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Knoxville, TN, United States
Interim Pastor of Evergreen Presbyterian Church (USA), Dothan, AL.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

You Have Searched Me and Known Me

2015-01-18 John 1:43-51

"You Have Searched Me and Known Me"

James McTyre

Lake Hills Presbyterian Church (USA)



"O Lord, you have searched me and known me."

Try something with me. Let's have a conversation. Pretend we're just meeting for the first time.

I'll say, "Hi, I'm James." And you say, "Hi, I'm [state your name]."

"Hi, I'm James." […]

"Nice to meet you." […]

OK, now ask me how I am. ("How are you?")

I'm fine. How are you? […]

Now, this is the point when things start getting exciting, if you're an extrovert. People like Jim Williams get really pumped about now. Extroverts think of this like the green flag at Bristol Speedway. Extroverts want to see how fast they can learn the names of all your second cousins.

But if you're an introvert, "I'm fine, how are you?" is already way too personal. And then, what do you say next?

 "OK, we're both fine. What now??? Um, nice weather, we're having, isn't it. Um, How 'bout those Vols? Uh, um, How much do you weigh? I'm sorry, I'm getting a phone call."

Not that all introverts are socially awkward. It's just that they can find out everything they need to know about you on Google, and may already have. They have searched you and they know you.


When you're introduced to someone, you size them up pretty fast, don't you? How long do you think it takes? How long does it take to decide about somebody?

A minute? Raise your hand if you think so.

How about 30 seconds?

10 seconds?

9 seconds? 8 seconds? 7 seconds?

Seven seconds, on average, is all it takes to size someone up. That's how long you get to make a first impression. What did your mother tell you? "You never get a second chance to make a first impression." She was right.

Seven seconds. I know, it's totally irrational. That's because it goes back to caveman times. The good old days, when everybody open carried. Clubs and rocks. Og had seven seconds to figure out if Thog was friend or foe. Searching and knowing someone was a matter of life or death. Our fittest ancestors survived because they were quick to size people up and it's buried so deep in us that we can't help ourselves.[1]


The ministry of the Son of God started exactly the same way. Searching and knowing. Jesus went out to search and to know people. His followers searched and came to know more followers. And it was quick. Read it for yourself: Every single time Jesus calls a disciple it takes seven seconds or less. God is faster than Google. Jesus is speediest search engine. And once it started spreading, knowledge of Jesus went viral. Person to person. One to one. Low tech, but very effective.

So here's the thing. The first followers of Jesus had it easy. If they wanted to introduce him to a stranger, they could run over and grab Jesus by the arm and Phil could say to Nate, "Look, see? Here he is. Nathaniel, Jesus. Jesus, Nathaniel. You fine? We're all fine. Good."

It's harder for us. Introvert, extravert – I don't care what kind of vert you are – we've got our seven seconds. And the spirit of Jesus Christ within us gets judged along with everything else about us.

I don't mean to stress you out here. But this is one of the cornerstones of incarnational faith. How people see you is how they see Jesus. Sorry.

It's not what you say. It's not about whether you carry a Bible everywhere you go. It's not the number of crosses around your neck. It's how you present what's inside you. People's impression of you will be their impression of your faith. The impression you make is how you're searched and known that shares the Good News of Jesus Christ. Or not.


I love being a minister. It's the best job in the world. I know, I'm not supposed to say it's a job. It's not just a job, it's an adventure.

But if you want to see people get awkward in way less than seven seconds, say, "Hi. Nice to meet you. I'm a Presbyterian minister." I'm sure other professions get it, too. "Hi. I'm a proctologist." I should try that.

You tell people you're a preacher and – not every time, but often – they hit the Best Behavior Button. Like they're afraid I'm going to tell on them. Or convert them. You get this in the barber's chair. They ask what you do for living and then you worry they're going to make you look like Benny Hinn.

I think this is why so many people are afraid to talk about their faith. First off, never talk about religion or politics, right? And in America it's so much the same thing. And in the South, you say, "Presbyterian," and they look at you like, "I'm sorry." So much for evangelism.

And, evangelism. What happened, there? Somewhere along the way, evangelism turned into a scary word. People think it means, "money-grubbing finger-pointer." Evangelism literally means "telling good news." Period. It has nothing to do with stiff-necks and holier-than-thou. There's nothing formal and pious about it. If you read the Bible. In the Bible, evangelism is searching and knowing and getting to know… and sharing good news. And if you believe the Bible, you can even have fun with it.


From the first chapter of the Gospel According to John, we hear how Jesus the Evangelist.

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."

Philip finds Nathaniel and says, "We've found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus, son of Joseph from Nazareth."

From that nice, scriptural, divine introduction, you know the only part Nathaniel heard? You know his first impression? I'm quoting here:

Nathanael said to him, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?"

Dude! Were you even listening? And this is where it's OK to laugh. It's like he's telling some of you Orange-underweared people, "Hey, we found God! And he's from Alabama!"


And Jesus himself continues the give-and-take of the good news.

It says,

Nathanael asked him, "Where did you get to know me?" Jesus answered, "I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you."

There's a very good chance the people of first century Galilee would have read this with a smirk on their face.

People of Galilee would have been very familiar with Greco-Roman gods and goddesses, among them, Dionysus. Dionysus was the god of wine, theater, and general debauchery. The symbol for the cult of Dionysus was – you guessed it – the fig tree.[2] So, when Jesus says, "I saw you under the fig tree," it likely meant a whole lot more than, "I saw you leaning against yonder oak."

Stay under the fig tree for a minute. I'll come back. Some of you may have heard this. Some of you may have been there. The year is 1957 and this church has just been born. Long before National Fitness Center was Court South, it was the nightclub, C'est Bon. The founders of this church convinced C'est Bon to let them have worship there on Sunday mornings. The story goes that many of our finest members were found under the tables. Evangelism takes many forms.

"Can anything good come out of Nazareth?"

"Yeah, I saw you under the fig tree. How's your head?"


If you look on the back of the bulletin, you see our church's mission statement. The Number One step is Welcoming. We've got a new table out there with "Welcome" in big letters. We didn't put "Be Evangelized" on it because we wanted visitors to stay.

When you come in, we want to welcome you, whether it's your first time or your fifteen-hundredth. Why? Because it's what Jesus did. It's the FIRST thing Jesus did. He welcomed people like you'd welcome anybody. He welcomed with good news. Sometimes even light-hearted news.

And we tell the people who volunteer at the door, "You're the first face of Lake Hills Presbyterian Church." And that's partly true. Takes people about seven seconds to get in the door and form an impression. And we want that impression to be good news and a friendly face.

But here's the thing. You're only partly the first face of Lake Hills. Because we believe that the Son of God is risen, because we believe he is incarnate in each of us, because we believe we share the Holy Spirit of God, we believe the crazy-good other part - that whether you're at the Welcome Table or hiding under a pew, you're also the face of Jesus Christ. You're not the ONLY face of Jesus Christ, so don't panic, and don't get conceited. But you're the face of Christ. Deal with it.

And remember, too. The people who walk in that door, whether it's their first time or their fifteen-hundredth, they're the face of Christ, too. Sometimes it's a happy face. Sometimes it's a scared face. Sometimes it's a face that bears bruises going generations deep. If you can just remember that person shaking your hand also bears the face of Christ, you'll size them up well enough. It'll take way longer than seven seconds to know them and learn how to care best for them. That's OK. Because we're in this for the long haul. Jesus promises that people who look hard will see greater things than these, even heaven opened and angels ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.


"O Lord, you have searched me and known me."

O Lord, you know I've searched and known a lot of people, too. Usually way too quickly. Sometimes rightly, sometimes wrongly. Usually wrongly. And yet, O Lord, you still welcome me back. You welcome me back to your table. You welcome me back to your house. You welcome me back to people who look a lot more like you than I ever will.

Hi. I'm James. Nice to meet you. I'm fine. Well. I'm not really THAT fine. None of us are THAT fine. We're all of us messed up in our own unique ways. But we're fine in our own ways, too. Fine enough. Fine enough to be welcomed, by Jesus, wherever Jesus finds us. He searches us, and he knows us. He always, always, always welcomes us. And welcomes us back.

Hi. I've got someone I'd like you to meet. Oh, I can't really show him to you. You'll have to meet him a little here, a little there. You'll have to meet him in a person here, a person there, a person under a tree, a person carrying a casserole, a person visiting you in the hospital, a person building a house, a person teaching a Sunday School class of screaming kids, a person screaming for her parents. His name is Jesus. And he's fine, too. He'll know you. And he'll search for you. Wonderful good news.