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Sermon 17 January 2021 Revd Andrew Warmback
In today’s readings we have what we know as the ‘call narratives.’ There is the call of the boy Samuel, and in the gospel, John 1: 43-51, the call of Phillip and Nathaniel. I like the call narratives. They are true to life. Abraham, Moses, Jeremiah, and the other the prophets – those through the ages who have served God – did not necessarily respond immediately to what God wanted them to do. They questioned if they were not good enough for the task – too young or too old, or not articulate enough, they argued. Are we too like them in offering various excuses? Do we sometimes feel that we are not good enough?
Come and see
In today’s gospel reading Jesus calls Phillip, who then calls Nathanael. In responding to Nathanael’s reluctance Phillip says “Come and see.” A wonderful invitation; no compulsion; come and experience the Good News of God in action. The essence of evangelism, I would call it. “Come and see.”
We live in difficult times with much suffering. We can easily lose our sense of calling to live out the Good News, and to invite others to taste God’s goodness, to know God’s love for us. It is in knowing and valuing ourselves, that we can willingly and freely respond to God and to others.
Today’s psalm is Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18
As I read it slowly I want us to listen to it carefully, to let it sink in to our very being.
O God, you have searched me and known me.
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from far away.
You search out my path and my lying down,
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
O God, you know it completely.
You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is so high that I cannot attain it.
For it was you who formed my inward parts;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works; that I know very well.
My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes beheld my unformed substance.
In your book were written all the days
that were formed for me, before they existed.
How weighty to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
I try to count them–
they are more than the sand;
I come to the end–
I am still with you.
So we reflect on this Psalm: We are deeply loved by God, who made us in the “quiet darkness of our mother’s womb.” God knows us; we belong to God. God is with us through difficult times, even in the “deepest darkness.” “God is with us at the core of our very being.”
We are uniquely made; called to accept our vocation to be God’ cherished creation and to live out God’s wonderful purposes for us and for the world. We have nothing to prove. We are enough. Let us never fail to know our goodness and belovedness.
Dr Martin Luther King Jr
I was reminded by someone this week that Martin Luther King would have turned 92 on Friday. I thought to myself, here is someone who knew his worth, and the worth of everyone, we could add.
Picture the scene: 1955, Montgomery, Alabama in the USA. The trial of Rosa Parks, the woman who refused to give up her seat in the bus to a white person is about to begin. The pastors are meeting at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church discussing what to do about the racial segregation in buses. After much debate, the mostly unknown, new kid on the block, the pastor of the church, not yet 30, volunteers to be the leader of the bus boycott campaign. It is Revd King. The rest is history, as they say.
He answered God’s call and invited others to “Come and see.” He believed in God’s dream of a country in which, as he famously said, “my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colo[u]r of their skin but by the content of their character.”
Dr Martin Luther King, Jr’s path was a costly one. Yet he knew it was the right path to take. May we too know our worth and know that we too are called and equipped to do God’s work, even in our own difficult circumstances.
Prayer from the Catholic Health Association
I close with a payer from the Catholic Health Association and brought to my attention by the Revd John Aitchison.
Let us pray:
Loving God, we come to you full of anxiety about what may happen in the coming days and weeks. Shower us with the peace Jesus promised to his disciples, and make us into steady pillars for those around us. In this time of uncertainty and epidemic, wake us up to the reminder that we are not alone.
Even as we are asked to keep our distance from others, help us to find ways to reach out to those who need our support. We pray especially for those whose incomes and livelihoods are threatened. For the children who will miss meals due to school closures. For those already isolated, lonely and scared. Loving God, give them your peace, and through our hands ensure they have what they need.
Sustain, strengthen and protect all caregivers. Bless them as they offer compassionate care and show selfless courage in the face of risk.
Remind us, each time we wash our hands, that in our baptism you call us to let go of our fears and live in joy, peace, and hope.
During this difficult time of the global pandemic, you are invited to make a contribution to the ministry and mission of our church by making a donation to the following account: Account Name: St Paul’s Church Account Number: 50854628623 Bank: First National Bank (FNB) Branch Code: 221426