Sunday, January 16

Sermon - Second Sunday after Epiphany

John 1:29-42

One of the first things you might notice about me is that I wear glasses. I got them when I was 9 years old, and in the fourth grade. My teacher noticed me squinting at the board and sent me to the school nurse, who made me look in the big machine with all the E’s pointing in the different directions. She sent a note home to my parents, who took me to the doctor, who gave me glasses. 30 some-odd years later I’m still wearing them, because I’m still nearsighted-- anything further than a few feet away becomes awfully fuzzy. I pretty much wear them all the time, unless I’m reading or asleep. Otherwise I’d be tripping over my own feet far more often than I already do. I need them to see.

Today’s gospel talks a lot about seeing things. It even begins there, with John the Baptist seeing Jesus coming toward him. He’s all wound up, as only John can get-- but who can blame him? This is the son of God, the one upon whom the spirit of God descended like a dove. Can you imagine having witnessed that, having been part of it? I’d be talking up that story too-- going on for days, likely.

That’s just what John does-- he’s still talking about it the next day, enough that a couple of his disciples go to check things out. And what does Jesus say, when they approach him?

“Come and see.”

What a contrast, between the cousins! John’s ranting and raving, his excited proclamation and carrying on... and then Jesus’ simple invitation.

“Come and see.”

But there’s something else I notice here. John’s witness is right out there-- what you see is what you get. It’s easy to take in, to take at face value.

On the other hand, Jesus’ invitation is more than it first appears to be. This isn’t only an offer to check out his apartment. It’s not about sightseeing, or spectator sport. In fact, it has very little to do with any kind of thing I might see, with or without these glasses. It’s about what a friend of mine calls “Kingdom Vision.”

What’s Kingdom vision? One of my very favorite stories in scripture illustrates this well. Do you remember the story of the sinful woman, who washes Jesus’ feet with her tears, and dries them with her hair? It’s in the 7th chapter of Luke. Simon the pharisee, who invited Jesus to dinner, is appalled-- not only by the presence of this notorious sinner in his home, but by the fact that Jesus would allow her to touch him. And eventually Jesus turns to him, and asks, “Do you see this woman?” Can you look beyond the surface, beyond the reputation, beyond the sobbing figure? Will you look not with human eyes, but with Kingdom eyes? Do you see there before you a precious child of God, beloved and restored and forgiven?

“Come and see,” Jesus says, the master of Kingdom vision. And it sounds so simple, doesn’t it? Just three little words. But like so many things, easier said than done. We are all so very human, and it’s so easy to get caught up in our own... well, nearsightedness, or farsightedness, or astigmatism, or blind spots. To stop short, and to fall into judging ourselves, and one another, by external standards. We see male or female; gay or straight; black, white, hispanic or asian; corporate blue suit and crewcut or pink hair and tattoos, and we think we have a handle on understanding one another. These things are part of who we are, certainly, but if we stop there, we only scratch the surface. We’ve not really even begun to see, not as Jesus sees.

Martin Luther King Jr., in his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, goes a bit further. In it, he expressed the hope that one day his children “would be judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” This is a laudable goal, and one that reaches deeper, certainly. But think about this-- when considered in light of the gospel, does that go far enough? With all due respect to Dr. King, I don’t believe it does. Scripture tells us that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” We all have places where the content of our character... is lacking. In fact, that’s where the nearsightedness lives: our ability to pick at faults and miss virtue; to make assumptions, and not see beyond them. And if we judge one another by that lack, that incompleteness in character, aren’t we still missing the mark?

But here’s the good news, brothers and sisters. Kingdom vision, by the grace of God, doesn’t stop there; not even close. Kingdom vision strives to see through all those layers, past all the wrongheaded misunderstanding, and gaps in judgment, and sinful choices. Kingdom vision sees, as the song says, with the eyes of our hearts. And the more we work to love the Lord, and to answer Jesus’ gentle invitation to “come and see,” the more we begin to see with our Kingdom eyes. As our baptismal covenant says, to “seek and serve Christ in all persons,” and to “respect the dignity of every human being.” Dignity that is inherent to our souls, by the indwelling of the Spirit in each and every one of us.

Come and see, my brothers and sisters. Come and see.