Pay It Forward

Pentecost 20, John 1:43-51 LWML Sunday, Bunker Hill

We’re familiar with the term, “pay it forward.”  Someone in the drive- thru lane at McDonald’s will pay for his own order and that of the person behind him.  Then the next person discovers that her order is covered pays it forward to the  person behind her.  A chain reaction is started.  Now when a person pays it forward, they might be in for a big surprise. Maybe they need to cover only a cup of coffee or maybe the person is picking up breakfast for a houseful of guests, 8 orders of pancakes with hash browns, 4 milks and 6 cheese and bacon egg Mc Muffins and 5 large coffees.

There is much surprise in the paying it forward chain reaction in the first chapter of John’s Gospel.  It’s begins with God, well what doesn’t?  The Word, who had participated in the creation of the universe, became flesh and lived right here on earth.  That Word was named Jesus, God’s Savior, came to give us grace upon grace; one gift of grace after another.  Some years ago there was an advertisement on TV around Christmas.  Johnny hadn’t been particularly good, deserving only a large chunk of coal in his stocking.  Before he went to bed he left a large succulent honey – baked ham for Santa Claus.  The next morning when appeared at the top of the stairs he saw below him a drift of gifts that stretched from the Christmas Tree, across the floor and up onto the bottom stair steps.  In wide eyed amazement Johnny exclaimed, “Wow!  Oh, Wow!”  Well, without our leaving the hip of a hog to bribe Jesus, he has left us a drift of gifts that spreads from our baptism across our life unto eternity.  Forgiveness of everything wrong we have ever said or thought or did, this week or in all our life.  He has cared for us providing house, and home, breakfast, lunch and supper, fields, cattle, family and all that we need to support our body and life.  And we have all the spiritual blessings of the heavenly realms stored up for us   – eternal life in the presence of God, where God will wipe away all tears from our eyes.  Gone is sin, sorrow and sadness, no sickness or hurts, no danger, only joy and gladness.  And what did we who deserved only a large chunk of coal do to receive such blessings? Nothing.  Christ has done it all for us.  Giving us gift after gift after gift.  All of it guaranteed with the Holy Spirit as a down payment.

Now here is where paying it forward comes into the picture.  Jesus came to John the Baptist, who proclaimed, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world…I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove and remain on him.”  The next day two of John’s disciples began following Jesus. Jesus asked, “What are you seeking?”  They at least knew what they were seeking, but we live in a world where people are looking for answers, for love and security, in all the wrong places and people.  Psalm 146, “Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man in whom there is not salvation.  When his breath departs he returns to the earth, on that very day his plans perish.  It is the Lord watches over the stranger, upholds the fatherless and the widow; sets the prisoners free; opens the eyes of the blind; lifts up those who are bowed down and those who are upright in him.   It is God who listens to our prayers and loves us with an everlasting love.

When two disciples of John began following the Lamb of God they asked, “Where are you staying?”  Jesus said, “Come and see.”  They came, saw and stayed.  One was named Andrew.  He found his brother Simon, saying “We have found the Christ,” brought his brother to Jesus.  See how all this is paying forward?  See the chain reaction?  Do you see to whom Andrew brought his brother Simon the Rock? That’s the chain reaction of paying Christ forward.  That’s what the LWML has been about for over 70 years. That’s what the church is about.

Now things are really on a roll.  The next day Jesus had a mind to go into Galilee.  And what do you know he came upon a man named Philip and said, “Follow me.”  And Philip followed. What’s special about Philip?  Nothing.  In fact, we know nothing else about this particular Philip other than he was Jesus’ disciple. He’s just an ordinary person, like you and me.  One Friday morning in Bible Class, I was talking about leaving an impression on the world through our life.  And John, asked, “After you die, how much will your great – great grandchildren remember about you?”  I had to admit, “Probably nothing.”  God uses very ordinary people to serve as his witnesses.   Because it’s not whether our descendants will remember us, but that they remember and follow Christ.

That we are followers of Christ from our baptism is testimony to the Holy Spirit – empowered message of Jesus.  It’s not only Jesus and his word that are powered by the Spirit, but so are we and so is our life and message concerning Christ whom we have in us.

And when Philip, newly minted disciple of Jesus, comes across Nathanael he pays it forward.  “Nate. We have found the one of whom Moses and the prophets wrote.  Guess what? It’s Jesus, Joseph’s son, the one from Nazareth.”  Now for the first time the message of Jesus, the Christ, the one whom Israel has been awaiting for centuries, meets resistance.  Nate replies, “Out of Nazareth is something able to exist?”  Philip doesn’t argue.  He simply invites his friend, “Come and see.”

Come and see is the theme all the way through John Gospel as a variety of people are invited to “Come and see.” Come and see is the theme of this LWML Sunday.  Jesus invites a Pharisee named Nicodemus to come to the light and see clearly what God is doing.  A Samaritan woman, her life in shambles, invites her whole village to come and see the Christ.  A blind man whom Jesus healed, invited his synagogue to come and see.  Even at Jesus’ trial Pontius Pilate, a Roman official, said, “See the man.” And again, “Behold, your King.”  At his resurrection John and Peter came to the tomb and saw it was empty.  Mary testified, after she came from the grave, “I have seen the Lord.”  And Jesus invited Thomas, filled with doubts, “Come and see my scars.”

It’s a pattern for us to follow, for Jesus, the word made flesh, crucified and raised from the dead, sends us to invite, not only our friends, but strangers.   To simply say, “Come and see what God has done.  Come and hear and I will tell you what he has done for my soul.” God’s wants all the world to “Shout for joy to God, sing the glory of HIS name, give to him glorious praise.”  That is in accord with the vision that God will create a new heavens and a new earth.  He will send out his people to far off places so that those have not heard of his fame or seen his glory will be brought from all the nations, so that “all flesh shall come to worship, before me.”  Do you know what I discovered during my time at Immanuel Chapel in north St. Louis Co.?  The nations are coming to us and we have that same powerful commission to invite people to come and stand before the Lamb of God, because salvation belongs to him who was sacrificed on the cross and thus conquered, sin, death and the powers of evil.

Oh, do you know what happened with Nathanael?  He came and saw Jesus.  And he confessed, “Teacher, you are the Son of God!  You are the King of Israel!”  That is the power of Christ and his Spirit – powered message.

Whatever the situation in the world we carry a message from God, “Come and see, what God has done through his Son from heaven and from Nazareth.”  We have come and seen, now pay the invitation forward.


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