Welcome to worship for this 5th Sunday after the Epiphany, which is on February 6, 2022! We are glad that you are here!
The bulletin for this service can be found here. The bulletin has the order and words of worship (with your responses in bold), the hymn and page numbers out of the ELW, and the full sermon manuscript. The words that you’ll need to know will also appear on your screen, and the sermon is included on this page after the video.
If you would like a fuller at home worship experience, you may have a lit candle for most of the service which can be put out during the sending hymn, and you can have something small to eat and drink for communion. These aren’t necessary, but may help you as you worship.
May God’s leading and guiding bring you strength and confidence, now and forever!
God of steadfast love and faithfulness, your name is exalted above all else. By the power of your Spirit, help us to hear your voice and heed to your leading, that we might not be afraid but confident in your truth and love, through Jesus our Lord. Amen.
I want to let you in on a little secret: I was a horrible student in school. I know, that might not come to a surprise to any of you, especially those who actually went to school with me… or my parents… or any of my teachers for that matter… It school was just something that was always hard for me, like I just wasn’t into their way of learning and absorbing information. And it’s not like I didn’t try, it’s just that… well… ok maybe I didn’t really try. But only because it was really hard for me. Also it wasn’t like I was failing all my classes or anything, just a couple of them here and there. Not ones that mattered at least. And I wasn’t all bad, I almost had straight B’s on one report card, which isn’t too shabby if I do say so myself.
So when I started getting serious about my career goals of being a pastor, I thought I’d get more serious in school because you know, I want to do well so I’d be good at my job. But as you might have guessed, old habits die hard and apparently new bad habits are easy to make, and so I wasn’t the greatest student during in my post-secondary degrees either.
And quite honestly, I still get nightmares about being a bad student to this day. I dream that I’m back in high school, not being able to find my locker, wandering around the halls totally lost and being the oldest in the school because they realised that I didn’t actually graduate and in order to keep my degrees I’d need to complete that one course that I was missing. And as dreams would have it, I couldn’t remember what the course was or even what classroom it was held in, so the dream continues with me feeling aimless, isolated, and totally and completely inadequate.
This anxiety that I have over my history of schooling issues I think comes from this thing I heard a while back. Something about how pastors used to be known as the town intellect, like the local minister was the one people would go to as the expert on philosophy, literature, and of course religion. And hearing this bit of information really bothered me because I’m totally not that. I barely graduated and earned any degree, and now I’m supposed to be the smarted person on the block? So I guess I started to feel like a fraud, like I’m not good enough, like I’ve made a horrible mistake in following this call that I got to be a pastor.
Maybe you know what I’m talking about. Perhaps not about being a pastor per se, or even a bad student, but being put in a position where it’s almost like you were set up to fail. Maybe being asked to do something you know you’re not good at, or expected to fill a role that was way too big for your skillset. Sure, maybe ambition filled those gaps and you were able to do it, but what if that thing was something that you really didn’t want to do? Or something that you never thought you’d be able to do? What if it was something that you just unexpectedly found yourself in the middle of and you felt totally unprepared and inadequate?
I wonder if this is what the disciples felt in today’s gospel lesson, when they were out all night trying to catch some fish but coming up with nada. This would be embarrassing for professing fishers. After all, this was their job, their livelihood, their place in the world. And being not good at it? Well, that’s just lemon juice in the wound.
No actually that would just be the wound, the lemon juice is when this carpenter comes and just sits in their boats without even asking, and then goes and carpenter-splains how to catch more fish. Can you believe the nerve of this guy? Making himself at home on Peter’s boat, maybe scaring away all the fish from all the yammering about God and stuff, and then actually thinking that he has the authority to tell Peter, a trained and experienced fisher, how to catch fish? I don’t know about the rest of you, but it’d take my everything not to “accidentally” rock the boat too much to cause this land lubber to lose his footing and maybe fall in. Not my fault he doesn’t have sea legs.
But Peter is a bit more polite than me as it turns out, but you can almost hear his eyes rolling as he says “if you say so, I’ll let down the nets”. It’s almost like Peter is doing this to shut Jesus up, and is just waiting to pull up more disappointment and be all, “any other bright ideas?”
But that isn’t what happens, is it? These once empty and underworked nets were now full with fish, so much so that they were beginning to break. These once bored boats with completely unmet potential in their craftsmanship now were struggling to stay afloat under the weight of this newfound catch. These once skeptical and deflated fishers perhaps questioning their life choices and direction as clearly they aren’t any good at fishing, are now called to do exactly that: fish.
Granted, they are fishing in a different kind of water and are going for a different kind of catch, but they are still called to fish in spite of their poor fishing record. I was still called to be a pastor in spite of my poor academic record. We all are called to serve God and neighbour in spite of our tendency to just rather not.
And at first thought, that might be kind of scary. We might doubt the wisdom of God calling us to do anything that we might not be good at. We might doubt those around us who might be encouraging us to go in this direction that we just don’t want to go in. We might doubt ourselves for ever being able to get the unfinishable job done. And to be honest, there isn’t anything wrong with that.
There isn’t anything wrong with Isaiah perhaps having doubts that he could bear God’s message. There isn’t anything wrong with Paul thinking that he’s inadequate to be an Apostle of Christ. There isn’t anything wrong with this dumb kid who couldn’t buy a decent grade if his life depended on it, feeling anxious about the call that he was given.
Because it isn’t by our talent alone that things get done and done well. It isn’t by our own wisdom and understanding and faith that allows us to see God in the world. It isn’t by our own strength that we can withstand the lies of the enemy saying that we don’t have value or worth and just aren’t good enough.
But rather we are granted the gifts of the Spirit in order to fulfil our calling. We are given the faith of Christ to see and recognise God working in and through us. We are strengthened by our community and those around us to be integral parts of this church, this body, this people of God.
So whatever you might feel like you’re called to do, whether it be vocational ministry, or ministry within your current vocation, God is working within you. Wherever you feel led to go, be it to another part of the world or staying right where you are, God walks alongside you. However you might feel about yourself answering God’s beckoning, whether you’re totally excited or perhaps a bit anxious, God continues to love you and fill you with value and worth, lifting you up in grace and mercy, surrounding you with support and community, and holding your hand as you venture through this life of faith and hope.
This afternoon we’ll be having our Annual General Meeting, a meeting that most people don’t get too excited about. At this meeting we elect or most likely appoint council members and we look ahead to the ministry that is before us for this year. In our deliberations and discernments, it is my hope that we are all open to God’s voice and calling, that we might be led into new heights of ministry and community, and allowed to serve with confidence not just in our own abilities, but in the fact that God is with us, now and always.
In this season after the Epiphany, AGM or not, may we be sensitive to God’s call for our lives, however big or small, and move in the faith of Christ given to us by a generous and gracious God. Thanks be to God. Amen.