Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Snow Day Pub Theology: Discipleship

Sermon: Our Calling

          Such a vision—seeing God enthroned, robe outstretched like glory, filling the temple. Fiery angels, Serephs, who are overawed by God, struck like a match off of God’s holiness—that same holiness that they sing of, “Holy Holy Holy, truly the Lord God’s glory fills completely the cosmos!” Their song overwhelming like earthquake and volcano, a wildfire upon the great heavenly altar!
          What can a human do faced with the divine? How can our faults not be so obvious in the face of the Faultless?
          And yet, that too is taken care of… from the billowing heat of the altar a coal transforms Isaiah, his lips—the lips he shall use to speak to God’s people—are transformed like gold is transformed—purified, all that is dross falls away, gold alone remains, all that is rough is removed, diamond alone sparkle with the light of God.
          He hears God calling to him, “whom shall I send? Who will go?”
          And, these lips, now joined to the holiness of the heavenly temple reply, “Here am I; send me!”
          And Isaiah spends the remainder of his life warning the people of danger, of troubles not only immediate—the Assyrians who will disperse the 10 tribes, but in the works, the larger Eastern Empire rising, Babylon, who will end the earthly temple and destroy the Davidic dynasty.
          Imagine that, just look at the strange calling of Isaiah, “shut their eyes, make them dull, keep them from turning and being healed, until all that remains of what was great is a stump.” Not until Jerusalem is burning and whole classes of people are being carted away does his message make sense.
          Just as Isaiah confessed his sinfulness and weakness before he could receive those holy lips, so too his nation had to be humbled before God did a new thing.

          Or consider Peter.
          The Lord hijacks his boat to escape the crowds and preach the word.
          The Lord, this carpenter, tells him how to do his job, has him fish funny, putting down his nets at the wrong time and in the wrong place, and yet a bounty, more fish than one boat could hold, if you look carefully, more than two boats can hold safely!
          That’s when Peter gets the message Jesus was preaching in the synagogue—“The Spirit of the Lord is upon  me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
          Peter didn’t get it in the Synagogue. Peter didn’t get it when Jesus healed Peter’s Mother-in-law. Peter didn’t get it when Jesus turned Peter’s house into a hospital and psych ward for everyone in Capernaum and the region of Galilee.
          But catchin’ fish… that does it for him. He confesses, like Isaiah, of his own inadequacy—he humbles himself, “Go away, I am a sinner.”
          But Jesus quells his fear and calls him again, using more fishy language, “You will now fish for people.”
          And that did it, he received his calling, said in effect, “Here I am, send me.” And he followed after Jesus…
          Followed him through healing and preaching and trial and denial and execution and mourning and resurrection and joy and proclamation and imprisonment and if tradition holds executed by the Romans for holding fast to his faith.
          Or consider Paul, puffed up and zealous—utterly convinced of his rightness, that these “People of the Way”, these earliest Christians, must be stopped; must die if need be!
Utterly convinced, until he was overturned, blinded on the Road to Damascus, face to face with the one the Way worshipped, this Jesus the Messiah. From there taken care of by the very people he hunted and hounded and hurt and persecuted, transformed into a man who can call himself “the least of the apostles” and recognize his new calling, this new humility, as a gift from God. Able to throw up his hands, recognizing his folly and confess, “I am what I am.”
Yes, 180 degrees wrong on what God was doing in Jesus Christ.
Yes, I now confess that the Messiah died, was buried, and rose, and this is in line with scripture.
Yes, he continued to work through the Spirit to empower his followers.
Yes, that includes me!
          Dramatically confronted by Jesus, he is transformed and called, and eventually can say “Here I am, send me.”
          And sent he was, preaching throughout Asia and Europe, writing to communities far and near, dreaming even of preaching in far off Spain. His calling planted seeds for a worldwide church, people of the way throughout the world!

          Or consider yourselves.
          Yes, you live in a society where following Jesus is treated like a hobby, faith like a leisure activity instead of a matter of death and life.
          Yes, the Church that once was is quickly becoming a stump, crouched and humbled.
          Yes, it can feel like the world is so big and each one of us is so small that maybe even a calling from God won’t do so very much…
          Yet the faith is a matter of death and life. Crouched and humbled is when tendrils of new growth come and God does a new thing. Fisher people and those of unclean lips, and even enemies of the church, called by God, can be called to do the unimaginable.
          We are still called to write letters, tell the truth even when it won’t be heard for generations, transform the prows of our boats into pulpits and tell God’s story in words that people today can hear!
          Humbled and expectant we can still respond to God’s calling with, “Here I am, send me.” A+A