Epiphany 2B – When the student is ready…

1 Samuel 3:1-10(11-20), 1 Cor. 6:12-20, John 1:43-5

In the first reading, Samuel hears a voice. Eli tells him it is the voice of God. How does Eli know that? How do we? Is God still speaking in 2021? There are so many voices in our lives. How can we know which voices are from God?

We count on the Holy Spirit to show up and help, but we need to show up too.

We may think of the Holy Spirit or “inspiration” as something magical that happens to artists and prophets. In fact, it can happen to anyone who prepares for it. Inspiration is not so much an event as the culmination of a process.

That process begins with our desire to find a solution to some problem. As we look for an answer, we observe, listen, study. We try to make connections between all the big and little bits of experience and information we can find.

Alongside this intentional process, an unconscious process is also at work. What we know arranges and re-arranges itself until “suddenly” – in what feels like an “aha” moment – we have an insight or inspiration that enables us to see in a new way. That parallel process can take time. It can feel like nothing is happening, but that’s only because we’re not consciously in charge of it.

For people of faith, the intentional process and its parallel needs to include prayer and meditation, charitable openness to the experience and pain of others, patience, and finally a willingness to hear what the Spirit will eventually reveal, even if the message is challenging to us.

As the saying goes, “when the student is ready, the teacher appears.”

In the gospel reading, Jesus seems to appear out of nowhere. Philip and Nathanael’s recognition of him has a bit of a magical quality. But most likely, they had been reflecting on the meaning of the law and the prophets for a long time. The Holy Spirit had been at work in them. When Jesus showed up, it all came together. The time was right, and Philip and Nathanael were ready to see things in a new way.


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Christmas I & II (A,B &C): Luke 2:1-20

In this year’s lectionary cycle (B), the gospel readings are from Mark. But on Christmas, if you want a story about Jesus’ birth, you will have to read about it in Matthew or Luke. Mark has no “infancy narrative.” For Mark, there was nothing extraordinary or interesting about Jesus until he became an adult and got busy teaching and healing in Galilee.

In the Postmodern Womanist [1] perspective, “salvation” is participation in a “transformative” community — one which is busy making a way out of no way.  That community might be a church, but it might also be a Twelve Step group, a dancing circle, a homeless shelter or a helping non-profit agency. The community is transformative because it is teaching and healing, being guided by the wisdom of the past and consciously co-working with its higher power.

A savior is someone who, in his or her life needed to “make a way out of no way” and eventually found they could.  They know transformation first hand, and are willing to share that experience in leading a transforming community.

There isn’t only one savior. And they are not ontologically different from you or me. They don’t look special or interesting at the beginning. There are no Annunciations preceding their births, no angel choirs in the heavens and no kings bringing gifts afterwards.

Saviors are saviors not because of what they are, but because of what they do. They get busy. They teach. They heal. They challenge and encourage. And they lead the transforming communities which are busy making a way out of no way.


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[1] Monica A. Coleman, “Making a Way Out of No Way: A Womanist Theology.” (Fortress Press, Minneapolis, MN. 208) at 169-170.

Sermon Starts is taking a “gotta-a-new-book” break and will be back on January 6 for Epiphany 1B. Thanks for reading, please stay safe and “Merry Christmas!”