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Sermons

“What Are You Seeking?”

Emanuel Lutheran Church.  January 15, 2023 Second Sunday After Epiphany The text is John 1: 29-42.

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29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is he of whom I said, “After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.” 32 And John testified, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33 I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, “He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.” 35 The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, 36 and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!” 37 The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38 When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?” 39 He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon. 40 One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41 He first found his brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Anointed). 42 He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter).

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May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to You, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.

Grace, mercy, and peace are yours from God the Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

The Scripture readings for today have taken quite a leap forward in time.  Just last week the three Persian astrologers brought their royal gifts to the infant Jesus, and this morning we find that around thirty years have passed since then.  The adult Jesus has been baptized by John, and the voice of God from heaven has declared that God is “well pleased” with his Son.  And now, this morning John the Baptist declares that Jesus is the “Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world”.  And once he makes this statement two of John’s disciples find themselves following Jesus to determine if he is, in fact the promised Messiah.  Not long after, Andrew announces to Simon Peter that Jesus is the Anointed One, and these two brothers become Jesus’ first disciples. 

But just before this Jesus asks the two former followers of John, “what are you looking for?”.  In the original Greek this translates to, “what are you seeking?”.  While quite similar, these two verbs actually do have rather nuanced meanings.  “What are you looking for?” might be as simple as someone trying to find something, perhaps just being on the lookout for an item.  But “seeking”?; now this is more of a search, a pursuit, a quest of something.  John’s former disciples immediately confirm that they view Jesus as a teacher, by calling him Rabbi.  But their answer to Jesus’ question about what they’re seeking isn’t an answer at all.  Instead, they pose this question to Jesus, “where are you staying?”  While it’s odd to respond to a question with a question, it’s apparent that these two had more in mind than simply inquiring where Jesus was living.

The Greek for “where are you staying” in this reading is “meno”; and is more accurately translated as, “where are you abiding, or where will you endure?”  Andrew wants to know where Jesus will “abide”; will he come to be present within the lives of those who choose to become his disciples?  When you think about it, before the disciples determine whether they will follow Jesus as their teacher, their Rabbi, it does make sense they would want to know what the ultimate plan is.  Will this “Lamb of God” be the One to bring them into God’s family?  Will Jesus “abide” with them, and they with him?     

Jesus responds to “where are you staying?” by simply inviting them to “come and see”.  “If you want to know what I’m all about, if you are truly inquisitive as to my nature, if you want to experience what it’s like to know God…come and see!”  John’s Gospel is different in many wants from the three Synoptics; Matthew, Mark, and Luke, in that his is the one most concerned with proclaiming Jesus’ divine nature.  John is adamant that Jesus, the Word of God is God incarnate, and that everyone is called to “come and see” his true nature.  In John’s gospel, Jesus tells the inquiring disciples to “come and see” him if they want to know the Word made flesh. “Come and see” Jesus if they want to know God’s love for the world. “Come and see” Jesus if they long for the bread of life and living water that never ends.  “Come and see” Jesus if they long to find the way, the truth, and the life.  “Come and see” Jesus if they want to learn where he is “staying”, if they long to know where he abides; and, if they wish to abide in him; to share in his mission, ministry, and life.

This type of thing probably doesn’t happen in the classroom today, but I recall a rather common occurrence from my elementary school days.  If a teacher thought a student wasn’t complying quickly enough with a request, the following might have been said; “what are you waiting for, an engraved invitation?”  This was meant to imply that the reluctant student wasn’t complying quickly enough, causing the teacher to inquire if they were in need of a specific, personalized invitation to participate in whatever activity was at hand.  Now, sarcasm aside, often people are in need of some robust encouragement to motivate them to engage in the pursuit of what it is that they are seeking.  Often people do hesitate, they do wait for that engraved invitation.

But Jesus makes it quite plain that he is simply offering up the invitation to draw near to him and observe what life can be if one chooses to follow him.  “Come and see” is about the clearest statement he could make; once these disciples come to understand the truth of Jesus’ nature they will inevitably want to be part of his mission.  And Jesus’ invitation to be his disciple remains open and available even today.  To any who seek to know the truth of God’s love, Jesus says, “come and see”.

While the invitation remains open, we often find that we must RSVP more than once.  True, our one baptism makes us forever a child of God, and we do profess our faith through the creeds.  But true discipleship requires that Jesus’ followers respond to his invitation daily.  The offer to “come and see” what Jesus’ mission and ministry are all about must be answered by his followers whenever we find ourselves faced with the realities of the world.  For Jesus people, “Come and see” becomes “come and be”.  Jesus has shown us the way to abide in him, to imitate his way of life; but unless we reaffirm our commitment daily to this discipleship, we risk being overwhelmed by the forces that would draw us away from it.

That is why we gather here each Sabbath day, to connect with Jesus and one another.  We are called to “come and see” that Christ is present in the bread and wine.  We hear the Word in the Holy Scriptures and are reminded that our God loves us.  We raise music and song in worship, and share fellowship in the most Lutheran of all ecclesiastical traditions, the celebration of Coffee Hour.  Each of these actions helps to remind us to continually respond to the eternal invitation from Jesus to be part of God’s will for the world.  It’s all too easy to drift away from the commitment to discipleship, to neglect to respond to Jesus’ call to abide with him.  It’s not as simple as “one and done”.  Discipleship is an ongoing, evolving way of living, and we must be willing to reconfirm our acknowledgement that we have come and seen what Christ has called us to do.

Let Andrew and Simon who becomes Peter, the Rock of the church be examples for us to follow.  They asked Jesus where he would always be found to be, they came to share in his mission and ministry, and where Jesus abided, they did also.  Like them, let us continue to RSVP to Jesus’ invitation to share in his life and ask him to abide forever in us.   

Will you pray with me?  Good, and gracious, and holy God, remind us to respond daily to the invitation of your Son to come and see your will for the world through his life, death, and resurrection. And we pray these things in the name of Jesus Christ, the One who invites us to abide in him.

God is good, all the time.  All the time, God is good.  Amen.

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