EPIPHANY 2, B, 2009 – January 18, 2015

 SCRIPTURES: 1 Samuel 3:1-20; 1 Cor. 6:12-20; John 1:43-51

 

Old Testament Reading                                                                              1 Samuel 3:1-20

      Now the young man Samuel was ministering to the LORD under Eli. And the word of the LORD was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision.

      At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see, was lying down in his own place. The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the LORD, where the ark of God was.

      Then the LORD called Samuel, and he said, “Here I am!” and ran to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call; lie down again.” So he went and lay down.

      And the LORD called again, “Samuel!” and Samuel arose and went to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call, my son; lie down again.” Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD, and the word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him.

      And the LORD called Samuel again the third time. And he arose and went to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” Then Eli perceived that the LORD was calling the young man. Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down, and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, LORD, for your servant hears.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.

      And the LORD came and stood, calling as at other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant hears.” Then the LORD said to Samuel, “Behold, I am about to do a thing in Israel at which the two ears of everyone who hears it will tingle. On that day I will fulfill against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. And I declare to him that I am about to punish his house forever, for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them. Therefore I swear to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be atoned for by sacrifice or offering forever.”

      Samuel lay until morning; then he opened the doors of the house of the LORD. And Samuel was afraid to tell the vision to Eli. But Eli called Samuel and said, “Samuel, my son.” And he said, “Here I am.” And Eli said, “What was it that he told you? Do not hide it from me. May God do so to you and more also if you hide anything from me of all that he told you.” So Samuel told him everything and hid nothing from him. And he said, “It is the LORD. Let him do what seems good to him.”

      And Samuel grew, and the LORD was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba knew that Samuel was established as a prophet of the LORD.

 

Epistle                                                                                                1 Corinthians 6:12-20

     “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be enslaved by anything. “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food”—and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

 

Holy Gospel                                                                                                  John 1:43-51

     The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

 

Sermon

What an exciting time this is that we live in! We can see so much. We can look into the heavens and not only see, but see into, stars and galaxies that are thousands of light years away. We can plunge into the depths and see fascinating things in the deepest ocean. We can look into the human body and see the beginnings of disease, as well as the beginnings of life. We can see so much! But, we can also be just as blind as people were 2,000 years ago, when Jesus walked on this earth.

 

There’s a blindness that afflicts Nathanael in today’s Gospel reading. It is the blindness of bigotry. “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” he asks. Nazareth has a reputation. Jesus is from there, and so Nathanael doesn’t expect much from him. Such things haven’t changed. We, too, know bigotry; and we are blinded by it. The particular bigotry that Nathanael reflects, and that also afflicts us, is the bigotry of low expectations.

 

What do you expect of Jesus? I suppose you expect Him to help you when you are in need. But, you must remember that Jesus, even when He helps, is not a servant. He is a Master. “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price,” St. Paul says (1 Cor. 6). He is referring to Jesus, and to His death as the price He paid to purchase you. You have been bought, and this means that you don’t own yourself. You belong to God! Don’t have the low expectation, then, that He will act in your life only when you ask Him to do so, or only in the way that you wish. Expect Him to do what He desires, and as He does “glorify God in your body.” Consider how you can testify to His goodness when you are sick – even if you are not getting better – or when you are enduring difficult times. Do so, even if you don’t feel like it, believing that He knows what is best for your body, as well as your soul and spirit. Let people know that you not only have a Master. Let them know that you trust Him, because He loves you and is good!

 

And, what about your sins? Don’t have the low expectation that He will receive you and forgive you only when they are small and don’t bother you too much. Do you ever feel that you shouldn’t go to church, or receive Communion, because you’ve done something that you’re really ashamed of, or because of a sin that is still fresh in your mind and that, frankly, you’re not even that sorry about? Well, it’s good if you feel bad! You should, for “your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, whom you have from God.” You should not be giving into, or giving yourself over to, sin.  But, don’t ever think that you should not worship or receive Communion until you straighten things out and feel better. Jesus came as the Savior of sinners. Go to Him, especially when you feel unworthy. The greater the sins you give Him, the greater the Savior He is for you. Expect Him to be a great Savior by giving Him great sins! Then, honor His sacrifice and glorify God in your body by fighting against sins. Jesus is a great God and Savior! Expect Him to be so in your life.

 

And, what about your life? What do you expect of yourself and see in yourself? Low expectations surround us in our society and afflict us.

 

We claim to have great love and honor for children; but we want to be in complete charge of whether we have them, when we have them and how many we have. A child in the womb has value only if we bestow it. If parents aren’t ready for it – or if, God forbid, something is wrong with it! – we allow it to be disposed of through abortion. We can’t be expected, after all, to sacrifice our lives for their good, or to think that God can do something good with a fetus that is not perfect! Do you not see the challenge to God in this, the denial of Him as Savior and Master?

 

Such low expectations also affect and afflict those at the other end of life. It is not only society that devalues the elderly. Do you feel as valuable as you age? Does your life still have purpose, and as much purpose? Remember: Jesus didn’t shed His blood to purchase for Himself only the young and the strong. He died for all to purchase all for Himself.

 

Today’s reading from 1 Corinthians confronts us with this question: “do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?” Your body is called a temple, a church. Well, what happens in this church? What is expected? You are served as you come, served by God and given His forgiveness in His Word and Sacraments. He also serves you by listening to your prayers and giving you His teaching for the blessing of your life. This being served is the most important and most essential thing that happens here. But, you are also expected to serve as you come. Some of you serve as ushers. Some serve as acolytes. Some serve as Sunday School teachers. And, some of you remember when you used to serve in these ways but can no longer do so. This doesn’t mean that nothing is expected of you! You serve with your prayers. You serve with your offerings, and God expects them of you! Those who think that the Church should say nothing about money and not be encouraging people to give generously have a low, and false, expectation of God and what He expects. When Jesus said to people, “Follow me,” he did not let them leave their wallets behind. When God by the blood of His Son purchased you, He purchased with you all that you are and all that you have. Expect Him to direct your life, and ask Him to do so! “Speak, Lord, for your servant hears.” This is the response a great Lord should receive.

 

As you give it, you will see His greatness for you and in you. When Nathanael confessed that Jesus was the Son of God and his King, Jesus responded: “You will see greater things than these. Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” This blessed vision awaits everyone who confesses Jesus to be his God and Savior! But, heaven is also open to us now, even though we cannot see this. “Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God.” Heaven opened and God’s Holy Spirit descended to fill your body when you were baptized and at that point had not yet – and, for most of us, could not yet – do anything for God. You were, and still are, of great value because of God, His work for you and His presence in you, and not because of yourself!

 

Although we change as we age, this, our value and purpose as God’s people for whom Christ died and in whom His Spirit dwells, does not change. This is why we are honoring our elderly members today and rejoicing in their service. God is calling you to continue serving, especially with your prayers, just as He calls us all. “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” Bring this about in our lives, Lord, as you brought it about in the life of your servant Nathanael! To the praise and honor of Jesus. Amen.