Sunday, July 4, 2010

Trinity 5 Sermon

Trinity 5 – Luke 5:1-11 – July 4th, 2010

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost +
Before we begin looking at the Gospel lesson today, let me tell you a bit about where I am personally. I’ve been elected circuit counselor, so that means I’ve gotten to see and help handle various problems across our circuit, even help other circuit counselors in the district with flare ups in their own circuit. I’ve gotten to deal with District level issues on occasion. And then, this month, we are having a Synodical Convention, so there are all these issues flying around on a national level. As such, I’ve heard tons of complaints, I’ve heard tons of problems, and more over I’ve heard tons of “solutions” thrown out all over the place – and most of the solutions have been horrid. In fact, this very text was battered and abused by one fellow inventing some trendy gimmick with which to fleece congregations. I bring all this up, because I worry my frustrations with the foolish solutions I have heard all over the place might come out rather strongly today, and I don’t want you here to think, “Well good night, what did we do to get him all riled up?” It’s not that there is anything here – but we need to be wary, for we live in a time, in a culture that is moving more and more away from the lesson we will learn in our Gospel. We live in a day and age when more and more people, even in the Church, are substituting their own solutions and plans in place of what Christ our Lord teaches in His Word.

Consider our Gospel lesson for this morning. You have Jesus teaching on the beach, and the fishing vessels have just come back in from a night of hard toil, and Jesus walks up to one of the fishermen – it happens to be Simon Peter – and He tells Peter to put out a bit from land. Why? Same reason I am preaching here in this pulpit – the sound will carry better. His voice will be able to bounce off the water and spread out to the crowd more easily. That should be clue number 1 for us – Jesus wants people to hear His teaching. And at the end of Jesus’ sermon, He turns to Simon Peter, and He says, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”

From a fisherman’s perspective, there is nothing more stupid than what Jesus just instructed. It would be like being told to work your fields in the middle of a torrential downpour. The fish are swimming low at that time of day, the nets had just been cleaned, so all that work of clean up would have to be repeated. It was going to be messy and not accomplish anything. So what does Simon Peter say? Does he say, “Lord, this is foolish”? Does he say, “Lord, this doesn’t fit the business model we have adopted”? Does he say, “Lord, we’ll need to form an exploratory committee to see whether or not this is a good course of action”? No. Listen to Simon Peter – “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at Your Word I will let down the nets.” You can hear in his words how tired, how frustrated Peter is. A night’s worth of work and nothing gotten. To his own mind, letting down the nets would be the worst thing possible – but Simon doesn’t stay there in his own thoughts – at Your Word I will let down the nets.

This, dear friends, is what I see lacking today. When I look out at Churches across our country – this is what is missing, this is what is being replaced, this is what is being lost – living and deciding and acting on the basis of God’s Word. We are people of the Word. We live by the Word, we sing the Word in our Liturgy and hymns, we hold onto the promises of the Word when we are dying – or at least that’s the path of the wisdom of God. But more and more the American mindset is moving away from the Word – and I’m not talking about politics or the government or prayer in school. I’m talking about in American Churches, in Lutheran Churches. Consider a lot of the congregational issues you’ve come across in your day. How many of them were caused simply because people decided they wanted to ignore the Word? I’d wager all of them. Congregations are worried about attendance and giving issues – isn’t that just people ignoring the Word too? Eh, I don’t need to hear the Word of God this morning, I’ll go do something else. Eh, I don’t need to support the preaching of the Word, and out the window goes the offering. That’s ignoring, not paying attention to the Word. And even on a larger scale, on a district or national level, so often the solutions that are tossed around have nothing, nothing to do with the Word of God.

And yet, what happens in our text? At Your Word I will let down the nets. And then there is the miraculous catch of fish. Do you see – the Word of God accomplishes what God desires it to accomplish. The Word of God is the power of God for life and salvation. And the world doesn’t see it, doesn’t understand it. The world thinks the Word of God, the proclamation of the Christ and Him Crucified, is folly. The world tells you that you need other solutions – maybe a spiffy program, maybe a good marketing exec, maybe a change in this or that to fit your target demographic. I’ll go to a meeting, I’ll see a program, and I’ll hear more of this sort of talk than I do the Word of God or the study there of. We are stumbling and becoming more and more like the world, looking to their answers for our problems – we forget that God has “made foolish the wisdom of the world.” We need to avoid this – and rather we need to strive to live in the Word, to see that we are conformed to it, to see that everything we do here revolves around and is shaped by the Word.

So what does a life shaped by the Word look like? Simon Peter shows 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.’” A life shaped by the Word begins with confessing, confessing our sins. Note that Peter here puts no trust, no weight, no merit in his own thoughts. Simply this – I am a sinful man, and I am not even worthy to be around You, Jesus. This is the truth of the Word, this is what we have been taught by the Scriptures, that all our so-called works are as but filthy rags, that in sin our mothers bore us, that there is not one of us who is righteous, no not one. And when we hear the Word of God proclaim this, we must confess – we must speak with the Word – for that is what the word “confess” means, to speak with another. We confess with the Word of our God our sinfulness, our lack, our utter wretchedness. And oh, how this flies in the face of American Christianity today. We don’t want to show ourselves as being weak, we don’t want to show ourselves as being poor miserable sinners. An American Christian is the best of the best, who has the most stuff, cause gosh darn it we are so good God just has to like us and give us whatever we want. Avoid this type of thinking, and rather, like Peter confess with the Word of God, your sinfulness.

Why? Because when you confess your sinfulness, you will hear the most beautiful words ever – the Words of Christ Jesus and His Gospel. “Do not be afraid.” Again, these words seem foolish to the world. If you are guilty of sin, sin which Scripture says is worthy of death – the wages of sin is death – everything in our heart and reason screams out for us to be afraid. It screamed at Adam and Eve to run and hide after they had fallen, it screams out shame and guilt to us today. And yet, Christ Jesus, out of His great love for you, came down from heaven and says to you, “Do not be afraid.” Do not be afraid, for Christ Jesus Himself bore up your sin upon the Cross and destroyed it – and now He says to you, “Do not be afraid” – and that Word of Christ does what it says. It speaks forgiveness, it says that His death and resurrection was for you, that His forgiveness which He won is your forgiveness – God says that your sin is no more, and thus you have nothing to fear from God. Indeed, you have nothing but love to receive from God.

This is the beauty of the Word, and why the world thinks it is folly. The world runs on fear. One of these planners actually said that if you want his program to work, you have to create a sense of urgency, you have to make the people a bit afraid that if they don’t follow the plan everything will break. The world runs on fear, and that’s all it understands. Fear, intimidation, and control. But Christ Jesus breaks in and is determined to show love, love that forgives our sin and gives us the promise of the resurrection from the dead and the life of the world to come. We live by the Word.
One final note here – Jesus says to Simon Peter – “from now on you will be catching men.” There’s a lot, and I mean a lot, of junk floating around out there about how to make churches grow. What you can do, what plans you can make, what changes you make to entice people in. All worthless, because our Lord teaches us what is required. At your Word, I will let down the nets – and then there is a catch of fish. It’s all about the Word. To catch men isn’t to use some bait and switch sales technique. It isn’t to pique their interest with something spectacular and awesome. It is this – to confess the Word. Speak the Word of God to people – both God’s Law and God’s Gospel - for it is the Word of God that brings about the catching of men that the Holy Spirit desires. Think on this – we know why. We know why there is such pain and misery and suffering in the world – for the Word of God tells us just how devastating sin is. When we see people battered and bruised by life, we don’t have to pretend that we are better than them, for we too confess our sins. We know their sorrows, for we have sorrows of our own, and more over, we know how those sorrows are handled by God. We know and we confess that Christ Jesus has come and died for our sins, that He has risen to ensure that someday we too will rise and be beyond this pain and suffering. Think on that - we know how – we know how to survive and live, because the Christ Jesus gives us life and confidence through His Word. We have the proof of God’s love for us in the gifts of Baptism, proof that He is not angry with us for He comes to us in His Supper. We proclaim this and trust that God will work faith in people, for it is by His Word that faith is made.

My dear friends in Christ Jesus, I urge and plead with you, do not fall prey to the thinking of the world. Do not fall prey to its arrogance, to its self-righteousness, to its conceit. Rather this – remember the Word of God. Confess your sins always, and always delight in the salvation which Christ Jesus has won for you. Let no one lead you to despise the Cross or seek growth apart from it, for you know what the Cross is. While the world sees it as foolishness, it is the power and wisdom of God for your salvation – indeed, for the salvation of all who hear and believe. God, keep us steadfast in Thy Word! In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost + Amen

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