Rev. Sara Ofner-Seals is co-pastor of First Congregational Church, New London CT.
Scripture: John 1:29-42, (NRSV)
The next day he saw Jesus coming towards him and declared, ‘Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, “After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.” I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.’ And John testified, ‘I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, “He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.” And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.’
The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, ‘Look, here is the Lamb of God!’The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, ‘What are you looking for?’ They said to him, ‘Rabbi’ (which translated means Teacher), ‘where are you staying?’ He said to them, ‘Come and see.’ They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon. One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his brother Simon and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (which is translated Anointed). He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, ‘You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas’ (which is translated Peter).
Reflection: Come and See
Throughout the centuries, the subject of our call to Christian discipleship has often been the subject of lively discussion, and maybe even increasingly, contentious debate. Even if we only use Jesus’ own words as our guide, the answer is not always clear. Jesus offers multiple calls to his disciples throughout the course of the gospel narratives. Take up your cross and follow me. Love one another as I have loved you. If you love me, feed my sheep. Make disciples of all the nations. Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, and cast out demons. That’s a lot to add to our daily to-do list. And maybe it seems clear to some of us which of these calls should be the priority in Christian life, but the truth is, Christians have been arguing about this question for centuries, and the sheer number of Christian denominations out there is evidence that we haven’t quite worked it all out yet. Some Christians believe that “saving souls” is the one and only thing we should be worried about. Others would argue that seeking things like justice for the poor and liberation for the oppressed should be our primary directive.
In the midst of all the uncertainty, this week’s text from the Gospel of John provides a clue in the form of three little words—“come and see.” These words caught my attention this past week, and the more I reflected on them, the more compelling this call story from John became for me. Compelling, because in today’s world that is so harsh, so antagonistic, so full of division and strife, this version of the story of Jesus’ call to his disciples is so incredibly gentle. It’s hospitable actually— not a command, but an invitation. It does not dictate right or wrong, it does not require a pledge of allegiance, or any particular code of conduct or belief. It simply invites the participant to come and see, and then decide for themselves.
I find this both compelling and refreshing, particularly in regard to our call as Christians, because let’s be honest, when it comes to who’s got the right idea as to what it is we Christians are called to do in this world, we’ve pretty much used up all the available vocabulary. Each side has made every possible argument, to the point where we don’t even listen to each other anymore. We have argued this thing into the ground, and we’ve argued ourselves into our own little corners, and we don’t seem to want to come out. So maybe it’s time to try a different approach. Maybe all we really need to do when we encounter someone who is skeptical of our perspective, or our belief in a God of radical love and grace, is to offer this simple invitation-- to come and see. Come and have an experience, and then decide for yourself. It’s an invitation that has no strings attached. It has no barriers for entry. Just come, and see.
There’s a certain amount of humility in this invitation, a recognition that we cannot bring about anyone’s salvation— whatever we think that word means— through cleverly worded arguments or rhetorical brilliance. There’s a recognition that in fact, it’s not really up to us to save anyone. Because that’s God’s job. God knows what’s in people’s hearts. And we humans? Well we humans are actually pretty notorious for getting that part wrong. What’s up to us, and what we are called to do, is nothing more than to offer the invitation-- to invite others to experience the same love and grace that we ourselves have experienced; to invite others into a life of abundant mercy and grace in a world that is so reluctant to give an ounce of either; to invite others into a way of compassion and loving-kindness in a world where the status quo is ‘every man for himself;’ to invite others into a way of life that is an alternative to greed and selfishness, an alternative to competition and judgement, an alternative to violence and vengeance, an alternative to intolerance and fear. Come, and see.
Gracious God, you have called us to come and see. Open our eyes to all of the ways in which your love is at work in our world, and help us to graciously invite others to come and see as well. Amen.
New Prayer Requests:
We ask churches and church leaders to join us in the following prayers either by sharing them during worship, printing them in bulletins, or sharing them in some other way. To make a prayer request, please contact Drew Page at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Prayers of Intercession:
- For the family of Ward Emerson Lambert, father of the Rev. Ginny McDaniels, a retired UCC pastor. Lambert died on Jan. 4.
- For the people of Iran where demonstrators have clashed with Iranian authorities since the downing of a Ukrainian passenger plane last week.
- For the people of the mid-western states where tornadoes late last week killed at least 11 and severe weather caused heavy flooding and wind damage.
- For the people of Puerto Rico after a series of earthquakes last week left thousands in shelters and hundreds of thousands without power and water.
Prayers of Joy and Thanksgiving:
- For warmer January days that help keep the cost of heating down for those for whom heating their homes is a hardship
Please Pray for the Following SNEUCC Churches:
Editors Note: In response to feedback from readers, we will continue the practice of offering a list of churches for the weekly prayers. Churches are still encouraged to contact us with prayers of celebration or intercession as needed.
Original Congregational Church,, UCC, Wrentham, MA
First Congregational Church, UCC, Worthington, MA
Armenian Church of the Martyrs, Worcester, MA
The First Congregational Church in Worcester, Inc., Worcester, MA
Hadwen Park Congregational Church, Worcester, MA
Iglesia Hispana Unida de Cristo, Worcester, MA
Lakeview Congregational Church UCC, Worcester, MA
Park Congregational Church, UCC, Worcester, MA
United Congregational Church, Worcester, MA
Church of the Good Shepherd, Woodstock, CT
First Congregational Church of Woodstock, Woodstock, CT
First Congregational Church of Woodbury UCC, Woodbury, CT
This Week in History:
January 15, 1777 (243 years ago) Vermont declares independence from Great Britain and the colony of New York. Known at first as New Connecticut but renamed Vermont shortly after, the green mountain state wished to remove itself from the war between the colonies and Great Britain. In doing so, Vermont's newly drafted constitution became the first written national constitution in North America, the first to prohibit slavery, and the first to give all adult males, not just property owners, the right to vote. Vermont remained an independent nation, despite not being recognized as one by the U.S. Congress, until it joined the United States as the 14th state in 1791.
“Study the past if you would define the future.”