SERMON 1/16/11 Epiphany 2A
John 1:29-42 John saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, `After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.” And John testified, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, `He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.” The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 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?” 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. One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Anointed). 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).
“What are we looking for?” We like to follow folks. Rock bands, singer/songwriters, movie stars, political figures, even celebrity chefs are people we admire, and people at whom we marvel. When I was a bit younger, many of my friends followed rock bands like Van Halen, ZZ Top, and The Eagles. They enjoyed pop singers like Madonna, Cindy Lauper and Michael Jackson. For that generation, purchasing concert tickets, buying T-Shirts and collecting record albums was how we expressed our loyalty to our favorite pop idol. For other generations, we followed icons like the Beatles, the Monkees, and Elvis Presley, and for others we admired big band artists like Duke Ellington, Glen Miller, or Tommy Dorsey. No matter the generation, we all had our favorites that we followed, and we all cheered them.
Andrew and Simon followed two famous folks back about 2000 years ago. First it was John the Baptist, who according to John’s gospel narrative, was frequently drawing big crowds to his waterside show. I guess if John were here today, he could fill some rather large stadiums, maybe sell some really, cool camel hair T-shirts, or maybe even sign a sweet advertising deal with a breakfast cereal manufacturer; imagine Kellogg’s Locust and Wild Honey nuggets. So, one day John was baptizing down by the River Jordon when all of a sudden, Jesus passed by. John caught glimpse of him and declared, “Here is the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.” Andrew and the other disciple left John behind and began following Jesus in order to find out more about him. Realizing he had two new groupies, Jesus turned to them and asked them a very poignant question, “What are you looking for?”
What are we looking for when we call Jesus Lord, when we call him the “Lamb of God?” Some folks follow Jesus as the great teacher and healer. Some follow him as the indwelling of God (God Incarnate). Others follow Jesus as the suffering servant (the one who atones for our sin). Some follow his meekness, humility and love. What are we looking for though … a pop icon, a superhero, or do we seek someone for whom we can applaud and shout approval? Discipleship is more than being a good fan.
There was a young man who dreamed of playing baseball for his high school team. He attended every home game, he sat in the stands during practice, he purchased a team jersey, and he read up on all the players. At practice one day, the manager looked up in the stands at the young man, and invited him to get on the field and try out. The young man realized that being a fan and being a player were not the same. Playing the game entailed some risk, some effort, and some teamwork. The would-be baseball star, had to lower his head at the invitation and decided to sit in the stands instead. He missed his chance. Jesus doesn’t invite us to be his fans or groupies, we are called to be disciples. To be a Christian is to be Christ-like. We are invited by God to “Come and See” what life in Christ is like. We are invited to come out of the stands and get into the game.
Following Jesus is not a part-time endeavor either. It’s not something for which we dole out a few minutes here and there each a week. Following Jesus is releasing our lives totally to the one who gives us life. Following Christ does not mean merely complying with a litany of do’s (go to church, give to God’s work in the church, obey the Ten commandments, go do mission work) and don’ts (don’t be mean to other people, don’t cheat on your taxes, don’t lie or steal). It’s not about being perfect, it’s about being faithful. Following Christ begins when our love for Christ is so great that our lives are changed forever.
The Christian walk is a life-long, up and down, never get it perfectly right endeavor; but thanks be to God, there is grace. Grace means that we get an entire lifetime to try and be like Jesus even when we mess it up sometimes. Through the example of the “Lamb of God,” the meek, perfect, unblemished example of God’s love incarnate in humanity in Jesus of Nazareth, we are given the gift of love. In Christ, we find that for which we are looking which is our true identity. God invites us to be who we were made to be. God calls us into a new way of being, and God gives us a new name. God has a habit of changing folks’ names when they come to a crossroads in life. Abram became Abraham, Sarai became Sarah, Simon became Cephas or the Rock and James and John became “Sons of Thunder.” When we follow Christ, God calls us friends, God calls us “children of God,” God calls us the “the light of the world,” and “the salt of the earth.” We come to find out who we really are, when we hand over our lives to the one who gave us life and life abundant. Isn’t abundant life filled with abundant love really that for which we are seeking?
Jesus asks, “What are you looking for?” Discipleship draws us out of the front row seats with lighter in hand yelling, “Rock on!” Discipleship moves us beyond the mere desire to obtain a backstage pass, where we can hang out with the star for eternity. Our Lord invites us to leave our seats and come up on stage with him. We are invited to Come and See what it means to follow him, to be transformed, and to go forth into the world and bring that same grace to the least, the lost, and the lonely. As a disciple of Christ, there’s no fan T-shirts, just a baptismal gown signifying our new identity. As a disciple of Christ, there are no platinum albums, just the song of God’s love in our hearts. As a disciple of Christ, there’s no need for advance tickets, because the only thing necessary for entry into God’s grace, is to receive it. Accept the invitation, open your hearts and know the reconciling love of the one whom we call, “The Lamb of God.”