By The Rev. A. Wayne Schwab
[Trinity Church, Plattsburgh, NY; 1/19/14 Epiphany 2, 2014.]
My daughter in Michigan keeps us up on good movies. She does it the right way. She tells us about good ones and sends us them to us on DVD. It’s her way to invite us to explore something that attracts our interest. She reflects in a tiny way the “come and see” of John’s Gospel.
Jesus is no authoritarian. He wants us to choose to follow freely – when we are ready.
Listen to those words that describe such a powerful person coming.
. . . John had said “I am not worthy to tie his shoe” and he is “The one who takes away the sin of the world! . . . “Here is the Lamb of God” . . .
No wonder two of John’s disciples follow Jesus calling him “Rabbi” or teacher..
Then in what an undemanding way does Jesus say to them, “What are you looking for?” They want to see where he lives. Disciples live where their teacher lives. Jesus answers warmly. “Come and see.”
When they come, they will see a lot! They have a whole lot to learn. Jesus does not demand full faith. “Come and grow from faith to faith.”
That’s the word from Jesus, from God via Jesus that I was so glad to hear as I grew up. Come and see – commit when you are ready. So for all of us. God waits patiently for us to come to faith – at our own pace. Jesus, God, the Spirit – no dictators here demanding immediate faith and allegiance.
If you are growing toward faith, bit by bit, give yourself to the process. Faith will come. Just keep following Jesus – or trying to follow Jesus. No one is perfect.
They and we come to see Good News – bit by bit – day by day.
What is that Good New?
I believe it needs a fresh rewording. It is based on John 20:21-22. The risen Lord appears to the eleven saying Some call it the real Great Commission:
“Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’”
Preach, teach, and heal both private and public life – just as he was sent so are we. A heavy word until” “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
Our problem is that we know what God wants, but we can’t get it right all the time. Here’s the good news: What God wants us to do, God helps us to do. The Holy Spirit – the power to love and to be just – is at work in us, right now!
Two stories of people who needed help to do it right and found God helping them to do it. They had answered Jesus invitation. They had come to see – they had come to God’s people, the church, to see what help was available for living lovingly and justly.
Jeff assembles automatic door closers for subway cars. He finds one of the parts defective over and over. He imagines some low-income single parent unable to get a day’s pay because her subway train was delayed an hour and she had no money for cab fare. Jeff says, “That’s not right.” He risks his job to get it right. He blows the whistle and complains to the engineers. They say nothing can be done. He persists. In time they give in and rewrite the specifications for the defective part. And those engineers now consult with Jeff on their problems.
Jeff told this story to a mission finding group. Someone asked, “Where did you get the guts to blow that whistle.” Jeff gave his typical answer. He smiled and pointed above – to God. The Spirit had helped him to do it. What God wanted Jeff to do, God helped Jeff to do!
My other story is about Maria, a second generation immigrant from Mexico, and her husband, Georg, of Romanian descent. My story is about them and their children. They had just moved into and all Anglo community. Ema, their oldest and a seventh grader, was ridiculed on the school bus so much she could not make friends. She told her parents who affirmed that it was, indeed, wrong. The parents had a choice: to be angry and go to the police or to choose to educate the school to see that Ema was no different and they were no different from anyone else. We were all part of God’s creation and all were equally loved by God. When we spoke to the principal, he appreciated their approach. He kept his cool and talked with the teachers. The teachers kept their cool and talked with students about the need for tolerance. All talked with the PTA at the special request of the parents. Ema began to make friends. The incidents continued through the school year, but significantly down in number. Her young brother encountered still fewer incidents and her younger sister encountered still less. The Maria and Georg reflected: “We saw God moving in the school in the improvement in the attitudes and reactions of all. Ema saw you don’t have to resolve every incident with a strong-arm. You can pray through it and let God’s love work through the situation.”
That family had “come to see” how God would help. The parents were given the power to choose education over retaliation. And the Spirit was at work in the school as the principal and teachers chose patient education over punishing the bus riders. God, the Spirit, was helping them to do what God wanted done.
“Come and see”
Grow in faith.
Enjoy the good news that what God wants us to do, God helps us to do.
[The Rev. A. Wayne Schwab; Coordinator of Member Mission Network, Inc., President of Member Mission Press, Chair of the Spiritual Formation Committee for the United Church of Hinesburg, VT, Author, Speaker.and Workshop Leader.]