So I’m not sure if any of you noticed, but we got a bit of snow this past week, a little more than what we got last week. And while the rest of the country continues to laugh at us, we Vancouverites feel justified to complain about the sub-zero temperatures, the awful road conditions filled with drivers that shouldn’t be driving even in better road conditions, and of course the shovelling. Oh, the shovelling. Especially when we’re talking about a 20 car parking lot sized patch of snow that needs removing.
And while all those complaints can be met with simple solutions, like dressing more appropriately for the weather, or proper snow tires on your car, or a gas powered snow blower that makes snow removal more of a joy than a chore, yet we still complain. I mean you’d be surprised at how many people I see who still wear low-cut flats with bare ankles in this weather. Or how many drivers out there that have no idea how to avoid slipping in the snow. Or how many people don’t even bother shovelling their walks because it’s too much work. Complain, complain, complain.
I’d admit even that when I saw it snowing, I did dread it a little. I mean, it is more work getting the kids ready for school in the snow. It’s more work after they get home making sure they’re dry and warm and doing an extra load of laundry or two. It’s more work even for me to dress more warmly and be more cautious on the road because again, there are a lot of bad drivers out there. It’s times like these I sometimes wish that I lived in a warmer climate, or that we’d live in a condo or something where shovelling wouldn’t be our responsibility, or at least perpetual school closures so the kids could stay home instead. Either case, I know that I’m dreaming of summer, and the sun, and all things hot…
But then we’d probably complain about the heat, amirite?
By now you’re probably wondering what all this has to do with today, the Second Sunday after the Epiphany, which I’m sure is among some of the favourite Sundays after Epiphany. Well, in today’s gospel text, we have John the baptizer pointing to Jesus telling his disciples “look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is the one who is to come to save us all!” Now, I’m not saying that our sin is snow and that Jesus is the snowblower that takes it all away, not in this sermon anyway, but I’m talking about the attitude of John’s disciples here and how that might allude to our collective attitudes toward winter, and summer, and basically anything about which we complain.
See, to be a disciple of someone in those days was very intentional, you would find someone that stood for something you truly believed in or someone that you really respect, and then you are accepted into that fold. You want to learn from this person, glean wisdom from them, and be like them as much as you could be like them. It wasn’t just do a quick Google search and take the first hit, but you do research, read the reviews, and make the best selection you possibly could because this relationship is for the long haul, so you better be sure.
And so John’s disciples weren’t by accident. They didn’t just wake up one morning and suddenly they were following John. They weren’t surprised to be in the position they were in as his disciples, because they would have meticulously chose it, but they may have been surprised with what happened next.
John pointed them to Jesus and they then just ditched John like a wet paper towel and left to follow Jesus instead. But then Jesus asks them, “What are you looking for?”
“What are you looking for?”
That is a tough question, isn’t it? I mean, it isn’t tough when we are actually on our hands and knees looking for something, I mean we’d have the answer right away obviously because we’re actively looking for that thing. But as we are travelling in life, knowing what we’re looking for, knowing what we truly desire, knowing what will satisfy us, well that is a bit harder to answer.
Some will say money and fame is what they are looking for, but upon finding it they still aren’t happy. Others might say power and importance, but when climbing that ladder they feel nothing but loneliness. Still, others might want mild weather but still would complain once it is plus or minus 3 degrees from that “mildness”. I mean, do we really know what we want? Do we really know what would satisfy us? Do we really know what we’re looking for? It seems like no matter what we reach for, attain, or receive, we still won’t be happy, we still aren’t satisfied, we still haven’t filled that emptiness inside. And above all, we will always have a reason to complain about something. It’s too cold, it’s too hot, I’m too poor, I’m too rich, I’m too that. What. Are. We. Looking. For.
I can imagine John’s former disciples bumbling over their words in trying to find an answer to Jesus’ sudden question, “uh, where are you staying?” Yeah, creepy much?
But Jesus’ response tells me that he totally understands what they are thinking, he totally gets their confusion, and that his initial question was really more rhetorical than anything else.
“Come and see,” Jesus says.
And while they did go and see where he was literally staying, I think there is more meaning packed into that statement. Come and see where Jesus resides. Come and see where Jesus’ heart is. Come and see the Lamb of God and how he takes away the sin of the world.
The disciples go, and they do see. They see that Jesus is the Lamb because of his selflessness and sacrifice. They see that Jesus takes away sin and guilt through acts of grace and mercy and regarding all people as equal children of God. They see that Jesus actually resides in all of them, in their hearts and in their relationships and community, giving them a sense of peace, hope, and above all, satisfaction.
It’s true that we often don’t know what we are looking for. We don’t know what exactly would make us happy and stop complaining. We don’t know what would or could fill that emptiness we sometimes feel. But I have a pretty strong feeling that the emptiness can be filled with love, relationship, and community. That we as relational beings are wanting connection with others. That we all long to be part of something that is bigger than ourselves and knowing that we can collectively make a difference. And the joy is that Jesus gives that to us. Jesus takes each and every one of us, tells us that we are good and worthy and includes us in his great plan. Jesus lifts us up out of our wants and desires and satisfies our needs. Jesus joins us together with him, all the saints, and each other, calling us a community of faith and builds for us relationships that could withstand all the selfishness and pride that can be thrown at it. This isn’t to say that in Christ we will or should no longer complain anymore, but I think it is to say that our complaints about our needs are met, and that our lives are filled with joy and peace and the promise of us not being alone.
Come and see, the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world, residing in you and me and our relationships and community, bringing us hope and loving us with a grace that goes beyond all comprehension. Friends, this is a gift given to us and our complaining hearts. This is a gift that fills our need of connection and companionship. This is a gift that could satisfy even the hungriest of souls, for Jesus Christ is truly enough in that he is present, he is active, and he is inviting and welcoming and gathering us all together as God’s beloved children.
As we continue in this season after the Epiphany, a season that we learn more of the person of Jesus and his role in the salvation of the world, may we see this Jesus in and around our lives and community, and trust that he truly is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. Thanks be to God. Amen.