Sunday, June 30, 2013

Sermon for Trinity 5: "At Your Word"

Trinity 5 – June 30th, 2013
Historic Lectionary: Jeremiah 16:14-21; 1 Peter 3:8-15; Luke 5:1-11
Guest preaching Trinity Lutheran, Covina, CA

 In the Name of + Jesus. Amen.

 Actions speak louder than words, we say. We’ve all said the same thing to our kids. Or yelled the same thing to our politicians on TV. Or  thought about it at a church voters’ or council meeting or a Sunday service.  Some days that dog you tell to sit, doesn’t sit.

And that’s the difference between our words and Jesus’ words. Our words don’t bring a chaos of toys into order or solve the world’s problems or answer all the challenges that come up in your congregation.

But at the Word of God…Now his word is quite different. At the Word of the Lord, creation came into being. Let there be…and there was. The Lord speaks and things happen. His Word bears authority. His word speaks louder than actions. In fact it is action. The Word of the Lord is an event. It creates and speaks the very thing God commands.

 Jesus’ Word is no different. At the Word of Jesus: the wind and waves are hushed. Nets full of fish. The sick healed. Sinners forgiven. Dead men raised.  And Peter’s fear is cast away quicker than the nets on his boat.

When Jesus stepped into Simon Peter’s boat that day he stepped into a floating pulpit. The Word of God made flesh come to speak and declare the word of God.

For Jesus’ teaching was more than a lesson on fishing. If Jesus was giving fishing lessons, he would’ve been thrown overboard. Even an amateur fisherman like me knows that you don’t find fish in the middle of the day (especially if you’ve come up empty all night). And you certainly don’t throw your nets in deep water. Net fishing requires shallow water.

And here, everyone thinks the miracle is the fish. And it is. But that’s not the only miracle.  I count at least three. The many fish. Jesus’ Word that made it all happen. And the fact that Peter believed it, heard it, and listened.

Jesus called out to Peter, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.”

Can’t you just hear Genesis 1 in the background…Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures. At your word, Lord.

We do well to heed Peter's words, “Lord, at Your Word.” Not my word. Not your word. The Lord’s Word. Don't rely upon your own word or the words of others to tell us what's true and right. Listen to the Words of him who is the Word and he who speaks the word of life to you today. Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.

 Peter let down the nets. And they came up busting the nets full. Flipping and flopping splish-splashing all over the place. Breaking the nets. Sinking the boat. There were so many fish they had to call in their fishing buddies from shore to bail them out. And even then, both boats began to list and began to sink.

 In the face of death by drowning, Peter saw that it wasn’t the fish that were sinking him and his friends. It was the Lord who was sinking him. He fell down at Our Lord's knees. Now Peter saw clearly. He no longer called Jesus Master, or Rabbi, but Lord. And rightfully so. Peter saw that the Lord was catching more than fish. The Lord had caught him.

  “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!”

 The presence of the Lord is dangerous. He is not a tame God. And Jesus’ Word of Law ensnares us in the nets, catches us the same way it did for Peter. “I a poor miserable sinner…” We confess our sins like Peter. And the miracle of that is found in one little word. Sometimes we say it so quickly we overlook it. Amen. Don’t forget that little word. Because when we confess it’s not as if we’re saying,  “I, a poor miserable sinner…no, no I´m not.´ No, we say, “Amen”. ‘Yes, that´s right.´ The Law reveals God´s own truth, about Himself and about us. ‘Yeah, that´s right, I am a sinner, I have failed.´

At times we may feel like joining Peter in crying out, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.”

But here’s another miracle for you. Jesus didn’t depart from Peter…or you. Jesus stayed. Jesus brings Peter and his companions and the fish safely to shore, a miracle equal to the catch itself. And then Peter forsakes all. He leaves the boats, the nets, the men, the prestige, the wealth, and the livelihood. He follows Jesus who did not depart, who remained faithful to him, who showed him the end of worldly things, and promised him a Friend with God, and safe harbor in the wounds of his crucified flesh. For Jesus did not depart from Jesus even when Peter would depart from him.

 And so it is for you. Jesus does not depart. He brings you safely to shore. He is Master of more than simply waves and wind, fishes and loaves. He is the Master of Hell. He has entered into its fiery tomb and taken all it had to demanded of you and more. He has paid the price, suffered the defeat, been emptied of Himself to death that He might bring you safely to shore. And there again on the cross, Jesus’ Word is an action: Salvation won. Sins forgiven. Atonement made. Sacrifice complete. All God’s promises kept and fulfilled in a word. It is finished. For you!

 Jesus does all of this so that this boat, His Church, won't sink. For He is here in His risen Body and Blood poured into the hearts of His people. Jesus gathers you from the depths of your sin His consoling, forgiving Word and His sacred benediction.  You were caught in the nets of Water and Word and brought out of your watery graves into the boat.

 Into Christ’s Church, your ark, your ship of salvation (that’s why the interior of the church is called the nave, it looks like a boat because it is).  Your crucified Captain went down with the ship on the cross only to raise it back up from the dead and bring you along with him. Out of the depths. Into the shallows. You’re caught in His nets…all at His Word. By the Word and the water. By the Word and His body and blood. By the Word that declares I forgive you all your sins.

 Jesus has further words for Peter and for you. Besides "Let down your nets," there is, also, "Fear not!" "Fear not, for the Son of Man did not come to condemn the world but that the world might be saved through Him. Jesus comes with mercy. Jesus wears your flesh to be a Sacrifice worthy of the stern demands of the Law. Jesus is your Atonement, He reconciles you to the Father. removes your sin. You are His. Do not fear.

Do not be afraid. From now on you’ll be catching men.  Not by bait and switch or hook or spear. But by that same, simple, clear Word of Christ that speaks and creates life. You may not understand everything Jesus says or does – Peter sure didn’t. But at your Word, Lord. I will let down the nets. At your Word, Lord, we will believe, teach and confess. At your word, Lord, we will baptize and teach the nations. At your Word, Lord, we’ll spread the net of your gospel over every neighbor, friend and family member we come into contact with.

That is how Jesus fishes for disciples in the Kingdom of God. God simply lets down His nets, His lowly, earthen vessels, with nothing more than His Word, in unlikely places, at awkward times, and hearts, like ours, are sunk and raised up again.

All by the Word of Jesus.                                                             
  In the Name of + Jesus. Amen.

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