“Come and see”
“Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the LORD under Eli. The word of the LORD was rare in those days; visions were not widespread.
At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see, was lying down in his room; the lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the LORD, where the ark of God was. Then the LORD called, “Samuel! Samuel!” and he said, “Here I am!” and ran to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call; lie down again.” So he went and lay down. The LORD called again, “Samuel!” Samuel got up and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call, my son; lie down again.” Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD, and the word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him. The LORD called Samuel again, a third time. And he got up and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” Then Eli perceived that the LORD was calling the boy. Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down; and if he calls you, you shall say, `Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.
Now the LORD came and stood there, calling as before, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” [Then the LORD said to Samuel, “See, I am about to do something inIsraelthat will make both ears of anyone who hears of it tingle. On that day I will fulfill against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. For I have told him that I am about to punish his house forever, for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them. Therefore I swear to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be expiated by sacrifice or offering forever.”
Samuel lay there until morning; then he opened the doors of the house of the LORD. Samuel was afraid to tell the vision to Eli. But Eli called Samuel and said, “Samuel, my son.” He said, “Here I am.” Eli said, “What was it that he told you? Do not hide it from me. May God do so to you and more also, if you hide anything from me of all that he told you.” So Samuel told him everything and hid nothing from him. Then he said, “It is the LORD; let him do what seems good to him.”
As Samuel grew up, the LORD was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground. And allIsraelfrom Dan to Beer-sheba knew that Samuel was a trustworthy prophet of the LORD.”
A reading from the book of First Samuel, chapter 3 Verses 1-20
“All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are beneficial. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything. “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food,” and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is meant not for fornication but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God raised the Lord and will also raise us by his power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Should I therefore take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Do you not know that whoever is united to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For it is said, “The two shall be one flesh.” But anyone united to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Shun fornication! Every sin that a person commits is outside the body; but the fornicator sins against the body itself. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.”
A reading from the fist letter of Paul to the Corinthians, chapter 6, verses 12-20
“The next day Jesus decided to go toGalilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” Now Philip was fromBethsaida, the city ofAndrewand Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph fromNazareth.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out ofNazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.” And he said to him, “Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”
A reading from the Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ according to John, chapter 1, verses 43-51
From the perspective of the Christian Calendar, we have entered what is sometimes called “Ordinary Time.” The vestments and Altar hangings have resumed their “Ordinary” Green after our season of waiting for the appearance of Christ, the light of the world, to dispel our darkness. We have since witnessed the birth of a tiny babe inBethlehem, we have heard that this is none other than the Living Word of the Most High God and God’s beloved Son, and now, we meet face to face with Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, as he begins his active ministry.
Like the boy Samuel, in the Old Testament lesson, the disciples of John the Baptist needed someone to point them in the right direction ‑ someone to tell them who it was they were hearing and seeing. As Samuel had been following Eli, they had been following John the Baptist. Now, each of them, in their own time, are called to a personal relationship with someone they have not yet known. Eli told Samuel he was to answer, “Speak, LORD, your servant is listening.” Samuel, perhaps still unsure of who his nighttime visitor was, answers, “Speak, your servant is listening.”
In like fashion, the disciples of John followed Jesus at a distance, until he confronted them. When they asked him (as a rabbi) where he was staying, he answered “Come and see.” Slowly, slowly, the light dawns, and they see Jesus is the long awaited Messiah. Then, Jesus says, “Follow me.”
There is a certain level of uncertainty in every human encounter with the Living God. In the first place, the experience challenges our training, our expectations, and everything we’ve come to expect. Confronting us, face to face, is something new and extraordinary, and we are ill prepared for it.
The moment captures us, as an unknown 14th century mystic described it, in “The Cloud of Unknowing,” in which “the soul is ‘oned’ with God.” This is the same as what Paul was speaking of, in his Epistle to the Corinthians, when he talked of being united with Christ.
Great simplicity characterizes this doctrine of the soul’s being “oned”. There is but one central necessity: the perfect and passionate setting of the will upon the Divine, so that it is “thy love and thy meaning, the choice and point of your heart.” Not by deliberate ascetic practices, not by refusal of the world, not by intellectual striving, but by actively loving and choosing, by that which a psychologist has called “the synthesis of love and will” does the human spirit achieve its goal. “For silence is not God,” says the author of ‘The Cloud of Unknowing’ “nor speaking is not God; fasting is not God, nor eating is not God; loneliness is not God, nor company is not God; nor yet any of all the other two contraries. God is hid between them, and may not be found by any work of the soul, but only by love of the heart. God may not be known by reason, may not be gotten by thought, nor concluded by understanding; but God may be loved and chosen with the true lovely will of your heart.
There is a story about a Zen Master doing laundry in a river, approached by a ‘wanna‑be disciple,’ asking, “What is the true meaning of life?” The Master immediately throttles the questioner, and plunges him beneath the water, holding him there until he loses all strength from thrashing, finally lifting him up, gasping for breath.
“When you desire the answer to that question as much as you desired air just a moment ago, then you can become my student.”
To what extent would you say that we, as Christians, hunger and thirst for an encounter with the divine in our own age? Can we honestly describe our present state as one in which the invitations, “Come and see,” and “Follow me,” are words enough to make us drop everything, and seek out the Lord Jesus Christ, to become disciples ‑ to say, “Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening?” To what extent are we truly listening, with the whole of our love and our will, in order for God’s will to prevail in our midst?
Sometimes, like Samuel, we are far more comfortable serving the temple and its practices than we are in listening for the voice of God. In the service of the temple, we can keep comfortable routines. We can rely on our own past and our own experience; we can both know what needs to be done and how it’s supposed to be done; we need never be at a loss so long as the only questions we allow to confront us are those we have a ready answer for.
But the lessons appointed for today remind us that regardless of how good a well done our temple service may be, God has not baptized us in the Holy Spirit just so we can remember when the vestments and Altar hangings should be white, green, blue, purple or red, what the order of service should be, how to maintain a lovely building.
God has baptized us in the Holy Spirit so that our lives can become a constant dialogue with a Living God as servants, yes, but more than servants, as friends, and even more than friends, as loving children, uniting the wholeness of our love and will to God’s will and purpose. Each day should be an encounter with God’s invitation to, “Come and see.” Each moment should be a journey in response to Christ’s call to, “Follow me.”
We are not created to live our lives speaking only to ourselves, or our core group of friends, or those we agree with, obeying only some vague little voice within ourselves. We are created to be addressed, to listen to the voice of God summoning us, calling us, to live in love with God and one another. This is an impossible journey without being teachable, ‑ open, and listening to God and to one another, united in love and by will ‑ which is to say, love is not a sentiment, but an ardent act of will in which we love others in response to Christ’s profound love for us ‑ for nothing else has meaning!
Annie Dillard, a Presbyterian, says in her book, “Teaching a Stone to Talk” that “On the whole, I do not find Christians, outside of the catacombs, sufficiently sensible of conditions. Does anyone have the foggiest idea of what sort of power we so blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? The churches are people on the floor playing with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet gloves to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews. For the sleeping god may wake someday and take offense, or the waking god may draw us out to where we can never return.”
Do we dare hunger and thirst for a power that is able to draw us out to a place from where we can never return? What a wonderful description that is of God’s action in the Exodus, the foundational story ofIsrael. What a wonderful description of Christ’s action in the calling of his disciples.
“Rabbi, where are you staying?”
“Come and see. Follow me.”
Here begins a journey that none of us are comfortable with, myself included ‑ the journey of discipleship that leaves houses and fields, boats and nets, and friends and family behind to be ‘oned’ with Christ on the cross.
It doesn’t seem quite fair that we have only five short weeks before Lent assumes the stage of worship. We have only just met this Jesus, this Messiah, and in a few short months, we will be witnesses to his crucifixion. Well, it’s not fair, any more than it was fair that the disciples, having found what they had been seeking, having enjoyed a relationship with Christ, should have him taken from them in three short years. In his death, they faced their own failures. They abandoned him. They denied him. They were astonished to discover that even his body had been taken from them. But then, here he stands in their midst, despite their failures and denials, saying, “Come and see. Follow me.”
The relationship continued. They gave themselves to prayer, and study, and fellowship. The entire book, “The Acts of the Apostles,” is a witness of an ongoing relationship as they wrestled with what it all meant, and what they should be doing. Christ did not leave them as orphans. His words did not fall to the ground. The Spirit of God led them, instructed them, guided them, and they listened. They were teachable. They were open. They loved one another, and they turned the world upside down with their testimony.
The relationship continues. Christ still leads those who will follow, those who will surrender their time to prayer, their hearts to study, and their will to God, drawing them out into a place from where they can never return.