Language is important. Language has the power to invite, to affirm, to call forth, to clarify, to inspire, to include. Language also has the power to dismiss, to confuse, to shut down, to exclude. John’s story of the call of the first disciples is packed with Christological language. Christology is the branch of theology that concerns Jesus. The word itself translates from the Greek to mean “the understanding of Christ” and is the study of the nature and work of Jesus Christ. It studies Jesus’s humanity and divinity and the relationship between these two aspects.

On the second Sunday after Epiphany the church stands between Christology and discipleship, between the wonder of the Word made Flesh and the down to earth reality of our struggling attempts to respond. This day comes after the feast of the Incarnation, after the tearing of the heavens in the baptism of the Lord, and right before the long haul of discipleship leading up to Lent when following Jesus will deepen through and towards the cross.

Today’s Gospel is not just about Philip and Nathanael, it is first of all about Jesus. We get glimpses here of Jesus’s full identity in the bold words of John, in the fumbling responses of the disciples, and in the mysterious response of Jesus himself. The text is mostly talk and it is full of Christological language:  Jesus is the Lamb of God, Rabbi, Messiah, Him about whom the prophets wrote, Son of Joseph from Nazareth, Son of God, and King of Israel. Jesus refers to himself as both the Son of Man promised in Daniel, and the Ladder between Heaven and Earth dreamed of by Jacob in the book of Genesis.

At a time in the Church when we are becoming more aware of and more concerned with the use of language, both in the pronouns we use to speak of one another and the language we use in our liturgy, this multiplicity of language for  Jesus is important. It is a gift to the Church today at a time when we are striving to be inclusive in our language.  Jesus can’t be defined in simplistic terms. The many words in John take us beyond simplistic definitions.

The disciples have glimpses of who Jesus is:  Philip tells Nathanael that Jesus, the son of Joseph of Nazareth is the one about whom Moses and the prophets spoke. They are fumbling towards the fuller truth of who Jesus is. Unlike those first disciples, we have the benefit of John’s prologue which gives us the deeper, wider comprehensive mystery of his divinity. Fumbling is a good word here, I think:  we all fumble towards understanding…..towards inclusivity in language --- we fumble towards responding to God’s call.

These Christological conversations do not happen in a vacuum. They happen between Jesus and the people learning how to follow him.  And they happen as those followers try to tell others about Jesus. Christology unfolds in the journey of discipleship. The church learns to speak about Jesus in the process of giving thanks, singing praise, sharing the Good News, and speaking truth to power.

How has this parish of St. Matthias tried to follow Jesus?  In our  programs, in our worship, and especially in the works of our parishioners in the world.  How have we learned to speak along the way? What does our parish of St, Matthias say about Jesus in our favourite hymns, in our stained-glass windows, in our way of being community, in our outreach and hospitality?

Discipleship and Christology fit together so closely because discipleship is first of all a willingness to walk with Jesus. It is not obedience to an abstract set of rules and codes but consent to a costly, joyful relationship in walking with Jesus.  In walking with Jesus we learn who he is.  As we learn who he is, we learn what it means to follow him.

This story begins with Jesus making a decision “ where shall I go next, Oh, let’s see…. How about Galilee? It is comforting for us to remember that even Jesus, though completely in tune with God’s will and Spirit-filled, still had to sort through his options and make his own decisions. God honors the gift of individual freedom. Jesus here is deciding, not just where to go next but very importantly, who to take with him. He is selecting followers, building a team. Both the synoptics and the Gospel of John agree on this point: it is not enough to believe in Jesus, discipleship consists in following him. It is also important to be aware that we don’t follow Jesus alone, we go as a community, as a team of followers, and we encourage and speak and inspire each other along the way.

Jesus finds Philip and Philip finds Nathanael, and Philip doesn’t get into a long explanation of who Jesus is. Nathanael asks a question, and Philip says “come and see”. And so it is with us. We don’t have to wait until we have it all figured out – we never will have it all figured out. We respond to his invitation to “come and see”, we get to know him on the way and we invite others to do the same, not in a forceful or insistent manner, but invitationally. The very words “come and see” have a warmth to them, an unpressured welcome. Language is important.