Preached July 8, 2012
1 St. Peter 3:8–15a
St. Luke 5:1–11
+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
Today we find ourselves at the Fifth Sunday after Trinity just now getting back to the established routine teaching program of the Trinity season. We have had an unusual beginning this year with two consecutive Sundays that involved major feasts falling on Sundays and thus somewhat disrupting the regular flow of the teaching cycle for the season. With this in mind, we would do well to begin today with a brief review of where we should be in our normal teaching cycle, remembering that the whole teaching program of Trinity season is directed to our growth in individual sanctification.
We have been justified by the blood of Jesus Christ on the Cross, and provided that we truly accept Jesus as our Lord and Saviour, we are going to Heaven. But when we look at our lives, we see that there is much about our lives that is not holy, not yet fit for Heaven and the presence of God the Father. We must be made holy, and that is the purpose of the balance of our Christian lives here on earth, in so far as we are able to accomplish it. This is why we strive for our sanctification, to make ourselves fit to come into the presence of God the Father. In so doing, we hope also to serve as witnesses for Jesus Christ before the world and thus draw others to Him as well.
If we look back over the previous Sundays, we see that on Trinity 2, we talked particularly about the fact that God is loving. This generates a natural response in us to love God in return, which is as it should be. But there is more that is required. God insists that we love others, simply because they also are part of His creation and He loves them just as He loves us. This we often find very hard to do, but we need to remember that to love them really means to be concerned for their eternal welfare. It does not require that we like them, that we enjoy their company or want to be around them. We must, however, do all that we can to assure that they eventually return to God as we ourselves hope to do. The eternal salvation of souls is the matter of ultimate concern; nothing else is comparable.
We have also considered the fundamental role of humility in our relationship to the Lord God. We have absolutely no standing before God; we are the most insignificant specks in His sight, although that not withstanding, He loves us! When man presumes to question God, or to bargain with Him, the entire conversation is put entirely out of balance. Such things are simply due to the massive arrogance and ego of man, to presume parity with his maker! Any proper relationship between God and man has to be based on the complete and total humility of man before God, his creator and Lord. It is truly a marvel that God is willing to have a relationship with man, but such is His gracious will, remembering that man must understand his place in such a relationship.
One of the principal characteristics of the Lord God is His mercy. He is merciful in His dealings with us, and He expects His people to be merciful in their dealings with each other. This latter part does not always come naturally to men, because of our human nature, but it is a part of the love that God expects us to show to each other. Those who show no mercy, certainly cannot expect any mercy from God, from whom we must all ask great mercy.
The principal theme for this Sunday is most clearly expressed in the words of the Collect for the Day:
Grant, O Lord, we beseech thee, that the course of this world may be so peaceably ordered by thy governance, that thy Church may joyfully serve thee in all godly quietness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
We pray for peace and tranquility in our lives, and particularly in the life of the Church, in order that it may serve God in all godly quietness, asking as always, through our Saviour’s holy Name. Let us consider just what it is that we ask here.
One of the common complaints of our time, particularly among the young folks, is “there’s nothin’ to do around here.” This applies, in a small city such as where we live, and one even hears it from time to time in a major city like Dallas or Chicago. People are looking for excitement in their lives, a certain amount of controlled violence even. We have become a very jaded people who spend way too much time in from of TV, video games, and similar make–believe imitations of life. But then if you look at the news clips of fighting in Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine, Libya, it does not take more than a brief moment of sober reflection to snap us back to the reality that the peace and tranquility that we enjoy for the most part is an immense blessing, a blessing that can only come from having a government fundamentally guided by the Lord God.
Sometimes today in America this is hard to appreciate, that our government is still fundamentally guided by God, but it is true. It is true because the laws and traditions of our country that determine the parameters within which government must operate have long since been determined by people who were very strongly guided by God. There are many within government today that seek to overturn these long established guides, but for the present, at least, they are in place and we are a nation very much blessed by God. It is up to each of us individually to do our part to maintain this form of government by how we vote at the ballot box.
In today’s Gospel lesson, we have an interesting story about a man, trusting in the presence of God, to control the wild natural world, to bring peace, stability, and the related benefits. Following the time of Jesus’ teaching from the boat, He tells Peter to put out for a catch. Peter expresses the fact that they have toiled all night on the rough sea and have taken nothing, but even so, Peter will put down the net. Now what Peter is saying here is that, he and his men, working as men alone have been able to do nothing out on the sea all night. But he knows that in the presence of Jesus, something good will happen, the world of his work will be improved. Peter is aware that God is on board his boat, at least in some form, even if he is not entire clear on the details. And of course, we know what happened. They caught more fish than they could handle. Their nets began to break and their boats began to sink! The blessings of God are simply overwhelming. The point of the story is not the damage sustained to the nets and the boats, but rather the vast bounty of our God. We ask for a little, and God provides far more than we could ever imagine. This is the way that God works for those who truly believe in Him.
Notice first of all that this vast haul of fishes came purely from God. There was really nothing in the effort of Peter and his crew that produced this great bounty, but it was entirely the work of God. It was far more fish than they could ever imagine, so that it was in no way limited by human reasoning, planning, or design. The second point is that it was entirely dependent on the presence of faith. Peter says, Luke 5:5b nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net. If Peter had said, “This is pointless, nothing is going to happen,” we may be certain that nothing would have happened. It was entirely necessary that Peter have faith that Christ was able to make something good happen for the miracle to occur (not that this limits Christ’s power, but it simply would not have been done.) The third point is really the biggest one of all. When God does something for us, as in bringing the huge catch of fish in to Peter and his crew, it is always more than we can use in our lives as we have been living them. What could they possibly do with so many fish? An event such as this, for them and for us, has to be a life transforming event. It has to change the way we live, to give us a new mission in life, just as it did for Peter and the other early disciples. It was at that time when Jesus said to them, Luke 5:10b Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men, and they ceased being simple fishermen and became His disciples.
We pray for peace and order in our lives that we may be able to love and serve the Lord and our fellow man with a quiet mind, without fear and discord in our lives, and for the benefit of all people. When there is strife and uncertainty, even to the currently limited extent that we are experiencing it here in the US, it preys on the minds and hearts of people, causing worry, anxiety, distrust, and a fear for the future. We know that much of the cause of this is the godless behavior of our leaders, which causes us to fear for our country. We pray that the Lord God will hear our prayers for our nation, give us God–fearing leaders with the courage to do what is right without concern for themselves, and that the whole nation may be turned towards the one true God the Father and His only Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Let us each speak out boldly at every opportunity to proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord, so that all of our corner of the world echoes with the message. And we must be sure that we back up our words by the way that we live our lives, loving our fellow man as ourselves.
+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.