February 10, 2013
Is 6:1-2a, 3-8; Lk 5:1-11
When God wants us to do something, God calls us. It might happen through a thought that comes into our minds, through the circumstances in which we find ourselves, or through an act of discernment by which we are trying to decide a direction. But when God wants us to do something, God calls, “Hey Gus, Carol, Michael, I want you to do this. Then it’s up to us to decide how we can respond, whether we can do what God asks or not.
In today’s Scripture readings we have the call of two famous Biblical characters. In today’s first reading we have the call of the prophet Isaiah, and in today’s Gospel we have the call of the apostle Peter. These characters, like most in the Bible, are called according to a set pattern. The pattern is this. God says, “Hey, I want you to do something.” The person being called says, “You’ve got to be kidding!” And then God says, “No, I’m not.” We see this pattern repeated over and over again: the call, “You’ve got to be kidding,” “No, I’m not.”
God comes before Isaiah in the first reading, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God of hosts!” Isaiah says, “You’ve got to be kidding! I am a man of unclean lips.” But God says to Isaiah, “I need someone to send and I want you.” Jesus asks Peter to lower his nets and there is a miraculous catch. Peter says, “You’ve got to be kidding! I’m a sinful man.” But Jesus says, “From now on, you will be catching men.”
This Biblical pattern is used in order to tell us what is primary and what is not. God’s call is primary. God’s call is more important than our qualifications. We are all imperfect, we all have shortcomings. Like Isaiah and Peter we are sinful people. But if we focus on those limitations and shortcomings, we will never be able to say “Yes.” We can always find someone else who is more gifted or better suited. So when the call comes to us, the Bible says it is perfectly okay for us to think these things, to tell God, “You know, I’m not the best qualified person here.” But we should also be prepared for God to say “I want you anyway.”
There are people here this evening who God is calling to be parents of teenagers. When you watch your children growing and changing and becoming more and more adolescent, you say to God, “You’ve got to be kidding! I signed up to have a baby but I’m not ready for this. I don’t have enough patience, enough wisdom, enough strength to be this kind of a parent.” And God says, “I know it. But I’m calling you, and I’ll be with you. Do your best.”
There might be some of us here God is calling to be reconcilers in our families. We see some in-laws or some other relations who are estranged from others. The thought comes to us, “Perhaps I should speak to one of them in order to bring about reconciliation.” Yet when that call comes, we say, “God you have to be kidding. I’m not the most diplomatic person. I’m not the one closest to this person. Why would you be asking me to do this?” God says, “I know, but you would have some authority if you reached out. Perhaps they will listen. I’m asking you to try.”
God might be calling us to do an act of kindness for someone at work who annoys us or to a kid at school with whom no one will associate. You say to God, “You’ve got to be kidding. I don’t want a new friend. I don’t want to hang around with this person. What will people think of me if I reach out?” God says, “I’m not asking you to be their friend. I’m asking you to do a simple act of kindness and to do it for me.”
Time and again God can call us to do what is difficult. And let’s be clear. We need to be sure that it is God calling us. At times we form thoughts or suggestions that come out of guilt or out of a warped sense of relationship. God will never be asking us to do what is impossible or to be a part of something that is abusive or hurtful to us. But God is perfectly capable of calling us to do some surprising things.
Of course, when God calls, we have every right to say, “You know, this is not my strength. I am not the best qualified. Perhaps you should think of someone else.” But once we have objected, we should also be prepared for God to say “I know all of those things. I am still calling you. And I’m not kidding!”