Kenora Epiphany + 2
17 January 2021
1 Sam 3:1-10(11-20)
Psalm 139:1-5, 12-17
1 Corinthians 6:12-20
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.
Today’s text from John’s gospel is one that we’ve heard before. It’s Jesus “calling his first disciples,” but it’s not like it sounds. Using words like “calling” makes it sound like he’s a hawker in a marketplace. He’s not out there standing up in the street advertising at the top of his lungs for those who will be his closest followers.
Rather, it’s Jesus identifying those who are closest to him throughout his earthy ministry, but in ways that only God and the Holy Spirit can direct. And one of those followers is Nathaniel, a friend of Philip’s.
And in calling these people, in reaching out and encouraging each one of them, of us out of the patterns of our lives, out of what can be a rut of tasks that doesn’t occupy our minds and hearts, Jesus reaches out to each one of us, in only ways that the Holy Spirit is aware, so that we can be all that God knows that we are able to become, in the patterns of our lives.
So, just for a moment, lets look at the first interaction between Jesus and Nathaniel.
Now, Nathaniel is told of Jesus being the Messiah, being the one promised by the prophets by Philip. Philip is the one who, in today’s passage, first met Jesus, or more accurately, was met by Jesus.
Philip goes to Nathaniel, who has an equal passion in finding the Messiah, it seems. But Nathaniel’s curiosity is piqued. So, he accompanies Philip to where Jesus is with Andrew, Simon, and another of John’s disciples.
But this is all preamble. This is all the set up to where we find Jesus meeting Nathaniel for the very first time.
The gospel tells us: “Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.”” (Jn 1:43)
Whether we know it or not, we discover that Philip is looking for the Messiah, as are the rest of those who find themselves called in these verses: Andrew, Simon, another of John’s followers, and now, Nathaniel, as well.
But like Simon, Nathaniel comes with one who has first encountered Jesus in his day-to-day patterns.
Where Simon doesn’t seem to have any come back, any reply, or response to Andrew before meeting the one for whom they’ve been searching, Nathaniel does: Nathaniel makes a tongue in cheek comment about Jesus coming from the wrong side of the tracks.
“46 Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.”” (Jn1:46)
Now, as we envision this in our mind’s eye, I wonder if we can imagine, at the least a raised eyebrow? A quirk of a sheepish grin? Or perhaps a full blown, actual boyish grin when Nathaniel said this to Philip, and Philip’s response in kind, when with a similar expression on his face he invites Nathaniel into Jesus presence and Jesus into Nathaniel’s’ life.
After all, in this brief interchange, Philip invites Nathaniel to come along for what will be the ride of his life, for the rest of his life, in the same way having Jesus in each of our lives defines and changes how each of us lives our lives, still today.
“47 When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” 48 Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” 49 Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” 50 Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.”” (Jn 1:47-50)
And here, in a nutshell, is the nugget of Jesus’ comments when he first met Nathaniel. Here is the nugget of how deeply Jesus knows each one of us, as well.
Jesus knows Nathaniel.
He knows Philip and Andrew, and Simon.
Jesus knows each one of us, as well. He knows our likes and dislikes. He knows our favourite colour. He knows our allergies and the things in our lives that have caused us to doubt or to stumble.
He knows how the love of God fills up each of our lives, and gives us purpose, whether we acknowledge it or not.
Its not like he’s checked out each of our Facebook profiles, rather it’s that God, that Christ has known and knows each of us from before the moment of our creation.
The prophet Jeremiah tells us, reminds us: “4 Now the word of the Lord came to me saying,
5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”” (Jer 1:4-5)
Like Nathaniel, in one way or another, we’ve all been brought to a life in Christ through the efforts of another. For Nathaniel, it’s through the effort of Philip, although they were both looking for the Messiah, its’ Philip who found him first.
For most of us, we came to Christ as infants through the baptismal font, and the baptismal promises, and when we forget that God has known us since before the moment of creation, Jeremiah reminds us of that love. He reminds us of that direction, that fulfillment, even before we’re aware of it.
For those of us baptized into a life in Christ, we come here through the efforts of another, through the efforts of family, or perhaps through friends who walk alongside us, in the same way that Philip and Nathaniel walk side by side in the presence of Christ, today.
Or perhaps we’ve been first introduced to Christ in our baptismal promises, but we’ve fallen away, and it’s through the efforts of friends that Christ welcomes us back into the light of Christ, into the love of God.
It’s a life that is personified in each of our baptisms, and expressed in the baptismal covenant, in the promises made at the font.
Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers?
Will you persevere in resisting evil and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?
Will you proclaim by word and example the good news of God in Christ?
Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbour as yourself?
Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?
Will you strive to safeguard the integrity of God’s creation, and respect, sustain and renew the life of the Earth?
To each petition, each question our response, along with the one being baptized is: I will, with God’s help.
So, we don’t do this alone, we’re not expected to be the lone wolf, rather we do this with God’s help, and with the help that God gives us through each other our brothers and sisters in Christ.
John’s gospel reminds us: “47 When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!”” (Jn 1:47)
But Jesus doesn’t say this to get Nathaniel’s goat up. Rather he’s telling Nathaniel, as he tells each of us that we are known, and we are loved by God with the personality traits that we come to God possessing.
Today we see Jesus calling those who will become his closest followers, his friends. These are people who he’s known from the divine perspective, and yet his answer is ““Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!”” (Jn 1:47b)
There is comfort in knowing that God loves us so much that he knows us and who we are, down to the most intimate parts of our hearts, minds, and souls.
We, like the disciples, like the apostles are called. We’re called to be all that God needs us to be, we’re called to follow, to learn, to return, and to serve each other and creation as only we are able to do.
We know that God sees that there is no deceit in Nathaniel. God sees that Peter’s personality is like a rock and its on that stability that the future church is to be built.
“48 Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” 49 Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”
God knows each one of us to that same degree and rejoices when we live into our baptismal promises, so that we can live those promises out into the world.
And even in such circumstances as we find ourselves, because of the pandemic, because of where we live, we are still able to be those children of God, the body of Christ, followers of Jesus in and to the world around us.
At the same time, we’re able to find peace, love and strength in that as well, because God knows us and knows what we most need, as well as what the world needs through each of us.
Today is a brand-new day. Jesus calls his followers to him, and we are among them. Jesus sees each of our hearts and lives, and knows us better than we know ourselves.
In Jesus presence we feel and acknowledge the love of God that brings the messiah into our lives, and into our hearts, because we are called.
Not just today, but every day.
Thanks be to God.