Called and Sent Out

The Pas           Epiphany + 5

Year C

10 February 2019

Isaiah 6L1-13

Psalm 138

1 Corinthians 15:1-11

Luke 5:1-11

Lord of the deep waters, you call us from the safety of the shore to an adventure of the Spirit: open wide our arms to embrace the world you dare us to serve; through Jesus Christ your living Word. Amen.

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There’s a theme among today’s readings, if we look closely. It’s the theme of being called into Christ’s, into God’s service. It’s a theme of going where we don’t know to do what we cannot, at the beginning of the journey, describe.

And when we look, it’s obvious in the reading from Isaiah, especially when Isaiah tells us “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”” (Isa 6:8)

But that’s not where Isaiah’s call to follow, to go where sent, to proclaim what God needs proclaimed begins, in this passage today.

At the same time, it’s not so obvious in the gospel when, amongst a load of fish so great that it has the potential to swamp two boats, not just one, Simon falls face down before Jesus, amongst the still flopping fish, and declares “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” (Lk 5:8b)

A common theme, in this is the give and take between God’s call to serve, and our unwillingness to serve because of the errors and mistakes we’ve made along the way, and in some cases continue to make, in our lives.

But even in that, too, Isaiah tells us: ““Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”

Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”” (Isa 6:5-6)

So, perhaps there’s more in common between Isaiah and Simon, today, than just that each finds themselves in the presence of God.

In both cases we find someone who is surprised, and at the same time intimidated to the point of terror to find himself in the presence of God.

At the same time, in both of these encounters, we find someone, who despite their personal reservations about their worthiness to serve God, they in the end follow without question when asked to go.

So, the common thing, then, between Isaiah and Simon, is the reluctance. It’s the hesitation, the idea that we’re not worthy to stand in the presence of God and serve. (BAS pg 197)

And this is a very human thing.

But that doesn’t change God.

In all of this, God loves us, and God needs us to be the voice of God, the voice of the Most High in the world.

God needs us to be the hands and the feet of the Messiah, the one who takes on the world in God’s name and reminds the world that God does love each and everyone, no matter who they are or where they’ve come from.

In all of this, God needs each one of us, to remember that we are worthy to stand in the presence of God and serve, not because of the actions of the seraphim, at the altar of God, or before God’s throne, but because of Jesus.

So, in our gospel, today, we see Jesus teaching.

We see that so many people have come that he needs to get into a boat in order to keep from being crushed by the people or shoved into the water by everyone who wants to be physically close to him, so that they can touch him, so that they can hear every word that he says.

He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.” (Lk 5:2-3)

So, we can imagine a lot of people. We can imagine crowds of people just following Jesus through the region, stopping where he stops, moving on when he does. They bring those to be healed.

They’ve come out of a hunger to hear the word of God, to know God’s love in and for their lives.

They’ve come out of a desire to know God better for their lives, without the layers of penitential rites, and mandatory sacrifice, always claiming that humanity is in the wrong, and putting up walls between us and God out of fear, out of deference, ultimately out of love.

And interestingly, it’s out of love, as well, that God breaks down those barriers. It’s out of love that God plucks Isaiah from obscurity and makes him God’s prophet.

It’s out of love that Jesus tells Simon, and Andrew, James and John ““Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” 11 So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.” (Lk 5:10b-11)

Now, what actually drew me to today’s focus on Isaiah, instead of Simon, was the message that God commands Isaiah to proclaim to the people.

Isaiah tells us, “He said, “Go and tell this people:

“‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding;
    be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’
10 Make the heart of this people calloused;
    make their ears dull
    and close their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
    hear with their ears,
    understand with their hearts,
and turn and be healed.”” (Isa 6:9-10)

And I thought this fascinating.

Its fascinating from a scholarly perspective because in looking back at the works of the prophets, scholars have agreed that much of what Isaiah proclaims, to a people in slavery, so very far from home, and not likely to see it ever again, ultimately points to Jesus.

All of Isaiah’s words, prophesy, and remarks point to the ministry and the work of the Messiah, in and for the lives of the Israelite people, and for each one of us, as well. 

So, God’s command, God’s message to the Israelite people is to tell them what’s coming, what the work of the Messiah will be all about, but in ways that they don’t recognize until the time he’s among them.

Until the time he’s in our hearts, until the time when there are so many people wanting to feel the love of God, hear the wisdom of the Almighty, that Jesus needs to get into a boat in order to be able to speak to all of these people.

Ways that we don’t recognize in our own lives until we’re looking back at the way God has influenced our lives to this point.

But really, this is what the ability to look backward is able to give us, every day.

We can look back to see where God has been involved in our lives, where our lives have fit into God’s plan for the world around us, and where we have lived into the call that God has given to each one of us to grow and to serve as God needs our skills to do that.

So, this leaves the question of how is God calling each one of us to serve, today?

And in that call to serve, what roadblocks to do we put in God’s path?

For Isaiah, he expected to be struck dead for being in God’s presence. He said: ““Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”) (Isa 6:5)

For Simon, “he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken.” (Lk 58b-9)

In each case, they felt unworthy because of their life choices.

But each of us, even when God calls us, is able to look back at these, and many, many more examples and see where each of those called by God, to proclaim God’s will, to be God’s example, to walk in the path that God lays out before each one of us, is able to take heart from the fact that we are called out of a sense of love.

One of my favourite quotes by the author Max Lucado is “God loves you just the way you are, but God refuses to leave you that way.”

God sees so much more in and for our lives than we can ever imagine.

Isaiah’s prophesy points to Jesus, to the Messiah, in such a way that its not recognized until his life is already being lived.

Jesus work, amongst us, continues to open our eyes, our ears, and our hearts to the love of God, as God calls each one of us to more than we’ve ever asked or imagined.

After all, Simon never imagined that God would call him to so much more than pulling in fish nets, day after day.

Yet today, we find him finding God in the quantity of fish that are pulled up, and from there being called to so much more than he could imagine.

So, what is God calling each one of us to do?

So, that’s what we see today. We see Isaiah pointing to Jesus. We see Jesus continuing to make sure the message of God’s love is available through such people as Simon.

So, while he’s pointing to Simon, as the one who will lead the faithful into the future, at the same time, he’s pointing to each one of us, and he’s pointing to the crowds that are so enthusiastic that Jesus got into the boat in the first place.

So, just maybe, our call is still here, still staring us in the face, like a freshly caught fish? Maybe it’s in the willingness of the seraphim to cleanse us from the errors of our past so that we are worthy to stand in God’s presence and serve him.

Maybe our call to serve is still where we can’t conceive of it, yet, but the question is still here, will we follow?

Will we go where we can’t see the ending? Will we have lives that are more full of experiences than we can ever imagine?

That’s the promise that’s before us. It doesn’t matter if the message we proclaim isn’t understood for a while. If that’s the words and the will of God then that’s God’s will.

The important thing is whether or not we hear the question and, like Isaiah respond “Here I am, send me!”

Amen.

About pastorrebeccagraham

A Lutheran minister serving an Anglican parish in Northern Ontario.
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