Do I know you?

John 1:43-51
43The 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.”

Epiphany2 / John Stiles / Holy Cross Lutheran Church / 1-18-11

Children’s Time: Who knows you better than anyone else? I mean this person knows your name and your favorite foods and your favorite color and where you’re ticklish. Who knows you? (Mom & Dad?) Yes. (Brother or Sister?) To be sure. Did you know that God knows about all that stuff and MORE?!? Not to hold it against you, but to celebrate who you are! God cares about you and wants to know everything about you.  Let’s thank God for caring enough to get to know us and love us as his own.

Intro: Dear friends in Christ: grace to you and peace, from the One who is and who was and who is to come: our living Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

What is it like to be known by someone? Especially someone you didn’t know? It can be both flattering and a little creepy. Or maybe we become suspicious: “Just what does she want, anyway?” Anyone who’s lived long enough knows there are good reasons to keep our guard up when someone wants to know more about us. But how does that affect our life of prayer – our connection to God as God’s children?

Wouldn’t you know it, there’s “knowing” all throughout the lessons for this Sunday: For the boy, Samuel, it required knowing the voice of God, who calls in the night. He had no idea what was going on. The first few times he thought it was his mentor, Eli, calling from the other room!

For Nathaniel, it was Jesus who knew him, simply be paying attention to him as he sat under the fig tree. “I noticed you,” he says, “sitting under the fig tree. I thought to myself, ‘Here’s an Israelite who’s pure in heart – there’s not deceit in him.’”

And, in our Psalm today (Ps. 139), we are known in our inmost selves by God, who knit us together in our mother’s womb – intricately woven in the depths of the earth. There’s this rich poetry of how much we are known by our maker – and how we can have intimacy with God!

Now, I don’t know about you, but there are some times that I’d just assume not be known. Know what I mean? Times when I’ve messed up or don’t feel presentable to stand before those prodding eyes of the Almighty.

Especially when it comes to our bodies, we’re taught to hide and be ashamed. In a culture where youth and stamina is lifted up over and against cellulose and the wrinkles wrought by time, it’s easy to hide and desire not to be known.

A couple of examples might be helpful here: First, from Sister Margaret Dorgan, (who is a Catholic nun with the Diocean Carmelites of Maine). She writes about bodies as we get older:
“Yes, there are alterations in our five senses. Scientific data record possible impairment of hearing in the middle 40’s, of vision, touch, and taste in the middle 50’s, and of smell in the middle 70’s. Skin becomes thinner. Our teeth ask for increased dental care. But that doesn’t mean we smile less. Sleep may become elusive or hold us in its grip. Legs and arms, shoulders and waists, hands and feet, wrists and toes can issue complaints as they never did before. I should have noticed you more, aching feet, when you caused me no discomfort. So much that we took for granted, now presses upon us. St. Paul speaks of “life in the flesh. That means fruitful labor for me.” (Phil 1:22) Added years are not a source of mourning. The term advancing age is appropriate because it truly is a matter of forward motion…”

What if we approached our bodies – our selves – with such care and concern that the Almighty does? Still feeling a bit squeamish? Listen to what former Bishop of the ELCA, H. George Anderson, once said: “In America today, we want comfort, pleasure, and to be left alone. What we need are service, sacrifice, and to be brought together.”  I think we need both: comfort and service / pleasure and sacrifice / alone time and a community in which to find belonging and purpose.

But that means listening to the call and risking following. There are a lot of great resources out there today about leadership and how to be successful in business. And yet, not much has been taught about followership. The art of following one’s leader – not blindly or without questioning – but through partnership and mutual accountability. When Jesus said, “Come and see” to Nathaniel, it was an invitiation for us all. “You will see even greater things than these,” Jesus said. The “You” was plural in the Greek, so it was meant for all those who were standing there – hearers past, present and future.

How are we hearing the call to follow Jesus today – like Nathaniel did way back then?
How are you doing at calling others to know Christ? Mentoring is coming up in a few weeks… You have an opportunity to be an ‘Eli’ to a younger ‘Samuel’ in our confirmation ministry.

As the story goes, Samuel’s mother, Hannah, wanted desperately to have a son. So much so, that she struck a deal with the Lord that if she could bear a son, she would “give him back” to the Lord, to serve in the temple all the days of his life. So was the story of how Samuel came to be in the temple that night with his master, Eli, asleep in their chambers. And then it came – that voice of the Lord, to one so young…he thought it was his teacher. Three times… until he finally said, “Speak, Lord. Your servant is listening.”

That’s all it took. And, of course, the message wasn’t good. Eli was to be punished for not teaching his children in the way of the Lord. It says that they were blaspheming God and he did not restrain them. And yet, here he is with little Samuel – perhaps his “second chance” to get it right – of raising this boy in the faith: his little apprentice, so full of promise and ripe for learning.

Another way to be known is through listening to one another: This Lent we will be hosting cottage meetings here at church and in the homes of people from this community. All for the purpose of listening. No hidden agenda. No pressure sale to give more. Just a genuine desire to get to know one another – and to hopefully begin to see a pattern emerge of where God is calling us in our future ministry together.

I’d like to close with this simple story about an old rabbi who once asked his pupils how they could tell when the night had ended and the day was on its way back. “Could it be,” asked one student, “when you can see an animal in the distance and tell whether it is a sheep or a dog?”

“No,” answered the Rabbi.
“Could it be,” inquired another, “when you can look at a tree in the distance and tell whether it is a fig tree or a peach tree?”
“No,” the Rabbi replied.
“Well, then, what is it?” his pupils demanded.
The teacher responded: “It is when you look on the face of any woman or man and see that she or he is your sister or brother. Because if you cannot do this, then no matter what time it is, it is still night.”

Come and see, is what Jesus said. It’s a standing invitation to know and be known as brothers and sisters.  Amen.

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