17th January 2016, 2nd Sunday of Epiphany, evening
Revd Kate Tuckett
Some of us here may have done the kinds of personality type tests such as Myers Briggs that tell us how our minds are geared to work best, where we draw our energy from, and how we function with other people. One of the distinctions that Myers Briggs uses is whether you are an S or an N person – a sensing (S) person is the kind of person who pays attention to the world around them, by what they see, hear, touch, taste and smell. They are concerned with what is actual and present and real. They tend to be very observant and have a good eye for detail. I am not an S person. Flatpack furtniure has reduced me to tears before now.
Jesus asks his disciples, ‘what are you looking for’, and then bids them to ‘come and see.’
Richard Rohr is a writer who talks about the life of contemplative prayer. He says that ‘learning to see’ if the place we have to start in the Christian life, learning to see what is there. It’s a challenge that I have not just in putting bookcases together, but in learning to see the presence of God, right there in front of our eyes. Maybe you experience it too - the first disciples certainly did. ‘Come and see’.
Of course none of us are static in our faith and our receptivity to answering this invitation may change over time and even from day to day. There’s plenty that gets in the way of responding. Life, and stress, and busy-ness; feeling we’ve trudged our way along this road of faith for so long that there’s nothing new to notice; disappointment, dashed hopes, and feelings of resentment that life has not turned out the way we wanted it to; disappointment, dashed hopes, and feelings of resentment perhaps about the institution of the church, as I know that some are feeling this week after the response of the Anglican Communion to the Episcopal Church in America for their redefinition of marriage as extending to those in same-sex partnerships. Both Chris and I spoke this morning about this, and noted our own disappointment in this statement and the disappointment of our churches signed up to inclusive church and committed to the full inclusion and flourishing of everyone, at every level of church. Seeing can be difficult anyway, and there are plenty of things that that close us off from trying to see.
Sometimes when people start coming to church, they will say that they’re not really sure what they believe and feel hypocritical or uncomfortable about this. Perhaps people who are dipping their toes in the water of a life of faith, who have somewhere, very dimly, heard this invitation, may think that everyone else already knows everything, that other people have it figured out, and that faith isn’t about asking questions. But I believe more and more than questions are not only necessary to faith, but they are a deep form of engagement and indeed may be a deep gift to people who have been Christians for many years. I’m always struck by so-called Christian basics courses – we’ve run Pilgrim for a couple of years and will be running another during Lent. The most basic questions of our faith may be the most profound. What do we believe God is? Why do we worship? What do think is a good life? It’s easy to stop being curious. And yet, I suspect that for all of us, and at whatever stage of our lives we are, if we are willing to come and see, there will always be more surprises.
Mary Oliver --- ‘When Death Comes’:
‘When it’s over….
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened
or full of argument.
When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.’
Curiosity and amazement are, I think, doors to the presence of God. They are powerful antidotes to fear and anxiety. They are creative and life-giving. When I am anxious, when I don’t know what to do, because I am tied up in knots or because I think I ought to know, or life feels out of control, there is a simple way to untie the knots that have me bound. Inspiration, curiosity, asking questions, opening the door and let God in.
‘Come and see’, says Jesus.
So curiosity is an underrated Christian virtue. It gets you thinking about things and asking questions. It makes you turn over rocks, and look underneath to see what’s crawling around. It lets you engage at a whole different level. If the life of faith is only pat answers to boring questions, what good does it do?
The life of faith isn’t so much about learning the right answers, but being open to all of life’s questions. It’s in the questions we learn to see Jesus. And it may be that it is through what seems most disappointing and betraying and painful of experiences that we are inspired to ask the questions.
And when we start to ask the questions, we may find that we touch on Jesus’ first question to his disciples – what are you looking for? This is perhaps the most profound and difficult question that any of us will ever be asked. It is one that exists in every life and community, but for many of us a question that we avoid or deny, because to face our deepest longings, to ask ourselves what really is of utmost importance, what shapes and forms our lives is risky. It means being vulnerable and open and honest and real. And yet we all encounter tragedies, failures, loss of loved ones, seemingly insurmountable challenges, and all of us are faced with the question, what are you looking for?
So Jesus asks us to go into the depths of our hearts, to discover the reality of our longings, our desires.
The disciple Andrew asks Jesus where he is staying. He wants Jesus’ address. He wants to go home, and believes that Jesus knows the way. He trusts that Jesus is the home he longs for, the Jesus is the one who can fill his emptiness and satisfy his deepest desire. He names the longing, the desire, the emptiness that we sometimes all feel, and that we are often so quick to fill.
But if we are prepared to wait, to live the questions, we may find abundant grace. Because Jesus doesn’t answer their question, ‘where are you living’, ‘it’s a couple of miles down the road, the second house on the left’, which would not have changed anything. Rather he offers us an invitation. ‘Come and see’, he says. There is reassurance and promise in his words. He has something for us. He is opening himself to us and inviting us in. He has gone ahead of us and prepared a place for us. Regardless of what is going on in our lives, or the life of the church, or the life of world, he makes it safe to move forward and take the next step in confidence that his life and presence await us. ‘Come and see’ is his invitation to find ourselves and discover our lives.
So, I wonder where Jesus is inviting me and inviting you. How might he be offering himself to you to participate in his life? You might ask how your life is at the moment. Whether it is full and abundant, empty and desolate, filled with change and chaos, or loss and sorrow, or joy and celebration, the answer is always the same --- come and see.
So come and see. This is an invitation to all of us, to come out of our ruts and frightened hiding, out of our jaded certainty, out of our resentments and our bitterness. Come and see. Come and see and be married to amazement. And you will have life.