Sermon for the 2nd Sunday after the Epiphany

1 Samuel 3:1-10
Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18
1 Corinthians 6:12-20
John 1:43-51

I don’t know how many of you watched the Golden Globes last week, but I can tell you that I didn’t. I usually don’t watch those awards shows not because I’m not interested, but because frankly I’d just rather be doing something else. But just because I didn’t watch it, it didn’t stop me from hearing about Oprah’s speech, and I have a feeling that many of you have at least heard about it if you haven’t seen it yourself as well. My wife told me about it and that it was really good and so I thought I would check it out. It wasn’t hard to find it at all, as pretty much every news site posted a video of it or at least a transcript. I won’t show you the whole thing because it is like 9 minutes long and a lot of those 9 minutes are of people clapping and cheering, but here is a clip of the part that most people are talking about:

(unfortunately, dear reader, I cannot post the clip of the speech due to copyright laws, but feel free to search for “Oprah’s Golden Globes speech” or something to see it.  Let’s just say that it is inspiring)

Inspiring? For sure. Empowering? Definitely. Hinting at a presidential run? Inconclusive.

After watching that speech, many people went nuts over the notion that Oprah might run for president in 2020. A graphic even started circulating around social media:

If this looks familiar, it’s because it is. It is just Obama’s campaign poster with Oprah’s face on it. But as you would imagine, there were also people on the other side of the coin thinking that Oprah most definitely shouldn’t run, because… you know… a celebrity president doesn’t exactly have a great track record right now. And while it isn’t to say that Oprah isn’t a good person or really good at what she does as an entrepreneur and advocate of human rights, it is to say that good intentions don’t necessarily make a good president.

Wherever you might stand on the idea of “Hoprah 2020,” I think most people want the same thing, and that is what is best for one of the most influential countries in the world, because when they do well then it rubs off on other countries and maybe, just maybe, the world could be a better place. Although we’re not citizens of the States, or most of us aren’t at least, their politics still affect us and many others, and so we want them to thrive and not be so crazy and nonsensical. But with its current climate, it would be easy to write off all rich-celebrity-first, president-second kind of thing and ask, “can any rich celebrity be a good president?”

Of course, I’m alluding to Nathaniel’s off the cuff quip, “can anything good come from Nazareth?” from today’s gospel story. We don’t have enough background to know exactly why Nathaniel said this. Maybe he was just being funny. Maybe he says that about every place that isn’t his exact hometown. Or maybe he actually had been burned by Nazareth that left a sore spot and he was skeptical of anyone from that part of the world.

Regardless of what you think about the States, the president, or global relations, I think we can all relate to what Nathaniel’s comment. Jokingly or not, we often group things or people together and make assumptions about the individual things or people out of that group. For example, we often assume people of a certain ethnicity would act a certain way, like they’re cheap or bad drivers or something. Or we might assume people who go to a mainline church are more liberal while those going to a more evangelical church be more conservative. We might assume that fans of a certain sports team are more deplorable than fans of our favourite sports team. We might think a fully grown man with toys in his office would be way too immature to know what he’s talking about.

We do that, we sometimes think that nothing good can come out of some place or some thing or some sort of slant, because we somehow already have all the answers and can make this educated guess of what the future might hold.

Come and see.

We often will refuse when our minds have been made up. Our assumptions and doubts stand in the way of us believing and trusting in that invitation. What we already have in our heads about a particular subject or person inevitably determines how we will react and accept the possibilities of something different. Come and see how this speech by the current president actually isn’t bad and is empowering and encouraging. Um, no thanks, I’m good. Come and see how this other unqualified person can do this job better than someone with many years of training and experience. Uh, no it’s ok, I’ll stick to the tried and true, thanks. Come and see how this movie directed by Michael Bay is good. Er, can I punch you in the face now? (Just kidding about Michael Bay, I love and own many of his movies from the 90s).

When we hear that “come and see,” about something we think we already know so much about, we can be skeptical. We doubt. We metaphorically or literally raise an eyebrow and think we know better than to put our hope and trust in something that will likely fail.

In the days that the word of God was rare and visions weren’t widespread, the young boy Samuel had a supernatural experience of someone calling his name. He expected it to be the other person in his vicinity, as many of us would. But Eli, that person in Samuel’s vicinity, told him that it wasn’t him calling, but it was God. I don’t know about the rest of you, but if I were a kid like Samuel living in a time when the word of God was rare and visions weren’t widespread, my single eyebrow would raise up so high that it would touch the ceiling. I mean, “me? God is calling me? Riiiiiight.”

In fact, if I were an adult living right now and maybe even make a living as a professional person of faith and you told me that God was audibly saying my name? Let’s just say I would sooner follow you to a Michael Bay movie. (again, just joking about his movies)

But Samuel followed and believed. Nathaniel pushed aside all doubt and skepticism and had faith. Even Jesus looked past the sarcasm and snippy attitude and looked into Nathaniel’s soul and drew out what was best in him and believed in him.

See that? Jesus had reason to be skeptical about Nathaniel too, with his sarcasm and own disbelief, but Jesus still called him. God of course didn’t have to trust this kid Samuel, but Samuel was still called. We too, might not have given anyone a reason to believe in us, trust us, or think that we could ever contribute to the greater good of our community, city, or world, but we too, are still called by God to live in God’s family and kingdom.

Now, I’m not saying that God will definitely speak to you in an audible voice and that those voices that you might already be hearing is God telling you to, you know, climb that bell tower with that high powered rifle. I mean, sometimes crazy is still crazy. But I am saying that in spite of what we might think of ourselves, in spite of our own shortcomings and failings, in spite of our own assumptions about our skills and talents and ability to be part of something bigger, God calls us. God empowers us. God gifts us with the fruit of the Spirit and enables us to be better, stronger, a full-fledged member of this body of Christ, with a cup overflowing with love and blessing and grace, capable of acting as God’s ambassadors to the world.

Come and see.

Come and see God working in you and through you. Come and see God loving you and forgiving you. Come and see God believing in you as a disciple, as a servant, as a beloved child.

And as we come and see, we begin to go and look. We look for God working, we recognise God’s presence, we hear God’s calling and learn God’s plan. We feel God’s love and forgiveness. We accept God’s grace and peace. We taste the goodness of God in all areas of life and in the world.

Through that, through the blessing of God, we change. We grow. We become. Those assumptions about our lives and abilities melt away, replaced by God’s promises of purpose, promises of value and worth, promises of acceptance and love.

To quote Martin Luther, “This life therefore is not righteousness, but growth in righteousness; not health, but healing; not being, but becoming; not rest, but exercise. We are not yet what we shall be, but we are growing toward it. the process is not yet finished, but it is going on. This is not the end, but it is the road. All does not yet gleam in glory, but all is being purified.”

Meaning, God isn’t finished with us. God isn’t done. God hasn’t given up on us even if we have given up on ourselves. Rather God continually is with us, empowering us, filling us with God’s Spirit, and calling us into our lives of faith and love, showing us that life is more than the assumptions and doubts and skepticism that we might have about us and others.

So while we might think that we have all the answers to US politics or otherwise, God might still surprise us. While we might think that we know what the future holds because we are so familiar with and have been burned by the past, God might still be doing new things. While we might think that we know all about ourselves and what we can or can’t do, God still calls us, draws us in, and asks us to come and see. Come and see that you can. Come and see that you are. Come and see the love of God, flowing in and through us, raising us up to new heights of community and relationship, empowering us to love and serve and be children of God.

In this season after Epiphany, where we learn more about the person and mission of Jesus, may we look for and see God working in, present with, and loving all people through the grace of Christ, now and forever. Thanks be to God. Amen.

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