January 15, 2012
2nd Sunday After Epiphany
Shera Nesheim, Diaconal Minister
Can you think of those times when the light bulb has turned on for you? When things sort of clicked and finally made sense? Maybe it was a piece of Scripture that flipped the light bulb on, maybe it was a conversation with a friend, or maybe it was during prayer while driving down a country road.
I would love to be five years old again! This age, to me, is the age of awakening. When you’re five, the world is your chalkboard, even if your five year old world is only the sidewalk outside of your house! This is a time when everything seems amazing and new – like the feel of cotton candy on your tongue, or the realization that you can tie your shoes by yourself or that you are a big kid now because you can use a scissors to cut out paper snowflakes.
When I was in college I used to volunteer at a preschool in West Fargo. Each day, I felt like a kid again, seeing the world through a fresh new perspective. Colors seemed brighter, silly songs seemed sillier, and innocence was so sweet. The kids who I worked with never ceased to amaze me, and between the time they started in the fall until they “graduated” preschool in the spring, leaps and bounds of learning occurred. These kids had oodles of adventures (and energy) each and every day that taught them new skills – learning to share, learning to write their name, learning that they had their own identity in the world and could grow up to be a firefighter one day!
And one of the coolest things to see, was when a child would have a light bulb moment. When one’s curiosity leads them to have an inspiration. Like when they suddenly realize that putting the letters C-A-T together form the word cat, and that furry-fuzzball of an animal that meows all over their house is something they can write a story about! These are moments when you could almost see the little light bulb above their head light up, bursting with vibrant rays as the sun, and you could tell that something just clicked. They just understood, and not only that, they made a huge connection that would change the way they viewed life from then on!
And today, we hear of Nathanael’s light bulb moment. This call story of Philip and Nathanael is a curious one and a really fun dialogue! Let’s read this drama as it unfolds, together. Jesus calls Philip and says, “follow me” and Philip doesn’t ask any questions – he’s all in. The only thing the text reveals is that Philip goes to his friend Nathanael and proclaims that he has found this guy who is a very big deal – after all Jesus is the one whom Moses wrote of in the law and the prophets! You can just hear the excitement in Philip’s voice as he shares this revelation with his friend.
Unlike the reactions of the other disciples who drop everything and do not hesitate to follow Jesus, Nathanael is skeptical and even a little curious. He doesn’t ask for proof that this Jesus is truly the guy Moses was talking about – rather, he plainly asks if anything good can come out of Nazareth. It seems like an honest question. Nathanael is curious about just who this Jesus guy is, that Philip is talking about. But Philip just invites Nathanael to check him out for himself – he says, “Come and See.”
Nathanael goes to meet Jesus, and before Nathanael can say a word, Jesus names him for who he is – an Israelite in whom there is no deceit. An honest man, a curious man. You can hear the surprise in Nathanael’s voice when he asks, “where did you get to know me?” And Jesus explicitly says he saw Nathanael under the fig tree, even before Philip called him, before Nathanael even knew the name of Jesus!
Suddenly it’s as if the light bulb goes off in Nathanael’s head. I can see a cartoon-like figure of Nathan with wide eyes, eyebrows stretched and a giant light bulb glowing above his head. He replied with much enthusiasm, “You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” It just baffles me that it is in that moment when Jesus tells Nathanael that he knows him, that Nathanael has an epiphany about who Jesus is and names him as the Son of God and King of Israel – the One whom Moses proclaimed, the One they have been waiting for.
Nathanael now sees Jesus and the world, in a much different way than he did before. His life is changed. Can you think of those times when the light bulb has turned on for you? When things sort of clicked and finally made sense? Maybe it was a piece of Scripture that flipped the light bulb on, maybe it was a conversation with a friend, or maybe it was during prayer while driving down a country road. And this is not to say that a light bulb event like Nathanael’s is a one time deal.
A professor of mine at seminary, who has many years of experience, and probably billions of hours spent reading scripture, said that each time he encounters the Word of God, he learns something new.
So what do we do with this light bulb moment? Do we let it pass us by? Of course not! When Philip met Jesus he shared it with his friend Nathanael, we too, are called to share Christ with others! Seeing God’s work in the world in and through Christ is also about what we do. We follow Christ, we Come and See what Christ has done, and we are engaged to live out our faith in the world.
This text engages us with action words like follow and come and see. These words entice us to get up off the couch and experience the living Word of God and be who we are called to be, in the world!
We are called to be “little Christ’s” in the world here and now. God calls us, and we are employed to respond: Here I am, Lord! Send me! I am here to Come and See!
God is calling us to live our lives in a way that matters. What we do, matters. How we live, matters. What we say, matters. But let me be clear – our lives are changed because of what Christ has first done for us and in us. It is our revelation of what God is already doing in our lives (aka. the light bulb that lights above our heads), that initiates our response of faith and love, motivates our good deeds and leads us to lives that are changed.
What we do and how we live is not going to earn us God’s love. God already claims us and knows us, since we were in our mother’s womb. God knows our hearts, our thoughts, God knows every fiber in our being. Remember how Jesus told Nathanael how he knew him? This is a gift. A gift for Nathanael and a gift for you and for me.
It doesn’t mean we don’t have a bad day now and then, or that we never mess up. We do sin. We do fall short. We do have plenty to work on. But God loves us, despite our brokenness. God forgives us, despite our selfishness. God reaches out to us, despite our stubbornness.
It is in the beauty of God’s grace that we wake up from that bright light bulb above our heads. We respond to the invitation of Christ to come and see! For we are promised, as Nathanael is promised, that we will see greater things than these. The disciples walked with Christ as he walked the earth. The disciples witnessed the crucifixion and resurrection of our Lord. We witness these things when we read Scripture. We have hope in this witness. We, too, are promised a resurrection like Christ’s when we die. So let us share this good news with the world. Amen!