Start with love. Start with caring for someone else. Start small if you want to, but start. The more you practice proclaiming this the easier it becomes and bigger it grows.
And John testified, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.”
The other morning I was driving down a side street where a delivery van was double parked and blocking the flow of traffic. Normally this isn’t so much of a problem on side streets, but thanks to Amazon Prime there was a massive three car back up happening. People’s anxieties were flaring. And tempers were on the verge of bursting like a wild volcano.
Since I was in no real hurry, I hung back and flashed my high beams to let the other cars know that they could go around the van. Instead of going, they just sat there agitated. The more I flashed my lights, the more ticked off they got.
I began to think that no one taught them this well known gesture of kindness. So I drove on. As I past one car, the driver boldly showed me that she did know, another universally recognizable gesture that wasn’t so kind.
Whether it’s operating a vehicle, showing random acts of kindness, or flipping someone off in traffic, we know what we know…because someone first taught it to us. Math. Science. Language. Religion. We are always students learning from someone or something.
There are all sorts of teachers out there too. Pre-school teachers, substitute teachers, Sunday school teachers, professors from the highest ranks of academia to parents who homeschool their kids. And then there are bosses and co-workers, close friends, or people who, although you met only once, made an indelible impression on you.
We learn how to navigate life from learning or watching others. I heard a great scholar confess how he learned more about God’s grace and forgiveness from his dog than from anyone else. Is there a person you know or met who has made your life more blessed by what they taught you?
However, he was not the kind of teacher parents would want their children to have. He taught me how to cuss more colorfully, how to think more dangerously, and how to survive on the streets more skillfully…and often illegally. He made such an mark on my life that when I went off to college people always asked me what part of New York I was from. Just as someone taught Frank, and he taught me, I try to do my best to pass on the lessons I have learned.
In today’s Gospel passage, we see how this kind of teaching works. John the Baptist is out in the wilderness doing something new with an old ritual. People were coming in droves to see what he’s all about. In the midst of the dunking and shouting, Jesus walks by.
Out of nowhere, John blurts out, “There’s the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” He’s teaching those gathered that Jesus is the one who brings true restoration between God and all of creation. Today, we know this because, as the gospel story reveals, John is testifying, he’s teaching us to what God has already made known to him.
God tells John and John tells us. This is how teaching works – said knowledge moves from the teacher to the student. And in this case, it’s the kind of knowledge that sends the students to go and learn more.
Look at what happens to Andrew when he leaves his teacher John to follow Jesus. He is enlightened and runs to his brother Simon to teaches him what he knows about Jesus. These two brothers, who become part of the 12 disciples, will go on testifying – teaching others what they know in their hearts to be true about God’s transformative love in Christ. To those they teach, will in turn will go and do the same and on and on and on it goes… right up to this very moment in time. (Bowron)
And that’s where we come in. Like every aspect of life, we eventually make the move from student to teacher. As followers of Jesus, especially we who have been spiritually awakened to our belovedness in Christ, we have to proclaim this truth: Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
The question we all must ask ourselves then is how am I testifying this good news? How am I telling or showing the world that they too are a beloved children of God, made in Christ and filled with the Holy Spirit? This is not just my job, but yours as well. We are all ministers, teachers, of this truth.
At the end of Matthew’s gospel, Jesus gives his students a great task. He tells them to go and make disciples of all nations. Go make students who then can become teachers who can go and teach others of God’s redemptive love and grace. Jesus knew if we don’t continue what he started then people will not know that they are loved, no matter what. They will be left empty, searching for anything culture and society offers to fill the void.
People are watching and listening, they are learning from you whether you know it or not. So how will you teach them? In what way do you live your life that bears witness to Christ? How do you show the excitement of your faith like Andrew did when he ran off and told his brother?
I understand not everyone is comfortable expressing their faith verbally. Most of us don’t want to be pushy or have people avoid hanging out with us. So here’s something I learned from a wonderful mentor about circumventing this uncomfortableness. He said, “We don’t beat people into the kingdom of heaven. Instead we must live the kingdom in such a way that others will want to join us there.”
When I was going through a difficult time in my life, a friend asked how I was able to cope. I answered, very much like Jesus did, with my own an invitation of “Come and See.” I asked, “What are you doing on Sunday at 11:00 am?” She accepted my invitation to come and learn. And a year and a half later, she married me in that church.
How do you teach or testify? I have a t-shirt that says “The Sermonator.” You might wear a cross around your neck. Both are powerful statements and great ways to start a conversation.
Another great place to start is in the way you show kindness to others. Kathleen always says it’s easier to catch a bee with honey than it is with vinegar. People may not understand why you are flashing your lights at them, but when you respond to a rude gesture with love, that is a teaching moment.
Even if you don’t say anything, simply being the love of Christ in the world helps to spread the love of Christ where it’s needed the most.
Before her death some 500 years ago, St. Teresa of Avila wrote:
“Christ has no body now on earth but yours,
no hands but yours, no feet but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which to look out Christ’s compassion to the world;
yours are the feet with which he is to go about doing good;
yours are the hands with which he is to bless men now.”
Yes, Jesus invites you to come and see. But today, I encourage you to go and be. Go and be a living testimony to God’s glory in your life. Go and be “like John, be like Andrew, be like the uncountable cloud of witnesses to God’s gospel of love, justice, peace, and presence. Show us all in your words and deeds, in all of your life, that Jesus is the Lamb of God who has taken away the sin of the world.” (Bowron)
Flash your light on this message and teach the world to see their place in the kingdom of God. Amen.
Bowron, Josh. Testimony, Epiphany 2. Posted on January 12, 2020 (accessed 01/16/2020).
Bartlett, David L and Barbara Brown Taylor, eds. Feasting on the Word, Year A vol 1. (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2010) p. 260.