First Reading: Isaiah 6:1-8
Gospel Reading: Luke 5:1-11
Prayer for the Day: Gracious God, just as when Jesus stepped into Simon Peter’s boat, you come into our lives and we can never be the same. Subside our fears, give us ears to hear your call to discipleship, and the ability to step out of our comfort zones and follow you. Amen
Possible hymns: Amazing Grace; Here I Am, Lord
This is the 5th Sunday of Epiphany. Epiphany is the church season when we start to discover who Jesus is – beyond the baby we celebrate at Christmas. Jesus is Emmanuel, the one who integrates divinity and humanity. He comes into the world to reveal God and to show us God’s kingdom. Today in our lessons, we see another manifestation of who Jesus is: one who calls others as disciples – despite those people being sinful and flawed. One who finds each person worthy and precious. One who invites those inadequate people into his ministry. Our lessons today show us God’s call to 3 imperfect people – Paul, Simon Peter, and Isaiah.
This would be the beginning of my call story told in the style of Isaiah: In the year that the Cold War ended, when Super Nintendo was first released and the air bag was invented, the Spirit made manifest a new call for my life.
How would you begin your call story? God does not only call people to pursue a career in the church – to become a pastor, missionary, or evangelist. Most are called to be teachers, engineers, parents, medical professionals, or one of the myriads of places that God’s children are beckoned to in this world.
At the time when I received this new call to become a deacon, I was already living out a call as a wife, mother, and administrator. I had hopes to someday be a food scientist, as my university degree trained me to be. But in that year – when Cheers was the best TV show, gas was $1.12 a gallon and the mullet hairstyle was just losing popularity – God revealed an entirely new path for me – one I had no idea existed!
I grew up in the Lutheran church. I was honored to be our congregation’s voting member at the Southern California West Synod Assembly. At the assembly, I attended a workshop about Associates in Ministry (the term that eventually would become Deacon). Until that point, I had no idea there was a way to professionally serve in the church other than to be a pastor – which I was not called to be. At that workshop, I was immediately touched by the Spirit!
I went home, requested the application paperwork, and while on vacation at Holden Village, I wrote my essays for entrance into the candidacy process to become a Deacon.
But I was not like Isaiah who let out an enthusiastic “here I am, send me!” It is interesting to note, however, that there is some debate among Biblical scholars on the punctuation of that declaration. When Isaiah was inscribed, the written word did not include punctuation. Maybe Isaiah replied with a more tentative “here I am? – send me??” That would match my response much better. I took those completed essays home and promptly stuffed them under a pile of paperwork.
Have you experienced what I did when I chose to set that application aside? When God calls, God is persistent. When you respond, “Here I am. Send someone else!” God keeps inviting. God asked: through my pastor, through my Bible study classmates, through friends, and in opportunities that arose – even through my family. Until months later, I uncovered those essays and read them. And what I read was the Spirit at work through me. It was humbling. God finally revealed to me that I was the imperfect person that God wanted to send.
It seems that Peter was quick to answer the call – immediately left everything, including a career changing catch of fish. Peter left it all on the shore and followed Jesus. I took a bit longer – I wasn’t sure about the full impact of following God’s call completely. To me, Peter sorta seems like a naive idealist – But then, I have often assumed that Simon Peter was meeting Jesus for the first time when he climbed into his boat and made a demand of the weary fisherman. Seemed to me that Peter followed Jesus after just one short, though miraculous, encounter. However, it is probable that this was NOT Peter’s first encounter with Jesus. Just a few verses earlier, Jesus had stayed at Peter’s home and had healed his mother-in-law. It is likely that Simon Peter had heard Jesus teach as he went around the area, heard at least rumors of his many healings. Peter had seen his radical and grace-filled interactions with the people. Jesus picked Simon Peter’s boat to enter, and I imagine that Peter was honored by the request from the miracle man.
Peter knew about Jesus, but he had no idea what that would mean for his life. While Jesus was in his boat, Peter heard enough to trust this son of a carpenter and take his advice on fishing. Even though everyone knew that fish could see the nets during the light of day and that the catch was in the shallow waters where the fish came to feed and the nets were designed to work. Instead, Peter breaks all the usual patterns and casts out the nets during the day in the deep water. After the huge haul, Peter knew that Jesus was not just a good teacher and a healer, but that Jesus was righteous, he was “Lord”. So, in fear and kneeling waist deep in fish, Peter confesses that he is a sinful man. Jesus is pure, and he is not. Jesus should leave him, lest Jesus become defiled.
Casting in the deep water. Deep water is a common theme in Old Testament writings. It is a powerful Jewish symbol for chaos. Deep water is danger. Deep water is the darkness from which God brought the dry land in creation. Deep water is what Noah was saved from in the flood. It is where Jonah was swallowed by the whale. Deep water is where the sea beasts dwell. It is chaos – to be avoided and feared. The shallow waters are safer. They are known, they are warm, they are our comfort zone.
But Jesus calls Peter – and us – into the deep water – out of our tried and true patterns and into new ways. When we trust to put our nets into those unfamiliar places, God provides – with abundance! When we step out of that which is easy, when we say yes to the call – God supplies beyond our wildest dreams!
All these years later, I continue to feel God’s call – even though I am still an inadequate servant. And yet, I have been given overflowing gifts to make the journey possible. I have experienced God’s love in marvelous ways – in me, around me, and flowing from me. God has provided so much that indeed my nets often begin to break, and my boat sometimes may sink.
Jesus says to me and to you: “Do not be afraid, you are enough for this call, you are worthy and precious, and I chose you. Come and follow and you will see things you cannot even imagine!”