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).
They asked Jesus, "Rabbi, Teacher, where do you dwell?"
Let's poke around our memories of student life, at whatever age comes to mind. Remember a class with a teacher whose passion for his or her subject was contagious. Or a teacher who created a different climate in his or her class. You were alert to this climate as you stepped across the threshold. Or it may have come on you slowly, that realization that a class or a teacher changed you, shaped your story, helped you look at life differently, or moved you along the path to the next opportunity.
On the First Sunday of Advent we entered into a new church year. The first year of our three year Revised Common Lectionary cycle, Year A. In Year A, our Gospel texts come mostly from Matthew, but once in a while we change teachers, and head to Luke, or more often to John as we do today.
We've crossed the threshold into the Gospel of John and some of what is familiar from the synoptic gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, is different in this space. John the Baptist is here, but as we see today here he is John the Testifier. John the Witness, who points toward the Spirit-filled Lamb of God who lifts up the sins of the cosmos. We don't see John the Baptist or Witness interact with Jesus in this passage. John shares the God-given insight he receives from a distance. And two of John's students, disciples, act on his testimony and go to Jesus.
Jesus doesn't ask them who they are, who they've studied with, or where they come from. He asks them, "What are you looking for?" or better yet, "What do you seek?" The Gospel of John is deeply concerned with seeking and searching. In many cases, this word is used to refer to the search of the Judean religious leaders for Jesus, their quest to squash the threat he poses to their power.
Jesus asks this question of the men who are following him, and it's a question he asks of us. "What do you seek?" For these new disciples of Jesus, it's not enough to be told Jesus is God's anointed one. They trust John the Baptist, they're his students. But they're also compelled to follow Jesus. John has prepared them to recognize and follow the coming Holy One of God. They're drawn to learn from Jesus through the ordinariness of a shared life. They seek God and meet God in Jesus. Earlier in this chapter, the author declares, "No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father's heart, who has made him known" (1:18).
The Gospel of John testifies that eternal life is experienced in the present. That when we choose to share our lives with Jesus the anointed one of God, we enter into a new way of living, eternal life. In response to Jesus' opening question, the men ask him, "Rabbi, Teacher, where are you staying?" They're not looking for an address, for a classroom. They're asking where does he dwell, in whom does he dwell? Later in the Gospel this same word is translated "abide." In the fifteenth chapter, after all their shared experiences, Jesus continues to urge his disciples to see the present, despite its perils, as a transformed life, a holy life, eternal life. He tells them, "Abide in me as I abide in you" (15:4). "Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing" (15:5). And "As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love" (15:9).
"What do you seek?" It can take a lifetime to chase down answers to this question. "Where do you dwell?" can also be a mystery for us. And yet, some of us may find clarity in this community of St. Bernard's, a community in which we have put down roots. A place where we come to be filled by God in Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. Where we come to be reminded about the accessibility of eternal life, the changed life, available to us in the here and now.
In the Gospel of John, Jesus reassures his disciples, his friends, as he is about to lay down his life for them. His commitment to God's love does indeed lift up sins. Jesus' death reveals the sins of the world. Sins we still witness today - power, greed, domination, violence, and decreasing access and rights. And yet Jesus' resurrection assures us that Christ and Christ's hope never dies. This hope dwells in us as we listen to and act on Jesus' words - "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you" (15:13). There are no conditions, no restrictions, no exclusions from this love.
This love is not saccharine. It is active. Jesus' love bestows a great responsibility to live out eternal life with all the peoples. This love and this life requires that we work for dignity, justice, and peace for all. Love one another with the love of Jesus, the love of God, the love of the Holy Spirit. The impetus to love this way is not always found in the usual classroom, or the familiar neighborhood, or policy concern. We discover it as we live it out - listening to and loving one another, standing up for one another, advocating for the common good over our self-interest.
Always remember Jesus tells us, "You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last" (15:16a). This fruit is itself a witness to Jesus.
May our lives reveal the One to whom we belong. Amen.