Sunday, January 14, 2018

I see you!

John 1:43-51

Did you notice how the Gospel reading begins? It says, “The next day.” Don’t you wonder what happened the day before? … What happened the day before is: John the Baptist pointed to Jesus and identified him as the Lamb of God. Jesus then recruited Andrew and his brother Simon Peter. Jesus said to them, “Come and see what I am doing.” And they spent the afternoon with him.

In today’s reading, Jesus recruits more followers: Philip and Nathanael. Philip is easy; he is excited about Jesus. Nathanael is another story altogether. “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” It seems there is some skepticism in his voice. If this happened today, we might suggest Nathanael was from Missouri, the Show Me State. “Yeah, right,” he says.  

Rather than being offended by this remark, Jesus chuckles and says, “Here is someone who speaks his mind!” Now, Nathanael is curious. “You’ve never met me before. How do you know anything about me?” And Jesus tells him. “I saw you over there, sitting under the fig tree.”

Jesus has Nathanael’s full attention and Nathanael confesses, “You are the Son of God. You are the one we have all been waiting for.” Jesus continues, “Follow me and you will see some amazing things. Come and see.”

“I saw you.” “Come and see.” Aren’t these the words we want to hear from God? Don’t we all want to know that God sees us and knows what is happening in our lives? And don’t we want to know that if we follow Jesus, we will see amazing things happen? 

I’ve been following Jesus for a long time, and I haven’t seen thousands of people fed with a few loaves of bread. I haven’t seen instantaneous healings. I haven’t seen anyone walk on water or make a storm stop. If we are looking for these miraculous things to happen, we will probably be waiting a long time.

But, if we pay attention, we can see little miraculous things happening all the time. It involves opening our eyes and seeing what is to be seen. Let’s watch this video, and talk when it is over.

What kind of miracles did the young man see? …
He feeds a dog, helps a poor girl go to school, helps a woman with her heavy cart, gives bananas to a neighbor, he gives up his seat on the and waters a plant. And he spends time in prayer.

He tells them with his actions, “I see you.” The merchants who see what he is doing are as skeptical as Nathanael, shaking their heads at this “foolishness”. But the young man persists, and soon everyone is smiling and happier.

The young man sees the needs of people in his community and does what he can to make their lives better. At Our Saviour Lutheran Church, we work hard to see those in need. The food pantry, the various collections of stuff and money, the intentional effort to send our youth to camp, the lively conversations over small and large topics, the serious effort to make everyone who walks in the door welcome – these are all ways in which we – the people of Our Saviour – see people.

We learned to see this way from Jesus, who spent his ministry years seeing people. He saw Andrew and Simon and Philip and Nathanael and called them to follow him. He saw hungry people and fed them. He saw the fear of the disciples and stilled the storm. He saw the wrong-headedness of the Jewish leaders and challenged them to change. He saw the needs of people weighed down by the pain of sin and forgave them. He saw the belief that death was the end of our relationship with God and changed everything by being raised from the tomb.

While we wish that Jesus would speak one word and heal our illnesses, and end war, poverty, and climate change, he is not going to do that. Instead, he leads us to follow him so we can be his hands and feet and arms and mouth in our world. He leads us to see what needs to be seen, so together we can change the world.

Jesus sends prophets to help us see when we grow too used to the way things are. In recent decades, Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Oscar Romero, Cesar Chavez, and Rosa Parks, Princess Diana, and a bunch of brave women in the #metoo movement, have all taught us to see the various needs of people of our time and place. Jesus sees us, and calls us to follow him in seeing through his eyes those people and situations that are in need of healing.

… Jesus is present with us in our worst times. Through Jesus’ Spirit, we know that Jesus sees us, really sees us. Jesus sees when we are happy, when we are in love, when we are being bullied or ridiculed, when we are ill, when we are on our knees in pain.

Today, and for the last few weeks, Spirit has been with us as we have grieved Paul’s death. We still expect to see him here among us, and are stunned to remember once again that he is gone.

Before that, Jesus saw Paul’s pain that he so carefully hid. I believe that as Paul transferred from this world to the next, he saw Jesus reach out to welcome him and comfort him. In Jesus’ arms, Paul could find the healing he needed.

Know, today, that Jesus sees us. He sees our pain and confusion and grief. He sees the empty chair where Paul used to sit. He wants to wipe away our tears and tell us that he loves us, and that everything is going to be different, but it will be ok.

… The psalmist assures us that there is nowhere we can go that God doesn’t go with us. God knows us and has known us, sees us and has seen us, from before we were born until after we die. God will continue to know us and see us no matter what happens, no matter where we go, no matter what we do.

In response, let’s try to see the people around us through God’s eyes, noticing those little things Jesus would have us see. Let’s see the hungry, sad, “other” person. Let’s follow the model expressed by the young man in the video, who saw lots of little things and worked to make a difference in the lives he encountered each day. Let’s be as excited as Philip to tell others to “Come and see” Jesus, the Son of God, by sharing with them that Jesus sees them, too. Amen