Sermon given at Isham 8am 15.1.17
Readings: OT/Epistle Isaiah 49: 1-7 Gospel John 1: 29-42
The background to today’s gospel reading is our OT reading and others like it that point to God’s promise to send a special anointed person to restore things for his people Israel – to do what the people Israel couldn’t do themselves.
Andrew and his fellow disciple were following John the Baptist around because they could sense something holy in him, perhaps he knew something about the promised Messiah? In other words, they were searching spiritually, open to hearing about God and from God.
So, when John speaks mysteriously about Jesus: “After me there comes a man who ranks ahead of me; before I was born, he already was” and then says Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, you can imagine the two men trying to puzzle this out. Perhaps they needed time to think about John’s strange words because it’s not until they see Jesus again the next day and John points him out again as the Lamb of God that they go off after Jesus.
The fact that it’s 4 o’clock means they’re not going to go back to work that day so they’ll have a good long evening to spend with Jesus giving them all plenty of time to talk, to think, and to understand. The result is that some time later they were able to say “We have found the Messiah!”
We too need to make time to spend with Jesus – it doesn’t matter whether that’s in prayer, or reading, or bible study groups – what does matter is that we regularly put aside some time to spend with Jesus however it works best for us – it could be a mix of several ways of doing it.
Once the two disciples had spent time with Jesus they went out to tell others about him – Andrew ended up bringing his brother Simon Peter to Jesus. John is using the story of this event to show us what we are meant to do. Finding Jesus isn’t just meant to be a personal blessing – it’s a blessing we’re meant to share with others by inviting them to come and see him too.
There is a key question in the centre of our gospel reading: “What are you looking for?” We will have much more chance of getting people to come and see Jesus if we have some idea of what they’re looking for. I had an email from the church this week with a link to an article about encouraging people between 20 and 35yrs old to be generous towards the church and it started by describing their world.
And one thing struck me particularly – apparently that generation are not looking for work/life balance but for work/life alignment. In other words they don’t see work as something you do to bring in the money to pay the bills with enough left over to enable you to enjoy the rest of your daily life the way you want to – whether that’s money to go out, to pay for your hobbies, or to buy a status car, certain clothes, or the house you long for.
I googled ‘Work/life alignment’ to discover that it means finding work that fits your interests and values as well as fitting in with the other parts of your life (family, friends, etc). Tips for gaining work/life alignment are working for a company whose mission you share, being yourself at work, prioritizing work demands rather than just doing more work, make friendships at work so you feel you belong, be equally happy addressing personal life at the office and professional matters at home, as necessary.
This way of thinking is new to me – it’s probably new to you too! Which just goes to show that there’s more for us to learn in order to understand what motivates this generation – and perhaps it might help us have a better idea of what they’re looking for in life.
I also happened to read an article this week about a Christian journalist’s visit to the Mind Body Soul Experience at Crystal Palace in London. The most important thing to remember said one Christian is “people respond to the intimacy of testimony, not to preachy lecturing conversations”. Spiritual seekers are put off by the words Christian, church and religion so one Christian stand was called the Jesus Experience and they offered ‘free prayer’ in contrast to many other stalls that required people to pay for an experience. Their books had deliberately ambiguous titles such as Love is the Bridge, Reach out for Him.
I suspect it’s because of all this that things like Messy Church and Café Church, Open the Book, and Prayer Spaces are the things that are beginning to work today as the means of enabling people to find the space in which they can explore spiritually – just like Andrew and his friend were following John and then Jesus as they went on their spiritual exploration in the way people did in those days – there were lots of rabbis/teachers around you know in the 1st Century!! It was just as spiritually diverse as our world is today!