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                     of Almelund, Minnesota

         

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Invitation

Pastor Marla Amborn

Immanuel Lutheran Church

January 7, 2018

John 1:35-51

 

Invitations. We get them all the time. “Come to my house, for dinner.” “Let’s go to the ball game together.” “Why don’t you come to my child’s Christmas concert.” “Let’s go hunting.” Invitations can add joy to life and open up new possibilities.

 

Some invitations are more consequential than others. The invitation to “Come work for my company” can have a big impact on your life and the life of your family. The invitation “Will you marry me?” is life changing, especially if it is issued by someone you love and hope to spend your life with.

 

We see in our scripture for today a seemingly simple invitation, “Come and see.” Yet those simple words have life-changing impact.

 

Today’s scripture follows on to the scripture for last week. Many of us were not here on that frigid morning, myself included. So, let’s take a little look back for some context.

 

Last week was the story of Jesus’ baptism. As John the Baptist saw Jesus, he called him “The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” As John baptized Jesus, the Holy Spirit descended as a dove and the voice of God declared Jesus his beloved Son.

 

Some of the people who witnessed this holy moment were John’s disciples. Our scripture for today is set on the next day. John the Baptist is again present with his disciples, one of which was Andrew. Jesus walks by. Out of curiosity Andrew and another of John’s disciples begin following Jesus – They start literally following him around to see what Jesus is going to do.

 

Jesus notices them following him and asks them “What are you looking for?” They’re not quite sure what to say, so they blurt out, “Rabbi, where are you staying?” Jesus responds with the invitation, “Come and see.” It was a simple invitation.

 

Andrew was curious about Jesus. He wanted to get to know Jesus better. Jesus responded by welcoming Andrew into relationship with him. Andrew was so impressed by what he experienced as he got to know Jesus that he invited his brother to meet him as well. He goes and tells Simon about the person he had met – Jesus, the Messiah. He invites Simon to come and meet Jesus for himself. This is Simon Peter, the Rock upon whom Jesus later builds his church.

 

Curiosity… getting to know Jesus… inviting someone else. That is the pattern we see here. It is a pattern that has been lived out time and time again over the centuries.  

 

It started when Jesus asked Andrew “What are you looking for?” I ask you that same question. What are you looking for? Why do you come to church? Is it for the inspiring music or messages? Is it because the sense of community and friendship? Is it because this feels like home to you, your church home?

 

I’ll be quiet for a moment and let you think about that….

 

Now I invite you to turn to someone near you and discuss what brings you to Immanuel. Why do you come here? What do you like about this congregation? What brings you back Sunday after Sunday?

 

(2-3 minutes for discussion)

 

When we come to church, God invites us into relationship with him. God helps us grow in relationship with him. God takes our curiosity and turns it into relationship and then into faith.

 

It is in church that we hear the story of God’s love for the world. It is in church that we receive the Holy Spirit in baptism, who plants the seeds of faith in our lives and nurtures them along the way. It is in church that we take and eat at the Lord’s Table where we have a tangible way of knowing that our sins are forgiven. It is in church that we live out our calling as the Body of Christ – serving as God’s hands and feet in the world, sharing God’s love with neighbors in need – around the block and around the world.

 

It is good that at some point someone invited us to church. How different our lives would be without faith, without a church home! Church has had a powerful impact on the lives and faith of each of us here.

 

We are the beneficiaries of many centuries of invitations, that started when Jesus invited those first disciples and they responded by following him. Those disciples invited others to get to know Jesus, who invited others, down through the ages.

 

We are Jesus’ disciples in this time and place. We have been invited to follow Jesus. We have responded to that invitation as evidenced by our being here today. We are now sent out into the world to invite others.

 

We tend to get uncomfortable with the prospect of being asked to invite others. We’re not sure what to say. We know we should invite others, but we don’t know how. We may be afraid people will ask us questions we don’t know how to answer. We don’t want to be perceived as pushy and obnoxious. Most of us have little if any practice talking about faith. As we look for models of how to invite others, the example we see in our scripture can be helpful.

 

Philip invites his buddy, Nathanial, to come and meet Jesus. Nathanial, who is a bit skeptical asks “Can anything good come out of out of Nazareth?” Philip simply responds, “Come and see.” No elaborate explanations. No arm twisting. A simple invitation to come and see for yourself. Come and make your own decision if this is something that might be meaningful for you. It’s meaningful for me, so I’m inviting you to be part of it.

 

As we hear this story, it is amazing how simple this invitation is. A few little words, “Come and see” have life-changing consequences for these men and for the whole world. The four of them became the first of Jesus’ 12 disciples.

 

By accepting Jesus’ invitation, they gained front row seats to Jesus’ ministry. They heard him preach and teach with their own ears. They saw him heal with their own eyes. They witnessed miracles. They participated in miracles. They all gave out loaves and fishes at the feeding of the 5000. Peter walked on water! What a difference it made that they responded to the simple invitation “Come and see”!

 

Discipleship comes from relationship, relationship with Jesus. To be a disciple is to experience Jesus for yourself. To be a disciple is to say “Yes” to that invitation – “Come and see.” To be a disciple is to be on a journey. As you journey with Jesus, you get to know Jesus. You come to recognize his voice. You learn to trust him.

 

Discipleship shows itself as you love God and love your neighbor. You demonstrate that love of God and love of neighbor through your actions. You speak of your love of God and neighbor with your words. A simple invitation “Come and see” can make all the difference.

 

Jesus said, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and teaching them all I have commanded you.” How are we to be faithful to our calling if we remain silent?

 

We invite people to things all the time. We invite people to parties, to dinner, to sporting events. We invite people to things we enjoy and find meaningful because we think others will enjoy them and find them meaningful as well.

 

So, let’s take a moment to practice inviting someone to church. In just a moment I’ll ask you to turn once again to the person you spoke with earlier and simply invite them to church. You could say “Come with me to church.” Or “Come and hear the great music.” Or whatever it was that you told them you like about this church can be the reason you invite them to come and experience it for themselves.

 

Let’s give it a try. I’ll just give you one minute, since this is a simple invitation.

 

(One minute for discussion)

 

What if they say “No”? They might. If they say, “No I’m active in my own church” that’s great. We’re glad they go to church. Ask them about their church. What if they say “No, I’m just not interested”?   That’s fine. Let it go. Maybe try again at some point in the future. 57% of the people in Chisago County are not connected with any church. That’s over half our friends and neighbors. These would be the people to reach out to.

 

Who do you know who might be looking for what we have to offer here at Immanuel? Who might you invite to come with you to church?

 

The number one reason people come to church is because someone invites them. Whatever your reason is for coming to church, I ask you share that with someone. Then invite them to come and see. Curiosity leads to relationship. Relationship leads to faith. This is a church that we can all be proud of, and a faith that we can depend on.

 

May God richly bless each one of us and work through us. May he give us courage to extend invitations to others. Amen!