Sermon for the Second Sunday after the Epiphany – Vision, To See As God Sees
Deacon Patricia M. O’Connell
1 Samuel 3:1-10 (11-20); Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18; 1 Corinthians 6:12-20; John 1:43-51
This time, after The Epiphany and before Lent, is referred to as Ordinary Time on the liturgical calendar. Of course, this time in our nation is anything but ordinary. I cannot imagine that there is anyone here on Zoom this morning that is not feeling the grief and sadness from a pandemic that has gone on too long or the angst that comes from watching and waiting to see what domestic terrorism will unleash next in our Capitol or within our individual state capitals. It is a time that instills fear in our hearts and casts mighty shadows into our epiphany light.
Epiphany—a word that contains many other words that reflect positive energy and promotes the clarity of perfect light: Words such as Manifestation, Revelation, Vision, Wonder, Awe, Amazement.
Manifestation — On the Feast of The Epiphany, we witnessed the manifestation of Christ to the peoples of the earth. Revelation — On the First Sunday after The Epiphany, there was the Baptism of Jesus and the revelation of Jesus as the Messiah, the beloved Son of God. And today, the epiphany word that comes to my mind as a useful guide for us is “vision”.
What our world needs now is vision—vision to see as God sees.
I do realize that the prominent themes in our lessons today are the calling of Samuel and the calling of the first disciples. The words most commonly associated with these readings are a very young Samuel responding to the Lord, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” And Jesus inviting his would be disciples with the words, “Follow Me!” And while I love these lessons, and find great comfort in the traditional theme of “being called by God” that these words reflect, today I am drawn to considering these lessons from a different perspective—the perspective that led Nathanael to ask Jesus, “Where did you get to know me?” –John 1:48
For me, this question of Nathanael to Jesus gets to the essence of the epiphany word “vision” — and seeing as God sees. Vision is an appropriate theme as well on a holiday weekend that celebrates Martin Luther King, Jr. King had a vision, a dream for his people, for all people, a dream of a beloved community.
Like Martin Luther King, Jr, I believe that our God has a vision for all the peoples of the earth, the people whom God has created. God’s vision, inherent in the ministry of Jesus, is a table to which God has invited us all to come and be in relationship with one another and with the God self. God’s vision is of a beloved community and it is based on God’s knowledge of who we are. It is not we who decide who comes to the table. In fact, in God’s vision, we need to set our judgments aside and figure out how it is that we should be living out our lives as God sees us.
To illustrate, let me tell you a story about two women, both highly educated and both faithful and devout in their quest to follow Jesus. Both knelt before God and prayed for God’s will to be done as regarded the 2020 presidential elections. One of the women was appalled by the actions of President Donald Trump. She felt strongly that his leadership is deranged and flies in the face of the gospel message of Jesus Christ. She is a social activist touting the moral high ground. The other woman, encouraged by the clergy of her denomination, believed that Joseph Biden is the devil incarnate. She lives in fear for the violence that she believes that Biden and the Democrats will bring to this country. She even considered buying a gun to protect herself. The first woman is a pro-choice, feminist; the second woman is firmly anti-abortion and actively supports a pro-life position. Both attend mainstream Christian churches. Both women believe in their hearts that they are following the truths laid out in their denominations and the teachings of Jesus Christ. Each woman has come to her beliefs and her political positions from a place of prayer and deep faith.
Without a doubt, they are clearly at odds with one another, polar opposites. Each praying from a different context to the same God. These two women are symbolic of the majority of Americans. They sit on opposite sides of the aisle. They could be any color; they could even be males. They are not extremists, not white supremacists, not fascists, not socialists. They are main stream voters who are the two sides of a democracy that has run amok.
It screams of dichotomy. And yet, isn’t it probable that this dichotomy exists right here in our own church? It would be naive to think that we all think and act and believe the same way when it comes to politics, ethics, and morals.
Clearly, as we see from the two women described, not all God-fearing, faith-based people see things from the same perspective. And obviously, for us gathered here, we share enough values in common that we choose to come together as one—that we choose to be in communion with one another—despite our differences.
The stark reality is that we each hear our own call from deep within us, from lives that have been shaped by the people and experiences around us. We live our lives and make our decisions based on the people we have become. The question for us is “How do we make sense of the fact that we who believe in the same all loving God hear the word of God differently?”
God calls. God calls us by name with a perfect knowledge of who we are. God invites us to the table God has set for us knowing that we come to that table with our differences and our diversity. What does this say to us about the vision of God? What does God’s vision actually mean for us personally and collectively?
God’s vision seems to be like one of those paradoxes that Jesus is famous for speaking. A paradox being a situation, person, or thing that combines contradictory features or qualities. In this instance, God spreads out a table and invites all the people whom God has created to come to the banquet to feast with the God self.
This God of love, our God of justice and truth, has a vision that seats peacemakers and insurrectionists, people who voted for Trump and people who voted for Biden, people who are Pro-choice and those who are Pro-life, people of all colors, shapes, and sizes, lovers and haters, the churched and the unchurched at the table together. God’s vision is all-inclusive; God does not exclude.
Dear people of God,
What is it that our God sees when God looks at God’s creation?
What is it that our God invites us to come and see with the words “Follow Me!”?
If we follow and see, will we then see ourselves in a different way?
Will we know where it is that our God got to know us?
These are not questions that readily have answers. We are living in hard times, oppositional times. It is likely that the answers will only be found at the table that God has spread out for us to gather as one.
Are we willing to come to that table?
Are we willing to see God’s vision, to see as God sees?
Can we come together, live our lives, and make our decisions as one, as the beloved community of God?
And for right now, in this ordinary time, can we let it begin with a resounding “Amen”?