Everyone Is Looking For You!
June 29, 2003
"Therefore I will now allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her. There I will give her back her vineyards, and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. There she will sing as in the days of her youth, as in the day she came up out of Egypt.
"On that day," declares the Lord, "you will call me 'my husband' and no longer 'my Lord.' I will remove the names of the Baals from her lips; no longer will their names be invoked. I will make for you a covenant on that day with the wild animals, the birds of the air, and the creeping things of the ground; and I will abolish the bow, the sword, and war from the land; and I will make you to lie down in safety. I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion. I will betroth you in faithfulness, and you will acknowledge the Lord.
"In that day I will respond," declares the Lord--"I will respond to the skies, and they will respond to the earth; and the earth will respond to the grain, the new wine and oil, and they will respond to Jezreel. I will plant her for myself in the land; I will show my love to the one I called 'Not my loved one.' I will say to those called 'Not my people', 'You are my people'; and they will say, 'You are my God.'" (Hosea 2:14-23)
In the morning, while it was still very dark, Jesus got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. And Simon and his companions searched for him. When they found him, they said to him, "Everyone is looking for you!"
He answered, "Let us go on to the neighboring towns so that I may proclaim the message there also, for that is what I came out to do. And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues, and casting out demons." (Mark 1:35-38)
One morning before dawn, Jesus slipped away from where he was staying at Peter's house to be alone in the wilderness and to pray. The night before, he had been ministering to crowds and healing their sick. We can well imagine that he needed a break from them. But then Peter and his companions found Jesus, and said to him, "Everyone is looking for you!"
In our sermons we often follow the sayings of Jesus; but sometimes, as here, it can be equally informative to reflect on what is said to Jesus. This Gospel story reflects the dual nature of the call. It comes from within and without. The call comes in times of solitude and payer, in the times we spend alone with God. But the call can also be discerned in what our fellow human beings are asking of us. When people are naming our gifts and talents for us, when they are asking for particular kinds of service from us, that too can be a telling clue as to the nature of our vocation. And when the call from within and the call from without coincide, then we can be sure we have been shown our path.
When Peter and his companions find Jesus and say to him, "Everyone is looking for you," he responds to the call by saying, "Let us go on to the neighboring towns so that I may proclaim the message there also, for that is what I came out to do."
And now I want to jump ahead to end of my message by saying to each of you what Peter and his companions said to Jesus: "Everyone is looking for you!"
"Everyone is looking for you!" How does it feel to hear that? Do you feel honored? Scared? There are times when the thought that everyone is looking for me makes me want to hide! And these days it often does seem that everyone wants a piece of us. And yet, who wants to be hidden forever? I recall what it was like to play hide and seek as a child. It is fun up to a point to be hidden and not have people find you. But if you find too good a hiding place and too much time goes by, you get nervous. What if they have forgotten about me and started to play another game? What if no one wants to find me? We hide in order to be sought out.
No one can find us unless we are first missing. And the times of hiding do have their value. The call to spend time alone with God is described in the passage from Hosea. We read, "I will now allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her." God is speaking here of Israel, which, as always, represents the spiritually centered part of ourselves. It is the part of us that is faithful and obedient to God's call. This part of us is nourished and deepened by its time in solitary reflection.
The benefits of the time spent alone with God are described as the passage unfolds. First is greater intimacy with God: "On that day you will call me 'my husband' and no longer 'my Lord.'" The second is greater fruitfulness: "For there I will give her back her vineyards." And third is inner peace: "I will make for you a covenant on that day with the wild animals, the birds of the air, and the creeping things of the ground; and I will abolish the bow, the sword, and war from the land; and I will make you to lie down in safety." Correspondentially, the wild animals, the birds, and the creeping things are the parts of our personal makeup, namely, our feelings, our thoughts, and our senses. When these have been brought into inner peace, then peace comes to the "land"--that is, to our outer lives.
The peace and the fruitfulness that come to us in our times of "hiding," or better, in our times of being alone with God, give us all the more to contribute to the kingdom of God on earth. And thus we become all the more sought out. In the Zen tradition, it is said that after a person has spent years alone in the mountain cave and has attained enlightenment, he or she returns to the village to chop wood and carry water. The enlightened one engages in the simplest of practical tasks, but in such a way that the inner peace is shared with others. Jesus, too, frequented the mountains, but then he would come back down to heal the crowds.
So again I say to you what Peter and his companions said to Jesus: Everyone is looking for you! Everyone is looking for your special talents. Everyone is looking for the wisdom that has come from your unique life experience. Everyone is looking for the love that only you have to offer.
May all of us hear that call, and having heard it, may we be inspired to say as Jesus said, "Come, let us go on to the neighboring towns to proclaim the message, for that is what I came out to do."
Dear Lord, we have been hiding from you--hiding in the desert of this world and of our own concerns. And now, as we search for you, we find you in the same solitary place. We find you in the desert of our thoughts, and in the waste places of this earth and of our own souls. We find you waiting for us, seeking us out from the powerful, quiet stillness of your divine being.
Reach out to us, O Lord. Visit the towns and neighborhoods that populate the world of our minds. Proclaim your message of healing within us, and gather to yourself all our thoughts, all our feelings, everything we would say and do. Then send us out also. Commission us to put to use the unique gifts you have given us. Make us your apostles, and we will spread your good news. Amen.
Rev. Dr. Jonathan Mitchell