Rev. Martha Jacobs
What Are You Looking For?
Psalm 40:1-11, The Gospel of John 1:29-42
Sunday, January 15, 2017
What are you looking for? When you come into this house of worship, what are you looking for? When you seek God, what are you looking for? Are you seeking answers to questions that may have no answer? Are you looking for some kind of divine interaction? Are you content with the mystery of God? Are you hoping to see a glimpse of the heart of God? This morning, I want to invite us to look through our own lens at Jesus and his question and invitation to the disciples, and to us, “What are you looking for?”
John the Baptist plays an important role here – he identifies for us the adult Jesus, the incarnate Jesus. Jesus the human being. My theme through the Christmas season was about our remembering that Jesus was human. Here, once again, we are being reminded that Jesus was human – he walked this earth. He was and is Emanuel, God with us.
So, once John recognizes Jesus and points to him as the Lamb of God, what does Jesus do? He doesn’t perform any miracles. He doesn’t show off his abilities. He doesn’t try to impress anyone. Instead, he asks what seems to be a very simple question: “What are you looking for?” In my research, I found that this question from the original Greek, could also have been translated to, “What are you seeking?” or “What do you hope to find?” And we might expand on that translation to “What do you need? What do you long for? What do you most hope for?” So, it turns out to not be such a simple question for either the disciples or us.
As we begin our new calendar year, and as we gather next Sunday at our Annual Meeting and look at what we have accomplished over the past year and what we would hope to do this year, we need to ask ourselves, “What do we most hope for as a church community? What do we really need, long for, hope for, and how might we be able to offer those things? Dr. David Lose, gives us some additional questions that might spur our answers to these questions: Are we looking for silence in a world of so much noise? Are we looking for relationships in a world increasingly isolated and isolating? Are we seeking community in an individualistic and often lonely culture? Are we looking for the chance to serve and be connected to others in a world that encourages putting oneself first? Are we searching for hope and courage when headlines inspire fear and despair? Perhaps some of us are seeking Sabbath rest in a 24 hour 7 day-a-week world where we are relentlessly responding to our electronic devices which are regularly substituting for meaningful relationships.
Friends, we are here so that when asked, what are you looking for here, people can know that whatever it is that they are seeking, we welcome them to journey with us, since no matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here. Here at FCC, that is more than a slogan; it is a reality when people walk through our doors.
As we all know, there are enough meaningless slogans out there to woo us into thinking that what we really need is a new pair of sneakers, or the latest model car, or whiter teeth or any number of other “must-haves” that try to make us think we are less than we are. They bombard us day and night on TV as well as on our computers. I have actually stopped myself from looking at things online because I know that the book I was looking at, or the cosmetics, or the vitamins are going to show up, almost non-stop on my computer screen, whether I am reading a NY Times article or looking on Facebook, or googling some question. What I looked at days before, I am still being enticed to buy, even if I already bought it.
Well, God is a bit more subtle than that in trying to get our attention. Instead, Jesus asks us questions like, What are you looking for and then invites us to “come and see.” Imagine those two lines repeatedly coming at you on your computer screen. What would you do then?
The disciples reply to Jesus’ question of what are they looking for is to ask him where he is staying. Isn’t that odd. Why might one answer a question like – What are you looking for with a seemingly non-sequitur question? It seems to me that what they are really asking is, where can I find you so that I can sit and talk with you about what it is I am looking for? This question that Jesus asks is not a one-line response, nor is there a one-size-fits-all answer. It is a deep question that requires time, and thought and prayer and conversation and may never even lead to one answer – it may lead to several or it may lead to none. But the journey of seeking that answer is filled with possibilities. Jesus issues an invitation to come and see. I wonder what might have been going through their minds when he offered them that open invitation.
Thinking about how I might respond to that kind of open invitation would depend on what was happening in my life. If things were going really well, I might just shrug it off. If I were dealing with the difficulties of life and living and not understanding what was happening around me, I might be more inclined to accept his invitation. Maybe everything I have tried up to this point has not worked, has left me feeling empty or alone or unsure if I am really worth anything to anyone. Maybe I am doing okay but still feel that emptiness inside of me that I could, should be doing more for other than myself. Maybe I am on cloud nine about my work life but the rest of my life is in shambles. Maybe I am grieving the loss of a loved one, and not sure where to turn or what to do. Maybe I am considering a major change in my life and am not sure I am able to do it on my own. Maybe I am fearful about the future of our country and the care for the least of these. Maybe, I am…..well you can finish that sentence for yourself depending on your own life situation.
Being willing to take Jesus up on his invitation requires that we are willing to acknowledge that we can’t do things all on our own. Being willing to take Jesus up on his invitation requires that we be open to new possibilities and opportunities. Being willing to take Jesus up on his invitation requires that we are willing to listen to each other and to the needs that each of us has.
So, what are we looking for as a community of faith? What do we hope to accomplish in this next year and in the years to come?
Well, we did listen to each other at our all-church retreat in June. Our vision statement answers, at least in part, the question Jesus has asked us – What are we looking for? As a community we have said that, In living our faith and guided by the teachings of Jesus Christ, we seek to be known as an open and safe place of peaceful reflection and tolerant dialogue. We also seek to lead our community as a voice of hope to foster individual and social compassion. This vision statement will guide us in all that we undertake over the next few years. If we vote to accept this as our Vision Statement next week, it will be our beacon to which we will look when we are deciding what we want to expend time or talent or resources on.
When people come here to seek a place to belong, we basically already know what we are seeking to provide to them – like the first disciples, we are inviting others to experience how they might know hope, peace, joy and love because this community of faith has chosen to follow Jesus, and God in Jesus is always both with us and for us and there is nothing anyone can do to change that.
We are, as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., envisioned, working to be a beloved community, because we believe in a society based on justice and equal opportunity and love of our fellow human beings. We have sought to reach out to ensure that people are cared for and treated equally. We continually seek to be a community that welcomes difference and celebrates diversity. And we continue to struggle with issues where there is disagreement and yet we still worship and come to our communion table together.
Friends, in this situation, Jesus doesn’t offer an answer, which reminds us that we don’t have to have the answers, we need only be open to the questions, to the invitations. So, as you move through this week, I invite you to see what kind of invitations you receive to sit with Jesus and consider what you are looking for in your relationship with God. Together, let us continue to come and see what invitations God is providing us to serve and give of our time, our talent and our resources here at FCC. And, as we move into this new year, let us also continue to be a place where we invite people to experience hope, peace, joy and love.