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.”
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 have you inspired Mike's preparation, that you will enliven his presentation and that you will empower our application. Amen
I received several comments through this week on the concept I presented last week regarding the "well within." I plan to continue this morning with some development of that theme idea. But before I do that I want to briefly address the Scriptures for this morning.
The passage from Samuel and the Gospel are both very familiar to us all. The call to Samuel is one of those wonderful stories which opens up all kinds of possibilities for conversations about God's purpose and God's intimate desire for each one of us to come into relationship. It is a story that is often used to introduce children or young adults to the possibility of God speaking to them.
It also provides the opportunity for us, as adults, to review how open we are to the possibility of hearing from God. How willing we are to consider that God may have a plan and purpose for our lives? Would we recognize God's voice and how willing we would be to respond to what God says to us?
In the world, and the time, in which we live much emphasis is placed on self-determination and self-reliance. "Old blue eyes" - Frank Sinatra - sang the song, but I am sure there is a part of, each and every, one of us which wants to respond, powerfully and positively, to the thoughts expressed in Frank's song "I did it my way."
We like to believe that we can handle our circumstances and whatever comes our way. This approach raises some interesting questions and opportunities for reflection on the idea: "Who am I?" How we answer that question, or where we begin as we try to answer that question, will tell us a lot about how we see God fitting into our world. Hmmm, does anyone else think it is interesting that we might be wanting to fit God into our world, rather than seeking to find how we fit into God's world?
Then we move to the Gospel. Here, in another very familiar story, we find a great example of one person recognizing the Lord Jesus and being moved to draw others to come into a relationship with him. Philip is a great example of how St Augustine summarizes our human condition: “You have made us for Yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in You.”
It is Philip, in this section of the Gospel, who recognizes Jesus and then calls someone else to come and see. Earlier in this chapter, Andrew does the same thing with Peter. What can we learn from these examples of how "the good news" changes not only our lives but also changes the lives of those around us?
Now I have to say that I am not sure I would have wanted to be Nathaniel in this story. The moment he encounters Jesus it is like Jesus looks right into his very being. Nathaniel is surprised and must have been incredulous when Jesus goes on to tell him what he is going to experience in the future.
I sometimes think that might be why we hesitate to come too close to the Lord. Having the very essence of who we are known that intimately by someone else is a challenging concept.
So, having engaged with the Old Testament and the New Testament very briefly how do we move to think about the well within.
I believe that those two Scriptures raise some interesting and revealing questions for us. I believe they also point me and perhaps all of us to why we do not understand or draw upon the well within.
As I read the Scriptures I become aware that I need to examine a series of questions:
1.) Do we believe that God calls us? Not just in a general and random way, but in a personal and specific way?
2.) How do we see ourselves? Or, perhaps, who are we?
3.) Do we believe that we have a responsibility to share what we have discovered for ourselves?
I am going to leave the question of calling, out there, for today. I will repeat it because I believe it is important for us to consider it, but I am not going to address it directly this morning.
"Do we believe that God calls us? Not just in a general and random way, but in a personal and specific way?
Can I encourage you to spend some time this week considering that question for yourself?
So, that brings us to the second set of questions: How do we see ourselves? Or, perhaps, who are we?
I came across a Scripture this week that challenged me about how I might answer those questions and how I see myself.
Isaiah 41: 17-18
"When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue is parched with thirst, I the Lord will answer them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them. I will open rivers on the bare heights, and fountains in the midst of the valleys; I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water."
I love the promises proclaimed in this scripture. The Lord will answer and the Lord will provide. He will provide rivers, fountains, and pools of life-giving, refreshing water. But he does that for the "poor and needy." Is that how I see myself?
I have to admit that I become aware, very quickly, that I am not happy to understand myself that way. I don't want to see myself and I certainly don't want others to see me as "poor and needy."
I want to see myself as self-sufficient and self-reliant. I want to proclaim along with Frank Sinatra "I did it my way."
I then have to stop and make myself answer a secondary question: How does my sense of self-sufficiency or self-reliance block my recognizing my need for the well within? How often do I go ahead and make plans or responses based on my self-determinations? Do I neglect to consider that I could turn to the Lord, I could turn to the well within for guidance.
One of the saddest parts of the story of the calling of Samuel is that the prophet Eli has drifted so far from the Lord that he doesn't even recognize that it is the Lord who is calling to Samuel. Eli has lost touch with hearing the voice of the Lord. He has to some extent become self-reliant and self-sufficient in his day by day relationship with God.
So how do I see myself? Who am I?
Paul is, of course, the great advocate, for understanding ourselves as being new and changed by our relationship with Christ. If we can acknowledge that we are poor and needy then we can be renewed. Our relationship with Jesus will bring about new life. He encourages us to see ourselves in a new way in the Epistle reading this morning Paul speaks about the well within this way: "do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body."
If we are no longer constrained by our own desires and determinations what should we do? Would we not want other people to experience this same freedom?
Would we not want to be like Andrew and Philip and say to those around us: "Come and see."
Paul, who himself, was radically changed by his experience on the Damascus Road declares this desire this way in 2 Corinthians 5:17-20: "So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God."
How can we see ourselves in this new way unless we remind ourselves of what happened to us at our Baptism?
Baptism, the outward and visible sign is water, in which the person is baptized in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit; the inward and spiritual grace is union with Christ in his death and resurrection, birth into God’s family the Church, forgiveness of sins, and new life in the Holy Spirit.
At Baptism, we understand that the Holy Spirit has come to dwell within us. That is the inward and invisible grace. The Holy Spirit flows into our innermost being and is available to us. The Holy Spirit brings the light into the darkest parts of our being. That light cannot be overcome.
Remember I said last week that this series would revolve around the concept of the "The well within" That it would be an examination of the resource that the Holy Spirit is within us. That it would also examine the relationship we can have with the indwelling Holy Spirit."
I am asking for us to see the Holy Spirit as that well? A well which contains the water of unceasing refreshment and renewal. Can we see the Holy Spirit as the inward and invisible grace dwelling within us as a well that provides the ongoing refreshing and renewal that we need now and always for the rest of our lives?
I ended last week by asking how we are using the well within. Do we come to that well and draw from it the resource that we need to live in the darkness of the world around us? Can we come to this well and draw from it the grace we need to overcome our self-reliance and our self-sufficiency?