5th Sunday after Epiphany [by The Very Rev Ken Gray]

Anglican lectionary:
Catholic lectionary:
1st Reading
Isa 6:1-8
both
Psalm
138
2nd Reading
1 Cor 15:1-11
both
Gospel
Luke 5:1-11
both
by The Very Rev Ken Gray, Kamloops BC Canada

NOTES ON THE READINGS

Isaiah 6:1-8       Never say, never!

As we move through ordinary lectionary time we are challenges as individuals and communities to re-evaluate our relationships—with God-in-Christ, with God the Holy Spirit, with creation, with all humanity and non-human life, with time in all epochs—past, present and future. The memory of the Epiphany discovery of the Christ child by all nations and cultures of the world enlightens everything we encounter and experience each and every day.

Some of these discoveries occur amidst gloom and darkness, others amidst triumph and delight. We well remember the late Archbishop Desmond Tutu who endured with faith and courage both in his long justice-loving life. The baton is now passed to the likes of us, and historically to the great prophets, including Isaiah.

The prophet is extatically overcome with the grandeur of God while profoundly aware of his own inadequacies. His problem is not God’s; what is important for this marvellous call is not sufficiency but a willingness to respond to God’s invitation to participate in redemption. Eventually, he volunteers: “Here I am send me.” Send me where we ask ourselves? The Lord says in the optional verses to your own people. “For how long?” we ask. “”Until cities lie waste without inhabitants” which is the case here in Canada, and possibly where you live and preach.

Psalm 138         Let us pray, or better, sing

A natural partner to Isaiah’s text is this psalm of praise and vocation. To the pray-er who needs re-assurance that the journey is not only possible and worthwhile then hang your heart on words and phrases such as

When I called, you answered me; you increased my strength within me . . .

Though the Lord be high, he cares for the lowly; he perceives the haughty from afar . . .

Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you keep me safe, you stretch forth your hand against the fury of my enemies; your right hand shall save me . . .

O Lord, your love endures for ever; do not abandon the works of your hands.

Such words can be memorized, savoured, sung and shared in so many appropriate ways.

1 Corinthians 15:1-11                 First things first

The late theologian and teacher Marcus Borg wrote a marvellous book some years ago the title of which was based on a poem of T. S. Eliot. He titled it Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time. Today we encounter once more a very familiar text most often proclaimed at Eastertide though relevant for Epiphany Season, a season where we re-visit faith formations, either for the first time or as if we do so for the first time, but now in a special way in the context of the present moment, surrounded by present circumstances which include the escalation of extreme weather events (heat domes, historic flooding, infrastructure damage, rising pollution levels, environmentally influenced pandemics, drought and loss of access to water, deforestation . . . the list seems endless.

We witness such events, raising our voice of complaint as other political and corporate interests seem to ignore the necessary transitions ahead. As Paul will discover in his missionary enterprises which will take him towards the limits of the Roman world of his day, we in our day continue our struggle to challenge the economic status quo seeking transformation of both environments and economies in away in which justice will become the goal of all endeavours. The work is not easy; like Moses many of us will not live to see the promised land; the work will be passed on to future generations, though we have our part in God’s redemptive plan and activity today. We can join Paul in continuing our particular witness in the particular places of our lives, and in proclaiming together with him that “by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me has not been in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them – though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.”

Luke 5:1-11       Fish stories

I may be disqualified for talking about daily work as I retired from jurisdictional parish ministry some months ago. My wife will tell you however that I still work, daily, and too much. The difference is I am no longer paid for my work; also, that I do the work I want to spend time and creativity on.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus enters the work-a-day working culture of the Galilean fishery, a lively, adventurous and prosperous economic historic activity. His call out to potential missioners, practitioners of the Gospel extend not initially to the priestly class (following John the Baptist), to the Sadducean theologians, or to political leaders of any sort or condition. His appeal goes directly to working folk, a local community familiar to one another, and through whom the Gospel is presented, adjured and it seems welcomed.

One can hear him calling out from shore, to go deeper, not only into the Gospel experience and meaning itself, but into the ebb and flow of life, into the world of complex inter- and intra-personal relationships, and for our purposes, into the entire web of life, intricately established, maintained and guarded (by those who accept the witness challenge) by the One who created all things (cf. John 1).

Nature and creation itself become the first teachers of these working men (sic); for humans however verbal explanation and explication are required, to identify and amplify the miracle through which we move through life itself with all creatures.

A connection with Isaiah 6 (above) is made in Simon’s initial reaction: “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” to which Jesus responds given the very real fear and sense of loss of control or comprehension about what has taken place with the words:  “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.”

One can hear Jesus speaking to fishers everywhere and at every time, for the practice is both ancient and contemporary. In my own country of Canada fisheries on all coasts, Atlantic, Pacific, Arctic, Indigenous and settler cultures, fishing is a primary life practice, fought with endless situations of jurisdictional conflicts, arguments of capacity limits, issues of access and privilege and if not just management of the resource itself but of ownership. All the earth belongs to God, including the fishers. Many however disagree.

DRAFT SERMON/SERMON OUTLINE

LISTEN TO THE WORD:

Many interpretive and media links are made in the notes above. Beyond the preacher’s individual experience and reflections and challenges will be to discern where to start. Starting with the practice of fishing both ancient and modern may connect well with local audiences. Many are unaware of where food comes from and through what means. Many have yet to discover the justice issues inherent in food production of all kinds. Toda’s lections offer many directions for homiletic travel. Thinking of “environment” or even “climate crisis” prior to exegetical study may yield a vastly different sermon than previously preached.

LINK TO THE WORLD:

Following from above, one could play with the imagery and symbols associated with the word “fish.” Take it as both a noun and a verb; consider different tenses, i.e., Jesus says to the future Disciples “Fish” and do it now! Where would y(our) fishing ground be? With whom and in what circumstances do we find ourselves fishing together? And yes, fish stories are notoriously exaggerated; exaggerate a little and see what happens.

THINK ABOUT GOD’S CALL:

Now to the final and biggest questions, remembering Isaiah’s prophetic call; remember Paul’s resurrection storytelling and his tenacity in following his transforming vocation; remember the innocence and early responses of those local Galileans whose lives were changed. Has your life and vocation changed over time and through changing circumstances? How might others re-consider their own life-priorities, their hopes and dreams for the year 2022 in light of the spiritual, Holy nudges God promises and delivers, most if not all days.

RESPOND: See above.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL

One could build in a reflection on the song from the Iona Community, Don’t be afraid

The background link above on the historical Galilean fishery noted, one could search out histories of fishery in your own country. In Canada, a focus on Newfoundland makes an ideal starting place

If engaging with a youthful audience Justin Bieber’s Never Say Never will open some inquiring hearts and minds. Lyrics here.

by The Very Rev Ken Gray, Canada