2 Epiphany

The Rev. Mary Grambsch

Your Word, O Lord is a lantern for our feet and a light upon our path; In the Name of God; the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.   Amen.

A holy and blessed Epiphany to you.  Today is the second Sunday in the Epiphany Season; Epiphany begins on January 6th with the commemoration of Three Wisemen and their journey to find the Christ Child, born to be King of the Jews, and the season of Epiphany will end in early March, just before Lent begins.  The Season of Epiphany is all about discovery and searching for Light; in Epiphany we are on a quest to find and know Jesus in a deeper way, to renew and enliven our faith.

All of the scriptures we hear in the Epiphany Season are about searching and finding, about discovery and new beginnings.  Last Sunday, the First Sunday of Epiphany, we heard the story of Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River by John the Baptist; the Spirit of God came from heaven and alighted on Jesus and the voice of God said, “This is my Beloved.”  Something new was happening, something new beginning; the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ had begun.

In today’s reading from the Gospel of John something new is happening again – Jesus is gathering his Disciples and beginning his teaching.  When we think of the calling of the Disciples we usually think of the account of that story from the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and especially, Luke.  The scene of Jesus walking by the Sea of Galilee and calling to the fishermen, “Follow me.”  John’s Gospel, written many years later than the other three Gospels, and most especially, written for Greek speaking Gentiles, not for Hebrew and Aramaic speaking Jews, has a very different version of the calling of the Disciples.

In John’s Gospel, John the Baptist is present and points his followers toward Jesus; John points out Jesus on the street and says to his followers “See! This is the Lamb of God”.  John wants everyone to clearly see who Jesus is and where he may be found.  Perhaps some of John’s followers stayed with him, but at least two left him and began following Jesus around.

At this point we see the differences in the Gospel stories; in John’s Gospel Jesus does not just say “Follow me”, he asks a question and he gives an invitation to these two first followers.  Jesus turns to them and asks, “What are you looking for?”  He knows that they are searching for something or they would not have been following John and they would not be tagging behind him now.  What are you looking for?  It sounds like a simple question, but of course it is a question that goes to the very heart of life.  Notice that the Disciples don’t answer Jesus’ question, they instead ask a question, “Where are you staying?”

The two Disciples, these new followers of Jesus, know that they need some time and privacy to speak to Jesus.  They are searching and yearning for something, but it is too important to them to just stand around in the street and chat, so they ask Jesus where he is staying, inviting themselves to Jesus home so they can talk more in depth about their searchings.  If you think about it, it was a bold thing to do – say you meet an interesting person, maybe a friend of a friend, and on the first meeting you ask to be invited (the two of you!) into their home.  I wouldn’t do that, would you?

Jesus response is even more surprising – “Come and see”.  In other words, he was accepting them as his students and disciples, and invited them to a place where they could talk.  Not even in those times, with the more formal rules of hospitality, did people invite strangers into their homes on a first meeting.  Part of the reason there were open, shady plazas near the town gate or marketplace was so that people could meet and talk, before an invitation into ones home was given.  Jesus in his first meeting with people is already breaking the rules and extending hospitability in a new and radical way!

The story continues with the witness of Andrew to his brother, Simon Peter.  I have always thought that Andrew was the best example of evangelism in the Gospel.  Here is a man who is searching for the Messiah, the Anointed One, promised by God.  He heard that the Messiah was coming from John the Baptist, and when John points our Jesus as the Messiah Andrew immediately begins to follow him, invites himself to Jesus’ house and speaks privately with him.  In that conversation with Jesus, Andrew poured out his heart and told Jesus about his yearning for the Messiah, his searching for a deeper knowledge and faith in God.  I always imagined Jesus sitting and listening and smiling at Andrew and his earnest searching and faith, and then revealing himself as the one Andrew had been looking for. 

What does Andrew do with this wonderful discovery, this amazing revelation?  He goes to the person nearest to his heart, his brother, and tells him, “We have found the Messiah!”  He just can’t keep this good news to himself, he has GOT to tell somebody or bust!  I have felt that way a time or two in my life, and I’m sure you have gotten wonderful, unbelievable news and just had to call someone and share it with them.  That basically is what evangelism is about – knowing the Good News of Jesus Christ in your heart, soul and mind, and needing to tell someone about your discovery.

That discovery, for Andrew and I believe for us too, begins with a question – What are you looking for?  What is your aim or goal? What do you what out of life? What are you looking for in your life?  Are you looking for security? for safety? for protection?  If you are only looking for those things, your search is a meager one, and for the most part, an illusion.  The changes and chances of this life can so easily foil our efforts to be safe and secure behind walls made of money and power.

Are you looking for peace, for fulfillment, for who you truly are?  This is a search that only Jesus can meet and supply.  I think that as we grow older we stop asking ourselves. “What are you looking for?” because we assume that we have found it already. We somehow think that this kind of searching for God is settled when we are young and questioning everything, but our search for an ever-deeper relationship with God is ongoing and life long.  We are never too old (or too young) to ask ourselves the same question Jesus asks all his Disciples, “What are you looking for?”  St. Augustine once wrote that we could not even begin searching for God unless God had already found us.  We do not go searching for a God that hides from us or keeps us at a distance.  Just as Jesus came to meet the Disciples half way and invited them to know him better, Jesus meets us wherever we are in our searching and invites us to know him better.

I believe that Jesus looks at us the same way that he looked on Simon Peter, with loving and knowing eyes.  The word that the Gospel writer used was ‘emblepein’ to describe the way Jesus gazed at Simon Peter; it means to look not at the surface of a person, but to look into their hearts, to see the possibilities in that person. It is the way that parents and grandparents look at their children – seeing the faults and difficulties, but also seeing what is in the child, the possibilities, the future.  I must admit that as a child it made me nervous to have my mother and father stand there and look at me for several long minutes, especially if I had done something wrong, but I think they were ‘emblepein’ at me, gazing at me knowing that there was more to me than my current mischievousness, seeing past my faults to the person I was and could be underneath.  God looks at all of us that way, reading our hearts and seeing the possibility in us.

So as we journey through the Season of Epiphany together I hope you will remember that you are on a search, a quest for a deeper relationship with God; a God that meets us more than half way, a God who wants to be rediscovered and found by us.  Perhaps a good place to begin our search is with the question “What are you looking for?”.  May your Epiphany search be fruitful and joyous.  Amen.