The Second Sunday after Epiphany, Year A - January 15, 2017

Preacher: 
The Rev. Amelie Wilmer Minor
Sermon Text: 

The Second Sunday after Epiphany

Year A

January 15, 2017

The Reverend Amelie Wilmer Minor

 

John saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, "Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, `After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.' I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel." And John testified, "I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 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.' And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God."

The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, "Look, here is the Lamb of God!" The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 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?" 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. One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. He first found his brother Simon and said to him, "We have found the Messiah" (which is translated Anointed). 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).  (John 1:29-42)

 

----------------------------

It all begins with conversation.  Jesus’ ministry and mission in the Gospel of John, that is. And in this season of Epiphany, the season of light, in which the identity of Jesus becomes clearer and clearer – it is those conversations that happened when Jesus drew people together that I’d like us to think about this morning.

Because Jesus’ first words in the Gospel of John are not a sermon or an exorcism or the proclamation of the coming kingdom, as in other gospel accounts, but instead, a question, an invitation to engage in conversation. When disciples of John the Baptist come looking for Jesus, he asks them, “What are you looking for?” Or, as the original Greek can also be translated, “What are you seeking?” or “What do you hope to find?”  You could even expand that to “What do you need? What do you long for? What do you most hope for?”

This is a great conversation starter, and yet, it’s a question we don’t often ask or even try to answer in church.  Which is a shame, because our consumer culture asks it all the time. Except then, it’s not really a question, but a set-up to a pre-fabricated answer, so there’s no conversation. “What do you need?” quickly becomes, “I know what you need – a new pair of running shoes, a more expensive car, whiter teeth, to lose ten pounds,” all of which, we’re told, can be had for a price.

Deep down inside, we all know better…I think we’ve all come to realize that what we really need is found in things money cannot buy.

Which brings me back to this idea of conversation….and what it might be like for all of us, in this season of Epiphany and revelation…to ask one another, here in this church, what are we looking for?  What do we really need, long for, hope for? What do we long to change, or to become, and how might we begin to cultivate those things? 

Is it silence in a world of so much noise? Relationship and Community in an individualistic and often lonely culture? Is it the chance to serve and be connected to others in a world that encourages putting yourself first? Is it hope and courage when headlines inspire fear and despair?

What is it that we most need, and how can we talk about that? 

In today’s gospel, one thing I’ve noticed about the disciples’ reply to Jesus’ question, “What are you looking for?” is that they ask “where are you staying?  Which, can also be translated more fully as, “where are you dwelling, abiding, remaining, indwelling?” In other words, what the disciples really want to know is where they can come and simply be with Jesus. Hang out with him. And in response to their question, Jesus doesn’t offer any specific answers but just issues an invitation, one that is inherently relational, conversational.  “Come and See”

And that’s important.  Because for the most part, when we ask questions of one another, particularly questions about faith, or what matters most to us, my sense is that we’re much less interested in a particular answer or information but instead we seek relationship, dialogue, interaction.  Which makes me think that when it comes to talking about matters of faith, especially with other people who are not like us, who don’t believe or think like we do, we don’t need to have to have a bunch of answers, but simply be ready to offer ourselves, our commitment to them regardless of where the questions and conversations may lead.

The season of Epiphany has long been for the church a time to reflect upon our mission and that dreaded word, evangelism. More than ever, I am convinced that engaging in conversations is our mission, [and the best form of evangelism].  And that our “mission” field may be no further than our own neighborhood, shopping center, place of work.  Because while we may share geographical, social, professional, or cultural identities, we are all so very different, and especially today, growing even more so. 

Even in our church communities, just as with those first people who surrounded Jesus throughout his lifetime,  those who we find gathered often have very little in common, as diverse as you can find.   We’ll be talking about that during our formation series on the various Christian Denominations.  And yet, the thing with Jesus is that he had this particularly genuine gift, something inherent in his person, and that was his ability to gather diverse people in a common connection. 

This was not some skill he crafted or strategy he employed, but a force of his personality that “the different” gathered around him, stayed with him.  And, as people will, no doubt they talked.  They engaged in conversation.  Whether at the manger, or the river Jordan, or by the sea of Galillee…they talked.  About many things, I imagine. 

Where had they come from?  Why where they there?  What were they looking for?”  Of course, it was likely as much a mystery to them as to us. Who can say why any of us are here?  There is no real reason why any of us could have met, if it weren’t for the person of Jesus.  I am thinking about Sam Adams, who was my professor and advisor at Union Presbyterian Seminary and is our speaker for today’s formation program.  As much as I take for granted that Sam and I are friends, that I know his family, have watched his children grow, celebrated with him at my wedding, and that we translated the entire book of Ruth together, the fact is, we would probably never have met if weren’t for our common desire to “stay” in some way or another, with Jesus.

Reflecting on the Epiphany, I wonder if Jesus’ primary ministry – his most practical ministry – is that he brought people, and continues to bring people, into conversation with one another.  As the writer Sam Portero sees it, “he calls us away from our respective tasks and out of our exclusive differences…and encourages us in that most intimate and dangerous activity – which is conversation.  Because, for us to be in conversation is to be in the midst of change.”[1]

Think about it. Every time you or I open our mouth, we risk revealing something of ourselves that can change us or the world around us.  And every time we open ourselves to receive what another says, we run the risk of being changed by what that person says.  God knows how many times my heart, my mind, my life has been changed by the power of another person’s words shared in conversation.  “Is it any wonder,” Sam Portero asks, “that so many of us recoil from this dangerous activity, retreating into ourselves?”[2]

And yet, we are here.  Each one of us, different, each of us looking for something we believe we can find by coming, by seeing, by staying with the person of Jesus, through this community of faith.  Each one of us gathered for the express purpose of conversation.  Conversation with God; certainly with the Spirit of God that is made manifest in what passes between and among us.  We are here, like those first disciples who were drawn by this compelling person who is Jesus, and dropped what they were doing to “come and see,” because somewhere, deep down inside, they were looking for something they did not have; they wanted change, wanted to change.

And for the most part, everyone who gathered around Jesus ended up changed in some way:  the magi “go home, by another way,” fishermen leave their nets, friends drop their plans to follow – doing things, talking with people, acting in ways they could never before have imagined.

Jesus’ invitation to this conversation is really quite simple: “come and see.” It’s non-threatening. It’s clear. It’s inherently relational.  And it’s something any of us could say. But it will change us, change others.  And here’s the thing: It’s not just we who are initiating this conversation. It is God in Christ working through us - to invite others to a life so much richer than anything our consumer culture tries to sell us.

And, just as importantly, it’s God in Christ inviting us to that same life. Even if we struggle to name or understand or articulate our faith. Even when we opt for cheap substitutes we think we can buy or earn.  Even when we wonder if we believe at all.  Jesus is still there, still asking what we most deeply need, still inviting us to come and see, and still determined to change us in ways that we can’t possibly ask for or imagine.  

It all begins with conversation.  Come and See.

Amen

 

[1]Sam Portaro, Daysprings: Meditations for the Weekdays of Advent, Lent, and Easter (Lanham:  Cowley Publications, 2001), 56.

[2] Ibid, 56

Go to top