Revised Common Lectionary Reflection, Second Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B
January 17, 2021
Lessons: 1 Samuel 3:1-10 (11-20); Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18; 1 Corinthians 6:12-20; John 1:43-51
Theme: God’s faithful and generous people are ready to follow the Christ and the Holy Spirit into this world and beyond.
Key Scripture: The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” – John 1:43
Chances are that if you’re reading this reflection you already consider yourself a follower of Jesus. Particularly if you are a minister, deacon, vocational church worker, musician, or ministry lay leader, you may feel that you have answered the call of God and are attempting to follow Jesus faithfully in your context—case closed. Any suggestion of needed change or reevaluation of beliefs and practices may be met with fingers pressed firmly in the ears and a loud chorus of la-la-la-la-la.
Yet following is not a once and done deal. When we commit to follow Jesus, we agree to humble ourselves, dropping anything that distracts us from the Christ’s singular purpose of redeeming and reclaiming all of creation. It also means that we remain open and listen for God’s direction and guidance; after all, we may be led to change. And, change is simply hard for human beings. We generally rebel against change that we didn’t initiate or tacitly approve. Plus, we are simultaneously saint and sinner—people in process.
Maybe it would be easier if following Jesus were the only option. It’s not. There are plenty of calls to follow in our world. One can follow a particular sports team and let this loyalty be known through the purchase of licensed merchandise, banners, flags, etc. One can follow the tenets and work of a particular community organization or a beloved non-profit or ministry. One may also align oneself with a particular political party or ideology. Yes, we daily hear myriad calls to follow everything from brands to groups to teams to organizations, all thanks to effective marketing and rhetoric.
And still Jesus calls: “Follow me.” He meets us where we are, but this is not where the Christ expects us to stay. Folks, faithful discipleship is hard work. We can’t just show up for an hour or two on Sunday and expect to magically absorb all there is to know about the good news and being a follower of Jesus. We have to keep Jesus front and center every day of the week and every hour of the day. We need to be in regular communication with God (i.e. prayer and holy listening). Regular deep dives into scripture are part of the faithful follower’s routine; how else can we be fed and nourished on the Word? We need spiritual friendships with people in our faith community who are also committed to a life of following Jesus. We are wired for service—both within our faith community and without—and for generosity. These “marks” of discipleship (thank you, Michael Foss, for identifying and unpacking them) help ensure our growth in faith and our love of God and neighbor.
Why, then, is it still so hard to answer Jesus’ call to follow? Evidently Jesus was so compelling that his initial band of followers just dropped everything without counting the cost of what such an action might be. They even invited others to come and see what they found. It’s easy for us to recommend a restaurant, movie, or brand, but what about recommending Jesus? What about inviting others to come and see what has swept us off our feet and changed our lives?
Well, first of all, our life has to be changed, which gets back to the letting go of anything that gets between us and Jesus. Secondly, we really do have to surrender to our Creator the illusion of control over our life. Finally, we have to pay attention, work the marks of discipleship, and take seriously Jesus’ words and instructions. Remember that old song that says “and they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love; yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our love”? Yes, loving God and neighbor is one of the simplest admonitions, but also one of the hardest instructions to live out. We’ve seen just how difficult that is in the recent actions of some of our neighbors and elected representatives.
We can do better. We must do better. We must listen and learn. We must name that which runs counter to the gospel. And my friends, we must do better by Black, indigenous, and people of color. Our silence speaks volumes in the face of our siblings’ pain. We must see that no child goes to bed hungry and that the justice system is just for all. Such actions make love visible in the name of Christ, and it’s going to take a whole lot of love to bridge the divides in our nation and world.
And still Jesus calls: “Follow me.” How will you answer the call?
This week we have two “call stories,” that of Samuel and Jesus’ first disciples. How about inviting members of your faith community to share their call stories? We are all “called” through our various vocations to follow Jesus. How we answer that call is important, and we are people who relate to stories. Perhaps this is a time to share your own call story to ministry, including any doubts, if you have not already shared this with the congregation. Perhaps your musician(s) might share how they were called to share their gift of music, or your youth director might share how they were called.
Hymns you might consider this week include: “Will You Come and Follow Me (The Summons)” (ELW* 798); “Listen, God is Calling” (ELW 513); or “Great God, Your Love Has Called Us” (ELW 358). Worship songs could include “Come and See” by Matt Redman; “From the Day” by I AM THEY; and “Revival Anthem” by the Rend Collective. (*Evangelical Lutheran Worship)
Why not discuss Samuel’s call story today (1 Samuel 3:1-20)? Read the lesson and invite your youth to pay attention as you read it a second time. What phrase, word, or verse jumps out at them? For me it’s verse seven. Even though Samuel did not yet know God, he was still called by God. How might we listen more fully for God’s voice in our own life? How might we listen in community for and with one another? You might find some points of interest from Rob Bell here or in this short audio clip here.
This week’s focus verse is 1 Samuel 3:4: – Then the LORD called, “Samuel! Samuel!” and he said, “Here I am!”
When someone calls your name, what do you do? (Entertain all answers) Let’s say you are asleep and you think you hear your parent calling you. What do you do? Samuel thought he heard his mentor, Eli, calling him, so he goes in and says, “Here I am!” But it wasn’t Eli calling! It was God. Eli finally figures this out after Samuel wakes him up three times. Eli tells him to respond, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”
You may not hear the voice of God calling out to you when you’re asleep, but God does call to you. Sometimes God calls to us when we are praying. Sometimes we hear God in worship. We may hear God teaching us through scripture. We may also hear God in the voices of those who love us and know us well. We may even encounter God in neighbors we feel called to serve and share. God uses all sorts of people and ways to speak to us. God may even speak through you some day. The good news is that even though we may not be able to see God like we see our neighbor next door, God is still active in the world and in our lives. Yes, God still speaks to us and loves us.
Finish with a simple echo prayer and blessing.
Dear God (Dear God),
Thank you (Thank you) for loving us (for loving us). Thank you for calling us to follow Jesus (Thank you for calling us to follow Jesus). Help us to listen for your voice (Help us to listen for your voice), and share the good news of Jesus (and to share the good news of Jesus) with everyone we meet (with everyone we meet).
Keep us from fear (Keep us from fear). Keep us hopeful (Keep us hopeful). Make us helpful (Make us helpful). Give us peace (Give us peace). Amen (Amen).
Stewardship Bulletin Insert
God calls all of us in our various vocations to a life of discipleship. Stewardship and generosity are an integral part of discipleship. Thank you for responding to God’s call to be generous with your time, talent, and resources.
Listening for God…
This week spend some time listening for and looking for signs of the Christ all around you. Do you hear Jesus speaking to you in your daily devotional and scripture reading? Does God call to you through prayer? In service? Through you work/vocation? Does God speak to you through friends and family members? Do you encounter God on walks in the woods or along the lakeshore?
Like the United Church of Christ tagline “God is still speaking,” God is definitely present among us in this world, calling for us to listen and follow. What do you hear God saying to you this week?
2015 Reflection: https://www.stewardshipoflife.org/2015/01/the-call/
2012 Reflection: https://www.stewardshipoflife.org/2012/01/you-are-invited-2/
2009 Reflection: https://www.stewardshipoflife.org/2009/01/following-the-leader/
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