Saturday, January 17, 2015

Sermon for the Second Sunday after Epiphany

"Brooklyn Museum - Nathaniel Under the Fig Tree (Nathanaël sous le figuier) - James Tissot - overall" by James Tissot - Online Collection of Brooklyn Museum; Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 2008, 00.159.59_PS2.jpg. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons -

Christ Church, Gardiner
Second Sunday after Epiphany
1Samuel 3:1-10
Psalm 139:1-5
John 1:43-51

In our Old Testament reading this morning we learn how God called Samuel as a young boy.  His words, “Speak, for your servant is listening”, and Samuel’s trust in his teacher, Eli, show us a heart and mind open to God’s calling. If we read the whole of the passage, we would learn that Samuel was reluctant to tell Eli what God had said because it involved Eli’s sons, who blasphemed God and Eli did nothing about it.  Eli insisted on knowing what was said and after hearing, responded “It is the Lord; let him do what seems good to him”  Samuel grew up “And all of Israel from Dan to Beer-sheeba knew that Samuel was a trustworthy prophet of the Lord.”

We are so very used to hearing that Jesus called people that we have no idea how unusual it is for a Rabbi, a teacher, to call someone to be his disciple. The usual way was for a student to pick his teacher. But that is what Jesus does at the start of his ministry. He calls Andrew and Peter and James and John away from their livelihoods as fishermen, and called them to become fishers of people. He called Philip, who in turn, found Nathanael.  When Jesus saw Nathanael coming he said “He is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.” 

It can be pretty risky for us to live without deceit. I know I can remember times when I didn’t correct someone about myself, because what they said sounded so much nicer than reality. Even though we like to think of ourselves as honest people, we fool ourselves into thinking that our white lies, or silences or evasions are needed either to soothe our egos or our self-esteem or to protect our positions in the community or sometimes to protect others. But mostly it’s about us.

If you go on-line and read about news of the Episcopal Church, you might know that an instance of this living with deceit has come to a head these past two weeks for the Assisting Bishop of Maryland.  She was driving and texting while intoxicated and killed a bicyclist.  To make matters worse, she left the scene of the accident only to return within the hour.  She had a DUI before she was considered for bishop, and although the search committee knew of it, the bishop, herself, did not make that known to the people of the diocese during her walkabouts.  So it is not known whether at the time she was elected she was working her program and really was in recovery.  Of course the internet has been buzzing with speculation about her and some very nasty things are said.   She was arrested and is out on bail and in a recovery program while awaiting civil trial. She has been put on leave and Ecclesiastical Court proceedings loom in the horizon.  Not coming clean has its consequences.

Maine, on the other hand, called a bishop who openly acknowledged that she had an alcohol problem; had been sober for years and worked in the Diocese of Chicago. She talked about it openly, wrote a book about alcoholism and never in her ten years with us was this an issue.  She is so well respected in the church that three dioceses have asked her to step in either as interim bishop or assisting bishop since her retirement.

Now drinking in the Episcopal Church is an issue. It affects seminarians, deacons, priests and bishops as well as lay people. It does not mean that everyone who has a drink is an alcoholic, far from it.  But our church does tolerate a culture of drinking. We all know the jokes about “Whiskeypalians” or “whenever four Episcopalians get together, there’s always a fifth.” I mentioned these two bishops to help us understand how hiding our flaws and blinding ourselves to who we really are, get in the way of our hearing God’s call to us. In our psalm God knows our innermost selves and calls us to wholeness and to mission.

The Iona Community has a hymn called The Summons, it goes:

Will you come and follow me if I but call your name?
Will you go where you don't know and never be the same?
Will you let my love be shown? Will you let my name be known,
will you let my life be grown in you and you in me?

Will you leave yourself behind if I but call your name?
Will you care for cruel and kind and never be the same?
Will you risk the hostile stare should your life attract or scare?
Will you let me answer prayer in you and you in me?

Will you let the blinded see if I but call your name?
Will you set the prisoners free and never be the same?
Will you kiss the leper clean and do such as this unseen,
and admit to what I mean in you and you in me?

Will you love the "you" you hide if I but call your name?
Will you quell the fear inside and never be the same?
Will you use the faith you've found to reshape the world around,
through my sight and touch and sound in you and you in me?

Lord your summons echoes true when you but call my name.
Let me turn and follow you and never be the same.
In Your company I'll go where Your love and footsteps show.
Thus I'll move and live and grow in you and you in me.

The fourth stanza is so apt for today.  “Will you love the “you” you hide if I but call your name?” Hiding our dark secrets from ourselves, from our neighbors and from God are the result of fear.  One of the real problems with any addiction is our denial that we are addicted.  We fear that people will not love us if they find out who we really are and sometimes that does happen.  There is so much fear that people do tend to lash out at someone they thought was so wonderful, has feet of lead.  It is faith that helps us, flawed humans to reshape the world around us. It is opening up our dark spaces to God’s light and living in truth that helps us turn and follow our Lord. It is following our unique calls in the company of the one who calls us that helps us to “move and live and grow” and never be the same.

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