Dear St. Mark’s,

I am so happy to be given the opportunity to preach for you this coming week.  Like several other lay preachers that have come before you in the last few months, this will also be my first time delivering an actual sermon.  I have given quite a few lectures, talks and papers on theological topics, but never something as truly important as a sermon for the Christian community I belong to.

As I write this, last weekend Lydia, Hugh and I put away our Christmas decorations, took down the tree and essentially removed all the holly, bells and elves from our home (Ivy was there, though she wasn’t much help).  We usually would wait until the 12 days of Christmas have passed, but we had to make hay while our son was willing.  Plus, we hoped it would put to bed any further questions about when  Santa might be delivering more presents.

Personally, I’m not one to try and make the Christmas season longer than it already is, nor do I relish the decorations and songs as much as others in my family.  Still, there is always a twinge of sadness when everything gets shunted off to the garage once again.  It signals the end of a celebration, the transition from an attitude of wonderment at the Incarnation to a more reflective and probing mode that the season of Epiphany invites.  It is done; Jesus is born.  And our task is to come to a fuller understanding of what this means, who he is and how he affects us today.

With that in mind, this Sunday I will be preaching on Jesus’ first interactions with the disciples in John 1:29-42.  In this passage, Jesus utters his first words in John’s gospel in the form of a simple yet perennially pregnant question that applies as much to the two future disciples following him as it does to all of us now: “What are you looking for?”

Many of our own spiritual journeys have begun with or at least involved this question.  Its open-ended simplicity causes us to step back and reexamine our own deep desires and motivations.  This, I think, is the spirit in which Jesus offers the question to his disciples while at the same time offering an answer that might not conform to what we might expect.

I hope you will join us this Sunday to ask together, “What are you looking for?”

Peace to you all,
James