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Epiphany 5C – February 6, 2022

St. Paul’s, Bellingham – Epiphany 5C – February 6, 2022

Collect & lessons: Is. 6:1-8, 9-13; 1 Cor. 15:1-11; Luke 5:1-11

The Rev. Rachel Endicott

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.

When I was a teenager, I temporarily left the church I’d been raised in. For a while, I found myself on a spiritual pilgrimage, searching for where I might find a home. Part of that search involved going to some other churches that were nothing like the Anglican/Episcopal church of my birth. The other part involved actually taking a hiatus from church and finding God in nature.

And the churches I went to were nothing, did I say NOTHING, like the churches I’d been raised in, most of which looked and felt a lot like St. Paul’s. I went to what I’m pretty sure was a small Church of God congregation, who definitely showed their evangelical and Baptist roots, the first time I’d ever seen a second offering taken. Whether it was because the first was not deemed digging deep enough, or whether the second was for mission I don’t now remember all these years later.

I also went to an Assembly of God church, one in which speaking in tongues was considered to be the only true measure of faith. This was also my first experience of an Altar Call, a time where worshippers were invited to go forward to the raised area at the front of the church (I honestly don’t remember in my mind’s eye whether there was an actual altar there or not). As an Episcopalian, who sees the altar as the focal point from which we are fed and nurtured through communion, I obviously had to wrap my head around the term and practice of altar calls which, per one definition I read, “refer to the practice of inviting people to come forward to the front of a church service or Christian event to publicly come to faith in Christ or for other spiritual reasons”.1

And although my fifteen-year-old self was not about to join folks in the limelight down at the front of the large church (OK, so God does have a sense of humor, right?!), I soon came to have a certain perception of which people did do that. Some of my friends who went to that church shared that the folks who went forward, often for the first time were professing their faith. But a number of folks going forward at other times in their lives apparently fell under the “for other spiritual reasons” category, namely to share where they had steered wrong in their lives and sinned. They went forward to repent and recommit to living as faithful Christians. So, I soon figured out, at least part of what was going on here was about what I would term sin, repentance, and redemption.

So coming back to the here and now, although we’re still a month away from Lent this morning, it seems as though the collect and readings are taking us into a place where we’re called to consider about sin and repentance, uncleanness and abundant life. So, let’s go there. Did you notice that our collect asks that we be set free from sin and moved to abundant life? It is a short collect. It is simple. Set us free. Give us life.

All of today’s lessons but the psalm at least touch on this theme about sin, repentance, and redemption.

In Isaiah, we find the Prophet Isaiah lamenting the fact that he is not holy, not blameless. The imagery here is found in what he says, “I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips” and he goes further “and I live among a people of unclean lips”. OK, so he’s bad and lives with other bad people.

But notice how even here there is God’s love and redemption…the live coal that is touched to his mouth is representative that his sin, his bad speech, is being taken away. Additionally, he is commissioned to go forward and speak of the wonder of God, a God he has seen, has experienced.

As we move into the New Testament, we find two more discussions about sin and salvation. In 1st Corinthians we are introduced to the idea that Christ’s overwhelming love, a love such that he died for us and rose again through the power of God, is that which brings us to salvation. But even this ties back to the Hebrew Scriptures, in reference to where we heard “that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures.” The Greek word here often translated as Scriptures is the word graphas, that which is written, more literally that which is scratched, drawn, or grazed, etched into something. So what was foretold has come to pass. Through God’s grace, Paul himself has been given new life, even as he acknowledges his past as a persecutor of those who are now his fellow Christians.

And last, but not least, the Gospel of Luke shows Peter who – when times get tough – confesses that “I am a sinful man!” Although the text doesn’t elaborate on why he says this, I can think of two potential reasons. One, Peter is acknowledging perhaps a level of unbelief. Unbelief that they could catch fish just because Jesus says so although the rest of the night, they had not. And secondly, some commentators note that “although the great catch is not described as a miracle, Peter sees in Jesus’ guidance a more-than-human power, and he responds with personal self-judgment.”2

So, as we hear these readings today, where might they call us?

To start, I do believe we are called to self-judgment. We are called to look inwards, evaluate how we are responding to God, and – if need be – confess our sin and ask for forgiveness and new life. As the strange tribe called Episcopalians, I won’t be doing an altar call, but I would offer other ways to confess your sin and to be put back into right relationship.

Almost every week, in both Holy Eucharist and in Morning Prayer liturgies, we have the ability to go deep in the Confession of Sin, the General Confession as it’s sometimes known. We can well use the silence leading to it to do a self-inventory and to judge ourselves and our lives.

For some folks, we need longer to do the self-inventory and spend time in prayer at home or elsewhere, approaching God outside of the liturgies and rites of the church. In Lent it is especially appropriate, ‘though can be done at any time, to do a more intensive self-inventory as part of the call to engage in a season of penitence. On Ash Wednesday, we will do the Litany of Penitence. But you can use this as a basis for self-inventory at any time, so I would encourage you to go find your Book of Common Prayer, go online, or borrow one from the church and review the litany, found on pages 267 through 269.

Lastly, I would invite you – if it strikes you as good to do so – to engage in one of the fives sacramental rites of the church, Reconciliation of a Penitent. In this rite, one asks to be reconciled with God and is reminded of God’s love. The priest offers counsel, direction, and absolution. I would invite you to speak to Mother Lindsay or me if you’d like to schedule this rite which is open to anyone who desires it, not just those who are sick or facing death.

The final prayer of the second form of the Rite of Reconciliation sums up much of the promise of wholeness found in the Scriptures today. It reads, “Now there is rejoicing in heaven; for you were lost, and are found; you were dead, and now alive in Christ Jesus our Lord. Abide in peace. The Lord has put away all your sins.” To which the penitent responds, “Thanks be to God.”

Indeed, thanks be to God.



2 The New Oxford Annotated Bible, footnote to Luke 5:8, NT85.

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