It's For You - Reflections 2-6-2022

Texts for Sunday February 6, 2022
5th Sunday of Epiphany

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

The three texts this Sunday provide a glimpse of God calling a person to share in the work of God's kingdom.

Let’s start with the Isaiah. First, re-read the Isaiah 1:1-8 and then draw what you imagine Isaiah is describing. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

It is really almost too amazing to even conceive of: the hem of a robe that fills the temple; seraphim with six wings and very loud voices (Google “seraph” and look at some images people have produced); quaking foundations as smoke fills the temple; and coal fire on the altar from which the live coal was picked up and seared his mouth. That sounds painful, but the rest sounds awesome -- the only thing to say along with those strange creatures is “Holy, holy, holy”.

In 1 Corinthians, Paul doesn’t describe his call story completely …. That is recorded in the book of Acts 9:1-19. Instead, he refers to it as his credential for the right to challenge the Corinthians interpretation of the Good News. After pointing to all those believers “ahead” of him in the call to proclaim the Gospel, Paul modestly admits he was called and acknowledges that it was only by God’s grace. 

The Gospel of Luke introduces Peter as man who understood fishing – it was his livelihood. Since he knew the trade, when he helped haul in that giant catch of fish (astounding!), he knew God had just done something amazing and abruptly left his career and family to follow Jesus.

These three stories together are lumped together in the lectionary as examples.  There are visions of heaven and seraphs with burning coals (look out!), or a shining light that blinds you for days, or a miraculous demonstration of power over natural elements. And note that in all three, the called one admits that they are decidedly unfit and too sinful to accept the call. But by grace they move on to fulfill it.

What these selected readings don’t directly mention are how the people around you might respond to the calls. As you read on about each character, you’ll learn the cost of their “yes”. We hear that being a prophet is hard and everyone is going to hate you because what you tell them – the truth - is really hard to hear. Paul might have had a clue to the cost of his work - dying for his beliefs - he probably didn’t expect the problematic congregational issues and challenges that arose in the churches he started – especially this one in Corinth. And Peter won’t fully understand the costs of his call until Jesus’ death and resurrection… and later his own crucifixion.

So, what does all this mean for us?

I believe that I received a call at my baptism 30 days after I was born. God was present on the Word and the water. According to the family story, I did cry through most of the rite which I like to believe was my moment of feeling unworthy (or a seraph pinching me? Or a light blinding me? No fish, I’m sure). My reassurance was the cloud of witnesses surrounding me with God’s love as I was growing up in my little rural church in Payne’s Point Illinois. That is one thing that it is easy to miss in these stories is that God uses people and communities of people to help discern your call throughout your life.

Back to my baptismal call: To live among God’s holy people, to hear the word of God and share in the Lord’s supper, to proclaim the good news of God in word and deed, to serve all people, following the example of Jesus, and to strive for justice and peace in all the earth. At all points along my life – confirmation classes, Luther League, Campus Ministry, Day Care provider, Map Librarian, Seminarian, Associate in Ministry and Deacon - I have been called to those baptismal clauses, and have imperfectly managed to live them totally by the grace of God.

I’ve experienced call as a life-long process without visions or miracles. As I developed skills and tools of thought (put another way, received gifts of the Spirit), as the community helped to discern my gifts and supported me, God focused the call a little bit, and helped it become a bit more specific, although never rigid. And never with absolute clarity or detail. All these thoughts have only been mine from the perspective of looking back. At the time I was thrashing around wondering what to do.

One example: When it was time to leave my first call (yes, nudged by God and others), two options lay before me: go to another congregation or interview for an open campus ministry position. Praying sincerely for some clarity, I finally sensed the answer was “I can work with either one”. Seriously.

Eventually of course, I ended up doing both. I’m sure that got a chuckle from God.

God calls us to life in God’s love. We often fret way too much about the details. Or we expect the spectacular. Truthfully, those are excuses to pretend that we don’t know what is asked of us. God knows we are imperfect but with God’s love we are perfect for the call.

How to Find Us

Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Iowa City

Gathered by grace. Scattered for service.

123 E Market Street
Iowa City, IA 52245