'A Reflection' 



From the service on 17 January 



A Reflection from Richard Newton



A Reflection on the calling of Philip and Nathaniel


Despite not having Sunday themes any more, God’s calling us is very much the theme of our readings today’s – both from John’s Gospel and also from 1 Samuel. 


The Gospel story tells us about Philip and Nathaniel.  Nathaniel is fairly sceptical about Jesus when Philip first tells him about him.  “Can anything good some out of Nazareth?”, he says.  But his mind isn’t completely shut.  He’s prepared to go with Philip and meet him, and when he meets Jesus, the experience is such that it changes his life and he becomes a disciple. 


In Jewish literature, the fig tree is symbolically the place when people study the Torah – the first five books of the Bible, the Jewish law.  So it would seem that Nathaniel is someone who studies faith and is open to discovering new things.  When he meets Jesus, whatever his previous understanding of things are, he sees everything in a new light, and commits himself to follow him.


This a story that’s relevant for us – because God has called each of us to follow the way of Jesus.  Our task is to recognise that call, and to respond to it - to leave behind any cynicism, and be open-minded to seeing everything in a new light.  Our task is to make a commitment and to change the way we live – and to do so again and again.   


Today’s readings also tell us that we don’t just have obligations in relation to ourselves, but that we have responsibilities for each other, as well. 


In I Samuel, it’s Eli – who’s old and who’s “eyes are dim”, as the text puts it – who helps the young boy Samuel respond to God.  Samuel can hear God’s voice, but he’s completely confused about who it is who’s speaking to him and what he should do.  Eli has to help him and guide him.


In the Gospel reading, Nathaniel only comes to faith because of Philip. It’s Philip who tells him about Jesus, and leads him to him.  It’s Philip who responds to Nathaniel’s cynicism by saying “Come and see”.


Both readings suggest that bringing others to faith is a task we all share in.  We have a responsibility to help others to see things more clearly, to be open-minded about this person from Nazareth, and to make that first step of “going and seeing”.  And Eli’s example reminds us that we all have a particular responsibility to foster and develop the faith of children, and to make sure that they’re welcomed and valued in our Christian community.


The Psalm set for today – Psalm 139 – has these verses:


O Lord, you have searched me out and known me;

you know my sitting down and my rising up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.

You mark out my journeys and my resting place
and are acquainted with all my ways.

You yourself created my inmost parts . . .

I thank you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.


Those words have a lovely echo with Jesus’ encounter with Nathaniel – with Jesus knowing all about him.  They also remind us of something else that’s really important – that each of us are precious in God’s sight.


Jesus’ call to us follows on from God’s delight in us as human beings.  It’s because God loves us, and because you and I are precious in God’s sight, that we’re called (in Jesus) to a new kind of life.   We’re each precious in God’s sight – and we’re each called to follow the way of Jesus, and to nurture and encourage one another.


If we follow the example of Nathaniel, and continue to go and find out more about this Jesus, surely our eyes too will continue to be opened, and we will continue to perceive things in a completely new light.