Sunday, January 17, 1993

Second Epiphany - Year A - 1993

Note: This was my first sermon.  It was preached at Grace Church, Sheboygan, Wisconsin.  I served in that parish while in seminary as a layman, which I was at the time of this sermon, and as an ordained Deacon, which I would be in December of that (1993) year, until I graduated.  I was ordained a Priest in Apostolic Succession on 2-Jul-1994.

Of note, it was aired on the local radio station at the time.

Year A - Second Sunday in Epiphany

The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples; and he looked at Jesus as he walked, and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God!." The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus.

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

In my first sermon to a real congregation, I had hoped for the really good stuff like the crucifixion, the resurrection or one of the more tantalizing parables of Jesus to preach upon. However, in today's Gospel, instead of the end, we have the beginning of Jesus' ministry; and Jesus speaks only seven words.

However, those seven words prove profitable. The first four are in the form of a question. Andrew and the other disciple (probably John) upon hearing John the Baptist refer to Jesus as the Lamb of God, follow our Lord. When Jesus saw them following him, he asks a simple question: WHAT DO YOU SEEK?

If Jesus were to ask me this question, I am not sure I would know how to answer. Andrew apparently had a similar problem, because he replies by asking Jesus where he is staying.

Jesus responds, "COME AND SEE."

Apparently, while they met with Jesus, Andrew found the answer to Jesus' first question, because we are then told that he ran to his brother, Peter, telling him that they had found the Messiah -- the Christ.

What Andrew and the other disciple were seeking was the Messiah, and
that is who they found. But it was a strange matter that started their search. They had merely heard the words, "Behold the Lamb of God!" and decided to follow the man who John the Baptist had pointed out to them.

"Behold, the Lamb of God!" is a strange expression. It comes from a strange man who is somewhat infamous for his style of dress and, in particular, his eating habits. Neither the message nor the messenger would suggest that two searchers would be wise to take much notice.

I checked, and the term "Lamb of God" does not occur even once in the Old Testament. If it had, it might have made more sense for the Baptizer to have used it, and for the disciples to have headed it, but as it stands it would have been nearly non-sensical to a Jew in 30 AD, as all of these men were.

Every significant reference to a lamb in the Old Testament relates to the idea of sacrifice and atonement. For example, the passover lamb which was to be eaten prior to the exodus, it's blood sprinkled on the door post to protect the inhabitants from the death and judgement; and the sacrificial lamb, slain to purify sinners and transgressors of the law. Some of the other words used in connection with Old Testament references to a lamb are: offering, redemption, purification, sanctification.

So what was John the Baptist thinking? In hindsight, it is obvious that this must be a reference to the sacrifice that Jesus made on the Cross for our sins, but isn't it odd that John would be thinking in those terms before the fact? It is even odder that Andrew and the Apostle John would hear those words and follow Jesus.

As for John the Baptist, his whole message dealt with sin, and the ugliness of man's state. Perhaps he knew, as prophets sometimes do, a bit of what kind of nasty solution that God was intending. A nasty solution is required for a nasty problem, and our sins are definitely a nasty problem.
John was not looking for a solution to the economic problems of the national economy, nor a way to end wars, lower taxes, save the whales or fill in your own favorite cause; rather, he was looking for the solution to the only problem that follows a man into the grave namely, how to get out of that grave once you are in it.

Easter is Glorious. Clean white linens, new life, and a happy ending. But, I have heard it said, you cannot have easter without the crucifixion. Ah, but we could have! We could have had Jesus die a pleasant death -- going peacefully in his sleep, with no pain, no blood, no suffering. The kind of death that we all would like to have. The kind of death the antisemitists wanted our Lord to have. They blame the Jews for our Lord's suffering, and believe that without that suffering we would have been better off. But what would Easter have proved by itself?

Without the nasty death by being nailed to a piece of wood, without the sacrifice of the unspotted lamb without blemish, what would we have had? We would have had God's incarnate Son inviting us to join Him in eternal life in Heaven without any hope of ever being able to accept the invitation.

Heaven is a very exclusive place, they don't let just anybody in there. For example, anyone with the stain of sin is barred at the door. And for Jesus to have simply died and raised again, he would have gained admittance for himself only, being the only one to have achieved death without sinning. We on the other hand, each and every one of us -- dark with the stain of sin -- simply could not get in without first being cleansed of that stain. And the only method by which we can be cleansed is the nasty one -- sacrifice. We needed a Sacrificial Lamb. It was our only hope.

John the Baptists knew this, and the saints knew this too. It isn't a coincidence that any good book on prayer instructs one to first recognize one's sins, failures, imperfections, and complete and utter hopelessness before trying to speak or listen to God in prayer.

It is only reasonable that we must try to see where we stand in relationship to God if we are to be able to communicate with him. We are only righteous in as much as he has declared us to be righteous, but we have no righteousness of our own without Him. And even with that, we continue to sin, and thus still need the stain of sin removed.

Whether Andrew understood any of this when he heard those words, "Lamb of God," I cannot say. But something clicked. Something drove him to follow Jesus. Something clicked with Andrew, and suddenly he knew that he had found what he was looking for.

We have all experienced this 'click' ourselves in various ways. We don't know how we know something, we just know that we do in fact, know.

Being from Texas where football is more than the national sport, and more like a way of life, you will excuse me, I am sure, if I use an example from my over thirty years of experience in this area:

I have a gift, of sorts, for being able to predict when one team is about to take the ball away from the other team. The teams will be lined up and about to hike the ball and I suddenly know that the ball is going to be intercepted or fumbled on that play, or the next. I'll lean over to the one next to me and comment that there is going to be a turn over. Probably nine times out of ten, it happens. This is not a gift from God, nor am I psychic, and I don't know exactly what it is that I see that causes this click, but the click happens none the less a few times every season.

I have a theory, however. You see, when I was five years old, my parents bought season tickets to the Cowboy games, and I faithfully attended each home game for nearly twenty years. I watched the games on television, I watched the coach's shows, I read about football, talked about football and even played a little football. It was important to me and so I learned everything that I could about the game. Then, in the middle of a game I would see something wrong that the offense was doing or something right that the defense was doing I don't know which, and knew ahead of time that the defense was going to take away the ball from the offense.

The point is that I was able to see something that few, if any, others saw; and furthermore I believe that I had this ability because of the amount of time I spent studying and watching the sport.

Andrew, as a Jew, had been waiting for the Messiah. He had studied and watched for His coming, he knew the prophesies, and was ready when that small and almost imperceptible something caused everything to click.

Unlike most of those who encountered Jesus as he walked the earth nearly two thousand years ago, Andrew recognized that the Messiah the Christ was the one that would be Sacrificed and offered to atone for our sins and to bring about our sanctification.

Most expected a worldly king, greater than even David, but very much a king of this world like David had been. These were the ones who felt justified in their rejecting Jesus when our Lord was nailed to the cross and died.

You know that one of the gifts that the Magi brought was Myrrh. The gold represented Christ's kingship, the frankincense his priesthood, and the myrrh his death.

Andrew was not looking for just a king, nor was he looking for just a priest, the ultimate of which Jesus Christ is, but it was the sacrifice -- the inevitable and blessed death that Jesus was to suffer -- that resulted in Andrew's recognizing his (and our) Savior.

It is a revelation of sorts, but one that was conditioned by Andrew's (and the other Jews') waiting and searching for the Messiah. Once they had seen him, they recognized him.

So what are we, as Christians, waiting for? What is it that we have studied and watched for? To quote our Lord, "WHAT DO YOU SEEK?"

Paul tells us, in our Epistle today, that the Church in Corinth was waiting "for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ". Yet he also says of the Church in Corinth that:

They were Sanctified in Christ Jesus, They were called to be saints, They were given the grace of God, They were in every way enriched in him with all speech and all knowledge The testimony to Christ was confirmed in them, They were not lacking in any spiritual gift, and that they were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

It seems they had everything.

Yet, Paul says that they were waiting. Waiting for the "revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ;" he says, "who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ."

As I studied and watched football and found that click that something big was about to happen, and moreover, as Andrew studied Scripture and watched for the coming of the Messiah, which he recognized with the click of the words, "Behold the Lamb of God!", we must be studying and watching for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The mere fact that you are sitting in this church right now is unarguable proof that you too have been called to be saints. You have been given the grace of God, and to a person you have most, if not all, of the seven attributes with which Paul credited the Corinthians. But, like those -- we must still wait, watch and study.

Our work is not done to have the testimony of Christ confirmed in us. Andrew, as a Jew, could not rest even though he was one of God's chosen even after he recognized Jesus as the Messiah, the Christ, Andrew still watched. We are told that he, with Peter, James and John ask Jesus about the end of the world so that they might be ready when it comes.

We have the revealing our Lord Jesus in the Four Gospels, and we find more revealed of him in the rest of the New Testament, yet we are still awaiting his revelation. It is in the Word of God, the Scripture, which tells us that Jesus is not finished revealing himself to us, and it is there that we must focus our study and watchfulness; and it is also in His Church that we must study and watch, so that when he does choose to reveal himself to us again, we will be ready for that click.

The Sunday temple that I faithfully attended in my youth sat seventy five thousand people. Nearly every seat was filled because what went on there was important to us. It was our way of life, and we knew the game.

We are in another Sunday Temple and we are, each of us, charged to make this our way of life, and we cannot do that unless we know the game. Watch, study and wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to reveal himself to you, and if you do, Paul tells us that you "will be sustained to the end, guiltless".

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

{49:1} Listen to me, O coastlands, and hearken, you peoples from afar. The LORD called me from the womb, from the body of my mother he named my name. {2} He made my mouth like a sharp sword, in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me a polished arrow, in his quiver he hid me away. {3} And he said to me, "You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified." {4} But I said, "I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity; yet surely my right is with the LORD, and my recompense with my God." {5} And now the LORD says, who formed me from the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob back to him, and that Israel might be gathered to him, for I am honored in the eyes of the LORD, and my God has become my strength {6} he says: "It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved of Israel; I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth." {7} Thus says the LORD, the Redeemer of Israel and his Holy One, to one deeply despised, abhorred by the nations, the servant of rulers: "Kings shall see and arise; princes, and they shall prostrate them selves; because of the LORD, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you." Isaiah 49:1 7

{40:1} To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David. I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry. {2} He drew me up from the desolate pit, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. {3} He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the LORD. {4} Blessed is the man who makes the LORD his trust, who does not turn to the proud, to those who go astray after false gods! {5} Thou hast multiplied, O LORD my God, thy wondrous deeds and thy thoughts toward us; none can compare with thee! Were I to proclaim and tell of them, they would be more than can be numbered. {6} Sacrifice and offering thou dost not desire; but thou hast given me an open ear. Burnt offering and sin offering thou hast not required. {7} Then I said, "Lo, I come; in the roll of the book it is written of me; {8} I delight to do thy will, O my God; thy law is within my heart." {9} I have told the glad news of deliverance in the great congregation; lo, I have not restrained my lips, as thou knowest, O LORD. {10} I have not hid thy saving help within my heart, I have spoken of thy faithfulness and thy salvation; I have not concealed thy steadfast love and thy faithfulness from the great congregation. Psalms 40:1 10

{1:1} Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes, {2} To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: {3} Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. {4} I give thanks to God always for you because of the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus, {5} that in every way you were enriched in him with all speech and all knowledge {6} even as the testimony to Christ was confirmed among you {7} so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ; {8} who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. {9} God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. 1 Corinthians 1:1 9

{29} The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! {30} This is he of whom I said, 'After me comes a man who ranks before me, for he was before me.' {31} I myself did not know him; but for this I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel." {32} And John bore witness, "I saw the Spirit descend as a dove from heaven, and it remained on him. {33} I myself did not know him; but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, 'He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.' {34} And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God." {35} The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples; {36} and he looked at Jesus as he walked, and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God!" {37} The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. {38} Jesus turned, and saw them following, and said to them, "What do you seek?" And they said to him, "Rabbi" (which means Teacher), "where are you staying?" {39} He said to them, "Come and see." They came and saw where he was staying; and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. {40} One of the two who heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. {41} He first found his brother Simon, and said to him, "We have found the Messiah" (which means Christ). John 1:29 41

Copyright © 1993 W. Crews Giles