Telling the Story of Love (February 10, 2019)
All three readings today are “call stories”. They are stories are about people being called to speak God’s love to the world. And it’s not just them. We continue to read these stories because they’re also about us. We are being invited to speak God’s love to the world, to tell the story of God’s good news of compassion, love, justice and shalom.
In the gospel, Jesus is talking to a group of fishermen, and so he tells them that from now on, they’re going to be fishing for people. It makes sense to use that image for these fishers.
What about us? I wonder what image Jesus would use today? What would be a good image for us?
- For all you social media types: No more blogging about politics or social issues; from now on you’ll be blogging about God’s love; from now on you’ll be liking posts on facebook that affirm, that build people up, that spread God’s love;
- For all you retired folks: No more going for coffee only with the guys, or sitting at home watching tv; from now on, you’ll be inviting strangers to join you, and you can volunteer with groups that help others;
- No more walking away from the bums on the street; now you’ll be talking with them, relating to them, telling them that they also are valuable people;
- No more staying isolated in your gated communities; from now on you’ll be busy in your neighbourhoods telling the story of love.Now we can accept this invitation … or not. We can walk away from it, but if we’re serious about being the people of God, if we’re serious about our baptismal covenant, if we’re serious about being known as followers of Jesus, then we know that this is the work that Jesus gives us. This is our vocation. This is the ministry and mission of the whole people of God. All of us.And on Sundays we gather for worship, to be nurtured and fed, so that we can go back out into the world to do our work. That’s why it’s so important to make worship a central part of our lives. We come here to be fed so we can do our work.In the presence of our holy God, Isaiah knows he is small, that we are small. I am unworthy, we are unworthy.Here’s the heart of the good news. Don’t be afraid. You are being healed. You are being forgiven. You are being made whole. You are worthy to stand in God’s presence. Fear is replaced by trust. Brokenness is made whole. Pride is replaced by reverence for God. Greed is replaced by generosity.Paul tells the same kind of story. “I want to tell you about the good news of God’s love which is healing our lives.” Paul goes on to list all those who have experienced God’s love in their lives. “Jesus appeared to them,” he says. He doesn’t mean it literally. It’s a metaphor for how we all can experience the power of God’s love in our lives. We meet Jesus, and we experience God’s love, God’s joy, God’s creativity in our lives.Like Isaiah. Like the first disciples. Like me. Like you. We are not worthy, but do not be afraid. We are being made whole. Grace abounds. Joy overflows. Hope flourishes. Love multiplies.But what makes a crucial difference in their lives is that they know the power of God’s live in their lives. They were made whole, and now they spent the rest of their lives trying to tell the world how God’s passionate love transformed their lives.Many decades ago, I was involved in a youth group. We did a Bible study on the passage from 1 Corinthians 12 in which Paul tells us we are the Body of Christ. He asked the question, “What part of the body are you?”Then Dan said very quietly, “I’m the appendix. You could cut me out and no one would miss me. I’m useless.”Today, several decades later, I still wonder whatever became of Dan. He had trouble fitting in. Always did.
- The group suddenly went very quiet. No one knew how to respond to that. The leader mouthed a few platitudes, and then we broke up for snacks and dodge ball … and even that wasn’t a lot of fun that night.
- We all struggled to come up with meaningful answers. Actually, we just wanted to get it over with so we could play dodge ball. So we came up with some thoughts. The class clown figured he was the mouth. A quiet girl who brought most of the snacks figured she was the helping hands. And so on it went … all of us squirming young people trying to get out of the Bible Study and into what we really wanted to do.
- I ended last week’s sermon saying that the world needs us. The world needs to hear this good news. The world so desperately needs to hear that we are loved, that we are welcomed, that we are included, that we are precious.
- Over and over again, the witness of the Bible is that God calls ordinary people. They’re nothing special. In fact, if you read the gospels carefully, the disciples are a bunch of dunderheads who get it wrong all the time.
- And then, like Isaiah, Paul cries out that he’s not worthy — “And even though I don’t deserve it, Jesus appeared to me. I am the least of the apostles because I tried to wipe the church out. I don’t deserve to be included in that circle … but by God’s grace, I am!”
- Then Isaiah hears the invitation, “Who will go for us? Who will tell the good news?” And he knows he has been made worthy, so now he is able to step forward confidently, “Me! Send me! I’ll go!”
- But God doesn’t condemn him … or us. What happens instead is that God lifts us up. God makes us worthy. An angel touches Isaiah’s lips with a piece of burning coal. “Your sin is taken away; your guilt is gone.”
- In the first reading, Isaiah has a wondrous vision of heaven. Angels are flying all over the place. There’s fire and smoke and incense. This is a holy place, a holy time. Isaiah is terrified, and so he cries out, “Woe is me. I’m doomed! I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips.” Isaiah knows that he and the people he lives with are tainted by our failures, by our hungering for wealth and power and approval, by our selfishness and greed.
- Jesus invites us to follow him—which means to do what he did and to reach out as he reached out. Jesus invites us to be committed to sharing God’s love. And if we are committed to following Jesus, if we call ourselves disciples of Christ, if we claim to be Christian — then this is something that affects how we live. It’s not just an hour a week kind of thing. It’s not just a Sunday thing. It’s 24/7/365.
- The main point in these readings today is that ordinary people are being called to share God’s love with everyone. Ordinary folks like you and me are being invited to talk about the love we’ve experienced in our own lives.
The Dans of the world need to know that they are loved. And if we can’t tell them the story of love, who will? The Dans of the world need us to show them. The Dans of the world need us to love them.
We’re being invited to live that out today. God claims us as the church. God invites us to follow Jesus in the way of love. God holds us and whispers, “You are mine. Now go tell the world.”
Thanks be to God.
Rev. Dr. Yme Woensdregt
February 10, 2019 (5th Sunday after Epiphany, Proper 5)
Luke 5: 1–11
Isaiah 6: 1–8
1 Corinthians 15: 1–11