Preaching on Back to Church Sunday

September 26 is Back to Church Sunday 2010 – but preparing the sermon at present is proving to be a distinctly frustrating experience…

The text is John 1:35-43, the story of the first two disciples (Andrew and A N Other) meeting Jesus, and Peter’s first encounter with Jesus. But it all seems to be so elusive. Although it’s focussed on Jesus, He’s a very strange and elusive character in the story:

  1. At the beginning, He’s just walking by – we don’t really know why, or where He’s going (does it matter?)
  2. He only says 3 three things in the whole passage: a) asking the disciples why they’re following Him; 2) inviting them to come and see where He’s staying; 3) telling Simon that his name was now going to be Peter.
  3. We don’t know what He said to the two disciples when they stayed at His house – John doesn’t tell us. We also don’t know the effects of their time together (though the disciples kept following Him, so whatever happened, it must have confirmed to them that John the Baptist was right and He was the Messiah).

My only thought at the moment is to get people to put themselves in the disciples’ shoes, since they too have been invited to "Come and See". What were they expecting? What’s the idea in their head of this Jesus fellow whom we Christians talk about and worship? What would it mean to them to meet Him – what do they think would happen as a result of this?

Perhaps the elusiveness is part of the point: we’re so keen to try and be certain about Jesus, to try and talk about the facts and persuade people by our arguments, talking about the reliability of the Gospels, the reasons why we can be sure the resurrection happened and so on. And I’m not saying any of that’s wrong, far from it: I think it’s crucial that our faith has a basis in history.

But what I mean (I think) is that, ultimately, knowing facts is not what following Jesus is about. It’s about encountering Him, meeting Him, being ready to have our expectations blown out of the water, finding that this Jesus is a lot more mysterious than we imagine. Sometimes it feels as if He can be elusive, hard-to-grasp. And as they follow Him, the disciples will find the same thing: just as they think they’ve got a handle on Jesus, He wrong foots them again. Not because He’s devious, but because He’s simply far more than we can imagine.

So perhaps the point of this is to get people interested, to present to them this fascinating, elusive Jesus who wants to spend time with us, to show us "His place" and who, ultimately, wants us to follow Him.

Hmmmm… maybe I am on to something here…