The Rev. Melanie L. McCarley
Sight is closely linked with understanding. We watch a cartoon and see a lightbulb suddenly appear above a character’s head and instinctively we understand, this is a symbol telling us that the brain has generated an idea. We commonly employ the euphemism “I see” to say “I understand.” What’s more, we have deemed an entire historical era “The Enlightenment”, referring to the late 17th and 18th centuries in Europe where reason and individualism became the prominent means of understanding. Sight, knowledge and comprehension, these are hallmarks of the season of Epiphany—all in all, entirely appropriate when you consider that the word “Epiphany” refers to a moment of sudden revelation or insight.
Bearing this in mind, we should take notice of today’s Gospel reading which is chock full of the language of looking and seeing. John the Baptist says: “I saw the Spirit” after a dove descends on the newly baptized Jesus. And again: “I myself have seen and have testified.” The next day he tells his disciples: “Look, here is the Lamb of God!” Jesus, we are told, “turns and sees” those same disciples, and invies them to “come and see” where he is staying.
The Gospel today is all about epiphanies. In this encounter we are told that when Jesus sees the disciples following him he says: “What are you looking for?” This is the first question Jesus asks his disciples, and, if you think about it, it’s really a question for all of us: What are you looking for? In the deep reaches of your heart, what is it for which you most deeply long? What is the hope of your spirit? Emotionally, spiritually and intellectually, What are you looking for?
So, perhaps it shouldn’t come as any surprise to us that the disciples, for their own part, dodge the question. Perhaps, at this point, they are incapable of articulating an answer. Maybe they’re just shy—but that’s hard to imagine given Peter’s personality. And so, they respond instead with a question of their own: “Where are you staying?” Talk about a letdown of a response! But to his immense credit, our Savior does not sigh with frustration and say “Frank’s house. I’m stopping at the home of Frank.” Instead, Jesus responds: “Come and see.” Now, if you think about it, this is a maddening response—both concrete and elusive at the same time. To find an answer you have to do something—follow, and even then, you may not be certain of the answer for a good while longer. Truth be told—it could take a lifetime to figure out. It’s enough to make the concrete thinkers among us want to tear their hair out by the roots.
“Come and see.” If you want to know where Jesus is and what he’s about—you have to follow. The Lord of the Universe is not about to be pinned down by some easy definition, replete with GPS coordinates, or crammed into a convenient box of our choosing. If you want to know the path that leads to salvation—well, it only begins to become clear once you decide to walk it. It’s that plain and that baffling all at the same time.
And about those who see and decide to follow—who are they? The first is Andrew, who shares the news with his brother Simon, Peter. Now, I’d like to take a moment to talk about Andrew who is frequently overshadowed by the more powerful personality of his brother, Peter. Andrew is a protégé of John the Baptist. What’s more, he is the first of the apostles—he’s the one who is front in line to follow Jesus. Andrew is a person who reaches out and invites others to follow the Lord. Three times this apostle appears in the New Testament, each time his role is essentially the same, it is to bring people to Jesus. His is the job of an evangelist. Andrew teaches us something fundamental about those who accept the invitation to “come and see.” He is a prime example of the spiritual equation that those who come to understand that Jesus is the Son of God, invariably bring others to follow the Lord of Life.
This summer, several parishioners will be journeying “The Way of Saint Andrew”, walking an ancient path of pilgrimage along the coast of Scotland from Edinburgh to St. Andrew’s. In essence, we will be following the way of this apostle to gain a deeper understanding of Jesus. It’s a fascinating story about how this saint—who most likely never set foot in Scotland while alive, came to become the patron saint of the country; but in the end it comes down to the importance of sharing the good news. Following the death and resurrection of Jesus, Andrew reputedly travelled throughout Greece and even into the southern reaches of Russia (another country of which he is also the patron saint). His death is of particular interest. While he was preaching at Patras in Greece Andrew managed to offend the Roman governor (possibly for baptizing his wife). He was then tied (not nailed) to an X shaped cross, called a saltire, where he continued to preach for two days before dying.That is a determined evangelist.
I imagine that as he stood on the shores of Lake Gailee, Andrew had absolutely no idea of the shape his life would take from that moment onward. The forward movement of the Gospel doesn’t indicate whether Andrew took time to weigh his options, interview friends and family to consider their opinion, make a list of positives and negatives in choosing a new vocation, or even change his clothes (which probably had a strong odor of fish about them). He left his nets and he followed—but first, he stopped to bring his brother along.
So, here is something else to consider about Andrew’s epiphany—his sudden revelation of the need to follow this man named Jesus—Today’s Gospel isn’t simply about what Andrew and Peter saw in the person of Jesus, it’s also about what Jesus saw in them—and, in turn, what our Lord sees in us. Jesus looks at these disciples of John the Baptist and calls forth their curiosity, their hope and their trust. He looks and Andrew and Peter and invites them to leave their nets behind and “come and see.” What’s more, he does the same with us. Jesus sees us, he knows our hopes and our fears and he invites us in much the same way that he invited Andrew and Peter to “Come and see.” The truth is, you don’t have to go on a pilgrimage to a distant land to follow the Lord, in fact, you can start right now. If you want to know the truth about Jesus you have only two things to do: Open your heart to see and come and follow him. In Jesus’ name. Amen.