5th Sunday after the Epiphany
February 10, 2019
“Let’s Get Busy!”
Grace, mercy, and peace be with you all in the name of our living Savior and Good Shepherd Jesus. The basis for the sermon today is the Old Testament lesson as previously read from Isaiah chapter 6.
My dear friends in Christ Jesus,
There is an old saying that goes, “be careful what you ask for…you just might get it.” For example, there was once a church that, like many churches, struggled financially until one day they were flabbergasted to find out that they had been left a memorial gift in excess of $800,000. A widow, whose family had made a fortune but lived a humble existence – almost meager; to look at her you’d think she didn’t have 2 nickels to rub together. No one imagined she had that kind of money. And she left all that money to her church…and the church almost closed their doors because of it.
As soon as people realized that the church had been given all that much money, the members promptly stopped giving; “why give? the church has so much money now!” Then came the animosity, the disagreements, the back-biting, the name-calling, and Satan had a heyday with those people. Finally, out of utter desperation, the church gave all the money away to good causes, and they were able to stay together, but the damage had been done and it took them years to heal. Be careful what you ask for…you just might get it.
No one ever said that church work or the mission and ministry of the church would be easy. In fact, it is anything but! Today we are mindful of how dangerous, difficult, and daunting it can be when God calls your name and you respond “Send me!” Again…be careful what you ask for.
The first aspect of God’s call into action is the actual extending of the call. Isaiah was called into ministry “in the year that King Uzziah died” so that means that this occurred probably around 740 to 739 BC. This was a prosperous time for Israel. The Assyrians had not yet risen to power, and neither had the Babylonians. The Egyptians were trying to rebuild their dynasty. Israel was a major player on the world scene and they grew wealthy and powerful. Less than 50 years later, the bottom would fall out and Israel would suffer greatly. This is the coming ruin of which Isaiah was sent to proclaim. As you can imagine, this isn’t going to be a popular mission. Isaiah isn’t going to get invited to many social events, but he still was called and he did respond “send me.”
Good Shepherd was also called into mission and ministry. It was the year that Bob Marley died and President Reagan almost died. It was 1981, and the name for a Lutheran preaching station on the south side of rapidly-growing Sarasota was selected. By May of 1982 the congregation that is Good Shepherd was called into existence. By 1983 this building was constructed. The original 95 members have grown to more than 300 with more people joining every month.
The second aspect of God’s call into action is that we have to humbly recognize our unworthiness in the face of the one calling us! We have been called BY NAME BY GOD…whoa, that’s overwhelming. Isaiah’s reaction was swift and complete. “I am lost!” Isaiah exclaimed, but in the Hebrew that construction means “silenced.” In his sinfulness, Isaiah was rendered speechless.
What about us here at Good Shepherd? Has God called us here together to be his people? Of course. Like Isaiah, are we unworthy – sinful – as individuals? Yes. Like Isaiah, has our sinfulness silenced us? Is our ministry “moving” or has our sinful, silent, embarrassment at times stopped us from reaching out to our community and world with the love of Christ Jesus? Exactly…insert collective “gulp” here, right?
The third and final aspect of God’s call into action is the action itself, the mission. Is it easy? Hardly! Is it glamorous? I don’t think so! Isaiah, in his enthusiasm, begged “send me!” The optional verses you didn’t hear, though, were verses 9 and 10, and tell us what to expect in our mission, and they really aren’t optional: “He said, Go and tell this people: Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving. Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes.” In other words, we are being sent to an unresponsive audience that are going to reject what you say and do. Oooh…fun! Sound glamorous? You want a piece of that?
The same is true for our mission in this community. Does everyone like us? Maybe not everyone. When we speak, do they listen? Not always. Do they even know we’re here among all those trees? When you say, “Good Shepherd,” don’t people always say, “Where’s that?” It is not going to be easy to get people to come through those doors! But we have a mission. Our mission (2016) is to be a Christian family that models God’s love by connecting people to Christ and to one another, embracing our community and its needs, and by making a difference together. Friends, we cannot do that behind closed doors. We must get busy reaching out with the life-changing Word of God to open ears, eyes, and hearts giving the Holy Spirit a chance to work faith.
Isaiah carried out his mission and he was hated for it. Jesus himself pointed out that Israel was known as those who killed the prophets (Matthew 23:37). Jesus himself faced the full wrath of that rejection as the Roman soldiers nailed him to the cross. And instead of anger, he pleaded, “Father, forgive them.”
Apart from that cross we would be damned to hell – mission or no mission – but because of Jesus’ great love and sacrifice we are forgiven. This forgiveness empowers us to go forth and fulfill the mission that God has given us to do. Isaiah’s mission took him to the people of Israel and they hated him for it, yet he was faithful. We too have a mission in this community and people may also dislike us for it too. But we are prophets – forgiven sinners who proclaim the truth of God’s Word no matter what, and we live in the same forgiveness that we proclaim to others.
I’m not going to Nebraska. I’m staying…I’m in. Are you? Let’s get busy making a difference together. Here are WE…Send US and maybe we’ll get exactly what we asked for!