“Can I help you?” “How may I assist you?” “What can I help you with?” “Is there something specific you’re looking for?” “What are you looking for?” These are the questions we hope will meet us when we go to an Information Desk. “Which way to Dr. So-and-so’s office?”— “that way.” “I’m looking for a specific whatchamacallit…am I in the right place?”— “yes.” Information Desks exist to provide simple answers to simple questions. And they are not responsible for finding us when we have a question—rather, we are the ones who seek them out hoping for an answer to what we are looking for.
This morning, we hear an interesting take on how Jesus’ disciples came to follow him. We are used to hearing Jesus be the one who seeks out the disciples. Matthew, Mark, Luke –who, by the way, have stories of Jesus’ birth, temptation in the wilderness, and other key details before he calls his first disciples— they speak of Jesus saying to the disciples, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” But in John’s account, it is not Jesus who is seeking—he is the one who is being sought. After hearing John, their current leader, say, “see that guy, the one walking over there? That’s the person I saw have the Holy Spirit descend upon him and remain him at his baptism…he is the Son of God—the Messiah—the one I have been testifying about—the one we have been waiting for!” At that moment, Andrew and the other disciple decide to, literally, follow Jesus. They are seeking Jesus, not the other way around. Jesus notices the two, turns towards them, and according to John’s Gospel, the question that is posed to the two disciples on the road are the first documented words Jesus speaks, he asks, “what are you looking for?” “What are you looking for?” They respond with a simple question, “where are you staying?” and Jesus gives a simple answer, “come and see.”
The last time I remember someone asking me “what are you looking for?” was the soon-to-be Rt. Rev. Bonnie Perry. It was during the interview process for this job. I was the one seeking this place—I was the one who felt a pull, a call to this place, and instead of asking a normal interview question like, “what makes you think you are qualified for this position?” Bonnie looked at me, with care and curiosity in her eyes, and asked “what are you looking for?” The question made me feel like I was being met right where I was—she wasn’t asking my future, experienced, well-polished self the question…she was asking the flawed baby priest who was scared and uncertain, but yearned for something great. “What are you looking for?” she asked. “I’m looking for a mentor—someone to be my shepherd as I begin this new journey. I’m looking for a community where I feel safe and accepted—I need to experience grace and love in order for me to face the challenges that I need to help me grow. I’m looking for a place that will help me become the best version of myself—God’s version of me. I’m looking to do great things in order to contribute Heaven becoming part of this world, right here, right now, and not just so mythical place we go when we die.” Ultimately, I got the job, and after being here for exactly a year now, it feels like Bonnie’s answer to all my yearnings was basically “come and see.”
The funny thing is, now I’m the one asking the question. In Bonnie’s absence, I have the pleasure of meeting with 1-2 newcomers every week. People find their way through our doors many different ways, but all are seeking something—they come here yearning and looking for something they don’t currently have. And when we sit down for coffee or drinks, I have the honor of asking, with the same love and compassion and curiosity, “what are you looking for?” –“I’m looking for a place to grow my faith.” “I’m lonely, and I’m looking to meet people. I’m looking for people who want to know who I am—I want to be seen—I want to know a God that is loving and loves me.” “I’m looking to be accepted just as I am, imperfections and all.” “I’m looking for a place where my children can learn about God—and not a God of judgment or punishment, but a God who knows them and loves them deeply.” “I’ve a member of a church where all they do is talk but never act. I’m looking to be a member of a community where I confidently know my money is being used for God’s work—for a church that puts their faith into action—for a church who not only sees the marginalized, or the prejudice, sexism, economic injustice, and systemic racism that exists in this world, but is actively taking steps—with God’s help—to work towards a better world.” To all these responses, I simply say, “come and see.”
Come and see the amazing work of the church school; come and see Bible Studies and classes that teach a very different message than most have heard in other places; come and see worship that inspires and transforms hearts to love and trust God; come and see how fellow members of this community will show up and be there for you in your times of greatest need; come and see the joy and laughter that pervades every inch of this place; come and see what happens when you feed people, both physically and spiritually; and come and see how parents are taught to raise their children to be racially aware, and where we get on buses to march, and rally, and protest, and speak out for what’s right! Come and see.
All Saints’ this is who we have become. This is who we are right now. Think about where you’ve come from—think about just how far you’ve come. Now, think about what is next. In this new year—in this year of transition—we are being tasked to think about who we are and who we want to become. Like the two disciples for the Gospel today, we feel the need to follow Jesus and we are being called to seek God. It is now us who are being asked, “what are you looking for?” In response to whatever our answers might be—no matter how uncertain or scary this time may feel—we can, with confidence and faith, know that Jesus will lovely and compassionately invite us to simply “come and see.”