The God who calls
A sermon for the Second Sunday after Epiphany 2 (Year B) 14 January 2018 1Samuel 3.1-10 & Psalm 139.1-5, 12-18; 1 Corinthians 6.12-20; John 1.43-51
+ In the name of God, who calls us to life and peace.
In today’s readings set in this season of Epiphany, we hear of the lives of some very different people, who were listening to God’s call and revelation. We see the Holy Spirit’s role in our lives and community and find the means to have freedom and lasting peace.
The Old Testament reading gives us a glimpse of the religious lives at the time. In the temple, the Ark of God was kept in the most Holy place, the innermost room of the tabernacle where only the high priest could enter once a year. In front of the Most Holy place was the Holy place, a small room where the other sacred furniture of the tabernacle was kept (The altar of incense, the bread of the Presence, and the lampstand). Just outside the Holy Place was a court with small rooms where the priests were to stay. The boy Samuel probably slept here, with the other priests nor far from the Ark of the Covenant. Although God had spoken directly and audibly with Moses and Joshua, his word became rare during the three centuries of the rule of Israel by the judges. Eli, the High Priest, judged Israel for 40 years but by Eli’s time we are told no prophets were speaking God’s messages to Israel. We wonder why? But if we look at the attitude of Eli’s sons, we may have a clue. They either refused to listen to God, or allowed greed to get in the way of any communication with him. (1 Samuel 2.12 ff)
Last week we heard of the Baptism of Jesus and the life changing and life giving experience he had of the Spirit of God and hearing God’s voice. Today we read that something over 1000 years before the boy Samuel, heard God’s voice.
One would expect that an audible message from God would be given to the priest Eli and not to the child Samuel. Eli had the responsibility to oversee all the worship in Israel, but God, more often than not, chooses the unlikely person of faith to do his work, rather than someone with age, experience and position.
Listening and responding is vital in any relationship and especially in relationship with God. Although God does not always use the sound of human voice, he always speaks clearly through his Word, and the signposts of His work in our lives. And Last Sunday we clearly heard about God’s affirmation of his Son at his baptism and the anointing Work of the Holy Spirit. (Mark1.4-11) To receive God’s messages we need to be ready to listen and to act upon what he tells us. Like Samuel, can we be ready to say “Here I am” when God calls us to action.
Psalm 139 reminds us that God is all-seeing, all-knowing, all-powerful and everywhere present. God knows us, God is with us, and his greatest gift is to allow us to know him.
Sometimes we don’t let people get to know us completely because we are afraid they will discover something about us that they won’t like. But God already knows everything about us, even St Matthew, to illustrate that God really knows us, tells us that he has numbered the hairs on our heads. (Mat.10.30) The important thing is that even though God knows us so well, he still accepts and loves us completely. He pours his gifts upon us and his church and is with us in every trial, protecting, loving and guiding us, and he can do amazing things if we listen to him and answer his call.
Just as the boy Samuel was close to the most holy place, and later became close to God, we can never be far from God, because he is omnipresent – he is present everywhere. We can never be lost to his Spirit, because God’s character goes into the creation of every person. If ever we feel worthless or begin to hate ourselves, thinking that we can never be the person we should be, remember that God’s Spirit is already in us from creation and is ready to work within us.
Like Adam we are a combination of dust and spirit. As followers of Christ, Christians are free to be all they can be for God, but we are not free from God. The Holy Spirit fills and lives within us. Christ’s work on the cross freed us from sin, and also reminds us that, with unconditional love he paid a great price for us so that we can be his. An obligation comes with this freedom. It is both individual and communal because we are the body of Christ. Personally, my body belongs to God, and as a community, this body of people, this body of people who are the body of Christ in this congregation, in this Cathedral, in this community of Grafton, carry within us the Holy Spirit of Christ and the gift of unconditional love. We are God’s creation to be used for God’s purposes. We are called to be the bearers of Christ’s Spirit. The call comes in different ways for each of us, but the call is there never-the-less and we can hear it by listening.
Jesus called his disciples. Jesus found Philip and said to him. “Follow Me.” Next we hear that Philip found Nathaniel and said to him, “Come and see.”
Did Philip meet Nathaniel before? Were both Philip and Nathaniel sitting together under a big shady fig tree discussing the current events? Did Philip begin to tell him about this Jesus from Nazareth, a small village not far from Philip’s home town?
Could this Jesus be the Messiah, the one told by Moses? When Jesus sees Nathanael coming toward him, he speaks about him following the pattern of John the Baptist when John spoke of Jesus (John 1.29,36) and also Jesus himself previously when he spoke about Peter (John 1.42) Seeing and saying are significant motifs and it is to do with testimony. Nathanael is seen as one without deceit – nothing treacherous, manipulative, or cunning in him, a true Israelite – Jesus sees who he really is and testifies about true righteousness. Nathanael realizes that he is seen by God’s eyes, a person loved and forgiven, in whose spirit there is no deceit, and who is truly blessed. (Psalm 32.2) and then realizing he has been called, he answers with a testimony about Jesus’ messianic status. “You are the son of God”
What we do or don’t do as a body of believers - matters.
Can we choose to live as God’s holy, loved, spirit led people?
It is not only about “me” individually, “my life” “my cathedral” but about us, and how we react to God’s call on our lives. It is about how we react to the Holy Spirit’s power and unconditional love dwelling in us. The unshakeable reality of our lives, our Cathedral community of faith and the lives of those in our community of Grafton, is, that we can be set free when we listen to the Spirit’s call and realise that we were bought for a price to glorify God, and testify to this. And if we all understand this, the freedom is life giving for each individual, for all of us in unity as the body of Christ in this place, and the peace of God which passes all understanding will reign in our hearts and minds. Amen