St. Matthew’s Sermon 02-10-2019


St. Matthew’s Sermon 02-10-2019

Answer Your Call

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

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God. Amen

It’s another of those rare instances where we find a common thread running through our three scripture readings as assigned by the Common Lectionary. Rarer still is how we can so easily make a connection to our current time and place; right here right now. Have a listen…

Isaiah’s words circa 740 BCE: “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!” (Isaiah 6:5)

Peter’s words circa 28 CE “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” (Luke 5:8)

Paul’s words circa 53 CE: “For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. (1 Corinthians 15:9)

Ron’s words circa 2008 CE: “Who me; you want me to do what”!?

There are other cases, many in fact, when God’s call was resisted to no avail. Moses was likely the first and I’m sure I’m not the last. But when it came down to an argument between the called and the caller, guess who always won!

And have you ever noticed that, in most cases, those God called had absolutely no prior experience, no special education, nor any other qualifications for the job.

Moses was a fugitive murderer with a speech impediment. Isaiah saw a vision that came to him out of nowhere and overheard the Lord say “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Peter was just a fisherman, and as he confessed a sinner, who happened to be in the right place at the right time to lend Jesus a boat. Paul was not only unqualified but was actively involved in violent opposition to the Church. And Ron… well, we won’t get into that today; except to say he does have a past and was scared-to-death of public speaking.

Yet through the unwavering persistence of God each one of these, and so many others, walked away from their previous lives and took up the call.

But that’s not the most amazing part. The really amazing part is that, by the mysterious power of God, each one was given whatever they lacked to carry out the work they were assigned.

With the help of God, Moses convinced Pharaoh to let God’s people leave Egypt and led the unruly bunch to the promised land. Isaiah preached the word of God to a nation that had lost its way, warned them of the consequences, and persisted until they turned around and found renewed hope in their God. Peter became the foundation of the Church of Jesus Christ, the rock on which it was built. Paul wound up doing more than anyone in spreading the word and building the Church beyond the boundaries of Judea and beyond the Jewish origins. And Ron… well, that one is still being worked out… but that thing about fear of public speaking… here I am.

Isn’t it remarkable that God doesn’t always call the qualified, in fact seldom calls the qualified. None were known as a prophet until God made them a prophet. None were apostles until God made them apostles. And I wasn’t a minister until God made me a minister.

Now, I do want to be clear, by including myself in the list today I am not equating myself to the prophets and apostles. Unless God has a plan that I am not yet aware of I will never be as good as any one of them; I will not be the founder of a new nation nor be recorded in the Bible for any other great accomplishments and I doubt much that my name will be remembered forever here on earth.

But I include my story to make a connection between then and now; and to make a connection between them and you!

Not everyone is called to be a prophet, or apostle, or even a preacher. Not everyone is expected to walk away from their previously established life. But everyone who is a follower of Christ is called to spread the Good News. That includes every one of you, even the least of you. And when God calls, God also equips. The only question is, will you answer the call or will you give reasons not to?

Of course neither I nor God expect you to found a new nation in God’s name. And I doubt (but don’t consider it an impossibility) that any of you will re-form the Church or have a part in evangelizing in places that have not already heard the Word. But there is still work to be done. In fact, given the global decline in people identifying as Christian today I claim there is more work to be done now than there has been in centuries.

So, what can you do to help? How can you “catch people”?

As Jesus told Peter, the first step is to “not be afraid”. I don’t mean to imply that it’s easy to set your fears and insecurities aside. And in this day-and-age we can sometimes face undesirable, unfriendly backlash when we expose our inner selves but we can get past that with faith. On the more positive side of “this day-and-age, we don’t need to fear the life-threatening persecution that our predecessors faced either from civilian mobs or from rulers.

Then, after you’ve conquered your fear, the parallel with Peter can end. You don’t have to walk away from everything like he and the Prophets and you don’t have to stand on the street corner preaching. It’s really much easier than that and much more simple. All you have to do let your love light shine! And, oh, there are so many ways!

Here, I can say with confidence and certainty, right here in this room there is no shortage of love! Every one of you are very loving people; I’ve seen it and I’ve personally felt it! And there’s a whole big world out there that needs desperately to see it and feel it too!

It doesn’t have to be a big project, big projects are great but they are occasional, (even God’s big projects are occasional but the little ones that happen every day, like sunsets and rainbows make life so much better)! Yes, even the little stuff can make a difference! Smiling at a stranger when you pass on the street, even saying “hi”; saying thank you to the cashier; holding the door for someone; anything that lets others see Christ’s peace in us and let them see that there is still love in the world can be enough to cause a turnaround and inspire hope! And these are the little things each one of us can do every day.

It might seem a futile task, trying to recover this lost world with such small efforts, but we must remember, great rivers flow from falling rain and rain falls one drop at a time.

Let’s make the river flow!

Amen

 

Isaiah 6:1-8
6:1 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple.
6:2 Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew.
6:3 And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.”
6:4 The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke.
6:5 And I said: “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!”
6:6 Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs.
6:7 The seraph touched my mouth with it and said: “Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out.”
6:8 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!”

 

Psalm 138
138:1 I give you thanks, O LORD, with my whole heart; before the gods I sing your praise;
138:2 I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness; for you have exalted your name and your word above everything.
138:3 On the day I called, you answered me, you increased my strength of soul.
138:4 All the kings of the earth shall praise you, O LORD, for they have heard the words of your mouth.
138:5 They shall sing of the ways of the LORD, for great is the glory of the LORD.
138:6 For though the LORD is high, he regards the lowly; but the haughty he perceives from far away.
138:7 Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve me against the wrath of my enemies; you stretch out your hand, and your right hand delivers me.
138:8 The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands.

1 Corinthians 15:1-11
15:1 Now I would remind you, brothers and sisters, of the good news that I proclaimed to you, which you in turn received, in which also you stand,
15:2 through which also you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message that I proclaimed to you–unless you have come to believe in vain.
15:3 For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures,
15:4 and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures,
15:5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.
15:6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died.
15:7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.
15:8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.
15:9 For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.
15:10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me has not been in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them–though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.
15:11 Whether then it was I or they, so we proclaim and so you have come to believe.

Luke 5:1-11
5:1 Once while Jesus was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God,
5:2 he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets.
5:3 He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat.
5:4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.”
5:5 Simon answered, “Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.”
5:6 When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break.
5:7 So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats, so that they began to sink.
5:8 But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!”
5:9 For he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken;
5:10 and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who are partners with Simon. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.”
5:11 When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.