2 Epiphany — Rev. Karen Barfield

Isaiah 49:1-7
John 1:29-41

O God, who has come as a Light to the world,
illumine our hearts and our minds
that Your glory may be revealed to the world through us. AMEN.

“What are you looking for?”

Jesus asks this question to two disciples of John the Baptist.

Jesus was walking down the road and walked past John the Baptist and two of his disciples. At that moment John the Baptist proclaims of Jesus, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!”

When Jesus notices that these two disciples have fallen in line behind him, walking the road with him, he turns and asks them this question: “What are you looking for?’

All of us sitting here today could very well ask each other the very same question.

“What are you looking for?”

Why have we all gathered here in this place on a cold Winter morning?

Wouldn’t it be much more comfortable to just stay bundled up in bed with a cup of hot chocolate enjoying a great book?

or listening to some music in front of the fire?

or better yet, just sleeping in a couple of extra hours to get ready for the long week ahead?

Why do we set our alarms every Sunday morning,
get up,
get dressed
and come to this place?

What are we looking for?

There must be some thing or some one who has grabbed our attention enough to bring us here week after week.

This is the season of Epiphany — a word which means “manifestation” — a “showing.” God is made manifest in the world in the life of Jesus Christ.
The light of Christ is made manifest in the darkness of the world.

This is what we celebrate this time of year.

Appropriately, the theme of today’s readings is that of “witnessing.”

In our reading from Isaiah, we have two witnesses:

1) Isaiah, the prophet, witnesses to God’s presence and activity in the life of Israel.
2) And Israel, the nation, witnesses to God’s promises to God’s people.

Isaiah, the prophet, knows that it is God who has called him forth to be a witness. He says, “The Lord called me before I was born, while I was in my mother’s womb he named me.”

And Isaiah has spent many years prophesying for God.
Yet he is frustrated because he feels like he has gotten nowhere.
No one is listening to him.
No one is heeding what he is saying.

He says, “I have labored in vain,
I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity.”

He feels defeated in the task God has given him, yet he also knows that his strength remains in God.

In the Gospel reading, John the Baptist is Jesus’ witness.

The day after John baptized Jesus, John declares, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”

John is very clear himself about who Jesus is and is very clear in telling others who Jesus is.

My brothers and sisters, whether we like it or not, we, too, are called to bear witness to Jesus Christ in this world.

While I doubt many of us would feel comfortable standing on a street corner proclaiming,

“Jesus Christ is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”

We do promise in our baptismal covenant to:

proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ

and to

strive for justice and peace among all people,
and respect the dignity of every human being.

We are called by God to guide people into relationship with Christ. We are called by God to witness to God’s love, compassion and justice in this world.

Isaiah and John the Baptist witnessed to God out of their own experiences with God.

What is our own witness of who Jesus is?

Do we claim it?

Do we share it?

Later in John’s gospel, John the Baptist says of Jesus, “He must increase, but I must decrease.”

I think that is what our lives as Christians are all about.

We are called to increase the visibility of Christ in our own lives, while our own selves decrease.

Oftentimes I think we limit God’s activity in the world — and for many reasons…

our doubt that God really can use us,
our need to control how God uses us,
or perhaps, like Isaiah, we think our witness is fruitless — it doesn’t make a difference.

Let’s return to today’s Gospel…

“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.'”

“What are you looking for?”

The disciples answer Jesus’ question with a request: “Teacher, where are you staying?”

I don’t think they really want to know where he is lodging for the night. The Greek word for “staying” can also mean “living in something that has permanence” or “staying power.” It is the same word for “abide.”

They recognize in Jesus that he abides in God,
that life itself flows from within him.
They want Jesus to teach them how they, too, can abide in God.

Jesus issues them an invitation, “Come and see.”

Jesus issues us the same invitation.
That is why we are here.
That is what we are looking for.
Come and see.

I would wager that we gather here every week because we want Jesus to teach us how to abide in God.

I have decided that for our next Wednesday evening class we will read together and take to heart a book by Marjorie Thompson called Soul Feast: An Invitation to the Christian Spiritual Life. Her book looks at the deep spiritual yearning of our time by treating different spiritual practices from our tradition: spiritual reading, prayer, common worship, fasting, self-examination and confession, spiritual direction, hospitality and developing a rule of life.

Many of these practices we are already aware of and even practice, but I invite you to come and share your own experiences with each other so that we may learn how to more deeply abide with Christ in our individual lives and in our life as a community. We all have deep wisdom and practice and struggle that we can share with one another.

In today’s gospel story, Andrew is one of John’s disciples who turns and follows Jesus down the road.

Andrew, after spending some time with Jesus, goes and finds his brother Simon and says, “We have found the Messiah.” He then takes Simon with him to Jesus, who in turn names him Cephas, or Peter.

Along with Jesus’ disciples Jesus sends us forth into the world to make manifest the light of Christ, to bring others to abide with Jesus.

Will we accept that God sends us out as witnesses to the world?

Will we accept that God abides in us?

Let us come and see,
and may we proclaim through word and example “We have found the Messiah!”