Monday, January 20, 2014

Sermon for Year A Epiphany 2


You know there is a whole movement around SLOW.
That’s right--slow.
The opposite of fast.

There is the slow food movement.
It means you cook things from scratch,
shop at the farmer’s market or grow a garden,
you take your time,
you savor your food.

There is the slow medicine movement.
It means you don’t rush into what might be unnecessary treatments
or interventions.
You explore all the options.
You take your time to make thoughtful, non-rushed decisions,
especially as the end of life approaches.

Many of our social justice movements,
both past and present
especially those that have embraced non-violent resistance,
realize that slow and steady and persistently
is often the best hope for success.

I think what we are hearing in the gospel this morning
is about slow Jesus.
Jesus is not in a hurry.
Jesus is slowing things down a bit.

Last week we heard from the gospel of Matthew
about the baptism of Jesus.
This week we hear about the baptism again--
this time from John’s gospel.

This baptism was an important event.
Everybody seems to want to be certain that it is recorded,
that the story is told.

But he story in John’s gospel today
takes us beyond the event of Jesus’ baptism.
It is the day after the baptism
and when Jesus walks by,
John the Baptizer says to two of his disciples, 
“Look, here is the lamb of God.”

This is a powerful moment
for so many reasons.
First of all, the disciples standing there with John
are not disciples of Jesus.
They are John’s disciples.

How amazing,
how without any ego or turf protection,
John says,
You need to be following him,
not me.

I don’t know many leaders in the church or in the world
that would say something like that.

John knows he is NOT the Messiah.
John recognizes the One who is the lamb of God.

Lamb of God.
Lamb because if you have ever seen a little lamb
you know they are adorable.
They look so cuddly.

Even though the lamb may not be too wild about the idea,
you really do want to just pick them up
and hold them. Protect them.

Jesus is the beloved.
God’s little lamb.

But a lamb is more than that.
Remember, in those days,
lambs were part of the culture of sacrifice.
To honor God
you sacrificed a lamb on the altar.

So John’s words, his prophetic words,
also foreshadow what is to come.
Jesus, God’s beloved, will be sacrificed on the cross.

But that is not yet.

In today’s gospel reading we have this wonderful question from Jesus,
to the disciples,

What are you looking for?
That is a question we always need to be asking ourselves--
not in the sense of what do we desire in material possessions
 or fame or fortune.
Not what we want to acquire but what are our hopes and our dreams.

Listen to Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speech during the March on Washington,
his “I have a dream” speech.
That speech could have easily been King’s response
to this question that Jesus asks:
What are you looking for, Martin?
Oh, Jesus, I have a dream….

What are you really looking for in your life
in the deepest parts of your being?
What are your hopes and dreams of how your world
and the wider world might be a better place,
a place much more like the kingdom of God.

How interesting that the next thing that Jesus says
to the disciples is

Come and see.

The disciples follow Jesus and spend time with him.
They check out his house.
They hang out together with Jesus.
All day.
At least until 4 pm.
They slow down.

Jesus does not take them right into feeding the hungry
or healing the sick
or even kneeling to pray in the wilderness.

I think the church is one of the few places in the world
that encourages us to slow down.
That does not mean we lack work to do,
in the church and in the world, in our own lives--
but we are given the invitation,
most especially in time set aside for worship,
to come and see.
Slow down.
Take it all in.

Almost ironically,
this slowness can give us energy,
revitalize us.

We need to relish being slow church
and to invite others to slow down,
and to come and see.

There should never be any pressure
to become a Christian overnight
or an Episcopalian on demand.
There should only be an invitation.

Come and see
how we sing and pray,
how we share this holy bread and holy wine
and if you can catch even a glimpse of God,
come back again.
Keep coming back.

It takes time.

Transforming people’s hearts and lives
is God’s work.
All we can do is say,
come and see.
Come and see what has made a difference in my life.
Come and see what gives me strength for the journey.

Slow Jesus invites us
and we are called to invite others.
That’s what disciples do.

Our faithful work is to offer that invitation of COME AND SEE
and to open our arms as widely as possible.

When we first moved to Memphis,
our son Jody was about 13 years old.
We were walking downtown
and were aggressively approached by a man,
who got right in our son’s face and said,
“Son, have you found Jesus?”

Now we had just moved from Charlottesville, Virginia
and people in Charlottesville did not ask those kind of questions.

Our son very quickly replied,
“Have I found Jesus? (pause)
I didn’t even know he was lost.”

The man just walked away from us, shaking his head.

We don’t have to find Jesus.
We just have to come and see.
We have to hang out,
we have to stay for awhile.
Jesus will find us.

The disciple Andrew comes and sees
and then he knows.
We have found the Messiah!
He rushes to tell his brother.
But his brother Simon Peter still has to come and see for himself.

No one can find the Messiah for you.
You find the Messiah by opening your heart and your mind,
by coming and seeing for yourself,
by hanging out
with a bunch of other crazy Christians
(as Bishop Michael Curry likes to call us)
by paying  attention to the love that lives under this roof,
in this church,
at St. John’s.

The immense and mysterious and unconditional love
which longs to dwell in all our houses,
in all our hearts.

Spread the Word.
Slow Jesus invites, COME AND SEE.
God is waiting.
Always waiting for us to show up.

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