January 14, 2018
Second Sunday after Epiphany
John 1: 43-51
On Christmas Day, Brian and I flew to North Carolina to spend a week with my family. It was the first time in ten years that my family was able to all be together, and it was awesome. But the thing that thrilled me the most was a game that my little nieces and nephews created called Hide and Roar. Not Hide-and-Go-Seek, but Hide and Roar. And the objective of this game was that each round, I and I alone would go hide. And then as my niece and nephews came looking for me, they would shout, “Lion, roar” and then I would roar so that they would know where I was. And when they finally found me crouching behind the shower curtain or twisted up in the linen closet, I would spring forth rising like a tiger and they would run screaming at the top of their lungs, “Ahhhhhhh. The tiger!” I had those kids running all over the house, and I got them in so much trouble and it was glorious. I had an amazing time with my family. But if you had asked me before I left–in fact, some of you did ask me and so you may have noticed that I wasn’t that excited. I was tired from the liturgical marathon that begins here at Reformation Sunday and runs all the way to Christmas. And so I was convinced that what we really best for me was to spend a week sitting on the couch, alone in my apartment, watching cooking competitions and playing video games on my phone. That’s what was best for me, and not spending a week in the country in North Carolina with a bunch of screaming kids, away from my routine, away from my car, away from my gym.
And so, I boarded the plane on Christmas Day for Raleigh-Durham airport, and painfully scrunched up in my basic economy seat, with my arms crossed , I sat there sulking just like Nathanael in today’s gospel: Can anything good come out of NORTH CAROLINA?!”
But then my partner Brian turned to me and said what Philip said to Nathanael, “Reagan, why don’t you just go and see?” I wanted to punch him, but the thought of becoming a Twitter meme was just too much in the moment. WORN OUT PASTOR PUNCHES PARTNER FOR THROWING THE GOSPEL IN HIS FACE ON CHRISTMAS.
But in reality, that’s exactly what I needed to hear: Come and see! I needed to be reminded of how unreliable my thoughts and feelings can be. I needed to be shown once again that there is a reality beyond the one that I conjure up between my ears and that this other reality is what is ultimately real. Not my mind. Because way too often I get trapped inside my mind. And when I get trapped in my mind, I stop seeing things as they are and start seeing things as I fear they might be. And fear has a way of turning the best thing into the worst thing.
We saw how fear turns the best thing into the worst thing this week in our news cycle, when just like Nathanael, the President asked if anything good comes from a shithole country. In an instant, fear turned the best thing– a nation which thrives on the diversity and new gifts of immigrants –into the worst thing — a nation whose white supremacy continues to oppress those same immigrants from the highest office. And so today, what our president needs to hear and what I need to hear and what all of us need to hear is this fundamental Christian invitation to Come and see.
Because as followers of Jesus, we are invited to be a “Come and See” people. We are invited to be a people who surrender our fears at the foot of the cross and to go and see how things really are. In fact, this invitation to Come and See is what brought me back to the Church and back to Jesus after a decade of “church vacation.” I had been so wounded by fundamentalism that I was certain nothing good could come out of the Church. No church could be different from the churches of my past. But then enough people said, “Reagan, come and see” that I eventually went and saw that my fears did not match reality.
And since then, this mantra of Come and See has been the treasure of the Christian faith that has kept me going and continues to free me from despair. Am I ever going to have fun again if I get sober? Reagan, come and see. If I leave the PhD program that I hate, won’t I end up in meaningless, dead end job? Reagan, come and see.
My relationship has fallen apart, but can I ever survive without him? Reagan, come and see.
But the invitation to Come and See is something I have to hear over and over again. I have to continue to show up and be around other Come and See people. I have to come to the altar of my Come and See God, or else I will slip away into the shadows of my fears. About two years ago, I started to gain weight. At the time, my world had shrunk to the size of work plus Netflix, with a little Facebook on the side. My knees and feet started to hurt, I was diagnosed with plantar fasciitis and was fitted for orthopedic shoes. I was 37 years old and convinced that I was on a one way street towards more and more pain, and uglier and uglier shoes. But then I heard the voice of God. I looked around and saw that there were folks in this community, older than me, who were learning to care for their bodies even later than 37, and through their fearlessness, I heard the gospel invitation to Come and See. So one Tuesday afternoon in April, I got off the couch and drove myself over to my first crossfit class. And now, nine months later, I no longer have plantar fasciitis, though I still have the ugly shoes for safe measure, and in a month I will be competing in my first weightlifting competition. I know, crazy. I am still terrified. I am still convinced I will be the weakest weightlifter there and that folks will be snickering behind my back, but I’m going to Go and See. I’m going to listen to the gospel invitation to Come and See because it keeps proving itself right and me wrong.
But I’m going to need you in order to get there. I’m going to need to keep hearing other Come and See people extend the great invitation of the Christian faith. That we get to go and see. And that we do not have to fear what we find, because God has already come to us, and that God has already seen us and, as Cindy reminded us last week, that when God saw us, God called us BELOVED. And that because of our belovedness, we have been given the power to step away from our fears and into the kingdom of God where goodness flows out of all things, especially from the places we think are forsaken. Especially from the shitholes.
Today I leave you with words of Psalm 34, which is my favorite psalm. May these words be a blessing to you as they have been for me.
I sought the Lord, and the Lord answered me,
and delivered me from all my fears.
Look to the Lord, and be radiant;
so your faces shall never be ashamed…
…O taste and see that the Lord is good;
happy are those who take refuge in the Lord.
This is the promise. The Lord has said it. Come and See. Amen.