A reflection from Nancy Clague 1 Samuel 3:1-10, Revelations 5:1-10 & John 1:43-51
You have probably heard the readings this morning before, especially the call of Samuel and the calling of the disciples.
The reading from Revelation are visions experienced by John in exile. He sees a throne and an angel, 4 living creatures and 24 elders with the prayers of the saints as they are singing a new song. Because of Jesus saints from every tribe and nation are made into a kingdom of priests, serving God reigning on earth. The first disciples and all subsequent followers, all who have heard about Jesus, are sharing the Good News.
In our first reading, Samuel, a young boy, is living in the temple. As he is resting, he hears a voice. He thought it was a real voice which is why he ran to Eli, thinking the priest is calling him. Eli, the priest offering prayers and maybe sacrifices, is helped by Samuel but we are told, ‘Samuel did not yet know the Lord’. He is living in the temple, presumably sharing in worship, assisting the priest Eli, but does not know the Lord himself. Do we assume that this means he followed the rituals, maybe attended services, accepted the habits but it had not impacted on his life, had not affected his ways and attitudes? We know it had impacted his life as his mother had dedicated him to the temple, and only visited once a year with a new coat. Does his time in the temple following rituals not make a deeper impression on him?
From the Gospel reading we learn Jesus had been in Bethany, across the Jordon where John the Baptist was calling the people to repentance, i.e., change their ways and behaviour. John already had followers, Andrew and Simon Peter. Now Jesus moves to Galilee, we are not told why he went there but he meets Philip, who is from the same village as Andrew and Peter, Bethsaida. Philip was called by Jesus to follow him. Philip then found Nathaniel and said, come we have found the one Moses and the prophets wrote about. Jesus, son of Joseph from Nazareth. Nathaniel, hearing this responds, ‘can anything good come from Nazareth?’
Maybe Philip had been with Andrew and Simon Peter to visit John the Baptist when he spoke about someone greater than himself, i.e., Messiah. These are Jewish men, well versed in the prophets from our OT, expecting someone great (like King David) to deliver them from the occupation of the Romans.
During the Christmas season we heard passages from the prophets telling of a Messiah.
What does Philip say? ‘come and see’. Nathaniel then goes and meets Jesus, and completely changes his mind.
Our Bible study course we’ve been following this Advent, for any portion of Scripture asks, what did passage mean then in that context and what does this mean for us today?
How do we ‘hear’ God’s voice? Like Samuel, a voice, aloud or in thoughts, a niggling thought, like Nathanial, who had a friend encouraging and introducing him? Maybe meeting an inspiring Christian- Billy Graham rallied many people? Spring Harvest and other Christian events can encourage and develop faith. Bible studies? Regularly reading bible notes and time in prayer? So many ways personal and individual ways we can hear God’s voice calling us.
But there is also the possibility that attending church is a routine, a time to meet friends, a break from the house. We attend, we feel we belong, but like Samuel, we may not know the Lord. Or we hear the Good News but, like Nathaniel, question that it can be true. He asked if anything good could come from Nazareth. We might say, it’s all stories, the message is too good to be true. Any excuse so we don’t have to change our ways. So, will we today, stop and listen to God calling us and follow that voice?
I spent many years, after I had trained as a Reader and still working with children, wondering if I was following what the Lord was asking me. It’s some years ago now, that a firm near Ramsey sponsored a small aircraft for Mission Aviation Fellowship, (a charity that I had supported for many years,) This charity flies’ aircraft in remote areas, providing vital medical care but also flies other charities working in the same regions as they carry out their mission. I was invited to Ronaldsway to see the aircraft. A young friend aged about 11 sat in the cockpit and encouraged me to be a passenger and to speak through the headphones. In that place I realised I had my answer. I had often joked with friends that I wished God would send an aeroplane in the sky with one of those banners with advertisements telling me my direction, and here was a child, affirming my direction. (Isaiah 11: 6) ‘and a little child shall lead them’. It suddenly felt that I was following the path God wanted me to and that affirmation has since helped as other demands take my time, knowing that the work with the children and families is my priority.
So, what are these Bible passages saying to you today?