2 Epiphany 2021
In each generation God calls those to follow. Teach us to expect your intrusions among us, and teach us to listen for you. Make us expectant, eager, grateful that you continue to form your followers to call all to do your work in our world to tell for generations to come the good news of your love for the world. Amen.
There are few times in Scripture we find God calling the important, the big-whigs of society. God usually calls the inconsequential, the unknown ones, the children and the adults child-like in their faith. The boy Samuel is serving in the Temple after his mother, Hannah, has dedicated him to God. This is the story of divine shift in power, God’s real tendency to move toward the vulnerable, choosing to lift up those whom the world
considers of little or no account. Such is the calling of Nathanael. An unknown who derides the little town of Nazareth. We will never hear from him again at least in our gospel texts. He vanishes into thin air; we will know him as Bartholomew who also remains visually unknown. The people of Jesus’ day have just come from 400 years of prophetic silence; no proclaimer of God’s presence until John the Baptizer enters.
The people of Samuel’s day are in a similar state of silence. But there literally is NO prophet, things are just beginning to emerge into more than tribal leadership.
The words from Scripture are telling: ‘The Word of the Lord was rare at that time.’
No word, no divine intervention, little sense of God’s movement among the people.
There is the Temple at Shiloh, Jerusalem being far in the future. Seemingly insignificant in nature yet here is where God begins to speak to the equally insignificant. Eli is an old man; he is the powerful one yet God does not speak to him. Jesus is the prophet come from God but he is not from Jerusalem rather he is from Nazareth, a town filled with the poverty-stricken, unlearned, trade people with little future. No wonder Nathanael turns his nose up at the thought of someone important coming from such a town.
Eli is old and fat, content with his lot in life; the Pharisees, as will be read soon enough,
are content in their lot for they have the power and they tell the people what to believe
and how to live. Along comes Samuel to disrupt Eli’s status; along comes Jesus to upend Nathanael’s prejudice.
And we, in our 21st century status as Episcopalians can easily be like Eli and like Nathanael. Content sitting happily in our 200 years of presence in this town. But we need to listen to the voices of the children, the voices of the unexpected ones. As has been noted for many years mainline denominations are shrinking are getting older
and are doing little about it. We think we are, though, with Sunday School, with programs reaching out to families. But, as in Samuel’s day, the word of the Lord is rare
except for those who attend church who may have grown up in church and know that is their habit. And yet… God still speaks if we allow that to happen.
This coming July the General Convention of the Episcopal Church meets in Baltimore.
I have been elected as an Alternate Deputy from this Diocese and plan on being a part of the liturgical renewal that needs to happen in our denomination. I know many of you love Rite I but that is not how, I believe, to reach the unchurched or those searching for a deepening relationship with God. We need new and vibrant liturgy that will draw others into a relationship with Jesus.
I’m not saying the Episcopal Church should suddenly mothball the organ but rather a spirit of vibrancy within the use of the Book of Common Prayer.
St. Bartholomew’s is one of the little ones like Samuel or Nathanael, and this time in our lives can be a moment, a gift of renewal even as doors remain closed. As Philip invited Nathanael to ‘Come and See’ as Hannah dedicated Samuel to God, who is searching for meaning in their lives who can be invited to be a part of the parish?
Who among us is willing to dedicate our lives anew to the telling others ‘we have found the one!’ This is the season of Epiphany when light shone in the darkness and the Word of God became new and infiltrated that darkness. In this season of pandemic
in the time of darkness in our nation and our world, let light shine in each of our lives
so the small and seemingly insignificant will be the ones to bring Jesus to those
searching for new direction in their lives for many have only found stale days,
long nights, and insignificant meaning. Let the light of Jesus so shine in our hearts
that we will be a beacon to this corner of our world. Amen.