Second Sunday after the Epiphany
January 16, 2005
The Gospel: John 1 :29-41
Sermon: "What is Real"
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).
John 1 :29-41
What is Real
Second Sunday after the Epiphany - January 16, 2005
The other day I was watching a show about the creation of animation. It began with stick figures flipped on cards to show movement as one of the earliest examples. One of the earliest characters was Mickey Mouse. It was very interesting to se how Mickey changed as time changed. Over time he really changed in appearance.
These changes in Mickey were all drawn by hand until recently. Now, computers make animation absolutely amazing. Characters can be changed an a myriad of ways with just the click of a mouse. Changes can be made in their appearance, their voice, their characteristics with a few clicks creating a whole new character.
What is the most amazing aspect is that movies now have the capacity to accomplish the same changes in actors and actresses through similar technology. From now on it will be possible to make a character change appearance, clothing, and voice with the help of a computer. These modern changes kind of make it hard for us to know what is real. What does this person really look like? What does this person really sound like? What does this person really believe? For that matter how do we believe anything we see around us?
One way we believe in things around us is through eyewitness accounts. We know someone we trust. They see something happen. They meet somebody for example, and they tell us about their impression of that person. We put a great deal of faith in their opinion because they actually met the person or saw the event. Our whole legal system puts great faith in the eyewitness account. Tell a prosecuting attorney that there was an eyewitness who saw a person commit the crime he is trying, and watch them smile.
Another way we believe in something is by seeing things for ourselves. We are after all our own best eyewitness. We get to make up our own mind about an event or person because we see it for ourselves. We see a person come into a room and our eyes take in the details. We notice how they walk, what they are wearing, and how they act. We see it all and arrive at our own conclusions
The third way we believe in something is through experience. For example, we see a person on the street. The person is nicely dressed. They come up to us and they are well groomed. They have a nice demeanor. They talk to us and are very friendly. They walk away and our wallet is missing. Sight is not always enough. Experience is one way we determine what we believe or what someone else believes.
These are three ways we determine if someone or something is who or what they say they are. In our recent past we have a good example of the use of all three of these ways of determining if someone was real. Dr. Martin Luther King saw the plight of the people in the United States. African-American people did not have equal rights in this country. Anyone with eyes to see and ears to hear knew what was happening. Dr. King decided to work for the rights of all people. He used marches, speeches, and many other means to get the message out to the people of this country that change was needed. He did all of this work promoting civil disobedience through non-violence. We have heard his speeches. We have heard eyewitness accounts of people who were there. We have seen the effect of his teaching on people who heard him with their own ears and saw him with their own eyes. From all of these methods we determine that he was the man he said he was. We determine he did believe in equal rights for all and he did believe in non- violence. We trust the accounts and therefore we believe in the truth of what we have seen and heard.
John the Baptist relates to us an account of seeing the Messiah to some of his disciples in the Gospel. He had baptized Jesus and he knew that Jesus was the Lamb of God. He knew Jesus was the One whom God had sent after him to be revealed to Israel. According to John, Jesus is the Messiah. He tells his disciples. Now his disciples are left with a decision. Do they trust John enough to believe what he says? For them it even becomes more interesting. The very next day John sees Jesus walk by and basically tells the disciples to follow him. He proclaims to them Jesus' identity as the Lamb of God.
Now, the disciples are really left with a decision to make. They have to decide whether they trust John's opinion and go and talk to this unknown man. When they follow Jesus he turns to them and asks, "What are you looking for?" To be honest I'll bet they had no idea. All they knew were the words of John and his insistence that Jesus was the One to follow. So, they asked if they could stay with him. They were going to see and experience this man for themselves.
When they were invited to stay they learned more than they ever thought possible. They learned Jesus was the Messiah. They did not know exactly what that meant, but they knew they had to follow. Furthermore, they went and told others. Andrew went to his brother Simon and told him who they had found. They knew his identity and they knew they had to bring others.
We are in their shoes today. Of course, we are a long time removed from Jesus' day with these disciples. We have their accounts of Jesus' life. We have some idea of Jesus' identity. We are left with the question do we believe? Are we willing to do what the early disciples had the courage to do? Will we follow Jesus? If we believe will we share what we have learned?
These are the questions we have to wrestle with today. They are good questions for us. They are good questions because they call us to explore the depths of our faith. They ask us to examine who we believe Jesus is. They ask us to decide if we trust in Jesus as the Messiah and if we are willing to follow. If we are willing to follow they also cause us to be willing to expand our vision of God. For if we are willing to follow God then we also have to be willing to change our own lives in order to follow God's will. For one of the aspects of being a disciple is sharing what we learn. We can not be an island to ourselves. The question for us today is the same as the question Jesus asked the disciples so long ago, "What are you looking for?" What is fascinating is the possibility of saying yes when Jesus invites us to "Come and See".