Wednesday, January 25, 2017

What are You Looking For?

John 1: 29-42
We are in the season of Epiphany and we count and number the Sundays after Epiphany until the Transfiguration of Jesus, which then ushers in Lent.  Now the Sundays after Epiphany can vary because Easter, based on the lunar calendar is different every year…so that can push Ash Wednesday (the beginning of Lent) early in February or as late as March which is where we are this year.  Useful information for Bible geeks if you could follow along…and it’s for free!  No charge!  So the texts we read are ordered by what season we are in.

These Sundays after Epiphany aren’t just ‘filler in’ Sundays, they have a purpose. On Christmas we came seeking a baby, the incarnation – God made flesh here on earth.  But a baby in a lowly manger really isn’t enough to support our theological claims for the incarnation[i] says Pastor David Lose.  We need more than that.  We need Jesus revealed to the magi as the King of the Jews, through the star, we need Jesus to walk into the waters of the Jordan River for baptism and the clouds part revealing him as God’s beloved son.  We continually need that revelation that this baby that we came looking for on Christmas Eve is indeed the Messiah, the anointed one who will change the course of human history.   We need to hear it from Jesus himself as he asks a very important questions of us.  

Hear now this account in the Gospel of John…………. 

The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.” And John testified, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.”

The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon. One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Anointed). He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter).

Shortly after, in fact the very next day John had baptized Jesus, he sees Jesus coming towards him, it was a small world back then.  To everyone around, friends, acquaintances and passersby, John announces, “Here is the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!”  Now THAT’S some grand introduction.  Can you imagine meeting Jesus in that way? The Agnus Dei?  The Lamb of God?  John really ups the anty for Jesus.  He takes Jesus humanity and adds a healthy dollop of divinity to it and then announces it to all.  Jesus can take away the sins of all the world!

Somehow I don’t think that is how Jesus would have introduced himself yet John announces that Jesus is the source of all redemption, the Lamb of God.  I think what adds to John’s grand revelation is that he had experienced an epiphany just the day before when the heavens opened with a dove and a voice, he says, “I heard God’s voice proclaim love for his son.”  It was a profound, life altering experience for him.  He just had to testify to all.

The next day John was with two of his own disciples and again he started up when he saw Jesus, “Look, here is the Lamb of God.”  His witnessing never stops!  But then again, when something remarkable happens to us, something that is transformational, don’t you just want to tell the world several times as a matter of fact?  Don’t you just want to tell the story over and over again?  I remember when I had my first child and all my husband and I could do was to tell the story of his birth like it was the grandest thing that had ever happened.  We told it over and over again.

What John saw compelled him to share it with anyone and everyone repeatedly.  He says, “I myself have seen and have testified that this, this man right before us is the Son of God.” 

Well, John’s two disciples decided to check this claim out for themselves. Prudent investigating! Have you ever just become a believer in something because someone, who is especially displaying zealous (unique) behavior just tells you to?  Probably not.  You’d want to check it out for yourself, go to the source of this news.  So they went up to Jesus, the source.  They flat out leave John and follow Jesus.  Kind of makes me wonder how John felt about that but it must have been a pretty powerful moment for them to leave.   

So Jesus asked them, “What are you looking for?”.  Well they probably had no clue of what they were looking for, so instead they asked him where he lived.  I guess they were confused!  So Jesus gives them a wonderful invitation, “Come and See”, and they went, they followed Jesus. 

Let’s stop here to dwell on Jesus’ question.  ‘What are you looking for?’ That’s a really good question to ask of ourselves, you who cross our threshold each and every week and those of you who have entered for the very first time. What are you looking for?  We can understand that question in so many other ways, What do you hope to find?  What is it that you are seeking?  What do you need?  What do you long for, hope for?[ii]  Or, more profoundly, what is it that you need most in your life at this moment in time? 

I would feel so blessed, so taken care of if I walked into a church or anywhere for that matter and was asked that question.  What is it that you need most in your life at this moment in time?  And the follow up questions, how can I help you achieve what you need? 

Many of us would be able to answer that question right away.  Some peace, some quiet, some companionship, some ‘me’ time, some freedom, some healing, a new pair of shoes.  You see we all have needs of all kinds from the most basic to the esoteric. 

But there are others who may not exactly know how to answer that question, all they know is that they are seeking something and they have come to this place, this church in search of it.   They have come to a place where Christ is revealed each week in hopes of finding a glimmer of hope in whatever their needs might be.  What if we asked each person who enters this house of God, “What is it that you need most in your life at this moment in time?”  “How can we be of help to you?”  Wouldn’t that change things up a bit?

That’s what Jesus asks the disciples, ‘What are you looking for?  What do you need?”   This is an invitation from Christ that we can ask anything of him, we can come in search of what we need most and rather than being turned away we are invited to state what we need of him. Right now, I think we need a lot of him. We need his vision, his ethic and his unwavering conviction  to honor all individuals.

These last few days have been quite profound in our nation.  On Thursday Donald Trump took the oath of the highest office of our nation.  For some it was a wonderful day, those who have pinned their hopes and dreams on a new and different sort of leadership and future.

For others it was quite the opposite.  For them the inauguration ushered in a time of uncertainty for established policies that create equitable and peace filled living for all people.  And again, just yesterday, we saw the unique time we are in played out in the peaceful women’s marches around the world!  AROUND THE WORLD!  This new leadership for some people does not honor or respect diversity or the dignity of each American or human being.  It does not uphold the values that Jesus espoused in his lifetime, which is to champion the disempowered, the widow, and the children, those whose voices have traditionally been quieted by the dominant forces, to love all people, our neighbors as ourselves.  There is a lot of need right now no matter how you look at it.

So as a church that follows Jesus, that endeavors to emulate his ethic and values the question, ‘What are you looking for?’ is poignant.  Each person who walks through our doors is needing something, you can be sure of that.  By asking this question it is the beginning of opening our hearts and minds to the convictions of Jesus in this time of ambiguity, and the ways in which we can help one another.

What are you looking for single mother of three who works two jobs to make ends meet?
What are you looking for refugee who has come from so far away for a better life in a free place?
What are you looking transgendered person who seeks sanctuary from an injuring world?
What are you looking for brother who needs meds and can’t afford them?
What are you looking for victim of hatred, or of oppression?
What are you looking for dear one who has been harmed by the system or the church?

What is it you need?  What do you long for, hope for?  What do you most need?

How can we help you?

Christ’s follow up to ‘What are you looking for, where do you live or rather what values ground you is ‘Come and See’.  Come and see means to follow him to the mountaintops and also into the deep dark valleys of humanity and open your eyes to the suffering and sadness, the inequality and hatred that surrounds us.  To see the pain in another persons face and to sit with that pain; to help them hold that pain for as long as needed.  To see injustice and to work for justice, to witness a different way of living that can happen, is what Jesus is showing us.

It is well to remember this month that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. did just that.  He followed Jesus and loved deeply his Lord and because of that, he saw that he must do all he could to end the terrorism perpetrated upon black men and women.  He’s remembered for making good speeches and that he marched, and that’s ok, but really it is about what he did for African Americans first and foremost.  He followed the invitation of Jesus to come and see the possibilities to effect change.  He knew what he needed to do and so he was moved to active love, just love, non-violent resistance.  That is what Jesus is all about. That is what we need to be about, making a difference in peoples lives, asking the question, ‘What are you looking for?’

This is our time.  This is the time of the church to follow in Jesus ways and to see all of the infinite possibilities for our lives and those around us.  We each have been given the ability to effect change in some way, let us not waste what we have been given but accept this gracious invitation of love.     


[i] Toole, David. Feasting on the Word, Year A Vol. 1.
[ii] From…in the Meantime., Epiphany 2 A.

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