Sermon for Sunday, January 18th, 2015 || Epiphany 2B || 1 Samuel 3: 1-10; Psalm 139; 1 Corinthians 6: 12-20; John 1: 43-51 || The Rev. Margot D. Critchfield
Here I am. Follow me. Come and see. Three succinct sentences, of three syllables each. Yet it’s more than simple syntax that makes these words so memorable. Something about them speaks to us deeply, pitches a tent in the same inner space where we hear the still small voice of God. Something about them stakes a claim there, and won’t let us go. Here I am. Follow me. Come and see…
“Here I am,” the young Samuel eagerly responds each time he is called, thinking it is his mentor Eli –not God–who beckons. “…Samuel did not yet know the LORD,” the scripture explains, “and the word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him.”
Samuel is but a boy here—no more than 12. Notice that he knows nothing of God or of scripture, but it doesn’t matter in the least, because God knows him. God created his inmost parts and knit him together in his mother’s womb, as the psalmist says—and God calls him by name, “Samuel! Samuel!”
Identifying God’s call is not an easy thing. Three times Samuel mistakes God’s voice for Eli’s, and twice Eli—despite being a high priest– fails to discern what’s going on. “Go lie down again,” he tells Samuel, perhaps wondering if the boy is dreaming, or simply imagining things.
Finally, with Samuel’s third announcement of his presence, it dawns on Eli that perhaps God is in this, that maybe it’s God whose call Samuel is hearing. So Eli tells Samuel to lie down one more time, and instructs the boy that if he should hear the call again, he is to say, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”
Now, for some reason every time I get to this point in the story I can’t help but picture Mel Brooks in the role of God saying, “Oy-veh! You couldn’t have answered the first time?”
But God’s voice is difficult to discern, especially amidst all the noise and clutter of our lives. We may even think God calls only certain people, and to very specific, religious tasks at that. But in truth God calls each of us, every single day, multiple times and in a myriad of ways. As those brilliant billboards that the UCCs came up with a few years ago said, “God is still speaking.” God is always speaking– guiding us, calling us, comforting us, and challenging us, and if we listen, we will recognize His voice: it resonates in a way that is subtle, but as Samuel learned, persistent.
God’s voice is always loving, even when corrective, and it always leads us closer to, rather than farther from, God Himself—whether as the voice of our conscience or of a friend, as a sudden insight or a lifelong heart’s desire, a feeling of deep gratitude or of profound awe…God is the initiator of all that leads us closer to Him. Our job is simply to begin each day as young Samuel ended his, by saying, “Here, I am.”
Then, like Philip in our gospel lesson, we’ll hear God’s voice beckoning through the person of Jesus Christ, “Follow me.”
When we love the unlovable, forgive the unforgivable, move towards –rather than away from– healing and reconciliation, we can be sure we are following the voice of Christ. When we are about the business of setting people free from whatever oppresses or enslaves them—whether it be unjust systems and institutions or physical, emotional or spiritual maladies, if we are engaged in the business of freeing people from what binds them so they are more free to love and flourish as God desires, we can be sure we are following the voice of Christ. “Follow me,” he says. Follow me, and learn to love as I love, give as I give, die as I die, and live as I live! Follow me!
But don’t stop there. Share the joy of new freedom. Share the gift of new life. Share the good news of knowing Jesus. In the gospel story Philip is so excited that he runs to find Nathaniel and proclaims, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth!”
Even though Nathaniel is unimpressed — sneers “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” — Philip’s enthusiasm is not to be dampened. “Come and see,” he invites his brother. Come and see God’s love made flesh. Come and see the One who’s way is our salvation. Come and see what life is like as a follower of Jesus. Come and see.
Nathaniel is amply rewarded for doing so. In less than five minutes he gets what would take Peter three years to figure out: “Rabbi, you are the Son of God!” Nathaniel hears God’s voice.
Here I am. Follow me. Come and see. Three succinct sentences of three syllables each, three mileposts for the spiritual journey—a journey that spirals around and around—in ever deeper, more expansive circles, of loving relationship to God and to all of God’s creation: With childlike openness, we offer ourselves to God. We follow God as he is revealed in the person of Jesus. And with gratitude and joy, we invite others to join us.
Here I am. Follow me. Come and see.
Let us pray:
Heavenly Father, who created our inmost parts and knit each of us together in our mother’s womb; loving God, who calls us each by name, every day, in so many ways: Grant us the grace of discerning your voice amidst the noise and clutter of our lives, of responding to it by offering ourselves to you wholeheartedly, of following you joyfully and without hesitation, and of sharing you with others openly and enthusiastically. Through Jesus Christ, Our Lord, to whom with you and Holy Spirit be all honor and glory. Amen.