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What Are You Looking For?

Date: 04/01/2015/Speaker: Rev Miak Siew

John 1:37-41, Luke 13:1-5

Jesus is the Answer we often hear. As we start off 2015, we also kick start a book study based on the book Jesus is the Question by Martin Copenhaver.

I hope all the cell groups embark on this adventure to learn more about Jesus, about ourselves, and ultimately about God. Here at FCC, we follow Jesus’ way – always by invitation, never by coercion.

For the first quarter, we have 8 chapter studies prepared – you can do all 8, you can do some of them, or you can do none of them. These studies will also be made available for individuals for personal reflection as well.

Martin Copenhaver observes in the introduction of the book:

“But I confess I didn’t think I could still learn something about Jesus that would fundamentally transform my view of him.
That changed when a friend said, “Have you noticed that in the Gospels Jesus asks a ton of questions? In every situation, he’s asking questions. I think Jesus may have asked even more questions than Socrates ever did.”
I found his observation intriguing, and it left me eager to learn more. I set out on a quest for the questioning Jesus, not knowing at the time that the journey would lead to something like hidden treasure, a transformative new understanding: asking questions is central to Jesus’ life and teachings. Jesus is a questioner. Jesus is not the ultimate Answer Man – he’s more like the Great Questioner.
Jesus asks many more questions than he is asked. In the four Gospels Jesus asks 307 questions. By contrast, he is only asked 183 questions.
More striking still Jesus directly answers very few of the 183 questions he is asked. Two published studies state Jesus directly answers only 3 of the 183 questions he is asked. According to my count, Jesus directly answers as many as 8 of the questions he is asked, but whichever count you go with, it is still an astonishingly small number.”

In our lives, we are preoccupied with answers, because we are preoccupied with certainty. We are uncomfortable when things are left hanging in the air, unresolved. We are uncomfortable with uncertainty.

Our spiritual growth doesn’t come from knowing the answers, but rather our growth comes from asking questions, and living the questions. Throughout our lives, the answer changes, but the questions remain the same.

“What do you want to do when you grow up?”

“What would make you happy?”

“Why do bad things happen?”

I want to start with a question that Jesus asked, and then he answered because I am angry, disappointed that some Christians will hijack a disaster and say things that are downright offensive and wrong.

I am sure you have heard folks who profess to be loving, to be followers of Christ capitalise on a tragedy to spew their nonsense. Some may be vocal about it, some may be whispering within their own circles, feeling relieved that they are in the group that is safe from divine wrath.

It has happened before. It is claimed that the tsunami that claimed thousands of lives 10 years ago was God’s wrath against a certain group of people. And recently, the Airasia tragedy is also used to support such a view.

Luke 13:1-5
There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? 3 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. 4 Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? 5 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

The people who went to Jesus and told him about the Galileans who were killed by the Romans while they were performing some religious ritual were concerned not about those who died, but actually concerned about themselves. Perhaps they were not as adherent to the religious practices as much as those who died – so they were concerned that if God didn’t protect those who were more religious than them, then what about themselves.

Jesus’ answer was and is “no.” A tragic death does not indicate a sinful life. He continues to talk about a tower which fell and killed 18 people, and said they were not worse offenders than others who lived in Jerusalem. Meaning that the tower did not fall on them because it was a punishment.

What kind of repentance then is Jesus talking about? What if Jesus isn’t saying “repent and become a Christian?” Because Christianity did not exist back then. What if Jesus was telling them to stop worrying about other people’s lives and focus on their own – focus on being people who bear good fruit?

We did not perish in a tragedy. Some of us fly a lot. And we give thanks after landing safely. Will we dig around our lives, put manure on it, and bear good fruit? Will we repent, and continue working on becoming better people – people who love mercy, do justice, and walk humbly with God? Will we live out the commandment to love each other as Jesus has loved us? Will we love God with all our hearts, minds, souls and strength, and love our neighbours as ourselves?

Surely, love means that we empathise, we hold those who are grieving and suffering, and walk with them. Not taking advantage of the situation and twist it to support our prejudices and biases. And not using it to say God punished the whole lot of them. And certainly not use it to be a point to scare people into converting to Christianity.

Really, do we think we are better than others, just because tragedy did not befall on us? Jesus’ answer is no.

We start off, like how the disciples of Jesus start off. This is a reading from the Gospel according to John, 1:37-41

37 The two followers heard what John said, so they went after Jesus.
38 Jesus turned. He saw them coming after him. He said to them, `What are you looking for?’ They said, `Teacher, where do you live?’
39 Jesus said, `Come and see.’ They went and saw the place where Jesus was staying. The time was about four o’clock in the afternoon. They stayed with Jesus the rest of the day.
40 Andrew was one of those two followers of John who heard John speak and went after Jesus. He was Simon Peter’s brother.
41 The first thing Andrew did then was to find his brother Simon. He said, `We have found the Messiah!’ (Messiah means the Christ, the messenger of God.)

Jesus’ first question to the two who went after him was “What are you looking for?”

Their reply has always puzzled me. `Teacher, where do you live?’
I did preach about this a few years ago – I thought then it was pretty ridiculous to meet a Holy person, a Great Teacher, and the first question is “Where do you live?”

But as I reflect a few years on, I realised maybe their question isn’t so ridiculous after all. I imagined Jesus to be one of those religious speakers people flocked to listen to. When the two asked “Where do you live?” it could be from an understanding that a person cannot be removed from the community he or she comes from. I have been so blinded by the idea of individualism that I didn’t even realise that my view did not consider the community Jesus was in.

We are as defined by the community we come from, we live with, as we are as individuals. Our alma maters, our clans, our nationalities, our neighbourhoods, our ethnic groups – we continue to find our identities influenced and shaped by these communities.

When the two asked “Where do you live?” they wanted to see Jesus’ community.

We, too, have community embedded in our identity. We are Free Community Church. I think in the life of FCC, we have come to understand and live out FREE – First Realise Everyone’s equal. I think we have come to the phase in our church life to focus on community. We need to see that our faith cannot be lived out in a vacuum. We live out our faith in the context of our lives – we live it out in relation with others. Community is, to me, a network of relationships.

Jesus reply to them – “Come and see” may be seen as an indirect answer. But I think it is as direct as it can get. Our lives, our communities, our relationships are easier experienced than described with words.

Jesus’ reply isn’t just a reply – it is an invitation. Again, it is not by force, but an invitation. Just like replying to the curious asking a question, the invitation is to bring the curious to experience for himself or herself what it is all about.

Following Jesus is not just a matter of believing. Saying we believe is simple. It is a matter of the mind. I either believe or i do not believe. It requires little effort to believe. To follow Jesus is quite a different matter.

When you come to FCC on Sunday, when you go to cell group (if you do), when you attend the different groups we have here – what are you looking for?

God? Peace? Joy? Let’s be real – a partner?

Being in community – requires us to be ourselves warts and all. It is just social gathering. We bring our full selves here – our joys, our sorrows, our pains, our struggles.

It is not enough to just be hanging out after church having lunch and chilling out – not that you shouldn’t do that. It is about forming a community that walks with you along your faith journey as you walk along theirs.

We have a rule – more of a guideline actually – that people shouldn’t date each other for the first 4 months (some say 3 months) of knowing each other here. This is to create a safe environment of building relationships uncomplicated by our innate desire to date romantically.

Why? This doesn’t mean you cannot date – this just means that you have an opportunity to get over the initial infatuation and have time to really know someone. Of course this is not a hard and fast rule – but i do hope that folks who decided to break this rule do let me, Pauline or someone in leadership know. Because that means you have thought through it, and you are taking responsibility for your actions.

What are you looking for?

What you are looking for will change from time to time, season to season. Perhaps you do find what you are seeking at one time, then you will move on to looking for something else.

That is why Jesus is the Great Questioner instead of the Ultimate Answer Man. Because answers deal with the question during the context of its time and situation. The questions remain the same, but times and situations change, and answers become obsolete.

What if I told you, finding what you are looking for is not as important as the process of finding? What if asking the questions is more important than finding the answers? What if the search is more important than the treasure? What if what we are looking for is not the point at all?

The problem about finding what we are looking for is that we will become complacent. It is like crossing the finishing line. We think it is done. It is finished. But our faith journey isn’t done.

We need to guard against our complacency that we have got the answers. We have arrived. We have finished. The questioning is our quest for God, our desire for God, our neverending journey seeking God.

This U2 song came to mind when i was writing this sermon.

I have climbed highest mountains
I have run through the fields
Only to be with you
Only to be with you
I have run
I have crawled
I have scaled these city walls
These city walls
Only to be with you

But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for
But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for

I have kissed honey lips
Felt the healing in her fingertips
I Burn like fire
This burning desire
I have spoken with the tongue of angels
I have held the hand of the devil
It was warm in the night
I was cold as a stone

But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for
But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for

I believe in the Kingdom Come
Then all the colors will bleed into one
Bleed into one
But yes I’m still running

You broke the bonds
And you loosed the chains
Carried the cross
Of my shame
Oh my shame
You know I believe it

But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for
But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for
But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for

This is how we begin 2015 – with a question – What are you looking for?