The Gospel: John 1:43-51
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.”
Prayer: Lord, you have promised that when two or three gather in your name you will be present with them. We depend on that promise today and pray that you will move among us. Lord, we pray that you have inspired Mike's preparation, that you will enliven his presentation, and that you will empower our application. Amen
The Message: So, today is one of those Sundays when it is dangerous to be in church. Did you hear that Collect a few minutes ago? Phew! That is enough to make you question whether you want to come to church at all. Can you imagine what is going to happen when we leave here this morning and as we move around the community of Huron this week?
I don't know about you but I expect that the article that appeared in the Register last weekend is going to be overshadowed by what they will have to write about the events and activities, and the impact we are going to have this week.
Perhaps you didn't hear what it says. Maybe I should read it again: "Grant that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ's glory, that he may be known, worshipped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth."
It is not too late to leave if you would prefer not to experience what is likely to happen here this morning. We have heard the Word read, but we haven't partaken of the Sacraments yet, so there may be time to avoid the full impact of the service.
What am I talking about? Well, maybe we can take a closer look at the central part of the Collect: "Grant that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ's glory, that he may be known, worshipped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth"
So, let me ask you some questions, about what this Collect is actually saying. First of all, let's start with "your people" Who is that? Or, it is probably more grammatically correct to say who are they? Would someone like to suggest an answer? OK, so the people being referred to in this Collect are us?
Then that strange word "illumined" what does that mean? Anyone?
So, is the result of us being illumined?
"may shine with the radiance of Christ's glory" How about that? Have you ever considered that as you leave church you will shine with the radiance of Christ's glory?
Then the really scary part is coming now. "that he may be known, worshipped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth" Wow. How about that for an impact on the world?
I am afraid that I have to admit I have a hard time believing all of that might really happen. In fact, more often than not I don't really stop to consider the Collect all that deeply. I am glad for the promises and sense of expectation it brings, but I don't often expect that kind of spiritual impact in the Collect. Or that the impact of coming to church will be all that great.
I have to admit that more often than not I relate to the beginning of the reading from Samuel this morning, in Samuel chapter 3: "Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord under Eli. The word of the Lord was rare in those days; visions were not widespread." It seems like, our world, is similar to the time that Samuel and Eli were living in. This does not seem to be a time when there are many active "word of the Lord" incidents, and I don't know about you, but I haven't experienced many "visions" lately.
So, what changes? The Lord speaks. After what seems to be a long period the Lord speaks to an individual. The Lord speaks to Samuel and he doesn't know who it is.
"Then the Lord called, “Samuel! Samuel!” and he said, “Here I am!” and ran to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.”" Samuel is not expecting to hear from the Lord.
Unfortunately Eli also does not expect that the Lord will speak or call.
Samuel's first instinct is to go to Eli and to ask Eli what he wants or needs. It takes three times of Samuel being called and going to Eli before Eli makes the realization that something different, something significant is happening.
Eli then instructs Samuel how to respond, if he is called again: "Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening." Samuel does as he is told and the Lord appears before him. Then he goes on to say a most astounding thing: "Then the Lord said to Samuel, “See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make both ears of anyone who hears of it tingle."
Sadly the Lord then goes on to deliver to Samuel an indictment of Eli and his family. Samuel hears and stores that knowledge until the next morning. It is not until Eli comes and asks him what happened that Samuel relates the prophecy to Eli. This cannot have been easy for Samuel. But then Eli responds with a sense of obedience: "Then he said, “It is the Lord; let him do what seems good to him."
I think it is safe to assume that Samuel learned from Eli's example because he went on through his life to know the Lord and to be obedient to him. "As Samuel grew up, the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground." I think that is an interesting phrase affirming Samuel's ministry: "the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground." Samuel's words, and the Word he shared, were not wasted or considered unreliable. As a result, Samuel became known as "a trustworthy prophet of the Lord."
One of the lessons I believe is here for us in the story of Samuel and Eli is that when we allow our expectation, of hearing from the Lord, to drop then it is unlikely that we will recognize when the Lord does speak to us. But we also should be encouraged that the Lord will keep calling even when we don't recognize him.
He knows us, even when we don't know him. Psalm 139 this morning is a beautiful illustration of how intimately the Lord knows us. Hearing it sung for us this morning brings us a moment of inspiration and thoughtful reflection. But it is certainly a Psalm worth taking the time to read for ourselves at home this afternoon or sometime through this week.
What is that intimate knowing like? That is the kind of knowing that Jesus is talking about when he speaks to Nathaniel in the Gospel of John. Once again, at the time John is writing about, we are in a time when there has been little prophecy or recognized word of the Lord among the people of Israel.
Then John the Baptist stirs people with his word from the desert calling people to repentance. Jesus' Baptism, which was celebrated in the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, on Monday draws these two men together and sets them on a course of restoring the Lord's voice in the Land of Israel.
This morning we hear how Jesus begins his ministry by calling his disciples. John tells us Jesus finds Philip, and then Philip finds Nathaniel, and tells him: "We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth."
At first Nathaniel is skeptical, but then he meets Jesus and Jesus somehow conveys the depth of his personal knowledge of Nathaniel to Nathaniel. "Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!" In response Nathaniel blurts out a confession of the truth of who Jesus is: "Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!" Jesus then speaks directly to Nathaniel about what his life and ministry will mean. "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."
As we consider our Collect, and the scriptures for this morning, what do we need to be aware of? Are we expecting that the Lord will speak? Are we expecting that our lives will be changed by our interaction with the Word and the Sacraments? Are we expecting that Jesus will see into our lives and perhaps we are afraid of what he might find? Are we holding ourselves back from the best that our expectations might bring?
What were the words of that Collect again?
"Grant that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ's glory, that he may be known, worshipped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth"
What are we expecting will happen when we come to church? What are we expecting when we leave church today and go out and meet our friends, our neighbors, and our community? Those who need to know what we know about being known by Jesus?
Bishops & Father Mike