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February 10, 2019

“Yet”

By Rev. Katrina Pekich-Bundy

Isaiah 6.1-13

Luke 5.1-11

February 10, 2019

So much of our lives consist of working toward the unknown. We often can map out our lives or a project or a path but we cannot always visualize the outcome. For example, many of you may be living on your 401ks, but for those in generation X or millennials or those still working, putting away a few hundred a month for retirement, what retirement looks like seems a difficult concept to grasp. Is that enough? Should it be more? What sorts of needs will arise in retirement? No one knows until they are there. Even schooling can be an unknown. As someone prepares to go to college they may have a basic idea of what career they want to enter but they will not know for sure until they have graduated and begun interviewing. As Lutheran pastor Lauren Dow Wegner writes about these previous transitions, she says: “Much of life exists between the work and the result.”[1] The scripture passages we read today demonstrate this uncertainty, yet there is a commitment that brings forth the fruit of ministry.

Both scripture passages include a calling and having to put complete faith in God. When God calls us to a task we do not know how it will turn out. We have some uncertainty about the future of the church. We know that we cannot sustain as we are currently existing, but what does that mean? What changes will we make? What will the church look like in fifteen years? Our future is uncertain, yet we must place our trust in God.

In the Gospel reading the word on the street is that Jesus has a message and people are coming out of the woodwork to see this carpenter turned preacher. The crowds are gathering and are so numerous that they are pressing in on him. Jesus still wants to preach but maybe needs a little crowd control, so he begins to jump on the boat of a stranger. These fishermen had already had a long night. Were they ready to give up? They were cleaning their nets and here comes this stranger asking them to go back out – into the deep water – and repeat their actions, of which they had no results earlier.

To give this a little frame of reference, not only were the fishermen tired but there were some other factors into why people might be skeptical to go back out. Fishing with a net is best done in the darkness when the fish cannot see the boat or the net. Also, the time of day meant it was cooler and the fish were more likely to rise to the top. Going out by morning just wasn’t the sort of advice one would hear from a true, seasoned professional.

Simon Peter recognizes this, too, and hesitates, explaining, nay, justifying, that they had already done this. Yet – they do as Jesus says. Yet – they tried it. The word “yet” fills in the gaps of uncertainty, and God is in that “yet.” We do not know the future. We know the past and the now, and “yet” helps us arrive in the unfathomable future. More than the future, it helps us arrive at what seems impossible. God can do the impossible and “yet” helps us make that leap of faith.

So, the fishermen come back with nets filled with fish! They are amazed. Jesus helped them to do this. When they see the plethora of fish, remember that when they did it alone, they came back with no fish, they are able to see the comparison. Not only does Simon Peter begin to see who Jesus is, but his self in comparison. He realizes that in seeing the greatness of Jesus, he begins to see the worst of himself. So, Simon begins to confess. He realizes how sinful he is and the mistakes he has made.

Yet – Jesus tells him to not be afraid. In fact, even though he is sinful, Jesus calls him. They will no longer fish for fish, but for people. They have a career change – which is scary. They realize that there is even more unknown ahead for them – yet, Jesus will lead them. Jesus gave them an invitation to leave their boats behind, and they accept.

The prophet Isaiah experiences both the invitation to a call and the deep confession of a sinful human. As we read Isaiah’s calling we also read the three holies that we use in our Sanctus: “Holy, Holy. Holy.” God isn’t holy once, twice, but thrice.[2] The more we know God, perhaps the more we recognize our own sinfulness – knowing that we are not holy thrice. Ezekiel 34 sums this up when God says: “I am God. You are human.” We are not God, and sometimes we need to be reminded.

Isaiah confesses this and his lips are cleansed by coal. In both call stories the people admit to God that they have sinned – as all humans sin – and forgiveness is offered without hesitation. Isaiah is still called. Perhaps what is most amazing is not the recognition of the sinfulness, but that God calls us even though we are sinful. In recognizing how different we are from God, we also recognize how generous and loving God is at the same time. We are sinful, yet we are still called.

Yet, there isn’t much good news in Isaiah’s calling. Figuring out we are called can be a trial, as some of us would like to ignore that call. Yet, when we do figure it out, we don’t necessarily have the streets paved with gold. Isaiah had his work cut out for him. God told Isaiah: “’Go and say to this people: “Keep listening, but do not comprehend; keep looking, but do not understand.”10 Make the mind of this people dull, and stop their ears, and shut their eyes, so that they may not look with their eyes, and listen with their ears, and comprehend with their minds, and turn and be healed.’”

So, Isaiah is going to tell all these people a message but they won’t listen! They won’t hear what he has to say! Why even open his mouth and waste his time? I think to the prophets of our day – those people calling out injustices in our systems, and can see what an exhausting and difficult job it is to be in the role of the prophet. To be called to any task by God is not especially easy. A call is not a dream job. It means seeing the “yet” God is offering. Taking the calling means accepting that God has given us a job to do, even though we do not know the end result, yet trusting that God will work for good.

The last piece that Isaiah tells the people is that there will be a stump with a seed in it. That’s pretty small hope, but it is hope, nonetheless. Over Thanksgiving we cut down a few trees in the front of our house. We saw two trees growing together, choking each other out and not giving enough space for either to thrive. We cut the two down, only to find out there were actually three. Now there are three stumps. I went to look at the stumps the other day and found sap coming out of one, and a new tree coming out of another. Cutting away the dead tree meant making space for something new. We had to rid ourselves of three trees, yet a new one is beginning.

As theologian and professor Walter Brueggemann said, God leaves the people “stumped.” They don’t understand Isaiah’s words, they don’t know what will happen in their future. Yet, there is hope. Our of the stump will come new life.

God is so much bigger than we can imagine. God cannot be contained by the words we use or even our imaginations. So, when we are faced with an uncertain future, we know that we can trust in God. As we look at God, we are humbled, and also lifted up, at the same time. When we confess our sinful ways, God knows we are ready for the next call. God prepares us and equips us. When we look at the uncertainties of the world around us, we trust in the impossible. The world is full of people who are hateful and violent, yet, God is good. People are being excluded and marginalized for being different, yet, God tells us there is a different way. We are concerned about the future of the church, yet God has a plan for us. We aren’t sure if we have enough, yet God has provided for us in the past. We can have hope for the plan God has for us.

We just aren’t there yet. Amen.

 

[1] Lauren Dow Wegner, “Reflections on the Lectionary” in Christian Century, January 16, 2019, Vol. 136, No. 2. P. 18.

[2] James C. Howell “Isaiah 6.1-13” in Feasting on the Word: Year C, Vol. 1. (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009), 317.