Someone is always listening...
In St. Paul’s Cathedral in London there is a circular gallery where any spoken sound bounces back from the hard smooth stone walls. If you put your ear close to the wall, you can hear what is even whispered on the other side of the wall, many meters away. Many years ago a poor shoemaker whispered to his beloved that he could not marry her because he could not afford to buy any raw material for his work and his business was on the verge of ruin. The poor girl wept as she listened to the sad news. A gentleman on the other side of the gallery more than sixty meters away heard the story and the shoe maker’s whispered prayer, and decided to do something about it. The gentleman followed the shoemaker out of St. Pauls and after finding where he lived, had some leather sent to his shop. Naturally the young man was delighted. He made good use of the gift, and his business prospered and he was able to marry the girl of his heart. It was not until a few years later that he learned the name of his unknown friend. It was Prime Minister William Gladstone of Great Britain.
From –‘The Sunday Liturgy’
The gospel continues the theme of the manifestation or epiphany of Jesus, as John the Baptist points out and directs his own disciples to Jesus. “Behold the Lamb of God!” John and Andrew, the disciples with their teacher, John the Baptist, were at the Jordan river, where the people had long ago crossed over into the Promised land. When the disciples heard from John the name of the one passing by –The Lamb of God, they understood enough to follow Jesus. Their decision to leave John and follow Jesus must have been a struggle. They followed Jesus respectfully at a distance behind. Jesus turned and asked what they were looking for. Through history, people have come to Jesus for a variety of reasons. People still come to Jesus for a variety of reasons. Why are we looking for Jesus? What do we want from him? Andrew and John followed Jesus asking where he stayed. They were more than curious, they wanted to know him and were attracted to him. Jesus’ answer was a kind invitation: “Come and see.” The experience of staying with Jesus was so memorable that John even adds the time of the day at which they met Jesus –four in the afternoon. Andrew too was so taken up with the encounter that he could wait to come home and share what he had experienced with his brother Simon. “We have found the Messiah” he said, and took Simon to meet the Lord. Jesus looked hard at Simon and called him by name. “You are Simon son of John; you will be called Cephas-meaning the Rock.” The encounter of Simon changed not only his name but his life.
“What’s your profession?”
Francis Gonsalves in ‘Sunday Seeds for Daily Deeds’
I need a person who is on the alert…
Waiting in a steamship office to be interviewed for the job of a wireless operator, a group of applicants filled the room with such a buzz of conversation that they were oblivious to the dots and dashes that began coming over the loudspeaker. About that time another man entered and sat down quietly by himself. Suddenly he snapped to attention, walked into the private office, and a few minutes later came out smiling with the new job. “Say,” one of the group called out, “how did you get in ahead of us? We were here first.” “One of you would have gotten the job,” the successful applicant replied, “if you had listened to the message from the loudspeaker.” “What message?” they asked
Called by name
You may remember the story of Helen of Troy. According to legend this beautiful queen was captured and carried away and became a victim of amnesia. She became a prostitute in the streets. She didn’t know her name or the fact that she came from royal blood. But back in her homeland, friends didn’t give up on her return. An old friend believed she was alive and went to look for her. He never lost faith. One day while wandering through the streets, he came to a waterfront and saw a wretched woman in tattered clothes with deep lines across her face. There was something about her that seemed familiar, so he walked up to her and said, “What is your name?” She gave a name that was meaningless to him. “May I see your hands? He pursued. She held out her hands in front of her, and the young man gasped, “You are Helen! You are Helen! Do you remember? She looked up at him in astonishment. “Helen!” he yelled out. Then the fog seemed to clear. There was recognition in her face. The light came on! She discovered her lost self, put her arms around her friend and wept. She discarded the tattered clothes and once more became the queen she was born to be. -God searches for you in the same way. He calls you by name. He uses every method possible to look for you and try and convince you of your worth to him.
Brian Cavanaugh in ‘The Sower’s Seeds’
An unfamiliar voice
In his sermon, “When God Speaks,” Dr. Keith Wagner says the following: “I am sure that everyone has seen the television commercial about E.F. Hutton. There is always a crowd of people and two people are together when one of them says, “Well my broker is E.F. Hutton and E.F. Hutton says…..” At that point there is a huge hush over the crowd and everyone turns to listen. Then the advertisement concludes with the phrase, “When E.F. Hutton talks, people listen.” What about when God speaks? Is anyone listening? Does God have the same credibility that E.F. Hutton has when it comes to important messages? God is actually speaking to us all the time. The problem is that we are not listening. It was the same in Samuel’s time. Samuel was a future leader of the faith community. God needed Samuel to listen. No one else was listening at that time as we hear, “for the word of the Lord was rare in those days.” Is the word of the Lord rare in these times? Or is God not heard because no one is listening? Is it difficult to listen to God in these times simply because there is too much noise? Samuel heard the voice of God , only because he slept near the arc of the covenant. When we are willing to stay close to the church, to ‘hang out’ where the word of God is spoken, we give God an opportunity to speak.
Ken Abraham in ‘Designer Genes’
The Quest for Jesus
Mark Link in ‘Sunday Homilies’
Discovering God’s plan for me
3. Come and see the heavens opened.
Harding said that King's detractors like to point out that he was a human being, that he had faults, human foibles. He was certainly not a saint, Harding points out. He made mistakes in judgment. He put his marriage to the test. He also suffered from human frailties, like anxiety and depression.
He comes to us as he came to his disciples, and says to us, "Follow me." To "follow me" means, identifying with the poor and the oppressed, loving the sinner, and living sacrificially for others in this world, taking up your cross. That is the sole qualification for everybody to be his disciple - that you will take up your cross.
Martin Luther King understood that, I think, probably better than anybody else in our time. Like all historical figures, he will be interpreted from different perspectives. But the way he would want to be interpreted is that he was a "servant of Christ."
Paul E. Flesner,
Fairy tales are stories of transformation, and that's what happened to these simple people we call the disciples. If you took the disciples and brought them all together into one room, you would never in your wildest imagination guess by looking at them that this weak-looking pack of ordinary folks could change the world. But they did. The disciples changed the world because it was to them that the secret of the universe was first revealed.
Fred Everybody, Thomas Somebody, Peter Anybody, and Joe Nobody were neighbors, but not the type that most would want to know. They were odd people, troublesome, and difficult to understand. The way they lived their lives was a shame. These men all went to the same church, but most would not have wanted them as parishioners. Everybody went fishing on Sundays or stayed home and spoke with his friends. Anybody wanted to worship, but he was afraid that Somebody would speak with him. Thus, guess who went to church - that's right, Nobody. Actually, Nobody was the only decent one of the lot. Nobody did the parish census; Nobody joined the parish council. One day there was a call in the bulletin for people to apply for a position as a teacher in the religious education program. Everybody thought Anybody would apply; Anybody thought Somebody would apply. So, guess who applied? You are right - Nobody! My friends, let's not be an everybody, somebody, or anybody. Rather, let us truly strive to be a nobody. In such a way we empty ourselves so we can be filled with the amazing power of Christ, who died to set us free and, thus, will always be our brother, friend, and Lord.
I remember a story about a woman who brought home a plaque that said, "Prayer changes things." She put it in her kitchen, above her sink. Her husband came home, and said, "Take that down, please." She said, "Why? Don't you believe in prayer?" He said, "Yes, but I don't believe in change."
That is the problem with big, establishment-type institutions. But recently there has been, in fact, a rush to change, almost a panic on the part of some churches. There have been some changes around here, too. I hope that you have noticed that. There will be more. But change should be determined by what our mission is. Mission is what ought to drive the change. We should not do things because other churches do them, not even if they are successful in other churches. Change should come only to enhance our mission.
A few years ago a church located in a large city decided to turn its gymnasium into a night shelter for homeless people. Every winter there were reports that some of these people, condemned to sleep out in the open, had frozen to death, and so the church made the warmth and safety of its building available without charge. Each evening during the winter, volunteers from the church would spend the night in the shelter, providing food, clothing, and lodging for as many of the homeless as the building would hold. Almost without exception, the volunteers reported that the experience of spending the night with these people from the streets had been far more than an act of dutiful charity. The volunteers had found their own faith strengthened, their own reliance upon the grace of Christ reinforced by the experience.
Thomas G. Long,
The Man with Two Umbrellas
Now, let me close with the story of the man with two umbrellas. Dr. Gordon Targerson, a Baptist pastor in Worcester, Massachusetts, was crossing the Atlantic by ship some years ago. He noticed on several occasions a dark-skinned man sitting in a deck chair reading a Bible. One day Dr. Targerson sat down beside him and said, "Forgive my curiosity. I'm a Baptist minister. I notice you are a faithful Bible reader. I'd like to meet you." After introductions, the dark-skinned man said, "I am Filipino. I was born into a good Catholic home. I went to the United States as a young man to study in one of your fine universities, intending to become a lawyer. On my first day on campus, a student dropped by to visit. He welcomed me and offered to help in any way he could. Then he asked me where I went to church. I told him I was Catholic. He explained that the Catholic church was quite a distance away, but he sat down and drew me a map. I thanked him and he left.
"As we walked along I asked him about his church. He said that his church was just around the corner. So, I suggested that we go to his church this Sunday, and then to mine the following Sunday. He agreed…
However, somehow I felt so much at home in his church that I never got around to finding mine. After four years, I felt that Almighty God was leading me into the ordained ministry; rather than, the law! I went to Drew University Seminary and was ordained a Methodist minister. Then, I returned to the Philippines to serve in a Methodist parish. My name is Valencius - Bishop Valencius - Bishop of the Methodist Church in the Philippines."
As I start to take my seat, now, understand that the hero of that story is not the Methodist Bishop - important as he is - the hero is that anonymous young man with "Twin Umbrellas!" Whether they had ended up in the Methodist or the Catholic Church didn’t really matter! Go all the way back to the beginning of Christian and church history - and, you will find that unamed woman or man with "Twin Umbrellas" behind almost every Christian convert - that person with a winsome faith who builds a bridge of friendship with another person - and, across that bridge walks a "Living Christ" who claims another soul as His own!
Finally, as I sit down, know that you too can be that person with "Twin Umbrellas" - you can be like Andrew - you can be like Philip - you can tell someone else to "come and see" - just come and see - that is all that I ask - and, my brothers and sisters, you will learn that something
Nathanael learned this. He was skeptical at first but he was transformed. He became a follower because Phillip invited him.
Let me ask you: What was it that Phillip saw in Christ that moved him to follow, that stirred him so to invite his friend Nathanael. Come and see what? What did Phillip see in Jesus of Nazareth? I want to attempt to answer that question this morning. Come and see what?