Second Sunday after Epiphany
(Sam. 3.1-10, (11-20) John 1.43-51 )
The Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ According to John.
The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.”
Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter.
Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.”
Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.”
When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!”
Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.”
Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”
Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.”
And he said to him, “Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”
Come and See!
The theme of today’s readings, the delightful story of Samuel, and the stories of Philip, and Nathanael, is about ‘call,’ – about being called, specifically.
In First Samuel, we read about an old priest, Eli, who has served his Lord well, but seems now, to have become ineffective.
His sons have done shameful things and although Eli has reprimanded them, they have not changed their ways. They are shaming the temple and the worship of God with their behaviour. And Eli cannot control them.
No wonder we read that in those days the Lord hardly ever spoke directly to his people, and he did not appear to them in dreams very often. If their spiritual leaders were ignoring their duties, or worse, were being drawn from their duties by greed and lust, then it was no wonder that the voice of God wasn’t heard – no-one was listening,
Don’t you get that idea about the way the world is today? Religious leaders of some faiths exhort their faithful to kill, bomb, innocent people. Buddhists against Rohingya Muslims; Shia Muslims against Sunni Muslims, and vice versa, Serbian Christians against Croatian, and not so long ago RC Christians against Protestant Christians, and against Orthodox, and so on and so.
As we have seen lately, powerful people, political representatives lie, and cheat and issue false statements designed to confuse people. All to further their own aims.
Leaders of some nations provoke other nations to the extent that they threaten war.
Leading businessmen plunder public companies, and do so without shame. To the detriment of trust in business endeavors.
If I were to say that the voice of God were not being heard in the world today, I am sure you would agree.
The whole world appears to be in crisis, doesn’t it? Certainly it’s in crisis because of Covid 19, but before Covid, and no doubt afterward, because of the venality of some with influence.
It’s really very scary.
But as a friend of mine was used to saying, “The world’s always in a crisis. It has been in crisis throughout history.” .
Sure it seems like the world is going to hell in a hand-basket, and we wonder what tomorrow’s newspapers or television news will bring, and we have to be concerned about the way things are. And despair that nothing can mitigate against them.
But God won’t leave the lunatics in charge of the asylum for ever.
He will act.
Or those who hold Him in their hearts and prayers, and are called, will act.
When Samuel was brought to the temple at Shiloh by his mother, Hannah, there was a distinct sense that he had been brought there as part of God’s purpose.
You may remember that Hannah had been unable to conceive. Each year, when Hannah and her family came to make sacrifice at the temple, she prayed that she would be given a son.
Once, when Eli saw her in prayer, she seemed so fervent, and animated, that he thought she was drunk. But after speaking to her, and hearing her dearest wish, and realising that she wasn’t drunk, he assured her that she would indeed bear a son.
She had promised in her fervent prayers, that if God gave her a son, she would give him back to God. Sure enough, she became pregnant and had a child
And when Samuel, as she named him, was old enough, she made him a tiny robe and took him to the temple, to live.
And it was from the temple at Shiloh that the word went out, that God had indeed spoken. There was one who was destined to lead Israel into a better future.
It was the boy Samuel, chosen by God to shepherd His people.
God calls to Him those He needs to fulfill His will in the world. To put things right.
A thousand or more years after Samuel, Israel was again in need of a leader. More than that, the world was in need of a leader.
As it happens, it was an opportune time for a leader to come along.
The world was ruled by Rome. Communication between different parts of the world – the empire – was good , travel was relatively safe, and one language spoken by all. People could travel, and so could ideas.
But there was much that was wrong in that world.
A leader, someone who could bring radical change, was needed.
Jesus’ coming was God’s answer to that need for a leader – for someone who would change the world.
Jesus would follow His Father’s will, but he couldn’t do it alone. He would need help . So after his sojourn in the wilderness, he began to gather his helpers, those whom he would teach, and then send out into the world to spread the message of love.
The message of love?
Looking back on the state of this world, two thousand year’s later, we may wonder if that message of love is still getting out.
A key message we have heard this past year, has been a message of greed.
Another key message has been a message of war.
We have seen clearly that the innocent and defenseless are being devoured by monsters?
Some people would say that God has stopped speaking to us in this world, and I for one wouldn’t blame them, but as with Eli, it isn’t that God hasn’t spoken. It’s that not enough people are listening.
But some have – heard.
Not so long ago his voice was heard at a time of national angst by the Anglican Church. The church was called to loving action in His Name.
He spoke to our hearts about the wrongs perpetrated by some evildoers working under the aegis of the Canadian government, and of the various churches that ran residential schools, and our leader, the Primate apologised to the native people, and this church committed itself to raise funds to try and compensate those hurt – placing concrete action alongside prayer. And standing in solidarity with our native brothers and sisters.
( It should be noted here that there were many good and loving people working in the Residential Schools over the years. Not all were guilty of doing harm.)
God’s voice was also heard half a world away, in the Vietnamese resort town of Nha Trang, by a woman called Kim Le, who felt called by God to drive pedophiles out of her town.
Kim Le was afraid of being attacked for what she was doing, but she continued her work, feeding and sheltering young children who might be prey to the monsters, giving out tee shirts that said in bold letters in English, Hands off the Kids!
She gave information on the guilty ones, to the police.
A Vietnamese-Canadian, Kim Le had gone back to her country for a holiday, but was so incensed by what she saw that she decided to stay to try and make a difference.
Did God call Kim Le?
Is God calling us?
You and me?
It is just hard to hear Him through all the other noise, isn’t it?
And what do you think He would be saying if you could hear Him?
In the days of Jesus, when inquirers asked questions of a rabbi, the rabbi would say, “Come and see.”
Jesus, when he was asked by Nathaniel, “Can any good come from Nazareth, said, “Come and see.”
Is God is calling us, to ‘Come and see’.
To come and see what this world would be like if all those He has called heard Him and answered His call…..
….to come and see what our lives would be like if we fine-tuned our hearing to hear His call to us.
God doesn’t always speak to us in a clear voice. But He does speak to people in different ways.
I read about a man, some years ago, who was a pastor of a small church in Ireland and glad to be with the people there. One night two men came to see him and asked him to be the pastor of their church.
He didn’t know what to do. He loved being where he was, but wondered if this was God indeed calling him to some other ministry.
He prayed about it, asking God to guide him. and heard nothing. Then he opened his Bible and the pages flipped open at Acts 9.38. It said, “ …..the disciples, hearing that Peter was there sent two men to him entreating him, ‘Please come to us without delay.’ So Peter rose and went with them.”
This pastor took this to be the voice of God answering his prayer and he went with the men and so began a wonderful ministry that became known throughout all of Ireland, and many people found Christ through this man.
God calls us in many ways. Through our prayer. Through our Bible reading. In the words of those who ask for help, or those who offer help. Through dreams. Through sudden inspiration, when somehow He finds a way to get through to us.
Let us listen to Him. Let us act on what he asks us to do.
Samuel, a young boy, heard his Lord call and answered, “Here I am Lord.”
Peter and John and Philip and Nathaniel, heard God call, in Jesus, and followed him.
Kim Le heard God’s call to help His children, and she took up residence there and then, to do what she could.
Michael Peers, Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, at the time, heard God beseeching him to heed the cries of the native people, those who had suffered under the residential schools system, and whose cries had been muffled by the fog of the legal system’s bureaucracy, and he said, “ Here I am Lord..”
Does God call regular people, people like you and me?
If He does, and if we hear Him, I just hope that we can be receptive and that we can answer, like these, “Here am I Lord, what can I do?”
And that He will say, “Come and see!”