Let us pray:
Holy God, you have given us these scriptures to teach and transform us. Open our ears and eyes that we may hear and see what you would have us do and be. Amen.
David Ostendorf writes,
“We live in a cacophonous time, when it is difficult to hear the word, or to see it made manifest in movement or miracle. The crowds do not always press eagerly in to hear and then act.”
I wonder what caused Isaiah to listen so eagerly, so well to the Holy Spirit’s voice that he saw the Lord enthroned on high and heard a seraph speak. In the midst of his revelatory vision and dual confession of God’s Lordship and his own finitude, the vision turns into a highly impactful personal Calling. The seraph flew to Isaiah, touched his lips with a live coal, cleansing him of all past and anointing him for a future not his own.
Then, and only then, the Lord speaks: “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Isaiah responds and the Lord turns and speaks directly to Isaiah, “Go….”
Isaiah is sent to speak to the people the words the Lord has made known. Words that are disturbing, to say the least. But Isaiah goes; he has been anointed with the coal, purified to become the Lord’s instrument, and therefore the Lord’s spokesperson. Perforce, as a wiling servant, he must preach and teach what the Lord has instructed, whether it is good news or news his fellow Israelites may not want to hear. At this stage in his career, it’s not good news, but obediently, he goes.
Taking a step backward, or upward, if you think of viewing this story at a 10,000 foot level, it might be instructive to reflect for a moment on the nature of religious experience and how to interpret it. Isaiah has experienced an immediacy of the divine presence. What that does to a person, is “set in motion a path toward transformation.” The very exact kind of path of transformation Simon experiences with the teaching of Jesus and the catch of miraculous fish.
Commentator Howard Gregory writes,
“Simon now does the strangest thing. He pulls ashore his boat, with the catch, and walks away from it, livelihood and all. Many persons may identify with this change of vocation and values, especially those who in midlife find it necessary to make vocational changes.”
I have to look out at you all with a twinkle in my eye and observe that some, if not most all of you, can relate to what Howard is saying. I’m just beginning to understand this whole midlife crisis thing. I only hope, that like Simon, when I hit that wall in the middle of it, I will sense my higher calling that will glorify our Lord even more; and, if I am lucky, like Isaiah I will find the path of obedience and commitment as appropriate responses to the call Jesus places on me – just as I would hope that upon the life of any who would respond to Christ’s call.
Which offers an ample opportunity for your personal reflection on how Jesus may be calling you – whether you are in the middle of, past, or even well past your midlife crisis. For mark my words, once you have answered Christ’s call, it is a lifetime of discipleship.
An interesting connection to some of my doctoral research is this whole stage of midlife – the stage when, according to generation theory, persons launch out of their rising adulthood stage of activity and into midlife and the stage of leadership. Simon Peter certainly becomes a leader in the Lukan narrative from this point onward. He and his fellows arrive on shore with the largest catch their fishing career has probably ever seen, simply because Jesus told them to try fishing at what is an “off” time of the day to even attempt to fish, and the carpenter’s catch is beyond belief. But then, instead of cashing in on it for their families, the fishermen leave it for the crowds and follow the carpenter! What kind of inner transformation is this, to leave the only industry they have ever known and embark on something completely new and unknown? Radical at least!
Let’s superimpose this account on another story we have about this holy man Jesus and how he touches lives. Moving to the sixth chapter of John’s gospel, we examine the fourth sign, the feeding of the 5000. One of the few examples of a miracle story that all four gospels record, John’s version of this gives us some interesting insights. First of all, when Jesus and his disciples arrive “on the mountain,” Jesus sits down. This may be an example of just weary from travel and wanting to sit down and look out over the lay of the land and rest for a bit with his friends. But this is Jesus, and he and his buddies are being followed by a crowd that has been aware of the healing miracles of Jesus up to this point and are perhaps looking for something themselves.
But recall this is also the Johannine gospel community recounting this story; which means additional layers of meaning. Jesus sits down – the classical position for a Rabbi who is about to teach. We also have an interesting verse inserted between the strictly narrative verses of five and seven; we read, beginning at John 6:5,
“When he [Jesus] looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, ‘Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?’ He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do. Philip answered him, ‘Six-months wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little’” (verse 6, my italics).
I wonder about the way this passages is framed in John’s gospel. Jesus sits down to teach, but the teaching is not in words. Instead the teaching is in deeds. Jesus alludes to this himself later in verse 26: “Jesus answered, ‘I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill.’”
What this does, effectively, is move the person of Jesus away from merely Rabbi into the realm of, once again, instrument of divine intervention in the world – in this case a minister in the serving sense – connecting action with compassion, teaching with deeds, contemplation with enacted love; in short, authenticity of proclamation for the lifestyle of God’s heavenly kingdom on earth.
Which is where we find ourselves now in this time and place. How do we enact an authentic kingdom of God love-ethic toward one another and this community in which we find ourselves? The answer to that my friends, is discipleship and transformational servanthood.
May all glory be unto the One who lived, died, and rose again for us, even Him who is the Christ. Amen? May it be so.
 David L. Ostendorf, “Theological Perspective, Luke 5:1-11” in Feasting on the Word – Year C, ed. David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009). Accordance edition hyper-texted and formatted by OakTree Software, Inc. Version 2.0
 Howard K. Gregory, “Pastoral Perspective, Luke 5:1-11” in Feasting on the Word – Year C, ed. David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009). Accordance edition hyper-texted and formatted by OakTree Software, Inc. Version 2.0
Questions for Reflection
Sometimes we are afraid to tell others about our experiences of the holy and about God’s call in our lives, because we don’t want to annoy or oppress others. There is a difference between witnessing through indoctrination and witnessing through acts of compassion. How do you witness to others about your faith?
The disciples had already fished all night without catching anything; what quality or characteristic in Peter might have helped him “give it another try” when Jesus invited him to cast his net again? What quality or characteristic within you helps you to keep trying, to start again, after disappointment or even failure?
Household Prayer: Morning
God, I give you thanks this morning Isa. 6:3, 8; Ps. 138:3 as I watch the beauty of the newborn light, listen to the first stirrings of a new day in nature, and ponder the miracle of my own breathing and your presence in it all. Holy, Holy, Holy!
Increase my strength of soul today. And whenever I see a need, help me to respond, “Send me!” Amen.
Household Prayer: Evening
Thank you, God, for the gift of this day. Like the fisher folk who became disciples, I have put in a day of work. As evening comes, it is time to rest. If, as I review my day, I am tempted to say, “I am not worthy of your presence, God,” reassure me with the calming words of Jesus, “Do not be afraid, come be with me.” Amen.