Where Does God Stay?
- Sunday, January 15, 2017
- By Father Robin Ruder-Celiz
Welcome to the season of Epiphany! Epiphany translates to, make manifest, or to reveal, make known. We began this season when the Wise Men visited the new born baby Jesus. They then left to return to their own countries and homes by a different road. Their lives had changed. The world had changed based on what they saw, what was made manifest to them in that one stable, with Mary and Joseph all those many years ago. The stable and the baby Jesus, his parents, Mary and Joseph have made themselves known throughout the world from generation to generation, from century to century down through the ages to now, in our present day.
During Epiphany we follow Jesus from his Baptism and recount his growing up and youth. We take note and remember once again his early ministry and how it began. In our Gospel today, we read of the next day after his Baptism, John the Baptist is still around and as always, John proclaims to the crowd that here is the one for whom we have been waiting for. This man, Jesus, is the one whom the Spirit descended upon. This man, Jesus, is the one in whom the hope of the world lies.
We can get a sense of the excitement in John’s voice and of the crowd that is gathered. The disciples the next day call him Rabbi and ask where he is staying. Jesus responds by inviting them to “come and see”. This dialogue has always intrigued me. It begins with Jesus asking the disciples, “What are you looking for?” The disciples respond with, “Where are you staying?” To which Jesus answers “Come and see” (John 1: 38-39). What are you looking for? Where are you staying? And come and see. Two questions and an invitation that seem to be out of place from the rest of the text. Just before this we have John defending his actions as one who baptizes with water, the one who prepares the way for Jesus. Then as Jesus arrives, John immediately proclaims that the man of the hour, Jesus has arrived. One would think that there should be more to it than that, but John immediately breaks the train of thought by saying “the next day” (John 1: 35). The story of Jesus is moving on from his Baptism towards other events. The story doesn’t begin and end with baptism.
The next day the disciples follow Jesus to the point that he asks them what they are looking for (John 1: 38). This seems to catch the disciples by surprise. They don’t know how to respond. It is as if they are not sure themselves what they are looking for and so respond with asking Jesus where he is staying. Jesus says, “Come and see” (vs. 39).
This text and the dialogue between Jesus and the disciples is not out of place when we think about it. Baptism is the beginning and now we move into the next day. In other words we move into what is supposed to happen after baptism. The disciples may very well be lost and unsure of what is supposed to happen next and so they follow Jesus the one whom John points to. Jesus in turn, is probably equally surprised that they are still around. For Jesus the point is life after baptism moves away from the water and into the world where we as the baptized people of God live out our baptismal ministry. Jesus wonders why the disciples are not doing this. So, in a not so subtle way Jesus invites the disciples to come and see where he is staying. They are to come and see, not just where Jesus is staying that night, but rather where he is staying in the world. The disciples are invited to follow and see Jesus revealing and making manifest the glory of God to the poor, the hungry, the sick and the lame. It begins the next day, after baptism.
This is Epiphany, the time when we make known, manifest, God’s glory not just in the events that happened all those years ago in the days following Jesus’s baptism. We are still called today, at this time and in this place to ask ourselves the question again, “where is Jesus staying in our world, in our neighborhood, on our street?” When we find the answer to this question we find where God is staying and active in our lives and community. In other words we are called as the Church to find those places where bushes burn. This is where we are being called to live out our baptismal ministry as the baptized people of God.
“Come and see” Jesus says to the disciples (vs. 39). There is implied in this invitation that we are to be active participants with Jesus. God’s glory is not going to come to us in the comfort of our own homes or pews. Rather we are invited to engage with the world, to roll up our sleeves and get dirty because it is in taking the initiative and engaging with the needs of the world where we may discover the most surprising places where Jesus is found. Throughout Jesus’s ministry we find him doing something to someone. He is teaching, healing, walking and listening throughout the gospels. Epiphany is the time where we are invited to seek God in all persons and in all places. Who knows who we may find or where we may find Jesus pointing us and calling us into deepening our relationship with him and God’s people. It’s a new year and a new season, almost anything is possible.