Summary: A Sermon for the Second Sunday after the Epiphany Call of Philip, Nathanael

2 Sunday after the Ephipany

I Samuel 3:1-10, John 1:43-51


In her book, A Man Called Peter, Catherine Marshall tells how her late preacher-husband felt a sense of destiny a sense of call in his life.

One dark night, Peter, then a young man, decided to take a shortcut across the Scottish moors. He knew there was a deep deserted limestone. quarry in that area, but he was confident he could avoid it.

Suddenly, he heard someone call, "Peter" there was great urgency in the voice. Peter stopped and called "Yes who is it? What do you want?"

There was no answer. He walked a few more steps and then heard the voice calling still more urgently, "Peter!"

He paused then stumbled and fell on his knees. Putting out his hand to catch himself, he found nothing there!! He was at the very edge of the abandoned stone quarry. One ore step would have meant certain death."

From that calling, Peter Marshall knew he was called by God for the ministry.

Peter Marshall had a sense of calling, a sense that God had a purpose for his life. And I think in the same way each of us have been called by God to fulfill a purpose, to fulfill some task in this life, to become part of God’s over-all plan. Our gospel lesson and the Old Testament lesson also speak about different men, Samuel, Philip, and Nathanael who were called by God, and then fulfilled God’s plan for their lives. I think this process can be divided into 3 steps, the step of discovery, the step of decision, and thirdly, the step of action. This morning I would like to look at these three steps and see how they apply to our lives as followers who have been called by God through our baptism into a relationship with him.

The discovery step:

Samuel heard someone calling him and thought it was Eli all the time. But with Eli’s help he finally figured out who it was, it was God.

Samuel made a discovery.

Samuel learned it was not Eli who was calling him, but God. God had called Samuel 3 times and each time Samuel thought it was Eli. Finally, Eli discovered and understood that God was calling Samuel and gave him some instructions to discover the purpose of God’s call.

Philip was discovered by Jesus and called him to follow. And then Philip found Nathanael and told him about Jesus, and called him to come and see. And before Nathanael could do anything, Jesus called to him with information about him, where he was, what kind of person he was.

Notice, the initial calling comes from God. God discovers us as we are, where we are and calls us to serve him. God acts first, then we respond. The first step is to discover God in your life. And for most of us that begins at baptism. It is in that event of Baptism where God first encountered you. The beginning of the process began there. And that beginning is important. The first step of any undertaking is an important step. Having a relationship established with God is a very important part of this process. And it is God who begins that process, God comes to you, God discovers you as a baby, who doesn’t know anything about God, but that’s all right because it is God who acts.

There is on old hymn which says: "Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling, Calling for you and for me; See, on the portals He’s waiting and watching, Watching for you and for me. Come home, come home, Ye who are weary come home, Earnestly,tenderly, Jesus is calling Calling O sinner come home." Jesus is calling, God is calling, calling us into a relationship with him.

Then comes step two,the Decision.

We have been called led into o relationship with Jesus through the waters of our Baptism and then next step is what ore you going to do with that relationship?

What happens next in that relationship?? Philip decided to follow. Our text doesn’t have any words spoken by Philip but through his actions, we assume he followed. Philip made a decision to follow Jesus’s call, to follow Jesus’ discovery in his life.

When God called Samuel the 4th time Samuel heard, knew it was God, discovered God’s calling, and then decided to answer, he said,"Speak , for thy servant hears."

And what of us? God has discovered us in our Baptism, he has called us to be his, hut what is our decision? What do we lo with that call?

One pastor likens this process to tire-kickers. People who go shopping for a new or used car, they discover the cars, they kick o lot of tires,but they never buy.

There are many tire-kickers, he says, who visit churches; they see and hear, and even once in a while they are moved by the words and experience, but they never intend to buy, then never intend to get fully developed in their relationship with God.

Discovery is meant to lead to decision. Our discovery of God’s action, our becoming aware of God’s action in our lives then leads to some decisions, signs on our part. There is an advancement in your faith,life. And as you pass from one new beginning to another, you realize a greater dimension to your life and your service to God.

I would like to illustrate this point by telling you one of my favorite things to see is a circus. And one of my favorite acts is the aerial acrobats who swing from the high trapeze bar.

I watch in amazement as they swing those bars, higher and higher, then in a wink of an eye, in a split second, one lets go of that bar, does some sort of acrobatically move and is caught in the hands of another hanging by his knees from the other bar, being always ready to catch the one flying though the air. Just think, millions come to see over and over again that split-second moment as the acrobat hangs in mid air. I wonder what it takes to, make that performer let go of that bar and fly through the air to the hands o£ the waiting catcher?

In the same kind of way, what is it that allows us to let go of ourselves, to surrender ourselves to Jesus, to become more than shoppers, but buyers, to make a decision which allows me to let go of my life and allow Jesus to have full control? It is faith, faith in God’s promise to us which allows us to develop a fuller and richer relationship with God.

That brings us to the third phase of the process, action.

Samuel and Philip put their decision of faith into action. Samuel said to the Lord he would listen to what God had to say, and Philip asked Nathanael to come and see this Messiah which he had found. And Nathanael made a declaration of faith, saying: "Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!"

Once we have realized the wonderful gift of grace God has planted in us, once we have decided to do something to allow that seed of grace to grow in us, then we become so excited, so full of God’s spirit that we will want to share it with others.

Somehow having a active relationship with God will allow us to live our lives differently, somehow our actions will reflect the the God who is in our midst.

No, we can’t always be that loving kind of person, but we must try. Sometimes we will fail, sometimes we will step on people’s toes, sometimes in our enthusiasm about God, we will turn people off, sometimes! in our urgency for them to find what we have found, we will challenge their compliancy to such a point they are turned off, and it is at those times we need to seek the their forgiveness and the forgiveness of God.

But there are times, when the word of God, the actions of his followers has to be a thorn in people’s side for them to move, to progress forward in their faith life. That is not an easy position to be in, but it is a needed position, never-the-less.

And we need to keep challenging ourselves, not to be compliance in our faith lives, but to continue to grow and mature.

We need to be like the girl in the following:

A girl returning home from Sunday School expressed disappointment with the classes reaction after the day’s lesson.

"We were taught to go into all the world and make disciples of all nations," she said, "but we just sat."

We are called by God to make a decision and turn that decision into action.


Written by Pastor Tim Zingale January 13, 2003