2nd Sunday After Epiphany

January 14, 2024

Lectionary Texts

1 Samuel 3.1-10 God calls to Samuel, who at first does not realize that it is God who is speaking to him.

Psalm 139 “You have searched me and known me.” (Click here for Psalm 139, a paraphrase.)

1 Corinthians 6. 12-20 Not everything that is lawful is helpful…. Our bodies are members of Christ, a temple of the Holy Spirit. … You are bought with a price.

John 1.43-51 Jesus calls Phillip, who tells Nathaniel about Jesus. “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” “Come and see.”

Preaching Thoughts

1 Samuel
       A classic common of a call from God is that we tend to disbelieve it at first. “Sorry, wrong number.” … How might God be calling you, nudging you, attracting you, alluring you, even tricking you into God’s delight for you? Yes, God’s delight. God does not call us toward misery, but toward joy.

One reason we can trust God’s call is that God knows us better than we know ourselves. God is not “watching over us” from above, but living in us, seeing us from the inside. God has “known” me in “the biblical sense, “ that is, as intimately as with sexual intercourse. This suggests to me that God’s judgment is not a matter of God standing above us with opinions about how good we are, but God’s knowledge and understanding of what it is to be us—to be you—and God’s vision of who we are created to be, and our journey toward that vision. God is not in the clouds above us sending sun and wind and rain and storms and calm down on our little sailing ship, but in the boat with us (remember Jesus asleep in the boat?), offering wisdom for how to navigate. It’s a voice we can trust.

1 Corinthians
       We see again here Paul’s mystical theology, that we are not separate beings but one in God, one in the Body of Christ. Our bodies look like separate individuals but in reality we’re all fingers of the same hand, members of the same body. That implies that our true calling is toward harmony with the whole and our place in it. God’s call may involve conflict as we engage the Powers in the struggle for justice, but God’s call doesn’t pit us against others; we’re all one, even the people we oppose. (We’re not against them, but the powers of injustice.)

       “Can anything good come from Galilee?” Another mark of God’s call is that not only do we doubt it sometimes, but others doubt it, too. God’s call works in people we don’t suspect. Part of learning to listen for God’s call in us is to listen for it in others, too. God calls all of us. Think of the motley crew Jesus called.. including Judas!
       In John’s gospel people, including Jesus, go around saying he is the Messiah, the Son of God. Nathaniel’s outburst— “You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” sounds like an odd thing for someone to say who’s just met Jesus. But John is not giving us a historical account, nor is he evangelizing, trying to beat unbelievers over the head and get them to believe in Jesus. He’s writing for his church, for people who are already following Jesus. John knows we know Jesus is the Son of God. He’s inviting us to watch Jesus with that knowledge, so we more deeply entrust ourselves to him. John is saying to us “Come and see.” Watch Jesus. Unbelievers trouble themselves over whether or not Jesus is sent from God, but that’s not our focus. We watch him and see how he behaves—the acts of radical love, healing, inclusivity and liberation—and learn from that, learn both how to trust Jesus and also what to do with our own lives.
       John can’t resist adding one of his theological spoilers here (there’s on on every page): “You will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon ‘the Son of Man.’” (The New Human.) Ascending and descending matches the order of movement of the angels on Jacob’s ladder. Contrary to those who think heaven is hard to get into, here’s another of the New Testament’s many visions of heaven being open. The angels don’t travel with the New Human, but upon the New Human. As if Jesus is the stairway to heaven, the bridge to the holy, the entry into the divine mystery. (“I am the way.”) Whatever this means, I don’t think it means access to heaven is limited to people who believe in Jesus. It doesn’t say “on their faith,” but “on the Son of Man.” Jesus carries us into the divine, like a parent carrying a child into the house. Jesus bears us into lives of perfect love; that’s Jesus’ work, not ours.

Call to Worship

Leader: Silence of God, you enfold us.
All: We are here. We are listening.
Word of God, you come to us.
We are here. We are listening.
Spirit of God, you live in us.
We are here. Speak to us, for your servants are listening.

Leader: Eternal God, source of all wisdom, we praise you.
All: Open the eyes of our hearts, so that we may see your truth.
Risen Christ, you whose word rings true, we greet you.
Open our ears, so that we may hear your voice.
Holy Spirit, you whose light shines in us, and guides our way, we thank you.
Open our hearts, and give us courage to seek your wisdom.
Come, Spirit of Life, and transform us by your grace. Alleluia!

Leader: The Holy One calls us. Do we hear?
All: Sometimes, when the chaos of the world is quiet, and we decide to listen.
And how do we answer God’s call?
We worship today seeking to hear and answer God’s call.
Here I am, God. Speak for I am listening. Amen.

Collect / Prayer of the Day

God of love and Truth, many images present themselves to us, but they are not your vision for us. Be thou our vision. Many voices call to us, but they are not you. Beneath the noise of this world you are calling to us. We want to hear you, and see your vision for us. Speak, for your servants are listening. Amen.

God of truth, you speak and we fail to hear; you whisper and we do not listen. You call us to follow, and we falter. Yet still you come to us and give us the gift of your Word. You are calling to us now. Help us to hear. Give us courage to see. By your Spirit, may we follow Christ in faith. Amen.

Gracious God, in many quiet ways you come to us; you speak to us. Grant us the grace to listen with our hearts, to look with the eyes of our souls. Open our hearts, that we may know you more clearly, love you more dearly, and follow you more nearly, day by day praising you, with Christ your Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Almighty God, You who continually call your people to yourself, draw us by the power of Your Holy Spirit into such a warm and binding relationship that we may faithfully follow you in our daily lives in the name and spirit of Jesus. Amen.

Listening Prayer

(suitable as a Collect, preparation for hearing scriptures, or invitation to prayer)

God, you are whispering.
We are silent.
Deep within the temple of our heart,
you are calling.
Our ears cannot hear, only our hearts.
We are listening.
In silence our hearts are listening.

Prayer of Confession

Pastor: The grace of God is with you.
All: And also with you.
Trusting in God’s tender mercy, let us confess our sin to God with one another.
Gentle God, we confess that we are afraid to look honestly at ourselves.
Help us by your grace to see ourselves as you see us.
We place ourselves in your light, in your mercy.
Heal us, forgive us, bless us, and set us free,
in the name and the spirit of the crucified and risen Christ. Amen.
[Silent prayer… the word of grace]


Click here for Psalm 139, a paraphrase

Prayer of Dedication / Sending / after Communion

You have loved us, and in your love you have called us. Awaken us to your Spirit, give us courage, and empower us with grace to follow you, for the sake of the healing of the world, in the name and Spirit of Christ. Amen.

Suggested Songs

(Click on titles to view, and hear an audio clip, on the Music page)

Calling me (Original song)

Dear God, Creator eternally, you call everything to be.
How are you calling me, even now?
Who do you call me to be?
Where is your image in me, calling me?

Jesus, lord of the fishermen, calling your children,
you call to me once again, even now.
What will you lead me to do?
How can I witness to you, calling me, calling me?

Spirit, power of love in me, how do you set me free,
what gifts are you giving me, even now?
I am a vessel for you.
Humbly I listen to you, calling me, calling me.

Drawing Me (Original song)

Holy One, Mystery, how will you keep drawing me
nearer to the heart within the heart?
Nearer still, falling in, closer to the heart within,
draw me God. I fall into your love.
Lover, you are calling, you are drawing,
I am falling into you in love.

Deep in me there’s a voice, there’s a hunger, there’s a choice,
seeking something vital that is you.
By your grace drawing me, may I fall eternally
nearer to my center deep in you.
Lover, you are calling, you are drawing,
I am falling into you in love.

God, you have searched me – Psalm 139 (Tune: Be Thou My Vision)

God, you have searched me; you know from within,
all of my beauty, my wounds and my sin.
Deep in my heart, before I speak a word,
you know my soul, and my thoughts you have heard.

You who you have made me and always are near,
help me to shed my illusion and fear.
Help me be truthful, and truthfully see,
humbly transparent to your grace in me.

Your loving presence within me each day
go with me, guide me, and show me your way.
Give me the eyes of your mercy and grace,
to walk in love in each moment, each place.

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