I wonder what would come to your minds if I asked about the call of Jesus’ first disciples. I wouldn’t be surprised if most people mentioned Simon Peter and Andrew, James and John, all fishermen, being called by Jesus to leave off mending their nets and go with him to ‘fish for people’. But here in John’s gospel there is no mention of them being fishermen. Instead, they are disciples of John the Baptist. John points to Jesus and tells his – John’s – followers that Jesus is the one he’s been telling them about. He is the one they should follow. Jesus doesn’t call them at all. John the Baptist encourages Andrew and ? – the other disciple is not named – to follow Jesus instead of him. That’s not always an easy thing to do. It’s all too easy for us as ministers in God’s church – and, as we heard last week, we are all ministers; we were commissioned as disciples and ministers at our baptism – it’s all too tempting to want people to take notice of us, to like us, to follow us – whether on Twitter or not. The idea of accumulating ‘followers’ and being ‘liked’ has taken on a whole new meaning in recent years. So do we secretly yearn for people to follow us, to listen to us, to admire us for our knowledge, our good deeds? Or are we able, like John, to point willingly to Jesus and say ‘There’s the man; he’s the one you should be following’.
I found an inspiring presentation of this passage on YouTube
And Andrew and the other disciple change tack immediately, no argument, no encouragement from Jesus, they just leave John and follow Jesus. Why? was it something that John said or did they recognise something in Jesus? They make the first move. We’re not told who the other disciple was but it wasn’t Simon Peter.
‘What are you looking for?’ asks Jesus. What were they looking for – signs and wonders? answers to life’s big questions? A diversion – something different, something to liven things up a bit? Some action? After all, if Jesus was the promised Messiah, surely he was going to set them free from political oppression.
What would our answer be? What are you looking for in your life of faith? What are we looking for as a community of faith? What is on our ‘wish-list’?
Andrew and his companion dodge the question, or so it seems. Surely they’re not simply interested in viewing Jesus’ accommodation!? Are they playing for time? Do they not want to commit themselves too far at this stage. They want to see a bit more, find out what’s involved. They ask where Jesus is staying. If he gives them an address or some sort of contact details, then they can look him up at a later date. ‘don’t call us, we’ll call you’
And while Jesus doesn’t force the issue, he doesn’t let them off the hook. Instead he issues an invitation – come and see. Come and see for yourselves. Later in this first chapter of John’s gospel, Philip issues the same invitation to the sceptical Nathaniel. Come and see. Come and see what we’ve found. Meet him for yourself. This is Jesus our companion – the one who invites, who accompanies us, the one with whom we break bread because that is what companion literally means – to share bread with. We too accompany others on our journey of faith together; nurturing one another, inviting those who are looking for something to ‘come and see’ – not pointing out the way and then leaving them to it but walking alongside them, being patient, not forcing the pace. And so we say Come, come with me to a service, to pudding club, to a meal, come and see what we’re about as a church, as people who follow Jesus Christ.
We invite others to ‘come and see’, but what do we see for ourselves? Jesus invites us to come and see but have we got our eyes and our ears and our minds open when we respond to that invitation. Whatever Andrew saw convinced him – convinced him enough to go and tell his brother that he had found what he was looking for. Like those 1st century disciples, we need to see and believe and get to know Jesus through seeing not just physically but discerning what God is like and what Jesus wants to teach us. We happily use the word disciple to describe those who responded to Jesus in the 1st century – but the word ‘disciple’ equally belongs to each of us – we are all disciples – all learners – all followers – people who have responded to the invitation to “come and see”.
Part of our task, our calling as a Church is to be a Learning Church – it doesn’t stop at Confirmation – it is lifelong learning. We should never stop learning more about God until we finally see face to face – in the life that lies beyond the grave. As St Paul writes ‘now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face.’
Over the past three weeks, we’ve looked at some of the aspects of what we, as a church, are called to. First, we looked at our call to ‘wonder’ – or to worship, not just as individuals but together as the body of Christ. Then, last week, we considered how, as baptised Christians, we are baptised into Jesus’ ministry as well as his death and resurrection. All are called to be ministers and ministry takes many and varied forms – teaching, evangelism, pastoral care, administration, leading worship – all these are forms of ministry; it certainly isn’t the case that one size fits all or that every minister has to be good at everything. See 1 Cor 12.16-20 where St Paul compares the church to a body made up of many different organs, each with their own vital function.
A worshipping church, a ministering church and now a learning church. How can we be a learning church? How can we make the most of the learning opportunities that are available and prioritise them? We already have Café Sundae and Pudding Club, Lent groups. Is there something else that you are looking for? How might we learn together? In USA many churches meet for Sunday School – for everyone – not just children – for an hour before worship on a Sunday morning. Would that work for us – or perhaps a discussion about the readings or sermon over coffee afterwards, or later in the week. All food for thought as we consider together and prayerfully, the sort of church that God might be calling us to be in the future.
Lord, Jesus asked Andrew and his companion
‘What are you looking for?’
They had so much to ask
that their questions required space, a place of meeting.
That’s why they asked ‘Where are you staying?’
Lord, you know our hearts, our hopes, our fears,
but you delight in hearing our thoughts.
So you say to us, as you said to them,
‘Come. Come and see.
Come and ask. Come and listen.’
Then, Lord, we can leave with joy
at the discovery of finding who and what you truly are.