Sermon - Fifth after Epiphany, February 10 2019

Sermon for the Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C
February 10, 2019
The Rev. Evelyn Wheeler, Rector

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

In Isaiah and in Luke, we have two stories of people being called into God’s service – and they are both different in some ways, but the same in others.

Isaiah became a prophet, even though he knew he didn’t have what it takes.  But the angel touched his lips with a piece of coal – a very ordinary lump of anthracite or bitumen – and he became a vessel of God’s grace to the world.  For him that piece of coal was, dare one say it, a sacrament, as one of the commentators has said.[1]

It was an ordinary bit of creation, set aside for a holy purpose, so it became sacred.  And when it became the channel of God’s reconciling grace, it became a sacrament.  That’s what a sacrament is – an outward and visible sign of God’s inward and spiritual grace.

When we set anything aside for God, it becomes sacred – and when God’s grace works through it, it becomes a sacrament.  For that matter, God may work through any part of creation whether we’ve set is aside or not, or whatever is our intention when we do – or do not – set it aside, for that matter.  So this is how God makes the whole of creation a holy place, not only by creating it, but by acting in it, within it, and with it, to share God’s grace with us.

When a tree reminds us of God’s grace, it has become sacred.  When a pet reminds us of God’s love, she or he has become sacred.  When the mountains inspire paeans of praise in our hearts and minds and mouths, they become sacred.  Perhaps even sacramental.

Now, while you ponder that insight, let’s talk about Peter and the others.

They’ve been fishing, and fishing, and fishing, all night, and they have caught nothing.  There are no fish.  They come to shore in the morning, after fruitless labor, tired, discouraged, maybe even hungry?  Do you suppose they would have any food, having caught no fish?

And here comes that itinerant preacher, and he is accompanied by crowds seeking to see and hear him speak, so he asks to borrow Peter’s boat – and Peter wants to hear and see him speak also, so he takes him out and hears the teaching.

And then Jesus turns to him and his crew and says, let down the nets.  Again.  But we’ve been fishing all night – there are no fish here.  Let down the nets.

So they do.  I don’t know why, but they do: exhausted, discouraged, hungry, frustrated, maybe a little cranky they may be, but they let down the nets. One. More. Time.

And this time – oh the Grace of God, they are filled with fish – so many fish – more fish than they can put safely into their boat – more fish than they have ever seen!  So many fish.

And here you have it – those fish are a sacrament to them: an outward and visible sign – and what a sign! – of God’s inward and spiritual grace toward them – and everyone can see this sign.

They have no choice but to follow.  No choice at all.  Not because choice has been given them, but because they have given up choice.

Do you remember, that frequently, when Jesus eats with anyone, there is fish?  Not just that morning when Peter and the others with him left their nets, but at the feeding of the thousands, and when he meets them on the shore of the sea of Galilee, all those months and years later, after the resurrection.

Fish.  You might as well say hamburger at the family barbeque, or the lamb at Easter dinner, or hotdogs at the big game, or popcorn at the movies, or even fish at the lakeshore.  Food – we all eat it, we all like it, we all need it – and with it we are able to nourish our bodies, and when we give thanks for it, we make it sacred, and when we ask God’s blessing, it becomes a sacramental thing.  An outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace.

We are surrounded by the holy, by sacredness, by a sacramental creation, filled with the Grace of God, a God who is eager to share divine grace with us, to share even divinity with us in the earthly bod of Jesus the Messiah.

This gift of grace is something we remember every time we come to the altar here at Christ Church, certainly.  We have a prayer that, while I say the words, you echo them in your minds and hearts, so we say them together, and thus seek God’s blessing on wafer and wine, such that they may become the outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace – holy food for holy people, as I sometimes say.  Holy, because set aside for God.  Holy food, this wafer, this cup of wine.  Holy people, you, me, all who partake.

Our lives are filled with holy and sacramental things – we may not think of it, we may not notice it, but that doesn’t make it not true.  Open your eyes, open your hearts, to see God’s grace in the world around us, and in the people around us.  Seeking, you will find.  And in finding, give thanks.

And in giving thanks, we find love.

St Paul wrote that, “Without love, I am nothing – a clashing symbol, a resounding gong, signifying nothing.”  But with love, “I can do all things through Jesus Christ.”

That’s the end point, that’s the whole point, that’s the entire point, that’s the story, that’s the truth.

We can do all things we are called to do – prophecy, fish, celebrate, sing, and, most of all, love – because God in Christ came in love to make us one with him in heaven and on earth.


[1] James Calvin Davis, Exegesis on Isaiah 6:1-13, Feasting on the Word, Year C, Volume 1, Kindle 10999.

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