January 17, 2021 - Second Sunday after Epiphany
How do you think God is calling you at this time in your life?
What are you doing to answer God’s call?
We hear of Samuel hearing the voice of God calling him. And Samuel answers.
“Follow me.” Jesus clearly gives Philip a command to follow. And Philip obeys.
Philip tells Nathanael to “Come and see.” And Nathanael follows.
Today’s scriptures focus on listening for the voice of God and for God’s movements within our lives. My friends, God is constantly speaking in our lives, whether that speech comes through insights, encounters, hunches, dreams, bursts of energy, our inspirational thoughts. We are called to listen to the many voices of God, many times hidden in everyday experience, and then to follow God’s guidance, shaping our encounters with God in our own unique ways. Let me repeat that in a different way: We are to called to listen to God - in many different ways - and then to follow what God is leading us to do, but to shape our encounters with God in our OWN ways.
How I encounter God is different from how you encounter God. Larry does not encounter God in the same way that his wife Sharon does. Chris does not encounter God in the same way that Dorian does. Children do not encounter God in the same way that adults do.
Young Samuel hears a voice in the night. He assumes that it’s the voice of his mentor, the priest Eli. Eli, however, tells Samuel to listen for another’s voice, the voice of the Holy One of Israel. The third time Samuel hears the voice whispering in the darkness, Samuel responds, “Speak, God, your servant is listening.” Samuel’s response serves as a model for our own spiritual formation. In the midst of our busyness and self-interest, our daily prayers should include a petition that we listen to God’s whisperings in our lives. Our prayer is answered by our willingness to pause and to be still to heighten our awareness of divine wisdom.
Listening for God’s voice is profoundly concrete. God’s creative presence in our lives is related to God’s awareness of our lives. This is central to the reading from Psalm 139. The Psalmist prays, “Search me and know me.” We are known completely by God; everything we do matters to God. God’s knowledge is grounded in love, like a good parent or grandparent and her or his child. God’s awareness and God’s creativity are one graceful movement. God has moved through our lives at the cellular and spiritual levels from the moment of conception. Nothing that we do is too small or large for divine awareness and activity. To be known by God is to discover oneself as loved by God. We discover that in spite of our faults and wrongdoings and those done on our behalf, we are accepted by God and the object of divine inspiration. God’s knowledge of our innermost being is not threatening, therefore, but enlightening and transforming.
The words of I Corinthians 6 combine ethics, anthropology, and theology. Paul proclaims the dignity of the physical world and the goodness of our bodies -- wherever God dwells is holy. Thus, our bodies are the temple of God’s spirit. They are a shrine of divine creative wisdom. Because of this, our embodiment has moral implications. The body is inspired, and the spirit embodied. Indeed, our bodies are heavenly, and should be treated with honor and respect. The bodies of others matter, too.
The ethical implications of the body as God’s temple go beyond sexuality; they include economics and the justice system. We cannot separate cells and souls. Do we care for the bodies of others by ensuring that they have sufficient food, shelter, and safety to fully embody the divine image? Do we care for our own bodies by healthy eating, Sabbath keeping, centering meditation, and appropriate exercise? Do we speak out against sexual misconduct or advertising that reduces persons to bodies and consumers?
Do we care for the bodies, the whole persons, of others by welcoming immigrant children, practicing restraint in police responses to black youth, ensuring that homeless children find homes and good food, and elders’ bodies are touched lovingly? Do we care for “dreamer” children and their families? Do we care for the bodies of others by providing safe working conditions and living wages?
The Gospel reading joins experience and witness. After encountering Jesus, Philip invites Philip to become part of the Jesus movement. “Come and see,” Philip tells his brother. Sharing the Good News is about inviting others to share in the joys we have experienced. Philip does not disguise his joy at encountering Jesus; he lets his light shine. His invitation is welcoming, not coercive. He shares experience, not theology. He wants his friend to experience the life-changing truth he has encountered. Nathanael’s affirmation of faith emerges in his encounter with Jesus. Good news is embodied in the person of Jesus – his words, deeds, and presence. Good news is embodied in us – our words, deeds, and presence. Our hospitality is the greatest testimony to the love of God and the welcoming spirit of our congregation.
God is constantly speaking -- occasionally in words. The church is challenged to be a place of listening, sharing, and supporting, fully committed to a whole person mission. When we experience God’s presence, our calling is to share the good news we’ve received.
How do you think God is calling you at this time in your life? What are you doing to answer God’s call?