Is Church a Fish Tank?

Text: Isaiah 6:1-6, Luke 5:1-11

This morning’s Gospel offers us a wonderful example about how to live out our call of being fishers of men. You see, the charge Jesus gave the disciples didn’t stop with them. It continues on today, in us.

Think about a time that you were asked to do something. Specifically by a boss, or mentor…What was your reaction? Did you hesitate? Did you think of reasons why you were not worthy? Did you come up with excuses about why it would not work? Likely, you agreed to the task…it is hard to say “no” when we are asked to do something by a person of authority. Did you agree enthusiastically or with speculation and doubt? Our readings this morning cover all these emotions.

Tropical Aquarium
In Isaiah, we get to experience an amazing theophany, that is a visible manifestation of God. The prophet Isaiah encounters a mighty vision of the Lord sitting on a throne, with angels and heavenly creatures all about. The holiness and magnificence of it all forces Isaiah into a desperate state of recognizing his sinful nature and he cries out – Woe, Is me! Realizing there is a stark contrast between the holiness of God, and himself, Isaiah’s heart is that of repentance and through the Lord’s mercy a seriph comes to him, touches a coal to his lips and proclaims that his sins have been blotted out. And here is my favorite part…

The Lord asks – “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” And Isaiah, responds with great enthusiasm – “Here I am, Send me!” And the Lord gives Isaiah the charge of proclaiming His word to the Jewish people.

We’ll come back to Isaiah later, but first let’s take a look at our Gospel and Peter who who also had a great encounter with God. I have a great appreciation for Peter and the transition he goes through, from a unsure, worried, doubtful fishman to a bold leader of the early church but this story is an account of the very beginning of his time with Jesus. So, we should be sure to cut him a little slack.

Peter was a fisherman by trade and it was custom for the fishmen to work at night, because the fish were up closer to the surface. During the day they tended to swim down to the deep water where it was cooler. Peter had already spent the night out fishing and had no luck catching anything. I imagine he was tired and hungry. And it was not time time to be catching fish, as they had already gone down to the depths of the sea. With all these variables in the way, Jesus asks him to put down his nets.

Hesitation, excuses, doubt take over. I’ve been in that place. You’re tired, frustrated, things are not going along the way they should and someone asks you to go that one step further. Reluctantly Peter, after making sure he lets Jesus know he thinks this is a waste of time, puts down the nets.

I like to think that Peter wasn’t completely skeptical, but I would guess that there was some doubt as he waited to see if any fish would get caught up in the nets. It may have been a bit of the same tension the servants at the wedding in Cana felt when Jesus told them to draw water from these big storage containers and bring them to the master of the wedding. Knowing that water went into those pots, but needing to present wine to the Master must have made them a bit nervous and skeptical. Yet they obeyed. Peter, knowing you can’t catch fish during the day, must have been waiting with a little doubt but also some wonder and hope.

And just as he did when he turned the water into wine, Jesus performs a great miracle and not only helps Peter catch a few fish but so many fish that the nets were breaking. So many fish he had to call his friends over to help. So many fish the boats started sinking!

The miracle brings Peter into a state of despair, similar to that of Isaiah. In the presence of God he realizes his sin and throws himself down in from of him.

Jesus, says Do not be afraid, you’ll now be catching people. Like the coal that was brought to the lips of Isaiah, Jesus words touch Peter and he is given a job. The most important job. He is given the job to go out, and share the good news of Jesus Christ.

As a members of the body of Christ it is also our job to be fishers of men. In Matthew’s Gospel Jesus says, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, The Son and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” In Acts, just as Jesus is about to be taken up into heaven he says to his disciples, “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, judea, samariana dna ll the ends of the earth” All of us who follow Christ are part of his goal of redeeming the whole world. We are the light of the world.

So, how do we do this? How do we be the light?

There are a few practical takeaways for us in our readings today to consider as you live out this call.

1.Remember the Holiness of God
Isaiah and Peter realized that they were in the presence of God and his Holiness and power led them to a spirit of repentance, and likely a bit of fear. God is holy. In contrast to to Him, we are unworthy, we come nowhere even close to his goodness and power. We could spend every second of every day trying to do good and still we would not even scratch the surface of being like God. It is important to remember this so that we do not become prideful or as if we think we are better than others. Keeping God’s holiness in mind will do two things. It will energize us, knowing we are ambassadors of the almighty but it will also humble us and allow us to lovingly share the gospel with those in our lives.

2. Accept the Coal

The burning coal that was touched on the lips of Isaiah is a symbol of the saving grace of Jesus Christ. It is important to accept the gift of salvation offered though the death and resurrection of Jesus and continually remind yourself that you are a new creation. Don’t let your past hinder you from serving in God’s church. Your sins are wiped clean. In 1 John it is written that those who believe in Jesus Christ, that is, those who live a life in Christ and those who accept his grace, will have eternal life. There is nothing more empowering than that as we go and share that with the world.

3. Discover your call through participation in church

We may never have a theophany like Isaiah or Peter, but we do have a a great book that gives us a purpose. As I said before the Bible gives us many indications that the purpose of the body of Christ is to go and tell the world about Jesus. God has given us various gifts in order to accomplish this goal and by being involved in a church family we can discover our gifts and learn how they fit into the big picture. As Denny shared with us a few weeks ago, all members of the body are important and all have a specific, God ordained roles to play. As you take part in the church you’ll discover what that is. It could be going out and evangelizing, it could be administration and planning, or spending time in prayer.

4. Finally, be ready and willing

There is one more person in this story, who subtly gives us the greatest lesson, in my opinion. That is Jesus. It’s easy to miss, his actions come to a climax in the boat when the miracle is being conducted but it important to look at what is happening before. Jesus is preaching out in the midst of the people from a boat. The Gospel tells us that the crowds were pressing in on him, they were hungry and seeking his words and he met them there, outside the walls of the synagog, outside an ideal, perfectly planned, church service, and taught them. He was ready and willing to minister to the people.

Consider this…

If a coworker reached out to you and said, “Hey, I heard you go to church, and well I am having a hard time with some stuff in my life and, well I don’t know, maybe God can help but I don’t know what I’m supposed to do, how do I pray?” Or maybe your at Hannaford and you ask the clerk at the register how there day was and they unload on you a lot of serious struggles they are facing. Maybe your own child asks you one of those deep questions, like “Hey Mom, if someone kid doesn’t go to church and their parents never tell them about Jesus….and they die….will they go to heaven?”

These are questions we need to ask ourselves are, Am I ready? Am I willing?

We need to realize that the harvest is full all around us with people who are hurting, looking for a place to belong and a purpose in life. They don’t know it but they are looking for a relationship with Jesus. You may be their only connection to Him.

I’ll leave you with this….

I’ve been talking a lot about the original church in Acts 2. I have encouraged us as a church to adopt the Acts 2 model as our “mission” of you will. It is important to have fellowship with others, it is important to study the bible together, pray together, hold one another up – but the end goal is to do those things so that we are readily prepared for every good work, Just as Jesus was as the crowds followed him.

The church is not meant to be a fish tank, where we safely dwell wondering when a new fish may drop in. It is meant to be a temporary holding tank where we encourage one another, rest and prepare for life out in the sea where hopefully, by God’s grace, we can share the gospel of Jesus Christ with the world around us.

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