2 Epiphany Year A, MLKJ weekend
“Rabbi, where are you staying?” “Come and see.”
Come and see.
In these three short and seemingly insignificant words we hear the call of the first disciples.
Andrew and Simon were seeking something that they knew they could only find in following Jesus. They felt compelled by his presence and John’s assertion that this very man is, in fact, the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world. So they begin to follow him. I mean that in the literal sense, they tagged along behind Jesus until he turned to them and asks what they seek. “What are you looking for?”
Come and see.
It is interesting because I think many of us think of being called as a call to action. I know I certainly do. And aren’t we lucky when it comes through that clearly? Isn’t it dreamy to think about God’s voice clearly telling us what our next step should be like some sort of omniscient chess master whispering into our ears?
In my experience, that’s not really how God works, and we see that in Jesus’ call to Andrew and Simon. Their call manifests itself first in some sort of inexplicable curiosity; they are compelled to follow Jesus, to know where he is going and where he will lay his head down that night.
Their call, secondarily, comes from Jesus himself. Come and see.
This sounds a little bit more like what I’ve experienced as the way Jesus calls on me. It all starts with a nagging curiosity and is followed by a divine invitation to a new relationship. Come and see.
Come and see this new community. Come and see my beloved. Come and see my beloved who are suffering. Come and see my beloved who are forgotten. Come and see the world as I see it. Come and see where I live. I live among the powerless; I live within the powerless.
It is this call to come and see that catalyzes us for action. When we have come close to Jesus, when we have seen where he lives, when we have seen the world through his eyes, when we have seen God’s beloved who are suffering, forgotten and oppressed, we are transformed. The transformational love of Jesus compels us into action. It’s the call of Jesus that makes us a people of action.
This weekend, you may have heard civil rights icon John Lewis accused of being a man of “all talk, and no action.” We’d be here all day if I listed all of the evidence to the contrary of this preposterous claim, but I think it is important to highlight something that Mr. Lewis said in a 2013 interview with Krista Tippet in “On Being.” Mr. Lewis participated in many non-violent actions throughout the South during the civil right movement including sit-ins, Freedom Rides, the March on Washington, and the march over the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama where he was beaten unconscious by police. In his interview, he tells Krista Tippett about his call to action: “And sometime it’s this feeling that you have been tracked down, as Dr. King would say…You have been caught up. You have been led. You have been not necessarily forced, but something caught up with you and said, “John Lewis, you too can do something, you too can make a contribution, you too can get in the way, but if you’re going to do it, do it full and with love, peace, nonviolence, and that element of faith.”
John Lewis was caught up, he was called to come and see where Jesus lives, and what he saw was that, in his own words: “in the bosom of every human being, there is a spark of the divine.”
I believe that this is what Jesus calls each of us, in our own way to see. I believe Jesus calls us individually and as a church body to come and see where he lives. And he constantly reminds us that his home is among the poor, his home is among the marginalized, his home is in the heart of every human being no matter how old or young, no matter the color of the skin covering that heart, no matter if that heart belongs to or loves a man or a woman. The spark of the divine is there. Jesus lives there.
It is fitting I think that we remember Mr. John Lewis this morning as we celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. today, on what should have been his 88th birthday, as Dr. King was a personal hero and friend to John Lewis, and someone who helped inspire Lewis’ life of action in the name of building a beloved community.
Dr. King followed the call of Jesus to “come and see.” He saw Jesus living among African-Americans across the South who were living in poverty, who didn’t have equal rights as their white counterpoints, and who weren’t free. This call, this invitation to be in relationship with Christ and with one another, catalyzed Dr. King for ongoing action that would enact change benefitting generations to come.
In his famous “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” Dr. King calls the white churches of the south to task for ignoring Jesus’ call. He accuses them of defending the status quo: “The contemporary church is so often a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. It is so often the arch supporter of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church’s often vocal sanction of things as they are.”
I think there are some hard questions that lie beneath the surface of his scathing criticism; have you not heard the call of Jesus? Have you not followed him to see where he lays his head? And if you have, why aren’t you doing anything about it?
These same questions could be asked of us, today, as well. Today, as we remember the life and legacy of Dr. King, the best way we can honor his memory is to ask ourselves the same thing.
Where is Jesus calling us to go, individually, and as a community? Are we willing to follow him? What does Jesus want us to come and see? And what are we going to do about it?