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St Matthews Church Oxhey Hertfordshire

Fr David's Sermon

15th January 2006

Fr David Shepherd

Epiphany 2

‘Samuel did not yet know the Lord.’ 1 Sam. 3
‘Lord you have searched me out & known me.’ Ps 139
‘Where did you come to know me?’ Jn. 1

There are some saintly people who have the gift of seeing what lies at the heart of people – perspicacity, seeing through.

They also show us the true nature of God. To see them is to see something of God as well. It has to do with light, with illumination. The saints are those through whom the light shines, like an image in a stained glass window. It is not that they are without sin, but that they know themselves to be sinners, yet redeemed. Their illumination reveals their inner darkness and dispels it. What they have is the gift of knowledge, of God, of self and of others.

Such knowledge is a thread in today’s readings. There is God’s knowledge of humanity. There is Jesus’ knowledge of his Father and of his disciples. There is the lack of human knowledge of God - Samuel did not yet know the Lord. There is Nathaniel’s amazement that Jesus knew him already.

By his very nature God is all seeing and all knowing. Ps 139 explores this. You might like to read the whole Psalm later, as we had only part of it this morning. God knows all about us; what we are doing or thinking, where we are travelling, whether we are in the womb or in the grave. We can’t hide in the clouds, in the sea or in the dark; God is always with us supporting us and caring for us.

Such knowledge can seem disturbing especially if we feel we have something to hide. In reality we have nothing to hide, as God knows it all already. Once we accept God’s knowledge of us we are given greater self- knowledge and with it the possibility of knowing God more fully. In traditional theological terms Divine judgement leads us to acknowledge our sinfulness in the presence of God’s love. We are led to the point of repentance, of turning. In accepting God’s forgiveness we enter into a restored relationship with God, into fuller knowledge of him.

That knowledge is God’s gift to us. We have to accept it. Samuel did not yet know the Lord. He failed to recognize God’s call when it came. He thought Eli was calling him. Despite the rarity of divine visitation, Eli had sufficient discernment to realise that Samuel was being offered the gift of prophecy. Samuel’s prayerful, ‘speak Lord for your servant is listening’, opened the way for his discerning God’s will for Israel and his exercising of a prophetic ministry. As we pray, so we led into a deeper knowledge of God.

Such knowledge comes through Jesus. He is the link between humanity and God, the bridge builder. This is because he is fully human and fully divine, the image, the icon, the exact likeness of God. We cannot talk of God without speaking of Jesus. As Michael Ramsey observed God is ‘Christ like and in him is no un-Christ likeness at all.’ Jesus knows his Father intimately and he also knows us in the same way. He knew that Nathaniel was ‘an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!’ That Jesus knew him led Nathaniel to acknowledge Jesus as the ‘Son of God’. Jesus gives a rebuke. Belief based on the fact that Jesus saw Nathaniel ‘under the fig tree’, is rather limited. Jesus gives the promise of full knowledge – ‘You will see heaven open and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.’

Knowledge of God is his gift to us in the person of Jesus. It comes to us through prayerful discernment, through reflection on the scriptures. It is both liberating and disturbing, with a quality both of judgement and of loving acceptance. It leads us through self-knowledge, to a greater knowledge of God and neighbour. It is essentially vocational. To know God is to know his call. Samuel was called to tell Eli the unpalatable consequences of his family’s blasphemous behaviour. Nathaniel was called to the life of discipleship, to be an apostolic witness of the Risen Christ. God call us to know him and to follow.

To end a prayer of St. Augustine: -

Eternal God, who art the light of the minds that know thee, the joy of the hearts that love thee, and the strength of the wills that serve thee: Grant us so to know thee that we may truly love thee, and so to love thee that we may fully serve thee, whom to serve is perfect freedom, in Jesus Christ our Lord.


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