You Will See Greater Things
Sunday, January 18, 2015
This is the weekend of Martin Luther King day. This day makes me wonder about what happened to his dream in his speech of August 28 1963? (http://www.let.rug.nl/usa/documents/1951-/martin-luther-kings-i-have-a-dream-speech-august-28-1963.php)
In the last month we have seen a high level of hostility between the police and black men; have seen the tragic shootings connected with Charlie Hebdo in Paris; and the continuing hostilities and violence in the Middle East. Given such events, even in the last month, MLK may well ask, “What happened to the dream?”
There is a “call” or a “dream” if you will in three of our scripture passages today
1 Sam 3—The night time call of Samuel
Ps 139—The inner call of the Psalmist
Jhn 1:43f—The call of Philip, and of Nathaniel as he sat meditating under the fig tree
Psalm 139 is actually a lament. That is, in the last six verses of that psalm, you can see that the author feel painfully surrounded by adversity and adversaries. We too sometimes may feel surrounded by adversities and adversaries; we may wonder if we have made our mistakes.
We may feel embattled by a whole world which is descending into increasing chaos. We may wonder if we as individuals did not properly hear or follow God’s call in the work that we ended up doing. We may wonder whether we were born into the proper family or country. Perhaps even, we may wonder whether we married the wrong partner. Today is the beginning of the week of prayer for Christian Unity, but there seems to be very little Christian Unity.
So we may wonder, what happened to the dream of Martin Luther King, or what happened to our own high hopes and dreams? That sense of disillusion resonates with the words in the first reading, “The word of the Lord was rare in those days.” We may feel that the word of the Lord is rare and hard to see in our lives or context.
On the plus or positive side, some people seem to know what they are meant to do from day one, and end their lives still happily doing it. They may have found their partner in high school and still be with that partner, happily, at the end of their lives. They seem to have lived a charmed life, full of positive experiences, thoughts and events. There is the phrase in 1 Sam 3:19, “None of [Samuel’s] words fell to the ground.” Everything they say works out just fine.
Then we can look all the way across the dial to the other or negative side. On that side, there are some folk for whom even at the end of their lives have never done what they were made to do, have never been what God made them to be, and have never been with a person that makes them happy. That may be the case for a person who has been kidnapped or trafficked, a person in slavery, or a person in prison (whether deserved, undeserved or somewhere between). They may have spent their lives in some kind of inescapable service to circumstances, or to other people. Even Jesus in Gethsemane wondered whether he had made a mistake.
And then most of us are somewhere in between on the dial. Sometimes we have not heard the call, or not followed it, and are living a hard road: unfulfilled, anxious, or dissatisfied. Sometimes we have heard and followed the call of God, and have a feeling of fulfilment, satisfaction, or joy.
The call of God that appears in these scripture passages this morning contains the following features:
- There is an inner journey.
- There is an encounter with God.
- There is a faithful response–”Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.”
- The encounter and journey is a continuing journey, from a young age to old age; from less insight to more insight.
- There is an unfolding along the way.
- In our reading from the Hebrew scriptures, the call of Samuel began with uncertainty at 5 or 6 years old, and later on as a “Judge” of Israel, at Samuel’s selection of the young and future King David his hearing of God was still uncertain. From beginning to end, Samuel was always in a process of learning to hear and understand God’s word;
- In the Gospel reading, Jesus says to Nathanael, “You will see greater things than these”. That begins the unfolding of the seven signs in the Gospel of John (from the wedding in Cana to the raising of Lazarus from the dead). Beyond the life of Jesus, there were the unfolding of the signs in church history, like the hospitals and educational institutions arising from the people of God and body of Christ. Yet in Gethsemane, Jesus himself was uncertain about God’s word and call; yet as events unfolded, and were revealed, in his resurrection his call was vindicated..
- So there is an unfolding along the way. It is different in each circumstance and decade of life, 10 years, 20 years, 40 years, 70 years and so forth. At each time, in each different circumstance, it is a whole new discerning of God’s call.
I began by saying, “What happened to the dream of Martin Luther King?” Remember his speech on April 3, 1968, shortly before his assassination, when he spoke about having been to the mountaintop and seen into the future. Something about his dream was only achieved after his death. Perhaps something about his dream–and our dream, and call–will be fulfilled only after all history of the earth is over.
This year is still in its launching phase for us as individuals and for us as a congregation. Like Samuel dreaming in the Temple, or like Nathanael meditating under the fig tree, let us meet with God. Let us say, “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.” To learn how our continuing journey with Christ will unfold far greater things in this year and always.