I always find it fascinating how memory works — just what it is that can take us back in time in a heartbeat.
This was so for me a few days ago. I bent down to pull on my winter boots. They have been especially well used this season between heavy snowfall and frigid temperatures and icy rain. As I bent down, I noticed that my boots are starting to show some wear. While much of it will probably wash off, the toes are scuffed with salt and dirt. In that moment’s time I found myself thinking of Pastor Antti Lepisto who was my pastor and mentor and friend. I found myself recalling the winter before I started seminary: I thought of his boots — and yes, for some reason I still remember noticing his boots were dirty in the midst of that particular long, cold winter.
Why that image came to mind these thirty years later, I have no idea. With that visual memory, though, all the rest came flooding back as well. How he not only recommended his seminary of choice to me, but drove me the full seven hours north to St. Paul, Minnesota so that I would see it in person. How in those months he invited me to ‘come and see’ what this work of being a pastor was all about. How he allowed me to tag along on all sorts of pastoral errands: those day to day pieces of ministry which most people never see.
For it is so that some things can’t be explained with words or even fully understood with our minds alone. Sometimes we truly need to see and experience things first hand.
Jesus knew this, too, of course. Indeed, I do love this little bit of the story which is ours to encounter this week. I can so relate to John’s two disciples who, apparently on an impulse and prodded on by John’s announcement of Jesus’ identity, just take off after Jesus. Evidently they had no plan other than to try to get close to him, for when Jesus turns and asks them what it is they are looking for, they answer with a question: “Where are you staying?”
Now it may be so that at this point John’s disciples are simply trying to gather enough information so that they can then find a way to stay nearby — just close enough so that they can listen in and tag along behind — anonymously even: maybe at a safe distance. Or maybe they really didn’t know just what it was they were looking for. Whatever the case may have been, Jesus doesn’t answer their question. He simply invites them to “Come and see.” And they do. They ‘come and see’ not only where Jesus was staying but they stuck around to see all that will follow.
Thirty years ago my friend and mentor and pastor did this for me. I expect he knew that no amount of explanation could fully capture what makes up a pastor’s week. (This, no doubt is also true for most other callings as well…) You really have to move the piles of papers off the passenger side seat and ride along to see for yourself. And you count yourself most blessed to be invited to do so with one who pulled on his boots and tromped through all sorts of piles of all sorts of things to get to where God was calling him to be — to get to where God’s people were.
I expect it almost goes without saying that this is also true for us in our lives of faith. Oh, we spend a lot of time with books and words studying what it is we are called to believe. But it is only as we put our boots on — and invite others to tag along — that we really see what faith filled lives can mean for the life of the world — and, in turn, for ourselves.
And so it is that I imagine it’s not only because it is different from the ordinary that our confirmation age youth seem to most enjoy those times we get out of the building on a service project: whether it is delivering Christmas cards to home bound folks or raking leaves or something else of the like. It’s those times when they get to see faith at work, sometimes in extraordinary ways.
Oh yes, I imagine this is so for all of us, that our faith grows as we follow the invitation to ‘come and see’ over and over again:
- It is as we see kindness offered and find a way to practice it ourselves.
- It is as we gratefully receive the generous gifts of others and learn to share, in turn, from what we have been given.
- It is as we are prayed for that we learn to remember to pray for others.
- It is as we experience forgiveness and then seek reconciliation where it has been broken between us.
- It is as we hear the call for justice and join others in working for it.
It is as we ‘come and see’ in all these ways — as the disciples did with Jesus so long ago — that faith is born and grows and is passed on.
“Come and see!” With these urgent words Jesus invited the disciples so long ago. With these words, we are invited as well. So “come and see!” Along with Andrew and Simon and all the rest, hear Jesus’ invitation to come closer! And while you’re pulling on your boots, think about just who you might invite to come along and see as well!
- Can you think of times when you were invited to ‘come and see?’ In your experience what difference did the ‘seeing’ make?
- Jesus’ invitation to ‘come and see’ is a simple one today. How might you share that same invitation? What would you invite someone else to ‘come and see’ in your life of faith?
- In your experience, how does ‘learning the faith’ best happen? What examples would you share?