Illuminated Discoveries

Message Title: Illuminated Discoveries
Theme: Flopped Inventions & New Discoveries
Season:  Epiphany
Main Text: John 1:43-51
Scripture Reading: Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18
RCL Scripture: 1 Samuel 3:1-10, (11-20); Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18: 1 Corinthians 6:12-20; John 1:43-51
Focus: Nathaniel, the skeptic, becomes a disciple of Jesus.
Function: To review the changes of the church over time and recognize the dawn of change to come.
Other Notes: MLK jr birthday

SCRIPTURE READING: Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18 Lord, you have examined me. You know me. 2You know when I sit down and when I stand up. Even from far away, you comprehend my plans. 3You study my traveling and resting. You are thoroughly familiar with all my ways. 4There isn’t a word on my tongue, Lord, that you don’t already know completely. 5You surround me—front and back. You put your hand on me. 6That kind of knowledge is too much for me; it’s so high above me that I can’t reach it. 13You are the one who created my innermost parts; you knit me together while I was still in my mother’s womb. 14I give thanks to you that I was marvelously set apart. Your works are wonderful—I know that very well. 15My bones weren’t hidden from you when I was being put together in a secret place, when I was being woven together in the deep parts of the earth. 16Your eyes saw my embryo, and on your scroll every day was written that was being formed for me, before any one of them had yet happened. 17God, your plans are incomprehensible to me! Their total number is countless! 18If I tried to count them—they outnumber grains of sand! If I came to the very end—I’d still be with you.

INVENTION: As we are in the season of epiphany, a season of discovery and “ah-ha! moments,” it felt appropriate that the next invention we would talk about would be the light bulb.

  1. ENGAGE THE AUDIENCE: Who invented the light bulb?
    1. Technically, this is a trick question.
    2. PHOTO
    3. ANSWER:  Thomas Edison did not invent the light bulb like our history teachers’ claim.
  2. Invention of the Light Bulb
    1. PHOTO: The beginning designs for gas lighting, lamps, and light bulbs started in the late 1700’s, well before Edison’s time.  
    2. In fact, 22 inventors paved the way for inventors Joseph Swan or Thomas Edison to make progress in this field.
    3. Thomas Edison actually bought a patent from a team of inventors and changed it before making his own patent. 
  3. Thomas Edison was noted for many failures along the process of inventing a more efficient light bulb. Some notes from his journal say he was stuck testing 6000+ filament materials for an extended amount of time.
  4. Thomas Edison wasn’t the first to design a light bulb. Historians note that Thomas made the most efficient bulb of his time. Manufacturers could modify his design slightly for commercial reproduction.
    1. Sources:
      1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Incandescent_light_bulb
      2. https://www.livescience.com/43424-who-invented-the-light-bulb.html
      3. https://www.fi.edu/history-resources/edisons-lightbulb
      4. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J66e1X_w6i0
      5. https://www.energy.gov/articles/history-light-bulb
      6. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Q4rQDN6Z4s

TRANSITION: In our text for today, we see an illuminating conversation that may not lead to commercial reproduction but to a changed life. As we explore this passage, I want us to consider the commitment of a disciple of Christ.

SCRIPTURE: John 1:43-51 43The next day Jesus wanted to go into Galilee, and he found Philip. Jesus said to him, “Follow me.” 44Philip was from Bethsaida, the hometown of Andrew and Peter. 45Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law and the Prophets: Jesus, Joseph’s son, from Nazareth.” 46Nathanael responded, “Can anything from Nazareth be good?” Philip said, “Come and see.” 47Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said about him, “Here is a genuine Israelite in whom there is no deceit.” 48Nathanael asked him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered, “Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.” 49Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are God’s Son. 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! 51I assure you that you will see heaven open and God’s angels going up to heaven and down to earth on the Human One.”

EXPLAINATION: Nathaniel, the skeptic, becomes a disciple of Jesus.

  1. This morning we are in the Gospel of John. This is an important thing to note because of how different John’s gospel unfolds compared to Mark. We will spend a lot of time in Mark of over the course of 2021 and maybe you’ll be able to hear the difference between his voice and the other gospels by 2022.
    1. Does anyone remember the goal of John’s gospel?
      1. to show Jesus is God made flesh or Jesus is divine (Meriah’s answer: different from the image of Roman gods coming to earth to mess with humans.)
  2. In the gospel of John, right after Jesus’ baptism, he calls disciples.  By this point in John’s narrative, Jesus has already called Andrew and Peter. Andrew was one of John the Baptist’s disciples.
  3. Philip, from the same town as Andrew & Peter.
    1. Word gets around in a small town… I feel like those might be lyrics to a John Mellencamp song?
    2. Bethsaida was small, think Groomsville size. So small that archeologists are not confident of its location. Different sources will tell you different things.
    3. Philip knew Andrew & Peter and was willing to listen to what they had to say.
  4. Nathaniel- Philip was quickly convinced, so he grabbed Nathaniel to share the news.
    1. He was skeptical at first
    2. It swayed Nathaniel to believe when Jesus said he saw him under the fig tree.
      1. What about this changed his mind?
  5. Jesus calls Nathaniel on his easily persuade opinion
    1. Jesus pauses to teach Nathaniel in this moment. This wasn’t some simple starry-eyed or awe filled fantasy. This commitment to be Jesus’ disciple was life changing.
    2. Jesus has these same hesitations in the next chapter of John with a crowd
    3. John 2: 23-25 23While Jesus was in Jerusalem for the Passover Festival, many believed in his name because they saw the miraculous signs that he did. 24But Jesus didn’t trust himself to them because he knew all people. 25He didn’t need anyone to tell him about human nature, for he knew what human nature was.

TRANSITION: Something illuminated in Nathaniel’s mind, and he was ready to leave everything behind and follow Jesus. His life would never be the same. But Jesus was calling him to a deeper belief.

  1. Following Christ was more than a starry-eyed belief in a magic trick or fortune teller. Following Christ was a lifelong commitment to a different way of thinking, speaking, and living.

INTERPRETATION: Churches experience change over time, but the message stays the same.

  1. LIGHT BULBS: It took at least 22 people and thousands of experiments to produce a commercially reproducible light bulb. After all of that time, we don’t use the Edison Bulb anymore.
    1. Perhaps you have purchased some stylistic light bulbs that mimic the Edison Bulb. However, the time of the Edison Bulb is long gone. It is no longer efficient, nor is it as cost effective.
    2. Lighting has changed to fit the times.
  2. State of the Church: We cannot continue to do the same thing but expect different results. Nor can we expect to ‘go back’ when we have ‘enough’ people. Ministry will continue to move forward and adapt, as the church always has. 
    1. Because of COVID numbers are low in ALL churches
    2. Because of 2020 church culture is changing
    3. Because of divide in politics churches are splintering
  3. The Church (unified) has had a history of adapting.
    1. After Jesus’ ascension, the disciples and early Christians had to worship and learn in alternative ways. Gentile Christians typically met together in houses. Some still identified as Jews who followed Jesus, the Jewish Messiah, and therefore still went to the Temple, a tabernacle or synagogue. 
    2. As the first few generations of Christians aged, the political climate in the Roman empire changed. Christians worshipped in secret, using symbols and word of mouth to find the location of a gathering. 
    3. Emperor Constantinian had a religious experience and attributed it to Christ. He claimed his victories in war were because Christ was on his side. The Holy Roman Empire developed out of this. They merged church and government in this period. Christians worshipped in public but the message got mixed up in politics.
    4. As the unified church splintered over disagreements– about theology, politics, or what they considered scripture– things became more bloody. 
      1. Christians didn’t need enemies anymore, Christians killed Christians in the name of Jesus.
      2. RELIGION TREE – Flash forward centuries to today. The major branches of religion have split so many times that we have to make it look like a tree to illustrate our lineage
        1. 2nd photo – Baptists take up about 1/8 of the tree. Baptists are so bad at getting along with other Baptists that we keep making a different type of Baptist.

APPLICATION: To review the changes of the church over time and recognize the dawn of change to come.

  1. The Church needs to adapt as the times change. The message doesn’t change, but perhaps the ministry or worship setting changes.
  2. AUDIENCE ENGAGEMENT:
    1. What are some changes we have experienced in church worship styles since your childhood? (Before 2020)
    2. What are some fresh developments you’ve seen in churches or ministry in 2020?
  3. Liberty has adapted & changed from its organization in 1854 until 2021.
    1. History of gathering:
      1. Met in houses
      2. Log cabin
      3. White building
      4. Brick Church that burned
      5. New Church
    2. I remember rumors that women and men used to sit separately during the service.
    3. Women were not part of leadership or even in attendance at business meetings.

CONCLUSION: Liberty has adapted and grown over the years. I don’t want us to go into 2021 full of fear about the possibilities of change. I want us to hold strong to the promises of Jesus with confidence that God will guide us into the next chapter.

As we look back at the changes to light bulbs or even the history of the church, I hope we find peace. Change is a constant companion of the living. As we continue to grow in our faith, we will see transformations occur in ourselves and in our communities.

Faithfulness to Jesus includes a willingness to set aside our goals and listen for the Spirit’s guidance. Perhaps these things we listed will be in our future, or perhaps other innovative ministries are coming our way, but God’s love and salvation remains the same.  

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