Lord, you have searched me out and known me; *
you know my sitting down and my rising up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
Psalm 139 is perhaps one the most beautiful images of God’s tender love of human kind - and a mutual acknowledgement of God - our life in God.
12 For you yourself created my inmost parts; *
you knit me together in my mother's womb.
There is such a mutual love being expressed literally formed - in this incarnational language of the womb. We are bound with God through our very being.
In the season of Epiphany we are celebrating the incarnation. And our passages today are full of images of the body - and this discerning spirit of God in our midst knowing us - calling us - and our response to that call.
Our theology and our Eucharist is incarnational. We have sacraments that express, as we say, “an outward sign of an inward grace.” This is why we come to the table to share in communion. We are expressing that we are united to God and to one another through the love of Christ. It is very physical!
What does it mean to be incarnational people?
Well of course we are. That sounds kind of redundant, right?
…BUT we forget our true selves often because of our very physicality - we can easily be asleep to our beautiful and mystical identities. Because we have so much that we just have to deal with in these bodies.
Right now I’m happy to acknowledge that we have all types of bodies in our congregation.
-We have toddlers who are learning how to be in their bodies.
- We have a few children on the brink of change; experiencing whole new sensations - and are going to have to learn, all over again, how to manage what they feel in their bodies…
-And many of us are dealing with aging bodies and illness that constrain us - our bodies no longer do what they used to do - and we are having to learn again how to be….
How to be: How to recognize our true selves (not apart from these bodies, but apart from the identification of self with what a body does or doesn’t do: support us - or struggle to support us, anger us, confuse us)…
Our passages today remind us that through all of it: God is with us - and manifested through us as our "true selves” incarnate through Christ. Christian community is a place where we come together to recognize that we are not separate bodies, but a fellowship with one another - united.
Our true selves are Spirit - Spirit is energy and Spirit is felt deeply in the emotions, in the mind, and in the body.
This past week I was with my best friends in Maine. We went for some long hikes in the snow. I forgot how exhilarating it can be having snow pelting me in the face, at the same time I was shedding layers from the warmth of the hike, and the warmth of conversation with friends who have been with me - seen me at so many stages of my life. To be seen. It was a full body experience. Incarnational…I felt known completely: My true self.
This is the exhilaration that Nathanael felt when Jesus knew him. And called to him. Nathanael didn’t hesitate to recognize Jesus right back as “Messiah." This was a mutual knowing… a calling to one another. One deep to another.
But Nathanael hadn’t physically been with Jesus as I have been with my friends sharing so many changes over the years: heart ache, growth, new ideas, arguments with parents, struggling to pay rent, late nights of introspection - or dancing in the kitchen - navigating marriages, babies, deaths.
So what’s going on with Nathanael? Nathanael knew Jesus because he knew that God was with him through all of it -
That is the message of this passage. Their interaction is recorded with such brevity… But it speaks volumes. God is with us - and had been with Philip - and has been with me - and with you - navigating all of it.
2 You trace my journeys and my resting-places *
and are acquainted with all my ways.
It helps to have a group of friends or another person to remind us of that bond with God - who we really are: to remind us to listen for it, like Eli does for Samuel in our reading from the Old Testament.
Samuel is young and hasn’t yet come to realize his intimate relationship with God. His mentor Eli tells Samuel to lie down (ie surrender). Surrender and Listen. Listen for that call that makes you whole. Your true self is infused with God.
That’s what we do in Christian community. We are here to see one another, one deep to another deep; to listen, and remind one another that our lives are infused with God. All of us. And our mission is to spread that to others.
While Samuel went on to become a priest and great Judge, our life in Christ does not make us a judgmental group - but rather a discerning group like a sound judge. We will support and nurture the divinity that we all hold - knit in the womb; seen and loved; wonderful and marvelously made. Incarnate.