Trinity 5 – July 20th, 2014 – Luke 5:1-11
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit +
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit +
There are times when I will read a text, and thoughts of all the lousy, horrible ways people will treat that text and preach on it go flashing through my mind. I read the Gospel text for today, and thoughts of some preacher droning on excitedly about how God’s gonna give you a great catch of fish in your own life if you just do X, Y, and Z zip through my head – as though that’s even the point of the text. I doubt we can look to this text to be the “Christian Guide to Growing Your Business” when the last verse is “they left everything and followed Him.” If anything, it’s about how your business isn’t the most important thing, even if you are making ginormous catches of fish. If you’ve grown up in America, you’ve been surrounded by a culture that gives you all sorts of expectations about wealth and power and what success means – and it’s always more and more and more. Bigger and newer and better. We aren’t taught that here in this text. Rather, let’s pay close attention to the text, and see what is going on.
“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.” The set up here is completely practical. You’ve got a large crowd wanting to hear Jesus preach – well, how are you going to accomplish that? Unless Jesus wants to be shouting at the top of His lungs all day, you need to do something. So what do you do? You bring them up on the shore – where you have that downward slope to the lake creating a little amphitheater – plus if you go out on the water you get a nice acoustic advantage – and so Jesus drafts Peter. Let me borrow your boat. And out they go, and Jesus teaches.
“And when He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, ‘Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.’” Alright – the sermon is done. Wer’e about to go home! Right? Wait… fish… work? Now? Peter is confused – “Master, we toiled all night and we took nothing!” And Peter is possibly cranky. He’d been up all night, and it had been a lousy night, they hadn’t caught anything. And now this Fellow who had drafted his boat and made him listen to a long sermon when he was already tired tells him to fish now… in the day light, when the fish – if there actually are any in this stinking lake – are all going to be much lower, and all you’ll catch are a bunch of weeds, so we’ll have to clean the nets again and it will be an utter waste. Jesus tells Peter to do something which to all the world seems utter foolishness. But Peter continues, “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. 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. Christ’s foolish plan pays off. It’s a humongous catch – one cast of the net topping what you would get for two boats in a full, busy good night. The other boat has to hurry on out there, they are swimming in fish – almost literally, as in if they don’t hurry to shore the boats are going to sink.
So – what ought Peter’s reaction be to this? Should he give loud praises to God for God’s abundance? Or maybe he ought to try and offer Jesus a job – you know, You’re pretty good at this finding the shoals of fish gig. We could make a killing with You. Or should Peter just marvel at how wondrous this is – isn’t that the nice pious thing we are supposed to do? Sigh and say, “Oh, wasn’t that nice”? That’s not Peter’s reaction. “But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees saying, ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.’” There’s Peter’s reaction. When the enormity of what is going on sits in – when he doesn’t have to scramble to just keep the boat afloat, what does Peter do? He confesses his sin. He confesses his sin and asks Jesus to leave, to go and never come back. He confesses that Jesus is Lord – this is God here in your boat, this is the Messiah… and sinners are not worthy to be next to the Messiah. Sinners are not worthy to be in God’s presence – there is no worth or merit in Peter, nothing that God would want or should want with him. So… just go… go before my sin gets me killed. Let me at least live, let me just get back to the normal, everyday life at hand with nights of frustration and empty nets. Do not smite me, a sinful man.
What Peter says here is wise, wiser than most of our reactions would have been. There is power and might in that boat, power and might in Christ Jesus – and you don’t mess with it. We teach our kids not to play with matches – you certainly don’t play with them around a gas station! Things could go boom – and right there, in that boat, is God Almighty – and you don’t play around with God, you don’t treat Him all casual. You don’t mess with that – you don’t gamble with God – know when to fold ‘em, know when to walk away and when to run. Depart from me, for I am a sinful man. That is fantastic earthly, human wisdom there on Peter’s part. But Jesus has something else in mind. “And Jesus said to him, ‘Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.’ And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed Him.” I’ve got something else in store for you, Peter – oh, and you too James and John. You are going to be disciples, you are going to be My students and servants, and I will use you to catch men.
So what now? Shall I go then into the 5 practical things you here can do to catch men? The 7 simple steps – here’s when you let down those Gospel Nets to make sure you just pack ‘em in! Oh, there is so much clap trap out there that misses the point, the object of the lesson. First Corinthians nails what the point is – “For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” You know what the point of the Gospel lesson is? What God does, what Jesus does looks and seems stupid. Apart from faith, Jesus looks like the world’s biggest idiot. He does. Fish in the middle of the day – dumb. Look, you’ve got the secret to fishing, but instead of making money hand over fist – walk away. Dumb. Seriously, Jesus, spend two weeks fishing and finance Your preaching for years – not what He does. You know what that would be like – “Oh look, it’s a gusher – eh, I’ll not pump that well, I’ll just walk away.” By worldly standards, that is dumb. And using Peter – calling James and John to be disciples? Dumb. Now, don’t get me wrong – Peter, James, and John aren’t idiots – you don’t run your own business if you are stupid. But if you were going to start the new religious revolution – why not get some well respected Pharisees to be your disciples, or some people who are already popular? Instead, fishermen from Galilee. Jesus, you could have picked better disciples – these were weak.
This is what Paul calls the foolishness of God. In fact, this is what you see from Jesus constantly. Love your enemies. Pray for those who persecute you. Don’t worry about what you eat or what you will wear. Behold, I am sending you out like lambs among lions. And then to tick off the leaders, to remain silent before Pilate when falsely accused – to the world, rank stupidity. And it leads to what the world thinks is the dumbest, most foolish thing in the world – the Cross. “For the Word of the Cross is folly to those who are perishing” – thus the wagging tongues at the crucifixion! “He saved others; He cannot save Himself!” It seems utter folly.
And the utter folly seems to continue in Christ’s Church to this very day. What do we see when we look around? A small church that’s smaller than it was a decade ago, in [a wheat field that stopped being a town 100 years ago/ a rural community that is shrinking], with a preacher whose got a speech impediment and a lisp. Well there’s a crackerjack idea! And if we think like the world, like the mighty and haughty – this right now seems like a silly thing. Nothing new with that. What does Paul write to Corinth – “For consider your calling, brothers; not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.” But that worldly standard misses the point. “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” Do we see, do we realize what happens here? Christ Jesus died upon the cross, He rose again, He atoned for the sins of the world. And what happens right here in this place? The power of God is exercised for you, you who are being saved, right now, this instant. This font, right here – the baptisms that take place here overthrow the powers of Hell, cast Satan out. The world out there doesn’t get that – but it is the power of God for salvation, for your salvation. A simple liturgy, a short sermon – Lord have mercy – I forgive you – peace be with you – and what happens? The fall itself is undone, and you are no longer merely sinners doomed to death, but you are forgiven and given life, life everlasting, you will rise again even if you die because of Christ. The world doesn’t get that. Or the Supper, Holy Communion. What does the world see – nothing but a bit of bread and wine and a pastor doing some hand waving mumbo jumbo. Yet what is it – it is Christ Jesus Himself giving you His own Body and Blood for the forgiveness of your sins, for the strengthening of your faith, so that when you rise to eternal life on the last day you will reign with Christ forever when all the stuff of this world is turned to ash and forgotten about. Because Christ Jesus will not depart from you, o sinner. Instead, He comes to you today in His Word, and with that Word of the Cross He forgives sinners and makes them to live, to see and have a life beyond what the world blabbers about – this is the wisdom of God – to save you, here, now to catch us men and women for eternal life. And if the world doesn’t get it – oh well. The world never has.
We get a wonderful truth taught and shown and given to us in our Gospel lesson, dear friends. It’s not a promise of earthly wealth or power – it’s not the secret for more prestige, whether personal or for this congregation. It’s a truth that the world just cannot fathom. Though you are a sinner and deserve nothing good from God, God in His Wisdom has sent Christ Jesus to the Cross, so that He can forgive you, come to you in His Word, and bring you, forgiven and resurrected, to be with Him for all eternity. This foolishness of God – where by He takes poor miserable sinners like us and makes us to reign eternally with Him – it is for your good and benefit. God grant us faith to see this and cling to Christ ever more! Amen. In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit +