Letters Reflections

Letter to parishioners, 15 January 2021

Read a letter from Revd Stephen reflecting on the readings set for this Sunday…

Friday, 15 January 2021

Dear Friends in Christ,

In this Sunday’s readings we will hear of two moments, many centuries apart, when ordinary people have responded to God’s call in their lives. These two accounts, the first being the call of the boy Samuel and the second being the call of Nathanael, are moments in the great story of God’s relationship with humanity that can offer us some hope in these difficult times.

Samuel was perceived by his parents to be a miraculous gift of God. Their marriage was childless and their son was born in answer to his mother’s earnest prayer. In thanksgiving for this great gift, the life of Samuel was dedicated to the service of God. In Sunday’s reading (1 Samuel 3:1-10) we hear of Samuel’s call into God’s service. In the first verse of 1 Samuel, chapter 3, we read: The word of the Lord was rare in those days. Following God’s three moments of calling to Samuel, we hear the boy saying: Speak, for your servant is listening. Despite ‘going through the motions’ of serving God under the tutelage of the elderly priest Eli, Samuel did not recognize God’s first two attempts to speak to him. Then all was made clear as Eli finally realized what was happening. Samuel was destined to become a prophet, one who speaks the words of God and never hides them, one who leads others into the truth of God’s love.

In Sunday’s gospel reading (John 1:43-51) we hear of Jesus’ call to both Philip and his friend Nathanael. As with the call of other disciples in the gospel narrative, Jesus says to Philip: Follow me. We then see that these two words are sufficient to bring Philip into the fellowship of Jesus’ closest companions. Philip is so excited by this call that he goes to share the good news with Nathanael. Despite being a devout follower of God, and despite having been a follower of John the Baptist, Nathanael’s journey into discipleship is not quite so smooth. Following Nathanael’s initial expression of surprise and doubt, Philip extends the hand of friendship and support as he says to his friend: Come and see.

In the call of Samuel and Nathanael into God’s service we see, if not reluctance, a sense of unpreparedness, even a feeling of unworthiness. We also see two people, a youth and an older man, set aside personal ambition and feelings as they allow themselves to be led into a closer relationship with God. For almost a year we have all been journeying through dark times. During those months many people have reflected on their personal relationship with God, with many finding themselves being led along a new spiritual path. In such times it is easy for us to focus on the negative; it is easy for us to be distracted by such questions as, ‘Where is God in all this?’ The fact is that God is with us at all times, in all seasons and in all circumstances. God is always holding out his hand and saying, like Nathanael’s friend and Jesus’ disciple, Philip: Come and see.

I pray that we might all find the way that God has opened for us, and that we might learn to travel that path in joy. Things are different and there is a good chance that things will never be quite the same again, but the great constant in our lives is God. So, let us rest in the words we find in the first letter of John: God is love and those who live in love live in God and God lives in them. Let us take God’s outstretched loving hand and allow him to take us to see.

May the love and the blessing of God be with you all,

Revd Stephen