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Sermon for The Fifth Sunday after Epiphany - Year C
Isaiah 6:1-8 and Luke 5:1-11
"Gone Fishing"


READING:  Isaiah 6:1-8 and Luke 5:1-11
SERMON :  "Gone Fishing"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
c-or05se.y-c 407000

What do you think is the most embarrassing thing that
can happen?

For some people there is nothing more embarrassing than
for someone to ask them a question and to not know the
answer -
     especially when they think, 
         and the person asking the question thinks,
             that they should know the answer.

When that happens to you, 
don't you kind of feel foolish all of a sudden, 
and uncomfortable - sensing that you have been somehow
caught out - caught with your pants down as it were -
which is, as we know, also in the top ten of the most
embarrassing things that can happen to a person....

What then if someone came up to you today and asked -
"What does it mean to be a Christian?"

How would you answer them?? And how comfortable would
you feel??

Would you be embarrassed by your answer, feeling that
you hadn't quite said what should be said?
Or would you be excited by the opportunity to answer -
feeling that you had a chance to communicate directly
to someone just how important the life of faith is.

How strong is your desire to be what Jesus calls us to
be?  How strong is your desire to be a fisher of
men?...

Strange isn't it - how in many areas of life people can
get really excited by things 
         - you'll never find a baseball or hockey fan who
         can keep his or her mouth shut about the last game
         they saw, or about how their favourite team or
         player is doing,
         - nor will you find a sports fisherman, or a
         commercial fisherman who works upon the deeps of
         the Atlantic, who tires of talking about what it is
         like and how a person, God willing, can best ensure
         a good catch;
yet in other areas of life people seem unaccountably
shy...

It never ceases to amaze me, for example, how few
people are excited by the prospect of sharing their
faith, and of telling people about how important God is
to them and indeed to the world.

What explains this?  Why do we enthuse about some
things, and yet not others?

I think there are two possible answers to this question 
- the first possibility is that we do not feel worthy
enough or well enough informed to speak out,
and the second possibility is that, in some areas of
life, we simply do not have the experience that is
required - we have, in other words, nothing to say, 
because the spirit is not fully alive in us.

What we say and what we do not say to each other is
significant - it tells people what is important to us
and what is not.
 
Gauging from what most people talk about,
     the most important things in life are families,
         professional sports,
             movies, and the weather -
     -- not necessarily in that order mind you...

Right up there with family concerns, sports, movies and
the weather are also things like
     shopping prices, crime,
         and the question of who is making love to who,
            and who is treating who badly.

You can modify that list if you want - but somehow I
cannot help thinking that almost all the things that
dominate our daily conversations are things that are a
long way from what the scriptures tell us we should be
thinking about and speaking about.

Most certainly most of our conversations do little to
identify us as disciples of Christ, 
nor do they do much to attract others to God's net, and
help them to come to know and experience the love of
God in their lives. 

My friends, the testimony of the scriptures is that God
wants us to speak to him and for him and of him;
and that God wants to use us and all our labours as
vessels of his love and mercy and grace.

We saw this in the Old Testament reading - where Isaiah
receives his call to be a prophet.

There in Isaiah's vision in the temple of Jerusalem we
hear God speaking to the heavenly host and asking them
who will speak to the world for heaven?

"who shall I send"  "who shall go for us?" asks God.

     Who will speak my word and teach the people,
     who will go and comfort the afflicted?
     who will declare my righteousness,
     and proclaim my eagerness to heal and save
     the people I have created?

It is a good question, this question of God.

     Who shall speak - who shall point the way to God
     for  God - if it is not us?

Who will heal the wounded and bind up the broken
hearted and pronounce forgiveness in the name of God -
if it is not us?

         Who shall visit the prisoners and proclaim God's
         gracious love - if it is not us?

Who will witness to the good news of God's care, and
proclaim his life giving power - if it is not us?

Some of you here today might say in reply to these
questions that is not the United Church way to speak to
others about God -- rather it is our way to do the
things that God has commanded us to do.
         
Indeed some might want to say that we do things instead
of just saying things:
         - that we do justice where others only speak of
         God's love,
          - and that we bring medicine where others only
         speak about God's healing power.
         - and that we try to set free the oppressed by
         campaigning against governments where others only
         speak of God's concern for the afflicted.

But is that true of all of us?  Is that what we
actually do?  Is it even true of most of us?

And even if it is true of most of us - does it make our
silence about God a more excellent way???

What makes us so different from the evangelists of the
Bible? from Simon Peter and James and John who did many
great works as they preached and spoke about Jesus from
town to town?
             
Why are our tongues, unlike theirs, frozen?

How are we by being silent, better than our brothers
and sisters in the fundamentalist churches who knock on
doors to tell people the good news of Jesus Christ?

What makes us so special that we can, unlike some of
our other brothers and sisters in Christ, dispense with
thanking God in prayer when we are about to eat in
restaurant?

What is better about failing to name God's name when
telling people about the things we are concerned about?
          
What is great about squeezing God out of our
conversations while we act in his name????

My friends - it is simply not true that the way of
silence is better than the way of speaking in bringing
people to God,
and it is simply not true that those who are silent
about God are doing more good for their neighbours than
those who speak of God to them.

It is true however, that speaking about something makes
it more real and more believable than simply doing that
something.

That is why our husbands or wives ask us to tell them
over and over again, that we love them.

The words matter to them just as much as the deeds.
The two things - our words and our actions - go in
hand, and produce trust and belief.

If you don't believe this - just see what happens if
you go for a couple of weeks in a row without telling
your wife that you love her.

Listen to what Paul writes in the tenth chapter of
Romans, verses 12 through 14:  He writes:

          Everyone who calls on the name of the
          Lord will be saved.  But how can they
          call on the one they have not believed
          in?  And how can they believe in the one
          of whom they have not heard?  And how can
          they hear without someone preaching to
          them?"

Salvation is always linked to the spoken word in the
scriptures.

Speaking the word of God and speaking of God and of
God's living word, Jesus our Lord, is a large part of
what it means to be a witness to Christ -  a large part
of what it means to be a fisher of men.

It is simply not enough to do things, just as it is
simply not enough to say things. Both speaking and
doing go together and when they are together they
produce fruit.

When speaking and doing are apart, both are barren.

My view is that many of us keep quiet about God,
not because we are afraid of profaning the holy,
nor is it because we are afraid of turning off people
    nor even is it because we think the way of action
         is superior to the way of speech,
rather I believe many people keep quiet about God 
    because they do not know or understand just what it
         is God has done for them and because if they know
         what God has done, they do not know how to speak of
         it.

In a poll conducted in 1983 people were asked if they
agreed with the statement "the gospel is God's rule for
right living".

Forty-three percent of those who answered said yes -
the others either did not know, or did not agree.

That is kind of incredible isn't it?

There is a deep need in our society for fishers of men
and women who use the full tackle box for people who
not only do things for God, but also speak about God
and about what God has done and is doing.
             
There is a need for people who are willing to engage in
holy conversations with the same zeal they have for
talk about baseball and hockey, and for people who are
willing to learn more about    their faith with the same
eagerness they have for studying the TV guide.

I don't expect today - out of this sermon,
that many of you will rush right out and tell someone
else about the wonderful things that God has done in
your life.

But I do hope today you will consider your witness - if
you are just perhaps a little too silent about God,
and if you decide you are - perhaps you might consider
why that is...

I started by asking: What does it mean to be a
Christian???  I would like to answer that question for
myself...

For me it means to believe that God loves me;
    - it means to believe in Jesus as the son of God,
         a man who lived and died and rose again for me
	     and everyone,
    - and it means having hope, and strength and
         gaining a family of sisters and brothers and
         mothers and fathers every bit as special and
         important as my birth family and my marriage
         family.

To be a Christian is for me to be set free from my sin
and guilt and to be given a new life, new life not only
not only at the end with God in heaven, but a new life
here on earth as well.

It means the opportunity and the call to build a new
world - a world we call the kingdom of God, in which
justice and joy reign with love and mercy.

To be a Christian is to follow Jesus of Nazareth, and
to know that in both the good times and the bad times I
am not alone, that God watches over me and will bring
out of every situation the victory and the glory that
both He desires and I need.

This is my friends what I needed to hear at one time, 
this is what I was told,
this is what has and is working for me,
and this is what I believe all people are called to
experience and to speak to others about

Praise be to God, and to his son Jesus, our Lord, our
brother, and our friend.  AMEN


copyright - Rev. Richard J. Fairchild - Spirit Networks, 1998 - 2006
            please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.



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