Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Can't make it to church - Sunday 14 January 2018

In a season where Church looks at Jesus being revealed to the world we have some interesting readings before us today. The first talks of being ‘Called by God’ (literally).

The Samuel story opens with a woman, Hannah, who is barren (considered to be a curse in OT times). She is so caught up in praying for a child that the priest, Eli, assumes she’s drunk and treats her with contempt. BUT once understands he tells her that her prayers have been fruitful and she becomes pregnant and has a son, Samuel. When Samuel is born Hannah dedicates him to the LORD (meaning YHWH – God almighty) and hands him over to serve God in the temple. This is an act of dedication and recognition that our children are not only a gift from God, but His (wonder how many of us have thought like this?).

Now this was a time when God wasn’t speaking much (‘the word of the LORD was rare) and people had cast off discretion and restraint and were doing what they thought was ‘right in their own eyes’ (that means doing what they fancied doing). Samuel is sleeping in the temple near the ark of the covenant (Eli is sleeping in the next room) when he is woken by someone calling him so he goes and asks Eli what he wants, only to be told to go back to sleep. This happens three times before Eli realises that the voice is God’s and so he tells Samuel to tell the LORD to speak as he’s listening.
What a pain that is, for having seen the trailer we want to get the whole story. But although Samuel goes on to be an amazing prophet and battler for God, the point made is that being called requires the ability to hear, recognise and respond.

Not only that but (as we will find later) Eli’s sons were ‘doing their own thing’ and so God just moved on past them and chose Samuel. Which is a second important point – If you want to be called and used then make sure you’re living for God and that you’re living right. If you’re not then the call may never be yours!

And a third point: Samuel’s call came in the middle of the night but he reacted and responded. Don’t expect a ticker-tape parade to announce calling for it may come in a still small voice: Are you listening?    So the first word has to be Calling!

Let’s have a look at the Revelation reading to see what it might have to say to us and what word/s we might be able to add to our list today:

The ‘one’ sitting on the throne (God the Father) holds a scroll in His opened right hand – the ‘opened’ part is important, it was waiting to be taken - the hand wasn’t clenched, was it – but there was none worthy? There is additional meaning in the fact that there was writing on both sides – the scroll was completeness itself, so there was no need to add more. This was a document of note, for it conferred much and yet, as accessible as seven seals which no one in heaven or on earth or under it (hell) could break; they couldn’t even sneak a peek at the contents!
One of the elders tells how the ‘Lion of Judah’ who is the ‘root of David’ has won the battle. Now this identifies the victor to be Jesus (Isaiah 11) who is both ‘Son of David’ (a descendent of David) and also God (David’s line comes from Him) (the root).

The term ‘root and branch’, in management language is a ‘complete process which changes the very nature and being of something’. The process of the invisible God not only becoming visible but also fully human is therefore, by that definition a ‘root and branch’ experience. For this Jesus has truly ‘won the battle’! Jesus has beaten the powers of darkness and so is worthy to ‘open the book’.

Then the writer tells of how he sees a lamb in the middle of the assembled gathering with the evidence of battle scars (hands, head and feet?). Revelation is an amazing book on many levels for there is imagery, numerology and more besides in it. It’s what we call ‘apocalyptic’ – meaning it reveals something otherwise hidden –this is evident in the ‘seven horns and eyes’ reference for the number ‘seven’ is, in numerology, the number of perfection. This part talks of power and watchfulness. Shorthand for everywhere and all - powerful!

Jesus takes the scroll - an act of submission to, and recognition of, His calling and unity with God and a statement of power – an act of proclamation that Jesus is worthy to take the scroll and break the seals; for He has paid the ransom for all people. People from every tribe, people, nation, and tongue. Jesus has made them one with the Godhead (Father, Son and Holy Spirit)

So many words here: Commitment, Calling, Sacrifice, Personal Cost, Scars, Death, Worthy, Heroic! I’ll let you think of which one you wouldn’t like to have used about you.

And that brings us to the Gospel reading and in a season which speaks of Jesus being ’revealed’, the revelation here confuses many of us as Jesus, setting out for Galilee, bumps into Philip and tells him to ‘follow Him’. To put it into context, this is happening the day after John has identified Jesus as the ‘Lamb of God’.

Philip goes to Nathanael how he has found the one Moses and the prophets spoke about and in doing so mentions Galilee. Now this brings the retort from Philip, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” (What a great put down!) But Philip is not put off, but tells Nathanael to Come and See!”

Now it’s not what Jesus says to Nathanael that’s important in this reading but what Nathanael says to Jesus that is what this passage is about. Philip brings Nathanael and having encountered Him finds the scales fall from his eyes such that he proclaims: "Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!"

So here we find a phrase to add to the pile: “Come and See!”

Calling - Selfless ‘God-serving Commitment – and Invitation: This is how the kingdom is made real.
Are you listening? Are you willing to pay the price, regardless of the cost?
Are you reading to bring others with the words, actions and life that proudly proclaims: “Come and See?”

Could this be why you don’t see ‘signs and wonders’ and the growth of faith and healing and love in those around you?

Perhaps we the words of the Collect:
 Might be of  help here

Almighty God, in Christ you make all things new: Transform the poverty of our nature by the riches of your grace, and in the renewal of our lives make known your heavenly glory; Through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

This week, take a moment to think of Jesus, the lamb without blemish, and raw scars He bears in his body. Scars put there for us and our salvation.
Does this make you (and me) live differently? It should!

1 Samuel 3.1-10
The boy Samuel served the Lord under the direction of Eli. In those days the Lord didn’t give many messages to his people. He didn’t give them many visions.
One night Eli was lying down in his usual place. His eyes were becoming so weak he couldn’t see very well. Samuel was lying down in the Lord’s house. That’s where the ark of God was kept. The lamp of God was still burning. The Lord called out to Samuel.

Samuel answered, “Here I am.” He ran over to Eli and said, “Here I am. You called out to me.”

But Eli said, “I didn’t call you. Go back and lie down.” So he went and lay down.

Again the Lord called out, “Samuel!” Samuel got up and went to Eli. He said, “Here I am. You called out to me.”  “My son,” Eli said, “I didn’t call you. Go back and lie down.”

Samuel didn’t know the Lord yet. That’s because the Lord still hadn’t given him a message.

The Lord called out for the third time. He said, “Samuel!” Samuel got up and went to Eli. He said, “Here I am. You called out to me.”

Then Eli realized that the Lord was calling the boy. So Eli told Samuel, “Go and lie down. If someone calls out to you again, say, ‘Speak, Lord. I’m listening.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place. The Lord came and stood there. He called out, just as he had done the other times. He said, “Samuel! Samuel!” Then Samuel replied, “Speak. I’m listening.”

Revelation 5.1-10
Then I saw a scroll in the right hand of the one sitting on the throne. The scroll had writing on both sides. It was sealed with seven seals. I saw a mighty angel calling out in a loud voice. He said, “Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?” But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll. No one could even look inside it. I cried and cried. That’s because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside. Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not cry! The Lion of the tribe of Judah has won the battle. He is the Root of David. He is able to break the seven seals and open the scroll.”
Then I saw a Lamb that looked as if he had been put to death. He stood at the center of the area around the throne. The Lamb was surrounded by the four living creatures and the elders. He had seven horns and seven eyes. The eyes stand for the seven spirits of God, which are sent out into all the earth. The Lamb went and took the scroll. He took it from the right hand of the one sitting on the throne. Then the four living creatures and the 24 elders fell down in front of the Lamb. Each one had a harp. They were holding golden bowls full of incense. They stand for the prayers of God’s people.

Here is the new song they sang.
“You are worthy to take the scroll and break open its seals.
You are worthy because you were put to death.
With your blood you bought people for God.
They come from every tribe, people and nation, no matter what language they speak.
You have made them members of a royal family.
You have made them priests to serve our God. They will rule on the earth.”

John 1. 43 – 51
The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.”
Philip was from the town of Bethsaida. So were Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one whom Moses wrote about in the Law. The prophets also wrote about him. He is Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”

“Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked.

“Come and see,” said Philip.

Jesus saw Nathanael approaching. Here is what Jesus said about him. “He is a true Israelite. Nothing about him is false.”

“How do you know me?” Nathanael asked.

Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree. I saw you there before Philip called you.”

Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God. You are the king of Israel.”
Jesus said, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that.” Then he said to the disciples, “What I’m about to tell you is true. You will see heaven open. You will see the angels of God going up and coming down on the Son of Man.”

Post Communion Prayer
God of glory, you nourish us with your Word who is the bread of life:
Fill us with your Holy Spirit that through us the light of your glory may shine in all the world. We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen

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