Isaiah 6:1-8

Luke 5:1-11

They say, “It’s better to be out fishing on Sunday morning and thinking about church, than to be sitting in church and thinking about fishing.” But today I want you to think about fishing, those of you who fish. Think about being out there on the lake. The sun is low over the horizon. You can hear the waves lapping at the side of the boat. You’re holding your fishing pole just so, feeling the line for that moment when something takes the hook. The wind moves gently across your cheek. You breathe in, and as the air comes into your nose, you can feel the presence of a Spirit beyond all wind, all around you.

Okay, that’s not exactly the kind of fishing experience that led Peter and his companions into an encounter with Jesus, but it’s one of the deep threads of spiritual experience in this congregation. And something about it feels more like Peter’s experience in Luke’s gospel than the one Isaiah describes. Luke and Isaiah both describe encounters with God that happen in unique ways.

Isaiah’s encounter looks kind of like the “traditional” worship service we used here in years past. The encounter begins in this separate space and time – for him it was the Temple, and for us it’s this sanctuary. Worship begins with a rousing hymn of praise, maybe an energetic call to worship, and then it comes to a screeching halt. Isaiah cries out, “I’m ruined! I’m too sinful to be here in God’s presence!” We say our prayer of confession and wait for a messenger from God to pronounce us clean. Then, and only then, do we begin to hear the voice of God speaking to us. and, like in this reading, as soon as we hear God’s message to us, the encounter is over.

“Traditional” worship looks like Isaiah’s vision because the people who designed that worship had something important in common with Isaiah. He was a priest, so he found his spiritual home primarily – maybe exclusively, at this point in his life – in the Temple. The people who design worship for a living, people like me, we get into this work in part because we find our spiritual home in the rituals and buildings of the church. And if we don’t listen well enough to the people around us, it’s very easy for us to imagine that every encounter with God has to be contained in some kind of temple.

Luke describes a church that doesn’t only encounter God in the Temple. For Luke, God is present in the daily life of the church as it lives deeply together. Luke identifies the church as a community that shares everything in unity, that works and eats together. The church participates in worship at regular times, but formal worship is never the point by itself. The Spirit shows up frequently in Luke and Acts, often while the church is praying but always while the church is gathered together.

The Spirit of God is always there in Luke’s story and Peter’s world. The Spirit is always there, even if we only recognize it from time to time. Even when we don’t recognize God directly, God’s action shapes the life of the church. Our unity and sharing are made possible by God’s grace. Our work finds its meaning in the service of a divine Love that transforms the world. God doesn’t wait for us to start worship before She shows up. Worship is just how we practice seeing God. In worship, we learn more deeply what God looks like, so we can see the signs of God around us. It’s where we hold our lives up to God’s light so we can learn to shape our lives according to God’s desires.

Our chancel furniture tells the story of worship, a story that Isaiah’s encounter only seems to tell half of. It’s laid out today to tell the story in a straight line, which of course isn’t how worship works. But if you read it in a line, here’s what happens. We start over here at the baptismal font, the symbol of our unity that washes away every barrier between us. We never get together without sharing the stories and news of daily life, and God is always somewhere within that. We listen for God to speak to us, to teach us the great stories and principles of our faith, but also to invite us to respond.

Then – and this is important – we actually do respond! Isaiah’s story has a response that is a little too easy to overlook, but Peter responds for real. He goes out deeper into God’s waters, just as Jesus asked him to. We respond in worship, in the presence of the One who greets us here. We respond every week by sharing our resources with the world through this church; once a month we respond by celebrating the Sacrament of communion together. I think we could spend more time responding in prayer, by being attentive to the presence of God around and within us. And of course we respond in the rest of our lives, as we hear God invite us to rededicate ourselves and be made new.

It’s in that response that we really learn to see God in our daily lives. Or, for you who aren’t quite so mystically inclined, we learn to shape our daily life more closely around God’s desires for us. Worship is the light that shines on our unity and service, showing us where the God of Love is in our lives. It’s food and drink that strengthen us for the work we do. It’s quality time together that deepens our bond of love. It’s a time to return within ourselves to be reminded of who we are: God’s beloved children.

Amen.

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