When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, “What are you looking for?” (John 1:38) What are you looking for? He asked Andrew and the other who was trailing behind him. The words of this question seem to pass through the centuries and speak to me personally, as if I am the one behind our Lord, curious to learn more about this strange teacher. Randy, what are you looking for? I am forced to stop and think about it. Isn’t this the question of my life? Isn’t this the question of all of our lives? What are we looking for? What do we seek? What do we want and what do we hope to find? St. James’s, our Lord might say, what are you looking for?
I imagine what it must have been like for these men on this particular day. They are followers of John the Baptist. They have been with John for some time and they are sure John is a powerful man of God, a great prophet. I can see the shocked expressions on their faces when John, upon seeing Jesus walking nearby, calls out Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world: And a little later on the next day when John again sees Jesus and says, Look, here is the Lamb of God! How puzzled John’s disciples must have been that this great man would point to some unknown carpenter from Nazareth and proclaim him as someone even greater. Who could be greater than John the Baptist and how did John know this man?
Andrew and his friend are now confused and curious. They follow Jesus hoping to find out something more about him. I can see them lagging behind him, trying to hide themselves in the crowd, trying not to be too obvious. I can see them following Jesus the way we might follow some celebrity we have spotted on the street, curious but not wanting to embarrass ourselves by approaching. But, Jesus knows they are there and he stops to speak to them. However, he doesn’t turn and say, Hello, who are you?, or Excuse me, why are you following me? Rather he stops and simply says – What are you looking for? What do you want to find? It is as if he looks into their souls and knows their yearning for God, their searching and he questions them on the heart of the matter. Perhaps Jesus understands that all of us must know what we are looking for before we can ever hope to find it.
Andrew and the other do not know how to answer. In fact, they do not answer Jesus’ question at all. Instead, they ask a question of their own. Rabbi, they call him, at least they have figured out that he is a teacher, where are you staying? Jesus says, Come and see.
This question of Jesus’ What are you looking for?, haunts me. Every time I go into a store and buy some trinket, some new gadget thinking I need it, but really just hoping that my purchase will make me feel good, it is as if our Lord is standing behind me asking – What are you looking for? Every time I smoke a cigar or take a drink or eat something decadent because I crave it, it is as if our Lord is there asking me – What are you looking for? Every time I ache for the attention and acceptance of others, every time I am tempted to say something unnecessary, something stupid or something purely self serving just to impress someone, I hear God say – What are you looking for? Every time I drive by the new home of a friend or pass my friend’s new car that is so much bigger, better, fancier and faster than my own and I feel that twinge of envy, that rumble of jealousy deep within my belly, I hear God asking – What are you looking for? And every time in my ministry when I find myself paying more attention to the papers on my desk or the process of running this parish rather than giving my attention directly to the people I am called to serve, I hear God’s voice asking – What are you looking for? Are you looking for more possessions, more food, more attention, more fame, or are you looking for me? You have to know what you want, before you can ever find it.
So often we go after the wrong things in life. So often we think that something from this world will satisfy us and give us what we need. So often we think that if we only had the Jag, the house in Windsor Farms, the million-dollar portfolio, or 8% body fat, then we will have what we need to be happy and whole and secure. But our lesson for today is that Christ calls to us in our search, questions our motivations and demands that we identify our goals – What are you looking for? If you want me, he says, then come and see. If you want something else and you think it will ultimately make you happy then go and look elsewhere. Andrew knows that in Jesus he has found what he is looking for. He rushes home to find his brother Peter and says to him, We have found the Messiah. He tells Peter that he has found that which will save him, that which will satisfy all his searching, he has found God.
When 17 of us left for Honduras on January 3rd, I am not sure I could have told you what it was I was looking for. I was going on this trip to get a glimpse of the places and people that have become so important to so many at St. James’s. I was going to see what all the talk was about. I was going to see how we have been spending our time and our money. I have made missions before to places like Guatemala and South Africa, but this was my first encounter with the people of Honduras.
It was a fantastic trip. I was part of a wonderful team – a team of seventeen energetic men and women who gave the gift of their vacation time as well as a significant amount of their money to go and care for people many of them have never seen before. You should be proud of your missionaries. They worked hard – lifting cinder blocks, hauling sand, bending rebar, laying cement. They gave of themselves not only physically but emotionally because when we were not building houses we were building relationships – trying to share in the lives of seventy of the most beautiful young women you have ever seen, who have no family but each other, and no home other than an orphanage.
What was I looking for when I went to Honduras? I am not sure. A fun experience, an enlightening trip, a chance to work hard, a break from the snow – perhaps all of the above. But what I found was so much more. Christ was everywhere. I found him in the smiles and the hugs of the girls at Our Little Roses. Girls who are loving and trusting in spite of the fact that many of them have known the most horrible kinds of abuse. I found Christ alive and well in the Honduran Episcopal Church that has been using its resources to create neighborhoods from scratch for hundreds of people who have no homes. I found Christ in the very tears of our own group. It is difficult to go to a country that has such immense needs and realize that even when you do your best it barely scratches the surface. Sometimes we saw too much and knew we could do only very little.
What are we looking for – you and I and this Church? Jesus stops and turns and asks us the same question he asked John’s disciples. Are we looking for the Messiah, the God of sacrifice and service who demands that we be like him? Or do we seek something else something easier to follow like the yearnings of our own self interests? I believe St. James’s is a special place. But I am convinced it is only special because of the God who calls us. And if we ever stray from that God and his work then we will loose that which we value the most. What are you looking for? – Jesus asks. In this new year let us look for Christ in every person who comes in these doors. Let us proclaim Christ to every person we are called to serve and let us share the love of Christ with each other so that together we can proclaim with Andrew – We have found the Messiah. Amen.