Second Sunday After Epiphany
17th January 2021
Order of Service
Words of welcome, announcements
Lighting the Christ Candle
In this season of Light, we light this candle to remind us of God’s light that shines even in the darkness. May this light of hope, peace, and justice shine for all the world to see. May this light bless our homes and our journey in the days that lie ahead.
Call To Worship
We’ve come to worship God, who loved us before we were yet born, who knows us even better than we know ourselves, whose presence never leaves us, and whose love for us never ceases.
This is our God, and our hope.
Let’s worship together!
Prayer of Approach
O God, you call to us today, just as you called to the boy Samuel so long ago. Gather us in today, even as we are apart from each other. We are many different ages, but we pray for the maturity of faith to hear your call and respond to your Word. Open our ears and our hearts as we worship, as we work, and as we care for one another. We ask that you would give us courage and integrity to answer your call with the heart-felt words,“Here I am!” Amen.
Hymn I Am the Light of the World VU 87
Refrain: “I am the light of the world!
You people come and follow me!”
If you follow and love you’ll learn the mystery
of what you were meant to do and be.
- When the song of the angels is stilled,
when the star in the sky is gone,
when the kings and the shepherds have found their way home,
the work of Christmas is begun: Refrain
- To find the lost and lonely one,
to heal the broken soul with love,
to feed the hungry children with warmth and good food,
to feel the earth below, the sky above! Refrain
- To free the prisoner from all chains,
to make the powerful care,
to rebuild the nations with strength of good will,
to see God’s children everywhere! Refrain
- To bring hope of every task you do,
to dance at a baby’s new birth,
to make music in an old person’s heart,
and sing to the colours of the earth! Refrain
Bible Story: Samuel’s encounter with God (1 Samuel 3)
Homily “Foundational Stories”
Hymn For the Healing of the Nations VU 67
- For the healing of the nations,
God, we pray with one accord;
For a just and equal sharing
Of the things that earth affords.
To a life of love in action
Help us rise and pledge our word.
2. Lead us forward into freedom,
From despair your world release;
That, redeemed from war and hatred,
All may come and go in peace.
Show us through care and goodness
Fear will due and hope increase.
3. All that kills abundant living,
Let it from the earth be banned;
Pride of status, race or schooling,
Dogmas that obscure your plan.
In our common quest for justice
May we hallow life’s brief span.
4. You, Creator-God, have written
your great name on humankind;
for our growing in your likeness
bring the life of Christ of mind;
that, by our response and service,
earth its destiny may find.
Hymn Arise, Your Light Is Come VU 79
1. Arise, your light is come!
The Spirit’s call obey;
show forth the glory of your God,
which shines on you today.
2. Arise, your light is come!
Fling wide the prison door;
proclaim the captive’s liberty,
good tidings to the poor.
3. Arise, your light is come!
All you in sorrow born,
bind up the broken-hearted ones
and comfort those who mourn.
4. Arise, your light is come!
The mountains burst in song!
Rise up like eagles on the wing;
God’s power will make us strong.
Go into God’s world, aware of God’s call in your life. Follow our Lord Jesus Christ who will lead you in paths of service and hope. Lean on the power of the Holy Spirit to give you courage and strength. May peace, joy and love flow through you to others, in God’s name. AMEN.
“Foundational Stories” Text: 1 Samuel 3, John 1:43-51
by Rev. James Murray at Trinity-St. Andrew’s United Church, Renfrew. January 17 2021
This morning we shared two of the foundational stories in the Bible. The story of Samuel hearing God’s voice marks the first time that God calls a prophet to speak for God in order to encourage people to change their ways. The story of Jesus calling his disciples shows us how God is seeking to work through everyday people to make significant changes in how we look at the world.
The young boy Samuel has a hard time hearing what God is saying, because God’s voice wasn’t heard much back then. It takes the wisdom of the old man Eli to figure out what is really happening so Samuel can respond to what God was saying to him. Samuel grows up to be the first prophet called by God. As a prophet he spoke for God in a world that had all but forgotten about God. It was not an easy task and Samuel often put his life at risk when he argued with the king.
When Jesus starts to call disciples, the people he speaks to have a hard time hearing what he is saying. He isn’t the messiah they are expecting. They are expecting someone who is from one of the noble families who will raise up an army and lead the nation to set the people free. They are expecting another King David. When Philip tells Nathanial about meeting Jesus and that Jesus is the Christ, Nathanial thinks nothing good can come out of Nazareth. Nathanial doubts Jesus could be someone important enough for him to take seriously. It is only when he meets Jesus face to face that he experiences Jesus for who he really is. It is only when he trust the power of his own experience
that he comes to believe in Jesus as the messiah.
Then Jesus tells Nathanial something we all struggle to hear. Jesus promises Nathanial that he will see “heaven opened and angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” Jesus is telling Nathanial he will see God at work in this world. These words are hard for us to understand because the word of God is not heard much in these days we are living in.
People had a hard time hearing what Jesus had to say because it was so different from what they had experienced in the past. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day faithfully served their political overseers to make sure the people were kept in their place. Peace was maintained by the power of the sword. The religious leaders were willing to kill a noisy prophet in order to keep the people quiet. That was just the way it was done back then, they said. The Roman Empire did such a good job ruling by the power of violence, wealth and privilege that few people dared to question their authority or believe that a different way of doing things was even possible.
The stories we tell about ourselves reveals what we truly believe in. We tell these stories because they help us to place our lives in a larger context. These stories reveal an underlying pattern which give us a sense that life has meaning and value. They give us direction, values, vision, and inspiration by providing a framework for our lives. It tells us who we are, where we come from, and where things are going.
Did your parents ever tell you that if you go to school and work hard, that you can get ahead in life? Such a story reveals our trust in the economic system that runs our world. Sadly, there are many young people today who have got the education, and who have worked hard, only to find there are no jobs open to them. This is why such foundational stories shape our worldview in ways we don’t often question, until they stop working.
The evangelical writer Brian McLaren says that “if our foundational story tells us that the purpose of life is for us to accumulate an abundance of possessions and to experience the maximum amount of pleasure during our all too short lives, then we will have little reason to manage our consumption. If our framing story tells us that we are in life-and-death competition with each other, then we will have little reason to seek reconciliation and nonviolent resolutions to our conflicts.
McLaren goes on to say “But if our framing story tells us that we are free and responsible creatures in a creation made by a good, wise, and loving God, and that our Creator wants us to pursue virtue, peace, and mutual care for one another and all living creatures, this new story changes what is possible. If we believe this alternative foundational story that we find in the Bible we find that our lives can have profound meaning. If we dare to align ourselves with God’s wisdom, character, and dreams for us, then our society will take a radically different direction, and our world will become a profoundly transformed place.
Jesus came to challenge that self-interested foundational story with God’s values of compassion, mercy, healing and justice. This is why Jesus tells Nathanial and everyone else that is willing to follow him that we can ALL experience God’s compassion, mercy, healing and justice.
The gospels call this alternative world view the Kingdom of God. The Biblical scholar John Domenic Crossan says “God’s kingdom is here, but only insofar as you accept it, enter it, live it, and help establish it.” God’s kingdom is here if we want to experience it for ourselves. But it requires our involvement to make it happen. It’s not a passive experience like sitting back to watch a movie. This is a living movement where we all have a part to play. Everyone is invited to join in this experience. We can be like Philip and Nathanial and share in what Jesus is doing. But sharing in this experience does come at a cost. By its very design, God’s kingdom confronts and challenges the many Caesars in our world, along with their supporters.
As appealing as this alternative story is, many people do resist it, because it brings their own foundational story into question. This is why those who oppose this shift in power will use Caesar’s methods against you. They will bully you, they will harass and intimidate you. They will use verbal and physical violence, and even sexual assault to protect their privilege and power. The prophet Samuel was hunted and harassed by the King of Israel for exposing the corruption at the heart of their nation.
The gospels tell us that Rome and its religious accomplices conspired to get rid of Jesus because his prophetic actions which were promoting God’s alternative kingdom. The same thing happens today.
In the face of such intimidation, we stand as a witness here today that true love will set us free from the tyranny of power. We are a witness that men and women are equal, for we are all made in God’s image. That race, gender and sexual orientation are differences to be celebrated, and not feared. We are a witness that all living creatures are worthy of respect, for we are all brothers and sisters of Christ Jesus.
So come and see. Come and see God’s kingdom looks like in action. Come and see the difference it makes when the poor are fed. When the sick are healed and the vulnerable are cared for. Come and see what happens when the stranger is welcomed in as a friend. Come and see what a world built on good will looks like instead of a world torn apart by ill will.
Come and experience God’s love for yourself.
Come and see. Amen.
Brian McLaren “Everything Must Change: Jesus, Global Crises, and a Revolution of Hope” (Thomas Nelson: 2007) John Dominic Crossan “God and Empire” (Harper 200