Sermon for Epiphany 2, Year B, January 17, 2021

1 Samuel 3:1-10, Psalm 139:1-5, 12-17, 1 Corinthians 6:12-20, John 1:43-51

          After last Sunday’s celebration of the Baptism of our Lord, the gospel of John tells of Jesus calling his disciples, first Andrew and his brother Simon Peter, then in today’s passage Philip and Nathanael.  In 1st Samuel, it is Samuel, while just a boy, who hears God’s call.  The scriptures are full of stories of people being called to serve God.  These are stories of people who have an experience of the divine and go on to play an important part in history. 

Abraham answers God’s call to leave his home and go to Canaan with the promise of becoming the father of a great nation.   His life is an adventure, to say the least, and his actions are not always noble.  Yet, Abraham is faithful and becomes the father of three of world religions:  Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. 

God calls out to Moses from a burning bush, “Moses, Moses,” God calls and Moses responds, “Here I am.”  God tells Moses he is to lead the people of Israel out of bondage in Egypt into the Promised Land. 

The apostle Paul is blinded by a light when on the road to Damascus.  He is going to Damascus to persecute the followers of Christ, when this occurs and he hears Jesus ask, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”  Saul becomes Paul and a faithful follower of Jesus spreading Christianity all the way to Rome.

The Lord calls out to Samuel saying, “Samuel! Samuel!”  Samuel thinks it is Eli calling him, runs to him and says, “Here I am.”  This happens three times, and Eli realizes it is God calling to Samuel and instructs him to say, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”  So this is what Samuel does, he listens and he continues to listen to God as he grows into an adult and becomes a prophet for the people of Israel, anointing their first king and then King David.

Seminary students and ministers share their personal call stories over and over again.  Tomorrow we will observe Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in which we mark the day of his birth.  Since he was a Baptist minister, I felt certain I could find his call story and I did.  King wrote: 

My call to the ministry was neither dramatic nor spectacular. It came neither by some miraculous vision nor by some blinding light experience on the road of life. Moreover, it did not come as a sudden realization. Rather, it was a response to an inner urge that gradually came upon me. This urge expressed itself in a desire to serve God and humanity, and the feeling that my talent and my commitment could best be expressed through the ministry.

King first planned to be a physician, then a lawyer, before accepting “the challenge to enter the ministry,” he wrote.

We are all called to ministry; we are called to serve God and humanity.  There are many, many ways we can do this.  More often than not, we are called to a ministry that does not include ordination; we are simply called to express God’s love to others.  Our call more often mirrors that of King, than that of Abraham, Moses, Samuel, or Paul.  Our call is experienced as an urge and a desire to serve God and humanity. 

To hear God’s call we must do as Samuel did.  We must listen when we feel that urge and desire.   Then, we need to respond as Moses did and say, “Here I am,” then respond to others with love. 

King’s ministry went beyond his call to serve as a Baptist Ministry.  He became the leader of a peaceful movement to change our world.  His call for non-violent protests are needed today as protests over this past year have been tainted by people who have resorted to violence, and the storming of our nation’s capital earlier this month. 

The division that we face in our nation today is frightening.  The words we are hearing, the words that are being reported are often the words of extremist.  It is easy to get caught up in reading and/or listening to the news and feel overwhelmed.  I heard a report on NPR on how to help our children cope when the news is so frightening.  In addition to limiting their exposure to TV news (a practice that is beneficial for all of us), we need to explain to children that exceptions are what makes the news.  Helping our neighbor, friends playing together, parents preparing a favorite meal for their children – these things happen all the time, but don’t make the news. 

Christianity offers hope, which is an important part of our faith.  We have faith that in the midst of all that goes wrong – natural disasters, protests, and insurrections, God is present.  There are people who come to the aid of others.  There are people who respond to their urge and desire to help by reaching out to those in need.  They serve God by serving humanity.  Our hope is rooted in the belief that pain, suffering, and conflict are a part of this life, but the love of God will ultimately prevail.

The preparations for Wednesday’s Inauguration include members of the National Guard being called into service to ensure the peaceful transfer of power.  In this time of political and racial unrest, it is important to remember what King said about loving our enemies:

Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction.

Healing begins by listening with love to others and the pain they are feeling.  On issues of politics and policies, we need not agree.  We do; however, need to love one another so that we might be united in our vision of a peaceful coexistence. 

          Only love can drive out the hatred that divides us, only light can drive out the darkness that prevents us from seeing one another as the beloved children of God we are.  I want to close with the prayer attributed to St. Francis found on page 833 in the Book of Common Prayer.

Let us pray.

Lord, make us instruments of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let us sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is discord, union;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.

Grant that we may not so much
seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that
we are born to eternal life. Amen.