Where are you staying? Inquiring minds want to know. Where are you staying?
Questions in scripture are usually loaded, but where questions are particularly loaded questions.
If you follow the Daily Office lectionary you know that we began this week at the beginning, with the book of Genesis. In the garden of Eden, after Adam and Eve have eaten of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, God is strolling through the garden in the cool of the evening—I think God did a lot more strolling back then. God calls out to Adam: “Where are you?” Adam and Eve are hiding because they are newly aware, newly ashamed, of their nakedness. They now see that their all-too-human fleshiness might separate them from God. God’s call to them—where are you?—is an invitation to further relationship, albeit to a different kind of relationship from what they had before.
A little later, God asks Cain, “Where is your brother?” Another simple yet loaded question. Cain has killed his brother, out of jealousy. God’s question invites confession, and a shift in their relationship. God sends Cain out in to the world with consequences, and also with a promise that he will be protected from human retribution.
Each of these “Where” questions in Genesis uncovers human sin. Not just Eve’s sin or Adam’s sin or Cain’s sin, but the sin of the human condition whenever we separate ourselves from God. This is at the core of all the scripture stories we’ll hear from the story of Cain right up until John the Baptist stands in the middle of the road saying: “Look, here is the Lamb of God!”
Lamb of God has many connotations, most associated with suffering and with power. John the Evangelist, in particular, would have associated the Lamb of God with the Passover lamb, the lamb that symbolized not only sacrifice but also the freedom of the people of God who passed through the Red Sea at the time of the Exodus. It is in that Passover, in the blood of that lamb, which for John foreshadows our Passover in the death and resurrection of Jesus, that the separation of sin—Adam’s, Cain’s, yours, mine—is washed away.
For John to say “Behold, the Lamb of God!” would have been as if he’d said: “There! There is the one we’ve been waiting for! There is our hope and our freedom and our transformation into the people God created us to be!”
On hearing something like that, wouldn’t you begin to follow Jesus? As I imagine the scene, they are literally following him when he senses someone is behind him and turns around to ask: “What are you looking for?”
Another good Epiphany question: What are you looking for?How would you answer that question? What did you come seeking this morning? Maybe you came because being nourished by the Eucharist is part of your identity. Perhaps you came because you needed to pray and be prayed for. Perhaps you came to see your friends. Writer Debie Thomas has still more ponderings on this question:
In your heart, in your secret and quiet places, what are the hungers that drive you forward in your life of faith? Why do you still have skin in this game we call Christianity? …what are you hoping for, asking for, looking for, in your spiritual life? Do you know? When I go to church, Debie Thomas continues, when I pray, when I open the pages of Scripture, what am I looking for? Am I looking for anything, or am I just going through the motions of a religious life I inherited from my parents? Am I seeking consolation? Affirmation? Belonging?
Certainty? Am I looking to gain power, or to surrender it? Do I want to know, or can I consent to trust? Am I looking to arrive, or to journey?
….. Like that writer, like the earliest disciples, we are all looking for something.
The disciples answer Jesus’ question with a where question: where are you staying? What kind of life are you leading in this moment in time, such that John would call you the Lamb of God and yet here you are, just walking down the road…Where can we follow you? What are they looking for? They are looking to be wherever Jesus is.
Jesus’ answer is the quintessential illustration of Anglican style evangelism: Come and see. I was in conversation with someone recently about evangelism in our tradition. There’s an ancient Latin expression, abbreviated to lex orandi lex credendi, that translates—loosely—“if you want to know what
we believe, come worship with us.” This is a great description of Anglican faith and practice but it is also a way of inviting. Come and see.
So Jesus invites them, and they stay with him for a whole day. I want to know where he was staying, too! I want to know if he had his own place or was staying with friends, or relatives. I want to know what they had to eat. Did Jesus prepare the food, or was there a servant? Or was it a potluck? How many people where there? Who did most of the talking? What did they talk about? What are you curious about?
We don’t know any of this. What we do know is that Simon is given a new identity and a new name. And that the followers multiplied after that. Conversation itself can be a transformative experience. Asking questions— Where are you? What do you seek? Where are you staying?—is a way of inviting someone into relationship. The philosopher-poet Rilke who said “Live the questions.” That is indeed what the earliest disciples did and what we do as we engage our faith. I, at least, have found questions to be a far richer pathway to faith than answers.
What are you looking for? What do we want to know about Jesus? How will that change us? Where will we journey with Jesus?
Come and see.