Looking forward to this coming 5th Sunday after Trinity. Some 29 years ago tomorrow, Präses Ernst-August Albers preached at the official dedication of our Afrikaans congregation in Piet Retief. He was my confirmand and ordinand, but also strong backer of this congregational outreach from our home base into the nearby town to plant a new church there. He preached on tomorrow´s marvellous gospel:
Now Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was pressing around him to hear the word of God. He saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gotten out of them and were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore. Then Jesus sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and lower your nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing! But at your word I will lower the nets.” When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets started to tear.So they motioned to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats, so that they were about to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” For Peter and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, and so were James and John, Zebedee’s sons, who were Simon’s business partners. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people!” So when they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.Luke 5,1-11
With this sermon he put us on track in this faith mission to trust solely on the gracious salvation of our Lord and God Jesus Christ procured for us on the cross of Golgotha. That is the power of God for salvation for all, who believe as we hear from tomorrow´s Epistle, which is also the sermon text:
For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and I will thwart the cleverness of the intelligent.” Where is the wise man? Where is the expert in the Mosaic law? Where is the debater of this age? Has God not made the wisdom of the world foolish? For since in the wisdom of God the world by its wisdom did not know God, God was pleased to save those who believe by the foolishness of preaching. For Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks ask for wisdom, but we preach a crucified Christ, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.But to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God.For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.1. Corinthians 1,18-25
Just like Abraham, who followed God´s gracious call to the promised land and trusted His future blessings – and became a father to all, who believe like him in Jesus Christ alone.
Now the Lord saidto Abram, “Go out from your country, your relatives, and your father’s household to the land that I will show you. Then I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you, and I will make your name great, so that you will exemplify divine blessing. I will bless those who bless you, but the one who treats you lightly I must curse, so that all the families of the earth may receive blessing through you.” So, Abram left, just as the Lord had told him to do, and Lot went with him.Genesis 12,1-4a
We, like the Psalmist are tempted to just look at what we see – and forget the divine promises.
Certainly God is good to Israel,Psalm 73,1-3.8-10.23-26
and to those whose motives are pure.
But as for me, my feet almost slipped;
my feet almost slid out from under me.
For I envied those who are proud,
as I observed the prosperity of the wicked.
(For they suffer no pain; their bodies are strong and well fed. They are immune to the trouble common to men; they do not suffer as other men do. Arrogance is their necklace, and violence covers them like clothing. Their prosperity causes them to do wrong; their thoughts are sinful.)
They mock and say evil things; they proudly threaten violence.
They speak as if they rule in heaven, and lay claim to the earth.
Therefore they have more than enough food to eat, and even suck up the water of the sea.
(They say, “How does God know what we do? Is the Most High aware of what goes on?” Take a good look. This is what the wicked are like, those who always have it so easy and get richer and richer. I concluded, “Surely in vain I have kept my motives pure and maintained a pure lifestyle. I suffer all day long, and am punished every morning.” If I had publicized these thoughts, I would have betrayed your people. When I tried to make sense of this, it was troubling to me. Then I entered the precincts of God’s temple, and understood the destiny of the wicked. Surely you put them in slippery places; you bring them down to ruin. How desolate they become in a mere moment.Terrifying judgments make their demise complete. They are like a dream after one wakes up. O Lord, when you awake you will despise them. Yes, my spirit was bitter, and my insides felt sharp pain. I was ignorant and lacked insight; I was as senseless as an animal before you.)
But I am continually with you; you hold my right hand.
You guide me by your wise advice, and then you will lead me to a position of honor.
Whom do I have in heaven but you?
On earth there is no one I desire but you.
My flesh and my heart may grow weak, but God always protects my heart and gives me stability.
Yes, look! Those far from you die; you destroy everyone who is unfaithful to you.
But as for me, God’s presence is all I need.
I have made the Sovereign Lord my shelter,
as I declare all the things you have done.
But our good Lord, encourages us: “Don´t be afraid!” and grants us the gift of faith by grace – again and again. Hallelujah, Hallelujah. So, don´t be afraid, but trust, that God´s grace is enough for You too – every day anew. Just as the Psalmist confesses: But as for me, God’s presence is all I need! And He, our good God and Lord, friend and savior has solemnly declared: “Behold, I am with You all the days of Your life. Remember: Where 2 or 3 are gathered in my name, there I am right with You.” Therefore, we can rest in peace and do, what becomes us to do in our calling as St. Paul admonishes in tomorrow´s watchword:
For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so that no one can boast. For we are his creative work, having been created in Christ Jesus for good works that God prepared beforehand so we can do them.Ephesians 2,8-10
1. Saints, see the cloud of witnesses surround us; Their lives of faith encourage and astound us. Hear how the Master praised their faith so fervent: “Well done, My servant!”
2. These saints of old received God’s commendation; They lived as pilgrim-heirs of His salvation. Through faith they conquered flame and sword and gallows, God’s name to hallow.
3. They call to us, “Your timid footsteps lengthen; Throw off sin’s weight, your halting weakness strengthen. We kept the faith, we shed our blood, were martyred; Our lives we bartered.”
4. Come, let us fix our sight on Christ who suffered, He faced the cross, His sinless life He offered; He scorned the shame, He died, our death enduring, Our hope securing.
5. Lord, give us faith to walk where You are sending, On paths unmarked, eyes blind as to their ending; Not knowing where we go, but that You lead us – With grace precede us.
6. You, Jesus, You alone deserve all glory! Our lives unfold, embraced within Your story; Past, present, future – You, the same forever -You fail us never!Stephen P. Starke 1955