The beauty of the Bible being the living word of God, is that we have fresh eyes each time we come to a scripture lesson. We have lived more life, had more time with God’s people and we begin to see more in the stories.
The gospel lesson for this coming Sunday is John 1:29-42. John is always a bit tricky to read. Takes some time to take in a verse like 30, “This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’” Takes a bit to envision exactly how that is. In this scenario, it requires that we return to the first verses of the chapter. “In the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God. All things came into being through him and without him not one thing came into being.” And of course, this is hard to make sense of. We just kind of go with it.
As I read through the gospel lesson for this Sunday, I stumbled over the first section. I thought about how goofy and weird it all sounds. And then, Jesus enters the scene. I was struck by one particular verse. “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?”
Where are you staying?
I’m not sure when I became aware of the particular language of folks who live in precarious housing. Perhaps it was as a teenager around Peoples Church in Bemidji. Perhaps it was during a social work practicum. Doesn’t entirely matter. I became aware that there were ways of asking questions that were dominant culture and ways that were not. I might ask someone, “Where do you live?” My language would be corrected in the response. “I stay on the East side.”
Where are you staying?
Living and staying sound so very different. They are so very different. Living has a sense of permanency. Living sounds like roots have been set down. Staying, well, staying sounds transitory. Staying can be interrupted.
One can argue that there is too much placed on differentiating these two words. It all means the same.
The folks who use the term “stay” are not dominant culture. The folks who use the term ‘stay’ are folks who have lived close to the edge of homelessness. They have perhaps been homeless or are homeless. I hear it used in communities that have experienced systemic racism that has limited access to safe, affordable housing. I do not hear white, middle class folks use the term.
Jesus, where are you staying?
The son of God has no stable living arrangement. The son of God who is both fully human and fully divine is on the edges of the community. No clear home. No clear place to lay his head each night. Jesus stays.
The heads nodded today on the street as we took heart that Jesus stayed. Jesus knows what it means to be uncertain of a bed at night. Jesus knows the experience of substandard housing.
Take heart dear ones. Jesus was sent to experience the life of the most vulnerable people. Jesus knows about wandering and looking for a bed. Jesus knows, for Jesus stayed.
One powerful word that indicates Jesus’ solidarity with us. One powerful word to let us know that a mansion wasn’t the place for the messiah. The messiah, the anointed one, stayed.
Keep hope alive, dear ones.