35 The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, 36 and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, "Look, here is the Lamb of God!" 37 The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38 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?" 39 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. 40 One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. 41 He first found his brother Simon and said to him, "We have found the Messiah" (which is translated Anointed ). 42 He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, "You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas" (which is translated Peter ).
Sometimes a question can change your life…
Will you take the job? Will you marry me?
Jesus asks, “What are you looking for?” It’s not a complicated question. And most of the time… it won’t change your life.
You’ve probably been asked it – or a version of it -- a thousand times by salespeople. “What are you looking for? Or…Can I help you find something? Or… what is it that you want? And then they may try to direct you to buy another item or two or three. It happens every time I go in a certain store where I like to buy hiking socks. I just want to buy a pair of socks. But there’s a very eager salesman who offers up half the store before I leave.
What are you looking for? There’s a lot of sales folks who will try to tell you what you “need.” But while they may offer up a lot of tantalizing “stuff,” you know that you can’t buy what you are really looking for. Still… it’s easy to get distracted by all of the stuff that someone will sell you – to make you better looking, better feeling, and better than your neighbor.
But Jesus isn’t selling anything. He notices a couple of people following after him, turns around and asks them, “What are you looking for?”
What are you looking for? Or, translated another way, “what are you seeking?” What do you long for?
David Lose, one of the theologians that I love to read, suggests that we as a congregation ask that question, “What are you looking for?” “What do you long for?” Is it hope and possibility despite the overwhelming fear and despair portrayed on social media? Or is it an opportunity to make a difference? Sabbath rest in a too-busy world? Real relationships? Community?
Lose then suggests that rather than become overwhelmed with the many needs in the congregation and community, to “choose one thing to focus on in the coming year. One deep need to meet, one purpose around which to organize our efforts, one hallmark of our community to lift up that others may see who we are and what we offer and come have that need met.”
What are you looking for? I’ve been asked that question a lot lately as I’ve been talking with local service organizations. In keeping with our practice of good stewardship, in November we voted to give the first fruits of the Dorff’s generous memorial gift to an outside organization. While there are many worthy and wonderful organizations, the council opted to narrow our choices. So when asked, “What are you looking for?” I could tell them that we are looking to partner with an organization that is local, service oriented, participatory and with whom we could establish an on-going relationship.
It’s been exciting to see how many people and organizations that there are seeking to do good in our neighborhood – and that they are eager to partner with us! I don’t know about you but it’s easy for me to focus on all of the problems in the world – and in our neighborhood — but as we have been reaching out to our neighborhood, we are discovering a lot of great people doing good work! And… they would love us to partner with them.
Some of the organizations may be familiar – like NEAR Foodshelf. We’ve been supporting them financially and with volunteers for years. But hunger continues to be a problem in our neighborhood.
Plymouth Christian Youth Center is another organization that’s been around for a long time – but they continue to meet a need helping kids in North Minneapolis and they continue to need help to do it.
Other organizations are comparatively new.
Avenues for Homeless Youth in Brooklyn Park. They provide a safe place for 21 homeless youth from our neighborhood every night.
Clare House was built last year in Robbinsdale. Homeless men with Aids are given a safe place to live and to receive their medication, allowing them the opportunity to live productive lives.
Kidpack –Wildfire churches have invited us to join them in putting together backpacks of food to feed hungry kids on the weekends.
Lutheran Social Services – they have lots of programs in our neighborhood and the whole city.
At our annual meeting as we choose which of these organizations to support with an extra gift, we’ll be asking ourselves: What are we looking for?
Is this the one thing that we can focus on in the next year? Is this the way that we can meet a deep need? Is this how we can develop relationships and be a real presence in our community?
Or maybe it’s by deepening our own relationship with Christ and with one another. We will begin again with LifeGroups in a couple of weeks and Vicar James will also be beginning a new program for growing faith and life.
John’s former disciples answered Jesus’ question, “What are you looking for,” by asking a question of their own: “where are you staying?” It sounds like an odd response. But they aren’t just asking who was putting Jesus up for the night. The question is richer than the translation implies. They are not only asking, “where are you abiding, staying, dwelling? But also… Can we be with you? Their desire in following Jesus is not just to learn from a rabbi, a teacher. Their desire is to be with Jesus. They are yearning for – and seeking--- relationship…with Jesus.
And so are we. And we would love others to know Jesus too.
Pastor Deb Stehlin from the Synod office said that too often congregations seeking to grow and reach out to their neighborhoods ask: “What if we had a drum set” or “What if we had a huge Sunday school” or “What if we were the way we used to be…” She suggested instead of asking those “what if” questions, we should ask: “What is God doing in our neighborhood? And how can we be a part of it?”
That’s seeking relationship. With Jesus.
The Good News is that Jesus wants relationship too! Jesus says to his followers then – and now: Come and See.
Come and See. Jesus is inviting you to an abundant life, a life with him. And it’s not just for us. It’s an open invitation. We are not only invited but encouraged as part of Christ’s body to be one who invites too. “Come and See.” How hard is that to say? Let’s try it:
“Come and See.”
It’s not asking someone for money. It’s not demanding ideological purity or meeting some standard of belief. It’s an invitation to a possibility. For we aren’t the only ones that are seeking, yearning for wholeness, needing relationship, and wanting meaning in our lives.
What are you looking for? Maybe you don’t know. But that’s ok too. Because there is a bit of a mystery to the way that God works in our world. Neither you nor I have to have all the answers.
Still… Jesus is calling… “Come and See.” And Jesus’ call can transform, sustain and renew your life. In Jesus’ name Amen.