Sermon on the Word:
Here am I Lord, send me! The words of Isaiah ring out. It is incredible to read this week of the calling of Isaiah, and also of the calling of the first disciples in our Gospel Reading. It is amazing all the more because we looking on thousands of years later know of the incredible things God achieved through them – because they were willing to answer the call that God had placed on their lives.
Isaiah goes on to become one of the great prophets of God – he sees and foretells of the wonders of Christ, especially in chapter 53. If you aren’t familiar I encourage you to read it this week. The first apostles Peter, Andrew, James and John we know become the great apostles and leaders of the Christian Church following Jesus death and resurrection. They bring thousands of people to faith, who in turn bring others to faith… and so on until we get to the 21st century as we stand in this church in West Wyalong on the other side of the world.
Let’s talk about those apostles in our Gospel account today. When they are called they promptly drop what they are doing and obediently follow the Lord.
We would love to imagine ourselves to be like the apostles wouldn’t we? We would like to think that we are following without question God’s call for our lives… and some of you may be… I know my story is much more mixed!
The thing is if we read about these first disciples in the Gospel accounts we find that their immediate response didn’t make them perfect - Simon-Peter is the best example for me, he is quick to follow and proclaim his undying love and loyalty to Jesus… but he is also the one to whom Jesus says ‘Get behind me Satan!’ when he is thinking more of earthly matters than of the Kingdom, he is the one who despite following a man who preached nothing but love for enemies and forgiveness, cut the ear off a soldier sent to arrest Jesus. He is the one who despite his promises of loyalty even to death, denied Jesus three times on the night of his arrest… Peter and the others weren’t perfect. Despite their willingness to follow the call God had put on their lives, their human weakness and inclination to sin still overpowered them at times.
And that is an incredibly important thing for us to acknowledge both about Isaiah and about our Gospel account. Sin – our offences and failures which offend against God.
Both Isaiah and Peter when confronted with the presence of God declared their sinfulness and their unworthiness. And of course they were right – they along with each of us were imperfect sinners. We - each of us fail to live as God would have us live – in absolute love and care for each other.
But that’s the thing - Do you know what was truly remarkable about the ministry of the apostles? It wasn’t that they were perfect at it, it wasn't that they never made mistakes, it wasn’t that they had it easy - many of them ended up being martyred. No what was remarkable was that when it was hard, when they didn’t understand why, when they made mistakes and stumbled, they didn’t give up.
They picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, repented of past errors and set off to continue on the journey God had called them on. The apostles, just like Isaiah, were used by God to achieve incredible things. It was through their ministry that the church was established, and it is because they answered God’s call, and persevered that the church exists today - 2000 years later, and that more than 2 billion people have at least some link to the Christian faith.
They could never have imagined what God would do through them - and of course we cannot imagine what he can achieve through us.
Over the past couple of weeks we have been talking about God’s call on our lives – that we are called to bring the message of hope and salvation found in Christ to those around us. We saw last week that Jesus when faced with a crowd that didn’t want to hear his message in the synagogue at Nazareth, stood firm, confident in God’s call.
This week we see Peter, Andrew, James and John who witness the work of God incarnate in their midst on that fishing boat and they are willing to give up everything to follow him. They acknowledged their own weaknesses and flaws, they acknowledged their need for God’s forgiveness and salvation, and then they simply ploughed on confident that they needed to fulfil their calling.
In a few days we begin the season of Lent. It is a season when we are called to reflect on our own need for God’s forgiveness and salvation. It is a season when we are called to assess our own journey with God and to recommit to our faith and our own call as disciples of Christ as we anticipate the celebration of Easter.
So often in the church though Lent has been a time of sorrow and sadness - where the focus has been completely on our own wretchedness. That should not be your focus this Lent. Your focus like Peter, and like Isaiah in our readings should be on your calling. Peter and Isaiah admitted their sinfulness – and we are called to do the same – but they then gave up everything to follow God’s call on their lives.
Lent is a time when we traditionally give something up. Too often though in our modern world people choose things to give up which are rather trivial – chocolate or coffee etc…
What we should be focussing on are those things that get in the way of our calling as disciples of Jesus, those things that interfere with our ability to bear witness to others of Jesus love and forgiveness. Those are the things that we are called to discard, those are the things which we need to focus on giving up – not just for Lent, but for good.
Luke says Peter and the others When they had brought their boats to shore, left everything and followed Jesus. These were working class men who depended on fishing for their livelihood…. They were willing to walk away and leave it all – because they knew if they stayed they would not be fulfilling God’s call on their lives. They were willing to give it all as they trusted in God. And as we know they achieved greatness.
Over these next couple of days let us all examine our lives and our faith, and ask ourselves, what are we being called to give up. What are those things in our lives which are holding us back in our relationship with God. As we enter Lent on Wednesday let us be willing to acknowledge our sins and if necessary – just as Peter and the other did, leave everything and follow him.
The Lord be with you.