Immanuel Lutheran Church

Sermon

Epiphany 2

Called to Life, for Life

John 1:43-50

January 19, 2014

After He was baptized, our Lord began gathering His disciples. He began with six. It all started when John the Baptist urged Andrew and John to check Jesus out. Because they were so impressed, they found their brothers Peter and James and brought them to Jesus. In the company of these four, they find Philip, who in turn seeks out Nathaniel. Here's what happened when Philip went to his friend.

John 1:43-51 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, "Follow me." Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, "We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph." Nathanael said to him, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" Philip said to him, "Come and see." Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, "Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!" Nathanael said to him, "How do you know me?" Jesus answered him, "Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you." Nathanael answered him, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!" Jesus answered him, "Because I said to you, 'I saw you under the fig tree,' do you believe? You will see greater things than these."

Nathaniel seems to be a bit if skeptic. He knows about the Messiah. From his study, he also knows that there's nothing in Scripture to tie the Messiah to Nazareth. Back then, Nazareth was a sleepy, little town. It would be like saying we would expect the next great leader of this country to come out of Otranto or McIntyre.

Philip knows his friend. There's no point in trying to argue with Nathaniel. Philip simply invites him to "come and see" for yourself. In his first brief encounter with Jesus, Nathaniel's life is transformed. He is called to become one of the 12 disciples. His calling is to life in Christ, a life not just for the moment but life forever.

Today is life Sunday. We rejoice not only in the gift of life but in the gift of our life. We thank God for our family and friends. Not only can we rejoice in this life but the Lord has given us new life in water and the Word. In Christ, we have life now and the promise of eternal life forever.

It's a sad thing when our political and even some church leaders choose death over life. Although there have been some steps to limit third trimester abortions, in many states the life of the unborn child can be terminated at any point in the pregnancy. Although this is the law, it doesn't mean it is either moral or God pleasing. This is not a call to life. It is a call to death. This is not the intent of our Lord, who calls us to life, for life.

Sadly, it is not only the government that supports and condones abortion. Mainline churches have also bought into the notion that life begins only when a pregnant woman decides it is so. This past week we discussed how Thrivent is now funneling money to Planned Parenthood and withdrawing it from pro-life groups. If Christians don't defend the weak and speak for those who have no voice, who will?

Ours has become a culture of death. It begins with the violence of video games and continues to escalate. The role of men as fathers and leaders has been marginalized by feminists who think men are obsolete and unnecessary. When men no longer take up their God-given responsibility to be strong leaders, society devolves rather than improves. How are we to address the devolving of culture and society?

When it comes to the things of faith, we can learn from Philip. It's usually pointless to try to argue with our friends who have a different view on religion or politics or abortion. Arguing often leads to anger and a rift in relationships. It's better to state your point, remain firm in your belief and then invite them to "come and see" the difference faith in Christ makes.

We cannot change hearts and minds. That is the work of the Holy Spirit. Only the Holy Spirit can transform hearts and create faith. It is the work of the Holy Spirit who changed the skepticism of Nathaniel into faith in Jesus Christ. The work of the Spirit is to call us to life in Christ for eternal life.

So, Philip brought his friend to Jesus. Our Lord recognizes both Nathaniel's piety and his skepticism. Jesus greets Nathaniel with a curious statement, "here is an Israelite in whom there is no guile." In other words, Nathaniel is an upfront, no nonsense kind of guy. He doesn't put up with a lot of bull and phoniness. Yet, there's also a bit of a chip of his shoulder. He comes to Jesus with a "prove it to me" attitude.

To counter Nathaniel's skepticism, Jesus points out his piety. "I saw you under the fig tree." The fig trees had droopy branches kind of like our weeping willows. In that hot climate, the fig trees provided both shade and privacy. Nathaniel was probably doing his daily devotions under the tree shortly before Philip found him.

This simple statement of Jesus certainly resonated with him. What the context is remains unknown. Jesus then tells him that he will see even greater things. This was an invitation that Nathaniel couldn't turn down. He immediately joined the other five and followed Jesus.

Like Nathaniel, we have been called to life for life. Maybe we're as skeptical and questioning as Nathaniel. Maybe we have a bit of a religious chip on our shoulders. Maybe we know people like that. The invitation is still offered. "Come and see." Like Philip, we simply invite the Nathaniel's of our lives to "come and see." The Holy Spirit will do the rest.

In Christ all things are new. Our Lord calls us to life for life. This is why we pray for the president, judges and all of our elected officials. We pray that they will look to the Lord for wisdom and guidance. Our prayer is that they will protect the lives not only of the unborn but of all those who are vulnerable and unable to defend themselves. We pray that our elected officials will take seriously their oath of office to protect the lives of all citizens, especially the unborn as well as the fragile, the weak, and the disabled.

Along with Nathaniel, we are invited to "come and see" the real hope for change of hearts and lives. Only in Jesus Christ will we find the transforming power of life over death. Christ invites us to receive new life in Him now and life with Him forever. Amen.


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12/28/2014
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