.
Not if you don’t have any good expectations.
We believe that in the fellowship of the church, folk can be pleasantly surprised.
But how do we get folk to even think of looking to the church for help – to looking to us to be welcoming.
Not just smilingly welcome when they cross the threshold but offering real hospitality in a world that is suspicious of strangers.
Henri Nouwen wrote this:
‘The very world we live in is hostile. So many people are busy, lonely, estranged from friends, family, God. The world is so full of competition, aggression, fear, and suspicion. In this type of setting we as followers of Jesus have an obligation to “offer an open and hospitable space where strangers can cast off their strangeness and become our fellow human beings.”
An open and hospitable space.
Nouwen defines hospitality as “creation of free space where a stranger can enter and become a friend instead of an enemy. Hospitality is not to change people, but to offer space where change can take place.”
Hospitality welcomes the stranger – as they are. Hospitality does not demand conformity but encourages everyone to be who they are and discover the God who loves them just as they are.

Would you be happy to invite your neighbour to Come and see?
If not – why not?
Are there things you experience here that you’ll put up with but wouldn’t expect your neighbour to put up with.
Do something about it.
Are things not exciting enough around here to invite others along?
Change them.
Start up some new, exciting things.
The halls are buzzing – but there’s still some spare capacity.
Is this your personal “me” time that you don’t want your neighbours involved in?
What about the left and the right as well as the up and the down relationships?
Our relationship with God and our relationship with our neighbour is inseparable.
And remember:
Inviting your neighbour to Come and see doesn’t make you responsible for them. Its not your responsibility to ensure that they have a good time. but it is your responsibility to ensure that they are given the opportunity to be challenged and changed by God.
The gospel story goes on:
When Philip introduced Nathanael to Jesus, Jesus told Nathanael that he knew him already – he’d met him under the fig tree.
That provoked Nathanael to respond: Rabbi, You are the Son of God.
And what was Jesus’ response to that>
Nathanael was convicted by Jesus’ knowledge of him.
But that was only the beginning.
Journeying along with Jesus was going to show up a whole lot more miraculous things.
Jesus does that.
All we are being asked to do is invite our neighbour to “Come and see”
And leave the rest to God.
So take your service sheet home today.
Check out all that is on offer – in worship and in play.
Invite your neighbour to join you.
And leave the rest to God.


Sue said...

Great work Liz. Enjoy your girl's night out!

Chilly Fingers said...

I wish you would come preach this to our congregation! What a difference it would make if we all truly believed that we 'ain't seen nothing yet!'

liz said...

Sue and Chilly. Thanks for your encouragement. Had a good time with the girls and now I'm, hopefully, going to get a proper night's sleep - the first time on a Saturday for a loooong time.
Blessings for tomorrow.