The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, ‘Follow me.’ Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, ‘We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.’ Nathanael said to him, ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’ Philip said to him, ‘Come and see.’ When Jesus saw Nathanael coming towards him, he said of him, ‘Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!’ Nathanael asked him, ‘Where did you come to know me?’ Jesus answered, ‘I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.’ Nathanael replied, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!’ Jesus answered, ‘Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.’ And he said to him, ‘Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Humanity.’ ****************************************************************************************************************************
What a day! It's the beginning of a brand new church year, and today, if you haven't gotten this so far, is about saying Yes in a number of ways. Downstairs after worship today there is a ministry fair with that same theme, and along with delicious pizza and games and activities, there will be a lot of opportunities for you to say Yes to ministry, or getting involved, here at the church.
There's a lot of energy at First Baptist these days and for good reason. The church is energized, alive, growing, and most of all, actively participating in making the world a better place. Each of the ministries have a mission or a goal- but are all focused on saying yes to what God is call us to be and do as a church- saying yes to the words of Jesus, "Follow Me."
And for some of us, like Philip in the scripture we just read, all we need to hear is Jesus say, Follow Me, and it's enough. We get it. We are called- God has given us a light inside and we figure out, with God's help and the help of those around us, how to use it for helping others. We're in! But in truth, that doesn't happen very often.
For the rest of us, we end up being more like Philip's friend, Nathaniel...
And let's pretend, just for today, that Jesus wasn't walking around 2000 or so years ago in Palestine, but instead was walking around last week, say, in Moorestown. Philip is sitting in front of Starbucks with a caramel macchiato, posting on Instagram and Jesus walks over and says, "Follow me." Phil looks up from his phone and it hits him like a bolt of lightning! "YES!," says Philip.
And honestly, that's the story for Philip.
But then, Phil is so excited, he texts his friend Nathaniel, tell him all about it, with the hashtag "I've found the real deal." Nathaniel texts back, "LOL, yeah right" Philip texts back, "Go to Starbucks- look for a guy named Jesus, from over the bridge in South Philly." (ok, it's Nazareth, but work with me...) Nathaniel texts back, "ROTFL." Philip text back, "Come here."
And I'm not quite sure how he does it, but over several more texts and in the time it took for Jesus to order his own Caramel Macchiato, (he ordered his with an extra espresso shot) Philip convinces Nathaniel to come to Starbucks, and when Jesus sees them coming, he smiles, and calls out, "Hey! Look at you, I can see the light of God in you for real!" Nathaniel looks around, "who me?" and says to Jesus, "Uh... when-ja get ta know me?"
Jesus looks back at him and smiles. And he says "Nathaniel... long before Philip texted you you, I saw you under the fig tree... I saw you last week when you were eating at Passarielos, I saw you last year when you took that new car for a drive around the neighborhood, and then drive into Philly to get your first tattoo.... I saw you and your friends when you were teens when you snuck into the movie theater without paying and they threw you out of there by the collar. I saw you cough when you tried to smoke cigarettes and watched you wince when you fell skateboarding outside the church. I saw your mom take you to school for the first time and how you cried when she left you... I saw the look on your face when you first saw your baby sister, and I caught you when you fell off the kitchen counter and nearly broke your arm... I witnessed your birth, and before you were born, you and I had long discussions about theology and politics and life when you were still in the womb... when did I get to know you? I've always known you."
"Oh Lord, you have searched me and known me..." Says the writer of Psalm 139. Or in the story from Jeremiah, God is the Potter, we are the clay, God knows everything about us, created us, formed us, shaped us, molds us- when we mess up, no worries, the potters hands just reshapes the clay, brings about something new. The light of God is in each of us, but most of us, like Nathaniel, question. Or we dismiss the hashtag 'Ifoundtherealthing"
Its not that we don't believe... its just- well, we know us! I know me! Nathaniel knew himself- he knew who he had been taught he was, he knew what he had done. He knew where he was accepted and where he wasn't. He knew the mistakes he had made, the ways he had hurt others and the way others had hurt him. He knew him on the inside- he knew the stuff about himself that nobody else knew about- he knew what he carried and what he had left behind. He knew what he believed, and what he had given up on.
That light of God, even if it was once there, hadn't shined in a a very long time, in fact he had stopped looking for it...
Do we have any Nathaniel's in the room this morning?
The thing is, when Nathaniel hear jesus tell him everything he had ever done- the good and the bad- and had been with him his entire life- and here was Jesus in front of him still loving him and calling him- well, he may not have had the exclamation point type of yes that Philip did- but the calm, sure, affirmative Yes, with a period, a simple statement of belief, was enough to begin Nathaniels life as a disciple. "Surely you are the son of God."
But what about those of us who might still be at Starbucks- waiting for Jesus to show up- maybe on our phones or sipping that Caramel Macchiato sure that life is not going to get any better- not sure that there even is a God who cares about us and loves us- what about those of us who just don't see it, or can't see it and who just feel like a lump of clay, no form, no purpose, just here. To us I would say, don't stress about that either. Whether you see God or not, whether you realize God has been with you your entire life or not, whether you even are afraid to hope there's a God- listen- Say yes anyway... say Yes with a question mark. Leave it open ended for God to respond back to you. If you dare just allow your heart to open just a crack, to allow the light that is in you (and I promise you, that light is in you) to shine for just one minute- you will see, in the words of Jesus, Greater things than these!!! You'll see and experience more than you could ever think or imagine.
Take one step toward God, and let God do the rest.