preached at St. Michael and All Angels, Portland, OR- January 15, 2012
God you know us, call us, and more amazingly love us. And wherever we go, you are with us. Help us to live like we believe it. Amen
So what does it mean to live like we believe we are beloved?
This morning we have a couple of grace-filled beautiful stories about being wrong. Samuel and Nathaniel are both wrong about who God is and how God will appear to them. In order to move forward and become the people they are called to be they have to give up being right, they have to give up knowing God and accept instead being known BY God— when you can admit that you are wrong, that’s an epiphany.
Here we in the second week of the season of Epiphany, thie sweet short season that bridges the miracle of the incarnation to the beginning of the road to Jerusalem . A season where we celebrate Light coming into the world.
Epiphany time celebrates those moments that change your life forever. We hear the story of Samuels and Nathanial’s epiphanies today and pray for our own epiphanies.
Last week we stood on the banks of the Jordan and watched as John baptized Jesus in the soft muddy water, and the Holy Spirit proclaimed him the beloved child of God. Now we have five and half more weeks until Ash Wednesday. This week and next we will call the disciples together, then Jesus will cast out demons heal a mother in law and some lepers before he is transfigured on the mountain.
Then we will put ashes on foreheads and start walking into Lent with this beloved incarnate child of God to the cross.
Jesus is gathering his community around him and each call story is unique.
Phillip is a great evangelist here.
He is called by Jesus, accepts, and immediately goes to find his friend Nathaniel, who we assume has already had previous conversation with Phillip about the Messiah, because Phillip comes in with, “it’s Him!” , but Nathaniel is skeptical. He knows enough of his own expectation s of the messiah to know that the Savior he is expecting is to come from somewhere cooler than Nazareth . But Patient Philip does not argue with him, but just says, come see for yourself. And to Nathaniel’s credit he does. He may be suspicious but he is still willing to “go and see” When he gets to Jesus he hears the cryptic welcome. “ Here is someone without deceit”
“Do you know me?” Nathaniel asks.
Oh I saw you under the fig tree says Jesus.
And for some reason this totally undoes Nathaniel.
Jesus has touched on an experience the dramatically shifts Nathaniel’s perspective on the ever important question of who Jesus is.
“You are the Lord the Messiah, the Son of God.”
All this just because I saw you under the Fig Tree? Now Jesus has to know that this “seeing him under the fig tree was a big deal, but he says oh Honey, there are things coming for you in this journey that will even make being seen and known pale in comparison. You will see the messengers of God break though from earth to heaven and back again.
What was Nathaniel doing under the fig tree? Why is he so surprised that Jesus saw him there? was he praying to God for a sign? Was he seeking direction in his life was he at a crossroads? was he weeping and mourning ? Was he depressed and pouring his heart out? Was he singing a joyful song?
Was he mad at the world, resentful and bitter? Was he demanding that God DO something, that God step up and put this broken world right.
Whatever it was, when Jesus tells him I saw you there, sitting under that fig tree, when he realized that Jesus shared that experience with him that God in Jesus was truly present in that fig tree moment, he becomes convinced of the identity of Jesus. Nathaniel’s whole perspective shifts. His view goes from,
“can anything good come out of Nazareth ” to
“truly you are the son of God. You are the one I have been waiting for.”
Nathaniel has to loose his certainty about the value of place and learn that he is beloved.
So what does it mean to live like we believe we are beloved?
When we hear good news- tell a friend
If our friend is skeptical- let them see for themselves
If we see the evidence of love living in the world- believe it
If our beliefs are too rigid to make room for God- be willing to change them.
The story of Samuel opens with the intriguing phrase- the word of the lord was rare in those days and visions were not widespread. I don’t know if this is to give Samuel a better excuse for not catching on right away that it is God speaking to him,
So of course the story goes that Samuel keeps hearing his name called and goes to Eli the old priest who has taken him in. Eli tells him it was not him calling, and it is finally Eli who catches on and realizes God must be calling the boy, and tells him to answer the next time “Speak Lord for your servant listens.”
what Samuel hears from God is hard words and dire consequences for Eli’s own sons, but Eli tells him to listen anyway.
Samuel has to change what he believes about the voice of God, and believe that he is beloved.
So what does it mean for us to live like we believe we are beloved?
When people think we are the voice of God- Point them back to God
When people have hard things to tell us- listen
When someone tells you listen to God- & listen
When God speaks- be still
If God gives you something hard to say –say it
Both Samuel and Nathaniel were wrong about God and have to shift their expectations of how God appears and who God is, in order to encounter the God that is already there with them.
There are times we don’t want to be seen and known by God
There are times in our lives where we act like we do not believe that Jesus is present with us and we are surrounded by love that knows no bounds. There are times where we allow the cruel words of people who don’t know us very well rip away our sense of safety and security.
There are times where we act for all intents and purposes like the world we can look at and touch is all there is and our success or failure in this realm is the measure of our worth.
We can sit in the dark refusing to believe we are illuminated by the love that created the world, refusing to believe that the voice of God is calling us.
Once we are secure in our identity as beloved we can toss aside all of our earthly crutches to join in the ongoing epiphany-work of celebrating the light that has come into the world. We can tell other people to come and see, We can encourage the prophets among us like Eli did, we can tell people who come to us as if we were the authority they seek, to go back into the silence, make themselves still, and listen again for the voice of God. Even if that message will speak against our own house of privilege.
We can stop being anxious about holding onto what we already know, about what others are saying and be freed up to repeat the Good news that we are known and loved. If we can know that we have nothing to lose, Once we accept that we are known we will see angels ascending and descending, breaking through with a message of Gods inconceivable love.
~We are known and loved as we lie in our beds in the dark of the night, unsure of whether the voice that disrupts our sleep is the voice of God.
~We are known and loved as we sit under fig trees, praying and wrestling with our meaning, purpose, and place in life.
~We are known and loved when we come through these doors, whatever it is we think we are looking for.
~We are known and loved as we come to this table and kneel in humility holding out our hands to taste the truth that God can continually surprise us.
~We are known and loved as we step back out these doors living like known and loved people.