Imagine yourself on the beach beside the sea - you are longing for something in your life - something you cannot even name - a hunger that cannot be fed with food or drink or drugs, by work, by other people, a hunger of the heart. You have come to hear what John has to say about repentance but still you are restless for more. All at once you see John suddenly jump up and start towards a man walking your way. Behold! John cries out - behold, weakly translated into “Look”or “Here is” in our text today. Behold is a much more meaningful and loaded word in the Greek. It is a comprehension of something not previously recognized - a “taking in” into one’s heart as well as mind and soul.
"Julian of Norwich understands the importance the word 'behold.' “For her the word 'behold' is profoundly theological. It describes a reciprocal holding in being. God the creator of all, God who is beyond being, in humility allows us mere creatures, through Christ indwelling to hold God in being in time and spce, even as god is holding us in being in eternity.
Behold! he is coming with clouds and everyone shall see him. Behold! The Lamb of God. . . Behold! thou shalt conceive: it is in the beholding itself that Mary conceives and we also; it is in this self -forgetful beholding - this eternity of love gazing on Love, of love holding Love in being - that all salvation history occurs. The words that come after 'behold' in these texts are irrelevant for those who (truly) do behold, and explanation for those who do not, for those still chained by the noise of time and syntax. The Word yearns towards them with the promises of God, if only they will turn and behold, and in that beholding, be healed."*1
Healed - this is the root meaning of salvation - like in the word salve - same root. It is not about someplace after life, although there is where we find perfect healing. It is about now and here - being healed and whole in this life. Pie on the table not pie in sky.
When we truly Behold Jesus - we see a person who embodies that perfection of salvation - the truly whole person. A person we want to be with so we too may receive that healing and wholeness in our lives.
On the beach that day - Andrew and his friend follow after Jesus - drawn by his very presence - Jesus turns and says “What are you looking for?”
And they ask “Teacher, where are you staying?” On one level they want to know where he is staying so they can spend more time with him, but on another level they want to live in the place where Jesus lives - not real estate but a state of being. Not a house or inn but a place of centeredness in life. Andrew and his friend have the yearnings of all people. Yearnings - to belong, to love and be loved, to make a difference, for meaning, to endure, to continue beyond our lifetime.*2
Once we have begun to Behold the satisfaction of these yearnings in following Christ and working with him to bring the kingdom of heaven to earth (as we pray each week in the Lord’s prayer - thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven), we want to share this Good News.
That is our call from God - as we heard today from Isaiah, “I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” We participate in this salvation, healing when we give to assist our sisters and brothers suffering from the tsunami, when we send goats to people who are trying to support their families. when we buy mosquito netting for people in Africa to prevent the spread of malaria. We participate by our many ministries right here in Rock Springs - making the community a better place for all peoples. Where are you called to do - visit those who are shut-in? Help in a shelter for abused spouses? Help teach people how to read? There are so many places - one cannot do it all but as the Daughters of the King motto says - “I am but one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something.”
A person who beheld God and experienced being held by God is a man whose day we celebrate this week - Martin Luther King, Jr. From his autobiography at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Papers Project at Stanford Univerisity:
“One night toward the end of January I settled into bed late, after a strenuous day. Coretta had already fallen asleep and just as I was about to doze off the telephone rang. An angry voice said, "Listen, nigger, we've taken all we want from you; before next week you'll be sorry you ever came to Montgomery." I hung up, but I couldn't sleep. It seemed that all of my fears had come down on me at once. I had reached the saturation point.
I got out of bed and began to walk the floor. I had heard these things before, but for some reason that night it got to me. I turned over and I tried to go to sleep, but I couldn't sleep. I was frustrated, bewildered, and then I got up. Finally I went to the kitchen and heated a pot of coffee. I was ready to give up. With my cup of coffee sitting untouched before me I tried to think of a way to move out of the picture without appearing a coward. I sat there and thought about a beautiful little daughter who had just been born. I'd come in night after night and see that little gentle smile. I started thinking about a dedicated and loyal wife, who was over there asleep. And she could be taken from me, or I could be taken from her. And I got to the point that I couldn't take it any longer. I was weak. Something said to me, "You can't call on Daddy now, you can't even call on Mama. You've got to call on that something in that person that your Daddy used to tell you about, that power that can make a way out of no way." With my head in my hands, I bowed over the kitchen table and prayed aloud. The words I spoke to God that midnight are still vivid in my memory: "Lord, I'm down here trying to do what's right. I think I'm right. I am here taking a stand for what I believe is right. But Lord, I must confess that I'm weak now, I'm faltering. I'm losing my courage. Now, I am afraid. And I can't let the people see me like this because if they see me weak and losing my courage, they will begin to get weak. The people are looking to me for leadership, and if I stand before them without strength and courage, they too will falter. I am at the end of my powers. I have nothing left. I've come to the point where I can't face it alone."
It seemed as though I could hear the quiet assurance of an inner voice saying: "Martin Luther, stand up for righteousness. Stand up for justice. Stand up for truth. And lo, I will be with you. Even until the end of the world."
I tell you I've seen the lightning flash. I've heard the thunder roar. I've felt sin breakers dashing trying to conquer my soul. But I heard the voice of Jesus saying still to fight on. He promised never to leave me alone. At that moment I experienced the presence of the Divine as I had never experienced Him before. Almost at once my fears began to go. My uncertainty disappeared. I was ready to face anything.”*3
Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians that we heard today says, “you are not lacking in any spiritual gifts” and “He will also strengthen you to the end” - he writes this to the community at Corinth - but he could be writng this to Holy Communion, Rock Springs. It is our call as a church to believe that if God has called us to be a church in this time and this place - God will provide all we need - leaders, musicians, teachers, pastoral care givers - all we need to become a witness to God in this place. It is not dependent on a priest - it is God at work in your midst.
The psalmist says -
Great things are they that you have done, O LORD my God!
Howgreat are your wonders and plans for us!
Oh, that I could make them known and tell them!
We can do this - we can tell of all the wonders of God, of how God in Christ offers a place for each of us to satisfy our yearnings. A place of belonging, a place to make a difference, a place where we are known and loved, a place to find meaning for our lives and the life of our community and world. Behold! Come and see!
*1 - Sister Martha Reeves in O Ye Frost and Cold
*2 - The Rev. Richard (Rick) Brewer, EFM
*3 - Martin Luther King, Jr.