Last week Kathleen and I took the kids to go see the remake of the classic movie Jumanji. The original starred Robin Williams as a man who unlocks an ancient curse when he accepts the challenge to play an old board game he found. The only way to stop the curse from destroying everything in his life is to play the game to the end… And of course win.
In this latest version, the storyline has been modernized a bit. It begins with four high school kids from different social groups who, as part of their detention, have to clean out an old storage room. It’s there they discover an ancient video game player from way back in the digital dark ages of the 1990’s.
Tempted by boredom, or curious by nature, the kids plug in the machine and accept the invitation to play Jumanji. And as a result they too unlock the curse. But instead of the game coming to life in their world, as it did in the original, the four teens become a part the game. Their only way out is to play the game…and win.
One might say the moral of this tale is be mindful when accepting invitations. You never know what adventure might unfold.
Today’s gospel reading is an invitation to a different kind of adventure. (John 1:43-51)
What we know up to this point is that Jesus had begun to gather his disciples. First is Andrew, followed by his brother Peter. The next day Jesus invites Philip to follow him. And in return Philip invites Nathanael to come and see what they’re up to.
If you are familiar with the Bible, you might not see anything unordinary about this. But if you’re not, you’re probably wondering what on earth made Nathanael, or any of the disciples, give up his life to follow this guy?
So far Jesus hasn’t performed any miracles, shown any signs, or made proclamations about the reign of God that might excite one’s imagination.
We don’t know much about Nathanael, but I picture him as an inquisitive young adult, or bored teenager. He’s in that juncture in his life when one questions the world and your purpose and place in it.
Imagine his state of mind when, from out of nowhere, Philip runs up screaming about finding the one Moses and the prophets wrote about, “And he’s from Nazareth of all places!”
Nathanael can’t help but asks, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”
Taking Jesus’ words and putting them into action, Philip invites his friend to, “Come and see.” In light of last week’s message, Philip is offering Nathanael an invitation to experience an epiphany.
If you want to know what God has in store for you, then come and see what God reveals in Jesus for you.
Those who Jesus has called to be his disciples the message is the same, “Come and see.” And they do. Epiphany after epiphany, God reveals God’s self to them through Jesus Christ.
But only after a brutal death and a miraculous resurrection will they be able to see God standing right in front of them. This will be their epiphany, realizing that God has always been here and has never stopped redeeming the world back home to His divine love.
What this story teaches us is that our quest, or whatever we are seeking, is answered in our ability to see Jesus for who he really is. But be warned, he’s not always what we’re looking for. For example, poor Nate can’t quite figure out why the Messiah come from some backwoods, insignificant village like Nazareth. You might wonder why he would come in to your messiness and call a person like you.
In his gospel story, John uses Nathanael’s inquiry to makes two powerful claims.
First, God can accomplish great things, especially in the most unlikely of places.
In a filthy stable, a corrupt government, a broken heart of a failed marriage, or the deep darkness of an ugly addiction, God is present and powerful in all our personal Nazareths.
Second, God is perfectly capable of honoring ordinary people and calling them to do extraordinary things.
From Moses to Mary, to the bumbling disciples to each one of us, everyone has a place and a purpose in God’s Kingdom no matter who we are or where we are found.
In Jumanji, four ordinary high-school kids with ordinary teenage problems found themselves in the characters of the video game. Through a series of unfortunate events, not only do they discover what they are capable of, but also who they’re destined to be. Had they not accepted the invitation to play, they might not have discovered their true self. The same can be said about each one of us.
Jesus invites us to come and see, not just so we see who he is but so we can discover who we are because of who he is; the Messiah, Son of God, our Savior.
Jesus shows up from the Nazareths of our life. And he calls us out from under the fig tree. He invites you to walk with him and learn how to live; to listen to him and learn how to speak truth and peace; to meet him in everyone you meet, and discover inside yourself a love you never thought possible.
In spite of all the opposition and every obstacle and challenge, if you persist and make Jesus a life habit, not only will God be revealed to you, but you will also see the true image of God bloom within you.
Jesus not only invites us to come and see, but he calls us out to follow him; to come and play in God’s world. This is it important to note because every day we receive invitations to do things that pull us away from our being One with God.
Friends invite us to share gossip. Co-workers invite us to have an affair. Drugs invite us to abuse our mind and bodies. Parents invite us to self-doubt. Of course, social media and technology tempt us to run and hide in an alternative reality.
Jesus invites us to live life well. And to live it abundantly. To share the good news, here and now. And to bear the good fruit of God’s eternal glory, today and tomorrow.
For every Nazareth there is an invitation. Through Christ, God invites us to “Come,” let go of pain, fear, anger, addictions and practices that harm yourself and others. Through Christ, God invites us to, “See” how the power of the Living Word can transform you.
“Come and see” is an invitation to “Go and be.”
Like Nathanael and Philip and all those before us have discovered, whenever we leave the fig tree… we open ourselves to see God fully present and at work in the most unexpected places. And in the most unassuming people; you and me.
But God’s invitation is one that requires an RSVP to see God’s great epiphany that draws us home to God’s divine truth and love.
So Come. See. Follow. Go. Be. And Do.
Bartlett, David L., Barbara Brown Taylor. Feasting on the Word, Year B vol. 1. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2008. pp. 260-264.
Marsh, Michael. interruptingthesilence.com. Jan 16, 2012. (accessed Jan 13, 2018).
An ex-copywriter turned punk rock pastor and peacemaker who dedicates his life to making the world a better place for all humanity.
"that they all might be one" ~John 17:21
“Prius vita quam doctrina.”
~ St. Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274)
* “Life is more important than doctrine.”