Second Sunday after Epiphany / Lectionary 2, Year B
Sunday 10:00 am Traditional Service
Readings and Psalms:
1 Samuel 3:1-10 [11-20]
Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18
1 Corinthians 6:12-20
On finding greater things and being found by the Great One
Sermon for the 2nd Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B; January 17, 2021 (Covid, FB live only)
1 Samuel 3:1-10; Psalm 139:1-14; John 1:43-51
Our Saviour Lutheran Church, Warrenton, VA.
The Reverend Terri E. L. Church
“Eureka! Eureka!” “I’ve found it! I’ve found it!”
Perhaps you know the story of Archimedes and the golden crown? Just in case, I’ll review:
The ancient Greek mathematician was called on to discover the truth—was the golden crown made for the king true or was there silver mixed in with the gold? Archimedes worked at the problem without success, until one day he took a break to bathe. While he was at the public baths, it came to him—just as his bath water was displaced by his own body, he could test the volume to weight ratio, for silver would displace more water than gold. So excited at his discovery, he forgot even his clothes as he ran into the streets shouting, “Eureka!” which means, I found it!
Eureka! He had found it! Well, um, to be truthful, this story wasn’t written down until a couple hundred years after the supposed fact, and old Archie didn’t ever write about it. Perhaps there’s some measure (haha!) of truth in it. However, even if the story is factual, did the mathematician really find anything at all? Or was it something that he already knew, waiting to be directed to this problem? The difference in volume was always there, but he saw it in a new way when he allowed his mind to rest and ruminate in that bath. His discovery came when he took a break. Eureka!
Have you ever had a eureka moment that came when you let your mind rest a bit—when you were in the shower, sitting in the dark, taking a walk, or, perhaps, relaxing under a tree? Our stories today talk about ways that God finds us—by letting us “find” God. And what we see is that, so often, those discoveries aren’t made in the sense of hide and seek—God isn’t trying to be hidden from us. No, God is ever present, and sometimes, we need a break from the action to “find” what God is revealing to us.
Young Samuel was doing his normal nightly work in the temple, guarding the Lamp of God, to make sure it didn’t go out before sunrise. There in the dark, in a period of quiet and prayer, God called him by name. It took a little while and some help from his mentor Eli for Samuel to figure out it was God calling. But he did, and he became a great prophet, doing great things, among them anointing King David.
Philip was a disciple of John the Baptist when he “found” Jesus—not because he was actively looking for him, but because John pointed the way. Jesus said, “Follow me,” and Philip “found” him. John pointing the way allowed Philip to see God in this new way—present as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Philip saw God present in a simple man from Nazareth and as someone to get excited about. “Eureka! We found him!” he proclaimed. (You could say he was a bad disciple though—Jesus said to follow him and the first thing he did was disobey him and run off to tell his friend Nathaniel the news! Maybe we should similarly be bad disciples?!)
How often do we discover truths that were already present because we rest from solving them? That’s what’s going on in these stories. God shows us Truth when we allow ourselves to be led to Jesus, when we step off our normal path to see something different. What are some of the eureka moments you’ve had?
Covid has certainly changed our normal path. Could we use that lack of normal to show us eureka moments? As a church, we need to be asking that question. Your leaders have come up with a plan for that.
Oh, we will continue to work hard—trying out new tech, learning how to connect while disjointed, turning older ministries into newer ones with a lot of grit and determination. However, we will not let that busyness determine our discipleship. Jesus is here, calling us to follow, so we need to slow down to let that call get through. Our eureka moments are waiting to be found, and Jesus is leading the way.
Spiritual Director Tina Korte leads our Thrive congregational renewal this year, and with it, she will encourage us to pray, and she’ll help us all learn how to pray. In our council retreat last weekend. She said, “I know that God has been waiting for me in the darkness. So many amazing things happen in the dark! It’s a time of growth, of restoration, of dreaming visions, of focus! I must have sat for over an hour the other night watching the moon move past our window. While I sat there watching the moon, the sun rose—a new day.”
Through prayer we will discover how God wants us to lead this community in faith. It will be another new day! Tina wants to hear your stories of how you encounter God, and she’ll be sharing some of those with all of us. I am excited to see the spiritual growth God has in store for this congregation this year! Sometimes, God is waiting for us in the dark.
Sometimes, God connects with us resting under a tree, like with the call of Nathaniel. Philip says, “Eureka! We’ve found the Messiah, the One we’ve been waiting for!” But Nathaniel doesn’t believe Jesus is who Philip says he is until he discovers that Jesus knew the truth—Jesus saw him under a fig tree before Philip called him. Now, there are plenty of references to fig trees in the Bible, all the way back to the fig leaves Adam and Eve used to cover their private parts in the Garden of Eden. Perhaps Jesus was saying he knew Nathaniel was a sinner. Or perhaps Jesus was praising Nathaniel for being a man of peace, someone taking pleasure in the simple joys of nature, one who knows the value of rest and restoration, especially when it comes to discovering God. God calls to us under our own fig trees.
There was another man who valued peace and peaceful reflection under a fig tree, despite being a general in the army: George Washington, first president of these United States. As I read this Gospel lesson, a song from the musical “Hamilton” kept coming to mind. Here’s a section of “One Last Time.” George Washington is telling a disbelieving Hamilton that he will not run again for president. Alexander would always rather work than take a break, so Washington must persuade him. He says:
If I say goodbye, the nation learns to move on
It outlives me when I’m gone
Like the scripture says:
“Everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree
And no one shall make them afraid.”
They’ll be safe in the nation we’ve made
I want to sit under my own vine and fig tree
A moment alone in the shade
At home in this nation we’ve made
One last time[i]
As the scripture says, “Everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid.” The scriptures said that in the prophet Micah, in the fourth verse of the fourth chapter, connecting the Israelites to a time after war, a time to rest, a time of peace. Washington seemed to like the prophet Micah. He quoted him often, including in a prayer that Bonnie McQuillan read at the council meeting the other night. Here’s the part where Micah comes in:
We make our earnest prayer that … Thou wilt most graciously be pleased to dispose us all to do justice, to love mercy and to demean ourselves with that charity, humility and pacific temper of mind which were the characteristics of the Divine Author of our blessed religion.[ii]
Can God speak in the thunders of war? Yes. Can great efforts come from hard work and applying ourselves? Absolutely! And yet, God often speaks into the quiet. God works in the darkness of the night. Perhaps we need to be still, taking a break from our busy minds, to hear the call of God. God showed Samuel, Nathaniel, Philip, Washington, and Tina greater things than what they could imagine on their own. God showed a vision of not just angels connecting heaven to earth, but divinity Itself, in the form of Jesus, who came to be one of us. Jesus calls us to rest and be still, so he can show us greater things than we can find with all our searching. We all need to sit under our own fig tree, or by our own fire, or in our quiet place, and let God find us.
Samuel! Philip! Nathaniel! George! Tina! … Terri! Say your name here and know that God is calling. And then say, “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.” God will find you and show you greater things than you know. Eureka moments come not when you’re stressed out to solve them, but when you get out of your own way. Wait in the dark, and Eureka! A new day dawns through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen
[i] “One Last Time,” song, Hamilton the Musical by Lin Manuel Miranda, as quoted in Genius Lyrics. https://genius.com/Christopher-jackson-lin-manuel-miranda-and-original-broadway-cast-of-hamilton-one-last-time-lyrics
[ii] Vine and Fig Tree, Library of Congress website: https://www.mountvernon.org/library/digitalhistory/digital-encyclopedia/article/vine-and-fig-tree/
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