Monday, January 16, 2023

What Do You Seek?


John 1:29-42

Epiphany 2 / Year A

John begins his gospel with soaring Christological theology: “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God…”  And even though the rest of his gospel will focus on the person who is the Word made flesh, most of the first chapter belongs to John the Baptist.  Initially he responds to questions about who he is and why he does what he does – baptize.  Then he gives testimony about what happened when he baptized Jesus.  And finally, he who works rigorously to get his followers to follow Jesus. 

Eventually two of John’s disciples trail behind Jesus.  It is at this point Jesus speaks his first words in this gospel.  He turns to the two and asks them a question, “What do you seek?”

It may seem like a simple question on the surface, but in the bible seeking is deeply significant and central to what we are all about as human beings.  “The one who seeks finds… (Mt 7:8).  “You have said, ‘Seek my face.’  My heart says to you, ‘Your face Lord do I seek (Ps 27:8).  “Seek the things that are above, where Christ is… (Col. 3:1).  “The Son of Man came to seek and save the lost” (Lk 19:10).  

Each of you here this morning and those who are watching this service from your home homes has made a significant investment to be here today.  You have gotten up and gotten dressed.  You have given up a much of your morning.  And like the two disciples following after Jesus, you have gotten his attention.  Imagine he turns to you at this moment and asks, “What do you seek?”   How do you answer?

Perhaps you are here this morning to find some measure of peace.  Maybe you come seeking spiritual nourishment through word and sacrament.  It could be you are here to sing God’s praise.  It is possible you come to gather with friends.  Some of you might be here because you want to be a faithful member of this parish.  What do you seek today?

The two folks following Jesus seem not to be ready for this question, still there two-fold response is very telling.  First, they address Jesus as “Rabbi”.  Even though they were baptized by John as a sign of repentance and even though John identifies Jesus as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world”, they think of him first and foremost as a teacher.  They will have a lot to learn.

Then they answer his question with a question, “Where are you staying?”  It is not that they lacked overnight accommodations.  They seek to be with Jesus and enthusiastically respond to his invitation, “Come and see.”  And after spending the entire day with him, one of the followers – Andrew – is so impressed he goes and fetches his brother Simon who, apparently, is also a seeker.

Think about the things we say people seek after.  We seek love.  We seek attention.  We seek to be left alone.  We seek fame.  We seek fortune.  We seek knowledge.  We seek understanding.  We seek respect.  We seek recognition.  We seek approval.  We seek adventure.  We seek happiness.  I am convinced every person is seeking something, both in the short term as well as the long term.  In the short term you may be seeking a little bit of rest and relaxation.  In the long term, you may be seeking purpose and direction for your life.

In Matthew 6:33, Jesus says, “Seek first the kingdom of God and its righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.”  St. Augustine famously wrote, “Our hearts our restless until they rest in God.”  Restlessness and seeking seem to go hand-in-hand.  Jesus knows our hearts will be restless until we determine the primary pursuit in our life is a relationship with God in Christ. 

What we need most in our lives is spiritual.  It is a void only God can fill.  It is a hunger only God can feed.  It is a thirst only God can quench.  Now, we can try to meet this need by seeking after any number of different things, but in the end we won’t be satisfied.  I suspect the opposite of restlessness is peace and, according to Jesus, we will find it only through the pursuit of God.  

I have any number of colleagues who came to the ordained ministry as a second career.  Some of them, when telling their story, say there was always something nagging at them but they didn’t know what it was.  Finally, through one means or another, they came to understand their restless was actually God’s call.  Once they discerned this and responded everything in their lives began to fall into place.  Now, I am not saying every person who feels restless should get ordained.  That may not be your call.  Still, God is calling you to something.  Seek after it.