The collect and readings for the Second Sunday after the Epiphany may be found here. The appointed gospel is John 1:29-42.
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).
Like many of you I watched President Obama speak about the shooting in Tucson. I have read the blogs, opinions, and conversations that have followed. In the wake of that tragedy I hear Jesus’ question, “What are you looking for?” It is a question that we as a nation must answer. Some are looking for answers to why this happened? Some look for justice, others for someone to blame. Many seek an end to the hateful nature of much of our political discourse. I worry that we will look only at the systems, institutions, and politics that surround the shooting. I wonder if we have the courage to look deeper into the human heart, to look for some way to begin healing and transforming the human heart.
As I have reflected on the decision of our our vestry and school board to eliminate the upper grades of our parish school and focus on early childhood eduction I, again, hear Jesus’ question, “What are you looking for?” Some are looking for a way to stay open another year, to find an answer to our financial difficulties. Others look for how we might make the school like it was ten, twenty, thirty years ago. I hope we will have the faith to seek a new vision for outreach and ministry in this community, a vision that doesn’t simply hold on to the past but one that works to usher in the kingdom.
My wife and I are beginning the second year of life after our son’s death and we must answer Jesus’ question, “What are you looking for?” At times we have sought a day without tears. Other times we looked for a way out from under the weight of loss and sadness. Surely Jesus’ question offers more than just day to day survival.
Jesus has asked a profound question, a difficult question. It is one that exists in every life and community. It is, however, a question we often avoid or deny. For most of us it is not the subject of everyday social conversation. To face our deepest longings, to acknowledge the emptiness within, to inquire about what is of ultimate importance, that which shapes and forms our lives, just is not polite dinner party conversation. It is too risky. It means we would have to get real, be honest, vulnerable and open. So we talk mostly about what doesn’t matter until something happens that does matter – a tragedy, a failure, the loss of a loved one, a challenge that seems insurmountable. That’s when the question arises. “What are you looking for?”
Ultimately, that question lies at the core of our discipleship, our relationship with God. How we answer it determines how we live, how we navigate the tragedies and pain of life, and how we relate to God and our neighbor. Even if we never directly ask that question of ourselves we are always answering it. We answer it every minute of every day. We answer Jesus’ question by our choices, the decisions we make, the priorities we establish, the relationships we create. We answer his question by the things we have done and the things we have left undone. The words we speak point to what we are looking for. Our life, as a nation, a church, an individual, is the history book that answers Jesus’ question. We are not, however, bound by that history. In Christ we are not destined to repeat history. Jesus is always asking the question and giving us the chance to answer anew.
So when Jesus turns and asks his question he is really asking us to be introspective, to be self-reflective, to choose the course for our life. His question is for us not him. Jesus is not asking for our wish list. He is taking us deep into our own heart to discover the reality of our longings, the desires, the emptiness. If we are honest we find that far to often we have lived as homeless people. Too much of our life has been spent making our home in places that are far too temporary, fleeting, and passing. That is what Andrew discovered.
“Where are you staying” Andrew asks. That is about Andrew’s own sense of homelessness. He doesn’t want Jesus’ address. He wants to go home and believes that Jesus knows the way. He trusts that Jesus is the home he has longed for, that Jesus is the one who can fill his emptiness and satisfy his deepest desire. Andrew names the longing, the desire, the emptiness that we all feel. Sometimes, however, we are too quick to fill the emptiness, satisfy the desire, and quench the longing. So we seek solutions to problems instead of ways to transform lives. We settle for quick easy answers rather than living with hard questions. We look for approval from others rather than finding our identity in the Father. Every time we do this we cut off the longing, the desire, and the emptiness that point the way home.
Those feelings are not about absence. They are about the presence of God in every human being. They are the divine presence calling us, seeking us, loving us, guiding us home. Instead of eliminating the longings, the restlessness, the homelessness we should follow them. “What are you looking for” is the question that takes us into the human heart. “Come and see” is the invitation that takes us home, into the heart of God. There is only one thing to do with an invitation like “come and see.” Get up and go look.
Jesus knows that we are all looking for something. The question is what. What are we looking for? Where is it taking us? If it is not taking us home; if it is not offering us hope and a way through the tragedies of life; if it is not filling us with compassion for the world; if it is not opening our eyes to a new way of being, a new way of seeing, a new way of living; if it is not deepening our relationships; if it is not revealing love; if it is not growing us more and more into the likeness of Christ we might want to look again. We might want to look for something else for we have denied our “choosenness” and settled for less than God is offering.