Year B Epiphany 2 John 1
Something Good Can Come from Nazareth
In our text for this morning, Phillip comes to Nathanael and proclaims that he has found the one whom Moses wrote about. He is Jesus of Nazareth. While we do not know what expression Nathanael had on his face when he responded, I think that it is safe to say that his response revealed a cynical sneer. "Can anything good come from Nazareth?" Answered Phillip: "Come and see."
You see, the church has the same problem. The church is full of those sure of themselves. We may even get to the point where we believe very little that we are told. We sit back under the fig tree with the sneer of a Nathanael and we ask, "Can anything good come from [Name your Church], Can anything good come from our Youth Group; can anything good come from [name a program of the church]." People come in and out the doors of this church with a critical eye. Skepticism is not a modern virtue. Doubting Thomases have been around since the dawn of time. By nature we don't want to be led. We want to lead. But, in the church, it is imperative that we have followers. In fact it is imperative for all of us to be followers.
Nathanael learned this. He was skeptical at first but he was transformed. He became a follower because Phillip invited him.
Let me ask you: What was it that Phillip saw in Christ that moved him to follow, that stirred him so to invite his friend Nathanael. Come and see what? What did Phillip see in Jesus of Nazareth? I want to attempt to answer that question this morning. Come and see what?
- Come and see souls redeemed.
- Come and see lives transformed.
- Come and see the heavens opened.
Out of Nazareth
Are you tired of the "10 Best" or "10 Worst" lists yet?
For some reason, January is the month for every "10 Best" and "10 Worst" list imaginable. January editions of every magazine, plot lines on tabloid TV, even articles in "serious" news coverage finds it mandatory to include a feature on some "Ten Worst" or the "Ten Best."
The list goes on and on.
These "Best" and "Worst" distinctions are often only separated by the thinnest lines of discernment. These "best" and "worst" lists are a bit like the child who finally announced that the Emperor was not wearing a beautifully tailored suit of clothes, but that he was naked! Until someone decrees something is the "best" or the "worst," we really don't see it that way.
In today's gospel text, Nazareth is on the "Worst" list. The newly summoned disciple Nathanael responds to the information about Jesus' pedigree with a snooty sounding "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" Nathanael's nasty knock of Nazareth has led generation after generation to assume that Nazareth was famous for being infamous.
Here's a surprise. Historically that just isn't so. Before Nathanael's nay-saying there was nary a word recorded one way or the other about the town of Nazareth. It was what it was, a small, dusty, insignificant village of stone homes struggling to stay solvent. Nazareth was unremarkable, undistinguished, unconsidered. It wasn't remarkable for being unremarkable. It was what it was.
That is, until John's gospel recorded Nathanael's dismissal of a "no-good Nazareth." From the viewpoint of the twenty-first century we can never properly see Nazareth. Our vision will forever be squeezed and squinted through Nathanael's dismissal.
So why did John feel it was so important to preserve this rotten reputation for poor old Nazareth? What does a bad rep for Jesus' "hometown" offer us?