“Do Not Be Afraid”
Isaiah 6:1-8 and Luke 5:1-11
10 February 2019
The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor
West Walworth: Zion & East Rochester United Methodist Churches
Isaiah 6:1-8 (http://bible.oremus.org/?ql=416377006)
In 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. Seraphs 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. And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.” The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke.
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!” Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. The 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.” 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!”
Luke 5:1-11 (http://bible.oremus.org/?ql=416377061)
Once while Jesus was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. He 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.
When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.” When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break. So 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.
But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” For he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken; and 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.” When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.
The first five chapters of the book of Isaiah
Are the prophet speaking God’s judgment upon Judah and Jerusalem
For rebelling against the Lord,
Sinful, corrupt behavior,
And for forsaking God.
God’s judgment is imminent, Isaiah reports.
The Lord’s anger will bring punishment by means of a foreign, invading nation.
The few who survive
Will be defeated, hungry, and thirsty;
Imprisoned, forced into exile; and
Darkness and distress will fall like the night throughout the land.
This is pretty bad news.
Yet, God leaves a sliver of hope
For the prophet to share with the condemned:
Punishment will be repaid,
The remnant will be freed from captivity and return,
Jerusalem will be restored, lifted up, and all nations will stream to it.
Out of Jerusalem
People will learn the ways of the Lord,
Swords will be beat into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks,
And nations will not lift up a sword against nation,
Neither shall they learn war any more.
Good news follows bad news.
The call narrative of Isaiah is pretty remarkable.
It comes as a vision
In the temple;
Isaiah alone with the Lord.
Fire and smoke fill the air,
The ground shakes,
Even as celestial beings fly about the head of the Lord, saying
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of his glory.” (6:3)
It’s almost like a scene out of Ghostbusters!
Isaiah knows his own inadequacies.
He doesn’t believe he deserves to be in the presence of the Lord.
“Woe is me? I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips.” (6:6)
In other words
Isaiah was a potty mouth, and
He ran with others who swore like sailors, too.
The Lord doesn’t use soap to wash out his mouth;
He burns it out with a hot coal.
“Whom shall I send?” the Lord asks a room full of one.
In Hebrew there is no punctuation.
So an exclamation point in our English language Bibles are a translator’s commentary.
With the exclamation point, we can imagine an excited Isaiah
Jumping up and down,
Thinking he will be delivering Good News from God,
Hand held high, saying
Oo! Oo! Oo!
“Here am I; send me!”
Without the exclamation point, we can imagine Isaiah looking left, then right,
Feeling small and alone in an otherwise empty Temple,
Knowing that he is being sent to deliver bad news from God to the people,
Meekly raising a hand, reluctantly saying
“Here am I; (gulp) send me.”
We usually think of sin being solved by forgiveness.
Here, God is doing a new thing.
God’s response to sin is a call to follow.
God looked upon Isaiah and saw a sinner.
He calls him anyway.
Which leads me to wonder …
What does God see in me?
What does God see in you?
We are called anyway.
The Gospel call of Simon Peter and
Brothers James and John
As recorded in Luke
has reverberations that echo back to the call of Isaiah;
What is the response to God’s call?
Moses stammered that he wasn’t a good public speaker.
It didn’t matter.
Jeremiah claimed he was too young.
Amos said he was just a farmer.
I’ve got a place just for you.
Jonah refused because he didn’t like God’s grace.
God had other plans.
Hosea probably didn’t like the fact that God gave him a prostitute for a wife.
She became a mother to their three children.
And of course, Isaiah protested he was a sinner.
The solution was being called,
Drawn to become a follower of God.
Simon Peter’s excuse didn’t stand a chance of holding water.
“Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” he proclaims. (5:8)
His protest just wasn’t going to cut it.
Jesus responds “Do not be afraid.” (5:10)
Do not be afraid
Is the calm assurance of a confident God.
The Lord had been to this rodeo before.
Drawing people to follow is a tried and true characteristic of our Lord.
It is of interest to me that Jesus doesn’t overtly recruit Simon Peter,
And neither did he directly ask James and John to come and follow.
He simply states the obvious,
“From now on you will be catching people.”
They respond in kind.
They brought their boats to shore,
Left everything and followed him.
Following Christ is sufficient to have sins forgiven;
Former sins are
Displaced to the dustpan of faded memory.
Follow Jesus, and leave the rest up to God.
This is the Good News Luke longs us to hear.
The implications of being drawn into the vortex of God are immense.
There are no pre-existing conditions or circumstances
That would disqualify anyone from discipleship.
No sin is too great.
No excuse is sufficient.
Everyone is drawn in by God’s grace
Into becoming one of his disciples.
The Lord sees something of value in everyone.
You or I may not see it, or even be aware of it.
Upon introspection, you or I may also reject God’s call to service
Because we may be overly focused on our deficits;
What we can’t do.
When we look upon others,
We often tend to marginalize, diminish, or discount
The value we believe what someone else could bring to the table.
But Jesus sees through the smokescreen.
He sees something of value in you and me
That can be employed for his service.
The fact that you are here today
Begs the question,
What does Jesus see within you?
There is something of value.
Perhaps you’ve uncovered some answers,
But is there value still to be discovered?
Remove the basket that hides your light.
Lift it high and allow your light to shine!
In our work of discipleship,
When we nudge others towards the vortex of God’s presence
The question our Gospel leads us to ask of the hesitant, is
“What’s your excuse for not following Jesus?”
What’s your excuse? We can confidently ask
Because we know
That there is no excuse
That God can’t overcome.
There is no excuse
That God can’t overlook
And see the deeper value yet unrealized.
Do not be afraid, dearly beloved.
The Lord has found something of value in you.
Lead others to Christ,
That they, too, may be drawn into the vortex of the Call.
From now on
You and me,
We will be catching people.