Sunday, July 21, 2019

Sermon: Trinity 5 - 2019

21 July 2019

Text: Luke 5:1-11

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

There is a difference between Christianity and superstition.  

Our Book of Concord tells about a church that had a statue of the Virgin Mary that would move.  People flocked to this church and gave a lot of money.  They also spent a lot of money on inns and food.  It was a good gig for the monks who operated the statue with pulleys and ropes under the floor.

Christians can become superstitious when it comes to the deaths of their loved ones.  I have had Christian people swear to me that their dead relatives left pennies on the ground or appeared in the form of animals.  There is temptation to take comfort in feelings and imagination – when all the while, we are not to seek to communicate with the dead.  Some people have run into demonic issues by messing around with this kind of thing.

We poor miserable sinners want more than the Word of God (that we accept on faith) and the sacraments (that we also must trust that God uses) to bless us.  Deep down inside, we would all like God to perform a miracle.  Jesus was often frustrated by people who wanted a “sign” to the point of demanding Him to perform tricks like a trained seal.

Dear friends, our Lord spoke the world into being and rose from the dead after dying on the cross to take away our sins.  Our Lord continues to speak to us in the Holy Scriptures that we all-too-often ignore because we’re spending hours in front of a TV or smart phone.  Our Lord continues to speak to us in the Divine Service that we are quick to skip if we have a better offer on Sunday.  But meanwhile, God continues to speak, to strengthen, to comfort, to forgive, to renew, and to love us – if we care to listen.

But in spite of all of this, wouldn’t we rather Jesus appear to us by making his statue blink at us, or making a shadow appear on the wall, or hearing some mysterious voice.

St. Peter – when he was still just known as Simon the Fisherman, had an authentic supernatural encounter with Jesus.  And his reaction is genuine.  For if we really did see some kind of miraculous manifestation of the Lord’s presence, we would react the same way – in awe and in fear, in a sense of being overwhelmed by our sins.

And this incident happened in the process of preaching.  Jesus manifested His power and His glory and demonstrated His divinity as He was preaching.  It was morning, and the crowds had come to hear Jesus preach and proclaim the coming of the kingdom of God.  The fishermen had been working all night, and now were cleaning their nets.  Simon let Jesus use his boat as a kind of pulpit.

But Jesus had something else in mind for the future St. Peter, the preacher, the apostle, the bishop, and the martyr of the faith.  For Jesus asked him to “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”  St. Luke seems to capture the reluctance of the tired fisherman: “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing!  But at Your word I will let down the nets.”

You can practically hear him sigh.  And yet, he does it.  He obeys.  He listens to Jesus and has respect for His word: “But at Your word…” he says.  

And then the unthinkable happens.  Jesus works a miracle.  There is no other explanation for this.  For Simon and his partners “enclosed a large number of fish.”  The haul was so plentiful that their nets were breaking!  They needed help to drag the nets into the boats, and there were so many fish that the boats were about to sink!

Clearly, this preacher could command nature by means of His Word.  For all He did was speak, and upon Simon’s obedience, the unthinkable and unexplainable happened.  And why?  Because Jesus came to this place to preach.  This was no parlor trick.  There were no guys hiding under the boat to commit a fraud.  There was simply Jesus and His Word – and even nature itself obeyed.  Simon Peter witnessed a miracle.

And what was his response?  Did he laugh and tell Jesus how cool that was?  Did he feel holy and special that God used his boat and his nets to perform a miracle?  Did he think about how much money he was going to make when this haul was brought to the market?  

And this, dear friends, is how we know that St. Luke’s account is completely true: Simon’s reaction isn’t what we would fantasize about.  Simon, instead, realizes that he is in the presence of God – and it shakes him up.


Because Simon, like each one of us, is a “poor, miserable sinner.”  Simon, like each one of us, needs a Savior.  Simon, like each one of us, is unworthy to stand in the presence of God.

But there he was, dear friends.  Standing in the presence of God. And here we are as well!  We too are in the presence of Jesus!  We too hear His Word, partake in His preaching, receive His forgiveness, and enjoy His miraculous presence!  

Peter responds: “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”  Can you imagine?  His response to this wonderful miracle is to pray: “Go away, Jesus.”  And here is an example of an unanswered prayer.  For Jesus does not depart from him. 

Instead, Jesus comforts him: “Do not be afraid.”  There are many times when Jesus says this to His disciples.  “Do not be afraid.”  For fear is the natural response for a sinner in the presence of the holy and almighty God.  All throughout Scripture, when God manifests Himself to people in space and time, they react in fear.  

And so, when Jesus says, “Do not be afraid,” He is doing what He has come to do: forgive sins.  Simon has no reason to fear, because His sins are forgiven.  He is worthy because Jesus is worthy.  And what’s more, Jesus has work for him to do in the kingdom: “From now on you will be catching men.”  Instead of luring fish into a net to eat them, Simon Peter will be luring people into the net of the Gospel, in order to feed them.  

This miracle was life-changing for Simon Peter and for the brothers James and John.  For these three men were to become our Lord’s inner circle among the apostles.  They would live to see Jesus transfigured on the mountain.  And of course, they would also live to see Jesus raised from the dead.  They too would preach and work miracles in their call to “catch men.”  For they all “left everything and followed Him.”

Dear friends, we don’t seek after visions and dreams and supernatural manifestations.  We don’t have to invent superstitions to psych ourselves out.  We have something better that the Lord provides us week in and week out: His Word.  The Word of Jesus creates the universe, and restores each one of us, His creatures, to perfection.  We have the Word as the Scriptures, as preaching, as Absolution, and we have the Word delivered to us in earthly elements: baptism and the Lord’s Supper. 

We have the ironclad Word of Jesus inviting us to follow Him, and comforting us, “Do not be afraid.”

Do not be afraid, dear brothers and sisters, for Jesus has forgiven you, and He has work for each one of you to do in the kingdom.  We don’t need a sign, for we have the Word!  Amen.

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

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