Come and See (Second Sunday after Epiphany)

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As most everyone knows, I have a three- and half-year-old daughter who is does all things enthusiastically, all things inquisitively, and all things creatively. I’ve often said that bedtimes are more for the parents, than the children. There is not a day that doesn’t go by where she hasn’t bounded into the kitchen, grabbed me by the hand, and said, “Come and see.” Which is… you know, unnerving as a parent. You never know what you’re about to see: stuffed animals having a tea party, a super cool lego castle, shaving cream all over the walls, or a spill that needs cleaned up.

‘Come and see’ are mysterious words.
And not only that… When I do ‘go and see,’ I’m often unclear what it is I’m looking at. I may think I’m looking at a group of Disney princesses who are engaged in a little soiree, but upon conversation with Maddie it becomes clear that there’s more to it than that. I plainly don’t get it, because obviously the princesses are entrenched in a magical battle with the Playmobile figurines who are hiding out in the play kitchen, and all the while a water dragon, a fire dragon, and an ice cream dragon are laying siege to the area.

I mean, come on, Mom. Can’t you see it?
But, once she shows me, and starts telling me about it, and I start participating in the game … then, yeah, I can see it.

She invites me into a whole new world. It isn’t the world I live in most moments, because my imagination is not what it once was, and neither is my tolerance for the unknown. But, her world reminds me that everything is more than what it seems; that the world is full of enormous possibility, and yet that possibility and promise all fits inside everyday objects.

Our Gospel reading today turns on the actions of looking, seeing, and finding; turns on the willingness to come and see.
What are you looking for?
Jesus asks this, his first recorded question, to his then disciples and to us. It is a question for all ages. What are you looking for?

In your heart, in your secret and quiet places, what are the hungers that drive you forward? What are the things you wish you had answers to?
What are you looking for? Are you looking for anything, or are you just going through the motions? Are you looking for consolation?  Affirmation? Belonging? Certainty? Are you looking to arrive, or to journey?
What are you looking for?

Jesus’ disciples dodge the question. Understandably.
Maybe, like us, they don’t really know quite what to say. It’s a question we all live with, and yet facing that question, really seeing what’s entailed in answering that question, and finding what is on the other side of the question, is daunting.

The disciples may think that when Jesus says, “Come and see,” it is an answer to their stalling question of, “Where are you staying?” but really Jesus answers his own question, since the disciples can’t, don’t, or won’t.

‘Come and see’ isn’t Jesus showing them which hotel he’s lodged up in while he’s in town.
‘Come and see’ is his invitation to leave our comfortable vantage points, and dare to believe that just maybe, we have been limited in our views about each other, about God, and about the world.  To do more than look at the world, but rather to really see the world and discover/find what more there is.

‘Come and see’ is to approach all of life with grace-filled curiosity.
‘Come and see’ is Jesus grabbing you by the hand and saying, “Do you see what I see?”

Here’s the thing… not unlike my experiences with Maddie, I often don’t see what God sees. I look, but I don’t see more; don’t find more. I’ve been told, and long to believe, that God sees beauty, where I see ugly; God sees promise where I see impossibility; God sees tomorrow where I see the end; God sees life where I see death. I need God to grant me God’s vision; to give me – give you – wise, thoughtful, curious eyes.

And so, I’ve been thinking about how easy it is to look, but not see. How we miss a lot in the process. For example, we look at another person and find only the reflection of our own biases, needs, and fears – rather than truly seeing the other and finding out who they are, what they need, and hear their story.

I think that one of our deepest human needs is to be seen by another – to really be seen and known by someone else… For someone to see our flaws, our missteps, our insecurities, our shame and still find us beautiful, precious, and worthy. Jesus sees that in each one of you. In each of us, Jesus finds, over and over again, the precious child he spun into being. So, even if you hear nothing else I say today, please hear this: You are seen, in love, by God.

It’s also easy to look at the world around us and find only corruption, violence, and despair – rather than seeing the good that’s there too, bubbling just beneath the surface.

When Jesus says to us, “Come and see,” he’s asking us to take a risk, to look closely, and to enter fully. This is the kind of seeing that can transform us, can truly change our lives and the world, but it’s the kind of seeing that rarely happens quickly. I know this to be true in my own life.

And, honestly, sometimes I still don’t know what I’m looking for, or what I’m seeing – even when I’m trying. But, I feel like I’m in good company because I don’t think the disciples always understood quite what Jesus was showing them. I think they felt like I feel when Maddie invites me into her world. But, for the most part, the disciples remained with Jesus, even when they didn’t quite ‘get it.’ And in their remaining, in their abiding, they began to see more deeply.

I guess that’s why when they couldn’t see, they hung out at his house. Kinda like when I hang out with Maddie and the Disney princesses, the knights, and dragons… it’s then that I begin to have an appreciation for what is possible.
I begin to see. To find.

I think that’s what Jesus asks of us.
Come and see.
You don’t have to have the answer to, “What are you looking for?” Just a willingness to go: to have faith enough, hope enough, despair enough, foolishness enough… to, at least, draw near enough to see. As far as I know, there is only one way to find out if following him matters – or changes anything – and that is to to try it. You can always back out, I guess.