14 January 2024

We move into the journey of learning who this Jesus is in earnest from this week. The glory of God revealed in Christ is manifest in unusual but exciting ways through the readings. But, perhaps what makes the Lectionary for Epiphany 2 so challenging, is the way it calls us to be people who, like Christ, reveal the glory of God to our world.

May we encounter the glorious Christ and be changed from glory to glory as we worship this week.

1 Samuel 3:1-10, (11-20): The boy Samuel, who has been placed in Eli’s care to serve God, hears God speak as he prepares to sleep, but doesn’t recognise the voice. Then Eli instructs him how to answer, and, after Samuel responds to God’s call, God speaks a prophecy over Eli’s family.

Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18: A Psalm in praise of God’s creation of the psalmist and the intimate way in which God knows him, inside and out.

1 Corinthians 6:12-20: Although all things are permissible for Christ-followers but no everything is good or beneficial. Our bodies belong to God, are given life by God and are temples of God’s Spirit, and so they must be used in service of God.

John 1:43-51: Jesus calls Philip to follow him, and Philip calls Nathaniel, who is, at first, uncertain. When Jesus sees him he affirms him, and Nathaniel is won over. Jesus assures him that he will see heaven open and God’s angels ascending and descending on Christ.

At first glance this is a strange collection of readings! But, with a little bit of time and reflection some very exciting insights begin to emerge. It is helpful to remember that the season of Epiphany invites us to witness two things. The first is the way various individuals and groups perceived Jesus. This is a fitting way to follow the season of Christmas, because now we are given the opportunity to learn who this Jesus is through the eyes of those who met him. The second invitation of Epiphany is for us to witness God’s glory as it is revealed in the incarnate Christ. This week’s readings give us a wonderful way to accept both of these invitations. As the first disciples are called, we meet Nathaniel, initially a little sceptical of Jesus, but won over by Jesus’ insight. But, Jesus calls both Nathaniel and us to a deeper experience than that of mere witnesses of a small perception of Nathaniel’s true character. In the enigmatic reference to Jacob’s ladder, Jesus claims that he is the one who will both reveal God’s glory to the world, and be the “channel” through which God’s presence, glory and purpose is mediated to the world. The call to witness God’s presence and glory is affirmed by all of the other readings for this week. Samuel’s experience of God’s manifestation and communication reveals both God’s desire to connect with humanity, and the human capacity to connect with God. The psalmist’s song reveals how intimately God is connected with the people God has created, and how deeply we can know God. Finally, the letter to the Corinthians reveals the way God continues to be incarnated in every person who believes, as we become temples of God’s Spirit, and are called to use our entire beings – including our flesh – in God’s service. The invitation this week is up close and personal – not only do we get to witness God’s glory in Jesus; we are called to accept God’s presence and glory into our own being!

Global Application:
After last week’s assurance of God’s solidarity with us, the gift of God’s self goes even further this week – God is not just with us, but within us. This is an echo of the assurances we have already received during the Advent season, but takes it even further. As we address issues of justice in our world we are invited to ensure that our response is one of deep faith in two realities – firstly, that God’s presence and God’s glory are not just available to us, but are available within us, and secondly, that God is always communicating with us, if we will just learn to listen. As naive as this may sound, if we have the humility and the imagination to believe it, we will discover that we do not face our world’s challenges alone. Rather, we can trust that God’s resources and presence are with us to guide and strengthen us, and we can listen for God’s communication to lead and teach us. Of course, much of this communication of God’s self has already happened in Christ, and we need only look to him to know how to act, how to treat others and how to respond to the challenges of greedy consumerism, reckless exploitation of the planet’s resources, violence in all its forms and the unjust distribution of the world’s wealth. Our task, then, is to study each day, the example of Christ and seek to embody in our own actions and attitudes what we see in him, trusting in the power of God’s Spirit to enable us to do this. If even a small percentage of Christ followers made this a habit, what a different world we could begin to manifest – as we are already seeing happen in some significant ways

Local Application:
Two small, but important, factors impact every relationship, from families to churches to neighbourhoods. The first is our struggle to believe in our own worth and capability to rise to the challenges of modern living. This struggle manifests itself in the constant need to prove ourselves, in defensiveness when we are challenged, and in fear of sharing our resource in case we end up with less than we need. The second factor is our struggle to recognise the glory in the humanity of others – particularly those who are different from us. This results in factions and divisions between people along racial, gender, religious, sexual, economic and educational lines, and often leads us to treat one another with disdain, suspicion and even hostility. The message of this week’s Lectionary gives us ways to overcome both of these struggles. As we begin to recognise the way God has revealed God’s self to us in Christ, and how we have become, in ourselves, temple’s of God’s Spirit, we are able to accept our worth and our significance in God’s purposes and God’s domain. When this sinks into our hearts, we are able to relax into our new identity in Christ, and stop striving against others to feel good about ourselves. Secondly, when we are able to recognise God’s glory in others, and affirm them as temples of God’s Spirit, we begin to see them as Christ and treat them as Christ, which naturally leads us into collaboration, affirmation, forgiveness and acceptance of one another. And, as we allow ourselves to believe in God’s revealed glory in ourselves and those we live and worship with, we discover that God’s glory is not only revealed to us, but is revealed through us.

Who Are You, Jesus?
Praise Be To You
Seeing Glory

Hymn Suggestions:
Master, Speak, Thy Servant Heareth
Crown Him With Many Crowns
The Call
Shine Jesus Shine (Link to YouTube video)
Sing Sing Sing (Link to YouTube video)
Living For Your Glory (Link to YouTube video)

A Liturgy for Communion

Video Suggestions:
Wonderfully Made