Scripture: Old Testament- Isaiah 6 1-8
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. 3 And they were calling to one another:
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty;
the whole earth is full of his glory.”
4 At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.
5 “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”
6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7 With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”
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!”
Over the past 2 weeks I found myself in several exciting email exchanges with Pastor Larry, a few of you tenacious trinitarians, and even some of our studious sweaty sheep… each inquiring about what scripture passages I’d be speaking on this morning.
Why is that exciting you may ask?
Because more often than not, the scripture reading component of a Sunday service doubles as an invitation to drift into a daydreaming session that, pending on the energy of the pastor’s transition, sets the stage for a full fledge nap during the sermon to follow!
Not the case for this honor roll flock! Not only were all eyes open during the Isaiah reading, but several of you actually studied it in advance!
Exciting indeed! However, knowing there were well-read and researched ears in the pews did induce flashbacks of sermon-writing for seminary professors with red pens!
Lesson numero uno: Presbyterian and other reformed churches (Methodists, Lutherans, and such who broke from the Catholic church in the 16th century) follow a big biblical blueprint of sorts called a lectionary. Which, when followed, maps out a three-year journey through the Bible.
There are several advantages to this:
- It exposes congregations to the full diversity of the Bible
- it keeps our many diverse churches unified (a methodist church in Virginia is likely diving in with the same Luke and Isaiah readings as we are,)
- It outlines relationships between Biblical books and themes
- And last but not least, it keeps pastors from preaching the same sermon every Sunday!
It’s been said that most pastors rotate through 3 basic sermons using different words each time throughout the course of their ministerial career!
…No wonder we put folks to sleep!
And fittingly, themes of ‘sleeping’ and ‘sending’ tie today’s lectionary passages together (of which we’re diving in with two of the four.)
Several weeks back I had quite possibly the lamest dream ever.
Upon drifting off to sleep I found myself literally ‘drifting’ about in a boat on placid Caribbean waters with a fishing rod in hand.
(I said lame, not unpleasant)…
No incriminate weather on the horizon, no jaws music in the background, no Hollywood Baywatch lifeguards in skimpy bathing suits on the beach (no beach in sight actually),no Jesus walking on water or calming storms… (like I said, no storms to calm).
… just me, a boat, and a fishing rod. Bobbing up and down under a blue sky. I reeled in the line, I cast the line out, reeled in, cast out… bob up; bob down, reel in; cast out, no bites, no… well… anything.
Then all the sudden, get this, I woke up!
Yep. That was it. The most boring dream in the history of slumbering! However, I did feel pretty darn rested that morning!!
Strange, in the waking world there are few things I dislike more than fishing.
Despite being an avid sailor basically born on the bay back in Annapolis, Maryland;I get seasick the second I cast a line from a boat or bored out of my mind the second cast one off a pier.
Accident prone by nature, I always end up bleeding (hooks, knives, and slippery animals with sharp teeth and/or fins are not my friends)…
Finally, despite my rough and tough appearance (that’d be cue for a mocking laugh) I am that guy no one wants on board, who not only releases all the fish, but apologizes obnoxiously to each for piercing their lip.
Thus I probably wouldn’t have been a welcome companion on Simon’s boat alongside Jesus and the Disciples in Luke’s passage today, but lets take a listen anyway shall we: (and note most crowd is left on shore)
‘ 1 One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God. 2 He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. 3 He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat. ‘
I’m all with them up to this point… we actually have a Sweaty Sheep Sailboat in the harbor, the ‘Salty Sheep,’ that triples as our church, playground and classroom! And we continue on
4 …When Jesus had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” 5 Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”
Pause! This is a key component in ‘sending’ stories spanning the Bible (and likely each of our personal lives!) There is almost always an ‘I don’t wanna’ response. Probably because our call to fish usually does not entail a Caribbean vacation of rest, relaxation, and reeling in the sun’s rays…
We are ‘called’ out of our comfort zones and ‘sent’ to step out of ourselves, our agendas, and expectations. Those words, ‘call’ and ‘send’ can sound contradictory in modern vernacular; however, the two function like worm and hook in the Christian faith tradition.
‘I don’t wanna…’ Simon was tired! He was ready to sleep! But out into the sea he was sent, and important to note, with Jesus at his side. Another component in our calling, we are never alone regardless of who lonely we may feel.
…6 When they had brought in their nets, they had caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. 7 So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink. 8 When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said,
“Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!”
‘Go away’ is kind of like the embarrassed remark one would make when waiting for the classic, ‘I told you so,’ that comes after being proven wrong.
“Theres no use Josh, your crazy… we’ve been there, fished that, and its not worth our time… lets head to town for happy hour instead like the other fisherman…”
Wrong. Cast your net… and sure enough! Fish!
But Jesus is above an ‘I told you so,’ because, and this is essential, our being sent is not a punishment but an empowerment!
…Consequently, being a ‘fisher of men’ calls us to empowering others (not ‘serve’ or save them.)
9 Simon and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, 10 as were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” 11 So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.
I know what you’re thinking, so where does ‘sleeping’ fit in?
Glad you asked! As earlier alluded, today’s passages are part of a larger lectionary grouping. Each day (not just Sunday) the lectionary provides 4 complementary passages, each expanding upon one another by adding new context, perspective, voice, and vocabulary. Most often they include an old testament reading, a psalm, a gospel and an epistle.
We hit two with Isaiah and Luke, but all four of today’s passages center around this idea of ‘being sent.’
This is known as ‘apostleship…’ (think post office, like sending a letter… if there are still people that send non-digitalized mail.)
Apostle is not a foreign word. We recite (and maybe on occasion pay attention to the words of) the ‘apostle’s creed’ many a Sunday morning…
a simple reminder that our faith is about fishing, not daydreaming!
And one particular word, KOYMAHO, finds its way into a variety of apostle-rooted passages.
Simon was tired when called back out to the sea… Yearning to call it a day, craving Koymaho… but he pushed on!
The epistle of today’s lectionary, letter of the apostle Paul to Corinth. (aopstle Paul utilizing the ancient postal system!)
1 Cor 15, recounts Jesus’ post-resurrection appearance to ‘more than five hundred followers, of whom it was written,‘most of whom were still living, though some had fallen asleep.’
Koymaho, or ‘sleep’ is used throughout the New Testament meaning both ‘sleep’ in terms of slumber; but moreover, ‘sleeping’ in terms of what you tell your kiddo about their pet, ol’ Gus the goldfish, upon flushing it down the toilet.
“Don’t worry betsy, he’s just taking a nap…’
You can sleep and be a believer…They said Lennon was a dreamer, king ‘had a dream,’ Heck, disciples are dreamers and dreaming is a beautiful thing!
You can slumber while sitting in a boat with a bobber in the bay and even read a bit of the Bible in the midst. That’s awesome!
However, as the late T.E. Lawrence wrote, “those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds, wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act on their dreams with open eyes.”
Being sent is a shift from discipleship to an apostleship, from receiver to a sender, from dreamer to doer…
It’s about reeling in overflowing nets not lolligaging with lifeless lines!
Today is an alarm clock, a call towards our greater purpose, and answering that call provides the heartbeat of our soul.
Today, as Marcus Borg deems, is a call from ‘orthodoxy to orthopraxy!’
That same word, sleep, appears throughout the New Testament passion narratives, describing the disciples on watch the night that Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gesthmene and throughout the Old Testament in it’s Hebrew vernacular which expands its meaning to include ‘laziness or slothfulness.’
“HOLY word you cant yell in a pulpit“ yelled our excited Captain as a rod came to life triggered a bell on the back of a charter boat some friends and commandeered off the coast of Honduras.
Like Luke’s Gospel reiterates, the initial rush of hooking the fish is intense! Life-giving! An awesome WAKE UP call to the ‘Koymaho’ or sleeping sheep! But hooking the fish doesn’t make you a fisherman or fisher of men.
My buddy grabbed the rod and started reeling and wrestling the massive sailfish… and we grabbed my buddy!
“6 When they had brought in their nets,’ Luke’s gospel reads,’they had caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. 7 So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them…’
You are called, but not in isolation, we are a church, we are in this together!
… think the happy bicycling Mormon brothers who come knocking two by two in freshly pressed shirts and smiles.
An hour later the sailfish finally made it to the boat’s starboard side. We were proud and exhausted, when all the sudden captain raised a brute metal pole high in the air…
Whoa! Wait! I yelled (remember I’m the guy who doesn’t like to hurt any fish…)
“Dangerous to bring in boat,” he said in broken English. “Kill first. Hit with pole. not cause blood. Sailfish no good taste… but make good picture for wall!”
And so we close out today with two points of wisdom evoked by our Honduran captain and friend Jonah the sailfish.
- No-one said our being ‘sent’ is safe!
“Here I am Lord, Send me” yells Isaiah to the Heavens in elation….
“Look at that,” Simon and the gang likely exclaimed, “we will feast today!”
Initially our sending is exciting and rightfully so… we all crave purpose and just the same, as horrible as it sounds, kinda want to show off.
Post the picture of the big catch! Show the slide show of the mission trip we took or put the dollars donated to fire victims in our newsletter.
Thats not an insult, its natural human inclination….
However, when the initial adrenaline wears off the reality often sets in:
‘When they brought in the nets,’ wrote Luke, ‘fish filled both boats so full that they began to sink.”
By opening our hearts to new neighbors, we risk breaking them, but as the old adage states, ‘it is through the cracks that the light shines through.’ Being a fisher of men means reeling fellow humans into relationship!
A call to love… and love can mean heartbreak. Dangerous!
I ‘called’ Larry up the other day when the line of our rod went taunt…
A fish from the Homeless Garden Project needed a safe place to park while navigating the channel out of houselessness.
In response, over the past week’s, Trinity’s gone fishing… striving to answer the call and serve as a demonstration for faith communities throughout the city of a ‘safe parking’ initiative…
An initiative that may cause some ripples in the placid waters of Melrose ave.
If that wasn’t enough, last night we needed a spot where a school of fish, some very special friends from ‘Shared Adventures,’ could dance the night away in celebration of Valentines day!
Again, I am excited to share that we were met with open doors and open hearts to which we are exceedingly grateful…
Both of these include real people who also have purpose and callings!
Thus lesson 2:
We must ask ourselves just what/who are we fishing for, why, and what do we do when we ‘hook them’…
Is it for our own nutrition or sport, a trophy sailfish on the wall and cool picture?
…or to help others?
That question at hand, I leave you with a thought…
Knowing that a new friend may well be joining you on campus in the near future…
knowing every Wednesday you all open up your doors to many others to sleep in shelter and safety…
knowing that a great community of special people came to dance the evening away last night and many more are swimming nearby looking for acceptance…
May we continue to answer our call to open our doors to those in need and our hearts to love em as friends not fish when reeling in the nets.
We remember the earlier statement that our calling and sending is meant to empower, and we are sent to empower others…
I leave you with a thought that differentiates casting lines and ‘fishing for men…’ beautifully phrased by Australian activist, Lilla Watson:
“If you have come here (been sent here) to help me you are wasting your time, but if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”
So maybe it’s not who we are fishing for, but who we are fishing with?