By Ben McConaughy
Ben McConaughy is a ruling elder from Mercer Island Presbyterian Church and currently serves on Seattle Presbytery’s Permanent Judicial Commission and the Seattle First Presbyterian Church Administrative Commission. He shared this devotion at a recent AC meeting and gave us permission to share it with the presbytery.
35 The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, 36 and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!” 37 The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38 When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi, where are you staying?” 39 He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon. 40 One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41 He first found his brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah.” (John, Chapter 1)
Twenty years ago, I found myself in Amalfi, Italy, with an afternoon on my hands. I randomly decided to stop in at the cathedral. There were signs all over the place pointing to the Crypta de Santo Andrea. Curious, I followed the signs, through the sanctuary, down hallways, around corners, until I got to . . . the gift shop. I thought that was a bit strange, until I noticed one last sign pointing down some stairs. I asked one of the cashiers who Santo Andrea was, and she said, “That’s St. Andrew. Thke Andrew -- The first disciple of Jesus.” The Amalfians claim that during the crusades, they captured Andrew’s mremains from Constantinople, brought them back, and then built a cathedral to house them. I didn’t really believe this, but I went down into the crypt. It was dark and kind of creepy, and surprisingly, I was alone. As I approached this golden box of bones on an altar, I was overwhelmed by this powerful sense that I could be in the presence of the remains of someone who had actually been with Jesus. I wanted to touch the box, but wasn’t sure if it was allowed. But there was no one else there, and my hand was almost magnetically drawn to the box. I touched it, and felt this incredible surge of energy flowing through me. I felt like I had come into contact with a force more powerful than I could explain. When I told my pastor at the time this story, he said, “Maybe this wasn’t some deep spiritual phenomenon – maybe they just electrified the box to keep people from touching it.”
I bet Andrew’s encounter with Jesus was a bit like mine with Andrew – coming into contact with a force more powerful than one can explain. One of the reasons I love this passage from John is its quirky dialogue. The disciples go walking after Jesus and he turns to them with a question – “what do you want?” In fact, these are the first words that Jesus speaks in the Gospel of John –“what do you want?” Given the context, it’s not a question about why the disciples are trailing after Jesus. It’s a question about the deepest desires of being human. It’s a question about why it was necessary for Jesus to step into our world. And it’s a question for the church to ask itself. What do we want?
Andrew, perhaps taken aback by Jesus’ question, responds with his own question – “where are you staying?” He’s not asking who’s putting Jesus up for the night. The Greek here is closer to “where do you abide?” Where does Jesus abide? If we want to know more about Jesus, where can we expect to find Him? In my view, it is outside the walls of the church – in the streets, amidst the poor and the oppressed; the hungry and the lost. At homeless shelters, AA meetings, memory care units. At Charlottesville. This scripture invites us to ask where is Jesus calling us to.
Jesus responds to Andrew’s question with an invitation: “come and see.” This story tells us that the way to find the essence of Jesus isn’t through spiritual practices or theologizing. It is by following Him out into the world and enacting the love of God. Father Richard Rohr puts it this way: “we do not think ourselves into new ways of living – we live ourselves into new ways of thinking.”
Our work as an administrative commission, our call as followers of Jesus, is to go to the places where Jesus abides. To do, to see, to act. To change the lives of others, and to be changed in our own right.
I leave you with three questions:
What do we as a church want?
Given what we know about Jesus and His character, where can we expect to find Him?
How will we respond to the call to follow Christ into the places where He abides?