Feb. 6, 2022

Prayer of the Day

Most holy God, the earth is filled with your glory, and before you angels and saints stand in awe. Enlarge our vision to see your power at work in the world, and by your grace make us heralds of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.

Amen.

Isaiah 6:1-8 [9-13]

1In 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. 2Seraphs 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. 3And one called to another and said: 
 “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
 the whole earth is full of his glory.”
4The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke. 5And 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!”
  6Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. 7The 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.” 8Then 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!” [9And he said, “Go and say to this people: 
 ‘Keep listening, but do not comprehend;
 keep looking, but do not understand.’
10Make the mind of this people dull,
  and stop their ears,
  and shut their eyes,
 so that they may not look with their eyes,
  and listen with their ears,
 and comprehend with their minds,
  and turn and be healed.”
11Then I said, “How long, O Lord?” And he said:
 “Until cities lie waste
  without inhabitant,
 and houses without people,
  and the land is utterly desolate;
12until the Lord sends everyone far away,
  and vast is the emptiness in the midst of the land.
13Even if a tenth part remain in it,
  it will be burned again,
 like a terebinth or an oak
  whose stump remains standing
  when it is felled.”
 The holy seed is its stump.

Psalm 138

1I will give thanks to you, O Lord, with | my whole heart;
  before the gods I will | sing your praise.
2I will bow down toward your holy temple and praise your name, because of your steadfast | love and faithfulness;
  for you have glorified your name and your word a- | bove all things. 
3When I called, you | answered me;
  you increased my | strength within me.
4All the rulers of the earth will praise | you, O Lord,
  when they have heard the words | of your mouth.
5They will sing of the ways | of the Lord,
  that great is the glory | of the Lord.
6The Lord is high, yet cares | for the lowly,
  perceiving the haughty | from afar. 
7Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you | keep me safe;
  you stretch forth your hand against the fury of my enemies; your right | hand shall save me.
8You will make good your pur- | pose for me;
  O Lord, your steadfast love endures forever; do not abandon the works | of your hands. 

1 Corinthians 15:1-11

1Now I would remind you, brothers and sisters, of the good news that I proclaimed to you, which you in turn received, in which also you stand, 2through which also you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message that I proclaimed to you—unless you have come to believe in vain.
  3For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, 4and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, 5and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. 7Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 9For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me has not been in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them—though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 11Whether then it was I or they, so we proclaim and so you have come to believe.

Luke 5:1-11

1Once while Jesus was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, 2he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. 3He 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. 4When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” 5Simon answered, “Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.” 6When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break. 7So 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. 8But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” 9For he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken; 10and 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.” 11When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.

Artist John August Swanson (1938-2021) next to his Cast Your Nets

Sermon – Pastor Meggan Manlove

Nets breaking and boats sinking; the mention of these two images is enough for me to recall today’s gospel story–the calling of the first disciples. The crowd of spectators and the men scrambling to haul in the fish awaken the senses. Jesus is well into his ministry in Galilee. Though not welcomed in his own home, Jesus has healed people suffering from demons and diseases and delivered a sermon in the synagogue.

It is noteworthy that Jesus recruits his first disciples in the midst of their workplace –the Sea of Galilee. The call to follow Jesus might occur in a place of worship but clearly that is not a requirement. The men are washing their nets after a night of unsuccessful fishing. There is nothing outstanding about the setting until Jesus appears. He has been healing and teaching and at the center of his ministry is his Word, and the calling of the disciples continues this theme. He teaches the crowd from the boat and then tells Peter to put out his nets into the deep water. Peter trusts Jesus’ words, albeit a little begrudgingly, and lets down the nets, against all reason. 

Reason probably told Peter, an experienced fisherman, that Jesus’ instructions were foolish. The best place and time to catch fish is near the shore in the morning or evening, yet Jesus commands Peter to cast the nets into the deep waters at midday and Peter obeys. Peter knew enough about Jesus’ ministry to be open to possibilities. And Jesus provides an abundance of fish after a night of empty nets. Abundance and new life accompany the Word in Jesus’ work in Galilee. Scrambling in the boat, the first disciples get a glimpse of Jesus’ power. He is obviously more than just a savvy fisherman.

Peter is made aware of more than Jesus’ power. Peter recognizes his own sinfulness. He falls at Jesus’ knees and says, “Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man!” The prophet Isaiah had a similar response. He says, “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!”

There is a famous saying, I really tried to find the source but was unsuccessful, God does not call the equipped. God equips the called. Reflecting on the call stories of this week, someone compared them to a conversation between Frodo and Gandolf in Lord of the Rings. Frodo says, “I wish the ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.” Gandolf replies, “So do all who live to see such times, but it’s not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.” 

So, thank goodness God equips the called rather than calling those already equipped. We are living in a time of so much loss, grief, uncertainty, and doubt. We might think this is not for me. I’m not the right person for this! This is not what I learned in Sunday School or from my early teachers or from my parents. This is not what I thought it would look like to follow Jesus. This is not what it has been. And yet, this is where we are. 

In the same way that God never accepts the protests from the called ones like Isaiah, Peter, or so many others who have gone before us, God gives us what we need to do what is needed. God has given you what you need to do what is needed. God may not have burned your mouth with a hot coal, but God has made you enough – enough for this moment in this place at this time. What will we do with the time that has been given to us?

This is the guidance for discipleship that Jesus gives throughout his ministry–don’t be afraid; leave everything and follow me. The disciples make it look quite easy. They had heard about Jesus and then saw him perform a miracle. Of course they followed him.

When I was a first-year counselor at a Lutheran camp in Montana, that first phrase become essential to my sanity; “Do not be afraid.” Who could imagine how easy it is to forget those words and the promise that we know accompanies them, “I will be with you always.” First year counselors need a good deal of grace. Certainly, they need grace while learning the mechanics like cooking over open stoves and learning hiking routes. 

More than any other time in rhythm of camp life, I needed to be reminded of Christ’s accompaniment during Bible Studies. I was 18 with two weeks of staff training, no seminary training. What questions will engage these campers, what passages will help them make connections with their own lives, how long should I let them be silent before moving on, what can I do to help them open up? About the middle of the week, I was often ready to throw my hands up, frustrated with my inadequacies as a counselor. 

In the middle of every week, we worshiped using Compline, prayer at the close of the day, right out of the old green hymnal but also in the ELWs in our pews. As we read and sang the service I was comforted by the five scripture verses in the service that we read every week– God’s Word – 

Bend your necks to my yoke, and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble-hearted; 

set your troubled hearts at rest, and banish your fears; 

nothing can separate us from the love of Christ; cast all your cares on him, for you are his charge; 

you are in our midst, O Lord, and you have named us yours; do not forsake us, O Lord our God.” 

We were all reminded that we were not alone. Christ Jesus was with each of us, equipping us for the little corner of ministry that was ours. I was not walking beside Jesus in Galilee, but the Holy Spirit was certainly in our midst. I was not alone in my ministry as a camp counselor. The burden was off. But my role was important. I was needed as part of the community.  I was called but did not need to be afraid. God was equipping me along the way.

Jesus did not give up on his disciples when they fell short. And we can take hope from that. They doubted, ignored, and betrayed him, but they also learned from him, spread the good news, cured diseases, and identified him as the Messiah, the healer of the world.  

Our life of discipleship is also full of starts and pauses, tripping and getting back up. In the end we must remember that it is not all about us. We are not called to be God’s children because of qualifications, character or potential, because we are already equipped. God’s call is unpredictable and unmerited. Once we are called, the Holy Spirit works through us. 

I want to experience Jesus’ Word in a setting like that shore in Galilee, in which he and his Word are so clearly present. Thank goodness for tangible gifts that we share, the holy sacraments. Like today’s gospel lesson, Jesus’ Word is central to both. The gifts of Baptism do not come through water alone–the gift comes through the water and the Word. The Word holds the same role in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. 

Jesus gives us tangible gifts in the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper if we trust his words. Peter trusted Jesus and threw his nets into the sea. Jesus promises we will hear the Word in the sacraments. God intercedes through the word with the water, bread, and wine and forgives our sins and gives healing and wholeness. God gives abundant life, as abundant as that catch of fish. Through the Word and bread and wine, the Holy Spirit equips us still today.

Prayers of Intercession

The Spirit of the Lord is poured out upon us in abundance; so we are bold to pray for the church, the world, and all that God has made.

A brief silence.

Equip your church to proclaim the good news that we have first received: the forgiveness and grace shown to us through Jesus Christ. Send us out as apostles, sharing the hope of your salvation with a waiting world. God of grace,

hear our prayer.

Holy are you, O God of hosts. Heaven and earth are filled with your glory. Reveal your splendor in fiery sunsets and in deep blue twilights. Teach us to recognize you in the beauty of our natural world. God of grace,

hear our prayer.

Soften the hearts of rulers and governments that they perceive and tend to the needs of their people. Remove corruption and the impulse toward violence. Protect first responders and military personnel who risk their lives in service of others. God of grace,

hear our prayer.

Your steadfast love endures forever; do not abandon those who look to you for hope and healing. Bless doctors, nurses, social workers, therapists, and all caregivers. Draw near to those who are scared, sick, or in pain (especially). God of grace,

hear our prayer.

The disciples received help from partners as they brought in an abundant catch of fish. So strengthen this congregation’s partnerships with community organizations and ministries (especially). Multiply our shared efforts and bring joy to our relationships. God of grace,

hear our prayer.

Here other intercessions may be offered.

We give thanks for our ancestors in faith who boldly answered your call. By their example give us courage to live in faith and to proclaim your mercy until the day that you gather us into your glory. God of grace,

hear our prayer.

Since we have such great hope in your promises, O God, we lift these and all of our prayers to you in confidence and faith; through Jesus Christ our Savior.

Amen.

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