Epiphany 2B


Featured Musician -  Heatherlyn

Tasty Wafer: Sermons and Speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King:

Exegetical Notes

John 1:43-51

Initial Thoughts

  • I thought we were in Mark.-LOL

  • Next week is Mark 1:14-20, which is a call story. So be careful. You might want to read both passages this week to see if it can be a two-parter about call.

    • Mark: Jesus calls the fishermen, Andrew, Simon, James and John.

    • John: Jesus calls  Simon and Andrew, and Philip and Nathaniel.

  • So what’s the deal, did Jesus call Simon and Andrew out of their boat, or were they already disciples of John the Baptist

    • Comparing John and synoptics is always tricky, and not usually a good idea, but lectionary sort of forces the issue.

Bible Study

  • Literary Context

    • Prelude: Cosmic poem about The Word

    • Day 1 (v. 19-28) Bethany across the Jordan. John the Baptist’s exchange with Pharisees

    • Day 2 (v. 29-34) John the Baptist testifies to Jesus. There is no explicit baptism. John simply “saw the Spirit coming down from heaven like a dove.”

    • Day 3 (v. 35-42) Jesus, Andrew, unnamed disciple, and Simon (renamed Peter and also Andrew’s brother.)

    • Day 4 (v. 43-50) Jesus decides to go to Galilee. Jesus finds Philip, who gets Nathanael. (Philip, Andrew, and Peter all from Bethsaida. Nathanael is from Cana, which we find in 21:2, a Resurrection story where Jesus again tells the disciples to “follow me”).

    • Day 5 or 7 (2:1-12) Begins “On the Third Day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee…” Does this mean the third day after the Spirit descended upon Jesus, or three days later?

  • Two parts of this story, the exchange with Andrew, unnamed disciple and Simon, Andrew’s brother; and the exchange between Nathaniel and Philip..

    • Andrew seems to be a disciple of John the Baptist.

      • They hear John’s testimony, and so they followed Jesus (first member poaching?)

      • Andrew and unnamed disciple go with Jesus.

        • Some guess the unnamed disciple is the “beloved one,” seems more likely that it is Philip. No way to know for sure.

      • Andrew goes to get his brother Simon

      • Jesus renames Simon “Cephas.”

        • This doesn’t happen until much later in synoptics. Again, comparing them is always tricky.

  • “The next day” Jesus finds Philip.

    • Verb “found” could also be “met” or even “bumped into,” but “found gives Jesus’ action intentionality, which fits the rest of the Fourth Gospel flavor of Jesus.

    • Then Philip finds Nathanael (just as Andrew found Simon). Was Philip the unnamed guy from before? Probably.

      • Nathanael’s response, “Can anything from Nazareth be good?” could be one of three things

        • A common colloquialism that existed before.

        • Reveals a community rivalry between Cana, where Nathanael is from, and Nazareth. These two communities were somewhat close, near the Sea of Galilee, quite a distance from Bethany, which is near Jerusalem, where this exchange seems to be taking place.

        • Reflects a greater prejudice against the area that is common.

      • Jesus calls Nathanael a “genuine Israelite in whom there is no deceit.” No one knows why Nathaniel earned such high praise. Skeptics, and maybe Nathanael himself, would say Jesus is just trying to flatter him.

      • Jesus says that he saw Nathanael under a fig tree, which we presume he did not do with natural eyesight. If so, Nathaniel’s response is strange. In John, there other instances of Jesus knowing stuff that can’t be known by normal means (especially the Samaritan woman at the well in 4:17).  

      • Nathanael replies “Rabbi, you are God’s Son. You are the king of Israel.” (In 19:19 the inscription above the cross says “Jesus the Nazarene, the king of the Jews”). This is much more than even Philip had told him.

      • Jesus’ response is the heart of the matter, “Do you believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these. I assure you that you will see heaven open and God’s angels going up to heaven and down to earth on the Human One.”

        • Reference to Jacob’s ladder, with Jesus as the base.

        • The great things are about to start. The next scene is the first, and John is structured in such a way that the great things get increasingly great, culminating in raising of Lazareth.

        • Recalls also Jesus and Thomas in resurrection “Do you believe because you see me? Happy are those who don’t see and yet believe.” (John 20:29)

Sermon Thoughts and Questions:

  • Instead of seeing this as a call story, perhaps we can see it as an epiphany story - in this season of epiphany, it is a chance for Jesus to be revealed. Nathanael has an epiphany about who Jesus is, and Jesus offers him an even deeper experience of seeing, if he should follow.

  • The theme of accepting or rejecting Jesus is strong throughout John’s Gospel. Here we have two men that are brought to Jesus. Simon believes, and is called Cephas. Nathanael is reluctant, but is won over.  And while there are times when Jesus admonishes people for only believing because of what they have seen, that is not found here. Instead Jesus declares, “You ain’t seen nothing yet.”

  • Nathanael’s skepticism is not condemned or admonished. In fact, Jesus praises him. In fact, Jesus seems to encourage them all to “Come and see.” When preaching to a congregation, it might be appropriate to encourage others to “come and see,” what God is doing. People are not going to just come to church because of civic duty. They want to know that church matters. If the body of Christ is active, then there will be great signs and wonders. Perhaps it is the role of the preacher to encourage others to find other to “come and see,” because after all, “You ain’t seen nothing yet.”

1 Samuel 3:1-10, (11-20)

Initial Thoughts

  • “Here I am Lord” based on this text and Isaiah 6

  • Read it all!

    • This is about both the beginning and ending of a call

    • v.1-10 are about responding to being called

    • v.11-20 are about trusting in God

Bible Study

  • Context

  • The Word of the Lord was rare and visions were not widespread...sound familiar

    • Eli’s sons were taking the best parts of the sacrificed meat without waiting for the fat to burn off. Oh and they were having sex with women who want to pray.

  • Call

    • Samuel hears the call but does not understand what it is or who it is from

    • Intergenerational- both Eli and Samuel are needed for God’s call to be heard and responded to. Samuel hears it, but Eli understands it

    • Eli’s eyesight might be failing, but his faithful is not - like many of our seniors who continue to live faithful lives

  • Response

    • You servant is listening the response to God’s call is not grand speeches or marches- it begins with listening

    • God is going to make “both ears...tingle” - what does this mean? Two Tingling Ears - Donna Shaper (from Feasting on the Word)

      • Ear of Fear: Cancer, war, death, car accident, financial ruin

      • Ear of Hope: Children are safe, hungry are fed, earth is restored, loved ones are well

  • Justice - A word of fearful judgment or of forgiving reprieve?

    • Eli seems almost relieved to hear this message - perhaps the guilt and waiting for God’s judgement was gnawing at him. Also perhaps we was ready to be done (think Simeon from Luke 2)- perhaps he was ready to know that his priestly and prophetic work was being carried on by another

    • What is Eli’s sin? Being passive - not speaking out against his sons’ abuse of power

      • The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Edmund Burke

    • Call is not all about privilege, but about being faithful: speaking truth to power

      • Samuel must first speak God’s justice against Eli, his mentor/father-figure

      • MLK Jr. speaking out against racism, but also against the Vietnam War

      • Bonhoeffer - hung  

      • Oscar Romero - shot while serving Communion

Sermon Thoughts and Questions

  • This is a great story of intergenerational cooperation and faithfulness - how are we modeling this in the church? How are we encouraging our older members to help our younger members hear where God is calling them?

  • Listen- we need to teach ourselves and the church to listen to what God is saying to them. Spiritual direction is more about listening than responding.

    • How can we share the advice of Eli, “Speak for your servant is listening?”

  • Absolution is not simply a let bygones be bygones/forgive and forget ordeal. Eli receives absolution, but there are consequences to his actions and the actions of this sons.

1 Corinthians 6:12-20

Initial Thoughts

  • Transitional passage between Paul’s concerns chapters 1-6 and the concerns the Corinthian church 7-16

  • Must be read within a larger context of the letter and being part of the body of Christ (cf. 1 Cor 1:10-17; 12:12-17)

  • At a first glance this seems the odd one out, but when taken in the context of the larger letter of how to embrace new life as a follower of Christ- what does it mean to be part of the body of Christ? Or- in connection with the other texts-how do I respond to the call of Christ/God?

  • A lot of sexual baggage with this one. It has been subject to a lot of quickfire application, especially in youth groups: “Don’t have sex.”

Bible Study

  • All things all lawful

    • Just because we have received grace from God and just because something is lawful, doesn’t mean you should do it.

    • There are actions and behaviors that can “dominate” us just as much as sin

  • Let’s talk about sex

    • Culture and body image - we both praise and worship body image and are at the same time ashamed of it and shame others with it

    • In the church body image and sex are cloaked in shame

    • This is not a passage about personal shame and sexual ethics but about sexual ethics within the Christian community

  • Corinth

    • Prostitution was both a legal and acceptable part of Corinthian commercial, religious and economic life

    • The Corinthians, like many of us, equate morality with legality. “If it is legal, then it isn’t that bad”

    • Pauls changes the questions-not, “It is legal?” or “Is it allowed?”, but “Is it beneficial?”

  • Beneficial to the body of Christ

    • We may be tempted to individualize this, but this letter is about the Corinthian community. What is beneficial to the body of Christ

    • How we use our own bodies has impact on the greater body of Christ

    • Prostitution, using others for sex, buying and selling one another is not beneficial to the body of Christ.

  • Temples

    • Our bodies are to be temples or houses for the Holy Spirit- the Spirit of Christ dwells within us

    • Sex should be a spiritual union as much as physical union, prostitution is not spiritual, but physical and economic which is degrading to both individuals and thus to the greater body of Christ (of which at least one individual is a member)

    • Sex is good. Sex is not bad. Meaningless, transactional, exploitive sex is harmful to the body of Christ, the individual and the community. Doesn’t matter it if is legal or not.

  • Ultimately, this is about obedience, not sexual puritanism. “Paul remind us that the obedience that marks true discipleship expresses itself in the way believers conduct their lives in the world. The whole self, body as well as spirit, redeemed by Christ is the whole self that glorifies God in all relationships.” (Texts for Preaching Year B, p. 105)

Preaching Thoughts

  • I don’t think I would dive into a sex sermon here or focus on prostitution necessarily but some good directions may include:

    • Addressing sexual trafficking in the US

    • Addressing the exploitation of women in the United States

    • Distinguishing the Christian community from the legal community: we live in a very litigious society in which right and wrong are determined by law, but as Christians what is right and wrong is determined by God, Christ and what is beneficial to the community, not what is legal - this could be a good connection with Civil Disobedience.


Thanks to our Psalms correspondent, Richard Bruxvoort Colligan (psalmimmersion.com,@pomopsalmist). Thank you to Scott Fletcher for our voice bumpers, Dick Dale and the Del Tones for our Theme music (“Misirlou”), Nicolai Heidlas (“Sunday Morning”,"Real Ride"and“Summertime”) and Paul and Storm for our closing music (“Oh No”).