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Come And See
Homily based on John 1:29-42
Rev. Thomas Hall

I recently watched a film starring James P. Sullivan. Sullivan stands eight feet tall (excluding horns) and dons blue fur with purple spots. Sully’s the last thing any child would want to see emerging from their closet at night. And how about Randall, a calculating, lizard-shaped monster with eight arms, eight legs, and a mouthful of sharp teeth. He’s ambitious, ruthless, and second best Kid Scarer at Monsters, Inc. So keep your eye on him. And speaking of eye, meet Mike Wazowski, a quick-witted, one-eyed, eye of a monster. Mike is tenacious in helping keep Sullivan in top scaring form. So when Sullivan mistakenly lets a little girl into the monster world, Mike is adamant about getting the child out of Monstropolis before she jeopardizes their way of life. Go ahead and see Monsters Inc. You’ll meet a host of imaginative characters and a hear some excellent dialogue. Two thumbs up! Terrific!

But while I have recommended Monsters Inc. to at least fifty people, I would be embarrassed to recommend Dumb and Dumber to a single soul. No character development. Nor can I recommend it for it's theological content, although you may hear some theological words. My wife refers to its content as Junior High locker room humor. So I've never recommended this movie which suggests new and imaginative ways to be obnoxious.

Ever notice how many times a day we seek recommendations or give them out? We listen to critics, listen to our friends, listen to our parents, listen to teachers; we listen to voices over the radio who swear by the care they received at some hospital or the relief they got from some pill. We read the endorsements on the back of books to see whether we should buy them. So, we are heavily influenced by recommendations.

Whether it's movies, books, restaurants, lawyers, doctors, stockbrokers, car dealers--we usually recommend what we have personally experienced and benefited from. We'll pipe up and say, "This is terrific--why don't you try it?" "You've just got to see this!" "You won't believe this!" "Or in the words of our Gospel, we might say, "Come and see!"

"Come and see!" Jesus tells two of John's disciples in our lesson this morning when they come sniffing around to see if Jesus truly is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. "Come and see," Jesus tells them. So they do. They come and see Jesus-follow him on his way home from work one afternoon, walk through the neighborhood to his home. They sit in his living room, have a quiet supper with him and then they make their decision. Andrew immediately excuses himself from the table. "Just a minute, Jesus-I’ll be right back." Forty-five minutes later, Andrew returns with his kid brother in tow. He has given his brother a very high recommendation of Jesus. "We have found the Messiah."

So the two pull up chairs and join the rest in Jesus’ dining room. "Let me guess," Jesus says. "You're Andrew's younger brother, right?" "Yeah, but I'm bigger 'n he is and a better fisherman, too."

"Yes, yes, I'm sure you are," Jesus says, "but you know something? You've been called Simon son of John around your old neighborhood, but I'm going to change that." "Whaddaya mean?"

"Well, Simon son of John," Jesus continues, "around me you're going to known as "Rocky" because you're going to grow strong and stable--if you come along with me."

So Andrew discovers some good bit of news and his first response is to reach out to share it with the closest person to him-his kid-brother. So Simon son of John becomes Petros, the Rock, or Rocky, and follows Jesus.

Well that's Tuesday afternoon. Wednesday comes and Jesus, now followed by Andrew and Rocky and one other of John's disciples, leave and walk over to a nearby fishing village. Bethsaida. Now the usual greeting we give passersby is "How's it going?" Or if you're like my friend, Clayton, you just smoosh it all together and say, "Sup?" Same difference--we don't expect a response. It's a dignified cave dweller grunt. But do you hear how Jesus greets the first fishermen he passes? The fisherman says, "Sup?" But guess what Jesus says? "Come and see!"

Something about this stranger's unusual greeting changes this fisherman's entire day; truth be known, it will change this fisherman's entire life.

"Come and See, Philip," Jesus hollers out. Philip reacts the same way as Andrew had. "Okay, but there's someone I need to talk to first. Be back in a few." Like Andrew, Philip high tails it to share this piece of good news with his closest friend-Nathaniel. Philip gives Nathaniel an extravagant recommendation of Jesus: "Hey, Nate, we've found it, I mean, ‘The One.’ We've found him, Nate, I've just bumped into the very one that we were discussing last night at Bible study when we were reading Moses in Deuteronomy, the part where he says that God will raise up an even greater prophet." He's called Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth."

Nathaniel can buy the name Jesus--it means savior, but he chokes on the location. "Nazareth?" Nathaniel shakes his head. "You mean the city of porno shops and gambling casinos and, and pawn shops? You've got to be kidding! How can God send us anyone from nasty Nazareth?"

You'll never guess what Philip says! "Come and see," he cries. Sure enough, Nathaniel is just curious enough to check this stranger out. But he gets only so far when the stranger starts checking Nathaniel out. Jesus speaks out loud enough for all his new followers to hear him. "See that guy coming toward us?" "Now there's what I call a real Israelite-why there's not a false bone in his body." Nathaniel drops his jaw, chagrined and caught off guard with this unaccustomed greeting.

"Ah, um, er, what's this? You've seen me all of ten seconds and you're trying to tell me that you know me inside out?"

"You're absolutely right, Nathaniel," Jesus says. "Absolutely right--about the ten seconds part. But I do know you. I was watching you three miles up the road tucked around that plateau under the juniper tree when you were eating your lunch. I remember what you were thinking when Philip interrupted your thoughts-and your lunch-to tell you about me. Truly Nathaniel, your heart is in the right place. " Nathaniel throws himself to the ground, mumbling "Teacher!" "Son of God!" "King of Israel!" So Nathaniel, too becomes a follower of Jesus and embarks on a lifetime adventure with Jesus. But it all began when a good friend threw a piece of good news his way.

What about us? What does this story tell us about our community of faith? Three words. "Come and see!" That's our message to the world, to the restaurants, banks, schools, neighborhoods, shelters, and radio stations. That's the message we need offer our neighbors and friends and family members. "Come and see!" Recently I sat with fifteen folks down in our church basement-newcomers to our church who wanted to know our congregation better-to describe just a bit of who we are as a congregation-our past, present and future. In a sense, we were saying to them, "Come and see!" But then it was their turn to say, "Come and see" to me. I heard story after story of how these folk had discovered God's support and love in their lives from having come to church. They didn't preach or cram religion down our throat, but in their quiet way the spoke loudly and clearly-"come and see, God is working in my life."

In an earlier decade in America, three young punks heard of a tent meeting being held in a nearby town in South Carolina. Curious as to what went on in a tent meeting, they decided to attend one of the meetings at a friend's invitation. Pulled into the grassy parking lot. Entered the huge tent where a revival meeting had already begun. The crowd was so huge that it seemed there was no room left for the three to sit. They turned to leave, but an usher spotted them and led the young men to three empty seats in the front. At the close of the service, when the old-time preacher gave an invitation to come and accept Christ, one of the three teens left the others and stood in front at the makeshift altar. That night a gangly kid-Bill got some good news. You know this kid quite well. Probably by the name Billy Graham.

Billy Graham--the most listened to man in the world, the most revered man in the world, the most known man in the world-is not the real hero of the story. No. The real hero is some unknown, unassuming usher who was quick to find a place for three punks to sit so that they could have the opportunity to hear the gospel.

Remember Andrew? We don't know much about him. He wasn't a rock or anything. Never was a preacher. No gospel of Andrew or anything. Never founded a university or wrote a book. Never healed anyone or performed some extraordinary miracle. But he brought a guy to Jesus who did do all of those things. He brought his brother, now better known as St. Peter, upon whose ministry the Church became strong.

Remember Philip? The guy who went trudging over the pasture to give his friend a high recommendation of Jesus? Well, this same Philip is the first person to ever bring gentiles to Jesus, to bring non-Jewish people to Jesus. Standing in the presence of these gentiles on that occasion, Jesus has a vision of the future. Suddenly sees beyond Nathanael, beyond the Jewish nation of Israel, and beyond these gentiles. Perhaps he saw people in India, Africa, Latvia, and the United States--all people who would be touched by Philip's "Come and See!" So on that occasion, Jesus raised his voice and boomed out those very famous words: "If I be lifted up, I will draw all men and women to me."

Who are our Nathanaels in our lives who are just waiting for the recommendation to "come and see?" Who are the Nathanaels among us today, looking for a seat, hoping for a smile and a kind word, in search of love and forgiveness, seeking a spiritual friend and Christian fellowship? Recommend movies, restaurants and books to all sorts of people, but also recommend the faith that is within us by sharing the love and the joy and the peace of Jesus Christ with our friends like Andrew and Philip shared with their friends. Who are the Nathanaels among us today? Seek them out, as Philip did, and invite them to "Come and see!" Amen.