Sermon and Liturgy For The Second Sunday After Epiphany - Year B
I Samuel 3:1-20 and John 1:43-51
"Who Is It For?"

READING:  I Samuel 3:1-20 and John 1:43-51
SERMON :  "Who Is It For"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
b-or02sn.y-b 711

   The following is a more or less complete liturgy and sermon
   for the upcoming Sunday.  Hymn numbers, designated as VU are
   found in the United Church of Canada Hymnal "Voices United".
   SFPG is "Songs For A Gospel People", also available from the UCC.

L    The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God,  
     and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
P    And also with you.
L    God is with his people.  He dwells in their midst. 
     Listen and hear him speak.
P    Our hearts long for his word.  
     We wait upon the Lord so that we may renew our strength.
L    God is our help and our support.  
     His spirit moves among us to lead us in holiness 
     and in righteousness all our days.
P    With joyful hearts we sing God's praise.  
     With rejoicing we call upon Him.  
     The Lord is our hope and our salvation.

* HYMN:  "Spirit of The Living God"                      - Vu 376

Loving and creative God - most holy and wise Lord - we open
ourselves to receive your life-giving Spirit, to hear your
guiding word and to see your signs and feel your touch in our
midst.  Forgive O God, those things which we have done or failed
to do which have hindered our relationship with you and with our
neighbours and bless us that we might be blessing to you and to
your world.  Come, Lord, and make us new.  We ask it in the name
of Jesus.  Amen

- Announcements
- Birthdays and Anniversaries
- Sharing Joys and Concerns

* HYMN:  "Teach Me God To Wonder"                        - Vu 299

Title:    Sharing The Story
Object:   Whispered Secret
Source:   Adapted from Christianity is Organic (Latimer
          Memorial UMC website - sermon for The Second Sunday
          After Epiphany, 1993)

Good morning.  I want us to engage in a little exercise to
demonstrate what I am talking about. I need two volunteers who
will be willing to come us here.  I promise I won't embarrass
you.  I want to thank our volunteers first of all for being so
brave. In a moment I will ask all of you who can to stand.  I
will whisper a secret into the two volunteers ears. Then they
will go to the first row of pews and tell them the secret.  Once
you hear the secret you tell two people in your pew or, the pew
behind you.  So the secret will progress through the
congregation.  Sit down once you have heard the secret and had a
chance to tell it.  Of course we will run out of people so those
on the sides and back will not have a chance to tell anyone so
just sit down as soon as you hear the secret.

To recap: I will tell these two the secret, they will tell two
people, each of you will tell two people if possible, then you
will sit down. 

O.K. everybody stand.... (whisper "Jesus is Lord" into volunteers
ears.  And wait until everyone is seated.)....  O. K. what's the
secret...?    (Congregation - "Jesus is Lord!") 

But that's no secret. It's not a secret because you have heard
it. But that is how Christianity spreads. It grows like an
organism as one person tells another. An organism grows by adding
cells. In the same way the Kingdom of God grows by adding people
who have heard and believed that Jesus is Lord. 

Let's take a look at that process at work in Jesus' ministry. 
Our Scripture lesson from John today tells about Jesus calling
Philip.  Jesus found Philip and said to him, "Follow me."  But it
also tells us that Philip was from the same home town as Peter
and Andrew.  That means that Philip already knew what kind of
people Peter and Andrew were.  He understood their character. 
Just the day before Peter and Andrew became Jesus' followers. 
When Jesus came to Philip he probably already had heard that
Peter and Andrew were following him.  That information probably
had a profound impact on Philip's reaction to Jesus.  Something
had a profound impact because of what Philip did.  Philip
immediately ran to Nathaniel and said, "We have found the one
spoken of by the prophets."  You notice he said "We have
found..."  I suppose that "we" included Peter and Andrew.  So
Nathaniel came to meet this prophet Philip had told him about and
he also decides to follow Jesus.   SO - Andrew and Peter decided
to follow Jesus. Their decision moved Philip.  Philip tells

This chain of events demonstrated how God reaches people.  God
uses other people to call us to become disciples.  And he asks us
to tell the good news to still others.

     Let us pray: Dear Lord God -- make us so excited by the
     gospel -- that we can't wait to tell everyone -- about
     Jesus  and his love -- amen

* HYMN:  "This Little Light of Mine"          - Blue Booklet 7(a)

Our Old Testament Reading this morning concerns the first time
that God spoke to the prophet Samuel, when he was still a youth,
and the effect that it had on Eli - and then later, as God
blessed Samuel, upon many others.

     (NIV)  The boy Samuel ministered before the LORD under Eli.
     In those days the word of the LORD was rare; there were not
     many visions. {2} One night Eli, whose eyes were becoming so
     weak that he could barely see, was lying down in his usual
     place. {3} The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel
     was lying down in the temple of the LORD, where the ark of
     God was. {4} Then the LORD called Samuel. Samuel answered,
     "Here I am." {5} And he ran to Eli and said, "Here I am; you
     called me." But Eli said, "I did not call; go back and lie
     down." So he went and lay down. {6} Again the LORD called,
     "Samuel!" And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, "Here
     I am; you called me." "My son," Eli said, "I did not call;
     go back and lie down." {7} Now Samuel did not yet know the
     LORD: The word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him.
     {8} The LORD called Samuel a third time, and Samuel got up
     and went to Eli and said, "Here I am; you called me." Then
     Eli realized that the LORD was calling the boy. {9} So Eli
     told Samuel, "Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say,
     'Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.'" So Samuel
     went and lay down in his place. {10} The LORD came and stood
     there, calling as at the other times, "Samuel! Samuel!" Then
     Samuel said, "Speak, for your servant is listening." {11}
     And the LORD said to Samuel: "See, I am about to do
     something in Israel that will make the ears of everyone who
     hears of it tingle. {12} At that time I will carry out
     against Eli everything I spoke against his family--from
     beginning to end. {13} For I told him that I would judge his
     family forever because of the sin he knew about; his sons
     made themselves contemptible, and he failed to restrain
     them. {14} Therefore, I swore to the house of Eli, 'The
     guilt of Eli's house will never be atoned for by sacrifice
     or offering.'" {15} Samuel lay down until morning and then
     opened the doors of the house of the LORD. He was afraid to
     tell Eli the vision, {16} but Eli called him and said,
     "Samuel, my son." Samuel answered, "Here I am." {17} "What
     was it he said to you?" Eli asked. "Do not hide it from me.
     May God deal with you, be it ever so severely, if you hide
     from me anything he told you." {18} So Samuel told him
     everything, hiding nothing from him. Then Eli said, "He is
     the LORD; let him do what is good in his eyes." {19} The
     LORD was with Samuel as he grew up, and he let none of his
     words fall to the ground. {20} And all Israel from Dan to
     Beersheba recognized that Samuel was attested as a prophet
     of the LORD.

L:   This is the Word of The Lord.     
P:   Thanks be to God.

ANTHEM: "God, You Meet Us"

A READING FROM JOHN 1:43-51        
Our Gospel reading today concerns how Jesus calls first Philip
and then through Philip, Nathaniel, to be his  disciples.

     (NIV)  The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee.
     Finding Philip, he said to him, "Follow me." {44} Philip,
     like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida. {45}
     Philip found Nathanael and told him, "We have found the one
     Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets
     also wrote--Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph." {46}
     "Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?" Nathanael
     asked. "Come and see," said Philip. {47} When Jesus saw
     Nathanael approaching, he said of him, "Here is a true
     Israelite, in whom there is nothing false." {48} "How do you
     know me?" Nathanael asked. Jesus answered, "I saw you while
     you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you."
     {49} Then Nathanael declared, "Rabbi, you are the Son of
     God; you are the King of Israel." {50} Jesus said, "You
     believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You
     shall see greater things than that." {51} He then added, "I
     tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the
     angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man."

L    This is the Gospel of our Risen Lord.
P    Praise be to you, Lord Jesus Christ.

* HYMN:  "I Am The Light of The World"                    - VU 87


     Bless O God the words of my lips and the meditations of
     our hearts, and when we go from this place - help us to
     continue to hear and to see, and to do and be - all
     that you would have us hear and see and do and be.  We
     ask it in the name of the blessed one - Jesus Christ
     our Lord.  Amen

Two passages today about the "call of God"
     - Samuel - as a youth - called in the night from the midst
of his sleep to hear a message;
     - and Philip and Nathaniel - called in the day from the
     midst of their busy lives to and follow Jesus.

Next Sunday, as well, we will hear from the Gospel of Mark about
the calling of Simon and Andrew and James and John - to leave
everything and to follow Jesus and become ones who fish for

There are a lot of ways talk about God's Call to the prophets and
to the first Disciples could be played - but today - thanks in
part to Charlene - who first asked me a set of provocative
questions about today's reading from the First Book of Samuel - I
want to take an unusual approach and ask  you the question: WHO

When God speaks to someone - be it to Samuel as the scriptures
today record
     or to Moses at the burning bush
     or to Jesus in the Garden of Gethsamane
     or to the Apostle Paul on the road to Damacus
who is the speaking for?

Or to put it another way -- when we see God doing something in
someone else's life -
     - when we see a healing performed - as it was before
     Christmas when a man we know who was under a sentence of
     death if he did not receive a lung transplant - a man who
     had to go everywhere with a tank of oxygen and who could not
     move a few feet without serious difficulties - not only got
     that transplant - but twenty days later - on Christmas Eve -
     climbed our steep stairs and walked through our doors  - and
     praised God for the Messiah's birth with us - WHO IS IT FOR?

     - or when we see a prayer that someone has prayed - perhaps
     we ourselves - answered - as  it has in the case of one our
     senior member's who for over 75 years has prayed for God to
     keep her safe - and safe he has kept her - even from a fire
     that last week that set her robe and night gown ablaze -
     burning a large hole right through it - and which could
     have, should have, harmed her severely, but did not... WHO
     IS IT FOR?

     - or again when we see someone is moved by God to do make an
     usual sacrifice - or simply, of a sudden, give their life to
     Christ - and so begin to recover from a long period of
     darkness and despair - as has been the case recently with a
     young woman afflicted with self doubt and uncertainy - WHO
     IS IT FOR?

The answer may seem obvious - 
     - The word to Samuel - was his awakening to the reality of
God - was for him  - to speak.
      -The word to Moses - his dramatic calling was for him -  to
wake him to his mission
     - God speaking in the garden to Jesus - was for his
strengthening before the cross
     - and so on -

And equally it may seem equally obvious 
     that the healing of the man who needed a new lung
the ring of protection for the old woman who could of died
in a fire
     and the spiritual awakening of the young woman 
were for them.

But this is not the whole story - the whole matter.
What God does, and what God says to others - 
is also meant for us;
- for us to whom, perhaps, God has not spoken so directly,
but to whom God wishes to speak....

IT is meant for our hearing 
- for our understanding 
- for our encouragement.
IT is meant for our building up 
- as much as it meant for the other person's good or ill
IT is meant for our conversion 
- as much as it meant to waken or alert the person who first
received it.

Listen again to the first two verses of I Samuel, chapter 3:

     "Samuel served the Lord by helping Eli the priest, who
     was by that time almost blind.  In those days, the Lord
     hardly ever spoke directly to people, and he did not
     appear to them in dreams very often."

Now listen to the last two verses, verses 19 and 20,  which come
as a summary after the story of how God spoke to Samuel
concerning Eli...

     "As Samuel grew up, the Lord helped him and made
     everything come Samuel said come true.  From the town
     of Dan in the north to the town of Beersheba in the
     south, everyone in the country knew that Samuel was
     truly the Lord's prophet."

There is a quite a change here is there not -
     - a change from not knowing the word of the Lord - not
     seeing him in action - to everyone,  from Eli the
     priest to the citizens of Beersheba and of Dan - all
     knowing that the word of God is being spoken and that
     God is active and faithful.

What God does, and what God says to others is also meant for us 
- for us to whom, perhaps, God has not spoken so directly,
but to whom God wishes to speak....

This is clear in the case of a prophet like Samuel, whose call is
after all to repeat what God has said and done in his presence to
everyone he meets - but is also meant for us in the case of every
act of God - in case of everything that God has done or said to
the people around us each day.

I haven't had a lung transplant recently - and recovered from it
so quickly that I could climb the stairs of our church 20 days
later without a twinge -
     Nor have I been saved from burning up in a fire recently -
          Nor have I even suddenly awakened to the Lord and
          started to recover from a period of darkness

But I have been mightily encouraged by how these things have
happened to others
-- I have seen the Lord perform a miracle by seeing that miracle
in a man climbing a set of stairs
--I have understood that God protects me by being told about how
he has protected one that we all love
-- I have heard the Lord speak by how he has spoken to a young

And how about you?
Have you seen and heard the Lord lately?
Have you understood what our God is about?

Samuel we are told lived in a time - he began his ministry in a
time when the Lord hardly ever spoke directly to people, and he
did not appear to them in dreams very often

But we live in a time - according to Jesus - and Peter - and all
the disciples - 

     "Your sons and daughters will prophecy.  Your young men
     will see visions and your old men will have dreams." 
     (Acts 2:17-19)
A time of miracles in the sky above 
and wonders on the earth below,
- the time of the Spirit,
- the time of the end of the ages,
- the time when God's kingdom is near to hand and the word - the
word is written in hearts of men of women.  (Jeremiah 31:33)

So what do you see?
What do you hear?

The Apostle Paul - in another context - another kind of
discussion - says this about the word of God and our experience
of Christ - our experience of salvation:

     "People whose faith makes them acceptable to God will
     never ask, 'who will go up to heaven to bring Christ
     down?'  Neither will they ask 'Who will go down into
     the world of the dead to raise him to life?'  All who
     are acceptable because of their faith  will simply say,
     'the message is as near as your mouth or your heart.' 
     And this is the same message we preach about faith."
                                                  (Romans 10:6-8)

My friends, I sometimes long to have the clarity of the prophet's
vision.  I sometimes desire to have the sudden ecstasy.  I
sometimes wish God would speak to me words that I could hear with
my ears

I daresay like you -I sometimes long for someone to go up into
heaven and bring Christ down - so that I may see him; to rouse
him, as it were, so that I may have action, now, on some issue or
other that I deeply care about, that I am anxious about - that I
fret about.

But then - the faith that God has given to me begins to work; 
God touches me and I realize that all round me God is acting -
and is speaking 
     - and that those acts, and those words, are meant for me as
     much as they were meant for those who at first experienced
     them -
that they are - in so far as I am open to them and the message
they have - God's word to me.

My friends - consider this:
There were tears shed in our church on Christmas Eve,
     tears of joy and of understanding and gratefulness 
and their was incredible exhilaration as a man who was touched by
God and healed came among us as a witness to us -
     and as another man - one whom I have not mentioned yet in
     this sermon, entered the church and by his presence
     confirmed for a farmer that we know well, that God indeed
     touches those who seem untouchable - and acts through
     individuals that some think God cannot act through.

If you are starved for hope -
If you despair and long to hear a word from God -
If you can't see any good - 
if you can't see the Lord acting - stop for a minute, 
look, listen, and feed 
upon what God has already given - what God has already done -
done not only in the PAGES OF THIS BOOK

What he has done - and what he is doing.

Have faith -
but more than have faith -
exercise your faith by stopping, by looking, by hearing, and by feeding
and with Paul, and I dare to say, with me
you will discover that the word is near to you - in your heart
and in your mouth,
and that word, being in your heart and your mouth,
will soon go forth from you as a testimony to others.

Who is it for?  

It is for you.

And when it is for you - and you make it yours 
- it is for others.

Such is the way that God lights the world
Such is the way that God salts the earth
Such is the way that God leavens the earth.

Father, at the beginning of our worship we sang "teach me, God,
to wonder,  teach me, God to see".  As part of that hymn we
prayed as well "Teach me God, to know you, (to) hear you when you
speak, (to) see you in my neighbour when we meet."  That is our
prayer still, Lord; our prayer for now, and for always.   We do
not ask, O God, that you speak to us - we ask that we might hear
what you have already spoken and be open to what you are even now
doing and saying all round us.....   Lord hear our prayer.....

Merciful and gracious God, we pray today for those who struggle
with doubt and unbelief, for those who do not have the eyes to
see or the ears to hear - but who long to see and hear.  Send us
- send someone - to touch them with the reality of your love and
care - to speak to them your word - to inspire them to new faith
- and grant that so these uncertain ones might so claim that
love, that word, that faith - that they in turn become ones whose
experience speaks to others...  Lord hear our prayer...

We pray too, today, O Lord, for others who are in need today -
for those of us and of the larger community who suffer in body,
if not in soul, or who have some other need that we remember
before you.  We pray for those I name before you at this time -
and for those whom each of us names in our hearts, or aloud, at
this time --- for Fred and Merle,....  Florence and Marion,.... 
Philip and Peter, ....  Scott and Kim,... and all those for whom
we have a burden, be they near or be they far off.....  Lord hear
our prayer....

O God of infinite mercy, help us to open our lives to your power
and to pour out your love upon the world around us -- Bless this
your church and make it, make us, witnesses to your glorious
grace.  We ask it through Jesus, your Anointed One, he who first
taught us to pray to you saying... Our Father...


* SHARING GOD'S BLESSINGS: As the Offering is presented all stand
for the Doxology (Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow - VU
541) and Prayer of Dedication

     Lord, as we share at this moment a portion of what we
     have received, help us open our lives to you and to all
     to whom you send us.  Make us and all that we do and
     say a blessing to the world so that these offerings may
     be made complete by our obedience to your will.  We ask
     it in the name  of your son, Jesus Christ our Lord and
     Saviour.  Amen

* DEPARTING HYMN:  "Lord, Speak To Me"                   - VU 589

* COMMISSIONING:    In the power of the Holy Spirit, we now go
                    forth into the world,    to fulfil our
                    calling as the people of God, the body of

Go in peace; love and care for one another in the name of Christ,
- and may the Spirit's power mould you and shape you according to
the will of God;, 
- may the Father's love comfort and sustain you as you journey
each day; 
- and may the grace, the mercy, and the faithfulness of the Son
fill you to overflowing,
this now and evermore.  Amen


copyright - Rev. Richard J. Fairchild 2000 - 2006
             please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.

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