Sermon Sep 29, 2017

The Feast of Saint Michael and All Angels

Preacher: The Rev. Adrienne R. Hymes
Gospel: John 1:47-51

In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

“Jesus, where did you get to know me?”

In September 2015, I was immersed in a 14-day pilgrimage throughout the Holy Land. I walked in the footsteps of Jesus. I saw places where he called his first disciples; taught and healed people; touched the site of his birth; and placed my hand in the hole at the site of Jesus’ crucifixion on Calvary. It was an experience that demanded the full attention of my human senses of sight, hearing, touch and smell.
I didn’t go to the Holy Land with the mindset, “Unless I see this and Unless I touch that…I will not believe.” No, “It is BECAUSE I have seen and touched those holy sites,” that my existing belief in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, AND my existing relationship with him, deepened.

In our Gospel message today, Jesus is continuing to call his first disciples. Jesus is in Galilee and he found Philip. As I emphasized last week, Jesus used his signature Call-to-Action Statement—FOLLOW ME—in the calling of Philip, and Philip, immediately followed him. Now, Nathanael already had the advantage of hearing about Jesus, the Messiah—the anointed one—through his trusted friend, the newly-called disciple Philip. Nathanael was hesitant about meeting Jesus, but Philip used his own call-to-action statement and said, “COME AND SEE!”

This “calling” of Nathanael is different. Jesus doesn’t greet him with his signature command “Follow Me.” Philip is used as the instrument through which this calling of another disciple takes place. This is what we as baptized Christians are called to do; to proclaim the truth of God in Christ and to invite people to “Come and See” so that they, too, may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God. You and I are disciples and we are evangelists. Philip, in this narrative models both for us.
Jesus notices Nathanael approaching and speaks to him as if they were already acquaintances. We don’t know Nathanael’s body language in response to Jesus’ greeting. He says to Jesus, “Where did you get to know me?” And, Jesus responds that “I saw you under the fig tree, before Philip called you.” Now, how would that have been possible? For Nathanael, no other physical being was present under that fig tree and how could this person standing in front of him possibly have seen him.

This statement is very intentionally-placed by the author of this Gospel. God is omnipresent (everywhere at all times) and omniscient (all knowing).

The Gospel according to John in Chapter 1, the very chapter in which our Gospel lesson is situated, in Chapter 1, verses 1-3: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him no one thing came into being.”

So, as readers of this narrative, we might look at Nathanael, and, say, “Hey! How could you ask a question of Jesus like, “Where did you get to know me?” Well, we the modern-day disciples of Jesus have Scripture to answer that for us. He was there in the beginning, and you, Nathanael, were created through him. Of course he knows you.

But, the stories of the people in the Bible, particularly the disciples, are our stories. I wonder how often we forget that we are created beings and that we, like, Nathanael, when Jesus is present among us, ask the One through whom all things came into being, “Where did you get to know me?”

The calling of the disciple, Nathanael, reminds each of us that before the church calls you to serve God and God’s people, that Jesus Christ already sees you under the proverbial fig tree of your life. He sees you before he uses other people to walk with you and to invite you to “Come and See.”

And whether or not we believe because Jesus speaks a Word of affirmation to us or because we can remove all doubt by touching the wounds in his hands and his side, as Thomas did—in this very same Gospel—Jesus came so that we might transcend our human need to prove everything. The author of the Gospel according to John writes that, “These things are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing, you may have life in his name” (John 20:30-31).

The times in which we live are challenging. In the presence of the risen Christ, we are strengthened by the Holy Spirit to move from fearfulness to fearlessness; from helplessness to empowerment; from despair to hope; and from doubt to deeper faith.

As we journey through this season of Pentecost may we SEE the Christ among us; TOUCH the Christ who stands before us; and HEAR Jesus calling us by name in the depths of our souls, compelling us to cry out as Nathanael did, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God!”

May it be so.