Scripture Readings: 1 Samuel 3:1–20 | Psalm 139 | 1 Corinthians 6:12–20 | John 1:43–51
“Nathanael said to him, ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’ Philip said to him, ‘Come and see.’”
Today we continue our journey through the Church Year, leaving Advent and Christmas behind… with Lent and Easter on the horizon… and entering the season after Epiphany… a time when we Christians explore the amazing implications of the Good News that has been revealed: that Jesus of Nazareth truly is God’s Son… and Saviour of the world.
During these weeks, we will often reflect on the stories of people in the Scriptures who encounter Jesus, and suddenly see things that were hidden from them, about the Living God, and about themselves… and end up having the course of their lives changed forever as a result.
In other words, this season invites us to reflect on the effects of God’s revelation in the world… what happens to folks when we come to know the truth of what God’s up to in our world… when we see and draw near towards His guiding, life-giving light.
But another important truth, that might often go without saying, that this season and these stories highlight for us is that the Living God already knows all about our world. He sees all the good and the bad… and nothing at all goes unnoticed or unseen by Him.
So, as we turn now to our Scripture readings today, and invite the Holy Spirit to reveal God’s good word to us and to our world, let us keep in mind that the Living God knows us all completely, the good, the bad… all of it… and He still invites us to draw near in faith, and find our life in Him.
Our first reading today from the first book of Samuel might seem like a simple story about a boy learning to hear and respond to the voice of God... and it is. But it is also a powerful warning about the disaster that God’s people stir up when our eyes and hearts are closed off from our LORD, and when we disregard our calling to walk in His holy ways in the world.
Alongside the simple and open response of the boy Samuel, this passage tells us of the unfaithful sons of Eli the High Priest, the set-apart family charged with guiding God’s people, and serving as the LORD’s righteous representatives, ministering in His Holy Tabernacle… the portable Temple where the LORD met with His people. But Eli’s sons, Israel’s leading priests, had become corrupt… serving, not God and His people, but themselves… giving in to their own greed and lust, taking advantage of others, and making a mockery of the Living God.
Unfortunately, it’s not hard to find other examples in the history of the Church, including in our own day, of leaders who have abused their positions of trust to serve their own selfish desires… acting as though the LORD does not see or care about their wickedness, while pretending to be doing His will.
But again, this is all contrasted with Samuel, a small child raised by Eli to serve in the Tabernacle. And even though Samuel knew so little himself, God graciously chose to speak through this boy, and make His good will known through him: not only exposing the injustice and evil at work in Eli’s sons, but in the days to come, working through Samuel to guide God’s people, and even to prepare the way for God’s own chosen King, David.
This story reminds us that nothing is hidden from God, and He will not ignore the evil that even His people do. But it also invites us to follow the example of Samuel: open and responsive to God’s voice, even when we don’t quite understand… And willing to let the LORD speak and work through our lives so that His light can shine.
Turning now to our Gospel Reading, we hear how Jesus invites a man named Philip to follow Him, and in response, Philip immediately goes to find his friend Nathanael. In John 1:45, Philip says “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.”
And when Nathanael dismissively expresses doubt that anything good could come from a backwater town like Nazareth, Philip doesn’t have all the answers… but he simply says to Nathanael: “Come and see!” Philip invites his skeptical friend to come with him, and experience Jesus for himself… to get to know the One, who as it turns out, already knows all about him.
John 1:47-48, “When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, ‘Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!’ Nathanael asked him, ‘Where did you get to know me?’ Jesus answered, ‘I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.’
What follows is quite surprising: the prejudiced skeptic turns into an ardent believer… someone who sees Jesus as no mere rabbi, but as the Son of the Living God, and Israel’s promised King.
Then Jesus goes on to say that Nathanael will see even more amazing things than this… that one day, he would see Jesus, the Son of Man, as the connecting point between the world and the Heavens… with angels ascending and descending on Him.
This seems like a very odd thing to say. And it is. But it’s also a reference to a well known story from the book of Genesis when their ancestor Jacob, a scoundrel on the run from his brother after scheming to steal his inheritance, had a dream one night in the wilderness. And in that dream, Jacob saw something new about what God was up to in the world.
Genesis 28:12, “And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, the top of it reaching to heaven; and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.” What seemed at times to Jacob like two completely separate realms, Heaven and Earth, were not cut off from one another: what happens here in the world, and in his own messed up life was not unknown by the Living God.
When Jacob woke up, he named the place Bethel, which means ‘House of God’… which is another way to talk about a Temple. Hold onto that for a minute. We’ll come back to it later on.
For now, notice what Jesus is highlighting here: that He knows all about Nathanael… his honesty, yes, but also his prejudice… the good and the bad… just like Jacob the scoundrel was known by God… and yet Jesus still wanted Nathanael to follow Him. To leave his old ways behind, and join Jesus in His holy mission to bring God’s life-giving light to the world.
Remember the Good News of Epiphany: The Living God shines His light into the darkness of our world… to draw all people to Himself so that all may find new life in God’s Son: Jesus of Nazareth, the Saviour of the world.
Will we, like Samuel, be open to the voice of the LORD, even if we’re not quite sure what He’s up to yet?
Will we, like Nathanael, let go of our old ways of seeing things, and let Jesus open our eyes to the work of the Living God in the world around us?
Will we draw nearer to Jesus, our Saviour? Or will we turn away and draw back into the shadows?
This leads us to our reading from the letter to the Corinthians. Throughout this letter, St. Paul the Apostle is trying to guide this new Christian community through all sorts of challenging changes in understanding and practice, that they all needed to make if they were going to stay true to the way of Jesus. He reminds them that the freedom that they have received in Jesus Christ does not give them a license to do whatever they want… like Eli’s sons, serving their own lust and greed, all the while claiming to be faithful servants of the Living God. Instead, he reminds them and us that in Christ, we are all called to share in a whole new holy form of life… one which calls all of us to let go of our old ways of seeing and doing things, and to humbly learn what it means to be God’s people in the world… set apart for Him in spirit, mind, and in body.
In Chapter 6, St. Paul has a lot to say to them and us about the importance of serving God with all that we are… knowing that all that we do is now bound to the life of our Risen Saviour, Jesus. We don’t have a private life, cut off from the life of God. 1 Corinthians 6:13-15, “The body is meant not for fornication but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God raised the Lord and will also raise us by his power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?”
He then goes on to say something truly amazing about how God is at work in the lives of His people: 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.”
We are now called the Temple of God’s Holy Spirit… the place for His divine presence and power to dwell and be made known in the world. Not as a building, or an institution, but in our bodies… our day to day lives as believers. We are not our own, but belong completely to the LORD, graciously set apart for something that our world really needs… a true taste of God’s New Creation, already begun in Jesus Christ.
Remember when Jesus tells Nathanael that he would see angels ascending and descending on the Son of Man… Heaven and Earth united, like in Jacob’s vision at Bethel, the House of God? This is all Temple language, pointing to the hope of reconciliation, and a full reunion between God and humanity. But so often, when we God’s people, who have been called to live in the light of His holy ways, act instead like Eli’s sons, and serve our own selfish desires, we spread darkness deepen the divisions that keep on fracturing our world.
But when we were at our worst. In our moment of deepest unfaithfulness and refusal to set aside our old ways for the sake of God’s Kingdom… when we humans rejected our Saviour, and crucified the Son of God… the beautiful world-changing reality that the Temple points us to took place once and for all. Heaven and Earth were reunited… bridged by Christ Jesus when His body was raised up on the cross… the Son of Man suspended before our eyes, midway between the world and the skies… giving His sinless life to reconcile our broken world, good and bad, to the Living God through His death. And offering that saving connection to God’s New Creation to us through His own resurrection.
As Christians today, we are now a Temple people… those set apart by the grace of God to follow Jesus our Saviour, and to share in His New Life. God’s Holy Spirit has been given to us, to draw us deeper and deeper into His holy love, so that the reality of what Jesus has done for our world at the cross can take shape in our day to day lives.
That means as individual disciples, we are called to grow in Christlikeness, giving ourselves to the leading of God’s Holy Spirit, so that we wholeheartedly in spirit, mind, and body begin to reflect the life of Jesus in every part of who we are and what we do.
And this also means that as a Church… we are to be a community where God’s Spirit dwells. Where our relationships with one another reflect the life of Jesus… where we care for, and challenge, and serve one another in genuine faith, and hope, and holy love.
And we do this not only to share in the blessings and joys, freedom, forgiveness that God’s Spirit brings… but to share in Christ’s mission to bring God’s rescuing light to our darkened world.
So that those around us can experience… can “come and see” Christ’s new Creation already graciously at work in our lives, so they too can come to know the One who already knows all about them… the good and the bad… and still loves them enough to lay down His life and to save them by His blood.
So, may the Holy Spirit of God truly dwell in us, and transform us all into a people set apart to share the life and light of Jesus, the Saviour of the world. Amen.
Rev. Rob serves as the Priest-in-Charge at St. Luke's Gondola Point, and as the School Chaplain at Rothesay Netherwood School