Second Sunday After Epiphany

Sermon Title: SECOND SUNDAY AFTER EPIPHANY
Date: 14th January 2018
Preacher: Rev’d Susanne Chambers
Church Calendar Date: Second Sunday After Epiphany
Lectionary Reading: 1 Samuel 3:1-10, Psalm 139:1-5, 12-18, 1 Corinthians 6:12-20, John 1:43-51

On this Second Sunday after Epiphany, we have heard two wonderful stories. One from the Hebrew Scriptures, the First book of Samuel and also from the New Testament, the Gospel of John.

Two things stood out for me from each of these stories.

and that is: “to listen for God’s voice” and the invitation to “come and see”.

Firstly let’s look at ‘to listen for God’s voice’ from the first reading today.

It appears to me Eli the Priest was tired. That he was possibly losing faith. We heard that: “the word of the Lord was rare in those days –visons were not widespread.” His eyesight growing dim, may also be a sign that he had grown weary of looking for the Lord, and that well, Eli may have felt that the Lord wasn’t around much, so much so that it took young Samuel three times to come to him and say “I’m here, you called me?” ‘No, says Eli… go lie down!  But then it dawned on Eli that it must be God speaking to Samuel.

Samuel did what Eli asked him to do and went and waited in the silence to hear God voice so he could respond: “Speak, for your servant is listening!”

This story is a great one for us to not lose faith. Sure, the world we live in is fickle… we have on the TV either news of horrible events in our world and then we have cricket and tennis..!  We also have our work situations, family concerns, etc.

With so much taking our attention and filling our minds, we need to find time to have at least 10minutes a day, (longer if you can) to find a favourite, safe place and quiet our minds. I know this isn’t the first time you’ve heard me say this, but  it’s only in doing this, that we are more able to cope with what life brings us, and in listening to God we come to understand our individual calling.

What is it that God is saying to you?

You may be weary like Eli. Wondering if God is interested in you or the world… and it may take three times or more for some insight… someone saying something to you, for you to say to yourself “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening”.

It’s January, and daily life is hopefully a little less hectic, and so it is a good time to make this 10minutes an essential spiritual discipline.

When we stop still enough, we can quiet our minds and our hearts and gain clarity of thought.

There is nothing to be afraid of.

We are all loved children of God and have our place in this world and each of us can make a change…for the better! If you get some clarity from listening to God about your work, family, studies etc check it out with someone before you act.  Check that it is a Godly voice. God only wants the best for God’s people and world.

Remember God is the giver of life and love and wants us to have fulfilling lives.

Secondly is the invitation to ‘Come and see” which was said twice. The first invitation was by Jesus to John the Baptists’ two disciples and the second was when Philip said to Nathaniel, “come and see”.

Someone recently said to me that it’s hard to be a Christian these days.  She said so many express anger about ‘those Christians’!

She didn’t defend her faith or Christianity. What could she have said?     I wonder how you would have responded.

We also have those who are like Nathaniel, whose first reaction to Jesus feels rather sarcastic.  “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” “Can anything good come out of the church?”

David Lose, writes a blog which I dip into every now and then and I like the way he spoke about people’s reactions, Jesus’ reaction and therefore our reaction to those who are sceptical, angry and sarcastic.  He says about sarcasm:

“… Sarcasm is so present in our culture and is increasingly directed to the church. While in former generations the church could expect fairly consistent support from the culture, those days are waning…And today we can expect a variety of reactions to what our faith communities’ offer. Interest? Sometimes. But also doubt, sarcasm, indifference and anger.

John’s Gospel is characterized by a variety of encounters with Jesus, from characters that range from a devout if skeptical Jew like Nathaniel to the religious leader Nicodemus (ch. 3) to a “foreigner” like the woman at the well (ch. 4) to an outcast in the man who received his sight (ch. 9) and so forth. Paying attention to this variety of responses to Jesus may help us to prepare to address the variety of responses we receive when we share the Gospel of Jesus.

And this week, (says Lose), I’m struck not only by Nathaniel’s sarcastic skepticism, but also by Jesus’ incredibly gracious response. First, Jesus genuinely compliments Nathaniel, affirming the very quality – “without guile;” that is, someone who doesn’t (or can’t!) hide his feelings and so speaks his mind – that contributed to his smart-aleck and sarcastic response in the first place. Then, he lets Nathaniel know that he saw him. (“Seeing” is more than mere physical sight, of course; it’s noting someone’s presence, valuing them enough to pay attention.) Finally, he makes Nathaniel a promise that he will see far greater things than what Jesus has just shown him.

Throughout, Jesus’ response to the varied reactions of these first disciples – and, indeed, throughout the Fourth Gospel – is what [could be] described as “gracious invitation.” He does not get defensive, or irritable, or boastful, or demanding, but instead he focuses on his dialogue partners, taking them seriously, and inviting them through word and deed to “come and see.”

Except when it comes to Jesus, it doesn’t stop with come and see, but always moves to the deeper invitation to come and be. [Which links us to the first point of listening to God’s voice]. Be what God has called you. Be the person the world needs. Be all you can be. Be the beloved child of God who invites others to a similarly transformative experience of relationship with Christ.”[i]

Each of us are invited again and again, to come and see and to move to deeper awareness of our loving God.

How do we do this… it’s by our spiritual discipline of spending time listening for that still, small voice, calling our name. It begins with each of us and our relationship with God.  Yes, you may be weary like Eli but Eli eventually tuned into what was happening.  You may be like Samuel, getting the nudge but not realising that it is a Godly nudge, checked out by a friend, to listen to God and act.

Our invitation to others to come and see, may not always be taken up. We reach out in love and hopefully living our lives in the best way we can, being authentic and taking the time to listen for God’s voice.

You may recall some time ago I gave out a picture of a tree with the words around it saying:  “In Jesus… Go deep… Grow strong… Bear fruit.”

That’s what is asked of us.

 

The Lord be with you.

[i] Epiphany 2B gracious invitation:  David Lose:  In the Meantime