From my sermon on January 15, 2017
John 1:29, 32-38 — The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!… Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. And I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ I have seen and I testify that this is God’s Chosen One.”
The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!”
When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?”
The Gospel of John begins with John the Baptist preparing the way for Jesus. Several verses describe how John is proclaiming to the people about the One who is to come—the ‘true light of the world’ says John 1:9; the ‘Messiah’ says verse 20; the ‘chosen one of God’ says verse 34. And then in verse 36 Jesus walks by, and John says to two of his disciples, “Behold, the Lamb of God.” The next verse then tells us that when the two men who had been followers of John heard this, they decided to follow Jesus.
Today’s sermon will be on the next verse (v. 38) which reads: “Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, ‘What do you want?’” Other translations have Jesus putting the question like this: What seek ye? or What are you after? or What are you looking for?
Well, no matter how you translate it, these are all good questions for a sermon. What are you after? What do you want? Do you have it? What are you looking for? Have you found it? And if not, when do you think you will find it?
Thirty years ago right about now, the Irish band U2 was working on an interesting song about this very thing. The name of the song is “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” and it’s been praised for its unique blend of American Gospel music and Celtic soul music. It was released in the Spring of 1987 went to the top of the charts in the United States. Rolling Stone magazine lists it at #93 of “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.” Hear and see it below on You-tube. If you don’t catch all the words, don’t worry, I’ll fill you in on them later…
This song was written by U2’s lead vocalist Paul Hewson, better known by his nickname, Bono. His friends gave him that nickname when he was a teenager. Bono is short for ‘bonovox,’ which is Latin for ‘good voice.’ Bono is an international superstar, famous not only for his music, but also for his humanitarian work all over the world. He is a one man world relief organization, has given tens of millions of dollars to help others, and is constantly pestering other celebrities to do the same. Few people have done more than Bono to alleviate poverty, disease, and illiteracy in the world. He, along with Melinda and Bill Gates were Time magazine’s ‘Persons of the Year’ in 2005 for this incredible work.
Bono is a Christian. And his faith is not limited to the water-down, flimsy, ‘God is nice and so we should be nice’ type of Christianity of so many celebrities. Bono is very outspoken about his faith in Jesus Christ who is the Son of God, Savior of the world, and no one else like him has ever lived; and Jesus Christ died for our sins, because we are all sinners (and not all that ‘nice,’ anyway); and we need Grace, not karma, not some vague spirituality, and not some silly inner voice. We need Jesus, Bono says, so believe in Jesus and you will be all right, or else, you will not be all right. Bono is not ashamed or embarrassed to talk that way, and people who interview him usually don’t know how to handle that. That are not used to that from rock stars. Like many big rock stars, Bono can also be an arrogant loud mouth, he swears too much on stage (at least he used to), and he has been very critical of the church, sometimes in an unfair and uninformed way. Criticism is always needed, though sometimes his lack of perspective is annoying. And Bono would be the first to admit he is still a sinner in need of God’s grace; but he is indeed a Christian and a good man.
Now to the song. It starts out like a love song, “I have climbed the highest mountains, I have run through the fields, I have crawled, I have scaled walls—only to be with you.” So, who is ‘you’? We don’t know yet, but it’s probably some young lady he is pursuing. That’s what it sounds like so far, and even more so in the next verse when it talks about kissing honey lips and this burning desire.
But then comes something unexpected. The following verse says, “I believe in the Kingdom come.” Wow! What does that sound like? It sounds to me like the Lord’s Prayer. And then we finally found out who the “you” is that he wants to be with. Listen to this verse: “You broke the bonds, and you loosed the chains, you carried the cross of my shame… you know I believe it.” Believing in the cross that breaks my bonds and takes away my shame. It is sounding like an old Gospel hymn, which is precisely what Bono and the band said influenced the writing of this song. He is doing everything he can, he says, only to be with Jesus.
Now, for the confusing part. After that verse affirming his faith in Jesus, the song goes back to the refrain again, and repeats several more times, “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.” What? It sounded like he did. He believes in the Kingdom come, and believes in the one who loosed his chains and took away his shame on the cross. So what does he mean he still hasn’t found it?
A few years ago I taught a class called “Rock (and Roll) of Ages” in which I looked at what was going on spiritually in some of my old favorite rock and roll, and country songs (google ’emailmeditations rock and roll of ages,’ #290 and the following meditations) . I wanted to include this song, but I couldn’t make any sense out of it, so I didn’t use it.
But this week, when I read these words from Jesus in John 1, it came to me when I asked myself, “Am I still looking for anything?” Of course I am. But don’t I, also, already believe in Jesus? Yes, of course. So what’s going on? (continued…)
You have made me for yourself, O Lord, and my heart is restless until I rest in you.
–St. Augustine (354-430)