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Lessons

John 1:29-42
Second Sunday in Epiphany

 2 Epiphany, Sermon, January 15, 2023                             John 1:29-42 Grace and peace to you from God our Creator, Jesus our Redeemer and the Holy Spirit our Sustainer.  Amen Social commentators have brought it to our attention that we are talking to each other less. We are spending more time on Facebook, Twitter, and texting each other. But, face to face communication is becoming rare. This doesn't necessarily mean that we aren't with other people. Often we are with other people, but we ignore them; we're off in our own little world. We're at the dinner table with our cell phones out texting or checking our email accounts instead of conversing with those at the table with us. Families can physically be in the same room, but one might be gaming with someone on the other side of the world, another viewing a movie, a third checking on work projects, while a fourth emails or texts. Talk about togetherness. I heard a story on CBC this week that spoke about an experiment in Hammersmith, a neighbourhood in London, England. A group called “The Neighbourly Lab”  placed stickers in buses to encourage more kindness on the buses, people to speak to one another, sometimes with something as small and seemingly easy, as saying “Good morning” to the bus driver as you got on the bus and then saying “Thank you” as you left the bus. One rider said that she says thank you to the bus driver because the drivers are human beings, they’re not robots. The researches said that there was more of a sense of community on the buses as people were kinder to one another because they were getting to know each other on a slightly deeper level. Today's text focus on men who encounter Jesus, follow--or “remain with”--Jesus, and are transformed by that relationship. We are very similar to these men, who eventually became Jesus' disciples. We talk about the fact that we are 'In Christ." We have been filled with the Holy Spirit. Yet, we seem to often ignore God's presence in our lives. We exist in our own little world--to our detriment.As we are in this New Year, it is important for us to determine how we can have a life transforming experience and relationship with Jesus. God revealed to John the Baptist that Jesus was the Messiah. John saw the Holy Spirit descend upon Jesus and remain. Later while John is walking with his disciples John sees Jesus and points out to his disciples that Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. A couple of John's disciples decide to follow Jesus. The word, "follow" in the gospel of John is a powerful word. The men who approached Jesus wanted to follow Jesus. They didn't simply want to hang around Jesus as innocent and indifferent bystanders. For the gospel writer, to follow means to become a disciple. The men wanted to learn from Jesus. They understood at the very core of their beings that Jesus had something profound and practical to teach them. The men wanted Jesus to show them the deeper meanings of life. The men also wanted to remain with Jesus. This is the same word that the gospel writer uses to describe what "The Word," did when he "dwelt" among us. The word means to pitch one's tent. The men wanted to live in a relationship with Jesus. They wanted to do more than just learn. The men wanted to experience a one-on-one relationship with Jesus. This one-on-one relationship transformed their lives. The were so excited about the affect that Jesus had upon them, that they couldn't wait to share it with their friends and tell them what they had discovered. Jesus offers us the same relationship that he offered to these disciples. He offers to teach us and to reveal to us the deeper meaning of life in order that we may experience a full, abundant life. Jesus offers us his presence in our lives and a love that absolutely nothing can separate us from. It is necessary for us to ask ourselves if we are going to turn away from the distractions that pull us away from Jesus, and are we going to both follow and remain (dwell) with him. Jesus asks John's disciples "What are you looking for"? In other words, Jesus asks them what they want to happen in their relationship with him; what are their needs and expectations. The gospel writer does not record how the disciples responded to Jesus' question, but he does record how the lives of the disciples were transformed. Once they met Jesus, the disciples were never the same; they were transformed. The disciples begin their relationship with Jesus as they address Him as Rabbi, or teacher. Certainly, this is a title of respect and honour. But Andrew begins to call Jesus Messiah. When he goes to find his brother, Peter, he tells Peter that he has found the Messiah. The transformation that the disciples experience is also demonstrated by their desire to tell others about Jesus and have their family and friends meet Jesus and encounter Jesus as they have. Andrew tells his brother, Peter about Jesus.  This is what we too are called to do as disciples of Jesus, as children of God, to go and tell others about our relationship with God and how that relationship has affected the way we live our lives as siblings with Christ.  Sometimes we forget about the transformational power of Jesus' relationship with us. We don't expect much from our relationship with Jesus (perhaps we don't really want to be changed, either). Consequently, we aren't transformed--merely modified or occasionally updated. How do you want to be transformed by your relationship with Jesus? What is your need--your deepest need? The disciples do not keep the relationship and the transformation that occurs in their lives to themselves. They share it with their family and friends. This is an important message for us to hear and lesson for us to learn, especially as we remember our vows of baptism. We often limit our religious experience to ourselves. Our goals are to feel closer to God solely so that we can benefit from the relationship and be holier. This was never the intent of one's religious experience, and it is never the message of Scripture. I am reading a book called “Reading the Bible from the Margins” by Miguel A. De La Torre, and in it the author speaks about our faith being both private and public. It is in our outward acts that we show the faith that is within us, and I quote, “my actions in establishing love and justice become my outward expressions of my internal Christian commitment.” (end quote). We have friends who have not encountered the living Lord in their lives. We have experienced something that they have not, and hopefully we realize that what we have received is something that would be important in their lives, also. We live in a world that is broken. It is in need. We have been transformed and empowered so that we can love God by serving others and seeking to meet their needs, promote peace and strive for justice. Jesus invites us to participate with him in his kingdom and in preparing the world for his coming. He doesn't want us to settle for the mundane and the ordinary. We invites us to follow him, remain with him and be transformed. And He reminds us that this relationship is one we are called to share, to tell others and invite others to be a part of with Him. Let it be so. Amen