David Horton, Minter of Music & Worship + January 14, 2024
Revolving around the themes of genuine connection and active participation in faith, David underscores the importance of embracing invitations and showing up authentically, encouraging everyone to cultivate openness and honesty in their spiritual journey.
Lightly edited for grammar and clarity.
Grace and peace to you from the God that calls you by your name and loves you. And we say amen.
God is good all the time, all the time God is. That was pretty good. I feel like I'm getting you trained just enough. It's cold out. Yeah, so let's do this again, and I want you to feel the fire in your belly. God is good all the time, all the time God is good. That felt a little better. Let's do it one more time. God is good all the time, all the time God is good. There we go. Feel a little warmer now, right?
"O Lord, you have searched me and known me, Lord. You know that I am, when I'm singing and the words before I pray, I'm part of all you've planned. And in the evening, make me peaceful, knowing this: I am loved by you. Will you turn to your neighbor and say, 'God loves you'?
"Then the Lord called Samuel, Samuel, and he said, 'Here I am.'" Can anything good come from Nazareth? Come and see. Pray with me: Generous God. May we know you more clearly, love you more dearly, and follow you more nearly day by day. Praising you. Amen.
This scripture passage for today, as prescribed by the revised common lectionary, instantly reminded me of an opening scene from D2: The Mighty Ducks. Yes, the epic sequel to The Mighty Ducks. These movies are probably unfamiliar and unimportant to non-millennials, but let me tell you that when these movies came out, they were monumental for my generation.
So, I want you to play a clip for you, and it's okay if you don't know the movie or know the context for what this scene is doing. And for those that do, I want you just to kind of take it at face value and just notice, alright?
Ready. Right. Will you turn to your neighbor and just tell them what you noticed? And people online, feel free to type in the chat. Go ahead.
Never underestimate the power of showing up. Can I get an amen? Amen. Many of you know that this is an important belief in my life, and I attribute this saying to Reverend Dr. Tim Phillips, a local pastor, preacher, theologian, dear friend, and mentor. And I just wanted you to hear it again: Never underestimate the power of showing up.
I want you to hold on to these words as we discern our scripture passages for this Sunday, the Second Sunday after Epiphany. Do you agree with the following statement: We live in a culture of invitation? If you disagree, consider how movies and TV shows invite us to join complicated story arcs, to feel more connected to the characters. Commercials invite us to see their products as a new movement and invite us to join in. We are invited to join online social media groups, chat rooms, and blog responses. Social media networks are just bursting as we are invited into an ever-expanding way to connect with one another.
In our story, we read about Jesus deciding where to go next and not only where to go next, but whom he'll take with him. Jesus finds Philip, and Philip finds Nathaniel, proving that our best evangelists are often the most recent converts. Note that Philip does not take the opportunity to subject Nathaniel to a long homily full of Messianic proofs. He makes the best possible invitation for evangelism, both then and now: Come and see.
How often have you told one of your friends, 'Holy cow, you have to watch Ted Lasso. It's just amazing.' And your friend then asks, 'Well, what's it about?' And you reply, 'I can't even describe it. You just have to watch.' And your friend says, 'Okay, well, congratulations. You just evangelized The Gospel According to Ted Lasso.'
So when Philip says, 'Holy Moses, you must see this man named Jesus. He's amazing,' and Nathaniel asks, 'Well, what is he about?' And Philip replies, 'I can't even describe him.' Nathaniel then proves that he is the ideal disciple material and also a terrible poker player because he is without good word or artifice, whatever you want to name that word. God clearly honors those qualities of honesty, genuineness, integrity, and most importantly, open-mindedness. Open-mindedness in knowing never to underestimate the power of showing up.
Nathaniel simply accepts the invitation to come and see. As theologian Elton W. Brown puts it, God makes a person who is humanly praiseworthy in every way and then makes him something even more: a disciple. So, show up. The Bible tells us repeatedly that God built us to be in relationship. God ultimately proved this by coming into our world to be with us, literally and physically. In that same manifestation we call Jesus, proved it again by extending that invitation into relationship with 'Follow me.'
Relationship invitation. Show up. Relationship. Our scriptures for today remind us again and again that we experience a God who knows you and calls you out by name. This God searched your heart and knew you first. This God knows the songs and prayers written on your heart and loves you fully, completely, and relentlessly. This God invites you to come and see, and the question is: Will you accept this invitation to show up?
Back to our Mighty Ducks. When each player hears the quack of the duck call – by the way, I did order a duck call from Amazon and it did not come – when each player hears the quack of the duck call, they all comically drop whatever they're doing, pull out their roll blades, and join the parade without hesitation. They followed. They saw the experience of hope in Charlie's eyes, and they followed. Not to spoil the movie, but the Mighty Ducks represent the USA and win the international hockey league against Iceland, all forming lasting relationships that positively affect the rest of their lives. I mean, this is Disney at its best. But the better question is: What's your duck call? What do you need to hear? What invitation would it take to drop what you were doing right now and join the parade?
We note that our story ends kind of with a strange passage: 'You will see greater things than these. You will see Heaven opened up and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.' We will honor Martin Luther King Jr. Day tomorrow, Monday, January 15th. Jesus' statement here alludes to his ancestors and Jacob's dream of a ladder between heaven and earth, claiming that Jesus will be the sight of this cosmic event. The spiritual Jacob's Ladder, which we will sing following this, began as a song sung by enslaved Africans. As they sang this subversive anthem under the gaze of their oppressors, they prayed that as every rung goes higher and higher, they would climb that Holy ladder out of captivity and into victory through Jesus, their deliverer.
Dr. King was somebody that answered their call, and without hesitation, he followed. Dr. King invited each of us into a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, and the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together. This is our hope. So, what does it mean for us? Well, here's your invitation: On January 28th, the last Sunday of our month, we will celebrate a special liturgy honoring Reconciling in Christ, the work that this church has already done more than two decades ago. We're going to recommit ourselves to their mission and the mission of the ELCA Church – our commitment to be a safe and accepting place for all, all marginalized beloved children of God, a place where all means all, and everyone is named a child of God.
As a visual representation of this abiding love of God and grace, we will create a unique art installation. To prepare for this particular service, during communion, or really anytime after our service today, you're invited to go to the back of the sanctuary where you will see some candles. You will also see a basket full of strips of cloth, and I invite you to take a strip and write your hopes, your dreams, and prayers for our community, our nation, our world with some fabric pens on that table. If you're online and not able to do this, feel free to email me, and I would be happy to write on a strip of fabric for you and contribute it to our art installation.
And then here is my hope and my invitation: I hope you will join us that Saturday or Sunday. We worship on Sunday, at least corporately, and every Sunday for that matter because you are invited, and I want you to come and see. And I don't want you to hesitate and never underestimate the power of showing up. And all God's people said, AMEN.