Text: 1 Samuel 3:1-10; Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18; John 1:43-51 By: Rev. Terry Carty
Place: Kingston Springs United Methodist Church
Season: Second Sunday after the Epiphany
Main Point: Christ brought salvation to all humanity, but those who believe are called to show others how to live by God’s grace. Discipleship is a way of making our life a blessing to others.
When I was small – 4 or 5 years old – I can remember getting a shaving kit. It was my joy! It had a little bar of soap that fit into a little wooden bowl. My dad showed me how to use the small brush to work up a lather in the soap and then brush it onto my face – just like I had seen dad do many times as I sat watching him shave.
Then I would fit the cardboard razor blade into the handle that looked just like my dad’s except it was plastic instead of shining chrome. And I would proceed to shave off the soap foam that I had brushed onto my face. I would splash water from the sink onto my face and then use the towel to wipe it dry – feeling the smooth, whisker-less skin – of a five-year-old!
Mom told dad, “you’ll make his beard grow prematurely!” But dad said, “he needs to learn it sometime – he’ll be having to shave the rest of his life.”
And so, I imitated my dad to learn how to be a man. I still find myself lathering up a bar of soap and shaving with a blade when I don’t have my electric razor handy.
I learned to mow the yard by pushing my little plastic lawn mower in the lines left behind my dad’s big real lawnmower. My most memorable lawn mowing lesson learned was that the second person who upsets a wasp nest is the one who gets stung!
Our earliest lessons are learned not from text books, but from modeling the actions of others. At the time of Jesus, women learned their work from their mothers, aunts, older sisters, and women of the village. Men learned their trade by becoming like their fathers or by becoming the apprentice of an experienced tradesman. Often a young boy would go to live with a tradesman to learn by doing – he would work, eat, sleep, and dress like the tradesman.
When one wanted to learn from a wise philosopher, theologian, or prophet, he or she would become a disciple of that person. Disciples would spend much of their waking hours observing, walking with, talking like, and living like the one they wanted to be like.
The gospels tell us that Jesus accepted 12 men to be his disciples. Today’s scripture passage tells of how two of them became Jesus’s disciples. Philip was easy – he had probably heard about Jesus already from Andrew and Peter from his village. All it took was for Jesus to say, “follow me,” and Philip followed him all the way to his death.
But Nathaniel needed persuading. Jesus had seen him sitting under a fig tree, the preferred spot of those faithful Jewish people who studied and meditated the scrolls of the Torah. When Nathaniel popped off, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Jesus knew that he had responded naturally and without true malice toward Jesus. He was a good Jew and loved God. He couldn’t resist this man who knew his true heart and who invited him to come with him to see the heavens opened just like the ancient vision of Jacob’s ladder.
Jesus called Philip and Nathaniel to follow him – to observe and then live like him. Jesus called others through Philip and Nathaniel to live like him by discipleship. The early church was built on small groups meeting together to learn together how to live the life Christ taught.
What is different now? We have gospels that tell us about the life of Jesus. Does that mean that we no longer need to hear someone we respect telling us the stories of Jesus and the way he lived? Are we to discover the way of Christ on our own?
Centuries after Jesus, we consider ourselves educated and enlightened beyond the ways of the first century. Perhaps we have lost sight of the most fundamental way of teaching fundamentals. We have become very lax on intentional discipling. In fact, we often forget that little one who may be watching our every move to figure out what it means to be fully human. We may not even think that our actions speak far louder than our words.
Did we miss the lessons of Jesus because no one intentionally discipled us? It is never too late to learn from Jesus. In the next few weeks, our worship message will focus on the disciples of Jesus and their learning experiences. Additionally, we will have opportunities to come together in small groups to intentionally learn from scripture and from each other how to live more like Jesus.
Today, hear the call of Jesus to Philip to “follow me” as your call. Hear the call of Jesus to Nathaniel to come and “see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man” as your call. Seek out opportunities to be both a learning and a leading disciple.