Philip said ‘Come and see’.
I do not watch much TV but one of my little guilty pleasures in life is watching You’ve Been Framed. Most of you may not have seen the TV show as it is, I am sure, quite beneath you and so I will explain what happens on the programme. Basically the TV presenter, Harry Hill, presents various short films sent in by the general public. These are mostly considered to be humorous. A few months ago, there was one film clip which starred a little, 4yr old girl who had been filmed in the garden by her Dad. It went a little something like this:
Little girl: Look Daddy! A snake! Come see! Snake Daddy!
Girl: There! Look! Snake!
Dad: I can’t see anything.
Girl: There Daddy, There! There! THERE! A Snaaaaaake!
Dad: That’s not a snake!
Girl: Yes! Yes! Yes! Snake Daddy SNAKE!
Dad: It’s a caterpillar.
The Father’s journey with his daughter led them both to quite an unexpected outcome. The Father expecting to see a huge snake instead of a tiny caterpillar. The girl thinking she was seeing a dangerous snake when in fact it was just a harmless bug. Both journeys filled with excitement and fear, yet arriving at different places. Car drivers who rely far too much on SAT NAV also experience similar emotions. In complete faith, they listen to a disembodied voice directing them down roads they have never seen, to places they never imagined travelling through and yet, most of the time, they arrive exactly where they mean too or at least, very close to where they want to go.
I wonder how similar these experiences are to our life journeys? Do we blindly follow the voices that tell us what to buy or eat, or wear? Do we listen to voices we think have authority over us? Do we unconsciously swear obedience every day to powers that dictate our actions, our speech, our attitude to those not in the same ‘club’ as us? How aware are we of the voices that tell us who to speak to, who not to speak to, perhaps even how we should be thinking?
Or are we switched on to listening to Our Father? The One who deeply cares about the direction of our lives.
The beginning of John focuses on Jesus calling the people to come out from their self-absorbed journeys to follow Him. Before I continue, let me read the passage again but this time from a translation called The Message:
The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. When he got there, he ran across Philip and said, “Come, follow me.” 45-46 Philip went and found Nathanael and told him, “We’ve found the One Moses wrote of in the Law, the One preached by the prophets. It’s Jesus, Joseph’s son, the one from Nazareth!” Nathanael said, “Nazareth? You’ve got to be kidding.” But Philip said, “Come, see for yourself.” 47 When Jesus saw him coming he said, “There’s a real Israelite, not a false bone in his body.” 48 Nathanael said, “Where did you get that idea? You don’t know me.” Jesus answered, “One day, long before Philip called you here, I saw you under the fig tree.”
The response of the disciples to Jesus calling is quite different. Philip doesn’t seem to question Jesus. He seems to simply accept Jesus at His word. Yet Philip is filled with excitement and quickly shares his news with Nathanael. Now Nathanael is a little bit more cautious. Perhaps Nathanael mirrors our own fears, our own caginess? Perhaps he was the first prototype Anglican? Doesn’t Nathanael remind you of that person who never gives anything a chance but always seems to put everything down? I can almost imagine Philip giving out a great sigh while saying Just come and see. Anyway, Nathanael does take up his friends invite to this so called One whom Moses had wrote of.
And Jesus upon seeing him says the most peculiar thing. He greats him with “There’s a real Israelite, not a false bone in his body”. By calling him an Israelite, Jesus is saying that Nathanael is “one who can see God”. He sees Nathanael as the person he really is and what he is really like. And He does this before even meeting the man. However much Nathanael protests that Jesus does not know him the fact is Jesus knows Nathanael far more intimately than Nathanael knows himself. Nathanael lives up to Jesus calling him an Israelite as he cannot restrain himself by declaring “Rabbi! You are the Son of God, the King of Israel!”
So, who are you in this story? Who are you most like? Philip or Nathanael? Do you hear and obey without doubts? Or do you need proof? Either way, it doesn’t matter as we are all called by Christ to follow Him. I know I say this in a matter of fact way but to be honest, there is not getting away from it. The thought may fill us with fear as our comfort zone is challenged. Me Lord? We wonder. Can I really be called? But what too?
Now I know, as I speak, I’m on dodgy ground here as most of you know about my calling to the priesthood. But I am not only talking about being called to ordination. For God calls everyone to fulfil their part in the body of Christ in order for His kingdom is made known throughout the land. Some of us may have heard this been said time and time again. Perhaps some of us feel the great weight of apathy after being frustrated by church structures.
Perhaps you’ve felt prevented from any real involvement that excites you because possibly tea making, flower arranging, PCC meetings or brass cleaning rotas is not where you’re at and you really want something more?! I hasten to add that all those activities are fantastic in themselves and everyone involved is a wonderful credit to the church. Yet, for some, they feel moved by God to do something else. Perhaps you feel called to listen to people, teach in Sunday school or home groups, help with administration, or even simply be part of a prayer group. All these roles are valuable to God and to others; even if you just think you are making the tea!
Yet for others, they may not feel they have ever been moved by God to do be something. You may be sat there wondering what it feels like to be moved by God. Some people feel an inner prompt. A sense of being asked that just won’t go away or be ignored. But God doesn’t only work that way. Some people continually find that others look to them for help and support on God stuff matters. Do people hear God speak to them? Yes, sometimes. Samuel certainly heard God but it took God three times before Samuel realised it was God speaking. Are we like Samuel? Are we listening carefully? Is there someone like Samuel’s Eli who can help us recognise our calling? Having the patience to listen is a gift in itself. However to listen well there is the need for stillness, for space to allow for words to be said. In the silence of the night Samuel heard God. We need silence to truly listen to what’s going on in ourselves and then can God be heard. Without silence the noise of the world can overwhelm. Our hearing can become selective. Hearing only what we want to hear. Apparently blokes and partners are particularly good at selective hearing… Ask my Mother and she’ll soon tell you how good my selective hearing is!! Bu wouldn’t it be wonderful if we were all fitted with a God tuned hearing aid?!
Over the years, as I have explored my vocation, I have found there is no one, perfect, right way of listening to God. But there is one major key to the journey and that is to be aware of God at work and give thanks for those wondrous moments which could only have come from God.
Because God knows the real you. The angry, frightened, grieving, shy you who cries snake when really God has given you a caterpillar. He knows what makes you tick, how to grab your attention. Knows your hopes and fears, what you’ve done, and said and what you want to be. Yet He still Loves you.
And in this chaotic jumble of life God simply says Come and see.
And become like a true Israelite “one who can see God”.