Trinity United Church
2nd Sunday After Epiphany
January 17, 2021
“Connection not Perfection”
Acknowledgement of Territory
We humbly acknowledge that even as we gather digitally, we gather and live and work bon the unceded territory of the Coast Salish People, Trinity United Church rests on the unceded territory of the Kwikwitlem First Nations.
Call to Worship
We have come to listen to our God
With our ears
With our hearts
With our minds
With our whole being
We have come to listen to our God.
Speak, Lord, your children are listening.
Prayer of Approach:
Holy One, you call us together this day, yearning for each of us and for all people, to hear and be blessed.
Open our ears to hear;
open our hearts to love;
open our minds to ponder;
open our hands to serve.
Holy One, as you call us together to hear and be blessed, we respond:
“Speak, Lord, your children are listening.”
Hymn “Will You Come and Follow Me” VU 567
CLICK HERE for video.
Prayer of Reconciliation and Words of Assurance
Holy One, you have searched us and known us.
You know when we sit and when we rise.
You discern our thoughts from afar.
You search out our path.
You are acquainted with all our ways.
Our ways meander into paths you would not have us travel.
Failing to heed the signs of your guidance, we get lost.
We fail to trust your promise of abundance.
We become self-interested and fearful.
We live in doubt and anxiety, suspicion and deceit.
We live with resentment in our hearts.
Though we expect to be forgiven, we are slow to offer forgiveness to those who have hurt us, or those we love.
But your Kingdom comes.
You call us to change our ways.
You bid us to follow you once again and to proclaim the good news.
Help us to let go of the past, and to embrace your loving future.
In the name of the one who calls, we pray. Amen.
Where can we go from God’s spirit?
Where can we flee from God’s presence?
God is there. God is here. God is everywhere.
God hems us in and lays a loving hand upon us, bringing comfort and joy.
Be at peace, we are forgiven and made new.
Thanks be to God!
WE HEAR THE WORD
Telling our Ancient Story: "Speak Lord. Your servant is Listening"
CLICK HERE for video.
Hymn “I the Lord of Sea and Sky” VU 509
CLICK HERE for video.
The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.”
44Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45Philip 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 from Nazareth.”
46Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”
Philip said to him, “Come and see.”
47When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!”
48Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” 49Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”
50Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.”
51And 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.”
This is the witness of the early church.
Thanks be to God.
Message: CLICK HERE for video.
Holy One, you call us by name.
In this time of reflection,
Open our hearts to hear that call,
Strengthen our hearts to follow.
In the name of the one who is the light in the darkness,
Both stories we heard today are referred to as "call narratives."
Call Narratives are stories that involve a judge, prophet, or disciple being called by God or Jesus.
In the first story we hear of the little boy Samuel. He serves Eli in the Temple and before bed one night, hears his name being called. He thinks it is Eli calling him, so he rushes into Eli and Eli sends him back to bed. This happens three times before Eli discerns that it must be God calling him, so Eli, the elder instructs the boy how to respond. Samuel returns to the room with the Ark, he hears the voice again and replies, "Speak, Lord, your servant is listening."
What Samuel hears from God is horrible news. Eli's sons have been bad priests, making themselves rich on the sacrifices to the Temple. And so God is going to punish Eli for turning a blind eye, and his house, his children, for their inequity. It will be an end to Eli's authority.
The second story we hear about the call of Nathanael is out of context, it has been abbreviated.
The Gospel of John begins with the prologue: "In the beginning was the word…" Then moves directly to John the Baptizer witnessing to who Jesus is. So as in the story about the boy Samuel, we have an Elder, John, identifying the Word of God (Jesus). Like Eli instructing Samuel, John tells his followers to go after Jesus, the Lamb of God. Andrew then fetches his brother Peter to also follow Jesus. Phillip, is from the same city as Andrew and Peter. So we are given to understand that when Jesus calls on Phillip, Phillip has already heard some things and now is hearing for himself. And Phillip fetches Nathanael.
In these two call sequences we see the importance of Elders, who themselves do not hear the call. But they are able to instruct the next generation on how to identify the call and what to do once they've heard it.
How do we identify the call?
How do we respond?
Let's work with the first question: How do we identify the call?
In the story of Samuel, God's call is persistent. Again and again, Samuel hears the voice until he responds properly. I wonder if that means when something is nagging at us, we should probably attend to it. You know that I just completed the Pacific Jubilee Program in spiritual accompaniment. The application for the PJP had been on the corner of my desk of 20 years. The application kept resurfacing whenever I was looking for work, or whenever I was experiencing a lot of grief, or doing a lot of personal soul searching, there was the application. So I finally spent the money and did the program because it just kept coming back to me. God's call can be persistent.
In each instance in the two stories, names are important. Each follower is called by name. In the Gospel, Jesus doesn't just know names, but knows little details about the lives of the would be disciples. God's call is deeply personal and specific. In Seminary we used to joke about the person on the stage pointing out to the audience and saying, "You." and everyone in the audience turns around to see to whom the speaker is speaking. We can't do that when it is God or Jesus calling us. When God is talking to us there is no doubt about to whom God is speaking.
My personal experience informs me that this is often also an "Oh crap!" moment. "Oh… that's me." "That's my mess." "That's my job." "That's my story."
It would be my hope, that every once in a while, as I'm "blah, blah, blahing" away, you experience an, "Oh. That's my story." "I know exactly what that is like." "I get that. That is so true." I hope that happens. I can't control that, of course, because when you feel that, it isn't just me speaking anymore, but the holy in me has touched the holy in you. Thanks be to God!
So that's two qualities by which we can identify God's call: God's call is persistent; and God's call is personal and specific.
One more quality I would draw from these two stories is that in hearing God's call, we will likely hear something we don't want to hear, or something we don't expect.
Samuel hears and is expected to deliver horrible news about his beloved teacher Eli. Unlike certain political leaders in the south, Eli is exceptionally gracious about receiving the news about the end of his authority, because he is at least self-aware enough to know it is the truth.
Andrew, and Peter, and Phillip and Nathanael on the other hand, have no idea what they are in for. With a little help from John, they have heard the call and they have responded, but they have no idea what is to come. In fact, Jesus says, you think the fact that I could identify you is reason to follow me, well just you wait, "you will see heaven open and angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man!"
They have no idea what they've gotten themselves into!
Shakespeare said, "There is more in heaven and hell that is spoke of in your philosophy."
My personal experience in hearing and responding to God's call is that the path will be both, worse than you're anticipating, and better than you are anticipating. The darkness that we will encounter on the road with Christ is so much darker than we can possibly anticipate. Good Friday is bleak. But the resurrection is also well beyond what we can readily imagine.
I would argue that I have no idea what the eternal embrace of God is like, but I have had glimpses and I know it is worth it. And I know that you too have had glimpses of God's eternal embrace and you too know that whatever God asks of us, it is worth it.
So from our stories today, we've learned three things about God's call: God's call is persistent; God's call is deeply personal; and God's call is unexpected, both worse and better than we could anticipate.
As we journey through a very dark passage in western history, in world history: illness, injustice, insurrection and chaos, we follow the one who calls us. We obey the one who calls us. We seek justice, love kindness and walk humbly. And we will know God's eternal embrace.
As we walk through great darkness,
may our hearts be open to God's call,
open to following Christ's way,
and open to receiving God's eternal embrace.
The Great Thanksgiving
God has searched us and known us
God knows when we sit down and when we rise up
God discerns our thoughts from afar.
God searches out our path and our lying down,
God is acquainted with all our ways.
Even before a word is on our tongues, God knows it completely
God hems us in, behind and before, laying his hand upon us.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for us;
it is so high, we cannot attain it.
It was God who formed our inward parts;
God knit us together in our mothers’ womb.
We praise God, for we are fearfully and wonderfully made
Wonderful are God’s works; that we know very well!
And so we raise our voices with the saints and those around the world who sing:
“Holy, Holy, Holy Lord,
God of power and might;
Heaven and earth are full of your glory,
Hosanna in the highest!
Blessed is the one who comes in your name,
Hosanna in the highest!”
We remember the one who called himself the Light of the World. He came to remind us of God our loving creator who made each of our intricate parts. He came to teach us of our connection to each created thing. He came to call us back to lives of love and justice for all God’s people. His life and his words were about dignity, humility, service and gratitude.
I invite you to hold up your bread.
remember when he was gathered on a hillside with thousands of followers, he did not ponder the impossibility of feeding so many with so little. He simply took the bread, gave thanks for it, broke it and shared it. And the people were satisfied with plenty remaining.
I invite you to hold up your juice or wine.
We remember how on the night he was arrested he gathered with his friends, put a towel around his waist and poured out water into a basin to wash his disciples’ feet, and said, “Unless I wash your feet you can have no part of me.” And then, “I have set you an example that you also should do as I have done to you.”
We remember our part in God’s story, and offer ourselves up for service.
As we remember, we proclaim the mystery of our faith:
Christ has Died;
Christ is Risen;
Christ will come again!
I invite you to hold your hands over the bread and juice:
Let us pray:
oly God, through these gifts of bread and juice, and our actions today, continue to mold and shape us into your loving image. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.
Knowledge of God is too wonderful for us,
too high for us to attain.
Wonderful are your works, O God;
that we know very well!
And the people said: “Amen!”
The Disciples’ Prayer
“Heavenly Mother, Heavenly Father"
CLICK HERE for video.
The bread of new life.
The cup of promise.
Prayer after communion:
God of calling, we give you thanks for your presence made manifest in this feast.
May these gifts of bread and juice so nourish us that we may be light
in the world, bringing peace, seeking justice, loving kindness and
walking humbly in your way.
In the name of the one you call your beloved we pray. Amen.
WE GO FORTH
Hymn: “Jesus Christ is Waiting” VU 117
CLICK HERE for video.
Commissioning and Benediction