What are you Looking For?
The very first words we hear from Jesus in the Book of John are “What are you looking for?”!
When John’s disciples begin to follow Jesus, he asks them “what are you seeking?”They answer him, rabbi (teacher): Where are you staying? And he says “come and see.”
These words have much deeper meaning than
“Come see where I’m staying for the night.”
From the Greek this form of staying mean: How are you abiding; Where are you dwelling…
And the word used for “see” Come and see means: clear discernment, and experience. Not mere looking with the eyes.
Jesus essentially says, Come abide with me, this residing in God - and experience it for yourself.
I really like the remarks from Dr. Steve Mueller in his weekly message: where we abide has to do with who we are -and the gifts we really have. And, that in the context of walking “the way,” Jesus asks us to appreciate the question deeply: What are you seeking?
Mueller writes, “As Jesus begins his public life, we too are invited to reflect on our own unique mission, the task marked with our name, which no one else can do…"
Last week we spoke about naming. That Jesus names people; One of the reasons I love him so much. And here again are more stories of Jesus naming. The second thing Jesus says in the book of John, is “You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas”(which is translated Peter).
Following “the way” gives us a new identity. It is significant.
Jesus is called Lamb of God by John the Baptist affirming his role as the “suffering servant” from the Book of Isaiah.
In our beautiful passage from Isaiah today, the prophet is speaking about Jacob and Israel. Here again, if you remember: the story of Jacob involves a new name. Jacob had been terrified to return home to his brother Esau because Esau had vowed to kill Jacob for stealing his birthright. But God tells Jacob to reconcile with his brother. The night before their happy reconciliation Jacob wrestles with an angel for an entire night. In the morning God names Jacob Israel meaning “one who strives with God.” He becomes the representative of the people identified as Israel: a name that involves reconciliation.
The prophets are always in one way or another asking us to reconcile on behalf of God. This morning God speaks through Isaiah. God’s vision for redemption, for salvation, for being called into loving relationship with our Creator is not for Jacob/Israel alone. God says,
“It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob
and to restore the survivors of Israel;
I will give you as a light to the nations,
that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”
This suffering servant, This Lamb of God, this Jesus is also called a light to enlighten the nations.
The prophet Isaiah and Jesus are always reminding us that the spiritual path is not ours alone, but one that extends to others. And we have unique ways of naming our own participation “on the way.”
Recently, Fr. Richard Rohr has had a serious of meditations on the Prophets and the role of prophetic voice. He wrote
“History is continually graced with people who somehow learned to act beyond and outside their self-interest and for the good of the world, people who clearly operated by a power larger than their own. Consider Gandhi , Oskar Schindler, Martin Luther King Jr. Add to them Rosa Parks, Mother Teresa, …and many unsung leaders. Their inspiring witness offers us strong evidence that the mind of Christ still inhabits the world.”
Tomorrow we celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday. There will be a Diocesan-wide service held on zoom for those of us who can’t make it to the Bronx. That info is in the Damascus if you would like the link.
In the context of the weekend it is impossible not to associate this passage of Isaiah with MLK. And It is one of my favorite images:
“The Lord called me before I was born,
while I was in my mother's womb he named me.
He made my mouth like a sharp sword,
in the shadow of his hand he hid me;
he made me a polished arrow,
in his quiver he hid me away.
And he said to me, “You are my servant,
Israel, in whom I will be glorified.’”
If ever there was a polished arrow or mouth like a sharp sword it was Martin Luther King Jr.
He is known for the civil rights movement, but his message was not solely for racial justice in the USA; he was also speaking to the needs of those around the world. His theology and his message was a profound and prophetic voice for people in war-torn countries, for people in poverty, no matter our color…
Paul writing to the Corinthians reminds them that we are all called to fellowship through Christ. Powerfully, Paul reminds us that Christ’s testimony is actually strengthened through us! And that we are not lacking in any spiritual gifts.
Most of you know that I was a Spiritual Director for many years before I was ordained. In spiritual direction we discern our place “on the way”… looking to grow, we consciously become aware of our journey and the direction our path is taking: how to recognize the signs … and to be engaged in the process. We begin to be awake to what is being revealed.
There is the eternal learning of a lifetime. We say the home is where the heart is… And we really mean what matters to us deeply is that abiding space we call home. Everything we do flows from that center. Where your treasure is, there your heart will also be.
Now this seems obvious, but as Mueller suggests we need to reflect on it… because our daily lives get complicated with people and things and objectives that tempt us away from ourselves, our hearts, and the stability of abiding in God, and operating from that center.
So often as St. Paul says, “I do not do what I want to do, but instead I do the thing that I hate.” So often we get caught up in troubles that as Julian of Norwich says, darkens our eyes to the Spirit of God…”
We see: my eyes were darkened because of my propensity for winning, or jealousy, my phone, shopping, drinking or even the thirst for perfection. I’m not honoring my heart (and the people in my life: what truly matters) with my constant drive for accomplishment!
The Spiritual journey is often a wrestling match.
Like with Jacob: We strive with God.
Our spiritual path to follow “in the way” names us as Christians. Striving…
So what does that naming mean for you?
What is your unique mission?
I believe that we start to uncover our own prophetic voice… Not that we are all called to be like Isaiah or Martin Luther King, Jr…. But that we have our own distinct yearning…
It mirrors what was happening with the disciples in the Gospel: God says, what are you seeking? Come and discern/come and experience it! And once we do… that interior voice becomes clearer and clearer. This is who I am in God… this is what matters to me, and this is what I am doing!
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The Rev. Heather K. Sisk