Archive for February 11th, 2019

Image result for peter kneeling before jesus in the boat

Text: St. Luke 5: 1-11

The Gospel for today can be divided into three parts.  Two boats are not being used because the fishermen are washing their nets, in other words, they are done for day and we’ll find out a little done in. After Jesus heals so many, the crowds are “pressing in on Him” and we are told, “…to hear the word of God” and the Lord taught the people, “…from the boat”.  In a Church sanctuary where the people sit is called the “nave”.  The Latin root word for nave is “navis”, that is, ship.  We also have our word “navy” from the Latin.  Jesus is in the boat preaching and in the nave preaching the pure Word of God as a pastor is called to do so.  Earlier when all were seeking Him to stay in Capernaum but Jesus I must go and preach, for that is purpose for which I have come. From the boat, with the Word of God in the center, the boat is the Communion of the Word.

In the second part of the Gospel, Peter tells the novice Fisherman, when he says to Peter go out again and let down our nets into the deep, we’ve toiled all night and caught nothing, “…But at your word I will let down the nets.”  Peter has an up and down record of faith in the Gospels, like we all but here he has the stirrings of faith.  He has seen Jesus healing so many that something is up with this man. But at Your word…we take people at their word.  Why?  Because they have shown themselves by word and deed to be trustworthy and so we take them at their word. Faith is trust and Jesus  has shown

 Peter bowed down and knelt in fear.  If Peter had only said, “Depart from me”, it would have been funny:  Please get off the boat you’re sinking us!  But Peter realized something else when he sees the catch: I am a sinful man.  Notice that Jesus does not at this occasion preaches God’s Law, no dos and don’ts.  Peter sees the overwhelming beneficence and benevolent gifts of God!  This is like the feeding of the 5,000.  He is receiving nothing he could have imagined and ask for, after a night of catching no fish. He, a sinner, is overwhelmed by the goodness of God. I pray with many hospice patients thanks for the roof over our head, the clothes on our back and food on our table. In today’s Old Testament lesson, Isaiah the priest sees in the Temple with his mortal eyes the thrice-Holy God.  In the hymn, “Holy, Holy, Holy”, we sing,

Only Thou art holy; there is none beside Thee,
Perfect in power, in love, and purity.

Love and purity are one in the one Lord, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Love and holiness go together. Isaiah was looking at the absolute holiness of the Lord.  And in 1 John,  it is written God is love.  Isaiah is looking at the absolute holiness of God’s love, love’s pure light. He realizes in an instant I am a man of unclean lips living in the midst of a people of unclean lips, for my  eyes have seen the King, Sabaoth Lord.  The Lord then brought to Isaiah a burning coal from the Altar to touch the new prophet’s lips: your sins are atoned for.  I think that burning coal is a type of Christ Jesus atoning for our sin once and for all, like that burning coal. The Lord does not leave Isaiah but calls him.

Simon’s prayer to Jesus, depart from me was not answered in the affirmative.  Jesus did not depart from Peter but called Him and James and John. Jesus was in the boat with them.  One day Peter would bow down again to the Lord…in freedom in praise and prayer and the confession of faith: Jesus is Lord. Peter confessed His sin and Jesus would atone for it by His Word and His Life.  Jesus is in the boat, the nave today.  The Church is the communion of the absolved.

When going fishing, what do we usually do with the fish?  Dinner!   Right!  Eat ‘em.  Here in the third part of the lesson, the translation in the Gospel for “Catching”, as in catching fish, is ζωγρῶν, zogron,  and only St. Luke uses this word and it literally means, “caught alive”. Caught alive to be alive.  Out of the βάθος, the bathos (as in bathysphere), we are caught in the Gospel net of His love and mercy. In the depths, in over our heads, in  sin, sorrow and sickness, the Lord lets down the net of His Gospel, manned by His pastors and other church workers, to brought up and live in Him forever.   

I speculate.  If a Christian, in a thoroughly anti-Christian states like communist China or in the Islamic dictatorship of Iran, the living of two lives, as a Christian and a citizen of those countries,  must be sharp and hard.  On the right hand, the Christian has breathed the free air of the Holy Spirit, freed in Jesus Christ from sin, death and power of the devil.  On the left hand, the Chinese or Iranian Christian, breathes the foul air of despotism, a servant of the state, in the rule and reign of the powers and principalities, even scared for his life every day. In the ‘70s when I visited Communist East Berlin, part of a college group from then Concordia Senior College, we went to a Lutheran church.  The year before one of our professors met the janitor.  The janitor talked with our group while we were seated in the sanctuary about the real condition of the church in Communist East Berlin. He said that the Church does not leave the four walls of the church building.  There were other people in the sanctuary, and janitor kept on looking over his shoulder to see who was listening. After he talked, he said to us, let’s move over here in the nave.  The Christian caught by Christ out of the depths then lives in the depths.  Political tyranny is official in so many countries. 

Here the tyranny is not official but encroaching. In The Lord of Rings, Theodan, King of Gondor is literally possessed by the evil wizard Saruman.  Gandalf comes to set him free from his bondage to an evil one.  When Theodan is back to himself, Gandalf smiles and says to Theodan, Breath the free air, my friend. We have breathed the free and freeing air of the Holy Spirit, resuscitated in the Gospel, and yet the shackles of pornography, promiscuity, and all the false promises of the devil beckon each and every day.  Many Christians do look over their shoulder, lest someone is listening  to a Christian doctrine that could be construed and skewed as sexist or homophobic. The Twitter thought police are listening.

When called to speak the truth, we need to do so in love, and yet the Church is to speak the Truth.  An American abolitionist in 1852 famously said, Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom.  I would add both political and spiritual freedom.  The Lord is ever vigilant.  We are to be vigilant, not vigilantes taking to the twitter mobs or the taking the law into our own hands.  For what it’s worth, the Bible verse as of late that I keep going back to is: Gal. 5: 1 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.  How is spiritual freedom nourished?  Short answer: the Word of the Lord and His Sacraments. James and John, sons of Zebedee, were partners, κοινωνοὶ, koinono with Simon. The Greek word for partners is related to the Greek word, koinonia, fellowship or communion. We are partnered with Christ’s Church, His Communion. Just think, though the nets were breaking, those brawny fishermen still brought in the nets! The Lord gives us strength and abilities to haul in the net. The Koinonia of the Church around the Crucified and Risen Lord Who is our freedom and our strength.

The price of freedom is also unceasing prayer:

For though the Lord is high, he regards the lowly,
    but the haughty he knows from afar.

Though I walk in the midst of trouble,
    you preserve my life;
you stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies,
    and your right hand delivers me.
The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me;
    your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever.
    Do not forsake the work of your hands. (Psalm 138)

The Lord’s goal is catching men, ζωγρῶν,zogron, caught alive  out of the βάθος, depths, the deep of sin, death and the power of the devil to breath the free air. He calls His pastors and His ship, His Nave to go out into the deep to let down the Gospel net. The Church is the Communion of the Mission.

The Lord’s goal is catching men, ζωγρῶν, zogov, caught alive out of the βάθος, the depth of sin, death and the power of the devil with His gospel net. The problem  is we are in the same boat as Simon Peter,  I am a sinful man.  We are in the same boat and so is our Lord, our Captain in the well fought fight.   


And Jesus is in the boat with us absolving, forgiving and uplifting us with His Word, turning to Him day by day in joyful repentance, for without Him, we can’t stay afloat.   We’ve been caught alive by absolution and forgiveness and filled with the Holy Spirit, alive in Christ to show someone where the fishing is good.

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

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

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