I wonder who the first person would be you would tell exciting news – maybe when you’ve had the vaccine?! In these days where there is so much depressing news, it is even more important to share any good news stories that we have. I remember as a child being desperate to tell my Grandma of any incident I considered exciting that had happened to me, and of her having to endure every little detail in the retelling!
Last week each of us was sent a card outlining the Methodist way of life. Reading it, this might feel like a daunting task, especially in these times. But I think the story in John 1:43-51 gives us a manageable pattern to fulfil our calling. Philip encounters Jesus, and answers Jesus’ invitation to follow him. Having spent some time with Jesus, he heads off to tell his friend, Nathanael, the exciting news, and invites him to meet Jesus himself.
This offers us an encouraging pattern. Firstly, Philip went to his friend. When we think about our calling especially the section called evangelism, we often imagine this means approaching strangers, or knocking on their door and having to initiate a conversation. Whilst this is the calling of some people, most of us are called to go to those we know. The relationship has already begun and our calling is just to make our faith a natural part of that relationship and conversation – which is easier said than done!
If that thought still seems daunting, then Philip continues to encourage us. When he came to Nathanael he said, ‘We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.’ This is hardly a profound statement of who Jesus is. In fact, at that point, Philip wouldn’t have understood much about who Jesus is. Yet there is something about his encounter with Jesus that makes him realise that he is someone special, someone worth following, and someone he feels Nathanael should follow as well. We may not feel we have the necessary words or thoughts to convince someone. Yet our calling isn’t to have those answers. Our calling is to respond to our encounter and experience with Jesus and believe it to be good enough news to want to share it with those we are closest with.
But what if they don’t believe me? Nathanael was not overly excited by what he heard – ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’ Philip didn’t try and convince him with clever arguments. Instead, he simply replied, ‘Come and see.’ Our calling is not to convince or prove our faith. Our calling is to invite others to come and see, to encounter Jesus for themselves and make up their own minds. This is harder during these times, but the calling is no less real. We can point them to our worship that we have online or on paper, invite them to other acts of worship online, offer to pray with them, provide material for them to read or videos to watch.
The good news is our calling is not to convert people – that is God’s business. Our calling is to seek deeper experiences of Jesus and his love for us, so that we can’t help but invite others to encounter him also. When Jesus said to Nathanael, ‘I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man,’ the ‘you’ he uses is actually plural – he is saying it to all of us. When we seek and follow Jesus we too can see heaven opened. Through Jesus the divide between heaven and earth is bridged.
So in these days of continued lockdown seek to know Jesus deeper and for his love to fill you more fully. As you encounter Jesus more and witness the bridging of heaven and earth, don’t hold the good news to yourself. Instead, invite those you know and love to come and meet Jesus for themselves, and do it all for the glory of God.
Rev Nik Wooller
24th January 2021