Isaiah 6:1-8, Luke 5:1-11
In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen
Both our readings today are about a moment of call on someone’s life from God. First, that magnificent passage from the early part of Isaiah – describing his vision with seraphs and lots of wings. It was how God called him to become a prophet. Isaiah did not feel worthy and his sins was forgiven via the action of Seraph with a hot coal.
Being a prophet means being a messenger from God. A go-between from God to his people. The characteristics of a prophets encompass 3 specific things. Firstly, that call from God – An experience or experiences to convince them to do what God wanted – As Isaiah had and to which he responded – Here I am send me. Secondly, a message from God to pass on – At least one often more as in this Isaiah’s case many across the first 40 chapters of his book in the Old Testament. And thirdly, Prayer – A lot of time spent in prayer and praising God, and having a good relationship with God.
Isaiah did a range of things in response to his call to and for the Israelite people of his day. He offered forgiveness of sins. He renewed the covenant promises of their ancestors. He encouraged people in times of suffering. He encouraged the people to live the way that God wanted. He also prayed diligently. Finally, Isaiah told of things to come using the messages he got from God – Both short term things to help the Israelites in their current situation and also to point forward to a time when God would intervene decisively in the life of the nation by sending his own special representative – We know all about this as this was about sending Jesus. And it is early chapters of Isaiah we turn to in our prophecies in Advent and Carol Services. All of this happening some seven to eight hundred years before the birth of Christ.
Our offertory hymn today is 235 a modern classic I the Lord of sea and sky – based on the ideas in the chapter from Isaiah we heard. The words of the chorus respond to a question from God. Whom shall I send? And continue.. Here I am Lord, Is it I, Lord? I have heard you calling in the night. I will go Lord, if you lead me. I will hold your people in my heart.
Where we are called by God we need to respond as Isaiah did. Here I am, send me!
The second reading was one in the early days of Jesus ministry. It has been a lean night for fish for Simon Peter and his fellow fishermen on the shore of lake Gennesaret. After teaching the people, Peter followed Jesus instructions to go fishing out deeper. Peter vocalised his compliance because Jesus had asked him and the mother of all catches followed promptly. Like Isaiah, Peter recognised his sinfulness, and yet Jesus still called him and used him. Do not be afraid Jesus said – from now on you will be catching people.
These moments changed things radically for both the prophet Isaiah and disciple Peter. They responded and followed the path God had for them. Peter’s was a bit rocky but I find great solace in that – when I trip over the rocks on the way too.
I am struck by these thoughts of call coming on the day Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II ascended to the throne. And we remember her in our prayers this day and as she also marks the 70th anniversary of her beloved father’s death. From that day and well before in fact the Queen has lived a life of devoted Christian service and has seen her role very much as a call on her life from God.
We feel we know the twists and turns of the plot of this story, particularly this day with her being many miles away in Kenya at Treetops. Dramatisations are widely available of how our Queen became next in line to the throne (but please remember they are dramatisations!). But we don’t really know I suspect, one minute as a reasonably young child, it was unlikely to be her destiny and then it really was too! Her father died young in our terms at 47, and long before she would realistically have expected to be approaching the throne. We will remember her words from her 21st birthday broadcast
I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted in our service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.
But I shall not have strength to carry out this resolution alone unless you join in it with me, as I now invite you to do: I know that your support will be unfailingly given.
God help me to make good my vow, and God bless all of you who are willing to share it.
The essence of her response to the challenge set before her has been to recognise it as God’s call on her heart and life. Just like Peter’s and Isaiah’s. Six months before her coronation, the Queen asked the people of our country and the commonwealth to pray for her That God may give me wisdom and strength to carry out the solemn promises I will be making, and that I may faithfully serve Him and you, all the days of my life.
From what we have seen, God has clearly and unequivocally answered those prayers and she has been a leader with deep and authentic faith, and whose wisdom has benefitted many she has encountered over all these years! Later this year we will be giving thanks for her as part of the Platinum jubilee celebrations. Be that via the beacon lighting, the national concert and horse display and in some special worship. But today let’s learn from her example of Christian discipleship and following God’s call on her life as we contemplate God’s call on our lives.
I am going to end these thoughts reflecting on call with the traditional prayer for the anniversary of Queens accession to the throne. The text of this is also available in this week’s newsletter
Let us pray
O God, who providest for thy people by thy power, and rulest over them in love: Vouchsafe so to bless thy Servant our Queen, that under her this nation may be wisely governed, and thy Church may serve thee in all godly quietness; and grant that she being devoted to thee with her whole heart, and persevering in good works unto the end, may, by thy guidance, come to thine everlasting kingdom; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.
The New Revised Standard Version (Anglicized Edition), copyright 1989, 1995
- The Servant Queen and the King she services – Bible Society Mark Greene and Katherine Butcher
- CCLI – Song reproduced under CCLI 1618191 for St Michael’s Church Pen Selwood