Isaiah 49:1-7 Psalm 40:1-12 I Corinthians 1:1-9
Mary was heading up a major company. She is interviewed by a local TV station. The interviewer turns and asks, “What is the secret of your success?” Mary replies, “Two words” The interviewer responds, “And they are?” “Right decisions!” The reporter thinks for a minute and follows up with; “But how do you make the right decisions?” Mary replies, “One word” The reporter again presses her. “Experience!” “And how do you get experience?” Mary replies, “Two words.” “And they are?” “Simple,” says Mary, “wrong decisions.”
We make numerous decisions every day. Even when we try and put off a decision, we still make a decision – delay always means that we are not doing something. Some of these decisions are very trivial – what to have for breakfast and what to wear to work. But some of them are very important – who will you marry – when will you retire – what can we leave the children and grandchildren when we die. In the Gospel reading, one is being invited to decide for Christ – to leap and make the most important decision there is to proclaim the gospel.
For the author of this Gospel, the identity of Jesus is confirmed by human testimony. In this moment, we have a significant theme in John – those of us who read this Gospel are invited to trust the witness of those close to Jesus. John the Baptist makes his case well: this truly is the “Lamb of God.” Crucially, John the Baptist in this Gospel is the witness to the baptism: he sees the Spirit descend and remain with Jesus. He invites those around him to trust his testimony about what he had seen. Christianity is an act of trust in those initial witnesses of the historical Jesus.
Making really significant decisions can be difficult. Where to live – what job to take – whether to stand up for something or stay silent – these are hard decisions. The followers of John the Baptist had to make a very significant choice. Shall we join the Jesus movement? Two disciples in this story make a leap of faith. They opt to trust that Jesus is the Messiah, the Lamb of God on earth. They stake their lives on this decision. They make the shift and start a remarkable journey, all the way to the cross.
Jesus calls Andrew and his brother Simon Peter while John the Baptist and others are hanging out on the road. There’s no mention of fishing or the Sea of Galilee. John the Baptist has declared to those around him, “Here is the Lamb of God! This is the Son of God!” There’s a sense of relief when he does this. The priests and Levites sent by the Pharisees, has been asking John who he is, and when Jesus appears it’s fun to imagine John’s proclamation being partly a statement of faith (This is the Messiah!). The proclamation is also partly an exasperated cousin asking, “What took you so long, Jesus? Listen, everyone, here he is, the one I was telling you about. Here he is – the Lamb of God!” We learn it’s all about God’s timing.
Jesus turns to the two people we come to know as Andrew and Simon Peter and asks, “What are you looking for?” They respond, “Rabbi, where are you staying?” But in their question, the narrator lets us know that means teacher. John’s Gospel is full of these kinds of asides. This reference brings to mind Mary meeting Jesus at the tomb after the resurrection. When she hears Jesus call her name, she proclaims Rabbouni! John translate that for us as teacher.
It is strange to talk about the resurrection now after his birth in Bethlehem and as Jesus is beginning to call his disciples. This fast forwarding through his life in these short weeks always seems rushed. But there is something compelling that draws us forward. We know the end of the story. Those recording the stories also knew the ending.
In both the resurrection story and today’s passage, Jesus asks, “What/whom are you looking for?” Andrew and Simon Peter want to know where he is staying and Mary at the tomb wants to know where he has gone. She says to the angels and then to Jesus (who she thinks is the gardener), “I don’t know where he is. Tell me where you have laid him.”
We know about ending, recently ending the year and beginning a new year. Some of us can’t even remember what our resolutions were. Some of us are still struggling to fulfill those resolutions. The endings are still fresh when we are confronted with the new beginnings of Jesus’ ministry and his calling of the disciples. Here, we might ask the question, “What are you looking for?” What are we looking for? Maybe we are setting goals or resolutions. Maybe we are working through relationship struggles or trying to discern what the new year is calling us to do. All of our attempts at resolutions and new beginnings go back to answering the question of what are we looking for.
It may seem too simple when we realize the answer to the question is Jesus. Instead, we want to know where he is, how to find him, if he going to stay a while and who can help us find him – not so we can keep him to ourselves but so we too, can proclaim, “We have found the Messiah. I have seen the Lord.”
At his baptism, Jesus inaugurated his public ministry. He is now a man with a mission. And our mission is not really anything less. If we need to flesh out the details, we don’t need to look any further than the baptismal promises we proclaimed last week. That’s our mission; that’s our shared ministry.
After his baptism, Jesus discovered that his Father had blessed him abundantly, through the Holy Spirit, for the work he had taken on. And since his baptism and ministry make up the model for our baptism and ministry, that’s what we need to be about. For us, the discovery of our God-given gifts and the use of those gifts are critical. It’s the only way the Church can continue to exist. All baptized people are called to ministry.
The Spirit rested on Jesus at his baptism, taking on the form of a dove, and the voice of the Father approved him: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” The Spirit rests also on us, and the voice of the Father gives his approval of our ministry.
We are called just as Andrew and Simon Peter are called.
Teresa of Avila, a sixteenth century mystic was called. In a letter sent to her nuns near the end of her life proclaimed:
Christ has no body now on earth but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours, Yours are the eyes through which to look out Christ’s compassion to the world; Yours are the feet with which he is to go about doing good; Yours are the hands with which he is to bless men now. Teresa of Avila takes the incarnation of Jesus – Jesus in the flesh among us – one step further. She calls us to incarnate Christ in our own lives and to love the world as Jesus did. God became flesh in Jesus Christ to fully embody God’s love for the world.
Rowen Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, said that we know forgiveness through the resurrection of Jesus and that we can’t be understood apart from Jesus. Since we received our name and our identity at our baptism – baptism, a beginning that reminds us of the end, the death, burial and resurrection. It is this story – our understanding of ourselves in the larger story of God through Jesus – that we can tell others. To see and experience how the first disciples invited others to experience how they might know hope, peace, and joy because of Jesus and with the community that has formed around him.
I understand what Teresa of Avila and St Paul tells us that we are to live lives that embody Christ. But it is equally important to know our role. We are like John the Baptist proclaiming Jesus’ love and teachings and examples. We are pointing the way for others. But we are not the way, we are like Andrew and Simon Peter in following Jesus- in wanting to spend time with Jesus to better understand his teachings. So, as we proclaim, we can ask what John the Baptist might do or say. He knew his role and lived it to the end. He called attention to Jesus Christ. We are to do the same and proclaim, “Look, see, God is alive! God is in our midst. The Holy Spirit is at work in us and through us and for us, even in spite of ourselves. Behold! The Lamb of God!” Amen.