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April 2, 2017 Sermon Lent 5

Come and See

We are taking the opportunity during Lent this year to reflect on what it means to us to be Christian people. A prayer written by 13th century Bishop Richard of Chichester helps us with this discernment: “Day by day, dear Lord, three things I pray: to see thee more clearly; to love thee more dearly; to follow thee more nearly, day by day.”
This prayer helps us reflect on questions such as these in Lent: What does it mean for us to see God more clearly? What does it mean for us to love God more dearly? What does it mean for us to follow Jesus more nearly?
This year, I have invited 4 people from our congregation to tell you about their faith. Joyce Aasland, Deb Saffin and I have shared parts of our faith journey with us. Today, I invite Anne McMichael.
Thank you so much Anne.
One of the things I have noticed as people have talked about their faith is that we tell stories. Our faith is not a series of propositions. Faith is about the story of our life. It’s the story of a relationship. It’s a story of growing and falling, going on and falling back, succeeding and failing, reaching out and pulling back in.
We’ve been hearing the same kinds of stories in our gospel readings this Lent. These are stories of people who encounter Jesus. Nicodemus came to Jesus in the dark, and talked with him about being born of the Spirit, being born from above. The woman of Samaria met Jesus at the town well and talked about the gift of living water which springs up in us. Last week, we met a man born blind who slowly came to see Jesus. Today, it’s a story about the death of Lazarus, who was raised again. It’s a story of Jesus giving life in the midst of death.
In each of these stories, there is an invitation to come and see. It’s an invitation to faith—to see God more clearly, and then to love God more dearly, and then to follow Jesus more nearly.
These are stories of life, stories of growth, stories of renewal, stories of transformation.
And stories—well, you’ve just got to live them. You can’t reduce a story to a set of ideas. You live out the story of your life and your faith day by day by day.
Once, when I was in a youth group, I received the gospel in a nutshell. The idea behind the activity was to write a verse of scripture on a piece of paper and stuff it literally in a nutshell and hand it to someone.
At the time, I thought it was a silly thing to do. Today, I still think it’s a silly thing to do. You can’t just fit the gospel in a nutshell; the gospel isn’t a fortune cookie piece of wisdom.
We live it out day by day. As we live it out, we find life. Jesus invites people to “Come and see.” Jesus invites us to undertake a journey, a pilgrimage. Come and see.
It’s been a wonderful thing for me to listen to people share their lives and their faith here during Lent. It has touched my heart.
What about your own journey? How would you tell your story? Where has God touched your life? Where have you learned to see God more clearly? To love God more dearly? To follow Jesus more nearly?
Where have you failed? How have you picked yourself up and begun again? Or better, how has God picked you up and helped you begin again?
How have you been strengthened? In worship? In prayer? In reflection? In coming to the table to be fed? In serving the world? In every part of your life?
Faith doesn’t come in a nutshell. Faith is an invitation. Come and see. And then it takes our whole lives to live it out. Day by day … learning to see God more clearly. Day by day … learning to love God more dearly. Day by day … learning to follow Jesus more nearly.
We don’t do it alone. God’s spirit journeys through our life with us. As we journey, we become more aware of God’s love which never lets us go
Thanks be to God.

Rev. Dr. Yme Woensdregt
April 2, 2017 (5th Sunday in Lent)
John 11: 1–45
Ezekiel 37: 1–14
Romans 8: 6–11