Sermon Preached at Christ the King on January 18, 2009
Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18
1 Corinthians 6:12-20
I.N.I. (In the name of Jesus)
This week the ELCA web site had the phrase: What Will God Show You Next posted on their home page. It was followed with these words: Time after Epiphany is a season that is all about finding God in unexpected places. Jesus illuminates the way, even in hard times and difficult situations. Come and see.
Years ago at Holy Trinity Newington, the words Come and See were above the doors into their sanctuary, a visible reminder of our Gospel story and call. They were paired with the rest of our call as Christian’s, with the words Go and Tell above the doors leading out of the sanctuary. In other words, stop trying to get your head around things and simply come and experience the reality of Jesus in the assembly gathered to share Word and Sacrament.
Come and See… three simple words of invitation you have probably used, as in:
You make plans to move and put your home on the market. You intentionally invite realtors and prospective buyers to open houses to come and see…
You purchase a new car and proudly want to show it off. To anyone who notices, you open the doors and invite them to come and see…
You have a son or daughter who is performing in a concert, play or important sports event. As the proud parent, or grandparent, you invite friends and neighbors to come and see…
But Come and See are also three simple words of invitation most in this room do not use in terms of worship or church activities. In fact the average Lutheran invites someone they know to church once every 28 years! Imagine being so passionate about God’s presence in your life that you could share, as in:
Come and see… Baptism where God comes to us and through water and God’s Word of promise, takes us and makes us God’s own.
Come and see… The Lord’s Supper where God comes to us through the giving and receiving of bread, wine and promise and forgives us of our sins, gives us life and salvation.
Come and see… God’s presence in water, bread, wine, you and me. God is never absent, especially when the words of God’s Good News are spoken or where two or more are gathered in God’s name.
Come and see… The Body of Christ gathered as this congregation, washed and fed with and through God’s Word looking and listening for God’s call, action and presence in our lives.
We as Christ followers are called to respond, wherever we are in light of Jesus’ cross and resurrection. We as Christ followers are called to respond, not to make ourselves look good, or to climb closer to God, but rather to live as God’s hands, making the world a better place and showing others the Good News through your voice and actions. Voice and action as a response to hearing God’s Word, living in God’s promises, and being forgiven and sustained at God’s bath and table.
Here in this place at 3 Lutheran Drive and Broad Street, there are several recent experiences that shed light for me on our call as Christians…
A week ago as I led chapel time for the pre-school solo for the first time, a teacher pulled me aside and warned me about one of our three year olds who has a real passion for the baby Jesus. “Vicar Bill, her mother says that wherever she goes she is drawn like a magnet to the Christ child in manger scenes. If she can, she will steal, or at least try to take the Jesus and hide them at home. Her mother has no idea where they go and is a bit embarrassed by her enthusiasm.”
During chapel time her exuberant faith and passion for Jesus was evident as she scooted forward with every image of Jesus in the books I shared. “Look there’s Jesus!” she would exclaim and point to the image. She couldn’t keep her eyes and hands and exclamations to herself and literally crawled up the steps toward Jesus in the stable throughout our time together.
What are we to think or do with a passion like that three-year-old’s? For we too are called to do what she does, pointing out Christ among us, joyfully holding Jesus close, sharing the joy he brings you, living out our baptismal call to invite others to come and see.
Last Sunday we welcomed Faith Cestrone and Juan Suarez to the body of Christ as they were washed in the waters of baptism, sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked with the cross of Christ forever. In Faith’s beaming face and Juan’s reaching for the life giving waters in the font, we were reminded that the baptized are called to follow Jesus, the light of the world and that whoever follows him will have the light of life.
On Friday we buried a member of this community that we have prayed for the past year. A woman whose passion for Jesus was evident in her smile and exuberance she shared every time Pastor Tim or I shared God’s Word with her and in her strong voicing of the Lord’s Prayer at home, in the ICU, and in the nursing home. This child of God, some eighty years older than our pre-schooler or newly baptized also knew Jesus as someone to hold close and share with others.
She lived a life of peaks and valleys, but experienced God’s presence at work in her life. She passionately shared stories of God bringing light and freedom through surviving WWII in Berlin, meeting the love of her life and husband of 54 years, raising her family, becoming a US citizen, dealing with illness, struggling with addiction and finding new life in sobriety through AA.
Ursula Handeland’s favorite song was a hit by Jo Stafford that sold 2 million copies in 1952 and speaks of love and belonging. This pop love song could be a baptismal hymn reminding us of God’s promises with these verse endings…
Just remember, darling, all the while – You belong to me
Just remember when a dream appears – You belong to me
Just remember till you’re home again – You belong to me
But remember, darling, till you’re home again – You belong to me
These children of God called and connected to this place passionately share their joy of knowledge that they belong to God. Through their voices and actions they say to all who encounter them, come and see…you too belong to God.
An ancient rabbi once asked his pupils how they could tell when the night had ended and the day was on its way back. Could it be, asked one student, when you can see an animal in the distance and tell whether it is a sheep or a dog?
No, answered the Rabbi.
Could it be, inquired another, when you can look at a tree in the distance and tell whether it is a fig tree or a peach tree?
No, the Rabbi replied.
Well, then, what is it, the pupils demanded.
The wise old teacher responded with words of immense wisdom: It is when you look on the face of any woman or man and see that she or he is your sister or brother. Because if you cannot do this, then no matter what time it is, it is still night.
God calls and through the likes of a young boy, a blind priest Eli, and a man from Nazareth does new things, bringing light, hope and change. God calls and does new things through Martin Luther’s and Martin Luther King’s. God calls and does new things through Abraham’s and Barrack’s. God calls and does new things through each and every one of us because we belong to God.
We gather in God’s name seeking light, hope and change, to hear God’s Word, receive God’s forgiveness and grace in this place. We come to see the One who is light in our darkness. We come to see the One who is peace for our troubled world. We come to see the One who is food for hungry souls. We come to see the One who is shelter for the outcast.
May you always remember that you belong to God and may you be so excited by this that you share Phillip’s words to come and see… this God who came down and continues to meet us, love us, forgive us, feed us and through grace strengthen and empower us to work for justice and peace.