Monday, February 5, 2007
Homily for Epiphany 5 -- Luke 5:1-11
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
You may recall the last time I preached this text. A rather shocking realization dawned upon me: when it comes to fishing, Jesus doesn’t know what He’s doing! Fish are more easily caught in the evening, or at least before the sun rises. Here is Jesus in broad daylight, telling Simon Peter and his partners to go at the wrong time. Fishing in the Sea of Galilee is best in the shallows. Jesus tells Peter and company to go out into the deep.
Most likely, Peter, Andrew, James and John, along with any crew, are thinking, “Poor Jesus! You really don’t know the first thing about being a fisherman!” And yet, because they have heard our Lord speak, they keep His Word, and do His bidding. By the world’s standards, He doesn’t know what He is doing. By business standards, He doesn’t know what He is doing. By popularity standards, He is treading on thin ice in the fisherman demographic.
When it comes down to it, everyone else thinks He’s going at it all wrong. “Jesus, you won’t get many fish that way,” we tell Him. In a condescending, arrogant mindset, we say: “Jesus, You’re setting yourself up for failure!” “Jesus, you need to sit back and let someone who knows what he’s doing handle things!”
But He doesn’t care. Donald Trump can’t fire Him for not producing the higher income and numbers. Simon Cowell cannot send Him home, telling Him that He is appalling. And it doesn’t even matter if Olivia Newton John tells Him that He is not “the one that we want.” He is the Lord God in the flesh; and He knows He is right!
You and I continue in this sinful attitude even now. In our pride over what we know and have accomplished, we want to tell Jesus that we know better. “Jesus, I’m just sure that if we change this music or add that program, we’ll have a lot more people in church.” “Jesus, You don’t appeal to modern people when you just have this liturgy and not something exciting or different.” “Jesus, You just need to dump those disciples and hire some new people in Your marketing department!” Sure, we don’t come out and say these things, but often they are not too far from what we are thinking.
But back to the catch of fish; in the end, while we see that this incident – this great miracle – actually happened, it was not the greatest miracle in this passage. It is amazing indeed that such a great catch was given to these fishermen. Yet even more amazing is the absolution here; Jesus absolves Simon Peter’s sin, and calls him, so that eventually he will do the same.
On this day, Peter has heard Jesus preach. He has listened. Now, this great catch confirms the authority and divinity of Jesus Christ. Peter heard the power of Jesus’ teaching; now he witnesses it in this miracle. Recognizing this, Peter is full of fear. He knows he is sinful. He knows he deserves only judgment and punishment from the Lord. So he confesses his guilt and tells Jesus He should go away and not associate with such a sinner.
Peter had been told to go out into the deep. Many centuries earlier, Noah was told to build a great vessel, which the Lord took out into the deep, as the entire earth was covered with great waters. Through this, the Lord God saved Noah’s life and the lives of those with him. Through Jesus’ calling of Peter, He saved Peter’s life, and the lives of those who listened to him. That is what absolution is all about: saving lives.
Our amazing Lord calls Simon Peter this morning, along with his companions, to begin being transformed into His ministers. Christ, the Master-Teacher is calling His first students to follow Him and learn from Him in His traveling seminary. He is drawing them to Himself, that He may teach, train, and form them to be stewards of His mysteries. He is gathering them in His nets, that they can, in turn, be fishers of men, and catch them alive.
Of course, there would be those thinking: “Poor Jesus! He picked those dumb fishermen!” “What is He thinking!? These disciples are common and uneducated – Jesus needs to reconsider His choices in those whom He sends to preach His Gospel.”
And even in our day and age, we can get sucked into the devil’s schemes to tear the nets and breech the hulls of the ship our Lord calls His Church. In extreme cases, we may even push aside biblical teaching on the ministry, and fancy that the boat of the Church is the H.M.S. Bounty, and join the likes of Fletcher Christian in mutiny. Others may be fish who dislike the boat, and flail about in it until they jump ship and dive back into the dark depths. We question Jesus’ wisdom and challenge His preaching, thinking we know better in the “who, what, when, and where” of Christ’s work in catching men alive.
But what would Jesus have us realize about His catching? “To catch fish, one needs a net and a boat; to catch people alive one needs absolution from Jesus and the commission to absolve others. To capture people alive is to declare to them the kingdom of God in Jesus (4:43) and bring them into that kingdom through catechesis, Baptism, and Eucharist…that is how the church is created and formed and preserved.” (Just, 209-210)
Today we celebrate miracles—not just the miracle of the great catch of fish—we celebrate the miracles through which God touches your life! When your pastor washed you in Christ’s holy font, the net of the Gospel was cast, and you were caught alive, placed into the boat of His Church. This, dear friends in Christ, is a miracle!
When your Old Adam through daily contrition and repentance is drowned and dies, your new creature thrives. Confessing our guilt to the Lord through His servants, and receiving Holy Absolution from them, we soak in His waters, and receive the release of His grace. This, dear friends in Christ, is a miracle!
When you are constantly brought into contact with the Word of the Lord, you are kept alive. Cutting yourself from the Word is the same as fish drying out in the sun, but receiving and keeping that Word is being refreshed and revived in His sacred waters. This, dear friends in Christ, is a miracle!
When you come to the Lord’s Table and receive the Body and Blood of Christ, you are nourished and sustained, body and soul, in the baptismal communion of the Church. Jesus Christ enters your body, and blesses you with the promise of true and everlasting life. This, dear friends in Christ, is a miracle!
When you attend to His Word and receive these sacraments, He keeps you alive and well in His Church. Our Lord Jesus uses these simple Gifts to keep you faithful! This, dear friends in Christ, is a miracle!
This morning you can rejoice, dear friends in Christ! Rejoice in His miracles. Rejoice that the Lord has called you out of the chaos of the rough waters of this world! Rejoice that He has used his pastors to catch you alive through Holy Baptism and His preaching of the Gospel! Rejoice that He continues to absolve you in the vessel of His Church, as you dwell with the Lord in that boat! Rejoice that He takes sinful men such as Peter, absolves them, and uses them to absolve countless others—including you—in His Holy Church! Rejoice, dear friends in Christ, for He tells you not to fear, your sin is taken away, and you are safe in His boat until you reach the heavenly shore! Amen.