St. Luke 5:1-11
July 8, 2012 A+D
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
It is not the fish that are sinking the boat: it is Jesus. That is why St. Peter doesn’t say: “Save yourselves, throw the fish back.” He says, “Depart from me, Lord.” That is, “Get out of the boat, Jesus. You are the problem. We’ll keep the fish, thank you very much, but we can’t abide the presence of God. We are sinful men and You are destroying us. The best solution is not for us to stop being sinful but for You to jump overboard.”
Of course that is the wrong response to the Law. It is never right to tell Jesus to go away. But Peter’s life is in danger. He panics and clings to the wrong things.
Repent. This is ever the way of our fallen hearts. At least St. Peter’s life was in danger. We often ask Jesus to depart for far smaller things. “Depart from me, O Lord, because I am bored and want to enjoy my sins. I am a sinful man. I have sins to commit and I don’t want you to get in the way.” We harden our consciences, pretend as though we don’t know better, or it won’t matter. We plan to repent later. “Depart from me, O Lord, and when I am done, I will call you back.”
What did you go out in the desert to see? A spectacle, a miracle worker, an amusement for an afternoon. What did you come here to see? A God who winks at your sins, a miraculous catch of fish, a pat on the back? You’ve sought the wrong things. Repent.
The boat is sinking. The problem is not the fish. The problem is not high taxes or unequal distribution of wealth. The problem is not politicians or teachers or Church bureaucrats. The problem is Jesus and He is not going away. He doesn’t do that. He abides. It is His boat. It is His lake. You are His sinner, vainly plotting and dreaming up excuses, issuing commands that He depart. He won’t and there is no escape. Repent.
He won’t leave. The fish can’t save you. The boat can’t hold you. The sea doesn’t care. Repent. You are a sinful man. Throw yourself upon His mercy. For He is Emmanuel. He is with His people. And He is Jesus. He comes to save His people. He says to St. Peter, “Don’t be afraid.”
That is the message of angels to the shepherds in their fields, to St. Mary at the annunciation, and shows up in the New Testament about 30 times: “Don’t be afraid.” God is coming to earth to save humanity from itself. He is raising up a sacrifice in Human skin to atone for the sins of the world, to meet the letter of His own holy law and reconcile Himself to men. Don’t be afraid. Life is more than clothing, more than fish, more than a happy home. He comes in peace to make peace. Don’t be afraid. He is not angry and He holds no grudge. Do not be afraid. He knows who you are, to be sure. He knows how filthy and vile you are. He knows your secret thoughts, your dark fantasies, and even the lies with which you’ve deluded yourself. He knows the truth. He knows who you are. He knows what you love. Figs leaves and fish will not cover up your sins or ambition. He knows the truth, but He loves you nonetheless. Do not be afraid.
He comes to ransom you out of Hell’s just claim with His own holy life and blood. He is lifted up from the earth on the gallows of Rome’s most cruel death to draw you unto Himself. Do not be afraid. He comes in peace. He pulls you out of the drowning waters of holy Baptism alive, away from sin and away from yourself. He rescues and redeems.
The message to the shepherds is repeated at the Resurrection. The angel tells the women in the morning, at the tomb: “Do not be afraid.” Then, that night, in the upper room the Lord’s first words are, “Peace be with you.” Those are the words at the Supper instituted in that same room. The Body and Blood on the altar ready for the people of God and the minster says: “Peace be with you.” Do not be afraid. This Body broken, this Blood shed, is raised and is for you.
Leave the fish. Leave the fig leaves and excuses. The Lord’s mercy endures forever. That will shelter you in the storm and bring you home.
“How little worthy of any love thou art.
Whom wilt thou find to love ignoble thee,
Save me, save only me?”
Says the Lord and then goes on:
“All which I took from thee, I did’st but take,
Not for thy harms,
But just that thou might’st seek it in my arms.
All which thy childs mistake fancies as lost,
I have stored for thee at Home.
Rise, clasp my hand, and come”
He sinks the boat that you would take His hand and be drawn out like Moses and Peter before you. Do not be afraid.
In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.