A Must See!

Lectionary Passage:  John 1: 43-46 (47-51)
The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.”Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter.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.”

At the risk of overusing movie metaphors, I saw an advertisement for a movie that touted that the critics had dubbed it “a must see.”  We all know what that means.  It means that someone is telling us that we need to try to find time to go see this movie, that perhaps our lives will be more enriched by the very act of taking the time to watch a movie.  It doesn’t mean that it’s inviting us to rewrite it or recast it or, for that matter, even critique it.  It doesn’t mean that there’s going to be a quiz at the end of it to make sure that we understood it in the way that the writer intended.  And it’s not even maintaining that we have to commit every line and every scene to permanent memory.  It’s inviting us to simply come, to put down what we’re doing and quit worrying about what we’re not doing, if only for a couple of hours, and come experience it.  It’s inviting us to come and see.  And the claim is that in some small way, our lives might be enriched by the act.

The Scripture that is used here is only part of our lectionary Gospel passage for this week.  But in this short segment, we meet Nathanael.  Most of us don’t know much about him.  After all, he was never part of the “Big 12” as far as we can tell.  But that usually didn’t matter much to the Gospel writer that we know as John.  In this version of the Good News of Jesus Christ, the notion of “disciple” is broader than Jesus’ inner crowd.  You see, Nathanael is a whole lot like us.  He wanted to understand who this Christ was and, yet, it didn’t make sense to him.  Shouldn’t there be something more?  Shouldn’t this be obvious?  How can anything this incredible come out of this little nothing town?  After all, in the first century, Nazareth wasn’t much.  There was no Roman settlement there which means, more than likely, that there was little work.  In fact, you wonder how a carpenter family even eeked out a living there.  It was probably just a couple of houses, a blip on a map.  It was nothing anyone would ever really want to see.  Yes, Nathanael was trying to make sense of this, to put it into a perspecive that made sense to him.  He was trying to take this Presence of God that was beyond anything that he could imagine fit into his notion of who God was.  But Philip’s response was simply, “Nathanael, just come and see.”  In other words, put down all of your preconceived ideas of who you think God should be and what you think God should look like and from where you think God should come, and just come and experience the Presence of God.

I don’t think that Philip was promising that Nathanael would see something tangible that would prove the existence of God.  After all, “seeing” is not limited to what we do with our eyes.  Philip is instead offering Nathanael the experience of God.  But in order to experience God, to “come and see”, one has to put everything else aside.  We cannot see God by listening to something else; we cannot see God when our hands are holding too tightly to what we think we need; and we cannot see God when our minds are so full of who we think God should be.  We’re not being called to figure God out or know everything there is about God.  You know what?  We’re not even called to be perfect renditions of what God envisions we should be.  I think God’s a lot more filled with grace than we give God credit for being.  And I don’t think we’re called to be “godly” people.  I hate that word.  Being “like God” is really God’s area!  Shhhhh!  Just come and see. 

Last week’s lectionary passages included the first few lines of Genesis.  We read of God’s spirit “sweeping over the face of the waters.”  In other words, God’s Presence was not just standing beside or standing over Creation.  God’s Presence washed over Creation, consumed it, made it part of the Divine.  We are no different.  Seeing God is about letting God’s Spirit sweep over you.  It is about experiencing God in every fabric of your being.  Joseph Wood Krutch said that “the rare moment is not the moment when there is something worth looking at, but the moment when we are capable of seeing.”  So, for all of us who are waiting for that one incredible moment when we finally see God, stop.  Just come and see.  It’s a “must see”!

What is right now so important, to what are you holding so tightly, and what are you doing now that means you cannot come and see?

The Days That Come After

In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth,the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.  Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness.God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day. (Genesis 1: 1-5)

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him.And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased. (Mark 1: 9-11)

I saw a movie trailer for a new movie called “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close,” which is apparently a story of a young boy’s life after his father is killed in the 9/11 terrorist attacks.  The trailer ends with these words written on the screen:  “This is not a story about 9/11; it is a story about the days that come after.”  I thought that was a very profound statement.  After all, do we sometimes focus so much on specific times and specific days that we lose what it means to live the rest of them?  In some way, living a life of faith means getting beyond endings.  Maybe it even means getting beyond beginnings.  It means doing something with all of them as part of the totality of life.

Yesterday we remembered the Baptism of Jesus and through that also remembered our own.  And our lectionary readings for the day included the first five verses of Genesis.  We all know that it is the beginning of the story of Creation, the beginning of life, the beginning of our own beginnings.  But, truth be told, it wasn’t the beginning of EVERYTHING.  After all, it says that before it all, the earth did exist.  It’s just that it was a formless, shapeless void.  Perhaps it was a chaotic mass of swirling, meaningless matter.  And then God Said.  Those are the most powerful words imaginable.  With one simple statement, God creates order, shape, life.   As God’s Spirit sweeps over the waters, meaningless matter becomes earth.  It is not perfect; it is not the way it will be; it is the way it should be.  It is good.

But we know it doesn’t stop there.  The days go one and God creates sky, and land, and seas.  Then, rather than directly creating (we sometimes gloss over this), God appoints the earth to start creating, to bring forth vegetation.  God calls Creation to create.  Then God creates suns, and moons, and animals, and us.  And then, as the pinnacle of Creation, God creates Sabbath rest, completion, a taste of eternity.  You see, it doesn’t stop at “in the beginning”. The days that come after are what makes Creation the way it was intended to be.

And in those days that Creation continued,  once again God’s Spirit moved over the waters.  And this time, the heavens were torn apart (not opened, but violently ripped apart in a way that they could never go back together in the same way), and God’s Spirit decended.  And once again, God spoke:  “You are my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”  Once again, God Said. It is good.

The days that come after are the days.  Beginnings and endings are only markers, turning points, crosswalks.  We are told to “remember our baptism and be thankful.”  Truth be told, I don’t remember mine.  I was just a baby.  But remembering is not about the beginning; it is about the days afterward.  So, as people of faith, what will we do with those days afterward?  Faith is not about baptism; it is about the days that come after.

What will you do with your days that come after?

Grace and Peace,


P.S.  As a programming note, I’m going to try to post a blog entry twice a week or so during this Season of Epiphany and then return to daily posts during our Lenten journey.  Thanks for staying with me!  Shelli

Beginning the Journey

Whew! It’s over–this season of running and shopping and baking and wrapping and giving and getting and dressing and partying and, oh yeah, worshipping the Christ who has come!  Now we can go back to normal.  Whew!  It’s over!  But what is the deal with all this light around?  Really?  So what was the point?  Truth be told,  as Christmas is the celebration of God’s coming, Epiphany is the manifestation of our going.  Epiphany is the beginning of the journey.  So, in other words, don’t get too comfortable!  There is work to do!

This season of Epiphany probably gets sort of glossed over.  I don’t know, maybe we’re tired.  Maybe we’ve eaten too much or run too much or just too much-ed.  Or maybe we just don’t understand what it’s about.  Epiphany is about making Jesus real, making the Christ child part of your life.  It is about doing beginning to travel down a road that you’ve never traveled before.

We know the story of the Wisemen, those learned ones who came to pay homage to the new king.  I suppose it was just a politically correct fulfillment of accepted etiquette.  There was a new king in town and they would greet him and give him the proper gifts and perhaps he would remember them in the future. (And in the meantime, perhaps the press would treat them kindly in this politically volatile season!) It was, after all, the proper and the smart thing to do. But instead, something happened.  Perhaps it was the star; perhaps it was the king; perhaps it was some sort of divine inspiration.  But, whatever it was, these wandering souls got it.  They saw a pathway that was different than the one that they were on, they saw where God was calling them to go.  And so they went home by another way.

Many of you have heard the Henry Van Dyke story of “The Other Wise Man”.  It is the story of a magi named Artaban, who waited impatiently for the star to shine so that he could travel with the other magi to see the new king. In fact, he had sold all of his possessions and bought three jewels—a sapphire, a ruby, and a pearl—to give to the new baby king.  And, then, he finally saw what he had been waiting for as the dark eastern sky was filled with light.  He hurried to join his friends so that he could meet the king.  But on the way, he came upon the form of a man lying on the side of the road, motionless and dying.  He knew that if he stayed to help the dying stranger, he would miss meeting the Messiah.  So, with a heavy heart, he stayed and cared for the man until his strength returned.  And in return, the man, a Jew, blessed his travel to Bethlehem, where he told him the king had actually been born.  So, left behind by the others, Artaban was forced to sell the sapphire, buy a train of camels, and provisions for the journey. 

But he arrived there three days after the others had departed.  He entered a cottage and found a young mother singing her baby to sleep.  And quietly, the woman told him that the new king and his family had fled secretly in the night.  Suddenly there was a noise outside as Herod’s soldiers came for the child.  Artaban went to the doorway and met the soldiers, telling them that he was alone in the house.  When the soldier did not believe him, he reached in his pocket and pulled out his ruby and gave it to him.  The soldiers went away.  The woman blessed him.

Artaban spent his life searching for the king.  In all this world of anguish, he found many to help, but no one to worship.  He fed the hungry, clothed the naked, healed the sick, and comforted those in despair.  Thirty-three years later, he came for the last time to Jerusalem and was met with a flurry of activity as the city prepared to crucify Jesus of Nazareth.  On hearing this, Artaban knew that this was what he was called to do.  The pearl, the last of his riches, could be offered as ransom for the king’s life.  It was then that a young slave girl was dragged through the streets and threw herself at Artaban’s feet.  Save me, she begged, they are going to kill me.  He sadly took the pearl from his pocket.  It gleamed with radiance as he handed it to the girl so that she could buy her life.  The earth began to shake around him; the sky darkened; and it was then that a heavy tile hit Artaban on the head.  As he lay there, the slave girl bent over him to try to hear what he was saying.  It was then that she heard a faint voice from above—“verily I say unto thee,  Inasmuch as thou hast done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, thou hast done it unto me.”  A calm radiance came over Artaban’s face and he breathed one last breath.  His journey had ended.  His treasures were accepted.  He had met the King many, many times.

Well, obviously, this is fiction.  There’s no basis to it.  It’s not Scriptural.  But the point is that we are the other wisemen.  We are the ones called to the work.  We are the ones that will meet the King.  Maybe we will see it to fruition; more than likely, we will not.  The point is that it’s not about the end-result.  It’s about the journey.  It’s about making the Christ-child real in your lives.  It’s about meeting the King. But more than that, it’s about getting it! It’s about making it real. It’s about letting the Light illumine your life.

God came and the Light shined into our midst.

We are called to follow, to walk in the way illumined by the Light.
Let us follow the Light as it guides us on our journey.
Let us follow the Light as it leads us to Life.
So, in this season of Epiphany, make the newborn Christ real in your life!  There is work to be done!

Grace and Peace,