Let me ask you a question: How did you get here this morning?
Maybe you arrived like I did and walked from your home to the sanctuary. Maybe you drove by yourself or with a family member. Maybe you got a ride from someone as they were coming to worship. Maybe, just maybe, you rode the bus to get here.
When we hear that question posed to us, our minds immediately turn towards responding with a mode of transportation and some curiosity as to why I might ask.
So, let me ask that question to you again: How did you get here this morning?
I’m not thinking about modes of transportation of feet, cars, or buses. I’m thinking about what motivated us to get out of bed, get dressed on a Sunday morning, and be part of a worshiping community. How did you get here to this place, in this moment, and with this desire to hear what God is saying into our lives?
Maybe, then, we should ask a different question. Why are you here? Presumably at some point in your life someone introduced you to the idea of a loving God who desired to be in deep relationship and connection with us. Maybe it was a family member – a parent, a sibling, a grandparent – who sewed the seed of that connection in our lives. Maybe it was a pastor or Sunday School teacher. Maybe it was someone you barely knew, but who reached out to you to share God’s love with you.
I believe each of us are here this morning because we desire to be more than just members of a community for Christians. I believe we are here because of something much deeper. I believe we are here, because we have a desire to “come and see” what God is doing in our lives, our community, and around the world. We have come to experience God’s love and to share God’s love with others.
This desire was felt by some of the earliest followers of Jesus. His earliest disciples were initially followers of John the Baptist. Our scripture reading from John 1:35-42 is part of a four-day stretch of stories that introduce Jesus to the readers of John’s gospel and the world. It began with two days of John calling out the religious elite and recognizing Jesus as the long-awaited “lamb of God.” In John’s gospel, the phrase “lamb of God” references part of the suffering servant nature of Jesus in how he will give his life for all people.
On the third day, John is with some of his disciples as Jesus approaches. This all takes place along the area of the Jordan River where John had centralized his ministry. He makes it clear to his disciples – students of his teaching – that John was not the one they were looking for. The one they were looking for – the lamb of God – was Jesus. This immediately gets their curiosity up. They leave John, both in terms of physically and his teaching leadership, to go towards Jesus.
Ever wonder why they could just pick up and go? They had been following John for some time, now, and likely assumed that he was the Messiah, or, at the least, someone worth following. They had spent time under John’s leadership and guidance and, now, they just leave to go to Jesus. All they know of Jesus, at this point, is John’s words about him and his baptism. It is early in Jesus’ ministry. No one has been healed. There has been no significant moment of teaching. He has not yet challenged the religious leaders. He is no where near the cross. Yet, they go. Why? Because they desired a deeper connection and relationship with God.
We all have that deep hunger. That internal desire for a deep connection and relationship with God. We have that desire, yet it is easy for us to “play church” and miss out on our deep spiritual longing for a deeper relationship with God. We’ll go through the motions of worship, complain if something isn’t the way we like, and go home without ever experiencing anything more than an hour sitting on a hard pew. It’s easy to miss what really brought us here of a desire for a renewed life in God’s love and to grow deeper in love with Christ. At the same time, it is easy to play church and assume that just showing up means we are a disciple, growing in faith, and yet our lives reflect nothing of what we see in Christ. Why? Because we don’t pay close enough attention to the invitation Christ offers.
Perhaps we need to recognize what we are desiring as we gather for worship, engage in discipleship studies, and serve our community. We do that when we hear Jesus’ question to John’s followers posed to each of us: What do you want? He asks them that as he hears them following him. Jesus invites them to search their heart and consider what it is they deeply desire.
When was the last time you heard Jesus ask you that question? When was the last time you really reflected upon where you needed to experience God? The question Jesus poses to the early disciples, and by extension to us, is one that can get lost in the noise of life. To miss it is to miss what Jesus is truly leading us towards in a deeper life in the Father’s love. To miss it is to miss what this life is all about.
The disciples respond by asking Jesus where he was staying, Jesus invites them to come and see. He wasn’t responding with an invitation to come and stay with him for the night. He invited them on a journey of spiritual discovery and renewal. A journey that leads those who would hear the invitation to abide in Christ as Jesus abides in the Father.
That is what come and see is all about. It is about responding to an invitation of discipleship where we seek to be completely consumed by the life of Christ. To come and see is not simply about believing in Jesus and desiring to be saved. To come and see is about desiring God’s love in our lives to where we become a new creation who, thus, seek to live in a powerful reoriented way. The journey Jesus invites those who would come and walk the path of faith with him is not one where we can experience the life of grace on our own terms, to keep our own ideas, and to have our own way. It is one where we are completely consumed by Christ working in us through us to transform our lives and the world around us.
This life is about is an invitation to experience Christlikeness. This is when our life is a living reflection of Christ. A Christlike life is no longer consumed by the things of this world. Instead, a Christlike life is consumed by Christ in all things. A Christlike life no longer strives for the things of the self, but seeks God’s peace, hope, grace, and love and desires to share that life with all people. A Christlike life is not just about saying we love Christ, but it is about the love of God pouring into our lives and shaping everything about us.
Those early disciples – John and Andrew – responded to the invitation and continued with Jesus. They didn’t just continue, but they recognized in Jesus what they had been searching for all the time. As they accepted the invitation into the deeper life, they immediately realize that the invitation was not just for them.
Andrew knew he could not keep this to himself. He had to invite others to experience this life for themselves. The first person he tells is his brother, Simon. Simon would later be known as Peter, which is a name that means “Rock.” Simon, along with Andrew, Philip, and John, was an early disciple of John, but Andrew wanted him to see what he has experienced in Jesus. He tells him that Jesus is the Messiah and he needs to come and see for himself.
We know the rest of the story. Simon is named Peter by Jesus and he becomes the spokesperson for the disciples. He often makes bold declarations about Jesus and, at the same time, shows his struggles like the others. After the resurrection and ascension, he becomes the primary leader of the early church and a major force in sharing the good news of Jesus Christ. It was a story that began when his brother, Andrew, invited him to come and see what Jesus was about to do.
Disciples do not just accept the invitation to come and see for themselves. They actively engage with and invite people to come and see what God is doing. They are creating space, making pathways, and building relationships with people to where their lives, words, and actions become a living witness to Christ in the lives of others that encourages people to come and see what God is doing. Disciples are not made by church programs or nice marketing slogans. They are made when disciples of Jesus Christ extend the invitation to come to see to people who need to know God loves them and so do we.
Disciples of Jesus invite others into the journey of faith. Are we doing that? Are we inviting others to “come and see” that which we have experienced? There is nothing more important than to sharing our love of Christ with others, so are we doing that? Statistics tell us we are not. The average United Methodist only invites two people their entire lives, and yet complains how worship attendance, discipleship participation, and our overall relevance is down. Statistics also tells us that, on a given Sunday, somewhere between 60-70 percent of Huntington is not engaged in a faith community. There is a deep opportunity to invite others to come and see what God is doing, so are we doing that? Are we willing to extend to all people the very invitation that has been extended to us, to come and see what God is doing?
We are uncomfortable when pushed to extended the invitation to others. We’ve been convinced, wrongly, that we cannot tell others about what Jesus is doing in our lives. That it is impolite to talk about our faith. Perhaps, too, we’ve bought into the notion that this is what we pay the pastor to do. The pastor is to do the ministry and mission of the church and we are to simply watch and participate in it when we have the time. Those false ideas have penetrated the church for decades and has led to a massive worship decline in the United States that we are experiencing today. None of those ideas are found within Scripture, but they are found within ourselves and come as an avoidance to engage in the very life of discipleship making that Christ invites us all into. To participate, for ourselves, in the deeper life of Christ and, as well, to extend that invitation to others.
Jesus invites us, today, to experience a deeper life. A life of complete dedication and abandonment of the self and into a life of his love and grace. There is nothing in this world that can compete with the joy and love of Christ. Not our politics. Not our sports. Not our careers. Nothing. If we want to find what we are looking for, then we will find it in Christ’s invitation to come and see. But, let us not just keep that invitation for ourselves. If we have received the invitation, it is not for us alone. It is for us to share with our neighbors, with the poor, with the forgotten, with the underprivileged, with the rich, and with all the people of Huntington who need to know the love of God.
So, the invitation has been extended. How will you come and see what God is doing in your life? Who will you invite to come and see what God is doing as well?