1 Samuel 3:1-20; John 1:43-51

First Congregational Church of Anchorage : 14 January 2018

On Friday night, a few of us gathered to play music and sing together. It was the first time this event has happened since I have been here. I hope it will continue every other month or so. I hope more of us can take the opportunity to relax and play together.

After we finished here I went over to the home of Rev. Paul and Rev. Dave Boling. They are the ministers at First Christian Church. They are also musicians. We are working on the music for the launch event of the Poor People’s Campaign in Alaska. You can read a little bit about this event and campaign in the bulletin, and you can also visit the website listed to read more and even register to get involved.

Later this afternoon I will be canvassing a neighborhood to invite people to get involved and pledge to support. We are building a broad coalition of people in this city and state across social position, class, race, age, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, economic status, political affiliation, to join together so that by hearing the voices of those affected by poverty and all of it systemic and social drivers, we can begin to reshape the moral framework of our communities in Alaska.

One of the 12 Fundamental Principals is this:

“We believe that people should not live in or die from poverty in the richest nation ever to exist. Blaming the poor and claiming that the United States does not have an abundance of resources to overcome poverty are false narratives used to perpetuate economic exploitation, exclusion, and deep inequality.”

The movement is non-partisan, and no elected officials or candidates get the stage or can serve on the State Organizing Committee. Regardless of anyone’s political flavor, this is about deciding that poverty is wrong and that there are meaningful ways that many of us together can impact the lives of each other and bring about measurable change.

One of the hallmarks of what is beginning in the Poor People’s Campaign is that people affected most directly by poverty will be taking a vocal and active role in the leadership and development of how we can all participate in a moral revival in our state.

The key is to hear what people are telling us. Do we take seriously what the people around us are saying? Of course we try, at least most of the time. But do we hear?

It’s not as easy as it may seem. In the story of Eli and Samuel, it comes across as if Samuel is simply a replacement for Eli, and Eli is all washed up and finished. But it isn’t quite that simple. As Samuel hears God speaking, he does not recognize the voice as God’s. He thinks it is Eli’s voice, the voice of his teacher and mentor.

But Eli knows the voice. Eli has heard this voice before. And Eli also knows that Samuel has ears to hear. But Samuel has not yet honed his hearing. He can hear it, but he doesn’t know what it means. He is able to hear, but he is not discerning enough, at least not yet.

So with the help of Eli’s experienced ear, even as his physical ability to hear is failing, Samuel tells Eli what he has heard, and even as Eli’s future is put into question, Even as his own life and family will lose their status, he knows the word Samuel heard is true, and confirms his own seeming downfall in the wake of the new day that is dawning.

In the same way in John’s gospel, Nathanael is having trouble understanding what he is hearing. He knows the stories, he has heard the prophets tell of a day that will come when God will intervene on behalf of the people. But when he hears, he cannot understand.

“Can anything good come from Nazareth?” As in, how could anyone of value come from a place like that. It is sad how times don’t really change. The same sort of blanket dismissal still stands.

Nathanael even goes as far as to question Jesus about all that is happening, asking how Jesus could know him. Even then, after Nathanael calls Jesus the Son of God and king, Jesus tells him that this is not even the greatest thing that will come to pass. There is still more to be heard.

When we hear the voices of people around us crying out in distress, trying to get our attention and shift our perspective, when those words threaten to disrupt or even dismantle our comfort, will we be able recognize God working among these words and the people who share them?

When the words of truth and calls for freedom sound out for the salvation of all of us, but the words come from the one who came from the wrong place, the wrong country, the wrong neighborhood, the wrong family, the wrong person, will we be able to hear and understand?

Like Nathanael, when the words speaking the liberating work of God in the world do not match our expectation, will we be able to imagine that even more and greater things are yet to come?

The Poor People’s campaign has the goal of gathering 1000 people to join in the work, to pledge their efforts, whatever those efforts might be, however each of us can, by May.

Talk to your friends, connect with people in your own lives, including many of us in this congregation, who struggle with varying levels of poverty, and may we join together in mutual support, expanding the voices of God shouting out that a new day is coming when God’s people will join together in mutual support, in solidarity, so that no one will be left out.

I cannot say what that day will look like, or when it will happen, or even if I will ever see it come to pass. But there is a voice calling out. Some of us hear it loud and clear, but may not know what to do with it. Some of us may not hear it, but we know what it means. There is room for everyone who is willing to listen, hear, and understand.

The Way of Jesus is not easy, but it will not weigh us down. We will walk lightly in the presence of God, together in the Way of Jesus who goes before us. Thanks be to God.