Monday, 8 January 2018

Readings, hymns and
sermon ideas for
Sunday 14 January 2018

The calling of Saint Nathanael, also identified with Saint Bartholomew … a window in Saint Bartholomew’s Church, Ballsbridge, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Sunday next, 14 January 2018, is the Second Sunday after the Epiphany:

The readings are: I Samuel 3: 1-10; Psalm 139: 1-5, 12-18; Revelation 5: 1-10; John 1: 43-51. There is a direct link to the readings here.


These readings are appropriate readings for a Sunday after Epiphany, asking us to consider our own call to discipleship, and challenging us to think about who is the Christ who calls us to follow him.

God’s call comes to a variety of people, and in surprising ways.

I Samuel 3: 1-10:

The Old Testament reading recalls the story of the call of Samuel. Along with the Psalm and the readings from the Book of Revelation and Saint John’s Gospel, this reading to ask about how we know who we are and what we are meant to be doing.

The boy Samuel is confused about who is calling him. He keeps thinking Eli is calling him. But his confusion does not keep Samuel from being willing, again and again, to respond to the call.

How have you been called?

Have you shared the story of your call with your parish and your parishioners?

Eli plays such an important role in this story, helping Samuel understand what is happening to him. It is an essential role in ministry to have people who are willing to support, endorse, and guide people who are trying to discern a call from God.

Psalm 139: 1-5, 12-18:

The Psalm continues this theme: ‘O Lord, you have searched me out and known me’ (Psalm 139: 1).

Not only did God knit us together in our mother’s wombs, but this whole passage reads like we are in God’s womb, hemmed in by God behind and before. Our life is in God’s womb, which is a peaceful and comforting thought. We cannot go where God is not, and God, in a sense, is also chasing after us, insisting on having a relationship with us.

The saints coming before the Lamb on the Throne … from the Ghent Altarpiece

Revelation 5: 1-10:

The New Testament reading (Revelation 5: 1-10) tells us that the Church or the saints are ‘from every tribe and language and nation’ and they have been made ‘to be a kingdom and priests serving our God, and they will reign on earth’ (see Revelation 5: 9-10).

Here we are reminded that Christ, the Lamb on the Throne, has made us ‘to be a kingdom and priests serving our God’ (Revelation 5: 10), preparing the world for the Kingdom of God, inviting the world into the Kingdom of God.

The Church in its ministry and in its membership should reflect the diversity of skills and talents and personalities that God gives to the Church both as gift and as blessing.

The call of Philip and Nathanael … a modern icon

John 1: 43-51:

The Gospel reading is the story of the call of Philip and Nathanael, and it comes immediately after the story of the call of Andrew and Peter.

The back story is that immediately after his baptism by Saint John the Baptist in the River Jordan, Christ begins calling his first disciples. First, he calls Andrew and Simon Peter. Andrew is called first, but before responding to the call to follow Christ, he goes back and fetches his brother Simon and brings him to Jesus (John 1: 35-42).

Andrew and Peter are brothers, but their names indicate the early differences and divisions in the Church. Andrew’s name is Greek ('Ανδρέας, Andreas), meaning ‘manly’ or ‘valorous,’ while Peter’s original name, Simon (שמעון‎, Shimon, meaning ‘hearing’) is so obviously Jewish.

It is the same again with Philip and Nathanael: Philip is a strong Greek name – everyone in the region knew Philip of Macedon was the father of Alexander the Great; while Nathanael’s name is a Hebrew compound meaning ‘the Gift of God.’

So, from the very beginning of the story of the call of the disciples, the diversity and divisions within the Church are represented, even in the names that show they are Jews and Greeks, the Hebrew-speakers and those who are culturally Hellenised.

In reacting to those false divisions in the early Church, the Apostle Paul tells us: ‘There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus’ (Galatians 3: 28; see Colossians 3: 11).

Christ’s call came to the first disciples as a diverse group of people, from a wide variety of backgrounds, often – as with Philip and Nathanael – when they were least expecting it.

But they responded to that call faithfully. Andrew went and fetched Simon Peter. Philip found Nathanael (John 1: 45).

If these are challenging times, then this Gospel reading also offers us some challenges:

How do we keep that call to follow Christ so fresh in our minds that it still inspires infectious enthusiasm?

Are we inspired with enough infectious enthusiasm to want to go back like Andrew to call Peter, to go back like Philip and Nathanael?

How do find and enjoy the courage not to be afraid of questions from others who may turn out to be like Nathanael?

How do we move beyond the tolerance of diversity to the respect for diversity and then on to the point of speaking up for diversity as a gift in the Church, so that truly, as the Apostle Paul tells us: ‘There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus’?

Later this Philip is the first of the apostles to bring Samaritans into the Church (see Acts 8: 4-13), much to the surprise of the other disciples, who had not yet agreed to bringing the Gospel to people who were not Jews.

This Philip goes on to baptise an Ethiopian court official who is an outsider in so many ways (see Acts 8: 26-40). Before the conversion of Saint Paul, Saint Philip, who is called in this morning’s Gospel reading, is the great missionary in the Apostolic Church, bringing the Good News to those who are seen as outsiders in terms of religion and ethnicity.

The mission of the Church is founded not just on respect for diversity, but on loving and embracing diversity. This is not a matter of tolerance – it is a matter or knowing what the Kingdom of God is like, and knowing how that should be reflected in our values here today.

Nathanael must have thought there were great things ahead of him. Imagine if you were told by Christ himself: ‘Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.’

Did that ever happen to Nathanael?

If so, why is it that after this story in Saint John’s Gospel, Nathanael disappears completely from the Bible?

Whether others saw Nathanael as cynical or sceptical, as he presents himself in this story, Christ sees his potential and promise, and sees him as someone without guile. In Christ, Nathanael finds all things are made new, Christ transforms the poverty of his nature by the riches of his grace, and in the renewal of Nathanael’s life, God’s heavenly glory is made known.

This is a promise to you and me too, to each and every one of us. The call to follow Christ holds out great promise.

But in responding to that call, and in being faithful to that call, we may find ourselves called to the most unexpected tasks and places, or called to the most mundane and ordinary places and tasks – all for the sake of the Kingdom of God.

We may see the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man – but without anyone knowing it.

We are not called to fame and glory.

And that call alone is enough fame and glory, for in that alone we shall see ‘heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending.’

A traditional icon of the Twelve Apostles: Philip and Nathanael (Bartholomew) are in the middle row, first and second from the left; Andrew is beside them in the middle of icon as the first-called of the Twelve; Peter is second from the left in the front row, facing the Apostle Paul.

Liturgical resources:

Other, appropriate resources are available through this link.

Liturgical colour: White.

The Penitential Kyries:

God be merciful to us and bless us,
and make his face to shine on us.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

May your ways be known on earth,
your saving power to all nations.
Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

You, Lord, have made known your salvation,
and reveal your justice in the sight of the nations.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

The Collect:

Almighty God,
in Christ you make all things new:
Transform the poverty of our nature
by the riches of your grace,
and in the renewal of our lives
make known your heavenly glory;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Introduction to the Peace:

Our Saviour Christ is the Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
there shall be no end. (Isaiah 9: 6, 7)


For Jesus Christ our Lord
who in human likeness revealed your glory,
to bring us out of darkness
into the splendour of his light:

The Post-Communion Prayer:

God of glory,
you nourish us with bread from heaven.
Fill us with your Holy Spirit
that through us the light of your glory
may shine in all the world.
We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


Christ the Son be manifest to you,
that your lives may be a light to the world:

The Lamb of God on the throne a ceiling fresco in a monastery in Thessaloniki (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Suggested hymns:

These are among the hymns suggested for the Second Sunday after Epiphany in Sing to the Word (2000), edited by Bishop Edward Darling:

I Samuel 3: 1-10:

608, Be still and know that I am God
581, I, the Lord of sea and sky
589, Lord, speak to me that I may speak
624, Speak, Lord, in the stillness

Psalm 139: 1-5, 12-18:

51, Awake, my soul, and with the sun
567, Forth in thy name, O Lord, I go
226, It is a thing most wonderful
19, There is no moment of my life

Revelation 5: 1-10:

398, Alleluia! sing to Jesus
332, Come, let us join our cheerful songs
263, Crown him with many crowns
454, Forth in the peace of Christ we go
694, Glory, honour, endless praises
697, Great and wonderful your deeds
699, Hail, gladdening Light of his pure glory poured ]
467, How bright those glorious spirits shine
702, Light of the world in grace and beauty
132, Lo! he comes with clouds descending
275, Look, ye saints, the sight is glorious
678, Ten thousand times ten thousand
112, There is a Redeemer
373, To God be the glory! Great things he has done!
292, Ye choirs of new Jerusalem
492, Ye servants of God, your master proclaim

John 1: 43-51:

549, Dear Lord and Father of mankind
460, For all your saints in glory, for all your saints at rest (verses 1, 2n, 3)
219, From heav’n you came, helpless Babe
584, Jesus calls us! O’er the tumult
97, Jesus shall reign where’er the sun
395, When Jesus taught by Galilee
605, Will you come and follow me

The Lamb of God … a stained glass window in Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

No comments:

Post a Comment