Seeking and Being Found
by Reverend Teri Daily
Teri Daily's sermon given on January 23, 2011 is based on Psalm 27 and Matthew 4
God, you speak in my heart and say, “Seek my face.” Your face, Lord, will I seek. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
“We are fired into life with a madness that comes from the gods and which would have us believe that we can have a great love, perpetuate our own seed, and contemplate the divine.” Ronald Rolheiser begins his book titled Holy Longing with these words attributed to the great philosopher Plato. “We are fired into life with a madness that comes from the gods and which would have us believe that we can have a great love, perpetuate our own seed, and contemplate the divine.” There is at the core of every human being, according to Rolheiser, this desire, hunger, or passion that Plato calls “madness.” It is this dis-ease that drives everything we do and keeps us from ever being truly at peace in this world. This restlessness or longing fuels our search for love, underlies our pull towards that which is beautiful, and forms an “unquenchable fire” in us.
This longing lies in each and every one of us. Sometimes we see this desire or passion as sinful. (And it certainly can lead us to do things that aren’t helpful or constructive; sometimes it can lead us to do things that are downright bad or sinful.) But this hunger itself is not sinful; in fact, according to Plato it comes from beyond ourselves, from the gods that fired us into life. In our Christian tradition, it is St. Augustine that comes closest to describing the origin of this longing when he said this: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” That restlessness or desire that lies in each of us is evidence of the divine being who created us, and it’s God’s way of drawing us back to God. It’s a sign that we are made for more than just what we can see.
It’s this desire that fuels the plaintive prayer of the psalmist in today’s psalm: Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud, be gracious to me and answer me! ‘Come,’ my heart says, ‘seek his face!’ Your face, Lord do I seek. Do not hide your face from me.” And it is this same longing that brings us here to this place week after week.
The search for God that is inherent in human nature is a type of imprinting that takes place from the moment we are created. In Austin, Texas, there is a colony of mostly pregnant Mexican free-tailed bats that migrate north every spring to give birth to their pups. The narrow but deep crevices in the Congress Avenue Bridge in downtown Austin make the perfect nesting ground for these bats. Each evening at dusk the up to one and half million bats leave the underside of the bridge in search of food, and it’s an incredible sight to see—lasting more than thirty minutes and forming a dark stripe in the evening sky as far as you can see. But what is absolutely amazing to me is that, using smell and sound, these mother bats when they return are able to find their own pups. Out of one and a half million bats, the mother knows her own child and the pup knows his or her mother when found by her.
Maybe it is this same type of imprinting that enabled the disciples to drop everything and follow Jesus. When Luke tells the story of Jesus calling the first disciples, we get a different picture than we heard in Matthew’s account. In Luke, Jesus gets into Peter’s boat because the crowd is pressing in on him, and he teaches the crowd from the boat. When Jesus is done speaking to the folks gathered on the shore, he tells Peter to go into deeper water and put down his nets. Peter replies: “Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. But if you say so, I’ll let down the nets.” They caught so many fish that the nets were breaking and the boats holding the fish were sinking. Peter, along with his partners James and John, was amazed. No wonder they followed Jesus when he called them. In Luke, Peter, James, and John hear Jesus’ teaching and witness a miracle before they respond to Jesus’ call. But that’s not the way things happen in Matthew’s version of this story.
In Matthew, Jesus is walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee when he sees Simon Peter and his brother Andrew casting their net into the sea. No miracles or long speeches take place, just a simple “Follow me.” And immediately Peter and Andrew leave their nets and follow Jesus. They pass two other brothers, James and John, in the boat with their father Zebedee mending their nets. Jesus calls them, and James and John leave their nets, their boat, and their father to follow him. Why would they ever leave all that they knew with so little explanation to follow Jesus? Rodger Nishioka says this of Matthew’s account:
It was as if [these fishermen] were compelled to follow Jesus and to obey him, almost as if they had been waiting all their lives to hear this voice, to be issued this call, so that when it came, they dropped what they were doing….Indeed, it would seem that these four who were already in a worthy vocation had restless hearts—so restless that when they heard Jesus’ call to them, they could do nothing else but leave everything behind and follow. Perhaps they were simply responding to what had already been imprinted on their souls from birth—the knowledge of the voice of God—so that when they heard the voice, all they could do was obey.
Today we find ourselves in the middle of the eight day period designated as the Octave for Christian Unity—a time when Christians of all types, practices, and denominations are to pray for the unity of the Church. The eight day period begins with feast of the Confession of St. Peter on January 18th and ends with the Conversion of St. Paul on January 25th, which is fitting since both Peter and Paul sought an all-embracing Christianity by advocating the inclusion of Gentiles in the early Church. As I reflected this week on the things that unite us, in light of our readings for today, two things emerged for me. First, we are united to all our brothers and sisters of the human race by our restlessness, by this hunger or longing that lies deep within us, and by our search for God’s face and our desire to know the divine. And second, we are united to our Christian sisters and brothers by the experience of being drawn through our restlessness to Jesus of Nazareth. We’re united by our belief that we have indeed seen the face of God in the person of Jesus, a belief that brings us back to this place week after week to feed our spiritual hunger with the bread and wine of communion. And having glimpsed the face of God in the Eucharist, when we hear the voice of God imprinted deeply in our souls calling us, may God give us such grace and courage that we, too, will drop everything and follow.
 I owe the thoughts in these first two paragraphs to Ronald Rolheiser, Holy Longing: The Search for a Christian Spirituality, New York: Doubleday, 1999, pages 3-5.
 Rodger Nishioka in Feasting on the Word, Year A Volume 4, eds. David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2010, page 286.
The Temptation of Jesus
4 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. 3 The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” 4 But he answered, “It is written,
‘One does not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, 6 saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written,
‘He will command his angels concerning you,’
and ‘On their hands they will bear you up,
so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’”
7 Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; 9 and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.”10 Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written,
‘Worship the Lord your God,
and serve only him.’”
11 Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.
Jesus Begins His Ministry in Galilee
12 Now when Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. 13 He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14 so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:
15 “Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali,
on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles--
16 the people who sat in darkness
have seen a great light,
and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death
light has dawned.”
17 From that time Jesus began to proclaim, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
Jesus Calls the First Disciples
18 As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. 19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed him. 21 As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. 22 Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him.
Jesus Ministers to Crowds of People
23 Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people. 24 So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought to him all the sick, those who were afflicted with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, and paralytics, and he cured them. 25 And great crowds followed him from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and from beyond the Jordan.