Revised Common Lectionary: 1 Samuel 3:1-10 (11-20); Psalm 139: 1-6, 13-18; 1 Corinthians 6:12-20; John 1:43-51

Narrative Lectionary: Tempted in the Wilderness, Matthew 4:1-17 (Psalm 91:9-12)

The Hebrew Scriptures in the Revised Common Lectionary this season focus on the call of God, the voice of God that calls forth light and calls forth prophets. The call of the prophet Samuel is a personal favorite call story. Young Samuel hears a voice and gets up, but mistakes the voice for Eli, and it is not until this happens for the third time that Eli understands that God is speaking to Samuel, and advises Samuel to reply with “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” God calls Samuel to be a prophet to his people, and even though the words that Samuel speaks from the Lord condemn Eli’s family, Eli accepts them, understanding that Samuel has been called to be the prophet of the Lord.

Psalm 139 speaks of how intimately God knows us, and how beloved we are to God. There is nothing that can separate us from God’s presence, in life or death, and God knows us before we can possibly know ourselves. These beautiful, ancient words speak to the depth of God’s love and the vastness of God’s wisdom and insight, beyond what we can possibly know.

1 Corinthians 6:12-20 are powerful words from Paul about the body being the temple of God, and the importance of taking care of it. By this, we know that not everything we want to do, not everything that feels good to us, is necessarily good for us. Paul speaks directly to this congregation which has a specific issue in chapter 5 among other issues: a man is sleeping with his father’s wife. Paul speaks to the sacredness of relationships and that the people in the church in Corinth have failed the covenants of these relationships—whether they have broken their marriage vows or have ignored the poor at their own communion table. In this passage, Paul states that all we do with our bodies ought to glorify God, and to shun whatever does not glorify God.

John 1:43-51 is the story of Jesus calling Nathaniel. In the Synoptic Gospels and Acts, Philip is always associated with Bartholomew, but in John’s Gospel he comes to Nathaniel and tells him about Jesus, but Nathaniel just says, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Nazareth must have had a reputation in its day, but when Jesus comes to him and lets Nathaniel know that there is no fooling him, and that he saw him under the fig tree before Philip even called him, Nathaniel, who didn’t want to believe anything good could come from Nazareth, now believes Jesus is the Son of God.

The Narrative Lectionary follows the story arc of Matthew, and following Jesus’ baptism, follows Jesus into the wilderness where he is tempted by the devil. Following this time, in which Jesus resists temptation and prepares himself for his ministry, he leaves Nazareth and sets out for Capernaum and begins to proclaim “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” The same sermon that John the Baptist began with—Jesus continues this message. Repent—turn back to God—and know that the reign of God is very near.

Psalm 91:9-12 is the scripture Satan references in the desert when he tempts Jesus. But the context of the psalm is about making God one’s refuge, trusting in God’s love to protect and save us—not a wild assurance that nothing bad will ever happen to us. That’s not what is being said at all. Instead, when we trust in God, we know God’s presence will be with us always, and we will have nothing to fear.

Where do you hear the voice of God? Where is God calling you? All too often, we either follow the call of the world, or we dismiss the call of God. We need more of the innocence of Samuel and the wisdom of Eli, and less the skepticism of Nathaniel, though like Nathaniel, despite our own hesitance, may we trust in Jesus and follow his call.

Call to Worship
Listen! Do you hear the voice of God?
God is calling us to love our neighbors as ourselves.
Listen! Do you feel the presence of Christ?
Whenever we are gathered together, Christ is among us.
Listen! Do you desire to draw closer to God?
  Know that the Holy Spirit is among us now.
     Know that Christ is leading us onward.
     Know that God is calling you as we enter this time of worship.

Prayer of Brokenness/Confession
God of Justice and Mercy, we confess that we often do not perceive the needs of others for justice and mercy. We believe everyone is equal, and fail to see where we have privilege over others. We believe we deserve what we have, and that others have not worked hard enough. We judge those who do not live their lives the same as us. Forgive us for our ignorance. Forgive us for not noticing the needs of people around us. Guide us into working for justice for all by recognizing our privilege and the oppression of others. In the name of Christ, who calls us all by name, and calls us into the work of love, justice and mercy, we pray. Amen.

Blessing/Assurance of Pardon
God’s Spirit is among us. The Spirit is guiding us all towards justice, as in each generation our awareness has grown in seeking justice for all. Know that the Spirit is moving you towards justice, even when you don’t feel it. Participate, experience it, and learn to love the ways of God’s restorative justice, for the Spirit is reconciling us all to God’s love in Christ Jesus. Amen and Amen.

Holy God, You have called us to live into Your ways of justice. We thank You for the prophets of old and the prophets of each generation that have called us into Your vision of a just world, a world in which all are reconciled to You. We thank You for the vision and dream of Martin Luther King, Jr. and pray for the day when those visions and dreams are lived out. We thank You for the people who take to the streets in nonviolent protest; we thank You for those who work for justice in the legal realm along with those who work for justice in homeless shelters and soup kitchens. Call us all into Your ways of justice, to bring healing and reconciliation, for only then can we build peace together. In the name of Christ, who is reconciling all to God, we pray. Amen.

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