Bishop Cynthia Harvey
June 18, 2016
John 1:35-46; 1 Samuel 3:1-11
And they went and they saw or is it they saw and they went?
Here is the scene: John is standing by with two of his disciples when Jesus comes along. John says, “hey you see that guy? He is the Lamb of God.” The two heard what John said and they followed Jesus.
In one verse they followed Jesus! They didn’t ask any questions. They didn’t ask, “You sure that’s him? How do you really know John?” They didn’t ask their spouses and family if it was okay to follow. They didn’t even call a meeting to be sure they were certified candidates ready to follow.
Then it was like a domino effect. Andrew, one of the two, went straight to his brother and said, “hey bro we have found the Messiah” and he led him right to Jesus.
The next day it says that Jesus FOUND Philip. I wonder if he was lost? Ole Phil, we don’t know much about him but he follows Jesus then Ole Phil FOUND Nathanael (lots of lost and found going on here) Phil said to Nathaniel, we have FOUND the one Moses wrote about. Nathanael is a bit sarcastic and that’s when we hear his famous line, “can anything good come from Nazareth?” Then it’s as if Philip double-dog dares him and says, “Come and See.” See for yourself!
This calling of the disciples comes pretty quickly. I guess word traveled fast even in Biblical times.
There is a lot of seeing and hearing in this gospel.
The gospel writer employs all the senses which helps me understand why seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling might be important to believing.
Once you meet Jesus – once you see, and hear and taste and smell life in Jesus, you don’t see things the same way ever again. It is risky business to enter into conversation with Jesus. Who knows where it might take you. Sometimes it just takes two words. Follow me!
When we traveled to the Holy Land with the ordinands in 2013, we had a magnificent guide. Wisam is smart, knows his Bible and knows his history.
He also comes from a long line of olive wood carvers actually they are more than just carvers, they are artists. His father and grandfather were both artists and now he is following in their footsteps.
On the trip I fell in love with one of his pieces, truly a piece of art, it is Jesus washing the disciple’s feet. He agreed to carve a special piece for us that would be shipped to us later.
Several weeks passed and a magnificent and I would add huge piece of olive wood art arrived at the episcopal residence. It is far more than I ever imagined. We found a perfect place for it in our home and it has become the center of a lot of conversation.
Last year, Wisam came to Baton Rouge for a visit and we invited him and several people that had traveled to the Holy Land for dinner.
Of course the olive wood piece was once again the center of conversation. Friends the carving is so intricate. Jesus’ hair and eyes are unbelievably detailed. Someone asked Wisam if he had a picture to follow as he carved. He said, “no that is just how I see Jesus in my minds eye.” I turned to him and said there is no way. In order to carve with this kind of attention to detail you have got to not just see Jesus in your mind but you have to see him from the very depth of your soul.
I believe this is the kind of “seeing” going on in this gospel. People see, they come and see, they saw and they went, they see greater things, you will see the heavens open – this kind of seeing is much deeper. It is not just visual. Today’s leaders are called to see with more than just their eyes.
In a Longing for Holiness John Wesley wrote, “where the loving eye of the soul is continually fixed upon God, there can be no darkness at all. To see with your soul is to see through the heart of God.”
Today we are called to “See” through the heart of God.
There are several times in this gospel when people see and hear with more than just their ears and their eyes.
There is the Samaritan woman who meets Jesus at the well and she cannot contain herself. A Jewish man talking to a Samaritan woman and at high noon!
She runs back to her village and says, “Come and See this one who knows everything about me and loves me anyway.”
She is so moved by her experience of Jesus and is in such a hurry to tell everyone in her village that she leaves her jar behind. As soon as her friends hear her story they leave the city and are on their way. I envision that the people were so moved to hear what the woman had to say that they too wanted to experience what she had experienced. They probably left their soup pot on the stove and forgot to lock the door.
Then there is Mary Magdalene at the tomb. She didn’t recognize Jesus until she heard her name.
Maybe seeing and hearing is believing.
Are these the kind of experiences that have moved you to say, yes, I am willing to leave my jar behind and maybe even the door unlocked to follow you, Jesus. Remember it is risky to enter into conversation with Jesus. It might lead you to places you don’t want to go.
Jesus has a knack for that and for making unlikely choices. He didn’t stand outside the temple waiting for holy people. God shows up most of the time when you are minding your own business.
Today, those of you who are to be ordained, reach this point in your ministry and you have made some pretty amazing sacrifices for what is pretty close to a super natural call.
You know that it is not going to be easy but you are people of faith after all who believe that the one that has brought you thus far will carry you through.
This call is a super natural call. If it was easy, everybody would do it. It is costly and at the same time it is joyful.
You have a story to tell. People invest in dreams they are part of. People want to be a part of your kind of story.
I have this pesky problem when I read a book or watch a movie or a sporting event. I become a character in the movie or the book.
If I watch a basketball game, I play every minute of the game or every down of a football game. I even get really nervous on the Food Network cooking competitions like Chopped when they have only minutes to prepare an entree. I am exhausted when it’s over. I invest myself in the story.
So much so that sometimes I stay up all night trying to “finish” the story or change the outcome of the game or think “you know if she had only remembered the secret ingredient.”
People want to be a part of a great story.
Do you dream of a love story of ministry filled with the life giving breath of the Spirit?
I know you must, otherwise you would not be here. And I am speaking to all of you not just the one to be ordained and those to be commissioned!
Clergy are not the only Christians with credentials. Thanks be to God for that! By your baptism you too are credentialed, you too are called.
So while you might think you are eaves dropping on this conversation, know that this too is for you.
You have been attentive to the stirring of the Spirit. You have heard and you have seen with your heart and you believe.
I love Proverbs 20:12 – Ears to hear and eyes to see – the Lord made them both. Not sure you can just see or just hear but perhaps it takes both to fully grasp the working of the Spirit upon your life.
Seeing and hearing require us to be attentive. Attentiveness is a gift from God and it causes you to pay attention sometimes to what we don’t want to see. Think of all the times you haven’t paid attention. And an accident occurred. Or you missed the laughter of a child. The homeless woman. The hungry child. The sunrise.
My grandmother lost her sight when I was young.
She lived across the street from us and it became my job to walk her to church, to be her eyes.
She was truly an amazing woman. She could see better than anyone I knew. Better than any sighted person! She saw from the heart. She saw from the very depth of her soul. She did not have visual sight but she could see 20/20!
She was attentive to everything around her. She never missed a thing. She could even put on her own make-up. She did it by touch. She didn’t have to see you, she could smell you coming. She recognized your walk.
She could see!
How I wish more of us could see like this. With attentiveness that is open to the movement of God all around us. The world and the church would be much different.
Let’s flip back to the Old Testament story for a minute.
There is old Eli. His eyes had grown weak and he was unable to see. Samuel is lying down near by and is awakened by a voice.
He says, “I’m here” and he hurries to Eli and says, “you rang?”
Eli in his old man voice, says, “son, I didn’t call you / go back and lie down.”
A second time Samuel hears a voice and runs to Eli and once again Eli says, this time he has taken out his false teeth and says “sonny boy it ain’t me. You must be hearing things. Go and lie down.”
A third time Samuel hears the voice and runs to Eli and the wise old man realizes that it may be the Lord calling Samuel.
Samuel did not know the Lord’s voice – he didn’t have ears to hear.
At this point I am guessing they are both exhausted and maybe a little exasperated with each other. They just want to get some sleep for heaven’s sake.
The wise old man tells him to go lie down and if he hears the voice yet again, respond, “Speak! Lord! your servant is listening.”
The Lord calls on Samuel a fourth time, “Samuel, Samuel” and Samuel follows the old man’s advice and says Speak Lord, your servant is listening.
The Lord says, I am about to do something in Israel that will make everyone’s ears tingle.
It took four attempts before the Lord got Samuel’s attention. He did not yet have ears to hear. He didn’t know the Lord therefore did not know the Lord’s voice.
Sometimes God shows up when we are minding our own business.
Each time Samuel hears the voice, without hesitation, he gets up runs to the nearby room where old and almost blind Eli is sleeping – Here I am! For you called me. Each time the old man says, “I didn’t call you go back to your room.”
It is Eli, old and almost blind; the one who cannot see with his eyes that perceives or “sees” that it is the Lord calling Samuel.
Even though everyone knew that it was rare that God spoke to people in those days. It is the feeble old man that understands what is going on.
He gives the young Samuel some very wise counsel, a little coaching from the old man “GO” and when you hear the voice again say “speak for your servant is LISTENING!”
Often others perceive the call of God on our lives long before we do.
But we are the ones that have to respond, “Speak Lord for your servant it listening.”
Let me stop for a moment and point out that there is a big difference between hearing and listening.
Many years ago, my husband was going in for his annual physical and I suggested he might get his hearing checked. So, as he sat at the audiologist she asked him if he had problems hearing and he said, not really, but my wife thinks I should have my hearing checked.
She checked his hearing and said Mr. Harvey your hearing is fine perhaps it is your listening that you ought to check. I promise I didn’t even pay her to say that! To listen requires us to pay attention. Listening is much more than hearing.
Rhodes Logan, of the United Methodist Foundation in Nashville reminded me of a great truth in one of their newsletters.
When children’s television host Mr. Rogers was asked why he talked so slowly, his answer was that the time between speaking and hearing was sacred. It is in this piece of time that the spirit can take what is said and translate it for the hearer.
This world is in a rush, and we rarely do one task at a time. We are multi-taskers. We don’t just drive; we talk on our cellphones and drive and juggle multiple tasks at work.
The Spirit can work within all of our rushing around, however are we as good at noticing the Spirit if we never slow down?
It is not likely that our world will slow down. However, maybe within the rush we can be like Mr. Rogers and create a space for the Spirit to move.
Instead of listening and forming our reply, we can listen first for the Spirit. Then with fuller knowledge and understanding, we can reply.
Perhaps the space between the first and the fourth time the Lord called Samuel was sacred, the Spirit used it so that he might gain fuller knowledge and understanding and THEN was able to reply, “Speak Lord for your servant is listening.”
Some of us require more space than others. It took me about 25 years.
Sometimes our hearing and our vision are perfect, we just cannot hear the voice of God or we choose to ignore it. We only hear and see what we want to hear and see.
It took a blind old man to point out to Samuel that it could be God calling.
What about you? I sure hope that by now you understand this calling upon your life. But I also know some others of you have probably heard the same call.
You don’t have to be ordained to respond to God’s call on your life. By your baptism you too are called, you too are credentialed.
Did it strike you as it did me that the voice of God was unexpected – in the Temple of all places?
Could this have been more of a museum than a place where people encounter the living God? Like some of our churches?
“Then the Lord said to Samuel See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make both ears of anyone who hears tingle.”
I find the use of the word TINGLE odd in scripture. It is TINGLE in every translation I checked, Tingle just does not sound like a biblical word.
Tingle – Something different is about to happen. God is going to do a new thing. It is so new that it will make you tingle.
It might make the hair stand up on the back of your neck. It will give you chill bumps.
It is an incredibly complicated time to lead the church.
This is not our momma and daddy’s church. We have got to stand strong and remain in relationship with one another and with God. This years General Conference talked of schism and division. There is a lot of hurt, a lot of trash talking that prevents us from seeing what God has in store for God’s people – you and me.
We get distracted from what we have been called to be and do. We actually spent more time at General Conference talking about the rules that we di the mission of the church.
God is not finished with us yet and not even General Conference can stop the tingling – I am about to do something new it will make both ears of anyone who hears tingle! Be ready because nothing can separate us from the love of God not even General Conference!
You get this! You are here because you want to make a difference. You want to do a new thing! There is a whole world out there that needs to hear the good news of Jesus Christ.
You have to share your own experience of the living God. You have a story to tell.
The same God who called Samuel is calling you.
The same one who called Andrew and Simon Peter and Ole Phil has called you.
I think I must say this every year at ordination – God does not call us once and for all but time and again.
We are called to risk, maybe risk it all so that the world might be changed.
We have to focus on that which will make for a different place for your children, your children’s children and their children. That they may have a story of faith to tell.
Can you imagine what might happen if we focused – laser like focused – on leading people to Christ that they might be changed people? Can you imagine living in a changed world?
God is going to use you whether you are ready or not. You may be like Samuel.
You may not yet have eyes to see or ears to hear.
But I promise even then the Spirit will twist and turn and churn and weave your life into a legacy that will set the world on fire. It will be more than you could ever imagine.
When Jesus turned and saw them following he asked what are you looking for?
They said Rabbi where are you staying? He replied, “Come and See.” So they went and they saw.
Are you ready? Come and See!