As part of a seminary course assignment, I was there to lobby him to support legislation on an issue of my choice.
Right before we went off to our appointments, we were warned how things work in Washington... They said, "unless your name is Oprah or Larry King, you won't be seeing your congressman in person."
This turned out to be the case during my visit. I was led into an office and met with a well-dressed male aide in his mid-twenties who wrote down my concerns on a yellow legal pad.
And this didn't sit too well with one of the congressman's other constituents who happened to be there that day.
"I voted for him, I pay his salary, and you're telling me that I can't see him for five minutes?"
He went on to say that he'd been unemployed for twenty-seven months-- and all he wanted was for five minutes to tell the congressman his story and ask him to do something to bring new jobs to Western Pennsylvania.
This would have been enough to give him some hope.
But that's not how things work in Washington...
And it makes me wonder what kind of response the Greeks were expecting when they approached Philip and said "we wish to see Jesus..."
They would have very good reason to expect the very same kind of "gate-keeping" that I experienced on Capitol Hill...
They were Greeks-- and in the eyes of Jews like Jesus' disciples, they were Gentiles. They were outsiders-- and it would have been socially unacceptable for them even to expect a face-to-face meeting with the Jewish Messiah, Jesus.
And Philip goes right along with the social norms... Listen to all the "gate-keeping" the disciples do-- Philip goes to Andrew, and then the two of them finally go and tell Jesus.
Unfortunately, the story cuts off there, and we don't find out whether or not these Greeks get to see Jesus.
But Jesus' words give us good reason to believe that they would get what they asked for...
Jesus says, "When I am lifted up, I will draw all people to myself."
These words mark a major turning point in John's Gospel. From here on, there can be no mistaking that Jesus' saving work will not be limited to Jews. Jesus will be the savior of the insiders and the outsiders...
God's will is for all people to see Jesus and be saved. And the way God intends for Jesus to be seen by the world is in the outpouring of his self-giving love upon the cross.
So here in Leechburg, what would an un-churched person do if she or he wished to see Jesus?
The easy answer would be that they would go to any one of the fifteen churches here in Leechburg. And it's fairly certain that they would be welcomed warmly in whichever congregation they visit.
But what a challenge it is to step into a church for the first time-- especially if you've never been to a church before... We all have our own unique ways of worshipping; there's unfamiliar customs and traditions-- and unless someone invited you, you'll be a stranger in a sea of unfamiliar faces.
Seeing Jesus can be a quite formidable for someone on the outside of the church community...
So let's hear again what Jesus says after learning of the Greeks who wanted to see him:
Jesus does not say "anyone who wants to come to me can come to me. I won’t turn anyone away..."
He says "I will draw all people to myself."
We can look at Jesus' ministry as a whole and see how true he was to his word... Jesus did not stay in one place, waiting for people to come to him. Jesus was constantly on the move-- and his most powerful moments of ministry occurred in the realm of everyday life. Just in the Gospel of John, people came to faith in Jesus at a wedding, by a well, on city streets, at the seaside, and in people's homes. These people didn't ask to see Jesus-- but they saw him anyway, because Jesus met them wherever they were, so as to draw them to himself. And when they saw Jesus and experienced his compassion and his love, they then followed him.
Trying to see Jesus was not like trying to see a congressman... Jesus went out to meet people in their time of greatest need.
And as the Body of Christ, we must understand our mission in the very same way.
We don’t have lines of people waiting at our front doors wanting to see Jesus—and while it would be spectacular if that were the case, it’s not a disaster that it’s not.
Our mission is to join Jesus in his work of drawing all people to himself—and much of this work is done outside of these walls. As we look to the future, we should be in prayerful conversation about questions, such as:
· Who are the un-churched people in our community—and what are their needs?
· What gifts and talents do we have in our congregation to meet their needs?
· How can we touch their lives with the love of Christ?
And while we consider these big-picture questions about our congregation’s mission, let’s remember that our everyday lives are sacred spaces for people to see love of Jesus Christ in us. The people in your life, whether they are friends, co-workers, neighbors, or even strangers—are people loved by Jesus Christ. Your days are full of opportunities for holy conversations.
However it is we minister the love of Jesus Christ, the experience of coming to this church for the first time should be more than just receiving a warm welcome. It should be a homecoming. Having seen Jesus in us, it is coming home to receive him in water Word, bread and wine. It’s coming home to their place in God’s family. It’s coming come to a community of people who care for them—and will be there for them when they’re in need. It’s coming home to wait with hope for his coming again into the world.