2nd Sunday after Epiphany

January 16, 2000
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
1 Samuel 3:1-10 (11-20)
Reading 2: 
Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18
Reading 3: 
1 Corinthians 6:12-20
Reading 4: 
John 1:43-51

Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18
I often read this Psalm during a funeral service, especially if I talk about the nature of love. Love is openness to another. The risk of this openness is that we might be changed by the other, or that we might lose the other, and therefore lose a piece of ourselves. Daniel Day Williams talks about the nature of love in his book, "The Spirit and the Forms of Love." His understanding of love is deeply Process oriented and would be worth consulting. This Psalm is in harmony with his views.

There is a sense of intimacy reflected in this Psalm. How can God know us so well without being inside of us, being a part of the unfolding of our lives? There is an implied sense of comfort and peace in the divine knowledge of us. Not that God will guarantee our desired outcome, but that God will be with us no matter what happens to us.

A sermon idea would be to describe love in terms of this Psalm and to compare this kind of love with the love a parent has for their child. The child/parent love is a central metaphor in the Bible for describing God's love for us. As any good parent, God is willing to do anything for us, to bear with us, to hurt when we hurt, to suffer when we suffer, to be joyous when we are joyous. It is in the nature of love to fully participate in the welfare of the beloved. The kind of love which tries to control the other is a suffocating power, and is not really love. A completely controlling God would be a suffocating God, and would not reflect love. Love allows the other to be fully who they are, yet cares deeply for the welfare of the other. The reality and nuances of the parent/child love can be used to define divine love. The difference is that, whereas human parents are limited in their love, God is unlimited in divine love and can make good on the promise to always be with us, holding, receiving, willing to bless us.

Examples of the parent/child love can be drawn from the preacher's own life, or the life of the congregation.

John 1:43-51
The implications of the discussion on Jesus' baptism from last Sunday's Gospel reading can be carried over into this Sunday's Gospel reading.

If the baptism of Jesus is a metaphor of the basic movement of the Gospel, the Good News, then to become a follower of Jesus is to understand, interpret and live life from that perspective. The metaphor of going down in death in order to rise in transformation is the movement of God in life. God's power is Creative Transformation. The Good News is that we can trust that power. Jesus not only demonstrates that power in his life, death and resurrection, as well as his baptism, but he teaches the disciples to go down that same path, that is, to follow his way through life.

In this passage from John, the simple command to "Follow me," is given. A basic sermon on discipleship could be preached, using the idea of Creative Transformation as the divine power in life, and the invitation to follow Jesus in trusting life to that power. Through his teachings and healings, he points to the "Kingdom," or the realm where the power of Creative Transformation is acknowledged and worshipped.

Another sermon idea would be to develop the concept of trust and what it would require to trust God's transforming power in life. The text assigned from 1 Samuel 3:1-20 could be used as a biblical example of the nature of trust in the divine.


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