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 the 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 last week, 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 undertake this Intentional Interim Ministry time.
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.
Responses from the congregation, both in person and written:
Strength, spirit, humanity, humility
I’m looking to surrender power
I Just love to come here on Sunday morning – brought here by my parents 80 years ago!
I love the beauty of this historic House of God and find it gives me a good start to the week regardless of what it might bring – I can face it better because I was here. God bless Rev. Catherine that you have joined us!
Seeking consolation because the world is so mixed up.
Looking for affirmation, belonging, certainty.
I have complete trust in God.
Life is a journey, we never really arrive – or constantly arrive and move on.
I’m looking for gods’ presence in my daily life.
I am actively asking God’s light in my daily life and his guidance.
I am seeking consolation and hope.
Affirmation that I am God’s child; that I belong to his family; certainty that he has a plan or my life.
I am looking to be empowered to better understand God’s love in the world, but also surrender my like to God’s purpose.
I want to knew too much and nee to trust God more.
My journey in the life will lead to my arrival in God’s eternal presence
I’m looking for knowledge and reassurance.
I’m looking for belonging, consolation, I want to consent to trust and both the opportunity to arrive and to journey.
The opportunity to show my love for Jesus and learn to follow in his path of goodness.
I’m looking for guidance and strength to love the coming week.
I’m seeking consolation and affirmation.
To feel loved and reassured God is with me every day not matter what circumstances may arise and God’s strength and hope for my daily life.
I’m seeking peace.
I’m seeking peace and a sense of belonging and connection with a community of faith.
I’m looking to arrive in a quiet place of contemplation.
Looking for a message to explore with myself.
Looking for a place to feel a connection between sermon, scripture and present life.
Looking for quiet contemplation through music.
Looking for connection to my loved ones – past and present.
Affirmation of my faith – where can I or what can I do to make my community a better place.
Affirmation of the ‘teachings’ and their relevance and assistance in live in today’s world – relevance.
‘Man’ getting along with ‘man’ in social situations.
I look for inner peace, assurance that God has a plan. My ‘star word’ is trust and I take that to mean trust in God, trust that the interim ministry process works, trust that other to also grow & trust as well.
Faith is a journey so the ‘saved’ philosophy, once & done, doesn’t speak to me as munch as we are constantly seeking the way.
Looking for reassurance that there is in fact a God who really does care – too many local/global events (from Portapique to pandemic) may indicate that God doesn’t care.
I’m looking for hope, peace, relief of problems shared and community.
I’m looking to serve and for community.
I’m looking for something…
I’m seeking consolation, affirmation, belonging, certainty.
I’m looking to surrender power.
I want to know and consent to trust.
I have anxiety in my like – if I have Jesus in my life why do I still have anxiety?
I’m looking for belonging and to journey.
I look for the connections to a group of people who share my thoughts and beliefs.
I want to provide support to our church by way o using my skills gained over the years.
I’m looking for consolation (maybe), belonging, surrender power, consent to trust and I’m on a journey.
I’m seeking peace, happiness, joy in each day, feel the beauty of each day and handle the pain of each day.
Looking for strength and spirit.
Show love for Jesus and follow in his path.
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.
But most people come through a personal invitation… something like 87%. When I shared that statistic with one congregation, someone asked, “Why aren’t we doing that then?” My response was a smile and an “I don’t know?”
What would it mean or you to say to a friend, a neighbour, a family member… I love my church, it gives me strength, hope and challenge, or whatever you wrote in response to those question. Come and see what it’s all about next Sunday!
I’ll look forward to reading your responses!
Thanks be to God for the challenge and the opportunity of following Jesus, amen.
John 1: 29-42
January 29, 2023 – SJUC
Word cloud generated from responses from the congregation.