Fifth Sunday After Trinity
June 26, 2016 A+D
St. Luke 5:1-11
In the Name of the Father and of the X Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
God is good. God is love. God wants the best for you. In the words of Psalm 27, our Introit for today, “The Lord is my light and my salvation. Whom shall I fear? Wait on the Lord, be of good courage, and He shall strengthen Thy heart.” And in the words of the Collect, “He has prepared for me such good things as pass my understanding; his promises exceed even my desires.” To believe anything different is un-Christian and blasphemous. Yet the world, the devil, and our own sinful nature tempt us into un-Christian and blasphemous thoughts, words, and actions. Our human reason seems to be at war with our faith. We feel the effects of this battle inside our own heads and hearts. And on many days we would swear that our old man is winning.
It’s hard not to look around the world, our nation, our city, or our own families and not question God’s goodness and love. This is the struggle of faith vs. reason. How can God be good with all of this evil and unhappiness that permeates our lives?
The world is a dangerous place. Our reason questions, “where is God in the pandemic of terrorism?” In all reality, there will be no end to the dangers that terrorists can impose upon the world (terrorism doesn’t have a face or a nationality. It’s an ideology. By its definition it’s about making people scared to live their normal lives, and while Muslims are leading the charge on this front world-wide, white and black American kids know how to do this, too.). No place in this world will ever be safe (it never was, but now we know it. University campuses, restaurants, public schools, hospitals, and even nursing homes are not safe). It doesn’t matter if our military were in every country in the world (even every city in the world), terrorists would still be able to strike anywhere they put their mind to. Evil men always have the element of planning, preparation, and surprise.
Where is a loving God in our anti-Christian, immoral country? (some people say post-Christian, but I think it’s worse than that; it’s more diabolical. It’s hostile to Christianity). To be sure, there are Christians and moral people in this country, but we can’t slap those labels on the country in general. You can’t take an honest look at the U.S. and not see the evil that we legislate and litigate. Liars, adulterers, embezzlers, murderers, and fornicators can operate with impunity within our legal system and within our political system. If there was a false belief that America was the shining light of good in the world, surely now, in the 21st century, that has been revealed to be a farce. That’s good, though. The idol of nationalism that previous American generations held needs to topple. We have had legalized murder since Row v. Wade, we have had politically mandated acceptance of homosexuality since Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell was repealed. Today our courts have legally mandated that everyone must accept homosexuality as good and healthy, and if we don’t jump on the bandwagon of open promotion of homosexuality, we are labeled as backwoods bigots. Our youth are completely confused on this topic. People who say that homosexuality is wrong will at best be marginalized in our society, and possibly even persecuted in the courts, in their paychecks, or even on the streets. Even apart from homosexuality, our nation is completely and utterly confused on gender issues. Men are not women and women are not men no matter what our courts, politicians, celebrities, or family members say. The conscription of women in our military services is the next step that will further erode the family and with it, our society. And if you think that the election of any of the political candidates this year will change any of this or turn around our nation’s morality issues, you have bought into their campaign promises and will be sorely disappointed.
Where is a good God in Fort Wayne? The murder rate is rising, gang violence is increasing, drugs are easier to get than ever before (even some doctors have become drug dealers with a pen and prescription pad). The number of people addicted to prescription, opioid pain-killers is sky-rocketing. The U.S. has 5% of the world’s population, but consumes 80% of the world’s prescription pain-killers. When the doctor stops writing prescriptions, people are turning to the streets and black market for their fix. 4 out of 5 heroin users started out abusing prescription medicine. Pornography addiction is higher than ever before and growing. Grade-school and middle-school children have easy and sometimes open access to this evil, social disease. Pornography destroys minds, bodies, families, and souls, and it’s everywhere.
All of our families are suffering in the midst of all of this. Does God still bless families? Marriages are disintegrating and breaking up, parents are neglecting the needs of their children, and children are despising and actively hurting their parents. Our homes are full of turmoil, anger, and stress. In an age that is more connected by communication means than any other before it, people are lonelier than ever. How can someone be lonely in a room full of people? With each member of the family at home on his or her own electronic device (many times in the same room), true, honest, open communication is lost. If you haven’t seen the dangers of the internet and social media, you should start looking up from your screen and noticing. When people get together in groups, good, bonding conversations aren’t happening anymore because everyone assumes you read their post on Facebook. We think we know what’s going on in people’s lives because of what they post, so we don’t ask questions or converse. We are not intrigued by other’s lives anymore because of false perception. Often, the case is that people present such a perfect persona online that you don’t think you can measure up or relate to them. In fact, it’s a fantasy world they have invented. Those people are suffering, too. These people are not the articulate, well-read on-line personas that they have published. They do not all have witty, beautiful, brilliant, athletic, children, or the perfect, adoring, thoughtful, flawless, home-schooling, gourmet-cooking spouses. We don’t have to be tricked by Hollywood anymore. We are being tricked by our own 16,000 FB “friends.” And yet the people closest to us are suffering in silence and wasting away in front of us.
Indeed, where is there a place for a good God in all of this? Reason would say nowhere. “Construct a god of your own choosing.” Faith holds onto Jesus’ word: “Let down your nets for a catch.” Jesus’ call of Peter, Andrew, James, and John to be apostles started with a ridiculous command. “Let down your nets for a catch.” It made no sense. Jesus was not a fisherman. He did not know the right times or the right spots to catch fish, apparently. These men, who labored all night and caught nothing, knew all there was to know about the fishing trade. They had worked all night long, were in the process of cleaning up their gear and going home for some much needed rest. They were tired and probably hungry. So when Jesus told them to go fish in the wrong spot and at the wrong time of day, they had every earthly right to reject the command. They would have even felt justified in the refusal. But they listened. Against all their rational judgement, they let down their nets at Jesus’ command and a miracle happened. They caught more fish than they ever even dreamed possible.
You, Christian people; you, beloved of the Lord are the fish. In the chaos of the sea that is your world, nation, city, and family, the Church is the net and the boat. And pastors are the heirs of the apostolic ministry bestowed by the Lord on Peter and the twelve. Pastors, when they are good pastors, do what they are told by their Lord. It doesn’t matter what reservations they hold based upon earthly wisdom, when the Scriptures say to do something, they are to do it even if they question it. Preach the Word. In season or out of season, in the nice parts of town or wherever God places you—preach the Word. Catechize. Teach the faith. Baptize. Use water and the Word to make disciples whether they are minutes old in the hospital or on their deathbed. “All nations” means just that—all people. Forgive sins. Whether it’s the mature Christian or the questioning teenager who still repents even though he is unsure what it all means, what good it can do, or even if he might fall into the same sin again—forgive the repentant. Celebrate the Lord’s Supper. The body and blood of Christ are for the strengthening of faith, life, and salvation. Those who are holding onto their faith by a thread are encouraged to come and receive the bread of heaven and proclaim their Lord’s death until He comes again. As we pray in the post-communion collect, the body and blood of Christ strengthen our faith in Him and our love for one another. It helps our heavenly relationship and our earthly ones. This is the command of the Lord like unto “Let down your nets for a catch.”
The world will not stop being evil. But it is into this evil world that your Lord came in the flesh. It is this evil world full of neglectful parents, rebellious children that He loves, and for this evil world that He died. While you were still sinners Christ died for you. Even though you doubted God’s goodness, Christ died for you. When you were confused about what was right and what was wrong, Christ died for you.
The turmoil in your life and the war that is going on inside of you will have an end. You will not be lonely forever. Jesus has died and has risen again. He has ascended into heaven. He will come again to judge the living and the dead, and all of His chosen will be there with Him. His net, the Church, will not break. No one will be plucked out of His hand. The Church is not getting smaller. You are not alone. You are surrounded by an innumerable host of saints. The number of the elect is growing. The Word is still being preached, Baptism, Absolution, and the Lord’s Supper is still being administered. Pastors are still letting down the nets. People are still coming into the net. Your reason will not win the war inside of you. Reason has it’s bounds. Your faith is being strengthened by the Word and Sacraments.
You might not know what good your suffering is doing for you or the people around you. Maybe you never will. But your Father does; and He doesn’t do anything by accident or mistake. And in the end (the very end), that’s all that really matters.
God wants the best for you. God is love. God is good to you in Christ.
In Jesus’ X Name. Amen.
 American Society of Addiction Medicine “Opioid Addiction 2016 Facts & Figures.”