Go away from me, Lord, said Simon Peter, kneeling at Jesus’ feet. Go away from me.
And Moses hid his face. When the Lord God appeared to Moses while Moses was tending his father-in-law’s flocks out there in the middle of nowhere, when the Lord God appeared to Moses in that flaming, that burning bush, when the Lord God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob called out to Moses from that burning bush, saying, Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground, Moses hid his face. Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.
Go away from me, Lord, said Simon Peter, kneeling at Jesus’ feet. Go away from me, for I am a sinful man.
And, Woe is me, shouted the prophet Isaiah. When he, when Isaiah, saw the Lord sitting on a throne high and lofty, when the hem of the Lord’s robe—just the hem—filled the temple, when those really strange, six-winged creatures flew around that throne shouting, Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory, the prophet Isaiah cried out, Woe is me! Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!
Moses hid his face. Isaiah shouted, Woe is me! And now Simon Peter, kneeling at Jesus’ feet, begs him. He says, Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man.
Out there, out there on the deep, on the deep water, the nets were breaking, there were so many fish, the boats were full—had to call in more—so full of fish were the boats, the hulls were deep in the water. Seeing this, Simon Peter falls to his knees. His head bowed low, he says to Jesus, he begs the Lord of the deep, the Lord of the watery deep and all fish, the Lord of all, he begs him to go away. Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.
All three, all three of these—Simon Peter, the prophet Isaiah and Moses—they all found themselves in the presence of God, in the presence of the glory of God, the presence of the holiness of God.
And all three were afraid. Moses hid his face. Isaiah shouted, Woe is me. God away from me, begged Simon Peter. Each one, finding themselves face to face with the holiness of God, is terrified. Each is afraid, afraid for his own safety.
And you. You and me. We wouldn’t be? We wouldn’t be afraid?
They were afraid. These three—Simon Peter, Isaiah, and Moses—found themselves face to face with the holiness of God in all of its purity and were afraid, afraid they were about to be burned to a crisp, that they were toast.
And you. You and me, face to face with the holiness of God in all of its purity. Well, wouldn’t we be afraid? Afraid that we’d be toast too?
But think with me. Think with me for just a little bit here. Just what is this holiness? What is the holiness of God?
When we say something or someone is holy, what do we mean? Something holy is something clean and pure. And someone who is holy, that person is good; there is something good about that person; there is some goodness. Isn’t this what we mean? Holiness is purity, a powerful purity. Holiness is goodness, a powerful goodness. Why, holiness is pure goodness, the power of pure goodness.
And that is what the holiness of God is. It is goodness, the goodness of God. It is pure goodness and nothing else.
Moses was afraid he was going to be burned to a crisp. Before the holiness of God—the goodness of God in all of its purity—Moses hid his face.
But God, in all of God’s holiness, in all of God’s goodness, says to
Moses, The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the
Egyptians oppress them. So come, he says
to Moses, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of
So said God most holy and good.
Isaiah was afraid, afraid he was toast. Before the holiness of God—the goodness of God in all of its purity and power—Isaiah shouted, Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips.
But one of those seraphs, one of those weird, six-winged creatures, took a coal from the altar and touched it to Isaiah’s lips, purifying them.
And the Lord from that high and lofty throne, the Lord holy and good and pure, asked, God asked, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?
The prophet Isaiah says, Here I am. Maybe not a little surprised he’s still there and not a piece of toast, he says, Here I am; send me.
Simon Peter was afraid. Before the holiness of God—the pure goodness of God made flesh in Jesus—he knelt. Go away from me, Lord, he begged, for I am a sinful man.
But said Jesus to this fisherman, said Jesus to Simon Peter, Do not be afraid. Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.
So said Jesus, the embodiment of God’s holiness and goodness.
All three—Moses, Isaiah, and Simon Peter—all three heard God most holy and good calling them.
Moses heard God. I will send
you to Pharaoh to bring my people out of
Isaiah heard God. Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Here am I; send me, said the prophet.
And Simon Peter heard God. Jesus said to him, Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.
These three, they heard God calling them. And you. What about you? Can you hear God, most holy and good, can you hear God calling you? Can you?
Yes, you do, too. You know what to do and what to say. We all do. We know what to do and say. Our words and our actions are to tell of the glory of God, the holiness of God, the goodness of God.
Our words and our actions are to give hope to others. Our words and actions are to give help and hope. Our words and actions are to be full of kindness and respect. Our words and actions are to show forth the goodness of God most holy.
I know. It’s a lot to ask. It is hard to do this sometimes. And we will sometimes fail. But not everything is up to us. Not everything depends upon us. The one who calls us, God most holy and good, God goes with us, is always with us.