Who’s Calling Who?
January 18, 2015 / Epiphany Sunday
In the Gospel reading, we find Jesus recruiting followers. In Galilee, he calls Philip. Philip promptly invites Nathanael,
and announces the discovery of “the One” mentioned in the Hebrew Bible, the “Tanakh,” or the Law and the Prophets
and the Writings, which is how they would know them. This begins a teasing exchange. Nathanael jokes about Nazareth,
never mentioned in Scripture or commentary. Jesus, in turn, remarks about Nathanael as a true and guileless Israelite,
perhaps in contrast to the treachery of Jacob, who becomes the first “Israel.” And Nathanael believes.
Let us listen for the Good News in:
An epiphany is a manifestation, a showing, a revelation. During the season of Epiphany we consider how God is revealed to the world. Last Sunday, we acknowledged that the power of love cannot be defeated. That we know - that we will overcome all the powers that conspire to defeat us. That we know - that our lives can change and that God has given us the gift of beginning again. That we know - that we can begin again every time we choose life over that which can destroy us.
Jesus ministry was about compassion and change. It was about the changes that are necessary to bring about the Kingdom of God, and about the changes that will be brought about by the Kingdom of God's arrival.
This week the readings centre on how God calls, and how people respond. We’re used to calls, especially we Canadians. We are never far away from a phone. I have three phones in my home. As if that is not enough I have a cell phone. We have answering devices if we can’t pick it up right away, some of us at least. Just as an aside there are those who have remained answererless and I have the greatest admiration for you.
Our phones make us available twenty-four hours a day, everyday. But to be called by God is another matter. So what does it mean? How does it happen?
Well, for Samuel it happened when he was still a young child. He was three years old when his mother took him to live in the temple at Shiloh where he was to serve. Eli, the priest in the temple, was an old man. His two sons were servers in the temple. But their greed had given it a bad name.
Eli had not spoken out about their bad behaviour. This had cut him off from God’s Good Graces. There in the darkness of the night, God called Samuel.
Samuel heard the call, but he did not recognize the voice. He thought it was Eli calling out to him. In the end he needed Eli, the very one who was out of favour with God, to help him respond. He needed someone’s guidance. He needed help to know that it was God calling him.
Now, in Nathanael’s case his first response to Jesus’ call was scorn. “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip doesn’t argue with him. He doesn’t preach at him. He knows the good that is in Jesus. He also knows that no amount of arguing will change Nathanael’s mind. Instead he issues an invitation.
“Come and see!” See for yourself. It is an invitation to do more than just come for a visit. It is an opportunity to gain insight into the mind and purpose of God. Now, this is a true miracle, an epiphany; Nathanael opens up his heart to the grace of God, as he comes into relationship with God. And its an epiphany that changes his life.
Where do you see yourself in these readings? Are you like Eli, wearied by life, lacking vision? Do you think that you have done it all? To tell you the truth I’ve had my moments and have certainly felt like that. Are you burned out, ready to hand over the reins to those who are younger and have the energy to carry on? Too often in the church, in our enthusiasm we forget that volunteers who respond to God’s call need to be supported in their ministry. They need training. They need encouragement. They may need to be free to discover new ways of serving God. They may need affirmation of God’s call.
Perhaps you see yourself as Samuel, uncertain about whether God is calling you. Are you waiting for affirmation about how you are meant to serve?
Do you wonder whether you know the Christ you are serving? Perhaps you come to church seeking answers about where God is calling you. You want to serve. You want to live the life of faith. Yet somehow you lack confidence your efforts will be of value, or that your faith is strong enough, Or that you know enough! If that is where you are in your faith journey, then just keep listening to where God is calling you. God will keep opening up the pathway before you. Again and again God will come to you, perhaps through a friend; or a sermon, or a study group, or like me in the midst of a crisis, giving you an opportunity to respond.
Sometimes we come to church out of a sense of need in our lives. Sometimes we come out of a sense of duty. Sometimes the driving force is a sense of guilt! Perhaps you, or someone you know, are waiting for that invitation to come and see.
The question is: how do we the Church, help the Eli’s, the Samuel’s, and the Nathanael’s in our midst? How do we help ourselves respond to the call of God? The answer begins with understanding that God knows our needs. God keeps calling until we listen. As I mentioned last week, in my case, the faint wee voice was calling in the background for 25 years.
So often affirmation comes through other people. For Samuel, it was Eli. He had insight even though his sight was dim. He recognized God’s call to Samuel. He was able to affirm it. Our young people need the mentoring of those who are further along in their faith journey. We need people of faith teaching in Sunday school. Our children and young people need to experience God’s love. They need to learn and to grow in faith. In this diverse country,
we need to promote leaders who will help our young deal with all that they face in life, to deal with discrimination and racism, to deal with inequity, to make this a better and safer place in which to live, (article) to help bring about God’s reign. It is very easy to see ourselves as friendly and outgoing. No church sees itself as totally unfriendly. Above all we need to be an inviting church. Philip invited Nathanael. Who did you invite last? It made a difference in his life. It transformed him. Amen
Delivered by the Reverend Wayne Beamer
at Sydenham Street United Church in Brantford Ontario
Copyright © 2014 Wayne Beamer. All rights reserved.