“What are you looking for?” John 1:38
“What are you looking for?” are Jesus’ very first words in the Gospel of John. In Mark’s Gospel, he begins his ministry with a mighty command that silences a demon. In Matthew, he calls four fishermen to leave their nets, boats and families to follow him. In Luke, he boldly quotes the prophet Isaiah, declaring that the spirit of the Lord is upon him. But in the Gospel of John, Jesus begins with a question, “What are you looking for?”[i]
It is THE question, isn’t it? Perhaps the most important question of all. What are you, am I, looking for? A good life in a nice place? Fulfilling work? Family and friends? Peace and prosperity? Healing and health? A good night’s sleep? Maybe if we can just buy that one thing, have that one experience, get that one job, meet that one person, then, then we will have found what we are looking for. Until the thing breaks, the experience fades, the person winds up being way too human. Two of John the baptizer’s disciples thought that in him they’d found what they were looking for, but then John pointed to Jesus and said, “Look, here’s the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”
“What are you looking for?” is a significant question. People come here looking for many things –faith, hope, peace, love, God. Once a woman came to Christmas Eve worship looking for a wife for her son. During a follow-up phone call she told me she was disappointed in St. John’s because all the women she saw were wearing wedding rings. Recently a couple, Lisa and Kristin McGregor came seeking baptism for their twins. They were looking for a community of faith in which to live, grow and share in God’s love as a family. And so last evening Kaleb Rhett and Maggie Ann were baptized and Lisa and Kristin will be part of our next newcomer’s group.
Andrew and his friend’s response to “what are you looking for” is odd. Instead of replying, “The Messiah,” they ask Jesus, “Where are you staying?” The Greek verb here is meno which means abide, remain, endure, continue, dwell. They aren’t requesting his address but are asking, does Jesus dwell, remain, abide with God? Might they, might we, abide with God too? “Come and see,” Jesus says to them. “Come and see,” he says to us.
Throughout his Gospel, John shows us where to look. Come and see the word made flesh in the new born babe. Come see God’s love embodied in Jesus who is given to the world that we may have eternal life. Come be filled with the bread that never perishes and quench your thirst with living water. Come abide in love. Come behold the light of the world. Come experience the way, the truth and the life. Come and enter into life everlasting. Come know God. Come and see Jesus.[ii]
This week at Church Council and in our Bible Studies the question was asked, “What would you invite someone to come and see at St. John’s?” Another way of putting it was “Where have you experienced God in our life together?” Before I share some of their answers, think for a moment about what your response and then write it down on the back of your yellow communication card, “Come and see….” There were lots of different answers. Come and see…come and experience God by learning in Sunday School, by worshipping on Sunday morning or in the quiet of Saturday Evening Light. Come and pass the peace of God. Come and hear the music of God, through the organ, the choir, the children singing, attending concerts. Come and share the abundance of God by serving others through a variety of social ministries, giving offering, being part of Vacation Bible School, going on mission trips, working on a committee. Come and live in the community God, studying God’s word, welcoming others, praying. Come and see, come and hear, come and be in the presence of God.
Come and see, that’s what Andrew and the un-named disciple of John do. Then after seeing and being with Jesus, the Messiah, Andrew immediately finds his brother Simon and brings him to Jesus who gives him a new identity, naming him Cephas, Peter, Rock. Andrew lays out the pattern of discipleship – experiencing God’s love and then telling others about God’s love through words and deeds.
Telling others can be challenging, especially in our very secular culture. Why is it we have no trouble recommending a new restaurant, a book we read or a movie we saw, but hesitate to tell someone about church? Maybe we don’t want to offend or impose? Could it be because faith is so personal, something between us and God, that we can’t find the right words to use? Or perhaps someone told us we’re going to hell because we don’t believe their way and we don’t want to be that obnoxious? That happened to me once in Phoenixville Hospital before the new wing was built when there were two patients to a room. I was praying with one of our members and afterwards the woman in the next bed told me I was not saved because according to the Bible God doesn’t allow women to be pastors. I responded by praying for her. Or maybe we’re simply shy Lutherans and find it hard to talk about the things of the heart. Whatever the reason instead of inviting someone to come and see, we don’t say anything and in doing so are not true to ourselves, the other person, or God.
It’s helpful to go back to Jesus’ question, “What are you looking for?” and ask ourselves “What am I looking for?” If we’re truthful it’s not a new restaurant, book or movie, it’s eternal life, life that is full and rich. It’s a community that cares, faith that endures, God with us, now and forever. It might be a false assumption to say that God is what everyone is looking for, but I believe, deep down, that’s true. St. Augustine prayed on the first page of his Confession, “Our hearts are restless O God, until they rest in you.” I learn about Augustine’s confession on the first day of seminary, and it’s the most important thing I’ve ever learned. My heart is restless until it rests in God.
When we share what God has given us – rest, faith, hope, love, we help another to rest in God’s grace which is beyond all expectations. So now on the yellow card where you wrote down what you would invite someone to “come and see” at St. John’s, write the name of a person you’ll invite and then do so, this week. If you can’t think of anyone or if you’re too nervous to follow through, pray about it, ask for God’s help. Know that you will be helping the person to receive the best gift they’ll ever be given. Even better than the gift that woman was hoping to snag for her son on Christmas Eve. Amen.
[i] Audrey West, https://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=3114, accessed Jan. 18, 2020.