Come and see

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The first chapter of John’s gospel begins with the great vision of the coming of the eternal Word into the world – and the dawning of the true light for all people. Then we hear about the baptism of Jesus and John declares him to be the Son of God. And then the focus becomes more intimate – not a great proclamation or an impressive demonstration, but a simple meeting.

John points two of his own followers towards Jesus as he walks past. They go after him and he turns and asks them ‘What are you looking for?’ which is a pretty powerful question. They deflect the question with one of their own – ‘Where do you live?’ they ask. ‘Come and see’ says Jesus – and off they go and stay with him for the rest of the day.

Like many rabbis in his day, Jesus’ way of teaching is not just to offer lessons or preach sermons but to share his whole life. He wants people not only to come and hear, but to come and see – to make the connection between his words and his actions. He doesn’t just talk about the inclusive love of God, he demonstrates it in the company he keeps. He doesn’t only talk about prayer – he shows its priority in his life. And it’s not just for an afternoon – Jesus will go on to share his life in this way for the next three years.

When you live with people, there is nowhere to hide. We’ve got someone coming to stay this weekend and there’s a lot of cleaning going on – but if they were living with us permanently they might see a different reality. And not just our standards of cleanliness – someone with us all the time sees what we are like when we are tired, grumpy, judgmental, selfish… We don’t always want people to see us as we are when we’re off duty.

But Jesus invites people to live with him. And there is something about the way his life and his words tie up that speaks to them – so much so that after only a few hours, we’re told that Andrew fetches his brother to meet Jesus. I’m sure that living with Jesus in this way must have had a formative effect on the disciples, and the way they went on to live out their faith in the time after Jesus was no longer with them.

So what about us? I read a couple of things this morning which both connected with this truth. One said this: ‘Whatever we claim to believe, the way we live and behave will communicate far more effectively than our words.’  The author talked about a Christian conference he went to, which was supposedly about the grace and love of God, but he felt that what came across most forcefully was a kind of indignant anger, a harshness which jarred with the message.

The other quote was this, ‘Those we admire most are usually those who live with the integrity where belief and behaviour coincide.’

That may make us feel uncomfortable. But thankfully we are not asked to be Jesus. Our integrity comes with a knowledge of our flaws and failings. We can work to bring together our belief and our behaviour, but we can also admit our need for grace and forgiveness. Did you see the clip of Pope Francis hitting someone’s hand when they grabbed onto him? Afterwards he apologised and said he shouldn’t have done it. I thought that showed him as human – reacting with understandable annoyance, but then admitting that he isn’t perfect and he too needs grace and forgiveness.

Our lives can speak very powerfully – and we can dare to open them up to others even when that makes us feel vulnerable. But the most powerful message is when people see God’s grace at work in those who are imperfect and still growing – and that offers hope for themselves.

Lord, help us to see ourselves honestly.. to recognise our need for forgiveness and healing, and to be thankful for your work of grace in our lives…

Lord, as we spend time in your company – in quietness, in prayer, allowing the stories of your life to soak into us – may our lives be formed more and more in the pattern of your life – may we be known by love…

We pray, Lord, that through our grace filled lives and our careful words, those around us – those we think of now, may be drawn to you…

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