Harrowing Of Hell
August 25, 2019

What are you Looking For?

The Rev. Doyt L. Conn, Jr.

To listen to the sermon click here.

“What are you looking for?” These are the very first words we hear from Jesus in the Gospel of John. “What   are   you   looking   for?” We are all looking for something. There is a desire, an ambition, a yearning woven into the fabric of our beings. And I believe that it was put there by God to draw us toward God. That is what we are going to talk about today; a moment in time when you knew you were dwelling with God.

We begin with Andrew and another disciple who are standing with John the Baptist on the banks of the river Jordan. Jesus walks by. They had seen him yesterday, when John testified that Jesus is the Son of God. Today, John points him out again and this time the two disciples follow. 

Their response when Jesus asks: “What are you looking for?” might seem weird at first: “Rabbi where are you staying?” But a little research unveils that this word “staying” in Greek meno, means to dwell or abiding in.

It shows up 33 times in the Gospel of John, and by the time we hear it in verse 38 of chapter 1 we have already heard it twice before in the words John the Baptist used when describing how the Holy Spirit descended like a dove and dwelt within Jesus.

So, these two men are actually asking the right question. They see in Jesus something that is different. They see something they haven’t seen in anyone else before.

And it is important to know that they had been looking. Scholars believe that these two men were likely disciples of John the Baptist. They had followed him from a life of fishing into the desert to be baptized and to eat locusts and wild honey, seeking a right relationship with God. Something was out of balance in their life that caused them to go looking. Or maybe something was out of balance in the world and that caused them to go looking.

They found John and they followed, but something was still missing.  John was good; very good, indeed, Jesus says later in the Gospel that John was as great a teacher as there was for things outside the Kingdom of God, for things that are visible and rule-based and worldly. If you want to know how to live in the world as the world seems to be, then you are to follow John and things will be better than they otherwise would have been.

But, if you want to see God, if you want to live in the really real world of God, if you want to know the purpose for your eternal soul… If that is what you desire deep down inside, if that is what you are looking for…

But, we’ll get to that in a minute. Let’s first return to these two disciples. They were searching, and there was something about Jesus that drew them to him, and they followed, and asked him, “Where do you dwell?” and he said, “Come and see.”

And so, they went and saw and stayed with him the entire day, or at least until four o’clock. At our sermon review meeting I asked our scholars why four o’clock? Zach suggested it might have signaled it was time for Happy Hour.

Now here is something interesting about the Gospel of John; every so often the author references a particular time of day.The Samaritan woman met Jesus at the well at noon. The royal official’s son was healed by Jesus at one o’clock.  Andrew and the other disciple were with Jesus until four o’clock.

These references to time point to a moment. It is the moment in time when these lives were transformed by Jesus. Four o’clock, noon, one o’clock. It was a moment never forgotten. It was that moment in time when what they were looking for was finally seen, in a twinkling of an eye; the veil lifted and the purpose of their eternal souls was revealed (1 Cor 15:52).

We all have this desire, even if we don’t think we do. Within our soul exists a hardwired instinct driving us to seek, to desire, to live as our eternal selves. This place where we are, this world, this creation of God’s, is a crucible for soul making. 

But I have a question: if these disciples spent all day with Jesus, and they were allowed to peak behind the veil, why did they leave that part out of the Bible? That is the part I want to hear about. Why doesn’t the author go into details about that four o’clock moment?

But we know the answer, don’t we? Because we are students of the Kingdom of God, and we know that life in the Kingdom of God is particular and unique and tailor made for each one of us. So, the clarity of vision into one’s soul looks different for each of us. There are no best practices for divine insight. Our moment, our glimpse at our soul is unique for everyone.

What is the same, is the desire, the ambition to know our eternal soul. But here is the trick, the stumbling block, the veil, if you will: our sight is diminished by the lesser things we gaze upon. It is like when you’re driving, the wheels always track toward what you are looking at. And what we look at, we prioritize, even if we say we do not.

I’ll tell you a secret…my ambition, my desire to spreading the good news about the Kingdom of God can dim my ability to be a glorious soul right here right now. I remember that moment in time when my heart shifted toward a pursuit of God. It was my junior year in college, and I met a teacher named Pradan.  He was a Hindu Yogi, and he taught me to meditate. He said: “Same time, same place, same way, every day.” I took up the challenge because I was looking for God. I was changed by the process, and yet I kept looking for God. I returned to Christianity, because I was looking for God and was changed by the process, and yet I kept looking for God. I became a priest, because I was looking for God and was changed by the process, and yet I kept looking for God. Then I came here, to be your Rector, because I was looking for God and was changed by the process, and yet I kept looking for God.

Even striving and desiring the Kingdom of God, out here, out front of my life, as noble as it is, can cause me to overlook the reality that God has already acted, that God is already right here, right now.

To see God requires that we turn around and reflect. And that action of turning around and looking into our past gives us insight into what God has already done.  I call that process of turning around making the invisible visible, because I am the only one who can see into the invisible reality of where my life has been…and it is there that I find that God has acted. It is there that I see how Jesus is in my life.   It is there that I find the movement of the Holy Spirit at the center of my soul.

I have seen four o’clock; I have seen one o’clock; I have seen the bright sun shining at noon. And I know you have as well. The invisible only becomes visible when we look backwards at our lives. And it is there that we see our souls being gloried in the crucible of God’s creation.

Whatever happened that day when Andrew and the other disciple were with Jesus, their sight changed. They were given eyes to see the invisible hand of God upon their life, in the life they had already lived. What they were looking for out here, ambitiously looking for and not finding, had already taken place. Their veil was lifted by Jesus. And he does this for you and me as well.

I want to invite you to look behind the veil of your invisible life; turn around and look backward to where God has acted and to what God has done. Find your moment in time. It is as simple as sitting quietly and running through the reel of your life. It is as simple as taking a piece of paper and pen, and scribbling notes about your past.

For me, I slow down and go to the Bible. I read the stories of Jesus and remember where his story intersected with my life. I can tell you the moment in time: 2:00 am in Mexico City,  October 1995…but that is for another sermon.

Instead I’ll end with a word of caution, which I suppose is also a word of hope…it is a paradox after all, this Christian journey. Just because you met Jesus; just because the veil was lifted for a moment and you had a sense of your eternal soul, doesn’t mean that all struggle has left your life. It doesn’t mean ambition has gone away. It doesn’t mean that you won’t still have desire for the lesser things of this world. You will.

All it means is that you have seen God. And that the God you have seen is with you, right here, right now. And that is good. This place is a crucible for soul making, and your soul is being formed at this very moment in time, like Andrew’s, and the royal officials’, and the woman at the well’s …

Mark your watches, look into the invisible, and remember: God dwells with you.