One of the most profound narratives about how people find themselves as part of a faith community is painted so beautifully in the Gospel according to John. This gospel that does not begin with Jesus born in a stable in Bethlehem (Lk) does not begin with a visitation by wise-men to Bethlehem the birthplace of King David (Mt); begins rather with mist and fog covering a dark stage and these words coming out of the darkness, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Then a few moments later: “The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.” This word made flesh dwelt among us, but how to follow this Word, this Jesus, was not, as my father would say, “as clear as the nose on your face.”
In John the story is told this way. One day Jesus is with John the Baptizer and John’s students are standing around him. As Jesus walks down the road, they find themselves following along behind him—drawn, but not sure what to do about it. Jesus turns to them and says, “What are you looking for?” What are you seeking in your life? The hangers on trailing behind him perhaps don’t know exactly what they are looking for–a familiar story for all of us. So these hangers on say, “Where do you live?” Can we come near? Jesus looks at them and says, “Come and see.”
Amazing. He doesn’t give them any proofs or arguments from scripture about who he is. Nor does he threaten them with hell and damnation if they don’t fall into line. No. He just says, “Come and see.” Come along and then you will see. Something will open up. Make sense. Come together. In God’s own good time, you will see.
Nathanael in the lectionary text for this week encounters the call to follow Jesus in the same way (John 1:45-46). Perhaps we still do. Is the call still the same? Come and see. Gather back with one of our faith communities around the word and sacrament. What will happen? I don’t know. We don’t know. You don’t know. Come and see. Follow this Jesus this week in giving to a charity, to a stranger in need. What will happen? I don’t know. We don’t know. You don’t know. Come and see.
God only knows what exactly will come out of the mist. I wonder what you will see.
Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” John 1:45-46
Image from He Qi, 2001