John 1:29-34

John 1:35-42

We just sang “Just As I Am.” Andrew, Simon, and another disciple were all invited to follow Jesus, without a plea or a qualification: just “come.” John identifies Jesus as the awaited one, and the disciples rejoice. “We’ve found him! Jesus is the “Lamb of God” we’ve been looking for.” We’ve reached our destination, right?” Wrong, of course. It’s too early in this story. Jesus is whom we looked for, but finding him isn’t enough. This is not my line, but it’s true: Jesus accepts you as you are, but he doesn’t leave you that way. There’s more to learn.

Andrew and the others want to learn. They take Jesus as their teacher, their rabbi. When they ask, “where do you live?” they’re saying that they’re ready to join his school. Teachers literally had followers – more like groupies – who went where they went and learned what they had to teach. Andrew and the others had been following John, living in the wilderness, and now the went to follow (and live with) Jesus. That’s all well and good, to follow Jesus into God’s house. The Psalmist tells us, “better is one day [here] than a thousand elsewhere.”

There was a 25-year-old pastoral candidate who was just finishing up his Ph.D. in systematic theology (yes, at 25), when he was called to an important downtown church. This was a college church, just down the street from the state capitol. It was a good fit for a brilliant, ambitious, charismatic preacher. There were 80-some years of history in the building – sermons, funerals, community service events – the pastor here has arrived. A lesser pastor would be tempted to think that, anyway, to soak up the history and rest on his laurels.

But the invitation doesn’t go like that. Jesus says, “Come and see.” He receives his followers and takes them along. Takes them where? Jesus didn’t live here. He may have lived at Galilee, several days’ journey away, but we’re not really sure. Maybe Jesus took them over to the Coates, ordered in some pizza, and had an all-night Torah study – that’s my kind of fun. But then he kept going: back to Galilee, off to Samaria, and ultimately to Jerusalem. There was much to “come and see.”

That young pastor came and saw. Where was Jesus staying? In that red brick church, but not only there. Jesus stayed in that church in a way that led the people out into the streets, disrupting our unjust ways of living. He stayed in the oppressed people, the poor people, the people sent off to fight in wars. Jesus was there, and Pastor King followed. He stayed with Jesus in many places – in Montgomery, Birmingham, Selma, Washington, DC, and finally in Memphis. Assassination isn’t the same as crucifixion, but martyrdom isn’t about dying. It’s about giving your life as a witness to Christ. Martin Luther King could have lived many more decades, but he had already given his life for Christ, who lives in the people of this world.

Jesus’ would-be followers ask, “Where do you live?” and he answers: “In the world, always and in everyone. Come and see it.” Come and see where the Lamb of God goes. See him reveal God’s love and share abundant life. Come and see him healing, feeding, forgiving, and raising from death. Come and see a life given freely in service and grace. Finally, come and see victory over the grave, the power of light to shine in the darkness, the triumph of life over the fear of death. Come and see something great: you’re welcomed as God’s beloved child, simply because God’s love took on flesh in Jesus.

Come and see something great – the Lamb of God, the Word of God that speaks to heal, feed, forgive, and raise from death, which are all ultimately one thing. We’re finally talking about the gift of abundant life that comes in wholeness, reconciliation, or just knowing “enough.” These gifts are ours, not because we worked hard enough, or even because we called Jesus by the right name. The gifts of life are ours because God loves us. That’s what Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection finally teach. Whatever piece of that list speaks Jesus to you – be it healing, feeding, forgiving, or new life – it will show you everything.

You’re invited to follow Jesus. You’re loved and accepted (just as you are), of course. Now come and let that show you more. Come and follow: do as he did, healing, feeding, and forgiving, and share the gift of life with others because Jesus is your life. Come and stay with Jesus now, here in this red brick building that is not so unlike Dexter Avenue Baptist Church. Come and share with Jesus where he’s staying: receive new life and offer it to others, freely, joyfully, and gratefully.

Amen.

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