Psalm 40:1-11 (Responsively)
Reverend Dr. Stephen R. Caine
1: 29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is he of whom I said, “After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.” 32 And John testified, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33 I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, “He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.” 35 The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, 36 and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!” 37 The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38 When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?” 39 He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon. 40 One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41 He first found his brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Anointed). 42 He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter). (John 1:29-42, NRSV)
Let us pray: Steadfast God, you have enriched and enlightened us by the revelation of your eternal light. Comfort us in our mortality and strengthen us to walk the path of your ways, so that by word and deed we may witness to the gracious news of your faithfulness and love. Amen.
First impressions are critical. We often make our decisions by our initial snap judgements. It is true in Real Estate, shows on HGTV often talk of curb appeal. If your property doesn’t look good from the street, potential buyers will drive right on past. It is even greater today with the internet and social media. Images and pictures tell the story much faster than words ever could. We see an image or a picture and we respond positively or negatively before we ever read the first word of text. Spontaneous determinations. I am going to make some observations that are both communal and individual, what do we as a community of faith do and what do we as faithful individuals do? How do we embody and project what Jesus has called us to be and to do?
Because even in church life, first impressions are critical. I often wonder, as a community of faith, do visitors feel welcomed here? Do they feel that we are a warm, welcoming community or a closed, exclusive clique? But even before they enter the building, do we have curb appeal? What do people see as they drive pass on Drake Road? Do they a beautiful stone building full of life and vitality? Or do they see an empty shell in front of a graveyard? People make decisions before they ever cross the threshold of the church.
We must be aware of our image, our curb appeal. It is what I find so intriguing about this confusing passage from the Gospel of John. The characters are John the Baptist, Jesus, two disciples, Andrew and Simon and other nameless people. What is confusing is John the Baptist. He seems as surprised as everyone else that Jesus is the Messiah. Twice John the Baptist says, “I myself did not know him.” What? Weren’t they cousins? He knew Jesus, right? John the Baptist lived around him, watched and listened to Jesus for 30 years. If anyone could know Jesus it should be John. The comforting truth of the Gospel is that even though John the Baptist wasn’t fully aware of exactly who Jesus was, God kept working, showing him moment by moment until that day at the River Jordan, where there was no doubt…so much so that he could point two of his own disciples in the right direction. When they saw Jesus, they liked what they saw. Jesus made a positive first impression on them, so much so that they engaged him. Jesus, in turn, asked them what they were looking for and they reply by asking him where he is staying. And that leads to Jesus’ invitation to “come and see.” His invitation is simple. It’s non-threatening. It’s clear. It’s relational.
As a community of faith, I want us to all know that it is proven that most people go to a church initially because they are invited by someone to come and check it out. Which means that there are many of our friends and our neighbors who are simply waiting to be asked. So, don’t be afraid to invite someone, “come and see” what is going on at IHC. And then, when people respond to our invitations or come to our church on their own initiative, we must do our part and welcome them with genuine hospitality and graciousness. From the moment visitors enter our church property, they will notice everything. Beginning in the parking lot. Is it easy to find a parking spot? Is it clear where the entrance to the building is and which door should they enter? Can the find the sanctuary? If they have infant children can they find the nursery? Is the nursery clean and welcoming? Do they trust the nursery workers? Did anyone say hello or greet them as they walked in?
Once they find a pew, and let’s hope they do sit in your pew! Do they understand what is happening in the service? Can they find the right books and the correct pages? Is the sermon and message relevant to their lives? Can they sing the hymns? Are the people around them friendly and helpful? Does anyone talk to them after the service? Does anyone from our staff follow up with them? Does the membership committee reach out? This process is repeated each Sunday. Not only that, it is also repeated every time someone comes to a wedding, a funeral, to visit the nursery school or comes to a youth event, or a children’s program. The reality is that as a community of faith all of us are judged by someone’s experience with our church as a positive or negative witness to the gospel.
I think we have a beautiful church with great curb appeal. I also think when I walk into these doors that there is an incredible life and vitality and ministry happening each day. I know it, I see it. Children are learning at the Nursery School. Kids are bonding on ski trips. Adults are wrestling with hard questions like how do better understand teenage and young adult depression in the Adult Forum. There are many of us who are giving of our time, our talents and our resources helping the least, the last the lost, the hurting through our outreach ministries. I see it, you see it. Let’s make sure others see it as well.
Above and beyond everything else, the church is called to know one thing, and to do one thing. We are called to know the love of God in Christ, and we are called to live that out— bear witness to that love. That is our purpose for our being, that is our calling.
Let’s also remember that as individuals, each of us are called to be witnesses. Just like George mentioned in his sermon last week of noticing and speaking to men on the street who are beaten down by poverty, it is true in our dealings with everyone. When we meet people, do so with respect, ask their name, look them in the eye, tell then your name and engage them. When we do, we may bear witness to Jesus without ever mentioning his name. The simple gesture of treating everyone with respect we may be a light in the midst of darkness that points to the Light.
It is our calling to be like John the Baptist, pointing to Christ as the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. It is our calling to be like Andrew, bringing our friends to meet Jesus. It is our calling to be like the people who introduced us to Jesus. It is our calling to tell others about the love of God in Christ. It is our calling through word and deed to live our lives as a witness to the light of the world. May our lives and our faith be invitations to others to, “Come and see.”
Let us pray:
 Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 http://lectionary.library.vanderbilt.edu/prayers.php?id=14 Reproduced from Revised Common Lectionary Prayers copyright © 2002 Consultation on Common Texts admin. Augsburg Fortress. Used by permission. A complete edition of the prayers is available through Augsburg Fortress
 Reverend Jill Duffield, Commentary on John 1:29-42 – January 17 2nd Sunday after Epiphany
 Reverend Dr. David Lose, John 1:29-42, Epiphany 2 A: A Question, Invitation, and Promise
 Delmer Chilton, Lectionary blog: A light to be shared January 9, 2017