Magazine article The Christian Century

Come and See

Magazine article The Christian Century

Come and See

Article excerpt

THIS IS THE way the story begins: "Come and see." This is how almost every good story begins. Leave behind whatever you have to leave behind. In this story a pair of John the Baptist's disciples leave John himself behind. There is always something that must be abandoned. Come, leave your nets and boat, your counting table and ledgers; leave goods and kindred, leave home, leave friends and foes; leave work, leave school, leave retirement; leave your ideas, ideologies and ignorance; leave even your old self behind, because you can't take any of it with you and you probably won't need it when you get to wherever you are being summoned.

"Come and see" is every story-teller's plea, because until you come into the world of the story there is nothing to see. Abandon you accustomed world of computers and coffee cups and slip into the enchanted forest where anything can happen if you have the eyes to see it. "Come and see" beckons us to an alternative world, a place we have never been. It is a disturbing invitation. Small wonder we try to negotiate a more reasonable settlement. But story and storyteller insist: you cannot have one foot in Memphis and the other in Middle-East; you cannot begin the journey without leaving. "Come and see" is almost the first thing Jesus says in the Gospel of John.

Almost but not quite: the first thing Jesus says is even more disturbing. Looking over his shoulder and seeing John's disciples following him, he turns and asks, "What are you looking for?" THis is a question we manage well most of the time: "Oh, I'm looking for a small Phillips screwdriver"; "I'm looking for something to wear to work that will travel well." On Jesus' lips, however, the question disarms and discomforts us. What can we anwer? We look for whatever it takes to get through the day: for a truce at the office, or maybe a job; at home we look for something that words like "love" and "happiness" don't fully name. We look for justice and peace for our world, though nothing could startle us more than actually finding them. Jesus' question reminds us how little we reflect on our searchings. Our calendars tell us what we're looking for; goal sheets remind is of what we're seeking. To be asked directly and personally unsettle us.

The manner in which John's disciples respond may suggest that they didn't know what to say either. …

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