Blog / Book of the Month / Forgiveness for Unclean Lips / Isaiah 6 & Luke 5:1–11 / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday February 6th 2022 / Epiphany / Mount Olive Lutheran Church

Forgiveness for Unclean Lips / Isaiah 6 & Luke 5:1–11 / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday February 6th 2022 / Epiphany / Mount Olive Lutheran Church

Forgiveness for Unclean Lips / Isaiah 6 & Luke 5:1–11 / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday February 6th 2022 / Epiphany / Mount Olive Lutheran Church

Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday February 6th 2022: Season of Epiphany / Isaiah 6 & Luke 5:1–11 "Forgiveness for Unclean Lips"

On one occasion, while the crowd was pressing in on [Jesus] to hear the word of God, He was standing by the lake of Gennesaret, and He saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, He asked him to put out a little from the land. And He sat down and taught the people from the boat. And when He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at Your word I will let down the nets.” And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed Him.

Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in Your sight O Lord. Amen.

Grace peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Good Christian Friends. In our Old Testament reading upon seeing God Isaiah laments: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”[1] And in our Gospel when Saint Peter, the fisherman, began to understand who Jesus truly is St. Luke tells us how Simon Peter fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”[2]

When someone is always running their mouth, cussing up a storm, and cursing to beat the band even over the smallest thing have you ever said, they ‘swear like a sailor’ … or maybe if it’s you and your language gets blue full of F-bombs and other salty language have you heard someone sharply ask you, “Do you kiss your mother with those lips?” We have been given our lips, our words by God for His purpose and yet we can find ourselves misusing them for our own purposes. As Christians we are likewise to treat God’s Word as pure and holy, we are not to suddenly swear like a sailor as soon as we pass through the doors of the church into the turbulent waters of the big wide world. We aren’t to be sweet angels here and salty sailors out there.

I want you to listen carefully to these commandments and think on them regarding our speech, the way we talk in this life. Let’s start with the obvious one: The Eighth Commandment You shall not give false testimony against your neighbour. What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not tell lies about our neighbour, betray him, slander him, or hurt his reputation, but defend him, speak well of him, and explain everything in the kindest way.[3] This one covers over how a person is to use their words, their speech and talking regarding the people around them. This commandment applies to life in a family, to life at work, to life with friends, to life with your enemies (if you have any – remember Jesus says to love your enemies which means you are called as a Christian to defend them, speak well of them, and explain everything in the kindest way: I understand this is not easy but this is what we are called to do even for those we are at odds with or with those who are at odds with us). The Eighth Commandment is one where the more you think about it the harder it gets. It’s especially hard for someone whose work involves speaking all day, because the more you speak the more likely you will trip up in what you say.   

Think of what Saint James says in his Epistle, “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.

How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell.”[4] What did Isaiah say in the moments before he was called to be a prophet and teacher of hard truths, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips.”

Striving to hold our tongue and speak well of others is hard but it is only the half of it: how about the other obvious Commandment concerning how we use our lips? The Second Commandment You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God. What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not curse, swear, use satanic arts, lie, or deceive by His name, but call upon it in every trouble, pray, praise, and give thanks.[5] Here swearing is not swearing like a sailor but rather making oaths using God’s name, “as God as my witness … I swear to God …” As Christians we don’t want to use the name of God to give legitimacy to a lie, we don’t want to deceive others by giving the impression that what we are saying is ‘the God’s honest truth,’ when it is not. You also don’t want to mix God’s name into pagan non-Christians rituals and beliefs. For example Joseph Smith used many elements of Christianity twisting them and confusing them and joining them with unchristian ideas to form Mormonism. Some of the things Smith incorporated were taken from Freemasonry which itself misuses God’s name dragging God into esoteric and purposely secrete rituals. On a smaller scale mediums like Sylvia Brown will claim to be a Christian who speaks to the dead saying that that is ok because they do it in Jesus’ name. You can say, ‘well I’m not reading tarot cards or peoples palms or tea leaves in Jesus’ name, and I’m not a Free Mason, and I’m not starting some heretical religious movement like The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,’ and that’s all well and good even still when it comes to this Commandment You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, can you say you have never broken it?  

We heard a little from Saint James, here’s a bit more; James says “No human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water?”[6] Even the explanation of the Sixth Commandment talks about how people are to live sexually pure and decent life in what they say and do.

So dear ones we want to put away salty language which can lead to blasphemy, violence, theft, dishonouring authority, and even adultery and set aside the misuse of the gift of language which God intended for building each other up, remember what Saint Paul says, “let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”[7]

When Isaiah, when Saint Peter were being called by God, when they found themselves in the presence of God they confessed that they were sinners. They spoke truthfully of their sinfulness. As Christians we, like them, need to be honest about how we fail in what we actively say and do: in the way we neglect to say positive or helpful things; the way we fail to hold our tongue from evil talk when it could be of service; the way we have left undone good things for bad reasons; we need to be honest when our thoughts are dark and evil and full of sin.

When Isaiah says, “woe is me! For I am lost,” when Saint Peter falls to his knees and says to Jesus “depart from me,” does God say to Isaiah ‘yes Isaiah you are lost, be gone sinner!’ Does God send his seraphim to cast Isaiah out of the temple in Jerusalem? Does Jesus say to Simon Peter, ‘yes Simon Peter you are a sinner, I am leaving!” Does Jesus depart from Peter’s boat and go away? No. The Lord provides forgiveness when they confess their sin. With a heart of repentances they lament their sin in the presence of God, mourn and grieve over their sin and God forgives them. You can see this forgiveness for Isaiah when one of the seraphim flew to Isaiah, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And Isaiah recounts how the angel touched Isaiah’s mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”[8] God doesn’t cast the repentant Isaiah out and God will not cast you out when you repent of your sin. And for Saint Peter Jesus forgives the salty fisherman and sailor saying, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” Jesus doesn’t depart from the repentant Simon Peter and Jesus won’t depart from you when you come asking for forgiveness.

What does Jesus say, He says, “I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”[9] You see this both in Peter and in Isaiah; with Isaiah after he is forgiven the question is asked by God, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” the forgiven Isaiah responds, “Here I am! Send me.”[10] With Peter after he is forgiven you see him and his business partner the sons of Zebedee bring their boats to shore, taking Jesus’ words to heart when Jesus said, “do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men,” leaving everything to followed Jesus. By the forgiveness of God these men Isaiah in the Old Testament and Simon Peter, James and John in the Gospels all walked away from who they were into who God was making them to be: Men who would speak God’s Word rightly who would with their lips, with their tongues, with their mouths serve the Lord. Now would they fall again and again into sin? Would they continue to need God’s forgives? Certainly we, as Christians, are always in need of the forgiveness of God for the ways in which we sin in what we say and do and in what we think.[11] There are time when as a follower and disciple of Jesus Saint Peter said the wrong thing[12] and even denies Jesus in Jesus’ hour of greatest need[13] and yet Jesus comes to Peter with grace and forgiveness over[14] and over[15] and over again.[16] Jesus comes to you with His forgiveness over and over and over again, the forgiveness He won once for all for you at the cross of His crucifixion.

He comes to you today with that same forgiveness in the Confession and Absolution He graciously provided you this morning at the beginning of the Divine Service and He comes to you with His forgiveness which you will receive upon your lips, not as a white hot burning coal but in the consecrated bread and wine of the Holy Supper where Jesus gives His very Body and Blood with the bread and the wine for the forgiveness of your sins. His atoning sinless Body and Blood are indeed acting as a white hot coal to your sin burning away both the guilt of your sin and your sin itself; yet in His mercy your lips do not burn as you receive Holy Communion, your tongue is not set on fire, your mouth is not destroyed by the holiness of God rather it, along with the rest of you, is made pure and holy as Christ is pure and holy. He comes to you with forgiveness and it is poured in your ears by His Word and placed in your mouth in the Meal. Not because you have deserved it but rather because He lovingly gives it.      

Dear ones these have been a hard couple years and we have all had occasion to fail in what we say. We have been frustrated, angry, and sad, we have been tempted to think ourselves better than others and to think others worse than ourselves. We have spoken poorly, even if we have not told lies about our neighbour, we may have hurt their reputation, failed to defend them, failed to speak well of them, failed to explain everything in the kindest way. We likewise may have faltered in our prayers, being so sorrowful over our troubles we may have been tempted to let our praise, and give thanks toward God slip and take a back seat. We certainly have been tempted to call upon the medical and political leaders of this world for protection and help over and above God. How many times in the news have you heard anyone say go to church, How many times in the news have you heard anyone say pray for the end of the pandemic, How many times in the news have you heard anyone say call on God to save us? Day in and day out the World has not encouraged us in this way. 

Be not discouraged brothers and sisters, for every time you have failed to speak well, when you have become one with unclean lips, among a people of unclean lips, for every time you have become a sinner in this way Jesus Christ has proved faithful. He was not a man of unclean lips, He was not a sinner, He kept the commandments without sin without fault and in Him you have your forgiveness. Return to Him trusting that He did not stumble in what He said in life, He is the Perfect Man, and He was able also to bridle His whole body even unto His death upon the Cross. Listen to Him as He calls you to Himself. He has not departed from you and He will not depart from you. In Him you are not lost. In Him you are forgiven, in Him you are called to serve others in love.

So as repentant ones forgiven in Christ Jesus we say to God with the Psalmist this prayer, “Set a watch before my mouth, O Lord, and guard the door of my lips. Let not my heart incline to any evil thing; let me not be occupied in wickedness with evil doers.”[17] Say to the Lord, “Here I am! Send me,”[18] to a world that needs to hear the holy Word of God in Christ Jesus who our readings today reveals to be quick to forgive a repentant heart. Amen.    

Let us pray:

Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.

[1] Isaiah 6:5
[2] Luke 5:8
[3] The Eighth Commandment, Luther's Small Catechism, Concordia Publishing House 2017, Pg 14.
[4] James 3:1–6
[5] The Second Commandment, Luther's Small Catechism, Concordia Publishing House 2017, Pg 13.
[6] James 3:8–11
[7] Ephesians 4:29
[8] Isaiah 6:6-7
[9] Luke 5:32
[10] Isaiah 6:8
[11] 1 Corinthians 14:20, “Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature.”
[12] Mark 8:31–33, And [Jesus] began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. And He said this plainly. And Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him. But turning and seeing His disciples, [Jesus] rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind Me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”
[13] Luke 22:54–62 Then they seized [Jesus] and led Him away, bringing Him into the high priest’s house, and Peter was following at a distance. And when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat down among them. Then a servant girl, seeing him as he sat in the light and looking closely at him, said, “This man also was with him.” But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know him.” And a little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not.” And after an interval of about an hour still another insisted, saying, “Certainly this man also was with Him, for he too is a Galilean.” But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how He had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny Me three times.” And [Peter] went out and wept bitterly.
[14] Luke 22:14-23
[15] John 20:19-23
[16] John 21:15-19
[17] Evening Prayer Psalm 141 The Lutheran Service Book, Concordia Publishing House 2006, Pg 246, Psalm 141:3–4, “Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips! Do not let my heart incline to any evil, to busy myself with wicked deeds in company with men who work iniquity, and let me not eat of their delicacies!
[18] Isaiah 6:8

Photo Credits: Main Photo detail Neon Light Lips from pexels; Dirty Lips from pexels; detail Sailor Walking from pexels; detail Fingers Crossed from unsplash; detail Horse Bridle and Bit from pexels; detail Forest Fire from pexels; Tarot Cards from pexels; Stream from pexels; detail Talking Over Coffee from unsplash; Boat With Fishing Net from pexels; Burning Hot Coals from unsplash; detail Rooster from pexels; detail Talking Behind Back from pexels; Chalk Drawing of Jesus from unsplash; detail Talking Together Over Supper from pexels.