January 16, 2021 – Epiphany 2, Year B

Sunday’s Sermon – The Reverend Diane Kruger, Deacon

Trinity Episcopal Church, El Dorado, Kansas

Our Old Testament reading today we hear the familiar story of Samuel and Eli. The boy Samuel is bedded down in the temple with the ark of the covenant while Eli slept in another room. The boy hears a voice calling and three times arises and goes to Samuel to ask what he wants. Meanwhile, we know that it is God calling the boy, but he does not.

I believe it is easy to miss God’s call in our lives, and most often, we need the help of someone else to help us discern the call of God, just as Samuel did not understand, until Eli realized it was God calling and told Samuel to speak to the Lord. We too, need a helping hand to realize our own callings and, quite often, give us a gentle “shove” in the right direction to listen to the call of God…

Let’s look closer at the Gospel reading for today… Nathaniel clearly has some strong opinions, even assumptions about Nazareth… “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”

Have you ever made any assumptions? I know I have. “I’ve seen his type before; he’ll never change.” “She’s always so negative; I know what she will say.”  “He won’t understand; he never does.”  “It’s always been like that; it will never get any better.”  “Nothing good can come of that situation.”

People of faith, people like Nathanael, people like you and me, make these and all sorts of other assumptions every day. Sometimes our assumptions are about other people; how they will behave, what they will say, what we can expect, what they think or believe.

Other times we look at situations, our marriage, the state of the middle east, the state of our own government, the church, a teenager struggling to grow up, and we declare it hopeless.

We are sure nothing good can come out of that situation. Then there are those times we look at ourselves or a part of our life; maybe it is a secret we have carried for years, the illness we face each day, the addiction we hide, the hurts we have caused others, the loneliness and lostness of grief, and we say it will never get any better.

How can anything good come out of this? We may or may not speak our assumptions out loud, but they rattle through our heads and influence what we do.

You know what happens we when we assume, right? The old saying has some truth to it but I am thinking of something else.

The assumptions we make destroy our relationships, our love, and our life.

We think we know more than we really do. Assumptions truly act as limitations to us. They narrow our vision. They close off the possibility of change and growth… Our assumptions deny the possibility of reconciliation, healing, a different way of being, or a new life.

Ultimately, they deplete our faith and declare that there is no room for God to show up and act.

We all have our Nazareth’s. We think they are all about other people, particular circumstances, or even small pieces of our lives. Mostly, though, our assumptions are about us, our fears, our prejudices, our guilt, our losses, our wounds. We take our past experiences, real or imagined, and project them onto another person or situation.

Assumptions keep our lives shallow and superficial. If we assume, then we do not have to risk a deeper knowing of others and being known to others.

At the deepest level, our very own Nazareth’s are about our understanding of God. We just cannot see how anything good can come out of Nazareth.

We cannot believe that God could be present, active, and revealed in Nazareth whether it be another person, a relationship or situation, or our own life…

It is so hard to see life amid death, hope in places of despair, and the good and beautiful in what looks like the bad and ugly.  It’s sometimes easier to assume the worst… For us Nazareth is a blind spot… For God, however, Nazareth is the place of God’s manifestation and self-revelation.

It just seems so unGod-like to show up in Nazareth… maybe it is the town, a person, or a situation, Nazareth is too common and ordinary, even mundane, and boring.

Shouldn’t the person or place of God’s coming be more deserving, special, acceptable, holy, better behaved, likable, more regular at church, someone who prays more, or is better dressed?

The Nathanael in us feels there should be a particular set of conditions or prerequisites that must be met before God will appear and act. That says more about us than it does about God.

God does not allow himself to be limited by our assumptions. For every Nazareth there is an invitation to “come and see.”

For every assumption we make there is a deeper truth to be discovered, a new relationship to be experienced, and a new life to be lived… Our Nazareth’s become the place of God’s epiphany.

The last place we would have thought that possible is the first place God chooses. Come and see. Our salvation and healing happen where we thought nothing good could happen.

Reconciliation and love are revealed in relationships we were certain nothing good could come from. The seemingly hopeless situations of life begin to bear fruit. Words of forgiveness and compassion are spoken by people we were sure could never say such things. God puts lives back together in Nazareth.

Let us this week consider our assumptions, our own Nazareth’s and consider God’s call to us… we will have a new President inaugurated. Let us look forward with hope, listening for opportunities to hear God’s call to release our assumptions, answer His call in our lives, and work toward a unified country, filled with love and good will…

There is more happening in Nazareth than we ever thought possible. You see, not just “anything good” comes out of Nazareth. The One who is Good comes out of Nazareth.