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FEBRUARY 10, 2013: FIFTH SUNDAY OF THE YEAR

Readings: 

Isaiah 6:l-2a, 3-8
I Corinthians 15:1-11
Luke 5:11-11

It's impossible to overemphasize the importance of biblical "call narratives." They're at the heart of what it means to be a follower of God. The original Scripture readers would have gone beyond the actual narrative and applied the individual aspects of each call to themselves, helping them understand their own personal calls.

Whether the call, like Isaiah's, is to a specific ministry, or, like Simon's, a generic call to be another Christ, all calls contain the same basic elements.

First, the person called is overcome with unworthiness. Isaiah, encountering Yahweh, exclaims, "Woe is me, I am doomed! For I am a man of unclean lips.    " Simon, after the miraculous catch, falls at the feet of Jesus and says, "Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man." Left to our own devices, no one is capable of carrying out the task to which she or he is called.

Second, Yahweh or Jesus steps in and either removes or ignores the unworthiness. One of Yahweh's seraphs touches Isaiah's lips with a burning coal and tells him, "See, now that this has touched your lips, your wickedness is removed, your sin purged." Jesus assures Simon, "Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people." Yahweh or Jesus supplies what the person called lacks.

Third, whoever is called makes a free, immediate decision to respond to the call. There's no force of fear involved. No one hesitates. Isaiah's response to Yahweh's question, "Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?" is an instant, generous, "Here I am, send me!" In a parallel way, Simon and his fishing partners "... brought their boats to the shore, left everything and followed him." No excuses, no delays.

One need only read the last verses of Jeremiah 20 to discover how deeply some of God's "volunteers" eventually regret their decision to freely give themselves over to God's plan. Yet once that "ok" is given, it changes everything. One acquires a completely new value system. Isaiah's life now revolves around proclaiming Yahweh's word. Simon and his co-workers have relegated boats and fish to the background of their lives and are now focusing on people. They've done a 180 degree turn in what they formerly thought important.

That's why we must listen carefully to what Paul, in our I Corinthians passage, regards as "first importance" for people who follow Jesus. In one of our faith's earliest "kerygmas," the Apostle passes on a tradition which he himself received when he first converted to the faith of Jesus: "... That Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures; that he was buried; that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures; that he appeared ...." No matter where we are, what we do, or who we are, a Christian's life revolves around the conviction that the risen Jesus is here, living and working among us.

As we hear in the gospels, the historical Jesus' ministry revolved around showing people how God was present, working effectively in their lives. But after his own death and resurrection, his followers were convinced that he also was alive and working in their midst.

Though Paul provides us with two different lists of people to whom the risen Jesus appeared, his most important point comes with the statement, "Last of all, as to one born abnormally, he appeared to me."

I presume, if we daily respond to God and Jesus' calls in our lives, we should also be able to reflect on the times and places in which the risen Jesus has appeared to us.