Homily by The Rev. Marcia McRae
St. Francis Episcopal Church, Goldsboro, NC, 14 Jan., 2018, Epiphany 2
Year B RCL: 1 Samuel 3:1-10; Psalm 139:1-5, 12-17; 1 Corinthians 6:12-20; John 1:43-51
“Come & see,” Philip says to Nathanael. Like Philip, we are called to invite our brothers & sisters in the human family to “Come & see.”
We come here & see each other & receive God's gifts of word & sacrament. Sometimes God's love & message are clear. Sometimes we respond like we hear in our Psalm:
“How deep I find your thoughts, O God!”
This verse reflects ideas we hear in our scriptures today. Our Psalm says God “knit me together in my mother's womb”.
What does it look like to see God knitting? How do you who knit or crochet feel hearing this word picture?
The Rev. Dr. Lauren Winner, Duke University professor & author of several books, led us clergy in exploring this metaphor & many biblical word pictures of God at a conference in 2014.1]
Our Psalm emphasizes: God sees us even in the darkest parts of life. The “life-sustaining darkness of the mother's womb” assures us of God's continuing compassion, “kindly protection & wise planning...”2 whether we understand it or not.
As followers of Jesus, you & I know: God's kindly protection & wise planning are in our lives, & God knows everything about us & loves us anyway!
Even in our darkest times & confusion & lack of understanding, God loves us.
God loves you.
We know God loves us because Jesus died for us, rose from the grave, ascended into heaven, & the Holy Spirit guides us & knits us together as the Body of Christ.
Lately, our weather has kept some of us apart & some of us closely knit together since we couldn't get out of our homes! Our weather can be confining, confusing, dark so we can't always see clearly.
Paul helps the Corinthians see more clearly how to live into new life in Jesus so they can make a change for the better in their lives.
Knit together in God's love, they live in a bustling, urban, seaside city with 2 ports & temples to about a dozen gods & goddesses, some of which include services of temple prostitutes, who come to bathe at the public facility beside the synagogue where Paul speaks.3
These facts shine light for us on the difficulty for Christians in Corinth who receive Paul's letter.
We see difficulty in a new situation for Samuel in our first lesson. Samuel does not yet know God. This time in the life of God's people is dark: prophesy & visions are rare. The almost blind priest Eli literally can't see & it's night.4 Samuel stays close to where light literally shines in God's sanctuary.
We hear puzzled reactions by Samuel & Eli as God calls Samuel. Sam thinks it's Eli, who slowly realizes God is calling Sam. Eli's slow response reminds us:
in a new situation, our experience does not assure our quick understanding.
Notice the amazed reactions we hear as Jesus calls the disciples. Just before today's verses, 2 disciples of John the baptizer see Jesus going by & follow him. One is Andrew.
Jesus asks what they're looking for, & they ask where he is staying. Jesus says:
“Come & see.”
They do. Andrew repeats this invitation to Nathanael in today's Gospel.
Being with Jesus we can understand who Jesus is. We see this when Nathanael interacts with Jesus, whose knowledge of him astounds Nathanael & gives him deeper insight into Jesus.
Nathanael, who has gotten over the stumbling block of Jesus being from an obscure village5 asks: “Where did you get to know me?”
Jesus says: “I saw you under the fig tree...”
The fig tree is a symbol of the peace the Messiah will bring6; this gives Nathanael [whose name means “God has given”7] special insight & inspires him to declare Jesus is God's Son.8
Jesus says “You will see greater things than these...” And then something changes when Jesus says: “...[Y]ou will see heaven opened & the angels of God ascending & descending upon the Son of Man.”
What changes are the verb & the subject, which change from singular to plural: y'all will see... This tells us more people than Nathanael will see this sight,9 which reminds us of angels descending & ascending on the ladder in Jacob's dream in Genesis 28.10
Our Gospel's main message to
“Come & see”
reminds us we are called into relationship with Jesus,
who calls us to share the Good News
of God's Love for humans.
How do we/you encounter Jesus?
When are you the connector by which someone encounters Jesus?
At this Holy Table:
“Come & see.”
Boadt, Lawrence. Reading the Old Testament: An Introduction. New York: Paulist Press. 1984.
Dios Habla Hoy: La Biblia. 2da Ed. Nueva York: Sociedad Bíblica Americana. 1983.
Harper’s Bible Commentary. General Ed.: James. L. Mays. San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers, 1988.
Harper’s Bible Dictionary. General Ed.: Paul J. Achtemeier. San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers. 1985.
Holy Bible with the Apocrypha. New Revised Standard Version. New York: Oxford University Press. 1989.
Jewish Study Bible: Jewish Publication Society TANAKH Translation. New York: Oxford University Press. 2004.
The New American Bible for Catholics. South Bend: Greenlawn Press. 1986.
Tenney, Merrill C. Handy Dictionary of the Bible. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House. 1965.
Winner, The Rev. Dr. Lauren. Diocese of GA Spring Clergy Conference. Honey Creek, GA. May 4-6, 2014. and https://divinity.duke.edu/faculty/lauren-winner Accessed: 13 Jan, 2018.
1 Diocese of GA Spring Clergy Conference. May 4-6, 2014. Winner, Assistant Professor of Christian Spirituality at Duke Divinity School, is as vicar of St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Louisburg, N.C. Her works included Girl Meets God and Mudhouse Sabbath.
2 Harper’s Bible Commentary. P. 491.
3 Note: information from both personal experience touring Corinth & from sources listed here.
4 Jewish Study Bible. P. 567
5 Ibid. Harper’s Bible Commentary. P.1049.
6 The New American Bible for Catholics. P. 1139.
7 Tenney, Merrill C. Handy Dictionary of the Bible. P. 107.
8 Ibid. Harper’s. P.1059.
9 Holy Bible with the Apocrypha. New Revised Standard Version. Gospel of John. P. 95.
10 Ibid. Harper’s. P.1049.