Revised Common Lectionary Reflection, Second Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A
January 19, 2020
Lessons: Isaiah 49:1-7; Psalm 40:1-11; 1 Corinthians 1:1-9; John 1:29-42
Theme: God’s faithful and generous people embrace that what they seek—their deepest desire—is real relationship with Christ and assurance of belonging.
Key Scripture: 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?” John 1:38
Full disclosure: I have on occasion as a worship leader in different congregations asked those gathered why they are there. I have asked what they’re looking for, what they’re seeking, and most of the time their first reaction is confusion or befuddlement. I think that’s understandable for those of us who have grown up “in church,” whose lives have been marked by certain faith practices and rituals, including regular weekly worship.
“It’s something you just do,” some say, puzzled that their action would require any thought or consideration.
“I’ve always done it,” others muse, considering how Sunday morning might be approached differently.
“I love the church,” said one woman. “I can’t imagine starting my week any other way.” She added, “My family’s been sitting in that pew for three generations.”
“I have a drug problem,” qipped one man. “I was drug to church by my mother, and now I’m drug here by my wife.” (His wife did some serious eye-rolling at this response.)
Rarely do I hear as reasons the love of Jesus, the goodness of God, repentance and absolution, or the need to praise and honor the Creator of all that was, is, and is to come. It’s more often some sense of duty, ritual, or habit. Not that I’m knocking any person’s reason for being there. After all, being there matters, and God can work with the most distracted, hardened, clueless, or burdened of hearts. I’m not sure the present reality is all that different from the reality of past generations either. Contemplation, pondering, and thinking about faith and discipleship all take time, effort, and intention. I am convinced that often we don’t even truly know what we want because we are constantly bombarded with cultural messages telling us what we lack, what we need, and what new program, trinket, or purchase will make us feel/look/be better.
Somehow God works with our stubbornness, distractedness, and hesitancy. You’ve no doubt witnessed the Spirit take root in someone’s life. When they finally surrender logic, reason, and cultural expectations something beautiful happens. Their life takes shape, form, and they dig deeply into a discipleship groove and way of being that is a wonder to behold. It’s what sets prophets, teachers, gospel activists, and ministers apart. It’s what turns all of us everyday ordinary humans into more than we can imagine, infusing us with a sense of purpose and mission that truly seeks to make a difference in the world, to bring about a new way of living and being that aligns with Christ’s message and example.
In the gospel lesson John points out Jesus to two of his disciples, and they follow this unusual rabbi. That was John’s job—to point to the Messiah and to baptize for repentance and a changed life. Notice that the disciples don’t answer Jesus directly when he asks them “What are you looking for?” They can’t seem to say, asking instead where Jesus is staying. They just seem to know that they need to be in Jesus’ presence. And that is enough. In short order they leave life as they know it to follow and learn from this radical Rabbi. Even though the way isn’t clear, the answers aren’t pat and ready, and they can’t seem to answer a direct question, it is enough to be life-changing both for these two disciples and for many others.
This is good news. There is hope, folks. We don’t have to have all the answers. We don’t really even have to know exactly why we’re drawn into the beloved community or be able to articulate it in a three-minute, clear, theologically sound elevator speech. The best place to start is being here, being fully present. No matter why. No matter what. No matter who. God’s welcome is wide. Becoming a disciple of Jesus is the easiest and most difficult thing you will ever do, but it also leads to the most amazing life you can imagine. Why not make 2020 the year to discover a clear vision for why folks show up and why that matters? Imagine the possibilities. As Paul reminded the followers in Corinth, “God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” That’s a pretty good place to start; it’s not about us, it’s about God, and that is very good. Yes, no matter what you’re looking for, with God you will find it and so much more.
In Worship Consider having a few people share the reasons they gather for worship. Why do they follow Jesus? Choose a few folks who do have an understanding of discipleship and worship. Make some signs on quarter-cut poster board or heavy cardstock that read: I’m here because…
Provide colorful markers and invite worshipers to finish the sentence. Shoot a short video clip with each person holding their sign. Invite your “preselected” worshipers to come forward at some point during worship with their signs and add some context to their declarations. Invite others who want to come forward, too. With the video clips you may be able to edit together a compelling short message for your webpage and/or social media channels about why people gather in your community, what it means to them, and how it makes a difference. Consider showing the video in a future worship service.
With Youth Make this a day to give thanks for one another. Use this week’s passage from 1 Corinthians as a springboard. Have the youth find one reason they are thankful for the other youth. Offer a thanksgiving of your own for each youth. Then provide some blank thank you notes and stamps and invite youth to write a short thank you/encouragement note to someone whose faith has been important in the youth’s life.
With Children This week’s focus verse is Psalm 40:8 – I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.
Tell the children about the gospel lesson and how the two disciples, one of whom was Andrew, followed Jesus because John told them who he was (the Messiah, the one come to save them). Share with them how they then went and told someone else who happened to be Andrew’s brother, Simon. Tell them this is how a movement starts, and this movement we call Christianity, or Christ followers/disciples, is still moving around the globe today. Then point the children to Psalm 40, verse eight. As baptized beloved children of God, we have God’s law written in our hearts, accompanied by the gift of the Holy Spirit who never leaves us. One of the ways we learn to be disciples and invite others to join us is to delight to do God’s will, to be Christ’s hands, feet, eyes, and heart in this world (as Teresa of Avila reminds us). We have all we need to follow Jesus—and to invite others to come with us to see Jesus present in the beloved community, pouring out and spilling over into the world. Finish with a simple repetition prayer and blessing.
Weekly Stewardship Bulletin Insert Why are you here today? No matter the reason that brought you here, God wants to do something amazing with your life. This year make sure to steward the gift of grace as you follow Christ and share the good news!
Stewardship at Home When is the last time you invited someone to “come and see Jesus?” If it’s been a while, consider praying for God to give you the words (it’s a promise God’s given) and actions to invite others to see Jesus—not just in worship but also in events, activities, and locations where they can get a glimpse of Jesus through your words, actions, and heart. You don’t have to be a door-knocking evangelist to share the good news. Here’s a list of books that might help you make connections.
2017 Reflection: http://www.stewardshipoflife.org/2017/01/look-listen-be-present/
2014 Reflection: http://www.stewardshipoflife.org/2014/01/look-listen-tell/
Images: Steve p2008; Cross Lutheran Milwaukee; and Ken Teegardin for www.seniorliving.org, Creative Commons usage license. Thanks!
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