Feb 9, 2019
Old Testament Isaiah 6:1–8 (9–13)
New Testament 1 Corinthians 15:1–11
Gospel Luke 5:1–11
SEE BELOW FOR (ALMOST) FULL TEXT OF SERMON
Isaiah was an unclean man with unclean lips, yet he became the greatest preacher and poet bringing the judgement and mercy of God to the whole world. Peter was a sinful man who told Jesus to go away, but on this rock the church was built. Paul was a legalistic persecutor of the church, of Jesus, and his followers but he became the greatest ever evangelist sharing the message of God’s grace and mercy. I was a timid, bullied teenager, yet I stand before you today a confident preacher. Maybe your parents, Sunday school teachers, or others who shared and taught you the faith, weren’t perfect or felt inadequate and yet here you are today because God chose them and used them. We have the same commission and the same gospel to share, to be fishers of people, to go with the message to all those around us. Like all who have gone before us even though we may feel unworthy or inadequate, Jesus’ risen life is in us and he will do great things.
A uni student sits in a pew on a short term mission to the
Godless city of Maryborough Queensland and for the first time
really understands the idea of grace as the leader of the mission
team practices his sermon. The leader uses the illustration of a
man who has a speeding fine... A uni student sits in a pew on
a short term mission to the Godless city of Maryborough Queensland
and for the first time really understands the idea of grace as the
leader of the mission team practices his sermon. The leader uses
the illustration of a man who has a speeding fine... On the
mission team the Uni student has the job of choosing the Hymn. The
words of Amazing Grace but especially Tolady’s “Rock of ages come
alive for him for the first time:Nothing in my hand I bring,simply
to your cross I cling.Naked, come to you for dress,helpless, look
to you for grace.
He feels unworthy but for the first time he gets a glimpse of the love of God for him and the calling of God on his life. As unworthy and inadequate as he feels he suddenly sees himself as someone who is loved by God so much that for him and for all the world the Word, Jesus, became flesh and pitched his tent among us, living his life for us even unto death that we might be reconciled to God and raised with him to new life.Even today he feels unworthy but he knows that the love of God has been poured into his heart and that with all God’s people he is called to be light and salt to the world, a fisher of people. That uni student of course is me and as I said, often I feel unworthy and unequal to the task that is before me, but then I remember the one who loves me and calls, and does not call me all on my own but calls all God’s people, including you!
More than 2,500 years earlier a young priest is serving in the temple. Suddenly he sees a vision....The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke. 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!"
He is struck by fear and guilt. I am unclean, a sinner, unworthy.Woe is me I am lost. To see God is to die. Even Moses is not permitted to see God face to face. Surely the Holiness of God will burn Isaiah up, but no, instead God cleanses him and then. God calls, “Who will go for us? Whom shall I send?” And Isaiah suddenly realising God’s mercy and grace toward him, probably still feeling unworthy and inadequate says. “Here I am, send me.”He is commisioned to proclaim the word, to confront his whole nation with it’s sin and brokenness, but also to proclaim in some of the most beautiful poetry of the Bible, the promises, mercy and comfort of God in the midst of the people’s suffering.
Another man, perhaps in his 30s is in a boat. He comes in weary after a fruitless night fishing. Jesus comes by and because the crowd is big and because a preacher’s voice can carry well across water he asks Peter if he can preach from the boat. If we follow John’s gospel, perhaps Peter already knows Jesus, introduced to him by John the Baptist and by Peter’s brother Andrew. So Peter happily lets this exciting Rabbi preach from his boat.
We don’t know exactly what he preached but it would have been about the Kingdom of God, about how it is coming but also about how it is already here. So when he is finished and Jesus a Rabbi and crpenter says to the professional fisherman Peter, “let down your nets”, Peter does it, “because it is you lord”. Something amazing happens! The nets are so full thhat not only one but two boats are on the verge of sinking. The preaching, and then the fish are too much for Peter. Like Isaiah and Jeremiah and Esther, and so many otherss when faced by God, Peter feels unworthy.
Go away from me I am unworthy, sinner. But what does Jesus do, he does not go away, even though Peter is a sinner, who when push come to shove denies he even knows who Jesus is three times on the night of Jesus’ trial and again feels unworthy running into the night weeping. But Peter sinner though he is, still called by God to be a fisher of people a maker of disciples. Forgiven and commissioned by the risen Jesus to care for the flock, to feed his sheep.
Yet another man in his 30s is on a road to Damascus is
confronted in a vision or perhaps a tangible resurrection
appearance, as one untimely born. He is confronted by Jesus, and
named as a persecutor. He is led blinded into the city, and
overcome with guilt or fear refuses to eat or drink for 3 days
until Jesus again speaks, but this time through a man Annanias who
knows that just a few days ago, he would have been thrown into jail
by this man who Jesus has him go to. And Paul has the amazing
experience of being healed, restored to sight, and as unworthy as
he is realises that Jesus has a claim and a call on his life. In
time he comes to know that God is at work in him, the least worthy,
the chief of sinners, and he becomes the greatest evangelist and
church planter there has ever been. He writes many letters
including one to church in Corinth. It speaks of the power and the
hope that the resurrection of Jesus brings to all. I worked harder
than any of the other apostles, he says, yet it wasn’t me that did
it “but the grace of God that is with me.” This is the good news in
whch we stand ant through which we are also being saved!
A congregation at least 29 and maybe almost 40 years old sits before a preacher on a Sunday morning. He’s telling them about the power of the risen Jesus in people’s lives and how that same Jesus is also calling them like Isaiah will go and speak for God. This is a huge task that lies before them, it is the same task that was given to Peter and to Paul, to proclaim the gospel, to fish for people and to make disciples.
Perhaps they feel unworthy. Perhaps they feel unequal to the task. Yet it is the same risen Jesus who calls us. We may feel unequal to the task, but think of that young priest and those two apostles. A man of unclean lips among a people of unclean lips. A fisherman, who denied he even knew who Jesus was. A persecutor of the church who approved of the stoning of Stephen and threw Jesus’ followers into prison. Or Think of me, bullied as a teenager, convinced of my worthlessness, yet hearing about the love and grace and mercy of God and transformed. Think of the Sunday school teacher who inspired you in the past. Think of a friend who shared their faith with you or just took you along to church. Think of your mum or dad who perhaps raised you in the faith, sharing the stories of the love anf grace of God, so that you too came to know Jesus’ love. Think of your husband or wife who perhaps encouraged you in faith. None of these were perfect, some of them might not have been very Holy people, all of them like you and me were sinners, and yet the grace and call of God was upon them and God used them. We know this because you are here today. An just as they were called and empowered to share the Gospel, so are you!