January 2014: Come and see!

Many churches that follow lectionary readings are reading the beginning of the Gospel of John this January, as we are. Setting the scene for the whole book, the writer links his work to the Genesis story, establishing who Jesus is (the Son of God, or ‘Word' of God embodied) and what he is about (sorting out the world). Then we are invited to come along with two young men, one named Andrew. Encouraged by John the Baptist, they go and seek Jesus out. “What are you looking for?” Jesus asks them - and they ask him where he is staying, angling for an invitation to a proper conversation, which, of course, they get: “Come and see!”, he says. They want to be sure who he is, and the encounter changes them forever, because he has been looking for them too.

Now convinced that Jesus is the Messiah, they spread the news, soon leading to Andrew’s brother Simon being introduced to Jesus, who gives him the nickname ‘Peter’ (as translated to English, it means 'rock'). ‘Peter’ sounds formal to us, but it seems likely that Jesus was having a bit of fun here - as when he later called James and John ’the Thunderers'. If it were happening today, Peter might have been called ‘Rocky’.

As the Gospel stories develop, Simon the Rock turns out to be quite unsteady, the opposite of his name - until after the resurrection, when he 'grows into’ the name, with help from the Holy Spirit.

Today, many people live their lives wondering ‘who' they might be. We seek out different experiences, working out what we like, what we don’t like, what we are good at, and eventually discovering what we ourselves are like. Sometimes we too grow into our names or full potential; and other times, quite often in reality, we get stuck. It is one of the odd things about humans that we cannot easily do this alone - we need others to help us work out who we are. Sometimes it is a painful process, and sometimes a good friend eases our way. The way of faith can help with this.

It seems to me that when Jesus asks us in our turn, “What are you looking for?”, we had better be ready for him to reveal something hidden of ourselves to us, just as he did to Simon - because his answer to our questions is very often not an explanation but an invitation to "Come and see!”, and the experience changes us.

Parkdale Church of Christ 2012-18 —A community of faith, hope and compassion.