Second Sunday after Epiphany
It’s not often that I get out into stores, but a friend and I made plans to have lunch together at a restaurant that was part of a large shop. I arrived five minutes early, and suspected that my friend would arrive five minutes late. The facilities were design such that in order to get to the restaurant, you must walk through sections of things available for purchase. I’ve heard that IKEA is designed this way, too. In this store, you must walk through the displays of seasonal items, quite attractively arranged. Then comes the Miele purses and extra covers. Along the way are smell good lotions and stuff. Continuing to the café, you will find a case of homemade fudge. Chocolate, peanut butter, chocolate with nuts, vanilla, chocolate with marshmallows… If you make it past the chocolate, you find ceramics and dishtowels, followed by cards. Finally, you will encounter someone who will seat you.
Figuring that I had at least ten minutes until my friend arrived, I began looking at all of the unusual items that they have for sale. I stood in front of a large section of various and sundry items. I suppose having stood there for quite a long time, taking in all the goodies for sale, my eyes were kind of glazed over when one of the salespeople approached me. “Can I help you?” she said. “What are you looking for?”
It was a great question. “What are you looking for?” Thousands of answers flashed through my head. More time in my day. An exercise routine that I won’t abandon. A retirement fund with a high rate of return. A good friend. Affirmation. Peace. “Are you looking for anything in particular?” she asked, bringing me back to reality. “No, thank you,” I answered. But I wondered, what is the one thing that I would like to find. If you were looking for one thing in particular, what would it be? Maybe, like me, your first thought wasn’t a savior.
John the Baptizer had been standing with two of his disciples. One was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. We don’t know the other one’s name. It could have been Bob, or Nancy, or Sue. As Jesus strolled by, John shouted, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!” And the two, who had been following John, began to follow Jesus. Jesus turned around. Was it because he heard John, or did he turn because he sensed someone was following him? Whichever it was, when Jesus turns around, someone’s life is about to change. It is in the turn, in the changing direction, that new possibilities open up. Anyway, when Jesus saw the two people walking behind him, he asked them, “What are you looking for?”
It is interesting that Jesus did not ask them, “Whom are you looking for,” but rather he asked them “What are you looking for?” Sometimes, what you are look for determines what and whom you find. The two disciples never answered the question. Whatever they were looking for, even if they didn’t know what that was, they knew that they could find it in the one who found them. They called Jesus, “Teacher,” voicing their recognition that this was a person who could show them something they needed to know. “Where are you staying?” they asked, hoping that he would ask them to come to his hotel room, maybe hang around the pool, and talk late into the night. Maybe if they went with him, they could find out what it was they were searching for.
“What are you looking for?” Jesus asked with more understanding than they had themselves. Jesus invited them to “Come and see.” He invited them, as he invites us, to come, to sit at his feet, to see for ourselves the new life that comes from following him. Jesus’ invitation is not to be a fan, but to be a follower. Jesus bids us to follow him, “The Lamb of God, the one who takes away the sin of the world.” Of the world! As St. Paul said, he came for Jew and Greek, slave and free, male and female. Jesus came for you, and for me, Jesus came for the world, and invites us to follow. “Come and see.” What if we did just that? If we were followers, and not just fans; If we lived that out, what would that look like? Come and see. Be a witness. Let my light shine through you.
This Monday, we honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who lived, and died, as God’s witness. An advocate of non-violence, Dr. King led the civil rights movement. He believed the Word that said that God created all of us in God’s image. But he did not simply believe it, he was claimed by it. Dr. King was so much so that he proclaimed it, he led others to enact it, he made a difference. He lit the way for healing, reconciliation and restoration. At age 35, he was the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. He bid others to come and see, to see Christ in action, to be more than a fan, to be a follower.
Dr. King kept asking, and, through the living Christ, answering the question, “What are you looking for?” This is the question that Jesus asks us. It is the question that we must repeatedly ask ourselves, and keep listening to God for the answer.
This encounter isn’t only about what we are looking for; it’s also about what Jesus sees. When Jesus looks at Simon, he sees Peter the Rock. Instead of seeing the person who never seems to understand, he sees the one who will one day lead the church. Jesus is the Lamb of God who sees who we are beyond our sin. As John the Baptizer pointed to Jesus, he said, “Behold the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.” The message is clear. However deep the hole we have dug for ourselves is, God is right there, ready to break the chains of sin and set us free. This is the reality God calls us to live into and to bear witness to. What has God’s freedom and love looked like for you? What stories do you have? These are the stories we are called to share. This is the gift that we have to give to those who don’t know the power of God to give us new life through Christ.
“Come and see,” Jesus says. And when we do, when we are not just a fan, but a follower. We are God’s light in the darkness. We live in a world that needs to know it is loved. We need the hope of the Gospel, of forgiveness and salvation. In this time, how can we do anything but go and tell of God’s love in our lives?
“What are you looking for?” Jesus asks. Good question.
~Pastor Cheryl Ann Griffin