Such a lovely room

Such a lovely room

Sunday, January 17, 2021

YEAR B 2021 epiphany 2

 Epiphany 2, 2021
1 Samuel 3:1-20
1 Corinthians 6:12-20
John 1:43-51
Psalm 139:1-5, 12-17

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

So, this morning, I’m going to just tell you three things.  Two of them are important, and one of them is just interesting.  So, you can think of this as The Sermon of The Three Things.

In today’s first reading, from First Samuel, we don’t usually hear the entire thing.  And, we don’t usually remember the entire story.  We think of it as the call of the boy Samuel, and we kind of forget about Eli.  But here is an important thing.  After Samuel tells Eli everything, how God is about to punish Eli’s house forever, Eli says, “It is the Lord; let him do what seems good to him.”  What?

Even though it is bad news, Eli still says, “It is the Lord.”  We do not think of the world this way.  We don’t say “It is the Lord” when our sports team loses.  We don’t say, “It is the Lord” when things don’t go our way.  We like to think that good news is from the Lord, and bad news is from . . . someone else.  We have a hard time believing that when things don’t go our way that God is ivolved.  We tend to think that God is with us in our victories, and that God is absent in our losses.  But what if God is in our losses too?  Maybe even sometimes bringing some of those losses, for our own good?

Last week, in our nation’s capital, lots of people loudly proclaimed they were doing God’s will.  And the fact that they failed to overthrow the government of the United States, doesn’t mean that God wasn’t with them.  In fact, God was with them; which is why they failed.  Sometimes, when things go wrong, it might be helpful to quote Eli and say, “It is the Lord; let him do what seems good to him.”  Human arrogance needs to be taken down a peg, once in a while.  Winning isn’t everything, especially when our winning harms others.

This is the thing that is “just interesting,” though it might help clear up something strange in that Gospel reading.  Nathaniel asks Jesus, “Where did you get to know me?”  And Jesus says, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” Nathanael replies, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”  Now, if you’re anything like me, this exchange strikes you as strange, if not downright bizarre.  Here’s the in-a-nutshell explanation . . .

The fig tree has a long history of symbolic meaning in the Hebrew scriptures (which we won’t go into right now), and it was common in Jesus’ day to pray under fig trees, especially for rabbinical students.  And . . . in first-century Judaism, Rabbis taught that “he who prays and does not pray for the coming of the Messiah has not prayed at all.”  Soooo . . . some scholars maintain that Nathaniel was praying under the fig tree that the Messiah would come and—hello!—there’s Jesus!  Nathanael naturally replies, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”  It makes total sense, doesn’t it?  Of course, it’s just speculation, but it’s such excellent speculation that I have chosen to believe it.  So there.

Come and see.  Today’s Gospel reading started at verse 43.  But if we back up just a few verses to verse 38, we hear this: When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi, where are you staying?”  He said to them, “Come and see.”  Come and see.  

And that’s what kicks off this interesting chain of one person telling another.  Andrew is the one who asks where Jesus is staying and is told “Come and see.”  And then Andrew goes and tells his brother, Simon Peter, “we have found the Messiah,”—even though, actually, the Messiah found him.  And then Andrew brings Simon Peter to Jesus.  Literally.

And then Jesus finds Phillip, and Phillip finds Nathaniel, and Phillip tells Nathaniel they have found the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth.  And then Nathaniel asks, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”  (The sickest of all Biblical burns.)  And what does Phillip say?  “Come and see.”  Come and see.

Jesus says, “Come and see,” and then the disciples echo him, without really knowing exactly what it is they’re telling someone to come and see.  I mean, they only just met Jesus.  Which is kind of how it is for you and me.  Come and see.  We’re not entirely sure that we know exactly what we are telling people to come and see, but come and see.  I can’t really explain it, but come and see.

This is, of course, easier to do when we can open the doors and actually invite people into our community.  But that day is coming.  For now, we show it in our own lives.  Which is why, if we want people to see Jesus, we have to be doing the things that Jesus says will identify his followers.  And this is where you start to panic, thinking “Uh oh, Fr. George is going to give us a long list of moral precepts and commandments from all over the Bible that we can never live up to.”  But here is some convenient news.  If we flip forward twelve chapters in John’s gospel, we have the whole list of things to do all in one place.  Everything we should be doing in order to show people that we are disciples of Jesus.

In the 13th chapter of John, Jesus has just washed his disciples feet, to show them how they are to live.  And then he puts it into words, and says to them, I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

That’s it.  That’s the sign.  That’s what we are telling people to come and see.  Not a pious community of people who get everything right.  Not a bunch of people who sit around judging their neighbors for their bad behavior.      No, what we are asking people to come and see is this:

A community of forgiven sinners, doing our best to love one another, just as Jesus has loved us.  Because in loving one another, everyone will know that we are Jesus’ disciples.  And in seeing that love, they will see Jesus.  Come and see, we have found the Messiah!  Or, better yet, he has found us!

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