Sermon for January 15th 2017-01-13
It has been said of the Gospel of John that:
“It is a book in which a child may paddle but an elephant can swim deep”
I would like us all to be elephants for a while!
John the Baptist, as we call him, knows what his part in the story is. He is a pathlayer, a pathfinder, a signpost. He is totally sure that he is not the one to come, the Messiah, the anointed one. Yes he has disciples and he baptises with water those who hear his message of repentance, but he knows deep within himself that there is more to come. There is someone to come whom he does not yet know.
But when he does comes John recognises him for who he is.
He sees Jesus walking past and he knows this is the man “Look here is the Lamb of God” he says to the two of his disciples with him. This is the only time this description is used for Jesus in any of the Gospels and brings echoes of our liturgy,the exodus and that wonderful painting of the lamb of God by Zurburan. John knows with certainty that this is the Messiah that the Jewish people have been waiting for. This kind of knowledge comes occasionally to all of us I believe but we do not always have the courage to act on it. I’m sure you have heard people say that when they saw someone walk into a room or party they knew that that was the person they would marry. I remember travelling on a coach from London to Cambridge and just knowing that the young man in the seat in front of me was my nieces fiancée although I had not met him at that stage. I was right but didn’t have the courage of John to acknowledge it until later.
And the two erstwhile disciples leave John and follow Jesus, the spotlight is off John. If this was Mark’s Gospel it would say – and immediately they followed Jesus.
Jesus turns to the two men and asks them: What are you looking for?
Face to face he doesn’t say who are you, what do you want but the much more searching question, what are you looking for? They don’t answer directly , perhaps they don’t know. Perhaps they are just going to tag along and see what happens, perhaps they feel compelled to be with this man in a way that feels right. A whole host of mixed emotions and reasons. It is a question that we need to ask ourselves not just once but often.
What are we looking for in following Jesus.? We may not have the spur of thinking that he is the long awaited Messiah but there is an attractiveness, a luminosity that draws us like John’s disciples to the person of Jesus of Nazareth. These two men just up and follow. There are no theological discussions or assessing of understanding there is just a willingness to step out into the unknown propelled by a conviction or just curiosity. We don’t know about them but we do know about ourselves. What are we looking for and do we realise that what we are looking for is Christ?
Like the two men we might reply to His question with the apparent non sequiter of: Where are you staying?
Yet this may not be such an irrelevant answer. The word staying or to stay has many layers of meaning in English. It can mean where you live/sleep/ and eat. It can mean where is your anchor/ your safe place/ your deepest knowledge, your mainstay. It can also mean where will you stop, rest for the moment, go no further. I don’t know if there are these kind of meanings in the original Gk or Aramaic but they are there for us to explore in our own language.
The two men, we know the name of one, Andrew, went and spent the rest of the day with Jesus and so would have seen where he was staying in the sense of a place to eat/sleep and live. During that time I imagine that they would have begun to discover that the place where Jesus stayed, his safe place and deepest knowledge was with God the Father. His staying place was in the heart of his Father – God. He was taking them to that place where they could also be close to the heart of God the Father through him, through Christ. Who we are is found by staying in that place. The third meaning of stay can mean in English to stop. These two,perhaps the beginning of the church, were to stop, to go no further in their search, to stay with Jesus, and we know that Andrew certainly did.
Come and see
Lastly we have Jesus’ response – come and see. Come and see where I stay. Perhaps an indication that He will be sharing with them the thoughts of His heart. That He is aware of their search and willing to give of himself in the knowledge that he is the bread of life, Gods only son, the love that will not let them go. And they go with him.
Andrew, perhaps with some of the impetuosity that runs in his family, goes to share this momentous news with his brother Simon. Simon comes and meets Jesus and his life is changed. Even his name is changed. For all three of those first disciples their future is changed.
Are they are the precursors of us all. The question they asked, the answers Jesus gave and the way they responded reflects our situation also.
What are we looking for ? Do we know where that quest leads and are we courageous enough to follow, to come and see? Can we accept that invitation from Gods only son?
In the words of a much admired politician – Yes we can!