I can remember the first time I felt the desire to volunteer.
I was a sophomore in High school.
I found out that the Baptist church in the center of town had a meal for people that were experiencing homelessness.
For some reason I really wanted to go there and help.
I will tell you that I believe that the desire to help someone else came from God.
It was a calling, maybe as clear a calling as I have ever received.
I just knew somehow that what it meant to be a Jesus person was to help others.
Where did it come from if not God?
You might be thinking it came from my home church.
But the reality is that at that time my home church didn’t do much volunteering.
Church was a place of worship and learning about God.
At that time we simply didn’t have a lot of opportunity to serve.
And the one thing that I knew that our church did, serve a meal at the race track in Salem, they wouldn’t let the youth group do it.
Church it seemed to me was concerned about the building, and budgets.
We had just built a really nice new church, and what I saw from the adults was a desire to keep the building nice and new.
You might be thinking that I got it from my parents.
My parents were faithful and generous people.
We always had people over our house.
They would help anyone in any way they could.
But we didn’t do a lot as a family volunteering outside of our church.
My parents were working hard, raising a family, and trying to pay bills.
This is in no way to disparage either my home church or my parents.
I learned about Jesus from those two places.
I learned about compassion for others.
It is only to say I can’t attribute that strong sense of wanting to do something to help others to either of them.
I can’t attribute that call of wanting to make the world a little better to either of them.
It must have been God’s call.
It must have been God whispering in my ear that part of a life of faith is giving what we have with others.
I love John’s account of the call of Nathanael, because he resists Jesus.
And I think we all do that to some extent.
We are skeptical of the call.
It seems to come from nowhere.
What does it really mean to follow this homeless Rabbi from Nazareth?
Does anything good come from it?
I also believe that this call doesn’t just come to me.
It has come to all of us.
In our human DNA there is something that makes us want to serve, to make a difference, to give of ourselves.
I have seen it over and over again.
I have friends who serve the world in such wonderful ways.
I have friends who have adopted children from Haiti, Africa, and South America.
Friends who live a life of service and care for people marginalized.
I know that even people who have nothing to speak of desire to make a contribution.
That call is alive and well in the world.
And even if people don’t know it I believe it comes from God.
What about you?
What has Jesus invited you to come and see?
“Come and see” is the words that Phillip uses to invite Nathanael to meet Jesus.
It is also the words that Jesus uses right before this to invite Phillip to come and see where he is staying.
I feel that my whole life is about this phrase.
Over and over again I have been called by God to come and see.
Come and see what it means to work a full time job and not have enough to eat.
Come and see what it means to have problems that prevent you from working.
Come and see what it means to sleep in a tent when it is below freezing.
Come and see what it means to live a country torn apart by war, exploitation, and hunger.
Come and see what it means to be a person of color in a country owned and run by white people.
Come and see what it means to live in the inner city.
Come and see what it means to not speak the language.
Come and see what it means to be forced from your homeland only to move to a place no one wants you.
Come and see.
I have been blessed in my life by this call.
I have been blessed to see God in the faces of people of every culture, class, race, sexual orientation.
That is the call of what Jesus invites us to see.
“God so loved the world”
God loves all of the world.
Not just the nice parts of it.
Not just the parts I grew up seeing.
But the parts that we don’t like to see.
I realize that I take for granted sometimes what I have been able to come and see.
I take for granted the idea that God cares about people experiencing poverty, or people of color, or people of different sexually orientation.
I realize that not everyone has had those same experiences.
Perhaps the best thing about serving others is that you learn.
I have learned so much about my privilege.
In fact, the idea that I have time, money, and energy to serve is a condition of my privilege.
There is an inherit injustice in me having so much that I can give someone something extra that I don’t need.
For example, I have like seven different coats.
I have a coat for every occasion.
I have a dressy winter coat, a skiing coat, a fall coat, a spring coat, a coat for when I sit at the fireside while camping.
And there are people who have no coat, or only the coat I choose to give them.
That is unfair, and unjust.
The great gift is that service has broken me open time and again and showed me my own sin.
Service shows me my complacency in face of injustice.
It has shown me my own racism or inherent prejudices.
It has shown me all the things I have done, and left undone.
I don’t know the mind of almighty God.
I don’t know why I was gifted with wonderful parents, a loving church community, or a sense of helping others.
But I do know that all of that means I have a great opportunity to do something for others.
I do know that my call is linked to that of Philip, to invite others also to also come and see.
Come and see what Jesus Christ offers you.
It is to tell people that indeed good does come out of “Nazareth”.
Good comes from everywhere.
Because God has made the world, and God loves the world.
It comes from Haiti, El Salvador, Nigeria, Iraq, and every place on this earth, if we only will come and see.
If we only serve with those that are left behind and belittled by others.
Since it is Dr. Martin Luther King weekend I want to end by saying that what Dr. King invited us to is this very truth.
Come and see that we are all equal in the sight of God.
And maybe, just maybe, our country and laws can reflect that holy truth.
“I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, ever hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places shall be made plain, and the crooked places shall be made straight and the glory of the Lord will be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.”
I have that dream too.
It goes back to that moment in high school when I felt that desire to serve a meal to people experiencing homelessness.
It is a dream rooted in the biblical promise that one day we shall all be one.
One day we shall all eat from the same banquet table of the lord.
One day we shall all be seen and know.
One day we shall all be seen and know.
Until that day I invite you to come and see!