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What are you looking for?

Alan's sermon at St Andrew's on 19 January 2014

‘You broke the bonds and you loosed the chains, carried the cross of my shame, you know I believe it… but I still haven’t found what I’m looking for’.

When Bono, from the Irish rock band U2, first sang those lyrics back in 1987, I remember as a young Christian feeling confused. Surely, believers like me and Mr Bono have found what we’re looking for. Signed, sealed, delivered.

Over the years I’ve realised that he was right. Granted, we can and should feel secure in our relationship with God, but this thing called faith isn’t a destination to arrive at; it’s the journey itself; the trip of a lifetime. Glimpses, reassurances, moments of clarity and communion, yes; but this side of eternity we will always be searching for more.

Why? Because we human beings were created with this insatiable thirst for what lies beyond. We’re born restless; born destined never to be satisfied, because what we are searching for cannot be owned. What lies beyond - the infinite - is outside of our imagination and language and reach. And, yet, we each carry within us this invisible homing beacon, which calls us back to our Source; back to beyond; back to the One who made us; the One we were made for.

And that journey home is a life’s work; we never arrive, this side of eternity.

When we stand still, when we refuse to search, when we convince ourselves that we have found exactly what we are looking for, that’s when faith begins to stagnate and die. Faith has to keep moving to stay alive, it needs to keep pushing out into the unknown; daring to ask questions, keeping an open, beginner's mind - it needs to be humble enough to believe that wisdom can be found in the most unexpected of places. This is the oxygen of faith.

‘What are you looking for?’ That’s the question Jesus asks these two would-be disciples in our reading today [John 1.  35-42].

And it’s not the easiest of questions. Perhaps, if we could put something into words, we might say we’re looking for truth or meaning or answers? Peace of mind, perhaps, or a fix or a messiah? What are you looking for?

Or have we perhaps given up looking? Satisfied ourselves with a brand of churchgoing, or materialism, or cynicism?

The two disciples respond with a question of their own: ‘Where are you staying?’ they ask Jesus. Somehow, instinctively, they know that it’s this man who can help them find something of what they’re looking for. And, in true style, instead of giving them an address or directions, Jesus simply says in response, ‘Well, come and see’. And so begins a lifelong itinerant friendship, which takes them to the heights and depths of themselves. Even when, later, Jesus was no longer physically with them, he remained their constant companion; their guide as they pursued their quest to find what they’re looking for and to encourage others to do the same.  

So, what are you looking for? What’s your heart’s desire?

What we want, of course, isn’t always the same as what we need. Every human being, if only we could recognise it, is looking actually for the same thing. We all have unfinished business, a hunger to know and be known by none other than the Creator of the universe.

I was speaking with a guy last week who was telling me about a placement he did in his early twenties with a drug rehabilitation centre in Dublin. Every time a new person was referred to the project, he explained, everyone else in rehab was taken to a room upstairs while the new person stood at the bottom of the stairs. In silence they waited and waited for one thing; to hear that person scream at the top of their lungs, ‘I need help!’ This was their only entrance requirement; to acknowledge their absolute need, because it’s only at the point of complete helplessness that real help can be received. In the words of the first of the twelve steps: ‘We admit we are powerless and our lives unmanageable.’

I need help

We all need help

In his novel ‘Life after God’, Douglas Coupland tells the stories of some friends who were brought up in a culture that had moved on from God; grown up, left those childish ways behind them.

But science and rationale don’t adequately deal with this original restlessness within, so these friends go in search of something that can. And in the final paragraph of the book, the main character makes his confession:

“My secret is that I need God—that I am sick and can no longer make it alone. I need God to help me give, because I no longer seem to be capable of giving; to help me be kind, as I no longer seem capable of kindness; to help me love, as I seem beyond being able to love.”

As we listen to that, maybe we’re thinking, 'Well, that’s not me, I’m a good person; kind, giving, loving; I go to church'. And thank God for that. But when our goodness or churchgoing becomes justification for not searching or moving on or becoming more of who we were made to be, then it’s a curse not a blessing. Like the addict or the guy in the book or the writer of today’s Psalm, we all need to get to the end of ourselves before God can begin with us.

And here’s my confession. Much of the time I don’t need God, I’m perfectly capable of getting on with business as usual on my own, even this business of being a professional Christian. I can usually draw on reserves; coast along because too often I’m too strong or proud or self-reliant or busy to recognise that, more than the air I breathe, I need God.

The moment we stop needing God is the moment we stop living.

Jesus says ‘come and see’, walk a while with me, let me open your eyes and your heart to something more, let me create a hunger inside which will lead you further into truth and love and peace and life.

As sermons go, this one’s very simple. It’s not rocket science, I’m probably teaching grandma to suck eggs. But this is what I need to hear today, and I’m trusting that maybe you do, too.

We’re in a church not a rehab. I’m standing in a pulpit not at the foot of a staircase. We probably don’t need to scream. But, this morning, God is waiting for one thing, waiting for each one of us to say those life changing words: ‘I need help, I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.’
 
Glenys
Hello and welcome to St Andrew's. If you are new, we have a page for you to get to know us and learn more about planning a visit.
Click here to see more.

Planning your Visit

A Warm Hello 

The following information is specifically for those planning a visit so that you know, beforehand, what to expect on a Sunday morning. During the period of Covid-19, please see the information at the bottom of this page.

Where and When

We meet at the Church Building (details below) for our main Sunday Service starting at 10.30am. For your first visit, we recommend arriving 10-15 minutes early to ensure you find a parking space and can settle in before the service begins. When you arrive, you should be greeted by someone on our Welcome Team who will be wearing a Welcome Badge.

Plan your journey:
Unfortunately, St Andrew's does not have its own carpark. However, there is a council-run pay and display carpark a short distance along St Andrew Street, to the east of the church - there is no charge for parking in this carpark on Sundays, but please check for charges on other days.

This is a useful East Herts Council website page for full details of parking in Hertford.

There are single yellow lines outside the church with parking restrictions, but some 30-minute parking bays are situated on the opposite side of the road for short stays (longer on Sundays).

Open Google Maps

Accessibility: There is wheelchair access, and a sound loop for anyone who needs it. Please let one of the Welcome Team know on your arrival and they will help you to get set up. There is a disabled toilet towards the back of the church, behind the kitchen.

Our Service

The service will usually begin promptly at 10.30am and will last between 60 and 75 minutes. We enjoy the presence of an excellent choir who help us sing hymns (modern and traditional) as well as provide anthems and special songs through the period of communion. We have a traditional organ but also benefit from music played on the piano and by our band (eg on the Second Sunday of each month when we have an All-Age Service in which our children and young people are fully involved).

Each 10.30am service includes a sermon, prayers and eucharist.

After the service, everyone is invited for coffee and conversation - some like to stay for a  quick chat while others remain in the church for a longer time.

Communion

Children and Young People

We have a great programme lined up for our children. This is organised by our Family, Children and Youth Worker, Tracy Plumpton, who is always delighted to welcome new faces. Those arriving before their first service at St Andrew’s can ask to see Tracy or one of the other leaders.

We really value worshipping God together as a family, so children stay with their parent or grown-up at the start of the service before being invited to leave for the age appropriate activities after the first hymn. You will need to go with your children to their groups and register them as part of our child safety policy.

The children and young people then return to the main service in time to join the eucharist and, if confirmed, take Holy Communion or, if not, receive a blessing.

There is a Children's Corner in church where you can go at any time. You will find books, toys and drawing materials there.

Toilet and baby-change facilities are located at the back of church, behind the kitchen.

Junior Church celebration

Getting Connected


Home Groups

While Sundays are a great way to meet new people, it is often in smaller gatherings that you can really get to know someone. Being part of one of our small groups allows you to make new friends, share together and support each other. We have a variety of groups that meet throughout the week. Check out Home Groups on our website and see if there’s one that you could join. Alternatively, speak to a member of the Welcome Team who will give you the information that you need.

Serving and Volunteering

If you want to get involved in the life of the church and help us make Sundays run smoothly, you can sign up to serve on a team. Please contact Phil in the Church Office.

SPECIAL ARRANGEMENTS DURING COVID-19:
What we describe above reflects our normal practice on Sunday mornings. However, since March 2020 we have had to adopt new ways of organising ourselves. For up-to-date information about current services (in church and online via Zoom), please look at details on our Worship and Prayer Page.
 
Get in touch with us
If you have any questions, please do get in touch. You'll find our contact details here.

We hope that you will feel at home at our church.