Monday, July 16, 2012

Sermon for 7/8/12--Trinity 5

At Christ’s Word
Luke 5:1-11

Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen.  

The first time you look at it, fishing and preaching don’t seem to have a lot to do with each other, do they?  One involves praying, writing and speaking God’s Word; the other involves bait and tackle, and nets.  In our Gospel, though, our Lord Jesus proclaims to Peter that he will become a fisher of men.  He won’t fish for men with nets and fishing rods and the like, but Peter would become a fisher of men by casting out the Word of Christ through preaching, and then waiting to see what the catch would be.  This is a picture of how God works in the world through the Church, and it is also a picture of how to hear the Word of God.

The crowd pressed in on Jesus, listening to Him as He was standing by the lake.  He stepped onto Simon’s boat, asked him to push off from the shore, and sat down to preach.  Peter’s boat became the first Christian pulpit.  After He finished preaching He decided to give Simon a visible demonstration of the power of His Word.  He told Simon to put out into the deep and lower the nets for a catch.  Any self-respecting fisherman of that day would know it was crazy!  You catch fish at night, and along the shore—not out in the deep. Peter covers himself by saying, “Master, working hard through the whole night, we took nothing; but at your word I will lower the nets.”

Imagine Peter’s surprise when they caught so many fish that they had to signal their partners in the other boat to come and help them with the catch!  The Lord who spoke the world into being had spoken a word and they had more fish than they could handle.  It is no wonder that Simon and the others were amazed at this.  What was Simon’s response?  He fell to his knees and said, “Depart from me, because I am a sinner, Lord.”  In the sight of God’s holiness and power, Peter falls to his knees and cries out that he is not worthy to be in the presence of God.

The Word of God has great power.  By the Word God created the heavens and the earth. By His Word all the earth was filled, and Adam and Eve were made.  By His Word the flood came over the earth, and afterwards the rainbow.  By His Word the Son of God was prophesied to come into human flesh.  By His Word He crushes and kills with the Law, as we see with Peter here.  Peter has caught but a glimpse of the awesome power of God, and it terrifies Him that He can do nothing to save Himself.  He realizes that his entire life is in the hand of God. What a frightening thought that could be.

It is a strange thing, isn’t it?  On the one hand, Christ commands you to work, and on the other hand shows that your work accomplishes nothing.  If the work of the disciples had accomplished anything, it would have happened during the night, when the fishing was good.  Christ commanded them to let out the nets in broad daylight, to show them that all of their so-called work was useless without the grace and presence of God.

So what is the purpose of the work that you do, day in and day out?  Jobs, home life, school, whatever it may be: the temptation is always there to put your trust in what you’ve done.  “I take care of my family, so I’m a good Christian.”  “I do well in school, and I don’t get into trouble, so I must be good.”  Or whatever.  Add to that is the fact that the world would have you believe that all life is really about is making choices, good or bad.  If you make better choices, then your life will be better.  But you know that’s not true!  Peter and the disciples made all the right choices.  They had done everything right to catch the fish; but it amounted to nothing without Christ and His Word.

Christ here shows you that all works are as nothing without Him, and so it is no wonder that Peter was terrified.  It’s terrifying!  And it should be.  The Law crushes and kills. It forces the pitiful sinner to see himself as he truly is: nothing without Christ.

But thanks be to God that the Lord does not leave it there.  After Peter’s cry of despair, Christ says to him, “Do not fear; from now on you will be catching men.”  Christ absolves Peter, and gives him an amazing promise: not only is Peter forgiven, but also Christ will use Peter to forgive the sins of others.  This is really a foretaste of Christ’s commission to the apostles in John chapter twenty: “Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.

And so you see the perfect picture of what Christian preaching is all about.  Preaching is about delivering Christ and the forgiveness of sins.  The purpose of preaching is to catch men, to get them caught up in the net of the Gospel and into the boat.  It is no accident that the portion of the church where you are sitting is called the nave, because nave is the Latin word for boat.  The boat is where Peter and the others come into the forgiving presence of Jesus…and so it is with you.  Just like Noah and his family in the ark, so also you are kept safe in this place.

It is so easy to get caught up in the ebb and flow of the waters of the world.  Apart from Christ, your life has no purpose; you drift and go back and forth without knowing finally where you are.  The preaching of the Gospel is the net that brings you into the boat where Christ is with His people.  Just as the Word performs for the sake of the disciple, so the preaching of the Gospel will bring many people into the Church, but not all.  Like Peter, the pastor can only let out the net and see what catch the Lord will give that day.

The office of preaching is the net that draws you into the boat where Christ is to be found.  We are all the fish who are caught in this net of Christ’s forgiveness.  You are caught, not to be food like the fish in the text, but to be fed at His Table.  Here Christ gives Himself to you for food.  What a glorious mystery and blessing God has given to you, that you should be caught in the net of the Gospel!  In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always.  Amen.  

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