We are a small Episcopal Church on the banks of the Rappahannock in Port Royal, Virginia. We acknowledge that we gather on the traditional land of the first people of Port Royal, the Nandtaughtacund, and we respect and honor with gratitude the land itself, the legacy of the ancestors, and the life of the Rappahannock Tribe. Our mission statement is to do God’s Will in all that we do.

Sunday’s Thoughts – Jan 14, Epiphany 2 – “Calling” and the “Fig Tree”

It was cold but clear Sunday after a week of heavy rain. Back in 2018 we have pictures of ice on the river. No ice now.

Attendance was 31 which was exceptional. A number were guests.

The 2nd Week after the Epiphany – Jesus calls the first disciples this week.- Andrew and Nathanael and next week it is Simon (Peter) and Andrew as well as James and John

It is 2 weeks after Christmas when Jesus was born and important to realize what has taken place.  

Jesus has been born,  the shepherds visit, the Magi visit,  Joseph & Mary’s flight to Egypt with Jesus , Herod has children killed, Jesus’ family returns to Nazareth,  Jesus in the temple at age 12, John the Baptist preaches and baptizes, Jesus’ baptism, Jesus’ temptation –,  John the Baptist identifies Jesus as the Messiah , Jesus begins to gather followers. As Jesus says in Matthew  “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). 

So how old is Jesus? – About 30. He has 3 years to preach.  It is estimated that after he has 18 months left when the disciples are called to be apostles. Not much time considering the tasks to be done!

The following information on the disciples comes from  a wonderful book by John F. MacArthur Twelve Ordinary Men How the Master Shaped his Disciples for Greatness, and What He wants to do with You

So who were the disciples ? “They were perfectly ordinary men in every way. Not one of them was renowned for scholarship or great erudition. They had no track record as orators or theologians. In fact, they were outsiders as far as the religious establishment of Jesus’ day was concerned. They were not outstanding because of any natural talents or intellectual abilities. On the contrary, they were all too prone to mistakes, misstatements, wrong attitudes, lapses of faith, and bitter failure—no one more so than the leader of the group, Peter. Even Jesus remarked that they were slow learners and somewhat spiritually dense (Luke 24:25).”

“He taught them the Scriptures and theology. He discipled them in the ways of godly living (teaching them and showing them how to pray, how to forgive, and how to serve one another with humility). He gave them moral instruction. He spoke to them of things to come. And He employed them as His instruments to heal the sick, cast out demons, and do other miraculous works.“ But they forgot  much of it and had to be taught again

“God chooses the humble, the lowly, the meek, and the weak so that there’s never any question about the source of power when their lives change the world. It’s not the man; it’s the truth of God and the power of God in the man.”

So why did he call them? The work with the Kingdom required more labor and organization. At the end the strategy would depend on the Holy Spirit.

“In John 1:35—51, for example, Andrew, John, Peter, Philip, and Nathaniel encounter Jesus for the first time. This event occurs near the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, in the wilderness near the Jordan River, where John the Baptist was ministering.  They were spiritually involved  – they were already disciples of John the Baptist.   But when they heard their teacher single out Jesus and say, “Behold the Lamb of God!” they followed Jesus.

There were 4 phases of the process of moving from conversion, disciples and Apostles  and finally world mission

1 That was phase one of their calling. It was a calling to conversion.Jesus is recognized as the true Lamb of God. That stage of the disciples’ call did not involve full-time discipleship and they  remained at their full-time jobs.

2 Phase two of their calling was a call to ministry. Luke 5 describes the event in detail. This was the occasion when Jesus pushed out from shore to escape the press of the multitudes and taught from Peter’s boat. 

“It was on the heels of that miracle that Jesus said, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). Scripture says it was at this point that “they forsook all and followed Him” (Luke 5:11). According to Matthew, Andrew and Peter “immediately left their nets and followed Him” (Matthew 4:20). And James and John “immediately … left the boat and their father, and followed Him” (v. 22). From that point on, they were inseparable from the Lord.”

3  The third phase of their calling. This was their calling to apostleship. It was at this point that Christ selected and appointed twelve men in particular and made them His apostles.

Christ sends them out, two by two. At this stage they were not quite ready to go out alone, so Christ teamed them in pairs, so that they would offer one another mutual support. Throughout this phase of their training, the Lord Himself stuck closely with them.

4 There was a fourth phase of their calling, world mission which occurred after Jesus’ resurrection. Jesus appeared to the remaining eleven in His resurrection body and sent them into all the world, commanding them to disciple the nations.  They were a success due to the power of the message they preached and the extent of their travels

“Upon their selection, the twelve apostles in effect became the true spiritual leaders of Israel the source of the New Testament. They were the ones to whom the Christian gospel was first entrusted. “

We are introduced to Philip and Nathanael this week – probably both fishermen

What connects them ?

  1. Friendship.
  2. Common mission “..all the apostles, with the exception of Judas Iscariot, were to some degree already true seekers after divine truth before they met Jesus. They were already being drawn by the Spirit of God. Their hearts were open to the truth and hungry to know it.” And the fact that they were so well trained in Scripture no doubt explains why they were so quick to respond to Jesus”

1. Phillip. “We first meet Philip in John 1, the day after Jesus had first called Andrew, John, and Peter. Jesus had called those first three in the wilderness, where they were sitting at the feet of John the Baptist. John pointed them to the Messiah, and they left John to follow Jesus.<"/p>

“Philip is the first one whom Jesus physically sought out, and the first one to whom Jesus actually said, “Follow Me.”

MacArthur says Philip was a “bean counter – “Philip was a classic “process person.” He was a facts-and-figures guy—a by-the-book, practical-minded, non-forward-thinking type of individual.

Philip not only had a seeking heart, but he also had the heart of a personal evangelist. His first response upon meeting Jesus was to find his friend Nathanael and tell him about the Messiah.

Philip and Nathanael, like the first four disciples, had been studying the Law and the Prophets and were seeking the Messiah.

That is why they had all gone to the wilderness to hear John the Baptist in the first place.

He was the type of person who in every meeting says, “I don’t think we can do that”— the master of the impossible. And apparently, as far as he was concerned, almost everything fit into that category.

Philip needed to learn that lesson. Everything seemed impossible to him. He needed to set aside his materialistic, pragmatic, common-sense concerns and learn to lay hold of the supernatural potential of faith.

2. Nathanael, also known as Bartholomew. There is not much information on him and it is largely from a few passages in the Gospel of John

“Philip spoke of Jesus as the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies, because he knew that would pique Nathanael’s interest. Nathanael, as an eager student of the Old Testament, was already a seeker after divine truth.”

Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward Him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit!” (John 1:47).

He was pure-hearted from the beginning. Certainly, he was human. He had sinful faults. His mind was tainted by a degree of prejudice. But His heart was not poisoned

“Nathanael was a true disciple from the start. There was no hypocrisy in him. This is very unusual, and it was particularly rare in first-century Israel. Remember, Jesus indicted the entire religious establishment of His day as hypocrites.

“What we do know is that Nathanael was faithful to the end because he was faithful from the start.

The sermon featured Nathanael. It starts this way – “So here’s Nathanael, minding his own business when his friend Philip comes running up with some news. (Remember that people have been fervently hoping for the Messiah). “We’ve found him!” Philip says with great excitement—”the one we’ve been waiting for, Jesus of Nazareth!”

“In this short exchange is the whole meaning of this season after Epiphany. In this season, the church invites us to remember that yes, Jesus already knows us, that Jesus has already chosen us, and that our privilege is to get to know him more and more deeply if we choose to follow him. This is the season in which we remember that Jesus invites us to walk in the light, HIS light.

This sermon brought up one of the spiritual practice of Jesus and Nathanael. “One of the ways that Nathanael became a righteous believer was to spend time under the fig tree. As a person right with God, he wanted to spend time with God, and so he was already doing what Jesus would do during his ministry.

“In other words, Jesus found time to sit under his own fig tree every day, to spend time with God, and then to go out and meet the needs of the world.” The sermon challenged us to come up with our own fig trees.

“And sometimes, things happen in our lives that demand a deeper level of faith. When these things happen, finding time to sit under the fig tree is of the utmost importance, because in those times of silence and seeking God’s direction we open our hearts to God. We draw near to God, and when we draw near to God, we become more deeply aware that God has already come alongside us, supporting us and upholding us. ”