Epiphany 0519– “What Do You See?” Luke 5:1-11

Epiphany 5– “What Do You See?” Luke 5:1-11

Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen. The text for our sermon meditation is taken from the Gospel account of St Luke, the 5th Chapter:

“1On one occasion, while the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret, 2and he saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. 3Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat.
4And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” 5And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” 6And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. 7They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink.
8But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” 9For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, 10and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” 11And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.”

So far the reading.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

Did you ever watch the show called River Monsters? River Monsters is a show on Animal Planet station that documents the search for giant denizens of the world’s river systems. The host travels to various river systems around the world and tries to catch the enormous fish which dwell beneath the muddy waters. Rod and reel fishing was never so exciting. All you see on the surface is brown muddy water. The epiphany comes when that which the host is seeking takes the baited hook and after a rather long and arduous struggle is brought to the surface. The curtain of the river water is separated and all can see the life that is present under the muddy waves.

What do you see in this passage from the Gospel account of St Luke? Would anyone care to share their thoughts? Certainly, this is a rather awesome fishing story. It is a story anyone who likes to fish would enjoy. Forget about the one that got away, look at all the keepers in the net. Amid all the excitement what do you see? What epiphany do you have when you read these words from St Luke? With these curtains separated for you, what is revealed to you? What do you see now that you did not see before, but that is always there for you to see?

We will often only look at the surface and never go deeper than what our first impressions would give us. Like looking at the surface of a roiling river or the lapping waves of a lake, we never see below the surface of the water. We are content only to look at the surface. When we look at the surface we conjure up in our minds reasons for going no deeper. The water is running to swift, so I better stay on the shore where it’s safe. The water might be too deep so I won’t even try to put my foot in for fear I won’t touch bottom. The water might be too cold so I will only sit on the shoreline and watch the water from a distance.

I remember vacations to Lake Michigan, Houghton Lake and the Straits of Mackinaw. We waded in the water until our feet became so cold the pain numbed and the color of your toes would be blue. You didn’t wade out too far either because the cold water took your breath away. Yet, it was quite exciting and beautiful to be in and see the water. Moreover, it was exciting to know that the waters had life underneath the surface. The fresh fish from the lakes tasted quite good.

That is probably what the disciples usually thought when they went fishing. Their out on the lake in the early hours of the morning casting nets into the sea and thinking about the fish they would catch. Most of what they caught would be sold and some would be taken home and eaten by their families. In their minds eye they were seeing fresh fish broiled and sitting on their tables. Sounds pretty good to me.

But, what did they see with their eyes that day when Jesus came to them on the banks of Galilee? They saw two things that day. They saw empty nets from their hard labor. They saw full nets when they labored according to the word of Jesus. The difference between a full net and an empty net is quite easily seen. What Jesus was teaching them was a little less clear to them, until Jesus showed them what he wanted them to see?

You see, this is an object lesson for the disciples. There are a number of parts to this object lesson that the disciples needed to see. First, the disciples were to see that their lives needed to be ordered by the Word of God. For if the disciples ordered their lives apart from the word of God their efforts would come to nothing. That is the first lesson from the empty net, and the observation and seeming complaint of the disciples when Jesus spoke to them of going out again to catch fish. What did Peter say to Jesus? Read those words again.

And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.”

There is a complaint voiced by Peter, but there is also obedience to the request which Jesus makes of Peter. Put out into the deep for a catch Jesus told Peter. These words speak of a certainty even when all else would lead Peter to believe there would be no catch.

What do you see here at Our Saviour? Are you working according to the Word of God? Or are toiling according to the will of your heart? The Word of God is certainly placed before you today. It is contained in order of worship we follow each week. It is especially contained in the Mission Statement and the accompanying Vision Statement which are printed for you in the bulletin. They are a weekly reminder for us as we seek to fulfill the will of the Lord.

The second lesson to be seen is that the will of God is a joyful burden for Jesus’ disciples to carry. What happened when Peter followed the will of Jesus? He let down his net as asked and immediately the net was filled to the point of tearing, and the boat was filled to the point of sinking. A joyful burden is it not? This is a fisherman’s dream. Those of you who fish would know the joy of an abundant catch. A full stringer is satisfying and exhilarating. Seeing an abundant catch motivates you to keep fishing.

Consider the burden for a moment. This catch of fish served to show the disciples the heavy weight of service to the Word and Will of God. There are times when it will take the full limit of strength and ability to fulfill the Word and Will of God. The disciple needs to be focused and attentive to what is asked of them and to put their whole strength into this work. Isn’t that what God asks of his disciples? Remember these words of God who calls you into His kingdom?

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind …” Luke 10:27

Jesus carried the burden of the Gospel as he followed His father’s Will. The writer to the Hebrews saw this very clearly and wrote without any doubt the Lord found joy in the burden of the Gospel. He wrote of Jesus bearing the burden with these words.

“… looking to Jesus the author and finisher of your faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame and is seated at the right hand of God …” Heb. 12:2

Do you see the burden yet? Do you recognize what the burden is? Do you see what Jesus is teaching his disciples when they pull in the full to overflowing net of fish? Do you understand what is asked of you when you are called by your Lord to be his disciple? Do you see this same burden placed before you in the Mission Statement and Vision Statement? Let me reveal it to you.

What do the lake, the fish, the disciples, the net, and the straining bodies represent? Can you see that the lake represents the sea of humanity? Can you see that the net represents the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Can you see that the fish in the net represent the sinners who are gathered out of that sea of humanity and brought into the kingdom of God through the preaching of the Gospel? Can you see the disciples representing all disciples of Jesus who through the Gospel and throughout all time continue to gather a harvest of sinners into the Kingdom of God? Can see the straining of the disciples pulling in the net representing the struggle against this sinful world as we proclaim the saving Word of God?

I would like to consider this last question for a moment. Life as disciples of Jesus Christ is certainly a struggle. Our struggle is on three fronts. Can you name them?

“I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.” Romans 7:15-19 (ESV)

You and I are Romans 7 disciples. This passage from Paul’s letter shows us clearly that we struggle against our sinful flesh in service to the Lord. What Jesus depicts in the struggle to bring in the net, Paul writes very clearly for us as he shows the struggle to do what is right. What do you see?

There is one final thought to see and consider. You are part of the harvest of fish. You have been brought into the kingdom of God through the net of the Gospel. When you were baptized two things happened to you. Perhaps you see them as you consider the object lesson of our Lord. Do you see that the net of the Gospel was cast over you and you were dawn in to the Kingdom of God? Hopefully that is very clear by now.

There is one more thing that happened to you and maybe this is a little more difficult to discern. Nevertheless it should be clearer if you take the time to consider it. God did not only pour the gift of the Gospel into your heart. What else did God do? Look again at the Mission Statement and the Vision Statement. Does that help you to see what God did to you? Do you see that God took the net of the Gospel from the hands of his first disciples and placed it into your hands? Do you see what that means for you as an individual and as a congregation?

We are to cast the net of the Gospel into the sea of humanity? We will not see all the fish, nor will we be concerned about the number of sinners to be caught. We are to be concerned about casting the net where the Lord has directed us to fish. He will bring the sinners to His net. We are to stand ready to draw the net closed and bring these sinners to the throne of God’s grace that they too may see His salvation and that we may see them in the new creation yet to come.

With the strength of God and according to his will may we cast the net of the Gospel and fulfill our calling in Christ. The Lord grant that we see the full harvest on the Day of Jesus Christ. Amen