This Sunday, January 21, 2018, we continue our Via Creativa theme of Mothers of Invention. During this quarter, we’ll be exploring how we can bring forth that creative spirit of invention that can transform not just our inner world, but the world around us. We used music from the Moody Blues to learn how hearing God’s call can help us find and be about our creative mission in this world. Below is an excerpt from the sermon along with links to the audio of the sermon and the full celebration.
From the Hebrew Scriptures: 1 Samuel 3: 1-10: “Here I am!”
From the Jesus Story: John 1:43-51: Come and See.
From A Course in Miracles, Chapter 5: … you must choose to hear one of two voices within you.
Song used in the sermon: The Voice by the Moody Blues
Callings are not always about hearing voices. Sometimes, what we are called to do is to look deeper at the people and events that are happening before us in each moment. This is never easy, because, as the song says, in every moment we are somewhere else – our arms are around the future or our back is up against the past.
Today’s reading from the Jesus story gives us a primer in what it takes to be present in each moment so that we will be willing to see the world differently, set aside the ego’s judgment and prejudices and allow the Holy Spirit to do its work through us.
These visual episodes, just like their audible counterparts, can also be confusing and disorienting to us, just as it probably was to a guy named Nathanael who we meet in this story.
In this passage, Jesus is just beginning his ministry and is gathering the 12 he would call disciples. Before this reading he’s already called Peter and his brother Andrew and has now gone to Galilee to pick a few more guys for his ragtag band. There he finds Philip who is from Peter and Andrew’s hometown and Philip is so excited about his new role as one of Jesus’ apostles, he goes to his good friend Nathanael and says, “Hey, I’m signing up with this Jesus guy from Nazareth who I know is the Messiah we’ve been waiting for and I want you to go with me!”
Suffice to say, Nathanael was far less enthusiastic than his friend. “Nazareth?” he sneers. His words seem to be a distant echo of the recent, paraphrased, words of the US president, “What good ever came out of a crap hole like Nazareth?”
We can all identify with Nathanael. Resistance is always the ego’s first reply to a calling from the Holy. “Why should I listen to you? Nothing good will come of this. I’m not the kind of person who jumps on the latest fad and I know what the people are like who come from this area. That place produces nothing but criminals, layabouts and disease-infested people. Count me out.”
Remember what I said earlier about how to distinguish the voice of God? It will either confuse you, scare you or piss you off. Here’s another aspect of God’s voice – it will play on our sense of curiosity. This is how Nathanael is finally lured into meeting Jesus. His friend Philip, echoing the words that Jesus used earlier to tantalize Peter and Andrew, simply says, “Come and see.”
This invitation is a double whammy for us, because the ego is tempted to “come and see” so it can confirm its suspicions that this guy from Nazareth is the lazy charlatan it believes him to be and our higher, divine self is tempted because it recognizes something awe-inspiring in the call. So, Nathanael gives in, and he goes to meet Jesus.
What happens at their first meeting is nothing short of a miracle, because it changes the perspective of Nathanael in an instant. Jesus sees him and proclaims, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!”
Nathanael’s response is one of cynicism, “How do you know me?” Jesus tells him he saw him under the fig tree talking with Philip. The Greek word used here for “saw” is “EYE-doe,” which means “to perceive,” “have knowledge” or “pay attention.” Jesus knew that Nathanael was an honest man because he could look past his ego and see his true divine innocence.
Jesus had every right, upon meeting Nathanael to say, “Hey, you’re that bigot who thinks all Nazarenes are scum!” or “Hey, here comes that old skeptic trying to get a place in my organization. Sorry, bub, but we’re looking for true believers.”
No, Jesus didn’t see Nathanael through the eyes of ego. He saw him through the eyes of love, and this is Jesus’ invitation to us in this present moment. Instead of thinking about what someone can do for you in the future, or how they’ve hurt you or betrayed you in the past, Jesus invites us to see people as they are right now – as they always have been – innocent children of God who are worthy of our love and respect, no matter what.
I’ll say it again, though, that this doesn’t mean we become stupid. We do need to protect ourselves from people who have hurt us in the past and intend to hurt us in the present or the future. This isn’t a call to put ourselves in danger. It’s simply a call to be willing to see things differently – to hear the call to love, even if you have to do it far away from the person you are called to love.
What this story shows us is the affect that seeing the divine in people has on those people. Nathanael, who five minutes earlier had been bashing Jesus and everyone from Nazareth, proclaims, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”
When we are able to see the divine within others, their eyes are opened to our divinity – the perceived separation between us is annihilated. We immediately become one, because heaven has opened to receive us both.
Here’s your assignment this week: I invite you, this week, Jubilants, to listen more deeply for that Call to Joy – that call away from the ego’s concerns of the world and the Holy’s call to be the compassion, love and mercy that this world needs. Remember, there are voices competing for our attention. Tune in to that voice for the Holy that calls you to the ultimate joy of our higher divine self, because that’s the voice that will make you say: “Oh, Yeah!”