Readings: John 1: 29-42
In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
If we’d been following the Lectionary, the prescribed readings for each Sunday, last week we’d have read about Jesus being baptised by John the Baptist.
With the Presbytery visit, we didn’t do that, but, this morning, we have reminded ourselves of what baptism is about:
Celebrating, in community, the grace of God.
In my mind, there is no such thing as private baptism.
Baptism is always done in the face of the community.
It is a shared sacrament, a shared celebration.
A shared acknowledgement of the grace of God.
Grace that is shared – in community.
Community became a very important theme this week as I shared with staff and pupils – and with parents and neighbours and colleagues shocked by the tragic death of our school lollipop lady.
We wanted to affirm that though we couldn’t change anything, that though the worst has happened, we could get through it together as a community.
One of the things we often do in school assemblies is affirm achievements and share celebrations together.
This week, we shared tragedy together and realised that that too is part of our life together as a community.
Community is important for all of us.
Our gospel reading this morning confirmed how important community was to Jesus.
But before we look at Jesus in today’s gospel reading, let’s back track just a little.
It’s amazing how quickly we move on, from the seemingly endless season of Advent, through Christmas, into Epiphany, when the wise men make their appearance, and then, to the baby all grown up and being baptised by John.
This year I’ve really felt that sense of urgency – the fast moving gospel.
We don’t get much time to relax around the crib after the marathon that is the Christmas season!
But, a careful reading of our gospel today reveals that Jesus didn’t hang about either.
In John’s version of the story, no sooner is Jesus baptised than he is straight out inviting people to join him on his adventures.
John is still pointing out Jesus as the Lamb of God.
Two of John’s disciples are curious about Jesus, so Jesus asks them: “what are you looking for?”
When they ask Jesus where he lives, Jesus invites them to “Come and see”
Jesus’ invitation was very simple.
He didn’t invite those men to articulate their faith or their quest for faith.
He simply invited them to “come and see”.
A simple invitation it might have been.
But it was also an effective one.
The disciples followed him,
They DID go and see – and they stayed with Jesus from then on.
One of them even went to find his brother so that he, too, could see what Jesus was about.
This gospel story has me thinking about what kind of community we are.
And of how we invite others to be part of that community.
Are we a community that is really open to welcoming others?
I am sure that the answer to that is YES.
We are, on the whole, friendly and welcoming.
People often comment on the welcome they receive here.
But how do we encourage folk across the threshold to experience that warmth and fellowship?
This week I also experienced a very personal sadness.
I attended the funeral of a very special friend.
Someone who introduced me to faith.
And who also consistently encouraged me in that faith.
Someone who did not present me with a cleverly worked out route to follow.
But who simply invited me to “come and see”
And the more I saw, the more I was welcomed, the more I was encouraged to hang around, the more I wanted to be part of that welcoming, accepting community.
It was a community in which the gospel was not only preached but also lived out.
Often we feel that to invite others in, we must know our way around, have our own route marked out, know where we’re going.
We’re frightened to invite folk to journey with us in case it exposes our own lack of knowledge,
But, Jesus, inviting the disciples to come and see, invited them on a journey of discovery.
He didn’t prescribe what their journey should be.
He didn’t set down criteria that they must fulfil.
He invited them to satisfy their curiosity, first of all, to find out where he lived, to come and see.
Knowing that in journeying alongside him, they would discover much more than they could have ever envisaged.
It was a seemingly casual invitation, with no strings attached.
But an invitation that would prove to be life changing.
And it is that invitation that is extended to you and I today.
Folk often say to me that they do not believe, that they do not have faith.
But I think that, to even say that, indicates a search, a curiosity.
Though that quest might never be owned by one who claims to have no faith, there is something there, underlying the denial.
And perhaps if we had a lighter touch.
Perhaps if we could be as casual in our invitation – casual but intentional, folk would join us on the journey.
The disciples claimed that they wanted to see where Jesus lived.
They weren’t looking for commitment.
But, because Jesus invited them to tag along, invited them to not only see where he lived but travel with him for a while, get to know him, they stuck around and commitment followed.
Being invited into community is what many of our neighbours long for.
They don’t want to hear about great campaigns.
Or about membership dues.
They want to be allowed to tag along.
And that acceptance into community, does the work of encouraging them to stay.
They want to be accepted in good times and in bad.
They want to be part of a community that rejoices with them and that grieves with them.
Let’s ask ourselves this morning – when is the last time we invited folk to journey with us.
And I’m not talking about going out to street corners and dragging folk in.
But when was the last time we invited anyone to “come and see”
I have to confess that I often hate folk to find out what I do for a living before they have had a chance to get to know me.
It was much easier, as a hospital chaplain to disguise my calling.
I could simply say that I worked at the hospital.
But I don’t think our gospel is urging us today to go out of our way to meet folk to invite.
It’s not about strangers today.
The focus is on our community.
It’s about the folk we know.
The folk we see at the paper shop in the morning.
The folk we sit with on the bus into town.
The folk in our aquarobics or zumba class or wherever else we encounter our neighbours.
Its about inviting them to come and see.
And, hopefully, once they have seen, they will want to stay.
Because Jesus, the baby born in Bethlehem meets us here.
Because Jesus who was baptised by John meets us here.
Because Jesus who went to the cross meets us here.
Because Jesus who asked others to care for his mother meets us here.
Jesus, who lives in community with us, who rejoices with us and suffers with us, meets us on the journey.
What about us inviting our neighbour to “come and see”?