2nd Sunday after Epiphany
1 Samuel 3:1-10; Psalm 139:1-5, 12-17; 1 Corinthians 6:12-20; John 1:43-51
Jesus is making a declaration about who He is in John’s Gospel: He is God is and from God. But he is also letting us in on a not too well-kept secret: we are invited to know this Jesus, intimately, as intimately as God knew us when God was stitching us together in the womb. “Come and see” is used often, in John, to describe a call an openness to whom Jesus desires us to be. Jesus does not compel us but invites us to be in relationship with Him, to come and see who He is and what He is about and who we are called to be through Him. The invitation is not necessarily in our work, or our spiritual lives, even, but in the day by day by day growing desire to belong more entirely to God and to better know his mercy and love. We are called to be in relationship with Jesus, and that means we are called to be into relationship with all whom Jesus loves, which is all created people; all people are invited, all are called, all are beloved of God.
Jesus may have come from a town in the middle of nowhere, but we all know He actually came to us from the God who saw us when we were still in our mother’s womb. There is, or might be, an intimacy to our faith that the Psalmist taps into today. God knew us even as we were being conceived, even as we are being brought into being. Hard to imagine, in this scenario that there could ever be an unwanted child, yes? “Your works are wonderful and I know it well; I will thank you because I am marvelously made.” How might looking at ourselves that way change the way we engage the world? How might thinking that way about our fellow humans alter the way we interact and view them? They, yes, were made by God. They, yes, are marvelously and wonderfully made. They, too, come from a place that makes them worthy of God’s love for them, “For, we were bought with a price” - the life, pain, and death of Jesus - therefore our calling, our work, our daily lives are meant to glorify God and we cannot do that with hatred in our hearts, racism in our blood, anger in our spirits, or self-righteousness governing how we listen to each other. Jesus says to us, daily, always, “Come, and see” what joys I have prepared for you, what challenges you must endure ... Come and see who we are made to be: a child of God whom God has bought with a price.
One of the most instructive stories in all of scripture is the one today from 1st Samuel. We find Samuel, who was the answered prayer of his childless mother Hannah, a young boy whose very life was given to God in service at the Temple which was not yet actually a Temple. He lives in a time when “the word of God was rare.” Samuel himself had not yet come to know God. God came to him in the Temple and three times called him by name. Old Eli finally realizes that God is speaking to the boy, when he calls Samuel for the third time. So, when God calls again, with some direction, some hope, and some anticipation, Samuel is then able to say, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” Speak Lord, you will not be speaking in vain, for I, your servant, am listening now.
The story from Samuel reminds me that one of the most important but least utilized tools in our arsenal as people invited and called by God is listening. We simply don’t often listen to each other. We are unwilling to truly hear each other’s fears, desires, anger, troubles, grievances, heartaches...we are not willing to be patient and get past another person’s noise and hear what our brothers and sisters are really trying to say. Perhaps, if we listened more intently to each other we might hear the very voice of God, calling to us, inviting us into closer relationship not only with Him but with the other. Jesus often reminds us that there is little reward for loving people who love us, hear us, think, look, and live like us. “Love your enemies,” Jesus says in Matthew, “pray for those who persecute you.” We mostly refuse Jesus’ call to listen, unfortunately, and, thereby, we simply do not hear.
I was reminded this past week of the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Al, on September 15th, 1963 - by 4 white Klansmen that were not brought to justice until the early 2000s - that claimed the lives of four little girls who had just been to Sunday school and were preparing for choir at that mornings’ worship. There were riots and unrest in the few days following, with the black community lashing out in anger and frustration of justice too long denied. The general white community protested and rioted, too, counter-protesting integration and every other little thing. In a speech given to more than 3k people with white and black people in attendance, before three of the girl’s joint funeral, MLK, Jr. said this: “In spite of the darkness of this hour, we must not become bitter...we must not lose faith in our white brothers. Life is hard. At times as hard as a crucible of steel, but today, you do not walk alone ....”
How do we avoid the bitterness caused by injustice? At rioting people in the Capitol unable to accept the verdict of the majority of American people? How do those who struggle with the progressive movement find the patience to listen, even if it may seem to be against their better judgment? How do we continue to answer Jesus’ call to come and see? To come and see how we are called in our daily lives, each and every day, to see where Christ is leading, knowing that the Light of Christ, the call of Christ, even in the darkness, is pressing in on us, encouraging us, beckoning us to listen, to hear, to say to God as best we may, “Hear I am!” Lord, I am still here, I am trying so hard to listen. Help me, Lord.”
Listening is one of our most important tonics, tools, and blessings in a world fraught with violence, anger, and often misguided folks or some malevolent powers bent on destruction of various kinds; and I am not, of course, by any means, only talking about Wednesday January 6 in DC; and I am not addressing any particular group. We all stand accused in the arena of not listening and turning a deaf ear to the other. Until we see the Psalmist’s vision of all of God’s people - that we were marvelously made by God and thereby are God’s beloved - we will continue to struggle to live into Christ’s invitation to Come and see. Jesus is calling, as surely as God called Samuel in the not-yet-constructed-Temple, calling on each Christian to see the possibilities in every creature of God and, in doing so, stoking the fire of unity that Christ commands and He “bought with a price” at Calvary. God is speaking to us today, within the Temple of this place, in the very Temple of our bodies, calling us into obedience to HIs most gracious will and into life with him and each other. “Speak, Lord, for your servants, with your help, will strive to listen to the voice that calls us each by Name, each marvelously made, each with a role to play in sharing your message of blessing; of creating a world that listens to your voice in those we oppose, those we struggle to love.” Speak, Lord, for your servants are listening.