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Sermon for 15 January 2017

 
 

Still haven’t found what you’re looking for?

Isaiah 49.1-7 | John 1.29-42

Why are you here?

Are you here for the fellowship, the cracking music, the dynamic and engaging preaching [wink], to pray, to meet God, to get a free cup of coffee and a biscuit? Are you here because there’s something on your heart and you need to let God do his work with whatever it is? Are you here because you have a question and you haven’t found the answer anywhere else? Do you even know why you’re here? Did something draw you here, a something you can’t quite put your finger on?

Whatever brought you here this morning, this much is true: something brought you here, so it seems sensible to ask: why are you here? Or perhaps a better question is the one Jesus asks in our Gospel reading: what are you looking for?

That’s not just a question for us here today, that’s a question for everyone out there too. We are all, each one of us, looking for something, that something to fulfil our deepest longings and desires; if there’s one thing that my ministry continues to teach me over and over again, it is that whoever I meet, atheist, agonistic, humanist, Christian, everyone is looking for something.

In 1987, U2 summed this up brilliantly in their song I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For, which we heard as we gathered this morning:

I have kissed honey lips
Felt the healing in her finger tips
It burned like fire
burning inside her.

I have spoke with the tongue of angels
I have held the hand of a devil
It was warm in the night
I was cold as a stone.

Bono sings about trying to find that "something” in trying to satisfy his fleeting desires, but the theme keeps recurring: I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.

It’s nothing new: 1,590 years earlier, St Augustine of Hippo said something similar. In his book The Confessions, Augustine gives a very honest account of his youthful search for fulfilment. First it was in stealing apples from an orchard, then it was sex, then it was a succession of philosophies and religions. You can’t help but be cut to the heart by his writing:

I flung myself down under a fig tree - how I know not - and gave free course to my tears. The streams of my eyes gushed out an acceptable sacrifice to thee. And, not indeed in these words, but to this effect, I cried to thee: "And thou, O Lord, how long? How long, O Lord?”

He still hadn’t found what he was looking for.

In today’s Gospel reading, we have two characters: Andrew and another who isn’t named. John the Baptist points out to them that Jesus is the Lamb of God and so they follow Jesus on John’s advice. But it seems that Jesus isn’t much interested in having people who follow him because they’ve been told to, so he asks, rather bluntly: "What are you looking for?” Perhaps Jesus saw in them the disquiet that Augustine went on to write about and Bono came to sing about; perhaps that’s because it’s part of our human condition.

In response, Jesus gives them an invitation: "come and see.” He invites Andrew and the unnamed character into an encounter, an experience, the content of which, we know not. What we do know is that having spent the day with him, Andrew went to his brother Simon and said, "We have found the Messiah.” Perhaps Andrew found what Augustine found when he wrote: "Our hearts are restless until they rest in you,” and what Bono found when he sang: "You broke the bonds/And you loosed the chains/Carried the cross of my shame/Oh my shame, you know I believe it.”

So, why is it that Andrew, Augustine and Bono found what they were looking for in Jesus? The clue is in our reading from Isaiah:

Listen to me, O coastlands,
pay attention, you peoples from far away!
The Lord called me before I was born,
while I was in my mother’s womb he named me.

 

 

 

 

We are made in the image of God and there is a God-shaped jigsaw piece missing in the soul of each one of us, which can only be put in place if we come to him. We don’t know what Andrew tried to plug the gap with, we do know what Augustine tried to plug it with: he tells us in glorious technicolour in The Confession, and Bono sang of trying to plug it with sex and power but he sang: "I was cold as stone.” I wonder what you have tried to plug the gap with.

 

This is the season of Epiphany, the old Greek word for revealingand we’ll hear in the remaining weeks of the season how Christ was revealed as the Messiah and of how people came looking for him, trying to find the missing piece to plug the gap and find it they did.

And if you still haven’t found what you’re looking for, then come and see: come to the table, hold in your hands, see with your eyes and taste with your lips the bread of life in whom all our hungers are satisfied. Then, go from here and tell others who still haven’t found what they’re looking for that you have found the Messiah.

Amen

Posted: 15-01-2017 at 18:28
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