First Sunday of Luke

Sunday, September 25, 2016 Luke 5.1-11

A sermon of Fr. Alexander Rentel

“ So it was, as the multitude pressed about Him to hear the word of God, that He stood by the Lake of Gennesaret, and saw two boats standing by the lake; but the fishermen had gone from them and were washing their nets.Then He got into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, and asked him to put out a little from the land. And He sat down and taught the multitudes from the boat.

When He had stopped speaking, He said to Simon, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”

But Simon answered and said to Him, “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net.” And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their net was breaking. So 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. 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 which they had taken; 10 and so also were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men.” So when they had brought their boats to land, they forsook all and followed Him.”  Luke 5.1-11

The God of Heaven in the Wilderness (Ex 24.15-25.22).

Upon a high mountain, the great prophet Moses entered the dark cloud and went into the silence of mystical contemplation. For forty days he heard things that cannot be spoken and saw things that cannot be described. When he left that mountain, he commanded the people of Israel to do what had been given to him on that mountain by God. His face shone brightly from talking with God himself, he gave the people the law and also the specific order for their worship of the God who had revealed himself to them on that high mountain, in the midst of the cloud. God told Moses, “make an ark of wood, here are the dimensions, overlay it with gold, put holes in it so that it can be carried with poles. Make two  cherubim out of gold, one there and one there, with their wings outspread.” And there, God said, “there, I will make a mercy seat, seated upon which, is where I will meet with you, where I will speak with you.”

The God of Heaven in the Temple (Is 6.1-10).

In the year that the king of Judah died, King Uzziah, eight centuries before the birth of the Christ, Isaiah, great amongst the prophets, stood in the temple and beheld the glory of the Lord. Isaiah saw the Lord himself sitting enthroned and his glory filling the wide expanse of the temple. Not cherubim here, but seraphim; here they are made not of gold, and are alive and crying “Holy, holy, holy,” one to another. From this temple also goes the word of God to his people, challenging them, “hear and hear, but do not understand; see and see, but do not perceive.” Hear and see the Lord God of heaven and earth, revealing himself seated upon his throne.

The God of Heaven along the River (Ez 1.1-3.21).

“In the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, on the fifth day of that month,” Exekiel, not the least among the prophets, stood astride the banks of the river Chebar in the land of the Chaldeans and looked and beheld the appearance of the glory of the Lord, sitting upon a chariot, led on by four fantastic beasts, with four faces, wings gleaming like bronze, shining like flashes of lightning.  As their wings beat and as the chariot moved, a sound of many waters was heard, the thunder of the Almighty. Ezekiel, like Moses and Isaiah, immediately became aware that he was unworthy and fell on his face before the Lord. Again, like Moses, like Isaiah, Ezekiel was given the Spirit of God to speak to the people of Israel, “Thus says the Lord God, end your rebellion, turn away from death and come to life.”

The God of Heaven at the Lake at Gennesaret (Lk 5.1-11).

At the northern tip of Palestine, as we have heard from our deacon today, in a dusty, dry, and impoverished area, along the banks of the lake of Gennesaret, this same Lord reveals himself again to a people desirous of hearing the “word of God.” Here again, he resumes the posture typical of revelation, seated, though in a working fishing boat, where they were cleaning their nets, but not on a high mountain, or in the temple, or only to the prophet in exile, but to people pressing about him clamoring for the word. Where these people are working, where they are living, the Lord reveals himself, he meets them, and he speaks to them directly, teaching them of the ineffable mysteries. Here there are no cherubim and seraphim visible, but a great catch of fish loudly proclaiming the holiness and the glory of God present on a boat in this lake. The witnesses to this revelation are many and their record is neither scroll, nor parchment, nor paper, but the living apostolic witness of Simon Peter and James and John, sons of Zebedee, into whose nets we too are caught in fulfillment this day of the oracle spoken that was spoken on that day.

The God of Heaven is with Us.

This manifestation found in the gospel today, this theophany, above all tells us who Jesus is. It is he whom Moses met on the mountain in the dark cloud. It is he whom Isaiah saw enthroned in the temple. It is he who came to Ezekiel along the banks of the river Chedar. It is he, the one who teaches the people while seated on a boat. In Christ, however, God has turned everything upside down so as to fulfill his promise that he made to Isaiah that “God is with us (Is 7.14).” The place again of this theophany is quotidian, it is in the midst of day-to-day work. No doubt fisherman doing their work, fishing, cleaning their nets, were not involved in the lofty and sublime, but in the hard work of scratching out a living, in the hot sun, the sweat of effort, aching bones, and sore muscles. Where they worked, no dark cloud descended, no mystical vision appeared, only the Word of God himself, who appeared directly to them and the people pressing about him. Jesus Christ, the Gospel tells us, is God with us.

Such a Manifestation.

Such a revelation proclaims for us too that God is with us, and that Jesus Christ manifests, reveals himself, teaches us, speaks to us, meets us in our day-to-day lives. The place of this revelation is not only sacred ground, but throughout all our lives: in the work, in the effort, in the hardness, in the difficulties. Any perceived wall that would separate one place, one way of being with the way we live the rest of our lives, the sacred and the profane – God is here, but not there – simply does not exist. God is with us when we pray in the Church at services, but also in our homes, in our work, in our leisure. That this is true should provide us comfort and consolation: we are not alone. Jesus Christ, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, remains with us, in good and bad, in happiness and in sorrow, when we are sick or healthy, rich or poor. It should also challenge us, because this same Christ, by the same grace, remains with us in righteousness and in our sins, when we “do good,” and we do evil. By this we do not profane God, but rather God comes to us to make all our lives holy through his presence.

Love.

Throughout all the theophanies I have recounted today, those that I have connected with the Gospel today, one theme stands out above all others: it is that God at every point reaches out to us. He makes himself known to those whom he has created, to meet them, to speak to them, to challenge them, to teach them and us. He does this out of the love and goodness that desires that all of us, those to whom the original message came, and we who receive this word today, come and be with him, now and in the world to come. Amen.

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