Thoughts from preaching Luke 5:1-11; Isaiah 6:1-13; Psalm 138; 1 Corinthians 15:1-11.

The Revised Common Lectionary offers amazing passages with tantalizing topics this week. Will we hear the call and obey God and be surprised with the results? There is one who faithfully heard and followed the plan of God, Jesus Christ, as we read about in our New Testament passage. Click here to open a tab with the passages.

Luke 5:1-11 Jesus is with his disciples who are also professional fishermen. They are funding the ministry of Jesus and providing for their families. They work all night. Jesus says, “Put the nets down in the deep water.” Peter’s response, “We’ve tried that, but since you ask we will do it.” Not only do they catch fish, but the haul is so great that the weight of the fish almost sinks the boats. “You will become fishers of people now.”

Fishing the Hudson River

I see many ideas that are devotional and worth thinking about in some form. We are called, so do we trust Jesus for provision? The provision is more than a day’s worth of income for the ministry and for the disciples and their families. It’s not so easy to be anxiety-free about finances or whether or not your idea, project, or ministry will succeed.

A great question we often ask is found in Peter’s response, “Why should we expect anything different?” Sometimes we try and we don’t have the success we want so we stop, never to try again. Why not try again? Maybe we have to go deeper and be patient. Maybe we have to work hard even when we are exhausted.

There may be an idea, which I think is too figurative, about the Jewish symbolism that the sea represents chaos. Jesus is calling the disciples to go into the chaos and to “get people in the boat.”

A theme that I think is fitting for a sermon, at least today, is the repetition we see elsewhere of Call –> Resistance –> Eventual Obedience –> Results that surprise.

Isaiah 6:1-13The lectionary leaves verses 9-13 as optional because, well, it’s not rosy: Isaiah, you can go but your preaching will be met with resistance and negativity. In my mind, this borders on being chicken-hearted. Everyone who has tried anything worthwhile knows there is the likelihood of failure and not everything we do will be met with openness. Face reality. This passage is likely the sermon passage for this week. Isaiah sees a vision of God high and lifted up (exalted above all creation) as the Lord of All. However, it is important to grasp that he sees this vision “in the year that King Uzziah died.” Uzziah is the only king Isaiah has ever known. As a leader, he provided military strength in a tumultuous period and the kingdom grew in prosperity. Now, for the first in Isaiah’s life, the throne is unoccupied. It is fitting then in juxtaposition that Isaiah sees God seated (not running around scared, not empty as if it was abdicated) on the throne above all!

The pastoral umph here is that there are so many fitting ways to cut through the fog as we have all had that moment when “King Uzziah died.” When we got the pink slip. When we got the medical news. When we got that phone call we never wanted. When that person we didn’t vote for was elected to be our leader. It cuts to the quick – in whom do you trust? This doesn’t have to be guilt-inducing and you don’t have to push very hard, for we all know that it is often easy for circumstances and emotions to cloudy our view of God. This can be a reassuring sermon, simply reminding everyone that all other “kings” and “thrones” are insufficient.

Isaiah sees seraphs attending to God, like the king’s court. And this exalted and holy scene catches Isaiah off guard. The presence of God fills the temple. Isaiah responds, “I am unclean.” This is not necessarily about moral purity as I used to think. Isaiah is in the temple and has not ceremonially cleaned himself. Insignificant? Nope! Isaiah is saying, “I am completely taken by surprise. I was not expecting this at all.” And that is just like God! When hell breaks loose and God appears, we say, “I wasn’t expecting this grace to happen to me.” My testimony: I didn’t expect to experience the nearer presence of God when my mom had a short, beautiful, and fierce battle with a recurrence of cancer and died 10 weeks later, but I did.

By the way, God comes to Isaiah before the cleansing of his lips with coals from the altar. God doesn’t wait for us to “be all cleaned up” to appear to us, to come to us, to use us, or to be kind to us. God does what God will do!

Then comes the question with only one answer for someone who has been shaken by life, shaken by the holiness of God, called, and cleansed: who will join my mission on earth? Um, the only answer on the Scantron is “me.” This ties well with the Luke 5 passage. Isaiah does what Peter was hesitant to do: obey the first time.

Here’s the beautiful idea: God is both transcendent and immanent, which we see in Psalm 138. God is both far and near, above and with, holy and human (in Christ).

As stated above, Isaiah asks, “How long is the mission and my part in it?” And God responds until it’s over. No one is going to listen to you, by the way, but your job is to faithfully testify. I know the results, so don’t worry about that. You just remain faithful. Holy cow, this passage carries a lot of weight.

Psalm 138Though the Lord is high, he regards the lowly. I will use this in the call to worship and elsewhere in the liturgy.

1 Corinthians 15:1-11This weekend I read this chapter and decided that though it is a fitting passage I would forego it this time around. I will, perhaps, work on this throughout the year and use this as the text for All Saints Sunday.

Paul presents the “gospel,” the “good news” that he heard and is passing on to others.

  1. Christ died for our sins.
  2. Christ was buried.
  3. Christ was raised on the third day.
  4. Christ appeared to several hundred disciples.

Paul is explaining why the resurrection of Jesus matters. He doesn’t do the metaphysics or allegorize it or go into the swoon theory. This is what I heard and believe and this is why I believe it matters for us as we live here and now.

I will say that many times preachers want to make the resurrection normal, to explain it in a way that isn’t weird or counter to logic. What I like about Paul is that he bears testimony and lets it sit there. Sometimes we don’t need to do the apologetical dance; we just need to bear testimony and let people sit with the Word. After all, the Spirit continues to work after the sermon is ended and before the next one begins.

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