John 1:43-51

43 The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, ‘Follow me.’

44 Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida. 45 Philip found Nathanael and told him, ‘We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote – Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.’

46 ‘Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?’ Nathanael asked.

‘Come and see,’ said Philip.

47 When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, ‘Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.’

48 ‘How do you know me?’ Nathanael asked.

Jesus answered, ‘I saw you while you were still under the fig-tree before Philip called you.’

49 Then Nathanael declared, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.’

50 Jesus said, ‘You believe[a] because I told you I saw you under the fig-tree. You will see greater things than that.’ 51 He then added, ‘Very truly I tell you,[b] you[c] will see “heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on”[d] the Son of Man.’

I have heard much about getting rid of 2020. I am not sure it is a good idea. It is in the tough times that we learn the most. What we have learnt in 2020 will shape us well for God’s bright future here.

I find myself pondering the year ahead. There are things that will most likely occur this year, God willing. Family wise, we will have our first grand-child come our way, a significant birthday for our oldest son, the wedding of our daughter, graduation and ordination into the Ministry for our second son….

As a church we will make a decision about how we further develop our main building and how we continue God’s mission journey where he has places us in these new post-COVID times.

As a person I will get a one year older – Yippee!

But then deeper questions come: What is my part in all of this, Lord? Am I still on your track? How do you want me to go about those things coming up? Who do you want me to pray for, care for and bear the gospel with?

All this pondering has to end with prayer: “Lord, have mercy on me”. “Lord, pour out your mercy on us, come what may. Give us what we need to keep the faith, bear the witness and be your people….”

So, what are you pondering for yourself, your family, your work, your church, our world?

What are you looking for? What do you hope for and in? What would you like to find this year and where are you thinking you will find it?

I have heard things like

  • And end to COVID – vaccine, no more lockdowns, no more distancing measures or closed borders, no more worry.
  • Good health –good enough health to keep working, doing things and enjoying life/serving others
  • A return of normal trade with China and with other nations – back to good business as usual.
  • Back to some sense of normal for the USA. The scenes have been horrible. The divisions so deep. Bring healing, O God.

I wonder who Nathaniel was? What was he looking for; hoping for in his life this day when Phillip came and found him near the fig tree? And I wonder where he was looking to find his hoped-for life?

Jesus says that Nath is a person of faith in the God of the bible. 

47 …. ‘Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.’

Nath knew the hoped-for story of faith. He was aware of the hope of God in God’s promises of a new era of forgiveness and peace for his people. Nath was aware of the promised Saviour who would bring that peace and new life, new healing to the nation and to each person…..

But he, like nearly everyone around him, could not see these gifts of hope ever coming from Nazareth!

“Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”.

Answer? ‘No!”. Why? Because the Galilee and all its towns was like the most troubled suburb in a city, the dodgiest part of a town, the place where real estate prices were low, strange people lived and stranger things happened.

Galilee was heavily populated and had a flourishing export industry in wheat, olives, and wine and of course, a fishing industry around that big lake.

But all that wealth was very unevenly distributed. There were the richer few and the many poor. Then there were always the Roman occupiers.

Galilee was well ‘churched”: lots of synagogues full of pious people and fiery rabbis. But alongside this was an undercurrent among all the labourers, pickers, backpackers, shepherds, fishing folk, many from foreign lands – that undercurrent of dissatisfaction, frustration and the hope of change, of revolution. And right with the holy rules and people, was all that unholy intermarrying, promiscuity, uncleanness…..

No, nothing of much good could ever come from a people and place like that!

Makes me wonder about us, and those around us. What I hear a lot of people saying is that “nothing good could come from the Christian church”. “A saviour (if there even is one) for my marriage, my health, my trouble, my fear, my guilt and regrets, for our very troubled planet could ever come from Christianity and its people”.

Maybe Nath, like so many of us Aussies and people in this town would look just about everywhere other than “Nazareth”, anywhere other than the Christian church, the Christian Bible, the local Christian community to find hope for living.

We will find the hope for which we long in better food, other spiritualities and practice, politics, medicine, art, music, creativity, financial gain, more goods and services, the many writers, speakers, leaders who are prophets of a godless existence.

We’ll find hope in science without any reference to faith, to each other and the self; to endless entertainment, a noble cause of some kind and just about anything else, rather than the Christian faith, the Christian community and especially the local Christian church and the words it speaks and love it does.

But then there is that fig tree. Just a fruit tree doing its fig fruit. A normal tree. But now, a special tree – a tree where Nath was found.

In the midst of his life; his work, his relationships, his hopes and dreams, his troubles, his judgements about people and places like Nazareth, he finds that he himself is found by someone else.

Nath is found by a guy who saw him near this fig tree before Nath saw him.  He was found and invited to come and see the hope and the life and love Phillip had found in this Jesus rabbi, from of all places, Nazareth!

I think we are meant to be blessed by two truths today:

  1. We are found before we find, and
  2. We look in the wrong places, but the Lord never does.

We are found before we find:

Jesus’ finding of you is before you move, before you know, before you search and right where you live and move – near “fig trees”. His inviting of you is before you invite him in. He is at work before you go to work. He is searching and inviting and drawing you into his new hope before you search for him or invite him into your hopes.

We look in the wrong place while Jesus never does.

Jesus’ finding of you with all his love for the day is from the place you do not think to look, or maybe don’t want to look.

Here’s the truth: Wherever you are looking for hope, for future, for security and safety beyond many things, not just your body or your family or your house or car or job, but safety that will conquer your dying and descent to death itself, won’t be where you naturally want to look. You won’t find it in things you naturally know, love or control.

So if Jesus finds you before you find him, and if Jesus always looks in the right place near everyday fig trees to find you, then you don’t need to keep looking in all kinds of places for a deeper, longer, wider, stronger hope for your life because Jesus is all of it and gives all of it to you right near your fig tree.

You can call the search off, admit your failure, your lack of awareness, your harsh judgement of him and his people and places, and find release, and relief and a genuine lasting complete hope for your 2021.

You are found, friend, and not judged or condemned today. You are included in his new place, new grace, you become a great contributor to all those needed things and causes in the world, we shared before.

  1. As he finds you in your wrong places, he still calls you under your everyday fig tree as you are, as Nathaniel was, and Phillip was and Andrew and John and the others were.

He knows where to look for you and he never looks in the wrong places. You are in his right place now. Will you ‘Come and see” him as Phillip now urges?

As for 2021. Let’s go. Not solo, but together with Jesus. He is calling you into his version of 2021, not yours.

From Dietrich Bonhoeffer, I heard, ‘When Jesus calls a person, he calls them to come and die”. Jesus is calling you into his community, his way, his hope, his future of gracious love and acceptance for all the everyday Nathaniel’s of the world.

Look at this. Real life and hope and love coming from “Nazareth” – Jesus of Nazareth, Risen Jesus of this humble local ordinary Christian church.

My dreams and visions for the year die today. His live today. I welcome his vision of our year; his vision of my life, my marriage, my kids, my job, my farm, my business, my career, my body, my health, our planet…. It is a better vision.

2021? You are found.

Can anything good come from a local Christian church?

Can anything good come from the Christian faith in these modern times? Can anything useful, helpful, real and world shaping come from everyday found people walking past fig trees? You bet ya!