Looking Ahead to the 2nd Sunday after Epiphany:
Some thoughts on Philip, Nathanael, Jesus, my hairdresser, and invitations...
“And Philip said to Nathanael, “Come and see.” (John 1:43-51)
Who knew it could be that easy?
I got a glimpse of what that can look like in the middle of my life yesterday….
I was sitting in my hairdresser’s chair where she was doing all she could to tame my unruly hair. We were making small talk… talking about the weather, about her son’s newly painted truck, about her daughter’s forensics competition that day. I don’t know how we got talking about exercise, but Carolyn saw an opening and invited me to join her exercise class.
If you know me at all you know that I’m an early morning walker. I walk for my physical health, to be sure, but it is critical for my emotional and spiritual health as well. It never fails. As my body finds the rhythm of walking my mind is somehow set free. It’s when I work things out, make connections, ask big questions. It is good for me, and yet I have known for some time it is not enough.
And so it was Carolyn saw an opening and began to tell me about her early morning exercise class. “It’s called “A.M. Workout Warriors,” she said, “but don’t let that scare you. It’s a bunch of women about our age.” She went on to describe the other participants in the class, the patience of the instructor, the fact that you don’t need to bring anything with you as it’s all provided. She assured me that I could fit the workout in and still be home in plenty of time to get ready for work. She told me this would be a perfect time to start as a new class begins this week. When I began to ask questions she told me where the class is held and how to get there. She even offered to pick me up on Monday morning as she said, “I know how hard it is to sometime walk into a place not knowing anyone.”
I didn’t quite have the courage to ask what I should wear as that seemed like something I should know.
After I left her house I drove to where she said the class is held --- just to be sure I could find it should I decide to go. When I was out shopping later that afternoon, I picked up a new pair of sweat pants. My old ones are well, old, and fine for walking alone in the dark, but I really don’t want to be embarrassed by something so basic should I decide to go.
As I took my usual walk today I got to thinking about how like Philip Carolyn was as she invited me to join her class. She knows enough about me to know I might be interested… just as Philip must have known Nathanael would be interested in the fulfilling of God’s promises and so told him about Jesus. She wasn’t pushy. She answered my questions as I asked them. And when it came right down to it, she knew that anything she would say would not be enough. She simply invited me to come and see, to come and experience it for myself.
It was a simple, straightforward conversation. There was no judgment offered about my flabby middle aged arms or the struggle I’ve had with weight ever since I became a pastor and was introduced to the constant caloric temptations of the role. She told me enough so that I could find my way on my own should I decide to go and she offered to come and pick me up if that would help.
And yet, I am deeply aware that the kind of invitation Carolyn extended to me yesterday all too often doesn’t happen like it did with Philip and Nathanael in our own journeys of faith. Still, it seems like it should be so simple. To care enough to ask. To watch for an opening to invite. To speak a simple, entirely nonjudgmental invitation. To not get defensive in the face of another’s skepticism. To offer to give a ride if that would help. And to let it go, trusting, believing that, in the end, it’s not about you at all, but that, in the end, it’s about Jesus. And Jesus will do the convincing.
And so I’m wondering now….
1) Who was your Philip? Who invited you to ‘come and see’ Jesus --- the first time and the many times since? And what are your ‘Nathanael’ moments --- those times Jesus connected with you so profoundly you’ve never forgotten it?
2) Consider my conversation with Carolyn about her exercise class. What about her invitation made me consider responding positively? What might she have said (or not said) that would have made me dismiss her invitation and forget it as soon as I got out of her chair? What can that teach us about how we talk about our faith with others?
3) Why is it that it’s easier to invite someone to an exercise class than to invite them to join us in worship? I’ve got some pretty good ideas, but I’d really be curious about what you think. Offer your comment below or drop a note to firstname.lastname@example.org and maybe we can have a larger conversation together about this.
4) If you haven’t found a home in a congregational community for some time and you’ve dropped into this page and have actually gotten this far into this with me, thank you for bearing with what must seem like a terribly ‘insider’ conversation. I would be especially curious about your experience. Has anyone ever invited you? Did you wind up joining them? Why or why not? Again, drop me a note and tell me about it.
5) A few years back a friend described her experience of moving new into a community. She said she received a warmer welcome among ‘soccer families’ on the sidelines of her daughter’s games than she did in local congregations. I still ache to remember the pain she experienced in that time. And I wonder why that was so. What do you think?
6) There are a whole lot of questions swimming around in my mind as I think about joining that exercise class tomorrow ---- what should I wear? Where will I enter the building and how will I find the right room? Who will be there? Will I fit in? What will they think of me? Will I be glad I went?--- I’m pretty sure those folks thinking about dropping into worship are wondering the same things. What can we do to alleviate some of those fears that may well keep our neighbors and friends from ‘coming to see Jesus’ for themselves?