As we move through this season of Epiphany we remember that the Magi made their long journey to see what the stars were telling them. They saw the new bright star and interpreted it to mean a king had been born in Bethlehem. They then went to see for themselves what this meant and found the child Jesus. Do we follow our star to where God is leading us to see, in the miracle of creation, the glimpses of heaven and earth mingling?
In our reading the boy Samuel heard the voice of God calling in the night, but misinterpreted it to be the voice of the priest Eli. God called Samuel three times but he needed the help of his guardian Eli to discern it was God calling to him. How often do we misinterpret God’s calling and need the help of a trusted mentor to help us discern? We can wrongly interpret the voice of God as being a human voice, our own voice or the voice of our imagination. How often do we try to bring God down to earth and not reach up to heaven!
Even though God brought judgement against Eli for not keeping his house in order, Eli was sensitive and submissive to the voice of God. He had disobeyed God’s will by allowing his sons to run wild. He probably recognised that his failed priestly ancestry was ending and accepted that a new system was coming with Samuel as God’s prophet and supported him. That reminds me of the serenity prayer, ‘God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference’.
Jesus invited Nathaniel to ‘come and see’, to find out for himself about Jesus, in the same way that the star had beckoned the Magi to find the child Jesus. Jesus told Nathaniel that he saw him under a fig tree. Jesus knows us inside out - he knows our going out and coming in. An encounter with Jesus changes us as it did Nathaniel. From questioning how anything good could come out of Nazareth, Nathaniel recognised Jesus as the Son of God! What a turnabout! He saw with his heart not his head!
We see with our eyes but our eyes have blind spots. We see with our brains but our thinking is subjective and often distorted. We also see with our hearts. Science has discovered a lot about the heart in recent times. It is formed before our brains when we are embryos in the womb. Our heart communicates with our brain and knowledge is transmitted to our hearts before it is processed by our brains. Jesus said that our heart is where our treasure is.
To enable us to listen to our hearts and find our treasure of love, joy and peace and the fruits of the Holy Spirit we need inner stillness, to ‘be still and know that I am God’. We need to find that still place within ourselves, to quieten our minds from all the thoughts that can overwhelm us, particularly in these times of uncertainty. The lockdown can give us the opportunity to find star space within ourselves, a chance to be still and hear the voice of Jesus say ‘come unto me and rest’ - and maybe much more!
Angela Stewart, Lay Minister