What do you need?

Posted on 15 Jan 2017, Pastor: Adam
  • John 1:29-42

    John saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.” And John testified, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 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.’ And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.” 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. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon. One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Anointed). 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).

 

I

t wasn’t long after I had moved to Connecticut and settled into my apartment down in Norwalk that I received the first up-selling phone call from my cable company. I remember that the woman was very nice. She welcomed me as a new customer. She asked if my new internet was working for me. I assured her that it was. Then she asked if I wanted to add television to my account. When I declined, she pressed on. Wouldn’t I be happier with a broader selection of channels than I could get over the air, she wondered? So, I shared with her that I did not own a television.

“You don’t own a television?” she repeated. “I don’t own a television,” I reassured her. “Oh,” she said. There was a long pause. Evidently such a scenario was not in the script from which she was reading.

Now, just to be clear, it was not that I didn’t watch TV. I enjoyed my Netflix subscription on my laptop and I used Hulu more than occasionally. But fresh out of grad school, a television had been low on my list of priorities. I would eventually get a television. When I did, I also signed up for cable, which admittedly offered quite a broader selection of channels than I could pull over the air. But I would not say it made me happier.

That’s the trouble, isn’t it? The world around us is full of voices that tell us what we need. You need a new computer so that you can browse Facebook faster. You need a car to get to work, so that you can show off to your friends, so that you can feel young again. You need a boyfriend or a girlfriend so that you can be in a relationship, so that you can settle down. You need a home so that you can start a family, so that you can build equity. You need to go on a diet, you need to exercise more, you need to lose weight so that others will like you more. So that you will like you more. You need to read more books, to cook more often. You need to earn more money at work so that you can pay for it all. You need a vacation, to do yoga, so that you don’t get so stressed out all the time. And you need to upgrade your cable package so that you have even more channels with which to numb your mind at the end of the day.

“The Sermon of St John the Baptist” Pieter Brueghel the Elder, oil on panel, 1566

If you do these things, then you will be satisfied. If you do these things, then you will be fulfilled. If you do these things, then you will be happy.

We get told so often what we need to do, what we need to buy, what we need to think, that we nearly miss Jesus’ words. The cacophony of voices shouting at us are so loud, we nearly miss what he says.

Jesus turned to look at the two people who were behind him. They had been following Jesus for a while. They were disciples of John the Baptist, but now they were following Jesus. The text doesn’t make clear why it was that they were following him. Truth be told, I’m not sure they knew themselves why they were following Jesus. There was something that just called to them.

Seeing the two, Jesus asked, “What is it you are looking for?”

What is it you are looking for? What is it you are seeking? What is it you need? I’m so accustomed to being told the answer to these questions, so accustomed to being told what I am looking for, what I am seeking, what I need, that actually being asked the question brings me up short.

How about you? What are you looking for? What are you seeking? What is it that you need? Presumably, it is something. After all, here you are. Just like the two who were caught following Jesus in the gospel story, you too have been caught in the act of following Christ. Sitting here in church, you too have been caught following Jesus. Why?

When you strip away all the things that have conspired to bring you here today, what is left? Set aside the routine of getting up on Sunday morning and coming to church. Set aside the desire to see and connect with friends. Set aside the roles for which you have volunteered, the worship leading, the choir singing, the ushering, or the cooking. For that matter, set aside coffee hour.

Set aside the obligations you may feel toward parents, toward spouses, or toward children to show up here. Set aside the acts of praying, of singing, of worshiping. And what are you left with? When you strip away all those things, what is it that brings you here. What is it that you are seeking?

It is a serious question, one that I encourage you to ponder. In my own life, there are times when I have a clear answer. There are also times when I have no answer. So, wrestle with the question, dwell with it, and if in the end you don’t know the answer, that is okay. The two who followed Jesus that day didn’t have an answer to Jesus’ question either.

So they did the next best thing. They asked Jesus a question of their own. “Where are you staying?” The English loses some of the richness of their question. “Where are you dwelling,” they asked, “where are you resting? Where do you abide,” they question of Jesus, “Where are you centered?” It is a question that asks as much, “how are we to understand you?” as it does, “where can we find you?”

Jesus gives them no answer. He offers them an invitation. Come and see.

He does not give them an address. He does not tell them to find him in a church. Neither does he explain himself by giving them doctrine to digest or theological constructs to memorize. He demands of them no statement of faith, no confession of conversion. The answer to their question of where he is to be found, the answer to the question of what he is about, even the answer to the question of what it is they are seeking is to be found by coming and seeing. The answer to all the questions is found in the act of following Jesus.

This is the message that is worth telling. There are no pre-requisites to this path. There is nothing that can disqualify you from it. To all of us here today, whether we know why or not, Jesus says, “Come and see.” To all those who are not here yet, or who will never be here, Jesus says the same.

Come and see. Whether your faith is great or your faith is new, the invitation is the same. No matter what questions are in your heart, no matter what doubts are in your mind, the invitation is the same.

Come and see. The answers to all that we ask will be found as we follow after Christ. That which we are looking for, that which we are seeking, that which we truly need, is still ahead of us. Just come and see.

Preached by Adam Yates