My daughter continues to make me think.
She's 33, but her disabilities keep her a permanent child. Her group home caregivers love her, and call her "an innocent."
She's been sort of a Zen master for me. From time to time she says something that makes me think. A couple weeks ago, she said, "When the cat's away, the cookie crumbles." I'm still working on that one. I'm not sure what I'm going to get out of these words.
But my daughter continues to make me think. Because of that, she's like a little Christ in my life.
Christ is the answer, they say. You've seen the bumper stickers and the signs. There's a big sign on a hill near Corning I've seen for 40 years now. "Christ is the answer," it says in big red letters.
But if you read the gospels closely, you see that Jesus is actually more of a question.
Jesus asks more questions than he answers. In fact, he often does not answer when people ask him a question. Instead, he asks questions.
There's an old Jewish story. A guy goes to a rabbi and says, "Rabbi, why do you always answer a question with another question?" And of course, the rabbi says, "So why shouldn't a rabbi answer a question with a question?"
The Jesus of the gospels is a great rabbi. He asks a lot of questions. He's like a Zen master. He asks these challenging questions, questions which can point us to truth.
Today we have a story from the gospel of John. Now, John is very different in style and substance from Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Matthew, Mark and Luke are very similar, so much so that New Testament scholars call them the "synoptic" gospels, which means "with the same eyes."
John is quite different. In the three synoptic gospels, Jesus calls people to become his followers...he seeks them out and calls them. In John's gospel, people get interested and seek him out.
In today's story, John the Baptist points Jesus out to a couple of guys and they start walking behind him. Jesus notices, and turns around, and looks at them. Then Jesus asks the big question. "What are you looking for?"
That's a big question for them. It's a big question for us. It's a big question for anyone.
What are you looking for? So what would you say to Jesus if he asked you that? What are you looking for?
Remember the words of the blessing at the end of our service: "Life is short, and we don't have too much time to gladden the hearts of those with whom we journey along the way." Life is short. And life is precious.
What are we most looking for in the time we have left? What do we truly desire? What do we really want?
Jesus asks the question, "What are you looking for?" If we can let that question sink in, if we can wrestle with that question, we might discover something surprising.
I think we will find, deep down, that we are not looking for money. We will find, deep down, that we are not looking for power. We will find, deep down, that we are not looking for fame.
At our deepest core, in the center of the heart, in our very best nature, we are looking for something else. We are looking for love. We are looking for peace. We are looking for goodness. Jesus asks a question to lead us there. "What are you looking for?"
My little Christ, my daughter, once asked a similar question. She asked, "If you were you, what would you do?" If you were you, what would you do? I believe that in our truest nature, we are looking for happiness, justice, and joy.
But this is my belief. You have to search your own heart and your own mind. I can't give you the answers.
In my youth, I was part of churches that gave the answers. They told me what to think, what to believe, what to do. I found their answers ultimately unsatisfying. When I found the Episcopal Church in my late 20s, I found a treasure.
I'm speaking only for myself, you understand. I found a church that offered questions more often than answers. I was offered the riches of Christian scripture and tradition, yes. But I was not force-fed answers. I was encouraged to ask questions and wrestle with them.
"If you were you, what would you do?" "What are you looking for?" Good questions!
So let me leave you with that question of Jesus to work on.
Life is short. Life is precious. What are you most looking for in the time you have left? It's the question Jesus asks you and me on this second Sunday after Epiphany.
What are you looking for?