Trinity V - St. Luke 5:1-11 - July 5, 2015
Order of Service - Pg. 15
Hymn #550 O Splendor of God’s Glory Bright
Hymn #421 "Come, follow Me," the Savior spake
Hymn #53 Abide, O dearest Jesus
1 Peter 3:8-15b
St. Luke 5:1-11
O God, Who hast prepared for them that love Thee such good things as pass man’s understanding, pour into our hearts such love toward Thee that we, loving Thee above all things, may obtain Thy promises, which exceed all that we can desire; through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee, and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.
1) The multitude presses about Jesus, leaving Him no room to preach. So Jesus commandeers Simon’s boat as His pulpit so that He can continue preaching about the kingdom of God and how God wants all men to repent of their sins and believe the Gospel. This was the message Jesus preached everywhere else so we have no doubt that repentance and remission of sins was what Jesus preached on this day. After His sermon Jesus then does something unexpected. He looks to the captain of his travelling pulpit and says, Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch. Jesus was a wonderful preacher, the best of all preachers and prophets. But a fisherman He was not. Master, Simon replies, we have toiled all night and caught nothing. This is not the time of day for casting the nets into the deep water. Besides, we have been at it all night and came up empty handed. Simon Peter, at this moment, is confronted by his own human reason, opinion, and experience. How long has he earned his living as a commercial fisherman? How many nights has he let down the nets? How long had he been fishing this lake so that he knew it like the back of his hand? Not only that, but Simon and his crew had been out all night and caught nothing. The night was a failure. Simon doesn’t describe it as “We’ve been working all night,” but we have toiled all night. But Simon does not listen to his own reason, his professional opinion, or his years of experience on this lake. Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at your word I will let down the net. Peter forsakes human reason, opinion, and experience and takes Jesus at His Word. When they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their net was breaking. So many fish he had caught that Simon had to call for help.
2) In this Jesus teaches us that He wants us to abandon human reason, opinion, and experience and listen only to His Word. There are countless places in the Scripture where the Holy Spirit enjoins us to do this. In Joshua 2, the harlot Rahab and her entire family is saved from the destruction of Jericho because she believed the word of the spies that they would spare her because of her faith in the God of Israel. Rahab agrees to the spies’ terms and says, According to your words, so be it. (Joshua 2:21) Having nothing left to do to save her own life, Rahab could only rely upon the word of the spies and trust that word to save her. Though the rest of Jericho was melting with fear over the coming army of Israel, Rahab trusted their word of promise and through the faith she and her family were saved and brought into the Church. At the beginning of the New Testament angel Gabriel tells Mary that she will conceive and bear the Son of God in her womb she does not rely on human experience which says, “That is impossible.” Nor does she rely on human opinion and fret over what others might think of this. She simply believes the Word of God and trusts it completely. She merely says, Let it be to me according to your word. (Luke 1:38) This is what Simon Peter does in the boat. Jesus gives His Word, which is contrary to all that man can reason out in his head or opine about in his heart. Jesus’ Word goes against the grain of human experience. But Simon Peter trusts that Word, and though He is exhausted and weary, he sets aside the human flesh with one word, nevertheless.
3) This is to be a lesson to all who would call themselves Christians. Christ wants His Christians to believe His Word and trust it above all things in this life. Like Peter, Rahab, Mary, and anyone who receives the Word in the Holy Scriptures, we are always tempted to listen to human reason, opinion, and experience instead of the Word of God. Or we are tempted to commingle God’s Word with our own human opinion, which is just as dangerous as supplanting God’s Word altogether with human reason. Our age is no different than any other of the world. We see the temptation very clearly today. The highest court in the land has legalized immorality once again and called good that which God has called evil and unnatural in the Holy Scriptures. The question is not, ‘what ought Christians to do?’ The question is: Will we receive the Word of God as the source and guide for our faith and life or will we base our faith upon human experience, reason, and opinion? Will our doctrine be governed by the Holy Scriptures alone or will we allow custom and crowd to sway us into novel doctrines, not just about sexual relations but about the nature of sin and grace itself? That is what is at stake in this latest issue. Will our behavior be ruled by the Word of God or will our standards sway back and forth like a reed that is blown about the mighty gusts of the spirit of this age? Too many false churches have declared already that they celebrate such sin in this midst and preach the toleration of the sin and the sinner as a new gospel, which is no gospel at all. These churches and ministers will answer to God on the Last Day for their unfaithfulness to the Word. Many well-meaning, but misled and deceived Christians, support legalized unions for homosexuals out of a misunderstanding of the Word, or fear of persecution, which Jesus promised would come. Too many have abandoned the Word of God for the sinful opinions of man.
4) This shouldn’t surprise us though. The same thing has happened whenever the culture and governing bodies have declared other things good which God calls evil. Abortion on demand, unscriptural divorce, the false teaching of evolution, all of these have attacked the Christian verity for years in our midst. Within the church she is beset by more pious looking wickedness that contradict the Word of God such as contemporary worship and unionism and the willful toleration of false doctrine. Over and over and over again the church, Christians are confronted with this question, what is to be the source and norm for our faith and life? Simon’s example is written down for our learning, even in this late age of the world. Though we are besieged on every side by all sorts of human opinions, we are to cling solely to the Word of God. Though our own sinful flesh wants to avoid persecution from the world and from the false church, we are to confess what the Scriptures teach about sexual behavior, creation, human life, Christ-centered worship, and every other article of faith He teaches us in Scripture. And when we do stand up for the truth revealed in God’s word, persecution will come. It has already to us here. It still does daily. And that persecution will more than likely become more pronounced in the days to come. We must not, though, use persecution by friends, family members, acquaintances, and activists as an excuse to quiet our confession of the whole counsel of God in the Holy Scriptures. For if we choose friendship with the world in order to have an easier life, then we have elected to also become enemies of God, as St. James says in his fourth chapter.
5) Do not be discouraged at the persecutions which you see and feel in your own life. Jesus said, In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. (John 16:33) Do not let your heart faint because of the satanic oppression you see in the world all around. You have the Word of God! And that Word is not an idle, lifeless word on a page that we adhere to blindly as the Muslims do their Koran. The Word you possess in the Word of the living God to humanity through His prophets and apostles. The Word you possess is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12) To whom shall we go? The Word you possess in the Holy Scripture is the word of eternal life. (John 6:68) The Word of God gives what is promises. It bestows the grace it promises. It creates the faith it requires and sustains that faith through constant hearing and meditation of the Word. The Word which you possess in the Holy Scriptures and in the visible Word of the Sacraments is a word that is living and efficacious. It is not a dead word or an academic word. It is a living word that creates life in all who hear it and believe.
6) It is also a living Word in that it is our guide. David writes in Psalm 119:105, Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path. St. Peter calls it a sure prophetic word which we do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place. (2 Peter 1:19) The Scriptures are our only guide because they are truth, for Jesus says in John 17:17 when He prays to the Father, Your Word is truth. St. Paul tells us in 2 Timothy 3:16 that All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, or sound and healthy. We must trust no other guide for doctrine or life than the Word of God in Holy Scripture and in the Sacraments. We are not to add to the Word, building upon it with human wisdom and reason. Nor are we to take away from the Word by human imagination or opinion. So the Lutheran Church confesses in the Formula of Concord that We believe, teach, and confess that the sole rule and standard according to which all dogmas together with [all] teachers should be estimated and judged are the prophetic and apostolic Scriptures of the Old and of the New Testament alone. The Word alone is our guide because it creates faith in our hearts and teaches us all that the Lord God desires we know for our salvation and our Christian life.
7) The temptations to forsake the Word and the life it brings are many and manifold. But no matter how the gates of Hell rage against the Word and the true Church, we have the promises of God in Holy Scripture and these promises will be our rock and stay. Our God is faithful. He has given us Christ Jesus into death for our sins. He has given us repentance and remission of sins by faith in Christ’s atonement. He will not abandon His saints in these dark days for He cannot deny Himself. Do not judge these days by anything other than the Word. Human opinion, reason, and experience will always lead astray and into despair. But the Word of the Lord endures forever, giving us what it promises and bestowing the blessings it preaches because it is the living Word of Christ. Rejoice! The Word you are given is the same word given to Peter, giving you a faith and confidence in Christ that the world, with all its persecutions and troubles, cannot take away. Amen.