January 19, 2014

Have you ever had an experience that made you realize what you were made for? Have you ever known a moment when you "came to yourself," as they say?

We’re in the Epiphany season, when our focus is on Jesus revealed as God’s light to the nations. In today’s Gospel, Jesus is revealed as the Lamb of God. But in Jesus’ Epiphany comes our Epiphany as well. As Christians we believe that Jesus reveals not only who God is, but who we most truly are.

One day John the Baptist was standing with some of his followers, and as Jesus passed by, John pointed at Jesus and said, "Look! Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world." And when two of John’s followers heard that, their ears perk up. They recognized this vivid image, the Lamb of God, as an allusion to the suffering servant, to the sacrificial lamb language in Hebrew scripture—language that has always hinted at the coming of the Messiah. And so out of curiosity, these two men decide to follow Jesus. Note that it is out of curiosity. Not commitment. Not conviction. Just plain old curiosity. Who is this man Jesus? What does he have to offer? And what, if anything, can he tell us about the purpose of life?

When Jesus noticed that they were following him, he turned to them and asked, "What are you looking for?" Jesus turns to them and meets them where they are. He engages them, asking a question that gets to the heart of our human experience: "What," Jesus asks, " are you looking for?"

What are you looking for? If someone came up to you and asked, "What are you looking for?" how would you answer? (pause) Would you say "I’m looking for happiness" or "I’m looking for success" or "I’m looking for fulfillment"? What are you looking for?

That’s the question that Jesus posed to those two followers of John the Baptist. And they answered with another question, "Where are you staying?" At first glance, that seems to be a rather strange answer to the question. After all, when Jesus asked them, "What are you looking for?" we might very well have expected them to say, "We’re looking for the Messiah.”

But instead they ask Jesus, "Where are you staying?" A give-and-take relationship is begun. Jesus responds to them again, "Come and see." So they do go and do see, and they end up staying with Jesus all day—the beginning of a staying-with-Jesus for the rest of their lives.

"Stay." "Remain." These are crucial words in the Gospel of John. They have the same root as the word "abide"—perhaps the most important word in John’s vocabulary. Abiding, resting, staying, remaining—an intimate togetherness, over time, in the presence of one another’s company— allowing experience and familiarity and trust to enrich a relationship that the mind cannot even fathom. This is faith. But it begins with curiosity. It is rooted in companionship. It often leads to commitment and conviction. But it all begins with curiosity. Jesus is not only the Word become flesh. Jesus is the Way become flesh. Life with Jesus is a journey -subtle, emergent, flexible and flowing, Jesus is a journey toward the answer to the most important question of our lives: "What are you looking for?" And Jesus responds, "Come and see."

But to "know" Jesus requires community—for it is within the community of those who follow Jesus, the Body of Christ, that the story of Jesus is told, that Jesus’ story gets up and walks around, and eventually makes its way out into the world where it really belongs.

Following Jesus is not about intellectual certainty. It is not about ethical perfection. It is not about somehow declaring that organized religion is the best thing since sliced bread. On the contrary, to follow Jesus is to embark on a journey, to ask ourselves the question "What are we looking for." To follow Jesus is to come and see, to remain with him, to abide with him, to simply hang out with Jesus and other Jesus followers for a while, and be found by God’s grace. To hang out with him in the ups and downs of life with a broken group of people called the church and simply see what happens. You never know. Perhaps one day you will meet Jesus again—really meet him, as if for the very first time. And you may finally find the answer to the meaning of your life.

Jesus says, "Come and see." The disciples stumble along, following without knowing where they’re going, discovering well after the fact that they have wandered on to a path that leads to new life, to grace. "Come and see," Jesus says, and in John’s gospel the disciples soon find a way of life that they had never imagined, life lived to the full.

What are we looking for? Deep in our soul we’re looking for something to believe in and something or someone who will hold on to us and never let us go, something important enough to live for, something big enough to claim our passion. We’re looking for challenge and purpose. We’re looking for God.

What begins with curiosity becomes a step towards grace. The emptiness we feel from time to time is God calling us to the path that leads to meaning. God lets us know that we can look beyond our facebook page for real relationships and into the enchanted possibilities of grace. God is the one who makes us long for something that lasts. God draws us towards life even when we don’t recognize what’s happening.

"Come and see" is the invitation to explore, discover, and travel without knowing exactly where we’re going, but to know that if we catch a glimpse of God, we’ll also catch a glimpse of who we can be. Come and see. Come and look for places where we’ve never been. Come and see what it means to hope, to follow, to love and be loved.

We come to worship in order to open ourselves to God who will lead us to new places. The people who follow Jesus end up doing the things Jesus did. They care for the hurting, listen to the lonely, feed the hungry, pray for the broken-hearted, bandage those who are wounded, do more than is expected. They look for God and find extraordinary lives.

The spirit of adventure is what calls us to worship. We come to seek the meaning of life, join with others on the journey, and ask God to help us see where grace invites us. We’re here to look at the gifts we’ve been given and see how God is calling us to use them for the needs of the world. We come to this place to discover the possibilities.

When we worship God, we share our lives with other people seeking to follow God, and we see beyond our limited assumptions to a new world God is creating. We will still take some steps without watching where we’re going and we’ll stumble and even fall sometimes. But if we look for God, we will find that God is looking for us, offering us a hand in the form of our neighbor’s and inviting us to “come and see.”            Amen.