Who Are Your John the Baptists?
Google the phrase "John the Baptist" and press "images"
and you get some pretty interesting results.
Prominent among them
are portraits by European artists
like Leonardo Da Vinci.
A young curly haired
animal skin clad prophet
stares you straight in the eye
with his slender hand is pointing straight up in the air,
Here in the our gospel reading
from the very first chapter of John's gospel,
before Jesus' name becomes a household word in Palestine,
the Baptist's function is simple:
he points to Jesus.
John goes around saying
like he's discovered a clue
and is solving a case,
"look- here is the Lamb of God!"
this cryptic message gets immediate results-
several young men begin to follow Christ.
Listen again to the brief but important interaction
between those young newbie disciples
and their guru.
Jesus says to them What are you looking for?"
They say to him, "Rabbi" (or Teacher), "where are you staying?"
He answers "Come and see."
In this brief and puzzling three sentence exchange
we see and hear
what we need to know today.
Jesus first asks them
"What are you looking for?"
Maybe I'm too cynical
but when I listen to this sentence I am tempted to hear:
"Why are you guys following me around?"
I marvel at those ancient disciples
who seem to abandon everything they held dear
at the drop of a hat
to follow this man from Galilee.
No doubt part of the reason
was because Jesus had an attractive personality.
How else can we explain Christ's' rise
from local handyman to national religious and political figure
in three short years?
But there is more here than meets the eye.
In the gospels
and especially in John,
we see and hear snippets of many "call to discipleship" stories-
the woman at the well,
they all come to Jesus in their own way.
Little vignettes about those experiences
made their way into the gospels.
But sometimes we fail to realize
that these folk
in all likelihood knew each other
for years, sometimes for decades,
before they became Jesus' disciples.
Today might not be the first time these young disciples
have encountered Christ.
Galilee isn't that big,
They all lived in the same villages with Jesus,
some were even his blood relatives.
There is a context and a familiarity here.
And so it is also for some of us.
Some of us grew up in traditional Christian households.
We piled into the family car,
sometimes pushed and pulled
under duress to church services
on Sunday mornings.
If it weren't bad enough for me,
being forced to go to church,
MY dad also taught Sunday School for decades.
About every third or fourth year
in our small congregation,
he came around again,
ending up as MY Sunday School teacher.
Waaaay too close for comfort!
I know my father meant well.
But because this faith was so close to home
it took a long time for THE faith
to become MY faith.
I got early and frequent inoculations
against the Way of Jesus.
But still God managed to
use my experiences to call me,
God asked me
"what are you looking for?"
and politely waited
days, weeks, sometimes years
for me to answer.
Like these young disciples in John's gospel
I had my own John the Baptists
all along the way
pointing the path for me
toward answering God's question.
One pointer was a love of learning-
a gift given me by both my father and my mother.
Books were everything in our house-
not just decorations on a shelf,
Books of all kinds were living companions along our way in life,
pointing the way ahead.
By seventh grade
I had absorbed our entire home library
and my favorite field trip
was when my dad would take me
to the main downtown branch of the Dallas Public Library
every other Thursday night.
Just think what life would've been like if I'd had a Kindle!
Eventually, in high school and later
I found other John the Baptists,
besides my books.
my family and my teachers,
and my pastor,
also encouraged me to get out and meet new people
to volunteer for groups,
to get involved in bettering the world,
to ask people questions,
to listen carefully to their answers
and to lend a helping hand.
Here also I met my John the Baptists
and through them,
began to know God' presence,
to hear and answer a call.
Now I know
not all of us,
indeed fewer and fewer of us,
each passing year,
grew up with Jesus around us
in a religious household.
Some of us spent Sunday mornings on the beach
or at brunch,
worshipping with Reverend Bedsheets and the pillowcase choir,
instead of sitting on a cold hard wooden pew.
in a profound way
wherever we have been,
whatever we have done,
each one of us has been prepared
for this day,
for our own encounter with Christ.
Who or what
are YOUR John the Baptists,
pointing the way for you to God?
Is it your parents?
A particular author?
A favorite website?
Maybe these folk around us
are too polite to point.
Maybe they don't look like prophets,
dressed in animal skins.
Although depending on who you hang around with
maybe they do.
But it will be good for us
to ask ourselves,
who or what is attracting my interest today?
What message might they be giving me
to lead me to answer and follow God?
Those John the Baptists
might be as close as our own home
sitting at a table nearby.
Remember what the young disciples asked Jesus:
"where are you staying?"
In that Mediterranean culture,
for that time,
asking that question
could mean only one thing.
It wasn't a request for Jesus' street address
or his email,
or even to be his friend on Facebook.
"Where are you staying?"
For those young disciples
that question meant
"Jesus, I want to share a meal with you.
I want to sit down and dine with you,
to get to know you a little better."
in the final lines of our gospel reading,
John the Baptist,
John the pointer,
fades ever so politely into the background.
In the gospel story
the Lamb of God,
three years later
become both host and food
and also dining companion
at God's Passover table,
on a stony hill outside far away Jerusalem.
But that is a story for another season,
a Lenten time.
Today in Galilee,
the light of Epiphany
still shines brightly in the late afternoon
as souls hunger,
to be with this Christ.
We await his answer today,
to know where He stays.
as yet unknown to them in so many ways,
turns ever so slightly,
and says to those young followers of his Way,
"Come and see."
Here He comes to us
with a subtle beckoning of the hand,
a quiet invitation to the Eucharistic Table.
The table is here in this holy place,
but it's also the table of fellowship
to which God beckons us
each and every day of our lives
to enjoy and share with others.
In a few minutes we will hear
these words which
for many of us have become so dear:
So, come to this table,
you who have much faith and you who would like to have more;
you who have been to this table often, and you who have never been;
you who have tried to follow Jesus and you who have failed.
It is Christ who invites you.
So Christ continues to invite us
and especially today:
Come and see.
Come and see.