1 Samuel 3:1-10; John 1:43-51
January 18, 2015
Between now and Lent we will be considering God’s fresh starts in the New Year and on your interim journey between pastors by examining how Jesus started his ministry. John’s Gospel sets up today’s story in 1:43-51 with a sequence of four consecutive days that is as much literary as chronological.
John the Baptist was preaching and baptizing in the Jordan River between Galilee and Jerusalem. Temple leaders questioned who he thought he was and what he thought he was doing. He was clear that he was not the Messiah but Messiah was coming soon. The second day he was preaching and baptizing again, and Jesus came along. John said, “Look, here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” The third day was chatting with a few of his disciples when Jesus came by again. John said, “Look the Lamb of God,” and two of his disciples followed Jesus. One was Andrew who found his brother Peter and told him he had found the Messiah. The repeated word “found” points out how intentional Jesus, Andrew and Philip were.
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 story and the call of the young Samuel we read earlier prompt us to expect, listen for, recognize and follow Jesus’ call to a fresh encounter from God.
As a congregation on the interim journey between pastors, Highlands Christian Church is naturally concerned about programs and plans for the future, but if we will listen for the voice of God, we will get much more than we expect.
For Eli the word of the Lord was rare. For us cacophony of noise can make discerning the voice of God difficult. However, when we expect, listen for, recognize and follow Jesus’ call we are met with a fresh encounter from God.
Though Samuel was serving the Lord under Eli, “the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him.” Eli had given up expecting to hear God’s voice, and not until the third try did he recognize God was calling Samuel.
Eli knew the right response was, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” With it, Samuel became the model for over three millennia of God’s obedient followers.
Yesterday a number of us listened to each other, sharing our hopes and dreams for the future of Highlands Christian Church. Believing the Holy Spirit lives and works in each of us and among us together, we listened for the voice of God behind our human words. Like Eli and Samuel, for us recognizing the voice of God is challenging. God speaks more in whispers than shouts.
Philip did not say to Nathanael, “I heard a dynamic preacher who could be the Messiah with enough followers.” No, Philip said that Jesus was the one Moses and the Prophets wrote about. Scripture, not intuition, led him to conclude Jesus was the Messiah. When Jesus described Nathanael as “an Israelite in whom there is not deceit,” he paid him a high compliment, affirming his integrity as a spiritual role model. Nathanael’s experience encourages us to expect, listen for, recognize and follow Jesus’ call to a fresh encounter from God.
Nathanael’s deep faith sprang from skepticism. He questioned whether Messiah could come from Nazareth. He questioned how Jesus knew about his character.
But Nathanael was spiritual not cynical. Sitting under the fig tree was not just where he was when Philip called him. The fig tree was where devout Israelites studied and meditated on Scripture and engaged God in prayer.
Highland Christian Church’s interim journey between pastors calls for intense spiritual discernment. Finding a new pastor goes way beyond educational and professional qualifications. Moving the congregation into the future goes way beyond effective plans and programs. Only acute sensitivity to the nudges of the Holy Spirit will match the pastor and plan with congregation’s mission.
For all of his depth, Nathanael was ready to settle for too little. He was satisfied that Jesus knew where he was, what he was doing, the integrity of his character and his spiritual passion. But Jesus told him not to stop there; He would see greater things than these. Expect, listen for, recognize and follow Jesus’ call to a fresh encounter from God.
Suppose within your new pastor’s first five years you have to start a second service because worship is overflowing. Suppose the budget committee’s big problem is finding enough worthwhile ministries for all the money coming in. Don’t settle! This is not enough!
Jesus told Nathanael he would “see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” Ministry effectiveness is wonderful and important, but don’t settle! God wants greater things for Highlands Christian Church. God wants a fresh encounter with you individually and as a congregation, that comes from discerning and following God’s call.
Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” God answered “I am about to do something that will make both ears of anyone who hears it tingle.” Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 14:25 when outsiders come into authentic worship they will say, “God is really among you.” My prayer is that you will know God is really among you, and your new pastor will recognize that God is really among you, and that outsiders will come into Highlands Christian Church because God is really among you.