Weekly worship: Sunday 19 January
Calling and following
Isaiah 49: 1-7, John 1: 29-42
It would be easy to bypass the first three words of this reading, ‘Listen to me’. But it is a good place to linger. The ‘me’ of the sentence is the subject of much scrutiny, as explored in last week’s points. But before we even get to the word ‘me’ we are invited, called, even commanded to ‘Listen!’
There is theme of calling and of expanding your vision in this Isaiah reading. And of course to be called we must be willing to listen to that inner or outer voice beckoning for our attention amidst the clamor of busy lives full of distraction.
And this call to listen is not only to people from far away but also to the coastlands. The coastlands convey the sense of distance, beyond the boundaries of the ocean. But it is also a word that catches the eye for different reason today. Coastal communities are those at increased risk from the climate emergency. Rising sea levels, more intense storms, livelihoods and lives being devastated are all a real and present danger. It is to the coastlands themselves that we might all pay attention in this era of climate emergency.
Whether this passage is describing the call of an individual or of the exiled people of Israel or both, it is first and foremost a call to be of service to others. To be a light to the nations; a source of salvation (Isaiah 49:6) to bring justice to those who are oppressed, impoverished and imprisoned (Isaiah 42:6-7).
But this isn’t an invitation to adopt ‘a savior complex’ since those people who are far away are also included in this call. They are not a distant ‘other’ to be helped but include the children of Israel who have been scattered by the traumatic events of exile. The bruised reed is not broken, nor the smouldering ember snuffed out.
Even in our weakness and woundedness we are called to serve, and perhaps in so doing we find something of our own healing. This is an intimate call (vs1), even a call to the bewilderment of not seeing the fruit of your labours (vs. 4). It is also a call to participate in the restoration of creation and the healing of humanity for everyone, for all nations.
As we lift up our gaze to the year that has begun may we take time to listen to the call on our lives to receive and to be a source of restoration and healing for those around us, near and far.
John is abandoned by his two disciples. They just walk off and leave him to follow Jesus.
But it is hard to imagine John minding too much, since all that he has been about throughout his ministry has pointed towards the Son of God, the Lamb of God
He doesn’t just casually pointed Jesus out to them as he passes by, he exclaims to them to ‘look!’. This is after he has ‘declared’ and ‘testified’ the previous day.
Their discipleship journey begins with a sending and a following, rather than a calling.
When Jesus notices he is being followed he turns and asks ‘what are you looking for?’ And as with the theme of John’s gospel we know this question has layers, it is better translated as ‘what are you seeking?’ Their question in reply also searches out a deeper meaning. Where can we find what we are seeking for? Where can we be with the Lamb of God?
And Jesus’ response, a response that serves as a summary for the Gospel of John, is an invitation to ‘come and see.’ And they ‘remained’ with him that day. We don’t know what they did, what they talked about but just that they were together, with each other, present.
And it is from that place of encounter and intimacy that Andrew brings his brother to come and follow Jesus too, Jesus draws rather than calls his disciples.
This passage issues an invitation to look, to come and see, and to be with Jesus as the beginning and essence of discipleship. And it is a looking and seeing beyond the literal, it is a seeking. And it is being with Jesus that equips and empowers us for our action in the world.
May the enthusiasm of John
And the curiosity of the disciples
Draw us into deeper discipleship
Responding to your question
What are you seeking?
By abiding in Your presence
We come to see. Amen.
Points for prayer can be found in the weekly prayer diary