5th Sunday after Trinity + Luke 5:1-11 + July 16, 2107
Hymn # 288 Lord, Help Us Ever to Retain (St. 1-2)
Hymn # 288 Lord, Help Us Ever to Retain (St. 3-4)
In the Name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
1) Simon and his band of fishermen had spent the entire night on the water. The night had been a constant repetition of casting their nets and pulling them back empty each time. I don’t know if you’ve ever been fishing using a net. It’s not as easy as baiting a hook and casting a rod. Casting a net into the water takes a good amount of skill. It also takes a good amount of strength to do it repeatedly. My father-in-law introduced me to fishing with a nylon net last summer. We took turns casting the net into the shallows searching for shad to use as bait to catch the bigger fish. That net was nylon and I was casting for fish the size of my finger and it wore me out after a while. I can only imagine how exhausted Simon and the sons of Zebedee were that morning, having spent the entire night repeatedly casting a much heavier net into much deeper water. Even with years of experience under their belt, they would be sore, tired, and a bit demoralized. But that’s what vocations can do to you. The work of our hands, whatever work the Lord has given our hands, is meant to be difficult and challenging. The Lord ordained this after the Fall into sin when He said to Adam, “Cursed is the ground for your sake; In toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life” (Genesis 3:17). The same goes for the sea. Peter and his companions had toiled all night and caught nothing. They had done their vocation faithfully and had come up tired and empty-handed.
2) That morning, as they are cleaning their nets, Jesus approaches Simon’s boat, climbs in, and asks Simon to up out a bit into the water. Simon does so because he had previous experience with Jesus. Immediately before this, in Luke 4, Jesus had healed Simon’s mother-in-law of a life-threatening fever. Jesus wants Simon to put out a little from the shore so that he can turn the prow into His pulpit. In spite of his long night of toil and frustration, Simon assents and hears Christ’s teaching on repentance from sin and faith in the Savior. After Jesus finishes, He turns to Simon and says, “‘Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” Experience told Simon this was a bad idea. The best fishing is at night and certainly not in the deep part of the sea. Yet Simon responds in faith, “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at your word I will let down the net.” In spite of own experience, in spite of the heat of the day, in spite of sore muscles and aching joints, Simon hears the word of Jesus about his vocation and gives it another go, responding in true faith. “Nevertheless, at your word I will let down the net.” It’s as if he had said, “I am tired and sore. I have accomplished nothing at all. But because you have given the command, I’ll gladly do the work you’ve given me to do.” Jesus commands Simon to go back to his labor, back to his toil, and Simon does so because of the Word.
3) In this Jesus teaches us to approach our vocations with His Word. Like Simon, we all have vocations. God gives us these in order to provide for ourselves and in order to serve our neighbors in love. Vocation is most often thought of in terms of our employment, and that is one of the vocations that God has given to us. But our vocations, or holy callings, as Luther calls them in the Table of Duties, is far more than our job. If we have a spouse, our marriage is a vocation given from God, for God ordained marriage in paradise and still gives Eves to Adams every day because “It is not good that man should be alone” (Genesis 2:18). Parenthood is a vocation given from God, so that if a husband and wife have been blessed with children, it is the parents responsibility to “bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). You all have the vocation of citizen in which God gives us the good works of obeying those who rule over us and praying for them, that they may govern righteously “that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence” (1 Timothy 2:2). And you are a member of this congregation of believers, gathered around Christ’s Word and Sacrament. Here there are plenty of good works to do to care for God’s house and maintain what He has graciously given us. Not only that, but here we have plenty of fellow believers who need our good works, for St. Paul says in Galatians 6:10, “as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.” These vocations are given to us by God, and they’re easily identifiable. Simply look around and see where God put you in your life.
4) Like Simon, we each have our divinely-ordained vocations. And like Simon we are often tested to the fullest in our vocations. There are days, and sometimes even seasons, when “we have toiled all night and caught nothing.” There are times when our jobs become pure drudgery and it feels as if we are simply spinning our wheels, accomplishing nothing, and getting nowhere. There are often similar times and seasons in marriage, which is why the eyes of so many are lured away from the spouse God has graciously given them. We often become frustrated with our children, especially if in their adulthood have turned from the faith, and enter into hopelessness. We are tempted to imagine that our prayers for our rulers are in vain. Even in the church, the temptation is ever-present to become discouraged when visitors aren’t beating down the door to hear the truth of Gospel proclaimed purely and clearly for the salvation of their souls. In all of our vocations, when the mundane begins to wear on us and the monotony seems to bear down us, we are tempted to better bitter in our labor and imagine that God has abandoned us or that He was never with us to begin with. This isn’t helped by the fact that wicked and unbelieving men seem to always have plenty and get ahead. But against all this we have the example of Peter. Peter doesn’t look at any of those things, not in this instance. Peter went back to his vocation, even though it had beaten him up just a few hours before. He goes back with vim and vigor because he has a word from Christ to do so. And Christ’s word always does what Christ intends it to do.
5) So it is for you in your vocations. Every vocation you have is divinely-instituted and Christ has graciously given you a word so that you do not lose heart when you have “toiled all night and caught nothing.” St. Paul writes to the Colossians by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost: “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. Wives, submit to your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be bitter toward them. Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord. Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged. Bondservants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh, not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God. And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ” (Colossians 3:17-24). Since God has ordained your vocations and set you in them, you are do approach them with that thought in mind. If you are employed, that job is a trust from your Father in heaven. If you are a husband, you are to sacrifice yourself for your wife and be gentle with her. If you are a wife you are to submit to your husband as is fitting in the Lord. If you are a child or young adult you are to obey your parents. Whatever God has given your hands to do, “do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men.” Do not become discouraged in your vocations, do not despair because you seem to get nowhere in them. Leave that to God who graciously gives us what we need when we need it. Remember the words of Simon: “Nevertheless, at your word I will let down the net.” Christ has given you a word as well so that you might let down the net in your holy callings.
6) After the great catch of fish, Simon then falls down at Jesus knees, right there in the boat, because he understands precisely who Jesus is. Originally Simon called Jesus evpista,ta which is simply “Master.” But after the miraculous haul of fish he says, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” He no longer calls Jesus “master.” He must now call Him ku,rie, Lord. He recognizes the Lord God in human flesh standing in His boat and has no choice but to confess His sinfulness, for that’s the only response when God appears to sinners. Jesus hears Simon’s confession and tells him, “Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men.” By this Jesus teaches us that those who confess their sins and sinfulness to Him have no reason to be afraid of Him, “For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men's lives but to save them” (Luke 9:56). “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:17). There is no reason to fear God, for God has assumed our human flesh so that He could bear our sinfulness upon the altar of the cross and atone for it there. There is no reason to fear our transgressions. They cannot harm us for they have been put on Christ! There is no reason to fear our conscience when it accuses us of our sins, for the Gospel reminds us that we have a gracious God in Christ Jesus who promises to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness when we confess and believe the Gospel.
7) God has given us our vocations, and we will sin against them and our neighbors. But thanks be to God that He is merciful, forgiving our sins and covering them over by faith. Not only that, but He graciously sets us back in our vocations each day and attaches His Word to them so that we might rejoice in our callings and serve our neighbors in love, knowing that it is not our job to bring success but the Lord’s. At Christ’s word, let down your nets, and do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men.” Amen.
May the peace of God which passes human understanding guard your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.