Sunday of Orthodoxy 2009
When I was growing up, we didn’t have a computer in the house. When I had a paper due in high school or college, I used a good, old fashioned typewriter and a lot of paper and correction fluid. The closest I had to video games was the old Atari system hooked up to the television, and as far as e mail is concerned, my first taste of it was having a web TV, also hooked up to the TV in our living room 11 years ago. Then Cyndi and I finally hopped on the bandwagon, got a computer for the house, and since that time, we’re now on our third one. Considering everything you can do with a computer and an internet connection, one of the best uses of it, as far as I am concerned, is the ability to use e mail, because it is quick and easy to use. The only bad part of having e mail capability is the forward button. That little option has clogged up everyone’s inbox for years now, especially those emails that promise, “Send to 67 other people and your life will be changed forever.” Indeed, you’ll have 67 less friends who will want to hear from you.
Yet the forward button is almost the same as someone talking about their journey in faith, which many Protestant churches would call giving testimony. When a person gives a testimony they are telling a story of an interaction with God. They are professing a time when God interacted in their lives in a powerful way.
Last week I was going through some of the junk mail that comes to the house and I came upon some information from a home improvement company. In it were two pieces of paper. One piece told a little bit more about the company and the services they offer. The other paper was two testimonials about the company. Those people professed their gratitude to this company for the work they did on their homes. They said they did wonderful work and that they would recommend them to anyone else. They also said come and see their work if you want proof of what they can do.
Come and see. That is basically what the forward button says and what testimonies profess.
This Gospel reading we heard today on this First Sunday of the Great Fast is full of come and see. Right after Jesus’ baptism, in the Gospel of John, he calls some of his twelve disciples. Today we get the story of Jesus calling Philip and Nathanael. Their story is very similar to the other gospels. Jesus decides to head to Galilee and when he was there he found Philip and he said follow me and Philip did. Philip was so excited about this Rabbi who came and chose him as one of his disciples that he runs off to tell Nathanael. Philip gives Nathanael his testimony. He says, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”
And then Nathanael looks at him and says, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Nathanael hears about the Messiah coming from a little town of 200-400 people; a town so small that if you sneezed you missed it on the highway. The Messiah has to be from somewhere more glamorous than little Nazareth. Nathanael had a preconceived notion of the town of Nazareth and looked down his nose at the thought of the Messiah coming from there.
Philip’s rebuttal is simply, Come and see. Fine you don’t believe what I’m telling you, well just come and see for yourself. When Nathanael does he is astounded and put back on his heels, when Jesus tells him that he saw him under the fig tree and invites him to come along on his journey. Through a simple testimony of what Jesus did in Philip’s life, Nathanael is invited and brought into this journey.
That is the point of testimony, to invite people into the journey. By sharing your own faith experiences and how you were touched by God people are invited to come and see for themselves who God is. You do not need to worry about if they will accept this invitation or not, that part isn’t our job, that’s God’s job. Our job is to simply share the story.
In order to be able to share this story though we need to learn to talk about God. This relatively short Gospel reading today contains six different ways of describing and naming Jesus. First it simply says Jesus, the name given to him. Then Philip describes him as the Jesus of Nazareth, son of Joseph. Then Nathanael calls him Rabbi, or teacher, Son of God and King of Israel. Finally Jesus uses the reference the Son of Man. All six are different but still talk about the same person.
In Galilee, Jesus walked and invited Philip and Nathanael to come and see the glorious things that are yet to come. He looks at Nathanael and he says, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You shall see greater things than that…. I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man." Jesus looks at Nathanael and tells him, if you are impressed with that, just wait, you ain’t seen nothing yet.
If you are sitting in the pews this morning, thinking about what things have happened here for the Glory of God, just wait. If you think making thousands of nut rolls and pirogies as our own apostolate to our community, and the offer from the Monmouth County Park System to buy our property have been great things, let me be the first one to remind you of what Jesus promises. Jesus looks at us today and says, “You believe because of what happened in 2008? Come and see. Just wait and see what I have in store for you, St. Paul the Apostle Church. Come and see.”
And so, as we celebrate this Liturgy this morning on this 1st Sunday of the Great Fast, to worship and celebrate the triumph of Orthodoxy against the iconoclasts, we need to share our stories of faith within this community and tell them of Glory of God and of our blessed Orthodox Church. Can anything good come out of Freehold? Can anything good come out of St. Paul’s? Come and see. Share our happiness, share our joy, share our experience. Come and see. Amen.