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Sermon January 14, 2024

Epiphany 2 B 2024 Nazareth Indeed Sermon

John 1:43-51

Grace to you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen.

“Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”  That’s the sarcastic question that we have before us this morning.  2,000 years after Nathanael asked the question we can still hear the ridicule contained in these words.  We can hear the easy dismissal.  We can hear the level of superiority the speaker has over the stranger.

It’s a question that we all can relate to.  It’s a question that reminds us of all the ways that we can dismiss people who look different, or think differently, or who come from a different part of the world or hold a different religious conviction.

“Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”  Oh, how easy it is to dismiss someone.  And today we do not even have to say it to their face.  We can post this question on face book, twitter, or some other social media platform, namelessly, from the comfort of our bedroom, in our pajamas.

You, and I, can cause all sorts of division today from behind closed doors without having to venture out into the real world to create division.

And the sad thing about it is that people believe what we say.  And to make it even worse we all have opinions and attitudes that make the bad stuff reasonable.  Let me ask you this… “Have you ever made an assumption?” 

Have you ever said: “I’ve seen his type before.”  Or “She’s always so negative, I know what she will say.”  Or “He won’t understand, he never does.”  Or how about “Nothing good can come out of this situation.”

Everyday people, people of faith, people like you and me, make these and all sorts of assumptions all the time.  And we think nothing of it.  But you do know what happens when we assume something, don’t you? 

That’s right, we make ourselves look silly, uneducated, not very social, and grumpy.  The assumptions we make destroy relationships, love, and life.  And we often end up thinking that we know more than we really do.    

For you see, assumptions act as limitations.  Assumptions narrow our vision.  Assumptions close off the possibility of change and growth.  Assumptions deny the possibility of reconciliation, healing, and new life.

Ultimately, assumptions tend to impoverish our faith, and limit the space we have in our lives for God to act and move.

I find that it is no coincidence that Nathanael is sitting under a fig tree when he makes this comment.  After all, it is the fig tree that gave Adam & Eve the leaves to hide behind when they hid from God, and each other.

 And it is the fig tree that Jesus cursed when it produced no fruit and showed no signs of life.   

In the story of Adam & Eve, we discover that the assumptions we make often end up becoming our hiding places.  And the assumptions that we make keep us from bearing fruit.  And the assumptions we make often prevent us from engaging life, ourselves, each other, and God at a deeper level.

Nathanael did not doubt that God would fulfill His promises.  And Nathanael did not question the fact that Philip claimed to have found the One about whom Moses and the prophets spoke about.  No, Nathanael did not question this at all. 

Instead, Nathanael expressed shock and disbelief that anything good could come out of Nazareth.  He was surprised when Philip told him that the One whom they have waited for has been found in Nazareth.

But thankfully, God does not allow Himself to be limited by our assumptions.  And instead of allowing Nathaneal to be held hostage to his assumptions, Philip, moved by the Holy Spirit, offered an invitation.  He invited Nathaneal to “Come & See.”

“Come & See” the deeper truth.  “Come & See” the New Life God has in store for you.  “Come & See” the amazing location of God’s Epiphany. 

And with these words Philip invited Nathaneal to come out from under the fig tree and see for himself the power of God at work in the world. Philip invited Nathaneal to leave his assumptions behind and experience life in a new way. 

Yes, the fulfillment of God’s promises occurred in a surprising place.  In our text it happened in Nazareth, the last place Nathaneal thought it would happen.

But that is not the end of the story.  For you see, today, God often fulfills His promises in the last place that we expect it to happen.  But the invitation is still the same.  And we too are invited to “Come & See” God at work in this world today. 

For the “Good News” is that our redemption happens when we thought nothing good could happen.  And reconciliation and love are experienced in relationships that we thought nothing good could come from these relationships. 

In our darkest hour, that is where life often begins to bear fruit.  In the hopeless situations of life, that is when words of forgiveness and compassion matter the most.

In our Gospel text today, we hear the sarcastic question “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”  And the answer is this.  Not only does something good come out of Nazareth, but the One who is “good” comes out of Nazareth. 

And guess what?  We are invited to “Come & See.”  “Come & See” God at world in his world.  “Come & See” the light which the darkness of this world can not put out.  “Come & See” the Word made flesh. 

“Come & See” the glory of God’s only Son, full of grace and truth.  “Come & See” the amazing whereabouts where God has chosen to reveal Himself to us.  Amen.

Let us pray: Almighty God, you come to us when we least expect it, and offer to us the gift of redemption. Empower us to invite others to come and see, so all may know the location where you have chosen to reveal yourself to us.  In Jesus name we pray.  Amen.