“Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Nathaniel doesn’t seem terribly impressed with where Jesus came from! One cannot hear this passage without the snark … “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” I find it interesting that Philip, who bears a Greek (not Hebrew) name, is called directly by Jesus. Philip then, in turn, goes to his friend Nathaniel (a Hebrew name meaning “Gift from God”) to tell him about finding the true Gift from God, Jesus – the one about whom Moses and the prophets had spoken. But then Philip tells him where Jesus comes from – he’s the son of Joseph from Nazareth. Now any good Jewish scholar would know better than to believe the Anointed one would come from Nazareth! The prophets are clear – Bethlehem, the city of David and out of the tribe of Judah would be from where the Messiah hails … not Nazareth in Galilee. Can anything good come out of Nazareth?
Can anything good come out of … Brunswick? You heard me … can anything good come out of Brunswick? Nazareth wasn’t the only place in history with a questionable reputation. I was at a house blessing for my friends Katrina-Marie and Brett Meacham on Epiphany and there were two women at the party who hail from Brunswick – both graduates of Brunswick High School. One of them asked me if I knew the town’s unofficial motto. I said, “No … lay it on me.” She said, “Heels, whores and liquor stores!”* Hmm … really?! I fact checked this … with Roma Hebb. I told her I’d heard about an unofficial motto for Brunswick … and she shot back with, “Heels, whores and liquor stores,”* She even said this was once in the paper! Yes, Brunswick has a … reputation. Can anything good come out of Brunswick?
I think Philip’s response to Nathaniel’s cutting remark is poignant: “Come and see.” He doesn’t argue or try to force Nathaniel to see things his way, Philip merely says, “Come and see.” You cannot force someone into a new understanding, a new belief, or a new identity … but you can invite them to “come and see.” Nathaniel takes Philip up on his offer and goes to meet Jesus and Jesus does not ask anything about Nathaniel’s past. Instead he tells Nathaniel the truth about himself: “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” No deceit … Nathaniel may be wrong, but he is sincere! Jesus doesn’t ask Nathaniel about his past or where he is from – perhaps because it is irrelevant. Jesus tells him who he is right now – an Israelite in whom there is no deceit. When Nathaniel is amazed and converted by Jesus’ words, he receives a promise: “You will see greater things than these.”
Philip’s invitation to Nathaniel to “come and see” had nothing to do with the past – the past of family origins, hometown or personal history. Come and see was an invitation to be present with Jesus here and now and a promise of hope for a future. It answered Nathaniel’s question, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Over 2,000 years of history rings with a resounding “Yes, something (better yet, someone) good DID come out of Nazareth!” Can anything good come out of Brunswick? You are the Body of Christ here in this community – the answer depends upon you. Will Christ’s love and forgiveness be present here? Will we reach out to the last, lost, little, least and lifeless in Christ’s name? Will you invite others to “come and see” the good things happening here at Grace and be a part of this community?
Can anything good come out of … Brunswick? I believe it can … and Christ is counting on you to make it so.
* Vestry member Joyce Weddle reports that the "unofficial motto" was originally "Heels, Hores and liquor stores" - the Hores being a family who lived in town. Over time, the saying became a bit more colorful!