St. Matthew's Episcopal

Questions and an Invitation

Posted on: January 17th, 2017 by Robin Jarrell

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[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.]

I will continue my practice of summarizing the sermon for the previous Sunday because in these turbulent times, it is important to keep the Good News ever before us.

We’ve really stepped into another Gospel-land with John’s story this morning.  We go from the pragmatic and prosaic story of the three wise kings to the sudden recount of Jesus’ baptism as testified by John the Baptizer.

John, as a religious leader is less worried about losing his own followers than he is concerned that he fulfil his mandate from God (“the one who sent me”) to point out to the world that Jesus is the Messiah – the “Lamb of God.”  And sure enough, two of John’s disciples immediately start off after Jesus.

What follows is a series of questions, and an invitation.  But first, it is Jesus who turns around and notices that some disciples are following him.  Jesus often begins a healing with a question to the petitioner of the healing, and this time is no different.

“What are you looking for” Jesus asks them.   Not “who,” but “WHAT are you looking for?” Jesus means to find out whether they are mere curiosity seekers, or people committed to something else.  Something more.

And then the followers acknowledge Jesus in a way that he does not expect from the people who know his origins (“Isn’t this Jesus the bastard son of Mary?  What was Joseph thinking of when he went ahead and married her?)  The followers declare Jesus to be a “Rabbi,” a teacher, which is a very respectful term.  And then, in true 1st  Century Palestinian fashion, they begin their religious discourse by answering a question – with another question.  “Where are you staying?” the followers ask by way of an answer.  To 21st Century ears, that answer/question is so superficial as to be absurd.  Why are they asking that?  Does it matter whether he still lives with his mother, or if he’s living under a rock somewhere?

The clue is the word “staying.”  In the Greek, the word has a very large field of meanings.  It’s the word that Jesus will use at the end of his life to encourage the disciples, like vines, to ABIDE in Jesus as Jesus abides in them.  These followers – these would-be disciples of Jesus ask: Where do you rest, settle, last, endure, persevere, be steadfast, abide, be in close and settled union, indwell.*

Then Jesus issues an invitation.  Jesus’ “come” is a word that is connected to the idea of “abiding” in the same way that “see” is a word that is connected to the themes of perceiving spiritual insight, light, and the act of revealing God.

These two questions and the invitation are still at the core of what it means to be a follower of Jesus today.

The first question is “what are we looking for when we commit ourselves to following Jesus?”  Are we looking for a social club?  A group of like-minded people?  A comfortable building?  Or are we looking to do the hard, often grueling work of being the body of Christ?

The second question is  “where is what we are looking for staying/remaining?”  What stays with us?  Coffee hour?  Dinners?  Or is what we are looking for staying in The Diaper pantry?   Or the food pantry?  Or in the difficult work of reconciliation in this troubled world?

The Gospel writer John puts the invitation at the center of our following Jesus:

Come – leave off the old way of looking at our discipleship in Christ.  And See – be willing to let the light of Christ become the Epiphany that leads us out of the darkness of fear and apathy so that we abide in Christ and Christ in us.  And that we live no longer for ourselves alone, but for the lives of our sisters and brothers in all the world.

 

*Mounce Dictionary

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