Friday, March 30, 2012

The Way of the Cross

Sunday of the Palms/Passion
Year B

Readings: Isaiah 42:21-25; Psalm 22:1-11; Philippians 2:5-11; Mark 14:1-15:47

This is perhaps the strangest celebration of the church year. We began our service with the blessing of palm branches and a joyous procession. In it, all the emotions of expectation, anticipation and messianic fervour are reenacted. Yet we know that Christ's entry into Jerusalem led directly to his crucifixion. That knowledge is reflected in our service. The reading of the Passion overpowers the joyous beginning. It is highly dramatic. It becomes the focus of our worship. For with that reading, we enter into Holy Week. Our journey becomes the way of the cross until we stand at its very foot. We travel a road which leads us into the shock and disappointment of the story.

If we allow ourselves, we enter into the world that the followers of Jesus experienced two thousand years ago. It is a world which yearns for the coming of the kingdom. Our lives incline towards it. Yet we enter Holy Week as people who know the outcome. We have Jesus figured out. Or do we?

It is difficult to imagine the change in mood that took place from the entry into Jerusalem to the time of the crucifixion. How could a crowd one day shout "Hosanna", and the next, pick up that terrible chant, "Crucify"! Or is it so difficult to imagine? Perhaps the heart of the matter is that we can so easily pick out our own voices in the crowd.

There are many voices in the story, many points of view. There are those who know Jesus intimately, his faithful followers. They have heard the rumours about their leader. They are confused and frightened by what they hear. They don’t know what to believe. And what’s more they are afraid for their own lives.

There are those who look to Jesus as a King, a Messiah who will magically free them from the tyranny of Rome, one who will make it heaven on earth. What hope springs in their hearts!

There are those who are looking for a zealot to lead them into battle. Not a man on a donkey for them, but a warrior on a white steed leading the charge! How disappointed they will be!

Many know Jesus as a worker of miracles. For them he is a placebo in an otherwise deplorable situation! He is their last hope.

The entire crowd, no matter who they are, they all get caught up in the excitement of the moment. ‘Mob' mentality takes over.

I look at the people in the story, and I realize that I could have been any one of them. I'd like to think I'm the woman who lavished her costly gift on Jesus. There he was in Bethany sitting at the table when she came in with the alabaster jar of ointment. She didn't just pour out a little. She broke open the jar and poured out its whole lavish contents. The fragrance must have filled the house.

I don't want to think that I could be Judas, sitting at table with him, sharing in that Passover meal, knowing the terrible deed that I was going to participate in. It would be terrible to even consider that it all rests on me. What on earth was Judas thinking? Was Jesus such a disappointment? Was it not happening fast enough, or in the way he thought it should? Was he only in it for what he could get out of it? And when it didn't happen the way he thought it should, he simply opted out? Do I simply opt out when life gets difficult or when things are not going my way? Am I a Christian only for what I get out of it?

And there is Peter. I feel such ambiguity in seeing myself as Peter. Jesus had just given him that name. He was Simon, but Jesus chose to call him Peter, Rocky. The strong one on whom the church would be built. And where is Peter, the rock, the strong one, the dependable one, when Jesus needs him? Where am I when Jesus needs me? Looking for a safe place to hide? Following at a safe distance? Oh, in the heat of the moment I can be brave enough. I'm the impulsive one who grabs the sword and attacks the weakest person I can find, the one who isn't likely to fight back. But in the end, I desert him. I don't want to take the risk of being found to be a follower of Christ. And so I deny that I know him.

Surely I'm not Pilate. My decisions don't come from a desire for power. I base them on the truth. Or do I? Is Jesus the King in my life? Or am I willing to let the crowd rule? Am I swayed by peer pressure? Do I give in to the demands of society?

O God! I can understand them all. Why is it that I know each of them so well? When have I abandoned you? Handed you over to the authorities? Followed from a distance so that I won't be noticed? Do I have to be forced to carry your cross? Do I become a part of the mob, unwilling to risk standing out in the crowd? Am I afraid of being noticed?

The story invites us in. But the way of the cross is the way of risk and suffering. We don't line up for the privilege, but we all eventually carry some of the world's guilt, pain, and suffering. We don't always deserve it. Some of the really great people, the Martin Luther King's, the Mother Teresa's of our world, actually seek out opportunities to carry a cross of suffering or self-sacrifice. But most of us are compelled. Dragged kicking and screaming into service! Be warned! Know that it is a service which we must enter if we are to arrive at Easter and experience the joy of resurrection.

May this truly be a holy week! May we with the Centurion, stand at the foot of the cross and see that truly this Jesus we follow is God's son. Amen.

Friday, March 23, 2012

We Wish to See Jesus

Fifth Sunday in Lent
Year B

Readings: Jeremiah 31:31-34; Psalm 51:11-18; Hebrews 5:7-10; John 12:20-33

Jesus is in Jerusalem. There are all kinds of people around him in this Cosmopolitan city. They no doubt hear stories about him. They witness his remarkable deeds. One day some Greeks come to Philip. His name is Greek, after all. “Sir, we would like to see Jesus,” they say to him. Philip doesn’t know quite how to handle it. It is not the simple request that it might seem to us. It is a turning point, a watershed. The Greeks are a far greater danger to the Jewish community than the Romans. They consider the Jewish way of life to be very strange. Their culture in itself is a threat to Jewish belief and lifestyle. Yet here they are, and even more strange, they want to find out more about Jesus.

Most of us, sad to say, even churchgoers, don’t wish to see Jesus. We are too busy! We are busy making ends meet, raising our families, dealing with sickness, and trying to make sense of the terrible things that are going on in our world, We are too busy to even give it a second thought. We get out to church; we may even attend regularly, but somehow it doesn’t make a difference in our lives.

We mourn the decline in the Christian faith; yet we spend far more time grappling with how to close churches than with how to fill them. The so-called 'Generation X' is largely unchurched and sees little need to change that. When they do actually reach out and try to find their way into our churches, they are met with barriers that we have erected. We speak what might as well be a foreign language. There’s the BCP and the BAS and the ACW and PWRDF. We have strange customs; we sit and stand and kneel; we dress up in strange-looking clothing; we may even make the sign of the cross or wear crosses as jewellery around our necks. Our music doesn’t sound anything like what we might hear on the radio. We may even appear to be unfriendly or uncaring. No wonder many see the Church as irrelevant. Even when it comes to the field of ethics, which should certainly be our domain, many no longer look to the Church as leaders in making moral decisions. Most people wouldn’t think of asking to see Jesus. They would be more likely to wonder whether we even know him.

Yet we need to see Jesus more than ever. The mark of our day is alienation. People feel alone, isolated. The family is no longer the strong social unit it once was. Lines of communication so easily break down. Research into family life came up with the statistic that the average couple probably spends between nine and twelve minutes a day in meaningful conversation. Don’t we joke about whom in the family operates the remote control on the TV? We probably consider that it is about who has power in a relationship, but I suspect it is really an indicator of how little we communicate with one another. Far more time is spent in passive activities like watching television than in intimate conversation with one another. If we don’t find time to talk to one another, we certainly don’t find time to talk to God. ‘Pray’, after all, is a four-letter word!

We have lost our sense of community. Our anonymous society locks itself behind closed doors. We have more friends on Facebook than in the real world. Unless you have children or a dog, you probably don’t even know your neighbours. It is easy to say that you love your neighbour if you never have to deal with them. Yet to be human is to seek the strength and support that comes from being part of a community. Companionship is a human need.

The mark of our day may be alienation, but the mark of the Christian Church is community. We gather Sunday by Sunday to break bread together. It is at the heart of what we do. There is a miracle that happens whenever we share our bread or ourselves with others. Bread symbolizes the life of the many who work together to produce it. We are sustained and nurtured by bread. It symbolizes our life, Christ’s body. We are all fed by the same holy bread. We all become that which we eat, the Body of Christ. In the breaking of the bread we see Jesus.

Jeremiah was a prophet during the time leading up to the Babylonian exile. It was a crucial time in the history of the people of Israel. He tried to warn them of impending disaster. They obviously did not want to hear any bad news. They threw him into prison for saying that the Babylonians would defeat them in battle. Even in prison he did not lose hope. He remembered the covenant that God had made with his people; he looked forward to a better time, a time of spiritual renewal, a time when the covenant would be written, not on stone tablets, but in the hearts of the people a time when they would be a real community of faith, when God would "be their God, and they would be God's people."

What a community of faith that would be! Imagine that every member of this congregation is in a deep relationship with God. Can you even imagine what that would mean to this church? This would be a community that trusted in God. It would be a community that lived out its faith in its everyday lives. The community would come together week by week and be fed and nurtured by the Word of God; and then would go out as the Church back to its homes, into the workplace, into its communities, into the world. This would be a community reaching out in faith to a needy world. It would be a community that would see Jesus.

Are there times when Jesus cannot be seen because of the way we present him? Are there times when we are not really looking? Do we want Jesus to fit our preconceived notions of who God is? Our lifestyle? Are we so set in our rigid patterns of worship that we become unintelligible to the uninitiated? Are we so tied to a book or a way of doing things or our own needs that we fail to let someone in to see Christ? Are we so afraid of being the wheat that we live death instead of life? Everything we do as a church is done so that we will see Jesus in our own lives and in the lives of others. It begins as a longing inside our minds and hearts. It becomes a hunger that simply won’t go away. It comes as we journey to the foot of the cross, for we must be willing to see Jesus as the one who died and rose again, the one who accepts and who empowers.

There must be no foreigners when it comes to following Christ. There must be no 'them' and 'us'. We must simply be a welcoming community of faith. When someone comes seeking, we must do what we do in our own homes, open the door and invite them in. If we need to, we must expand the table, add a leaf, lay some more places, find some more chairs, become truly inclusive. But more than that, we must become the kind of community that reaches out beyond itself. We must be sharers of this wonderful faith.

We must seek Christ in others, and let Christ be seen in us. Let us be renewed in the Spirit this Lent.

Open our eyes Lord,
We want to see Jesus.

Friday, March 16, 2012

God's Gift of Love

The Fourth Sunday of Lent
Year B

Readings: Numbers 21:4-9; Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22; Ephesians 2:1-10; John 3:14-21

Many of us studying Theology at Trinity had unique ways of making ends meet. But Helen surely outdid the rest of us. I was always excited to hear that she had received another package. I would meet her for coffee in the Buttery, the cafeteria at Trinity, to hear the latest installment. You see Helen edited Harlequin romances. Prior to that experience, I had always deemed them unworthy of my time, but I must admit some fascination for them after her sharing the odd one with me. In fact, I must admit that many of the stories were touching. There is, after all, something universally appealing about a love story.

Being loved is always a surprise. The very fact that someone chooses to love us is exciting. It supports us in what we do. It gives us new insight into our value as a human. Even when we recognize our self worth, being loved is still a startling experience. "Are we worthy of such devotion?" we wonder. "Will it last?"

It is no wonder then, that being loved by God comes as a great surprise to us. Paul says that we are created in Christ for good works. God has crafted us in God's own image. We are "works of art", part of a great masterpiece crafted by a genius artist. How hard it is to take in just how great that love is! Yet there it is. How much does God love us? God loves us enough to created us. Not one mold, but each unique and wonderful. Each part of God's plan. What love that is! Not some ‘Harlequin Romance’ kind of love, but genuine and real, the kind of love that resulted in something so great that it is beyond our imagination.

"For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but have eternal life." That is an amazing gift of love! A free gift! Love totally unmerited by us! The ultimate example of love! It is the pattern and model of the kind of love that we, as Christians, are called to show in our lives. And it is offered to every one of us.

Lent is a time to reflect on God's great love. Yet love offered is not necessarily love accepted. The suitor can be spurned. We can say yes or no. And yes! There is a personal cost for the gift. Loving always comes at a cost to self. For the love so freely given to us, calls us in turn for us to come into relationship with that loving God, and to reach out in love to our neighbour.

Paul takes every opportunity to help us to understand that salvation is a free gift from God, a love gift. It is not something we have earned. It is not something we deserve. It is grace, freely given. He also emphasizes that, free though it may be, it is not without cost. Opening ourselves to the gift of God's love means that we cannot avoid the experience of the cross. Accepting the gift of God's love means opening ourselves to the possibility of suffering; it also means opening ourselves to the probability of great joy.

We just don't expect that in our lives. When we choose to follow Christ, we expect that it will mean an end to suffering. That it will mean that somehow we have tapped in to a magical way of avoiding anything bad happening. It will all work out like the Harlequin romance where every story has its happy ending.

The people of Israel thought that to follow in God's way would mean an end to suffering and tragedy. They discovered differently. As the time in the wilderness went on and on, they began to see that, just because it's free, does not mean it is without cost. "Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness?" they railed at Moses. "For there is no food and no water, and we detest this miserable food."

What they are saying is that the manna which God has provided, the free gift of God's grace, is not enough. They want more.

Are we ever like that? Do we lose patience on the way to the Promised Land? It simply does not happen fast enough for us. Or the way we expected it to. Aren't we rather prone to wanting instant gratification for our every desire? We don't expect to continue to find ourselves wandering in the desert. We don't expect to meet with any adversity or trouble on the way.

The cross for the Christian is a sign of contradiction. What was once a sign of infamy and disgrace becomes a sign of vulnerability and love, the great love of a great God. The contradiction also arises because it came about through the sacrifice of Christ. It brings about suffering, but without it there can be no resurrection. The cross, a symbol of death, is for the Christian a symbol of resurrection.

"When I am lifted up from the earth,” Jesus says in the Gospel, “I shall draw all people to myself." Moses lifted up the brass serpent in the wilderness, and all those who looked at it were healed. Jesus was lifted up. All who believed were given eternal life. The cross is a call to wholeness in Christ. Belief in the crucified Lord calls us to repentance and healing. It calls us to respond, to respond with love for our neighbour. Not the neighbour I choose to love, not the one whose culture and race match mine, but the one whom God calls me to serve.

My neighbour is the addicted, the perverted, the selfish, the corrupted. My neighbour is the one of another faith. My neighbour is the one person in the parish that I just cannot stand. Our great God, who gave us such amazing love, calls us to extend that love to others. Through service we fulfill our call.

The realization that we are really loved by God is difficult to grasp. Yet the signs of God's love are all around us. The humanity of Christ is God's fullest sign of love for us. That Christ should live and die as one of us is a truly amazing sign. If we believe it, this sign should support, thrill, excite, and re-create us. It should be a constant reminder that we are truly loved.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Living Passionately

The Third Sunday of Lent
Year B

Readings: Exodus 20:1-17; Psalm 19; 1 Corinthians 1:22-25; John 2:13-22

We are part of a broken world. It is difficult to ignore that fact. We see signs of brokenness all around us. There are places in Africa that have not seen peace in over forty years. The Middle East is a constant hotbed of war. The world faces devastating environmental issues. We cannot open a newspaper without being confronted by stories of injustice and hardship.

The Ten Commandments, God's covenant with Israel, speak to us at every level of human experience. They speak to the individual, to the community, to the nation. They are moral guides to our growth as people who live in communion with one another and all of creation. They cover all aspects of life, but are summarized for the Christian in Jesus’ call to us to love God, and to love neighbour.

If we take the Ten Commandments seriously, and I trust we do, we must surely be asking ourselves some difficult questions about the way we live our lives. What gods do we put before God? Where do we put all of our energies? In placing our energies, do we leave time for God? Are there any discrepancies between what we profess as Christians and how we act towards others? How do we keep Sunday holy when society demands that we work? What injustices do we see going on around us? Are we willing to speak out against them? Are we willing to do something about them? In this consumer society of ours, which causes us to covet from cradle to grave, do we stand up to the desires of the world and put God and neighbour before our own needs? The command to love God and love neighbour makes us responsible for the world in which we live. We are responsible to help those who live in poverty. It is our responsibility to care for the sick, to live in peace, to live out our ministry as servants in a broken world.

The symbol for this third Sunday in our Lenten series is fire. The Hebrews associated God’s presence with fire. Moses describes his first call from God in terms of a flaming bush that did not consume itself. The Israelites were led through the desert by a pillar of fire. As Moses and the Israelites camped at the foot of the mountain, ‘God came down upon Mount Sinai in fire’. God’s presence among the people was like a consuming fire that gathered into itself, uniting while purifying.

For the Christian, fire symbolizes the Spirit of God among us. The Spirit descended as tongues of fire on the assembly at Pentecost. It is a sign of conversion, a symbol of the burning away of the old self. Conversion experiences test us. Something is burned off; what remains is stronger, purer.

Fire gives light. It gives heat and warmth. Fire consumes and transforms, destroys and creates. Fire purifies and refines. Fire describes anger and revenge as well as love and devotion. It is a symbol for living passionately. And Jesus is a model for us of one who lived passionately.

I cannot help but see that in today’s gospel. And yet I admit it. I feel uncomfortable about his anger. That is because I can’t quite understand it. What was his objection? What was he thinking? It was business as usual, a normal day in a busy synagogue at a busy time of the year. Animals and birds were supplied for sacrifice. Foreign currencies had to be exchanged for the temple currency. The very anger of Jesus in doing what he did! It was a deliberate and passionate act of protest. Was he protesting against the power and exploitation of the religious order of the day? That is certainly what it seems to me to be. He seems to be challenging the status quo. And it is bound to get him into trouble.

Jesus’ anger seems foolish. However, what foolishness it is to buy into the nonsense that Jesus the son of a carpenter turned preacher could do any good! Yet it is what I believe as a Christian. What foolishness it is to believe that a God of love reigns over this fractured violence-ridden world of ours; but I cannot help but see the hand of God in this world. What foolishness to believe that God can bring peace where there is enmity. Yet I believe it all passionately. I believe passionately that God can bring about peace. I believe passionately that my fervent prayers along with yours can bring wholeness to our fractured world. I believe that God can change our hardened hearts and help us to live as brothers and sisters.

Fortunately throughout history there have been people passionate enough about the Christian faith to challenge the systems of the Church and the world. It has been said that if Jesus taught us anything it was how to die, not how to kill! Martin Luther King Jr. put it in the following way. "To our most bitter opponents we say: 'we shall match your capacity to inflict suffering by our capacity to endure. We shall meet your physical force with soul force. Do to us what you will, and we shall continue to love you. We shall appeal to your heart and conscience that we shall win you in the process, and our victory will be a double victory.'"

Oscar Romero, the Bishop of El Salvador became bishop because it was thought that he would not challenge the status quo. He had a conversion experience and because of it became a passionate advocate for the poor and underprivileged people of his country. He challenged both the state and his own church. In a sermon preached shortly before being gunned down celebrating the Eucharist in his church he said, "They may kill me, but I shall rise up in the people of San Salvador."

Are we passionate enough to challenge the systems that exist in the Church? Are we passionate enough to challenge the problems that exist in society, the violence, the injustice, the inequality? Are we passionate enough about our world to do our part to bring healing to the environment? Do we believe that it matters? Do we believe that we can make a difference?

These are challenging readings at a challenging time in history. Let us be passionate advocates of peace and justice. Let us be passionate advocates of the environment. Let us be passionate in our love of God and of our neighbour. Amen

Friday, March 2, 2012

Salty Faith

The Second Sunday of Lent
Year B

Readings: Genesis 17:1-10, 15-19; Psalm 22:22-31; Romans 4:16-25; Mark 8:31-38

Last week we began a journey from ashes to Easter. Lent always begins with ashes as a powerful reminder of our need for repentance. Last Sunday, the symbol of water reminded us of the new beginning we made as we entered the waters of baptism. Today we add the symbol of salt.

Consider its purpose. It brings out the flavour of food. It was literally worth its weight in gold in ancient times. Before the invention of refrigeration it was vital for preserving food. Once you put it on food you cannot separate it out again. It becomes incorporated into the food. Both the salt and the food are transformed.

Through baptism we become one with the body of Christ. We become part of the community. As members we enhance the community without losing our identity. We are transformed and become part of the wholeness of the community.

We Christians are to be salt for the world. As salt flavours and transforms, so the church permeates and transforms the world. The initiation of new members into the church strengthens us as the body of Christ and enhances our mission. Lent is an opportunity to examine our lives individually and as a community to see whether the salt has lost its savour or whether it is transforming the world.

Lent is an opportunity to renew our covenant with God and our commitment to the faith. What does it mean to believe? Does it mean intellectual assent without any connection to our daily lives? Does it mean never doubting? Faith involves passionate engagement, relationship with God. It involves giving one’s heart to belief and holding it actively with love. It means having enough confidence in its reality to act on it, incredible as it may seem.

Faith begins with trusting God’s promises. That is what brings us to a sense of holiness, of wholeness. Where do we find that kind of wholeness, of meaning? How do we achieve a vision that will sustain us through the difficult choices and tests of life?
We all undertake many covenants during our lifetime. We form covenants in marriage, in friendship, in professional life, in relationships of every kind. Covenants not only give us a sense of responsibility, they make us responsible for our actions. When we make a covenant with another person, we take on a sense of responsibility and commitment. We carry it through. When we make a covenant with God we commit to faithful discipleship.

Paul, in his letter to the Romans, reminds them of the covenant made on their behalf, of the kind of commitment on which their faith and ours rests, for we share the faith of Abraham. Paul reminds them that the unexpected happened to Abraham very late in his life. God gave him the promise of a blessing, the promise of fruitfulness. A fruitfulness which was born out in the birth of their son Isaac , a child born to Sarah and Abraham in their old age.

That promise of fruitfulness is born out in our own lives over and over again. I remember seeing a wonderful film; it must have been a National Film Board undertaking. It was about life in the desert. All you could see on the horizon was sand shifting in the wind. Then it rained, something that happened if I recall correctly only about once in seven years. Yet in no time at all, that barren wilderness was transformed into a beautiful garden. Plants bloomed and took root in that wasteland in a way that you could not have imagined. For seven years those seeds had lain dormant in the earth waiting for enough moisture to bring them to life.

What deserts have you seen come to life? A marriage that seemed to be dead, and grace is given and it blossoms into a stronger relationship. A relationship dies; a new one begins. A life is shattered by illness or bereavement; grace brings about new life. Someone thinks that they have no talent; suddenly they discover great personal gifts. A door closes; another door opens leading in a new direction, to new opportunities, to new possibilities.

The life of commitment brings about fruitfulness. But more important for us to recognize is that the Christian life requires commitment, more commitment than we can imagine, total commitment, costly commitment. After all, anything good that we set out to achieve has a cost. Somehow we seem to think that to put our trust in God is to put an end to all of our problems. If that is the basis of our faith then the Christian life is bound to be one of disillusionment.
I suspect that was Peter's problem when he rebuked Jesus. Jesus told his disciples that he would suffer and be rejected and killed. That could not have been easy for any of them to hear. Their leader whom they expected to be their king leading them to victory is telling them instead that he will be put to death. Suddenly their commitment to their leader takes a turn for the worse. What are the implications in their lives? We like to hear good news. We like comfortable words. When it comes to bearing the cross, then we cop out or crawl back into our kindergarten approach and miss the real point of having faith.

"Commitment to me," Jesus tells them as he tells each one of us, "means taking up your cross and following me." The disciples knew what that meant in a way we can never fathom. They had all witnessed Roman execution. They had seen victims carrying their cross out to the place of execution. To think that their friend and maybe even they themselves might face such a death was unthinkable. Yet through the cross Christ was able to offer real wholeness to the world. The cross, a symbol of torture, became the way to wholeness.

And what a symbol it is to the Christian! It helps us to understand that dying is the step we must take in order to bloom. What does it mean to “deny ourselves” and take up our cross and follow Jesus? What self am I denying? Is it about giving up something for Lent and then going right back to it as soon as Lent is over? Is it about constantly putting myself down?

It is about offering ourselves to be formed by God for God’s purpose. It is about becoming holy people. It is about wholeness. It is about discipleship. It is about commitment to the faith. Through self-denial we accept discipleship in a community that lives the way of the cross. We were signed with the sign of the cross at baptism. What did that signing mean for us as individuals and as community? It is at the heart of our Christian faith. As Christ bore our sins on the cross, so we find the grace and strength to live the Christian life. We accept responsibility for living the Christian life. Instead of thinking of ourselves we embrace the way of Jesus. It is above all finding our true selves, becoming all we are meant to be and understanding in a true sense what it means to be human.

As Christ bore our sins on the cross, so we find the grace and strength to live the Christian life. We trust in God's promises to bring us to a sense of wholeness and allow us to enter into the life of the community. We commit ourselves to the gospel message. We commit ourselves to faith in a gospel which calls us to service, to make a difference through our lives, through love of God and of neighbour.

Our mission is to salt the earth. If we are to be salty people it begins with our own commitment to the gospel. Let us be salty people!

The Second Sunday after Epiphany, Year A

Come and See Readings: Isaiah 49:1-7; Psalm 40:1-11; 1 Corinthians 1:1-9; John 1:29-42 Invitations come in many shapes and sizes. They ...