This week I was privy to part of a conversation between two women who passed me while walking in the park. I didn’t know the context of their conversation, because I only heard one sentence. But it got me thinking how I would answer the question that one lady asked the other. “Who do you trust?”
In my blog I confessed that up until my wife, I had trouble trusting anyone, including God. I had trouble because I had been burned by people in my past. But if I am being honest, I had trouble trusting because I myself had not always been trustworthy.
Merriam-Websters defines trust as “a firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability or strength of something or someone.” For example, I trust my surgeon knows what he or she is doing before they cut me open. And I trust the legal system in case he or she doesn’t. I think it’s safe to say that over the last five years or so, this question of who to trust has been put to the test.
We’ve been told not to trust the media or anyone who doesn’t say what you want to hear. We’ve been told not to trust the government or any elected officials who don’t vote like you. And more recently, a man who has been well-proven to bend the truth told his followers not to trust the bedrock of our democracy...the election process.
The irony is, this man is part of the media, the government, and until Wednesday, is an elected official who loves to say, “Trust me” – even when it’s obvious to the naked eye that his words were not always trustworthy.
Now, you might know that Missouri is known as “The Show Me State.” I’m not sure who screwed them over to make this their state motto, but they certainly pride themselves on it. And rightfully so. I think it’s important to hold back trusting someone completely until they show their true character and ability.
It’s easy to say trust me. But it’s harder to show a person why they should. Jesus never took the easy route. He has no problem showing us why we should put our faith and trust in him. Even if it kills him to do so.
Read: John 1:35-51.
What we know up to this point is that Jesus had begun to gather his disciples. First is Andrew and his brother Peter. They heard something good about Jesus and decided to check it out for themselves. According to John, Jesus’ invitation to them is simply “Come and See.” The next day Jesus invites Philip to do the same. And in turn, Philip invites Nathanael.
What on earth made him, or any of the disciples, follow this guy isn’t clear. Jesus hasn’t performed any miracles, shown any signs, or made any proclamations or promises about the reign of God that might excite one’s imagination. Yet they go - with no idea what God is about to unfold before their very eyes.
In Jesus, they will see God’s righteousness on full display. And by accepting the invitation to come and see, they will also discover what God intends to bring about through them.
The only one to hesitate in this bunch is Nathanael, whose character Jesus seems to know even though they’ve never met. Since the Bible doesn’t tell us anymore than what John gives us, I see Nathanael as an inquisitive young adult questioning his purpose and place in the world. I like to imagine he’s sitting in the shade of the fig tree contemplating life, or perhaps lost in prayer.
Whatever he is doing is interrupted by an overly excited Philip who encourages him to come and meet the one the prophets had written about. Nathanael perks up, excited by news until hears “And he’s from Nazareth of all places!”
It’s here the young contemplative rolls his eyes and shakes his head, “You’ve got to be kidding! Can anything good come out of that place?” Phillip responds to his cynicism using Jesus’ own words – “Come and see.”
The rest of John’s gospel is dedicated to Jesus showing everyone the truth behind his words. That is to say, all the good things God is doing in the world. And the transformative impact it has on people who choose to believe and trust him. This tells me that whatever you are seeking in life will be affected by the way you see Jesus for who he really is…the Messiah, the very incarnation of God’s never-ending love.
Now, poor Nate can’t quite figure out why God’s favor would come from some backwoods, insignificant rural village like Nazareth. Our kings are supposed to come from ivory palaces with gold-plated toilets, right?
I heard a comedian say, “I always vote for the richest person because don’t want my president to be worrying if the country’s electricity is going to get shut off this month.” We don’t want our leaders to know our poverty, we want them to know how to get us out of it. However, Nathanael's pushback or need of proof reveals two exceptional truths about us and about God.
First. God can accomplish great things in the most unlikely of places – a filthy stable, fragile baby, or even a fractured religious or political system. This tells me that God is present in your personal Nazareth’s. Be it a failed relationship or a false truth that has caused you to lose trust in God and one another. No matter what you are facing today, God can and will accomplish great things from them.
Second, God is perfectly capable of honoring ordinary people from all walks of life, and calling them to do extraordinary things. From Moses to these bumbling disciples to each one of us, there is a place and purpose in God’s Kingdom for everyone. Jesus shows us this every time he crosses over cultural divides to share God’s love. We can trust Jesus simply because Jesus proved to be trustworthy by God.
Again, Jesus invites you to come and see this love firsthand. And let it transform who you are - or who you think you are - into who God made you to be. His invitation is more than a chance to marvel at God’s righteousness that he puts on display. It’s a call to see what God is doing in us - transforming our fears into faith.
In the remake of the movie Jumanji, four ordinary high-school kids with ordinary teenage problems accept the call to play a mysterious video game they found. To their surprise, the get sucked in and become the actual avatars in the game. Through a series of unfortunate events, they have to trust one another and work together in order to return home. At the end, they discover what they are capable of, and who they’re destined to be.
When we take the time to be with Jesus, we not only discover who he is, but we discover who we are because of who he is. In Jesus, God shows up in our life, calling us out from under the fig tree to share the good news of God’s redemptive love. If we trust Jesus then we too will see the Kingdom of Heaven opened, and angels all around us. We might even discover that we are God’s angels called to further Jesus’ ministry in this heavenly space.
Jesus invites you and me to walk with him and learn how to live out God’s grace and righteousness. To come and see how to speak the truth that leads people to set aside their anger and move towards peace, and justice, and equality. His is an invitation to see him and receive him in everyone you meet.
This is important for us to remember because every day we receive invitations to do things that pull us away from God. Friends invite us to gossip. Co-workers invite us to cheat. And some people, if you allow them, invite us to believe an alternative reality that will make you doubt even what your eye sees and knows to be true.
In his epistle John writes, “No one has ever seen God, if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.” Likewise, Jesus never says “Trust me, I know better than you.” Instead, he said, “Follow me.” By living fully and faithfully in God’s love he shows us why we can trust him. This is the way that brings about true transformation - for the self, your community, and all of creation.
By accepting his call, you accept the responsibility of his mission. To love God, love others, and serve both. I never get tired of saying this, but in all the ways we showcase the truth of those seven small but powerful words people will come to see us and know us as people whose words and deeds are good and reliable and trustworthy.
As you leave here today, I hope you remember this: Jesus is calling you to come and see with your own eyes that which is true. But he’s also inviting you to “go and be” the angels of God - swooping down in the most unassuming places and lifting people up to God’s eternal glory.
As Jesus said, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Let’s come and see and go and do in the name of the One who reveals our true worth.
Let us pray: Gracious God, we put our trust in you because you alone have proven to be trustworthy. In Christ, your word came to life and by your Holy Spirit, we too have been filled with life and a new purpose to live it fully, for your glory and your glory alone. Amen.
In honor of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. whom we will remember tomorrow, I would like to share these words of his that I think are fitting for where we are today.
“Cowardice asks the question, 'Is it safe?’ Expediency asks the question, 'Is it politic?' Vanity asks the question, 'Is it popular?' But conscience asks the question, 'Is it right?' And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but one must take it because one's conscience tells one that it is right."
Dr. King taught us that everywhere and at all times, the love ethic of Jesus is the radiant light of hope. By shinning that light, we are better able to see a person for who they really are, and who we are as well. Therefore, let us shine the light of Christ in the world; inviting others to “come and see” the one who gave his life for all.
Excerpts from a sermon originally given on January 14, 2018.
Bartlett, David L., Barbara Brown Taylor. Feasting on the Word, Year B vol. 1. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2008.
Marsh, Michael. interruptingthesilence.com. Jan 16, 2012. (accessed Jan 13, 2018).
has been blogging under the name: Jesus not Jesús: Looking for Christ in the face of strangers. You can read his posts and browse his archives by clicking here.
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