The Fifth Sunday after Epiphany, Year C, Church of the Holy Spirit, Nashville

“’Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I; send me!’” (Is. 6:8).

Each of us is called by God to his service. It does not matter who you are or where you are: God will find you out. No matter what you were doing before, God will send you in a new direction and give you a new job, a new ministry. When we come to faith, we are given a new name as a follower of Christ. We are called Christians, taking Christ’s own name as our own. We have a new identity and a new purpose.

In our first reading, we hear about the call of the prophet Isaiah. When God called Isaiah, he gave him a vision of heaven, of God enthroned in the temple. Angels surround God and worship him. “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory” (Is. 6:3). By seeing God, Isaiah realizes that he is unworthy. “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!” (Is. 6:5). Because he has seen a vision of God, Isaiah realizes that everything in his life must change. It is a moment of conversion.

God calls Isaiah. He sends an angel to touch Isaiah’s lips with a burning coal: “Your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out” (Is. 6:7). Isaiah is transformed and sent in a new direction. God has a message, and Isaiah will be the messenger. Whatever he was doing before doesn’t matter. His life is changed. When God calls, Isaiah responds. “’Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I; send me!’” (Is. 6:8).

God has been calling people for a long time, but they don’t always answer. When God called Adam and Eve after they had eaten the apple, he asked, “Where are you?” (Gen. 3:9). Adam didn’t say, “Here am I, send me.” Instead, his answer was, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid… and I hid myself” (Gen. 3:10). He knew he was a sinner, but he did not confess. It was not a moment of conversion. Instead, Adam hid from God.

In our Gospel reading, we hear again about God’s call. In the fifth chapter of Luke’s Gospel, Jesus is calling the first disciples. He finds Simon, and the brothers James and John, sons of Zebedee, fishing in the lake. He sends them out in to the deep water, where the big catch is. They catch so many fish that the boat begins to sink.

Simon is suddenly transformed by meeting Jesus. Instead of just being amazed at the big catch of fish, he realizes that he is in the presence of God. He falls down at Jesus’ feet, and says, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man” (Lk. 5:8). The call of God leads to conversion. Simon realizes that his life must change. God’s call means his life will change. Jesus even gives him a new name, and Simon becomes Peter (Lk. 6:14).

Simon, and James, and John, are not hiding from God. Like Isaiah, they are ready to go. “Then Jesus said to Simon, ‘Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people” (Lk. 5:10). Simon knew he was a sinner, but he was not afraid to confess. He was willing to take up a new ministry: now he will catch people instead of fish! They will catch so many fish they won’t be able to count them. Many people will believe because of their testimony.

In our Gospel today, the disciples were willing to go in a new direction. They let their lives be changed by Jesus. As it says in our reading, “When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him” (Lk. 5:11). They were willing to leave all they had behind, and strike out in the direction God sent them. When Adam and Eve left the garden, they lost everything. But when the disciples left everything behind, they received a kingdom (Lk. 18:28-30).

Today we celebrate confirmation. Members of the church re-affirm their baptismal vows and promise to follow Jesus. They receive the laying on of hands by the bishop, and all of us pray for them to receive God’s power and presence in their lives. People all over the Diocese of Tennessee today are praying for us at Church of the Holy Spirit. They know the bishop is here and what we are celebrating! Today we all say to God, “Here am I: send me!” (Is. 6:8).

  • The Rt. Rev’d John Bauerschmidt, Bishop of Tennessee