We have read two passages this morning about the importance of sincerity in what we say and do (from Isaiah 6 and Luke 5) As I read the passages I recognised that both reflect important ideas and words we say within our regular morning worship. I wonder if you noticed.
Firstly, the words of the Seraphim crying out to one another in the prophetic dream of Isaiah the prophet. In this vision the Seraphs are angelic beings who circle the throne of God and whose words are familiar to us because each Sunday during communion you are invited to : ‘join with them and the whole company of heaven to proclaim; holy holy holy Lord God of power and might heaven and earth are full of your glory’. So this Sanctus which we say comes from this passage. We are using words written thousands of years ago from a vision of heaven in which we are called to participate.
What struck me is that the impact of these words and worship are not the same as in the vision because in the vision we are told: ‘the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke’. Now we might feel grateful this doesn’t happen when we recite these words on a Sunday morning .. especially for insurance purposes .. however there is something about the power and impact of these words which we are perhaps missing with their familiarity. Do we really respond with sincerity and truth to this invitation to join with the whole company of heaven, angels, archangels and seraphim in this proclamation about the holiness of God our Father? If we did, would the impact be to at least shake the doo posts of our lives and fill our church with the signs of worship the vision saw from the angels?
Or secondly let us take the same idea about the importance of sincerity in relation to the confession of Peter in the Gospel passage. If we use this term confession we once again highlight the fact that this response to God is used in our Sunday worship. Each week, after our prayer of preparation reflecting on the God who knows the secrets of our hearts, I invite you to confess and acknowledge our failings. Asking for absolution and forgiveness. And here in the Gospel we see the most profound expression of this process of confession and absolution .. having witnessed the miracle of the great catch of fish Peter comes kneeling in sincerity and truth saying ‘“Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!”
Do we have the same sincerity in our confession each Sunday .. acknowledging all that has been done for us by way of provision and saying ‘truly I am not worthy’. For in th Gospel we see this is the basis of transformation .. turning a life of frustration and emptiness such as a fisherman who has fished all night and caught nothing .. turning that frustration and emptiness into a call to purpose and meaning and fulfilment. Come follow me is Jesus’ response to a sincere confession.
So what we are reminded of in the passages this morning is the importance of the Bible’s invitation to worship in Spirit and in Truth. Not simply to say words and sing songs but to engage fully with their meaning and their impact.
What we might take note of is that for words to have their deepest impact we must often go through emotions and events which are uncomfortable. Consider the vision of Isaiah. At the heart of the passage is a prophet who feels himself to be unworthy and unclean. Unable to respond to the call of god because of how inadequate he feels .. I am a man of unclean lips, he states .. I live in an unclean world! And yet in this confession and acknowledgement he is made clean because it is a sincere expression of worship .. and as a result his lips are made clean and he can join with the seraphim in heaven singing a hymn of praise to a holy God.
Or think of Peter suddenly aware he was in the presence of God’s Messiah and feeling small and useless and unworthy. It is through an awareness of our own limitations and failures that we can sincerely know ourselves and our God. Until this happens words of confession and praise are simply that .. words!
Through sincerity of response to God, Isaiah is able to find union with heaven and earth in praise of God. This is what we all seek. To overcome estrangement and a sense of our own unworthiness and brokenness through a union with others. How incredible that when we say these words in our communion prayers we are being united with all things in heaven and earth through the sincerity of our praise.
Through ur sincere confession and true worship .. such as that of the disciple Peter .. we can find purpose and meaning in life. When we respond to God’s call in spirit and truth we join with St Peter and all the saints in a decision to follow Christ. We cry ‘leave me I am a sinful person’ .. and then hear the words .. come follow me.
There is a beautiful pattern and connection between our passages this morning which we can not only reflect on but join in with. A pattern which teaches us we must make our prayers and declare our faith sincerely .. not that we understand or know it all but that we sincerely see our failings and God’s majesty. And when we do this our world is transformed. The doorposts of our very being are shaken and the presence of God fills our lives. We find the frustration and self-destructive words in our heads are replaced by the words of Jesus .. Come follow me and I will give you a new purpose and vision of life. The Bible tells us the time will come when the people worship me in Spiti and in truth. Let that time be now and let that worship be ours in our churches and our lives.