Sermon by The Reverend Jodi Baron, 2 Epiphany, January 15, 2017, Year A, John 1:29-42
They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come and see.”
In the name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen
I have to say, good people of St. Philip’s. Your song is beautiful. Every time I process down this aisle to come into worship and to go into the world, I am engulfed by your voices, and it fills my soul. When I start back there, though, I can only hear the beauty of the organ. Larry plays the notes and without fail, you start to sing and I walk in with the others and slowly begin to discern your voices. I listen as I pass you by for what your voice sounds like and a smile comes to my heart because if you weren’t here I wouldn’t have been able to experience your voice this day, and we would be diminished because of it.
When I was much younger than I am today a friend of mine introduced me to a band that they loved called, The Grateful Dead. That they went to see any chance they could. Spent oodles of money he didn’t really have the chance to hear them play again.
This friend of mine didn’t know me super well but suspected that I would be attracted to this kind of music, and he was right. I never got to see that band, but I met a lot of people over the coming years who had. They shared this band’s music with me, sometimes shows they themselves were at, others from studio recordings of their music. I fell in love with the music because it was accessible to me in ways that much happening in my life was not. And music has always done that for me.
I wasn’t an athlete, I wasn’t particularly gifted in school, but I loved music. Especially the written word put to song. It helped me transcend into another level of reality that I hadn’t ever experienced in anything else I tried.
For many years I observed and collected the stories of these disciples of this band. I asked them why they liked them so much and what it meant to them. Almost without exception, they all would tell me they would go to shows because they felt like they belonged.
The band played and the people danced and sang along.
And they are in it together and love it when others join in on the dance but are shy to tell others about what they like for fear they will be misunderstood, judged, or rejected.
Well, growing up in the church, this immediately made me think of what we do here on Sundays, together. What we do as a community of believers, questioners, doubters, and proclaimers.
We gather because God starts playing the music, right? And as God plays it begins to seep into our bones and we feel compelled to move, to go, to do. And some of us love this but are shy to tell others about the story for fear that we will be misunderstood, judged, or rejected. But someone is always here to gather us, to play the songs that have collected the faithful for generations across time and continent. Someone always to proclaim the Word of the Lord, set the table for us to feast on the gift of God’s love made manifest through the love of Jesus, his only begotten son. Someone who always has questions and someone who has answers, or at least space to listen. Someone always here to put the coffee on and sit just a few minutes longer while the music plays on. Someone here to invite us in and send us out.
That’s kinda what I got in this morning’s gospel, there were so many words and phrases that stood out, some from their jarring, almost riddle-like nature, but others because of the metaphors they evoked in my heart of God’s ever-expanding invitation to all of Creation to come into the circle, to “come and see,” to join in on the dance that has been happening forever and goes on into eternity.
But for me, the crux of this morning’s gospel was in that verse where John’s disciples, his followers, listen to their teacher’s words as he points out to them that, “Remember guys? I said I’m not the one, it’s THIS guy! He’s the one who I saw this bird come down from heaven and land on…and not just land on, but remain!!! At that moment I remembered what God told me when he called me to do this crazy work in the first place, to look for him, this guy.”
This is the grand introduction John gives to his disciples, to the young man they called Jesus.
This proclamation of who Jesus really is.
Revealing who it is they really need to follow.
These guys weren’t avoiding this active life of discipleship, they weren’t sitting on the shore with their heads in the sand…these guys were already in it! They were John’s disciples, his followers who were listening, literally following him so close that they would be covered by the dust from John’s feet. These were the one’s who were asking God for eyes to see the Anointed one to whom all “this” was supposedly about.
They stop Jesus in his tracks and ask him, ““Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?” and then Jesus said to them, “Come and see.”
And I imagine John sitting off to the side with a big ole’ grin on his face as he watches these two brothers get it. I mean *really* get it!
They listened to John, they learned all they could from John, and now, here is Jesus, the ONE, whom we have been preparing to meet. And John opens up this new world for these brothers, now the first of Jesus’ disciples, and gently disappears from the scene.
I read someone this week that said John’s function was to prepare the way and then to get out of the way for Jesus. That now the work he did with them was to be replaced with their own experience with Jesus, for themselves.
And that question we heard Andrew and Simon Peter ask Jesus, “where are you staying?” has a word “stay” in it that evokes a sense of permanence.
This “peek” into trinitarian theology for the community of these first followers of Jesus that we get the privilege today of praying, baptizing, communing, commissioning, blessing, in the holy name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
The one who always has been, always have been, always will be.
That relationship of Love, Beloved, and Lover is now opened to us to be in the world in a different way if we have the courage to ask Jesus where he is staying.
Because when we ask Jesus that little question, he answers with opening the circle of discipleship ever wider.
He invites us to, “Come and See.”
In this season of days following the Epiphany of our Lord, we will continue to hear these sacred stories of long ago that reveal Jesus in powerful ways, to move our hearts from places of individual private devotion to corporate, collective, action in following him, in becoming his disciples.
Jesus is inviting us, I think, to follow him so close that, we too, might become covered in the dust of his feet, hear every word, take up his speech patterns and body language. So much so that we look like Jesus, talk like Jesus, walk like Jesus, be like Jesus…in here… in this space… where we get to practice being our truest human selves with God and the heavenly hosts, and, out there…in the world…as we gather in living rooms and coffee shops, workplaces, stadiums, and classrooms.
Discipleship of Jesus offers a pattern of being that is dripping with opportunities for making meaning out of this thing called life, which was designed to reflect God, as were we.
We ourselves aren’t God but we were created in God’s image and designed to do God’s work in this world God created to bring about restoration, reconciliation. To fling open the doors of discipleship to anyone with ears to listen and eyes to see. But it requires us to have space within ourselves to cultivate the type of hospitality that others would want to become a part of what Jesus invites us.
May we, the followers of Jesus who gather some 2,000 years after he walked this earth, still be so covered by the dust of our Teacher and mimic his teachings in all we do, that when others see us pass them by, they recognize to whom we call our Lord.
May we walk like him, talk like him, love like him, be like him, in this place and in our places and circles of influence.
And may we have the courage to share our story with others who have the curiosity to ask us “where are you staying?”