Preached at St. Mary Magdalene, Wheaton, MD, 1/16/11
hat are you looking for? These five words, formed into a question, are the first words Jesus utters in the Gospel of John. This Gospel that can be so misunderstood. This Gospel that has been mis-used as a weapon and as a basis for hate and prejudice. This is a Gospel that is so unlike the other three Gospels. What are you looking for? Jesus asks the two disciples of John who are trailing after him.
What are you looking for? is asked in many contexts. When we walk into a store, a helpful salesperson can ask this question (hoping for a commission on the sale). On-line dating services ask this question: what are you looking for in the person you seek? Job hunters are asked by human resources personnel all the time What are you looking for….in your career? How would we answer this question if the Incarnate One was to turn to us and ask “What are you looking for?”
John the Baptist has identified Jesus twice as “the Lamb of God”. Two days in a row Jesus has walked by John and John points to him and says: Look….look at him – he is the one for whom I have been preparing all of you! And the second time John does this, two of his disciples take off after Jesus to see what this is all about. And when Jesus asks them What are you looking for? they respond Where are you staying? Now, that is kind of an odd question to ask. Perhaps they were flummoxed by Jesus’ query. But Jesus isn’t turned off by this peculiar question and says “Come and see.”
This is a remarkable response by Jesus: Come and see. The next three words Jesus utters in John’s Gospel is an invitation: come and see. The first words are a question: What are you looking for? Followed by an open invitation: come and see. We are invited today to explore a metaphor for the Church in these eight words. The wider church-universal and this parish, St. Mary Magdalene, Wheaton Parish are given this invitation to reflect on the question What are you looking for? and the open-ended invitation: come and see.
This is a wonderful opportunity, during Epiphany and at the beginning of a new calendar year, to dwell on this topic of what we are looking for from our church experience. After-all, we have all chosen to voluntarily be here….to be part of this intentional community. So if we twist the question Jesus asks just a tad bit, and ask ourselves What am I looking for by coming to St Mary Magdalene today? we will be taking this Gospel account and making it personal to each one of us. Take a moment, and ask yourself this question, thinking about an answer: What am I looking for by coming to St. Mary Magdalene today? I am not going to ask anyone to tell me their personal answers, so be honest with yourselves. Close your eyes and give a ponder to an answer.(Pause…..)
What happens to that private answer we each just came up with if we twist the question just a little bit more. How would we answer that question if a newcomer to St. Mary Magdalene’s asked us why we are here, what you are looking for by being a member of this intentional Christian community. Would the answer to that question you just answered to yourself change? Close your eyes and think about that for a moment. (pause)
Now, the last part of this exercise I want to explore with you is to ask, if we were to invite a newcomer, or a stranger on the street, or a friend at a cocktail party, to Come and See us at St. Mary Magdalene, what would we be showing them? To what would we be inviting them? Can we, each of us, articulate what those newcomers, or strangers, or friends, would be coming to see? Close your eyes and think how you would evangelize for St. Mary Magdalene. (pause)
John the Baptist’s main purpose in the Gospel of John is to point to Jesus, to witness, to evangelize for the light that has come into the world. Being able to do that work of evangelism is part of the beginning work of our faith. Being able to come up with an answer to the question What are you looking for? and not being embarrassed about telling people about the wonders of being a part of an intentional Christian community, is not only the beginning part of growing our faith, but is aiding in this congregation’s continued growth, development and joyous spreading of the Good News of Jesus Christ. This congregation will be a light to the world (as our Collect says). This Congregation will emulate the difficult task Isaiah talks about: we will be light to the nations proclaiming God’s salvation come among us. We will be living into the instructions in Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians showing those newcomers, strangers and friends that we have been enriched in speech and knowledge of every-kind and have been gifted deep spiritual gifts.
Come and See is an invitation for us to share in discipleship…..Come, see, follow, look, are all active verbs, not passive. They are active, symbolizing and emphasizing the truth that discipleship equates to active ministry. Part of that active ministry is being able to articulate why we are part of, yearn to grow into, this Body of Christ in the world today. Inviting people to Come and See, warmly welcoming the newcomer, embracing the change that embodies growth, are all components of an answer to Jesus’ question.
We can all be like John the Baptist, pointing and saying: Look, look!!! There is the Lamb of God! This community is a part of that Body of Christ, that Lamb of God present in the world today, witnessing to the world today about God’s saving and real presence. And we get to say
- I am an integral and joyful part of that Body too!
- I am an tool of the light bringing the love of Jesus to everyone I encounter!
- Come and See what this loving, intentional, growth-filled and joyous community is
- Come be a light to the nations!
Each of us can be part of
- filling the emptiness in someone’s life
- giving solace to those who are lonely or broken
- bring that joyous light to the world
by articulating Why we are here and inviting people to come and see. We just have to do it in our own words….. And all will be well….. And this place will thrive!
Copyright 2011, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.