You are fully known by God, and fully loved by God. That is enough.
Pr. Joseph G. Crippen
The Second Sunday after Epiphany, Lect. 2 B
Texts: Psalm 139: 1-6, 13-18; John 1:43-51; 1 Samuel 3:1-10
Beloved in Christ, grace to you, and peace in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
It’s tempting this Sunday to focus on God calling us to work in the world.
Every year after celebrating Jesus’ baptism, we hear call stories, Jesus calling people to become disciples. Today we hear Nathanael’s call. This year we also get Samuel’s beautiful and mysterious call story, a young boy serving in the temple, hearing an unknown voice.
And both Samuel and Nathanael answer their calls, Samuel becoming Israel’s last judge and a great prophet, Nathanael joining Jesus’ inner circle.
But this time something else shone out, and drew my heart into joy: These are stories of people known intimately and lovingly by God.
God knows them before calling them.
The God of Israel, I Am Who I Am, wasn’t often honored in the days of Eli, and visions from God were rare. Samuel didn’t know I Am Who I Am before this, God hadn’t spoken to him yet.
But God knew Samuel and loved him, even before hearing his mother Hannah’s prayer and answering.
Nathanael didn’t know Jesus as God’s Incarnate Son. He could only scoff at Jesus’ hometown.
But God’s Son knew Nathanael and loved him, knew before meeting him that he wasn’t capable of lying or treachery, even had a vision of him talking to Philip.
Samuel and Nathanael didn’t know God enough to recognize when God was reaching out to them. But God knew them and loved them enough to call them.
Soaring beautifully above these two stories is the Psalmist’s song of being known and loved by God.
Psalm 139 is a marvelous outpouring of awe by a child of God who recognizes that the true God, the one called I Am Who I Am, knows her in the deepest and most profound ways. When she sits and when she gets up, when she journeys and when she rests.
God knew her before she was woven in her mother’s womb, through all her life, and into the future. In the middle verses we weren’t appointed to sing today, the singer marvels that there is no place she can go where God isn’t, no way she could ever get lost from God, not even in the deepest darkness.
My friends, you get to sing this song, and it is your truth. God has searched you and knows you just as thoroughly, just as deeply, just as intimately.
But that isn’t always good news, is it?
Being known fully and deeply means things inside your heart that you hope remain hidden become known. Secret sins, thoughts and actions you haven’t forgotten but hope no one ever knows about, not even God.
There isn’t a human being who doesn’t have places inside them they hope no one ever sees, who doesn’t try to disguise what they fear cannot be loved.
When the psalmist sings “Where can I go to flee from your presence?” that can be terrifying instead of comforting. Because if God knows you that thoroughly and deeply and intimately, is it possible God could ever truly love you?
And yet. And yet. Our deep human longing is to be fully known and loved.
That’s our wretched pain. We want to keep our secrets, hide our flaws, hope nobody sees our sins. But we also dream of being enough, being worthy of love, in spite of those sins and secrets and flaws.
So if God searches you out, and knows you thoroughly and deeply and intimately, that could be good news indeed if God also loves you.
And that’s exactly what the Holy and Triune God has said.
Last week we heard God’s voice say to the Son, “you are my beloved child, and I am well pleased.” That’s also your voice to hear. In your baptism, God says, “you are my beloved child, and I am well pleased.”
Jesus, the Son of God, made this clear in everything he did, from teaching to healing, through dying and rising from the dead. You are God’s beloved, and God will do anything, even face suffering and death, to bring you, and me, and all God’s children, and the whole creation, back into God’s loving embrace. Nothing can separate you, or me, or the whole creation, from God’s love.
God knows you thoroughly and deeply and intimately. Everything. From before your conception to beyond your death. Your journeying and your resting. Your words and your silence. And God loves you. Without conditions. God’s love is broad enough to forgive whatever it is you try to hide even from God. God’s love is potent enough to shape you into the child of God you already are.
You are known. You are loved. And yes, it must be said, you are called.
There is pain and suffering in God’s good creation, and God needs your love and grace, your hands and feet, your voice. Like Samuel and Nathanael, you are necessary to God’s healing of this world.
But God has called you, knowing everything about you. So, if God says you have gifts to make a difference, God knows you, and it must be true. You can be God’s hope in your part of the world, even if you doubt it.
And God has called you, knowing everything about you and still loving you. If you doubt your goodness or your wisdom, or are anxious about your biases, or weep at your repeated sins, God knows you and loves you. Let that calm your heart and give you courage to go where you are needed.
You are known and loved and called by the Holy and Triune God who made all things, and who entered our world to restore all things. You will always be enough.
In the name of Jesus. Amen