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January 15, 2017

What Are You Seeking

(John 1:29-42)

It’s an interesting world we’re living in these days. When every news program now has a segment titled, “What’s Trending” that reviews top stories from the internet, and the look back at the major stories of the year includes cute pet videos from YouTube… I just don’t know what to think. I’m not accusing anyone, because I’m guilty myself. I’m on FaceBook almost daily. It’s kind of addicting, actually. I’m not sure what I’m looking for, but I can tell you what I get from it. I always get some laughs, some inspiration, some affirmation. I learn more about my friends – most of which I enjoy and which makes me feel closer to them. Of course, some of what I learn about them, I’d rather not know, but I scroll on past those things as quickly as I can, and I try to forget that I saw them. Some posts share political propaganda, arguments, and rants, and I try to avoid those, too. I also get some important reminders about living with purpose and gratitude and love, about making the most of each day and not letting disappointment get the best of you. I read some excellent articles and I learn some fascinating things. I get a chance to minister to people, and they often minister to me. I know there are those who would argue that I am NOT making the most of each day if I’m spending my time on FaceBook and not meeting people face to face. To a certain extent, I agree with you. But then I also know that some people – especially many young people – share things on FaceBook that they wouldn’t share face-to-face – again, giving me, giving all of us, an opening for ministry. My intent here is not to lift up the values of FaceBook, but to make the point that people spend time there because they are looking for something. I am intrigued by a certain twist in the reading today from the Gospel of John. The reading starts with John the Baptist introducing Jesus. John had a following of disciples himself, but when he saw Jesus coming, he pointed beyond himself and declared, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” John made it clear from the start that Jesus ranked ahead of him, and that John’s baptizing of others was preparing the way for Jesus, so that he would be revealed. John witnessed that he “saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove” and remaining on Jesus. He testified that “this is the Son of God” and he pointed out to his friends each time they saw Jesus, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!” But, here’s the twist, or, for me, the surprising thing about this story. When John’s disciples began to follow Jesus, his first words to them were in the form of a question: “What are you looking for?” WHAT ARE YOU SEEKING? Everyone has their attention on Jesus; he’s already a celebrity, of sorts. People are already following him as though he has something valuable to offer, and they are ready to hear whatever he has to say. But Jesus turns it around. Instead of taking a bow and launching into his teachings, Jesus wants to know what they are looking for, what they desire, what they need. He wants to hear what they have to say before he says a word. I think most people don’t know what they’re seeking. Most of us, when we stop to think about it, are abundantly blessed with health, a roof over our heads, food on the table, and love from family and friends. I posted the question on the Westminster Group page on Friday and 24 hours later only three people had answered the question. There may be a couple different reasons for this: 1) all of our basic needs are met – we have all we need; 2) you knew I was looking for a deeper answer, and you either didn’t have one or you didn’t want to share it; or 3) you’re not on FaceBook. But the fact that we continue to accumulate material things as though there’s never enough, the fact that we work hard and play even harder, the fact that we keep our kids crazy-busy from sun-up until sundown, makes me think that we ARE seeking something more. Somehow, with all that we have, we’re not fulfilled. Furthermore, considering the fact that we could lose all that we have in the blink of an eye, we’d better hope there’s something more – something that we can’t lose; a knot that we can hang on to when we’re at the end of our rope. One scholar from the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago wrote that this question from Jesus was an ordinary one, “with extraordinary significance. ‘What are you looking for?’ English translations obscure the meaning of the Greek, which is better translated, ‘What are you seeking?’ Jesus’ ministry begins not with a mighty command to silence a demon, as in Mark; nor with a sermon to the crowds who have gathered on a mountain, as in Matthew; and not with a quotation from Isaiah to proclaim his anointing for the year of God’s favor, as in Luke, but it begins with a question: ‘What are you seeking?’ What are you looking for? What do you need? It is a question worth wrestling with – as individuals, as congregations, as communities – since our answers will have a great deal to do with what we find as well as with the journey we take to get there. What are you seeking? What motivates you? What is it that you really need, not just on the surface, but deep down into the core of your being? What are you looking for? If we go back to how John the Baptist introduced him, we might infer that we should be seeking “the Lamb of God.” However, these days “Lamb of God” is a pretty obscure reference. Even a “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” doesn’t tell us much, since the word “sin” is also becoming rather obscure! Does anyone really know what a Lamb of God does, or why we should be seeking one for ourselves today? When the Israelites were seeking freedom from a life of slavery in Egypt, they were spared from the last plague – the death of the firstborn in every household – if they painted over their doorways with the blood of a perfect lamb. The Pharaoh’s son was killed in that plague, and he finally relented to let the Israelites go free. The Lamb protected them, saved them, freed them, gave them a new lease on life, a new beginning, and hope for a new day. The Lamb was sacrificed, its blood was spilled on their behalf. The Lamb died so that they could live. The Lamb of God proclaimed by John was Jesus. As the Lamb of God, Jesus protects us, saves us, frees us, gives us a new lease on life, a new beginning, and hope for a new day. As the Lamb of God, Jesus was sacrificed, his blood was spilled on our behalf. As the Lamb of God, Jesus died so we might have life… abundant life. The two disciples of John, who followed Jesus that day, answered his question with their own question, “Rabbi, (Teacher), where are you staying?” It seems that they wanted to be students of this teacher, to hang out with him, to see how he lived, to witness his every action, to absorb his every word. The same scholar commented, “They are not asking Jesus for the location of his tent, or the address of the guest house at which he is visiting; they want to know about the enduring, permanent, eternal, undying dwelling place of this Lamb of God. Where are you staying? Where can we find you? Where shall we go to be with you, to receive what you have to offer? Where can we be in the very presence of God?” And Jesus invited them, and Jesus invites us, “Come and see.” Come and learn from me, hang out with me, study my actions, listen to my words. Be assured that I can fill your emptiness, I can be the answer to your deepest needs and desires. I am your stability. I can provide you with serenity and peace. I can give you wisdom and guidance. I can give you light for your darkness. Jesus invites us to receive his very presence within us. Come to the table. Come and be filled. Come and experience. Come and learn. WHAT ARE YOU SEEKING? Come and see. To the glory of God! AMEN

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