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John 1: 43-51
Pastor Jenny Lee, Ph.D.
Upper St. Croix Parish UMC
“Passing It On”
Do you remember when you became a Christian? And how you became a Christian? Some of you might have become a Christian automatically from birth through your family religion. Some of you might have become a Christian through someone’s invitation, such as a family member, relative, friend, or neighbor. I am curious to know what you did next right after you became a Christian. Did you pass it on to someone? Remember that if the water stays in one place for too long, the water ends up spoiled. Please pass it on before it is too late. Some of you might think that you used to do it a long time ago. If you did so, please go ahead and share your Christianity again. In today’s Scripture, Jesus invited Philip, saying, “Follow me,” which means not just to start, but to keep on following Him. We should continue our faith journey no matter what we face.
Jesus said, “You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14). As you may know, one lighted torch serves to light another. I hope that your light of the good news shines on others to bring them to Jesus. Jesus also said, “Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house” (Matthew 5:15). According to a study of evangelism, most evangelistic outreach reveals that 85 percent or more of all converts, new disciples, are brought to Christ by someone they trust, such as a family member, a neighbor, a close friend, or a business associate. And further, they show that the most spontaneous, authentic witnessing takes place in the first two years of Christian experience. In today’s Scripture, Philip is certainly such a case in a point. Nathanael trusted him and his joyful, unabashed witness, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” Philip is already a part of a small company of new disciples when he shares the good news with his friend Nathanael, saying, “We have found Him.”
My mother and father decided to move out of my grandparents’ house in my teenage years due to their children’s education. I really wanted to receive an education. But my grandfather would not allow me to go to a high school because I was a girl. The patriarchal family tradition made my mother, and I suffer. My mother had a stomach illness for a long, but could not get it healed, seeing many doctors. As soon as we moved to a new town, my neighbor invited my mother to attend a new church in the town. At that moment, my mother recalled that she used to attend a tent church before her marriage, which an American missionary planted. She could receive an education by the American missionary when she was in childhood. My mother sensed that God called her again through her neighbor. So, she started to attend the new church with her neighbor, who invited her. She repented her sins that she could not keep her faith in God. Her stomach illness was healed through her fasting prayers. Since that, she has never stopped her daily prayers. She prayed to evangelize her family members-in-law, who believed in Confucianism. It took such a long year for my whole family to become Christians, but my mother never gave up. Finally, my whole family, including my grandfather, became Christians through my mother’s prayers and invitation.
Romans 8:25 says, “if we hope for what we do not see, we [should] wait for it with patience.” If you pray for anything, even though you still did not get God’s answer yet, do not give it up. God is still working for you. Even it takes a long; if you did not give it up, you might see how God works for you. The Apostle Paul says, “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6). Do you have concerns for your family members or friends who do not believe in God, or have lost their faith? Please pray for them continually, and you may see how God brings them to Him. Galatians 6:9 says, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
We face a challenging time in many ways, especially in faith due to the COVID 19 pandemic. Because we could not have an in-person service, fellowship, gathering, or meeting in person, we may lose our faith in God. If we are about to lose faith in God, how can we share light with others. I encourage you with the words in the Letter of Colossians, “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful” (Colossians 4:2). Please try to wake up in Spirit, and pray continually in order not to lose your faith in God. If you want to stop by in church to pray, please go ahead as you want. Find out a way to keep your faith such as daily prayer, reading the Bible, chatting with believers, singing praise songs, writing a daily journal, listening to a Bible lesson, making a connection with the church body (faith companies), and so on. Please do whatever if it helps you to keep your faith journey. If you do not have any spiritual practice at this point, you may lose your spiritual health. It is as if we don’t take anything for your Spirit. Due to COVID 19, if we could not get any groceries and did not have anything to eat for a long time, imagine how our physical body would handle it.
In the first century, poor people couldn’t attend in a synagogue, which is a Jewish sanctuary. But, if they were faithful in God, they kept their daily prayers and meditation in a place. In today’s Scripture, we may find curiosity in the conversation with Jesus and Nathanael. Pay attention to verses 47-49. “When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, ‘Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!’ Nathanael asked him, ‘where did you get to know me?’ Jesus answered, ‘I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.’ Nathanael replied, Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Our curiosity is why Nathanael submitted Jesus as soon as he mentioned that he saw him under the fig tree. Most Jewish people who aren’t be able to attend a synagogue often sit under a fig tree as a place of meditation and prayers. So, when Jesus saw him under the fig tree means that Jesus knew Nathanael’s deepest self in his daily spiritual
practice. Therefore, Nathanael’s response is to claim Jesus as his “Rabbi,” a title of respect which only a disciple would use. He submitted to Jesus as his teacher, and the king of Israel, Son of God.
Sometimes when we pass the good news on to others, they may not understand or trust what we say. But do not give it up. As Philip invited Nathanael, you may keep inviting them to church. When Philip said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said, “Come and see,” which means that ‘Okay, if you cannot trust me, come and see by yourself.’ Finally, Nathanael followed Philip to see Jesus. Suddenly, and unexpectedly, Nathanael opened his heart and accepted Jesus as his teacher, king, and God’s son. If you do not give up and continually pass it on, suddenly you can open the door, immediately get resolution, and quickly change your situation. Suddenly you may hear your illness is gone and healed.
We are experiencing many challenges. It looks like things are never getting better. Instead, it looks like they are getting worse. But, do not give it up. It is time to be patient with prayers. “If we hope for what we do not see yet, we should wait for it with patience.” And then, the One who “already began the good work in us, will carry it on to completion” at God’s time. So, “let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Please re-check your spiritual condition and find a way to keep or boil up your faith. And then let us pass it on to others. We are the light, which lights others who seek the way of salvation. Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Let us be the light, which lights not only us but also others in the way of Jesus Christ. Let us be the light to drive the darkness out in the world. Thanks be to God. Amen!