Sermon from Sunday 15 January

What are you looking for?


Reading(s): John 1:29-42. This sermon was given by Sally Kerson at St Mark and All Saints.

I am not at all keen on watching football on television or any sport especially if it is in the evening, so instead I usually watch something on iPlayer. Recently I caught up with all the episodes of the ‘Detectorists’ ever since it was first televised in 2013. Initially I thought it would be boring watching two men with metal detectors, but I soon became enthralled by the story line. For those who haven’t watched the series it’s about these fellows who go in search of treasure. They spend hours and hours in fields looking for artefacts from a by gone age and do find some interesting items, if you discount buttons and ring pulls from cans. As well as the search for what is hidden in the ground, we hear about their personal lives, the ups and downs of daily living and their relationships with others including the ‘detectorist club’ which is made up of some extremely colourful characters. The episodes are fictional and amusing in places as well as sad, the acting is rather good too. One of the things I found very interesting was that the detectorists met in a Scout HQ and I was well impressed at such a well ordered and clean the place it was, having experienced many Scout activity buildings over the years! The series shows, above all else that throughout our lives we are constantly looking for something, whether we realise it or not. Although most of us will not be looking for hidden treasure under the ground! 

Those of us of a certain age may well remember the Eurythmics song ‘Sweet Dreams are made of this’ and the lyrics ‘Everybody’s looking for something’ hits home the fact that no matter what age and stage of our lives, there is always a longing, a desire for something. We may be looking for love, for acceptance, for success, financial stability, for adventure, for peace. For some it could be a meaning to our lives, whilst others are looking for God. There are times when we can be quite clear about what we are looking for and try our hardest to achieve that goal then perhaps become disappointed, disillusioned or even frustrated if we don’t find exactly what we are looking for and our plans don’t work out. There are times when we concentrate so much on our goal that we can often miss out on something that’s potentially even better than we imagined. ‘What are you looking for?’ I don’t think we can always put it into words what we are looking for, perhaps we don’t always know.  But we hear this question in this morning’s Gospel reading. John gives a slightly different account about how Jesus calls his first disciples from the other Gospel writers Mathew and Mark. Jesus doesn’t look for the disciples, like in the other Gospel accounts - he waits for disciples to look for him, to be curious about him. 

Last week we heard how Jesus was revealed to the wise men who came from the east, and so it’s important to remember that the wise men saw the star because they had been looking for it. ‘Everybody’s looking for something.’ John the Baptist is pointing out Jesus to people and saying, ‘Here is the lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’ Behold, the Lamb of God! Look! See! Find out more about this man. But of course, not everybody reacts, or wants to know more, would you or I in a similar situation? Many people took one look at this unremarkable son of a carpenter, shrugged their shoulders and went on looking for something else. But two of John’s disciples become curious. They want to know what is so special about this person called Jesus, they are curious. They want to see, they want to find out for themselves, and they start following him, but they do not want to be noticed, so they stand back. This really reminds me of people who may be view us in the church from the outside, may be follow us in certain ways, noting what the press says about the church in general, or the posts on social media, but never actually ask or want to know more, happy to stand back and may be even criticise when they don’t like what the church is doing or perhaps think we should be doing more. People don’t want to get involved for many reasons and after all why should they, especially committing themselves to something they don’t understand or believe in anyway.

So Jesus turns to his followers and says “What are you looking for?” And the two men, one of which is Andrew asks him where he is staying and Jesus reply is “Come and see.”  

“Come and see” is the story the church has always been called to tell. It’s the only story the church must tell, the story of its home, the place from which we draw hope and strength and power. “Come and see, come and experience.” But the invitation to “come and see” is also an invitation to leave our comfortable vantage points, and dare to believe that just maybe, we have been limited and wrong in our original certainties about each other, about God, and about the church and the world. To “come and see” is to approach all of life with a grace-filled curiosity, to believe that we are holy mysteries to each other, worthy of further exploration. To “come and see” is to enter the joy of being deeply seen and deeply known, and to have the very best that lies hidden within us called out and called forth.

These two men spent the rest of the day with Jesus and afterwards Andrew went to find his brother Simon and said to him. “‘We have found the Messiah’ and he brought him to Jesus who looked at him and said from now on you will be called Cephas which translated from Aramaic means rock, but there lies another story…”

But for now the question is do we invite the people we meet in our everyday lives to ‘come and see’ what we are doing in church? Can we be excited, as a child often is when they want to show off what they have done and eager to tell others and say ‘come and look what I have done’ come and see what is happening in church. No because we are not always confident enough to do this, it isn’t easy to say ‘come and see Christ among us’ even though we say it every week in our services. 

We should be able to say to others come and see the love we share as a church and community, by how we try and help others. Come and see what living in the trust of God’s image looks like.  Come and see what it means to be called to serve others. Come and see the beauty of God’s creation in the rich darkness and the multi-faceted light. Come and see justice, humility and learn to walk and talk with God. The entire Gospel according to John is about the invitation, ‘come and see’; and it becomes this story of people coming to Jesus and checking him out. Some find what they are longing, hoping, looking for, even though they may not even be fully aware of what they were looking for - the Samaritan woman at the well, the blind man who is healed, Mary Magdalene , but there are others who don’t. Their expectations didn’t match up with what Jesus has to offer. And so people continue to look for something or someone to fulfil their expectations.  

So what are we seeking when we attend church? Do we come to be soothed by traditions that are familiar to us? Listen to a sermon? (or do we find sermons boring - answers on a postcard please) Do we come to see people we love? Do we come to encounter the Divine? What are we seeking? What I admired the most about these two men who wanted to find treasure with their metal detectors was their determination to seek out what was lost, which may have been lost for thousands of years, obviously they were a bit of a pain leaving loved ones behind and spending hours in fields, but they never gave up.

The church and by that, I mean you and I have somehow lost that determination to seek and to find, to invite and encourage because we expect others to do it for us, the Vicar mainly. Whereas it is not just left to one person, we all should support the work of the church and be ambassadors for Christ and invite people to “come and see”.