Sep 12th, I’ve been meaning to ask… with Rev. Kally Elliott.
A Part of the Series:
Sep 12th, I’ve been meaning to ask… with Rev. Kally Elliott.
John 1 35 through 46. The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walked by, he exclaimed, look, here is the Lamb of God. The two disciples heard him say this and they followed Jesus. When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, what are you looking for? They said to him, Rabbi, which translated means Teacher, where are you staying?
He said to them, Come and see. They came and saw where he was staying and they remained with him. That day one of the two who heard John peace and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his brother Simon and said to him, we have found the Messiah, which is translated anointed. He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, you are Simon, son of John.
You are to be called Safes, which is translated Peter. The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, Follow me now. Philip was from Bethesda, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathaniel and said to him, we have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote Jesus Son of Joseph from Nazareth.
Nathaniel said to him, Can anything good come out of Nazareth? Philip said to him, Come and see. A few weeks ago I sent my brother a text that read, I think I just crossed a line. I may have rage commented on your ex girlfriend from high school’s Facebook post.
What did you write? He texted back that she needs to stop spreading misinformation because it is divisive and not helpful. He wrote back. Omg, I can’t even believe you are still in contact with her, to which I answered, yeah, well, I haven’t actually seen or talked to your ex girlfriend since high school, but I just couldn’t stop myself. I mean, have you seen what she posts? He replied with an eye roll emoji.
A few minutes later, once again, against my better judgment, I reopened Facebook and reread my rage comment. I figured my brother’s ex girlfriend from high school friends would jump into her defense and they did enmass, criticizing me and my beliefs right there in the comments section. But I did not think that my own brother would also join the throng of critics throwing his own cheap shots into the mix. To be clear, I have two brothers and it was not the brother with whom I’d just been texting, but my other brother, my youngest brother who publicly voiced his opinions.
And that bothered me because I love my brother.
I respect my brother, and underneath all of our disagreements about politics, I think he feels the same about me, but lately I have found myself building walls between me and those with whom I can no longer seem to find common ground. And I know I’m not the only person in this congregation experiencing such a painful divide in an important relationship. I know there are those of you who have stopped talking with sisters and mothers, fathers, brothers, friends and neighbors that for many of you people you have loved and respected your whole lives are becoming like strangers to you.
It seems as though we are all becoming even more entrenched in our own opinions and beliefs, ripping relationships apart at the scenes. And while I believe we have a responsibility to stand up for what is right, to love our neighbor, to protect the vulnerable, we cannot do that work if we are too busy building walls and then standing on one side of that wall and hurling insults at the other or by rage posting comments on Facebook.
That’s why today we are beginning a new sermon series called I’ve Been Meaning to Ask. The phrase I have been meaning to ask is the beginning of a conversation. It’s a starting point, one that feels familiar and warm, kind and inviting. It implies you’ve been thinking about this person with genuine curiosity that in asking a question, you hope to learn something that will bring you two closer. Each week we will focus on a different question and perhaps one question at a time we will remember how to stay curious, to keep asking, to keep listening, and to keep seeking the face of God in each other.
Which is why I finally said to a friend who had been going on and on about a certain TV show, I’ve been meaning to ask you, what is that TV show you said is so life changing? Ted Lasso, she exuberantly yelled at me, you have to watch it. It will change your life. And she was not wrong. Who would have guessed that the TV show I needed right now was about an obsessively, nice American football coach Ted Lasso, who was hired to coach a British soccer team.
I’m not a huge sports fanatic, but whether you like to spend your every Sunday afternoon watching football or only tune into sports when women’s gymnastics takes the Olympic stage, you can’t help but to fall in love with this show and the characters for whom kindness and honesty and compassion are valued more than winning. When he is hired to coach British football, aka soccer, the lead character, Ted Lasso, an American football coach, has no idea how the sport is played, but he knows people. And underneath his cheerful demeanor, Ted is always sizing people up, learning what motivates them, what they love and what they fear.
For Ted, people are not pawns in a game, but fascinating creatures with capacities for goodness they have let atrophy because they are wounded or scared.
There’s this beautiful scene. When gathered in a local pub, Ted Lasso gets challenged by the bully and exhusband of the team’s owner to a game of darts. You know, Rupert, Ted says, guys have underestimated me my entire life, and for years I never understood why it used to really bother me. But then one day I was driving my little boy to school and I saw this quote by Walt Whitman, and it was painted on the wall there. It said, Be curious, not judgmental. I like that.
So I get back in my car and I’m driving to work. And all of a sudden it hits me. All them fellas. That used to be little me. Not a single one of them were curious.
They thought they had everything all figured out. So they judged everything. And they judged everyone. And I realized that they’re underestimating me, who I was had nothing to do with it. Because if they were curious, they would have asked questions.
You know, questions like, Have you played a lot of darts, Ted, to which I would have answered, yes, sir. Every Sunday afternoon at a sports bar with my father from age ten till I was 16 when he passed away. And with that, Ted throws the winning Bull’s eye. And even though Ted has insisted he doesn’t care about winning, but about building a team. As Ted throws that bullseye to win the Dart game, the crowd realizes team building and winning go hand in hand.
I’ve been meaning to ask curiosity, kindness, interest in someone else’s story. What makes them tick? Where did they come from? How did they spend their Sunday afternoons growing up? The answers to these sorts of questions remind us that we are more like than we are different.
They help us to see the face of God in the other. Today’s passage comes to us from the first chapter of the Gospel of John. John the Baptist is standing with two of his own disciples. When Jesus, the man he has spent years proclaiming in the wilderness, walks by. Look, he says, Here the Lamb, it’s the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
These disciples had heard plenty about this guy, this Lamb of God from John the Baptist, but have never seen Him for themselves. Curiosity causes them to set out following Jesus on his way. After a few steps, Jesus turns around and ask, what are you looking for? A question which could be interpreted at face value. Like, Why are you guys tagging along behind me?
Or perhaps there was a question behind the question, what have you heard about me? What preconceived notions do you have of me? What are you trying to find out about me? Not knowing how to answer? The disciples stammer the next honest thing on their tongue.
Rabbi, where are you staying? At least this is how many of the versions of the Bible translate the disciples question. However, the word they translate as staying is actually from the Greek word Meno to abide, to remain, to live. So the question the disciples are asking could really be Rabbi, where do you live? With whom do you abide?
Where are you from? What is your story? Come Jesus replies, and you will see. And yet again, our English translation does not do the Greek Justice, as the Greek word here has a deeper meaning than simply to see with the eyes. Come and you will see actually means come and you will understand.
Come and see, come and understand. Come and get to know me. I think this is the heart of the Gospel of John. Jesus is inviting these disciples to a deeper level of curiosity, one that entails a willingness to learn as well as unlearn prior assumptions, a curiosity that invites the disciples into relationship. The disciples follow Jesus and as they do their understanding of Him deepens, they get to know Him.
And as they do they they stop calling him Rabbi and start calling him Messiah. Anointed one come learn, follow. Step into curiosity, for curiosity is the first step of living a life of faith. But right from the beginning, John lets us know that curiosity is not a given. Excited about his discovery of Jesus, Philip goes to find his friends a Nathaniel.
We found the one we’ve been looking for. He tells him Jesus the Son of Joseph from Nazareth. But Nathaniel responses anything but enthusiastic. His response is one of complete. This interest.
Can anything good come out of Nazareth? Philips excitement is not hindered. Having accepted the invitation to curiosity, he now extends it to Nathaniel common see, common see, but it’s easier to be cynical. Many of us are, and it’s understandable enough how we get there in life. You’ve heard it all before.
You’ve seen too much. You’ve gotten burned. Why bother? It’s Nathaniel’s response to hearing about Jesus. Can anything good come out of Nazareth?
As if he knows all too well, as if we know all too well. We have our minds made up that other does not deserve our interest, our efforts, our curiosity. But what are we missing if we do that? Who are we missing? That’s what I love about Ted Lasso.
So many of us are ignorant and arrogant. Rage posting on Facebook or crossing our arms and refusing to get to know that person who voted differently to ask why they do as they do or to ask where they come from, what informs their beliefs. Ted is ignorant and curious, always asking questions, trusting there is more to someone that meets the eye, finding goodness in everyone, even when it is buried deep within loving people for who they are rather than hating them for what they are not. I’ve been meaning to ask, where are you from?
What is your story?
What makes you you?
Curiosity is not so much open mindedness as open heartedness. Open mindedness implies respect and tolerance, even as I hold to my own of values and opinions. And it is important. But open heartedness is different. It is hope.
It is a path to discovery, the kind of discovery that cracks your worldwide open to something you didn’t even know existed. Come and see, that is the invitation. So I don’t know how it will go when I say to my brother or my friend or my neighbor, or even my brother’s ex girlfriend from high school. I’ve been meaning to ask, what makes you you. Why do you vote that way?
Why do you believe that? Where are you from? Maybe their answer will anger me. Perhaps they won’t even want to talk to me. Maybe it won’t turn out the way that I hoped.
But maybe I’ll learn something about that person that will soften my own heart. That will open me up to a new perspective that will give me a glimpse of their goodness, the face of God. They too wear. Maybe I will begin to understand them in a new way. And maybe just maybe it will draw us closer.
I think Walt Whitman and Ted Lasso were on to something when they said the opposite of judgment is curiosity. Because there is always more to discover, more wonder, more beauty, more joy than we have yet tasted. Curiosity asks the question. I wonder what else there might be. Come and see.
Jesus invites us. Come and see.