Nazareth!

Nazareth!

Readings:

1 Samuel 3: 1-10

Psalm 139: 1-5, 12-18

1 Corinthians 6: 12-20

John 1: 43-51

Sentence:

  ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!’ John 1:49

Collect: 

Almighty God, Saviour of the world, in the birth of your Son you reveal yourself as Word made flesh; grant us your grace that we may live as your children, certain in the knowledge that we are loved beyond measure, and called to be willing to share that love. Through Jesus Christ our Liberator, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen

John 1: 43-51

Jesus Calls Philip and Nathanael

The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, ‘Follow me.’ Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, ‘We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.’ Nathanael said to him, ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’ Philip said to him, ‘Come and see.’ When Jesus saw Nathanael coming towards him, he said of him, ‘Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!’ Nathanael asked him, ‘Where did you come to know me?’ Jesus answered, ‘I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.’ Nathanael replied, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!’ Jesus answered, ‘Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.’And he said to him, ‘Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.’

Tena koutou katoa e te whanau o Te Wairua Tapu.

“Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” That is the question asked.  Nathanael has some strong opinions and assumptions about Nazareth. I wonder, do you ever make any assumptions? “I’ve seen his type before; he’ll never change.” “She’s always so negative; I know what she’s going to say.” “He won’t understand; he never does.” “That place, it’s always been like that; it will never get any better.” “Nothing good can come of that situation.”

People of faith: people like Nathanael, like you and I, make these and all sorts of assumptions everyday. Sometimes our assumptions are about other people; how they behave, what they will say, what we can expect, what they think or believe. Other times we look at particular situations; our relationships, the state of the world or the church, our rangatahi trying to grow up and we declare it hopeless. We are sure nothing good can come out of that situation. Then there are those times we look at ourselves or a part of our life; maybe it’s a secret we have carried for years, the illness we face each day, the addictions we hide, the hurts we have caused others, the loneliness and lostness of grief, and we say it will never get any better. How can anything good come out of this? We may or may not speak our assumptions out loud but they roll around in our heads and influence what we do.

You know what happens we when we assume, right? The old saying has some truth to it but I am thinking of something else. The assumptions we make destroy relationships, love and life. We think we know more than really do. Assumptions act as limitations. They narrow our vision and perspective. They close off the possibility of change and growth. Our assumptions deny the possibility of reconciliation, healing, a different way of being or a new life. Ultimately, they impoverish our faith and proclaim there is no room for God to show up, be present and act.

It’s no coincidence that Nathanael is sitting under the fig tree when he makes his comment. It’s the fig tree that gave Adam and Eve the leaves behind which they hid from God and themselves. It’s the fig tree that Jesus will later curse for producing no fruit and no signs of life. Assumptions become our hiding places. They are not fruitful. They keep us from engaging with life, ourselves, each other and at a deeper level, God. Nathanael doesn’t doubt that God will fulfill the Old Testament promises. He isn’t surprised by and doesn’t even question that Philip could have found the one about “whom Moses in the law and the prophets spoke.” His shock and disbelief are that this could come out of Nazareth. Nathanael has as much faith as the next candidate to be a disciple, but Nazareth? No way. Not there. Can anything good come out of Nazareth?

You see, we all have our Nazareths. We think they are about places, other people, particular circumstances or even pieces of our lives. But most of the time, our assumptions are about us; our fears, our prejudices, our guilt, our losses and our wounds. We take our past experiences, real or imagined and project them onto another person or situation. Assumptions keep life shallow and superficial. If we assume, then we don’t have to risk a deeper knowing and being known.

God doesn’t allow God to be limited by our assumptions. For every Nazareth there is an invitation to “come and see.” For every assumption we make there is a deeper truth to be discovered, a new relationship to be experienced and a new life to be lived. Our Nazareths become the place of God’s epiphany.

Over and over Jesus shows up from the Nazareths of our life and calls us out from under the fig tree. Whenever we leave the fig tree we open ourselves to see God present and at work in the most unexpected places and people. As the assumptions fall away a new life and a new world arise.  The fulfillment of God’s promises and earthly life happen in Nazareth. The last place we would’ve thought that possible is the first place God chooses. Come and see. Our salvation and healing happen where we thought nothing good could happen. Reconciliation and love are revealed in relationships we were certain nothing good could come from. The seemingly hopeless situations of life begin to bear fruit. Words of forgiveness and compassion are spoken by people we were sure could never say such things. God puts lives back together in Nazareth.

There is more happening in Nazareth than we ever thought possible. You see, not just “anything good” comes out of Nazareth. The One who is Good, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, comes out of Nazareth. Amen

Archdeacon Kaio Karipa

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