Sunday, January 16, 2011

Why Are We Here? A Homily for Proper 2, Year A, 2011

Homily for Proper 2, Year A, 2011
Sunday, January 16th, 2011
Trinity Anglican Church, Bradford, ON
The Rev. Daniel F. Graves
Text: John 1:29-42

“…but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.”
-John 1:31

Why are we here? I don’t mean that in the larger existential sense, but rather, the more particular sense. Why are we here as a church community? What are we about? To what end do we exist? There will be as many answers to that question as there are people who belong to this church. Many wonderful answers can be given: I am here because this is a community in which I am loved through good times and bad; I am here because what we do on Sunday mornings spiritually recharges me for the rest of the week; I am here because the words of Scripture challenge me to live my life differently; I am here because I need healing; I am here because God has called me here; I am here because I love the music of our faith and the song God puts in our hearts; I am here because it reminds me I am not alone; I am here to worship the God who created me, loves me, and redeems me. I am here because my mother made me get out of bed this morning and come.

These are all wonderful answers, and honest answers. Many more could be given. I should like to propose one that occurred to me as I read the words of John the Baptist, in John 1:31, “but I come baptizing with water for this reason, that Jesus might be revealed to Israel.” To the question, “why are you here?” John the Baptist responds, “I am here that Jesus might be known to the world.” To make Jesus known, to reveal Jesus, this is one of the most important reasons we are here.

Now, on one level this might be considered an act of hubris and arrogance, for of course, it is not we that make Jesus known, but the Holy Spirit of God that reveals Jesus. Indeed, John the Baptist goes on to describe how he knew Jesus was the messiah, the Christ: “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him.” John the Baptist recognized the Messiah because the Spirit of God revealed Jesus to him AS messiah. And yet, John has a role to play. What he has seen and what he has heard, he is called to proclaim, and in his act of proclamation, Jesus is revealed to others.

A day passes, and John continues to go about his baptizing. He is standing with his two disciples and Jesus passes by. What does John do? He grabs his disciples by the arms and point out Jesus, probably a very non-descript man of his day, and proclaims, “Behold the lamb of God!” John directs others toward Jesus the Christ. The Spirit of God moves John to participate in the revealing of the messiah. He does not say, “Look, there’s that fellow from Nazareth, Jesus,” instead he proclaims as deeper truth what has been revealed to him. What has been revealed to him he now reveals to others, “behold the lamb of God.” What does this mean? He is the one that will save his people. He is the one who will deliver them from their sins. He is their Passover lamb.

In the act of recognition, Jesus turns to John’s disciples and asks: “What are you looking for?” Did they really know what they were looking for? They only knew something remarkable was happening, that something special was being revealed to them, and so they asked strange question, “where are you staying?” And he said, “Come and see.” Come and see -- words that are mysterious, and yet words that invite. Come and see.

Later yet, one of those same disciples, a man named Andrew, after spending some time with Jesus, returned home to his brother, Simon, and told him “We have found the Messiah.” Something had been revealed to Andrew because John had introduced him to Jesus, and he accepted Jesus’ invitation, to “come and see.” A day with Jesus, and Andrew knew he had found the messiah; and so he invited his brother, he revealed Jesus to his brother, and Simon came before Jesus and Jesus gave him the new name of Peter. In meeting Jesus, something profound was revealed to Simon, namely, who Simon was to be – a rock, upon which Christ’s church would be built. Suddenly, Simon’s existential question, “why am I here?” was answered.

Today, this church sits, a city set upon a hill, as a light to this community, and we ask why are we here? Amidst the myriad of valid and valued reasons, this is perhaps the most important one: that Jesus might be revealed to this community and to this world. Why are we here? Why do we baptize? Why do we sing songs and hymns? Why do we read our Sacred Scriptures and share our sacred meal? That Jesus might be revealed.

When we revisit some of the reasons that we are here, we realize that many of them are because Jesus has been revealed to us, and in our reasons for coming, Jesus is continually revealed to us: We are not alone; we have a song in our hearts; we are loved and cared for in good times and bad; we have found healing. And yes, even “my mother made me come” is a revelation, too. It is sign that God doesn’t give up on us; that sometimes God has to drag us out of bed and into action. All of the reason we gather reveal Jesus to us. We are here because we respond week-by-week to the words, “Come and see.”

But “come and see” are words spoken not only to us, but something we are called to speak to others. For as the Spirit of God revealed Jesus to John, so John revealed Jesus to Andrew, and so Andrew revealed Jesus to Peter. Oh the wondrous things that happened through the sharing of Jesus with friends and families. But always remember, sharing is an invitation, never a command. Sharing Jesus begins with the words “come and see.” That is our part in the journey of revelation. We invite and pray for the Spirit to descend like a dove, that those who join us will indeed see in our love, our worship and our community the face of God in Christ, and will indeed leave this place proclaiming, “I have found the messiah,” and with joy and excitement offer that invitation to another.

c. 2011, the Rev. Daniel F. Graves

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