By The Rev. Billy D. Strayhorn
INTRODUCTION:While growing up there’s something my folks used to say that’s always puzzled me. I’ve even said it to my kids. And you’ve probably said it to yours. It usually happened when we were very young and hadn’t learned all the etiquette of life. But I can clearly remember seeing someone dressed or acting strange, pointing at them and my mother slapping my hand and saying: “Billy, it’s not polite to point.” I’ve never understood why. So I did a little research.
SwissAir Gazette says: “Pointing at objects is not considered rude, and useful for foreign nationals who don’t know the name of something. Pointing at people is not polite, perhaps because of its use in court, to point out wrongdoers.”
Another spot, which I forgot to write down, reports: “In some cases pointing someone out can even get you killed, which is why we must have witness protection programs. Criminals refer to it as “being fingered.” The word point comes from the Latin word punctus, meaning to puncture or pierce. No wonder it’s considered impolite! Nobody wants their identity fingered, penetrated, punctured or pierced without first consenting.” (1)
All of my ramblings will make sense in a little bit, I promise. A couple of weeks ago, I said there were two kinds of people at Christmas, Angel People and Star People. The Angel People are those who know the story, those who know and are living in expectation, like the Shepherds. They knew the prophecies of the coming of a Messiah and so the message of the Angel didn’t surprise them.
The Star People are like the Wisemen, people still on the journey, people still searching and seeking out the meaning of life. But once the Star People and the Angel People, experienced the newborn Messiah, they could longer stay in those roles. Their lives had been changed. So, I want to give them a different name.
Since the birth of Christ, there are Seekers and there are Pointers. Now, I know what our mothers told us, “It’s not polite to point,” but in this instance I think it’s OK. Because, we’re called to point out Jesus, as Lord and Savior, to a world of Seekers.
It’s OK because, Jesus has already been fingered by God when God spoke at His baptism and said: “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.”
We know He was pointed out in the kangaroo court of His trial and crucified even though he was innocent and sinless. And having been crucified, He was definitely punctured, penetrated and pierced for our sake. And he showed those puncture wounds to Thomas after the Resurrection. He pointed to them Himself.
Not only that but John the Baptist, Jesus’ own cousin, points Him out to the crowd and to Andrew and Philip. Let’s look at the passage that describes that event.
(Read John 1:29-42)
Of all the disciples, Peter is my favorite. Maybe it’s because I’m most like him, bold and filled with a deep unquenchable faith one moment; and a bumbling, stumbling, clay footed idiot the next. Peter’s my favorite but the disciple I aspire to be the most like is Andrew.
Andrew became like John the Baptist, not just a Seeker but a Pointer.
I. COME AND SEE:
Andrew and John, the unnamed disciple in this passage, were disciples of John the Baptist. They were Seekers who thought they might have found the Messiah. And if not the Messiah, then the one who would point them to the Messiah, because John the Baptist was definitely a Pointer. And that’s exactly what happened. John the Baptist told them what had happened and Pointed to Jesus saying, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!”
These two seekers immediately went to follow Jesus and when Jesus noticed them in the crowd asked them what they were seeking. They answered with another question, “Where are you staying?” Maybe it was a way of saying politely in public, our business would take too long to explain here. Anyway, Jesus said: “Come and See.” And they did.
Isn’t that what we do when someone excitedly says: “Come and See?” It my be our spouse talking about something on television or an appliance in the house that has gone haywire. It might be a friend wanting to show you their new car or new whatever or pictures of their grandchild. Or maybe it’s one of the children or grandchildren wanting to show you their newest creation or discovery.
It could be any of those things, but we know the invitation and the excitement of that invitation. That excitement was in the invitation of Jesus to Andrew and John. Jesus said: “Come and See.” They went and their lives were changed completely.
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Jesus said: “Come and See” and they went. They went and Jesus showed them who He truly was and these two Seekers became Pointers.
Have you ever wondered what happened in that meeting? What did Jesus say to them? What Jesus say to Zaccheus? I’ve always been curious. We don’t know. We really can’t even speculate because there’s nothing to base it on. And maybe it wasn’t it wasn’t anything Jesus said. Maybe all they had to do was look in His eyes.
That was one of the things that’s always fascinated me about Robert Powell’s portrayal of Jesus in Jesus of Nazareth. His eyes. Powell captured the ethereal and holiness of Jesus in his eyes. They were penetrating and captivating. Maybe that’s all it was for Andrew and John.
There’s a scene in the first Toby McGuire Spiderman movie that sort of gets to the point I’m making. In the beginning of the movie Spider-Man, Peter Parker undergoes a transformation. Bitten by a spider that’s been subjected to genetic experimentation, Peter develops superpowers and becomes a hero who nightly swings between the skyscrapers, looking for some endangered soul to rescue.
One such soul is Mary Jane, a young woman he secretly loves. Of course, she falls for Spider-Man, but not for Peter Parker. Mary Jane (M.J.) doesn’t know who Spider-Man really is, even though he comes to her rescue.
Spiderman saves her life, not once, but twice. Later, M.J. and Peter discuss her mysterious rescuer, and she confesses her love for Spider-Man. Mary Jane is impressed that Peter “knows” Spider-Man. In fact, Peter admits he’s had a “conversation” with Spider-Man about Mary Jane. She wants to know what Peter told him about her.
Peter searches for the right words; “I said, um, ‘Spider-Man,’ I said, ‘the great thing about M.J. is when you look in her eyes, and she looks back in yours, everything feels not quite normal, because you feel strong, and weak at the same time. You feel excited, and at the same time terrified. The truth is you don’t know the way you feel, except you know the kind of man you want to be. It’s as if you’ve reached the unreachable, and you weren’t ready for it.'”
I think what Peter describes is the same phenomenon Andrew and John and we experience when we come to know Jesus. Looking into the eyes of Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God, we feel weak, but He makes us strong; we are terrified, and at the same time we’re more exhilarated than we’ve ever been in our lives; and in Him we see the person we want to become. The person God created us to be.
I think that’s what happened to Andrew and John. Jesus said, “Come and See;” they went, they saw, they were changed from Seekers to Pointers and then they Pointed Jesus out to others.
III. POINTED OUT:
A. I love the series of movies called the Matrix. The Wachowski Brothers are great story tellers. Their universe is very Christian, even if it doesn’t claim to be. They took all the best parts of Scripture: stories of faith, faithfulness, temptation, the fall, of prophecy and a savior and wove them all together in a universe of technology and despair that is both engaging, moving and theologically thought provoking.
There’s a really brief scene in the Matrix, where Morpheus, the John the Baptist or Elijah kind of character, has freed Neo from the Matrix. He’s convinced that Neo is the One. The one who will save them and set them free. He tells another character, Trinity: “We’ve done it Trinity. We’ve found him.”
Trinity says, “I hope you’re right.”
And Morpheus responds, “You don’t have to hope. I know it.”
That’s basically the Message Andrew had for his brother. Andrew Pointed out Jesus to his brother Simon in a very simple way. He said: “We’ve found the Messiah.” That’s all. He could have quoted Morpheus and said the same thing. “We’ve done it Simon. We’ve found him.”
Andrew Pointed to Jesus and he didn’t get in trouble for pointing. But then I guess he was doing a different kind of pointing. He was pointing people to Jesus, not pointing out their faults and foibles. Andrew was pointing the way.
B. And by Pointing the way, Simon’s life and name were changed.
James Moore in his book God Was Here, and I Was Out to Lunch tells about a meeting that Dr. William B. McClain, professor of preaching and worship at Wesley Theological Seminary, once had with a South Korean tailor in Seoul, Korea. Amazingly, this tailor introduced himself as “Smitty Lee.”
Dr. McClain was fascinated to discover a Korean named Smitty, and he asked whether the name Smitty was a Korean name. The Korean tailor said no, and then he told the story of how his life had been saved some years ago, during the Korean War by a courageous American soldier from Virginia, who was called Smitty Ransom. The tailor went on to explain a rather familiar custom in that Asian culture, summing it up in two simple sentences: “He saved my life. I took his name.” (5)
Wow! That’s what it’s all about. Isn’t it. “He saved my life. I took his name.” Jesus saved our lives and we take His name. Just like Simon became Peter. We become someone new. We might have the same name, legally, but in the Kingdom of God we have been given a new name. One written in the book of life. One that claims us as a brother or sister of Jesus. One that claims we are Sons and Daughters of God and heirs to the Kingdom because of what Jesus has done for us. A name that calls us to share the Good News. You and I have been transformed like Andrew, Peter, James and John from Seekers to Pointers.
Mom was probably right. “It’s not polite to point.” Except when it comes to Jesus. Then, you and I are called to point to Him in all we do. We’re called to Point to Him as Lord and Savior or our lives. We’re called to Point Him out in how we live and how we treat one another and those who are different. We’re called to Point Him out in how we care for the poor and less fortunate.
If you’ve accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior, then you’re no longer a Seeker, you’re a Pointer. And the challenge is simple. “Start Pointing.” Invite others to “Come and See.”
This is the Word of the Lord for this day.
1. From a Message on the site of Clifton Unitarian Church, Louisville, Kentucky