Fifth Sunday after Trinity,
5:1 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, 2 and he saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. 3 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. 4 And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” 5 And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” 6 And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. 7 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. 8 But 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 and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, 10 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.” 11 And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him. (Luke 5:1-11 (ESV)
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.
They left everything and followed him. Not everyone did this. Not everyone was called to do this. We all have different callings, in the world and in the church. And they are all needed. In the world and in the church. And God uses all of us where we are at to bring about his purposes in this world, to accomplish his mission among the people he loves. Not everyone is called to leave behind their careers, and their families, their house and home and follow Jesus. Not everyone has to do that in order to follow Jesus. In fact, some have to stay where they are to follow Jesus, in order to make it possible for others to leave and follow Jesus. It doesn’t always look as glamorous to our worldly eyes. But it is needed. And it is appreciated, it is especially appreciated by those who are called to leave everything and follow Jesus, to leave everything and take on a job that is often seen as useless to the world, a job that can often be taxing in its sheer impracticality according to worldly eyes. Everyone knows what a fishermen does. No one argues with the practicality of that job, and its usefulness for society. If no one fished, there wouldn’t be any fish tacos for dinner. Or we would have to go fish ourselves, and as delightful as that sounds, if we spent all our time fishing we wouldn’t have time to do the jobs that pay our electric bills so that we had a stove to cook those fish tacos on. You get the picture. So we have fishermen, but fisher’s of men? That is something entirely different, and very few people see their need, see their practicality. Of the many called, only the few that are chosen ever understand the necessity of those called to abandon worldly careers and serve the church. Those called to leave their nets behind and follow Jesus to become fishers of men.
In this case it is the Apostles, the first ones Jesus called. In our case it is those who are called in an apostolic church to carry on the work of the apostles as fishers of men, that is pastors. Not all are called to this, because it wouldn’t work that way. And no less valuable to Jesus and God and the work of the church were those people who were on the shore that day, who returned home, who went back to their nets to fish, who reaped and harvested the fields, who made houses, and butchered lambs and managed farms, and made pottery, because without them, and without them seeing the need for others to abandon those worldly careers, the work of an apostle, the work of a pastor, the fishing of men could not be done.
There are hints of this throughout the gospels, Acts and the epistles of Paul. Today there is this push to return to supposed old forms of the ministry found in the New Testament. House church movements that fail to comprehend what a house church really was, and what it really entailed. Cornelius had a house, and when he converted his whole household was baptized. He had a house church, he had a mansion, he was a centurion who was paid well. He supported the apostolic ministry amongst them. He opened up his house for believers to worship. Most house churches were of the same sort, fairly wealthy people supporting the work of a pastor, and providing a place of worship. Paul writes to one such supporter of a house church when he writes to Philemon on behalf of the runaway slave Onesimus. To this day, you can find such house churches throughout Europe when you visit castles and mansions and see off to the side a chapel set aside for the subjects of a count to come and worship in, and a village priest or pastor that toils among the people to bring the word of God to them from the font, altar and pulpit that are found there in. The house churches were never without pastors, elders as they were called in the New Testament, presbyters appointed by the apostles to carry on the work when they left. One can see this in 1 Cor. 4, in Titus, and in Acts 14: 23 where it says they appointed elders for every church. Along the same lines there is a push to begin so called Tent Ministries. This on the understanding that Paul was completely self-sufficient when it came to his finances, funding his ministry by making tents, and that modern pastors, despite Paul’s admonition that those who preach the gospel ought to make their living from the gospel, ought to follow Paul’s example and have careers in addition to being fisher’s of men. A closer look at Paul’s ministry indicates that tent making was supplementary at best for him. In Second Corinthians he says he robbed other churches accepting support from them to serve the Corinthians. (2 Cor. 11:8). That is a harsh indictment of a church that was unwilling to support the ministry themselves. The implication being, that because Paul had to rob other churches to serve them, they in fact were robbing other churches, because the work of fishing for men cannot be done effectively without those men fished seeing the value of the office of ministry. Not seeing the value of having someone set apart for the task of studying God’s word and serving the people with it. Of having someone set apart to give counsel concerning God’s word and encouraging and building up when Christ’s sheep are beset with the problems of this world and hard decisions. Of setting someone apart to instruct others in the faith, including your own children and grandchildren that they too might know the joys of the forgiveness of sins, to know the love of God who died for them, who found such worth in their life that he gave up his own for them. And that is powerful today in this nihilistic world we live in, where kids grow up feeling so empty and devoid of meaning in life that they turn to drug abuse, harmful sexual practices and suicide to escape. Because fishers of men can’t fish without the support of fishermen. The apostolic church can’t survive without people supporting the apostles. And this is you, brothers and sisters. This is you. It is what you do.
I can’t really tell you how thankful I am for you, and the support you give to me. I pray for this church, I pray for you daily, I thank God for you. I want you to know that. I enjoy fishing for men. And sometimes it seems as if I’m toiling through the night with absolutely no luck at all. The fishing is frustrating. Summer comes and attendance plummets. Visitors come and leave never darkening the door again. It can get discouraging. But then I know it is the work the Lord has called us to together, you and I. He bids us put down the nets, and he fulfills his purposes. We toil all night together. This little church bounces among the waves weathering the turmoil of life and mission, and it often looks futile. And then, in comes the catch, every bit as miraculous as the net so full it takes two boats to bring it to shore. One of our children is brought forward for baptism, and the Holy Spirit snags another. I can’t help but to thank God to witness it, to have my hands pour his name over her head. Do we know what joy this brings to our Father in heaven? To the angels witnessing this repentance? Sometimes we even see friends and families we pray for come and be baptized, and we rejoice, God rejoices, this he has accomplished through you his apostolic church, you who support the work of the apostles who were sent to fish for men. Just as the apostle’s were sent, so his apostolic church, built on the foundation of the apostles, the church that devotes itself to the teaching of the Apostles, (Acts 2:42) so this church devotes its resources to the work also, and it is blessed because it is God’s work, and the nets have been laid down at his command.
Now the peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.