Called and Sent

Isaiah 6: 1-8, Luke 5: 1-11

Does anyone here sometimes wonder, by any chance, what God wants them to do? And does anyone feel that compared to God we’re so insignificant, and that we let him down so much, that we couldn’t be useful to God even if we wanted to be?

Please look at the Isaiah passage. Isaiah had a vision of God, where God is very glorious. Even the angels cover their faces and feet because God’s glory is so overwhelming. They’re singing ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty’. The doors of the temple shake, and the temple is full of smoke. It’s a wonderful sight, and it’s a terrifying sight. Isaiah is very conscious that he isn’t holy, so he can’t stand it: he thinks this is the end of him.

Then one of the angels flies to Isaiah, with a red-hot coal in his hand which he has taken with tongs from the altar. He touches Isaiah’s mouth with it, as if to cleanse him from everything he’s done wrong. He says that Isaiah’s guilt and sin are now completely taken away. So Isaiah is now holy, and can stand in God’s presence.

Then God says: ‘Whom shall I send?’ Isaiah replies ‘Here am I. Send me!’

We learn that:

· God is utterly holy

· We are sinful – and even the greatest prophets like Isaiah are sinful

· But God rescues us and makes us holy again

· And he asks us to go and do his work

It’s an amazing change that we see in Isaiah in these few words, from terrified and helpless, to restored and purposeful.

There is hope for us all.

Now look at the Luke passage.

Notice the first two words: ‘One day’. This was just one day, an ordinary day. With God, extraordinary things happen on ordinary days. Pay attention this coming week, and look out for God doing extraordinary things every ordinary day, from Monday to Saturday.

The Lake of Gennesaret is another name for the Sea of Galilee, the big inland lake in the north of Israel. It was where Simon made his living as a fisherman. Jesus didn’t have any disciples yet, so Simon was still Simon and hadn’t yet been renamed Peter.

Jesus was teaching, and people were crowding round him to listen. When Jesus teaches, people do crowd round. People are fascinated by him.

There are two boats there, and he gets into one of them, the one that belongs to Simon. Simon pushes the boat out a little, and Jesus sits down and carries on teaching the people on the shore. It’s an improvised theatre, with enough space for his voice to travel and to reach lots of people.

Then he finishes speaking. And he turns to Simon and tells him to take the boat out into deep water and let down the nets for a catch. Simon protests, that they’ve been fishing all night and haven’t caught anything. He’s a professional fisherman, and he knows that it’s likely that they won’t catch anything. And then says: ‘…But because you say so, I will let down the nets.’

And then… they’re overwhelmed by the number of fish. Their nets begin to break, they signal to the other boat, which belongs to James and John. That boat comes out and is also filled with fish, so full that both boats begin to sink.

Simon sees this and falls at Jesus’ knees. He says: ‘Go away from me, Lord: I am a sinful man!’ He is overcome by awe at the authority and power – and holiness – of Jesus. That’s why he says he’s a sinful man – because he senses that Jesus is holy. And therefore he feels desperately uncomfortable being in Jesus’ presence.

How does Jesus reply? Does he say ‘Worship me’? Or ‘Repent’? No – he can see that Peter is already broken with a sense of his unworthiness.

Instead Jesus says: ‘Don’t be afraid’. He is immediately reassuring. That is what Jesus is like. He is holy, we are not, and yet he’s immediately reassuring: ‘Don’t be afraid’. I imagine all of us in church this morning are conscious of our failings and our weakness. Jesus says, ‘Don’t be afraid’. He comes alongside us and reassures us and helps us, because he loves us. The great message of the whole Bible, the great message of Jesus, is that God loves us.

So Peter’s in a state, though Jesus is comforting him. And the boats are in a state, though it sounds as if they make it safely back to shore. Both Peter and the boats have had an overwhelming experience of Jesus’ power and generosity, as well as his authority over nature.

The huge number of fish confirmed whatever Jesus had been teaching the crowds, as if to say, ‘Just so that you know that I’m telling you the truth, I’ll now show you God’s power at work.’

Jesus says don’t be afraid of God’s power. Then he says to Simon: ‘from now on you will be catching people’. He has shown Simon that he has authority to bring fish into his boat in large numbers: his same authority will now bring people into God’s family, and he’s going to use Simon to help bring them in.

So what does this mean for us as individuals here this morning?

1. Come close. Isaiah was worshipping, Peter and the people were listening to Jesus’ teaching. We can come close each day, through prayer, reading the Bible, meeting together in home groups or in church, or through good books. The Bible says ‘Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.’ That’s a promise from God that we can be sure of.

2. Trust and obey. If we fee God calling us to do something, trust him and obey him. Even if it isn’t what we want to do. Isaiah said ‘Here am I. Send me.’ Peter went and let down the nets. What is God calling us to do?

If we don’t know what God’s calling us to do, we can ask him. If we don’t hear an answer, we can pray with others, and get them praying for us, to help us discern the way forward. We can also ask the advice of trusted Christian friends. If we’re still not sure – which does happen – we can get on with doing what we know is right: love God, and love our neighbour. The Bible says ‘Seek and you will find’ – God promises that he will show us the way, and that’s a promise we can rely on, even if he chooses to take some time to show us.

So: come close; trust and obey; and then

3. Leave the rest to God. It’s his power that does the work. So the pressure’s off, in a sense.

It worked for Isaiah – he said ‘Send me’ and his words are still inspiring people nearly 3,000 years later. It worked for Peter: the fish came pouring in, and as he kept trusting and obeying, although he was a simple fisherman he became the rock on which Jesus built the Christian church. Which is why we’re here today.

And what does it mean for us as a church?

Perhaps Goudhurst and Kilndown are about to be the places where God brings in lots more people all of a sudden. Perhaps his plans are to bring people in one by one. We don’t know: that’s for God to decide. What we do know is that we need to take Jesus at his word when he says ‘Don’t be afraid’, we need to come close and stand in his presence this morning, and then trust and obey as the week unfolds. Let’s do that, and let’s see what happens.

Going deeper

  1. Re read the Isaiah and Luke passages

  2. What does it mean for you to 'come close' to God? How can you do that? What is your experience of 'coming close' to Go?

  3. What does it mean for you to 'trust and obey' God? Have you ever done that before? What happened? Are there any ways that you think God is asking you to 'trust and obey' Him at the moment?

  4. How can you 'leave the rest to God'? How can you let go of the need to do things in your own strength, and to let God do what only He can do?

Hugh Nelson