Sermon at First Presbyterian Church Lockhart

“Holy God… Holy Call… "

Isaiah 6:1-13, Psalm 138, I Corinthians 15:1-11, Luke 5:1-11

February 7, 2010

by James Greene

 

                      Sometimes, we unexpectedly experience the call of God on our lives, and we just are not prepared for it.  It always seems to come at a time when we are unprepared and we are taken by surprise.  This theme of God’s Holy call is revealed in the texts we have read today.

 

           The reading from Isaiah, is the story of his call, and his response in his commissioning.  This event occurs before the nation of Israel is taken away into exile in Babylon.  It also illuminates for us the concept of the Remnant Theology, that there is a faithful few who continue to follow God.  Let us look at Isaiah’s experience with God.

           He sees God, enthroned on the Mercy Seat above The Ark, with the guarding Seraphs.  Suddenly, he both hears and feels their voices as the Temple is filled with smoke and is shaken.  Smoke filling the Temple in the Old Testament, signified the presence of the Lord.  The significance of the call of Holy, was to emphasize the importance of the praise of the Seraphs.  One Holy - is to identify that something is set apart from the common.  When twoHoly, Holy’s  were used, it reflected the increased level of the purity of the praise.  The use of the call of threeHoly, Holy, Holy’s” was reserved in the scriptures for the specific holiness that reflected only the holiness of God.  We used that specific holiness in the words of the hymn this morning:

Holy, Holy, Holy”.

          

We see Isaiah reflecting upon the reality of his own existence.  He realizes that he is in the presence of the righteousness of the living God of the universe, and he is critically aware of his “unholieness.”  His best words are, as Calvin describes, nothing but “filthy rags” before the Holy One of Israel.

Isaiah must have been thinking –Why is God, talking to me?  I know my state, and I know that I’m not a clean.  But he is chosen by God, and he is made righteous by the cleansing action of God’s servant - (the Cheribum).

Isaiah’s response to the call of the Lord is reflected in bold action, and confidence, and its immediacy.  “Here am I, send me!”  There is a stained glass window in the base Chapel at Offutt AFB in Nebraska with this call of Isaiah.  It depicts a pilot in his flight gear walking towards his aircraft.  It is the call to service and the response to serve.

 

Here, God is commissioning Isaiah, to serve, to tell the people with the ironic twist that if they truly hear, truly see, and truly understand with their hearts, they would turn from their way and experience God’s salvation.  But in God’s plan, he

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declares that there will be destruction in the land.  There will be only a portion of God’s people (a stump) that will be left of his Holy seed (Israel) - in the land; a remnant of God’s people is all that will be left because of their refusal to hear and see their unrighteousness.

 

In Psalm 138, we see a song of praise and salvation.  It is a poem of praise in action, reflected in the phrases: “I will praise”, “I will sing”, and “I will bow down”.  It demonstrates the total commitment and trust of the author “with all my heart.”  The “heart” in the Old Testament was concerned with the will of the person.  It was the place of moral choice, where decisions by the individual were weighed.  It was the focus and intent of the person reflected in their actions.  Like in the passage from Isaiah, the people’s hearts were hardened to their actions, and resulted in the land being ravaged and them being forsaken. It is in his heart, that the servant is faithful and praises the Lord.  It is because of this, God will not abandon him, but will be his salvation.  God will be his shield.

The Psalmist praises God’s love and faithfulness in righteousness.  He has heard God speak to him in his life.  God has answered the call of his servant, and strengthened the psalmist’s moral courage.  The call by the Lord, and the ways of the Lord, will be praised and sung about, by the kings of the earth.  The “hand” in Hebrew is symbolic of a person’s power.  The right “hand” was the righteous hand.  Lord, in his power and authority, will fulfill the purpose of his servant.  In his righteous power he will save the psalmist. 

 

           In I Corinthians, Paul preaches about the resurrection of Christ.  How God has been speaking to the early believers through his preaching.  Paul’s call to them is God’s call to believe the fact of resurrection.  He lists the witness of Peter, the Apostles and 500 who had witnessed the risen Christ. It is because of that good news they may believe and be saved. Paul witnesses to Christ’s resurrection appearance in his own experience.  The people need to not only listen to God’s Word in the scriptures, but also to hear God’s living Word in Jesus, and through Paul’s preaching that they might not doubt Jesus’ resurrection.  The proof is that it has all happened, according to the scriptures, and that their faith is useless, if they do not believe the preaching and raising of Christ from the dead.

 

           In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus is standing with the crowds and the crowds are listening to the Word of God on the shore of the lake.  Jesus begins a conversation, by talking with Simon.  He asks him to put his boat out into the water so that he may sit and teach from this floating pulpit.  When he is through teaching, he asks Simon to take the boat out into the deeper water, and “let down his nets”.  We can hear the question “What?”  Simon has worked through the night shift, had wrapping up his work, and cleaned his nets, when Jesus asks him to take his boat back out, get his nets dirty; Jesus is making his life difficult.  He’s tired, and the non-fishing teacher is asking him to fish.

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           If you’ve ever been around Sailors, or Marines, when they have finished their work, and are securing their work for the day.  They are looking forward to only one thing and that is their “liberty” (their time off) when they get off of the ship, or get out of the office.  They do not want to stop and work overtime, especially after a night watch.  And, depending upon how salty they are, they’ll let you know in frank four letter expletives, just how much they really enjoy” the thought of getting out gear that they have just cleaned and put away.

 

           Isn’t this how God comes and talks to us sometimes?  It is at the end of a long day, or a 12 hour night shift that ended up to be 17 hours.  We get “asked” to come back into work 2 hours after we’ve gotten home, to fix a time card.   If we don’t, one of our people will not get paid on time.  So, we do it, because we care, and in our heart we care for the people that we shepherd.

 

           So Simon says to Jesus, in his salty attitude,- “But, because YOU say so,- I will

let down the nets.”  The expected question is, “What does the Teacher know about fishing?”  But he is faithful, like the Psalmist, and in his heart does what is right. 

In doing that, the reward is beyond his comprehension.  In this visual demonstration with the fishing nets, we see a reflection of Isaiah’s same answer to God’s call, when Simon asks Jesus to Go away from me Lord;- I am a sinful man.”  But we see also Simon’s faithful response, when Jesus says “Do not be afraid; from now on you will catch men.”

          

           It not only impacts Simon, but James and John, are amazed with the abundance of fish and the call of Christ.  They all respond to the call of the Lord.  They too, like Isaiah’s response, reflected their commitment in bold action, and confidence and in their immediacy.  They get up and leave their work, and their boats to follow Jesus.  In power and authority, they will fulfill God’s purpose (like the Psalmist) to become fishers of men.

 

           God may not speak to us in a smoke filled sanctuary, with a voice that shakes the foundations of our existence.  He sometimes comes to us in the still small voice in the peace of confidence, born out of His righteousness and our response in faithfulness.  But we know in our heart that he calls us, to His service, and to His purpose.

           We like the Psalmist must in our heart trust God’s faithfulness, and love, and reflect that trust in praise and song, even through the tears of our trials.  It is what gives us a heart of confidence, knowing we are called upon, by the Lord, he will answer, and he will save us to fulfill His purpose.

           When the Holy One of Israel is calling us, we need to listen.  It is a holy call to be faithful.  We are charged to hear and respond,  in bold action, in confidence, and in haste.  We know that we find salvation in Christ alone, through his resurrection.  We are called to act in faith  fullness - and it is to all be done …In the Name of …… the Father….  the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  A-Men

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