A New Calling
 — Rev. Phil Hobson

January 14, 2018

1 Samuel 3:1-10
John 1:43-51

Grace and Peace to you this morning. Grace and Peace.

Prophets and apostles. God’s calling the unlikely. Our calling.

Philip and Nathanael are a study in contrasts. Jesus goes up to Philip and says, “Follow me.” And Philip follows him. Philip finds Nathanael and says, “I’ve found him! The one we have all been looking for. The one we have all been waiting for. The one who was promised. Jesus of Nazareth!”

And Nathanael says, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?!?”

What would it take for someone to come up to us and say “Follow me,” and we follow them? I cannot speak for you, but I confess I have a lot of that Nathanael mindset. “Really? You’ve got to be kidding me.”

Of course we want to say that we are like Philip, that we would hop up and leave house and home and hearth and wander with Jesus. But is it really that easy?

Maybe that is the problem we face not just in the time of Apostles, but back with the prophet Samuel.

In our story this morning, Samuel is not a prophet yet. He is an apprentice in the Tabernacle. He is serving Eli, a priest, whose sons are the kinds of priests who are skimming off the top of the offerings. And Eli’s sight is bad. This may not simply be physical, but also a spiritual description. His sons are unrighteous, but he does not notice.

And it says that “The word of the LORD was rare in those days; visions were not widespread.” We do not know if God wasn’t speaking much or if people were not listening. We do not know if there were no visions, or if people just treated them like bad dreams.

And everyone knows that God doesn’t speak to apprentices. God starts at the top, with the priest. So when Samuel hears God, he hops up and runs (what a quick learner he is!), and asks Eli what he wants. And three times Eli tells Samuel to go back to sleep.

But even Eli figures it out after three times. “Okay, next time you hear this voice, say, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”

And this is where our expectations break down a little. God doesn’t call the priest; God calls the servant. God doesn’t call only the willing Philip, but also the snarky and the skeptical Nathanael.

We are called. Not just the willing and the religious, but the grumbly and the doubtful. And we are called not because we have money, or fame, or power, or prestige, or are the most faithful. Because that is not how God works.

If God only wanted the elite, the shepherds would not have gotten to the manger two years before the wise men!

If God only wanted the whole and the healthy, Jesus would not have touched lepers and raised the dead.

If God only wanted the powerful, he would not have shown up as a child among a homeless family who became refugees.

If God only wanted the rich, Jesus would have reminded the disciples to take their ATM card with them when they went out to the highways and the hedges.

God calls who God wants to call, and God calls them for God’s purposes, not their own.

I know a Nathanael. He is from Haiti. A country recently referred to in scatological terms by those who claim to be the elite. Nathanael is the son of a Pentecostal minister. But Nathanael’s calling was not to follow his father’s footsteps, at least not directly. Instead, he became an Anglican. And he went from Haiti to Canada. He then came to the United States and is the Episcopal priest at St. Augustine of Hippo’s Church in Manhattan. He is a classmate of mine in the preaching program.

His story is one of the poverty of a country that has never been forgiven by the international community for having a successful slave uprising. Rather than applaud their courageous work for freedom, Haiti has been destroyed economically time and again by the countries that continued the slave trade, including and especially the United States.

And Nathanael preaches the love and grace of God that calls us from all kinds of lives, to work with Jesus for justice and peace. Nathanael preaches that it is not our means, our worth, our country, our pride of place or name that God looks at. No, Nathanael preaches the Gospel, that Jesus came for the sin sick and the weary, the lost and the hurting. For that is the Gospel isn’t it? That God’s love is for us, whatever our life, whatever our condition?

Our Gospel story’s Nathanael says, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?”

Our hearts ask, “Can anything good come from me?”

Our world asks, “Can anything good come from ________ countries?

And Philip says, “Come and see!”

And what Nathanael sees is the Christ. And Jesus sees Nathanael, just as he is, warts and all.

And Jesus calls him. And Jesus loves him.

What is your calling?

  • God loves you, you do not need to earn that! So what is your calling?
  • Jesus says you are loved and you are worthy! So what is your calling?
  • The Holy Spirit has given you gifts to use to help others! So what is your calling?
  • The church has claimed you as one of our own! So what is your calling?
  • You are a part of the Body of Christ! So what is your calling?
  • You are the beloved child of God, the one in whom God is well pleased! So what is your calling?
  • Your gifts do not match the gifts of others, but that is okay, because the flute does not sound like the kettle drum, but the symphony needs both! So what is your calling?

We have found him, about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote,

“Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.”

“Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”

“Come and see.”

Thanks be to God! Amen.