THE 5TH SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY AD 2019
TRINITY EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH
REV. KURT E. REINHARDT
In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple.  Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.  And one called to another and said:
"Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!"
 And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke.  And I said: "Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!"
 Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar.  And he touched my mouth and said: "Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.
 And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?" Then I said, "Here am I! Send me."
1 Cor. 14:12-20
So with yourselves, since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church.
 Therefore, one who speaks in a tongue should pray for the power to interpret.  For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful.  What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also.  Otherwise, if you give thanks with your spirit, how can anyone in the position of an outsider say "Amen" to your thanksgiving when he does not know what you are saying?  For you may be giving thanks well enough, but the other person is not being built up.  I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you.  Nevertheless, in church I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue.
 Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature.
On one occasion, while the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret,  and he saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets.  Getting 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.  And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, "Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch."  And Simon answered, "Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets."  And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking.  They 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.  But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord."  For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken,  and 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."  And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.
Fishing takes patience. It involves waiting and waiting and waiting without giving up. Something, that I wasn’t so good at when I was little. Sure, I loved it when the fish were biting, then it was exciting. But when they weren’t? Boring, yes, I’d have to say, that I thought it was that. The chance that you might catch something kept you going, but when the tug on the line was just more weeds, even the thrill of chance would start to drift away. This is when I’d start reeling in my line just to cast it out again, to which my father would say, “You’re not going to catch anything, without your hook in the water.”
“You’re not going to catch anything, without your hook in the water.” Wise words indeed, ones that the Lord wants to plant home in each of our hearts this morning, because when it comes to life as God’s people, both as individuals and as a body, so much of it depends on just keeping your hook in the water … so much of it involves faithfully doing what the Lord has called us to do, while we wait on Him … so much of it involves simply doing what He has asked us to do, trusting Him to do what He wants to do through our doing. Of course this can be rather challenging at times for poor sinners like us, especially when the Lord in His wisdom, exercises our faith by asking us to patiently wait on Him.
“You’re not going to catch anything, without your hook in the water.” As husbands and wives, as mothers and fathers and children, as bosses and workers and students, as friends and neighbours, as Christians and as a pastor, God has many good things that He wants to do in us and through us, all that He asks us to do is to keep our hook in the water, to keep on doing what He has asked us to do, trusting Him to do His good work. Of course its hard not to want to keep pulling out our hook when we don’t see the results that we want to see. It’s hard not to question what God has asked us to do, which at its heart is really a questioning of the God who has asked us to do it.
“You’re not going to catch anything, without your hook in the water.” No, you’re not, which is why the Lord in His mercy, gets in to Peter’s boat this morning and asks Him to put out from shore. It’s also the reason why the Lord in His mercy, allowed Peter to have such a hard and trying night the night before, where he faithfully did what God had asked him to do and yet came up empty handed. Make no mistake about it, although Peter had to struggle through that night for his own benefit, he also, and perhaps, mainly, had to struggle through it for your benefit and mine. Yes, hundreds of years later Peter’s fruitless night is still bearing fruit, as His empty nets continue to catch the hearts of people like you and me.
Of course for Peter that night had a lot more riding on it than something as trivial as a kid’s boredom. Fishing was Peter’s living. Empty nets meant empty pockets, which would mean empty plates. We know that he had a mother-in-law in his house, which meant he had a wife as well. People were counting on Peter and he had worked all night faithfully doing what God had given him to do and he had nothing to show for it, not at first anyway. But you see that hard time was important for Peter, he needed it to make him ready for what God wanted to do for him with Jesus. When the great catch of fish comes after the waiting it prepares him for the future, where he will have to wait on and trust in the Lord.
Contrary to what we might think, you see, God does His greatest work in those hard troubling times. As every farmer knows the seed puts down all the better roots when the ground has been turned over by the plow and felt the harrow’s bite. Although it might be great as a fisherman to catch the big one with your first cast, the same joy and triumph wouldn’t be there, and it would go a long way to ruining you as a fisherman for the future. When weeping tarries for a night how much greater and fruitful indeed is the joy that comes in the morning.
And what a joy it was, when Jesus tells Peter to let down his nets for a catch. Now the Lord could have certainly filled Peter’s boat to overflowing without a net touching the water. He could have called the fish up from the deep, or created them out of nothing, but He makes use of Peter and his nets to direct him, and us, to the truth that we should faithfully continue to do what He has given us to do trusting Him to work, what He wants to work, and to provide, what He wants to provide, when and where it pleases Him.
“You’re not going to catch anything without your hook in the water.” No, you’re not, which is why the Lord sets Peter and his overflowing nets before you this morning. He wants you to see, and know, what He can do in and through you, if you simply carry on with what He has given you to do. Peter’s empty netted night is there to encourage you when you face such times in your life, and the miraculous catch of fish the next day is there, to keep your hook in the water, in the hope, that in His time and in His way, the Lord will bless you and your work as He did Peter.
You see the catch isn’t up to you, or me either, for that matter, that’s God’s work. No matter what it may be, whether it’s our day to day lives in our homes or classrooms or offices, or whether it’s our lives as Christians or as a Church, God and God alone can lead the fish into the net or cause the seeds to grow. All that we can do is faithfully carry out the tasks that He has given us to do, we must leave all worrying up to God. He has not called you or me to that.
Faith? Trust? Yes, He has asked us to have faith and trust in Him. But worrying about empty nets? Empty pockets? Empty wallets? Empty pews? No, He has not asked us to do that. It may be hard to believe, given how good we are at it, and how easily we take to it, but we have no command or call from God to worry. Lifting up or folding your hands in prayer, yes, there’s a command, a call to do that, but wringing them in anxious care? No, beloved, search the scriptures back to front and you’ll not find a word calling you to that.
Believe it or not. There is nothing to worry about. I’m not saying that the nets may not come up empty … that there won’t be times when everything will seem to be go wrong, no matter what we do, whether it’s in our day to day or spiritual lives, whether it’s as individuals or as a Church. Empty nets are important for faith, it can’t be exercised and strengthened without them, but there is nothing to worry about, no, not even when everything is falling apart at home, at work, or at school. There’s nothing to worry about when you’re falling down or apart as a child of God. No, there’s nothing to worry about for one very good reason, a reason that is set before your eyes today in the Gospel and on the altar.
The Lord Jesus has gotten into your boat, as surely as He got into Peter’s. Notice, He didn’t ask Peter to come into His boat or wait for Peter to ask Him into his. No, the Lord, all on His own gets into Peter’s boat. He comes to him, gets in with him, because He knows that poor sinful Peter, needs Him and can’t and won’t come to Him on his own. Just as He came down from heaven to us because we couldn’t ascend up to Him, Jesus gets into our boats. He gets in and He doesn’t leave. What Peter said was true, he was a sinful man, he would prove that to its deepest depths when three times over he would deny His Lord, but depart? no Jesus, doesn’t do that, He stays put and calls Peter to get his hook back in the water.
Sinful men and women, yes, you are that, no doubt you have proven it this week in many different ways, as I know I have, but the Lord Jesus who got in your boat on baptism’s shores, shows you today as He comes to you in His flesh and blood that He isn’t departing anywhere. No, He is not, because He knows just how much sinners like you and me need Him. And so, beloved, in the face of your empty nets, worldly or spiritual, fix your eyes, on the One who is sitting on the front thwart of your boat, and put your hook back in the water, because no matter what, He won’t and can’t fail you. Amen