Rev. Martha Jacobs
Where Did You Get to Know Me?
Micah 6:6-8, John 1:43-51
Sunday, January 14, 2018
I want to go back and read a portion of today’s reading for us. Philip finds Nathanael and says 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 toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.”
Now, Nathanael had a chip on his shoulder about Jesus from the start. His comment, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth” was really a derogatory comment – perhaps akin to the rhetoric that recently purportedly came from the White House. It was a really nasty comment for their time. So, when Jesus says to Nathanael, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit,” it is possible that Nathanael heard that comment as sarcastic. He had no idea who Jesus was, nor did he know that Jesus would not respond to him in the same way he had put Jesus down for where he resided.
Now, I could go down that road, based on what has been reportedly said by the President of the United States in relation not only to people from Haiti and from African Nations but also about someone of Korean dissent, who was raised in New York, who it was suggested could be used as a negotiator because of her looks, thereby denigrating her. However, in this church, because we welcome all people and support all people no matter where they come from or what they look like, I don’t feel that I need to spend any time on this, aside from saying that to set someone aside or apart because of where they come from is an anathema to what this church stands for. God’s preference is for all who are in need and therefore, so is ours.
So, I am going to go down another road. Hopefully a higher and a more meaningful road.
I can imagine another reaction Nathanael might have to hearing Jesus’s comment about who he is. I can imagine him being startled and perhaps even suspicious, because Jesus knew who he was without Nathanael knowing how or why he knew that. I can relate to that because sometimes people will come up to me and say to me “I know who you are.” And, it startles me because I haven’t a clue who they are. It takes me off guard and my first reaction is almost always to feel defensive inside although I am learning not to get defensive, especially since becoming your pastor. As an introvert at heart, the idea of people “knowing” me when I don’t know them, is a bit scary. But, I have been learning to embrace the idea, at least in this community, where people do know who I am, even when I don’t know who they are.
This is on my mind because on Friday night at the Temple, a woman came up to me after the MLK service and said, “I want to thank you for what you did for my family.” I immediately started to try to figure out who she was and what I might have done for them. Did I encounter them when I was a chaplain in the hospital? Did I help them out while working with the New Castle Police Department? Those questions went through my mind in a split second and then I told myself to just listen to her and I would learn.
And, indeed, she did go on to tell me that her daughter was 12 and had been here a year ago when I talked with a group of youth from the Temple about FCC and about what we believe. One of the youth asked me how I became a minister. I looked at Rabbi Linzer, who knows my story. She basically indicated that it was okay with her if I told my story. And so I told them that I had been Jewish but that Judaism didn’t work for me. But, through some things that happened in my life, I found Christianity which brought me to a closer relationship with God. I then talked about how important it was to find something or someone to believe in who is bigger than all of us.
Now, I didn’t think I had said anything earth-shattering, but, apparently this young person went home and told her family my story. She then told her parents that she now wanted to continue to check this “God thing” out and wanted to make a difference in our world for others, as I had for her.
Quite frankly, I was blown away when she told me this. I asked her to go home and tell her daughter that, by hearing her story, she had now made a difference in my life.
Where did you get to know me is a question we need to keep in mind as we go about our day to day lives. The people we encounter – we never know how we will impact their life and they don’t know how they have impacted our life. The follow up to this question should help guide us in our everyday lives. Philip tells Nathanael to “come and see.”
This morning, I want to offer you a deeper invitation that will answer the question “Where did you get to know me?” This morning, I want to offer you an invitation that is not a new one. We offer it here just about every Sunday, but especially on Communion Sunday when we welcome all to our open table. I want to invite you to, “come and be” – be who you are – all that you are – both the good and the not so good. It is not important that you be perfect. It is important that you just be – be a part of this faith community that responds in less than 30 minutes when an email goes out asking for winter coats for our homeless guests. Be a part of this faith community that embraces people wherever they are on their life journey, without judging them.
Be a part of this faith community that is taking youth to Florida to help rebuild homes damaged by hurricanes. Be a part of this faith community that raises money to help one of our members’ whose family was devastated by Hurricane Maria and, a UCC church whose members were impacted by the wild fires in California. Be a part of this faith community that steps up to help a Chappaqua family who falls on hard times and can’t get themselves back on track. Be a part of this faith community that has welcomed under our roof two different faith communities that have had a need for a safe, warm, comfortable, welcoming place to worship.
Dr. King said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Here we drive out the darkness by shedding light on the places where we are wounded and need healing. Here, we drive out the darkness by saying no to hate, by saying “welcome, wherever you are on your journey.” Here we strive to do what we can to serve those whom God has told us to serve and to do so with justice in our hearts, by loving being kind to others and to ourselves, and by walking humbly with our God.
Where did you get to know me is not just a question that we can ask Jesus, but is a question Jesus asks us. And our answer is, through doing justice, loving kindness and all people, and walking humbly with Jesus to help as many people as we can help through prayer, through open doors, open hearts and open arms. Through being willing to share our own pains, our own hurts and our own delights, as we do through our Pastoral Prayer. Dear ones, we are being and becoming the people God has called us to be and the world needs that now more than ever.
So, where did you get to know me? At First Congregational Church, where all are called to serve and all are welcome, no matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey.