Fishing for God, or SelfSermon Notes on “Fishing for God, or Self,” 20 July 2014 Anno Domini
The Prayer of Collect
Fifth Sunday after Trinity
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.
1 And it came to pass, that, as the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he stood by the lake of Gennesaret, 2 And saw two ships standing by the lake: but the fishermen were gone out of them, and were washing their nets. 3 And he entered into one of the ships, which was Simon’s, and prayed him that he would thrust out a little from the land. And he sat down, and taught the people out of the ship. 4 Now when he had left speaking, he said unto Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught. 5 And Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net. 6 And when they had this done, they inclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake. 7 And they beckoned unto their partners, which were in the other ship, that they should come and help them. And they came, and filled both the ships, so that they began to sink. 8 When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord. 9 For he was astonished, and all that were with him, at the draught of the fishes which they had taken: 10 And so was also James, and John, the sons of Zebedee, which were partners with Simon. And Jesus said unto Simon, Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men. 11 And when they had brought their ships to land, they forsook all, and followed him.
I have often wished that I were a fly on the wall of history – to stand by the Galilean Sea when Christ preached so often, the same at which He had his final breakfast with His closest disciples, and the Sea Upon which He took His midnight stroll in the midst of devastating storm. This Sea teems with life, so a fitting place for our Lord and Savior to discourse. This body of blue and placid water has several names: Galilee, Gennesaret, Tiberius, or Chinnereth – yet all terms refer to the same Sea. As I have said, it is most often a smooth and placid body of water, but storms can build upon it with swift and unpredictable resolve. In a manner of speaking, the Sea is, in many ways, like the nature of our Lord who was most often gentle in speech to inveterate sinners, but quick to castigate the hypocritical clergy of His day. Like Christ, the Sea teems with life, but it yields its bounty most fully and handsomely to those who follow His counsel. It yields a profitable return to those who listen to His Word, and it may swamp the boat of those who are rebellious or lacking in faith.
The Sea of Galilee, in its unpredictable nature, too, is much like the character of the Apostle Peter. He was obedient to his Lord, but, at times unexpectant, his temper and self-will could flare-up to surprising measure. He drew a sword in the Garden of Gethsemane against a host and only a couple of hours later denied his Lord thrice on the porch of the Sanhedrin. A focus of today’s text dwells, among other important features, on the person of Simon Peter and his questioning obedience to our Lord.
Simon Peter is a man of the sea. He was robust and manly and beset with a stubborn and assertive nature. As is true with many such man, Peter had a tender heart that belied his manly nature. I like Peter very much. Even his name is intended to reveal that his quarrelsome will was finally surrendered to Christ completely. Petros (Peter) is the Greek term for stone, not Rock. Our Lord Jesus Christ was the Rock from which Peter was hewn. He gradually, as a stone chipped away through sanctification, took on the nature of the Rock from which he was cast. We all should be such stones of Christ – having the nature of that same Rock from which we must be cleft. Peter was the kind of hardened and masculine figure that I have known often in the military service – hard on the appearance, but soft and gentle as a lamb inside that hardened outer shell.
Our text opens with beauty and meaning. “And it came to pass, that, as the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he stood by the lake of Gennesaret.” Imagine! “Jesus standing by the Sea!” What remarkable beauty in that single thought! His feet are forever on solid foundation, and the Sea represents the world filled with every kind of diverse fish. You and I are in that Sea of Life. We all hear the Words of Christ, but we do not all respond to it by faith. Unlike the multitudes of perishing souls of our day, there was a hunger on the shores of Blue Galilee for the Word of God. In fact, the people “pressed upon Him” to hear that Word. Today they flock to miracle promising evangelists whose heart are empty of compassion and full of greed; but Christ is missing from that forum.
Our lives should be a pulpit for Christ, just as Peter’s boat became that pulpit. “ . . (Jesus) saw two ships standing by the lake: but the fishermen were gone out of them, and were washing their nets. And he entered into one of the ships, which was Simon’s.” What a resounding privilege to have our very souls serve as a pulpit for Christ. There were TWO boats there, but Christ chose the specific boat of Peter. He has chosen you and me in the same way. He knows the seaworthiness of our hull, and the strength of our sail before we, ourselves, know it. Both boats, like many professing Christians today, were in precisely the right place at the right time but Simon’s boat was chosen by Christ. Many sit in the pews Sunday after Sunday, but are not chosen by Christ because of a failure of faith and steadfastness. Others, like Peter, are known to God and a Chosen Vessel. Simon, as well, consented to his Lord’s use of his vessel. All that was Peter’s belonged to Christ. Is this true in your case, my friends?
When we prepare to study the Word, or to even preach it, we must make a separation of our spirits between ourselves and the world. This, Jesus does next. “. . . and prayed him that he would thrust out a little from the land. And he sat down, and taught the people out of the ship.” Next, our Lord “sat down” and taught the people. The people were standing on the shore while the Gospel itself was being pronounced. Notice that we always stand when the Gospel is read in the Church? The Teacher sits as one having authority, the students stand and listen reverently. Peter could have protested his vessel being used by Christ, but he did not. Christ has often called each of us to serve some need in our Church, or in our neighborhoods, but we often protest and fail to supply the need. We must all strive to be like Peter.
After hearing the Word preached, what comes next? ACTION! We act on the Word! “Now when he had left speaking, he said unto Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught.” It is very much like Jesus is saying, “Now, Peter, that you have heard the faith-strengthening Word, I need you to DO something!” Perhaps Jesus is whispering this in the ear of the listener of this sermon, and even its deliverer? Peter was cleaning and drying his nets when Jesus came to the shore of Galilee (Genneserat).
Jesus loves Simon Peter just as He loves all who respond to His Beacon Light of Love. But Jesus knows that something needs to grow inside the heart of Peter: his faith needs bolstering. And this is what Christ is about to do. Poor Peter and his fellows have fished all night without Christ and caught NOTHING. Casting off the heavy nets and retrieving them is no easy task, but Peter has labored all night long at this tiring exercise without profit. We, too, labor under the force of our own sails in a dead sea, and achieve nothing, but when the Wind of the Holy Spirit fills our sails to capacity, we then navigate waters never before imagined. Peter seems to think the counsel of Jesus is a bit on the ridiculous side. He even argues, just a bit, that point, but relents: “And Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net.” Now Peter will go a’fishing with Christ as his Sea Captain. I wonder what will be the result. When we surrender our on self-wills (free wills that are in bondage to sin), and accept His perfect will and counsel, what a difference a day makes!
Have you ever followed Christ until your net has broken? What about now as you contemplate this story of the Sea, the Land, and the Savior? Has He not filled our nets to the breaking point? Does your cup runneth over with the gentle mercies and comfort of the Lord? “And when they had this done, they inclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake.” Not before, or after, they had obeyed God, but IMMEDIATELY, their nets broke for the large draft of fish. God may be calling you away to some remote South Pacific Island, or to the hot and humid climate of central Africa to drop down your nets. Or He may be asking you to become a father, or mother, to some orphaned child who needs you. Have you let down your net at His command?
The Lord always rewards our obedience and often in ways we could never have imagined. Can you imagine Peter’s shock at the large draft of fishes after no success at the best hours of fishing – the night?
Our Lord is the Captain of Battles and the Victor of each one. He is not a proponent of defense, but of offense. He orders His streamers forward beyond the Forward Edge of the Battle Field. He needs no defense, He insist that we take that ground misappropriated by the Adversary of our Souls – the Devil! God is never satisfied with maintaining the status quo. We must either be growing in faith or, else, we are dying as that faith atrophies.
Take a lesson from Peter: 1) be in the right place at the right time; 2) offer your vessel as a pulpit for the Lord; 3) obey His Counsel; 4) be prepared to be amazed at the mercy of the Lord; and 5) take upon yourself His nature and become a “chip off the old Rock” – a stone in the Temple of our God! Have you?
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. AMEN.
In Christ Alone during Trinity,
+Jerry L. Ogles, D.D.
Anglican Orthodox Communion Worldwide & Chancellor, Faith Theological Seminary
AOC Daily Devotion Posts: http://anglicanorthodoxchurch.blogspot.com/
“Moral cowardice paves the way to slavery”.
AOC website: www.anglicanorthodoxchurch.org
Archbishop Thomas Cranmer – HOLY SCRIPTURE:
“If there were any word of God beside the Scripture, we could never be certain of God’s Word; and if we be uncertain of God’s Word, the devil might bring in among us a new word, a new doctrine, a new faith, a new church, a new god, yea himself to be a god. If the Church and the Christian faith did not stay itself upon the Word of God certain, as upon a sure and strong foundation, no man could know whether he had a right faith, and whether he were in the true Church of Christ, or a synagogue of Satan.”