Second Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B
January 15, 2012
Dreams and Calls
In the night a voice calls clearly,
a young boy answers here I am.
On a bus ride, on a march, in a church, a dream of freedom beckons,
a preacher calls others to live the promise.
At the seaside fishermen cast aside their nets to follow Rabbi Jesus.
Open our hearts, Lord, free our minds and stir our souls to listen to your call,
to follow the dreams you send us, to stand and answer here am I. Amen
The primary theme of today’s lections is call. Receiving a call from God, whether it is to an overall ministry (the priesthood, nursing, or teaching) or a specific ministry (teaching English for immigrants in Spokane), is often difficult to define and to discern. It often takes some help from others and a little time to sink in. In the Old Testament lesson (1 Samuel 3:1-10) young Samuel hears a voice calling his name in the night. He goes to Eli, his mentor and priest, thinking it was Eli who called him. Eli sends him back to bed. After happening three times, Eli realizes that it is God who is calling and tells Samuel how to respond.
Samuel was called in a time of when “the word of the Lord was rare”. There was much political and social upheaval. Eli was old and sick, and there was no one to guide Israel. When God raised up Samuel it was a sign that despite various evils God was still present with, and in, God’s people.[i] Samuel’s call can be seen as a threshold to a new era, a new beginning. It is important to realize that Samuel’s faithfulness and devotion to God was nurtured in the context of community. He is grounded in his parents’ faith and devotion (1:28). He grew in favor with, and was guided by, the priest Eli.[ii] All of this formed him and brought him to a place where he could hear and follow God’s voice.
We need always to remember that the community of the faithful is charged to support those who nurture young children so that they may grow “in stature and favor with God” (2:26). Who knows? The next time you are kind to the parents of that very active toddler; you just might be helping a future prophet of the Lord!
The call of the disciples in John 1:43-51 is very closely linked to the prophetic voice and ministry of John the Baptist. John pointed out Jesus as the Lamb of God, the one who will baptize with Spirit. When he does this, the message implied is that John’s true followers will now leave him and follow Jesus, and they were invited to come and see, not only with the physical eye but with the eye of faith[iii]. The directions of our call may change, but we continue to be led to God. Andrew couldn’t wait to tell his brother Simon that he had found the Messiah and took his eager brother to the Lord.
The next day Jesus, as he traveled to Galilee, called Phillip to follow him. Phillip ran to get Nathaniel. “We’ve found the one foretold by the prophets: Jesus of Nazareth”. Nathaniel was less enthusiastic than Simon. Prejudiced by the class system of his time he wondered if “anything good can come from Nazareth “. Nevertheless, he went with Phillip. He was so amazed that Jesus knew him, because he “saw” him under the fig tree, that he proclaimed Jesus as “the Son of God and King of Israel”. Jesus, in effect, said, “Oh, Nathaniel, you ain’t seen nothing yet! Before we are through you will see heaven open and the angels descending upon the Son of Man”.
So there is a pattern to be seen here for how disciples are formed and called. The absolute joy and amazement of being touched by God drives one to share that Good News. Brother tells brother and friend tells friend and as they are led to Christ they and the world are transformed, angels descend and heaven shouts out the glory of the Lord.
Sometimes we think that faith is a very private thing and often it is. On the other hand, the word evangelism can bring forth images of angry preachers who shout on street corners and sometimes they do. Yet our great Christian faith is meant to be shared, proclaimed and witnessed. Our call to Christ, our joyful sharing of our faith experience, which can be quiet and dignified as well as exuberant, could be like that of the disciples of old who led others to come and see and to follow our Lord. We also can proclaim that we have found the Messiah and urge others to come and see.
Lord you have examined me
and you know me…there is not a word
I speak but you Lord know all about it.
Knowledge so wonderful is beyond my grasp…
Your eyes foresaw my deeds… Examine me,
God, and know my mind…
understand my anxious thoughts.
Watch lest I follow any path that grieves you;
lead me in the everlasting way. Amen– Psalm 139