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Trinity 5 – Luke 5:1-11

by pastorjuhl ~ July 9th, 2009

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

A bad day’s fishing is better than a good day’s work. Even if you don’t enjoy fishing, the saying still is true. Nothing is better than time spent in the great outdoors relaxing by a body of water with a wet line attached to a pole on one end and a hook with bait on the other end. Fishing methods change with time and place. Night fishing isn’t the smartest way to fish today but in Simon’s time, it was the best time to catch fish. Simon Peter and his fellow fishermen had been out all night. The usual hot spots for fish brought nothing. Jesus tells Simon to go out to deep water in broad daylight and go fishing. Though our Lord’s advice goes against conventional wisdom at that time about fishing, the miraculous catch of fish that follows teaches us something about CATCHING FISH AND CATCHING MEN ALIVE.

Jesus’ command to go fishing follows His teaching from Simon’s boat. The multitude pressed about Jesus to hear the Word of God. It’s not safe for Christ to remain on land and preach the Word. Therefore, He gets into Simon’s boat and preaches a ways from shore on the Lake of Gennesaret. When they go fishing, it seems as if the fish are pressing against the boat and the net to be caught. They can’t help but swim into the net and be near the Word made flesh.

Those who enjoy fishing know that an event like the fish catching miracle in Luke chapter five is just that: a miracle. Fishing isn’t advanced mathematics, but it is more than just throwing a line into water and waiting for the bobber to go under. Unless you find the perfect spot on a lake with the perfect lure and the perfect conditions, fish don’t beg to be caught. You have to work hard to catch a large amount of fish. You have to go to the fish because fish usually do not come directly to you. You have to know about structure, objects under the water where fish like to hide. You have to know about what bait or lure will attract the fish you want.

Unlike fishing, preaching the Gospel isn’t that difficult. The hard part is not understanding why the “fish” won’t stay in the “net”. Jesus says in Matthew chapter 13 the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet that was cast into the sea and gathered some of every kind. When that dragnet is brought to the boat, the fish want to jump out of the net. They have heard the Gospel of forgiveness and life but rejected it. When that happens, we think we did something wrong for these fish to jump out of the net. Therefore, we try a different method to catch fish. It makes no sense to catch men alive by teaching the Gospel. We want to cast a different net that sends a different message than the message of mercy and peace that Christ offers the world.

The foolishness of the Gospel net is about as silly as casting a fishing net in broad daylight after toiling all night and catching nothing. Simon says nevertheless at Your Word I will let down the net. It’s as if Simon is letting Jesus have His way while thinking Jesus’ request is foolish. Simon is the fool when they caught a great number of fish, and their net was breaking. So they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. Peter can’t help but fall to his knees in repentance. He did not trust Christ’s Word to work. He could not stand in the presence of the Holy One and live.

We are just like Simon when we see God’s Word work in our lives or in our neighbor’s lives. We can’t help but fall to our knees and say with Peter depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord! What’s worse is when we don’t see, or won’t see, God’s Word working repentance and forgiveness. We are like Elijah in the Old Testament reading. We hide in our self-appointed cave waiting for God to find us so we can make our excuses. I’m the only one left who actually believes in Jesus. People make fun of me for what I believe. The world rejects the Gospel so I’m going into hiding because I can’t stand the heat of persecution. When those times come, God works repentance of our unbelief in His Word toward the forgiveness of sins and the strengthening of faith in Jesus Christ our Savior just as He worked repentance in Elijah and encouraged him to carry on the prophetic burden to Elisha.

Our Sunday morning summer study is looking at the Brief Statement of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. The Brief Statement is explains what we believe as a synod, especially for those synods who wish to enter pulpit and altar fellowship with our synod. Paragraph 22 under the heading “Means of Grace” says:

Since it is only through the external means ordained by Him that God has promised to communicate the grace and salvation purchased by Christ, the Christian Church must not remain at home with the means of grace entrusted to it, but go into the whole world with the preaching of the Gospel and the administration of the Sacraments. For the same reason also the churches at home should never forget that there is no other way of winning souls for the Church and keeping them with it than the faithful and diligent use of the divinely ordained means of grace. Whatever activities do not either directly apply the Word of God or subserve such application we condemn as “new methods,” unchurchly activities, which do not build, but harm, the Church.

Two things stand out in that paragraph. First, a congregation should not remain at home with the means of grace. In other words, we do not hide our light under a bush. We let the light of Christ shine in the world so those who don’t know Jesus is Lord may follow the light to this chancel. A congregation that hides her light under a bush is no longer a Christian congregation but a social club. Second, there is no other way of winning souls for the Church and keeping them with it than the faithful and diligent use of the means of grace. In other words, we keep on doing what we’ve been doing for 118 years because that’s the way a Christian congregation shows the light of Christ in the community.

Jesus tells Simon Peter do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men alive. Fish pressed against the boat and couldn’t wait to jump into the net because Jesus Christ was in the boat. Simon and his fishing companions needed all the help they could get to bring the ripping nets on board the boat.

Jesus tells you and me the same thing today: do not be afraid. Our congregation has gone through a tremendous change these last two decades. Many fish have jumped out of the boat for one reason or another. We’re all too quick to point fingers or come up with a reason why this is happening. Rather than wondering whether we are doing the right thing to keep fish, please remember that there are fish outside this boat of our church building that are clamoring to jump inside. If they jump out, let them jump. It’s not because God doesn’t want them. God desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

How are men saved? How do men come to the knowledge of the truth? Men are saved and come to know the truth through the simple preaching of the Gospel, through baptism, and through the Lord’s Supper. Outside of the boat of the Church, fish can know nothing but treading water while going upstream. Inside the boat of the Church fish are fed, washed, clothed, and nourished with the Means of Grace. Living in a boat rather than in water is a new life. That’s what Jesus Christ came to give mankind. Jesus gives us a living hope that looks to our Father for all things good. Saint Peter writes who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good? You are safe in the ark of the Church. You are protected from the evil foe.

Perhaps one of the reasons why some people don’t like to fish is because fishing takes patience. You sit around for minutes, even hours, waiting for a fish to bite. Waiting for our Lord to grow His Church takes patience too. Human beings are not normally patient people. Therefore, the Psalmist teaches us today to wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord. It’s so hard to wait, but the waiting is worth it. God will not forsake you. He is your help and your shield. He hears your cry of repentance and forgives your sins for the sake of His Son Jesus. He promises to grow His Church in His time and according to His will. While we wait, we pray daily as Christ taught us to pray: Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. And it is. Believe it for Jesus’ sake.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

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