Get Your New Net for a New Catch

Meet Jesus fresh again today, as being introduced to him for the first time.  The kind of story we have before us today from Luke 5:1-11 challenges us to “Get Your New Net for a New Catch.” February 10, 2019.

Dearest people of God, whether you are here for the first time or making your mark on the same pew cushion in the same pew at the same worship hour for the eighth year in a row, whether you are brimming with youth or seasoned with age, whether just getting into what God has to say to you or hearing it for the centillionth time, whoever you are and wherever you’re from, the story of Jesus Christ, the good news of God, comes like surprising light into darkness. No matter how often you’ve pulled back the curtain or turned open the blinds, here in the Word is always a Son that is too much for our eyes.

Today I invite you again to be spellbound in faith by the name of Jesus, who captures our hearts with mesmerizing and mysterious love of God, whose name you call on for mercy and confess in your creed. I love this Epiphany season for that feeling of being new disciples, freshly called to know Jesus, both for personal healing again and for the osmosis effect - that it become a bigger and bigger part of who you are and how you serve him. Meet Jesus fresh again today, as being introduced to him for the first time - because that’s the kind of story we have before us today that we might get renewed nets for a new catch.

It starts easily and passively enough - very disarming kind of details that relax you and massage your shoulders - you see, we’re beach-side, maybe you’ve got your sandals off. We’re just a group of people soaking up the sun as they soaked up his words, “listening to the Word of God - such a great stock phrase so worn by use the color and impact of it is gone. Listen to the Word of God - would you give your life to listen to the Word of God? It's huge, but on the surface there's nothing that seems to challenge us or rouse us just yet. We’ve got gently lapping waves with boats on the shore and quiet fishermen scrubbing the slime from their nets, tired after a long night’s work and silent because they have no stories to tell about it. But Jesus is about to take them to uncharted waters, if you know what I mean.

Actually, it’s a perfect scene for a metaphor, a great mashup of concept throughout as Jesus teaches from the boat to a sea of people and gives them the Word of God before calling Peter to do the same. But fishing for the catch of faith and worship is happening, an invisible cast made by the Son of God out into the broad waters of a sea of ears, a whole crowd, we’re told, listening to the Word of God. Save this as the setting, the built-in material for the Son of God’s illustration for your own calling and mission. When Jesus came, he didn’t come to make friends, but to save people and make disciples. He came speaking and telling the Word of God and also by living and dying to fill the good news of promise with fulfillment.

Here is a light come to open our eyes to this powerful proclamation, the great words we get to say as a net for all people - so he moves this idea forward - Peter, go let down your nets for a catch.” It presses the button - where does my word and my judgment and my authority fit on the scale of your heart - how great do you think I am, where do you peg what I have to say, I, the Judge, the authority as Lord and God, the Great Teacher and Ultimate Word? And Peter ruffles in his reason a little but in the end, because you say so, Lord, I will let down the nets - your word rules over my “better judgment.”  Let the fishing begin.

If you can even call it fishing. Catching is a better name. Try insane miracle!

Began to sink: not time for a panic - where’s my bucket! Or celebration - show me the money! It’s a most incredible moment to imagine the smile and incredulity leave Peter’s face and looks Jesus in the eye, and then looks away and the smile is gone and some horror pounds in his chest as he wades through the fish to fall to his knees: Go away from me, Lord, I am a sinful man.”

Such a critical part for any of us and for our evangelism. Pretense is gone - he relates it all to himself, but it’s different this time - not a game, not an excuse, it’s full confession and admission of guilt; horrible place you dread, where someone is found behind your curtain, where the real you is revealed, the one who pretends goodness unmasked as the sinner, knowing your secrets, nothing left but to admit sin.

Peter - what a theologian he is- how does he know that sin separates us from God? I deserve your punishment both now and forever. We confessed this earlier today. Perhaps you also remember: Lord of Life, I confess that I am by nature dead in sin. For faithless worrying and selfish pride, for sins of habit and sins of choice, for the evil I have done and the good I have failed to do, you should cast me away from your presence forever.

This is the punishment of sin - not hell, hell is just the place, but the punishment is deserving eternal separation from God and all his blessings. “Go away from me, Lord” - let me spell out my sentence I know you should say - abandon me, forsake me, leave me and never come back.  I am a sinful man.  First time this label “sinner” is used, this admission and self-confession is exposed to the air in Luke’s gospel - it’s fish out of water - I am a sinner.  I just want to know - where is Peter? What fills up the world of that admission - everything that is was to him in that moment, is it the same to me? Or am I still in hiding and cover-up mode?

Still working the devil’s games and bag of tricks - you admit to being wrong, but not totally wrong, you confess wickedness but to people and not to God, you size up someone’s behavior - similar circumstances, similar opportunity, but I kept my mouth shut. As if absolving ourselves in the court of public opinion was the same as a clean name before the great and ultimate Judge.

To know the curse helps us to know the cost. Opens up the priceless value to be found in a Jesus whose feet don’t move away, but remarkably come closer. “Don’t be afraid.” Don’t be afraid of “sinner” before you, my Lord and my God?

Now the one who has the power to pull fish from the sea like rabbits from a hat, is the one powerful to forgive. His “don’t be afraid” - and only his - is the only word, the ultimate word and authority, that sets us free and gives us life. The Savior who says don't be afraid now is the same who dies despite his innocence, who is truly forsaken for all of us, and the same who rose again to speak don't be afraid to us as long as we live and set us at peace in his presence, God’s presence.

You know the essence of God’s good news - picture this as the warmth, the soft, silken blanket of a fishing net Jesus was using to catch Peter’s fall. Forgiveness is more than a word anyone in society knows how to use - no, not here - it’s our word, a Christian’s word and Jesus’ face alone is stamped as its definition. It is this Jesus Christ, whose feet don’t move to leave sinners in God’s dust. But instead he says all that he can to cast your fear away, to send for eternal departure all fear from the heart - even in the full recognition of sin. Just like forgiveness is not abstract and love is not just a word - this is love, that Jesus laid down his life for us! - The net is always this kind of introduction - not a doctrine, but the Son of God, in whose presence we gather here and there and everywhere.

Rare thing to forgive someone? Or is forgiveness frequent if you consider all its relatives like humility, kindness, patience, gentleness, faithfulness? So many relationship dynamics spring to life just cause of forgiving love Some may stay all defensive mode if you merely try to ram God-truth down their throats and “fix” their foolishness, but to cast this net is to catch them when falling.

So how do we preach him to others? How to fish for people with such a net that casts away all fear, all sense of “you must be good enough for me first” and relational “what’s in it for me”. Instead - how can I show you a most stubborn love and feet that never flinch when hit by your failure and despite the onslaught that is your sin. How do I demonstrate and show the true heaven and sky of God’s grace under which I now live? Let not ME appear and be revealed - let Christ be revealed to you through me!

Could Peter think of fishing any other way after this? Yes, he would get in the way of little children, he would insist on being all-Peter and fully deny three times the name of Christ around the fire with the guards...so we too recognize our need for Christ to appear again to us - do you love me, Peter? Feed my lambs and restore us again to himself and renew our nets lest we cease to be his Church and light in this world.

Walk away from those boats and that quiet shore, now following Jesus to fish for people, turning your head with Peter on a most pivotal day in your life. I thought it was all over and told God to go away, a part of the most remarkable mission I could imagine...all because he said don't be afraid and I can't wait to find a sinner and say the same. Amen.

Preached at Grace Lutheran Church, Milwaukee, WI (www.gracedowntown.org) on February 10, 2019