Sunday 17th January - God's Call
May I speak in the name of God…
How did I know I wanted to be a priest is a common question that people often ask me?
I have to confess that my response to that question is that I didn’t want to be a priest at all.
If you ask most priests about being called to priesthood, we will normally say it was God who called us and we have simply responded. It sounds holy, almost pious to say this and it needs to be explored in a language that is not wrapped up in Christian jargon or terminology. But the subject of God’s call and our response to that calls rings out from our readings today, in both the Old Testament and the Gospel.
We see how wonderfully in the Old Testament account Samuel conversing with the Lord as he ministers to Eli at the place where the ark of the Lord is kept. This young boy, given by his parents in the service of Yahweh, is going about his normal life when the Lord calls him. In the same way, Jesus calls both Philip and Nathanael in their daily life to be his followers. Called and followed, seeking and finding are richly intertwined into these relationships between God and his children that we ignore at our peril.
We learn from both Samuel and from Nathanael that God not only speak to us in the ordinary and the everyday routines of life but that he speaks to the young, as well as the old.
What is particularly fascinating is that Samuel, while going about his normal routine, brushing his teeth and getting ready for bed, responded to Eli and not the Lord the first two times.
He answered the one who he thought was calling him. Nathanael in the same way, looked to Philip for clarity when he should have looked to Jesus Christ.
Often in our lives we get so caught up in the here and now and in what is going on around us that we fail to hear the voice of God which quietly speaks into our lives.
We look to each other for clarity, for purpose, for encouragement for guidance over our lives.
There is nothing wrong with this. Friends and family are a great source of comfort and guidance, especially at this difficult time. But we as Christians must be open to hearing the voice of God which can happen in the normal routine of life.
Look busy, Jesus is coming, is that famous quote that we often see in gift shops but the essence of what it is says really does ring true for many of us, particularly for us in the church.
Granted, this is less so the case at the moment as we continue through another lockdown but even now in this difficult situation we long to fill our lives with things to do to alleviate boredom and silence.
Not only does God speak to us regardless of age or situation but he speaks to us regardless of our spiritual prowess or might. Our Lord longs to have a deeply personal and intimate relationship with each of us. Regardless of whether we think we are worthy of such intimacy or not. That is the remarkable thing about the Christian faith. God calls people like Samuel, Philip and Nathanael, like you and like me into a deeper relationship with him in order to reveal something of himself not only to us, but to others as well. If God couldn’t work with humans at all because of our unworthiness then he wouldn’t have worked with anyone.But he did and he does.
Our scriptures are littered with stories of how God engaged with his children and God rarely asked them if they were worthy to hear the voice of God.
Jesus Christ didn’t ask Philip or Nathanael if they were worthy to converse with God, he just did it, he just asked ‘follow me’.
Brennan Manning wrote a great book called the ‘Ragamuffin Gospel’ in it he wrote:
“The child doesn’t have to struggle to get himself [or herself] in a good position for having a relationship with God; he doesn’t have to craft ingenious ways of explaining his position to Jesus; he doesn’t have to create a pretty face for himself; he doesn’t have to achieve any state of spiritual feeling or intellectual understanding or worthiness. All he [or she] has to do is accept the gift of the kingdom.”
As we journey on through these weeks and months of uncertainty and difficulty, where our routines have been thrown out of the window, be kind to yourself, be reminded that God calls each and every one of us in the uniqueness of our lives to follow him and to answer his call.
He calls us to a deeper understanding of what he desires for our lives, regardless of age, intellect or background.
May we each hold onto this story of Nathanael and Samuel this week ahead and be bold enough to follow where God leads and have the courage in our hearts to say ‘Speak Lord for your servant is listening.’