Epiphany 2: What are you looking for?

3rd Sunday of Epiphany

Isaiah 49:1-7
1 Corinthians 1:1-9
John 1:29-42

In this Epiphany season, we are being encouraged to look, see and find afresh. The wise men saw a star, followed it and found Jesus, King Herod saw a threat and tried to eliminate it. In John’s Gospel this morning, John the Baptist saw Jesus coming towards him – two days in a row! John called those around to ‘look and see’ the Lamb of God. The Christian life is a continual cycle of looking, seeing and finding; it is part of what we are called to do.

It is rather fitting then that the first recorded question Jesus asks his disciples is ‘what are you looking for?’ I think it is still a relevant question for us today too. In terms of your faith, what are you looking for? In those deep places within, what are the desires and drives of your faith?

As we move into a new year what are you hoping for, expecting, asking for, looking for in your Christian life? Anything? Nothing? Something? Do you know? It is worth giving some time this week to ponder the question as though Jesus was sitting in front of you and asking ‘what are you looking for out of your faith?’

It is not an easy question. Fear not if it has thrown you already! The disciples gave a rather lame answer to Jesus. The best they could come up with was ‘Rabbi, where are you staying?’ As though Jesus was asking them if they had lost their keys or a jumper! No, his question is much deeper than that. The disciples had just heard John the Baptist’s exclamation of ‘here is the Lamb of God!’ and had started to follow Jesus; at least physically follow Jesus if not yet spiritually.

‘Who are you really?’ is more likely the question they were trying to ask. The disciples, as good followers of Judaism, would have been waiting for the Messiah. The reading from Isaiah this morning is among the oldest and best known parts of the Old Testament. There are 4 passages in Isaiah known as the Servant Songs. These Songs introduce and share the profound idea of salvation through suffering. This was not how people thought about suffering or salvation at that time. If you suffered you had done something wrong; think the Book of Job.

The identity of the servant is revealed gradually from song to song but it is still concealed. In Isaiah 49, the servant speaks for the first time in his own voice and in a very individual way. He has been chosen by God to carry on the mission of Israel where Israel had failed. The mission was to restore the people of God (the Jews). God is going to give the servant as a light to the nations, that salvation may reach to the end of the earth. This means to everyone – not only the Jews.

If the disciples recalled any of these passages, it would have been an overwhelming experience and would most certainly require something of them. Jesus’ answer also required something of the disciples as it was an invitation to ‘come and see’. So they went and saw where Jesus was staying and spent the whole day with him. What a day that would have been! The disciples obviously saw something that day that changed them forever. If the answer to ‘what are you looking for?’ ends up being ‘come and see’, will you be willing to go and see?

What about this year?

As a church you will be looking for a new Rector. I need to tell you that it is unlikely to be me. What will you be looking for in that person? Avoid disappointment by looking for perfection or a clone of a past Priest you happened to like the most. What will you be looking for in that person?

How about you as a person? Are you looking for more life? Time? Money? Health? Belonging? Certainty? Affirmation? Consolation?

Jesus’ invitation to come and see is an invitation to leave our comfortable places, an invitation to challenge what we think we know and change our perspectives. Come and see is an approach to life that is expansive, dynamic and exposes us to new experiences and ideas. When Jesus offers this invitation it is to be fully seen and fully loved by the one who created us.

Like all invitations that come to us, we have the option to turn it down. To stay where we are and not see anything new. We have a choice of what we look for, what we prioritise. When Jesus looks at us, He sees our deepest desires, hungers, curiosities, needs and wants. He saw it in those first disciples and called out to them. Jesus is still calling us now. As followers of Jesus we are to take the braver path, the follow where He is leading us.