Weekly Bible Devotional
“I’ve Been Meaning to Ask…Where Are You From?”
May 1, 2022
This week we begin a new sermon series called, “I’ve Been Meaning to Ask…” based on materials from A Sanctified Art. The series is focused on helping us bridge differences so that we may create spaces for compassionate dialogue, listening, and seeing the holy in one another.
Prayer for Illumination by Rev. Sarah Are:
I don’t always know how to pray,
but you find me anyway.
I don’t always know how to listen,
but you are in my ears all the same.
I don’t always know how to believe,
but you surround me with beauty and
I find myself held together in love.
Where I come from there are so many distractions.
Where I come from there is so much noise.
Be in these words.
Help me hear. Amen.
Scripture: John 1:35-51
35The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, 36and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!”
37The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?” 39He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon. 40One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41He first found his brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Anointed). 42He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter).
43The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” 44Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” 46Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” 47When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” 48Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” 49Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” 50Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.” 51And he said to him, “Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”
Commentary and Reflection:
By Dr. Raj Nadella, New Testament Professor at Columbia Theological Seminary
Curiosity runs rampant in this story and Jesus is the primary focus of such curiosity. John had already known Jesus as the Lamb of God and invited his disciples to meet him. The two disciples who follow Jesus apparently want to know where he is staying, but they ask questions only after he gives them permission. They are respectful of his space and enter it only at his invitation. It is the kind of healthy curiosity that is eager to engage others but is unintrusive.
But the disciples call Jesus a Rabbi, a term that does not capture his true identity in John. Instead of answering their question (where are you staying?), Jesus says, “Come and you will see.” The Greek word for seeing in this context is horaw/oida, which literally means “know, perceive, understand.” Jesus seems to suggest that the disciples called him Rabbi because they did not fully perceive him. He invites them to his place so that they can perceive him. Jesus is inviting them to a deeper level of curiosity, one that entails a willingness to learn as well as unlearn prior assumptions. Such curiosity transcends superficial knowledge and requires greater investment of one’s time and resources. The disciples spent the day with him and called him Messiah.
Curiosity is contagious. Andrew, who followed Jesus, introduces him to his brother Simon. Philip introduces him to Nathanael, who wishes to know if anything good can come out of Nazareth. “Come and see,” says Philip.
The subtext is: “Don’t arrive at premature conclusions about anyone, or otherize them based on insufficient knowledge.” Curiosity is also a two-way street. Nathanael hears about Jesus and approaches him, but Jesus had already learned about him enough to call him a person without deceit.
How do we cultivate deeper curiosity that grants a fuller understanding of others, especially those who look, dress, and think differently? It requires investment of sufficient time and resources to learn about them, a commitment to unlearning prior assumptions when needed, and a healthy curiosity that engages others while respecting their space.
An Affirmation of Faith by Rev. Sarah Are:
We believe that goodness can come from the dirt,
that faith can come from doubt,
that minds can be changed,
that justice can begin with us,
and that something good can come from Nazareth.
We believe all these things, because we believe that God is
more expansive than we have words for—
showing up in the corners of our world so often
ignored and denied.
We believe that from this place of holy surprise,
God invites us forward—
beckoning hope, bravery, and curiosity from each of us.
“Come and see,” God says.
Help our unbelief.
We Are Not Strangers
By Rev. Sarah Are
If you ask me where I’m from,
I’ll tell you about the South—
about sweet tea, church pews,
slow drawls, sultry summers.
And if you pause,
then I may go on to tell you
how I’m from a family of preachers,
how I stand on the shoulders of generations
who believed that love could be the answer.
And if you’re still listening even then,
I’ll tell you that I’m from strong women
with tall spines who have carried the weight
of inequality on their backs with children on
And then I’ll tell you about
the kitchens that I’m from,
which have always cooked enough
food for unexpected guests—just in case.
Or I could tell you about the car
that carried us into the mountains,
summer after summer
so that we could breathe again.
That’s part of where I’m from.
And if you haven’t given up yet,
then I may even mention the dirt—
the earth that catches me,
the earth that holds me.
The earth that reminds me of growth.
The earth that will eventually welcome me home.
You and I aren’t really strangers after all.