5th Sunday after Trinity
20 July 2014
St. John’s, Chicago, IL
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Throughout my childhood, my family would typically spend a week at the end of July at a certain fishing resort in Bemidji, Minnesota. And a little over thirty years ago was when our parents first allowed my cousin and I to go alone in the small boat for the day. It turned out to be amazing! We ended up in a little inlet on the lake, and must have found a favorite spot for the blue gills and perch. There was a point when it seemed that one of us had just reeled in a decent-sized fish, and the next would have a bite on his line, and catch it, too! It was the best day of fishing we had ever experienced.
The disciples were not having as much success. They had fished all night, and caught nothing. Not just with a pole, either. Large nets were cast to drag in greater quantities of fish at once. Still, they spent hours, all night on the lake, and caught nothing.
But forget about the disciples for a moment. Think about the fish. Have you ever thought that life would be easy for fish in the sea? Well, it is not. Imagine yourself as one of these creatures. Other fish, stronger fish, larger fish can be predators that are ready to eat you alive, just like the vicious barracuda in the opening sequence of Disney’s Finding Nemo. Storms also can make the water you live in rough and perilous. And some human can come along with a boat and a large net, and catch you to end your life and eat you.
My friends, you are such fish. Others may be stronger, or larger than you. They can preach the gospel of a godless system of (or lack of) morals; which is no gospel at all. You are attacked by those other fish for your so-called “narrow mindedness” or “simple” or “foolish” biblical Christianity.
The thing is, you are prone to giving in, swimming with the fast and easy currents, wanting the attention and prestige and popularity of the bigger fish. So you cannot lay all the blame on others; you become a glad and willing party to the very ones who eat you up.
Yes, indeed, these are rough waters all around you. And the Old Adam is enjoying the thrill of the danger. Well, stop! Repent! Repent of the arrogance of thinking you can go to the brink of danger and then help yourself out of it. Repent of laying all the blame on culture, society, Hollywood, and any politician who promotes different values and virtues than you. They all play a role, to be sure, but you are right there with them. Turn from this!
Dear friends in Christ, the Lord Jesus today shows us that he is the Master Fisherman. And He has sent His disciples, and all the generations of ordained pastors who follow them, to be fishers of men. What?! But isn’t that commanding them to catch us! And you know what happens when fish get caught?! They get eaten! And perhaps hung as a trophy on a wall.
Not so, with our dear Lord Christ. The word Jesus uses for the verb, “to catch,” describes catching alive. And He will keep you alive. In fact, He gives new birth into an everlasting new life!
It is amazingly Good News that Jesus sends His fishers-of-men to cast the net of the Gospel, and haul you into the boat of His Church – a boat filled with baptismal water that rescues and enlivens you. Here in His Church you are nourished, sustained, and you thrive! No longer in clutches that are ready to deceive you and drag you into hell, but safe and sound in the loving care of our Savior.
So many will try to take this passage, and turn it into a guilt-ridden mandate that every Christian should be evangelizing; that somehow you are all “fishers of men.” To be sure, the Lord gives you the joy of witnessing in your various vocations, speaking the Good News of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection for you! And yes, you are to speak that to those whom God places in your lives. And yes, when you fail to do that constantly, your compassionate Savior constantly forgives and renews you.
It is a good thing that we gather each Sunday, and park in our lot, with our very presence drawing attention to the church on the corner of Montrose and LaVergne. It is good that the behavior and talk of Zach Moore, as a college volunteer, will impact several hundred youth and their leaders in Utah this week and be a witness of faith in day-to-day life. It is good that visitors come and witness our rejoicing in the forgiveness and salvation given in Holy Baptism! Still that is not the main point of this passage from Luke.
Jesus is the Lord God in the flesh. He casts His nets to save you from your enemies of the devil, the world, and your own sinful flesh. The nets are tearing, the boats are filling, and yet Jesus gathers them all into His Church.
Along with Peter, when you recognize Jesus as God Himself, you may be filled with fear, as you know your own sin. But Jesus does not depart from Simon Peter. He does not see your sin, and abandon you. He does not rid Himself of undesirable friends. He reaches out in love and forgiveness, absolving you and welcoming you into His midst.
Take comfort, dear friends in Christ! Jesus has caught you alive, and gifts you with eternal life, body and soul, with Him! Your precious Savior keeps you safe and sound in His Church on earth, and His Spirit brings you to follow Him, until you are caught alive through death and the grave to be gathered in His Church Triumphant! Rejoice, dear Baptized ones, because when you are caught in Jesus’ nets, it is not the end, but the beginning of your blessed, eternal life, with Him! Amen.