Rev. Dr. Molly Scherm
2 Epiphany A 2020
All of these Epiphanytide stories are about the presence of God being recognized in Jesus by those who encounter him. The Epiphany season invites us into our own new discoveries of God’s presence, our own fresh recognition of Jesus.
Today’s story of the call of the first disciples is pretty fascinating. When we think about the calling of the disciples, we generally think of Jesus passing by the fishermen as they’re mending their nets and inviting them to come join him, which is actually the gospel lesson we’ll hear next week.
John’s version of the story (which we’ve just heard) is distinctly different.
For one thing, the first disciples in John’s story are not approached by Jesus; they are already disciples of John. Clearly, they’re already on some kind of spiritual quest, and have left behind their other concerns to spend time with a prophet who they find to be speaking to the spiritual questions of the day.
But when John identifies Jesus as the one about whom he has been preaching, declaring him “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world”, and “the Son of God”, two of his followers, Andrew and another, begin to follow along behind Jesus, and an exchange takes place.
Noticing the two, Jesus asks “What are you looking for?”
It’s a pretty big question, don’t you think?
We can imagine lots of reasons why they may not have been ready to say what it is they were looking for. The two, instead of answering, counter with a question of their own – maybe a deflection: “Where are you staying?”, they ask.
And Jesus, in a manner we know well, does not give a direct answer, either. Instead he issues an invitation: “Come and see.”
Last Sunday we began the first session of this year’s class for inquirers – Episcopal Church 101. It’s a dive into the beliefs and practices that make up “the Episcopal branch of the Jesus movement”, which we offer when the Bishop is coming to visit. It aims to assist with discernment by those who are considering becoming “official Episcopalians” through Confirmation or Reception, but it’s also a refresher for those who may be feeling that they’d like to learn more about a tradition in which they have already been members.
What does this have to do with anything?
We began the conversation in that first meeting with Heather asking, in effect, Jesus’ question: “what are you looking for?” She asked it more diplomatically, of course, asking something like “What brought you to take part in this class?”, and we went around with each participant sharing something of their own spiritual travels and the current state of their seeking.
The sharing was amazing to me, both for the diversity of experience that we heard, and for the depth and openness of members’ willingness to speak about themselves.
The group gathered included
But all of those taking part in the class were doing so because something they have experienced in the Episcopal tradition as it plays out here at James and Andrew that caused them to want to find out more.
I don’t want to overstate the analogy, but it seems rather like Andrew and his companion following the impulse to trail along after Jesus.
Here’s some of what we heard in listening to the group:
I’ll bet Andrew and his companion might have shared a very similar list.
Come with me on one more digression, if you would –
There’s a movement that started in the field of business leadership that has made it into church leadership circles. It started with a guy named Simon Sinek who developed an idea, gave a TED talk and wrote a bunch of books about “Finding your Why” (W – H – Y)
Sinek says that the difference between the ordinary, or even the good leaders and organizations, and the great leaders and organizations, is their ability to know and talk about their “WHY”.
He has a diagram he calls “the golden circle”, that has three concentric rings.
Every organization, Sinek says, can talk about what they do, and how they do it. The harder task is articulating why, communicating the core purpose that drives the how and the what.
He uses the example that Martin Luther King, Jr. was not the only Civil Rights leader of his time, or the only great orator. King, he says, was uniquely effective in mobilizing and inspiring change – not that we have yet achieved the change we need - because he knew and could communicate at deep level WHY racial equality matters.
It’s the getting to “WHY” that fueled us here at James and Andrew in working to formulate a statement of mission, a year after we became a new parish. If you think about the statement we developed, we can see the golden circle, and it starts with our “WHY”:
We believe God is calling us to cultivate a community of love, joy, hope, and healing.
How do we do it?
Jesus is our model for a life of faith, compassion, hospitality, and service.
And then, finally, we say “what” it is that we seek to do:
We strive to be affirming and accessible, welcoming and inclusive; we seek to promote reconciliation, exercise responsible stewardship, and embrace ancient traditions for modern lives.
Jesus asked Andrew and his companion “What are you looking for?” It is such a fundamental, critical question, and we need to ask it of ourselves, over and over and over again, in order to remain connected to our purpose.
Why are we here?
What are we looking for?
Why does it matter?
It is only when we know these things that we will be able to be the Body of Christ that serves God and changes the world.
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