January 14 2018 Sermon
1 Samuel 3:1-10, (11-20)
3:1 Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the LORD under Eli. The word of the LORD was rare in those days; visions were not widespread.
3:2 At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see, was lying down in his room;
3:3 the lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the LORD, where the ark of God was.
3:4 Then the LORD called, “Samuel! Samuel!” and he said, “Here I am!”
3:5 and ran to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call; lie down again.” So he went and lay down.
3:6 The LORD called again, “Samuel!” Samuel got up and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call, my son; lie down again.”
3:7 Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD, and the word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him.
3:8 The LORD called Samuel again, a third time. And he got up and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” Then Eli perceived that the LORD was calling the boy.
3:9 Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down; and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.'” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.
3:10 Now the LORD came and stood there, calling as before, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”
3:11 Then the LORD said to Samuel, “See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make both ears of anyone who hears of it tingle.
3:12 On that day I will fulfill against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end.
3:13 For I have told him that I am about to punish his house forever, for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them.
3:14 Therefore I swear to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be expiated by sacrifice or offering forever.”
3:15 Samuel lay there until morning; then he opened the doors of the house of the LORD. Samuel was afraid to tell the vision to Eli.
3:16 But Eli called Samuel and said, “Samuel, my son.” He said, “Here I am.”
3:17 Eli said, “What was it that he told you? Do not hide it from me. May God do so to you and more also, if you hide anything from me of all that he told you.”
3:18 So Samuel told him everything and hid nothing from him. Then he said, “It is the LORD; let him do what seems good to him.”
3:19 As Samuel grew up, the LORD was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground.
3:20 And all Israel from Dan to Beer-sheba knew that Samuel was a trustworthy prophet of the LORD.
35The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, 36and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!”
37The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus.
38When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?
39He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon.
40One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41He first found his brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Anointed).
42He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter).
43The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” 44Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter.
45Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.”
46Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” 47When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!”
48Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” 49Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”
50Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.”
51And he said to him, “Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”
This is the word of God for the people of God. Thanks be to God. Amen.
This past week, I was working on a series of reports that are sent to our District Superintendent and to the Tennessee Conference of the United Methodist Church. Primarily, these reports are comprised of statistical information that help conference and global church leaders gauge what kind of condition a local congregation is in as part of a global denomination.
Number of professions of faith from confirmation class. Number of professions of faith from outside of the confirmation class.
How many children are baptized but not yet professing members of the church? How many youth are in Christian formation groups? How many Sunday school classes do we have? How many members are in the church? How many are male and female? What’s the racial makeup of the church’s membership? How much debt does the church have? By the way, we don’t have any. How much money was received this past year? How much money was spent on community outreach and worship? How many people are served by ministries like Alcoholics Anonymous, Room in the Inn, and the ARK? You get the picture-these are just a sampling of the dozens of questions that attempt to summarize our life together in God’s grace.
As I poured over membership records and financial statements attempting to accurately answer each question, I thought of many of you by name. Statistical data doesn’t capture the texture of your faith journey stories. Numbers don’t tell the stories of how your neighbor invited you to come and hear music that opens the heavens. Numbers don’t tell the stories of how your life has transformed as an effect of ministries held in this place. Numbers can’t convey the ways in which you all have woven together a tapestry of relationships capable of bearing both joy and burdens. We can’t capture all the ways big and small, we have invited South Cheatham to come and see the living grace of God in the ministries of this church. Even as faithful as we have been in saying ‘come and see,’ we have ample opportunity to continue giving away that invitation.
The day after Jesus’ baptism by John in the River Jordan, John is standing there with a couple of his own disciples shooting the breeze. Jesus walks by close enough to be recognized by John and John’s disciples. He declares that the Lamb of God is there in their midst. John’s two disciples begin following Jesus as he continues walking. Jesus takes note of them and asks what has peaked their curiosity? They don’t answer his question but inquire about where he is staying while in town. Come and see.
After John’s disciples visit with Jesus, one of them, Andrew, goes in search of his brother, Simon Peter. The news Andrew has to share is unbelievably good so it makes sense to go and tell family first. We’ve found the Messiah. The long awaited one who will redeem Israel. We’ve found him! Andrew drags his brother to Jesus because the news of the Messiah is seemingly too good to be true. Jesus identifies Simon without prompting and gives him a new identity as Cephas or Peter, the Rock on which Christ’s church will be built. Little else is said at this point about Peter’s encounter with Jesus.
The next day, Jesus goes to nearby Galilee and finds Philip. Maybe Philip came highly recommended because he was from the same town as Simon and Andrew. Perhaps Simon and Andrew gave Jesus a short list of potential disciples in their local network. When Jesus finds Philip, he beckons him to come and follow. So what does Philip do once he’s been called into following Jesus into an unknown ministry? He goes to Nathaniel, probably a decently close friend. Like Andrew, he offers up a similar line about finding the one written about by Moses and the prophets. It’s Jesus, son of Mary and Joseph, from Nazareth.
Nathaniel must feel like he’s better than Nazareth, looking down his nose as he asks whether anything good can come from such a place. Nazareth isn’t a metropolis. Far from it. It’s a backwater town where nothing exciting happens. No one, absolutely no one, is expecting the reign of God to break into creation in Nazareth.
As obnoxious as Nathaniel’s sneer is, Philip doesn’t argue with him trying to make a case why he should go and see Jesus. He just says, come and see. Determine for yourself what you think about this Jesus. When Jesus sees Nathaniel coming toward him, Jesus greets him with a sharp line about being so honest and blunt having remarked about the quality of Nazareth’s hometown exports. Jesus hadn’t heard Nathaniel’s comment about Nazareth but he’s perceptive all the same. Jesus then indicates that he came to know Nathaniel prior to his invitation from Philip. Nathaniel is astounded that Jesus is so perceptive about his life having never conversed with him before.
Jesus then assures Nathaniel he will see far greater things than this perceptive greeting, surely a nod to the resurrection. Nathaniel will see heaven and earth touch like Jacob’s Ladder when Jesus is resurrected. The only other time Nathaniel is mentioned in John’s gospel is when Jesus meets the disciples in a post resurrection event.
Not much is said about Philip and Nathaniel in the gospels. Philip’s later claim to fame in Acts is when he is brought into a chariot carrying an Ethiopian eunuch and instructs him in the faith. The eunuch wants to be baptized in the desert because he sees the ancient prophecies fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Even less is written about Nathaniel-he sneers at the idea that Israel’s king will come from Nazareth. He is invited to witness the possibility for himself and is then utterly convinced because of Jesus’ perceptive greeting.
Philip is a persistent and unassuming evangelist and Nathaniel is a momentary skeptic. When Nathaniel’s understanding of Jesus is transformed, he begins making declarations that put a red thread throughout the entirety of John’s gospel. Indeed, Jesus is the new king of Israel, the one who will completely restore the throne of David and Solomon and bring God’s covenant with Abraham to its culmination. Not just one but entire series of sermons should be preached about what Nathaniel says to and about Jesus once his understanding is changed. He’s making grade A declarations about God and God’s reign in Jesus Christ.
And there’s another element of the story besides the claims about who Jesus is that is worth our attention. Andrew, Peter, Philip, and Nathaniel have their initial encounters with Jesus in ways that are something of a far cry from what we call evangelism. Evangelism is a bit of a dirty word because evangelicalism in the United States has become entwined with partisan politics and personalities like Franklin Graham, Pat Robertson, and Jerry Falwell Jr. But in mainstream middle of the road Christianity, we don’t know what to do with evangelism anymore.
How do we go about sincerely hoping and praying for our community to experience the redemptive and transformative grace of God through local church ministry? How do we engage in new conversation and relationships with folks in which matters of faith emerge without being manipulative and sketchy? Or have we reached a point in which the best we can expect is that only our family and friends will experience God’s grace through ministry in this church?
Before we go any further, I want you to consider three questions.
- Why or how did you come to find yourself as part of this community of faith?
- What transformation or experience has occurred in your life because of the grace of God at work?
- What is one part of life in this community of faith that is worth bragging about if you were to say, ‘come and see?’
Each one of us has to know the answers to these questions or ones like them before we can be invitational with authenticity and excitement. The effectiveness of Andrew going to his brother and Philip going to Nathaniel is because they can name what they’ve encountered in Jesus. And the news of the Messiah is stunning. If the grace of God has saved you from addiction, then that’s your ‘come and see’ story. If Jesus Christ has walked alongside you out of the depths of despair into a hope-filled future, then that’s your ‘come and see’ story. If you ventured into this congregation and continue to find yourself glimpsing the reign of God in the world at a fully inclusive communion table, then that’s your ‘come and see’ story.
Once you can name your ‘come and see’ story that points to God in Jesus Christ, then you can move among relationships without being forceful or obnoxious. You don’t have to browbeat to get someone to come to church or to leave their skepticism behind. If in conversation something arises and a door opens, then you can offer a piece of your ‘come and see’ story. Maybe a skeptical Nathaniel will hear part of your story and become the most unlikely but enthusiastic announcer of the arrival of God’s reign. Go and be like Philip.