Wednesday, January 29, 2014

What are you looking for?

January 19, 2014

Isaiah 49:1-7
John 1:29-42

I wonder what we’re looking for when we get dressed on Sunday morning and come to church.

I think of all the reasons I’ve gotten ready and gone to church throughout my life. It started when my parents took me with them. There wasn’t ever a question. That’s just what we did and that’s how I learned the patterns and rhythms of faith.  Just like I went to school to learn how to read and write and do math—and how to think and reason for myself. At church I learned stories that eventually would help me think and reason for myself about the bigger questions in life.

At some point all of you adults here made your own decision to come to church. I’m curious about your reasons. For me, there was a point where I wanted my children to learn the faith. There was a time when I was hungry to figure out the whole cosmic puzzle about good and evil—and how to end up on the winning side. I’ve heard from some of you that it’s about finding surrogate family and that’s certainly been true for me. At some point, I realized that, for me, coming here is about being with the One who knows me completely and loves me deeply. It’s easier for me to see and know God are when I’m with you.  We get to practice creating the Beloved Community here.  Church is like a lab where we get to experiment with what we hear to see if it’s true. And even though we make some mistakes, I find this faith community to be closer to the Beloved Community than any secular group I’ve ever encountered. Words or theories or doctrines aren’t adequate—in fact, sometimes they get in the way. You have to see for yourself how love and acceptance are expressed.

In our gospel lesson, John the Baptist is long on preaching right and wrong. But he sees in Jesus a tenderness and integrity that he recognizes as God. He points his own disciples in the direction of Jesus. Andrew does the same thing when he tells his brother Simon that he’s found the anointed one. We’re great at sharing good news. When we find a book or movie that we love. When we root for a team. How about those Seahawks! I don’t like sports, but I get interested when we get to the playoffs, because the fans go crazy. When we find cheap gasoline ($3.11 in Issaquah) or the best-ice-cream-bars-that-you-ever-tasted-and-they-just-got-them-at-Thriftway, we tell people. When I read my first book in seminary and realized the author was going to be my professor, when I saw the Holy in her every gentle, wise word and action, I had to tell people. When I read Brian McLaren for the first time, I presented his work in every retreat I led because other people needed to hear the secret message of unconditional love he read in the gospels. I’m still telling people—he’s coming to Seattle on February 18. Don’t miss hearing him! When someone reveals God to us in a way that touches our core, we want to tell people the same way that we want to share the books and movies we love. So what’s the good news for you? What have you looked for and found here that you need to share? What are you neighbors looking for?

Wes Howard-Brook asks us to search our hearts for the real reason we follow Jesus in his book, Becoming Children of God: John’s Gospel and Radical Discipleship:

Deep within Jesus’ simple inquiry of these would-be followers is this challenge: Whose ways are you seeking? Are you looking for a hero, a sage, a teacher? Someone to cling to, someone to make you famous? Or are you seeking your deepest self, the most profound truths of life, the reality that few can face directly?[1]

What I’m really looking for is someone who will love me in spite of knowing me. What I really want is to belong in the world. The image that grabs me comes at the very end of the gospel story. Jesus looks at Simon and says, “You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas (which is translated Peter [and means Rock]).” I want to be known that way—for how I see myself and how the world sees me and for the full potential that God sees. I want to be called beyond who I am today to all that I can be. I think that my neighbors are looking for the same thing. Among the people of God I find the building blocks of self-knowledge, and a compelling vision for a future in which all creation thrives, and a community that loves and accepts me while I experiment and learn. That’s why I am a disciple. That’s why I follow Jesus, because in him, I see the light and love of God. In Jesus’ teaching I find a path to wholeness, not just for myself, but for the world. Jesus invites us to come and see, to come and learn, and then to go and show, go and demonstrate, go and love as we have been loved.
          Whatever it is that makes you put your shoes on and come to church—your neighbors are looking for that too. Why don’t you invite them to come and see what you have discovered in your discipleship? You don’t need to know anything more than what moves you. Your own story is the best story you have to share. I’ve told three people this week why I love you all and find God’s presence powerfully at work among you—granted none of those people live on the island, but it was great practice.

·       What are you looking for? That’s a serious question and I challenge you to name what you are looking for when you come to church.

·       What is good news for you?  That’s another serious question. Why are you a disciple? If the message of the church doesn’t sound like good news, then we’d better find a different message. It’s supposed to be good news. Our message should bring relief and joy.

·       Who needs to know? Who needs to hear that they are loved beyond measure and are seen in their full potential?  Who needs to hear some good news today?

·       How will you practice your discipleship and invite someone to come and see for themselves?

[1] Wes Howard-Brook, Becoming Children of God: John’s Gospel and Radical Discipleship (Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 1994), 70.

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