S. Epiphany 2.18 “Greater Things” John 1:43-51
Maybe you’ve seen one of the recent “Dilly, Dilly” commercials (so wonderful, what will they do for the Super Bowl, right?) the one with the wizard? If you’ve missed the Dilly, Dilly commercials, you’ve missed a lot. Go to YouTube and catch up! They feature a feckless medieval king who is only interested in Bud Light (and free Super Bowl tickets). “I need that case back. Get it, get it…” Subjects who bring the king Bud Light are saluted with “You are a true friend of the crown. Dilly, Dilly!” whatever that means. Subjects who bring spiced honey mead wine are given private tours of the Pit of Misery. Tres amusent (pardon my French!).
Anyway, in the 4th episode of the king’s adventures, we see a wizard turn a chair into a case of Bud Light. The king is very pleased. “Well done! Wizard, you are a true friend of the crown. Dilly, dilly!” The wizard replies: “What would you have me do now, your majesty?” The King points to a candle and says “Turn that into Bud Light.” The wizard complies. “Now turn that into Bud Light” the king says, pointing to a statue of an eagle. The wizard sighs. “You know, your highness, I can do other things. I can curse your enemies. I can make you immortal…!” The King glances at his queen, and with disdain says: “Yeah, no; just the Bud Light thing.” The wizard groans and turns the eagle statue into several cases of Bud Light as the crowd roars “Dilly, dilly!”…
I know. When will pastor tire of these silly commercials, and give us some slightly more elevated sermon illustrations? Council should never have suggested I watch more TV! Bonnie observed: “For someone who is fairly over-educated and appreciates all those high brow books, films, French cuisine, you also love some amazingly low-rent and trashy things, like those stupid beer commercials.” I just smile and go: “Dilly, dilly!” As they say: “all Proust and no stupid beer commercials make Jack a dull boy.” Eventually I will tire of them and probably move onto something more low brow still. But, till then… just the Bud Light thing!
I’m sure you also noticed it right away in our Gospel as I read it—fellow lover of low-brow beer commercials—how astonishingly similar the exchange between Jesus and Nathanael is to the exchange between the wizard and King Dilly-Dilly? Almost like it’s a sign that God loves those commercials too! Well, maybe “sign” is too strong a word. Strong hint? Yes! A hint, at least… or, hmm: maybe there are seriously orthodox Lutherans behind these commercials, mining Scriptures for their art? The guy getting thrown into the Pit of Misery does sound a lot like the guy who shows up at the King’s wedding Feast with the wrong clothing and gets cast into outer darkness. And Jesus also returns to the Pit of Misery…(!)
Anyway, these two incidents: Jesus-Nathanael and the king-Bud Light wizard are so, so similar! Philip, future apostle, an early follower of Jesus, as soon as the Lord calls him, finds Nathanael his pal and says “We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Technically, it was the other way ‘round—Jesus found Philip, but we won’t quibble. Nathanael shoots back, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”! I bet he’d be tough minded on Detroit too (like I am!). I like this Nathanael guy. Feels like a kindred spirit. A little skeptical, a little sarcastic. Philip (who gives as good as he gets) shoots back, “Come and see, smart guy!”
Jesus sees Nathanael coming toward Him and says, “Behold! A true friend of the crown, in whom is no guile!” Nathanael, a bit taken aback goes, “How do You know me?” Jesus answers, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” And Nathanael goes “Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” And Jesus goes, “And you are easily impressed! I can do other things, you know: I can descend into hell, ascend into heaven. I can vanquish all your enemies. I can forgive all your sins. I can make you immortal…” And Nathanael goes, “Yeah, no, Just the Bud Light thing.” (NIV!)
I’ve pointed this out to you before: while Paul says we should bring all our requests to God, still: 6/7 petitions of the Lord’s prayers are for heavenly things—yet, the vast majority of prayer requests I get are for earthly things; physical heath mostly, a few job requests, grief over loss of earthly joys, etc…
You know what David prayed for? Deliverance from worries like that! In Psalm 17 he prays that God would deliver him from “the wicked men who have their portion in this life, whose belly You fill with treasure, who are satisfied with children” who get into good schools, get good jobs, and provide for them in their sunset years. David, on the other hand, prays: “As for me, I will see Your face in righteousness/ I shall be satisfied when I awake in Your likeness”.
In Psalm 51 he prays not that God would adjust circumstances so that David’s earthly life will feel better. No, he prays “Create in me a clean heart, O God/ And renew a right spirit within me!/ Cast me not away from Thy Presence/ And take not Thy Holy Spirit from me/ Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation/ And uphold me with Thy free Spirit!” This is what the early Christians prayed for—“maranatha: come Lord Jesus!” It’s what the old Divine Service is designed to do—not adjusting the world to our low-brow tastes, but sharing the dying of Jesus with us, that we’d share the Higher Life of Jesus too!
I didn’t only watch TV last week. I read another book. This one was about why artists and adventurers are drawn to sh… uh, strange countries like Morocco, etc. Bowles says the world divides into two groups: tourists and travelers. Tourists take trips to confirm that their country, their hometown is the best of all possible worlds. Travelers journey to lose themselves, find something better, for which strange countries are preferred…
In the Narnia books, this is how the children travel. They find in Narnia a strange and better country and they discover it is only through the suffering and loss that Aslan shares with them that they become people who fit in His Country. The fifth time I watched the Bud Light wizard commercial, I got an inset for a sequel. The king is surrounded by cases and cases of Bud Light and all his court followers are gone. The king says “Wizard. Turn me into Bud Light…” and just as the wizard lifts his wand the king goes “No! I was only kidding. I can’t believe you were going to do that!”
And that’s pretty profound. Nathanael was ready for Jesus to do more tricks to adjust Nathanael’s world to suit his taste. But Jesus comes to turn us into different people, into images of Himself, to share the divine life of the Trinity with us—theosis as the Greek speaking orthodox Christians call it.
“Because I saw you under the fig tree, you believe? You will see greater things than these!” But… will we let Jesus do those greater things to us? Or will we say, “Yeah, no; just the Bud light thing?”
He can do other things you know. He’ll be present in my low-brow human words, in a bit of bread and wine, to forgive all your sins, to make you immortal! Too often our unbelief prevents Him from doing those mighty deeds to us, but He does them anyway here, now, by Word and Sacraments—that you would be satisfied only with awaking in His likeness too! Then the Peace surpassing all understanding will guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus. Amen.