“Listening to the Change”
The Reverend Cindy Dopp
January 17th 2021
Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip 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.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.” And 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.” John 1:43-51
Our Epiphany sermon series is entitled Adding Voices: Acts of Radical Love that Change the World…and today I will speak to “Listening to the Change”
Both the Gospel and the Hebrew Bible passages from the lectionary speak directly to this idea of listening to change… We might call them Radical acts of listening…because they each led to significant change in the world. Change for the better…
In our gospel story for today. Philip first listens to Jesus and Nathaniel listens to Philip. Listening was the foundation of the process of planting the seeds of Christianity and spreading the Good News…
Can you imagine… CAN you Imagine…
if some guy walked by one day and said “Follow me” –
Can you imagine listening to this stranger’s words AND actually following him?!?
I confess… it would take a lot – perhaps a miracle – for me to trust this stranger. And Jesus was a stranger at that time in his ministry.
It would be radical for me to stop what I am doing and instead, come and see what this stranger is asking me to come and see…
a stranger from Nazareth no less – a lowly town in those days…
“Can anything good come out of Nazareth”, Nathaniel asks when Philip approaches?
I love this line… it reflects our frequent tendency to prejudge the new, the different, the other.
This passage from John’s gospel is a reminder of the importance of listening AND – I’ll add again …. taking action to effect change.
There are times when we simply MUST be open to the new, the different, the other. I’d say 2021 is one of those times… Change is critical. Radical acts of love depend on listening to the needs of the world.
Radical change is required in our United States today. The pandemic, deeply rooted racial injustice, economic and health care inequities, the environment, and so much more…
Hopefully, each of us here today, will be inspired to promote and/or implement change for the better in today’s world.
Hopefully, each of us will take some kind of action – action that arises from listening to the impossible-to-ignore political, cultural, and economic needs of today.
They are screaming out at us. Perhaps God is screaming also…
In our Hebrew Bible passage for today, Eli and Sameul were also listening – You might say – actively listening…
“Active listening is a term I was introduced to in my chaplaincy training. The active part of listening is the part that is absolutely necessary to fully hear what is going on for the patient. Or, in our case, what is going on in the world. And I believe that it is what compels us to take action. Only then can we respond meaningfully.
I give Eli credit for indirectly listening and discerning that God was calling to Samuel. That took some active listening… figuring out that Samuel was hearing God. Being open to hear God’s voice.
Similarly, Samuel had to listen to Eli in order to finally recognize and, in turn, listen to God’s voice…and, uncomfortable as it was – and as reluctant as he was – he then had to take action and tell Eli the bad news…
He had to tell his long esteemed teacher that God was going to punish him and destroy his kingdom for ignoring his sons’ irresponsible and lazy behavior. It probably broke Samuel’s heart to do this… but …
his brave listening led to a new kingdom – one that was not ruled by Eli’s flawed sons – but instead by a true prophet.
As the scripture passage concludes:
20And all Israel from Dan to Beer-sheba knew that Samuel was a trustworthy prophet of the Lord.
A prophet who was not afraid to SPEAK TRUTH TO POWER!!!
THAT is what we desperately need today. We must listen to truth that is spoken and bravely follow.
Philip, Nathaniel, Eli, and Samuel…All four of these men were listening.
They were open to the unknown and willing to take a risk to listen…And in doing so, they effected change. Change for the better for the world. For more love in the world.
Are you listening?…
Who is calling you to follow, to speak truth to power, to act for change…?
Will you hear the call? Will you be open?
Will you take action to effect change?
Today…What kind of change can you imagine that you could do to make our world a better world? To make it be God’s vision for the world?
Participate in a ST Mark’s ministry?
Serve the community’s homeless and hungry?
Fight against racism in tangible ways?
Advocate for immigrants and refugees?
Work to eliminate ignorant hate and prejudice?
Educate oneself to become more aware? Teach others?
The possibilities are endless.
We can humbly offer our gifts to the world – as, I believe, God desires.
We can also work harder to take care of each other. Care giving, pastoral care, emotional support…Bolster one another – Nurture one another – so that we are each strong enough to take action for change in the world.
There is much for each of us to do…
The Lord told Samuel He was about to do something in Israel that will make both ears of anyone who hears of it tingle.
It’s sounds ridiculously obvious but You HAVE to listen to hear…
REALLY listen… so that you feel the urgency of the words…the tingle.
In the Gospel…Perhaps Nathaniel felt a tingle when he finally figured out who was speaking to him and declared
‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!’
I have felt the tingle at times… in many ways it took a tingle to inspire me to become a deacon. I imagine that many of you can think back to experiences of feeling a tingle – and most of the time, this was because you were truly listening. And perhaps it led to change…to radical acts of love in the world.
Like Thomas, – who is sometimes called Doubting Thomas because he would not believe that Jesus was resurrected until he felt Jesus’ wounds himself, Nathaniel did not truly listen until he literally witnessed a miracle first hand – when Jesus somehow knew Nathaniel had been under the fig tree before Philip met him for the first time.
Throughout the Gospels, Jesus comments that he wishes we would feel the tingle – believe the miracle – have faith – without rational proof. But I believe this is very challenging for most of us. What might the world look like if we – as many others have – could believe because of our faith.
The words of the Lord speaking to Samuel and the words of Jesus…I think they would make me tingle… Out of surprise, out of amazement, out of fear… NOT for reasonable or rational reasons. This is frequently the case… we take actions from our gut – or from out hearts – not our brains.
To those of you who have experienced a tingle…or who would like to feel one…
How will you listen?
What are you feeling called to do?
How do you keep open?
How will you respond to your active listening?
How will you add your voice to acts of radical love?
How will you act to effect change in our world of 2021?