1Saumuel 3:1-10 and John 1:43-51
by Rev. Stacy Swain
It is early. Day’s light won’t dawn for another hour. Night’s cold still has a hold on the house. I turn off the alarm before it sounds, slip into my slippers and quietly make my way down the hallway to my daughter’s room. I crack the door and call to her softly at first — it seems such a shame to wake her. But then more loudly, “Kate? Love? Are you Awake?” I keep calling until from somewhere beneath the mound of pillows and comforter, I hear her reply, “I’m awake!”
Let us pray. Holy God, it is dark and cold but the day is dawning and you have things in store for us. And so we pray that you will call to us in this the time of our awakening. And may the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable to you O God our Rock and our Redeemer, Amen.
God calls to us. And whether it takes a life time or it is in a single moment, to answer God’s Call is to wake up, to wake up to a life of living fully alive.
It happened to Jesus. As the strong arms of his cousin lifted him up out of the river, as the Jordan’s baptismal waters broke over his face, as the voice called his name “the beloved,” in that moment, Jesus awoke.
And I understand those next forty days in the wilderness as a time of awakening for Jesus where with God, he finds strength, resolve and an alertness of mind that he had not known before; where he sees who he is with new clarity and embraces who he is called to be with new conviction.
And when he emerges from the wilderness, and heads north to the region of Galilee to begin his ministry, I imagine that he does so with what is now a powerful aliveness about him, a magnificence of being that radiated from him. Irenaeus, a second century theologian is to have said “The glory of God is a [human being] fully alive.” And that is Jesus. Glorifying God by being so fully alive.
I bet St. Francis was not the first to stop and preach to the birds and speak to the moon. I bet that Jesus did as well as he walked through the countryside on the way to Galilee. I bet that all creation was drawn into conversation with his presence delighting in him as he delighted in the world around him.
But, I also see him as he comes upon the impoverished villages that dot the landscape. I can see the sadness that comes upon him as he sees that certain dullness in the eyes of the people who have endured too much suffering. I imagine how his heart must have been breaking to see how so many were living so far from fullness of life for which God created them. How captive they were to that which oppressed. How asleep they were to their own magnificence.
Then the road crests and descends and Jesus enters the region of Galilee.
What happens next has stirred the hearts and the pens of so many across the ages. Our Scripture from John this morning takes us into the story at this moment in what we know to be the calling of the disciples.
In that moment something so utterly profound happened that people have been talking about it for over two thousand years. And it is in this moment of calling the disciples that we enter the story today. It is where our longing intersects with Jesus ministry and where the awakening of Philip and Nathanael and all the rest carries in it the stirrings of and hunger for our awakening too.
So let’s step into this moment in the Gospel this morning and listen for what we find there.
The first thing that strikes me in the Scripture this morning is the repetition of the verb “to find.” Jesus comes over the crest of the hill that day and he finds Philip. Then Philip then finds Nathanael and then Philip tells Nathanael that they had found Jesus who it seems Moses and the prophets too had found. That is a lot of finding.
So what is it about finding and being found? Finding and being found infers, of course, that one had been lost or that had lost something terribly important. I remember Sharon Thornton, one of my professors at ANTS said once that “we are a displaced people trying desperately to find our way home.” Losing or being lost and the anxiety around it describes a state of being that I think characterizes most of our lives these days.
And not just these days, but in Jesus day as well, for Philip is so moved with having been found by Jesus that has goes out to find his friend Nathanael so that he too can share in what it is to be found.
Waking up to faith, therefore, is saying yes to finding and being found. To seeking out and to being sought.
Do you have our eye out for those who may be lost? It can be as simple and as profound as saying “I really care about you and have noticed that you seem rather sad lately. Are you OK?”
This came home to me this week. On Wednesday the Newton Interfaith Clergy Association hosted a training in suicide prevention for clergy across the city. After the two hour training a colleague of mine came up to me and said “I just want you to know that I was holding you in prayer the whole time because I know that it must not have been easy for you to have been here.” Her words of courage and compassion realizing that the recent suicide of my step sister would make the training difficult for me, found me in a place of “lostness” that honestly, until she spoke those words I had not realized I had been in. But her love and solidarity found me and I was found.
But as then the scripture from John this morning moves from this repetition of “to find” to the verb “to see.” To see is not just to be noticed, to be glanced upon. It is to be honored with attention. To be seen is to be validated with recognition and knowledge of who one is. The reading today are paired with Psalm 139 which is my favorite and speaks of this wonderful sense of being known completely by God. “You knit me together in my mother’s womb, I praise you for fearfully and wonderfully made” the psalmist sings. To be seen is to be known and honored with attention and delight.
This is what happens to Nathanael. In the face of Nathanael’s skepticism, Philip invites Nathanael to “Come and see” and when seeing Jesus he then has this profound experience of being seen by Jesus. Jesus says “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” and Nathanael asks incredulously “Where did you get to know me?”
And then Jesus goes on to tell Nathanael that not only is he seen by Jesus but that through Jesus he will go on to see amazing things for himself.
I witnessed the power of being seen just the other day. I was at the supermarket and in the cereal aisle which I have to say is the worst aisle that could possibly be and if I had small kids again I would absolutely refuse to take them down it for the choices are just overwhelming. But there I was looking for some instant oatmeal, and there too was a valiant dad. And this dad got about half way down the cereal aisle, when his little three year old son started to melt down. He was a puddle on indecision and frustration. But then his dad squatted down so he could look at his son face to face and in the most calm and loving voice said, “sweetheart, I see you! I see you! It is OK.”
Isn’t that what we all we want? To be seen, known and affirmed.
It is when the disciples are found and seen that the desire to follow Jesus is awoken in them. And I have come to understand that this encounter with Jesus is very much for them kind of baptism. I had always wondered why all four Gospels lift up the moment of Jesus’ baptism but none of the Gospels talk about the baptism of the disciples. But I have come to understand that it is this moment when Jesus finds them and sees them as their baptism. Being so fully alive himself, Jesus is able to awaken in those around him a similar state of aliveness. I think this is what made Jesus so compelling. To look upon him and to be in his presence was to see and feel an awakening inside one’s self and lifted to fullness of life. To see his own divine infused humanity is to discover our own.
This quality of aliveness and the capacity to awaken in others their own aliveness is not just Jesus’ alone. It is a quality I have seen repeatedly in people who have heard and answered God’s call to awaken and who are living fully alive. I saw it just this week at the Waban Health Center in our 100 year old friend Maria. Maria is tiny in body, but mighty in spirit and radiates aliveness that always awakens new hope and new life in me when I am with her.
And I believe it was the same quality of aliveness within the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. that awoke the hearts of so many and set them off following his lead. For when we look upon Dr. King, not only do we admire a great man, but we awake to the greatness that is the presence of God that that dwells within in all of us, and we awake to the capacity that we all have to find and see others and to right the injustices of our day.
In very real ways, that is what I hope this community of faith can be for all of us. A community that calls the people to awaken. A place where we are enlivened and emboldened by the presence of the Spirit that moves among and through us. A place where we grow in fullness of life and are inspired go out and find and see others and invite them “to come and see” and share in the joy of being fully alive
So let this Lenten season that will soon be upon us be our time in the wilderness, our time of awakening. A time when we too finds strength, resolve and an alertness of mind that we had not known before; where we too sees who we are with new clarity and when we too embrace who we are called to be with new conviction. May it be so. Amen.