Everyone is Searching

A sermon preached by Christopher L. Webber at All Saints Church, San Francisco, on February 7, 2021.

“Everyone is looking for you”

We’ve all been in that situation. You go somewhere with a group of friends and somehow you get separated from those you were with – your wife, your husband, your child, your friends – and you ask around – “Have you seen Bill or Mary or whoever?” No, they haven’t. So you ask them to let them know that you’re looking and you ask others and you keep looking and asking and eventually you find them — they’d seen something that interested them and gone in a different direction – but you find them and your first line is: “Where have you been? Everyone’s been looking for you.”

Well, that’s not literally true and we all know it. Joe Biden hadn’t even heard they were missing, nor Donald Trump, nor Vladimir Putin. But that’s not what we meant, was it? Don’t be such a literalist, such a fundamentalist.

You and I are not fundamentalists. If we read in the Bible that Noah brought all the animals into the ark two by two, we don’t take that literally. If Noah brought two tigers on the ark, he would have needed probably a dozen rabbits. Maybe more. But you and I aren’t literalists. We may not even be sure there was an ark or a flood, though there might be soon. But that’s another subject. I just want to say that we may not be literalists or fundamentalists, but sometimes we ought to pay more attention than we do because sometimes the gospel writers mean exactly what they say. We need to notice.

“Everyone is looking for you.” Jesus had begun his ministry and the response had been overwhelming. He went to the synagogue on the Sabbath and taught and people were amazed. He was worth listening to. He had a message. And then he healed some people. And by the end of the day, word had gotten out, and there was a crowd. But finally people went home and everyone tried to get some sleep. But “while it was still dark” the Bible tells us, Jesus got up and went out to find a quiet place for prayer. Maybe he, too, was a little overwhelmed by what was happening and needed time and space to think through the next steps and be sure he was on course.

So when everyone else got up, where was Jesus? Everyone wondered. Everyone went looking. And when they found him, they said, “Everyone is looking for you.” Now a good old-fashioned fundamentalist knows how to read that verse, but most of us don’t even stop to think about it. But my point is that sometimes the fundamentalists have it right and we should pay attention.

“Everyone is looking for you.” Well, no, not right at that moment in a literal sense. Maybe Peter was still asleep; maybe his mother-in-law was in the kitchen getting some breakfast for all these visitors. And down at the local Starbucks or iHop, the patrons weren’t looking for Jesus. They were talking about him. “Did you hear what happened last night out at Peter’s house?” “Yeah, I was there for awhile, but it was such a crowd that I left.” Mark is wrong. I’m sure he is wrong. Everyone was not looking for Jesus. So why did he say so? And why do we not pay attention?

Last month when that crowd stormed the capitol: what was that all about? I think we’ve all asked ourselves: what was that all about? Let me tell you what I think. Some of them said they were looking for Mike Pence and some said they were looking for Nancy Pelosi – at least that’s what they thought they were doing – but, no, if you look more closely, these were people who felt life had been unfair to them. They thought they would have a secure and significant job, but they’d gone from one place to another and never had the kind of income they’d imagined, never found a secure relationship, never known they were loved, really loved. Hillary Clinton used the term “deplorables” and that wasn’t too smart, but it is deplorable that so many people fail to find the fulfillment they want and need. It’s deplorable that we as a nation have left so many people without opportunity and security and that so many of us are still seeking something more in life. That’s deplorable. But the simple fact is that a lot of people are looking for something and not finding it and lashing out in their frustration – storming the capitol, looking for someone blame, someone to attack.

Photo by Tyler Merbler

But that’s not us. We’re here in a setting that helps us make sense of our lives. We don’t think of ourselves as the “come to Jesus” type, but we have found something, someone, here at All Saints Church who gives our lives enough meaning that we don’t feel a need to take up training with a local militia or join a chapter of the NRA.

We’re fortunate. We found what we were looking for, what we needed, and we’re not angry at the world. But not everyone is so fortunate. They’re still looking and don’t even know it, don’t know why they’re so angry, don’t know that God cares for them, loves them, wants them to find peace. They’re so angry that if they had actually met Jesus in the capitol rotunda, they would probably have crucified him again. They’re that angry, that needy, that blinded by their anger.
And Jesus would let them crucify him again to show them how much he cares.

The lives of those who stormed the capital were not better – probably worse when the FBI showed up with a warrant, but for a while at lest they had a focus for their anger. It accomplished nothing, but it made them feel better, gave them someone else to blame rather than themselves. But it isn’t the answer. It’s not what they are really looking for, not who they are really looking for. Because what they need is a love bigger than their anger, and only Jesus loves them and us that much, loves them and us enough to die for them and for us and for all the world.

So I think Mark is literally right: everyone is looking for Jesus, everyone needs to find Jesus, everyone needs to know how much they are loved and be able to share that love.

But that’s not all: there’s another side to the equation and it’s equally true. God is searching for us, and that’s the larger theme of Mark’s gospel: that God, the Creator of the infinite universe, is looking for us, came in search of us, and died for us and rose again. That’s why Mark called his book a “gospel” – god-spel, good words, good news – news about our search for God and also God’s search for us. There’s a search going on and every human being is involved in that search – some of us more successfully than others – but we need to understand our world in that larger perspective. The news we see on line is the story of that ongoing search: there’s a search going on. There are a lot of unhappy, discontented people in the world, people seeking and not finding. There’s a search going on, and people are turning to anger and violence in their frustration. There’s a search going on, and I think we have a message and we need to find ways to get that message out and tell others – show others – that the God who created us loves us and seeks for us, and if we seek for that God and that peace and that fulfillment we’ll discover that God also is seeking for us. And God wants to be found.


1 Comment

Lisa LansingFebruary 7th, 2021 at 12:21 am

Thanks you, Chris, from another All Saints (Zoom) Parish.

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