The question that is asked in this week’s Gospel is a ponderous one, after just having had a week off: “Can anything good come from up north?” It is the question that gets asked by Nathaniel of Phillip (John 1.43-51) when Jesus calls Phillip to journey north towards home and Nazareth with him. Phillip goes and extends the invitation to Nathaniel. This means to me that the import of this portion of Gospel is the call to come and see so that we might go and participate in the life and ministry of Jesus. And what the Gospel is telling us is that faith is caught not taught.
When Philip gave the reply “come and see” he could have chosen to lecture Nathaniel about being pessimistic about what God can do. Phillip didn't plead with his friend to be serious and to take him seriously. Philip extended an invitation and left the choice with Nathaniel. And I think it was the exuberance of the reply that got Nathaniel’s curiosity up and he wanted to check out this Jesus guy from up north to see what the hullabaloo was all about.
If there is one thing that I have learned in the years that I have been as pastor, teacher of the faith, and as an evangelist, it is that faith is caught, not taught. I have the opportunity from time to time to speak with people I knew when I was younger and we often talk about the “good old days” and why they were so good. One of the things that I remember is how we used to talk about Jesus and our faith far more openly. We would invite people to come with us and we tried as much as we could to take as many people with us as we could to wherever it was we were going and to whatever it was that we were going to do.
If there is something that is missing from the life of the churches these days it is the Spirit of God. A bold statement to be sure but it is something that I don’t talk about much lately and need to do more of it. I will talk about following Jesus and other important things from Scripture but I have had an epiphany this week while I have been off resting up, and that is we as a church, I as a priest, don’t talk a whole lot about the life and things of God the Holy Spirit. It is not an intention omission to be sure, but I have come to realize that I need to be more intentional about talking about it and preaching on it because it matters.
God uses people to draw other people to himself and to work on them to bring them to be the people that they are meant to be in him. Being and moving with God in the Spirit, is a lot like ballroom dancing. God takes the lead and we are to follow the motions he sets out and indicates for us – showing us where to step and controlling the speed and which we, the Church, move.
But the Christian life is more than that. it is also about capturing the vision and learning to improvise within the steps and motions. It is about learning to see what it is that God sees in us and in the life of others. The Church needs to learn to be creative in what we do (in displaying and communicating the Gospel) so that we can capture not just the motions but also the imaginations of people. If you want to know what good can come from up north, come and see. If you want to see how God is working to rescue and redeem people, come and see, if you want to know what God is really like, come and see. It is God’s idea, God’s epiphany to show you all this and more – he is showing us the way! He is leading us and sustain us by his Spirit.