One of the gifts that frees us to become who God calls and invites us to be is a five letter word—–TRUST. When we trust that God’s universe unfolds as it ought, and that we are intended, even made, by God to be some part of that unfolding universe, and that the universe is intimately known to God, who is lovingly fashioning relationship into the universe’s fabric, then we can rest————–even better we can play. When we buy into the reality that our “foundness” exceeds our “lostness,” we have cause to play.
An example of play coming from this “lostness-foudness” business occurred in seminary—when a few classes of seminarians ahead of my own had a beer-loving gargoyle named Cruptolos Euriskos who randomly showed up in all sorts of places. When he was in “cruptolos mode” he was lost. When he was in “euriskos mode” he was found. But in either mode he was forever being sought—not that he desired to be sought, or even tried to be sought, mind you—he was the object being sought, not the seeker, so in other words the search never depended on him. In time he was joined by an international traveling gnome named Iustus Peccator whose talent at being lost “cruptolos” and found “euriskos” was well-suited to the gargoyle—and just like the gargoyle, the gnome was forever being sought.
Preachers, it will take some serious work this week to find in the RCL texts any way to celebrate a “lostness” that ends through our human efforts to create/procure/craft/produce/fashion our own “foundness.” The gargoyle never found itself. The gnome never found itself. And people never manage the finding of themselves. People as source of their own “foundness”—it just never happens.
If you are preaching from 1 Samuel 3:1-20 then you face a God who does both the seeking and the calling.
In v.1 Samuel “was ministering to the Lord under Eli,” and in v. 7 we are told that, “Samuel did not yet know the Lord,” and, “the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him.” So Samuel was ministering to the Lord and did not know the Lord because the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him.” And even though Samuel did not yet know the Lord to whom he was ministering, the Lord calls to him all the same, i.e. v. 4 & v. 6. So God calls to Samuel even though Samuel, who has been ministering to the Lord, lacks a revelation that has to come from somewhere other than him. Seems faithful to the text to preach that the seeking and calling of Samuel is all about God and not about Samuel. Does not seem faithful to preach that until Samuel “finds the Lord” he misses the call. Why? Because to preach that Samuel does his own seeking and calling is not true to the text. Wonder if preaching that God calls, and God reveals, and God gives the message to be shared is more faithful? It seems that in the midst of Samuel’s “lostness” the Source of “foundness” had already found him and was making the reality of that “foundess” known to Samuel. And clearly, in a literal sense, “the Lord called him,” at least four times right of out his slumber—and perhaps out of his figurative slumber, too.
But if knowing that Calling-Seeking-God to whom you are known even before God gets down to revealing “the word of the Lord” to you or some other is deeply troublesome to you, then perhaps turn to Psalm 139 for solace.
Yet, what if you opt to preach from Psalm 139? What will find you there?
In v. 1 you will find God who does the searching and the knowing. And if you keep reading to v. 8, you’ll find God intent on being revealed in heaven and Sheol—“the place where the dead are in-gathered” per the Jewish Encyclopedia. And if you do make it to v. 13 you’ll be encountered by God who does the business of knowing while this very God knits all people into being, all the while knowing them as their days are formed.
Now there’s “foundness” for you—right from the very start.
The Psalmist will conclude by v. 23 and 24 that God must be the one to “search” and “know” hearts, and “test” people, and “know” thoughts. And to the last—-God will see if there is “any wicked way” and “lead in the way everlasting.” Guess only the One who forms us from the get-go and writes the days that are formed for us could know if any wicked way were ours and it certainly follows that the One whose “knowledge is too wonderful for us (v. 6) could lead us in the everlasting way. Certainly seems from this text that we are known from start finish….no way to escape the God who calls Samuel to be found in Psalm 139.
Maybe we could escape this God by turning to 1 Corinthians 6:11-20 where we could join the 1st century Corinthian Christians as they pig-out on food and fornicate—-nah, why go there? We’ll only learn that our bodies are God’s temple. As you read the text for yourselves do note that it does not say, “Temple, Clean yourself up and then God will enter!” Even amidst all the sins going on in the temple-that-is-us, St. Paul says to 1st century Christians and, by extension to us, “You already are the temple—stop sullying the temple because it belongs to God, not you!” Baptism, washing, made all the difference. (v. 11) Guess the God who calls Samuel, and knit us together, leads us in the everlasting way, just as God washes and sanctifies us. There’s is just no escape from this searching, knowing, calling God!
Maybe Jesus will give us a break—perhaps show us how some part of the seeking and finding of us is ours to claim. John 1:43-51 says:
The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” 44Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” 46Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” 47When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” 48Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” 49Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” 50Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.” 51And he said to him, “Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”
(text from NRSV)
Uh-oh, v. 43 Jesus finds Philip.
And, wouldn’t you know it, v. 44 as a result of Jesus finding Philip, Philip finds Nathanael and Philip indicates that, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” And just who is this “WE” claiming to have found Jesus—wasn’t it only Philip who was found? Who knows—this text doesn’t say.
But all the same, any hopes we held that the “WE HAVE FOUND HIM” part gives us some stake in finding and being found plummets the moment when Nathanael, in response to Jesus (v. 47) says to him, “Where did you get to know me?” (v. 48) What? Did Nathanael own that he did not know the One to whom he was already known……yep.
Jesus said to Nathanael, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” (v. 48) Nothing extraordinary here except that whether through the Spirit’s activity, or through Jesus’ intellect and keen eye, or through his uncanny wisdom, Nathanael was the object of Jesus’ knowing. And let’s add, even Jesus’ praise…for it is Jesus (v. 47) who says of Nathanael, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” It is really important to note that Jesus did not say, “Because you are an Israelite with no deceit in you, you are worthy of being known.” Jesus knew the man and declared that in him there was no deceit/guile. Although it is eisegesis, and an argument thin at best, one might wonder if the truth of Nathanael was that he was a sinner like the rest of who Jesus forgave through his saying that Nathanael was an Israelite in whom there was no deceit.
In any case, the actions of Jesus reveal him to be (v. 49) “…the Son of God! …the King of Israel!”
So let’s get this straight—-per 1 Corinthians we are a Temple even if we sully it….and per Psalm 139 we are made so by God from the start…and God, per Psalm 139 has to lead us from the wicked way, and towards the everlasting way…and this God calls us even as we minister to the Lord while, for our part, not having the word of the Lord always revealed to us yet.
And so Samuel, who is totally found by One yet lost to the reality that the One has already found him, is directed to be receptive to the Lord’s calling by another—Eli.
And so living, breathing 1st century Corinthian Temples, found and founded in Baptism, are lost to their identity’s defining force and require another to help them reclaim that lost identity—-Paul.
And so those sought and formed by God per Ancient Israel, require another to lead them into the everlasting way while knowing if any wicked way is at work in them—God.
And so Jesus, is that other—the One required to make himself known to Philip, to set Philip into evangelism, that draws Nathanael, and sets Jesus up to reveal himself to Nathanael.
And in all of this the calling-seeking-finding-searching-knowing-leading agency is God’s to own and ours to embrace, celebrate, and enjoy. Guess I can sleep well tonight because don’t have to find Jesus, ’cause the finding business is the work of Jesus, not me. I don’t have to go looking for Jesus behind my couch.
THIS IS A CAUSE FOR TRUST—GREAT TRUST!
Since God is in the finding business this should give us some cause to “calm the calamity in our mammary” as my sons say. This is just cause for us to play. This is due, perhaps overdue, cause for inspiration—and all we have a right to say of such a God who gives us such a gift, and who reveals the greater gift of “foundness” amidst “lostness” through Jesus is, “Come and see.”
Preachers, Sunday our task is to know upfront that everyone there is fully known to God. Perhaps we are a Paul or Eli or Philip who is a conduit through which God will reveal “foundness through Jesus,” but perhaps hearers have known and grown comfortable in their sense of “foundness” and might be reminded that “foundness” brings mission through which Jesus reveals himself to others and it all starts with the words, ” “Come and see.”