Sunday, July 24, 2011

Sermon: Trinity 5 – 2011 and Baptism of Quinn Donald Brown

24 July 2011 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.

“Master, we toiled all night and took nothing!” says Peter, protesting the Lord’s command to “let down [his] nets for a catch.”

According to the wisdom of the world, hard work is rewarded. And even as there is such a thing as luck, as the old saying goes, “the harder I work, the luckier I get.”

In this world, if you want to succeed, you must work. And as a rule, the more you work, the greater your reward. And this is why Peter, the fisherman, the businessman, the laborer, the one who is wise in the ways of the world, pushes back against the word of this preacher who just walked off the shore and got into Peter’s boat.

It is as though Peter is telling our Lord: “You don’t understand how the world works. I do. I know my business better than you do. I am wise in the ways of the world.” But in spite of Peter’s reliance on his own toil, knowledge, experience, and worldly wisdom, a small part of him submits to the Lord – who is, of course, the creator of the world. Something not of flesh and blood has indeed revealed to Peter that this man’s word is none other than God’s Word. For Peter takes a leap of faith: “But at your word…”

“But at Your Word…”

Dear brothers and sisters, we too live in the world. We are businessmen and laborers, we know how things work in this world. But along with St. Peter, we Christians take that leap of faith, saying to the same Lord Jesus: “But at Your Word…”

Our reason tells us that we can depend on our own toil, our own good intentions, our own preparations and plans, our own knowledge and experience in our Christian faith and life. Our reason tells us this because our reason has been distorted with sin. Our reason deceives us because God’s kingdom doesn’t work like the world.

Reason tells us that little Quinn cannot be a Christian, he cannot believe, he cannot be baptized. Reason tells us that Quinn must reason for himself, that he must do something other than passively receive some water on the head and be in the presence of some words uttered by Jesus and without toil receive grace as a free gift. And even if our reason protests, we, the Church, say along with ever-honest St. Peter: “But at your word I will let down the nets.”

“But at Your Word I will let down the nets.”

For in the net of the Gospel, in the net of Holy Baptism, in the net of the Word of God, we have caught billions of people from every time and place – born again, created anew, made holy and worthy to stand in God’s presence, saved from sin, death, and the devil; rescued from the skewed and distorted wisdom of this fallen world, marked with the sign of the holy cross, sealed with the unction of the Holy Spirit, and given the very promise of everlasting life from the lips of Jesus himself, who spoke in the hearing of St. Peter and in the Scripture-filled ears of the church: “Make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

We have let down our nets yet again, dear friends, and we have caught yet another disciple, Quinn. By our own toil, we take nothing. By our own reason, we gain nothing. By our own strength, we hold nothing. But at God’s Word, by God’s command, through God’s promise, we are fishers of men and dispensers of the mystery of eternal life! Through faith we are caught by God’s grace, and gain everything!

“And when they had done this,” says the evangelist, meaning, when they had put the Lord’s Word, the Lord’s command, the Lord’s gracious invitation into action, “when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish and their nets were breaking.”

Dear brothers and sisters, this is how the church grows. She does not grow by our own toil, our cleverness, our marketing techniques, our technology, our gadgets, our ability to tickle the ears of our listeners with an entertaining message that they want to hear. The church does not grow by the “wisdom of the wise and the discernment of the discerning.” For our methods are “folly to those who are perishing.” Preaching, baptism, absolution, and the Lord’s Supper is indeed foolishness to those who are dying. “But to us who are being saved, it is the power of God.” For the cross of Christ is delivered to us by these sacramental means, and we, dear friends, we are caught up in that net and drawn out of the baptismal waters and raised to new life in Christ.

“For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”

The world demands signs and wonders. The world demands rational answers and wisdom. “But we preach Christ crucified… the power of God and the wisdom of God.”

The world scoffs at God’s Word and would rather rely on its own wisdom. Our sinful flesh pushes back against God’s Word and would rather rely on our own toil. And the difference between the world and the church is that the church takes that leap of faith along with the holy apostle whose cosmic doubts at times seem to outweigh his mustard seed of faith, saying: “But at your word.”

For at His Word, the sinner is made a saint, the dead are brought to life, the guilty are declared innocent, and we learn not to listen for the Word of God in winds and earthquakes and fires, but rather in “the sound of a low whisper,” the Word of God whose power is in its divine truth. And truth is truth, and God’s Word is God’s Word, whether shouted from the rooftop or uttered softly to a baby at a font.

Dear friends, let us rejoice anew at God’s Word. For in His Word is truth, is power, is wisdom that puts to shame the wisdom of the world. And even though the world may scoff, may scowl, may mock, may persecute, may deny, or may seek to silence the preaching of Christ the Crucified One, we join with Quinn, with St. Peter, with one another, and with Christians of every time and place in praying:

Then let us follow Christ our Lord,
And take the cross appointed
And firmly clinging to His Word,
In suff’ring be undaunted.
For those who bear the battle strain
The crown of heav’nly life obtain.


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

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