Because we live over 750 miles apart, I had not seen my mother for several months. We were fortunate to attend a conference where I was working and she was a participant. We arranged to get together for dinner and decided the easiest thing to do would be to meet in the hotel lobby and go from there to a restaurant.
As I exited the elevator of the hotel and turned toward the lobby, I walked right past mom. Although she was looking for me, and I for her, we failed to recognize one another in the teeming crowd of conference-goers. Flesh of flesh and blood of blood, having spent the first 18 years of my life living under the same roof with this woman, and we walked right by each other! It wasn’t until I bumped into someone else that I knew in the lobby who said they had just seen mom standing close to the elevators, that we finally saw each other. Even though we were looking, we had trouble seeing.
This week’s texts are about recognition, seeing Jesus for who he is. In fact, this whole season following Christmas, known in church lingo as “epiphany,” a word that means “manifestation” or “appearance,” is a time when we grapple with the reality of God on earth in human form.
The search for the recognizable Savior is central to the text from John’s gospel. Variations of the words “see” and “know” appear throughout these 14 verses. John is searching for the promised one, and finds him as the Lamb of God, Jesus. It is the Spirit of God in the form of a dove that draws John’s attention to Jesus and causes him to see Jesus for who he is. Like my friend in the lobby directing me to my mom, the dove points John to Jesus.
The first part of recognition then is seeing, becoming aware of the person and presence that is in front of us. The second part is the action, responding to what we see and who we know. For John, that response included telling others what he had seen, and sharing with them the significance of this event. Testimony is the word that is often used to describe the act of telling what we have seen and experienced.
Scripture at its core is a book of testimony. Through its variety of literary genres and authors, it tells how God cares for and interacts with the world and humanity. It is a story to be repeated, a testimony to share. In the Psalms, David declares, “I have not hidden your saving help within my heart, I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation; I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness from the great congregation.” (Psalm 40:10)
In the Corinthian text, the apostle Paul is affirming the ways in which the testimonies of those who follow Jesus strengthen the Corinthian community. “I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus, for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind just as the testimony of Christ has been strengthened among you so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 1:4-7)
There is great continuity among these testimonies of David, Paul, the Corinthians, and John. The connector is the object of their activity: God extended through Jesus is the central figure of the stories they tell. As they tell the stories of Jesus, they direct others, such as the disciples, their community members, and unbelieving neighbors, to focus on the long-awaited Lord and Messiah. They point to Jesus so that others may see him.
When we give our testimony, what do others see? Who has been sharing stories in your life that point you toward Jesus? What do you have to say today that will help others recognize that Jesus is right there with them?
Songs & Hymns:
- Come and see Marilyn Houser Hamm, ©1974
- Open the eyes of my heart Paul Baloche, ©1997
- I love to tell the story Hankey & Fischer, 1869
There is a classic scene in the film Patch Adams in which Patch is challenged by a fellow patient to look beyond what was obviously in front of him and tell how many fingers were being held up. Patch showed that he had a clarity of sight that saw what others often overlooked. The clip can be viewed here: http://www.wingclips.com/movie-clips/patch-adams/what-do-you-see
who comes to us
in the things of this world,
bless your eyes
and be in your seeing.
who looks upon you
with deepest love,
bless your eyes
and widen your gaze.
May the Spirit,
who perceives what is
and what may yet be,
bless your eyes
and sharpen your vision.
May the Sacred Three
bless your eyes
and cause you to see.
~ from In the Sanctuary of Women, copyright © Jan L. Richardson. Posted on the painted prayerbook. http://paintedprayerbook.com/