NB. This is a short sermon, which I wrote on a train the day before it was preached. I went a little farther, going off script towards the end, and then had the congregation sing “Onward, Christian Soldiers.”
Sermon for Trinity V
Holy Apostles Anglican Church
Seminarian Zachary Braddock
20 July 2014
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
Do you remember when you first met Jesus Christ? For some of us, it may have been at our baptism, with Jesus known through the faith of our parents and godparents. For others, it may have been when you went to the bishop for confirmation, or when you had an experience which God used to bring you to faith. In our gospel reading this morning, Jesus gets into Simon Peter’s boat and preaches, then tells him to let his nets down and catch fish, though he has been fishing all night to no avail. Peter does what Jesus instructs, and is so overwhelmed by the amount of fish which he catches, that he kneels before Jesus in the boat and says, “Depart from me, O Lord, for I am a sinful man.” Jesus responds by telling Peter that no longer will he catch fish, but men.
Surely, Jesus does not mean that Peter will wander from the Sea of Galilee to a lonely hilltop outside Rome collecting people in nets. No, what Jesus is doing here is calling Peter to help build his church, to evangelize and spread the good news of salvation.
Because we know that the Scriptures are not addressed merely to those to whom the original documents were written, but are the Word of God Written and the record of God’s saving deed’s in history; and because the Church has consistently taught this, we know that this is not said merely to Saint Peter, but you and I as well. It is our job to be fishers of men!
If you want a fish, what do you do? You don’t sit at a table and wait for a fish to swim up and get on your plate ready for dinner. You go and get it. Now for most of us, this means going to Walmart or Pick-n-Save; but to a first-century Palestinian Jew in the backwater of the Roman Empire (and still to many people around the world today) this means going out and catching, cleaning, and cooking the fish. To draw a bit of an analogy, we who would be fishers of men and who would build the church cannot wait for people to come through our doors- We must go and get them. We must fish.
Do you remember when you first met Jesus Christ? Do you remember the joy of being a new Christian? Do you remember the joy of being at the baptism of a new baby, the wonder of witnessing someone being grafted onto the body of Christ?
Brothers and sisters, this is our calling. We cannot afford to sit idly by, hoping that the church will grow and that endowments form, and collection plates fill themselves. It is our responsibility to respond to our Lord’s calling, “Come, follow me.” We, like Saint Peter, must be fishers of men.