Earlier this year, I heard a sermon about the calling of Jesus’ disciples. Nathanael was skeptical of this man from Nazareth and whether anything good could come from there. Phillip said to him “Come and see.” When Nathanael saw with his own eyes that, yes, something, indeed someone, good could come from Nazareth, he joined the rest of the followers of Christ.
I won’t get into all the particulars of the rest of the sermon. Suffice it to say that the primary underlying message was this: bring others to church so that they can “come and see” Jesus, too.
Really? People have to come to church to see Jesus? They can’t encounter him out in the community? In the Old Testament, the Jews believed that God was tied to the land and that was the only place God could be encountered. Do we now think the same of Jesus and church?
And when people do come to church, which Jesus are they seeing? Are they seeing the one we’ve bound and gagged out back? Are they seeing the one we’ve done a fine job of distorting? Are they seeing a bunch of people socializing and mentioning Jesus’ name? Are they seeing the Jesus who offers an alternative story of which we can all be a part?
Why is it that we HAVE to go to church to see Jesus? Why can’t we show people who Jesus is where WE ARE? Isn’t that the model we have from Jesus himself? He didn’t hang out in church or invite people to the synagogue. He showed people something about who he was wherever he was at. And you know what, people FLOCKED to the man…probably because he was offering up something different, something better, something that made sense, something that provided what these people were looking for and/or needed. They followed Jesus from their communities, from their homes and fishing boats and villages…not from the synagogue–at least, not as much as they did from the former.
There are many places to see God. Our problem is that we don’t expect to see God in many places…other than the typical religious venues.