Sermon for the Fifth Sunday after Trinity, AD 2021

Luke 5.1-11; 1 Kings 19:11-21

“The country isn’t what it used to be. Everyone has abandoned their faith in God. No one follows the truth. Everyone follows those who say evil things, and those who speak the truth are ignored or canceled. The government is completely corrupt, the worst it has ever been. Even those who worship God are lukewarm and idolatrous,” so said Elijah the prophet, adding, “I am the only true believer left, and everyone wants me dead.” How broken down and despondent the prophet Elijah was! Even Old Testament Israel, the nation founded by God, could fall into deep idolatry and sin. Elijah wishes he could do something about it, but he finally despairs.

On this July 4, perhaps some of these complaints of Elijah feel like they ring true with you. People are divided, they don’t recognize God, everything seems to be turning away from God’s word. And yet many love this country, this place God has given us to live. Many have fought for this country or have relatives who have or are currently doing so. Even if you do not think things are particularly bad right now, the question remains – how to be jealous for the Lord, like Elijah, while loving the place you live.

The Lord immediately answers Elijah’s complaint with an answer for us – get to work. The Lord is saying, in effect, “Elijah, you are a prophet. I have called you to do a job. Follow my word and do it.” He even adds to reassure Elijah, “You think you are the only one left, but I have seven thousand others who follow Me alone. I will take care of that. You do what I have called you to do.”

Often in our lives we get overwhelmed or fall into despair – maybe not even over something as big as the state of our nation, but even with our personal problems. This is often because we think we know the future. We think we can see current trends and predict what will happen. In our limited personal knowledge, we think we have the world figured out. Media plays into our pride, making us think we are informed because we read an article or heard a soundbite. Yet we do not see the whole picture. We do not know where God is working, often secretly in people’s hearts. This is why we must heed God’s voice to Elijah – “Hear My Word. Get to work.”

Such was the case with Jesus and the disciples. In our gospel lesson, Peter, Andrew, James, and John were fishermen who believed in Jesus, they had met him before. Jesus had even healed Peter’s mother-in-law from a terrible illness. While Jesus was preaching, the Word was working. Crowds were following Jesus. Massive groups of people were gathering to hear Him. Jesus had been pushed to the Sea of Gennasaret by the surrounding crowd. He saw Simon Peter’s boat and got in to get more space and preach more easily. See how everything Christ does is to get His Word to people so that all may hear and believe.

Peter, Andrew, James, and John believed Jesus, but were not disciples yet. They were still working as fishermen. After Jesus was done speaking, he set out the disciples to catch fish in the deep of the sea. Peter balked at this, “Master we toiled all night and took nothing!” Yet followed Jesus’ command, “But at your word I will let down the nets.” Following Jesus Word, they took in a catch of fish so much that their nets were breaking and they filled two boats to sinking. What powerful things can happen when we trust in God’s Word.

The disciples had gotten to work. They had worked all night on their own trying to catch fish with nothing to show for it. The night is like working in unbelief and in the doctrines of men . but the work in the day is faith and the Word of God. When Christ is absent, there is no catch, no fruitfulness in the work, but when he is present, there is a great multitudinous catch.

When we are overwhelmed by the state of the world or fall into despair we need to get to work, but not just work on our own. Like the disciples who fished all night and caught nothing, no matter how experienced or wise we think we are in our own eyes, work without Christ’s Word comes to nothing. You can see this in the man who works day and night and never takes a break or a day off. He shrugs off things like hearing the Word of God because he is too involved in his work. This is a person who thinks that his toil will make him the master of everything. He does not work trusting in God, but trusts in himself. Or there are others who get everything they can from their neighbor, by any means necessary. Whether through sin, high interest, unethical banking, cunning, or deceit, they will make sure to always get the best of every deal. Their work also will be in vain, as it goes against the Word of God.

Many people devote themselves to such vain work, trusting in themselves and disregarding the Word of God. It is this attitude that leads to the difficult and corrupt times that we live in. Yet this should not cause us to despair, for our God is great. Christ shows himself to be the Lord of heaven and the earth and the sea. Those who seek first the kingdom of God, who begin their work with God’s Word will receive blessing and contentment of body and soul.

If on this day we look to the future, to say, how do I improve this country, this city, my life – we first must repent. Repent of your despair in thinking you have the future figured out. Repent of thinking everything is in your hands. Repent of working without God’s word. Instead, turn to what the Lord teaches us. Husbands, dwell with and love your wives, honoring them as the weaker veseel. Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. Parents, do not provoke your children, but bring them up with the Word of the Lord -  take them to church, teach them the Bible, baptize them and bring them to the Sacrament. Children, obey your parents. Young people, submit yourselves to your elders. Widows, trust God and commit all to your prayers. Employers, care for your employees. Workers, do the best work for your employers as to Christ. All, love your neighbor as yourself.

Just as God said, Elijah, Go do what a prophet is supposed to do, and Jesus said to Simon, Andrew, James, and John, do what a fisherman is supposed to do – you have tasks right before you in your vocation. You have been called by God to these things. Baptized into Christ, you are more than just working, you are fulfilling the work Christ has given you, eternal works that eternally matter. It is through these simple things that a nation is changed. Let Christ be your guide, as He lived the perfect life and died for the sake of all, to take away their sins. In Christ’s resurrection, let Him be your power, knowing that He has given you a new heart by the Holy Spirit to do these things. If He can save you, if He can forgive your sins and the sins of all, surely he can bring us every bodily need.

We do not know what the future holds for the nation. Elijah did not know what the future held for his nation. The disciples didn’t know what they were getting into when they left their nets to catch men. Yet God used Elijah to call Elisha, who did great and mighty works in Israel. And even more, Christ taught the apostles, and after his death, resurrection, and ascension, sent them out to teach and baptize so that the city, nation, and whole world would hear the gospel of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins. It is for these, those who need to hear, maybe in your own family, that the Lord preserves us day by day. When we feel like everything is getting worse and the world is falling apart – run to God’s Word and get to work – for Christ has already prepared the work for you. Amen.

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