January 19, 2020 – Come and See

Text:  John 1:29-42

Although I like to take a picture, sometimes I let go of my desire of capturing the moment. Instead, I let myself be captured by the moment. I’ve learned that those are two different things – capturing the moment and being captured by the moment – and I have learned to appreciate the latter. I am not the kind of person who can easily be satisfied. I hunger for something more or better. While focusing on what I am lacking or what can be improved, I miss the opportunity of what the present moment communicates to me. The question is what prevents me from living in the present moment. What makes me incapable of enjoying the gift of each moment? Am I failing to live in the here and now because I tend to think about the past or the future? Or is it because I am not able to be fully present in the here and now that I regret my past or worry about my future? It’s like a chicken and egg dilemma that gets my mind whirring. A more fruitful approach is to practice mindfulness so I can be present, and participate in life more fully and meaningfully. The promise of Jesus – I came that you may have life, and have it abundantly – can be fulfilled only if we know how to live in the present moment.

Come and see. Jesus knows the gift of the present moment. John the Baptist has been talking about the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit. “I myself have seen and I have testified that this is the Son of God” says John. So, when Jesus actually shows up, John’s disciples become curious, and they start following him. Jesus turns and sees them following, and asks, “What are you looking for?” They say to him, “Rabbi, where are you staying?” “Come and see” is the answer, which is not directly addressing to their question. Rather, that is an invitation to be in relationship with him. Not because of what so and so said about him, but because they each can testify with their first hand experiences.

Come and see. The door is open, and the Holy One is accessible by everyone equally. Once we choose to go and see, we can no longer pretend to be bystanders or spectators. We become participants in God’s ongoing creation. Once we are in it, we are less likely to blame or regret, and give up hope too quickly. For, we know we are a part of everything, and that if we are the problem of the world we can be the answer as well. Our sense of belonging brings us joy as well as pain. Whenever there is suffering, we suffer together. But suffering doesn’t make us stop creating, because the Spirit is always making all things new through us.

Recent tragedies – the bushfire in Australia and the Ukrainian airline crash – remind us how human beings continue to fail by separating ourselves from each other and from the rest of creation. However, we can also see how much we are capable of healing one another and the whole creation by bringing ourselves together. What the world needs right now is not more information or quick fixes but an ability to relate to one another across the globe and to abide together in the same household, we call earth as one family.

Payam Akhavan, a professor of international law at McGill University talks about how we can find healing in communal grief across the country. The little shoe, which was found at the scene of the airplane crash, reminds him of one-year old Kurdia, whose parents Evin and Hiva took her halfway across the world, from Canada to Iran, to celebrate a wedding. Persian weddings, they jokingly say, need a football stadium to accommodate the guests. He imagines how many adoring grandparents and elders, aunts and uncles, cousins and friends must have smothered little Kurdia with affectionate kisses, seeing her for the first time, not knowing that it would also be the last. Quoting the mystic Rumi, “Death is our wedding with eternity,” Akhavan says, just as weddings are a communal experience that teach us what it means to belong, so too communal grief and mourning shows us the astonishing light of the human spirit; the inextricable ties that bind us together.
It is not a coincidence that the same words Jesus uses in calling the disciples are also used to call Jesus in the midst of communal grief. When Jesus arrives at the house of Mary and Martha, their brother, Lazarus has already been dead. Mary and Martha express their sadness and regret, saying “If only you had been here earlier, our brother would not have died.” Not just the family, but the whole community are mourning and weeping. Jesus asks the grieving people, “Where have you laid him?” They say to him, “Lord, come and see.” And the Bible says, “Jesus begins to weep.”

Come and see. This is a mutual invitation. Our Christ calls us to follow by letting go of whatever prevents us from living fully in the present, and by embracing a new gift each moment brings us. We call the Christ to come and join us in every broken place in our lives and in our world, only to find out that our Christ is already there weeping with us. It is here in communal grief that we can find each other and ourselves again, and find our belonging beyond the bond of blood and soil.

“Goodbyes are only for those who love with their eyes,” Rumi wrote, “because for those who love with their heart and soul, there is no separation.”