Second Sunday After The Epiphany, Year B

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Title Sermon Date Liturgical Scripture
Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year B March 18, 2012 Sermon, Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year B Numbers 21:4-9, Ephesians 2:1-10, John 3:14-21
Third Sunday in Lent, Year B March 11, 2012 Third Sunday in Lent, Year B Exodus 20:1-17; Psalm 19; 1 Corinthians 1:18-25; John 2:13-22
Second Sunday in Lent, Year B March 4, 2012 Second Sunday in Lent, Year B Mark 8:31-38
Sermon, First Sunday in Lent, Year B February 26, 2012 First Sunday in Lent, Year B Genesis 9:8-17, I Peter 3:18-22, Mark 1: 9-15
Ash Wednesday Service, Feb 22, 2012 February 22, 2012 Ash Wednesday Joel 2:1-2, 12-17
Last Sunday After Epiphany, Year B February 19, 2012 Last Sunday after Epiphany 2 Kings 2:1-12, Psalm 50:1-6, 2 Corinthians 4:3-6, Mark 9:2-9
Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B February 12, 2012 Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, Mark 1: 40-45
Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B February 5, 2012 Fifth Sunday after Epiphany, Year B Isaiah 40:21-31, Mark 1:29-39
Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B January 29, 2012 Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B I Corinthians 8:1-13; Mark 1:21-28
Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B January 22, 2012 Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B Mark 1:14-20
Second Sunday After The Epiphany, Year B January 15, 2012 Second Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B 1 Samuel 3:1-20; Psalm 139: 1-5, 12-17; John 1:43-51
First Sunday After The Epiphany, Year B January 8, 2012 First Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B Mark 1:4-11
Sermon on Joy, Epiphany, 2012 January 6, 2012 Epiphany Matthew 2:1-12
Christmas Day, Dec. 25, 2011 December 25, 2011 Christmas Day, 2012 Isaiah 9:2-7; Luke 2:1-20
Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, 2011 December 24, 2011 The Eve of the Nativity of our Lord Luke 2:1-20

 

Second Sunday After The Epiphany, Year B

Sermon Date:January 15, 2012

Scripture: 1 Samuel 3:1-20; Psalm 139: 1-5, 12-17; John 1:43-51

Liturgy Calendar: Second Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B


The voice of God, rare in the days of Samuel and Eli, is no longer rare.

God is constantly calling us in ways unique to each and every one of us. 

For instance, some of those in our midst have heard the voice of God, and with their permission I briefly share their stories of hearing this voice.

Marilyn Newman was worshipping in church one day, and during the service she heard a loud voice.  “You are going to go,” the voice said.

Marilyn looked around, waiting to see who else had heard this voice, but the worship service continued, and she seemed to be the only one who had heard the voice.

Marilyn believed that this was God, speaking to her, but she had questions.

Where was she supposed to go? 

When the message became clear, that Marilyn was to take part in a jail ministry that was forming, she resisted.  No, God, I don’t want to do that.

But God kept pressing her behind, and before, as the Psalmist wrote.

God kept laying hands on Marilyn, and a year later, she did something she had believed to be impossible, because she was so scared. 

She took part in a very meaningful jail ministry that changed her life as well as the lives of the prisoners that the group served.

My own call story is similar.  At Shrine Mont, early one morning on a beautiful day, I hiked up to the cross, and in the solitude of that sacred place, on that mountain, staring down the valley, I heard God’s  voice—and that voice was sheer silence. 

“You are going to be a priest.”

Like Marilyn, I had questions.   This seemed to be an impossible plan, but God kept pressing me before and behind and laying hands on me until I finally did become a priest, about twenty years later.

Laura Long, age five, playing on the banks of the Rappahannock, heard the voice. 

“You are going to be a star.”

Laura is in the process of living into what God has called her to do.

Cleo Coleman, also five years old, playing near her grandmother’s well—and as she makes mud pies for her dolls, she hears the voice.  “You are going to remember and  to restore.”

No one is there, so Cleo runs inside and finds her grandmother, who is rolling out dough in the kitchen.

“Little Grandmother, someone just spoke to me, but no one is there.”

“What did the voice say, child?”

“The voice said that I am going to remember and to restore.”

And her grandmother said, “Child, that is the voice of the Lord, calling you and telling you what you are going to be doing in this life.”

And then she went back to rolling her dough.

God’s voice calling us is not always audible, because God is constantly speaking to each one of us in ways unique to us in the particular time of life in which we find ourselves.  God is constantly pressing on each one of us behind and before, laying hands on all of us no matter how old or how young we are.   

I have certainly felt God speaking to me through what I’d call being nudged by someone else, or by an idea that just won’t go away. 

For instance, maybe you have a job you love.  Someone pushes you to change jobs, to take on something new, and that person won’t leave you alone until you finally look into this new opportunity. 

Maybe God is speaking to you through a person who wants to know you better, or maybe God is calling you to leave a place that is full of danger for you and to seek a new life, or to leave a place of peace and comfort for a challenging new ministry. 

I met many people in Hospice who knew that they were called by God to embrace the last part of their lives with strength and courage, and they proved to be witnesses of God’s love and compassion and faithfulness to all of those blessed enough to know them in their last days. 

But the big question about all of this is, and it’s the question Samuel had…

How do we know that these voices we hear and the nudgings   we experience are from God?  How do we know who is calling us?

The passages today shed some light on this question.

Two things stand out for me as being very important.

And the first thing is this—

Community discernment and community support are essential when we are trying to discern whether or not God is speaking to us and pointing us in a particular direction.

In the scriptures today, Samuel needed Eli to help him figure out who the voice was from.

And in the first chapter of the gospel according to John, in the passage preceding the one we heard today, John the Baptist points out Jesus to his disciples, and says, “Look, here is the Lamb of God.”

And so based on the John’s testimony, Andrew followed Jesus, and then told Peter, and then Jesus calls Philip, who tells Nathanael.  It’s all about community discernment—people helping one another figure out who is calling them to follow, and then supporting one another as they follow Jesus. 

Community discernment, and community support. 

Even if we hear the voice in solitude, ultimately the message gets confirmed by other Christians, if this voice speaking to you really  is from God. 

For instance, Marilyn worked with a group of Christians who trained her and went with her in what God was calling her to do.

My own call to the priesthood, which I heard in solitude, had to be confirmed, over and over and over, by various parts of the Christian community, first of all by Charles, my parish priest, who heard my story and gave me the courage to explore what the voice might have meant.  Over time, my family, various committees, commissions, three congregations, the faculty of VTS, the standing committee of the Diocese, and the bishop all had to discern what this voice had meant when it spoke to me, and to confirm what I had heard.    You all confirmed my call by taking a chance on me and letting me come here to be your deacon and then your priest. 

Laura has found a community of other Christians in Los Angeles who  are helping her define what it means to be a Christian actress in Hollywood, and who support her in that call.  Some of them are her mentors. 

Cleo has spent a lifetime remembering and restoring in the context of her faith, with the ongoing discernment and support of  Christians around her.

And on a church polity note, this is why we Episcopalians are part of a larger body of Christ—why we have a Diocese.  Trying to discern God’s will in community ultimately leads to more creativity and God loose in the world than being lots of little churches each doing their own thing.  And the ways in which we support one another through prayer and material aid have been evident for us this year—consider the earthquake.  $1000 from Region 1, $250 from our sister church, St Asaph’s in Bowling Green, the possibility of more money coming from a grant proposal that the Diocese is putting together—we are so blessed to be in this larger community that ultimately spans the globe as the Anglican Communion. 

The second thing that helps us know whether or not God is speaking to us is the nature of what we’re being called to do.  When God calls us,  God challenges us to do thingsthat we would not have dreamed possible in our wildest imaginations. 

And the challenge, if it is truly  from God, is something that will make the world a better place, that is, something that provides a witness to all of those around us that the kingdom of God is near, as Jesus likes to proclaim.

Because we are celebrating his birthday this week, I’ll use Martin Luther King as an example of what I’m talking about.  This man had everything going for him.  At a young age, he was already the pastor of a large church, with a congregation that revered him.  He could have spent his life preaching and teaching and being very comfortable doing God’s work

Except that God spoke to Martin Luther King in that metaphorical dream and called him through prayer to leave his life of comfort and to seek justice for his people and for us all in this nation.

We all know the words of his “I Have a Dream” speech, some of which are

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. 

I have a dream today!”

Martin Luther King, as so many others have, died young because he had the audacity to listen to God’s voice.

He heard Jesus saying, “Follow me!” and he followed. 

God’s challenging call took King into danger and eventually through the doorway of death,

But through his life and in his death, he was able, beyond what I expect must have been anyone’s wildest imagination at the time, to push and to inspire this nation to become a more just society.  And even though we have come so far, we still have far to go.  We still have work to do. 

We  hear these calls of God throughout our lives, at all ages,  in a variety of ways, and we Christians understand  and place these calls in the  context of who we Christians believe Jesus to be—our Lord and Savior.   Jesus is the very voice of God, the Word made flesh.

Jesus is our way to God, the ladder we climb, rung by rung, into God’s presence,  or to borrow that phrase from  Led Zeppelin,  Jesus is our stairway to heaven.  Jesus himself said, “Truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” 

I promise you that if you listen for God’s voice,  you will hear God calling you and giving  you a challenge to climb higher than you ever thought you could, just as Samuel’s first assignment from God was challenging–to share some really awful news with Eli—that Eli and his family had displeased God, and that they were going to be punished.  And Samuel was just a child, tasked with reporting this bad news.  No wonder Samuel was afraid to tell the vision to Eli—

The  disciples who followed Jesus were challenged over and over to change and enlarge their perception of who Jesus was.  Their Messiah was not, after all, the King of Israel, taking back their country from the Romans by force, but instead, their Messiah had come to cast out demons, to end injustice, to feed the hungry, to love us,  and to bring us peace.   Our Messiah expects us to do the same for one another.

So I challenge you during this season after Epiphany, to listen, to dream, to seek God’s call for you, to be intentional about turning to your fellow Christians so that they can help you discern God’s call in your life, so that they can support you.  I challenge you to follow Jesus up that stairway to heaven in prayer, because if you listen to his voice, you will given something to do that will bring us all closer to the kingdom of God as a reality here on earth.

 “Follow me, “Jesus said, and “lo, I am with you always, even to the ends of the earth, and beyond.”

Amen. 

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