Sermon St Eustachius 9.45 & 10.30am Sunday 17 January 2021 Year B Epiphany 2
1 Samuel 3v1-10 Psalm 139v1-5, 12-18 Revelation 5v1-10 John 1v43-end
Let us pray:- Lord Jesus give us hearts like those two disciples when on the road to Emmaus felt their hearts burn within them as Jesus interpreted to them the things in all the scriptures concerning himself, so we pray open our hearts and minds to your word this morning. Amen
At this time in our Christian calendar we have been focusing on the advent, birth and Epiphany, the revealing to the nations of our great High Priest, and our soon to be coming again King, our Lord Jesus.
In our gospel reading this morning the apostle John records the second encounter between Jesus and his cousin John the Baptist, only mentioned in his gospel. It took place a couple of months after John had baptised Jesus in the Jordan near Jericho, sometime in the winter of AD 27-28.
Now John the Baptist and Jesus meet up again, but this time much further along the Jordan valley at what is called ‘Bethany beyond the Jordan’. We are not certain of its precise location, but some now believed it to be in the Batanea, in the Decapolis, in a region SE of the Sea of Galilee. It was the place where Elijah the prophet, to whom John was often compared, had been fed by the ravens after he had predicted drought in Israel, and so this region would have been dear to the Baptist. There John describes Jesus in the beautiful words we use in the Eucharist, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world”.
As the cousins again meet up, John points out to all the people gathered there that Jesus was the Son of God, for he had seen the Holy Spirit descend upon Jesus as a dove when John had baptised Jesus earlier in the Jordan. Jesus was their promised and long awaited Messiah; the one who had now burst upon the scene of history not only to deliver all peoples from their bondage to sin, but also to ‘baptise them with the Holy Spirit’.
You and I, in this twenty first century, still have that same message to proclaim. Jesus, the promised Messiah, is still the one who alone can deliver and set us free from our bondage to sin, once we have put our faith and trust in him. But there is more, if we will but look to Jesus, John the Baptist’s promise still holds true that ‘Jesus will also baptise us with the Holy Spirit’. As we embark upon this new year following a very disturbing 2020 dominated by the pandemic, do you, do I, feel the need to have that promised power of the Holy Spirit with us as we seek to further the presence of God’s Kingdom?
We need to see the Holy Spirit sweep through our nation as in previous times of revival.
The evangelist John then goes on to describe how after this second encounter between the two cousins, Jesus started to call his first five disciples; Andrew, Simon Peter, Philip and Nathaniel-otherwise known as Bartholomew, and by implication the fifth was the evangelist John himself.
Jesus encounter with, and His call of Nathaniel, shows how within a matter of moments Nathaniel could turn from being a sceptic, ‘can any good thing come out of Nazareth’, to one of complete belief and trust in Jesus, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Such was the power of Jesus words then, and that power is still true for today, a power that we also see depicted in the beautiful call of the prophet Samuel.
Samuel’s call contains much which is relevant for us as individuals, as well as for our nation at large, so it deserves our attention. Not only were the eyes of God’s priest Eli growing dim, but the word of the Lord had also become rare in those days. Fortunately the lamp of God, the light of God, the revelation of God, had not quite gone out completely. Does that sound to you like the times in which we also live today? It does to me.
Where is the word of God, the statutes and promises of God being clearly and loudly sounded out to our nation, and not just to our nation, but also to this hurting and confused world in which we now live. How many eyes have grown dim, and where is the word of God being declared for all peoples benefit? In parliament, in the media, on the streets, in all the churches? Not that I see, so no wonder the people and our land languishes.
And what about us? The boy Samuel did not yet know the Lord, the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. In his duty to the old priest Eli, while serving in the house of the Lord Samuel lay down near the arc of God. What was in the arc? It was not what Indiana Jones anticipated, it contained the word of God. The book of the law, the Torah given by God Himself to Moses upon mount Sinai during the exodus from bondage. It contained all that the people needed to live a peaceful and prosperous life in the promised land, to live lives pleasing unto God. But did they?
We in this twenty first century have an even greater revelation of the word of God than was present in Samuel’s time. We have just celebrated the Epiphany, the revealing of the incarnate God, the word made flesh, in the person of our Lord Jesus the Messiah for all peoples, but have the nations responded? No.
One wonders just how much longer God’s patience and mercy will extend.
God desires is that no one should perish, but that all people should come and believe in Him, but will they? You must look around the world and make up your own mind. So how may they hear?
It took God three calls to young Samuel before God could get through. It took some time before the old priest Eli, who should have known better after all his time in the service of God, to recognise that God was calling the boy. But eventually the light did dawn and we read the final and lovely response from Samuel, ‘Speak Lord for your servant is listening’. Is God still trying to get through to you and to me? Are we taking time out so we can say to God, ‘speak Lord for your servant is listening’. Are we close to the arc, to what God has to say to us through His word in the scriptures?
Saint John in his Revelation tells us that when the time came for a sealed scroll in heaven to be opened, ‘no one was found worthy’ to open the scroll. John was sad and began to weep bitterly until he saw Jesus, the lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root-the descendent of king David, the one who had overcame sin and death through His cross; Jesus was the one, the only one, who could open the scroll. That brought much joy in heaven, and a new song burst forth, ‘You, speaking of Jesus, are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain and by your blood you ransomed for God saints from every tribe and language and people and nations’.
I wonder how God feels when he looks at our present rebellious world? Does He weep bitterly, thinking, ‘when will this people hear, listen and respond to my ‘still small voice’, respond to my presence clearly visible in the beautiful world I have created for them to enjoy, when will they respond to my love, grace and mercy shown to all humankind through my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased?’ When? What will it take to make people wake up?
So what role do we have to play in making God’s call clear and plain so people will respond and say with Samuel, ‘speak Lord for your servant is listening’? How can we help people to recognise the amazing call God has for each one of us, a call and promise to be built into a kingdom of priests and to serve Him, our creator God, for ever in the coming new creation?
That remains our ongoing challenge as we enter yet another new year of opportunity. It is a challenge God has not left us powerless to fulfil. God has promised that through our Lord Jesus He will give us His life giving Holy Spirit, and give it in abundance, so we may make Jesus known to our needy world.
Let us not fail God in that call.
Let us pray: Eternal God, our beginning and our end; bring us with all peoples and with the whole of creation to your glory, hidden through the past ages and now made known through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen