Brave Followers

When I was a young girl, I was obsessed with stories of missionaries! I wanted to be one… specifically in Africa, unfortunately in all of the stories I read, it was the men who were missionaries and their wives were teachers or nurses. And I did not want to be a teacher or a nurse… and so I suppressed my dream for a long, long, time. Suppressed it so well that I didn’t even realize that it was still there… quietly waiting for the right circumstances. God is persistent… long story short, I am here, a woman and ordained… although I still haven’t gone to Africa… and my ideas of missionary work have changed a lot over the years.

The Africans didn’t and don’t need ‘saving.’ Parts of Africa were Christian LONG before Europe was. Saving was and is a very colonial and paternalistic way of sharing the Good News of Jesus. Who does need to hear the Good News today? Who needs to hear Jesus say, “Come and see?” Who needs to hear us say, “Come and see this Jesus that we know?”

In today’s reading, we hear Jesus calling the first disciples. Just a few weeks ago, we read of Jesus’ Baptism, as it is told in Matthew’s Gospel. Today, we read one sequel, of John the Baptist telling some of his own followers to go to Jesus. Then we hear of Andrew leading Simon to Jesus. John’s account of Jesus acquiring followers does not fit with the other Gospels. He is more concerned with his message of the wonder of Jesus, the Christ. It would appear that his early followers had been among John’s disciples in the wilderness. It may be good to remind ourselves that John is not primarily concerned with recounting history, but theology. Let’s listen closely for the Good News for us as written in John 1: 29-42:

1:29 The next day he (meaning John the Baptist) saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!

1:30 This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’

1:31 I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.”

1:32 And John testified, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him.

1:33 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.’

1:34 And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.”

1:35 The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples,

1:36 and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!”

1:37 The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus.

1:38 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?”

1:39 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.

1:40 One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother.

1:41 He first found his brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Anointed).

1:42 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).

Before Jesus says, “Come and see,” he asks the disciples, What are you looking for?” I think it’s a question that rings down through the centuries. What are you looking for?
What are you expecting of Jesus? What are you seeking of this institution called the church?

Debie Thomas in her essay, What Are You Looking For? writes: I’ve been mulling over this question all week. When I go to church, when I pray, when I open the pages of Scripture, what am I looking for? Am I looking for anything, or am I just going through the motions of a religious life I inherited from my parents? Am I seeking consolation? Affirmation? Belonging? Certainty? Am I looking to gain power, or to surrender it? Do I want to know, or can I consent to trust? Am I looking to arrive, or to journey? https://www.journeywithjesus.net/essays/2503-what-are-you-looking-for

These are good questions to explore as we get ready to have our annual meeting in a couple of weeks and then learn the results of the Listening Circles the following week.
These questions are on the paper you received as you came in, with space to jot them down your responses. I am going to give you some time to ponder them.

Silence…

These are the written responses that were passed in at the end of worship:

I am looking for friendship, community
sense of comfort and belonging
opportunity to learn about the church and beliefs
help others, show kindness

Belonging
want to know
feel Jesus in my heart
community, feel closer to God by spreading good deeds in the community
know that you are not alone
make the world a better place
remember who created the earth, think about God in a new way
Gain power, consent to trust, to journey

Sense of belonging
strengthen faith
learning
enjoying music

Certainty, it would be helpful to know for sure what is after life for us,
consent to trust and accept out thoughts and/or beliefs
depending on our age will help to decide whether to arrive or journey but perhaps age has no bearing on it?

Belonging
learning about the Bible and scripture
I pray for a better world and loved ones

When reading scripture I am looking for wisdom, understanding, inspiration and guidance
a family tradition to attend church but not the only reason
neither gain or surrender power
looking to journey as my life and faith journey continues

Books, food and drink, crafts

I look for guidance, renewing of my faith
it came later in life as I was recognizing who I was and what I wanted
I seek a grounding of self a piece inside of myself despite trials going on around me

Seeking consolation, affirmation, belonging, to know, to journey

Comfort, calm, show gratitude, learning to trust in the gift of faith
Believing that I am loved, trying to follow/seek God’s will
To journey in a better, more authentic relationship with our Saviour
Gain wisdom to share
Where do I belong
Wanting to be more accepting and kind to others
Must love myself before I can
Embracing joy and actually feeling joyful

When I open the Bible, unless there is a certain passage, I hope to have found words that based on my religious upbringing some inspiration is given to me, I look to the Bible for a range of emotional responses such as trust, power, take a journey from beginning to end

Peace and quiet, time to pray and reflect

I feel like I need a week to answer these questions
for so long raised catholic, I thought I understood God and faith and did always like what I seen, I lost trust and faith
as life continues stress rises, challenges come, pressure evolves the need for guidance, faith, to surrender happened
that greater power to help me guide my way
it’s all on the front of the programs every week, 3 things – faith, love and community

I am looking for continuous support but I am also still going through the motions
I am seeking belonging so the world along with my angel who helped me beat cancer

To praise God, I am not looking for anything as I am happy in the love of God and Jesus and trust
God’s life and mine are about loving and helping others

My grandparents went, my parents went, it feels expected that I go

Affirmation, belonging, certainty, want to know

When I go to church I feel happy to see people because I live alone
I like to feel a feeling of belonging to church and to be with all kinds of different people
I don’t understand what power is, I have a very honest way of life
I am looking to be well and to always walk with God

Inspiration, insight – spiritual and everyday
comfort/reassurance all will be well, all is well
grounding

affirmation
people to share the journey
I generally feel more confident after the service that my life is worth living, I have something to offer
God is caring for us and we are caring for each other

Redemption
God’s kingdom
relief from the bad and ills on the planet
Christianity and church boost faith
surrender to God’s word
believing is trusting
life is a journey and faith needs continual boosting which I find here

when I come to church I’m looking for a place to ground me
I trust God will speak to me and show me the journey I will need to take to live a fulfilling Christian life

I am seeking forgiveness
I am looking for affirmation
I am seeking time to pray
I am looking to be challenged
I want to know where God is today
I want to know what to do after I sing “Here I am Lord”

That we are not alone
belonging is very important to me
don’t want power, just to be accepted as I am
I am OK with trusting
the end of the journey is something to look forward to

connection with the Divine

I am looking for connection, the religious life I inherited from my parents gave me a grounding in Christianity so it made more sense to follow this path rather than Hinduism or Buddhism
seeking consolation and community
to surrender it, I can trust
to journey

as I go through the motions of religious life inherited from my ancestors I wait, I listen, I watch
I wonder, I wait to learn where life is leading me now
I watch for signs of hope and joy, I listen to the quiet amidst the words and music

I seek insight and better understanding of how Christianity fits into my life of helping myself and others to live a healthy and respectful life


Looking for direction, serenity, wisdom, courage
sometimes seek consolation when in pain
authentic relationships
humility, wisdom to do the right thing
mutual trusting relationships
to journey – life is a journey not a destination

when I go to church I am going to try and build a stronger relationship with God and to reaffirm my faith
I am looking to find a community of trust and friendships

I am looking for reassurance and comfort to carry me through the next week
strength and courage to carry on in the face of family and illness and to be of help
I am looking for guidance and courage to face the future

As in the hymn Come and Find the Quiet Centre I find by coming to church it provides a feeling of peace for me, it also gives me the opportunity to think about Christ in the scriptures and his teachings
in silent prayer I can give thanks for all I have and seek God’s guidance to help me make good choices in my life – not just for me but for others as well

for peace of mind and guidance to help me get through the week
stories that will help with facing issues of diversity and discrimination in the workplace
I am seeking consolation as those are still issues being fought over 1000s of years
looking to gain power
would like to consent to trust but the world is so deceiving
looking to arrive at a time where everyone is accepted

Going through some motions
seeking consolation, belonging, certainty
I can trust
journey – we are all on a road to somewhere and are constantly seeking help in resolving problems and help with our many challenges in life

guidance in my restlessness to know my place in this universe
to seek how to channel my energy and to receive new energy
to understand more about how I can make a difference
to be in a place away…

My sermon continued…

I am going to suggest that when we define what we are looking for from Jesus, we can then identify who might need to hear that message. Who in your circle needs an invitation to ‘come and see?’ The early Christians never had buildings or for that matter clergy. They met in people’s home and shared the stories of Jesus’ life and blessed and broke bread and drank wine in remembrance of him. And they invited people into those communities… and the numbers grew and grew. People of different ethnic, socio-economic circumstances, men, women, came together to eat, learn, worship and work, all in the homes of fellow Christians. This inclusion of everybody was radically different from the dominant society in which John’s readers lived. Christian hospitality extends to those who need it the most, but who cannot reciprocate in the usual manner. As a persecuted people, hospitality to fellow Christians was also a matter of survival.

We are not persecuted in any way as Christians here in Canada. There was a time in Canada, a time that most of us can remember, where we didn’t need to invite friends, neighbours or co-workers to church. Most people went to church… and if a denomination put up a new church in a neighbourhood, there was a pretty good chance that when it opened the front doors, people would come. We all know that those days are gone… Even the front door is different… Not literally, but metaphorically.

The front door of the church, or the way people come to a faith community, is very different these days.

1. Some people will come after checking out our website, although perhaps not in its present form! Our website is one of the front doors.

2. Some people will come because of a study group or event that has been offered…

3. Some people will come because of a community outreach programs.

4. And of course, there is still the actual front door… people who have moved into the area… people who have sensed a call to come to church or return to church…

But most people come through a personal invitation… something like 87%. Are we brave enough to be like those first followers? What are you looking for? Come and see.

Thanks be to God for the challenge and the opportunity of those two statements, amen.

John 1: 29-42
February 9, 2020
Stairs Memorial United Church

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