Revised Common Lectionary Reflection, Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C
February 10, 2019
Lessons: Isaiah 6:1-13, Psalm 138, 1 Corinthians 15:1-11, Luke 5:1-11
Theme: God’s faithful and generous people are called to share themselves—their time, talent, presence, and resources—for the sake of the gospel, one another, and the world.
Key Scripture: 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!” – Isaiah 6:8
Have you ever volunteered for something, say a new ministry or a task force, without really thinking through the consequences? Maybe it seems like some other force raised your hand to volunteer or spoke the magic word “Yes!” for you? Or, have you ever said, “Not me, Lord!” only to find yourself doing exactly what you said you wouldn’t do? If so, welcome to the call.
Sure, there are plenty of modern call stories where people have felt the call to be a pastor or minister since the time they were in diapers, but most call stories seem to be a bit more circuitous and surprising. Even in Luke’s story of the calls of Simon Peter, and James and John, Simon falls down in front of Jesus and says, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” In Isaiah’s story of visions of God and winged seraphs, the prophet experiences fear and the reality that he is utterly unequipped. Even so, he finds himself answering the call, “Here am I; send me!” And in this week’s epistle lesson, Paul points out how very unworthy he believes himself to be.
Responding to God’s call to discipleship is not reserved for professional church workers and perfect people. God invites each one of us to serve and use our skills, time, resources, and presence for the common good. Too often we distance ourselves from the idea that we are part of God’s intention for a new way in the world. Just as Jesus called an assortment of characters to be his closest followers, we too are called into intimate relationship and full partnership as children of the Creator of the cosmos.
One of the church’s challenges today is to make real this call to church vocation and to discipleship expressed in our everyday personal and work lives. The beloved body of Christ, the church, is not a country club of members or a transactional buffet of feel-good services, optional programs, and self-centered worship. This life and work to which we are called is radical and countercultural. It’s about giving, sharing, and abundance rather amassing, hoarding, and scarcity. When the church is at its best, it offers something that folks won’t find anywhere else. But, to be that church we have to be all-in people who gather, worship, and are equipped and strengthened to go back into the world in our various vocations and daily walks.
Jesus doesn’t stay in our precious buildings, and neither do we. God uses us just as we are—works in progress, people always becoming what God intends, beloved as we are in the present moment. Whether you are an educator, a first responder, a stay-at-home dad, a retired business executive, a medical professional, a landscaper, a government worker, bartender, or nursing home aide, you matter in the grand scheme of things, and God can use you right where you are and how you are.
Not catching fish in your current context? Church in a slump? Maybe it has to do with your need to be all-in, with adjusting your approach to discipleship and ministry, and as the priesthood of all believers hear these words of Jesus: “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.”
How about it, friends? Ready to leave behind all your assumptions, well-worn patterns, fears, and everything that stands between you and your Lord? What do you have to lose? Try saying “send me” to God and prepare to be led in new and wonderful (and sometimes challenging) ways.
Let’s start talking vocation and call in worship and other aspects of church life. Why not consider some “interview” sermons where you ask congregants to tell how their faith and work/vocation intersect. Give them some guidance a few days in advance so that they can prayerfully prepare. Another option for an interactive open space time is to break worshipers into small groups to talk about faith and work connections. Regather and process the conversations. Consider ending your worship with a vocational blessing and commission for all worshipers.
Here are two good resources:
Theology of Work Project: https://www.theologyofwork.org/key-topics/vocation-overview-article
Collegeville Institute: https://collegevilleinstitute.org/vocation-projects/
Invite youth to identify call stories in scripture. You can use this week’s lessons and stories of Mary, Abraham, David and others. Invite youth to think about a story that resonates with them. How might they use this story for reflection as they consider their own call to serve God? Consider a panel discussion where congregants in different vocations talk about how they were called to serve God through their vocations and how they see God at work through their job.
This week’s focus verse is Luke 5:10b: Then Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.”
If you have a fishing tackle box, bring it with you but fill it with items that one might use to “catch people” with the good news of Jesus. Include one or two things that children could use such as a Bible story book, a blessings bag for homeless ministry, and/or cans of food to give to the food pantry.
Invite the children to tell you what you might need to catch fish. Make a list on a marker board. Then pull out your large tackle box. Ask them what one might need to catch people with the story of Jesus. Open you tackle box and let each child take one item and try to figure out how it would be used.
Finish with a simple prayer reminding them that with Jesus they do not have to be afraid. He will guide them to share the good news and “catch” people with God’s irresistible story.
Weekly Stewardship Bulletin Insert
Have you pondered how God is using you (or might want to) through your vocation? No matter what you do in daily life, God wants you to connect the dots between Sunday and the other six days of the week and live into your calling as a disciple.
Stewardship at Home
Spend some time at home this week visiting the Theology of Work Project website. You’ll find biblical references, videos, Bible studies, and all kinds of topical articles and resources about connecting work with faith. Wondering how faith and work connect? Check out this interview with hair stylist Michele Van Fossen (© 2015 by The High Calling and the Theology of Work Project, Inc.) Have children at home? Check out this section of the website for great ideas and resources for parents and children.
Here’s a look back at our 2018 Narrative Lectionary Reflection that refers to this week’s gospel lesson: http://www.stewardshipoflife.org/2017/01/fishin-for-folk/
Photos: James Cridland and Goodwill TownPost Network. Creative Commons usage license. Thanks!
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