The Divine B.O.L.O.

Wesley Chapel Episcopal Church, Wesley Chapel, FL
Preacher: The Rev. Adrienne R. Hymes
January 19, 2020 ● Second Sunday after the Epiphany/YrA
Gospel: John 1:29-42

Posted by Wesley Chapel Episcopal Church on Sunday, January 19, 2020

What are you looking for? Maybe on a road trip the directions on your phone somehow don’t add up to your destination. Feeling lost, you stop to ask for directions at the gas station. Knowing the local landscape and noticing your distress, the attendant can’t help you until he asks, “What are you looking for?”

Perhaps you’re in a store, picking out the perfect gift for a loved one. You have something in mind—not quite sure what it is—but you’ll know it when you see it. And then, an employee who sees you wandering in the retail wilderness, approaches you and says, “What are you looking for?” I might add that a great employee would say, “What are you looking for? Let me help you find it.”

John the Baptist wasn’t a gas station attendant, or a Macy’s employee.  We do know that in this gospel passage, John’s public witness about Jesus’ identity and purpose, brought people to Jesus. And, Jesus, who knows the wanderings of souls, asked the two men, who would become his first two disciples, “What are you looking for?” I imagine that Jesus, fully aware of humanity’s inability to save itself from aimlessly wandering in the wilderness of the soul, today, comes alongside each of us and whispers, “What are you looking for? Let me help you find it.”

It’s hard to find something or someone if you’re not even looking. There is an alert used by law enforcement and security teams called a B.O.L.O., which stands for “Be on the lookout.” It’s used to advise, all who need to know, about potentially dangerous individuals. In extreme situations, authorities acting swiftly on the issued B.O.L.O. can save lives.

In John’s gospel today, we see John on alert when God issued him, in a sense, a divine B.O.L.O.  John was on the lookout and waiting, with hopeful expectation, the coming of the one who baptizes, not with water, but with the Holy Spirit; he was on the lookout for the one upon whom God said the Spirit would descend and remain. Having seen, with his own eyes, the anointing of Jesus by the Holy Spirit, in just the way that God had told him, John recognized the Son of God; was compelled to alert all others; and when he did, John’s personal witness led others to the One who saves lives from sin and death.

To clarify, John the Baptist had his own disciples, two of whom were standing with him when Jesus walked by.  John, always on the lookout for Jesus, exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!” John’s own disciples, without discussion or further investigation, saw Jesus, heard John’s declaration and followed Jesus.

The calling of Jesus’ first two disciples, happened as a direct result of John’s own public witness. The author of the fourth gospel emphasizes the power of John’s own public witness to bring others to Jesus.

As the two disciples were actively following Jesus, he turned to them and asked, “What are you looking for?” Keep in mind, when Jesus turned to ask the two who were following him the question, they were already walking; already following him based on the personal witness of John. The disciples did not answer Jesus’ question, but instead addressed him as their teacher, and asked, “Where are you staying?” What followed was a personal invitation to “Come and See.”

One of the two disciples, later identified as Andrew, told his brother, Simon Peter, that they had found the Messiah. Andrew brought Simon Peter, who is a passive character in this passage—having no voice and no action—to Jesus who changed his name—his identity—from Simon Peter to Peter (which means rock). Jesus spoke and changed the man’s identity.

Actively being on the lookout for Jesus, and actively using one’s public witness to bring others to Jesus, continues today.  There are many examples of holy men and holy women who, through their lives and work, were always on the lookout for God and sought his presence in the world around them.

On the eve of the birthday of The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we look today to the life of the faithful servant of God and civil rights activist, who worked unceasingly and selflessly for justice and racial reconciliation in our nation.  A segment of King’s 1963, “I Have a Dream Speech,” during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, reads like a B.O.L.O. for the revelation of God’s kingdom on earth. King alerted this nation at a time of great civil unrest to:

  • Be on the lookout for the sons of former slaves and the sons of slave owners sitting down together as brothers;
  • Be on the lookout for the transformation of injustice and oppression into freedom and justice;
  • Be on the lookout for the nation that judges not by the color of one’s skin, but by the content of one’s character.

The legacy of Dr. King has shown us those very glimpses of God’s kingdom unfolding across the generations. And, we must be honest with ourselves that we have fallen short of the glory of God’s kingdom.

As those who believe in Christ, we must always be on the lookout for Jesus. We must look for his light in the terror and darkness of this broken world.  We must look for Jesus in the ordinary and the extraordinary moments of life; we must look for him knowing that in the very act of looking for him, Jesus changes our identity, and transforms God’s beloved from followers of the world to followers of Christ.

Dear people of faith, already following Jesus, do not be discouraged by the spiritual dryness and wanderings in the wilderness of the soul. Jesus turns toward you to encourage you to keep walking with him, to keep praying with him, and to continue wrestling with him, his profound and haunting question, “What are you looking for?”

In the face of hatred, oppression, physical and spiritual violence— It can be hard to look for Jesus. In all of that mess, we are tested and even tempted to question Jesus, “Jesus, where are you staying?” But it’s in that mess that, if we look for Jesus, he invites us to “come and see where he stays.” And, when we take him up on that invitation, we will find that Jesus, Emmanuel, stays with us and stays in us.

Amen.