Sunday, July 20, 2014

Sermon -- 5th Sunday after Trinity (July 20, 2014)

LUKE 5:1-11

In the name + of Jesus.

     It was a peculiar exchange that took place between Peter and Jesus on Lake Gennesaret.  After Jesus’ miracle, Simon Peter fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.”  And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him. (Luke 5:8,10-11)  Not only did Jesus decline to depart from Peter, he called Peter to follow him, train under him, and eventually serve him full time.
    When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” (Luke 5:4)  Jesus’ instructions defied all rules of fishing.  Why on earth are we going out to the deep waters when the net would never reach the fish down there?  Why on earth are we going out in the middle of the day?  Why are we going back out there when we’ve finally mended the nets after a long, fruitless night?  “But at your word,” Simon replied, “I will let down the nets.” (Luke 5:5) 
     They pulled up the nets, and they kept hauling in fish.  They filled one boat to capacity.  Then they filled another.  Both boats began to sink.  The miraculous blessing should have had these fishermen high-fiving each other for the rest of the week.  It ended up being a blessing that was about to plummet them into the murky depths of the lake and kill them.  What’s more, it revealed that Jesus was not just a rabbi who taught people about the kingdom of God.  Peter recognized that he stood before God in the flesh.  The King of the kingdom of God was dwelling in his boat!  Simon Peter…fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” (Luke 5:8)    
     Peter uttered the prayer that is on the lips of countless sinners.  We do not want to face God in our sinfulness and shame.  When we feel the guilt of our sin and the fear of death and judgment, we beg that God would depart and leave us alone.  Like Adam and Eve after they sinned, we would rather run for cover and hide from God.  We are sinful people, and we don’t want to be shown that we are sinful people.  We would rather live in blissful ignorance.  We would rather pretend that we owe no answers and that we face no consequences.  We think that if God will just leave us alone, everything will be okay.
     I’m sure that Peter would have been pleased to see Jesus go away.  Adam and Eve would have breathed a sign of relief if the Lord had simply turned and departed from the Garden.  You too would be pleased if we never breathed a word about sin again.  But this addresses nothing.  It does not make sin go away.  The consequences of sin—sorrow, pain, and death—do not just go away either.  The Lord does not ignore them either.  In fact, if the Lord should leave you alone, that means you are left to die in your sin and to suffer shame, sorrow, and torment in hell forevermore.  If the Lord makes you afraid because of your sin, it is because your sin does demand an answer.  It does face a consequence.  Repent!
     But God loves you too much to let you be.  Jesus loved Peter too much to honor his prayer.  The Lord loved Adam and Eve too much to abandon them to their cursed death.  Instead, Jesus stays and has mercy.  Jesus consoles sinners.  Jesus spoke his, “Fear not!” to Peter.  Peter was a sinful man.  Jesus did not deny that.  But Jesus did not leave Peter to plummet to the depths of the Sea of Galilee or, worse, to the depths of despair.  And there is no need for you to fear or to face divine wrath either. 
     Your sin does demand an answer; Jesus supplies it.  Your sin does have a consequence; Jesus bears it.  Jesus plunged himself into the depths of sin and death for you.  Jesus took your sin from you and went down to the grave for you.  He died with your sin and left it dead in the grave.  Then Jesus rose from the grave to proclaim peace upon you.  Jesus consoles the sinner and declares, “Do not fear!  I have cast my net and caught you up from the murky depths of sin and death.  You are safe in the boat, that is, in the church.  And do not fear that you cannot live apart from your old life of sins.  For, I breathe new life into you so that you will live and serve in godliness.  I keep you safe from every predator.  I will sustain you and console you forevermore.” 
     Jesus did not go away from Peter.  Instead, he called this frightened sinner to be a preacher.  Jesus consoles sinners so that they will confess him.  Peter knew what it was to see his sin and death right before him.  He experienced the terror which caused him to beg Jesus to go away.  For that reason, Peter could sympathize with other people who are petrified by sin and death or who live with secret shame.
     But more than that, Peter knew what it was to be shown mercy.  Sinners are not consoled without a Savior.  Peter was called to confess Jesus as that Savior.  He is not out to catch you so that he can flay you or char-broil you for your sins.  Jesus reveals that God is a loving Father who desires you to be saved.  He provides the answer for your sins.  God sent his Son so that your sins would be taken away from you.  He makes known that the consequence of Jesus’ death and resurrection is forgiveness of sins and life forevermore. 
     Jesus consoles sinners so that they will confess him.  Peter was called to go and confess and preach the gospel.  Peter would cast the net of God’s grace into the world and to bring other terrified, guilt-ridden sinners into the kingdom of God.  The net does not care what it drags in.  Whether the catch is abundant or few, each one is precious to Jesus.  And there is no difference, for all are sinners.  All need mercy. 
     Likewise, you have received consolation for yourselves through Jesus.  Therefore, you make the same confession.  Most of you will not enter the ministry to preach the Gospel full time, but you all get to confess what Jesus has done for you.  Your family and friends know the same fears and guilt you know.  They, too, may be terrified of God and would rather have him keep his distance.  They will fight against the net of God’s grace, for sinners do not want to be caught.  But God loves them too much.  He has given them friends like you who know that God is not the source of terror, but of comfort.  Who better than you, who know what it is to face the fear of death and the guilt of sin, to confess that Jesus alleviates fear and guilt?  You get to confess to your troubled friends that Jesus delivers victory over death and opens Paradise to all who believe in him? 
     Jesus consoles sinners so that they will confess him.  Through his ministers, Jesus brings consolation to the troubled and breathes life into those who are dead in their sins.  Through you, family and friends can be consoled by the good news of Jesus, and relieved of the shame that hounds them.  With the Church, we all can confess Jesus as our consolation and comfort.  For, Jesus will not leave us alone.  Rather, he saves us forever.

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

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