5th Sunday after Epiphany

February 9, 2025

Lectionary Texts

Isaiah 6.1-8 — God calls Isaiah. “Here am I; send me!”

Psalm 138 — “You answered when I called out in need…” “Though I walk in the midst of trouble you preserve my life…” “Fulfill your purpose for me.”

1 Corinthians 15.1-11 — Christ died, rose, and appeared to the apostles.. Then me, “the least of the apostles.”

Luke 5.1-11 — After a miraculous catch of fish; Jesus calls the first disciples.

Preaching thoughts

       We hear three stories today about God’s call, and how we typically feel unworthy. Isiah cries out Isaiah cries, “Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips.” Ponder the symbolic, evocative, freaky image of the seraph touching a live coal to Isaiah’s mouth. Isaiah is cleansed, purified. But it’s got to hurt. God’s refining fire is never destructive, only creative—but that’s not to say it sin’t painful. The flame of God’s grace burns away your feelings of inadequacy. God knows what they’re doing when they call you. Your inadequacy is not an issue, and won’t be, ever. Ever. You’ve been sealed. The wound of your shame has been cauterized.
       “Here am I. Send me!” This is the prayer of faith: not “God here’s what I want you to do for me…” but “God, what can I do for you? Here am I. Send me.”

       “Before the gods I sing your praise” might give pause to the literalists, but relax. There aren’t other gods. But there are plenty of idols. The god of success, of being right, of winning, the god of White Supremacy…. In the face of all those false gods, I honor the real one. One way the real God is different is that God honors the lowly (v.6); all the other idols are about dominating the lowly, eliminating the losers. Those gods are accessible only to those who have already attained insider status. But God is with and for everyone, including the outsiders, those who are “not right,” even the inadequate. Even you.
       Another difference is that all our idols serve themselves. The god of Winning makes winning look good and losing look bad. But God. The Loving One, is not here for God’s sake but for ours. God attends to us, knows us, cares about us. “On the day I called, you answered me.” God listens.
       But God’s care for us is not for ourselves in isolation (that would be the god of selfishness); it’s for us as part of God’s loving world. “God will fulfill God’s purpose for me” (v.8). My well-being is embedded in the world’s well-being. My peace is inherent in my call.

1 Corinthians
Paul recites an ancient creed about Christ’s death and resurrection and appearance to the apostles. Then Paul adds Christ’s appearance to Paul himself, “the least of the apostles.” But, he says, “by the grace of God I am what I am.” Paul echoes Isiah’s concern about being unworthy: it’s not by his own effort, goodness or deserving that Paul is able to count himself among the apostles, but by God’s grace. You can see Paul trying to juggle his frequent need to justify himself with his trust in God’s grace: “I worked harder than anybody—well, but, yeah, really it was not me, but God in me. Got it?”

       This is several kinds of stories all at once: a miracle story, a story about call, an experience of death and resurrection. The call to the disciples comes out of Jesus fulfilling his call, bringing God’s realm of grace to people. The call comes gradually, as step by step Peter and the disciples are moved into greater levels of trust, gratitude and service. But each step entails mystery, uncertainty, resistance, and eventually letting go.
       Jesus sees the boats and climbs in—climbs into our lives. We’re in the same boat now! The future disciple’s call begins in a simple task: to let Jesus use their boat to preach. Are you willing to be used by grace, even for a simple task? In what ways does God use the ordinary things of your life, even your job, to spread grace? I imagine Peter and the others silently working the oars to keep the boat positioned for Jesus to speak to the people. How do you intentionally keep your life “pointed toward Jesus, and well aligned so Jesus’ message comes through your living?
       Jesus bids us to go out “into the deep.” Imagine what they might mean: to reflect deeply… to be open to mystery, and the depths of grace just beyond our seeing… to explore the deeper layers of meaning in what we experience… to live deeply…. In what ways is Jesus calling you to go out into the deep?
       “We fished all night.” Notice how Jesus always heads right for where it hurts. Jesus leads us toward our fears and failures, and invites us to see them anew. What has been our trauma lingering in our unconscious (the deep) Jesus brings up into to our consciousness and transforms it ; he empowers us to re-write the story. The very place of our failure becomes a place of grace.
       “But if you say so…” Jesus invites them to fish where they think they’ve exhausted all possibilities.For Jesus there is always another “And yet…” How do you listen for Jesus’ invitation to discover possibilities you didn’t see before?
       They catch a miraculous number of fish. Can you trust that there is an overabundance of grace right beneath, you, that you can’t see but is there, waiting for you? What would lead you to trust that?
      The nets began to break and the boats to sink. Sometimes success can capsize us. Sometimes the net of our job can hardly bear the weight of all we’re trying to do. Sometimes—not only when we’re failing but also when we’re succeeding—we need to call on others, and rely on community.
       “I am sinful”… “Be not afraid.” This is a moment of death-and-resurrection for Peter. Peter is transported beyond the realm of what he can accomplish—the catch of fish is purely given—and he becomes aware of his inadequacy and undeserving, and his sin. And in that very place, that very moment, Jesus accepts him, reassures him, and calls him. An old, doubting, self-centered Peter dies, and a new disciple Peter is raised up. God’s call isn’t just a job assignment: it’s a death-and-resurrection experience, a transformation of who we are—yes, our broken, unworthy, inadequate selves—into exactly what God needs: still ourselves, still fisherfolk, but now in the service of God.
       I’m struck by how richly this story reflects on the life of faith, its inner movements, and the transformations we undergo:
       The crowd presses in: we are seeking… we experience hunger…
       He saw two boa: we are sought.. we experience an alternative vision – more than one way…

       He got into a boat: we are visited …. we experience presence…

       He asked Peter to put out: we are invited, we experience dislocation…

       He taught the crowds: we are enlightened… we experience opening…

       He said “Put out into the deep”: we are led… we experience mystery…

       “We fished all night”: we are defeated… we experience resistance…

       “But if you say so”: we are willing… we experience something new…

       They caught so many: we are blessed … we experience overabundance…

       The nets were threatened: we are challenged… we experience our limits…

       They signaled their partners: we are accompanied we experience community, shared risk…

       “I am sinful!”: we are revealed… we experience crisis, self-confrontation, a death…

       “Do not be afraid”: we are assured… we experience grace
       “You will fish for people”: we are transformed… we surrender old consciousness…

       They left it all & followed: we are sent… we enter into a new way of being, a resurrection…

Call to Worship

1. [Isaiah 6.1-8]
Leader: I saw God sitting on a throne, high and lofty.
Seraphs were in attendance, and they called to one another:
All: “Holy, holy, holy is God Omnipotent;
the whole earth is full of God’s glory.”
I said, “Woe is me, for I am a person of unclean lips
and I live among people of unclean lips,
yet my eyes have seen the Holy One, Almighty God.”
One of the seraphs flew to me holding a live coal from the altar
in a pair of tongs, 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 Holy One saying,
“Who shall I send, and who will go for us?’ And I said,
“Here am I; send me!”

Leader: God of glory, you have done wonders in our midst.
All:We are in awe.
You call us to serve you.
Are we worthy?
You do not call those who are prepared;
you prepare those who are called.
We thank you, God, as we worship you.
Touch us with the fire of your love,
that we may faithfully serve you as prophets,
as bearers of your love, as fishers of people.

Leader: We are just ordinary people,
like fishers mending their nets.
All: But Jesus has come and climbed into our lives
and proclaimed good news among us.
Jesus has invited us out into the deep.
We worship amid mystery.
Unseen shoals of blessing shimmer beneath us.
By God’s grace we have received a miraculous catch of grace.
Our blessings are not because we’re worthy,
but because we’re forgiven.
Jesus calls us to follow.
Help us, Spirit, to let go of everything we cling to;
to worship in humility, gratitude and trust;

and to follow and serve humbly with love. Amen.

Collect / Prayer of the Day

God of love, Jesus entered the lives of the fishers, spoke grace to them, and called them to follow him. Come into our lives now, speak your Word to us, and stir up your spirit in us to follow your call. Amen.

God of grace, you come to us in holiness and splendor, and grant us grace that we have not earned. You give us your deep compassion, and we feel unworthy. Jesus calls us to work by his side, and we know we are not good enough. But you touch us with the flame of your love, and call us, and remind us that we are your Beloved. Speak to us now, God, remind us again, and call us to your work, in the Spirit of Christ. Amen.

Gracious God, Jesus stood in the fishermen’s boat and taught the people. Come and stand among us now and speak to us. As Jesus called his disciples, you call us to give our lives to you. Open our hearts and minds, we may hear with joy and follow with courage. Amen.

Listening Prayer

(suitable as a Collect, preparation for hearing scriptures, or invitation to prayer)
God of abundance,
we sail on your deep unknown.
We let down our nets of prayer
into the depths of your mystery
and we haul up your grace.
In the silence, we wait.

Jesus, you climb into the boat of our lives
and teach us your word.
You invite us out into the depths.
Out of the ordinariness, even the despair of our lives,
you bring beautiful abundance.
Our unworthiness haunts us.
But you call us. You promise fruitfulness.
You throw the net of your love
into the dark depths of our hearts
and bring forth a shimmering harvest
of grace and possibility.
To our doubt, Beloved, speak.

Response / Creed / Affirmation

     We give our hearts to God, the Holy of Holies, Creator of all things that are and that are to come, the source of our life and all love, who sets us free and births us into new lives, whose miracles are just out of our sight, but near.
     We follow Jesus, the Christ of God, the embodiment of God’s love. He taught and healed the people, he loved them and called them, beyond what they knew they could do. He made of them a gifted community, including the outcast and empowering the lowly. He resisted injustice, and for his witness he was crucified. But he was raised from the dead, and lives among us, blessing us and calling us.
     We live by the Holy Spirit, the power of God’s love in us. The Spirit calls us to lives of love and service, of healing and forgiveness, of courage to do justice and to love tenderly, where we discover the deep blessings hidden in our callings. By the grace of the Spirit that sustains and empowers us we die to our fears and desires, and rise with Christ in abundant and beautiful love. Alleluia!

Eucharistic Prayer

God is with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your hearts.
We lift them up to God.
Let us give thanks to the Holy One, our God.
It is good and beautiful to give God our praise.

We thank you, God, for this beautiful and amazing world.
Shoals of blessing shimmer just beyond what we see.
When our lives seem bleak or pointless,
you bring to the surface such abundant grace we are astonished.
Our minds can scarcely comprehend it. Our nets are near breaking.
So we fall to our knees, humbled and in awe.
But you lift us up and call us to lives of praise and service.
Therefore with gratitude and wonder we sing your praise:


Blessed are all who come in your name,
and blessed is Jesus, your Christ,
who climbs into the boat of our lives and teaches us,
who directs us into deeper waters,
who multiplies blessing.
He calls us to join him in ministry to the world,
and promises to be with us always.

     (The Blessing and Covenant)*

As long as we break this bread and share this cup
we remember his death and resurrection, until he comes again.
Therefore, remembering these your mighty acts in Jesus Christ,
we offer ourselves as a living and holy sacrifice,
in union with Christ’s offering for us,
as we proclaim the mystery of our faith:

     (Memorial Acclamation)

Pour out your Holy Spirit on these gifts of bread and cup,
that they may be for us the body and blood of Christ.
Pour out your Spirit on us,
that we may be for the world the Body of Christ,

fishers of people, who behold the bounty of your grace,
and who cast the net of your love far and wide in this world
for the sake of all your Beloved.
* The Blessing and Covenant
[I usually don’t print the words. I want people to be looking at the bread, not their bulletins.]

On the night in which he gave himself for us
Jesus took bread, blessed it,. broke it, and gave it to his disciples,saying,
“Take and eat; this is my body.”
In the same way, after the supper he took the cup,
blessed it with thanks and gave it to them, saying,
“Drink of this, all of you. This is my blood,
poured out for you and for many, in a new Covenant,
which is the forgiveness of sin.”
As long as we break this bread and share this cup
we remember his death and resurrection, until he comes again.

Prayer after Communion

Gracious God, thank you for this mystery in which you have given yourself to us. You have raised up a miracle among us, a gift of nourishment and beauty, a gift of forgiveness and your deep trust in us. Encouraged not by our worthiness but your grace in us, we follow you, in the power of your Spirit, in ministry to the world. Amen.

Prayer of Dedication / Sending

Gracious God, we give you our lives, symbolized in these gifts. Receive them with love, bless them with grace and use them according to your will. You call us, and make our daily lives vessels for your grace. We surrender our plans and our possessions, to follow Christ in all we do. Send us out to follow Jesus, to spread the net of your love over all the earth, for the sake of the healing of the world, in the name of Christ. Amen.

God of love, Jesus has called us to join him as fishers of people: to include all in the wide net of your love. Send us with your love, with courage that overcomes our doubt, grace that heals our shame, and faith that opens our eyes to your miracles, so that we may love freely and deeply, in the name and the company of Jesus. Amen.

Suggested Songs

(Click on titles to view, and hear an audio clip, on the Music page)

Breath of God (Tune: “Londonderry Air” – O, Danny Boy)

O Holy One, Creator of the stars of night,
whose dust we are, created with your light,
now breathe your spirit into us and give us life;
give us new hearts that beat with your delight.
Our dust and ashes, Love, we give in faith to you.
Receive our lives, our sin, our wounds, our death;
and raise us up with Christ from death to life by grace.
God, may we be your love and you our living breath.

Breathe into us the breath of your compassion, God,
the breath to sing your praise in all we do,
the breath to run the race of justice, long and far.
Breathe, holy breath: empower and renew.
O be the grace that fills our lungs, reviving us;
O be the wind on which our hearts can soar;
O be our life, our beauty and our living breath.
O Spirit, come breathe in us now and evermore.

Calling Me      (Original tune)

Dear God, Creator eternally, you call everything to be.
How are you calling me, even now?
Who do you call me to be?
Where is your image in me, calling me?

Jesus, lord of the fishermen, calling your children,
you call to me once again, even now.
What will you lead me to do?
How can I witness to you, calling me, calling me?

Spirit, power of love in me, how do you set me free,
what gifts are you giving me, even now?
I am a vessel for you.
Humbly I listen to you, calling me, calling me.

Drawing Me      (Original tune)

Holy One, Mystery, how will you keep drawing me
nearer to the heart within the heart?
Nearer still, falling in, closer to the heart within,
draw me God. I fall into your love.
Lover, you are calling, you are drawing,
I am falling into you in love.

Deep in me there’s a voice, there’s a hunger, there’s a choice,
seeking something vital that is you.
By your grace drawing me, may I fall eternally
nearer to my center deep in you.
Lover, you are calling, you are drawing,
I am falling into you in love.

God Has a Dream      (Original tune)

God has a dream for us,
that Jesus is revealing,
a world of love, made whole, set free,
a world of justice and healing.

Dream, Jesus dream in us.
May we dream like you.
Dream, Jesus, dream in us.
May your dream come true.

Dream, Jesus in us, we pray,
and may our dreaming be waking.
May your dream be our guide, our way,
to join in the world you are making.

Dream, Jesus dream in us.
May we dream like you.
Dream, Jesus, dream in us.
May your dream come true.

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