Worship Service for the 2nd Sunday after the Epiphany

Hi everyone,

Welcome to worship for this 2nd Sunday after the Epiphany, landing on January 15, 2023!

The bulletin for this service can be found here. We continue with setting 12 out of the All Creation Sings hymnal supplement, so the music for that is included in the bulletin, along with the words of the liturgy, the hymn numbers out of the ELW and the full sermon manuscript. The sermon is also on this page below the worship video.

You are welcome to have a lit candle in your space for the service, to signify the connection we all share although we are in different places and perhaps different time. The candle can be extinguished at the end of the service when the altar candles are put out after the sending hymn, to symbolize our prayers and praise going up to God. You are also welcome to join in for communion by having something small to eat and drink nearby, and consume them at the appropriate time as instructed during worship.

May God’s unending love and peace bring you joy and fulfillment this day and always!

Send your Spirit upon us, O God, that our ears be opened to the truth of your Word and the testimony of Christ be strengthened among us, that our recognition of you and your work in the world fulfill us and bring us to new heights in our community, ministry, and love, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

“What are you looking for?”

This is what Jesus asks his would-be-disciples-but-for-now-stalkers.  And this isn’t an easy question to answer.  Heck, I ask myself that same question like one out of every five times I walk into a room and completely forget why I went in there. 

“What are you looking for?”

It’s a tough question, one that perhaps a lot of people wonder and ask about on first dates and at the start of relationships, and a question that perhaps a lot of people generally would try to avoid.  Not because they don’t want a relationship, but because probably because they really don’t know what the answer would be for themselves.

“What are you looking for?”

And I guess that’s the question, isn’t it?  If we could answer it then we might have a bit more direction in our lives, a bit more focus, and maybe eventually a bit more fulfillment and accomplishment.  If we could answer it, then maybe we will have a bit better chance of being truly happy.

And maybe that’s what we’re actually looking for, to be happy, to be fulfilled, to have meaning for who we are and what we’re doing here.  Still, that doesn’t really answer the question of what we want, because we’d need to be more specific in how we could even get there.  What achievements must we accomplish to obtain this goal?  What are we actually looking for that would finally satisfy? 

The world will give us the answers, that’s for sure.  Things like that well paying job or that fancy house or the latest and greatest gadgets that would be able to hold a livestream without any glitches for once.  The world tells us to aim for the most respect, the most influence, the most power.  We are told that we need to strive for the coolest toys, the best things, and the most likes on our social media posts.  But we’ve found time and again that even after gaining or achieving those things, we are left not as satisfied or fulfilled as we thought we’d be.  When we finally get that thing or reach that goal that we thought would make us truly happy, we just aren’t, not in any kind of lasting way, at least.  And so we move onto the next thing and the next thing and the next thing, continually and perpetually searching for that which we are looking for.

So is true happiness then but a pipe dream?  It is even attainable?  Can we even get there with what we know and can do?  Or are we just destined to jump from thing to thing, forever running the rat race with no end in sight?

At first glance, this might seem to be the case with John’s disciples that turned into those Jesus stalkers.  From what I understand in those days, being someone’s disciple was a bit of a commitment.  You don’t just latch onto anyone who is accepting applications, but you have to really admire the person, look up to them with utmost respect, and really devote yourself to learning all you can from them.  So I’d think that John’s disciples would be no different.  They would be devoted, dedicated, disciplined.  But then one day John points out to them Jesus, the Lamb of God, the one who will take away the sins of the world, and his disciples just drop him like a wet paper towel in favour of following Jesus.  I get that is kind of the point of John’s teachings, but really?  It just seems a bit wishy washy to me.

So what were they looking for?  What were they hoping would satisfy them?  What did they think would make them happy?

And this is exactly what Jesus asks them, “What are you looking for?”  And it sounds like the best they could do on short notice was just, “uh where are you staying?”  Sounds kind of cringey, right?  I mean, we’d think that they could have given a better answer than that.  They could have said that they were looking for a new teacher, or they want a different direction in where they’re going, or maybe even tell the truth, and say that they want to find the meaning of life.  They want to be happy.  They want to be part of something bigger than themselves and make a difference in the world.

Because that is what the Lamb of God is about, right?  John declares that Jesus came to take away the sin of the world.  And who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?  But the best these jokers could say is “where are you staying?”

Well, actually it isn’t a bad answer, as there is something lost in translation.  The word used for “stay” is the Greek “menno”, which means to abide, to be present, to fully and wholly live.

So these disciples aren’t asking Jesus just where he hangs his hat, but they are asking where does he reside.  They want to see with whom he has community.  They want to learn in what does he find life.  Because in learning all of these things, especially from Jesus, I would think would be the ultimate factor for bringing meaning into anyone’s life.  I mean, this is the Messiah, the one who would save the world.  This is the Word made flesh, who would lift them up and show them the life that truly is life.  This is the Lamb of God, the one who would take away all their sin and reveal to them their true position in God’s kingdom, one without prerequisite or condition, one of welcome and inclusion, one full of peace and love.  So how could they not want to see where he will abide, be where his full presence could be found, and learn all they could from him and find meaning, fulfillment, and happiness?

This is what the Lamb of God is about, this is what the image would bring up for them, this is why they were so filled with hope, enough to leave John their master in favour for this other guy.  See the lamb was seen as a gift out of appreciation back to God for all the abundance and blessing.  It was customary to give back a bit of all the good that was given.  Sure, it is translated as a sacrifice these days and maybe it can be difficult to give our very best, but it always done not out of obligation or obedience, but out of love. 

So the Lamb of God?  It was God’s way of giving us even more, not because we gave God so much, but because God loves so much.  This was God’s way of revealing the nature of God’s love, one that is pure, full, and so graciously given.  This was God’s way of telling us who we are: beloved and redeemed children worthy of being saved. 

So was it painful when people rejected this gift?  When people spat on him?  When people derided, disgraced, and ultimately destroyed this Lamb given out of love?  Well, probably.   But that didn’t stop God.  That doesn’t stop God.  And that will not stop God from continuing to love and forgive and welcome. 

But this is the love that those disciples were looking for.  This is the love that Jesus offers.  This is the love that fills all of us with meaning, brings us all the joy of community and relationship, lifts us up and leads us into peace.

And I know, life is still hard.  Life can get rough.  Life throws us unexpected curveballs and takes us on these rollercoaster rides and rips our hearts into shreds.  We are beaten and battered.  We are tossed and turned.  We are exasperated and exhausted.

But it is in that turmoil that God is most present.  It is when we are desperately calling out in despair that God appears to us with an outstretched hand ready to pull us back in.  It is when we are most confused of what we are looking for that we are given the gift of love, peace, and hope.

So Jesus’ answer is for them and us to come and see where and how God abides in us and in our hearts.  Come and see what God is doing in the world full of grace and truth.  Come and see the blessings that are given to us out of a love that surpasses understanding. 

In this season after the Epiphany, may we see God in the world, revealed in the person of Jesus Christ and the power of the Spirit, that we might find what we are truly looking for and be fulfilled.  Thanks be to God.  Amen.

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