January 2, 2022
Acknowledging the Territory
As we begin a new year, let’s take a moment to once again acknowledge that here in Nova Scotia, the land upon which we live, work and worship is, by law, the unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq people. This year, let us explore new ways to live out this acknowledgment as we seek to learn to more justly share this land for which we are so grateful.
Lighting the Christ Candle
Because we are still in the season of Christmas, we would normally relight all of our Advent Candles as we light our Christ Candle. However, since we are online today, as we light our Christ Candle and invite Christ into our worship, we remember the gifts of Hope, Peace, Joy and Love that he offers us.
Call to Worship
Jesus calls us to, come and see!
We come to see for ourselves who this Jesus person is.
Jesus calls us to, come and see!
We come to hear Jesus challenge to follow him.
Jesus calls us to, come and see!
We come with open hearts to allow ourselves to experience Jesus.
Jesus calls us to, come and see!
We come to deepen our relationship with Jesus, God and with one another.
Jesus calls us to, come and see!
And we are here to see, to hear, to experience and to respond.
Jesus calls us and so we come together to worship.
Opening Prayer (in unison) *based on a prayer written by Susan Durber
Open our eyes, Lord, to the world around us. Show us not only what we want to see but the things we would rather not see, the things we hide from our eyes. Give us the courage to do what you ask and to ‘Come and see’.
Open our eyes, Lord, to the possibilities we do not always recognize. Show us what life could be like if only we had the wisdom to see with your eyes. Give us the courage to look towards your vision when we ‘Come and see’.
Open our eyes, Lord, to the people all around us. Show us what you see when you look at us and at our world. Give us courage to look through your eyes as we strive to follow your call to ‘Come and see’. Amen.
Gift of Music Jesus Calls Us #562
Scripture Readings John 1:35-51
As we resume our exploration of the Narrative Lectionary, we turn now to the Gospel According to John which we will be following until Easter. John tells no birth narrative. There are not angels or stars announcing his birth and revealing who the child is. There is also no baptism story. John begins with John the Baptist. When the adult Jesus is first introduced to us it is in the call of his first disciples, those who had previously been disciples of John the Baptist. It is John the Baptist who first seems to recognize Jesus, call him “the Lamb of God!” For John this is the private Epiphany or revelation of who Jesus is. Next week we will look at John’s public Epiphany or revelation.
The next day John was standing there again with two of his disciples, when he saw Jesus walking by. “There is the Lamb of God!” he said.
The two disciples heard him say this and went with Jesus. Jesus turned, saw them following him, and asked, “What are you looking for?”
They answered, “Where do you live, Rabbi?” (This word means “Teacher.”)
“Come and see,” he answered. (It was then about four o’clock in the afternoon.) So they went with him and saw where he lived, and spent the rest of that day with him. One of them was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. At once he found his brother Simon and told him, “We have found the Messiah.” (This word means “Christ.”)
Then he took Simon to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “Your name is Simon son of John, but you will be called Cephas.” (This is the same as Peter and means “a rock.”) The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Come with me!” (Philip was from Bethsaida, the town where Andrew and Peter lived.) Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one whom Moses wrote about in the book of the Law and whom the prophets also wrote about. He is Jesus son of Joseph, from Nazareth.”
“Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Nathanael asked.
“Come and see,” answered Philip.
When Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, he said about him, “Here is a real Israelite; there is nothing false in him!”
Nathanael asked him, “How do you know me?”
Jesus answered, “I saw you when you were under the fig tree before Philip called you.”
“Teacher,” answered Nathanael, “you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”
Jesus said, “Do you believe just because I told you I saw you when you were under the fig tree? You will see much greater things than this!” And he said to them, “I am telling you the truth: you will see heaven open and God’s angels going up and coming down on the Son of Man.”
Come and See
Have you ever met one of those people who never actually answers a question? You know the kind. They always seem to answer a question with another question. Well, in the Gospel According to John, that is exactly the way Jesus is first introduced.
Two of the disciples of John the Baptist hear John refer to this stranger who just happens to be walking by as “The Lamb of God”. They decide to follow the stranger to see if they can figure out what on earth John is talking about. They likely followed at a bit of a distance, wanting to observe but not really sure what to expect. Suddenly Jesus turns around and asks them “What are you looking for?”
It is interesting that Jesus asks what and not who are you looking for. If he had asked who, the disciples could likely have avoided a rather uncomfortable situation by simply saying, “Sorry, we thought you were someone else!” But how do they answer when Jesus asks, “What are you looking for?”
It is clear that Jesus knows that they are following him. They cannot deny it. But how do they answer when they really don’t even know exactly what they are looking for? And so, the disciples answer Jesus’ question with a question of their own. “Where do you live?” In many other translations the question is worded, “Where are you staying?” But, the most accurate translation of all would actually be “Where do you abide?” The word abide appears many times in the Bible. At one point Jesus calls his disciples to abide in him.
But when they ask him, “Where do you abide?”, Jesus does not give them a direct answer. Instead, he invites them to “Come and See”. The only way they will find an answer to their questions, both the one they have asked and the ones they have not asked, is to take a chance and follow where Jesus leads.
That’s how it is for John. It all starts with a question, with a spark of curiosity. Who is this Lamb of God? Where does he come from? Where does he abide? These are not simple questions and John, who focuses so much on the Divine, the mystical and the unexplainable, is saying that the only way to find the answer to our question is through experience.
John is offering, not an explanation of who Jesus is, but rather an invitation to set out on a journey of discovery that will lead us to an experience of Jesus. It is only through experiencing who Jesus is for us that we will find personal answers to our personal questions. No one can tell us the answers. We have to find them for ourselves.
And this carries on through with the next past of our scripture. We are told that the following day Jesus found Philip, inviting him to join the journey. Philip, in turn, went out and found Nathaniel. But Nathaniel has a question of his own. “Can anything good come from Nazareth?”
I have always struggled with this question, trying to figure out why John would include this rather obscure conversation in his version of the call of the first disciples. It is very different from the story we find in Matthew, Mark or Luke and, for me at least, it never seemed to make much sense.
When Nathaniel says, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Philip could have taken great offence to that question. He could have argued that Nathaniel was being close minded. He could have laughed it off or ignored what was said, silently agreeing that it seemed odd that any great teacher would come from such an insignificant place as Nazareth. But instead, like Jesus, rather than offering any kind of answer to Nathaniel’s question, Philip invites him instead to “Come and See”.
So, what exactly is it that Nathaniel will see when he follows Philip to Jesus? Well according to some scholars it is the fulfillment of an obscure prophecy found in the book of Zechariah where the prophet says, “In that day, says the Lord of hosts, ‘Everyone will call his neighbor’.” And where does this call take place according to Zechariah? “Under his vine and under his fig tree.”
When Nathanial hears Jesus say “I saw you when you were under the fig tree before Philip called you” Nathanial responds, “Teacher, you are the Son of God!”
Now this whole thing may seem a bit of a stretch, but I think what John is trying to tell the reader, both in the time the gospel was first written and in our current context is that the questions are only the beginning.
When it comes to the questions that really matter, there are no easy or obvious answers. The answers to the questions that matter most will only be found when we are willing to take a risk, to step out of our comfort zone and respond to Jesus’ invitation to “Come and See”.
So, as we begin this new year, in which we will be looking a bit more closely at the Gospel According to John, we begin with an invitation to “Come and See”. We begin with an invitation to set out on a journey of discovery, a journey that we take with those first disciples and with disciples throughout history. It is a journey into new and deepening relationship and deepening connection. We won’t find answers to all our questions, but we just might find new ways of looking at things and maybe even, new questions to ask.
When Nathanial responded to Jesus by saying, “Teacher, you are the Son of God!” Jesus told him, “You will see much greater things than this!”
And perhaps this is the greatest promise of all. “Come and See”, but when you do, don’t be surprised if you find out that you ain’t seen nothing yet! It is in the journey that we discover not only who Jesus is for us, but who we are. So, as we begin 2022, I want to go back to where we began with our scripture this morning and ask you, three questions.
First, what are you looking for in 2022? What are your hopes and dreams for this year? What do you hope to accomplish or what do you hope to discover?
Second, where will you abide? Will you abide in the love and safety of family and friends, in the familiar and comforting? Will you abide in or perhaps be caught up in the fear and isolation of an ongoing pandemic? Will you abide in your own little bubble, never venturing out, or will you abide in the journey, risking the challenge of Christ to “Come and See”?
And lastly, what will you see, what will you learn and what will you experience as you step out into 2022, following the one who call us to “Come and See”?
I don’t have any answers for you. I don’t know when this pandemic will end or what our world will look like going forward. I don’t know what opportunities and challenges we will face as we go forward into 2022, but what I can promise you is that if you are willing to risk taking your questions to the one who calls us to “Come and See” then “You will see much greater things than this!”
Gift of Music Dear Lord, Lead Me Day by Day #568
We Offer Our Gifts
At this time in our worship, we are again reminded that our commitment to God also includes the gifts we offer. As we gather online, I as you to think about what it is that you have to offer to God and to others this day. And so, whatever it is we offer today, our financial gifts, the gift of our time, our talents, our abilities, our commitments or our prayers, we take a moment now to ask God’s blessing upon it.
Let us pray;
Loving God, as we think about all the gifts and blessings we have received over the past year, we ask that your spirit will continue to bless us and, through the gifts we give today, reach out to touch and bless others. Amen.
Minute for Mission
Prayers of the People ~ written by John W. Vest
Holy God, at this dawn of a new year, we are gathered together to worship and listen— to listen for your voice calling us to something new.
In the wake of Advent, Christmas, and the turn of the new year, some of us are still hopeful and full of expectation; some of us are weary and worn out; some of us are overwhelmed and anxious. But as sure as the sun rises, a new year is upon us, full of possibilities, full of promise.
You are a God of newness and change, and you call us to be continually transformed. In this season of newness and resolutions, help us to be mindful and intentional about our priorities. Help us to follow the call of Jesus; help us to rely on the Spirit in our faith and in our doubt.
Inspire us with a vision of the world as it could be,
a world closer to your intentions and desires,
a world of abundance and plenty,
a world of peace and security,
a world of cooperation and prosperity,
a world of health and well-being,
a world of love and justice.
In some ways it’s easy, at the beginning of a new year, to be idealistic and zealous,
to be bold in our dreams and resolutions. So God, we ask that you help us to be patient and disciplined, persistent and steady throughout the entire year. May we not too quickly fall back into familiar habits and patterns, may we not lose hope or vision, may we be your kingdom people each and every day of this new year.
God, even as we hope and dream of a better world, even as we make plans to be better people, we are mindful of the realities that face us right now.
So we ask for healing and wholeness for those who are sick;
comfort for those who are grieving;
companionship for those who are lonely;
jobs and homes and food for those without them;
peace in places of war;
justice for those who are oppressed;
and reconciliation for those who are estranged.
We are confident, God, that you will walk with us as we strive to meet these needs;
we are confident that you will walk with us always.
We are confident that your love fills our lives and guides our paths.
Remind us God, to not put Christmas away too quickly, but to enjoy the fullness of this season and to be transformed by the spirit of Christ in our midst.
Even now, dear God, we join our voices to his, boldly praying for the transformation of the world in the ever-old but ever-new words of this familiar prayer. Our Father… Amen
Closing Hymn Will You Come and Follow Me #567
So go out now into 2022, trusting that no matter what this new year may hold, we do not face it alone. God is with us, Christ’s example shows us the way and the Spirit walks with us and within us, each step of the way. Go with God.