Rev. Tim Haut is Pastor of the Deep River Congregational Church (UCC) where he has served almost 41 years. He is the author of A Deep River Year, which was published last year.
Scripture: John 1:43-51 (NRSV)
The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, ‘Follow me.’ Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, ‘We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.’ Nathanael said to him, ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’ Philip said to him, ‘Come and see.’ When Jesus saw Nathanael coming towards him, he said of him, ‘Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!’ Nathanael asked him, ‘Where did you come to know me?’ Jesus answered, ‘I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.’ Nathanael replied, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!’ Jesus answered, ‘Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.’ And he said to him, ‘Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.’
Scripture: Psalm 139
To the leader. Of David. A Psalm.
O Lord, you have searched me and known me.
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from far away.
You search out my path and my lying down,
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
O Lord, you know it completely.
You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is so high that I cannot attain it.
For it was you who formed my inward parts;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
that I know very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes beheld my unformed substance.
In your book were written
all the days that were formed for me,
when none of them as yet existed.
How weighty to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
I try to count them—they are more than the sand;
I come to the end—I am still with you.
Reflection: Watchful Eyes
My parents were faithful churchgoers, and so I was not given a choice about attending Sunday worship. We sat in the fourth row from the front on the right side of the center aisle, where there was always a good view of the minister and where it was difficult to misbehave without being noticed. To top it off, the stained glass window in front of the church was a glorious scene of the ascension of Christ rising into the sky, with his disciples kneeling at his feet. Our Sunday School teacher, Miss Eggers, informed us that no matter where you sat in the sanctuary, the eyes of that ascendant Christ followed you.
That gave me the creeps. A kid doesn't want to think that Jesus is watching you all the time. I didn't even want my parents to know what I did all the time. But that is one of the precepts we carry with us into life: that God is watching us, and that God's going to make us pay for poking our sister, or breaking into the cookie jar, or being a bully to a classmate, or cheating on a test.
But here in our readings this Sunday, we see a different face of God. Jesus is calling his disciples to follow him, and one of them, Nathanael is invited by Philip to "come and see" what the fuss is all about. Jesus already seems to know who Nathanael is: "I saw you under the fig tree over there," he smiles. Nathanael is surprised that he has been noticed at all, and is in awe of this watchful Christ.
The Psalmist, too, sings a song of joy, that the Lord searches and knows us, sees our sitting down and standing up, even knows what we're thinking and feeling. It is joy, though, and not fear, that writes the melody of that song. It's joy that whether I'm under the fig tree or under the covers of my bed, whether I'm raging or resting, whether I'm stuck in the mud of self-pity or high on hope's mountain, I am being watched by love's eyes. When I let that sink in, there's no telling what great things may lie ahead for me. I can dump the fear, the sense of unworthiness that leaves me broken and empty. Instead, knowing that I am beloved means following Jesus into this beautiful mess of a world. I might even see heaven opened, and discover that the world is full of angels, too.
May we all find comfort in the feeling that God is truly watching us and knows us.
New Prayer Requests:
We ask churches and church leaders to join us in the following prayers either by sharing them during worship, printing them in bulletins, or sharing them in some other way. To make a prayer request, please contact Drew Page at firstname.lastname@example.org
Prayers of Intercession:
- For those grieving for the more than 371,000 victims of the Covid-19 disease
- For those grieving or suffering as a result of violence at the U.S. Capital on Jan. 6 which left 5 dead
- For the family and friends of Ronald Casey, who provided counseling for clergy in the historic CT Conference. Ronald died on Jan. 1
Prayers of Joy and Thanksgiving:
- For the marvels of our universe which inspire art, curiosity, and scientific discovery (you can still see the end of the conjunction of Mercury, Jupiter, and Saturn tonight)
- For those health workers who continue to treat patients during this pandemic surge
This Week in History:
January 16, 1991 (30 years ago) Operation Desert Storm, a code-name for a U.S.-led offensive against Iraq, began. Iraq failed to withdraw troops from Kuwait by midnight on the 16th, an act seen by the United Nations as an unlawful occupation. Kuwait was liberated in 4 days, but the Persian Gulf War lasted until February 28. At least 125 America soldiers died in the operation.
“Study the past if you would define the future.”
the pastor of the First Congregational Church in Deep River, keeper of an open gate