What are you looking for?
2nd Sunday after Epiphany – 1/15/17
St. Paul’s Alexandria
The Rev. Dr. Rosemary Beales
“What are you looking for?” Those are the first words Jesus speaks in the gospel of John.
Now in my family, when someone asks, “What are you looking for?” the answer is usually simple. “My other glove….my keys…..where I parked my car.”
In today’s gospel, though, Andrew and another disciple — probably John — are after something much more momentous.
Perhaps all their lives, these two fishermen — Andrew, the brother of Simon, and John, the brother of James — had been looking for the same thing. My guess is, they were both younger brothers, who all their lives had been expected to follow their elder brothers’ lead. Tired of being in the shadows, perhaps, they yearned for a new guiding light.
And thought they had found it, in John the Baptizer. But then John pointed them away from himself and toward another.
“Look! Here is the Lamb of God!” And John’s two disciples, trusting his lead even now, turned away from him and toward the One he had revealed.
Who knows how long it took Jesus to notice two stragglers, treading the path behind him ¾ to turn and say to them,
“What are you looking for?”
Their answer is the one Jesus longed to hear:
“Rabbi.” . . . Teacher.
That answer told Jesus that they were looking for someone like him, someone worthy of being followed, someone who would teach them and lead them to God. They were looking for freedom, and not just political freedom, even though they lived under occupation by an empire. They wanted the freedom of a new way to live.
Little did those first disciples know that
before they began looking for him,
Jesus had been looking for them ¾
For hearts ready to hear,
For lips eager to tell,
For followers willing to live as signs
of God’s justice, love, and, and mercy.
Whatever these disciples heard in that first, all-night conversation, it convinced them that they had found the Messiah. But that was not all. They had found a vocation.
* * *
Today we remember another young man who looked for disciples,
who were also looking for him.
Martin Luther King’s vocation was not to make peace with the forces that oppressed his people. God’s mission for him was to form a Beloved Community of people willing to live as signs of God’s justice, love and mercy.
Those looking for such a community found Martin, who at age 26 was chosen to lead the Montgomery, Ala. bus boycott. Black and white and brown Americans of many faiths joined together to seek the way things could be and resist the way things were.
For 13 years, King led a movement that opposed segregation, worked for voting rights and fair housing, rejected war, and sought solutions to poverty. It may look like a political movement, but, at its heart, it was a lesson in love from a leader who didn’t just lead, but who also followed ¾ followed the one we hear in today’s gospel called “Teacher.”
From the great well of King’s lifelong immersion in Biblical wisdom, he drew a vision of a just society and a commitment to nonviolent resistance. While he was in jail in Birmingham for daring to march without a permit, he wrote that he represented neither complacency ¾ accepting the status quo as “normal” ¾ nor bitterness ¾ deciding that violence was the solution. Even so, there were those who called him an “extremist.” That bothered King until he realized:
“Was not Jesus an extremist for love?”
Andrew and John, Simon and James, found that to be true. Following Jesus, they lived a vocation bent on resisting evil and embracing justice, love and mercy.
Following Jesus, that beautiful extremist for love, may WE live as signs of justice, mercy and love, resisting all in our politics, and in our personal lives, that demeans, demoralizes or despairs.
It may help us to remember the words of Dr. King, engraved on his memorial downtown:
“The ultimate measure of a [person] is not where [they stand] in moments of convenience and comfort, but where [they stand] at times of challenge and controversy.”
In this time of challenge and controversy,
will we live our vocations as this beloved community,
to stand as signs of justice, mercy and love?
We will, if we remember to follow our Teacher, who loved so extremely that he gave his life for us and for the world. Our teacher, Jesus, has been looking for us and is looking for us even now, asking:
What are you looking for?
What are you LIVING for?
 Martin Luther King Jr., Letter From Birmingham Jai, 1963 (Logan, Iowa: Perfection Learning Corp, 1990), p. 24.
 “On Being a Good Neighbor,” Strength to Love (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1963), p. 35.