Sunday  17th January – 2nd Sunday of Epiphany 


The service is now live-streamed and can be found on the church Facebook page.

Collect

Almighty God,
in Christ you make all things new:
transform the poverty of our nature by the riches of your grace,
and in the renewal of our lives
make known your heavenly glory;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

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First Reading

1 Samuel 3.1-10

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.’

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 Gospel

John 1.43-51

The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee.  He found Philip and said to him, ‘Follow me.’  Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and 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 from Nazareth.’  Nathanael said to him, ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’  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 come 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.’

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 Post Communion Prayer

God of glory,
you nourish us with your Word
who is the bread of life:
fill us with your Holy Spirit
that through us the light of your glory
may shine in all the world.
We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.

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Sermon – Epiphany 2, The Calling of Samuel

Do you remember when you first felt called to follow Jesus?  I was a little girl when I made my first commitment to follow Jesus and I don’t remember how I first encountered him, but he must have made an impression somehow in order for me to make a commitment to follow him.  I have had many encounters with God since that first commitment, which have encouraged and strengthened my faith and got me through the ups and downs of life.  Some of you may remember that first call on your heart and some of you, like me, may not.  For some, it may have been a clear message spoken to you by God himself in an audible voice, or through reading a passage in the Bible, or through someone telling you about Jesus.  It doesn’t matter how you were called.  The important thing is that you responded and said yes.

In this morning’s reading from 1 Samuel, we read about Samuel’s call and in our Gospel reading from John 1, we read of Jesus calling Philip and Nathanael to follow him.  Both these callings were made in person.  For Samuel, God stood there with him.  For Philip and Nathanael, Jesus called them to him personally.

We are told in 1 Samuel that “in those days, the word of God was rare” (or precious) and there were not many visions.  This wasn’t because God wasn’t speaking, but because the people had stopped listening.  Eli, who was Samuel’s mentor and teacher, was a priest.  Priests in those days were not called by God in the same way that priests are today.  Being a priest was something you were born into and took over from your father.  Prophets on the other hand, were called by God, usually by God revealing his word to them through visions or by speaking to them directly.  Samuel, unlike Eli, was being called to be a prophet.  Eli may have never heard God speak to him before, which is why he didn’t cotton on straight away that it was God who was calling Samuel.  When he finally twigged, he told Samuel to say to God, “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.”  As a result, Samuel was used as a prophet, speaking God’s word to his people, including anointing the first two kings of Israel, Saul and David.

If we read a little further on in chapter 3, we read that the first thing God asks Samuel to do is to give Eli a message.  The message was not an easy message to give either.  He had to tell Eli, that because his sons were sinful and Eli had done nothing to discipline them when they blasphemed or bring them back in line to behave like priests, that they would die and Eli’s house would no longer be priests.  Can you imagine having to do that?  Samuel was probably around the age of 12 years old and Eli was the man he looked up to for guidance and teaching and here he had to go and tell him such an awful thing.  We are told that he was reluctant to tell Eli what God had said, but Eli told him to say exactly what God said, which he did.  What a tough call for a young boy!

When God calls us to follow him, he doesn’t promise an easy life.  We know that Philip and Nathanael, as Jesus’ disciples, had Jesus with them for 3 years and then after his death and resurrection, they continued what he had called them to and they suffered for their faith too.  They were both killed for their spreading of the good news of Jesus Christ.  What a high calling!

Samuel, Philip and Nathanael were all willing to do what it took to be obedient to God, whether that meant telling people difficult things, or dying for their faith in him.

I wonder if we are willing to respond to God’s high calling on our own lives.  Last week, we looked at the Baptism of Jesus and Matthew described our own baptism like this:  He said, “Our baptism is our vocation, it is our call to expect to encounter the extraordinary within the ordinary.”

I wonder if we still expect the extraordinary in our own lives.  Do we indeed see our baptism as our call to encounter God in all his extraordinariness?  Do we hear God speak to us?

Or are we like the Israelites, who had closed their ears to hear God’s message?  Even the priests who were supposed to lead the people in worship, had turned away and did things that were contrary to God’s nature and will.  Are we too busy to hear his call on our lives?  Do we think that his call on our lives is too burdensome?  Perhaps we wilfully ignore his voice because we fear what he may ask us to do.

We know from Scripture, that throughout human history, God has called us apart to be his own.  He created us in his image for relationship with him.  As uniquely as he has created each of us, so is the call on our lives.  God has created each one of us for a particular purpose.  That purpose will be different for each one of us. However, what he calls all of us to, is a close and intimate relationship with him. It is why Jesus died on the cross for us – so that our sin could be washed away and we could be reunited with him.

God may not call us to be a prophet like Samuel, or to die for him like Philip and Nathanael, but what he does call us to is a deep friendship with him and that through our love for him, we will bring others to know his love too.

The appointed Psalm for this morning is Psalm 139.  It is my favourite Psalm.  Verses 1-5 say this, “You have searched me, Lord, and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.  You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.  Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely.  You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.”

Isn’t that extraordinary?  God knows us so much better than we could ever know ourselves.  There is nothing about us that he does not know, so there is absolute freedom in our relationship with him to be ourselves, our real selves.  He knows the good, the bad and the ugly – and yet there is nothing we can do to make him love us more and there is nothing we can do to make him love us less.  God loves us with a love that is so complete and eternal, that when we respond to his call, it is that love that drives us to do his will for our lives.  He doesn’t promise an easy life or a life free of pain, but what he does promise is that he will never leave us.

The last two verses of Psalm 139 say this, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  24 See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

Just as the young Samuel responded to God by saying, “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening”, let us respond in the same way.  We all too often come to God with a long list of things we want him to do for us.  Do we ever stop to listen to what he is asking of us?  Do we ever ask him to look into our hearts and lead us in the way he would have us go?

My own experience of responding to God’s call, is of an adventure that I couldn’t plan myself.  There are good times and bad times, but God is always there.  He has promised to never leave us.

I was sent this message by a friend yesterday –

One day a man was crossing a bridge in life but was scared so he turned and asked God, ‘Can I hold your hand so I may not fall?’
God said ‘No, my child, I will hold your hand.’
He asked, ‘What’s the difference?’
God replied, ‘ If you hold my hand and something happens you might let go but if I hold your hand, no matter what happens, I will never let you go.’
May the Lord hold your hand tightly in all your ways.

Isn’t that a wonderful picture?  God will never let go of us, even when we feel like we are only just holding on by our fingertips.  Our initial response to God’s call is just the beginning of a life that, when spent being obedient to God, is the best life you can have.  We have the power to affect those around us positively or negatively.  Too often, we lose sight of our purpose and can cause pain to others, but when we follow God’s call on our lives, we can bring the joy, love, peace and freedom that knowing him brings – and that is why we are here.

I pray that each of us hears God’s call afresh on our lives, so that we can fulfil the purpose for which he created us.

Let us pray

Dear Father God

Thank you that you call us to be your children and to follow you.  May we open our ears to hear what it is that you are saying and calling us to.  Help us to speak less and listen more.

In Jesus’ precious name

Amen