What Are You Looking For
Did you happen to see the moon on Thursday night? It was incredible – I think it was one of those super moons. My daughter and I were driving around 6pm and we were coming down Charles, took a left onto Towsontowne. As we came around the bend – this huge glowing orb was right in front of us – and the line of cars in front of us – all slowed down. I’m sure it was because it looked like we would hit it. And the clouds surrounded but didn’t obscure it. It looked like we were staring at a movie screen. It was amazing.
And it made me remember a spiritual teaching – from the Zen Buddhist tradition. An elder monk happened upon a novice and he was wondering about certain teachings in his book. So he asked his teacher to explain the teaching to him. The teacher said he couldn’t read – so would the young monk please read the passage aloud to him. This astonished the young monk – and he mockingly asked – if you can’t read – how could you possibly understand the teachings. The elder replied –
Words are not truth. Truth is like the moon and the words are like my finger. I can point to the moon with my fingers, but my finger is not the moon. Do you need my finger to see the moon? (from Fishing For the Moon)
Words are not truth – like us they point to truth. Hence there are literal truths in scripture – but not everything is to be taken literally. This morning our gospel starts with a literal representation – a person pointing to the living word – as in in the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God.
Truth (capital T) – it’s a big part of John’s gospel. A gospel that is often referred to as the gospel of signs. The word miracle is never used in this telling of Jesus’ life – when water is turned into wine, Jesus says it is a sign. A time for us to redirect our gaze – and look at Truth. Jesus says, he is The Way, the Truth and the Life. And when Jesus stands before Pontius Pilate before his crucifixion – Pilate asks him – what is truth. And what does Jesus say – nothing.
There is nothing to say – because it is not a question that can be answered with words – it is how you see – how you live – that is the sign – pointing to the truth of your life.
John the Baptist sees this – and points at the walking and living and breathing truth coming towards him. And there are four key phrases – I think – that act as pointers for us -
What are you looking for? Where are you staying? Come and see.
And – Eureka! That’s in there too – its just we heard it in the English – but I’ll get to that.
What are you looking for? Jesus asks these following disciples. They are curious – is sounds as though they are traveling a few steps behind – not wanting to say anything – and so – Jesus turns and asks a question. And aren’t questions – an invitation?
When people ask me what I think of some belief or doctrine or faith “thing” – its always an opportunity for me – to hear from them and invite their wisdom. And that is also what people want to share – because all of us want validation – and all of us want to share our wisdom and who we are.
So this what Jesus does. He asks – what are you looking for? What do you seek? What do you hope to find? Since we are gathered here this morning – following Jesus – God is asking us that question too. What are YOU looking for? What do you seek – this day? What do you hope to find?
And surprisingly we learn something from the disciples – and that doesn’t happen to often – they’re usually getting corrected. But this time – they get it right. What are you looking for – from God – that’s a big question. Something – might immediately pop into our minds – maybe something popped immediately into their minds – but they don’t share it. They seem to get that Jesus is after something deeper – so they respond with a question of their own. Where are you staying?
To find what they are looking for – the disciples want to spend time with Jesus. How often will we hear Jesus say – abide in me. Stay with me. For as the Father is in me – so I am in you. I am the vine Jesus says and you are the branches – abide in me. Abide in my love. Think of Martha and her sister Mary and Jesus lifting up Mary’s inaction of simply being at his feet in adoration and prayer. The disciples understand that if they want to know what they are looking for – deep down – they need to spend time with God.
Did you notice how John the Baptist said – look, here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Sin is singular – even though we all know – sins (plural) of the world – abound. A truth then that John the Baptist is pointing to – is that in Christ and through Christ and with Christ – the relationship between God and us, God and the world – is forever healed, strengthened, connected. The sin of the world is the absence of God – and that is forever healed in God’s being in the world – done once, for all.
To rest in that relationship – to abide in/with that truth – is the way – is the finger that points – to what it is we are looking for. And so – Jesus again with words of invitation – come and see – invites these two people not to worship – not to action – not to any sort of test or qualifier – but to be in Christ’s presence – knowing that Christ wants to spend time with them.
The moon and this gospel – also got me remembering something from when I was about 9-10 years old. Late one Saturday night when I was sound asleep – my dad came in and woke me up. Arianne – there is a meteor shower tonight – shooting stars – come on – get up – let’s watch it! No way – I said, half asleep – it was also January and freezing cold. C’mon he said – it’ll be amazing and I really want you to see it – AND – I’ll make you Ovaltine and let you stay up to watch SNL. Well that did it.
And we bundled up – hot chocolate was made – and we sat outside and watched shooting stars and it was – like that moon the other night – amazing. But you all know what the most amazing part was – it was being with my dad – often away on business – and that he chose me, not my sisters, wanted to be with me – to share in that experience with me. It was the feeling of being special – beloved.
Jesus invites these disciples and us – to come and see – that God has chosen that 1:1 personal relationship with us. (God is faithful, by him you were chosen) That God wants to spend time with us – and together – in our time – 4 o’clock in the afternoon or whenever our time will allow – God will make time for us.
There is a lot going on in our times right now. Some of it feels as if we’re entering a whole new time – which we are – and we aren’t. It’s always a new time – and if you spend enough time with history – you recognize the truth in Ecclesiastes – There is nothing new under the sun. In the UN building in New York – there is a meditation room. It was conceived and designed by Dag Hammarskjöld, a Swedish diplomat and the 2nd Secretary General of the UN.
He took great care with the building of this room – and I encourage you to Google it if you it peaks your curiosity – but his belief was that “within everyone is a center of stillness surrounded by silence.” And no matter your faith tradition – everyone, especially those charged with making decisions that world leaders make – decisions that affect the welfare of nations – a person had to be able to abide in that stillness to connect with deep wisdom as a basis for their actions.
And the disciples remained him. We don’t know what they talked about – we don’t know if he taught and they listened – or if they poured their hearts out to him – or if they simply sat together in silence. Which is what I imagine. There was no need for words pointing to anything else – because they were in the presence of truth. And together they recognized how it was the answer to what they were looking for.
And when that happens – when we find something – an insight, an epiphany – a pearl of great price – we shout Eureka! And they did too – heurisko – is the Greek word for “found” - famously shouted by Archimedes – and henceforth transliterated – into the Eureka we know. Just as Jesus invited them into relationship – to know God through relationship – they go and find their friend to say – we found him! Eureka – we found the answer – and again that leads to relationship and invitation – what are you looking for – join us – come and see.
What are you looking for my friends? Deep down. As you confront and wrestle with the decisions in your life – the places where you long to shout Eureka, now I know what to do –when do you stay with God? When do you abide in the precious relaitonships in your life - spending time with those you love? Where can you make the time to abide and rest in Christ? What are the signs in your journey that are pointing you towards the Truth?
God is faithful – by God you were chosen – and by God you are called. What are you looking for? Come and see. Amen.