Trinity 5 – July 8th, 2007 – Luke 5:1-11
In the Name of Christ Jesus our Lord +
Now, I suppose it would be nice if on the basis of this text, I could make a simple pronouncement about farming – cut your wheat at 2 in the morning – and suddenly everyone here would be getting 70 bushels an acre. But we know that temporal gain isn't the point of this text. Even though we sometimes call this text the miraculous catch of fish – the point isn't the fish – the point is the power of God's Word, and the fact that God gives this Word to us men, not for our temporal life, but for our eternal life. This we see in the text.
Now on one occasion, while the crowd was pressing in on Him 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. Now, Simon Peter, at this moment, isn't a disciple yet. Jesus hasn't called him to follow him yet – and what do we see Peter doing? He was cleaning his nets – that means it was at the end of a long, hard night of work – as we find out a frustrating night where they didn't catch anything. And what does Simon Peter do? When Jesus asks – he takes the boat back into the water. He sacrifices, he labors more and more so that others might hear the Word. One of the things that frustrates me is the idea that only Pastors go about the work of God. Peter, before he is called, shows us otherwise. He's a worker, he's a fisherman – he's not a pastor or learning to be one yet - and even though he is tired, he spends, he gives of his own time so that others might hear the word of God. You, dear friends, likewise give of yourself for the service of God. And here, I'm not speaking primarily of your tithes and offerings – although that is a part it. I'm speaking of your time and strength and effort. That's one of the reasons I love VBS – not only for what it does for the kids, but for what it does for the adults – it gives us a chance to have that focus of giving of our time and talents so that others might hear the Word of God – and if we've forgotten that focus – well, it makes it clear to us again. It's the same thing you do when you pray before meals or have family devotions – when you take that time out of your busy life – even when the business of that life isn't going well, and be in the Word, and see that others are in the Word. This is the duty of every Christian – and I encourage you to remember this throughout the weeks and months to come. The Word of God is important, and not only are to we see that we as individuals spend time in the Word, but we are to help others to be in the Word as well.
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 caught 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. Never think, dear friends, that being a Christian is easy. Quite often the life of a Christian is full of toil – only to be followed with your being asked to give more. Now, Jesus isn't going to show up and ask you to work overtime – but think on this. We are called to love our neighbors – and not only when it is convenient, not only when it is easy, but at all times and in all places. Sometimes our neighbor needs love when we are tired, when we are spent, when we are worn and just don't want to do it. At this point, our response is the same as Simon Peter – I have toiled all night – but at Your Word, I will show love to the neighbor. That's what we do, we live under God's Word – our lives are spent striving more and more to follow what God says, to be who God instructs us to be. And even this – this doesn't come from us. I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ my Lord, or come to Him. When it comes to loving our neighbor, to living out our Christian life – it's not about our strength or our toil. It's about what Christ does through us. If only we remembered what we thought was so important to teach our children – little ones to Him belong, they are weak but He is strong. When we talk about strength – that always comes from Christ. Indeed, it is His strength, the power of the life giving Word of God that brings the catch in, that loves the neighbor, that does what needs to be done. Don't you hear that in the blessing at the end of service? When we leave this place of the Word, when we walk out these doors to face the trials and struggles of the week, what words are echoing in our ears – the LORD bless you, and keep you, the Lord be gracious unto you, the Lord lift up His countenance upon You and give you peace. God blesses, and keeps, and is gracious, the Lord looks upon you and gives you peace. That's how we approach our lives – we live not by our own strength – for that fails – not by our own endurance, for we can become weak and heavy laden – not by our own power – for with might of ours can naught be done, soon were our loss effected. At all times we remember that for us fights the valiant One whom God Himself elected. We live by the Word – we live by the strength that God gives us.
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. Once again Simon Peter reminds us again of what we need to remember. Even as we live in the midst of God's blessings, even as we can look back on our lives and see so clearly places where we endured only because of His goodness and kindness to us – we must never be led to think that it is about us. Again, it is an amazing thing in Scripture – when people see God at work – when faithful people behold Jesus – they confess their sins. I am not worthy Lord to have Your blessings showered upon me. All too often we have a sense of entitlement – this idea that the world owes us something. It's a side effect from living in a land that has been richly blessed that we simply come to expect good things and take them for granted. But note what Simon Peter does. He does not think, “I must be doing something right, look at what God has given me!” Nor does he boast – rather – Lord, I am a sinful man and deserve none of what you give me.
Sometimes I feel a bit bad, harping on sin as I am wont to do. Sometimes I think that perhaps I make too big of a deal of sin, that I should cut some slack. And then I see Simon Peter here – or Elijah, or Isaiah in the Temple, or Zechariah, or David in Psalm 51, or Moses at the burning bush – and what sets these people apart is that they confess their sin. They don't slough it off – they don't pretend it isn't there, they don't ignore it. Sin is a big deal – it's not who we are supposed to be – and if there is any sin there, it is too much. We are to strive against it – and when we fail we are to fall upon our knees before God – like we do in our worship service – and confess our sins, and say that we deserve nothing good from God. Simon Peter hits the nail on the head – even when we see blessings from God, even when we understand what He gives us – we can't get to thinking that this comes because of who we are lest we become self-righteous and loose the faith.
And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” There's two big ideas here – so let's look at each in turn. First, do not be afraid. This is what God says to you each time He speaks His Gospel to you, each time you hear His forgiveness, each time He calls you to His altar to receive His Body and Blood in His Supper. Indeed, this is what He said to you at your Baptism – that He would be your God and do away with your sin. This is the only way we can approach God, this is the only way that we can have a relationship with Him – that He comes to us and tells us not to be afraid – that He seeks us out and gives us the forgiveness which He won upon the Cross by His death. Our relationship with God isn't about us – it's about what God has done for us and continues to do for us – the chief thing being the forgiveness of our sins which restores us to God. These two ideas go hand in hand – that on the one hand we do not become proud in spite of our sin – that we always remain humble and confess our sins. This ties into another truth, the other hand – that God is merciful and just and cleanses us from all unrighteousness. These two, the Law concerning our sin and the Gospel concerning God's forgiveness make up the sum of our faith, everything we teach and confess about God flows from this relationship – indeed, that we are weak in our sins but He is strong to save.
From now on you will be catching men. This is the final thing that Jesus says in our text. And it has a very specific meaning for Simon Peter – it is Peter's call to be a disciple and an apostle, it is Peter's call to preach Christ until he is martyred for it. None of us are called to be an Apostle like Peter – not you, not I. We are not sent to the ends of the earth – but we are all to speak God's Word – the same Word of God which has power. You are to speak this Word individually to your family, to your friends, to your neighbors, so that they too might hear God's Word. I, by virtue of my call to be your pastor, have been given the duty to speak it here from this pulpit publicly as well as to my family and friends. Whatever our situation, whatever our role or duty in the Church is – we are to speak the Word of God – because that is the chief and highest love we can show our neighbor. Everything in our lives are to point to God.
And that is daunting. There are times we don't point to God very well, there are times our lips have not His Word but vile, selfish words. There are times our actions do not point to God but to ourselves. It is here where we remember that we live in God's Word – that we strive to follow it, and that we confess when we don't. That we spend our lives receiving His forgiveness. We simply speak to others what we ourselves have heard – we give what we ourselves have received – we gather together in God's House and are blessed by Him through His Word, and by His Power and His might He makes us to be blessings to others. Marvel dear friends, not at a catch of fish, not at temporal blessings or might – but what you are made a part of. God has come to you by His living giving Word, and that same Word flows through you and brings His life to others – whether it is physical life through the love you show to your neighbor's body, or eternal life that comes from the Gospel. But be strong, remain in the Word at all times, so that you might always have Christ's strength and be who He makes you to be in Him. Amen.