+ A sermon for the Second Sunday after Epiphany at Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Bellevue, WA on January 19, 2020 +
Text: John 1:29-42
During the past few weeks, our lectionary texts have focused on the ways we see Jesus.
We have seen the ways our Emmanuel—God with us—is made manifest in our midst.
The one whose birth we celebrated and whose incarnation has blessed all human bodies.
The one whose natal star guided magi from distant lands and who blessed the nations.
The one whose baptism revealed his identity and blessed every drop of water.
And now we’ve entered the time after Epiphany, the time between now and Lent when our lectionary will continue to focus on Christ’s manifestation, how he is being revealed to the world, how we can look to him and learn about our God who has come to abide with us.
So it makes sense that our gospel text this morning has so much to do with seeing Jesus.
We hear from John the Baptizer, John the Forerunner, John the one who is ever pointing to Christ.
And nearly everything he has to say is about seeing Jesus:
“Look, here is the Lamb of God.”
“I saw the Spirit descending from heaven…and it remained on him.”
“I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.”
John is filling his role as the preacher, the one who stands there and tells you to look to Jesus and follow him, who is trying to explain who this Jesus is, who is telling you what he thinks you need to hear.
So two of John’s disciples get up and start following Jesus, they go to see what he is all about.
And after all this talk about seeing and revealing and looking, after John’s pointing to Jesus and encouraging his disciples to follow him, perhaps Jesus’ question seems especially piercing.
These are Jesus’ very first words in the Gospel of John and he doesn’t waste any time: “What are you looking for?”
In this time where we look to Christ and how he is being revealed, he asks us, “What are you looking for?”
It’s a question I’ve been thinking about a lot this week.
It’s a question that we would do well to ask ourselves.
What are we looking for?
What am I looking for?
When I come to church, when I worship, when I pray, when I read scripture—what am I looking for?
What am I hoping to get out of it?
Am I looking for guidance or assurance?
Hope or certainty?
Am I even looking for anything or am I just going through the motions?
Have I even been paying attention to know the difference?
But even this question tells me something about Jesus.
It tells me that he isn’t as concerned with telling me what he thinks I need to hear as he is in listening to my needs, my hopes, my fears.
It tells me that my God is deeply interested in my life and loves me so much that God wants to be there for me.
It tells me that Jesus wants to respond to whatever is necessary to bring me to the full and abundant life that he has come to bring.
And it tells me that the Gospel that Jesus brings is inherently relational, that it depends on the needs that it encounters.
That the gospel speaks to the deepest needs of the world it meets.
That the gospel speaks to the yearnings of the souls it meets.
That the good news you need may sound different than the good news I need.
And Jesus wants to know what I need to hear.
And like his invitation to those first disciples, I hear his invitation to me: “Come and see.”
It’s an invitation to follow and to experience.
To participate and to trust.
To give and to receive.
Come and see what we can do together, Jesus says.
Come and see how we can find what you are looking for.
Come and see my love for you and the fullness of life that I want you to experience.
Come and see and your life will be transformed.
Come and see.
While so much of this season in the church year is about us seeing Jesus and learning more about him, I am reminded this morning how Jesus is also looking for us, how Jesus wants to know us.
I am reminded that even when I don’t know what I’m looking for and may not even be diligently searching, that my God has already found me.
That Christ has come to me, knowing exactly where I am, to be in relationship with me, to speak the words that I need to hear, to share an undeserved shower of love, to invite me into his abundant life.
What are you looking for, my friends?
What brought you in the doors this morning?
What is weighing on your heart today?
What is the deep need within you that is yearning for good news?
Maybe it’s forgiveness.
Maybe it’s acceptance.
Maybe it’s answers to questions that elude you.
Maybe it’s something you can’t quite name.
Whatever it is, whatever you are looking for, you can trust that God has found you.
Whatever it is, you can know that God is already bringing grace and love and inviting you to come and see all that is possible.
Whatever it is, you can hear God speaking words of promise and hope into the parts of your soul that are still searching.
Come and see.
During the past week, Christ’s question has been echoing in my mind as I’ve been thinking about our future planning process.
What are we looking for?
Is it certainty in an uncertain future?
Is it financial security?
Is it the easy path?
Or is it something more?
Are we looking for a radical encounter with Christ that can transform us and our community?
Are we looking for Christ in the unknown?
Are we looking to put our trust in him?
Are we looking to follow wherever he leads us?
It’s a fundamental question that should ground our entire process.
As we plan for our future as a congregation: what are we looking for?
As we work to care for the earth: what are we looking for?
As we seek to serve our neighbors: what are we looking for?
What are our neighbors looking for? And do we know? Are we ready to be in relationship with each other and our community to find the answers to these questions?
Are we insisting on doing what we think is right, of preaching the gospel we want to preach?
Or are we ready to listen to the needs of the earth, the cries of our neighbors, the yearning of the Spirit ready to let loose in this place fill of new life and possibilities?
Are we ready to come and see where Christ is leading us?
“What are you looking for?” Jesus asked Andrew that afternoon by the river.
“Come and see,” he invited him.
Now I don’t know what Andrew was looking for that day, and I’m not sure what exactly he saw when he followed Jesus, but whatever it was it must have filled him with so much joy, so much passion, so much excitement that he rushed to find his brother, Simon.
“We have found the Messiah!” he exclaimed.
We have found the one we’ve been looking for—and he was looking for us!
We have found the one who is speaking words of hope and life and love into our deepest needs!
We have found the one in whom we have seen God!
Come and see.
As we go from this place we are invited to be like Andrew, to share what we have found here, to share the good news Christ has for us.
Not to preach what we think they need to hear, not to make sure they are “saved,” but to be in relationship, to share what we have seen and experienced, to echo the words of our Lord “What are you looking for?” and invite to “come and see” because we want our friends and family to experience the fullness that they are looking for too.
“What are you looking for?”
It’s the question that starts Jesus’ ministry and it’s the question that continues to shape our ministry.
It’s the question that invites us into relationship with Christ and our neighbor and helps us experience transformation.
It’s the question that helps us hear the good news that God has for us.
What does Christ have in store for us?
Come and see.