John 1:43-51 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, 'Follow me.' Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, 'We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.' Nathanael said to him, 'Can anything good come out of Nazareth?' Philip said to him, 'Come and see.'
When Jesus saw Nathanael coming towards him, he said of him, 'Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!' Nathanael asked him, 'Where did you come to know me?'
Jesus answered, 'I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.'
Nathanael replied, 'Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!'
Jesus answered, 'Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.' And he said to him, 'Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.'
Grace, mercy, and peace be unto you, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Towards the end of the week, a news story caught the attention of many. The story is about a ten year old girl, named Emma, in Billings, Montana. Emma watched with her parents last week's events at the Capitol, especially the video of the Washington D.C. police officer, Daniel Hodges, who was crushed between the doors and people. Emma could not understand why people were hurting him while he was trying to do his job, and became upset.
Emma's mother suggested she write out her feelings. Emma did, writing both a letter and a get well card. When finished, Emma's mother shared the letter and card on social media in hopes an address could be found to physically mail the card and letter to him. A few hours later, Emma's mother received a response from the Washington D.C. Police Department that Officer Hodges was recovering and doing well. A t.v. station in Washington D.C. learned of the story and connected Emma with the police officer through Zoom.
When asked why she wrote the letter to someone she didn't know, Emma's response was simple: "I hoped it would help him feel better about himself and that there was somebody who cared about and didn't want him being hurt."
Emma's parents have taught her well: to be kind, caring, compassionate, and loving towards complete strangers. They are also teaching her the importance of being aware of her calling in life.
Were he alive, Martin Luther would argue Emma is living out her vocation -- her calling to serve God and neighbor. Luther would also argue this care for her neighbor -- a stranger she has never met, is her way of sharing her love of God with others.
In Luther's day, a calling, a vocation, was intended for those seeking the religious life. Luther argued back each of us has a calling, a vocation in life to love our neighbor. Luther viewed even a parent changing a child's messy diaper as being a vocation. A colleague reminded us of this in the weekly text study -- the simplest, mundane tasks are part of our vocation. Even the household tasks we like the least are part of our vocation. For example, with three cats in the Glover household, cleaning out the litterboxes is often an unpleasant, yet necessary task needing to be done. Caring for them by feeding them, cleaning out their litter boxes, giving them time and attention is part of the vocation of caring for creation.
Household tasks and projects of cooking, laundry, grocery shopping are also part of the vocation as wife.
Think for a moment of some of the unpleasant or unnecessary projects within your home or your career. As you think about these unpleasant projects, I invite you to look at them through a different lens of how you can best help others through the unpleasant or unnecessary project. And as you think of ways the least fun parts of your home or your career can best be used to help other, I invite you also to think of the ways others can possibly see Jesus through you.
Because ultimately, that's what each of our vocations is about: pointing the way to Christ Jesus, pointing the way for others to know Jesus.
Like Philip, our vocation, our calling, is to invite others to 'come and see'.
Philip says to Nathanael, 'Come and see'. Nathanael does, and is surprised when he meets Jesus. Nathanael's surprise comes in realizing Jesus knows more about Nathanael than Nathanael has shared.
Jesus' reply when asked how he knew so much about Nathanael is that he saw Nathanael earlier. In local language, there's a thought that 'under the fig tree' was reference to a good, local fishing spot. It's possible Jesus had been watching Philip, Nathanael, and the others before approaching them, inviting them to follow him.
In that brief conversation with Jesus, Nathanael's vocation and calling changes: from a fisherman to a disciple. Nathanael has no idea what this change of vocation means for him, other than it is both life giving, and life changing. Jesus assures Nathanael he will see and experience things never anticipated or imagined: the heavens to open, and angels will descend.
Like Nathanael, Philip, and Samuel, when we say yes to God's calling on our lives, we too are in for adventures, experiences, journeys, and opportunities as yet unknown. We are called into a daily vocation of service to God and to one another. In this vocation, we are invited to tell others "Come and see."
Come and see, dear friends. Come and see Jesus, here with us, in this moment, in this space, wherever this space may be.
Scripture: Mark 1:4-11 "John the Baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel's hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, 'The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.' "
"In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, 'You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.' "
Grace, mercy, and peace be unto you, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
This morning, we're back in the wilderness -- the place we began our Advent Journey several weeks ago, the place of either encountering God or running away from God. One of the more fluid boundaries of the wilderness is the Jordan River. The Jordan River begins north of the Sea of Galilee, rapidly decreasing in elevation as it flows north to south. By the time it reaches the Dead Sea, sixteen miles south of the Sea of Galilee, it sits nearly two hundred feet below sea level. In its travels from north to south, the Jordan River picks up silt and sediment in its currents. This buildup of silt and sediment is helpful in the growth of plants and trees along its banks. The downside to this build of up silt and sediment is the murkiness of the Jordan River. This murkiness can create difficulty seeing the bottom of the river, which if afraid of water, can create a sense of panic of not being able to see or feel the bottom of the Jordan River. It is not the crystal clear, glasslike body of water Jesus is baptized in, but rather, the silty, murky, lifegiving waters of the Jordan River.
Here, God is at work: heavens torn apart, a dove descending on Jesus, a voice resounding from heaven naming Jesus the Beloved Son. Then again, murkiness is nothing new for God. Earlier in Genesis, we heard how that murkiness -- and chaos -- are the media God works best in. Making all of creation out of nothing, moving, churning, swirling over the face of the waters, finding and naming darkness and light, night and day. In this murkiness, animals of the air, the earth, and the sea came into being. Bushes, fruits, plants, shrubs, trees, vegetables of all shapes and sizes begin to sprout and grow under water and on land. Murkiness becomes clearer, more definitive. And in all things, God saw that it was good.
As humans, we don't always appreciate or view murkiness as being good. It's unsettling because of not being able to see, because we don't always feel as though we are stepping on solid ground. Besides the physical location of the Jordan River, there is a spiritual reason for Jesus' baptism taking place here at the boundary between civilization and wilderness. This reason is not only because of being God's Beloved Son, but to also be baptized into the murkiness of human reality: the good, the bad, the wonderful, the awful, the incredible, the hurtful, the inspiring, the hopeful, and so much more.
Then again, that's why we struggle with the promises made in the waters of our baptism: they're not as clear cut and defined as we want them to be. Our baptismal promises sound simple enough: renounce the devil and all the forces defying God, renounce the powers of this world rebelling against God, and renouncing the ways of sin that draw us from God. To live them out daily is when these promises become murky. The murkiness comes in the challenge of determining what is or is not the work of the devil, what is or is not a force that defies God, what is or is not a thought, word, or action that separates us in our relationship with God or with others. We saw a lot of murkiness this past week.
We may get so caught up in the murkiness that we lose our identity as Beloved Children of God, or we forget the greater reality we do not swim or walk or stand, or even sink in the murkiness alone. Instead, we stand firmly on the solid wood of the cross of Christ: the very cross that uplifts us when we flounder, strengthens us when we are weak, comforts us when we are grieving, soothes our souls when we are troubled. And even though we can't always see the cross of Christ in the murkiness of life, it's always here: guiding us like the star did for the Wise Men days earlier; guiding us always into a future filled with hope; guiding us as Light that shines in the darkness; and is not overcome by the darkness.
Several years ago, the Celtic musical group Gaelic Storm had a song called "Wade in the Water." Gaelic Storm became famous after the 1998 movie "Titanic" by being the musical group playing at the party below deck. Come on and wade way out in the water with me, we're drowning on dry ground,the refrain sang.
Drowning on dry ground.
In the waters of our baptism, that's exactly where we stand: on the dry, solid ground of the cross of Christ. We stand, too, on the promises made for us, that God will never leave us or forsake us. We stand too, on the words God says to us: YOU are my Beloved, my chosen, whom I have called, and whom I love with an everlasting love. YOU are mine.
Silty, murky, lifegiving waters.
Today, and in the week ahead, remember, and rejoice that in these waters of baptism, God calls us, God loves us, God leads us to stand firmly on the dry ground of God's love for each and every one of us.
Thanks be to God. Amen.
Pastor Traci Glover