Materials for Worship at Home on the Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany

Nerys writes: Isaiah in the Temple, Peter in the fishing boat and Paul writing to his beloved Corinthians – as you read the passages set for today, Isaiah 6.1-8, 1 Corinthians, 15.1-11 and Luke 5.1-11, I invite you to notice what they have in common.

The three situations couldn’t be more different. We have a devout Hebrew at worship in the Temple of Solomon, a Galilean fisherman at work in his boat, a Greek-writing Pharisee reflecting on a life-changing experience. Yet each of these accounts have elements which are startlingly similar.

Each of these men have caught a glimpse of the power of God. Isaiah has an overwhelming vision of a heavenly throne room where celestial beings sing praise to one whose glory fills the whole earth. Peter’s epiphany comes in the form of an amazingly abundant catch after a night of fruitless fishing. For Paul, the awesome experience was a revelation of Jesus as risen Lord as he was on his way to persecute his followers.

Each of the three have a sense of great unworthiness. ‘Woe is me!’, says Isaiah, as God’s holy presence makes him aware of his uncleanliness. Peter’s reaction is to fall down at Jesus’ knees in shame and shout at him to go away. And when Paul reflects on his encounter with Christ, he can only say, ‘I am not fit to be an apostle’. Fear must have swiftly followed as each waited for God’s judgement to fall on him. For Isaiah, however, the burning coal didn’t bring death but a cleansing of his sin. Peter was not left to live with his guilt and Paul, as he explains in his letter, was transformed by the grace of God.

But that wasn’t the end of the story for any of them. Forgiveness is immediately followed by a call to action. The future prophet hears the voice of God asking for a volunteer. The fisherman is told that from now on he will be catching people. The former Pharisee is drawn into a mission of proclaiming the Good News of Christ to non-Jews. And although each of them knows they have nothing special to offer, they accept the task that God gives them.

You may wish to explore John Reilly’s ‘Miraculous Draught of Fishes’ below with its kaleidoscopic circles linking Christ to the right with the apostles on the left through the central sun and the fishes, The artist wrote, ‘My paintings are not concerned with the surface appearance of people or things but try to express something of the fundamental spiritual reality behind it. I try to express in visible form the oneness and unity of this invisible power binding all things into one whole.’ I wonder to what extent this painting speaks of your experience of the call of God in your life or of your desire to be called by God.’

Remember that the call of God is not just for a select few but for everyone. All that is needed is for us to be available to respond to the summons.

Loving God,
I bring my empty nets
and ask you to fill them.
I bring my tiredness and discouragement
and ask you to fill me with energy and hope.
I bring the skills that I have
and ask you to teach me new ways of using them.
I bring such vision as I have of your kingdom
and ask you to enlarge it.
I bring myself, as I am
and ask you to use me, as you can,
in the service of that kingdom of joy and peace.

(Prayer of Dedication adapted from Spill the Beans issue 41)