Carolyn Park Presbyterian Church

Dawning Awareness

John 1:29-42

Early this morning as I sat down to write this sermon... I was a little bit at a loss. I knew... more or less... what I wanted to say... but I couldn't think of a good way to start! As I thought about that scene from our lesson last week... Jesus approaching John at the Jordan River... the words Down at the Riverside came into my mind.

Now I'm sure that you have all heard or sung that old Baptist hymn Shall We Gather at the River... but that's not what I was thinking of. No... this was a song from the secular world... from somewhere in my past... and I had to stop a minute and let the refrain come into my head. It goes something like this:

I met my pretty bright-eyed doll
down at the riverside...
down at the riverside.

Actually... I can't remember all the words... but in the song he approaches her... and she responds...

Be patience little man...
I'm sure you'll understand...
I hardly know your name.

And he responds...
I said "If I could have my way,
Maybe some sweet day,
You're name and mine will be the same."

Well, enough reminiscing about old love songs... the really funny thing about this strange quirk in my mind is that it serves as a good lead-in to our topic for today... which is Dawning Awareness... or Getting to Know You... but that's another song!

In John's version of the baptism story which we read this morning... we are told that John the Baptist doesn't know who Jesus really is until that moment of dawning awareness and revelation at the riverside. Obviously they must have seen one another through the years... after all they were cousins... and their mother's were very close. They must have played together from time to time... so John no doubt recognized Jesus... his cousin... as he approached that day. But it was a revelation from God that caused him to recognize Jesus as the "Lamb of God"... and the "Son of God."

Then John tells us why... and how he knew who Jesus is.

32 Then John gave this testimony: "I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him.
33 I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, 'The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.'
34 I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God."

That announcement must have seemed very strange to those who heard it... and it piqued the curiosity of at least a couple of people. A couple of days later... we learn that two of John's disciples were curious enough about this man, Jesus... that they left John and followed after Jesus as he passed by that day.

Now the story doesn't tell us if they had seen the dove that John mentions... but I'm inclined to think they probably had not. Nor did they have John's revelation from God about who Jesus is. But John's testimony was definitely enough to make them curious... and so they tagged along after Jesus until they had an opportunity to asked him where he lived. I suppose they hoped to be able to find him at a later date... when they had made up their minds about him. But Jesus invited them to come along... and so they began the journey of their life by following him... and spending time with him.

He must have made quite an impression on them... because Andrew went home and told his brother Simon that they had found the Messiah... the anointed one of God. And Simon... that impetuous man... came along the next day to learn more about this man whom his brother claimed was the Messiah.

That was the beginning of a new life for Simon... and Jesus gave him a new name... Cephas... which means "rock" in Aramaic... the language Jesus spoke. The Greek translation of Cephas is "Peter" and so we know this disciple as Simon Peter... and you know the rest of the story about him.

Did you notice that each person in the story who met Jesus knew a little bit less about him? John the Baptist had a direct revelation from God about who Jesus is. The two who had been following John heard his words and decided to see if they could learn more about Jesus. Peter got it third hand... but he was curious enough to come and see what his brother was talking about. Each began at a different point... yet each was on a journey of dawning awareness about who Jesus is.

We are also on that journey... along with John... Andrew and the other disciple... and Simon Peter. Maybe your journey began like John's... with a revelation or call from God... or maybe it began out of exposure to the gospel... and curiosity about Jesus... and you wanted to know more about him... like the two disciples... or because someone you knew brought you along with them... because they knew Jesus had something to offer that was missing in your life... as it had been missing in theirs.

Getting to know Jesus is a life-long process... a growth process of dawning awareness. Sometimes we refer to it as spiritual growth... and the best place to do it in our world is still the church. This is where Jesus lives... this is where your curiosity can be satisfied... this is where you will be convicted... this is where you will discover your gifts... this is where you will begin to bear fruit... this is where you will discover your new life.

If you follow Christ home... and stay with him... and with his family... the church... you will grow... you will begin to reflect the love of God in your spirit... in your values... in your lifestyle. You will realized more and more that you are not your own... that you belong to God who has called you to himself in Christ... and you will begin to understand that hearing and responding to that call is life's highest opportunity and deepest joy. May you begin today to experience this dawning awareness. Amen.

A Sermon Preached on January 17, 1999
The Rev. Shirley R. Frazier
Carolyn Park Presbyterian Church, Arabi, LA

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