John loudly proclaims Jesus' arrival in our assigned readings(John: 1-29-42): “Here is the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, after me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.” He then proceeds to validate his preaching as he distinguishes Jesus’ preeminent role: "I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him…this is the Son of God." John is going out of his way to shift the focus from himself to Jesus as if to say this isn’t about me. It’s about this guy. Yeah. There he goes. He’s the one. Him. Lamb of God. John’s work for the time being is was done; now, it’s up to Jesus… and us.
And so Jesus' ministry begins not with a command to silence a demon, as in Mark; nor with a sermon to the crowds who have gathered on a mountain, as in Matthew, and not with a quotation from Isaiah to proclaim his anointing for the year of God's favor, as in Luke. No, it begins with a question: "What are you looking for?" Needless to say this is a question with which we have and continue to wrestle--as individuals, as congregations, as communities. Our answers will have a great deal to do with what we find as well as with the journey we take to get there. What are we seeking? What motivates us? What is it that we really need, not just on the surface, but down deep into the core of our being? As we continue on in the season of the Epiphany, this question is an important one for us to ponder. In a way, we have an advantage over the disciples; we know what’s coming and we know how it all will end. Yet, we continue to ask, what am I looking for?
As if this mind-bending, soul-searching question was not enough, immediately following their “introductions,” the disciples ask another question: "where are you staying?" We know that John is not one to mince words. From our brief encounter with his readings so far, we’ve learned that he, selects his words for what they say and not necessarily what they mean on the surface. So, asking Jesus where he was “staying” has little to do with making inquiry about his local lodging or accommodations. Instead it requires that we probe for what the phrase might say to us. What word might you select as a synonym for “stay?” Continue, dwell, lodge, sojourn, rest, settle, last, endure, persevere, be steadfast, abide, be in close and settled union and indwell? The list is endless and any of the preceding words might work at any given time.
Marcus Borg writes in the Heart of Christianity, “that the Christian life is not about believing or a set of beliefs, but it’s about a deepening relationship with the one in whom we live and move and have our being. Paying attention to this relationship transforms us.” So, if we choose to interpret John’s question to mean our asking about an intimate, enduring relationship with God, the word “abide” has particular meaning that fits. We surrender our ego to God as the Word becomes flesh and abides in us, and sows the seed of transformation, and we are born into a new life.