Witnessing for yourself

by Jan 21, 2020

John 1:29-42

Where are you staying?
Come and see

At the church where I grew up, when I was a teenager, the rector had a conversation with the local police about the needs of the community and at their request the church partnered with the police to organise a youth club. It was intended as an outreach to a mixed community. It wasn’t meant to be a tool for proselytising or teaching people about our faith. In fact, the local Imam came to inspect the youth club, to confirm to his community that they could send their youth knowing that it was suitable for them. The members of the church who helped did so because they believed their faith demanded that they serve others. Much like churches running food banks or night shelters.

I remember as a teenager volunteering and helping at the youth centre, it was mostly playing basketball and card games and hanging out. I remember witnessing one young person – they were awkward and didn’t quite fit in at school. Struggling to make friends, but they found at the youth centre somewhere they could get to know people and be accepted for who they were.

One Sunday this young person turned up at Church with their mother. She was also known to the volunteers involved in the food bank we ran at the church. They never became regulars, but they came looking for something – was it being accepted? Was it to find something larger than themselves? They clearly got something from it. The young person in particular grew in confidence, in time I think they moved away, or I did. But I’m sure that’s not the end of the story.

At the church in Bristol where I was churchwarden we organised a nurture course. A nurture course is the term in the trade for an introduction to Christianity like the ‘Alpha’ course, or ‘Christianity Explored’ both of which you might have seen advertised. We wrote our own course because none of the off the shelf ones quite fit the bill – they typically come from a more Evangelical church tradition and while the intent is admirable, the theology and particularly the views expressed about certain theological points didn’t quite fit with that church. But we adopted some specific attributes about the delivery from other nurture courses. In particular, the sessions, which were weekly, were designed to fit around a meal which a team from the congregation would cook. The tables where we sat for the sessions would double as dinner tables as plates of food were served in our places. And conversation would flow. It was an example of hospitality – of sharing God’s love. The people who attended had been wondering what this whole Christian faith was about and wanted to find out in a safe space where they could ask silly questions. After 8 sessions, trying to explore all the key parts of Christianity, I was struck during a time for feedback by how significant the impact of having food prepared and served was. All the teaching we had given, for those attending it was the practical act of providing a meal which had truly shown what our faith really meant. Today’s Gospel is all about witnessing what Jesus is up to. It open’s with John the Baptist testifying to what he had seen at Jesus’ baptism. In John’s gospel we only hear about Christ’s baptism 2nd hand – not like last week’s narrative from Matthew, which told us about the baptism itself. Two of John’s own disciples, hearing John’s proclamations follow Jesus at a distance – perhaps not wanting to get caught – not wanting to be asked a difficult question, or to be told they are being silly with their questions.

But Jesus turns to them and asks what they are looking for – they ask ‘where are you staying?’ and he invites them to ‘come and see’ And so these two became part of the 12 and they watched and learned and testified to what they saw, so that we too know who Jesus is and what he did. But where is Jesus staying? Where is he now? Where do we look to find God? Ignatius of Loyola encouraged his followers to dwell in the passages of scripture as part of their prayer. To imagine themselves sat with Jesus. Because where Jesus is staying is with us. Jesus lives in us as members of his church. Jesus lives in our midst. And Jesus lives with those on the edges, those most in need, all those who yearn for God. Ignatius also told his followers to seek God in their day to day lives, in the work they did. In the Examen, which he introduced, he had his followers dwell on where they had experienced God in their lives each day, when they were most alive. Jesus is there in the things we do, in the things that bring people together, the hospitality we offer, in our worship and our prayer, in the care and love we offer others. And we should always be looking and listening asking where is Jesus staying. Inviting Jesus to stay with us. In us.

Seeing where God is we witness, we testify to the fact that God is in our lives, in the lives of those around us. We testify to ourselves, because we need to be reminded about God’s precedes in our lives first, to see Jesus is with us. We then testify to others by being true to the God who loves us. By being honest to others about who God is to us. By showing his love in the way we care for others. By helping others to see God in our lives. and by giving others the space to ask us the silly questions.

The Reverend Robin Sims-Williams

Weekly Services

Sunday Mornings

8.00am Morning Prayer in the lady chapel
10.00am Parish Eucharist with choir and Sunday School

Weekday Services

Christian Meditation Wednesdays at 9.10am
Said Eucharist on Wednesdays at 11.00am
Evening Prayer
Monday through Thursday at 5.30pm

Please note that Public worship has been suspended, you can therefore participate in these services via Facebook live stream

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