What Do You Seek?

“Whom are you looking for?”
                                                                       John 20:15, NRSV

Okay, a little peak into the Levenson marriage. Laura and I established a little agreement some years ago. If there was something about my sermon on Sunday that needed a comment, we agreed it would wait until Monday. Some of this feedback included that it was 'too long' (Yes, I have heard that from my dear bride.), included a ‘strange illustration’ or ‘don’t use that joke again,’ etc. One area of discussion is grammar. Though I was an English minor in college, my wife is the grammar pro in my home. She’s always right.

One Easter Sunday years ago, I preached on the above passage. I knew I was ending a sentence with a preposition (a grammatical no-no!), but that is what the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible says! After the 9 a.m. service, my dear bride slipped into the sacristy to offer her affirmation, but said, “You know you ended your sentence with a preposition!” I was quick to pull out the assigned scripture to my defense. She smiled and left with a little hug, wishing me well for the rest of the day.

Well, before getting to the next service, I asked our in-house Greek scholar, the Rev. Dr. Suse McBay, “ Suse, what is the actual, Greek translation of this passage? I don’t need to know today, but when you get around to it .” I preached the next service, came down and offered my post-sermon prayer. Suse leaned over and said, “ The passage has two Greek words which translate to 'Whom' and 'do you seek?' ” I said, “When did you read that!?” She said, “ While you were preaching; I read along in my Greek New Testament!” Alas, at least she was listening!

Forgive the little side trip, but you know the question: is it “Whom are you looking for?” or “Whom do you seek?” or “For what are you looking?”

We are all looking for something. On that first Easter morning, Mary was looking for Jesus. Often we are looking for fulfillment, but we are also, often, looking in the wrong place or to the wrong person. In his book Care of the Soul , former monk turned psychotherapist, Thomas Moore, writes, “The great malady of [our time], implicated in all of our troubles and affecting us individually and socially, is 'loss of soul. ' When soul is neglected, it doesn't just go away; it appears symptomatically in obsessions, addictions, violence, and loss of meaning… The emotional complaints of our time, complaints we therapists hear every day in our practice include, emptiness , meaninglessness , vague depression… disillusionment about marriage, family and relationship , a loss of values , yearning for personal fulfillment . All of these symptoms reflect a loss of soul and let us know what the soul craves… “…We yearn excessively for entertainment, power, intimacy, sexual fulfillment, and material things, and we think we can find these things if we discover the right relationship or job, the right church or therapy. However, without soul, whatever we find will be unsatisfying, for what we truly long for is the soul in each of these areas. Lacking that soulfulness, we attempt together these alluring satisfactions to us in great masses, thinking apparently that quantity will make up for lack of quality.”

Whom are you looking for? What are you looking for?”

Maybe this is a good reminder. As John Ortberg writes, “ Maybe our insatiable natures are telling us something important. If we are not completely satisfied with all this world has to offer, perhaps we were made for another world. Maybe our dissatisfaction reveals God’s dissatisfaction with the way things are, because we are paying too much time to God’s main rival –gifts–not the Giver .” [1]

Whom are you looking for? What are you looking for?”

If you are still looking, still hungry, still thirsty and still searching for meaning, purpose, life and salvation, you can end your search right now. Today. Look to Jesus; look to Jesus.

A Prayer
Take my life, and let it be consecrated, Lord to thee;
     Take my moments and my days; let them flow in ceaseless praise.
Take my hands and let them move at the impulse of thy love;
Take my heart, it is Thine own; it shall be thy royal throne.
Take my voice, and let me sing always, only, for my King;
Take my intellect, and use every power as Thou shalt choose.
Take my will, and make it Thine; it shall be no longer mine.
Take myself, and I will be ever, only, all for Thee.”
Amen. [2]

The Rev. Dr. Russell J. Levenson, Jr.

Please send email responses for Dr. Levenson to lhough@stmartinsepiscopal.org . Thank you

[1] John Ortberg, When The Game is Over It All Goes Back in the Box  (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2007), p. 197. 
[2] Frances Ridley Havergal, d. 1879, “Take My Life,” from The Church Hymnal , Hymn 707.