Homily preached by the Reverend Adam Yates
St. Paul’s on the Green, Norwalk, CT
The Second Sunday after the Epiphany – January 16, 2011
At the heart of today’s Gospel reading is an enigmatic exchange between Jesus and two strangers. Having seen the two people following him, Jesus stops and questions them, “ What are you seeking?” The two respond in kind, “where are you staying?” And so Jesus answers cryptically, “come and see.”
Now, I don’t know about you, but having lived in a big city, if I found myself being followed by two complete strangers who wanted to know where I live, I wouldn’t tell them, much less invite them to come home with me! But then again, I’m not Jesus, and Jesus did invite them, and these two strangers followed him, stayed with him, and believed in him.
As I read this passage, I cannot help but to wonder what it was that these two strangers hoped to gain in knowing where Christ dwelled and what it was that they found there when they followed the invitation and dwelled there with Christ.
It is a counter-intuitive idea to think of a particular place in which Christ dwells, especially given our theology of an everywhere God, of Christ who is before us, behind us, beside us, above us, and below us. Yet this scripture seems to suggest that God, in addition to being one who extends through and beyond all creation, is a God who dwells or centers in a given place.
So we must ask ourselves, where does God dwell? After all, in our culture, our dwelling places say a lot about us—they tell of our wealth, our social preferences, our lifestyle, and our values. Would God dwell in a stately church such as this, or would God prefer a nice home on a big plot of land up in the Berkshires? Maybe God would enjoy a bit of nightlife and dwell in an apartment over one of the restaurants on Washington St. in South Norwalk. But you know, rent is rather high in this part of the state, so maybe God would dwell in some of the public housing, you know, until the economy improves and God can get a better paying job. Or maybe God dwells wherever and with whomever God can, some nights staying in the Norwalk Emergency Shelter, or in a box in some alley.
What would it say to us, who are so bold as to try to follow Jesus, if we were to find him asleep on a cot in a shelter, or standing around with day laborers on the street corner waiting for work? This is an important question for each of us to answer, because it is most likely in a setting like this that the two strangers found Jesus dwelling. While the scripture doesn’t tell us this directly, it is a safe assumption given Jesus’ tendency to hang around and dwell with the social outcasts of his day—lepers, tax collectors, widows, and prostitutes.
Indeed, we find this tendency not just in the life and work of Jesus, but also in God’s actions in scripture and history; when we consider scripture and history, we see that God dwells preferentially on the side of the poor, the hopeless, and the oppressed. So apparent is this trend that an entire branch of theology, Liberation Theology, is devoted to the implications of God’s preferential treatment of the poor and the oppressed.
So today, as we stand in the midst of the poverty in our own city, on the anniversary of the earthquake in Haiti that has left so many homeless, sick, and suffering, and on the day commemorating the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we ask God, “where are you dwelling?”
We have received the invitation, “come and see.” Will we go and dwell with God?