Happy season of Epiphany to each of you! It doesn't quite have that holly-jolly feel and ring to, "Merry Christmas" or "Happy New Year," but nevertheless, here we are. Here in this season of Epiphany.
What does epiphany mean? The word can and does have a lot of meanings. One that I find most intriguing is, "an immediate and meaningful understanding of something. Surprising. Sudden. Profound."
We tend to expect that Epiphany is about the revelation of Jesus. About finding Jesus, witnessing Jesus in various epiphanic moments. It's not supposed to be about being found ourselves. Or, is it?
Karoline Lewis from Luther Seminary invites us to think of this in a different way. "But John's Gospel invites us to imagine that these can be one and the same. That is, finding Jesus in those revelatory moments, those unexpected moments, or even those transfigural (She says, "I made that word up") moments, is also when you find yourself - who you are, and who you are called to be. When you realize your identity as a follower, a disciple, and get a glimpse, perhaps a new glimpse - and here is the epiphany - of something you have not seen before when it comes to your own faith story, your own discipleship, your own concept of what it means to believe." [https://www.workingpreacher.org/craft.aspx?post=3491]
When I was a senior in high school, I volunteered with the mentally handicapped class and became very close with my fellow classmates who were not always accepted by others. Out of all the kids in the class, the one that I became closest to was Chris. Chris had multiple developmental and mental handicaps, but that did not stop him from being a warm and exciting presence no matter what room he walked into.
No matter how many times I would walk into the west-wing classroom, Chris would come flying out of his chair knocking it over, would come running over to me with his 5-foot-one self, weighing in at 180 lbs. He would grab me and squeeze me, and then would take my hand saying loudly, "Come and see, Kelvin! Come and see what found me!" Every time, even if it were for the fifth time in an hour, I would say, "Chris, show me what found you!"
One day, when I was not in the best of moods and my patience was wearing thin, we went through the same motions, over and over. Chris running, knocking his chair over and all those who were in his path, running to me, grabbing me squeezing me. His litany began, "Come and see, Kelvin! Come and see what found me!" I became a little annoyed and said, "Chris, I don't really want to." For the first time ever, Chris let go of my hand and walked away. I could tell that I had crushed his spirit. He was sitting by the window, looking out.
So, feeling like a first-class heel, I walked over and placed my hand on Chris' shoulder and said, "Chris, show me what found you!" He pointed to the bright blue sky outside, that earlier was dark, cloudy, and rainy. Very lightly in the horizon shown a sweet rainbow. It was faint, but there. Chris looked up at me and said, "Kelvin, God found me! He paint me a picture." Indeed, Chris had been found and so had I.
Sometimes, a lot of the time, we don't want to be found. We don't want to "come and see." Being honest with one another, we know that more often than not being found, coming and seeing, even having epiphanies are not always easy things or the most comfortable.
But, the Lamb of God, the forgiver of sins, the one who baptizes not just with water but with the Holy Spirit; invites those questionable disciples to "come and see." They went and stayed awhile with Jesus. And when they came and saw, what an epiphany they had. Andrew, the brother of Simon, proclaims, "We have found the Messiah (which is translated anointed)" (v. 41). And, from then on, nothing was ever the same.
Names were changed, Simon became Peter. The disciples had been seen and found and charged to serve. Sent to proclaim the message of this one who forgives sin. And invites others to "come and see!"
And for us too, we who have been invited to "come and see" the Lamb who takes away the sin of the word, and our names have been changed; as baptized, forgiven, and anointed ones. What an epiphany!
We are called to invite others to "come and see". To come and see God in Christ made manifest in bread and wine, water and word, forgiven sinners and welcomed strangers.
What might our churches look like and our own faith lives, if we lived fully knowing that we have been found by a God who loves us completely and calls us to ventures at times where we can't even see the ending, but knowing God's hand is guiding us?
What might our churches look like and our own faith lives, if we believed that inviting someone to "come and see" how God's grace is for everyone and how it will completely change one's life, if you let it?
We often make inviting others into the faith, far more complicated than it needs to be and even our own living into that invitation - far more complicated.
God's story shifts our focus away from our own efforts to get others to see Jesus and reminds us that we are able to see only because God has first revealed God's self to us. We see because we have been seen and love because we have first been loved. In Jesus, we can trust that God sees us, and in the redemptive line of God's sight, we have new life.
Those of us who are followers of Jesus in a highly skeptical, if not downright hostile, environment can learn from Andrew the disciple, who reminds us that our calling is to bear witness with grace and obedience to the light that shines on our lives through the Son of God. The ability of others to see that light does not rest solely on our powers of theological persuasion, our skills of fancy biblical language or technology, our ability to communicate in culturally relevant ways or even our sheer persistence.
Rather, the ability to see Jesus comes as a gift from God through the graceful and mysterious movements of the Holy Spirit. We can take others by the hand, share our excitement with them and invite them by faithful living of our lives to come and get a glimpse of what we've seen - but we cannot make them see. We make sure that our lives are pointed toward the light and then live in the daring trust that the light shines and the darkness will not overcome it.
My friend, my brother-in-Christ, Chris may not have had an IQ equivalent of what is considered "normal," but he had the faith that could move mountains and transform hearts. Chris did not take me on a whirlwind chase looking for Jesus; Chris grabbed me by the hand and invited me to "come and see". Not using a lot of religious language, quoting immense amounts of scripture, or even judging me.
Chris let God do the talking. He simply invited me on the journey to come and see all that God has to offer. What a wonderful invitation to offer to those we come in contact with. When was the last time you invited someone to "come and see"?
Leave this place this day, knowing that you have been given all the tools you need to run into this world, grab the stranger by the hand, invite them to come and see. Come and see God in the way you live your life, come and see God alive and at work in this place, and invite them to come and see what a relationship with a loving God looks like.
Here we are Lord. Send us out and empower us to invite others to come and see! Amen.
Let us pray.
God who calls, equips, empowers, and sends us forth; we give thanks for those who have invited us to come and see and experience your grace made manifest in our daily lives. We ask for strength and direction, as we invite others into your life-changing grace. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.