I was a seventh grader, the first year of Junior High school and excited to finally be part of the youth group at church, but missing children’s activities at church. One day mom called me to the corded kitchen phone, it was a lady from church, Mrs. Wells, who asked me if I would help with Vacation Bible School. I offered a tentative yes. In a few days an invitation arrived by mail inviting me to a planning meeting at her house. I remember riding my bike up to Lafayette Parkway and looking for her home. The other teachers were there and Mrs. Wells served coffee and dessert. She asked me to play Moses in a Vacation Bible School classroom skit. Mrs. Wells emphasized that I would be sharing God’s Word with the children. She made me feel like what I was doing mattered and that I was part of something bigger than myself. I memorized lesson two, single story teller option dramatic reading. Mrs. Wells introduced me to the class saying “children today we have a special visitor.” I walked in dressed as Moses, wearing a borrowed bathrobe, holding a homemade staff, and a cotton-ball beard.
I was very nervous but once I started speaking, something amazing happened- the children listened. They made eye contact and leaned in. I offered every line to the best of my seventh grade ability. When I finished they asked questions. It was surely more significant for me than them. You see, as I spoke, something in my soul soared. I knew I was doing something I was supposed to do. I felt right in the middle of the will of God. When the children went home, Mrs. Wells asked if I could memorize the single story teller dramatic reading part for Simon Peter, Friday’s lesson. I did, and truly I have been teaching or preaching in some ways ever since. In many ways, that VBS skit was my first sermon. I know Mrs. Wells uplifting invitation to share the story of the Red Sea crossing in a cottonball beard enhanced God’s calling on my life.
Mrs. Wells showed great hospitality. She asked, she sent an invitation, served cookies, she said “this work matters”. She asked me to come and serve, and while I served, I encountered Jesus.
When did you last invite someone to join you in serving God and neighbor?
When have you invited someone to “come and see what Jesus is doing in your church”?
When have you said, “Hey come and see what we do to feed, clothe and give shelter to Jesus down at the Henry Center? In caring for the least of these, we care for Jesus (Matthew 25). When have you said, “Come and help me greet people, usher or serve coffee, for in welcoming the stranger we welcome Jesus”? When have you said, “Come and see what we are doing with children and youth, or Motlow students, or at Dossett” for Jesus said ‘For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.’ ” (Matthew 18:20)
Are we an inviting people? Do we invite others to come and see what Jesus is doing in our midst? Are we committed enough to invite others to join us? And if not- why not?
Friends, I do not know about you but the headlines are wearing me out, and the talking heads are getting rich dividing us up against each other. And as I read of troubles in the Middle East, slow-downs in China, nukes in North Korea, and violence at home, I lament for this world is in a mess.
So I wonder do you believe our world is in a mess?
Now Christian friend a second question, do you believe Jesus offers solutions to our world’s problems?
I did not ask if church folks offer solutions, but if Jesus offers healing for us and this world that God so loves! Bonhoeffer warns “Christianity conceals within itself a germ that is hostile to the church.” Indeed, sometimes the church is part of the problem. Jesus is the solution for this, our messy sinful world. Who else offers salvation, faith, hope love, courage, community, forgiveness, justice, equality, morality and inner peace? I believe in education, belong to rotary and have coached youth sports, but none of those excellent organizations offer God’s faith, hope and love!
Our Baptismal vows ask: “Do you confess Jesus Christ as your Savior, put your whole trust in his grace, and promise to serve him as your Lord, in union with the Church which Christ has opened to people of all ages, nations, and races? Do you believe Jesus offers solutions to the malaise, toxicity, division, zealotry, hopelessness, meaninglessness, materialism, fear and worry that seem to grip our world?
Do you believe our world is in a mess?
Do you believe Jesus offers solutions to our problems?
When was the last time you invited someone to come and encounter Jesus?
How will the world change if we who know the love of God in Christ do not invite others to hear Jesus’ healing words? How can our culture come to know peace, forgiveness, eternal life, justice, redemption, transformation, love, joy, peace, patience, compassion, kindness, gentleness, goodness, and self-control if we fail to share the message? How will the world change if we fail to invite people to come and see what Jesus is doing?
I know that evangelism or witnessing is a scary word for many Methodists. Hear the good news: Do not be afraid- the best witness simply introduces people to Jesus and allows Jesus to do the rest. We are not calling people to a task or a location or a specific ideology, we call people to come and encounter a personal relationship with Jesus. We simply say, “Come and see.”
You are not called to win people to the Lord but to invite them to encounter the Risen Christ. Come and see, join us for a couple of weeks as we feed the hungry, sing in the choir, read the bible together, join a study, worship, greet folks, play an instrument, help a class, pass out snacks, or sort clothes at the Henry Center. Come and see -Who knows, Jesus might show up.
John’s first chapter offers a simple model of evangelism. Come and see what the scriptures say.
The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!” When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus.
John says, “look the Lamb of God.” John points people towards Jesus. That is the heart of evangelism. The best witness is simply directing people towards Jesus and letting JESUS do the rest. John loses two of his own disciples as he points Andrew and most likely John towards Jesus. My job as a preacher or teacher is not to win you over to my point of view; our task is to simply point people to Jesus. We will not all encounter Jesus in the same way. Some, on meeting Him, will want to get up and dance; others will fall to their knees in silent adoration. We will not agree about the best ways to baptize or take communion. Indeed unity of spirit amid differences of opinion proves the presence of the love of God. John Wesley said, “In matters that do not strike at the heart of Christianity, think and let think”!
Our baptismal vows ask, “According to the grace given to you, will you remain faithful members of Christ’s holy Church and serve as Christ’s representatives in the world?”
Do we point people towards Jesus?
Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?” They said, “Rabbi (which means teacher), where are you staying?” “Come,” he replied, “and you will see.”
Scholars tell us this exchange loses something, or sounds rougher in in translation. Jesus’ question might be better rendered as, “what is it that you are looking for or what do you seek?” The two potential disciples sort of fumble Jesus’ direct question. We may not be able to say what the deeper needs of our souls are. Many folks do not know why they have an emptiness or restlessness within their lives. A lot of your friends and neighbors do not know they have a spiritual problem. We may not know why we are stuck in grief or anger or with old wounds or why we can’t break out of destructive patterns. We may not even know we are seeking the wrong things, things that will not satisfy our souls. Many may be confused by the behavior of Christians and think Jesus is a political ideology, not a spiritual renewing force. Still, your simple invitation to come and see – to come see Jesus – may change their life as they encounter Jesus for themselves.
Do not sell how great the church is. We will disappoint you. Jesus will not. You might say, “I don’t have it all together, and my preacher may have cussed when the orthopedic resident tested the limits of his broken shoulder, and I am sure the people at my church are all sinners. However, I find that when I serve God and neighbor by welcoming people, singing, or sorting clothes, or going to Warmth in Winter, I sometimes experience Jesus. Hey come with me and maybe we will experience Jesus together.”
You do not need to fix others. You do not need to win them over to your side. The Text offers no evangelism talking points, tracts, arguments or rebuttals, just an invitation. Come and see is a not a huge sales pitch but a simple invitation.
How will the world find its way to Jesus if we do not say “come see”?
The apostle Paul was the greatest church planter, spreading the Christian message beyond its Jewish silo. As Paul addressed Christians living in the very pagan and materialistic culture of ancient Rome, he asks “How, then, can people call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? ….As it is written: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’ ” (Romans 10:9, 13-15) Friends, how can your lost, discouraged, fearful, doubting, confused, secular, hopeless, worried friends call on God if you never offer hope saying “come with me and hear some good news!”
So they went and saw where he was staying, and they spent that day with him. It was about four in the afternoon. Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus.
Let us remember, that it will take some time to meet Jesus. These disciples will spend a day, and then another day and then 3 years, before they begin to figure out who Jesus really is. It will not be until Jesus appears to them on Easter and Pentecost that the good news sinks into the deeper recesses of their souls. Come and see, come back and see, pick up some cast off clothing, sort it, do your daily devotion for a few months, pause for 7 minutes and silence, meet in a small group. Come and see!
The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which, when translated, is Peter).
Do you know someone who is disconnected from God? Do you work or live near some folks experiencing something less than the peace that surpasses all understanding, living with less than the perfect love that drives out all fear, or who do not know the divine self-acceptance, who live without rest for their weary souls, who do not have the love of God spread abroad in their hearts? Why not drop them a note, send them a text or call them and say, “hey I am going to church Sunday, come and join me.” Why not say, “hey I am helping at the Henry Center, come and see what Jesus doing there!” You dare not judge and say I’m better or I know all the answers or our church is perfect, simply invite “Come and see for yourself -sometimes Jesus shows up!”
The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.” Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida. Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked. “Come and see,” said Philip. (John 1:35-46)
I love this passage, because here Philip’s brand new believer optimism meets the doubts, cynicism and questions of a jaded Nathaniel. Don’t we all fear that rejection? Are you afraid someone might ask you a question you do not know the answer to? Or someone might put down your faith? Or someone might start a big religious argument?
Philip does not argue. He does not get defensive; he simply says “come and see.” Friends, you do not have to have the answers. The world does not need you to save it but to simply point people towards the Savior. The world does not need or long for theological argument-but to encounter Jesus. Will we say “come with me and see who this Jesus is”?
Our greatest contribution to The Kingdom of God may come from those we invite to come and see Jesus. We do not know a whole lot about Peter’s brother Andrew, but we do know that Andrew made the effort to find Peter and bring him to Jesus. Peter became the bedrock upon which Jesus erected the church.
This month, we ask you to invite someone to join you in a ministry you serve in. Do you work at the Clothes Closet or teach Sunday School or serve coffee? Personally ask someone to come and see what you do. Do you play in the praise band, the ensemble, or the handbells? Sing in the choir or in the HALOS? Invite someone to come and see! Do you volunteer at Dossett Chapel or Five Loaves or Partners for Healing? Bring someone with you to see what God is doing there. Who knows, you may help someone answer God’s call for their life! The card is blank…will you invite someone to come and see.
There is a card right there in your bulletin. Will you invite someone to hear the good news? Will you invite someone to join you- to come and see where you worship and serve God? Who knows, where two or more are gathered Jesus may show up. Your humble invitation may save a friend from an unseen hopelessness, a waning faith, or a lack of love. Who knows God might even use you to help save the world! Amen.