Sunday, September 6, 2009

Come and See!

An invitation to share …

And questions to answer

It has to be one of my favourite phrases.

On a beach a beautiful rock formation, such wonderful colours. You cannot keep it to yourself, you simply have to call out to your long-suffering partner those wonderful three little words.

On Cleeve Common you spot a beautiful oyster shell embedded in the rock far from any beach and there’s nothing else for it … you call, you beckon … and those three monosyllabic words tumble out in their excitement.

A bush alive with butterflies. This time it’s Felicity re-paying the compliment. Three words 4-3-3.

And now for the most wonderful discovery of all. Not only have the BBC got highlights of Football League games as well as the Premiership on Match of the Day, but on the internet they are showing highlights of each game played by each club, including Cheltenham Town, all the goals!

Have you got what those three words are yet?

C _ _ _ A _ _ S _ _

Come and see!

Those three little words go a long way towards explaining why the wonderful Good News of Jesus Christ caught on and spread.

John explains what happened in the first chapter of his book.

Philip lived on the north easterly shore of the Sea of Galilee in Bethsaida, the home town of Peter and Andrew. When Jesus decided to go to Galilee he found Philip and said to him, Follow me.

Nothing of said of what happened next. It’s not important to the story John is telling. But it was life-changing for Philip. Joining up with Peter and Andrew and others who were already following Jesus, his immediate reaction was to want others to know what he had discovered.

So it was that Philip found Nathanael and told him the wonderful news!

“We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.”

Now it would appear that Nathanael was more than a little cautious. Maybe he knew Philip’s enthusiasms, maybe he was wary of being carried away on the latest fad. Maybe something had happened that had made him hesitate to leap in.

His response is quite disparaging. “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”

Philip’s reply is telling.

He could have argued the case, but he didn’t.

He could have said, ‘Go and find out.’ But he didn’t.

Instead Philip says,.

“Come and see.”

Three small words.

One friend’s invitation to another friend.

‘Come and see’

It began five years ago in one church. Since then lots of other churches have caught on. A couple of years ago, the church Felicity’s mother and sister and cousin and their families in Leicester joined in.

This year the Congregational Federation has joined in.

Think of people you know who once came to church, who have at some point been interested in church. Why not ask them to come back, or come along and see what happens now. What if more than one person did that on the same Sunday. What if lots of people in lots of churches were doing it on the same Sunday.

That’s what will be happening on the last Sunday in September. And we are going to be part of it.

YouTube Video clip of Back to Church Sunday

Invitations to take with you … or simply make the invitation.

The service we will invite people to will be a celebration of God’s creation, and the call to us to care for one another in that world – at our harvest weekend we will be looking at our own mission and the Christian Aid project we are supporting in the Dominican Republic, Oné Respé.

But Philip’s story didn’t end there.

He stuck with Jesus through to the cross, beyond to the resurrection and was with the followers of Jesus on the Day of Pentecost. He was involved in spreading the Good News in Jerusalem. And when Saul’s persecution of the church was at its height he fled, taking the message wherever he went.

On one occasion he was on the wilderness road that led from Jerusalem to Gaza. This time he met someone who had a lot of questions to ask.

Acts 8:4-8 and 26-40

Now those who were scattered went from place to place, proclaiming the word. Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah to them. The crowds with one accord listened eagerly to what was said by Philip, hearing and seeing the signs that he did, for unclean spirits, crying with loud shrieks, came out of many who were possessed; and many others who were paralysed or lame were cured. So there was great joy in that city.

Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch

Then an angel of the Lord said to Philip, ‘Get up and go towards the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.’ (This is a wilderness road.) So he got up and went. Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of the Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of her entire treasury. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning home; seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah. Then the Spirit said to Philip, ‘Go over to this chariot and join it.’ So Philip ran up to it and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah. He asked, ‘Do you understand what you are reading?’ He replied, ‘How can I, unless someone guides me?’ And he invited Philip to get in and sit beside him. Now the passage of the scripture that he was reading was this:
‘Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter,
and like a lamb silent before its shearer,
so he does not open his mouth.
In his humiliation justice was denied him.
Who can describe his generation?
For his life is taken away from the earth.’
The eunuch asked Philip, ‘About whom, may I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?’ Then Philip began to speak, and starting with this scripture, he proclaimed to him the good news about Jesus. As they were going along the road, they came to some water; and the eunuch said, ‘Look, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptized?’ He commanded the chariot to stop, and both of them, Philip and the eunuch, went down into the water, and Philip baptized him. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he was passing through the region, he proclaimed the good news to all the towns until he came to Caesarea.

Who, why, what, how?

These are questions people ask at all sorts of points, not least when confronted with the realities of a sometimes very troubled world.

What is the point of life?

Why do people suffer?

What happens when we die?

Is forgiveness possible?

Does God exist? Yes No Probably

Philip was prepared to listen, the Eunuch was prepared to learn, both of them were up for discussing and discovering something new.

That’s basically what Alpha is about.

‘The Alpha Course is an opportunity for anyone to explore the Christian faith.

“It is relaxed, low key, friendly and fun.

There is a meal together at the beginning of each session which gives you an opportunity to know each other.

Listen, Learn, Discuss and discover. And ask anything. Alpha is a place where no question is too simple or too hostile.

Our Alpha Course will run from 6th October to 8th December on Tuesday evenings. Again the idea is that we invite people. That’s it’s strength.

We have been involved in those difficult questions – in a conversation in a discussion. Take the opportunity to invite someone along. Don’t just say, go along it will be interesting.

Use Philip’s invitation – come and see as well. Come with them, bring them along.

This Autumn we have an invitation to share … Come and See.

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