Isaiah 6:1-8; Luke 5:1-11 February 7, 2007

by Rev. Lydia E. Rivera Kalb
Director of LSTC's Multicultural Center

Let us pray:
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, our rock and our redeemer. Amen.

It never ceases to amaze me how an ordinary day can turn into an extraordinary one - in just a matter of seconds. Isaiah is minding his own business - doing his thing in the temple and then bam - all of a sudden- just like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz - he isn't in Kansas anymore, so to speak.

It is an amazing moment, which Isaiah recollects in these words: (note: The following reading is to be read with passion and as shared story)

In the year that King Uzziah died,
I saw the Lord
Sitting on a throne, high and lofty;
and the hem of his robe filled the temple.
Seraphs were in attendance, above him;
each had six wings;
with two they covered his face, and with two they covered his feet, and with two they flew.
And one called to another and said:
"Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts:
the whole world is full of his glory"
The pivots ....on the thresholds... shook
at the voice of those who called,
and the house filled with smoke.
And I said:
"Woe is me! I am lost,
for I am a man of unclean lips,
and I live among a people of unclean lips;
yet my eyes have seen the King,
the Lord of hosts!"
Then one of the seraphs flew to me,
holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs.
The seraph touched my mouth with it and said:
"Now that this has touched your lips,
your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out."
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying,
"Whom shall I send and who will go for us?
And I said,
"Here am I; send me!
And he said, Go and say to the people
"keep listening, but do not comprehend;
keep looking, but do not understand.

It never ceases to amaze me how God has this way of interrupting us in the middle of our everyday experience and basically saying to us - "I made you look".

WOW! Today's texts are wonderful God encounters - by sheer grace God steps in and awakens us to a different reality.

Take the Peter-God encounter. Peter has had one of those days when nothing seems to be going right. He has worked and toiled all night and has nothing to show for it. Maybe there are some of you here who can relate, if not now, possibly a little later in the semester. Peter is tired, he is drained and he has given up. No fish for dinner this day.

And then it happens - the teacher Jesus – who, by the way, knows little about the art of fishing, invites Peter to put out into the deep once again and to let down the nets.

Simon Peter quickly dissents saying, "Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nada – nothing – zero - zip." But maybe not wanting to be unkind to the man who had previously healed his mother-in-law, Simon hears himself saying, "Yet if you say so", I will let down the nets.
And the Master has said so... so we see Peter dragging himself back into the deep waters, letting down the nets again expecting nothing, but this time an ordinary day gets turned into an extraordinary encounter. The fish are so many that the nets begin to break and the boats are so filled with fish that they begin to sink.

Now, we've heard fish stories and we've heard fish stories but this is really some fish story! Even for a fish story we have crossed the line - we have moved from the unbelievable and fantastic to the extraordinary. It is a God -Encounter.

Peter recognized this right away. Overwhelmed by the Holy Other he immediately drops to his knees and cries out for mercy, "Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!"

In the presence of the Holy we are faced with our own human sinfulness and our own human limitation as we are overwhelmed with God's otherness; God's purity and God's goodness.

The stories of the God encounters are many in Scripture: Moses by the burning bush; Mary the mother of Jesus visited by the Angel; Paul on the road to Damascus; the Samaritan woman at the well; Mary Magdalene at the tomb. God has this way of stepping into our experience and turning our ordinary days into extraordinary ones. When God enters our lives we awaken to a different reality- one that's been here all along but we've failed to see.

And I believe that God is constantly breaking into our lives and speaking to us though we are not always listening.

In this vein, I like what Anne Lamott, the author of Traveling Mercies and other inspiring books, said she had added to her prayer life. In addition to "help me, help me, help me" which is her morning prayer and "thank you, thank you, thank you" which is her nightly prayer, Lamott has added at least one "WOW" as a response to the God awakening moments. (As shared by John M. Buchanan in Reverence, February 8, 2004)

Sometimes it takes one of the big WOWS or God - shaking Encounters to waken us to God's presence and voice. God is always speaking but only sometimes do we hear.

I had such an encounter not too long ago that I would like to share with you this morning. It started out as a "normal", ordinary day. My husband Richard and I moved our household at the end of October - the beginning of November right before the national elections.

It was election time and we wanted to vote; it was too late to register in our new place so we went back to our old voting place to cast our vote. So here we were between addresses wanting to cast our vote, but having no place to do so. As it turned out they didn't seem to have a problem with our coming back and we were allowed to cast our votes.

Now note this. As we explained our predicament we were never asked for proof of our addresses; nor were we asked for our IDs. In fact, when we gave our names to get our ballots, I said "Kalb" and the man behind the desk checking the voting register asked, "Lydia"? I thought that was a nice name so I said "yes" and he gave me Lydia's ballot.

But this is where things begin to get topsy-turvy. While we were on line waiting to cast our votes, two people came in - a man and a woman - a couple that happened to look Mexican. The place was relatively empty so I could hear what was taking place. They went right up to the election judge who had taken care of my husband and me, and they said that they were there to vote. The election judge who had never asked us for our IDs turned around and said to them: "two forms of identification; I need two forms." Not just one but two forms of identification.

We had come in with a litany saying, "we last voted here but we just moved and we really want to vote in this election so we came back here to cast our vote", and though we had this crazy, mixed up story we were never asked to show our IDs - not even one - but this couple who happened to look Mexican - had no such story to tell - and just came to their actual voting place to cast their vote were asked for two forms of identification.

Sometimes in the middle of our minding our own business - in the middle of our ordinary day - God steps in and makes us look and then brings us to our knees.

You know that part in the Isaiah God-Encounter when Isaiah falls to his knees and cries out:

"Woe is me! I am lost,
for I am a man of unclean lips,
and I live among a people of unclean lips;
yet my eyes have seen the King,
the Lord of hosts!"

Well, in the middle of this ordinary voting place, I had the same awakening. God had torn down the walls that separate us - walls that separate us from God, walls that separate us from our neighbor and walls that separate us from ourselves; God stepped in and spoke of a different reality - God's reality.

In God's reality, I heard God say good news is preached to the poor; in God's reign, the captives are set free; in God's reality, there is recovery of sight to the blind, in God's reign the oppressed receive liberty; in God's reign the acceptable year of the Lord is proclaimed.

In God's reign You shall not oppress your neighbor; in God's reign you shall not do injustice; in God's reign when a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall do him no wrong; in God's reign the stranger who sojourns with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself (Leviticus 19: 13, 15, 33-34).

In this ordinary and, might I add, dingy voting facility God broke in and turned the world upside down and inside out. I tell you this was some awesome moment. God stepped in and spoke so loud that I was shaken to the core.

You just never know when or where God is going to show up - throw open the curtains and startle you with truth. I believe these occasions are grace-full moments.

And you know what; it appears to me that we've been blessed with a grace-full moment this week. I find it more than amazing that as we gather back here to begin a new semester our scriptural stories are about the God-Encounter, call and discipleship.

When God speaks we need to listen. If anything this can serve to put things into perspective for us - like our work and study and the role we play in this community; God's amazing word comes as a loud reminder, lest we forget, that fundamental to our being here and fundamental to all we are doing here is the invitation we have received from above to follow. Thus, from this perspective our work is never just simply work; our study is never just simply study; our hopes are not simply our hopes; and our community is not simply just any community, but we are all in this boat together as people who have been called and invited to follow Christ in this place and time.

I find this extremely important to remember, especially as the semester moves on and we begin to get overwhelmed with the everyday stuff of our work and study - and when we as a community begin to struggle with the challenges that will surely come along - that will put our discipleship to the test.

The one thing I would ask us to remember as the days move on is that we are not here by accident; we are here by grace and by invitation; and we've been sent here with a purpose - to participate in Christ's mission. This is not the place we have come to, to put our lives on hold. In this place God knows where to find us. There is no place to hide. Trust me, I've tried. And as I said, God is always interrupting our day - the God encounters are many - my hope is that we don't take these moments for granted – or, worse yet, that we dismiss them as mere interruptions to our day offering up our excuses for not responding to the call.
God has broken into our lives and spoken: "Whom shall I send and who shall go for us." Amen.


Isaiah 6:1-8; Luke 5:1-11

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