‘Called by God together’ – 6th February 2022 – Fourth Sunday before Lent

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22 02 06 4th Sunday before Lent Eucharist

The Readings

Isaiah 6.1-13
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 their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. And one called to another and said:
‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory.’
The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices 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 this people:
“Keep listening, but do not comprehend;
keep looking, but do not understand.”
Make the mind of this people dull,
and stop their ears,
and shut their eyes,
so that they may not look with their eyes,
and listen with their ears,
and comprehend with their minds,
and turn and be healed.’
Then I said, ‘How long, O Lord?’ And he said:
‘Until cities lie waste
without inhabitant,
and houses without people,
and the land is utterly desolate;
until the Lord sends everyone far away,
and vast is the emptiness in the midst of the land.
Even if a tenth part remains in it,
it will be burned again,
like a terebinth or an oak
whose stump remains standing
when it is felled.’
The holy seed is its stump.

Luke 5.1-11
Once while Jesus was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, ‘Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.’ Simon answered, ‘Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.’ When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break. So they signalled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!’ For he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken; and so also were James and John, sons of
Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. Then Jesus said to Simon, ‘Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.’ When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.


Scripture Quotations are from: The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, 1995 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

The Sermon
By Revd. Sue Hammersley

I love the story of the miraculous catch of fish because, notwithstanding the miraculous outcome, it is so human and so helpful for weary disciples.

How often do we approach our faith with a sigh…
What’s the point? I pray but nothing seems to change… I ask God for guidance but remain in the dark… I look at everything the world is going through and wonder why God seems so remote…

The seemingly innocent request from Jesus to “let down your nets for a catch” must have been galling…
Simon was a fisherman, Jesus was a carpenter…
Simon had spent all night fishing and was exhausted. He’d already started cleaning the nets and putting them away – it wasn’t quite as straightforward as Jesus might have made out, what he was asking of Simon was costly.

I can imagine a certain “tone of voice” in Simon’s response…
We know these waters and we’ve worked them hard all night – what do you know? Oh, but you say “let down your nets” and everything will be OK – let’s see about that – watch and learn – carpenter boy…

So, when Simon can hardly manage the catch of fish the whole scenario turns on its head – from scarcity to abundance, from cynicism to possibilities, from exhaustion to delight…
What we’ve all been going through has been exhausting at so many levels.
The idea that God might be asking something particular of us might feel overwhelming at the moment. But God’s view of the world is different from ours.

One of the things we sometimes overlook in this story is that Simon was not able to fish alone – it would have taken a team of fishermen to do this work. We are not called to serve God on our own but to use the many resources which are around us to make a difference.

Simon Peter’s revelation, on seeing the enormous number of fish was to fall to his knees and apologise… His shortcomings hit him like a slap with a wet fish. Like Isaiah he could have called out, “Woe is me! I am lost!”
But far from chastising Simon, Jesus sees this as the opportunity to ask more of him. Blessed are the poor in spirit for they know their need of God and with God all things are possible, so put down your nets now – I need your boat to help me teach the crowds about the abundance of God’s love – abundance which is even greater than this catch of fish.

Moving from despair to delight is the message of today’s Gospel reading and, in order to make that move we might have to change something in our own lives. Change can be threatening and difficult but Jesus is constantly calling us away from that which separates us from God’s liberating love and towards that which is life-giving – not just for us but for those around us.

Today we remember the extraordinary call upon Princess Elizabeth, aged just 25, in 1952. She knew that she would follow her father but how could anyone be ready or imagine that her call would continue for 70 years, at least?

Fear is a common response to being called by God. Isaiah narrates the terror that, having seen God, this man of unclean lips would surely die – and yet his call is affirmed and he states, “Here am I, send me!”

When Simon Peter falls to his knees in shame, Jesus reassures him by saying, “Do not be afraid”.

Fear paralyses where love liberates, but our freedom is not permission to withdraw, it is the authority we need to be the people we are called to be, to use the resources which have been given to us to let God’s kingdom break into the world and turn it round.

I don’t think I am talking this morning to a group of fisherfolk but, as a church, maybe we are being called upon to approach things from a different perspective? Perhaps there are different ways in which we are being called upon to serve the people of Walkley? Please pray for the recruitment of a parish administrator, we have received some very strong applications and will be holding the interviews in a couple of weeks. The person who is appointed will help us to look at what we are doing from a different angle, to offer some support to the existing team and release them to be able to develop aspects of their role which they might not have been able to focus on for a while. But we’re not appointing someone who is going to miraculously draw new members to our church, all of us together are responsible for helping people find their way to the church and all of us are responsible for bringing the teachings of the church to life in the ways in which we live our lives.

I hope that together we can discover and relish in the delight of our faith, a delight which can be more infectious and more long-lasting than any virus.

The Prayers
Prepared by Joe P

With thankful hearts we bring our prayers to our heavenly Father

We pray for the Church of Christ, for Bishop Pete and Bishop Sophie, our Archbishops Justin and Stephen, all here who lead us in worship and prayer, and all those whose time and talents are given to St Mary’s, St John’s and St Mark’s.
We pray that we may hold firmly to the teachings of the Gospel, so that we may follow in the footsteps of the Apostles.
Lord of glory,
Hear our prayer.

As we celebrate the 70th anniversary of the accession of Queen Elizabeth 2nd to her throne, we thank you for the long and loyal service that Her Majesty has given to this country.
Lord of glory,
Hear our prayer.

We pray for world leaders at this time, that they can come together in a spirit of peace and willingness to resolve tensions in Ukraine. We pray that all leaders value truth, justice and compassion above personal power and influence.
Lord of glory,
Hear our prayer.

We pray for our community here in Walkley, and for the city of Sheffield, and for our neighbours and friends. We pray for those who have health worries and financial concerns at this time. We pray for those with responsibility in local government, that they make the best decisions for our city.
Lord of glory,
Hear our prayer.

We pray for the aged and infirm, and those sick in mind, body or spirit, those that need your grace and blessing. We pray that God’s power and spirit will strengthen them and bring them the healing and peace that belong to Christ’s kingdom.
Lord of glory,
Hear our prayer.

We pray for those currently close to death, and those accompanying them on this final part of their Earthly journey. We pray for those who have died, recently and in the past. We pray for those who mourn. We particularly hold Catherine and her family in our prayers at this time.
Lord of glory,
Hear our prayer.

Finally, Lord, we silently bring before you those special to us, and also those issues and concerns that we have in our own lives.
Lord of glory,
Hear our prayer.

Rejoicing in the communion of Mary, Mark, John and of all the Saints, let us commend ourselves, and one another, and all our life, to God.

Merciful Father:
accept these prayers
for the sake of your Son,
our Saviour,
Jesus Christ.


Common Worship: Services and Prayers for the Church of England, material from which is used here is copyright (c) The Archbishops' Council 2000