Second Sunday after the Epiphany – John 1:43-51
Sermon by Rev. Dr. Rolf Svanoe
Many people have been disturbed by the racist comments attributed to our President a few days ago. I want to share with you a statement issued by our presiding bishop, Elizabeth Eaton. She writes:
I am very disappointed and disturbed by the remarks that President Donald Trump is reported to have said yesterday – and confirmed by others who were present – in the context of a discussion about immigration. Regardless of the context, references of that kind have no place in our civil discourse and, if true, reflect racist attitudes unbecoming any of us, but especially a president of the United States. Instead, we should be fostering a world where each of us sees every person – regardless of race, origin, ethnicity, gender or economic status – in the image of God and, therefore, worthy of dignity and respect. Our church has relationships and partnerships with Christians and others on six continents. These are our sisters and brothers. We strive to accompany them and they us, across boundaries and cognizant of our diversity, yet all seeking the common good. In working for a healed, reconciled and just world, we all should faithfully strive to participate in God’s reconciling work, which prioritizes disenfranchised, vulnerable and displaced people in our communities and the world, bearing witness – each of us – to the love of God in Jesus Christ.
“We have before us the glorious opportunity to inject a new dimension of love into the veins of our civilization” —Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
God’s peace, Elizabeth A. Eaton, ELCA Presiding Bishop
I love that quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Monday is the day we remember his legacy. We are mindful that we still have a lot of work to do. This is our calling as Christians, given us at our baptism. We are joined in God’s mission for the life of the world, striving for peace and justice. We are called to witness to God’s love for all people. And when racism appears among us, we need to loudly and boldly say “no!” This is not God’s will or desire for humanity. God so loved the world- all of it, people of every race and nation.
Now that is news that we can get excited about. There is excitement in our Gospel reading for today. At the beginning of his ministry, Jesus called disciples to follow him. They were so excited about Jesus that they had to share the news with their friends. Philip went and found his friend, 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…Come and see!” Do you hear the excitement in his voice?
These people in our gospel were excited because they discovered something they had long hoped for, the one they were waiting for- the Messiah. Do you remember when Brett Favre came to Minnesota to play for the Vikings? He was the messiah, the savior, the one who could lead the Vikings to their first Superbowl victory. Of course, we all know what happened. Favre wasn’t the Messiah. But until that last game, he was treated like he was. That’s the kind of excitement the disciples had for Jesus. He was the long-awaited hero come to save them.
The Epiphany season gets its name from the Epiphany star that showed the wisemen the way to Jesus. The Epiphany season is all about discovering who Jesus is. Epiphany means discovering, revealing, making known. Epiphany is the season when we hear again the stories of those first encounters with Jesus, those first exciting miracles. Last Sunday we heard the story of Jesus’ baptism and the voice from heaven that declared him to be God’s beloved Son. And this week we see the disciples’ excitement as they get to know Jesus. And by reading these stories again today, we come to know who Jesus is for us. Epiphanies happen again today. The light bulbs suddenly turn on. You have this “Aha” moment, this sudden inspiration that Jesus is more than just someone who lived 2,000 years ago. He is the risen and living Christ who searches us out and loves us into a deeper relationship with him.
Have you ever experienced something so amazing that you just had to share it with someone? When you get excited about something it’s natural to want to share it with others. We can’t help ourselves. When you see a good movie, you ask someone if they’ve seen it and tell them how wonderful it was. If you discover a new diet or an exercise plan that helps you feel better, you feel like sharing it with others. If there’s a store or a website that you love, you want others to know about it. In the advertising industry, this is called “word of mouth advertising.” It’s spontaneous, one satisfied customer telling others. This happens in churches too. Members who love their church tell their friends and neighbors. Now pastors are expected to invite others to church. It’s their job. But when members of a church tell their friends about it and invite them, that is much more powerful. It’s like the old joke- Pastors are paid to be good, but laypeople are good for nothing.
Just like the Epiphany star, we get to point others to Jesus. We get to share the good news of God’s love and grace in Jesus Christ. This is a place where sins are forgiven and unconditional love is celebrated every week. That’s the best news in the world, something that must be shared with everyone, no matter what race or country.
I think that most of us who are Lutherans are uncomfortable talking about our faith. We have visions in our minds of the Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses going door to door and we know we don’t want to do that. But most of us have never been taught to give a simple natural witness to our faith. We don’t need to convince or argue. Like Philip we just need to invite people to “come and see.”
Let me share some statistics with you. 94% of Americans say that they believe in God. 53% of the population is unchurched. Half of them say they think about going to church sometime at least once a week. That means that if you invite someone who is unchurched to go to church you have a 50-50 chance they will accept. Those who have studied why people join a congregation say that the vast majority join because a friend or relative has invited them. The question is: why don’t more of us do more inviting. All we have to do is to tell our story. We don’t have to convince or convert people. That’s the job of the Holy Spirit. All we have to do is to tell the story and make the invitation. God loves you. Come and see.
God’s love in Jesus is something that we can truly get excited about. That good news needs to be shared. Let’s invite others to “Come and See”.