P. O. BOX 222811


(831) 624-8595










Rev. Paul Wrightman, Pastor


Independent and United Church of Christ

January 17, 2021


Dear Friends,


Yet more sad news to report: ​​ Pam Klaumann’s mother, Merilyn Baldwin,​​ passed away yesterday (Friday) evening after a brief but intense struggle with Covid-19.

Pam has gone through the awful reality of losing both her parents within six months. ​​ The good news is that Merilyn is now reunited with her husband Bill, that they are now in the best of health, and looking and feeling like the pictures taken at their wedding. ​​ Condolences to Bev Pugh and Linda Lyon on losing another family member as well.


Dolores Joblon writes: ​​ Many thanks to Cindi Daniel for providing a delicious main entrée for the men’s I Help dinner this past Wednesday. ​​ Thanks also to Peggy and Larry Kuck, to Kathy Curless and to Carole French for providing the rest of the meal. ​​ There are currently 8 men sheltering in place at a nearby church, in good health and grateful for the meals that we provide for them.


A few weeks ago I announced that I would be beginning a new sermon series on the parables of Jesus this weekend. ​​ Turns out that that announcement was premature. ​​ I still have quite a bit of preparation to do for this new series. ​​ Since each sermon in this new series will take two days to prepare, I’ve decided to fall back to a short series of sermons based on the Gospel of John. ​​ Since I’ve already done the research on John, these sermons will take only one day to prepare, giving  ​​ ​​​​ me an “extra” day to continue working on Jesus’ parables. ​​ 


Please pray for the health, peace, and safety of our country as we enter a momentous week.


And never forget that Jesus IS Emmanuel – God WITH Us, ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​​​ Pastor Paul




INTRODUCTORY READING  ​​ ​​ ​​​​ George Appleton


(Please overlook the male-centered language. ​​ Appleton wrote just before inclusive language became the norm.)


Every disciple knows that the aim of his life is to grow like his Lord. ​​ To achieve this he will study the earliest records of the divine life lived among men. ​​ He will want to get back behind the words to their meaning, behind the actions to the mind and character which inspired those actions. ​​ He will be eager to enter into intimate touch with him who promised to be with men and to live within the inmost being of each man. ​​ So with the outer study and the inner communion he will come to understand and acquire something of the mind of Christ.


SUGGESTED MUSIC  ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​​​ NYCC Sings! Hymn: “Dear God, Embracing Humankind​​ 

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OPENING PRAYER  ​​ ​​ ​​​​ Angela Ashwin, Contemporary



let my life be a space

in which you can work in the world.

Clear away my inner rubbish,

and fill me with your Spirit

of healing, delight and peace,

so that everything I do

may be the fruit of your life in me.





Our Father.

who art in heaven,

hallowed be thy name.

Thy kingdom come.

Thy will be done on earth

as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread.

And forgive us our trespasses,

as we forgive those

who trespass against us.

And lead us not into temptation,

but deliver us from evil.

For thine is the kingdom,

and the power, and the glory,

for ever and ever.



SCRIPTURE READING: ​​ John 1:35-51


The next day John (the Baptist) again was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, ‘Look, here is the Lamb of God!’ ​​ The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. ​​ When 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?’ ​​ He 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. ​​ One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. ​​ He first found his brother Simon and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah (which is translated Anointed). ​​ He 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). ​​ 


The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. ​​ He found Philip and said to him, ‘follow me.’  ​​​​ Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. ​​ Philip 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.” ​​ Nathanael said to him, ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’ ​​ Philip said to him, ‘Come and see.’ ​​ When Jesus saw Nathanael coming towards him, he said of him, ‘Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!’ ​​ Nathanael asked him, ‘Where did​​ you come to know me?’ ​​ Jesus answered, ‘I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.’ ​​ Nathanael replied, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God! ​​ You are the King of Israel!’ ​​ Jesus answered, ‘Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? ​​​​ You will see greater things than these.’ And Jesus 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.’




Rev. Paul Wrightman


(The underlining indicates what I would emphasize if delivered orally.)



There are probably as many different​​ understandings​​ of Jesus as there are​​ followers​​ of Jesus. ​​ This is a​​ good​​ thing, because of all the things that are relatively clear in the Gospels, one of the clearest is that Jesus desires to have a distinct relationship with each person whom he encounters.


A major part of the distinctiveness of each of our relationships with Jesus is its unique blend of​​ affirmation​​ and​​ challenge. ​​ Jesus is madly in love with each of us: after all, each of us is designer-made by him. ​​ 


The​​ major task for each of us during the time allotted to us in this dimension, is to​​ grow​​ into​​ the unique image of God that each of us has been created to be.


At times this challenge to​​ growth​​ is in​​ tension​​ – I hope a​​ creative​​ tension – with the motto of our church that “Wherever you are on your life journey you are welcome here.”


That statement is intended to communicate our profound​​ acceptance​​ of everyone who walks through​​ our​​ doors. ​​ It’s also intended to communicate that, like Jesus, this church affirms the essence of one’s creation identity, whether that identity happens to be male, female, white, black, brown, yellow, straight, or gay.


Some of us, however, are​​ tempted​​ to use the slogan “Wherever you are on your life journey you are welcome here,” as an​​ excuse​​ to be complacently​​ satisfied​​ with exactly where we are, instead of as the​​ beginning​​ point for a life of continuous spiritual growth.


Imagine someone with a severe addiction bitterly complaining that everyone they know is demanding that they​​ change, and that all those​​ demands​​ are the biggest​​ obstacle​​ to their changing.


Finally a friend comes along who says, “I love and accept you​​ just​​ as​​ you are.” ​​ And the person with the addiction says: “Those words were just what I needed to hear. ​​ They gave me the power​​ to​​ change.”


I​​ think there’s a powerful parallel with Jesus here. ​​ Jesus unconditionally loves each of us​​ as​​ we​​ are. ​​ And that unconditional love is precisely the​​ empowerment​​ each of us needs to become more and more of the image of God that Jesus created each of us to be.


Believing that Jesus is in some real sense God​​ with​​ us – God actually revealing God’s deepest thoughts and feelings to us through the person of Jesus – has some crucial implications:


What Jesus has to say in his conversations with others is of critical importance, not only for​​ them, but for​​ us​​ as well.


Add to this the fact that John wrote his Gospel in such a way as to make us​​ overhear​​ his many remembered conversations between Jesus and others.


In other words, in the context of today’s Scripture text, we are supposed to see​​ ourselves​​ as​​ there,​​ on​​ the​​ scene​​ with Jesus calling the disciples. ​​ 


We​​ are supposed to hear Jesus asking​​ us: ​​ “What are​​ you​​ looking for?”


We​​ are supposed to pop the question to Jesus: “Where are you staying?”


We​​ are supposed to hear his response, “Come and see,” as personally addressed to​​ us​​ as well as to the original disciples.


We​​ are supposed to hear Jesus saying “Follow​​ me,”​​ as a personal​​ challenge​​ spoken to each of​​ us.


Perhaps this challenge is intended to shake us out of our complacency with the fact that “Wherever we happen to be on our life journey God welcomes us.” ​​ Of course God welcomes us! ​​ But God welcomes us with the​​ hope​​ – not the​​ demand, but the​​ hope​​ – that we will become, each of us in our own unique way, more and more like Jesus in​​ thought, in​​ living, and in the very depths of our​​ being.


Now let’s take a closer look at our text.


Even though we know that John’s Gospel was the last to be written, many biblical scholars believe that John provides us with some important historical details lacking in the other three Gospels. ​​ The call of the first disciples is a case in point.


From John’s Gospel we learn that at least several of Jesus’ disciples were disciples of John the Baptist before they were disciples of Jesus. ​​ 


We see John the Baptist actually encouraging his disciples to follow someone greater than he. ​​ We see him proclaiming, as he sees Jesus walking by, “Look! Here is the lamb of God!”


This stops two of the Baptist’s disciples in their tracks. ​​ Their curiosity gets the better of them, and they begin to follow Jesus down the road.


Notice what happens here. ​​ Two of the Baptist’s disciples have taken the rather bold step of leaving their master, John, and have taken the risk of walking behind Jesus, signifying that they are interested.


Jesus now turns and addresses them with one of the most crucial questions ​​ that anyone can ask another: “What​​ are​​ you​​ looking​​ for?”


Given that the person asking this question is​​ Jesus, this is a clear indication that something of immense importance is being asked, and that we had better “Listen​​ up!”


So Jesus asks the question to them and to us: “What are you looking for?”


Notice how the two disciples don’t immediately answer this question.


Far too many Christians today would​​ jump​​ at the chance to answer this question. ​​ Their all-too-quickly-given answers betray the fact that what they’re really looking for is a Davidic warrior-king messiah, someone to wipe out all their enemies, or at least someone to​​ put​​ down​​ people that they don’t happen to approve of, be they Republicans, or Democrats, gays, or straights, Christians who are too liberal, or Christians who aren’t liberal enough.


Notice how these two disciples don’t directly answer this question, but in proper rabbinic fashion answer one question by asking another: “Rabbi, where are you​​ staying?”


Now this counter-question was not merely asking for​​ information, but was expressing the desire to​​ spend​​ some​​ time​​ with, to really​​ get​​ to​​ know, this person Jesus.


Jesus responds to them, just as he does to us: “Come​​ and​​ see.”


In other words, “Spend some time with me, check me out, really get to know me. ​​ Then – and only then – will we be able to​​ honestly​​ answer the prior question “What are you looking for?”


Far too many Christians think they know what they’re looking for without really getting to know the Jesus of the Gospels.


Note that I said “the Jesus of the​​ Gospels,” Jesus as portrayed by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, and​​ not​​ Jesus as presented by St. Paul, or Jesus as filtered through the doctrines and dogmas of 37,000 varieties of institutionalized Christianity,​​ all​​ claiming to know Jesus best.


Those three pregnant words of Jesus, “Come​​ and​​ see,” basically mean “Come,​​ move​​ in​​ with me, don’t just follow me on the road, follow my way of​​ living, my way of​​ doing, my way of​​ being.


And this is exactly what happens to these two disciples, they “come and see,” they stay with Jesus that afternoon, evening, and night. . .and remain with him the rest of their lives.


Also deserving our attention is the fact that the very first thing one of the disciples does after connecting with Jesus is to run and tell his brother about his encounter, challenging him to “come and see” for himself.


This disciple is Andrew, who shared the Good News of his encounter with Jesus with his brother Simon, who is quickly renamed Peter. ​​ Peter soon becomes leader of the band of disciples. ​​ Andrew does not. ​​ Leonard Bernstein remarked that the hardest instrument to play in any orchestra is​​ second​​ fiddle. ​​ This Andrew does supremely well.


We see him throughout the Gospels, introducing various people to Jesus, then trusting that simply being in the presence of Jesus will take care of the rest.


Later on in our text we find Jesus connecting with Philip, who, in turn, finds his friend Nathanael and invites him to check-out Jesus. ​​ When Nathanael expresses some skepticism (Nathanael is from the rival town of Cana, a little further down the slope of the same hill on which Nazareth is situated) and bluntly remarks, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”, Philip wisely does not try to​​ argue​​ with him, but simply repeats Jesus’ invitation to “Come and see.”


This is the first and most important principle of what we call Christian apologetics, which simply means introducing others to Jesus. ​​ We don’t try to​​ argue​​ others into a relationship with Jesus – like Jesus himself, we simply​​ invite​​ them to “Come and see.”


The same holds true when inviting people to church: ​​ “Can anything good come out of that crazy Community Church of the Monterey Peninsula?” ​​ “Come and see.”


So Philip runs and finds his friend Nathanael, wanting to introduce him to Jesus. ​​ Nathanael and Jesus wind up having an encounter which sounds almost comical to​​ our​​ ears, because both of them make such sweeping assumptions about each other.


To understand their meeting, we need to connect with the​​ Jewish​​ meaning of some important details mentioned in the story. ​​ In Judaism, the fig tree was a symbol of peace. ​​ One of the preferred places of prayer of devout Jewish males at that time was to pray sitting under a fig tree. ​​ Thus, this simple act told Jesus a lot about Nathanael. ​​ It told him that he was a man of prayer. ​​ It told him that he was a man who yearned for peace.


As William Barclay describes this scene:


“It was not so much that Jesus had seen him under the fig tree that surprised Nathanael; it was the fact that Jesus had read the thoughts of his inmost heart. ​​ Nathanael said to himself: ‘Here is the man who understands my dreams! ​​ Here is the man who knows my prayers! ​​ Here is the man who has seen into my most intimate and secret longings, longings which I have never even dared put into words! ​​ Here is the man who can translate the in articulate sigh of my soul!”


No wonder Nathanael blurts out two titles for Jesus which are well beyond his understanding at this point: ​​ “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! ​​ You are the king of Israel!”


I suspect that there was a smile on Jesus’ face​​ at this outburst from Nathanael. ​​ 


Again, in typical rabbinic fashion, Jesus answers one profound insight with another: ​​ “Do you believe because I saw you under the fig tree? ​​ You will see greater things than these. ​​ Very truly I tell you, you will see the heaven​​ opened​​ and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”


This is a direct reference to the patriarch Jacob’s dream of a ladder on which angels were going up and down. ​​ The shocking implication of Jesus is that Jesus​​ himself​​ is the ladder, Jesus himself is where heaven and earth​​ intersect.


Many persons throughout the ages have come to believe just this. ​​ Their​​ hope​​ has been​​ rekindled​​ when they have come to​​ believe.


But as we have seen in today’s Scripture reading from the Gospel of John, there is a step which is​​ prior​​ to coming to believe. ​​ And that prior step is​​ accepting​​ the​​ invitation​​ to “Come​​ and​​ see.”


So let us imagine ourselves to​​ be​​ there,​​ overhearing​​ the​​ conversation, overhearing the various ways in which Jesus shares God’s Good News.


The deepest reality, of course, is that we are not just​​ imagining. ​​ Jesus hopes to have the same conversations with us today as he did with those of yesteryear.


All we have to do is “come and see.”


All we have to do is allow the Spirit of Jesus to take up residence in our heart, for it is there that we will meet him, and have our deepest questions answered. ​​ When Jesus, living in our hearts, asks​​ us “What are you looking for?”,​​ we can tell him that what we’re looking for is​​ him.





  • If Jesus were to ask you “What are you looking for?” what would you reply?

















  • What is a question that you would like to ask Jesus?​​ 




















  • How do you think Jesus would answer your question?

















CLOSING PRAYER  ​​ ​​ ​​​​ Angela Ashwin, Contemporary


Lord of my life,

I give you my time,

my reputation,

my worries

and my desires.

Thank you

that you receive

whatever I offer

and transform it,

so that this gift​​ 

of my life

is taken up

into your great energy

of love.



SUGGESTED MUSIC  ​​ ​​ ​​​​ Called as Partners in Christ’s Service

 ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​​​ St. Andrews Owen Sound  ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​​​ You Tube




Patiently and persistently, God loves.


Relentlessly and unconditionally, God loves.


Now and forever, God loves.









Independent and United Church of Christ