Welcome to 2018!
This week we continue our journey through John 1 (3 weeks now!) and finalize the hand off from John the Baptist to Jesus, the Word-Made-Flesh, the Lamb of God who takest away the sin of the world (to use some phrases that have already been offered by the Gospel writer to describe Jesus). You can read the passage (John 1:35-51) here.
As usual the folks at Working Preacher have provided a commentary and a podcast to help get our sermonic juices flowing (I greatly enjoyed this week’s podcast). These verses are also included in the RCL but broken up a bit differently so you can find resources for verses 29-42 or resources for verses 43-51.
Some how when I was reading this passage last week I was reminded of the old shampoo commercial “So I told two friends, and they told two friends, and so on and so on…” (you can view it here) Strangely I suspect passing such information about products (or recipes or movies/TV shows) may come more naturally to many people, myself included, than passing on the Good News about this man named Jesus.
But that is what we see happening here. John tells two of his followers about Jesus. They go and engage Jesus. Andrew is impressed enough to go and tell Simon/Peter. Then Phillip is recruited by Jesus, and in turn is impressed enough to go find Nathanael. The word is spreading (and Jesus has yet to really start doing anything in this Gospel).
We see the early beginnings of what will become Christian evangelism in its healthiest and most helpful form.
People meet Jesus, they talk to him, they experience his presence and are so moved that they have to tell someone else. They are insistent that this Jesus has something to offer their followers or their brother or their friend. Even if that friend is openly skeptical — “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” asks Nathanael.
There are a couple of things that jump out at me in this evangelism story. First is the gentle nature. There is no browbeating. There are no “click bait” claims. There is simply a gentle invitation to “come and see”. Come and experience for yourself and then make up your own mind. I think this is a great thing, come and experience for yourself.
As I said, this is evangelism in its healthiest and most helpful form. No threats, no promise or guarantee of a wondrous event, just a simple invitation. [Interestingly, trying to find pictures tagged ‘evangelism’ tends to lead one to less helpful interpretations of the term]
Something else that jumps out is that while questions are asked in this passage, answers are not exactly answered. The answers are not going to be found in words but in experiences. “Jesus where do you abide? — Come and See” “Can anything good come from Nazareth? — Come and See”
Do we in the church need to be more prepared to sit with the questions while experience provides the answer? Are we able to accept that experience might provide an answer other than the one we want to give? (After all Nathanael might have turned out totally unimpressed with Jesus and gone off on his own instead.)
What is it that we see/meet/encounter/experience in Jesus that makes us want to say to our neighbour “you should check this out?”
What stops us from saying that?
What makes it easier to have the conversation?
For some of our traditions Evangelism has become almost a bad word, something that ‘they’ do and so we do not. But the sharing of Good News, the inviting others to come and have their own experience, has been a part of the Jesus-following-movement from the very beginning. Maybe we need to regain that practice of gentle invitation.
Where is the passage leading you this week? Share your thoughts!
Gord Waldie is an Ordained Minister in the United Church of Canada, currently in Northwestern Alberta. He shares his life with his partner and their four daughters and blogs (periodically) at Following Frodo or shares his “churchy-stuff” at Ministerial Mutterings
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