The Call To Be A Disciple
Trinity 5, 2016
Text: Luke 5:1-11
Grace and mercy to you from God our Father,
and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Master we have toiled all night and caught nothing. We have tried our very best and for a time even fooled ourselves – but we know it is not enough – indeed that it is nothing. We have tried to love our neighbors as ourselves, but we cannot even show love to our family members: we harbor grudges and lose our tempers with our own spouses and children. If we cannot love these as we ought, what hope is there for loving others? We have labored to keep hastily made promises only to break them. We have toiled against temptation only to fall again and again. We have poured out our hearts only to have them broken – and we have done our fair share of breaking too. We have toiled all the long night of our lives in this sin-darkened world, and we have caught nothing.
Such is the weariness behind Peter's cry of exasperation to the Lord. Peter, his brother Andrew, and their father before them had fished this lake from the time they could walk. They knew what they were doing. They knew where to go, when to go there, and how to cast the nets. They made their living at this fishing. And after a night of hard work, of putting in their all, of casting and retrieving, casting and retrieving: they had exactly nothing. So it goes. Sometimes you do everything right and you still get skunked. Such is the way of the world.
But with Jesus things are different. With Jesus the way of the world is about to go the way of all flesh. He tells Peter to let down his nets, here, now. And Peter is shocked. After a night of toil Peter is sore and tired. His calloused hands ache and he needs a nap. “Master, we have toiled all night and have caught nothing.”
Today is the call to be a disciple. So, repent beloved. It's not about your toil. This is what our Lord would teach Peter today and you too. It's not about how hard you work or how tired you feel. These things do not matter. No matter how beaten and battered you have been in this life, no matter what you have toiled against and lost again and again, no matter how lonely, or estranged or despised or sorrowful: it doesn't matter. Jesus comes to you as he comes to Peter: with his Word. So say with Peter, “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing. Nevertheless, at your Word, we will let down the nets.”
At his Word let down the nets. Let go. Give up. Repent. Let loose your grip on whatever ails you and on your own ideas about what to do about it and behold what the Lord will do. Where there should be no fish, there is a catch so great that it cannot be hauled with only one boat. Where there is sin, there will be forgiveness. Where there is loneliness, there will be the Father of all mercies who sets the solitary in families. Where there is hatred, there will be peace. Where there is death, there will be life.
For this Jesus has not come to catch fish, rather He calls you to be a disciple. Jesus has come to catch men and women, to catch you. And nothing will be impossible for him. For though your sins be as scarlet, though you have fallen away a thousand times past counting, though you have toiled against him and his Word, though you have been broken and rejected by men, though you have given up and lost all hope: no matter. He sends out the net of his Word to catch you and draw you in. And his Word, his net, the means by which he will catch you is this: It is finished.
It's all finished. Though you have toiled all the sin-dark night and caught nothing: this Jesus has toiled on Good Friday's cross until the sun itself gave up and turned dark. Though you have been forsaken and despised by men, Jesus has borne this in his body on the cross even suffering being forsaken and despised by his Father so that you will never have to be. Though your sins be as scarlet, they are white as wool now. It's over. It's finished. The Lord has paid your debt and you are free. Your toil was not enough, but his toil is.
All things are made new now, starting with you. For upon the cross it was water and blood that flowed from the side of our Lord. The Water of Baptism and the Blood of the New Testament, given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. This too is the net of the Lord by which he will catch you and draw you in. For in Holy Baptism you have been claimed by the Father of mercies. You are now his beloved child. He cannot disown you. You bear his Holy Name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. You are family. You are blood.
Indeed, God himself now wears your flesh and blood and is your brother. Not just your Lord, not just some far away God: but your flesh and blood brother who knows your hardships first hand. He took that flesh and blood through pain and death and then up again in resurrection. And how this gloried, risen, ever-living body and blood are poured into you for the forgiveness of your sins. For if your sins are forgiven how can you not also live forever like Christ? If his body is raised and put into you, how can your body not also rise?
So fear not. You are offered the call to be a disciple. Though all looks black as night it is not so. Though it appears the Lord has forgotten you, he never can: for he cannot forget himself and he fills you with himself in his body and blood. So if all seems dark and forsaken, remember that Jesus wears your flesh and delivers it unto you. And also remember St. Elijah. He had toiled day and night fighting unbelief and falsehood, and it appeared to him that he was left utterly alone. It appeared to him that everyone had forsaken him and the Lord God whom he preached and turned away to serve idols. But it was not so. The Lord is merciful and the Lord is in control. He had preserved 7000 in Israel. Elijah was not alone. The Lord had not forgotten him. Hidden in the darkness, there was light.
And so it is with you beloved. You are not alone. The Lord has been toiling all this time and he does not toil in vain. His death on the cross avails for you. His Baptism makes you his child. His body and blood are put in you and he remembers you, calls you by name, and delights in you. Indeed, look above you: your fathers knew what they were doing when they built this place for it is confession of the truth: for it is a true nave, meant to appear as an upside down boat. You see, you've been caught by the Lord's nets. He has dragged you into his boat, his ark, the place of safety that will not sink no matter what storm may rise. You are safe beloved. You are covered by and filled with the blood of the Lamb. And nothing can harm you. Even though you die yet shall you live.
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The peace of God,
which passes all understanding,
will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.