Sermon – 02-10-19 – Epiphany V – Cycle C
Scriptures: Isaiah 6:1-8, Psalm 138, I Corinthians 15:1-11; Luke 5:1-11
Sermon Title: “Pass It On”
“Who will go for us?” says the voice of the Lord. “Whom shall I send?” Isaiah says, “Here I am; send me! Then we have Peter, James, and John leaving their fishing business to follow the Lord and spreading the word. ” And then we have Paul spreading the word after having persecuted Christians.
God reveals himself to Isaiah in a vision. It seems that a vision happens when people are awake and a dream happens when people are sleeping. This vision was HOLY, capital letters. There was the Lord on a throne and the hem of his robe filled the temple.
There were strange creatures, called Seraphs. I picture these seraphs singing the “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory” to each other back and forth as they flew around in this spacious setting. The words of Isaiah in the Contemporary English Version (CEV) of the Bible are, “The doorposts of the temple shook and the temple was filled with smoke. Then I cried out, “I’m doomed! Everything I say is sinful, and so are the words of everyone around me. Yet I have seen the King, the Lord All-Powerful.”
Isaiah considers himself to be too much of a sinner to find himself in this vision. God does not say, You’re right Isaiah. I can’t use you. This vision is a mistake. Go back to what you were doing.” No. God fixes the problem. One of the seraphs takes a burning coal and places it on Isaiah’s lips. Ooo! Now Isaiah is free of all past sin. He is guilty no longer.
So as a spokesperson for God, Isaiah has the awful job of warning the Israelites that God is angry with them. They better change their attitudes and their habits. But of course, attitudes are not changed, habits are not changed. Idols and idolatrous ways continue. Whammo! God uses the Assyrians and the Babylonians to play havoc with these Israelites. The area called Judah falls! The area called Israel falls! Most of the people are scooted off to Babylon including some of the prophets.
Question! How are they moved from the promised land to Babylon? A question for research. Did they march? In Isaiah 5:29, the CEV uses the words “grab” and “drag.” It reads, “They (meaning Assyrians and Babylonians) roar and growl like fierce young lions as they grab their victims and drag them off where no one can rescue them.” The New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) is similar but uses the word “carry” instead of “drag,” I can’t quite picture each Israelite being carried or dragged from Jerusalem to Babylon, can you?
Now you are asking, “Where is Babylon?” followed by “How far is Babylon?” Well it is hundreds of miles. Babylon is to the east of Jerusalem. First the Jordan River would need to be circumnavigated. So the route needed to go north before it went south to get to the east. This is big-time drama. God is really angry because the people turn their backs on him and are living in anti-ten-commandment style. Poor Isaiah! God requires much from this servant!
Moving along to the time of Jesus, Peter (called Simon in our scripture passage today) and James and John are giving up after a night of no fish in their nets. So as God would have it, Jesus comes along right then. This is early in his ministry. Jesus is in the market for disciples. Jesus is surrounded by people already. This Jesus has charisma. The scene is the lake of Gennesaret.
Wanting to have a sort of pulpit instead of being in the middle of the crowd, Jesus claims one of the empty boats and sits in it to talk to the crowd. He finishes talking. Jesus turns to Simon Peter and directs him to put out the boat into the lake again. Peter says, “No way! We were out all night and look what we have – nothing!” (or similar words) However, Simon Peter mellowed and said “Okay.” So many fish came into their nets that one boat needed help from a second boat. Now Simon Peter is in awe of Jesus. Get this! Simon Peter announces that he is a sinful man! Sounds like Isaiah to me. Jesus says, “Do not be afraid. From now on, you will be catching people. And just like that, Simon Peter and his partners who are brothers, James and John, leave their boats, their nets, their families. I don’t know who took care of the fish.
So far we have two sinners who were called to work for the Lord with their mouths. Of course, where their mouths went, so did their weary bodies and discouraged souls.
How about our third character? Paul, starts life as Saul: Persecutor of Christians! He thinks he is working for God. He is a serious, devout Jew – one of the temple club. He thinks Jesus is a trouble-maker, like a cult leader. Even after Jesus ascended to be reunited with the Father after the crucifixion and resurrection, Saul is very zealous in his attempt to keep Judaism pure and healthy. Saul is present at the stoning of Stephen, an early speaker for Jesus.
But one day when Saul is heading for Damascus to persecute even more Christians, the voice of Jesus comes from the heavens as Saul is struck blind saying, “Why are you persecuting me? From now on you will work for me!” This account can be found in Acts 9.
That is when Saul became Paul, having his sight restored. With the same or more zealousness, Paul won people for Christ, starting umpteen churches along the Mediterranean Sea. In our passage today from Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth, Paul is saying that he is the least worthy of the apostles. Paul is saying, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me has not been in vain.”
How do we fit into these three pictures? Remember the live coal that removed Isaiah’s sins in that Holy setting? Then do you know the time when the symbol of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost in Jerusalem was little tongues of flames that came upon everyone assembled and they could understand the spoken words in their own language? When Jesus blinded Saul on the way to Damascus their was blinding light to convert Paul to speak for Jesus. So we shall think of the light and the jumping flames of the Holy Spirit coming into our lives. Did you never notice a jumping flame in your life? Look again! Be aware again! Maybe a live coal came upon your mind and heart. Let us not put a band-aid on that spot and ignore it. Let us pay attention to what God wants us to be doing, how God wants us to live. Let us share the news, spread the news. Let us pass it on! Let us not stifle the excitement of the Holy Spirit when it comes upon us! Let us give our souls freedom to blossom like the buds on the trees in the springtime.
Pass It On
It only takes a spark to get a fire going,
And soon all those around can warm up in its glowing;
That’s how it is with God’s love, once you’ve experienced it:
You spread His love to everyone, you want to pass it on.
What a wondrous time is spring – when all the trees are budding,
The birds begin to sing, the flowers start their blooming;
That’s how it is with God’s love, once you’ve experienced it:
You want to sing, it’s fresh like spring, you want to pass it on.
I wish for you my friend, this happiness that I’ve found –
You can depend on Him, it matters not where you’re bound;
I’ll shout it from the mountain top, I want my world to know:
The Lord of love has come to me, I want to pass it on.