I’ve been living with Nathanael for the past few weeks. No, we don’t have a houseguest sharing our home. No new pets named Nathanael. Rather, a few weeks ago Nathanael made his appearance in the Sunday lectionary from the first chapter of the gospel of John. This text recalls for us the calling of the first disciples to follow Jesus. Ever since that Sunday I’ve seen Philip and Nathanael in many places I look.
Nathanael, as you may remember, was parked in the shade of a fig tree when Philip called him. His response to Philip’s enthusiastic witness that he had found the one of whom Moses and the prophets wrote was less than enthusiastic. In fact, even adjusting intonation and emphasis cannot milk a positive response out of Nathanael’s words, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”
We weren’t there to hear him, nor were we there to see his face, but it has skepticism stamped all over it. His hesitation to believe that anything worthwhile could ever result from even checking this guy out was uttered. And Jesus heard it. Jesus saw his face, read his body language and responded that he witnessed no deceit in Nathanael … not even in his skepticism. When Philip and Jesus are confronted with this “attitude” they invite and proclaim.
“You will see greater things than these, Nathanael.”
In today’s skeptical world, I’ve heard the parody on the beatitudes stated, “Blessed are they who expect little for they shall not be disappointed.” You can just see, smell and taste the sour grapes hanging from that vine. Many expect little from Jesus and even less from the church. They expect even closer to nothing from a movement such as WordAlone that exists to be a voice for renewal, reform and deeper theological reflection within that same church. “Can anything good come out of the ELCA? Can anything good come out of WordAlone?” they might ask.
Let’s disappoint them!
WordAlone members are and can be like Philip. Let us not begin explaining or apologizing when we meet skepticism over and over again. Simply respond, “Come and see!”
Invite Nathanael to a local gathering or sit down with him or her (Nathanuela, perhaps) over a cup of coffee. Show them the many resources available and all that the Network is involved in and working together for. Hand them the Admonition. Give them some tapes of speakers to watch. Bring them to the annual convention in the spring. Be creative!
There are many ways to say, “Come and see!” even to the average skeptics on the street or in the pew. Perhaps they will be truly blessed in their disappointment for they will encounter much more than they ever expected. Skeptics beware! Come and see...