Sunday, January 19, 2014

Sermon for the Second Sunday after Epiphany

‘What are you looking for?’ 

These are the first words Jesus speaks in John’s Gospel.

John’s Gospel is ordered, filled with symbolism,
notes about what time or day things occur,
that when we read it, we are taken into a different realm:
it is a combination of earthiness and reality and spiritual depth.

The two combine into a space that is unique in all literature.

John would have thought and prayed very carefully about what Jesus’ first words were to be in this Gospel.
Jesus must have spoken before this,
so we need not be concerned about history here,
we aren’t interested in his first words.
We are interested in what John is telling us about Jesus.

Two of John the Baptist’s disciples have heard the Baptist say
‘Look, here is the Lamb of God!’
They follow Jesus as he walks past them.

Jesus must have heard them walking behind him.
He turns and asks them a question:

It is Jesus who starts things off.
They may have been in awe, or too shy.
It is Jesus who takes the first step.
Jesus will allude to this later within John’s Gospel, when he says to the disciples:

You did not choose me but I chose you. 

Gods love for us preceeds the movement of our souls toward him.

He asks them:
‘What are you looking for?’ 

This is not some meaningless small talk.
Jesus is not asking them if they are lost, or if they need direction.
Well, actually, he is, but not in a physical or ordinary sense.

Jesus looks at the men and knows why they are there.
He wants to know if they know why they are there.

‘What are you looking for?’ 

But this question goes beyond those two men.
It reaches through time and space and we are asked the same thing.
This is a question Jesus asks all who follow him.
This question touches on the most basic need of our human nature.
This question goes straight to the cause of why we turn to God.

‘What are you looking for?’ 

It goes beyond our logic,
it goes beyond our primal nature and speaks directly to the yearning in our soul.

What are we looking for?
What is that makes us come here?
What is it that makes us follow Jesus, why do we do this?

These are serious questions.

All of us will have different answers.
It may be comfort, it may be the sense of community.
It may be the hymns, the worship, the building.
It may be a sense of peace.

Ultimately, all answers will lead to one thing: God.

However we understand our relationship with God,
or however it works within us,
that is what we are looking for.
I believe everyone is looking for God.
They may not use those words, they may not even think they are looking,
but inside every human there is a longing for union with the divine.
It is in our very DNA, it is part of what makes us human.

That is what the two men who were following Jesus were looking for.

Their reply
‘where are you staying?’  
shows where they were up to on their journey toward God.
They weren’t yet disciples.
They knew that Jesus was something special,
the Baptist had referred to him as the Lamb of God.

Where are you staying, or where are you abiding
shows they wanted to speak with Jesus.
They wanted to know more.
They wanted to spend time with him.
They wanted to be with him.

As what we are looking for is God, so too do we yearn to stay with God.
We long to abide with God.
We long to abide in God.

Again, this is part of what makes us human.
Not only do all people looking for God, they also yearn to stay with him.
It is human to seek escape from temporality, change, death.
It is human to desire something that is lasting,
something that is eternal,
something that goes beyond time and space.

So while this brief question and answer between Jesus and the two followers
seems quite straightforward, it is in fact very deep.

The desires of God toward humanity
and humanity’s desires toward God are laid plain in this interaction.

Jesus’ answer is brief
Come and see.
He doesn’t explain, he doesn’t offer anything, he doesn’t offer an alternative.
He doesn’t say where he is dwelling, just ‘come and see’.

This is still the truth.
In John’s Gospel the idea of seeing is a sign of belief.
Belief or seeing won’t come by concise argument or piles of evidence.

It is only by following Jesus and by abiding in his presence that we can see him.

This is how it still works.

We do this today in the Eucharist.

In the Eucharist we experience the real presence of Christ.

Later in John’s Gospel, Jesus will speak of himself as the Bread of Life.
He will say:

Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them.

Jesus asked the first followers what they looking for.
They asked where he was staying, where he was abiding.
He only answered, Come and see.

We follow in their footsteps.
Jesus asks us what are we looking for?
We ask where we can find find him so we can be with him.
He says come and see.

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