Isaiah 6:1-13 6In 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. 2Seraphs 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. 3And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.” 4The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke. 5And 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 Sovereign, the Lord of hosts!” 6Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. 7The 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.” 8Then 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!” Luke 5:1-11
5Once while Jesus was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, 2he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. 3He 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. 4When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” 5Simon answered, “Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.” 6When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break. 7So 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. 8But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!”9For he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken; 10and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.” 11When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.
If you’ve been following our beyond the backyard series and are wondering, ‘when are we ever going to get out of the backyard; it’s already February!’ be patient. We spent a whole year in our own backyard, and moving out of the gate is a process- we want to be prepared for what to actually do once we get out there. And for the last few weeks we’ve looked inside ourselves anew to try to discern what God might have us do beyond the backyard. We’ve discovered that we are ‘named, claimed, and called by God,’ writing our names on the parchment as an affirmation of that call. We explored our sense of call and what message God might be giving each of us to share, and realized that message that we carry inside is based on what we’ve experienced, our knowledge of God, and is unique to each of us. (No one else can preach your sermon). We discussed that God reveals to each of us a situation (or what we called a scroll) each day, and that each of those situations brings an opportunity both for interpretation (in other words, what might be saying or doing at the present moment) and along with interpretation, an opportunity for action. And so we are poised now to move outside the back gate- So I want to go over just a few small things to remember as you begin you begin your journey. The scripture we just read is the story of Simon, later to be called Peter, at work. He’s a fisherman- and he and his coworkers have just come in from a long night of catching nothing. They are cleaning up, washing their nets, preparing them to be used the next day. Jesus is on the shore, he asks to board Simon’s boat, convinces Simon to pull away from shore a bit and starts teaching the crowds from the boat. Ordinarily I would skip over this portion of the story - but no kidding this is worth looking at closely- because this is the Simon Peter’s call. This moment. It’s not even explicit in the text, but Peter’s call didn’t come when he caught that big net full of fish. It starts when Jesus asks, “can I come aboard?” and Simon Peter says, “yes.” He’s probably not sure what he is getting into but something about coming in contact with Jesus moved him enough to let him in, and enticed him to take one small step of letting Jesus teach from his boat. In reality, it’s all any of us really have to do to get started in ministry. We encounter Jesus, and we give him center stage, letting his teaching, his ways, his actions, his words, ring out from our boat. If you’re in a hurry today, that’s really the message, so you can make an early exit and not feel like you’ve missed the point. Right here in the story is where Peter is affirming his own sense of being named, claimed and called by God. We aren’t privy to hear the words of Jesus, or what he was teaching about from the boat that day. But Simon Peter spent time listening, perhaps reflecting on Jesus’s words, or his manner; Simon Peter absorbed the situation, recognized the scroll that had just been handed to him, so when Jesus asks him to go one step further, the answer is a resounding yes- even though he thinks, from a practical sense, what Jesus is sending him on what he feels is a waste of time based on his experience. Even though Simon Peter now has to explain to all of his coworkers why they are going out again, risking looking foolish in front of his peers; even though he will possibly have to deal with their anger should this second try also come up empty. There is a lot on the line. For Peter, yet even though he voices his reservation, he still does what Jesus tells him to do. “Go out again?” Peter exclaims, “We’ve been out all night, we’ve caught nothing… Yet,” he says to Jesus, “because you ask, we’ll try again.” And you know what happens, he goes into the ‘deep water’ as Jesus instructs and they have the catch of their lives… And Peter is blown away. My friends, when you’ve said yes, and when, despite your experience, Jesus asks you to do something and you do it… you will be blown away! And I don’t know what that will look like in your life, or how your logical self, coming in to contact with the Spiritual magnificence of God will play out for you- but here’s what happened to Peter- Everything he thought about himself, all of his shortcomings, all of the things he had been taught about himself that had stuck, all of the stuff he had supposed about God, in fact his whole faulty image of God came flooding up out of him and spilling out all over the shore at Jesus’ feet. (literally from the Greek he says) “Get away from me,” Jesus- Peter cries. “I’m a sinner- I don’t deserve- you’ve got the wrong person- I can’t accept this gift- if you knew me you would realize- I’m just, well… me.” This is a pivotal moment for Peter- for all of us. You would think if God had moved like that in your life and shown you that kind of display of power, and in front of your friends too, that you would think better of yourself- “wow! God really can use me!” or “Wow, look what the Lord is doing through me, everybody,” but the recognition that a blast of power from the Holy Spirit just channeled through you is a very humbling experience- so much so that our own human failings are highlighted against it’s purity. And I tell you sincerely, when it happens to you, and it will happen, the only way we can work through those feelings is to fall at the feet of Christ and pour out everything we are feeling on to the shore. Our own prayer of confession, admitting that our humanness gets in the way of seeing ourselves as Christ sees us, clears the way for forgiveness- “Don’t be afraid,” Jesus says to Peter… “I understand- I forgive- I love- - - - now get out there- from now on your will be fishing for people.” It’s what happens every time we confess. Our sinfulness or brokenness is forgiven, we are assured, and we are called- todays assurance of God’s love- look back- at the call to “Isaiah, your guilt is gone and your sin blotted out- By God's grace, with God's grace, we are who we are meant to be: forgiven &, restored; named, claimed and called people of God.”
And that’s enough for Peter- hopefully enough for us… it’s enough to walk away his big catch of fish which is astounding enough right? A fortune is dropped in his lap, or caught in his nets, but it’s not enough to make him stay- fortunes are spent, money comes and goes, Peter knows that… we all know that. It’s not actually the money Peter is walking away from- he’s turning his back on his own way of doing things, from relying on himself, from his old mindset to take on instead the mind of Christ, to follow Christ’s way, to live out Christ’s teaching, to show others Christ’s love.
This is a big jump for Peter- I mean it would be for all of us. And next week we’re going to get a glimpse of what that life was like- following Christ. Jesus was calling people, beginning with the disciples to a radical new way of living the would require them to change their entire way of living in the world. Peter heard enough of Jesus’ message to realize that kind of living could actually change the world, and he wanted in.
What was this new way of living? In a nutshell, modeling good for others, showing radical love, inclusiveness, and hospitality. And we’re going to talk about this more over Lent, but for today, know that the life Jesus is calling us to bears little resemblance to the self-serving, self-protecting, self-involved life we lead now- the goals Jesus sets for us bear little resemblance to the life of relaxation on a tropical island we all think is perfection. Jesus calls us to a life of discipleship, where we are in a continual cycle of listening, interpreting, acting, reflecting, confessing, forgiving, assuring, and then getting back out there.
It’s those ideals we, in our jadedness now think of as platitudes, love one another- care for one another- minister to the sick, free the prisoners, deny the self… in essence, give up the life the world tells to live and follow Christ to the life that brings light to the world.
So what is it today Peter, that you might have trouble walking away from? What is it that you would need to give up in order to be free to follow Christ out the back gate? Let’s think about that for a moment. For some of us it could be that big catch of fish, we finally have our lives on track, the job we want, the security we’ve hoped for… for others it might be emotional security, tied to another person or social group, for others it might be leaving the perception of who we are back in the boat with the fish- letting go of who the world tells us we are and taking on the identity of who God tells us we are. Whatever it is, whatever is holding you back, let me invite you to release yourself from that today. Perhaps you need to hear the words of Jesus- let me invite to to listen today. Perhaps you need to let go of guilt, or shame, to free yourself of the past- let me invite you to confess today. Whatever it is, take some time to speak to God this morning. If you feel led, you can come up and write again next to your name, or even write your name for the first time. But allow your spirit to open to what God might be saying to you today… don’t be afraid… come, follow me…