1 Samuel 3. 1 – 10
John 1. 43 – end
You might’ve noticed that the church looks slightly different from last week’s celebration of the Epiphany – we’ve lost a few trees, the Advent wreath has been disassembled.
But I’m still wearing white – and this is the second of four Sundays of the Epiphany.
The modern calendar in the Church of England can have a bit of a pick-and-mix approach to seasons, festivals, and commemorations. Sometimes we’re given the choice of three different colours to wear, as we decide between the various celebrations on offer that day.
But unusually, the calendar is very clear that on Sundays from Christmas, all the way through to Candlemas in February, we are to wear white.
And whereas in the Book of Common Prayer, these are known as the Sundays after Epiphany; the modern calendar keeps these as the Sundays of Epiphany.
The Epiphany is the manifestation, the revealing of God’s glory in the person of Jesus. Although we’ve left the wise men and their gifts behind, we’re being encouraged to remember that the glory of God is still being revealed to us, through these weeks.
And this is the key to engaging with our interesting readings today. Because they both show the glory of God, revealed in different ways.
Let’s look first at our Gospel reading. Although John tells us that Jesus’ first sign, his first miracle, was a short time later, at the wedding at Cana – here Jesus shows something of his power, and something of who he is.
He wows Nathanael by recognising him, before they’ve even met. This isn’t a party trick – it goes much deeper than that. Nathanael feels immediately known by Jesus. He asks him, “Where did you come to know me?”
We see more of this intimate knowledge in the encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well, a little later in the Gospel. Jesus is able to tell her all about herself, despite only having just met her.
In these encounters, Jesus reveals his glory in his intimate knowledge of the people he meets – and in taking an interest in who they are. He cares about their lives, and the things they care about. He’s on the most important mission imaginable, yet he takes time out to share the joy of a friend’s wedding, and stops to talk to a foreign woman and share a drink.
And we see in these conversations Jesus revealing his glory in another way. His meeting with Nathanael only happens because Philip goes to find him, and shares with him the good news of Jesus. “Philip said to him, ‘Come and see.’”
In just the same way, the Samaritan woman runs back to her people and says “Come and see… Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?”
Jesus doesn’t just reveal his glory to people; he enables them to reveal that glory to others, to share the good news of his coming among them. He irresistibly draws others into his great mission.
We might pray through these Sundays of Epiphany for Jesus to enable us to share in that mission, and to share his glory with others.
Having seen his glory revealed in the beautiful liturgies of Christmas, and each week of Epiphany in word and in sacrament – let us pray that we too may go and seek out others and say “Come and see… Come and see the glory for yourself.”
Our first reading shows yet another way in which God reveals his glory to us. And it’s not in the visit of mysterious kings, or in signs and miracles.
It is in quiet simplicity; a gentle calling of young boy, by his name.
The same intimate knowledge and care that so amazed Nathanel and the Samaritan woman of St John’s Gospel, is shown here in the way God calls Samuel.
And God’s glory is revealed in the simplicity of Samuel’s response – not a well-rehearsed prayer, or fine words. Simply, “Here I am.” The same words the Blessed Virgin Mary spoke to the angel.
“Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” God is ready to reveal his glory to us and within us; all he requires of us is to listen for his call.
And in this exchange God reveals that he is ready to listen to us, too. That this encounter will not just be on God’s terms, but a true relationship in which we have a role to play too.
Because the name ‘Samuel’ means ‘God has heard.’ When God is calling ‘Samuel, Samuel’ to listen to him, he is saying ‘God has heard, God has heard’ – he is promising that if Samuel listens to him, he will listen to Samuel.
And this is the great glory of Christmas and Epiphany – it reveals the new and wonderful relationship that God desires to have with his creation. God comes down to us in order to bring us up to him; to transform and renew our humanity, so that we might share in his divinity.
As we prayed in our Collect at the beginning of the Mass: “Almighty God, in Christ you make all things new: transform the poverty of our nature by the riches of your grace, and in the renewal of our lives make known your heavenly glory.”
This season, and throughout the year, may we continually seek to be open to the call of God, that we may encounter his glory; and may we seek to share that glory with the world. Amen.