Sermon Seeing Jesus
Good morning. Today we celebrate the sacrament of baptism for Aiden John Cavaliere. Aiden is the third son of James and Laura Cavaliere. A couple years ago, I baptized his older brother, Cameron, and a couple years before that, Nancy Conklin baptized his oldest brother, Dominick.
Without a doubt, celebrating the sacrament of baptism is the single best part of ministry. It is always a happy and joyous event—for the family of the one being baptized, as well as the congregation. It’s a reminder to all of us that we are participating in God’s work in the world. Jesus instructs the disciples—and us—to go and “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19).
In our Gospel lesson this morning, some Greeks approach the disciple Philip and tell him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” The Greeks are Gentiles, outsiders; they’re not members of the congregation of Israel. This is really important. In our lesson last Sunday, we heard the very familiar words of John 3:16, “For God so loved the world…” That is the entirety of the created world, not just God’s chosen people, but everyone. The Greeks in today’s reading represent the rest of the world that God so loves.
They’re not asking for proof of Jesus’ divinity. They’re not asking for a deep theological discussion, or a clever sermon. They just want to see. They’re not Jews, but they’re aware of Jesus; they know something special is going on. According to one scholar:
The request of the Greeks is critical for our time. They ask to see. They don’t request proof. They don’t ask for an argument. They don’t need an apologetic. They just want to see. They get what “come and see” is all about—an invitation to be. An invitation to abide. An invitation to relationship.
“An invitation to be.” I love that description. The Gospel of John is the gospel of relationship. Those Greeks are outsiders, foreigners, but they understand that they don’t have to be anything other than who they are to experience relationship with Jesus. We’re not always so good at doing relationship without imposing conditions.
In 2019, we celebrated the sacrament of baptism for eight different children, including Cameron Cavaliere. It was an amazing year! That year, we also added nine new adult members. It felt like this congregation was turning a corner. I was so hopeful for 2020.
Don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t all bad. We had a couple baptisms. We learned some new ways to worship. We found ways to remain connected to one another, even when we weren’t worshiping in person. And I know more than one elder who prefers to have Session meetings over Zoom. That’s true. I’m not making it up.
Yes, one way of looking at our situation is to say that we made a lot of lemonade last year. We harvested a lot of lemons, but we made something good out of it. We survived in spite of the obstacles. We overcame a number of technical challenges and we have on online presence for worship, which we never had before. We can look at this as making something good out of something bad. But I’d like to propose a different way of looking at things.