Worship Service, January 17, 2021 “What Do We Do When God Finds Us?”
Join Holy Trinity church members and Pastor Erik
on January 17, 2021 via YouTube
The message “What Do We Do When God Finds Us?” by Pastor Erik can be heard during HTLC Virtual Worship Service.
John 1:43-51 “What Do We Do When God Finds Us?” January 17, 2021
In John’s gospel, Jesus’ ministry begins with the call of disciples, who then bring others to Jesus. Philip’s friend Nathanael moves from skepticism to faith when he accepts the invitation to “Come and see.”
43The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” 44Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45Philip 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.” 46Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.”
47When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” 48Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” 49Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” 50Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.” 51And 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.”
What do we do when God finds us? Both of our passages from Scripture today have to do with times when God is seeking people out to be a part of doing God’s work on earth.
In the first reading, God comes and finds young Samuel in a dream. God is calling to Samuel to speak a prophetic word, but Samuel does not recognize God’s voice at first. Samuel thinks that perhaps it is the priest Eli, whom he serves in the temple, who is calling him in the middle of the night. After Eli is awakened by Samuel several times, he finally realizes that it is God who is calling Samuel. God has found Samuel through his dream, yet Samuel is not sure what to do until he receives guidance from Eli. The older priest advises him to say, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”
This reveals one of the first things we are to do if we sense that God is trying to tell us something. We are to stop and listen. When we think the voice of God might be calling us, we are to pay attention and try to discern what is being said. As with Samuel, however, it can take someone like an Eli to help us recognize God’s voice and to help us listen in the moment when the message is coming. It can take another person of faith to help us see that it is God who might be speaking and give us guidance on discerning what that might mean for us. I know this has been true for me. There have been times when I have felt a nudge, an interest in something, or a calling, but it has taken another person to help me realize I need to listen to that calling and how it might be put into action.
Many of you who have been members at Holy Trinity for a long time will know that Pastor Jim Oines served at the church in the late 90s and is still a member of the church. What you may not know is that I knew Pastor Jim before I came to Holy Trinity. We met when I was a young pastor just starting out at a church in Camarillo. We probably met at one of the gatherings for conference pastors. Somehow in one of our conversations it came up that Jim was involved in a group that was looking at local economic issues within Ventura County. During seminary I had learned about advocacy work and speaking up on behalf of others at various levels of government to bring about changes that would benefit more vulnerable populations. I felt that God was maybe calling me to do something in this area and so was interested in the group Pastor Jim was involved with.
As we talked, Pastor Jim explained some of the things the group was doing. He could have left it at that. He could have just talked about what they were hoping to do and passed on the information to me. But Pastor Jim took it one step further. He invited me to actually come and see what they were doing—to experience the process and be a part of speaking up. He said they were planning to do an action event to show support for their ideas at a county board of supervisors meeting and that I should come along with him.
At first, I wasn’t sure how to respond. This seemed like a big step. It was one thing to write letters to government officials. It was quite another thing to actually speak up at a meeting. That seemed a little intimidating to me. But then I realized that this was exactly the kind of thing I felt God calling me to do, so I said ‘yes’ I would join him. I ended up being one of the people who spoke at the meeting and later one of the organizers invited me to get involved with an initiative to provide affordable healthcare to children where I spoke in front of other local government boards. I also sought to invite others to be a part of this initiative which eventually led to the county offering a new program for children at all their local clinics.
It had started with listening to what seemed like a call from God, but it took guidance from another person of faith to help show me a way to respond to that call. It took an invitation from Pastor Jim saying, “Come and see!” to experience what that call could look like and have it become a reality.
This gets at the second part of what to do when God finds us. We are to answer the invitation to experience what it actually means to walk the path that God is calling us to, and to extend the invitation for others to join us. Before Jesus calls Philip and Nathaniel to follow him in the Gospel reading today, he has already talked to Andrew about becoming a disciple. We see this in John chapter one verse 37 when Andrew has heard John the Baptist name Jesus as the lamb of God. This gets up his curiosity and he begins to follow after Jesus.
When Jesus sees him following him with another person, Jesus says to them, “What are you looking for?” They respond by asking Jesus where he is staying. Jesus could have simply got back to them with information, but instead he extends to them an invitation. He says to them, “Come and see.” He invites them to experience his presence, to see what he is about, to hang out with him and see what he is doing.
Jesus does the same thing the next day as he goes into Galilee. The Bible says that he found Philip and said, “Follow me.” Philip sees something compelling about Jesus and his message that intrigues him, so he goes with Jesus. Being with Jesus confirms for Philip that he is the one about whom Moses and the prophets spoke. So, what does he do with this revelation he has about Jesus? He goes to his friend Nathaniel and says, “come and see!” He doesn’t just give Nathaniel information. He gives him an invitation. Philip extends an opportunity to Nathaniel to experience first-hand what it is like to be with Jesus and to know the difference it can make it his life. Nathaniel is doubtful at first, but he is willing to go and meet him. Because he is willing to do this, he too then has a life-changing epiphany about who Jesus is and becomes his disciple.
On Monday our nation marks a holiday in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. King was someone who invited others to “come and see” and live out their faith by being a part of the movement for civil rights. One of those people was a young John Lewis. John Lewis was a young man from Troy, Alabama. When he was little, he wanted to be a preacher, but as he got older, he began to read about Rosa Parks and Dr. King and the ways they were beginning the civil rights movement. When he graduated from High School, he had trouble getting into a local college because of discriminatory laws that promoted segregation. So, he decided to write a letter to Martin Luther King Jr., to see what he might say or what advice he might give. Dr. King took the time to write young John Lewis back, but when he wrote him back, he did just provide him with information, he extended to him an invitation. Included in Dr. King’s letter was a round-trip bus ticket to Montgomery so John Lewis could come and actually meet Dr. King and some of his associates—to come and see what they were doing.
At 18, Lewis traveled 50 miles from Troy to Montgomery by Greyhound. Fred Gray, the lawyer to King and Rosa Parks, picked him up from the bus station and drove him to the city’s First Baptist Church— where he met King in the pastor’s office. This would lead to more meetings in the future and would lead to John Lewis becoming a part of the freedom rides, the marches, the sit-in’s and the boycotts which were all an essential part of the civil rights movement. It would lead to John Lewis extending his own invitation to others to “come and see” and be a part of making a change. It would lead to John Lewis eventually becoming a member of congress where he served for many years.
Before he died, John Lewis was asked about the influence Dr. King had in his life. In response, Lewis talked about one of the marches across a bridge in Selma, Alabama.
He said, “I gave a little blood on that bridge in Selma during the voting-rights march to Montgomery, in 1965. I almost died on that bridge, but as long as I have breath in my body, I think I will be inspired by Martin Luther King Jr. Forever I’m indebted to him, and I will do what I can to see that all people have the opportunity to participate in the democratic process.
Who has been someone who has inspired you? Who has been someone who has guided you in living out your calling? Who has been your Dr. King, your Eli, your Philip, who has invited you to come and see what it might mean to listen to God or to really follow Jesus and put your faith into action?
Maybe you have been an Eli or Philip to someone else. Maybe you have been the person who has asked someone else to come and see and experience what it might mean to live as a follower of Jesus. Have you ever helped someone discern the word of God in their life? Have you encouraged them to listen? Could you be someone who does not just give out information, but also extends an invitation for others to join in?
This next year we are looking for people with a heart for invitation who can be leaders as we make it a goal to add some more Growth Group opportunities to our congregation members and their friends. A Growth Group is a small gathering of people who meets at an agreed upon time for sharing, prayer, reflection, and mutual encouragement in the life of faith. We have a few groups who are already meeting, and we would like to add a few more. There will be training available if you might be willing to be a leader and we will be looking for folks willing to participate as well. Let us know if you are interested either way.
Most of you watching this video are already Christians. Most of you probably already believe that God has found you. But we are still faced with the question of what do we do once God has found us. Will we stop and say, “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening?” Will we invite others to “come and see?”
Let us have the courage to hear and respond because the one we are inviting people to experience is the rabbi who teaches the way to new life, he is the Son of God who re-connects us with our Divine Creator, and he is the Heavenly King who can bring a reign of peace into our hearts and into the hearts of others. Amen.
-Pastor Erik Goehner