Sermon Text: Jesus Is The Quesion
It’s kind of weird that I’m a priest.
Now, before I hear you say, “Amen!” or even, “Duh!,” let me explain.
I come from a church-going family. I was taken to church as a child every week. But I didn’t like it. At all. Church was a little scary, and a lot strict. I was told what to believe and what to do and what not to do. I had the impression that even thinking certain things was forbidden. Not only that, church was boring. And never funny.
But there was one good thing. I had a little brother. When I was 13, he was 3. And he didn’t like going to church, either.
In the church of my childhood, they did not have church school for little kids during the first part of the service, like we do. But they did have a “crying room.” This was a room in the back with a big window so you could be in there and see what was going on, and hear it through the sound system, but a little kid could cry or make noise without distracting other people.
My dad the music teacher was at the lectern, directing the music during church. My mom was playing organ in the balcony. So sometimes it was my job to take my little brother into the crying room. That was great. He’d throw himself on the floor and squirm around, and I would adopt my spiritual practice of not paying attention to the church service.
I didn’t like church much. So when I went off to college, you’d think I would have quit. But instead, I found another church. One I liked. At first, anyway. As time went on, I realized that I had jumped out of the frying pan into another frying pan. This new kind of church told me what to believe and what to think. And I had the impression that even thinking certain things was forbidden.
Now, I’m the kind of guy who asks questions. And when I kept asking questions in that new kind of church, it bothered people. As I have told you before, eventually the pastor suggested that I might enjoy finding a different church. So I did.
I found the Episcopal Church. It was very different from what I was used to, and took some adjusting. But I liked it a lot. There were and are lots of things I liked, but one of the biggest was this one: it’s okay to ask questions. Even in church. In fact, the Episcopal Church encourages us to think and question.
Now, my wife is from Corning. So I started going to Corning regularly back in 1976. If you ever drove over to Corning on route 17, as you arrive you will see a bunch of big red letters on a hill. “CHRIST IS THE ANSWER.” Those big letters have been there about 60 years now, I’ve been told. A fundamentalist church owns the land and maintains the letters. Christ is the answer.
Thing is, I read the Gospels. A lot. And if you read the Gospels a lot, you will see that Jesus asks a lot of questions. Good questions. Deep questions. Jesus asks a lot more questions than he answers. Don’t take my word for it — count them up for yourself. I have come to think that it makes more sense to say “Jesus is the Question.”
In today’s narrative from John’s Gospel, a couple of guys are pointed in the direction of Jesus by John the Baptist. As they stalk Jesus, he notices them and asks the big question, “What are you looking for?”
That’s not just like “How are ya?” It’s a big question for them. It’s a big question for u. It’s a big question for anyone. What are you looking for?
So what would you say to that? What are you looking for?
Remember the words of the blessing at the end of our church 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 on this planet? What do we truly desire? What do we really want?
I think we will find, deep down, that we are not looking for money. We are not looking for power. We are not looking or fame. Instead, I think, at our deepest core, in the center of our hearts, in our truest nature, we are looking for love, and for peace, and for goodness.”
My daughter, as you know, is my spiritual teacher, my guru, my Baby Buddha. I continue to think about a question she asked long ago, a question similar to the one Jesus asks. She once said, “If you were you, what would you do?” I will be thinking about that question the rest of my life.
If you were you, what would you do? I think that when we are truly ourselves, we seek happiness, justice, and joy for everybody. But that’s just my own wrestling with the question. 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. he 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 20’s, I found a treasure.
I am speaking only for myself, you understand. But I found a church that offered questions more often than answers. I was offered the riches of Christian scripture and tradition, of course, but I was not force-fed any answers. I was encouraged to ask questions and wrestle with them. And I hope you are doing the same.
Jesus asks, “What are you looking for?” My sweet Marie asks, “If you were you, what would you do?” Good questions. Take them with you today.
My sweet Marie also loves country music, and has made me learn to appreciate it. There is a song by a band called “Old Dominion,” and I love the chorus. They sing, “Life is short....make it sweet.”
Life is short. Life is precious. What are you most looking for in the time you have? It’s the question Jesus asks you and me on this second Sunday after Epiphany.
What are you looking for?