Sunday, July 04, 2010

Sermon: Trinity 5

4 July 2010 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: Luke 5:1-11 (1 Kings 19:11-21, 1 Cor 1:18-25

In the name of + Jesus. Amen.

God is delightfully illogical.

This doesn’t mean chaotic or arbitrary, but rather that He is joyfully unpredictable as compared to our fallen world. For in our sin-filled existence: bigger is better, might makes right, the squeaky wheel gets the grease, the braggart is fawned over, the loudest and most abusive people are the ones who get the attention.

Indeed, according to the world, “coffee is for closers only,” and to the victor belong the spoils. And in our culture, science and technology are king. Planning and marketing are behind fortunes rising and falling. And our lives are as predictable as the precise ticks of our atomic clocks.

And then God breaks into our world!

Logic teaches us to adopt the bumper-sticker motto: “Jesus is coming soon, and boy is He mad!” Reason tells us that God is a vengeful tyrant. Science tells us that a great deal of energy is released in strong winds and massive earthquakes and ablazing fires.

Our minds have convinced us that religion has nothing to teach us about fishing, nor that men can be “caught” by preaching. Conventional wisdom holds that education and discernment, wisdom and learning, being a scribe or a debater is the highest expression of the mind.

And then God comes in – wrapped in swaddling cloths in a manger, and bleeding to death on a cross – and destroys all of these silly myths that seem to our fallen minds to make so much sense.

For the Lord God appeared to Elijah not in the hurricane-force winds that tore away hunks of mountains, nor in terrifying shifts in the world’s landmasses, nor even in an all-consuming conflagration – but rather in a whisper. A simple whisper! God speaks in a human voice, and a weak one at that – like that of a barely-audible rasp of a saint on her death bed.

That, dear friends, is the voice of God.

The might of God’s voice is not in the volume or the bluster, nor in hurling invective or in formulating clever speculations – but rather in a simple truth uttered however feebly. The voice of God is the Word of God: the Word made flesh who speaks to us, whose Word forgives our sins, whose breath ordains preachers by the Holy Spirit, whose “low whisper” sends demons scurrying and restores sinners to eternal life and complete incorruptibility – something neither science nor philosophy nor screaming and yelling nor marketing could ever do.

God’s Word is not a horrifying breaker of rocks or a consuming fire raging in wrath and destruction, but rather a Word of absolution uttered in agony, almost imperceptibly, from the cross: “Father forgive them…” The Word of God, which seems so scandalous to the Jew and so foolish to the Greek, is indeed the “Word of the cross” – which is “folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

This power is unexpected, and it breaks into our lives like the Trojan Horse. Only this gift is not borne by Greeks but by the living God, and its contents not a legion of soldiers but an army of grace. The Lord delivers His gifts of mercy and eternal life by His very Word, even as the Lord spoke a word that seemed absurd to Peter about putting out into the deep and lowering his nets anew for a catch. For Peter was an experienced fisherman. He knew how to catch fish. He had been toiling all night, and caught nothing. The Word of the preacher was, by contrast, sheer folly, and maybe even a stumbling-block to the fisherman’s work schedule.

But in response to this seemingly ridiculous Word of the Lord, Peter obeyed: “But at your word…” said Peter. And at the Lord’s Word, the miracle happened, the gifts were delivered, the blessings abounded, and fish were caught in the net that seemed so impotent and useless only a few hours before. St. Peter knew this was a miracle, and at that moment, he perceived something about Jesus. “Depart from me,” Simon Peter pleads, “for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” St. Peter knew that sin and God are incompatible. He knew that no-one sees God and lives. This was logical and reasonable.

But then God acts unexpectedly, delightfully illogically, in love and mercy. The Lord puts it bluntly to Peter: “Do not be afraid.” Even though Peter is a great sinner, the Lord is a greater Savior. Even though reason teaches Peter to fear – and it is healthy to fear God – the reason-defying Author of all reason throws logic to the wind and reveals His plan: St. Peter was to be a preacher of the Word – whose power is manifest even in a whisper. St. Peter was to be one who would be “catching men” – even though the world and our sinful flesh does not want to believe that a word can do any such thing, that a preacher can proclaim good news as from God Himself, that a pastor can speak a simple word of absolution and that God Himself causes the miracle to happen.

It’s pure scandal and folly.

For our inner Jew seeks a sign, and our inner Greek seeks wisdom. But it is all for naught – for “we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling-block to Jews and folly to Gentiles… the power of God and the wisdom of God.”

The Lord’s power and wisdom are found in the last places the world would look. And what is there for us to do, dear friends, but to confess this truth before the world? In fact, we sing it before God and men, ringing out the glorious battle, the ending of the fray, the world’s redemption, all by way of the Word of the cross, folly and scandal, and yet true sign of triumph, upon which the Victim won the day. God is delightfully illogical because love itself is illogical.

Unto God be praise and glory;
To the Father and the Son,
To th’eternal Spirit honor
Now and ever more be done;
Praise and glory in the highest
While the timeless ages run.


In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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