What are you looking for?
Everybody’s looking for something, as the Eurythmics state in their song ‘Sweet Dreams’. No matter what age and stage of our lives, there is always a longing, a desire for something. We look for love, for acceptance, for success, financial stability, for adventure, for peace, for meaning for our lives. Maybe we even look for God.
No matter what we are looking for, we usually have certain expectations about what to find. When we look for adventure and plan a trip, for example, we already have certain things in mind: what sights to see, what things to do, what foods to eat. As people in this country look for a president to lead them through the next four years, they pick their candidate according to what they hope and think this candidate should accomplish.
We usually are quite clear about what we are looking for. Which is not necessarily a good thing: we might get disappointed or even frustrated if we don’t find exactly what we are looking for – and may miss out on something that’s potentially even better than we imagined.
‘What are you looking for?’ We hear this question in today’s gospel story, which comes from the gospel according to John. Here, we have a slightly different account about how Jesus calls his first disciples. Jesus actually doesn’t look for disciples, like in the other gospel accounts – he waits for disciples to look for him, to be curious about him.
It all starts with John the Baptist repeatedly pointing out to the people around him on the banks of Jordan, ‘Here is the lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’ Behold, the Lamb of God! Look! See! Check it out. Not everybody reacts. Apparently they take one look at this unremarkable son of a carpenter, shrug their shoulders and keep on looking.
But two of John’s disciples become curious. What’s so special about this guy? They want to see, they want to find out for themselves, and they start following Jesus around, basically stalking him.
And so, when Jesus realizes that those two are following him, he doesn’t say, come, follow me, since you are already following me around anyway, no, he wants to know more about them, about their expectations, their motives: what are you looking for? As the disciples check out Jesus – could he be the one the follow? – he is checking them out – could they be the ones to follow me?
Now it is interesting that those two don’t give an answer, even though they must have had certain expectations about what to find. The careful dance continues, they want to find out more, and so they, in turn, ask Jesus, ‘Where are you staying?’ Which may an odd question to us, but what they actually are asking is, ‘Rabbi, can we stay with you for a bit?’
Jesus seems to like that. Jesus seems to like that these two are open, that apparently they haven’t settled on a certain answer yet. And at that point, Jesus extends the invitation, ‘Come and see.’ Come and see. And they go. And they see.
Now I find it fascinating that we actually don’t hear in this story where Jesus is staying, or what he and John’s disciples talk about as they spend the rest of the day together. It remains a mystery. All we hear is that, at the end of that visit, that check-out session, that interview, the two know that they’ve found what they were looking for. And just as John, the Baptist, had to share, to witness to Jesus Christ, so one of them, Andrew, has to share his excitement about what – about whom – he found. The first one Andrew happens to bump into is his brother Simon. ‘Hey, bro, guess what, we have found the Messiah! We’ve found what we’ve been looking for.’ So Simon becomes curious, and Andrew takes him to Jesus, who there and then checks Simon out and declares there and then, ‘You are to be called Cephas – Peter.’
And, spoiler alert, the entire gospel according to John is about the invitation, ‘Come and see’; and it becomes this story of people coming to Jesus and checking him out. Some find what they are longing, hoping, looking for, even though they may not even be fully aware of what they were looking for – the Samaritan woman at the well, the blind man who is healed, Mary Magdalene – others don’t. Their expectations don’t match up with what Jesus has to offer. And so they continue to look for a Messiah who fulfills their expectations.
In the end, all are invited to come and see Jesus on the cross – and the resurrected Christ. The lamb of God of gave himself for you and me, for the sake of the world, the son who wants to reconcile all humanity and creation to God. And, as we know, for many, this is not what they are looking for. For many, this suffering God who empties and sacrifices himself, who lives and dies and lives again for the sake of others and calls others into true community, just doesn’t make any sense and doesn’t give them what they desire.
Now I would argue that we, all of us, even though we all are Christians, even though we are of the same religious tribe, look for something different in Christ. Some look for comfort. Some look for forgiveness and acceptance. Some look for healing. Some look for intellectual stimulation. Some look for majesty and beauty. Some look for order in a chaotic world. Some look for otherworldly experiences. Some look for justice. Some look to be challenged by Christ. Some look for something entirely different that I can’t come up with.
And so I invite you to just take a moment and think about it – what are you looking for?
Whatever it is you are looking for – there is room for it. I think that’s the beauty of that part of today’s gospel story when those two disciples come with Jesus and stay with Jesus and listen and see – and we are not told what it is they find in particular. And those two men most likely were looking for something entirely different than we are looking for today.
In God’s house, there are many mansions, we hear in a different chapter of John’s gospel. They all offer a home. Whatever we are looking for, whatever we hope to find, Christ invites us to come and see and find and receive – and maybe find something along the way we were not even aware of that we were looking, longing for it.
This invitation to come and see starts at our baptism. Today, this invitation is especially extended to C, who starts her journey with Christ today. Come and see. Experience what Christ has to offer you. And this invitation will be extended to her again and again, during her entire life. See what Christ can offer you in this part of your life, in this situation, this sorrow, this joy. And as Cornelia is invited and will be invited over and over, so are we all.
In the course of our lives, we don’t always look for the same thing. Things change, circumstances change, we change.
Those who are on the journey with us don’t always look for the same thing we are looking for. We have to give room for that, we have to be gracious. We need to honor our respective searches.
Now Christ doesn’t roam the earth today as he did roughly 2,000 years ago. Today, we, the church at large, are called the ‘Body of Christ’. And so we find ourselves in this interesting position of being those who seek – and at the same time being members of a body that others come to as they are looking for meaning, looking for God. And, no, we can’t be all things to all people. And that’s okay. As one congregation, we are but one part of this large and wonderful and diverse body of Christ – we can’t and shouldn’t and are not supposed to do everything. But we gotta do something.
We are not here for ourselves. We can’t just offer what we happen to be looking for. Just as all those who found and witnessed Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, the Messiah, throughout the gospel of John, we become witnesses ourselves, witnesses in word and deed. We are the ones to point to Christ today and in our environment and extend the invitation, ‘Come and see’. And we cannot expect that those who seek Christ are looking for exactly the same thing we are looking for – you and you and you and I. And we need to be gracious. We need to allow people who may not look or think or behave like us to find a home with God.
And that implies that we don’t pretend to have all the answers and give all the answers before a question is even asked – oh, we like to do that, don’t we? – but instead to ask people, those around us and in all the places we go, ‘What are you looking for?’ And we might be surprised and think about Christ and ourselves in fresh and different ways, learning about new opportunities how we can be Christ to others.
At the same time, we may find Christ in quite surprising and unexpected places. Christ’s invitation continues to this day: Come – and see.
Picture by Adam Gong via unsplash.com
This post is also available in: German