Sunday, January 19, 2003

2 Epiphany
1 Samuel 3:1-10 (11-20)
Psalm 139:1-5, 12-17 (NIV 1-6, 13-18)
1 Corinthians 6:12-20
John 1:43-51

Come and see.

Whenever I read the scriptures for the coming Sunday, I always look for a common thread. What brings these readings together at this time for the church? When I read the Epistle lesson, I have to admit I sighed and said to myself, "Oh, no. Not again. Sex." Of course, the irony of it all is that our congregation will begin the first part of the ELCA Faithful Journeys study called "Common Convictions" this Sunday Evening.

Last week the scriptures spoke about how powerful and majestic is the voice of God. When God speaks, things happen. At His baptism, Jesus heard that wonderful voice as the Holy Spirit came upon. It was a very personal, intimate moment as God the Father blessed His Son. "Thou art my beloved Son, in thee I am well pleased." There would be more such moments to come, not only for Jesus but also for those who heard God's voice. The scriptures for this week take us into that relationship, where God speaks personally to those He has chosen to serve.

The first story is that of the young boy Samuel. He was born to Hannah, who out of her thankfulness to God for opening her womb gave him to serve in the Temple of the Lord. Things were quiet for the people of Israel at the time, for God had not spoken to them for years. Eli was priest and his sons were wicked in the sight of the LORD, but Samuel ministered faithfully. One night, as Eli and Samuel slept in the Temple, the LORD called out to Samuel. Since he had never heard God's voice, he assumed it was Eli and went to him. Eli sent him back to bed. This happened several times until Eli realized that God was calling Samuel. "Go, lie down: and it shall be, if he call thee, that thou shalt say, Speak, Jehovah; for thy servant heareth." Samuel obeyed and when the LORD called again he answered, "Speak; for thy servant heareth." The LORD told Samuel that Eli's house would be punished for the wickedness of his sons, but that Israel would be blessed once again by God's Word. Samuel was called into God's service and He blessed Samuel. Samuel was recognized as a prophet of God and all the prophecies he spoke proved reliable. God spoke to Samuel, called him into service and blessed his ministry. It wasn't an easy life, but then a life of active service for the Lord never is.

The second story is that of Philip and Nathanael. The disciples of John the Baptist knew that Jesus was the One for whom they waited and they followed Him. Andrew told Peter and others heard the news. Jesus found Philip and said, "Follow me." Philip told Nathanael who laughed at the thought of Jesus from Nazareth being the Messiah. "Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?" But Philip had no doubt. He answered, "Come and see."

It is these words we are called to utter to those who question the truth of who Jesus was and what He did. With these words we invite people into our fellowship in Christ, into His Word, into His heart. We can't change people but we can invite them into His presence so that He can change them.

When Nathanael met Jesus, Jesus said, "Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!" Jesus knew Nathanael, intimately and personally, as He knows all His children. The Psalm for this week speaks of God's handiwork, how He knitted us together in the womb. David sings of God's knowledge, how He knows our inner being and the lives He has ordained for us to live. He knows our calling, even before we are born. He knows our thoughts and our ways.

Nathanael wondered how Jesus knew him, and Jesus answered that He had seen Nathanael under the fig tree. Isn't it interesting that it was not Jesus' intimate knowledge of Nathanael that brought on his confession of faith, but that Jesus had seen him before Philip even invited him to come and see? Jesus did not ignore Nathanael's physical presence and Nathanael believed because Jesus said He saw him sitting under the fig tree. Yet, Jesus said Nathanael would see even greater things. The relationship between God and His people would be both physical and spiritual.

That brings us back to the letter to the Corinthians. The people of Corinth understood the spiritual relationship God had with His people. They knew about grace and forgiveness and knew they would live eternally with God. Yet, they rejected that God's relationship with them was still in the physical. They thought it was ok to abuse and misuse their flesh because it no longer mattered. Sexual immorality was not a problem because they were spiritual beings and God did not look at their bodies. But Paul reminds them that their bodies are the dwelling place of God, the temple of the Holy Spirit. God lives in us, works with us, and shares His love through us. Though the blood of Christ forgives our past, present and future sins, we dishonor God by abusing that which He so lovingly made and called into His service. God knows our spirits and our flesh and He has made our whole being part of His body with Christ as our head. Therefore we are called to honor God with our whole being, for we are His beloved children. "Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; It is high, I cannot attain unto it." But by the grace of God we know, as Nathanael, "Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art King of Israel." Come and see. Thanks be to God. 

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