This morning’s scripture begins with John the Baptist testifying. He tells us what he witnessed at Jesus baptism. If you recall last Sunday we got a first hand account in Matthews gospel. Luke and Mark also tell us the story of what happened as though we’re witnessing it happen in real time, the sky opened and the voice of God broke in, this is my beloved son, with whom I am well pleased… but we don’t get the account in real time in John’s gospel. Instead we get a testimony from John the baptist telling us what he saw…
vs 34 And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.
I myself have seen. The word see or seen is used multiple times in the first few chapters of John and they hold the same meaning. To see is not just to see with the eyes but to perceive, to experience, to see spiritually, to understand internally.
This is the season of epiphany. The season we search for the many ways in which Jesus manifests in the world. And we can read about the experiences of others, just as we did this morning, as John witnesses and points the way, but that’s just it, the way is pointed out. It’s not written down, prescribed or placed on a bumper sticker or in a book.
When the disciples ask Jesus where he’s living, Jesus could have given an address, and they could have followed a prescribed set of directions. But Jesus answers, come and see. Hear and follow. Come and live.
And while this is certainly a sermon about Jesus’ answer come and see, all week long I was stuck on the disciples question. Where do you live? And I kept thinking about the expression, hits me where I live. Oh that hits me where I live. That’s used to describe a moment when someone says something that makes you feel exposed or vulnerable. She hit me where I live, on a personal or intimate level.
When the disciples asked Jesus where he was living, they probably meant geographically and physically but this is John’s gospel and everything is open to a mystical or spiritual interpretation.
Where do you live? There’s the physical manifestation of where we live, our homes. Those are the places we clean up when we know people are coming over. We hide the dirty laundry, keep people out of the kitchen so they don’t see the dirty dishes, and we make it look like no one actually lives there….which is a lovely metaphor for we so often do spiritually, here in the church. We don’t always let people see where we live, where we really live, internally. We clean up with politeness, thinking we need to bring our best selves in the door. Peace be with you. How are you this morning, beautiful morning. We do a lot of that on Sunday mornings, but I don’t imagine that’s what the disciples witnessed when they saw where Jesus lived.
Our tradition, that is the Jesus following tradition, is to follow, the one who takes away the sin of the world, not the one we hide it from.
This morning’s testimony opens with the declaration …The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!
And if that’s a belief we hold as true, or a belief we choose to trust in, if we profess with our words that Jesus saves us from ourselves, and takes away that which causes pain and suffering, than wouldn’t it make sense not to clean up before entering this house, this sanctuary, this place that houses and holds our confessions, our struggles as well as our joys.
Many have said the most honest hour of the week at any given church or synagogue is the hour that the AA group meets. Or any given 12 step group. Based on my experience I can say that’s true. 12 step meetings gave me my first spiritual understanding of what it means to confess, to share experiences that didn’t require I clean up before I entered the room, but to be brutally honest about being in need of help, from a power greater than self.
That’s what we profess, each week in our prayer of confession, that Jesus is that power. And to live in that place, means bringing the mess with you, not cleaning up before you come in.
Rachel held Evans writes;
Imagine if every church became a place where everyone is safe, bit no one os comfortable. Imagine if every church became a place where we told one another the truth. We might just create a sanctuary.
We come as we are-no hiding, no acting, no fear. We come with our materialism, our pride, our petty grievances against our neighbors, our hypocritical disdain for this judgmental people in the church next door, We come with our fear of death, our desperation to be loved, our troubled marriages, our persistent doubts, our preoccupation with status and image. We come with our addictions to substances, to work, to affirmation, to control, to food. We come with our differences, be they political, theological, racial, or socioeconomic. We come in search o f sanctuary, a safe place to shed our masks and exhale. We come to air our dirty laundry before God and everybody because when we do it together we don’t have to be afraid.(end quote)
To be hit where one lives is to be hit in all of those places. Jesus says….come and see where I live….
He lives in a house with those that others frowns upon. He lives with sinners, with the sick, with those in need of food, those who are thirsty for more, those considered unclean and unworthy, those who are seeking refuge, those from other places, those others. He lives from a place of listening, of understanding, of holding others accountable, of forgiveness. He lives in a place where one stops on the side of the road to help, that sees what no one wants to look at, not so that he can feel good about himself, but because He knows no other way to live.
Come and see, He says, Come and live this way, experience this way of life, and in the doing you’ll find new life.
With every memorial service and every wedding, and almost every party I attend, I come across those who have decided what my spiritual home looks like. They’ve decided where I live. You hear it come out sideways, usually in an attempt at a joke or an apology. Usually an apology for cursing, which is especially funny. When I was younger, I thought I could talk my way into changing their minds, not just about me, but I thought I could change their entire pre conceived idea of religious people. And what I’e learned over time, is that there is noting I can say to do that. We can only point the way, and usually not with words.
When it comes to seeing where Christ lives, wee see through experiencing, not by someone giving us an address and following a GPS. We don’t see or live with Christ by being given a doctrine or a set of beliefs, but rather by experiencing what it means to live with Him, in Him, and as much as we can, like Him.We experience Him by asking Him to show himself to us, by paying attention to the big and small manifestations of Him as we go about our beautiful and mundane lives.
It’s a beautiful journey. It’s a difficult journey. Someone may point the way for us, and we may point the way for others, but at the end of the day, it’s God who says most intimately; come and see for yourself.