Seeking Jesus by The Rev. Tracy Dugger Sermon* Year A* 2 Epiphany Isaiah 49:1-7* Ps 40* 1 Cor 1:1-9* John 1:29-42
Miscommunication is a fact of life. Ask anyone who’s been married a long time. Sometimes it is possible to have a conversation with someone and at the end realize you were both talking about something very different.
One famous example of this is the old Abbott and Costello “Who’s on first” My favorite part is when they’ve been going back and forth for a bit about the baseball positions and Costello is trying yet again to make sense of it all so he says:
Costello: Now, when the guy at bat bunts the ball- me being a good catcher- I want to throw the guy out at first base, so I pick it up and throw it to who?
Abbott: Now that’s the first thing you’ve said right.
Costello: I DON’T EVEN KNOW WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT!
How often is that the case? We think we know what words mean, but we end up talking past each other. A lot of these miscommunications are caused by our assumptions…And that’s just the miscommunication that happens when we’re speaking our own language. Heaven forbid we introduce translation into the picture, and the possibilities for miscommunication multiply!
I have been working for a few years on improving my ability to speak en Espanol. And you know I think I’m getting the hang of it… but any time I get too confident I remember an incident that happened at a church conference a few summers ago.
I’ll paint the picture for you. There I am at a conference at Kanuga. I’m sitting down to breakfast at a table with non English speakers. And I’m taking that first blessed sip of coffee when I hear one of my breakfast companions ask me in Spanish, “Are you tired?” and I reply dazedly “A little bit!”
I wasn’t really focusing on them, I just wanted to drink my coffee…When suddenly everyone at my table is snickering, and laughing…hmmm maybe I didn’t say what I thought I said…
Then they repeated questioningly “Estas un poco casado?” It was then I realized my mistake…In my tired fog I had assumed they were asking me if I was tired….They had in fact asked me if I was married. Those two words are only one letter different…They had asked me the first time: Estas casada? Are you married? To which I confidently replied A little bit….oops! I reassured them all I was married, and apparently more than a little bit tired.
Whenever we are reading, talking or listening there is always the possibility of being misunderstood or of misunderstanding. That’s part of why this season of Epiphany is so important. Epiphany is God being made known as plainly and clearly as can be in multiple ways. Through the wise men, through Jesus’s baptism and the Holy Spirit descending like a dove!
And today now we have John the Baptist stating plainly. “Look! This is the guy I was talking about!” In many icons and paintings John is forever immortalized as pointing to Jesus! Essentially he’s telling his followers. It’s not about me. I’m here to point to the Christ, whom I’ve seen and can testify: This is the Son of God.
And if this wasn’t enough the very next day John again encounters Jesus and says “Look, the Lamb of God.” And John’s two disciples hearing this switch from following John to going to Jesus.
So far so good, everything seems clear enough, but then Jesus’s debut in John’s gospel seems a little confusing. It says Jesus turned around, saw them following, and then Jesus asks them a question. These are the very first words of Jesus recorded in the gospel of John. This is how John chooses to introduce Jesus….and I don’t know about you, but with my assumptions of who Jesus is, wonderful, loving, lamb of God…
I would assume they’d be words of wisdom, or loving compassion….Instead the first thing we hear from Jesus is Jesus turning around, looking at John’s disciples and saying, “what do you want?”
Wait what, that seems a little rude, or abrupt. But here and over the next few sentences we have a little Abbott and Costello potential for misunderstanding. We think we know what these words mean, but the translation we read colors our understanding. A closer translation might be not the abrupt, What do you want?, but a compassionate, “What are you seeking?”
It seems a little strange for Jesus to ask these first disciples “What are you seeking?” and yet it is an important question. After all, How many of you are accidentally here today? How many of us are accidental Christians, or followers of Christ.
Coming to be a follower of Christ isn’t like stumbling upon a new restaurant and deciding to give it a try because you’re hungry, is it? Well sort of, Jesus is acknowledging here that our hungers, the things we long for, what we are seeking is a big part of how we come to Christ.
What search brought you to Jesus? What are you seeking that brought you here today? Are you seeking love, peace, answers, hope, truth, family, money, wealth, health, blessings, community? How would you answer Jesus’s question “What are you seeking?”
You probably wouldn’t answer like the disciples answered.
To Jesus’s “What do you want?” The disciples replied with their own question: Where are you staying?”
I mean I guess one seemingly rude and intrusive question deserves another right? Except once again we’re reading our own assumptions of what the words mean…I mean clearly the disciples are asking what hotel Jesus is at right? Once again our translation is not giving us the full story…
The Greek word here is “meno” or “abide” or translated “staying” is the same word used to describe how John the Baptist recognizes Jesus when the Holy Spirit remains (meno) upon him (John 1:32). After Jesus provides bread enough to satisfy a crowd, with plenty left over, he cautions the people to work not for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures (meno) for eternal life (John 6:27). He promises that he will abide (meno) in those who abide (meno) in him (John 15:4-10). Wherever Jesus stays (meno), people have the opportunity to believe (John 4:40; 10:40).
When the disciples respond to Jesus' query with their own question, they are not asking Jesus for the location of his tent, or the address of the guest house at which he is visiting; they want to know about the enduring, permanent, eternal, undying dwelling place of this Lamb of God. Where are you staying? Where can we find you? Where shall we go to be with you, to receive what you have to offer? Where can we be in the very presence of God?
And Jesus responds to their question with, “ Come and see.” And so the disciples spent the day with Jesus
Whatever you’re seeking can be found in Jesus…It can be found in Jesus’s invitation to come and see. Jesus reveals that our hungers can be satisfied in relationship with the Lamb of God.
But the gospel doesn’t stop there. Just like the gospel opened with John telling his followers. It’s not about me, the gospel account today ends with the disciples showing it’s not about them either. And it’s not about us either. Although our longings our hungers, our seekings, are what initially draw us to Jesus. Finding our answers should draw us to be like Andrew. After spending the day with Jesus: The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah (that is the Christ) and he brought him to Jesus.”
So my friends, “What are you seeking?” It can be found in Christ! If you are hungry, thirsty, tired, poor, lonely, depressed, confused, broken, or hurt…Jesus wants to invite you to Come and See. Come and See him at Church, at bible study, at a home group, in prayer time. Jesus will come into a deeper relationship with you and provide hope and love. But our relationship with Jesus doesn’t stop there. The news of Christ is like a well in a parched desert. It’s food for the starving, and love for the lonely. It calls on us to run to our brothers and sisters, other lost, thirsty, hungry, lonely souls and tell them: I have found the Messiah.
Come and See Jesus this Epiphany season, and then Show him to others.