Sunday, July 8, 2012

Trinity 5th - July 8th

Trinity 5 – July 8th, 2012

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost +

          One of God’s concerns is that His people on Earth have people who have been trained to teach, to preach the Word.  It needs to be done.  People don’t just figure out God on their own – the Word must be proclaimed, the Holy Spirit must come through the Word, or no one will understand what Paul describes as the “foolishness” of God, that is, the Gospel of Salvation and the Cross.  In both our Old Testament and our New Testament, we see examples of God calling men into His service, into His Ministry.  In the Old, we see Elijah calling forth Elisha to preach to the faithful remnant of Israel – in the New we see Jesus calling forth Peter to be the head of the Apostles, to preach Christ and Him Crucified in Jerusalem, in Judea, even in Rome.  This morning, let’s look at Jesus’ call of Peter, and see what we learn from it.

            Now, you may not have noticed it just from hearing the Gospel read, but really, Jesus is being quite pushy here.  He is.  If Jesus had walked up to you guys the way He did to Peter, you probably would have been annoyed and aggravated. Listen – On one occasion, while the crowd was pressing in on Him [Jesus] to hear the Word of God, He has 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 form the lang.  And He sat down and taught the people from the boat.  Do you see what the situation is?  It’s probably some time in mid-morning, and what’s going on in poor old Simon Peter’s life?  He’s out of the boat, he’s cleaning the nets.  You see what that means?  He’s done working.  If you were a fisherman, you worked through the night, it was a nocturnal job.  Peter’s just been up working the entire night – he’s washing the equipment.  His day is done, it’s Miller time, or the equivalent then.  And then Jesus says, “Um, take me out in your boat for a bit.”  No Peter, no seeing the missus for a bit and then going to bed, you get to take Jesus out into the water.  And then do you see what Jesus does?  He sits down!  This isn’t going to be a 30 minute lecture, this isn’t going to be some 13 minute sermon – Jesus is sitting down and getting comfortable – Peter’s going to be there for a long time.

          And then it gets even better.  And when He [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, remember, this isn’t a nice relaxing afternoon of fishing, oh, how about another cast before we head on in.  This is hard work.  The nets are heavy, and the guys have already missed their sleep.  Plus, they will have to repeat all that clean up work again.  What Jesus asks here is just strange.  It would almost be like if someone asked you to go combine a field that you had already harvested.  Yeah, why don’t you turn around and go over that field again.  Jesus is being incredibly pushy, He’s asking Peter to do stupid things because you don’t catch fish in mid day or mid afternoon – but Peter goes and does it.

          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 boats to come and help them.  And they came and filled both 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.”  And then the unthinkable happens.  These are professional fishermen with the best equipment – and their nets are breaking.  They signal for help, and the catch is so much that even two full professional fishing boats start to flounder when the catch is hauled in.  And then Peter reacts in a way that we in America completely forget about when we look at the Bible.  Peter is afraid.  He is freaked out.  Peter says, “Get away from me.”

          Well, why does Peter say that?  Hasn’t Jesus just shown His power and might?  Yes, exactly, and that’s precisely why Peter says – “Wow, you are God.  I’m sinful, get out of here please before you smite me.”  This is something we in America, in popular Christianity completely forget.  We are so full of ourselves, we think we have a right to just up and talk with God, sit on the porch, chat a bit.  We forget what it means that God is God.  We’ve lost our sense of Awe when it comes to God.  And part of this is the English language, the way it’s developed.  We hear the word “awesome” and we think, cool, neat, spiffy.  That’s not what Awe means in the Bible.  Awe means by rights you ought to die unless God is merciful.  If you as a sinful human being see the might of God, that’s the reaction you will have.  Isaiah in the temple when God calls him – Woe is me, for I am a man of unclean lips.  The Shepherds Christmas evening, that’s a happy cute moment, right?  And the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear.”  No, they drop to the ground and tremble.  If we, right now, sinful men and women, saw God’s unbridled glory, our reaction wouldn’t be “Oh neat.”  We would be scared out of our minds, we would lose control of our bodily functions.  It’s a serious thing.  And this is precisely what we see with Peter here.  He doesn’t take God as casually as we do.  His image of God isn’t a kindly old man who we might sit and play a few hands of pitch with – it is God Almighty, the Righteous One who does not abide sin.  And at that moment, as Peter sees the fish, as Peter puts two and two together and realizes who is in that boat with him at that moment, Peter knows his life is forfeit.  He is a sinner in the presence of God, and he is as good as toast.  Depart from me, for I am a sinful man.

          And Jesus said, ”Do not be afraid.”  Simple, simple words, yet probably the sweetest Simon Peter had ever heard in his life.  Do not be afraid, I’m not going to smite you, I’m not going to blast you into oblivion.  Jesus here speaks words of Mercy and peace to Simon Peter, and that is what allows Peter to actually have peace.  Note, Peter doesn’t placate God here, Peter doesn’t earn Jesus’ favor.  A few minutes before Peter was quite saucy with Jesus.  “You know, we were just fishing all night, guy, but I guess we can head back out.”  No, Jesus is the one who speaks, who removes fear.  And that is Jesus’ right.  Jesus has every right to say, “Don’t be afraid.”  Why?  Because Jesus knows why He is there sitting in that boat looking down at this freaked out guy.  Jesus is sitting in that boat simply in order to go to the Cross, to suffer and die, so that the sins of that man groveling before Him might be forgiven.  Sin is a terrible, terrible thing – it causes us separation from God, it means that we by rights should cower in fear whenever we hear the Name of God mentioned – because we’ve earned our wages – and the wage is death.  But when God sees sin, He sees the Cross, He sees that sin crucified, removed from us and done away with.  Peter’s not the one who will bear the brunt of God’s Wrath, of God’s Anger.  Jesus will upon the Cross, and Jesus knows that – so He says, “Don’t be afraid Peter, I’m the One who is going to get it for you.”  That’s why Jesus can say these Words, because of the Cross.

Do not be afraid, from now on you will be catching men.  It’s really sort of witty what Jesus says, a good little pun Jesus makes here.  This catch of fish shouldn’t amaze you Simon Peter, I’m going to be putting you to work catching men, saving them, pulling them out of their lives of sin and bringing them my redemption.  Peter is going to say “Do not be afraid” to others now, that’s what Jesus is telling him.  Peter will be preaching the Cross and Christ Crucified to people up until the day he dies.  That’s how he will be catching men – and just like this catch of fish it won’t be because Peter is skilled, or because he knows the proper times to do thing – it will happen because of the power of God.  The Holy Spirit will work through the words that Peter speaks and work faith in men.  The Holy Spirit in fact works faith through the Words that Peter wrote over 1900 years ago and works faith in men today.  Jesus uses Peter to be His spokesman, to be His mouthpiece to speak God’s Peace to sinful men who need that peace in order to live.

That’s the same thing that goes on here in this place.  Do you hear how God puts His Word to work in this service?  “I announce the Grace of God unto all of you.”  Your sin is forgiven.  “Glory be to God on high and on Earth, peace, goodwill to men.”  Your sin is forgiven.  “The Lord be with you, and with your Spirit.”  Look, we have God’s peace, God is here with us now forgiving us.  “Lift up your hearts” – Yes, it’s okay, you are forgiven, enjoy the presence of God, enjoy the forgiveness you receive in His supper.  “Deliver us from Evil.”  Yes, it’s been done, upon the Cross.  It’s been done, at our Baptism we were most fully delivered from evil, Satan has no more claim upon us for we have been adopted by God.  “Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, according to Thy Word.”  That is the point of every service that happens here in this place – that Jesus words to Peter, Do not be afraid, might be repeated to repentant sinners gathered here.  In what is one of the most amazing miracles, God has continually kept His Word Preached and His forgiveness given, even to this day, to this place, to sinners like us.  God continues to draw us towards Him, no matter what sins we have done, no matter how we have wandered, Christ Jesus calls us to His house to receive His forgiveness, over and over again.

Dear friends in Christ, all thanks be to God that He continues to speak to us today through His Word – that God has not let His faithful remnant falter, but age to age He remains faithful to us and continues to have His live Giving Word preached to us, that He continually comes into our lives and says, Do not be afraid, for I am your God and Savior.  Amen.

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