Kansas District Pre-Lent Retreat devotion based on St. John 1:43-51
Philip, the fresh seminary graduate who is new to the circuit, runs up to the grizzled veteran Nathanial, and announces to him the great success he just had in teaching confirmation class; to which Nathanial asks: can any good come out of confirmation class? Or of counseling? Or of preaching? Or of a pastors conference?
The Nathanial’s of the church want to have the energy and the enthusiasm and the excitement of a Philip, but years of disappointment, and reality, have caused all of that to fade away.
Nothing good comes out of Nazareth; that is a backwater town that is full of people who are more likely to screw everything up, as opposed to produce the long promised Messiah. And such is often the case with confirmation; they’ll just end up breaking the 6th Commandment anyway; the couple you counsel will just end up getting divorced; that sermon you slave over for hours to get just right will be ignored; you’ll get home from conference with nothing more than a backlog of work that needs to be done.
Can any good come out of any of this? Such is the question of Nathanial, such is the question of all who find themselves sitting under fig trees, or behind desks, or in the front of the classroom, or in the driver’s seat of the car.
Perhaps it is to humor Philip that Nathanial goes along, or more likely guilt that this may be the one time, let alone the first time, that something good actually comes out of showing up. Energy and enthusiasm do at least cause some interest to be raised, even if only for a moment.
Jesus response upon seeing Nathanial is Behold, a pastor in whom there is no deceit.
Jesus of course knows what you and Nathanial thought before coming here; he knows the burdens and the heartaches of being disappointed so many times, of not knowing if anyone will ever understand that the 6th Commandment, the sermon, the words of Law and Gospel apply to them. Jesus knows that after years of service, sometimes it is hard to get one’s hopes up about much of anything, and that it is far easier to be cynical about everything.
And so Jesus speaks these words to you: Behold, a pastor in whom there is no deceit.
You know of course that there is much deceit in you; that grumbling and groaning about one thing in the church or another is not godly, nor is it part of ones call documents.
But today Jesus speaks the words to you that there is no deceit found in you. Not because you are allowed to mumble and grumble, but because by His death and resurrection, Christ Jesus has forgiven you this sin, just as He forgave Nathanial, and just as He will forgive Philip when the work of proclaiming the Gospel produces a cynical nature in him as well.
For you will see greater things: you will see those who break the Law, repent. You will see those who come to be counseled, reconcile. You will see that sermon open the eyes of those in the pews to the wonder of God’s love. You will see that Bible study reveal the true nature of Christ in the world. You will see that conference provide a renewed spirit and zeal for the work of the Lord.
But even if it should not, you will see the Lord Jesus, standing before the throne of God, announcing for one and all to hear: Behold, a child of God, in whom there is no deceit, for you have been redeemed by Christ the crucified.