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The Fifth Sunday after Trinity

June 30, 2024; Rev. Kurt Lantz, Pastor
Epiphany 5 C. i am a sinful man.jpg

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I Will Not Be Shaken

All night they had caught nothing. Their nets were empty. There were no fish to sort or take to market. Jesus showed up and began speaking and there was not enough room on the shore for His catch. He had to get into the boat because of the crowd of people He attracted with His words of grace and peace. If only the fish would come so easily. Not even one the whole night through. All their nets had caught were snags and tears to be mended before another exhausting night began.


This Jesus, He knew how to do it. It looked effortless to Him. He always had the right words to say and the right way to say them. At times He made people angry, but His words had a way of catching you; and if you let go of your defenses, were honest enough to see that you had it wrong, then the divine truth enveloped you in its mercy and there you found peace. If only fishing could work like that, if only my words could work like that.


Now He wants us to put out and throw in the nets. Sure, He wants a break from casting His words, and fishing is relaxing for people who don’t have to do it for a living. There is something about capturing a creature by will and skill that revitalizes you. It is all good unless you don’t catch anything. What is the difference? One side of the boat or the other, whatever He wants is okay. We’ll go through the motions for Him.


But, how is this possible? Where did all these fish come from? What are we going to do? The nets are near breaking. There’s not enough room in the boat for all of these fish. We didn’t do anything different. The only thing different was His word. He catches fish like He captures the hearts of the people. With a word the sea obeys Him and gives up her bounty. “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (Luke 5:8). Depart from me before Your word has me caught, too. Oh, it is too late. I am in Your net.


In their evening prayers after the miraculous catch and Jesus’ call for them to be fishers of men (Lk 5:10), the disciples may well have prayed the words of today’s Psalm (16). It begins with a plea for God’s preservation. Speaks of the bounteous blessings that fall upon those who cling to Him, in contrast to the sorrows that will multiply upon those who run after other gods. Then the psalm gives a voice of confidence for the life ahead, that no matter what may come, there will be salvation and life with this God who is close at hand to His faithful people. It is a delightful psalm to pray as you embark on a new vocation in life.


The disciples would have Jesus at their right hand as they went out to fish for men, to bring Jesus’ words to the people so that He might gather them into the net of the Church. It happened on the Day of Pentecost when Peter went out to speak to the crowd gathered in Jerusalem for the feast (Acts 2:14-41). He quoted words from today’s Psalm and hauled in a catch of three thousand souls (s.o.u.l.s, not 3000 fillets of sole). It was evident that the words of Jesus were at work through the apostles. The Holy Spirit of their Lord was present and active. The promises of Jesus were being kept, and that allowed Peter and the disciples to know that Jesus was at their right hand also in those times when they were arrested and in prison and beaten (Acts 4-5).


In our Old Testament Reading (1 Kings 19:11-21), Elijah needed that reminder also. He was living the life of one who prays Psalm 16. The LORD was at his right hand, but it didn’t always look so. He felt alone. So the LORD showed Elijah that He isn’t always found in whirlwind and earthquake and fire. He is found in His Word, even if it is a whisper. The Lord’s net was still holding fast and there were 7000 in Israel who had not bowed the knee to Baal, who had not poured out blood offerings to that god or taken up his name on their lips in invocation.


And so Elijah not only survived, he went in the strength of the Lord. He continued to stand firm against the wicked king and his blood-thirsty queen. He escaped their wrath and anointed those through whom the Lord would win the victory for His people. And when his vocation reached its end, the flaming chariot swung low and Elijah was taken alive up to heaven (2 Kings 2:11). Elijah was not abandoned to Sheol, nor did his body see corruption (Psalm 16:10).


Yesterday was the Feast of St. Peter and St. Paul. It commemorates their deaths. St. Paul was beheaded and St. Peter crucified upside down. But they and all martyrs continued with faith to speak the words of our Psalm in prayer: “You will not abandon my soul to Sheol or let Your holy one see corruption.” They know that even though they be killed for their faith in the Lord, there will be a day when their bodies are released from the grave. Death cannot hold them because of the promise of the resurrection given in the words of Christ. Like calling fish into a net, on the last day the graves and the sea will give up their dead and all will be raised to life everlasting. Those who have had Psalm 16 as their prayer of faith in Jesus Christ will be restored from corruption to incorruption, from mortality to immortality.


The miraculous catch that Peter and the other disciples hauled in from the platform of the boat and from the pulpit of the Church, will be sealed at the resurrection of all flesh according to the words of Jesus that they preached, including the words of Psalm 16. For Peter pointed out in his Pentecost sermon that the words of the Psalm are rightfully the words of Jesus first, and only then of His disciples who pray these words in Jesus.


Peter noted that King David, who wrote this psalm was dead (Acts 2:25-33). His grave was somewhere there in the vicinity of Jerusalem. But King David’s greater Son was not dead. Jesus was crucified, died, and was buried, but His tomb was empty. His body and bones were not there. Jesus, who took on our nature and took upon Himself our sins, prayed Psalm 16 to the heavenly Father on our behalf, asking the LORD to preserve Him as He carried out the will of the Father. He displayed perfect trust in His Father, as was needed to carry out the plan for our salvation.


He delighted in His disciples and warned those who rejected Him that their sorrows would multiply (Psalm 16:3-4). He put an end to their faithless sacrifices at the temple (v. 5) and took the cup of the LORD in His hands, saying: “this cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood” (Luke 22:20). He chose the portion allotted to Him, praying in the garden “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me. Nevertheless, not My will but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42). He knew that the LORD held His lot (Psalm 16:5), as He prayed from the cross, “Father, into Your hands I commit My Spirit” (Luke 23:46).


This is how Jesus received the beautiful inheritance (Psalm 16:6) that He longed for, that countless catch of fish, the souls of all the faithful drawn into the net of the Church to be His own for eternity. Through His suffering and death He was sustained by the knowledge of the intimate love of the eternal Father for the only-begotten Son, confidently declaring, “You will not abandon My soul to Sheol, or let Your holy one see corruption” (Psalm 16:10). He was the first to tread the path from death to eternal life and now and forever knows the fullness of joy seated at the right hand of the Father (Psalm 16:11).


The One who took upon our humanity and our sin, died upon the cross and yet His body did not experience any decay in the grave over the three days it was there. He is the only one to die who could have prayed that particular phrase for Himself. He is the only Holy One, the only one whose body did not see corruption in death. For His human body was united to the holy immortality of the godhead. Even in death, death had no power over it. In death, death was defeated by it. And now, by our union with Him death will have to give up its hold on our bodies too.


As St. Paul wrote in the great chapter on the resurrection of the dead, and as we often hear at the graveside, “Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’” (1 Corinthians 15:51-54).


In the mystery of our union with Christ, our prayer will be answered. Our mortal bodies will not be abandoned to Sheol. They will rise immortal, imperishable, incorruptible, at the last trumpet call of God, and we will know the fullness of joy in the presence of God forevermore.


For Peter and the disciples called to be fishers of men; for people called to service in the church (vicars, candidates, deacons, professors, and all veteran fisherman called to cast the nets in new stretches of the sea), the promises that we have in our union with Christ preserve us for service and promise to all the baptized the fullness of joy following Jesus on the path of life.

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