Come and see. It’s an invitation to experience God. It’s an invitation to experience Christian community. Come and see. It’s our best advocacy when people ask us, “why be a Christian?” Come and see. See where I am dwelling, where my heart abides, come and see this community. See what a difference we are making in the world. Come and see how following Jesus changes a person, has changed me, will change you. No pressure, just come and see.
It isn’t enough for someone you respect, such as John the Baptist, this new fangled prophet with his new baptism for the remission of sins, to tell you it’s good. You’ve got to come and see. Perhaps it was that they were already following Jesus that prompted him to turn around, to ask them “what are you looking for?” He didn’t ask them what they wanted, he knew already they were looking for something, they were seekers, but could they even say what it was they wanted to find? How often do we go out seeking for Truth with a capital T but are still unsure exactly what it is we want? We need to have meaning and purpose to our lives and so we seek, we look, and Jesus says, Come and see.
See where I am dwelling, see where I am abiding. See how I abide in God and how you can have that tender intimate relationship also. Come and see that he dwells with those most in need of God’s love and care, that he loves those who need it the most, and this is all the meaning and purpose he needs.
Shane Claiborne is a devout Christian and he determined to Go and See himself. He wasn’t finding God at seminary so he went downtown. Shane admits he was nervous at first. He left all his valuables in his dorm room so the poor people who lived on the streets wouldn’t rob him and he went downtown. He says he met Christ in those people. He met a group of them that had moved into a large abandoned Catholic church and set up home. He became friends with many of them and did what he could to help them stay there, keeping a roof over their heads, and advocating for better housing. Unfortunately on his first foray into the wilds of street ministry he was robbed, but not by the people on the street. When he returned to his dorm room he discovered someone had broken in and all of his carefully stashed valuables were gone. Come and see, where Christ is dwelling, where God abides, come and see. It isn’t always where we expect.
In our text today Peter responds to his brother’s urgings, just like the Samaritan woman at the well, his brother says to him, “Oh man! You’ve got to come meet this guy! I think, just maybe, he’s the messiah!” and Peter follows him. Come and see, he finds there a man who dwells in God’s presence, who abides with God, who embodies God, come and see, he finds there a community of people living in grace and love, a love so startling that over and over again they fail to get it, fail to see it, that their expectations are constantly shattered. Come and see and let your world view be changed, be shifted. Shane Claiborne expected to meet dangerous thieves, but he met kind and loving people living in community. When we go looking for God we ought to be open to meeting God in very strange places! We ought to be open to seeing Christ in very different people.
Despite Peter’s three years of following Christ he remains as stubborn as a Mississippi mule. If I don’t see, I won’t believe it. God knows this, so before he sends him to Cornelius, a most unexpected person in which to see the image of Christ, God confronts Peter’s stubborn insistence on seeing God only where he expects.
Surely if God were going to convert anyone, he would convert a Pharisee, right? Or a Rabbi? Or, well, someone appropriate, someone at least of the Jewish lineage, but no. God answers a god-fearing Roman and his household. Peter, who is in the habit of dwelling with God, abiding in God, is doing just that, up on the roof of his house, meditating, being “still and knowing,” God. And God comes to him, “take, kill, and eat” he commands setting before Peter a host of uneatable things. I hope for Peter’s sake there was some lobster or some other wonderful thing previously unknown to him in there! And Peter protests! These can’t be edible! It would be a disgrace to eat such filth! It would make one unclean. He won’t do it! Like Shane Claiborne going downtown to the homeless he is worried about how contact with all this stuff might damage him, might infect him with something untoward, but God speaks to him again, “what I have made clean, you shall not call unclean again!” The image of God lives in even the most unlikely people, and who are we to deny it?
And off Peter goes to the foreigner’s house, the invader’s house, the house of a Roman occupier. If Shane Claiborne expected to find dangerous people when he went downtown, Peter was sure to find a dangerous man when he went to the house of a Roman occupier. This was not even a common Roman soldier, but an officer, a centurion. But yes, even to those who commanded the occupying army, God came. Come and see.
If we then, are to take seriously this come and see method of evangelism, we need to ask ourselves exactly what it is that people see when they are here with us. When people ask you, why are you so generous and kind, I hope that you will say, “because God first loved me, because God taught me that whatever I do to the least of these, meaning those who are hurting, scared, outside of community, left out in the cold, whatever I do to them, I do also to God, and I love God, so I must love them.”
If we take this come and see seriously, can we say that we are a community in which God’s love so shines that people will want to bask in that glow? Can we say that we are a community that longs to love all people, regardless of their native language, their psychiatric history, their faults, their flaws? Are we a community which is so shook by compassion that when we see others hurt, scared, and afraid, we are moved to action? To holding them within the love of Christ, knowing that God can heal what we cannot? Are we that community? For if we are a community that can honestly say, Come and See, how we abide in God, how we dwell in God, then there is no limit to what we can achieve, we can change lives!
God has never asked us to understand everything and have the right answers, God has asked us to love all people who he puts in our path, God has asked us to love each other, as we would love Jesus Christ himself.
This weekend is MLK weekend and so we are challenged, can we see the image of Christ in the “other?” Can we see the image of God in those who are “other?” Can we love all people who come here and invite them to enter wholly in, that they will not have to leave any part of themselves outside these doors in order to fit in?
My friends, we have a challenge, to be the image of Christ to all people who come through those doors and to all people whom we will meet each and every day. We, if we are to claim Christianity, are to be the image of Christ to those we meet, and we are to see in them the image of Christ. Peter was called to see the image of God in an oppressive, military commander, one who may have been called out the very next day to supervise a crucifixion like the one which took the earthy life of our lord and savior, one of those….and see in him the image of God.
If I could have anything, anything at all, it would be that this community would so resound with love for one another that people would leave here saying, come and see, come and see how they love one another, come and see how they abide in God, come and see, it’s so wonderful! Come and see how they welcome others wholly and completely, inviting them to show up exactly as they are, no need to leave any part of yourself outside these doors.
How we live with one another reveals how we live our faith. In times of difficulty or trouble, we return to our faith. Our faith teaches us how to live in community, it is not solely focused on the hereafter, but on the here and now. Our scripture is full of language telling us how to care for and love one another. The foreigner, the widow, the orphan, the poor, the sick, how we treat the most vulnerable among us reveals to the world how we live into the words of Jesus. We can boldly say, Come and See when we live fully into our faith, loving all of God’s children, caring for the most vulnerable among us. We can stand tall and be a light on the hill for all people that they might see God at work when we abide in God and in God’s Word.
Peter did not know what he was getting into, he did not know how far outside the lines God would push him, but he was faithful when that push came. He went where he was called and loved even the most unlovable. May we do the same,