A Typical Sunday Sermon

February 10, 2019

Luke 5:1-11  Recruitment

         What is the Word telling us? The word that tells us the meaning of our lives as creatures, animal and spirit, not composed of our own historical making. Curious how I know myself, plagued by the story I tell myself, or rejoiced. But then, on the basis of nothing I was or would be, a seismic shift. What does that look like? “And when they had brought their ships to land, they forsook all and followed him.” Jesus was fishing, called them in across the water. He walks by, gives a command, “Follow me,” and they follow. And then, left behind, a ton of fish, and the boat and mamma at home, with the kids and the mother-in-law, and you left it all and followed him. Thumbs up or thumbs down. Peter was a good fisher but Jesus was better, got the man who eats the fish. But what’s the bait? Oh, death on a cross, following a man who walks with the radiant power of eternal life. If we have eyes to see.

         A fella might say, “Well, it’s been a at times tore up and scattered, unsure, seeky-sneaky life, but it’s been all right. But I made a living and then…” Then Jesus comes by with all these people, a hoard rabbling, and it is washing net time, early in the warming day. And Jesus wades out to Peter’s boat, and get’s over the side, so the people who gather to hear the meaning of life will not back him into the water. And he concludes the teaching saying, “Blessed are the poor, the grieving, the persecuted for of them is the kingdom of God. Live by bread, yes, but more, by every word of God that is bread from heaven.” Those broken in this world, the kingdom of God will be revealed through them. Through them, make them prophets of the Kingdom of God.

And Jesus calls out to Peter, “Ship the nets and the oars and let’s go fishing.” That’s absurd. But if it wasn’t absurd it wouldn’t be this kind of recruitment. Absurd to go fishing then, and then to catch two sinking boatfuls, and absurd to leave it all and follow him. Something is happening from another reality that produces absurdity in this one, in matters of possession and identity.

         Jesus recruits anywhere, the plain circumstance of an awful day, when the soul is about to catch fire and eat itself, outside in field or forest, alleyway or freeway. But then there is the recruitment way of glorious mysteries. “The Lord sitting  upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the Temple.” And six winged angels, cover their eyes as to not look upon the Lord. For the creature to look direct on the Creator causes an utter collapse of the creature into the wholeness of All-Life, if you will. It is a great sin, signaled by his conviction of death, to see what Isaiah saw, the Temple full of smoke, the angels singing, “Mystery, mystery, mystery, is the Lord of the armies of fire.” And the soprano angels shake the window glass, and the big bodied profundo angels shake the doors on their hinges. Isaiah feels he will perish, “…because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips, for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.” A man who is not much of a truth talker looking on the King of creation, and being looked at. That takes reality takes complete hold, always aware that I am known as God knows divine Life itself. But how to be a truth teller of the truth that God wants told? Obviously, for Isaiah, his lips must be made clean by fire sacrifice, that he would be a straight God-talker. Whatever gets kicked up in the midst of a people of unclean lips by a God-talker could, at most, be only a miserable distraction. “Then flew one of the seraphim unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar. And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this has touched thy lips. And thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged.” Iniquity, his tendency to lie, is taken away. And the sin, and its consuming consequence, of gazing on God, is removed. But behold, it is that very sin that led to walking always wakeful of the presence of God, and unable to do other than speak the truth of the walk. Revelation, sin, and recruitment, and serious for Isaiah to know that off the path puts the whole body in the fire. Curious way of thinking about getting from my unclean lips, to lips cleansed for God’s word.

         And what might God’s word be? Paul says, “I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins and was buried, and he rose again the third day, according to the scriptures.” What he received, as he said, “by revelation of the Spirit in Christ,” and how the scriptures said the same about the Christ. The Messiah, the Son of God, anointed by the Holy Spirit to rule by the Spirit as Lord of the Way of Love, who revealed love by dying for our sins, as the scriptures foretold. And the scriptures also said the Messiah would rise again on the third day. The tomb would be empty, and angels and the gardener would ask the same, “Woman, why are you weeping?” Paul is saying the message came through him, he received it by revelation of Jesus, and passed it on. And, he found the same about Jesus in scripture. And also, it was none of Paul’s doing that five hundred of those Jesus anointed with the Spirit saw him at once. All the apostles saw him, “…after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.” And Jesus promised that they would be baptized in his name, the immersing of souls, in the Spirit of God.

         The man named Saul was stripped, emptied as if dead to self and world, and given the Spirit faith of Jesus resurrection to become Paul, the thirteenth apostle. He says, “I am crucified with Christ. It is not I who live in the flesh, but Christ who lives in me. I live by the faith of Jesus who loved me and died for me.” Paul’s zeal was purified of ethnic bigotry, and Torah self-righteousness. The assassin becomes an Apostle by revelation of the Spirit in Christ. He says, “I was come nigh unto Damascus, about noon. Suddenly, out of heaven a great light shone around me. I fell onto the ground, and heard a voice saying, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’ And I answered, ‘Who are you, Sir?’ And he said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth whom you persecute.’ And those with me saw the light, and feared, but they did not hear the voice that spoke to me. And I said, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ And the Lord said to me, “Get up. Go into Damascus, and there you shall be told everything which is appointed for you to do.’ And when I could not see for the glory of that light, being led by the hand by those with me, I came into Damascus.” Saul then blind, complete fast for three days, baptized by the Holy Spirit, got new eyes, like Jesus through the tomb. Out of the light, a voice had come, “Why are you  destroying my anointed witnesses?”… But who are you? Saul never saw Jesus before he made of himself a sacrifice to embody the suffering of a people of unclean lips. And notice, “What shall I do?” Go into Damascus, and be told all that is appointed for him to do, a tremendous doing by a high wrought genius, in the power of the Spirit, flooding waters of Spirit baptism within, if you will. Appointed for him to say, where to go, what he will suffer, how he will be persecuted and killed.

Recruited out of a mission of violent persecution by the light that is the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. Recruitment to prophetic witness by encounter with the Lord, by the lake shore, taken to be fishers of people. And those fished by the apostles, by the Spirit baptism of Jesus, become, as Paul says, new creatures, “…all children of God by the faith of the Christ who is Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Sanctification by the Spirit of Jesus not for separation, but for union. The fish out of water, but then, a new embodiment, all breathing the same air, the vaster heaven medium of the Spirit breath of God.