17 Jul 2022
The Gospel. St. Luke v.1.
It came to pass, that, as the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he stood by the lake of Gennesaret, and saw two ships standing by the lake: but the fishermen were gone out of them, and were washing their nets. And he entered into one of the ships, which was Simon's, and prayed him that he would thrust out a little from the land. And he sat down, and taught the people out of the ship. Now when he had left speaking, he said unto Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught. And Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net. And when they had this done, they inclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake. And they beckoned unto their partners, which were in the other ship, that they should come and help them. And they came, and filled both the ships, so that they began to sink. 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 was astonished, and all that were with him, at the draught of the fishes which they had taken: and so was also James, and John, the sons of Zebedee, which were partners with Simon. And Jesus said unto Simon, Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men. And when they had brought their ships to land, they forsook all, and followed him.
Bishop Edwin Tompkins
Much of modern Christianity seems to be very contemporary with the current world’s values. Popular preachers often recommend religion as though it were some sort of prescription medicine designed to produce health and happiness, and even social and financial success. And if it doesn't produce these obvious rewards, at the very least, it should provide us with something called "peace of mind". Some church leaders speak as though the real end and purpose of Christianity is the improvement of social and economic conditions: making the world a better place. For many, that is the main justification of the Church.
And seemingly in line with that thought, in today's Gospel lesson, we hear the story of the miraculous catch of fish. Peter, James and John had had a discouraging night's work: "Master, we have toiled all the night and have taken nothing." But the presence of Jesus changes all that: "They enclosed a great multitude of fishes, and their net brake." So the conclusion would appear to be that our Christian belief should reward us with a long and happy life, with all the joys of prosperity, and our world should become a utopia of peace and plenty.
But consider these lessons more closely: it's a strange kind of happiness they describe, and a strange kind of prosperity they promise. "Happy are ye," says St. Peter, "if ye suffer for righteousness' sake" -- happiness in suffering. And consider the conclusion of the Gospel lesson: it appears that the miraculous draught of fishes was a teaching device: a sort of a parable in action. The point of it was not the astonishing catch of fish -- that was rather incidental. "From henceforth thou shalt catch men". And immediately convinced of the fact that there is a sure promise of something much greater for their lives, they forsook their occupation and followed Jesus.
In the end, then, these Gospel lessons turn out to be not so much in line with the current world’s standard way of thinking for the end and object of God's creative and redemptive power -- our salvation -- is somehow beyond this world. We are solemnly warned again and again not to set our affections on earthly things; and we are certainly not promised rewards of earthly happiness and prosperity. Rather we are promised tribulation. Happy are ye if ye suffer for righteousness sake."
We are bidden to pray for our daily bread, and we are urged to give thanks for all the good and useful things which bless our earthly life. But we must never forget that these things are not the final object of our prayers and thanks; our daily bread is like the daily rations of a pilgrim or a soldier: it's like the manna in the wilderness, which was just enough for each day. We are strangers and pilgrims seeking a kingdom which is not of this world.
"From henceforth, thou shalt catch men." The Church is not a world-improvement society -- rather it is dedicated to a new and heavenly life -- fishing us out of the sea of our worldliness, and bringing us safe to the Lord’s harbor. It is the calling of the apostles to be fishers of men -- and that is the calling of every church and of every Christian: to gather the harvest of the spirit, and bring it safe to that homeland which is nothing short of God himself. That is the vocation of our Church. We thank God for the Church for Good Shepherd. We thank God for our consecrated bread which is the substance of him who has fished us out of darkness into his own marvellous light.
Source: Fifth Sunday after Trinity The Rev. Canon Dr. Robert Crouse