God of new beginnings, meet us where we are on our journey, imperfect as we are, and use us in ways we cannot imagine to make a difference in the world for you, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Do you remember the old Sesame Street game that had four squares and a jingle that went something like, "Which one of these is not like the others? Which one just doesn't belong?" If we played that game with the four gospels, John's gospel would certainly be the one that is not like the others. Matthew, Mark and Luke, called the synoptic gospels, are similar. They have many of the same parables, though the details might be a bit different. They tell us about Jesus and what he did.
John's gospel, on the other hand, tells us some of what Jesus did, but it tells us more of why he did certain things. John's gospel is based more on theology and Christology - who is Jesus, the Christ, the Son of the living God, and what does his presence on earth mean for us?
In our gospel lesson today, John's gospel does not tell us the story of Jesus' baptism, but rather has John the Baptist refer to it when he sees Jesus. "I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove and it remained on him. 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."
John the Baptist refers to Jesus as the Lamb of God, the one who has come to take away the sins of the world. Jesus will be the sacrificial lamb who is crucified for our sins. John the Baptist recognizes Jesus as the Son of God and he begins telling others. The first two are disciples of John the Baptist, one of whom is identified as Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. The two disciples follow Jesus, perhaps out of curiosity, perhaps to hear him preach. When Jesus sees that they are following him, Jesus says to them, "What are you looking for?"
"What are you looking for?" That might seem like a strange question to ask until we look at what is happening at the time. There are many different groups of people looking for a lot of different things. There are Scribes and Pharisees who might be looking to question Jesus about some aspect of the law. There are Sadducees looking for power. There are Zealots looking for a strong military commander who would destroy the powerful Roman Empire. And there are lots of confused, bewildered sinners seeking to know God, to experience God's love and forgiveness. So it is not such a strange question for Jesus to ask. "What are you looking for?"
And that is a good question for us to ask ourselves. "What are we looking for?" What is important to us? If we looked back in our checkbooks, what would our checkbook say is important to us? What is it that we want? What is it that we think that we need?
Is it financial security? Some of us would like to feel financially secure with enough money in the bank to meet all our needs and wants of this life, no matter what happens. Then we can depend only on ourselves and not on anyone else.
Freedom from fear? Guarantees that nothing bad will ever happen to us, that we will go through this life unscathed? That is unrealistic. Everyone at some point in their life has to deal with some type of pain - either physical or mental or emotional. We all have hurtful stuff to deal with, whether it's the death of a loved one, or broken relationships, or reeling from a natural disaster, or dealing with an illness. Jesus never told us that life would be easy, even if we followed him. But he did tell us that God would always be with us, no matter what, and that God's love would sustain us. It is our faith and hope in Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who sacrificed his life for us, that gives us the strength and courage for the tough times in life.
What are you looking for? A closer relationship with God? A feeling of peace and serenity that the world cannot give? Filling that empty space that is deep within us? What are we looking for?
The world cannot give us the peace and serenity, the security and freedom from fear that we would like. It is only our faith in God that can give us these things.
"What are you looking for?" If Andrew and the other disciple following Jesus had answered financial security, or freedom from fear, or guarantees that they would have a pleasurable and stress free life and nothing bad would happen to them, Jesus would probably have told them to look elsewhere. Jesus talked about sacrifice, about losing your life in order to save it, of giving freely of yourself, of loving one another.
In our gospel story, the disciples do not answer Jesus when he asks them what they are looking for. Instead, they ask where Jesus is staying. Jesus replies, "Come and see." Jesus invites them to come with him, to get to know him, to have conversations with him, to be in relationship with him.
And that is God's invitation to us. "Come and see." God invites us to be with God, anytime, anyplace, to get to know God, to talk with God, not just when things are not going well and life is challenging, but sharing the joys and happiness of life as well. God is always inviting us in, seeking us out, opening our hearts and minds to God. God invites us in, invites us to "come and see", not to be a casual acquaintance, not to exchange a few words from time to time, but to come and find the things that God alone can give - peace, serenity, healing, love - not that bad things will never happen to us but that God is with us in the midst of it.
As soon as Andrew realizes that Jesus is the Son of God, he immediately goes and tells his brother Simon Peter and says to him, "We have found the Messiah." Already Andrew is an evangelist. He finds Jesus and he goes and tells someone else. He brings another to know Christ.
And that is what we are called to do. Once we have accepted God's invitation to "come and see", we are called to share that with others, to "go and tell". We are called to invite them in as Jesus invited the two disciples. Come and see is our invitation to others. Come and see who God is. Come and see for yourself. Your life will be changed and transformed.
As Andrew did, after we come and see who Jesus is, then we must go and tell others who don't know about God's love and forgiveness, those who have forgotten that God is with us through the difficulties of life, that God will help us carry our burdens when we trust in God. So many people are longing for a closer relationship with God. But they don't know how to do it, they don't know where to start. Invite them to "come and see". Come and see the transforming love of God right here at St. John's. Come and see God at work in this loving community of faith. That's why we are here - to glorify God and to go and tell, so others will come and see. Amen.
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