John 1:43-51 1/13/17 Epiphany, Norfolk

This morning’s gospel passage  is the fairly well known story of Jesus “calling up” Philip,  who in turn,  “calls up” Nathaniel.  The picture on our bulletin is interesting  in that it shows Jesus in the background,  and Philip telling Nathaniel to “come along”,  while he’s sitting under the fig tree.  It’s a neat story,  and the picture is an interesting graphic presentation.

I have preached on these “calling up” stories  for over 50 years.  And I have given every conceivable explanation for them  that anyone could possible dream up.  Jesus hypnotized the disciples  and they dropped everything and followed him.  Jesus had some sort of magical power that made them follow him.  They already knew him,  and when the time was right,  they joined him.  They were bored  and looking for some excitement,  so they followed this strange person  in hopes that something interesting  would happen in their sleepy lives. I have suggested  almost every explanation  of which one could conceive.  But I’ve been wrong,  and Julia helped me see “the light”,  yesterday.

During the reception  after Clint Turner’s funeral,  I mentioned to Julia  that I had to go home and come up with something  for a homily this morning.  And I groaned  that I never knew what to say about this “calling up” business.  Julia looked at me  and said,  “Well, you just said it in your homily  this morning.”  I didn’t get it, and asked her what she meant.  She answered,  “You just described it  in Clint’s calling you to Epiphany.  Tell them that story.”

Well, that sent my head whirling  out to Jupiter and back.  Of course  I had just described  how a call works,  and it is nothing like what I’ve been describing for 50 years.   

I’ve had it all wrong.

So, I’m going to follow Julia’s advice  and tell the story again. If you were at the funeral,  I’m sorry you have to hear it twice,  but it’s an “Epiphany”,  so listen up.

I had been the Interim Priest here in the mid-1980s  and gotten to know Clint and his wife pretty well.  In 1993,  Clint was serving as Epiphany’s Sr. Warden  during another Interim Period.  The Interim Priest took a vacation  and it was Clint’s job to find a supply priest.  He called me.  I wasn’t busy,  so I came back to fill in for a week or two.  At coffee hour  after my last service,  Clint approached me and he asked,  “Why don’t you come back and be our priest?” I told him that it is tradition that clergy not go back  to congregations they had served,  and that the bishop  would never allow it.  We couldn’t even discuss it.

Well, Clint, in his quiet way,  could be very persuasive.  He asked me to think about it  and get back to him. On the way home,  driving down Cromwell Road,  I got thinking:  The Bishop’s away on sabbatical  and won’t be back for months.  They’re really nice people.  I know them,  and they know me,  so we both know what we would be getting into.  I’ve served every church in the area,  and if I’m going to continue as a priest,  I have to go back somewhere.  And never returning where you have worked is a dumb tradition,  anyway.  It’s time to do away with that.  When I got home  I phoned Clint  and told him I’d love to be considered.

That was 1993,  and 25 years later,  I’m still here –  because of Clint Turner.  Clint “called me up” to minister in this place.  God didn’t pick me up  and put me at Epiphany.  I wasn’t even supposed to be here.  I was “called up” by Clint.  And while my brain was out there  spinning yesterday,  I realized  that we call each other up,  all the time. If God is involved in it,  and I really think God is,  then God is working through us.

We call each other  into marriage and relationships.  We call people  that sometimes we don’t even know into employment  and sharing our work.  We call up new friends.  Simple conversations  lead to friendships  that broaden our lives,  and lead us to new adventures.  We involve each other.  We invite other people into our lives.

That’s what Jesus did  when he called up his disciples.  There wasn’t any hypnotism involved.  There was no mystery  to the whole thing.  Jesus did  exactly what Clint Turner did to me,  and what we do to each other.  Jesus said, “Follow me.”  “Come into my life.”  “Walk with me.”  “I will show you things  of which you never dreamed.”  Jesus did exactly what we do.  He built relationships.  He drew others into his life with him.  He empowered these friends.  He said, “Walk with me”,  and they walked.  Just like we do,  all the time.

It’s all so simple.  We see people  sitting under a fig tree.  We talk to them.  We invite them to walk with us.  We open up our lives to them.  We build relationships.  And our life is expanded,  and their lives are expanded.

Jesus had gone up to Galilee.  He walked along,  kind of checking people out.  He spotted some people he wanted to meet,  went up to them,  struck up a conversation,  and started building a community.  We move to a new town or neighborhood.  We peek through the blinds to check out our neighbors.  We watch people in the grocery story.  We visit the library  to see who’s there.  We go to a civic league meeting,  or a concert,  or a PTA meeting.  We check out Facebook.  We go to church.  And we find people who interest us.

And we begin building  our community of friends.  It’s all very natural.

And that’s not to say that God isn’t involved in it.  Maybe God prodded Clint to say something to me.  Maybe God nudged me  to call Clint back. Maybe God is a lot more active in these things  than we assume.  Maybe when we call someone up,  or respond to someone’s call,  it is a holy moment in our lives  and theirs.

So be careful when you hear or feel that little nudge.  And remember Philip’s admonition  to Nathaniel  when Nathaniel doubted.  Philip said,  “Come and see.”  Sometimes,  we just need to “come and see.”


Posted January 16, 2018 by Church of the Epiphany in Epiphany Moments

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