Malankara World

Sermons Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church

2nd Sunday After Denaho (Baptism of Jesus Christ)

Sermon / Homily on John 1:43 - 51

Come and See

by Pastor Edward F. Markquart

Gospel: John 1:43-51

To understand the sermon for today, you need to recall that I am from Minnesota, from Jackson, Minnesota which was the home of my childhood. Minnesota we recall is the land of 10,000 lakes, 100,000 cornfields and ten billion mosquitoes. When I grew up in southern Minnesota, the land was flat, flat, flat, flat, flat, for as far as the eye could see.

Therefore when I moved to my first job, my first call on the West coast in Eugene, Oregon, I knew that we weren’t far from the Pacific Ocean. On the first day that I had off from work in Eugene, Oregon, my wife, new little baby and I were going to go west and over to the coast and Pacific Ocean to see it for the first time. We hopped into our little l963 white Volkswagen bug and we headed over to the town of Florence on the coast.

When we got to Florence, we couldn’t see the Pacific Ocean. I was a little disappointed. So I took a right on Highway 101 and drove north for several miles but I still couldn’t see the Pacific Ocean. I can remember this moment as if it were yesterday. Then Highway 101 took a left and went West towards the ocean. The highway climbed higher and higher and higher and there at the top of this enormous hill, the road turned right and standing in front of us, we saw the Pacific Ocean for the first time. It was on a clear, sunny, blue sky day. It was just awesome. In a moment, my heart was captured by the beauty I saw. We jumped out of the car. I took my camera out, looked south and saw the magnificent stretch of ocean beach lined with white ocean waves crashing into the sands. I took that picture, with my wife and first child all wrapped up in her quilt, and we still have that picture to this day. That picture is a favorite.

Do you know what we did that night? I did what anybody from Minnesota would do. I called my mother and father that night and said, “Mom and Dad. You’ve got to come and see. You’ve got to come and see the Pacific Ocean. North of Florence. It is beautiful like you have never seen before. It is awesome. It is incredible. Pictures don’t do it justice. Postcards don’t capture it. What I tell you over the telephone won’t do it. You gotta come and see it for yourself.”

Mom and Dad came to see that ocean beach stretching out for miles of pure sand and they were impressed. They were inspired. They were awestruck by the beauty that they saw. Like mine, their hearts were captured in a moment.

To understand the story, you need to understand that I am from Minnesota, the land of 10,000 lakes, the land of 100,000 cornfields and the land of 10 billion mosquitoes. And where I grew up, it was a land of eternal cornfields, at least so it seemed. Therefore, the ocean was incredibly and freshly beautiful for me.

A second parable.

When I moved here to the State of Washington, I would told that there was mountain here by the name of Mount Rainier. I had never seen it but I had heard about it. So we went to this place call Mount Rainier and we still had this little l963 Volkswagen bug. We now had two children to sit in the back seat of that bug and we then drove through the town of Enumclaw. We didn’t see anything too impressive. We had a little glimpse of that snowcone in the sky, but it wasn’t much of a glimpse. We drove to this toll booth at the entrance to Sunrise and we traveled up the side of the mountain through switchback after switchback. We got up there near the top and there was a little pulloff and a mountain range was off to our right, off to the east. It was incredible. I had never seen mountains like that before. That didn’t have anything like that in Minnesota. We went up to the top where they have this log fort and parked the car. We started out on our first hike in the mountains, up to Burrough’s Mountain. We were right up against the view of a glacier. You could almost kiss it, touch it, caress it. It was a three hour hike that day but my heart was captured by the beauty of the mountain in a moment. It was wonderful. We pulled out the camera and took that classic picture of Jan and the two kids.

Do you know what we did that night? I did what anybody from Minnesota would do. I called my mother and father that night and said, “Mom and Dad. You’ve got to come and see. You’ve got to come and see Mount Rainer for yourself.. On Sunrise. It is beautiful like you have never seen before. It is awesome. It is incredible. It is beyond your imagination. Pictures don’t do it justice. Postcards don’t capture it. What I tell you over the telephone won’t do it. You gotta come and see it for yourself.”

Mom and Dad came and they were impressed. They were inspired. They were awestruck by the beauty that they saw. And like mine, their hearts were captured in the magic of the moment. We went on that Burrough’s Mountain hike and they were impressed. I took a picture of Mom, sitting there on a rock, looking out over a mountain range and it is one of my favorite photographs of her.

To understand the story, you need to understand that I am from Minnesota, the land of 10,000 lakes, the land of 100,000 cornfields and the land of 10 billion mosquitoes. And where I grew up, it was a land of eternal cornfields, at least so it seemed. Therefore, the ocean was incredibly and freshly beautiful for me.

The theme of “come and see” is really important, is it not? “Mom and Dad, you’ve got to come and see the new baby. He or she is so cute. Come and see our new grandchild. This is the prettiest child you ever did see.” Better than pictures, better than photographs. Better than stories that I tell you over the phone. You need to come and experience this new baby yourself.” This baby will capture your heart.

All of us use that phrase, “come and see,” often. We want people to come and see what is important to our lives. “Come see our new house. Come and see our garden and all the flowers that are blossoming. Come and see our new car. Come and see the way that we painted the children’s bedroom. Mom and Dad, this is really important. Won’t you come and see.”

We also use that phrase in another way. Sometimes when we have met someone who is incredibly unusual, we often need to say to others, “come and see.” I would like to share with you three examples of this.

My mother and father were snowbirds from ages 65-85 when they lived in Texas. They spent twenty years being snowbirds down in McAllen, Texas. Mom would call up on the telephone and say, “Eddie, you’ve go to come and see this person.” She didn’t say, “I want you to come and see our mobile home." Rather she said, "You’ve got to come and see Mabel Clare. Mabel Clare is something else. You’ve got to come and see her, Eddie.”

Finally, one year, we traveled to McAllen, Texas to see our parents, the snowbirds…and to see Mabel Clare. We went to see her and saw her own ramshackled house. There were two sisters, spinsters living in that old ramshackled house, Mabel Claire and her sister. They were old, worn out diva sopranos from Italy. We had tea that was set on their old ramshackled tea table. We got into Mabel Clare’s van and drove across the Mexican border. Mabel Clare got out of that old ramshackled van and the Mexican children from the street mobbed her with love and affection. An old man said, “Thank you, Mabel Clare, for getting me my surgery in Dallas.” I slowly realized that I was walking around with a Mother Teresa. I was walking around with a spiritual giant. She was awesome. I remember that event as if it were yesterday but it was years ago. I spent only a few hours with Mabel Claire and my heart was captured by her. I was captivated by her. I took a picture of Mabel Clare and my mother and that photograph still hangs in my office. Two great saints, standing side by side. Mom said, “Eddie, you’ve come to come and see Mabel Claire. She is an inspiring person.” Yes, she was a most inspiring person.

Or, I remember when a friend said, “Ed, come and see Bishop Kameeta.” I went to see and hear Bishop Kameeta. He was an unusual looking man. Bishop Kameeta is an Africa-American man from Namibia during the conflict with South Africa. He was an usual looking man because he was a black man who was an albino. Can you imagine? His skin was white and his hair was white and there was pink shades in his eyes. This was a weird looking person. Here was a man whose family had been beaten and butchered by the South African police. He was a father who had lost his children. Her was a man whose wife and children had been beaten and butchered. He talked about those people as if there was no hatred in his voice. How could he do that? How could he talk that way? There were no traces of hatred in his heart.” In that moment of time with him, perhaps two hours, my heart was captured by the beauty of what I saw and experienced in the Spirit of Jesus living in that man.

Third story. Today is January 15th and we celebrate the person and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was born into a family of preachers. His daddy and granddaddy were preachers in the same Baptist church down in Georgia. Young Martin grew up, destined to be a preacher like is father and grandfather before. He went to college and then a seminary in Pennsylvania where he was elected Senior Class president by a student body composed mostly of white men. Martin attended Boston Theological Seminary where he received his doctorate. I wanted to get my PH.D. from Boston Seminary but never did. Young Martin did. The new Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. began his first parish in Montgomery, Alabama in 1954 and by 1957 he was in the thick of the civil rights movement. He was becoming a leader in the cause for civil rights. For the next eleven years, he traveled more than six miliion miles and gave 2,500 speeches for justice in any town, village or city that needed his spiritual and moral leadership. Dr. King was named Man of the Year by Time magazine in 1963 and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 when he was only thirty-five years old. He was the youngest person to ever receive the Peace prize. He was awared $54,000 for the Peace Prize but rather than putting that money in his own pocket, he gave that hefty sum to the civil rights movement. 250,000 people converged on Washington, D.C. to hear his "I Have A Dream" speech. So many people said, "You have to come and see. You have to come and see and hear this man. You will be amazed. Your heart will be captured when you see and hear him." My heart has been captured by the Spirit of Jesus and his peace and justice living within the heart of Dr. King.

Just was we are swept off our feet by the magnificent beauty of the ocean and the magnificent beauty of the mountains, so often we are swept off our feet by the greatness and grandeur of people that we meet such as Mabel Clare and Bishop Kameeta and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.. The hearts of Mabel Clare and Bishop Kameeta and Dr. King had been captured by Christ; they became followers of Christ. Our hearts are captured when we see the greatness of God living in such people.

It is with these images that we approach the gospel story for today.

Today’s story is one of five “come and see” stories. There is only one “come and see” story in the text for today so I am going to tell you all five “come and see” stories from the first chapter of the Gospel of John.

The story goes like this.

John the Baptist was out in the wilderness. Jesus came to be baptized by John the Baptist. John the Baptist must have heard about Jesus because John the Baptist said, “I am not worthy to tie your shoes.” As John baptized Jesus, it was as if the Spirit of God came down on Jesus in a special way. I am not exactly sure what happened afterwards but I am sure that something important happened. The heart of John the Baptist was captured by Jesus. Yes, hearts can we captured in a moment. And what did John the Baptist do? John the Baptist went and found his own disciples and said, “Come and see. Come and see.”

One of those disciples was named Andrew. John the Baptist said, “Andrew, you’ve got to come and see Jesus. He is an incredible man. I have never met anyone like him before.”

The text is specific when it says, “Andrew and his friend came at 4:00 in the afternoon to meet Jesus.”

If you read the text carefully in Greek, you realize that Andrew stayed until 6:00 the next morning. So Andrew spent fourteen hours with Jesus. Can you imagine that? Can you imagine yourself having the privilege of spending fourteen hours in personal conversation with Jesus? Something happened. Andrew encountered this spiritual giant, this immeasurably wonderful person. Andrew's heart was captured that night by Jesus of Nazareth.

The next morning, at the crack of dawn according to the text, Andrew went and found his older brother. Andrew said to his older brother who was named Simon Peter, “Simon Peter, you’ve got to come and see. Simon, you are my older brother. You are the hero of my life. Simon, you have meant so me. You are someone that I have deeply admired and loved. Simon, my big brother, you have got to come and meet this Jesus.” So Simon Peter came and met Jesus. Simon Peter spent time with Jesus. There is no record of what was said in that conversation or how long that it lasted. But Peter’s heart was transformed. His heart was captured.

Peter then went to Phillip and said, “Phillip, you’ve come to come and see.” Phillip did. Phillip’s heart was transformed. His heart was captured.

Phillip went and found his co-worker, Nathaniel. He said, “Nathaniel, you’ve got to come and meet this Jesus of Nazareth. You’ve simply got to.”

Nathaniel came and saw and Jesus said to Nathaniel. “Nathaniel. I saw you sitting under your fig tree yesterday.” Nathaniel said, “How did you see that?” Jesus said, “I know your heart.” Nathaniel fell down and worshipped him.

In all of these stories, there were hearts who had been captured by Jesus Christ. Those people then went out and said, “Come and see.”

I would like to talk about your heart being captured, my heart being captured. Not captured like an animal in Africa is captured and put into a cage in a zoo. Not captured like a dog by someone from the animal pound. Not captured not like a robber who got caught by a cop and put in jail. But captured like a man’s heart is captured by a woman’s. Or captured like a grandfather's heart is captured by a grandchild. Like my heart was captured by the beauty of the ocean, the mountains, the greatness and goodness of Mabel Clare and Bishop Kameeta and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

In the first service today, Roger sits right here and Dorothy sits right next to him. They have been married now for more than fifty years. Every year at their anniversary, Roger writes Dorothy a really mushy love poem. I mean, really affectionate. I mean, really mushy. And when you see Dorothy and Roger together, you know that Roger’s heart has been captured by Dorothy’s and vice versa.

Like a man’s heart has been captured by a woman’s, like a grandmother’s heart has been captured by a grandchild, like my heart is captured by the beauty of Puget Sound, the hearts of these disciples had been captured by the beauty and magnificence of Jesus Christ. Their hearts had been captured by his life, his love, his kindness, his knowledge of God, his way of life and loving.

What I am suggesting to you this morning is that the very essence of evangelism is that people’s hearts have been captured by Jesus Christ and you go and say to your friends and family, “Come and see. You have got to come and see for yourself this Jesus of Nazareth. You need to know first hand his love, his compassion, his kindness, his mercy, his beauty. It will make all the difference in your world and in your life.”

That is what it means to be a disciple of Christ. A disciple of Jesus Christ is a person whose heart has been captured by the greatness and gracious goodness of Jesus Christ and you go and say to someone, "Come and see. Come and see this Jesus of Nazareth." That is what can be called “evangelism at its best.”

Now I will share with you "evangelism at its worst." This is where the words, "come and see," refer to coming and seeing our new church building, our choir, our band, our youth program, our pastors.

For example. My first job was down in Eugene, Oregon and they had a really nice church down there. They built a new organ in that church. It was an incredible organ. You should see and hear it. The pipes fill the whole rear of the sanctuary choir balcony. You should hear that grand music. And some people in the church would say, “Come and see. Come and see…our new organ. It is the best organ on the West coast. We have a cool church because we have this cool organ.”

Or, years ago, I got a letter from a church in Mason City, Iowa. They were out looking for a pastor, and so they sent me a brochure of their church. It was a twenty-four page brochure and there were twenty-four pages of pictures of their church. They had this new building, pure brick. You should have seen those pictures by this professional photographer. And the purpose of their church, so it seemed to me at the time, was to preserve their beautiful building. They implied, “Come and see our new building. It is cool beyond cool.”

Or a church in Lake Oswego. “You have got to come and see our youth program. We have three full time youth directors. We have 150 kids. We have a traveling youth choir. Come and see our wonderful youth program.”

Or within our own congregation here at Grace Lutheran Church, we can begin to say, "Come and see our Grace Choir. It sounds as good as the Mormon Tabernacle Choir." Or "Come and see our gospel band. It is on the cutting edge." Or "come and see our bell choirs. They are awesome." Or "come and see our youth program. It is something else all those kids who are coming here." Or "come and see our pastors. They can preach, teach and

And in all these wonderful congregations, gradually the focus was no longer on “come and see Jesus.” No longer did it seem that those hearts were captured by the love of God, the compassion of Jesus. Hearts captured by the beauty of the ocean and the Oregon coast. Hearts captured by Mount Rainier and the glaciers near Burroughs Mountain. Hearts captured by Mabel Clare and Bishop Kameeta and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Hearts that were captured by the greatness and grandeur of Jesus Christ. Instead it appeared that too many hearts were captured by organs, choirs, gospel bands, buildings, and youth programs.

All I know is that the first disciples like Andrew and Peter and Phillip and Nathaniel were people whose hearts were captured by Jesus Christ and they went and found their family and friends and said, "Come and see the greatness and gracious goodness in Jesus."

Now, I should stop this sermon right here, but...I was working on my annual report the other night. I want to report one thing that I learned. I looked at a few charts about numerical growth or lack thereof in our congregation. I looked merely at one statistic: number of new people who joined Grace Lutheran Church last year by adult baptism. How many adult baptisms were there into our congregation last year. One. Yes, one. That is the lowest number in many, many years.

So I asked the question of myself: "Can a great congregation with strong choirs, strong gospel bands, strong bell choirs, strong youth ministries and good solid pastors; is it possible for such a congregation to lose the vision of what it means to say to our family and friends, "Come and see. Come and see the most beautiful and Spirit filled person who has ever lived. Jesus Christ. He just may capture your heart as he did mine." 

Amen.

See Also:

Come and See - Assembling the Team
by Rev. Fr. Dr. V Kurian Thomas

Nathaniel with Jesus
by Rev. Fr. K. K. John

Jesus is Calling Us
by Rev. Fr. Dr. Joy Pyngolil

Sermons, Bible Commentaries and Bible Analyses for the 2nd Sunday after Denaha (Baptism of our Lord)

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