Jan 17, 2015

Sunday: "Did we forget?"

1 Sam 3: 3b-10, 19
1 Cor 6: 13c-15a, 17-20
Jn 1: 35-42

There’s a story that’s told about an only child, a 3 year-old girl, whose mother was pregnant again. The girl couldn’t wait until the baby was born.  Soon after her parents brought a baby boy home from the hospital when she excitedly made a request:  Could she be alone with her new brother in his room all by herself for just a few minutes?

Well, as any parent, her mom and dad were a bit uneasy but knew they had installed an intercom system near the child’s crib so they reluctantly granted her wish.  Once their daughter went into the baby’s room and shut the door they raced to listen to the conversation and what she would do. What they heard was their 3 year old daughter whisper to her little brother: “Tell me about God – I’ve almost forgotten.”

While that story may make us smile it also uncovers a great truth to which we can all relate.  When we are little children any talk about God from our parents is readily accepted.  We believe that we came from God and that Jesus loves us. The simple faith of a child is beautiful.

Yet, as we mature and get on with the more complex matters of life and our lives become more filled with responsibilities and activities, any conscious thinking of God can sadly become more of an afterthought.  While we may not deliberately deny God’s existence, we give him little attention. We may remember God in times of desperation but we claim that we are too busy to spend much time with him.  I remember a movie line in which one of the characters was heard to say: “I don’t pray - I work.”  That may be more common than we are willing to admit. Why do we forget about God or end up with a prayer life that is lacking?  Maybe our readings today provide some clue. 

Our first reading from Samuel is somewhat strange if the events are accurate.  I’ve always wondered when hearing this story, how could Samuel possibly have gone to sleep three times on command?  Wake up and go to sleep just like that? 

Clearly the story is about the voice of God which can be heard only at times that we are silent and away from distractions and responsibilities.  Three times God calls Samuel and only after the third time does Eli recognize that Samuel is being called by God and his response should not be, “Don’t bother me, I’m trying to sleep here – again.”  Rather, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” Once Samuel recognizes who is calling to him, he submits in reverence.  When we remember God our lives fall into perspective. 

We look to the Gospel scene of the call of the first disciples.  John the Baptist clearly had followers and among them were those who became the first of Jesus’ disciples, later to be Apostles. 

The scene is inspiring as John points the way to Christ, for his baptismal ministry now must fade from the scene and defer to Jesus’ greater mission. John points to the “Lamb of God” and his disciples turn in pursuit of Jesus.  Andrew, after some time with Jesus, returns to his brother with the conviction, “We have found the Messiah” and Simon runs to wonder if this is true.  They all walk away from the familiar and safe and go off in hope of something new.

Yet, it’s more than just an interesting story.  The dialogue between Jesus and these men is revealing.  “What are you looking for?” Jesus inquires of these early disciples of the Baptist.

“Rabbi, where do you stay?” they respond.  It’s far more than just, where do you hang out? Jesus initial question is rich with a greater sense.  “What are you looking for?” is really the most important question in any of our lives.  It’s not about what we want to be when we grow up or what sort of job or career we may be seeking.  It’s more of a vocational question about the quality and direction of our life.  Once they knew Jesus more deeply did they come to understand that following him will mean an entirely new way of life and the choice to reject or embrace his teaching, along with the cost they will pay for their loyalty to him.

Jesus’ further response deepens the sense of discipleship:  “Come and you will see.” Looking from our perspective we may want to say, “Boy, if they only knew what they are getting in to.”

Yet, Jesus’ statement is more of an invitation: Come to find a new way of life; a new hope for the world of which you will be the great missionaries.  It’s all very much about the qualities of being open to God in our life and not to forget the mission we are privileged to share in – that of our Christian way of life. 

Like Samuel we are reminded to listen carefully and to pay attention to how and where God moves in our lives.  At times it may be obvious but at others not so.  Consider the events of the week, or the people we’ve encountered, or the things someone may have said to us or some insight during prayer.   

Like the disciples of Jesus, we may be seeking for him but are unclear about the direction we should go.  We may find ourselves confronted with family or marriage problems, with sickness and greater health issues, with financial difficulties or with sin that we find hard to resist. 

Where do we go with such things?  Jesus’ invitation to “Come and you will see” is spoken to us as well.  To embrace the gospel of Christ is to allow our lives to be formed in a new direction.  The positive nature of Christianity is often not emphasized. There is a reason why Pope Francis titled his first formal letter to the world, “The Joy of the Gospel.”

Jesus came to bring us the “good” news of God’s mercy and love.  We are called to equality of persons and the inclusive nature of Christianity in general reminds us that everyone is welcome to seek the Lord and live according to the way he proposes for us.   

So, this weekend’s readings are about the desire of God to welcome us to his Son.  And we know that our gathering at the Eucharist is not only a time to catch up with those parishioners and the Pastor whom we haven’t seen since last week but a time to encounter through the eyes of faith, this living Christ who is constantly inviting us to, “Come and see” how we can transform the world about us through his grace.

Almighty ever-living God,
who govern all things
both in heaven and on earth,
mercifully hear the pleading of your people
and bestow your peace on our times.

(Collect of Sunday)