January 15, 2017 – What are you looking for?

Epiphany 2  January 15 2017  Ps 40, John 1:29-42   What are you looking for? ****************************************************** As we rejoin our story in progress… we first see John the Baptist, again. The few of us who made it out despite the snow saw John wading in the waters of baptism with Jesus last week… Now John declares Jesus to be “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” And as he sees – and points out Jesus to his followers – two of them pick up and go, then and there, following Jesus… Jesus turns, sees them following, and asks, “What are you looking for?” They’re looking for him, of course. ‘Rabbi, where are you staying?’ they ask. I’m very sure they were more interested in getting to know Jesus… than in just learning his address. Yet perhaps they didn’t quite know how to say… what they were looking for yet… But Jesus hears their question coming from a deeper place – and replies with an invitation, “Come and see.” They come and see. And spend the rest of the day with him. Then, like John the Baptist before them, they’re calling others to come and see also. Starting with Andrew calling his brother Simon. And as we read on in John, we soon see others using these same words – “come and see” – to invite still others to come, get to know Jesus. And this phrase “come and see” still works well as basic words of invitation… But before we get to asking “come and see” we have the question of come and see what? – embedded in the question Jesus asks – “what are you looking for?” And, on one level, even though we know the story – and even though “looking for Jesus” is, on the deepest level, always the right answer – even so, we probably shouldn’t always say “We’re looking for Jesus” automatically, every time someone asks, “What are you looking for?” If the person asking “what are you looking for?” is a grocery clerk, wondering if we’re looking for tortilla chips or toothpaste… Well, yes, we are looking for Jesus. (And I’ve run into Jesus at least a few times at the grocery store.) But I don’t recommend telling anyone who might not understand – we’re looking for Jesus somewhere in Aisle 11 at Market Basket. (There are times when it’s best to be discrete…) We are, however, expected – those of us who claim the name of Jesus – to not hide our light of faith under a bushel basket. In the words of Psalm 40 – we are blessed if we “tell the glad news of deliverance…” and “do not restrain our lips” as we “speak of God’s faithfulness and salvation”… Our faith is not supposed to be a secret. Our lives and words are meant to testify always to the goodness of God… And, as Psalm 40 also illustrates, life often has sudden ups and downs. The psalm begins as a song of praise, then transitions to become a meditation on God’s nature and  proper worship of the Lord… Then, in our second reading from this same psalm, the psalmist is suddenly singing the ‘Deliver me, O Lord Blues’… We don’t know what has inspired this abrupt...

read more

January 17, 2016 – Married to God

Epiphany 2     January 17, 2016 Psalm 36, 1 Corinthians 12:1-12, Isaiah 62:1-5, John 2:1-11          Married to God ***************************************************** Weddings are meant to be way high up there, among our most cherished moments… Which is how I remember our wedding, in metro Seattle – also, a week later, our affirmation-of-vows-full-dress, rings and vows all over again, service in Boston. (With family and friends on both coasts, we felt the need for more than one community gathering…) Our second service was technically more symbolic than the first, but I couldn’t really tell the difference. I felt the same mix of anxiety and bliss all over again… (I remember after the later service a friend from Vermont telling me “Tim, you were glowing!”) Weddings, however, don’t always go quite as smoothly and joyfully as they’re supposed to. I remember one of my pastor-mentors telling me, “People just about always behave well at funerals. But with weddings, you never know… Meltdowns are not uncommon….” I’ve been fortunate to not have had any major meltdowns so far in any of the weddings I’ve helped out with. The nearest I can recall to a malfunction was in a wedding in the Northern Adirondacks of New York. We came to the place where the groom was supposed to say “for richer, and for poorer”… but he insisted on saying, “for poorer, and for poorer….” (He’d done this also in rehearsal, so we knew it was not by mistake…) But his bride didn’t say anything…And all I did was raise my eyebrows, just a little, and pray for them. Because by now I know I’m not in charge. We pastors never really marry anybody. We’re just facilitators. In all branches of the Christian church pastors and priests are recognized as official witnesses to the wedding, but it’s always the bride and groom themselves who perform the actual wedding, as they give themselves to each other through the making of their vows. And to a lesser degree (though not necessarily a much lesser degree), the whole congregation also helps perform the marriage ceremony. It’s the bride and groom alone who say to each other “I will” and “I do” as they make their vows. But the whole congregation also says “we will,” and “amen,” as the pastor asks if we will do all we can to help this couple to grow in love and marriage… I say all this by way of background, because today we are invited guests at a wedding… Where everything is not going right. The wine has just run out – a major catastrophe according to wedding practices of the time… But because of an unusual sign performed by Jesus at this wedding… Now our Christian wedding liturgies mention this wedding at Cana as a sacred symbol of our marriage covenant with each other… and with Christ… Today our gospel reading has us seated at a country wedding in the small village of Cana of Galilee, near the town Jesus grew up in. The mother of Jesus is there. Perhaps she’s a relative or close friend of someone in the wedding. Legends of old guess she may be an aunt of the bride or groom. We really don’t know, but… Jesus and his disciples are also at the wedding… And the mother of Jesus...

read more

January 18, 2015 – Come and see

1 Samuel 3:1-10 Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord under Eli. The word of the Lord was rare in those days; visions were not widespread. At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see, was lying down in his room; the lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was. Then the Lord called, “Samuel! Samuel!” and he said, “Here I am!” and ran to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call; lie down again.” So he went and lay down. The Lord called again, “Samuel!” Samuel got up and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call, my son; lie down again.” Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. The Lord called Samuel again, a third time. And he got up and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” Then Eli perceived that the Lord was calling the boy. Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down; and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place. Now the Lord came and stood there, calling as before, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” John 1:29-34 The next day he 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.” John 1:35-51 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...

read more

January 19, 2014 – Second Sunday after the Epiphany

Epiphany 2  1/19/14 (Isa 49:1-7, John 1:29-42)1 Corinthians 1:1-9  Don’t hang up **** The servant of God is called to be a light to the nations, Isaiah tells us. The first followers of Jesus are called to be apostles, St John tells us. The church in Corinth is called to be saints. Called into the fellowship of Jesus Christ, the apostle tells us. The action word in all our readings today is God calling. We can even summarize – God is calling. It’s for you. Don’t hang up. Though I doubt any of you are old enough to remember – there was a song, back in antiquity, Don’t hang up – (The Orlons singing an up-tempo kinda-sorta-love-song in which someone’s been seen in a compromising situation – now she’s singing to her lover – Don’t hang up…  oh don’t you do it now… Don’t hang up…) It’s a rough draft parable I know, but hey… God’s call to humans is a major theme all through scripture. And God knows we humans are often seen by God in spiritually-compromising situations, all the way from the gates of Eden to the present… Yet our gracious God is still always calling us, saying, Don’t hang up. In our reading from Isaiah today, God calls his servant from the womb… In John’s gospel, Jesus calls a pair of seekers, come and see… (And, they come and see, and begin to recognize the Messiah, the Son of God, and go on to become apostles.) But it’s only when we get to saint Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth that we hear – all of us believers are called to be saints – or depending on translation, called to be holy. Saint, sanctified, and holy all come from the same root word.) All who claim the name of Jesus are already sanctified (it’s a process, we Methodists believe) and called to be saints – called to be holy, called to have Jesus as the center of our lives. Called by God, together to be in fellowship with Jesus and one another. Called to be the church, the temple of God, the body of Christ. New names for ourselves we’ll hear, as we read on in First Corinthians, where all manner of messy church stuff is flying in all directions… yet through it all God is always calling us into abundance of grace and peace and love… Don’t hang up. Paul begins his letter, like all letters of that time, by naming himself as sender, naming the recipients (so they know it’s for them) then comes a greeting, a prayerful kind of blessing and, typical of Paul’s letters, also a hint about the subject of the letter. In this case we hear Paul naming his own calling first. Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God. Letting us know being an apostle wasn’t Paul’s idea, if we have an issue with it, blame God. Paul then lets us know our brother Sosthenes is a supporting deputy-letter-writer. (Most of Paul’s letters have co-authors – he’s not a lone ranger.) And this letter is addressed: To the church of God that is in Corinth – to the whole church, not just a few members – to those who are sanctified in...

read more