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Fully Known

2nd Sunday after the Epiphany - Jan 14, 2024

Rev Sarah Colvin

“Lord, you have searched me out and known me; *

you know my sitting down and my rising up;

you discern my thoughts from afar.”

To be known---I love this concept. We have so many stories in our lives that even when we have shared stories with someone over many years, even decades, a new one from the recesses of the mind pops up.  But they are all known to God. And God knows us, each and every one of us. God knows us completely before we know anything about God or when we don’t feel we know God.  And God hears us before we hear God.

When my mother was at my house in hospice dying from a brain tumor, now almost 14 years ago (wow) she took so much comfort from a recorded meditation on this psalm.  She would sometimes be agitated, but I will always remember her relaxing when she heard the person reading the psalm, “you have searched me out and known me.”  

If God were a person, this might feel creepy.  Some of us may be private people and may not want others to know to much about us, but no one seems to complain about God knowing them. 

Even before we may have an experience of being known by God, the main way that we know that God knows us is from scripture.  Our Old Testament story sounds strikingly akin to our times today. “The word of the Lord was rare in those days; visions were not widespread.” It’s as if the book of Samuel is commenting on the first two books of the Bible (Genesis and Exodus) in which God seemed to be very involved in all day-to-day workings—commenting and saying, “No, it’s not like that now.”  Today just like in the days of Samuel, God does not necessarily seem involved. 

Besides this parallel, there are some funny things about the Hebrew in the story of Samuel and Eli.  In Hebrew, Samuel is Shamuel, composed of El, which is God and Shamu- which is “has heard” or “is hearing”,  So Samuel, “Shamuel,” keeps hearing his name called, but the name means “God has heard.”   Funnier: The name Eli- means “my God”. So “God has heard” hears his name called and then goes to wake up Eli (my God), who although spiritual at one time, has kind of lost his way, and particularly his sons, his heirs, have all lost their way. 

Just as in this story today, we don’t just happen to stumble upon God. God is always calling us, even when it feels that visions are not widespread, and the word of the Lord is rare.  Coming to church is not synonymous with answering God, but maybe they are a little related.  You may not know why you come to church.  There are always many reasons. Some will come to church out of guilt, or some may have been fed before, and are not fed now, some always will have been fed at church, or perhaps you call this church home, or you love the people, or you want Eucharist. Whatever the reason to be here, know that God has heard you, heard your longing, knows your desires, knows your need even beneath your desires, before you made a sound, have no doubt. 

So… close your eyes…. [call people’s names….]  Listen for the call of God, who has already heard the call of your own soul and your need. And what do you answer? “Here I am, for your servant is listening.”   … everyone… “Here I am, for your servant is listening.” 

Obviously, I’m not God, but in the Bible, people are always called twice by their names.  Like Samuel, we may get confused and answer the wrong call thinking that is God’s call, but I encourage you to keep listening. Prayer is less about talking and more about listening. God has already heard us, now is the time for us to listen.  It starts with God knowing you and then you come to know God.  Knowledge of God allows you to listen. 

And be aware when you answer, sometimes as in this story, God leads you to do uncomfortable things: Like speaking truth to power. Like loving those who are unlovable. Like changing what you have been, to be something new – something God knows is the deeper you anyway, and you just haven’t awakened to that yet. Uncomfortable is only that—uncomfortable… but, if it’s God-called it’s still good and it is what the world needs. 

Because …and here’s the deep truth of it… you have no existence apart from the purpose that God has for you and no deeper fulfillment than presence of God with you, and through you, to others. Like the Corinthians, you do not belong to yourself or your spouse or partner or your parents or your children. You walk with them, but you belong to God.  

You are known because you are God’s. You have been formed like clay, knit together in your mother’s womb. God knows your rising up and your lying down. God knew Samuel, in his youthful enthusiasm to answer. God knew Eli, even in his loss of vigor. God, in Jesus, knew Nathanael, idling under the fig tree. Nathanael is astonished at Jesus’ knowledge. It is this knowledge leads Nathanael (and us) to the conclusion that Jesus is the Son of God, because only God could have such knowledge: the one who knows us first, loves us first, calls us first, calls us again and again until we are clear that God is calling. And with God’s own help, we have only to answer. 

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