Fr Peter Beck presided and preached at the 10am Mass. The Gospel reading was taken from John 1: 29-42.
Read on for the sermon and a video of the service.
I’m fascinated by the response of the two disciples to Jesus’ question ‘What are you looking for’ or as some translations put it – ‘what do you want?’ When Jesus asks blind Bartimaeus the same question he gets the immediate reply – ‘Sir I want to see’. Can’t be clearer than that.
These two however don’t seem too sure about what they want. Jesus has been given a huge endorsement by John and clearly they are curious, excited and maybe a little fearful. So they kind of hedge their response – ‘where are you staying?’ Maybe they were overawed by this man and the introduction John the baptiser had given hm. Maybe actually they didn’t know what they wanted, what they’re looking for. Actually if I was confronted by Jesus with that question, would I have a clear and precise response like Bartimaeus? I suspect I would be tongue-tied to say the least, maybe embarrassed that I had been caught following him to see what he was up to. My curiosity and anticipation get the better of me, and there he is in front of me. He doesn’t say ‘why are you following me? Rather ‘What are you looking for?
Here we sit in this lovely church and in a very real sense Jesus is before and with us and asking each one of us in this service – ‘what are you looking for?’ Mm. What are you looking for in this mass? It could be it is the same thing that Andrew and that other disciple were looking for. And Jesus is giving us the same response – ‘Come and see’. That’s what we are doing now!
Having had the day with him and having been zapped by the impact of Jesus on him, Andrew goes and tells his brother Simon – ‘we have found the messiah!’ Whether or not he really knew what he was looking for at the beginning of his day with Jesus, by the end he knows he has found what he was looking for.
So he takes Simon to Jesus and we’re told Jesus looked hard at him. What did Jesus see? Well we know that he saw enough to rename him Cephas, Peter, which of course means Rock, You are Rock, and on this rock I will, build my church. Jesus has worked Peter out and knows him through and through, warts of course and all. And he knows that this fallen sinner is also the one who will help lead and build this community of love that is to be the Body of Christ.
Now if Jesus looked hard at me – what would he see? I think like Andrew and the other disciple, maybe you too, he might see a human being, very much aware of his own failings and flaws, continuing to seek and experience the deepest expression of love, a love which I know is personified in Jesus Christ. I want this love, I want this love which will not let me go. This Love which is the God whom I come to worship today in this mass with you.
This gospel passage is all about call. It is not about a call from God to a specific job or a task at this point. No, this is about being called, invited into a relationship.
‘Come and see’ says Jesus. And through the day, the two are drawn into a relationship with Jesus. Come and see and seeing, experience the love which I personify. They were touched at the deepest part of their being in this encounter with Love.
Isn’t this what God is constantly calling us into, isn’t this what we are looking for? A relationship with Jesus who is the personification of Love, whom is God incarnate. We are being invited as Mother Julian of Norwich says to ‘Put your mind into your heart and stand in the presence of God all day’.
That’s what happened to these two, and then to Simon Peter. They stood in the presence of God. And that’s what we are being invited/called to do today. ‘Stand in the presence of God, of Jesus, of Love’. And each of us here and countless others have responded to that call.
Be sure though that this call isn’t a one off thing. I think we all know that. It is a constant ongoing call into relationship with Love. It is constant call into exploring and deepening our understanding of what it means to be human, of seeking to grow into who we are, each one of us precious and honoured in God’s sight, of untold worth.
When I was priest in charge here last year, I remarked several times, that in my 50 years of ministry I had rarely come across a community of faith like this one, where in and through our Anglo Catholic style of spirituality and liturgy people, you, we, really do worship and at least a lot of the time connect in body, mind and spirit with the divine. There are times when we feel blessed by a sense of the real presence of the risen lord in the mystery of our worship. These are the times when we may say ‘this is the day that the lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it,’ …and we do! These are times when the priest declares to us at the beginning of the great Eucharistic thanksgiving that ‘the Lord is here’…yes, truly …God’s spirit is with us, we will respond. And the ‘lift up your hearts’. Well do we, shall we?
Let us allow the words of the liturgy to be a vehicle by which we are waiting on God, pausing, listening through the words and actions, being open to be filled with grace and love? And believing that even if we don’t feel the presence in this moment, God is doing what God is doing, and all I can do is bow down and worship. . We are being called into relationship – to be called in love – this is an invitation to enter a mystery;
And in entering into this relationship we are embraced by Love and invited to ‘follow me’. Here is the inevitable call to discipleship. What other outcome can there be as I respond to God’s love. St Augustine said ‘love God and do what you like’. Love God and do what you like, because if I truly love God then what I will want to do is to be a bearer of love in God’s service.
Here in this mass as we are called again and as it were for the first time into a relationship of profound love with Jesus. It’s a call to discipleship that came with our baptism, and the call will not go away! It will nag at us, it maybe even haunt us. It will grow stronger and weaker and stronger again. It may seem to go away, but it always comes back. Because it’s our Lord calling us to himself. It’s his call to life, to joy and to true peace. What else can we do in response but to seek to become bearers of love, and peace and justice to those around us and to our community and world.
Do you ever get asked, ‘what does it mean to be a Christian?’ or “why do you go to church?’ I think it’s good to welcome and encourage such questions. We could reply by saying ‘Come and see’.
But before give that response, we need to ask ourselves: what will people "come and see" in our congregation, here at St Michael’s? Will they see that we are Jesus' disciples by the way we love one another? Will they see that we have heard Jesus' word so that his joy is in us and our joy is complete? Will they see us as sinners who confess our imperfections and unholiness, and receive new life from Christ? We know, that through our prayers, our hospitality, our acts of service and our love and compassion for others, Christ is here.
Christianity has always been personal, but never private. Jesus way of loving is a gift from God that is meant for the whole world. If we don't tell the world that, how will they know? We are as Isaiah says in the first lesson, to be a light to the nations.