Our January 17 Sunday worship service is available on video through Facebook. You may view it without being a member of Facebook. All scheduled worship services until further notice will be online only with minimal in-person participation to reduce COVID-19 risks.
The January 24 Sunday worship service will be held without in-person attendance because of the rise in COVID-19 cases in our state. It is scheduled to be streamed live on the DeSoto Redeemer Facebook page. We will post a direct link to the recording here as soon as it is possible after the service.
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Sermon – January 17
1 Samuel 3:1-10 [11-20] | Psalm 139 1-5, 12-17
1 Corinthians 6:12-20 | John 1:43-51
Call narratives: The call of Samuel and the call of Nathanael.
Samuel, while still a boy, is called by God to be his special servant. Actually, he is going to be the last judge, but even then, a special one! God had turned away from the priest Eli and his family, that’s part of the “eyesight had begun to grow dim” line. Eli had grown dim to God as well. His two sons had done something which God did not like (taking the priest’s portion of the offering before the ritual was completed – before the fat had been burned off, considered contemptible to the Lord. In fact, they are described as “worthless men.” The sons were guilty of other sins. The text implies that they had even worshipped other gods. So they have gotten really out of line. To the point that we’re told no amount of sacrifice could expiate their sin – they are unforgiven. They are probably still unforgiven! ). Eli had tried to correct them, but they would not. God turned instead to Samuel. He was called to be a prophet, a priest, and the last and the greatest of the judges. But that will be later. Now he is but a boy, and he doesn’t even know what to say when God calls him. Eli does tell him, and although the oracle which Samuel receives is against Eli; Eli in obedience accepts it. He grows less as Samuel grows greater, much the same as John the Baptist grows less when Jesus comes on the scene. God has turned to the unlikely candidate. But God does that quite often, really.
That brings us to the call of Nathanael (which might be another name for the apostle Bartholomew, the same person. Bartholomew means “the son of Tolmai,” which isn’t a name, but rather gives his lineage. We believe that Tolmai was Nathanael’s father.). He lives in Cana, where Jesus is about to perform his first miracle, changing water into wine, which was pretty near to Nazareth. It is his friend Philip who finds Nathanael and brings him to Jesus. Evidently, Nathanael is also looking forward to the coming of the Messiah. But, his response to Philip’s call is more than a bit cynical, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” I guess that Nazareth didn’t have a very good reputation. Again, this is a case where God does the unexpected. His son is born in Bethlehem, he lives in Nazareth, goes up to the region of Galilee, and the holy city of Jerusalem is not really involved for a long time. Jerusalem isn’t the center of God’s activity, as many would have expected. We always need to remember that God does not act the way that we would assume. That is one of the ways in which God is far more different than we are. If you presume God’s actions, be prepared to be disappointed. His ways are not our ways. There are many people need to remember that, and not just Nathanael.
In Nathanael’s case, it will be a case of seeing is believing, or at least conversing. Although his has his doubts about this rabbi from Nazareth, he agrees to go see him. Upon speaking with him, he is amazed at what Jesus knows about him. Amazed that Jesus “foreknew him.” “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” I prefer the old word, “in whom there is no guile.” Guile is an attribute which is attributed to Jacob in Genesis before he has his name changed to Israel. Jesus knows that Nathanael is an honest man, an honest Israelite (Jacob in Genesis, isn’t exactly fitting of that description). Nathanael is a person who is truly trying to live in accordance with what God has declared, trying to keep the Covenant of Moses. He is looking for the coming of God’s Messiah. And, Jesus wants him with him. That is a very high honor! And like the Jacob’s ladder story in Genesis, Jesus tells him that he will see angels ascending and descending, not upon the earth, but upon the Son of Man – Jesus himself. “Come Nathanael, you are to be part of the new Israel, indeed, the new kingdom of God.” Nathanael is called to follow Christ, to go where he leads, no matter how unexpected, and behold the wonders that he shall see at Christ’s call. How could he say no? How could anyone? “Well, give me a couple of days to think about it?” It doesn’t work that way. When confronted by the living Christ, there is no option but to follow when you are called.
Without a doubt, we have received this same call. We aren’t called to follow Jesus through Galilee and Jerusalem. But, we are called to follow him into the unexpected places of this world, even in the midst of this dire pandemic. We are called to share, like Philip, the news of Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus the Christ, to all people. And like the Apostles before us, we as disciples shouldn’t be all that surprised when we see the astonishing things which God will do around us, and even through us. For the call of Christ is a call to us as well. Let us follow where he leads the way, and be ready to be surprised!