Sunday, June 22, 2008

Today's sermon - Trinity 5

Trinity 5 – June 22nd, 2008 – Luke 5:1-11

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit +
The night was long and hard and physical. There were no automated machines to keep pulling in the empty nets, it was simply the muscle power of Simon Peter and his fellow fishers. Thick, heavy rope, waterlogged – cast out, pulled up from the depths, over and over and over again. And all for nothing. And finally, after a long, fruitless night, the morning comes. And so, weary and worn, the fishermen pull into the shore. Still, there are chores to do. The nets must be washed and mended – seaweed cleaned off, frays picked up during the night repaired. And all with no catch, without even the prospect of getting a little cash as a reward for the hard labor.

And then Jesus, the teacher comes. Simon Peter sees Him. What will this Jesus do? He will put Simon Peter to work. Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, he asked him to put out a little from the land. Ah, yes, you there, cleaning the nets, would you mind waiting on that for a bit and driving me around in your boat for a bit. Think about that for a moment. Put yourself into Simon Peter’s shoes. You tired, you are worn. You’ve had a rotten day. Would you do as he did? The phone rings right when you get in for the night – do you run back out? Tired and worn, how easy is it to get up and going again? Would you go – or would the words, “Not tonight, it’s been a long day – I can’t now, I’ve got a lot to do tomorrow” rise up on your lips? Don’t just blow by the verse; rather think of what is asked of Simon. Come work more, after a hard, fruitless night. It’s a lot to ask. Yet Simon goes – tired and worn – and Simon sits there, at Jesus’ feet, learning, hearing the Word of God. Another point to ponder. Simon, tired and worn as he is, listens to God’s Word. No excuses – no “It’s too late for devotions tonight, I’ll just catch up tomorrow” – the thoughts of a comfy bed don’t keep him from the Word.

Sometimes we get this idea of Simon Peter that he just follows Jesus because of the miraculous catch of fish – we can think, “well, shoot, what’s so good about that? Jesus dumps a miracle in my lap I’d jump up and down excited too!” Do you see, dear friends, that this is not the case? Even before the miracle, Simon is diligent, a hard worker. Christ will sum up the law with two commandments – Love God, love your neighbor. Simon does both of these, even before the miracle. Simon loves God – behold how attentive he is to hearing the Word preached, even when it’s not convenient for him. Simon loves his neighbor. He doesn’t know who Jesus is, Simon doesn’t know that Jesus is the Messiah yet – and yet, even thinking Jesus is just some guy – yes, yes, I will serve you, I will do as you ask. Simon Peter makes us pale in comparison – Simon humbles us.

And yet, Christ Jesus our Lord will humble Simon. And when [Jesus] 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.” Now, Simon isn’t daft. He’s tired, he’s worn – and he knows what Jesus’ request will probably mean for him. More work. Re-do the clean up. Hours and hours more work. And Simon is a little put out – we already worked all night – but we’ll humor you – maybe you are going to use us as an object lesson of some sort. And so, the nets are cast. 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. A big catch – enough to nearly swap two fishing boats – more than they would expect on the best night of fishing, right there.

So – what will be Simon Peter’s reaction to this? Will he say, “well it’s about time – you know I’ve been a good little boy and it’s about time something good happened to me”? Will it be, “Maybe we should get this Jesus to come out fishing with us all the time, He could really grow the business”? No. Listen. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”

That is an astonishing response, is it not? Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord. Let’s ponder that for a moment. How many of you are blessed? You all are, quite blessed. I suppose I could pause here, tell you to count your blessings, maybe go over a list of all the ways in which you are blessed – body and soul, house and home – all those things you memorized when you learned the meaning to the 1st Article of the Creed in the Small Catechism. We see these blessings before us all the time – and what is your response to them? Now, normally, if there is a sermon that deals with blessings, we all expect it to be about thankfulness – come on Pastor, it’s not November yet and there’s no turkey in the oven at home – it’s not time for a long winded spiel on thankfulness. Not going to do that today – you should be thankful, yes – but listen to Simon Peter’s response again – Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.

Do you see Simon Peter’s humility? Do you hear it? Here Christ lays out a fantastic blessing before him – and what is Simon’s response. I’m not worthy. I don’t deserve any of this. In fact, I am a sinful being, and from God I deserve only wrath. Seems a strange reaction – but only because we forget that Simon Peter is dead on accurate here. He isn’t worthy, he doesn’t deserve any of the blessings God gives him. In fact he deserves only God’s wrath. Do we think that way? We say it – we confess that “I have ever offended you and justly deserved your . . . temporal and eternal punishment.” We say the words of humility, but are we humble – or are we proud? We say that we deserve punishment – but do we get downcast and upset when we don’t have things go our way? Are we proud or are we humble? Do we think that being a Christian means God will like us more and give us more stuff – or do we as Christians ever more and more realize just how completely undeserving we are of any and every blessing God gives us? Simon Peter here reminds us and teaches us. He could have looked to what a kind person he was – he could have said, “well, I’m a good little boy who did what Jesus said, of course I should get a bunch of fish” as though he were a dolphin or whale at Sea World doing tricks. No – Simon Peter is humble – as we ourselves are to be – as we ourselves are when we hear God’s Word of Law, when we hear what God’s Word says about us.

And then, hearing Simon Peter’s humility, hearing his confession, Christ speaks. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” We know this verse – it’s one we learn when we are little – I can tell, because in my head I’ve got the old style “fishers of men” memorized – we skip to the end of the verse. We won’t this morning – listen to the first thing Jesus says. Do not be afraid. That’s the key. Christ Jesus sees Simon Peter before him, sees a man who knows that he is a sinner, knows his own flaws and weaknesses, knows that he has failed in living as he ought. And what does Jesus say to Simon Peter? Do not be afraid. Jesus forgives him. Jesus says, “do not fear because of your sin – I forgive you all of your sins.” Christ handles the problem. Christ knows that He shall go to the cross, that upon that Cross He will pay the penalty for Simon’s sins that Simon so feared, that our Lord Himself pays our penalty. And so our Lord says to Simon – Do not be afraid.

This is the same thing that our Lord cries out to us over and over in service. Do not be afraid – I forgive you. Do not be afraid – peace be with you. Our cries for mercy do not go unheard. Our Lord forgives us – and that truth is central to everything that happens in this room, in this sanctuary. You, dear friends, are forgiven.

Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men. So, how is Simon Peter going to be catching men? How? What does he do? Now, if we look around at the world, we get a lot of modern, spiffy ideas about how to catch men. Nice billboards and flashing signs will pack them in. Neat programs will draw them. Good advice for living, that will do it. An entertaining “experience” full of bells and whistles. Is this what Simon Peter used? When Simon Peter went about the business of catching men that the Lord said he would – was it social programs and the like? If I think about Simon Peter catching men – first thing I think about is Acts Chapter 2 – 3000 on Pentecost. What does he do, what does he say? And Peter said to them, “repent and be baptized every one of you in the Name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the Holy Spirit.” Or chapter 3 – at Solomon’s Portico. Repent therefore, and turn again that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord. Or in chapter 4 before the Council – This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. Or even in Chapter 5 when he is arrested and told that he must no longer preach, what does Peter say? We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging on a tree. God exalted Him at His right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and the forgiveness of sins.” That is how Simon Peter catches men – and what do all those examples have in common? Repent and be forgiven on account of Christ’s death and resurrection. It is as simple as that, and in truth that is the only way in which men will be truly caught. The proclamation of the Gospel of Christ Jesus.

And that’s what this place is about. That’s why this Church still stands – that God’s forgiveness might be proclaimed to we poor sinners who gather here desperately in need of it. That is why this Church still stands – so that people can hear of God’s love for them – not in terms of getting more stuff, because things come and go, not in terms of being entertained, because in this life things become hard and rough. No, so that all people, you, me, our friends, our neighbors, strangers we have yet to meet, all of us can hear of God’s love for us in this way – that He sent His only Son to die for us, and for His sake forgives us all our sin. So that we might approach this life as people who are humble, who have learned to rejoice in God’s blessings, whatever they be, great or small, so that we might approach the trials of this life without fear, not being afraid, knowing that we are forgiven by Christ Jesus. The same words which He speaks to Simon Peter are the same words He speaks to you today, and will continue to speak to you here as long as His Church here stands. Do not be afraid – you are forgiven. Amen.

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