Have you ever had an epiphany, a sudden moment a break through where you suddenly but surely understand or see something? It might have been a maths problem at school, a sudden moment when the jumble of numbers that had been giving you so much trouble, causing such a headache suddenly made sense! If that has happened to you I’d love you to explain it to me, or maybe I wouldn’t because I’m still not sure I’d get it!
It might have been something quite different, a sudden knowledge, a breakthrough in understanding of someone else’s situation, a thought that floats into your mind with the answer to something that has been troubling you, a realisation that the thing that has been worrying you for so long is something you need not worry about at all!
That happened in different ways to both Nathanael and to Eli in the Scriptures that we have just heard, yes I did say Eli and not Samuel, because it was Eli who suddenly realised that it was God who was speaking to the boy!
I am going to concentrate on that account first, so what was happening, we are told that the word of the Lord was not heard much/ was rare in those days, that Eli’s family though of a priestly line were rebellious and all doing what pleased them, the old man had all but given up, although he carried on his duties, living and working in the temple he did not expect God to speak or intervene…
I wonder if that speaks into the condition of the church in our day?
Do we expect to hear God, to see God, do we believe that God is interested in us, that God might empower or equip us? Do we hear his voice or see what he is doing among us?
Let’s go back to the story;
The boy Samuel was brought to the temple to serve under Eli, to learn the ways of God, he himself was an answer to prayer, his mother distraught and thinking she was barren went to the temple and prayed, the old priest was altered to her plight and while first thinking she was drunk took time to hear her story…
Are we alert to the needs and stories of those who come among us? Could the answer to their prayers be the answer to our prayers?
Hannah, Samuel’s mother promises to bring the child back to the temple to learn to serve, and once he is weaned he is delivered to Eli’s care. Back to our story then; it is night and the boy and the priest have retired to their beds, then Samuel hears a voice, thinking it is Eli he runs to him, twice the old man sends him back to bed, only on the third time does the realisation that it is God himself that is speaking to the boy dawn on him!
Samuel is instructed to respond to the Lord and the story continues…
I wonder, are we alert to the calling of the Lord in the voices and actions of others?
I have a friend who is passionate about the plight of the Palestinian people, she posts videos and prayers, news articles and photo’s to Facebook, I know she speaks and prays and writes about their plight on a regular basis, every now and then God calls me to prayer through her passion and opens my eyes to pray! I become alert to the passion of God because she is alert to the passion of God.
Other friends have other passions, for me at the moment the situation of the Saudi blogger Rafi, as someone who also blogs I am in many ways horrified that such punishment can be inflicted on somebody for simply writing!
A collective passion in this Church and Circuit is the Comfort Zone, where day by day, week by week we meet with people who have real and desperate stories to tell, and we see people whose lives and situations are being changed, are we alert to the way that God is working and moving among us?
Are we awake enough to hear God speaking to us?
On to Nathanael; “come and see” is the invitation brought to him by an excited Philip, come and see Jesus, Jesus of Nazareth, in him we have found the one who the prophets spoke of!
A bold claim, but of course Philip has seen Jesus and is convinced, utterly and completely convinced of the one he has seen! Somehow his encounter with Jesus has changed Philip entirely. Nathanael is not so ready to be convinced, after all how can anything good come out of Nazareth… sounds a bit like a news report about Blackpool, there are days aren’t there where it seems that the only news is bad news!
Nathanael is about to have his mind changed, because Jesus has seen him first! Just pause and think about that for a moment; Jesus has seen him first, he is seen and known and this is revealed to him, and it is not his scepticism that is pointed out to him but his devotion!
When you were knit together in your mothers’ womb, and even before you were made God had a plan for you, he formed you in love and chooses to see the good in you, that is what is revealed to Nathanael, Jesus saw right through the bluff and bluster “ how can anything good come out of Nazareth?” and right to the heart of the man and shows him himself; here you are Nathanael, a true Israelite, there is nothing false in you! It is as if Jesus held a mirror up to Nathanael and showed him the very core of his being, the image of God, and in seeing himself suddenly and surely Nathanael saw Jesus!
Through this passage the Holy Spirit holds a mirror up for us and beckons us to gaze into it; and whispers to us “ here you are fearfully and wonderfully made and I love you! “
“Here you are fearfully and wonderfully made and I love you!”
Like Philip, Nathanael is awakened to the presence and power of God among them in the person of Jesus, like Philip he chooses to follow and becomes a disciple ( a learner), this is how the message and the truth of the Gospel; God is with us, has been passed on through the ages, from person to person, group to group, as one awakens and invites another to come, come and see…
The question for us is have we seen? Have you seen? Do we/ you still see?
Has the word of the Lord become rare in our days as it was in the days of Eli?
How is God speaking to us and through whom?
It is easy to be negative and sceptical , and yet we have story after story coming to us of the way God IS working, when we share we share answers to prayer, we are seeing lives changed, hopefully our lives are being changed…
Let’s dare then to be awake to hear God in and through the Scriptures, in and through our prayers and in and through one another, to remember his promise through Jesus that he is with us, to remember the gift of the Spirit given who will remind us of things long forgotten.
Towards the end of his earthly ministry Jesus told his disciples that they would do greater things than he had… that is his promise to us his church as we dare to see, to follow and to respond in love and service together, perhaps our first task then is to wake up, to become ready to serve and to look for God as s/he works among us!