Second Sunday after the Epiphany

January 18, 2015
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
Samuel 3:1-10
Reading 2: 
Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18
Reading 3: 
I Corinthians 6:12-20
Reading 4: 
John 1:43-52
By Bruce Epperly

Process theology affirms the ubiquity of divine revelation. In one way or another, each creature and each moment of experience is influenced by God. Philosophically speaking, each emerging moment of experience (actual entity) receives its “initial aim” toward self-creation from God in the context of its environment and past historical context. Beyond these rather sterile words, we can say that God provides each moment of life with a vision and the energy to seek the highest good for itself and its environment. God touches each life with possibility, energy, and vision. Each moment reflects a dynamic process of call and response between God and us. Today’s lectionary passages easily lend themselves to a process-relational understanding of the divine-human relationship.

Young Samuel receives a divine call to become a spiritual leader. This call is not ex nihilo but emerges for his mother’s prayers for a child and her willingness to dedicate Samuel to God’s work. A helper at the Temple, Samuel grows up in the divine milieu and although revelations are scarce and the environment hostile to divine manifestations, growing up in the Temple precincts encourages reflections on the Holy One. Perhaps, the confluence of his mother’s prayers, the environment, Eli’s mentoring, and Samuel’s attentiveness intensified the divine vision for this young boy.

God “speaks” and Samuel pauses to listen and then respond. Our attentiveness to God heightens God’s presence in our lives, the intensity of divine energies, and the depth of divine possibilities. Samuel’s encounter with God reminds us that each moment can be an epiphany, a revealing of God’s vision, often hidden by the busyness of our lives. We need simply to pause and notice, and open the door to God’s vision.

Psalm 139 speaks of the revelatory power of being known. The Psalmist’s affirmation of God’s intimate knowledge opens a world of possibility for him and for God. God searches and knows us. Each moment is lovingly embraced by God’s awareness of us. God embraces our lives moment by moment, taking them into God’s own life in their joy and sorrow. God’s vision for us is not abstract but concretely related to our lives in their complexity – our existence as awesomely and wonderfully made. In fact, in the divine-human connection, sometimes we call and God responds. God’s vision shapes our lives, but in the course of our lifespan our lives often call upon God to be more than God anticipated in a particular situation.

Paul’s words to the Corinthians proclaim God’s revelation in our bodies. The body is inspired and the spirit embodied. The body is the temple of God, and this has ethical implications. As a home for divinity, our bodies should be treated with love and respect. Glorifying God in our bodies means bringing forth the awesomeness of our mind, body, spirit, relational existence and seeking to support the bodies of others. We glorify God’s awesome embodiment in the world by insuring economic well-being, just living and working conditions, adequate education, healthy diets, and safe environments for all God’s children.

The body is not inert and unfeeling, but filled with life. Divine energy enlivens embodiment as mind, body, and spirit constantly interpenetrate each other. The body is mind-full; the mind is incarnate, inspiring us to love God in the world of the flesh (T.S. Eliot, “For the Time Being), our own flesh and the flesh of others.

John 1 presents one photograph of the calling of the disciples. Jesus astounds Nathanael by his intimate knowledge of his activities. Both Philip and Nathanael decide to leave their comfort zones and “follow” Jesus. The very act of following ushers them into a new and amazing world. Attending to God’s vision enhances God’s movements in our lives and makes it possible for Nathanael and Philip to see “heaven opened up and the angels ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

Today’s lectionary reminds us to affirm the universality of divine revelation. Divine “universality” invites us to experience God in expected and unexpected places and be prepared to bring our experiences to the world in life-changing ways.

 

Bruce Epperly is Pastor and Teacher at South Congregational Church, United Church of Christ,

Centerville, MA, on Cape Cod. He also serves as a professor in the D.Min. program at Wesley Theological Seminary. He is the author of 34 books, including Process Theology: Embracing Adventure with God and Finding God in Suffering: A Journey with Job. He may be reached for conversation and engagements at drbruceepperly@aol.com.