The Second Sunday after the Epiphany: 1 Samuel 3:1-10 (11-20), 1 Corinthians 6:12-20, John 1:43-51
Here we are, journeying away from the baby in the manger and closer to the In The Beginning Word, with all of the intrigue and mystery involved. We’re fully inside of Epiphany, that is, celebrating the manifestation of God in Jesus, and realizing anew the many ways the divine calls to humanity while humanity answers back.
Our readings have a sort of common theme this week, I am calling that theme “come and see”.
We read of the call of Samuel, a young boy who lived with Eli (which, interestingly enough, means “my God”). By rights the sons of Eli should have been the ones to succeed him, instead God sends a different message. Behold! God is doing a new thing and doing it through a person we didn’t expect – this should feel rather familiar. If you choose to preach about call I would encourage you to consider the wider implications for the world Eli and Samuel inhabited, the justice meted out to Eli in the verses you could choose to leave out. This is not just a nice little story about hearing a soft whisper in your ear inviting you to ministry and then you saying ok, God, that sounds nice.
Most of us did not experience our own calls in that romantic way, and so we have an opportunity to be honest and to encourage. Samuel responded to God’s call when he didn’t even know it was God, and was obedient in his willingness to hear, and to come and see what God was up to.
I commend to you Donna Schaper’s essay in the Feasting on the Word Year B commentary for this reading. She talks about a “tingle”. She talks about how familiar we are with the way fear feels, and encourages us to listen hard for the tingles of joy. Her essay found me with tears of longing sliding down my cheeks as I read about the ways that our world could be in her imagining. 1 Samuel fits right in with a world that we know, a world that seems ruled mostly by political and wealthy forces, one where the word of the Lord has not been heard in a very long time. At yet, if we listen with the ear of hope, we know that God is actually speaking in ways that we just don’t expect.
Next we meet up with Paul, in a delightful mood as he writes to the church in Corinth. Be not afraid of this text! Can we think about the world in which Paul lived? He and the early Christians expected the return of Christ to have already happened. After what happened last week in Washington D.C. we all understand CRISIS mode. Perhaps this is where Paul was operating from, save as many people as you can because the LORD IS COMING and it could be in the next five minutes. Not married? Don’t bother, there isn’t time.
Does this mean the entire letter is meaningless here and now? Of course not. Preaching on sexual morality can be full of landmines, but what Paul, and many later scholars, really seem to think is that when we are oriented to anything more than we are oriented to God we are out of balance and out of relationship. We are many things to many people; mothers, employees, friends, pastors, teachers and so on – and we are right to be oriented solidly in those relationships and callings – but not at the expense of God is what Paul teaches, not so that we become enveloped and enslaved by something NOT God.
Finally, Jesus begins to call his disciples in John this week, calling both Nathanael and Philip. John’s gospel focuses on a flesh and blood, up close and gritty, very human Jesus. What is interesting is to remember again and again that this man in his sweaty tunic with his dirty feet and kind smile is also the WORD incarnate, the epiphany of God, the bridge to the divine and back again, the point of contact between the finite and the infinite.
We’re gobsmacked in a way that Philip and Nathanael were too. We can talk about disciples, or about the many connections between Nathanael and Jacob, about dreams of ladders and angels. We can also talk about “Come and See”. We can ask what our churches are doing now, we can ask about the ways our communities talk about Jesus, we can testify about own moments of coming in to see; and we can talk honestly about how sometimes our hope wanes. Sometimes our desire to walk with Jesus gutters a bit, like a drowning candle.
It’s a difficult thing to be cast out of our sanctuaries, cast our of our communities. Something people of God have known well for centuries. Can we walk anyway, knowing that there is more to this story, that this is not the end?
I hope some of this helpful, that there’s a little nugget to be found for you here. I keep you all in my prayers and wish you a peaceful week in which to listen, discern and finally say the things that your people need to hear.
Alicia Hager resides in West Michigan and is a Postulant to the Sacred Order of Priests in the Episcopal Church. Alicia enjoys spending time with her daughters and her husband, is bonkers about her cats, and blogs at astrawberrypointe.wordpress.com.
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