Second Sunday after the Epiphany
Isaiah 49:1-7; Psalm 40:1-12; 1 Corinthians 1:1-9; John 1:29-42
“Go, tell it on the mountain ...” Come now, sing the chorus with me. “Go tell it on the mountain; over the hills and everywhere. Go, tell it on the mountain, that Jesus Christ is Lord.” That is Chloe’s favorite Christmas hymn and each year, as we get into late Advent, she always asks, “Will we be singing Go tell it on the mountain this Christmas?” And I always say a resounding, “Yes!” Go, tell it on the mountain that Jesus Christ is born. Go, tell it!
We are in the season of the Epiphany. The feast day has the arrival of the wisemen and their important visit: revealing Jesus to the gentiles. And the, last Sunday, the feast of the Baptism has Jesus’ glory revealed as he comes from the water, after his baptism by John. And this week, He is revealed the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. And, he tells the two would-be disciples who follow him to Come, and see. They will come and see what is revealed to Andrew who goes and tells Simon: we have found the Messiah. So, we are in a season of continued revelation and, on top of all that, today we are invited to come, and see the truth, the light, the salvation that is in this Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
So, why Go Tell it on the mountain and then segue into “come and see”? Well, because go, tell and come and see are two sides of the same Christian life coin. We are constantly being called into discipleship with Jesus, to come and see what Christ has in store. We are called to learn, to grow, to become stronger, more articulate followers of Jesus so that we can then become apostles, people who are sent out into the world as witnesses to Jesus. Paul is one of these witnesses. Paul, you may remember, started out on the wrong foot with his life. He was a persecutor of the church, a murderer of Christ’s followers. Then, he encountered Christ in dramatic fashion, answered the Messiah’s call to come and see and, after prayer, reflection and time of discipleship he went out into the known world to tell that Jesus Christ is Lord.
So, we as Christians are called to come and see, to experience the reality of Christ’s saving love as disciples, people who learn, people who draw nearer to Jesus that we might be made more whole along the way. And there are so many ways that we can become sharper, more serious, more hopeful disciples of Jesus. The primary way that most of us grow in discipleship is in Sunday worship. The divine spirit of Jesus is revealed, potentially, in everything that we do because the liturgy, in all its beauty is set up to illicit disciples. With every hymn we sing, prayer we utter, or creed we pray together we are being beckoned by Jesus to come, and see his love. Christian community is established, above all things, to help one another be disciples walking closer to Jesus.
We can also become more insightful and articulate disciples of Jesus through the study of scripture. Scripture contains, as we say in our ordination as priests, all things necessary for salvation. Scripture has withstood the test of time and though we may imperfectly use and interpret it, God’s word has the words of eternal and present life in it. We cannot, in our brief service, do more than scratch the service of who Christ is in scripture. But with study each day, an answer to Christ’s invitation to know Him and follow him more clearly, we can begin to delve more deeply into the divine presence.
Prayer is another form of discipleship through which Christ’s blessings are revealed. We offer resources during certain seasons but I would be delighted to talk to anyone anytime about their own prayer life and how they might deepen it. The aim of prayer is God’s answer to our lists of need but the pathway through which we converse with the God who hearts us and loves us. At the heart of any new prayer practice or attempt is Christ’s invitation to come and see.
Alas, being an apostle, being one sent, is a trickier enterprise. Apostles do but not come into being in a vacuum. Our preparation and learning as disciples crafts us and shapes us into those who are sent out into the world to tell it on the mountain that Jesus is Lord of all creation, He who takes away the sin of the world.
Now I know what you are thinking. I am not cut out to talk to other people about Jesus. I am not an evangelist. Well, I have a bit of news: we are all evangelist which is, quite simply, a sharer of the Gospel, the good news. Our business as Christians in the world is to answer Christ’s invitation to come and see and answering that call is the first step to becoming not only a disciple but one who is shaped to be a disciple. I know that isn’t easy but we are all different kinds of disciples.
Anthony de Mello, pastor and spiritual writer, liked to tell the story of the two taxidermists who stopped in front of a window in which a “stuffed” owl was on display. They immediately began to criticize the way in which it was mounted. Its eyes were not natural … its wings were not in proportion to its head … its feathers were not neatly arranged—and its feet could certainly be improved! When they had finished critiquing the owl, they looked at each other, self-satisfied with their evaluations. But then, suddenly, the old bird slowly turned its head ... and winked at them.
Jesus’ disciples were far from perfect, but they were real; and so was Jesus. We don’t answer Christ’s call to us perfectly but, humans that we are, we can do our best to come and see who this Lamb of God is, and all the joys and blessings of knowing his truth, life, and salvation more fully. Change and transformation may be what we are afraid of; that answering Jesus’ call on us will cause us to become a new creation. We need not fear. Knowing Jesus will make us more open vessels through which we can know God’s saving love, the stooping of God to help us. Coming and seeing the beauty of who Jesus is – Lamb of sacrifice, Lord of love – helps to put a new song of joy in our heart, a new one, one we never even heard before. Suddenly, like Andrew, we find the strength and hope to not only come and see but to go and tell of the goodness of the Lord, who is our hope and strength. What we will discover is not a Savior of judgment and condemnation, but one who is at unity with us, for us, and with us; a source of blessing for all.
When I was first here, someone described the people of St. James as “middle of the road Episcopalians.” Now, if that means I am a person standing in the middle as a person who mediates people of opposing views on the right and the left, then maybe that is okay. But I don’t think that is what the person meant. Middle of the road means non-descript, doing the same things in the same way, sitting in the middle of the boat. There is that great song from Guys and Dolls called Hey, sit down your rocking the boat. We as Christians can no longer afford to be middle of the road Christians. We are called to come and see and, once we have seen, Christ, who quenches our thirst, puts a new song, a new fire in us, to share the good news of Christ’s love and salvation with a hurting world.
Now trust me, I know this is not easy. I have myself had openings, times when someone was obviously hungry for the good news of Jesus, but I shrunk, afraid to be considered a Jesus-freak who talks about God all the time. I don’t have that problem anymore, but I understand that most of us do.
The more we answer Jesus’ call to come and see, come and explore the riches of Christ’s grace, the more we will find confidence, strength, and the joy to share those riches with the world around us, as opportunities present themselves and they do every day. There is more than one way to be an apostle: to do works, service, and to help people out of the charity and patience we are learning, as we come and look closer at Jesus. But it isn’t an and/or, but a both and. I would love to see us really work harder at discipleship first, a good place to start, and we are doing to try on some new things in the next year or two, including a series on discipleship, along with continued programs, Bible study, and other opportunities I hope that you will take advantage of when you can.
Come and see, Jesus beckons, even as he says, follow me. We follow Jesus so that we might also learn how to call others to come and see, that they might too be transformed. Come and see. Go, tell! God has placed a call upon our life. Let us, with hope, with confidence, and with as much joy as possible pull back the curtain on Christ’s life for us. Let us come and see this Jesus who is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Then, let us prepare to tell it out on the mountain and everywhere that Christ is Lord, even to the ends of the earth, for so has commanded our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.