4th Sunday before Lent ~ Clippesby Isiah 6 1-8 Luke 5 1-11
In our OT reading we have an ordinary day which, in just a matter of seconds turns into an extraordinary one for the prophet Isaiah. He is minding his own business - doing his thing in the temple and all of a sudden he has an encounter with God. It is an amazing moment, which Isaiah recollects in these words:
“In the year that King Uzziah died,
I saw the Lord.”
He had an encounter with the living God and in these moments there is only one response:
"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!"
It never ceases to amaze me how God has this way of interrupting us in the middle of our everyday experience and says LOOK. Both the Isaiah reading and the gospel are wonderful descriptions of God encounters.
Take the Simon-Peter God encounter. Simon has had one of those days when nothing seems to be going right. He has worked and toiled all night and has nothing to show for it. He is tired, drained and he has given up. No fish for dinner this day.
And then it happens - the teacher Jesus – who, by the way, knows little about the art of fishing, invites Peter to put out into the deep once again and to let down the nets.
Simon Peter quickly dissents saying, "Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing.” Possibly not wanting to be rude or unkind to Jesus who had previously healed his mother-in-law, Simon hears himself saying, "Yet if you say so", I will let down the nets.”
Jesus had said ‘so’, so we see Simon and his friends rowing back into the deep waters, letting down the nets again expecting nothing, but this time an ordinary day gets turned into an extraordinary encounter with God. There are so many fish that the nets begin to break and the boats are so filled with fish that they begin to sink.
When God tells you to do something, we need to do it, even if it doesn’t make sense. God told Noah to build an ark because a flood was coming when nobody had ever even heard of rain. And Noah did it. God called Abraham to pack up his possessions and start walking. And Abraham did it, even though he didn’t know where he was going. God told the people of Israel to march around Jericho for seven days if they wanted the walls to fall down, and they did it.
Simon Peter recognises straight away that this is a God encounter and he immediately drops to his knees and cries out for mercy, "Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!"
In the presence of the Holy we are faced with our own human sinfulness and our own human limitation as we are overwhelmed with God's purity and majesty. There are many stories of God encounters in Scripture: Moses by the burning bush; Mary the mother of Jesus visited by the Angel Gabriel; Paul on the road to Damascus; the Samaritan woman at the well; Mary Magdalene at the tomb. God has a way of stepping into our life and turning our ordinary days into extraordinary ones.
When God enters our lives we sometimes see something that has been there all along but we've failed to see it. I had a God moment on the way to Thurne last Sunday evening. Suddenly there was a huge skein of geese overhead. I have never seen so many at one time. They were in single file in the usual ‘V’ formation, which allows each goose to take advantage of the slip stream of the goose in front. As we watched suddenly the skein broke up and they all changed place, allowing a different leader to be in front. As I have pondered about this during the week I have been reminded of my place in the body of Christ, sometimes a leader, sometimes a follower, and sometimes at the back of the queue. All I have to do to get to the destination is keep my focus on the one in front on me.
I believe that God is constantly breaking into our lives and speaking to us but we are not always watching or listening.
We never know when or where God is going to show up - throw open the curtains and startle us with truth. Those of you who were at the Candlemas service last Sunday will have been in a God encounter, but how many would have noticed?
Back to the story - Simon just had the greatest fishing day of his life. He had probably caught more fish in one day than he had ever caught before in an entire year. Enough to fill two boats. They could sell the fish, and not work for a whole year!. But Jesus has just called them to go after something bigger and more valuable. He had called them to be fishers of men.
Somehow they realized that this was of such supreme importance, that they forsook all and followed Him. They didn’t even pause to count the fish. They just beached the boats, then jumped to land, and left it all behind. The boats, the nets, the record number of fish, everything. Becoming a Christian is absolutely free. There is no cost whatsoever. Jesus paid it all. Through his death, he paid the penalty for our sin. We receive the free gift of eternal life simply by believing in Jesus Christ for it. But becoming a disciple is completely different. There is a cost involved to becoming a disciple. For some it may cost everything you have, everything you are, everything you own. For others it is less costly, but the reward far outweighs the cost.
When God speaks we need to listen. It is not just our hopes and lives that are affected, we are all part of community, we are all in this boat together as people who have been called and invited to follow Christ in this place and for this time.
This is extremely important to grasp, especially as we begin to get caught up and even overwhelmed with the everyday stuff of our daily lives. When as a church community we may begin to struggle with the challenges that will surely come along with things that will put our discipleship to the test.
Always remember, we are not here by accident; we are here by grace and invitation from God. We are here with a purpose ~ to be part of Christ's mission, as we pray every week – “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done..”
God is always interrupting our day, the God encounters are many ~ my hope and prayer this morning is that we don't miss the moments or take them for granted ~ or, even worse, that we dismiss them as mere interruptions to our day, finding excuses for not responding to His call.
Just as it happened for Isaiah and Simon Peter, God is waiting to break into our lives and say "Whom shall I send and who shall go for us." ?
Our response surely has to be: Here am, send me.” Amen.