2nd of Ordinary Time, 17 Jan 21
As we pass from Epiphany-tide towards Lent we have just five Sundays and today we have three wonderful passages of scripture each having very strong teaching points which between them could easily make for a whole series of sermons so, in a sense, a preacher is spoilt for choice, but can be equally confused about how to decide on how he should proceed.
I want to look at “The Call” and at “The Temple” which are just two aspects of today`s readings.
The first reading from chapter 3 of the First Book of Samuel which is the record of the Lord God calling on Samuel to follow him. Samuel was, as it were, a young lad, acting as a guard where the Ark of God was, that is to say in the Holy of Holies for the Ark carried the Sacred items, especially the Tablets of the Law, the Ten Commandments, given to Moses on Mount Sinai. The Lord, called Samuel four times. Naturally on hearing a voice in the middle of the night the boy thought it was Eli calling him and so he went to Eli saying, `Here I am since you called me` only to get the rebuttle, `I did not call. Go back and lie down.` This he did but, a second time, the voice called and Samuel got up and went again to Eli, saying much the same, to which Eli answered, `I did not call you, my son; go back and lie down.` We read that the boy Samuel had no knowledge of the Lord and that the word of the Lord had not been revealed to him. But a third time the Lord called and the boy returned to Eli. At this third time Eli realised that it was the Lord God who was calling Samuel and so told him, once again, `Go and lie down` but, this time, adding the words, `and if someone calls say, “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.` Then, lying down again in his place and the Lord then came and stood by, calling as he had done three times before, `Samuel! Samuel!` to which Samuel followed Eli`s command and answered, `Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.`
It was from this response that Samuel was called by the Lord and grew up and the Lord was always with him in his ministry as a great prophet.
We too are called, each in his or her own way, to the service of Almighty God but we only discern the call when we listen, in our prayer life, to God with the ears of our heart! We need constantly to say in our prayer time those words from verses 8 & 9 of Psalm 39: `Here I am, Lord! I come to do your will.”
The eight verses from 35 – 42 of chapter 1 of St. John`s gospel tell us, uniquely, of how John the Baptist had stood with two of his disciples and, seeing Jesus pass, stared hard at Him and said, `Look, there is the Lamb of God`. These two then followed Jesus. Were they just curious or did they understand the deep meaning of what the title “Lamb of God” meant ? From my student days I remember a lovely pub in Oxford called `The Lamb and Flag` which name is a symbol of the Risen Lord – the Lamb being the symbol of the perfect sacrifice which is Jesus and the white flag with the red cross which is a symbol of Christ`s triumph over death and sin. For the People of Israel, the First-Chosen of God, the daily sacrifice of unblemished lambs was the prescribed sin offering. In the first letter of St. Peter to all Christians we find these words: ”You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish”.(1 Pet. 1, 18-19). A prophecy from the great prophet Isaiah concerning the Messiah sates, “Though he was harshly treated, he submitted and opened not his mouth; like a Lamb led to the slaughter” (53, 7). Note that after Jesus` crucifixion the soldiers did not break his legs, as the custom was, for he was already dead. Like the Passover Lamb his bones were unbroken! St. Paul in his First letter to the Christians at Corinth writes: “Our paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed”. The death of Jesus on the Cross was a passover from death to life for himself and for all of us, his followers. By his death and resurrection Jesus made it for us to break out of the slavery of sin and death. Note too that St. John in chapter 19 of his gospel compares Jesus to the Passover Lamb when, in verse 31, he writes: “Since it was the day of Preparation, for the Passover Feast, the Jews did not want the bodies left on the cross during the sabbath because that sabbath was a day of great solemnity.” The same day that the Passover lambs were being sacrificed in the Temple! We get a further reference in the Acts 53:7 to St. Philip explaining the passage from Isaiah to the Ethiopian eunuch.
At the opening of this sermon I said that I wanted to deal with “The Call” and “The Temple” and you may well feel that I have drifted from the theme but in reality I have done this so as to return to the two disciples of John the Baptist who followed Jesus who, seeing them following Him, asked “What do you want?”. Their answer was, perhaps, a touch strange: `Rabbi, where do you live ?`. Jesus took them to where he was living and they stayed with him the rest of the day. We know that one was St. Andrew but the other we know nothing of, perhaps he returned to following John the Baptist. Andrew, sometimes known as `The First Chosen` since, according to St. John`s Gospel he is just that! Immediately he goes off to his brother St. Peter and brings him to Jesus the following day and according to the other Gospellers Jesus then calls Peter and Andrew and James and John and, soon after, the rest of the twelve. But notice how in St. John`s account it is Andrew who, having, stayed the day with Jesus goes off to fetch his brother! I would like us all to think about those who have been instrumental in bringing each of us to Jesus and to remember them in this week and give thanks to God for them!
Now, to go back to the Temple. The passage read to us from St. Paul`s First Letter to the Christians at Corinth in chapter 6, tells us how our bodies are for the Lord and the Lord for our body and that each of us is a member making up the body of Christ which is His Church. We are, in effect, living Temples for our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. St. Paul says, `You body, you know, is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you since you received him from God. You are not your own property; you have been bought and paid for. That is why you should use your body for the glory of God.” In this context the words “bought and paid for” clearly mean redeemed – and we are redeemed through the one perpetual sacrifice of our Saviour Jesus on the Cross.
What greater reason could there be for using lour bodies for the glory of God ? He, in His Son Jesus, has given all for our salvation.