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Monday, September 10, 2012

Each One Bring One (John 1.35-51)

Sermon by: Robert Austell
September 9, 2012
Some Music Used
Prelude: "Come, Now is the Time to Worship" (Doerksen)
Hymn of Praise: "Praise to the Lord/Hallelujah!" (arr. Nockels)
Hymn of Praise: "Wonderful Words of Life" (WORDS OF LIFE)
The Word in Music: "Every Promise" (Getty/Townend)
Offering of Music: "Wonderful, Merciful Savior" (Rodgers & Wyse)

Song of Sending: "As You Go" (Altrogge)
Postlude: "O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing" (arr. Sanborn)

"Each One Bring One"
(Left-click to play; or right-click to save)
Text: John 1:35-51

**Sermon audio is also accessible as a free podcast in iTunes - search for "Good Shepherd Sermons or Robert Austell"**

This video was shown at the end of the sermon and was made by Kathy Larson and Elizabeth Austell.
I remember being in third grade and being at my church in Greenville, SC.  My friend, Will, was a year younger than I was and his parents were youth advisors to the high school youth group at church.  It was a large church and I had never been inside the building that doubled as a boy scout hut and the high school youth room.  But because Will’s parents were youth advisors, he invited me to go in with him one Sunday night and see youth group meeting.  Now I’m sure the pillows and chairs were just as grungy as any youth building’s, but let me tell you it was a pretty magical space for an eight year-old.  For one, there was a kind of a loft in the back and we got to climb up there to watch.  And there was a kitchen area with a counter and a real-live soda fountain.  We got there in time to get some Coca-Cola out of it… which I thought was absolutely amazing… that the youth group pretty much could have all the Coke they wanted for free anytime.  And instead of classroom chairs and tables, everyone kind of sat on the floor on cushions and pillows.  And all the teenagers seemed huge and cool and there was guitar music and the whole thing was pretty fantastic.  I’m sure when the actual talk began we got a little bored, but I don’t remember that; I remember that I couldn’t wait to be old enough to get to go there.  And I remember to this day what a great and exciting gift it was to get to “come and see!”

I remember being in college as a freshman and an upperclassman named Nelson invited me to come be a part of a small discussion group that he was a part of.  It became a real source of encouragement and community during that first year away from home.  I was already a Christian, but I also was away from home for the first time, away from all my high school friends, and alone in a new place.  And without me really knowing what it was about, he invited me to “come and see” through a small group of students who were trying to live their faith out in college.  I later led a similar group as a junior and senior and invited some freshmen guys to come meet and pray and study with me.

What is my point in telling you these personal stories?  It is to illustrate the power of being invited to see or hear something or someone, to be a part of something a friend thinks is important.  I will tell you those events were a LONG time ago, but along with the events themselves I still remember the feeling of being included.

Simon’s Brother

Today’s text has the story of Jesus directly finding several men who would become students – his disciples and followers.  But the text also has the very powerful story of two people being invited to come and see Jesus.  I want to highlight that today.

The first of these is Simon, whom Jesus would call “Cephas” or “Peter” (loosely translated as “Rocky”). Peter is probably the most well-known disciple, right?  He had great highs and lows.  He briefly walked on water, in faith.  He healed people in Jesus’ name.  He also denied Jesus just after Jesus was arrested.  But he also made the great profession, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God!” 

And how did he come to know Jesus?  His brother brought him!

Andrew had been a student or disciple of John the Baptist.  When he heard John the Baptist look at Jesus and say, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” he went after Jesus and stayed with him for the day, and thereafter as a student or disciple of Jesus.  And look there in verse 41, we are told that he “followed Jesus” (that is, became a disciple): but “He found first his own brother Simon...”

Andrew went and found his brother, Simon, and told him that he had found the Messiah, the Anointed One.  And he “brought him to Jesus.” (v. 42)  Andrew had found something and someone of greatest importance, so much so that he was going to follow after him as a student and disciple.  And before embarking on that journey, he went and got his brother.  He wanted him to “come and see.”

Nathanael’s Friend

As the text continues, we read of another invitation.  First, it is not clear to me whether Jesus found Philip or whether Andrew also invited Philip to meet Jesus.  Either way, we find Philip also to be an inviting kind of Jesus-follower because we are told that Philip finds Nathanael. Philip tells Nathanael, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and the Prophets wrote – Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” (v. 45)  Now at that last part, Nathanael balks a little, because Nazareth was kind of the “wrong side of the tracks” in those days (I guess donkey tracks). But the challenge, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” doesn’t put Philip off; he presses on, “Come and see!”

I want to note two more things about Philip inviting his friend to come and see Jesus. First, he didn’t wimp out when Nathanael didn’t eagerly jump up to come with him.  Nathanael was cynical and resistant.  But neither did Philip try to argue him to Jesus.  He winsomely replied, “Come and see for yourself!”  And that’s the second point I want to make: Philip let Jesus speak and be for himself.  Jesus got through to Nathanael and broke through the cynicism.  Philip just did the inviting… persistently and winsomely.  It’s a compact story, but I think both points are helpful lessons from which we can learn.

Each One Bring One

Is inviting people to “come and see” Jesus all there is to being a good Christian?  No; there’s plenty more, including worship, growing in faith, being in accountable relationship in a church family, caring for those in need inside and outside the church, and much more.  And we try to provide for all the many aspects of faithfully following Christ through the worship, study, fellowship, and mission of Good Shepherd.  But here’s the very simple truth that we dare not miss: the pattern from the beginning of Christianity (and even God’s design before that) is for those that love God to be the primary witnesses to those who don’t yet know God.

So here’s what I want to propose: in the spirit of Andrew and Philip, or someone who invited you to come and see Jesus, I’d like to challenge each and every one of you to commit to a month of “each one bring one.”  Sometime during the month of September, see if there is not one friend, relative, co-worker, or neighbor who you might invite to come and see Jesus in some way.  Perhaps the easiest way would be to invite them to church with you.  I’m going to gear the sermons and worship for the next 4-6 weeks to be especially for those who might be unfamiliar with (or alienated from) the story and person of Jesus.  Or invite someone to Wednesday night, where the dinnertime fellowship is sweet and there is much delicious home-made food.  We have a number of easy-going small groups that would provide a great entry point to find out more about faith and Jesus. 

I’m not keeping score, and there is no finish line at the end of the month, so if someone is not ready, don’t force it.  But also take a cue from Philip, that you don’t have to fix people or change their minds, just gently and persistently invite the opportunity.  Maybe it’s to play golf in a Friends of Timothy foursome with you in early October.  Or maybe it’s inviting a family to come by Trunk or Treat on Halloween night.  Or maybe it’s church and lunch one Sunday in September.  My hope is that you will discover how easy and joyful it is to invite someone to something that is truly exciting, joy-filled, and warm-spirited. The really hard work is God’s job!

Let me know how it’s going.  I’d love to meet your guest when you bring them.  And if you have questions, concerns, or need some encouragement, give me a call!  Some of the most passionate followers of Jesus came because someone brought them.  Wouldn’t it be exciting to see that happen here!  Amen.

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