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Sermon and Liturgy for The Fifth Sunday after Epiphany - Year C
Isaiah 6:1-8, Psalm 138; I Corinthians 15:1-11; Luke 5:1-11
"Into The Deep Water"


READING:  Isaiah 6:1-8, Psalm 138; I Corinthians 15:1-11; Luke 5:1-11
SERMON :  "Into The Deep Water"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
c-or04smsu.y-c 594916

   The following is a more or less complete liturgy and sermon
   for the upcoming Sunday.  Hymn numbers, designated as VU are
   found in the United Church of Canada Hymnal "Voices United".
   SFPG is "Songs For A Gospel People", also available from the UCC.
   
   Sources:  Sermon materials from: Jim Penhale (Telos Information
   Service, Sermon Discussion Group, 1995); William H. Wilimon, "The
   Dangers of Fishing With Jesus", in Pulpit Resource, Year C, Vol 23,
   No 1.; Charles H. Bayer, "When Your Nets Are Empty" in When It is
   Dark Enough: Sermons For Advent, Christmas and Epiphany; and  J.
   Ellsworth Kalas, "From Empty Nets To Full Lives", in Emphasis: A
   Preaching Journal For the Parish Minister, Vol 24, No.5.  Children's
   Story based on cited source.
 

GATHERING AND MUSICAL PRELUDE                            (* = please stand)


CALL TO WORSHIP  (based on Isaiah 2:1-5)
L  The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God,
   and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
P  And also with you.
L  In the last days the mountain of the Lord's temple will be
   established.
P  It will be chief among the mountains, 
   it will be raised above the hills,
   and all nations will stream to it.
   Many peoples will come and say,
   "Let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
   to the house of the God of Jacob.
   He will teach us his ways so that we may walk in his paths"
L  Come, O house of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the Lord.
   Come, O people of Christ, let us worship the Lord in holiness.


INTROIT:  "Holy, Holy, Holy" (verse 1)                             - VU 315


PRAYER OF APPROACH
Light of all lights and truth behind all truth, holy and loving God -
touch us and make us worthy to stand in your presence this day.  Anoint us
by your Spirit that we may serve you as you wish.  Cast out from our
hearts all fears and distractions and grant that your living Word - Jesus
Christ our Lord may dwell in our praise and thanksgiving and in our
thoughts and in our actions - both now - and forevermore.  Amen


* HYMN  "One More Step Along The World I Go"                       - VU 639


CHILDREN'S TIME: "God Will Lift Us Up"
Object - Two children - almost the same height.
Theme  - God makes us able.
Source - Self and Weisheit, The Gospel For Kids, Series C, 1979

Good morning --  Last week we talked about how each of us - no matter how
little or how big is the just the right size to hold the gift of God's
love.  I want to talk a little more today about being the right size.

There are a lot of people who do not feel good enough to talk to God - or
to help Jesus do his work in the world, to share his gift of love.  Do you
know why that might be??  (Do wrong things, don't have the ability)

And do you know what - they are right.  None of is really good enough to
help God out - none of us is as holy as God, or as special as Jesus.  But
God tells us to not be afraid of him or to worry about whether we have the
ability to do what Jesus did. God asks us to help him give his gift of
love to the world anyway.  And God makes us able enough to do his work. 

Let me show you something - I need two of you to stand here beside me --
which one of these is taller???  (Exchange one kid for another)  Which is
taller now???  Who is taller than me???  None of you???  So you couldn't
reach as high as me???  Let's pretend for a minute that I am God.  Here is
what God does for those whom he asks to follow him and help him show his
love in the world.  PICK UP KID -- now you can reach where I reach - 

God lifts us up too - God wants us to talk to him and work for him and God
lifts us up so that we are able to do the work - he makes us able.


* PRAYER AND THE LORD'S PRAYER
   Let us Pray....  Dear Lord God - we thank you for lifting us up -
   and for helping us - to do what you want us to do. - We thank you
   for Jesus - and for his love - the love we want to share - the love
   you want us to share.  Amen

   Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom
   come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this
   day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive
   those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but
   deliver us from evil.  For thine is the kingdom, the power and the
   glory, for ever and ever.  Amen


* SONG OF PRAISE: "God is So Good"

   God is so good, God is so good,
   God is so good, He's so good to me!

   He cares for me, He cares for me,
   He cares for me, He's so good to me!

   I love Him so, I love Him so,
   I love Him so, He's so good to me!

   
ANNOUNCEMENTS AND SHARING JOYS AND CONCERNS
- Announcements
- Birthdays and Anniversaries:
- Sharing Joys and Concerns


ST ANDREW'S THIS WEEK


ANTHEM


A READING FROM ISAIAH 6:1-8
   (NIV)  In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a
   throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple.
   {2} Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they
   covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two
   they were flying. {3} And they were calling to one another: "Holy,
   holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his
   glory." {4} At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds
   shook and the temple was filled with smoke. {5} "Woe to me!" I cried.
   "I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a
   people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD
   Almighty." {6} Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in
   his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. {7} With it he
   touched my mouth and said, "See, this has touched your lips; your
   guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for." {8} 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!"

L  This is the Word of the Lord.
P  Thanks be to God.


RESPONSIVE READING: Psalm 138 (Voices United 860 and Sung Refrain)


A READING FROM I CORINTHIANS 15:1-11
   (NIV)  Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to
   you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. {2} By
   this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached
   to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. {3} For what I received
   I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our
   sins according to the Scriptures, {4} that he was buried, that he was
   raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, {5} and that he
   appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. {6} After that, he appeared
   to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of
   whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. {7} Then he
   appeared to James, then to all the apostles, {8} and last of all he
   appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. {9} For I am the least
   of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle,
   because I persecuted the church of God. {10} But by the grace of God I
   am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect.  No, I
   worked harder than all of them - yet not I, but the grace of God that
   was with me. {11} Whether, then, it was I or they, this is what we
   preach, and this is what you believed.

L  This is the Word of the Lord.
P  Thanks be to God.


* HYMN:  "I, The Lord of Sea and Sky"                              - VU 509


A READING FROM LUKE 5:1-11
   (NIV)  One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, with
   the people crowding around him and listening to the word of God, {2}
   he saw at the water's edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who
   were washing their nets. {3} He got into one of the boats, the one
   belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then
   he sat down and taught the people from the boat. {4} When he had
   finished speaking, he said to Simon, "Put out into deep water, and let
   down the nets for a catch." {5} Simon answered, "Master, we've worked
   hard all night and haven't caught anything. But because you say so, I
   will let down the nets." {6} When they had done so, they caught such a
   large number of fish that their nets began to break. {7} So they
   signalled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and
   they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink. {8}
   When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus' knees and said, "Go away
   from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!" {9} For he and all his companions
   were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, {10} and so were
   James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon's partners. Then Jesus said
   to Simon, "Don't be afraid; from now on you will catch men." {11} So
   they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.

L  This is the Gospel of our Risen Lord.
P  Praise be to you, Lord Jesus Christ.


SERMON: "Into The Deep Water" 

   Bless thou, the words of my lips and the meditations of our hearts
   that they be of profit to us and acceptable to thee, oh our rock
   and our redeemer.  Amen

Nobody is on top of the world every day.  
Everyone has ups and downs.
Sometimes the world is sweet and sometimes it is sour.
Sometimes life moves along briskly, 
   we accomplish what we set out to do and we meet our personal goals. 
And sometimes things get stuck.
   We look failure in the face day after day.  We don't know how to get
   out of what we don't know how we got into.  Life comes to a halt.

Today's gospel reading is about three discouraged men - four actually if
you count Andrew - Simon Peter's brother who appears in other accounts of
this story.

They were fishermen - not recreational fishermen, but workers whose
families went hungry if there was no catch.  Jesus had met them before -
when they were associated with John the Baptist - in fact he had been to
Simon Peter's house and cured his mother-in-law of a high fever.

It was a very bad day for the four fishers.  They had fished all night and
caught nothing.  Now it was morning, the morning after a night of failure,
and the men were washing their nets so they'd be ready for the next
night's work. 

There was a crowd on the beach near where they were working.  A big crowd. 
They were listening to Jesus - pressing in upon him.   Jesus is in the
water - out a way from the crowd.   Suddenly Jesus steps into Simon's
boat.  "Put out a little way from shore", he asks Peter, and he does.  

From the boat Jesus continues to teach the crowds.  Finally he is done. 
The crowd goes home.

Jesus then turns to Simon.  "Put out into the deep water", he tells him,
"and let your nets down for a catch."

It was really quite audacious for Jesus, a landsman, to tell a
professional fisherman how to do his business.  Very audacious - and Peter
answers Jesus immediately by explaining the facts of life to him.

"It won't do any good," he says, "We have worked all night - and have
caught nothing.  There is no point to it."

Have you ever been there?
You do your best.  You work hard.  And the results are zero.
   An important relationship goes sour and there is nothing you can do.
       You watch a marriage dissolve and you can't save it.
          A project you have worked upon just will not pan out.
              The harder you try - the less you produce.

Have you ever been in the place where all your wisdom tells you 
- just give up.

I have, and the last thing you want to hear 
- the last thing you need to hear when you are in this position
are the words "try harder".

Peter and Andrew, James and John - they were not stupid men.  They knew
the lake, the ledges where the fish congregated, the kind of weather you
had to have to bring in a good catch.  Their families had been working the
lake for generations.  They knew the time to fish - and where to fish -
and they had gone fishing - at the right time - and at the right place -
and come up empty.

"Try over there", Jesus says. "over there in the deep water - let your
nets down for a catch."

   "Master, we have worked all night long", Peter replies, "we have
   done everything we should have done, everything we were taught to
   do by our fathers and there fathers before them, but we have caught
   nothing... yet - if you say so - I will let down the nets."

Why Simon agrees to row out into the deeper water - we do not know.  

Perhaps he did so because he was learning to trust Jesus - perhaps he did
it to humour him -  perhaps it was because of something in Jesus' tone of
voice.  Whatever the reason, Peter agrees to do what Jesus asks of him.

You know the story from here - They threw the nets out from Simon's boat
and engulfed such a great shoal of fish with them that the nets began to
break.  Indeed they caught so many fish that when John and James came
alongside and helped load the boats  - the boats began to sink.  

It was an amazing catch.  A catch made in deep water.  A catch taken where
there should have been no catch.  A catch taken at a time of day when
there should have been no catch.

I know that today is the day when most preachers would talk to you about
how we are called to be soul catchers - how like Simon Peter and Andrew
and James and John we are called to leave everything behind, all our
ordinary concerns and worries and frets and cares and focus on winning
people for God.  And that is a good message.

But instead of focussing on that message, I want you to look today at the
catch of fish - and the facts behind it and what the whole episode might
suggest about how we live our lives.

I want you to remember something today 
- I want you to remember what Simon Peter said to Jesus at the first when
he said "Master, we've worked hard all night and haven't caught anything"

What Simon said to Jesus in effect was:
- I know my business,
- We tried it
- we worked all night and nothing happened, so what's the point

Undoubted, my friends, we, like Peter, do know our business.  
But sometimes we know it too well.

We know our child is not educated enough or old enough 
   to do a particular job or to enjoy a particular responsibility
or that our brother is too busy to ask for a favour
or that our neighbour doesn't care to help
or that we ourselves aren't talented enough to do what everyone is asking
us to.

We know these things about ourselves and about others - and what happens?
We feel frustrated.  We feel alone.  We feel inadequate.
We believe that what is being asked of us 
- be it as individuals or as part of a group
will not pan out - and we don't want to try again - we don't want to risk
one more disappointment - one more failure.

I know people, some of them might be here today, whose lives are miserable
because for years they have refused to risk such failure - such
disappointment.

They have resources, but do not use them,
skills, but do not develop them,
dreams, but do not follow them,
gifts, but do not share them

They know what is what - they know their business and they are not about
to be instructed in it by anyone else.

They know who they are - and who others are - and what the situation is 
- and they are locked in by that knowledge,
afraid to risk - afraid to reach out - afraid to go beyond the familiar,
because - in the end they know how things will pan out,
they know that there is no point to doing what is being asked of them,
that there is no point going beyond the place where fish are normally
caught - because if in the normal places there is nothing, than how much
less will there be in the places where fish are almost never caught.

Put out into the deep water  - and let down your nets.

Well - that's all very fine Jesus 
- but we tried our best all night 
- we tried it and it didn't work.
but because you say so, I will do as you have asked.

When I was the minister in Sambro - a fishing community just outside of
Halifax - a young woman by the name of Marilyn LeBlanc suggested to the
church council there that they start a social club - one that could meet
one Friday a month for special events like bowling, rotation dinners, card
parties, tobogganing, theatre, and so forth.

Guess what the Council said?.  
Come on - make a guess.

"WE TRIED IT BEFORE - AND IT DIDN'T WORK"

And they were right.  They had tried it 
They had done their best several times in recent years and it didn't work. 
Nobody was interested.  Nobody came.

But - the Council continued - if Marilyn wanted to try again - that was up
to her - she had their blessing, but please, they added, don't be
disappointed if nothing happens.

That church had - on an average Sunday in those days,  about 85 people in
it.  Forty were people who were approaching or past pensionable age, and
thirty were children.

The first meeting of the Social Club had ten people attend it.  The second
had sixteen.  The third had over twenty.  All people between eighteen and
forty.  It continued that way till I left in 1988.  We had a great time
together and because of that time together many other lives in our
community were touched.  Everyone became more alive - more confident -
more united.  Church attendance rose in part due to the success of the
group.  

You know that there is truth in the old proverb that the family that plays
together stays together.

Put out into the deep waters and let down your nets for a catch.

What's the point?

The point is this:  Sometimes we need to be stimulated by someone who
lives outside our frame of reference.  

Sometimes we need to listen to another point of view.  
Sometimes we need to risk one more failure, 
   to go and do what our common sense tells us cannot be done 
   and to try what we know will not work.

Sometimes we just need to head out into the deep waters and let down our
nets for no better reason than Jesus has asked us to do so.

Jim Penhale, an online friend from many years ago, writes about today's
Gospel reading: 

   "The image that strikes me in today's gospel is not the fishing but
   the reluctance of Simon to break out of the ordinary and the
   everyday ways of thinking and doing.  I've always been attracted to
   Simon Peter because he's so like many of us - well me at least. 
   Despite verse ten, I don't think it's being suggested that our
   mission is to put out bait and catch unsuspecting fish who might be
   curious enough to nibble.  I think the reading might suggest that
   we should be willing to set the familiar aside and unafraid to try
   new waters."

Jesus did not come simply to make each one of us into some kind of
metaphorical fishermen - going out to catch souls with a line of faith so
that they could be displayed in some heavenly trophy case.

He came so that each one of us might have an abundant life, a full and
rich life, a life in which we know and experience and share the love of
God - a love which conquerors the sting of death, and ensures that in the
end our labours are not in vain, no matter how many days our nets may come
up empty.

To achieve that life - we have to do one thing - we have to recognize that
our knowledge and our experience is not equal to that of God's.

We have to recognize that God's ways are indeed superior to our own,
that his wisdom is greater,
his timing better,
and his counsel more life-giving than our own.

As Isaiah and Simon Peter and Paul each acknowledge in their own ways in
today's three readings that God is greater than they and that they are in
need of God's grace and God's love,
   so too we must acknowledge our need - our need and God's ability and
   desire to meet that need.

Our nets may come up empty for many days in a row
but if we are open to God 
- if we are willing to listen and to try the new things he suggests
- if we are willing venture out to the deep water
- or simply if we are willing, because he asks us, to do over again some
of the things we have tried before and given up on,
our nets will in the end be filled
and filled so abundantly that our very nets will threaten to break
and our boats begin to sink.

As the children's story today suggested,
and as each of our three readings states,
God is able to speak through us 
- even though we are a people of unclean lips
God is able to make our nets overflow 
- even though we are sinful, even though we have failed before
and God is able to bring good news to the world through our labour
- even though we may come late to the scene
- even though we may have sought to destroy rather than build up the
body of Christ in former times.

God is able - and willing to help us - 
God is able - and God calls us to share that message,
the message that through listening to him and following him,
there comes an abundance from where before there was nothing.

   "But by the grace of God I am what I am", Paul writes, "and his
   grace to me was not without effect.  No, I worked harder than all
   of them - yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me."

God's grace makes all things new - it makes us who we are supposed to be.

Heed the instructions that God gives to you here in the scriptures
and here - in your hearts - and all will be better than you can imagine,
for as you venture out into the deep waters,
and labour hard to let down and bring up your nets
you will discover the fullness of life 
a life in which God is with you to accomplish his will.

Praise be to God, now and forever.  Amen


PRAYERS OF THANKSGIVING AND INTERCESSION
Loving God, like Peter and Andrew, and James and John, we sometimes feel
discouraged - we work hard at what we do - we care for our boats - we tend
our nets - we batten down the hatches when the seas get rough - yet -
sometimes our labour seems to be in vain.  Help us to not be discouraged -
bur rather grant that we might hear your voice and accept your direction
and venture forth again in obedience to your word.  Guide us to the deep
waters where the catch you have for us lies waiting - and strengthen our
hands for the work it requires.... Lord hear our prayer...

Holy God - we know that you seek messengers today as you sought them in
the day of Isaiah.  You call us, as you called Peter and later Paul, to
follow in the path of Christ Jesus and to bring to you all who are in need
of you.  Cleanse us, Lord, as you cleansed them, touch us with coals from
your alter, lift us up from our knees where we fall before you, pour your
grace out upon us -- and help us to remember that is your purpose and your
power to which we bear witness - not our own.  

As you filled the nets of the disciples, O Lord, so we ask you to fill the
nets we cast at your direction.
-- grant that our prayers for healing might be answered...
-- grant that our work for justice might lead to a more equitable sharing
of what this world affords
-- grant that our words of forgiveness might bring reconciliation
-- grant that our acts of compassion might satisfy those who are in need
and grant that our way of being might prompt others to praise and glorify
your name...  Lord hear our prayer

Grant us, O Lord, a resurrection faith - a faith that is radiant in the
knowledge of your victory over sin and death - a faith that is confident
in your care and your love.   Bless now, we pray, with joy those who call
out in your name and those who labour as you have directed.  Bless too
those we hold before you - and work a work of healing and salvation in
their lives....  BIDDING PRAYER

Lord Hear Our Prayer....     We ask it in the name of Christ Jesus - our
Lord and our brother.  Amen


MINUTE FOR MISSION   


* SHARING GOD'S BLESSINGS: As the Offering is presented all stand for the
Doxology (Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow - VU 541) & Prayer of
Dedication

   God of every soul in heaven and on earth - we bring our tithes and
   offerings in support of your life-saving work, of your reaching out
   to gather close to yourself all who are in need.  And we offer
   ourselves as disciples of Jesus - committed to living and loving in
   his way - to being used for his purposes.  Bless these gifts and
   strengthen us for faithful servanthood.  Amen.


* DEPARTING HYMN:  "Jesus Calls Us"                                - VU 562


* COMMISSIONING (unison):  In the power of the Holy Spirit, we now go
   forth into the world, to fulfil our calling as the people of God, the
   body of Christ.


* BENEDICTION & THREEFOLD AMEN
Go in peace - love and care for one another in Christ's name;  
-and may the God of all grace who has destined you for eternal glory in
   Christ Jesus restore, establish and strengthen you in faith,
- may you know the fullness of his blessings 
- and the glory of being witnesses to his saving and redeeming love
both now and forevermore.  Amen


THREE FOLD AMEN & SUNG BLESSING:  "Go Now In Peace"                - VU 964


copyright - Rev. Richard J. Fairchild - Spirit Networks, 2001 - 2006
            please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.



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