Please click this link to view the service.
1 Samuel 3:1-10, 1 Corinthians 6:12-20, John 1:43-51
We are living in interesting times. We are being told to stay home as much as possible to try to curb the Covid 19 pandemic. We seem to be going back and forth on this for now 10 months. It is tiring, frustrating and difficult for all of us. We are missing our regular routines and families and friends. We have to think through all our actions, to try and keep as many people as safe as possible from this terrible virus. We do have hope in that the vaccine is now being delivered. Not as fast as we would like but it is happening which gives us hope that later this year things will get better and life although not the same will be more recognizable.
We are in the Season of Epiphany. It is a season of light and revelation. As season of searching, discovering, finding and knowing. I think the stories of Jesus touch us when we are feeling most vulnerable and lost. We really need the hope and perspective he brings to our lives. If Jesus were here right now, looking at what we are looking at, what would he see?
In our reading from John’s gospel, we meet a skeptic named Nathanael who thinks he knows exactly who God is and how God operates. God’s Messiah, he is sure, can’t possibly come from a backwater town like Nazareth. Nazareth in Nathanael’s opinion is not good enough for the divine. The story begins with Jesus going to Galilee, finding Philip and inviting him to “follow me.” Philip accepts the call and then brimming with excitement, runs off to find his friend
Nathanael. He finds him sitting under a fig tree. Philip tells Nathanael, they have found someone they have been looking for from the time of Moses and the Prophets. But Nathanael is not impressed, his assumptions won’t allow him to see something new and fresh. We can be like that we can hear the stories of faith and think I have heard this before. Or God works this way only. We are closed to the possibilities of new and exciting opportunities. We can be closed to
see how God is working in this time and place. Even unexpected places. Philip doesn’t argue with Nathanael, he says, “Come and See.” When Nathanael does come and see, he is in for the shock of his life. Before they meet, Jesus says, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit !” And, “I saw you under the fig tree.” Nathanael is overwhelmed, he moves from doubt to faith. From ignorance to knowledge. He experiences an Epiphany.
The core of this story and many others are that it is not really about Nathanael and what he sees. It is about Jesus’s way of looking and seeing. It is about what becomes possible when we dare to experience Jesus’ gaze. In this story, what opens eyes is not what Nathanael sees in Jesus, but what Jesus sees in Nathanael. Jesus had a choice when it came to seeing Nathanael. I wonder what would have happened if instead of calling out Nathanael’s purity of heart. Jesus had said, “Here is a cynic who stunted by doubt.” Or “Nathanael is a bigot, prejudiced.” or “Here is a man who is blunt and careless in his words.” or “Here is a man who is lazy waiting for life to happen to him.”
I am sure we might have said those type of things. I think we all do make harsh judgements of one another. Now those might have been true of Nathanael, but Jesus looked past them all to see honesty, and a good heart that made his true character. It was what Jesus saw and how he reacted to Nathanael that moved Nathanael’s heart. If Jesus had pointed out his flaws who Nathanael withdrawn in shame, fear, anger and embarassment. Jesus named the quality he wanted to bless and cultivate in his would be follower. He nourished the qualities that made Nathanael an image bearer of God.
I think we all need to try to see our present moment as Jesus sees it? We are living in dark and challenging times and it is easy to bogged down in those moments. But can we “come and see” and look for all the good that is still all around. The kindness we can share. Use of our resources and phone calls and messages to lift each others spirits. To “come and see” is to approach all of life with a grace filled curiosity, to believe that we are holy mysteries to each other, worthy of further knowing. We are to see the best qualities in one another and not our worst. We are to encourage and nurture this.
We are a people of hope. We read scripture, listen to hymns, pray, and try to make a difference to our hurting world. This is what makes us followers of Jesus. We are held by the eternal promise of Jesus who said: “You will see greater things than these.” We will. We will heaven open. We will see the love and justice of God.
So don’t be afraid. Don’t hide. Don’t despair. Live boldly in the calling of Epiphany. See. Name. Speak. Bless. God is near and God is speaking. Many good things can come out of Nazareth or any place we think is not. We all need to pray to have the eyes of Jesus and see others as he sees them.