simple white fading png image
notre dame montreal

Worship, prayer and Bible resources

Second Sunday of Epiphany - Year B

Liturgical Colour - White or Gold

	Nathaniel Under the Fig Tree, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TNIntroduction

Not long ago it was Christmas and we heard the angels telling us who Jesus was. Last week we heard about John the Baptist and he told us who Jesus was. In the reading from John's Gospel today we get a statement from Jesus about just who he thought he was. It is a big statement, Jesus likens himself to Jacob, the father of the nation of Israel. Using the illustration of Jacob's ladder, Jesus claims that he will be the bridge between heaven and earth.

In our New Testament story today from John 1: 43 –51, we read that Philip found Nathanael and told him, "We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph." It is important that we continue this work of communicating the Christian message of Jesus. We do this in word, just like Philip did to Nathanael. But we speak our faith most loudly not in words but in deeds. As we care for others we show the love of Christ to our broken world and play our part in the healing of the nations.

Opening Verses of Scripture Matt 25: 36 & 40

For I was sick and looked after me. I was in prison and you came to visit me… I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it for me.

Collect Prayer for the Day — Before we read we pray

Almighty God, in Christ you make all things new: transform the poverty of our nature by the riches of your grace, and in the renewal of our lives make known your heavenly glory; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.  Common Worship

Eternal Lord, our beginning and our end: bring us with the whole creation to your glory, hidden through past ages and made known in Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.  Common Worship Shorter Collect

Almighty God, by whose grace alone we are accepted and called to your service, strengthen us by your Spirit and make us worthy of our calling; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen. Methodist Worship - Second Sunday in Ordinary

First Bible Reading  1 Samuel 3: 1-10

The boy Samuel ministered before the LORD under Eli. In those days the word of the LORD was rare; there were not many visions. One night Eli, whose eyes were becoming so weak that he could barely see, was lying down in his usual place. The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the LORD, where the ark of God was. Then the LORD called Samuel. Samuel answered, "Here I am." And he ran to Eli and said, "Here I am; you called me."
But Eli said, "I did not call; go back and lie down." So he went and lay down. Again the LORD called, "Samuel!" And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, "Here I am; you called me."  "My son," Eli said, "I did not call; go back and lie down." Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD : The word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him. The LORD called Samuel a third time, and Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, "Here I am; you called me."  Then Eli realized that the LORD was calling the boy. So Eli told Samuel, "Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, 'Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.' "So Samuel went and lay down in his place. The LORD came and stood there, calling as at the other times, "Samuel! Samuel!"  Then Samuel said, "Speak, for your servant is listening."

Second Reading  Revelation 5: 1-10

Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals. And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, “Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?” But no-one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it. I wept and wept because no-one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside. Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.” Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the centre of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. He had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. He came and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne. And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth”

Gospel Reading  John 1: 43 –51

The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, "Follow me."
Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida. Philip found Nathanael and told him, "We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph." "Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?" Nathanael asked. "Come and see," said Philip. When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, "Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false." "How do you know me?" Nathanael asked.  Jesus answered, "I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you." Then Nathanael declared, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel."
 Jesus said, "You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You shall see greater things than that." He then added, "I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man."

Post Communion Sentence

God of glory, you nourish us with your Word who is the bread of life: Fill us with your Holy Spirit that through us the light of your glory may shine in all the world. We ask this in the name of Christ our Lord. Amen


We read about Nathanael today, who is never mentioned by the other Gospel writers. When Philip tells Nathaniel that he has found the one about whom Moses wrote in the Law and the Prophets, he was attributing to Jesus the fulfilment of the Old Testament Scriptures. Nathaniel raises a degree of scepticism, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Note that Nathaniel is not questioning that Philip could have found such a person, but rather that one so great could have come from a place called Nazareth!

Nazareth was not a famous city and it is never mentioned before the New Testament, nothing about it is found in the Old Testament, the Talmud or Midrash or even in any contemporary pagan writings. The fact that Nazareth was the hometown of Jesus has echoes of his birth in a stable. The derogatory tone which is struck by Nathaniel is just the beginning of this critical attitude towards Nazareth, for years afterwards Christians were dismissed by being described as the ‘Nazarene sect’ (Acts 24:5)

There is in Nathaniel a naïve bias about what God can and will do. He cannot come to terms with the fact that something so amazing can come from something so ordinary. There is an offence and contradiction in the word Nazareth in the same way that there is a huge leap in understanfing to think of the Word made flesh. We all make these kinds of assumptions about places and people everyday. Sometimes our assumptions are about other people; how they will behave, what they will say, what we can expect, what they think or believe. These assumptions are restrictive and they fail to acknowledge the potential within all things created by God. Assumptions act as limitations and they narrow our vision, they close off the possibility of change and growth. Our assumptions deny the possibility of reconciliation, healing, a different way of being, or a new life. Ultimately, they impoverish our faith and proclaim there is no room for God to show up and act.

We all have our Nazareths, our blind spots. They are about other people, places and indeed about our own lives. We cannot believe that God could be present, active, and revealed in certain people and because we know ourselves only too well, we cannot believe that God could be so revealed in us. We need to be reminded that for God, Nazareth is an opportunity for revelation and glory. Just as the Word is revealed in flesh, God is revealed in what the world regards as weakness, yes even in and through us.
Nazareth was considered too be far ordinary, and God’s son should have a background more deserving, special and, holy. The Nathaniel in each one of us imagines that God cannot use people, or even ourselves, because we are just not special enough. However God shows up where we do not expect him because God will not be limited by our assumptions.
The answer is shown by Philip when he says, ‘come and see.’ Every Nazareth is a potential place of God’s epiphany. Repeatedly Jesus meets us in the Nazareth places of our lives and we see God present and at work in the most unexpected places and people. Jesus is revealed in hopeless places, in useless people, like us, just like Philip we can be witnesses. Charles Royden  


It is interesting to reflect on the story that unfolds in the books of Samuel in light of the power struggles that often plague the church today and how they can detract from putting all our energy into the task of serving God effectively. It can be very easy in all aspects of life to be too concerned with how we are organised and led rather than focusing on what we should be doing and why we are here.



  1. I have decided to follow Jesus

  2. He is Lord

  3. Will you come and follow me

  4. Make me a channel of your peace

  5. I the Lord of sea and sky


Prayers for Sunday and the week ahead

Prayer is a plant, the seed of which is sown in the heart of every Christian, if it is well cultivated and nourished it will produce fruit, but if it is neglected, it will wither and die.


O God, you have called men and women of every land to be a holy nation, a royal priesthood, the church of your Son: unite us in mutual love across barriers of race, culture and background, and strengthen us in our common task of being Christ and showing Christ to the world He came to save. Amen

Our Father, whose Son came to bring wholeness to the lives of all people, we thank you for the wealth of knowledge brought to us through medical research, and for the healing ministry of doctors, nurses and all those involved in the ministry of healing. We pray that all those who work in different ways for the healing and wholeness of their fellow men and women that they may be inspired for their task and calling by the spirit of Him who is wholeness indeed. Amen

Lord God, whose Word and will are made known in Jesus Christ, inspire in us faith in that Word and obedience to that will, for our salvation and for your glory. Amen


Additional Material

Opening Verse of Scripture—Psalm 139:15-16

My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.


Jesus was born in Bethlehem, but he grew up in Nazareth. Some years later Christians were dismissed as the ‘Nazarene sect’ Acts 24:5. Nazareth was not a place which was highly thought of and it was probably held in even less esteem by people from Cana a neighbouring village. In the Gospel reading today we read about Philip who was one of the Apostles. He believes that Jesus is the one whom all the scriptures point to. He brings a man named Nathanael, who came from Cana, to meet with Jesus. At first Nathanael rejects the idea that the messiah could come from Nazareth. However after meeting Jesus and hearing what he has to say Nathanael responds with a confession of faith. We are not sure what the substance of the conversation was but we can see that Jesus is able to tell Nathanael things about himself in such a way that Nathanael is convinced that Jesus is the Messiah.

Jesus tells Nathanael that what he has seen of Jesus so far is only the beginning and Jesus uses the imagery of Genesis 28:12, the vision of Jacob's ladder. It is important to remember the story of Jacob and what happened in order to appreciate why Jesus refers to this incident, otherwise it just doesn’t make sense. Jacob was the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham and he was very important. So important that his name was later changed to Israel. His children were the ancestors of the Twelve Tribes of Israel. You will remember Jacob as the younger twin of Esau. He tricked Esau out of his birthright and the blessing from his father which he should have received as the firstborn. It is appropriate that later in his life Jacob himself is tricked by his own sons who are jealous of their favoured brother Joseph. We all know from whom they inherited that kind of deceit! Jacob had to flee from his brother, the hunter Esau, when his twin tried to kill him (Genesis 25-28). Destitute he goes to his uncle Laban, but on the way he has a dream at Bethel. He saw a ladder or staircase which stretched up to the sky, with angels going up and down on it. In the dream he receives a blessing from God and a promise that he will return to the land and God would be with him. Of course all of this eventually took place. After working for his Uncle Laban, he married his daughters Leah and Rachel and after swindling him out large flocks and herds he returned home and was reunited with his brother Esau.

It is important to remember this story because Jesus clearly knew all about it and it’s importance. When he tells Nathanael that he will see ‘heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.’ Jesus is placing himself in the same position as Jacob. Every Jew knew that Jacob was the father of the Twelve Tribes of Israel, now Jesus is assuming such importance onto himself. Jesus is the new Israel ! God will no longer reveal himself at Bethel, God is present in the person of Jesus and it is Jesus who will link heaven and earth, not Jacob’s ladder. This is all a part of the process by which Jesus takes the message of the Jewish scriptures, applies them himself and brings about such a change in Judaism that it must become like a new religion. The old covenant has in Jesus been brought to an end and a new covenant has been offered to all people, not just the children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. With the birth of Jesus, the children of God will no longer be descendants of Abraham, they will be from all nations. So the witness of Philip must be one which we share in making Jesus known to others. Charles Royden

Commentary:Who Calls the Changes?

In the books of Joshua and Judges we read about the gradual settlement of the Israelite tribes into Palestine. As threats from other nations materialised these tribes would come together to combat such crises, and in each instance an individual was raised up by God to lead the tribes on that particular occasion. The books of 1 & 2 Samuel, which follow chronologically then tell of the extraordinary change in the way Israel is organised and governed around the end of the 10th century BCE, of how first Saul became king and is commissioned to defeat the Philistines, who by this time had become a significant and real threat to the very survival of Israel. The books describe how the new political and government structures evolve in Israel, how the voices for setting up a monarchy become stronger, and how it fell to Samuel, the last of the judges, to be instrumental in the wrangling between those who wanted a monarch and those who believed that God would continue to raise up leaders as required. At the beginning of 1 Samuel the centre of government was at Shiloh but by the time we get to the end of 2 Samuel, the centre of what is now an empire, has moved to Jerusalem, a fundamental shift in the manner in which God’s rule on earth is made manifest.

With the incarnation of Christ, the manner in which God’s rule on earth is made manifest changes once again. Through Christ, God intervened in our world in human form at Christmas and from then on ‘the government was on His shoulders’. The old regime and covenant was to be superseded by the new, graphically demonstrated at Epiphany as kings come to worship Jesus.

But in both the Old Testament and the New Testament we see a common thread in the rule and intervention of God in our world. God calls individuals. In the Old Testament reading today we see how God called Samuel, even though initially Samuel did not know it was God that was doing the calling. In the gospel reading God calls Philip and Nathanael, just as He had called Andrew and Simon Peter a few verses previously. All through history God has been calling individuals to serve Him; some of whom recognise His voice, others who don’t; some of whom respond to the call, others who don’t. Since that first Christmas, people from kings to stable hands, from the highest to the lowest have been declaring, ‘We have found the Messiah’ as they respond to the call of Jesus. And as He calls and speaks He simply says to follow the example of Samuel and the disciples; to look, to follow, to hear and to act.


Under Moses and Joshua the Israelites had moved into the promised land. There they had spread out as loose confederacy of tribes, each one being governed by a king-like head known as a Judge. These Judges had performed a real service for Israel as they rallied the tribes to resist the attacks of their various enemies, especially the Canaanites who came from across the Jordan. 
Now the Israelites faced a real crisis in the form of the Philistines, who had already overcome the tribes of Judah, Dan, Ephraim and Benjamin, and were still on the move. 
Israel needed a man of God who could offer both political and spiritual leadership to a people in danger of being totally overrun. Samuel was that man, and he came at a time of real crisis in the history of Israel sometimes not fully appreciated. 
Eli, who Samuel came to serve, lived at Shiloh, the central sanctuary of the confederacy, the place where the Ark of the Lord was housed. It was customary for the Israelites to make a pilgrimage each year to Shiloh to make their sacrifices to God. Eli and his sons were the custodians of the Ark, and it would appear that the Israelites tribes looked to unite around their priestly rule. 
This was not to be, for, after the call of Samuel, Shiloh and the house of Eli is destroyed and the Ark carried off by the Philistines when Samuel is probably around 20 years old. He emerges some 30 to 40 years later as a prophet of Shiloh, a national priest and the recognised leader of all Israel, as prophet, priest and king. The 40 years of Philistine domination were at an end as Samuel summons the tribes to a national assembly, castigating them for their sins and effectively leading them against the Philistines who ceased to be a trouble for the rest of his life. 
Perhaps more importantly, God uses Samuel to give the Israelites the first king, Saul, and a true national identity which was never to leave them. 
When the story is resumed, for Samuel to have this position as Israel's leader, indicates that all through the intervening years Samuel must have been travelling around the country speaking God's word and doing His will, perhaps quietly and unnoticed by many. But yielding, as the Covenant prayer suggests, all things to God's disposal during this time, whether rewarded, recognised exalted or not. As such Samuel serves as an example to us all, as a forerunner of the Christ who was to follow 1000 years later, as a true servant of God to be used mightily by Him. 
It's easy to overlook Eli in the story of Samuel. The course of history was changed because an old person (Eli) listened to what a young child came and told him. He didn't dismiss Samuel as just a child playing games and imagining things. Eli recognised the voice of God, even when spoken to a young person and encouraged Samuel to go on listening, something which apparently Samuel did for the rest of his life.


Lord Jesus Christ, you said that you are the Way, the Truth and the Life; let us never stray from you, who are the Way; nor distrust you, who are the Truth; nor rest in any other but you, who are the Life, beyond whom there is nothing to be desired, either in heaven or on earth. Erasmus 1466-1536


We have a gospel to proclaim
Father I place into your hands
Take my life and let it be
Guide me O thou great Jehovah

Prayers for Sunday and the week ahead.

God, of your goodness give me yourself, for you are sufficient for me. To be worthy of you I cannot ask for anything less. If I were to ask for less I should always be in want, for in you alone do I have all. Amen Julian of Norwich 1342-1413

Grant, O God, that as we rejoice in the hope of the coming of our Saviour, we too may seek to prepare the way of His coming by demonstrating His love as we care for others. Amen

I, the Lord of sea and sky. I have heard my people cry.
All who dwell in dark and sin, my hand will save.
I who made the stars of night, I will make their darkness bright.
Who will bear my light to them? Whom shall I send?

Here I am Lord, is it I Lord?
I have heard you calling in the night.
I will go Lord, if you send me.
I will hold your people in my heart.

I, the Lord of snow and rain, I have borne my people’s pain.
I have wept for love of them, they turn away.
I will break their hearts of stone, give them hearts for love alone.
I will speak my word to them, whom shall I send?

I, the Lord of wind and flame, I will tend the poor and lame,
I will set a feast for them, my hand will save.
Finest bread I will provide, till their hearts be satisfied,
I will give my life to them, whom shall I send?

Will you come and follow me
if I but call your name?
Will you go where you don't know
and never be the same?
Will you let my love be shown,
will you let my name be known,
will you let my life be grown,
in you and you in me?

Will you leave yourself behind
if I but call your name?
Will you care for cruel and kind
and never be the same?
Will you risk the hostile stare
should your life attract or scare?
Will you let me answer prayer
in you and you in me?

Will you let the blinded see
if I but call your name?
Will you set the prisoners free
and never be the same?
Will you kiss the leper clean,
and do such as this unseen,
and admit to what I mean
in you and you in me?

Will you love the 'you' you hide
if I but call your name?
Will you quell the fear inside
and never be the same?
Will you use the faith you've found
to reshape the world around,
through my sight and touch and sound
in you and you in me?

Lord, your summons echoes true
when you but call my name.
Let me turn and follow you
and never be the same.
In your company I'll go
where your love and footsteps show.
Thus I'll move and live and grow
in you and you in me.