Be a Come and See People

Be a Come and See People

Homily for the Second Sunday in Epiphany

January 14, 2024

Be a Come and See People

Homily for Sunday, January 14, 2024

Epiphany II

1 Samuel 3:1-10(11-20)

John 1:43-51


Let the words of my lips and the meditations of my heart be acceptable to you O’ God.

Please be seated.


One day a caterpillar crawls along the wooden beams of my front porch. Its little legs are busy preparing. Back and forth it scurries munching on the autumn leaves. It slows as it begins to form a silk cocoon around itself. The caterpillar is still not yet a butterfly.Hidden under the branches of the shrubs, its limbs and tissues begin a new process. There it waits. Motionless it sways in the breeze, as if time has stood still for the little creature inside. Suddenly without warning the crystallized cocoon breaks open. Emerging as a transformed caterpillar, it is now a butterfly. It is a transformation that calls this little creature out of its shell to fly to new ground.

Caterpillars change into butterflies when they least expect it. Like butterflies, we too are creatures of the God of surprises. Our readings for this week remind us God’s call to each of us comes when we least expect it. Eli and Samuel lived during the beginning of Israel’s nationhood experiencing tumultuous leadership under judges. Samuel’s mother Hannah had been praying for a child who she promised would be dedicated to the Lord. This is where we find Samuel today; for a local priest Eli has taken Samuel under his wing in the temple. Eli’s sons unlike Samuel chose to act in greed over serving the Lord. Eli was disappointed in their actions, having taken his family into the promised land but delighted in Samuel’s dedication.Therefore, the Word of God was rare due to the hardened hearts of those living there. And yet, it is here God’s call comes through this little boy.Expectations were shattered as Samuel himself was confused by what he heard. He got up and went to Eli, assuming it was his mentor speaking. In Eli’s wisdom,he tells the boy to be curious about the voice, rather than assuming it was something it was not. Samuel had to first be open to the Lord’s voice appearing in strange ways. It is only once he set down expectations that Samuel is able to hear God.

Again, in the Gospel we hear the echoes of expectations, and questioning towards where God may show up. The Gospel writer reminds us of the grand expectations many people had for God’s Messiah. Surely they thought he would appear near Jerusalem, a site of political and religious authority, and be among the great leaders of society.Imagine the shock of those in Galilee when they find the Messiah walking alongside them on the dusty roads. God is not confined by our limiting expectations. Like Philip’s proclamation we are to come and see. If I was creating an elevator pitch for Jesus’s discipleship, I may have said well Jesus knows a lot about the Bible, or there is just something about this man, or I’ve seen Jesus hanging out at the market with some other successful people. Yet that is not how Philip answers Nathanial’s question. Philip simply says “Come and see,” for yourself.

This leads me to wonder what it means to be called by God? Both Samuel, Philip and Nathaniel were each called into God’s ministry through unique and surprising ways. Samuel at first does not recognize God’s voice as he did not know God personally yet. Rather it was his mother, Hannah, and Eli who helped Samuel understand more about God. For many of us it is the example of our parents, family members, friends and religious leaders who shepherd us into a place where we are ready to hear God’s call and encounter transformation. I think of some of the many people who shaped my faith journey,and all have encouraged me to imagine God as something more than I know now. It is because of them that I did not believe my age precluded myself from an encounter with God. However old Samuel was, God spoke to him. I recall the words in a familiar worship song “Here I Am.” The words parallel the story of Samuel as well as mine and I’m sure some of yours too.

Here I am, Lord
Is it I, Lord?
I have heard You calling in the night
I will go, Lord
If You lead me
I will hold Your people in my heart

These are some of the words I heard the Sunday I was confirmed way back in ninth grade. That day I was saying yes to an uncertain faith journey, and an unknown yes to a vocational calling. For it is this song that has been on my heart these past few years as I lean more into what it means to be called by God in this time to do vocational ministry and live in the world as a beloved child of God. The words suggest it is not that God does not know where we are, but it reminds us we are called by God in our own ways. Being led by God we are all uniquely invited to answer the voice of God. What will our response be to the invitation when it finds us?

Just as the Lord appeared uniquely to Samuel,Jesus called Nathaniel to follow him simply, and quietly, as he could hear it best. Nathaniel lived in Galilee, which was a largely Jewish population. Beyond that we don’t know much about Nathaniel. He is not spoken much outside of this passage. The silence invites us to imagine why this moment left such a mark on Nathaniel. Could it be because he recognized the call was from God or more simply because he was seen by God and invited to do life with Jesus?

Come and see are words of invitation,words of invitation to live deeper into transformation. Following God is not passive, but active. These readings appear in the Second Sunday after Epiphany. It calls us to consider what does it mean to listen for God’s voice in our world today. Samuel was called in a particular time and in a particular way just as Nathaniel was. Both lived into narratives that surprised them. Each of them has a transformed view of their faith. For Nathaniel, it was something about been seen by Jesus under the fig tree that radically changed his view. Something shifted.

And something shifts for us too. We are a come and see people, called to lived deeper into Epiphany. The call Jesus offers is not to mission. Nathaniel and Philip were not called to be fishers of people in this passage, they were called to an epiphany. “Follow me and you will see God.” And that is what will transform. The invitation offered to them and us is into an epiphany that is a journey. Our experience of epiphany this year is transforming us. Our liturgical cycles change us as we encounter them again and again each year. As we return to epiphany we are once again met with Jesus’s invitation to come and see. To a time and moment of transformation.

The Gospel passage speaks on the time after Jesus was baptized but before Jesus goes and teaches or does miracles. On the day previous to this text, Andrew and Peter, both disciples of John the Baptist, have become Jesus’ disciples. Tomorrow in narrative time, the disciples will be at a wedding in Cana in Galilee, where they will witness the first miracle. But today Jesus has done nothing to warrant Philip and Nathaniel’s discipleship. The very personality of Jesus is such that without evidence want to follow him. Jesus decided to go to Galilee, not to perform signs as the Messiah but to transform people’s lives.

All our readings for today are naming stories, calling stories, and are connected to our relationship of knowing Jesus. Lets be a come and see people. How? Phillip came to Jesus as a result of the direct call. Some of us may have been lifetime believers. But let’s not forget about Nathaniel who came to Jesus by a personal encounter because of Philip. Philip’s testimony declares Jesus as Messiah to his friends like Nathaniel. Nathaniel’s response, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Even to those who doubt, we as followers of Jesus should respond with an invitation for people to step into their own encounter, not prove ourselves with theological rules. Invite them. Instead of arguing Philip simply invited him to meet Jesus for himself.  People meet Jesus, and they are changed. Whatever their deepest need is, Jesus meets it. Then they tell others what happened. It’s always person-to-person. Come and see, Jesus says. Come and be seen.



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