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The Cry of Despair and the Answer of Faith

by The Rev Beth Knowlton on January 13, 2021

"Nathanael said to him, ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’ Philip said to him, ‘Come and see.’”
From John 1:43-51

This week we have continued to process and try to make sense of the violence we saw erupting in our nation’s Capitol a week ago. In my sermon Sunday I said that we have received an Epiphany, whether it is the one we want or not. Now we must find faithful ways to respond to what has happened. As we see ongoing plans or threats of violence, we wonder what might be next. In a call earlier this week, some colleagues of mine who are in Washington, D.C. were told by the mayor that it was not safe for faith communities to come downtown. I was reminded by a dear friend that her brother was a member of the Capitol Police and had been present, gratefully uninjured. We hope there is a faithful response by our leaders that includes genuine repentance and justice.

And I suspect we are exhausted.
We may be experiencing moments of despair.

In the light of all that has happened through these many months I find myself vacillating between feeling numb and unsure of how I feel, and moments where I am overwhelmed with feelings (all of them!). The passage appointed from John this week is a continuation of Jesus’ evolving ministry. This week we hear his first calling of his disciples after John the Baptist has identified him as the one who is more powerful than he is and as the Lamb of God. Nathanael comes on the scene and is invited by Phillip to come and see Jesus. When Philip hears he is from Nazareth though, he wonders whether it is remotely possible that the Messiah could hail from such a place.

Later in the story we find out that Jesus already had spotted Nathanael and it is after that exchange that Nathanael is able to proclaim Jesus as the Son of God. Nathanael has to let go of his assumptions of where God can show up, and that frees him to encounter the power of the Risen Christ. Where are you afraid that nothing good can emerge?

Perhaps if we allow ourselves to be reminded that God is present even in the midst of our fear and despair, we can allow ourselves to know that we are not alone. That is what gives us hope. Hope is what allows us to look more fully on the painful truth and do the hard work that is ahead of us as a people and nation. If it is just up to us to overcome these divisions, we cannot possibly imagine a way forward. When we know that we are accompanied by God, we can perhaps get up each morning and begin again. It is not a linear process and repentance and reconciliation emerge over time. But Jesus has his eye on us. We may fear nothing good can come out of this “Nazareth” but we’ve already been claimed. God’s redemption of all things is promised, and we can bear it with God’s help

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