Second Sunday after the Epiphany
January 20, 2002
The Gospel: John 1:29-41
Sermon: "Where do we look for God?"
The Rev. William D. Oldland
The next day he 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).
Where do we look for God?
Second Sunday after the Epiphany - January 20, 2002
About six years ago there was a major traffic jam on 1-40 between Greensboro and Winston-Salem at rush hour. Traffic was backed up in both directions for miles. In fact, traffic had come to a standstill. Cars were barely creeping along. We all know what we expect to see when we are in a traffic jam of that magnitude. If we are in the traffic we expect to see blue flashing lights on police cars. We expect to see emergency vehicles, ambulances, and fire trucks. We expect to see the twisted metal and wreckage of cars. We expect to see evidence of someone who has been seriously injured. We know we will see everyone slowing down to take a look at the wreck. The drivers will slow down and stare at the scene trying to record every image. They want to be able to tell someone what they saw at the scene. They want to be able to say, I saw the accident or I saw the person being loaded into the ambulance. I saw the damage to the vehicles. They want to be an eyewitness to the event. Well, this particular day there was no accident. However, the people who stared did have an interesting story to tell. See, two young ladies from either UNCG or Guilford College had parked their car in the median. After parking the car they set up some camera equipment. Then they proceeded to take off their clothes and take pictures of each other naked while posing on the car and in the median. The people in the cars passing by did not continue to pass by for long thus the traffic jam. The traffic jam continued until the police could arrive and arrested the two girls for indecent exposure. Can you imagine the stories told by the drivers around the dinner table that night? Can you imagine the numerous telephone conversations that occurred as people shared what they had seen? I bet the conversations were very interesting. I also bet those who witnessed the event wasted no time in telling someone else what they had seen.
Rubbernecking on the highway, whether it is a traffic accident or something else, seems to be a habit of people. It is a habit fueled by our desire to see, to witness with our own eyes what is going on around us. We have become increasingly dependent on seeing. We even have a phrase, "Seeing is believing." We seem to trust what we see.
If we can't see an event with our own eyes then we want to hear about it from an eye witness. When an event occurs news reporters scour the crowd for an eyewitness. They try to find the person who saw the event from start to finish.
Our whole judicial system is based on having witnesses. Police officers and lawyers love nothing better than to have someone actually see what happened available in the court room. Increasingly, we only believe people who see the event personally.
Being a witness, an eyewitness, is exactly what the Gospel is about today. In the thirteen verses we read this morning, there are nine references to sight. John sees Jesus approaching him the day after he baptized him. John proclaims that he saw the Spirit descend like a dove on Jesus. He tells the people around him that God told him he would see the Spirit descend on the Messiah. John testifies I have seen this event unfold. John lets the people know that when he baptized Jesus he saw the Spirit of God come upon him. John had a God moment. He saw and witnessed the glory of God in Jesus Christ at the baptism. He was sharing the story.
But John doesn't stop there. The next day when John sees Jesus coming toward him, John deliberately talks to two of his disciples. He tells these two students who Jesus is. He calls Jesus the Lamb of God. Their curiosity must have been piqued. They start following Jesus. When Jesus sees them he ask them an odd question. He asks, "What are you looking for?" If we were being followed by someone what question might we ask? We might ask, Why are you following me? In a store I might ask, "Can I help you?" But out on the street, I can't imagine asking, "What are you looking for?"
Then they are invited to come and see where Jesus is staying. These two disciples go with Him. We do not know where they went. We are not told what transpired in their conversation. However, something unusual occurred. Something out of the ordinary happened to these men. Because one of them, Andrew, left sometime later, and found his brother Simon Peter. When he sees Peter he tells him, "We have found the Messiah."
What were Andrew and the other disciple looking for when they were following Jesus? I believe they were looking for a closer relationship with God. They not only found a closer relationship, they found the Messiah. Then they began to share the news.
I suppose the same question could be asked of us. What are we looking for? We rubberneck on highways. We spend hours on the Internet scanning various web sites. We watch the news tuning in CNN and other live broadcast shows.
But where do we look for God? Some people spend a great deal of money looking for God in meditation and yoga. Some people look for God in nature. Some people look for God in art, writings, and music. The presence of God's handiwork can be seen or felt in all of these places. We can see the delicate work of God in the wings of a butterfly. We can see the beauty of God in the colors and design in a stained glass window. I wonder if we look so hard for God in these places that we forget God is already here. I would like to propose that we find God where there is love. God's love brought Jesus Christ to us for our salvation. God's love enables us to reach out to one another with true compassion and caring. God's love enables us to hold someone who is scared or crying. God's love enables us to laugh with others who are joyful. God's love enables us to share in the wonder of the birth of a child. God's love is the source and foundation of all creation, of all that is. So, when we look for God's love in the people and the world around us, then we have the opportunity to see and experience the wonder and the glory of God. We have the opportunity to have our blinders removed and find ourselves in the presence of Christ the Messiah. As a result, the most wonderful thing happens when we find ourselves in the presence of God. We have to tell somebody. We have to be a witness to the love we have received, The love bubbles up inside and we can not help but share the Good News with someone else, Like Andrew we have to go and find somebody and tell them about the glory and love of God. Somehow I believe sharing the news that God's love is in our lives is better, and even a lot more fun, than sharing a story about two girls in the median of 1-40.