Sunday, January 15, 2017

Sermon: Testimony!

         Have you ever thought about the question mark before?
It’s this little hook,
almost a shepherd’s crook.
The question mark is a powerful tool, as are the questions that precede it.
They can shepherd fuzzy thoughts into concrete ideas and actions,
they can pull away the curtain on someone’s bluff
or deepen understanding between people—which is one of the keys to a good relationship.
It can even, make our witness to the faith more focused.
And, I think it is worth taking out those trusty companions to the question mark—the journalistic questionsWho, What, Where, When, and Why, as we consider today’s Gospel.
Let us pray

Who:                  In John’s Gospel, John the Baptist could rightly be re-named John the Testifier, or even John the Pointer, though that might be impolite, since as our moms taught us pointing leave multiple fingers pointing back at us,
… or for that matter, “John the Pointer” might confuse the issue and we’d send him to the American Kennel Club as a new breed of Gun Dog.

         Either way, what I’m saying here, is that John points to Jesus
—the Gospel is not about him,
it’s about Jesus.
The Who of today’s Gospel, and of the Gospel writ large, is Jesus!
         John points to Jesus and declares multiple times that he is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! And yet, John points out, he did not know him.
         Jesus—who on Passover, when the lambs are slain, is slain on the cross at the exact same time as they are slaughtered
—Jesus is the Lamb of God, the one who God has sent to bring a great Passover for all peoples, coming to you and to me, as he came to John and to the whole world, though we did not know him, he knew us
and makes himself known, giving to us the power to become Children of God
—born not of something as fickle and meaningless as flesh or blood, or will—but instead born of Grace and Truth.
         And so too Andrew
—dear Andrew,
whenever we see him he’s bringing someone to Jesus

… Now, Pastor Torrance, don’t you love those Andrews in our midst?
At St. Stephen we’ve recently had new folk attending, and they’re still not so acclimated, Thank God, to the culture of St. Stephen, as to feel weird about inviting people
almost every new face I’ve seen since our 60th anniversary has been invited by one of these Andrews! People deeply glad to point to Jesus, the Lamb of God, who has entered into their life and they wish to share him with others, they wish to point to Jesus.

What:        I love what Jesus does with this question today:
What are you looking for?”
         Sit with that a second, “What, are, you, looking, for?”
         Imagine being asked that question without any ulterior motive
—no one trying to sell you something when they ask that kind of question…
just, wanting to know.
         What’s your goal?
         What values are propelling your forward?
         What’s the end of your race looking like?
         What’s the trajectory of the rocket you’ve launched?
         How does your story end?
         Is the play of your life a tragedy or comedy, or something else entirely?
         “What are you looking for?”

         And this isn’t just a question for individuals…
It’s a question being asked by our church,
by our nation,
in our political life and our personal life…
I think there are a whole lot of people aching for an honest assessment of that question…
and I don’t want to get into the weeds here, but I’m just so glad that it is Jesus who asks it of us.
Only from his lips can such an existential and heavy question leave me with anything but anxiety.

Where:      These disciples of John answer this beautiful and challenging question of Jesus with their own question:
“Where are you staying?”
Not the best translation, try, “Where do you dwell?” or even better,
“Where do you abide?”
         “What am I looking for, Jesus?”
         Believe me I’ve looked, my eyeballs binging every which way.
I’ve wandered and I’ve waited. I’ve perused all things worth pursuing, as well as many things not,
I’ve even at times persuaded myself that I’ve gotten to where I am going,
but then I met you, with your piercing question mark that doesn’t allow for such self-deception,
and now,
Now, I want nothing to do with what came before.
You are God’s Lamb,
our Passover,
the Pre-Existent One upon whom the Spirit Rests,
the Son of God and our Teacher.
I’ve rushed about looking for rest,
for a place to lay my head,
to find that which satisfies and sanctifies,
and I was restless, until this very moment, for now I have found you, and rest in you, and wish to abide with you wherever you may go.
         Come and see you say? Then open my eyes and lead me on, Precious Lord!

When:       4pm Israeli Central Time. That’s when Andrew met Jesus.
         At first it might seem like a very specific throw away detail, but its not. This was the moment for Andrew
—when it all came together,
a moment he’ll never forget.
         Think of where you were on 9/11,
or when Challenger blew up,
or when King and Kennedy were assassinated,
or when Pearl Harbor was bombed.
         Or, on a more positive note
—remember that exact moment when you fell in love,
or figured out what you were going to do for the rest of your life,
or broke through a barrier you never thought possible!
         Meeting Jesus was a moment Andrew would never forget.
Why:                  By the time we get to why, I think this question mark of ours, has transformed into something else.
What was once hunched over, has straightened its back up, and become an exclamation point!
What was once mere question, has become testimony
—even the question mark points to Jesus! Testifies about Jesus!

         Why do I point to Jesus?
Because he is the Lamb of God who takes away the Sin of the World.

Why am I left speechless when asked, “What are you looking for?”
Because the compass of life is listless,
life’s ambiguity is too great,
without the north star of Christ the story of life so easily become just one thing happening after another.

         Why do I ask where my Lord abides? Put simply, I am restless until I rest in him!

         Why 4pm?
Because I want to tell you about that dear and particular moment in which I found out Jesus found me!
-I encountered Jesus at the Font of Baptism.
-He was there at the communion table where I trusted again, yet strangely for the first time, that priceless promise, Jesus For You!
-I fed my neighbor in need, and in so doing, was fed with the Bread of Life!
-As I went and crossed boundaries, I found Jesus on the other side.
-In fellowship with fellow believers, I found what it meant to love my neighbor.

Yes, these questions focus our witness to the truth and grace of God,
they call out of us the exclamation of testimony!