Friday, January 20, 2017

Notice, Share and Invite

This is the sermon I preached last Sunday, 1/15 at St. Timothy and St. Mark Lutheran Churches. The text was John 1:29-42.

 Image result for John 1:29-42
Don’t we share things that excite us with friends and family? Did you see that new movie that’s out? It was so exciting. You have to go see it! Or what about that new restaurant that’s opened up? The food is great. The service is wonderful. And the atmosphere is so relaxing. To top it all off, the prices are very reasonable. I’m telling all my friends about it.

Today’s gospel reading is a whole series of people telling each other that they have seen Jesus, who they think he is and inviting those people to come with them to see for themselves. That is the way God grew the church then and we are given the basic things we need to know to allow God to grow the church today. It’s called evangelism, which is simply noticing what God is doing in our lives, sharing that with others and inviting them to come and see for themselves. A very simple pattern emerges in the encounters folks have in today’s gospel: notice, share, invite. 

John the Baptist was the first person to do the noticing in today’s reading. He noticed Jesus as the Lamb of God—who he was and what he would do. I love the plain-spokenness of John the Baptist. To make things crystal clear to his own followers, he said, “This is he of whom I said...” (v. 30). In other words, “There’s the guy I’ve been telling you about!

John also noticed the Holy Spirit remaining on Jesus (vv. 32-33). In John’s gospel, the word “remain,” is an important one. We can think of this word as “staying power.” The Holy Spirit has “staying power” with Jesus.

Jesus also noticed things. He noticed that some of John the Baptist’s disciples were following him and asked them what they’re looking for. This probing question went far beyond the bounds of “What do you want?” Jesus was giving the disciples of John the opportunity to search their own hearts and express what they were seeking. When Jesus initiated this conversation, he “turned” to John the Baptist’s followers. In John’s gospel, this is a sign of deepening relationship.

Aren’t you puzzled by the disciples’ response? They want to know where Jesus is staying. Doesn’t that seem odd? Were they just so nervous that they blurted out the first thing that came to mind? But given the time of the day, 4:00 in the afternoon and the fact that the Sabbath would begin at sundown, would mean they might have to find lodging until the Sabbath ended. Their question makes perfect sense.

In John’s gospel, the word “stay” or “remain” is used to assert that the relationship of God, Jesus and the Spirit with one another and believers is permanent, not sporadic.

It is always God who initiates contact with humanity. Jesus initiated the contact with John the Baptist’s followers (v. 38). It is Jesus who first spoke to Simon Peter (v. 42). We must never lose sight of the fact that it is God and his grace that seeks us out and evokes our response to him.

The second concept in today’s gospel is that of sharing. John the Baptist was not an insecure man. It didn’t bother him that by pointing out Jesus, his disciple’s would become Jesus’ disciples. He did not keep his knowledge to himself. 

Later in the reading, we find out that one of John the Baptist’s followers was Andrew. Andrew shared the good news with his brother Peter. We do well sharing about things that excite us, like a new grandchild, a new home, but sharing about a new life in Christ, our faith, that’s quite another thing. 

The third concept in today’s gospel is that of inviting. Jesus’ response to John’s followers was simple, “Come and see” (v. 39). It was late afternoon and so they remained there with Jesus (v. 39). This would allow the disciples to find the answer, to see for themselves. They stay with Jesus and Jesus’ story becomes their way of life. Inviting someone into the life of faith is the hardest step of all. What if this person tells us to go away and mind our own business? But think about it. We invite people to things all the time. Whether it’s a concert, play, football or basketball game, or inviting someone over for dinner or a Super Bowl party. We’re really quite good at inviting people to come to things...just not church. And of course, we invite people to things we like, the things we’ve enjoyed and think others might enjoy as well. What do we personally value most about our community of faith here at St. Timothy/St. Mark?

Hopefully we’re coming not because we have to, but because there are elements of our life together that we enjoy. Then all we have to do is think about whom else might enjoy a particular event or activity and invite them. There are always the potlucks, spaghetti dinners, chicken dinners. After all, we are a church that likes to eat—and knows how to cook. Maybe this isn’t as hard as it seems after all.

What will people see when they have been invited here to St. Timothy/St. Mark? Will they see God’s love? Will the see joyful worship? Will they see people that care? Will they see us pointing to ourselves and what we have done or will they see us pointing to Jesus? Will they see us as sinners who have confessed and received new life in Jesus? I know what newcomers will see. This is a wonderful, loving, Spirit filled congregation.

We may not be as big or as well-known as some other churches, but that does not mean we can’t share God’s love and invite people to join us. Just think about Peter’s brother Andrew. You don’t hear that much about him in scripture on his own. However, he was one of the two disciples who heard what John the Baptist said about Jesus and followed him (v. 40). Each time we hear about Andrew, he is bringing someone to Jesus! Andrew is never mentioned just by himself. 

Notice, share and invite is a never ending cycle of discipleship. John shared the wonder of what he saw and Jesus has his first disciples, who carry the message to the ends of the earth. Jesus invites them to come and see and they embark on a completely new adventure with God. Andrew tells his brother that he should really meet this Jesus, which results in Peter coming to faith and becoming the rock upon which Jesus builds his church. 

God delights in taking little things and doing something wonderful through them. In this New Year, 2017, our identities are bound to be shaped by someone and something. Shouldn't we allow our lives to be shaped by God's Son, the Messiah who is here in our midst? Jesus is a home, a place to belong and a whole way of life. Let's notice him, share this good news with others and invite them into a new life of God's grace in Christ. 

Alyce McKenzie,
Brian Stoffregen,

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