Sermon for Epiphany 5, Year C February 10, 2019

Isaiah 6:1-8                         Psalm 138                                            1 Corinthians 15:1-11                      Luke 5:1011

“Here I am, send me!” Isaiah is sharing his call story, just as we heard Jeremiah share his last week.  In Luke, we also hear his version of Simon Peter’s call to become a disciple of Christ, a “fisher of men.”  This season of Epiphany began with the arrival of the wise men and the baptism of Jesus. The star and the wise men signified that Christ brings light to all nations, he not only the light to enlighten all nations, the light to the Gentiles, he is the light that overcomes the darkness in our lives – the darkness of sin.

These call stories remind us the light of Christ not only cast out darkness, it changes our lives.    In Luke, Peter realizes who Jesus is, and it illuminates his sins, it says, “he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!’”  Notice the parallel to Isaiah’s call where Isaiah upon seeing the Lord says “Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”

I do not know about your experiences, but I do know that I have had moments, lots of moments, when just witnessing the unselfish acts of others, puts me to shame.  “Woe is me!” or saying “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” would be an appropriate response from my lips.   A sacrificial act of love given to a stranger is, for me, witnessing Christ at work in the world today.

In Isaiah’s story, after he confesses his sinfulness, a seraph flews to him, touches his mouth with a live coal, then says, “your guilt has departed you and your sin is blotted out.”    Isaiah then hears the Lord say, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?”  Isaiah response is one of gratitude, “Here am I send me!”

Peter humors Jesus and casts his nets one last time.  Then, after making the catch of a life time, Peter, and James and John (who were with him), bring their boats to the shore and leave everything to follow Jesus.  Hearing this story, like witnessing true compassion shared with a stranger, is humbling.  I may have answered God’s call to serve as a Priest is Christ’s Church, but I did not leave everything behind.  It has been difficult for me to let go of who I was and things that I acquired through the years.  Answering God’s call is not something I did one day – it literally took me around ten years just to complete the discernment process and become a priest!

Paul in this letter to the church in Corinth, references his call.  He speaks of himself as “the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.”  All three of these call stories include the same response to being in the presence of God, all three people instantly acknowledge their sinfulness. And all three are changed by their experience of the divine.  Paul goes on to say, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me has not been in vain.”

God’s grace is never in vain when it alters the course of our lives and helps us see the stranger as our neighbor, when it helps us place the people in our lives above the things we want for ourselves.  Reading about Isaiah, Paul, and Peter and remembering the lives of the other prophets and apostles, we might over look something important.  When I feel my faith is not sufficient, when I feel less than – it helps me to remember the lives of the apostles with Jesus.

As the twelve follow Jesus, they get it wrong, over and over again – yet they continue to follow Jesus.  They often do not understand his teachings, they are confused and Jesus must explain the parables to them in private – but still, they continue to follow Jesus.  Peter even denies knowing Jesus three times when he is frightened, but then he returns to follow Jesus.  I can identify with the apostles because I often get it wrong, I often do not understand what Jesus wants of me, I am often confused and frightened.  But I continue to follow Jesus.

Why?  Because I have learned what the apostles learned.  On the boat, Peter experienced God’s grace.  And no matter how many times he got things wrong, he could remember the grace he experienced when Jesus invited him, a sinner, to be his disciple.  As often as Peter got it wrong, as often as I realize I have fallen short and done what I ought not to have done or not done what I should have done – I experience God’s forgiveness and grace, just as Peter did.

Sin and doubt are a part of our human condition, but grace and love are too.  The love of God and the grace of Jesus Christ are not only available to us, they flow through us when we answer God’s call.  And, it is this grace and love that make it possible for us to experience peace in the midst of the chaos that is a part of all our lives.

Notice that in Luke’s story today, we do not hear a word of what Jesus is teaching.  Peter, James, and John are not persuaded by words to follow Jesus, they experience his divine presence and they respond to this by leaving their old lives behind them.  Peter says, “I am a sinner,” and Jesus calls him anyway.  Jesus understands our nature, Jesus understands our temptations, Jesus understands – and calls us anyway.

Let us pray.

Loving God, you know our faults and still you call out to us for help.  Help us to answer your call, then send us to others in need of your grace that we, too, may be instruments of your love.  We offer our prayers in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.