Monday, February 8, 2010

Fifth after Epiphany, 2010

Snow Day in the 'Burgh!

Attendance at services on Sunday, February 7, 2010, for St. Andrew's, Highland Park, Pittsburgh:

At the 9 a.m. Service: 6
At the 11 a.m. Service: 24

And notably missing from the Sunday count: The Rector, whose Saturday afternoon flight home was cancelled by the closing of the Pittsburgh Airport.

Instead I was counted in the pews at the 11:15 service of the Church of the Incarnation, Dallas --

In any case, I did arrive home late Sunday night and now have rejoined my greater Pittsburgh family in this new post-blizzard era.

I didn't have the opportunity to preach on Sunday morning, then. But I had prepared a sermon. Which I share here. Something of "what I would have said." In the meantime, blessings to all, and stay warm!

February 7, 2010 Fifth after Epiphany RCL Year C

Two very interesting readings from the Old Testament: the “call” of the prophet—last Sunday from the first chapter of Jeremiah, this morning from the sixth chapter of Isaiah. Remembering from Jeremiah: But the Lord said to me, "Do not say, ‘I am only a boy,’ for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and you shall speak whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord.” Then the LORD put out his hand and touched my mouth; and the LORD said to me, "Now I have put my words in your mouth."

And then this morning, Isaiah: 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! Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. The 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.” Then 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!”

Interestingly, two of the recommended readings in the ordinal of our Book of Common Prayer, the Jeremiah appointed for the Ordination of a Deacon and the Isaiah for the Ordination of priests and bishops. The deacon commissioned to represent the church to the world and the world to the church; the priest and bishop to share in the councils of the Church, to preach and teach, to declare God’s forgiveness, to pronounce God’s blessing, to share in the administration of Holy Baptism and in the celebration of the mysteries of Christ’s body and Blood. Appropriate readings as we celebrate those ordinations, as we would understand the guidance and inspiration of the Holy Spirit in the ordering and unfolding of the ministry of the Church.

But of course these readings not uniquely or even particularly about ordained ministries. We would hear them instead as for the whole people of God, as we in one body are called to be his Body. For all our brokenness and division and limitations. The word, the five words, we might all say after we brush our teeth in the morning and look into the mirror, before heading out into the day, to work, to school, to family and friends: Here I am. Send me. Not to wait for somebody else to do it. To open our selves to a deep accountability. Here I am. Send me.

Words of course that reflect up to our Gospel reading. This remarkable story of the fishing miracle. The call of Jesus to his disciples, which as some of you know has one of my favorites sayings of Jesus, when he tells the disciples, Put out into the deep water.

A “call” that we might continue to hear today. We tend all of us perhaps to drift in the other direction. To fish in the shallows. Less potential reward there, but less risk too. Smaller fish, but it doesn’t take as long to get there and isn’t as dangerous if the boat founders.

Yet Jesus here says to put it all out there in a big way. Take a risk. Put ourselves at risk. Don’t settle for the easy way. Try to land the big one. And then the moral of the story at the end of the passage. The risk of discipleship. Don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid. Follow me, and let’s go—let’s go fish for people. Turn lives around. Turn the world upside down. Not so much to be forgiven, as to forgive; to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved, as to love. Risky business.

To say his Name out loud in a world that is rapidly forgetting what that name is, or why anyone would ever want to know it. At whose name every knee would bow. The story Susy and I have of a young girl we knew a number of years ago who pointed at what Susy was wearing on a chain around her neck and said, “I have one of those too. A ‘T.’” With our words, and beyond words, with our actions and the conduct of our lives.

In any case, there are certain survival strategies that have to do with blending into the wallpaper. With going along to get along. Staying with the middle of the pack. Blending in. But the reminder for us this morning as we come to this table is that he has his eye on us in particular. Not in general, but in particular.

Where we are, who we are, with what we have. That he’s not asking us to be part of the crowd, but to step up, to step out. To set our sails to the wind and head out into the deep waters of the world and of our lives. To follow him. The invitation this morning. That as we would reach out this morning to receive the gift of his life continuing with us: Here I am. Send me.

Bruce Robison

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