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Christ in the Boat
Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
There are a good number of boats in Scripture. The disciples found themselves inside a boat on stormy water with Jesus, and He spoke and calmed the storm. Jesus met His disciples in a boat when He came walking to them on the water, and He spoke and calmed their fears. In the Old Testament, God saved the Church—eight souls in all—by closing Noah and his family in an ark, a ship. It is no wonder, then, that the Church is called the Ship of Faith—the Ark of God—into which we sinners are baptized and by which Christ keeps us safe. Jesus is in the boat, and He speaks across the water: Word and water to save sinners. What a lovely image of the Church! It's why this room is called a nave. In Latin, “Navis” means ship. If you sail a ship, you navigate. If you go to war on ships, you're in the Navy. The Church gathers around Jesus, preaching, teaching, serving us His Word, and we are safe inside His Ship.
From a boat, Christ sends His Word across the water to the ears of those who set aside their seeking after earthly things to press Him for the Word of God. When He'd finished, He said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” The Lord is doing two things here. First, He shows those who pursue His Word that He will take care of them. You have work to do: God-given vocations. Do those to the glory of God and the good of your neighbor. But “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God…” Live in and from the Gospel.
And He is also showing the Church and Her preachers that His Word does what He says it will do. He promised through the Prophet Isaiah: “As the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” Simon had fished all night and caught nothing. Now Emmanuel, God in flesh, was telling him to put into the deep. But every fisherman knows that fish are caught in shallow waters at night. Still, the Word made flesh had spoken, and now He was teaching how His Word bears fruit.
Simon did as he was told, and they caught so many fish the nets began to break and the boat began to sink. That is what the Lord is doing in His Church even now. You who fish for a living—you who are engaged in the labors and vocations which the Lord uses to care for people—you are hearing that the Word of God bears fruit. Christ Himself is speaking, calling you forgiven; saying that your lives are things He cares about. He cares enough to impose Himself on exhausted fishermen so you receive His Kingdom and His Righteousness. The Lord has let down the net of His Word and Water and caught you by the Gospel, and He gathers you into His boat. In this place He keeps you safe and makes your whole life holy.
As you go about your daily tasks, you do them in Jesus, at His Word. And the Word of God makes your daily labor fruitful. So, when the Lord imposes Himself on you through His preachers to serve your neighbor; when He bids you try again; when He sends you places you’d rather not go to do work you’d rather not do—do you ask what some preacher knows about real living? My brothers and sisters in Christ, “seek first the kingdom and His righteousness.” Trust His Word. Live in the Gospel. He knows you've been at it all night long. He knows it doesn't seem to bear fruit. He knows you're tired of trying. Find your rest in God's Word, for He will do His work through that Word.
Take comfort in this: Christ has taken into Himself all your sins—all of your frustrations, distractions, dissatisfactions with the life and work God gives you. Though you pursue many things, the Lord has only you in mind. He seeks you and promised you that, at His Word, His kingdom bears much fruit. It bears you up, lifting you out of the deep and bringing you safely in His Ship that does not sink. He places you into His Church, and there, the One Who died and rose to save you keeps you safe.
That sustains you as you tend whatever nets He gives you. Live from the Gospel in the Liturgy each Sunday. Eat and drink the Body and the Blood of Christ each week. Set aside your labor to be served by Christ and His forgiveness in His Word. “Seek first the Kingdom and His righteousness,” and then be certain that He will daily add whatever else you need. 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.