YEAR C, EPIPHANY 5.

 Sunday 5, Feb 4-10

 

Luke 5: 1-11                                                    (Sermon 1: “Do We See the Glory?)

Isaiah 61: 1-8.( or Is 6: 1-13)   (Sermon 2: “Make Room for Some Awe”)

 

1 Cor.15: 1-11

Psalm 138

 

PREPARATION

 

The glory of the Lord Jesus be with you all.

And also with you.

 

If an alien creature from another planet should observe us here today, they might well be shocked! That we, mere inept earthlings, should come together and dare to commune with that awesome, Holy Creator who brought the whole cosmos into existence, might seem a preposterous activity for such lowly creatures to attempt.

 

Yet because of what the Messiah Jesus has done to us, we gather without fear and trembling, and speak with God as with a dear yet awesome Friend.

 

Beautiful, beautiful, awesomely beautiful is the Lord of hosts.

The whole universe is full of God’s glory.

 

            OR—

 

I will thank you, O Lord, with all my heart,

in front of other gods I will sing your praises.

Wonderful is God our creator and parent,

Wonderful is God our redeemer and brother,

Wonderful is God, our counsellor and sister.

 

Whenever I call out you answer me,

you make my soul resilient with strength.

Others may give ashes, but you give a lei,

they offer misery , you give gladness,

their spirits faint, you clothe us with praise.

 

PRAYER OF APPROACH

 

God of grace and glory, in the holy light of your presence, maybe we should feel stunted, shifty, little creatures, unable to face your g lory full on. But in your compassion you have gentled your light through the human face of Jesus, on whom we can look and not be afraid.  Give us the will to feast our eyes on him again and again, to delight in the enormous gift of your redeeming love, and to find our hearts deepest desire being met in you.  To your endless glory.

Amen!

                                                OR¾

 

Most holy Friend, we turn to you from the cacophony of this world, with its blaring and desperate songs. Please assist us to tune in the music of ‘the land of everlasting praises’ and to the songs of all the redeemed. Then with “angels and archangels and all the company of heaven” may we link our hearts and voices in that special praise which elevates our spirits to new heights of worship and adoration. Through Christ Jesus our Saviour.

Amen!

 

CONFESSION AND ASSURANCE

 

Let us come before  the Holy One who made us and redeems us. Let us pray.

 

Loving God,

Whenever I call out you answer me,

you make my soul resilient with strength.

Others may give ashes, but you give a lei,

they offer misery , you give gladness,

their spirits faint, you clothe us with praise.

 

Great God: The one Source of true light, love and holy delight, in your divine kindness never leave us nor forsake us;

God have mercy.

Messiah Jesus: Light of the world, because you have not come to intimidate but to awaken us to the dawn of a bright, new day;

Christ have mercy.

Holy Spirit, The giver of that inner light and warmth which both illuminates and regenerates that which has withered or grown cold.

Spirit have mercy,

 

Most loving God, Saviour and Friend, come with your undiluted light, bring us to our knees and to our senses. Lift us up from shame and ineffectiveness to learn once more how walk in the light of Christ, with our heads held high and our hands ready to assist a stumbling neighbour.  For your name’s sake.

Amen.

 

FORGIVENESS DECLARED

 

My friends, the Gospel says: “There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” You are free from the heavy baggage of guilt and self recrimination.

 

You may now take up your salvation and walk with the daring steps of those who are free indeed.

 

Others may give ashes, but you give a lei,

they offer misery , you give gladness,

their spirits faint, you clothe us with praise.

Thanks be to God!

 

PRAYER FOR CHILDREN

 

            God In Our Hearts

 

Dear God,

            you are bigger than the whole world,

            bigger than all the stars in the sky.

 

Yet somehow

            you become

            small enough

            to live in our hearts.

 

Please squeeze

            your way in

            and fill me up

            with your loving Presence.

Amen.

 

PSALM 138

 

From the bottom of my heart, I thank you, Holy Friend,

            for you have heard my much asking.

In the presence of angels I sing your praises,

            I bow down and give thanks in your sacred Presence.

 

I will praise your love and fidelity,

            your word is too wonderful to describe.

On the day when I shouted for help, you heard me,

            you gave me new, inner strength.

 

All world rulers should praise you, loving Friend,

            when they hear what you have to say.

They shall sing of your wonderful ways,

            for your glory is blindingly awesome!

 

You, high and holy Friend, smile on the poor,

            while from far away you note the arrogant.

Though I live surrounded by troubles,

            you give me full life; to the annoyance of my foes.

 

Your hand reaches out to rescue and heal me,

            you continue your many plans for me.

Loving Friend, your love endures forever,

            you do not give up on what you have made.

                                                                                                            ©  B.D. Prewer 2000

 

SIMON’S BOAT

 

Go, leave this sinner, Lord,

            I am a blundering fool,

don’t put your faith in me

            for I shall surely fail.

 

Go, leave this sinner, Lord,

            for I’m slippery as an eel;

my doubts toss like the waves

            and they consume my all.

 

Go, leave this sinner, Lord,

            you split my faith’s weak net;

my boat’s too small for you,

            you are what I am not.

 

Go, leave this sinner Lord,

            I was happy with my crew

but now I feel dismay

            and hear a rooster crow.

                                      Another version of this poem can be found in

                                                    “Beyond Words” © B.D.Prewe & JBCE

 

COLLECT

 

God of hosts, you are the True-Joy of the earth and the heavens, of all things seen and unseen. Give us a glimpse of your glory, that our lives may be lifted out of the boredom of self-centred existence into that exciting altruism that fills time and eternity with purpose and providence.

Then may our worship be our delight and the humble service of our fellows be our desire and pleasure. Through Jesus Christ, who with you in fellowship with the Holy Spirit are the supreme joy of loving hearts.

Amen!

 

SERMON 1: DO WE SEE THE GLORY?

 

Leave me Lord, for I am a sinful man.     Luke 5:8

 

Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts; the whole world is filled with God’s glory.  Isaiah 6:3

 

Awe in the presence of the glory of God is the purest, most wonderful sanity we will ever  know.

 

Simon Peter, the fisherman, found himself in the presence of holiness. In the company of Jesus, he felt like a grub.

 

The prophet Isaiah was on one momentous day in the temple at Jerusalem, when he was overcome with sublime awe in the holy, merciful Presence of God.


CHANGE OF SCENE

 

The Franklin and Gordon rivers in Tasmania are a long way from the temple at Jerusalem.  But maybe both scenes have something to say to us.

 

When I was in Tasmania on holiday with my wife, Marie, we included a visit to the Gordon/Franklin: “world heritage” wilderness. For seven hours we cruised across Macquarie Harbour and up the Gordon river. It was a grey day and the river was like polished pewter, reflecting the wonders around it. The steep flanks of the river valley were covered with magnificent rain forest: myrtle, sassafras, blackwood, celery-top pine, tree ferns, pandanus palms, and on the high ridges King Billy pines, while in the distance we glimpsed the rugged mountain peaks. Here and there on the slopes were some ragged old Huon pines that had survived the axe and dated back hundreds (and in some cases thousands) of years.

 

For Marie and me it was glorious. We had that sense of awe that engulfs a person in the presence of untamed beauty. Maybe we were close to the fringes of the glory of God.

 

However, not everyone enjoyed that experience.  You know the old saying: “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” ? That saying it partly true.  I have spoken with a man who did a similar cruise to ours and yet found it boring; one big yawn. He said: “But there’s nothing to see. It’s useless country. You can’t farm it or graze it, and much of it has nothing worth mining. Unless you do something like building a dam on it, it is good for nothing.”

 

The beauty was there but he, and maybe others, do not experience wonder in the presence of such beauty.

 

Our awareness of awesome beauty, or our blindness to it, is similar to how things are with the glory of God.  Not everyone is aware of the glory around them.We need to experience the spiritual dimension. Those who hide and mislead their real selves miss out. Only those who are attuned to God and hunger for more of God, sense the glory of God and fall down in awe.

 

ISAIAH SAW THE GLORY

 

Isaiah was a naked soul; a vulnerable spirit in the awesome presence of God. Later, as he attempts to describe the experience, he stretches language to its limits. He must tell of both the wonder he felt, and of his human shame, in the presence of God’s glory.  How does a tangible earthling find words to tell of the glory of the intangible God?

 

            Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts. The whole world is filled with God’s glory.

 

            Then I said:” Woe is me! For I am a person of unclean lips and I live among a people of unclean lips; and now I have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.”

 

Isaiah saw God’s glory in the Temple; and knew for certain that was not confined to the Holy Sanctuary. He now knew this glory filled all things, seen and unseen.

 

Now that si the absolauyet truth. The whole world is filled with God’s g lory,yet only a few seem to be aware of it. Many of those who do sense it are young people whose spiritual sensitivity has not yet been bruised and buried under the slag heaps of materialism.

 

It is the pure in heart who see God’s g lory. “Pure in heart” does not mean those who never have sexual phantasies, nor have been tempted by greed or revenge. It means those who are fair dinkum in their openness to God. Pure in heart means unadulterated sincerity.

 

The pure in heart sense the glory of God, in the temple like Isaiah or in the market place, at the Communion Table or the family table, on the Gordon River or in a Mozart “Kyrie”.

 

THE GLORY OF CHRIST JESUS

 

I want to push on now to the Gospel reading: Peter in his fishing boat on his knees before Jesus: “Abandon me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”

 

Christians know that they have found the true glory of God in Christ Jesus.

 

Earlier, when speaking of the beauty of Tasmania wilderness, I said that maybe we were sensing “the fringes” of God’s glory.

 

I meant it that way. Such experiences of beauty are not much more than the fringes.  The greater Glory of God, as much as a mortal creature can look upon, is truly seen in Jesus. We have seen the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

 

Without God’s glory in Christ, the universe, only reflects the fringes of God’s ways.

 

Out on Lake Galilee in his boat, Peter sensed something extraordinarily holy in this man Jesus. Maybe Peter had up to this point been intrigued by a fascinating human being. He had made friends with a fascinating fellow Jew. Now he was overwhelmed with something that was indescribable. He knew he was unworthy of it. Here was the true glory of something much greater, and he, Peter, felt like a witchetty grub in its Presence.

 

Of course, not everyone saw it Peter’s way. The New Testament writers are “full on” about Jesus, yet they also make plain his unpopularity in some quarters . Many who looked on Jesus, did not see the glory of God but an insidious threat to their brand of religion and their hard won righteousness. Some convinced themselves that he was a bad man, possessed by devils.

 

Peter saw light, they saw deep darkness.

 

Glory was in the eye of the beholder; the pure in heart saw God.

 

You might want to retort: “Peter? Pure in heart? Are we talking about Peter the fisherman?”

 

I say: “Yes!”  The pure in heart are the fair dinkum folk. Peter was fair dinkum. [Aus lingo: fair dinkum = utterly sincere] Peter made plenty of mistakes, suffered exceedingly from “foot and mouth disease”, but he was sincere. There was no humbuggery. Peter is the first recorded person to sense the glory of God in Jesus and to cry out with the pain of his own inadequacy: “Abandon me. I’m a sinful man’.

 

Peter was not of course abandoned by Jesus. He was not given up as a hopeless case. That is not the style of Jesus.  In the months and years to come, Peter was to see much more of the glory, until on that terrible Friday that we paradoxically yet rightly call “good Friday”, Peter saw the glory of God unveiled in the awesome holiness of the cross.

 

That cross stands as the nadir of human wickedness, yet it is also the apex of our human experience of the glory of God.

 

Never was a glory like this. Never will be a glory holier than this.

 

Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts. The whole world is filled with the glory of the loving God who willingly suffers the vilest that humanity can inflict, and turns the fateful hour into glorious hope..

 

This is the litmus test of genuine glory. Jesus is the key. From this starting point we can look for the glory of God in the whole universe and will never be led astray.

Without Him we can be easily seduced by sentimental poppycock or grandiose posturing of self appointed mystics and prophets.

 

But not everyone will see, or want to see, the glory of God in Christ Jesus. You have to really want it! Want it with all your heart! Want it enough to bear the pain of having familiar comfortable filters removed from you vision! Want it though it may make you feel both stupid and grubby. Want it sufficiently to be utterly overawed!

 

Blessed are the pure in heart, They shall see God.   They shall really see. This very day.

 

 

SERMON 2: MAKE ROOM FOR SOME AWE.

 

“Simon Peter fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying: “Please leave me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!”     Luke 5:8

 

I once knew a scientist with a weird story to tell.

Following worship one Sunday he shared with me an experience which had happened in the Australian Outback. He was a level headed man, a Specialist Physician; Not prone to exaggeration. He did not tell many of this particular experience, for he was afraid others might mock him, but hoped I might hear him out.

 

He was camping with a friend in a remote, rugged gorge.

Typical of many place in the Australian Outback . While there they encountered what he claimed was an UFO, materialising and landing not far from their camp. He described the shock, with the hair rising all over their bodies. They experienced breath-constricting, naked awe as they looked upon this strange craft which seemed to defy his understanding of physics.

 

I mention this, not to create a debate about UFO’s.

IN this question on I have a slightly sceptical but (I hope!) open mind. I mention it to raise the issue of awe.

 

SHORTAGE OF AWE

 

The experience of awe appears to be in short supply in our western society. I have no doubt whatsoever that my scientifically trained friend experienced naked awe in the presence of something that was far outside his normal range of experience and scientific understanding.

 

How I wish we all could have more moments of such naked awe! We need to be shaken out of our know-all, shallow view of the world, and saved from our exaggerated view of our human superiority within the universe.

 

This is especially so within the culture of our cities. In a metropolis human-made things dominate our vision and hearing by day and night: We live and work among skyscrapers, and the canyons between them down which we rush to and fro. By night glittering lights dazzle from every direction, while the strobes, and the ubiquitous high-volume music, take over our senses in entertainment venues.

 

Urban people these days rarely walk in the moonlight far from city lights. They don’t get to sense the wonder of the Milky Way that stretches majestically above. Not many camp in remote, untamed gorges! Not many even stop to watch a full moon.

 

Experiences other aspects of nature are also rare events. Not often enough do we climb among majestic mountains, or stand by the roaring sea in a gale, or sense all the raw power of a thunder storm. We are urbanised against wonder, conditioned against the possibility of awe.

 

LOSS OF SPIRITUAL AWE

 

Even more, I lament the apparent loss of an even deeper Awe. Those cathartic moments when the majesty of the spiritual dimension sets them wondering and worshipping.

 

Our loss of wonder in the presence of God leads to a spiritual banality.

 

This is reflected in our attitude to authentic, godly people. We no longer seem to show awe in the presence of remarkable servants of God. We are so hooked on the “I’m okay you’re okay” sentiment, and on post-modern, do-your-own-thing ethics, that a truly holy person is not approached with respect.

 

We heard today a story of Jesus . How he taught the crowd gathered on the shore of Galilee from the ‘rostrum’ of Peter’s boat. It is a relief to see Peter, a little later, throwing himself at the feet of Jesus and crying: “Leave me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” In the presence of a truly holy person, Peter was overwhelmed with a spiritual awe, and saw the petty falsity of his own life.

 

Would we be completely at ease in a similar situation? There is no doubt in my mind, that if Jesus were physically here today, we might not find it a comfortable experience. Such pure goodness, such authentic love, would leave some of us spiritually “gob-smacked” and keenly aware of our gross personal inadequacy. It would be a discomforting but a cathartic experience. An experience to be rightly called awesome.

 

We speak of Christ Jesus as our friend and brother. That is good. It is a valid protest against the fear-ridden religion that characterised other generations, and even afflicts some unhappy souls today; a protest against dogma which turns Jesus into a Emperor-like judge of whom we should be in mortal terror. I don’t want to go back to terror. Not to a religions based on the fear of some divine tyrant.

 

But what about God’s holiness? Maybe in our emphasis on the approachability of God through Jesus, we have neglected the overwhelming ‘otherness” of God. We have clutched at human chumminess in worship instead of treasuring an awareness of the absolute glory of this HOLY FRIEND who is present, and before whom we are but poor, distorted, and broken images.

 

MY BEST MATE

 

I turn to my story for children, “My Best Mate.”

 

In this tale  I recount the adventures of 11 year old Chip Berry, who has an unusually keen sense of the presence of Jesus in his life. He calls Jesus by a aboriginal name; Wirake. Chip finds that Jesus is the most approachable friend in the whole world. They talk person to person, Chip and Wirake, very naturally, with plenty of good humour.

 

Yet there is also that other awesome element in our Christ. The element of hair-raising Godliness. The light of God in Jesus which shows up our small minded and evil ways. That wonder-full otherness in our Christ which led Peter to fall down at his feet, and call out: “Leave me, for I am a sinful man, Lord.”

 

In the doings of Chip Berry, I attempt to express this crucial element in a chapter where Chip, on a hike with his friends, Josie and Tan, leaves the others for a few minutes. Clambering through the wooded hills by the ocean, he comes out overlooking a small beach. There he has a different encounter with Wirake-Jesus.

 

I worked my way among the rocks until I was around the point. There was a small bay and a sandy, horseshoe beach on the other side of the promontory. What I saw there freaked me out. It was unreal!

 

HE was there. HE sat on a rock, his feet in the sand. Crowded around him were animals and birds. A mighty sea eagle perched on a rock near his left shoulder. Beside it, without any sign of fear, sat some peaceful doves. A big grey kangaroo stretched on its side on the sand, totally relaxed. A wombat and an echidna looked up at Wirake. At his feet lay a dingo with a young bandicoot resting comfortably between its front paws. A magpie sat on his right shoulder with its head turned sideways. On his lap coiled a large tiger snake, sharing the prime position with a joey kangaroo. There were heaps other birds and animals gathered around, like a church congregation.

 

HE was speaking to them. I could not hear what he was saying but they seemed intent on every word. The wombat nodded every now and then, as if he agreed. The snake lifted up its head to get a better look at the speaker.

 

I was spellbound. It was awesome, as if I was looking a long, long way into the future? Or was it the past? Or was it both? Or was it into heaven? There also seemed to be a light, a soft shimmering radiance flowing from Wirake, which embraced all the creatures.

 

As I watched, a seal came lumbering up from the sea, taking its place among the other creatures, its head cocked wisely on one side. A wallaby hopped across the rocks and joined them. A crimson rosella flew down and sat on Wirake’s left wrist.

 

After a while, Wirake stopped talking, turned around, looked up at me, and beckoned. Slowly, afraid that my movement might spoil things, I walked down to join them. The grey kangaroo shifted and made space for me near Wirake. Humbly, I moved into the gap and did the only thing I wanted to do: I knelt there at his feet.

 

For how long? I do not know. Maybe a few seconds, maybe minutes. Time seemed to exist no longer. Rocking a little, with my head bowed, I found myself whispering: “My Lord. My Lord. My Lord. My Lord and my God.”

 

He gently reached a hand to my chin and turned my face up to his. His eyes were pure love as he spoke: “Don’t be afraid; it is I.”

 

Was I afraid? It is hard to describe. I was less afraid than I had ever been in my whole life. Yet I was also more afraid; kind of overwhelmed. It was not a terror, but a holy kind of feeling that made me shiver and shake.

 

The spell was broken by the sound of clambering feet and voices. Tan and Josie were coming looking for me

.

 WITHOUT AWE WE ARE LOST

 

If we feel no awe in the presence of Christ and his God, then we are lost.   Either lost in our sins or lostin religious mediocrity.

 

My friends, pray to be found. Pray to be freaked out.

 

Make time to be found; to be found again and again.

 

Pray for that holy awe which is the beginning of wisdom.

 

 

THANKSGIVING

 

We thank you, loving God, for this fair earth,

our home and a temple of your Holy Spirit.

 

We thank you for giving us life and calling us

to be friends of the earth and children of God.

 

When we fell far short of the mark, you did not give up.

You raised up prophets, saints and martyrs

to recall us to our true destiny and delight.

 

When even this was not enough for our vagrant spirits,

your gave us Jesus, truly our brother yet truly your Son.

We praise you for his resilient loving,

for the redeeming power of his suffering and death,

and for the unexpected glory of the resurrection.

 

We thank you for the church assembled in his name

and inspired by his Spirit to serve the world with love.

 

Therefore, with angels and archangels......

                                                                                                                        ©  B.D. Prewer 1991

 

INTERCESSIONS

 

Let us surround others with our compassion as we lift them up to God in prayer.

Let us pray

 

God of glory, that glory that is found at the bottom of the pack, where Christ Jesus is among his own, enlist us in your mission of love. May our prayers align with your compassion, and our deeds reflect a little of your beauty.

 

Please hear our prayer

And let our lives declare your glory.

 

There is a long way to go before your church reflects the splendour of Jesus. Take our denominations in hand; hammer and bend, weld and shape, smooth and polish, until we mirror more of the grace which creates new hope in all the earth.

 

Please hear our prayer,

And let our lives declare your glory.

 

There is a long way to go before we can be content with our community, nation and world. We look for a growing intolerance towards injustice and greed, arrogance and cruelty, racism and sexism, political cant and religious bigotry.

 

Please hear our prayer.

And let our lives declare your glory.

 

There is a long way to go before the warmth of your compassion is made real for the hungry and the hurting people, the diseased and disabled, the awkward and anxious, the sorry and the sad. Speed the feet and strengthen the hands of all your agents of comfort and healing.

 

Please hear our prayer.

And let our lives declare your glory.

 

Loving Friend, keep us faithful and give us precious glimpses of the glory that lies ahead for all the pure in heart.

 

Please hear our prayer.

And let our lives declare your praise.

 Amen!

 

 

SENDING OUT

 

Do not try to exceed your commission.

Life is too short for grand gestures followed by self pity in the hour of failure.

Go out to serve Christ without either undue pride or anxiety.

Do whatever you can.

Entrust to others the things you should.

And dedicate both your successes and your failures to the glory of God.

 

Amen!

We are more than conquerors through the Christ who loves us

 

The Brotherly grace of Christ, the Fatherly love of God, and the Sisterly encouragement of the Spirit, will be with you here and everywhere.

 

Amen!.