- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 16, 2006

Here are excerpts from a sermon given yesterday by the Rev. Charles Camlin at Holy Trinity Church, a Reformed Episcopal Church.

In our Gospel lesson today taken from Luke 5:1-11, we have the story of Jesus being pressed in by a crowd near the Sea of Galilee. In order to preach to them, He had to employ the use of a boat, which just happened to belong to Simon Peter. As we will see in a moment, none of this happened haphazardly; Jesus had a divine appointment with Peter and his fishing partners. The focus of this story is not on Jesus’ sermon but on what happens after the sermon.

Jesus comes where Peter and his partners have their boats pulled ashore and are washing their nets after a long night of fishing. He chooses to get into Peter’s boat so that He can preach to the crowd from it.

But after his sermon, he wants to take Peter and his companions on a little fishing expedition. This is where He performs the miracle of the great catch of fish. The point of the miracle was to make Peter and the others with him “fishers of men.” I would like to draw together three lessons for the church from this passage.

First of all, Christ calls us to join Him in building His kingdom. If we look at Peter as our example, he had to recognize who was in charge. Is it not interesting that Jesus would step into the boat of which Peter is in charge and take over? Here is the apparent son of a carpenter stepping into the boat of a professional fisherman and giving orders. Peter protests that they have fished all night and have caught nothing; but ultimately, he decides to just take Jesus at His word and do it.

The related idea here is a proper response to Christ’s authority. Those who would join Him must respond with faith and obedience. Peter appears to begin by trusting that Jesus must know something; by the end of the story, he is thoroughly convinced. When he humbly obeys what Christ tells him, he finds that there is a great blessing awaiting him.

There is a second lesson here for the Church from this story. The presence of Jesus in the boat determines the success of the fishing expedition. That night before, these two boats of professional fishermen had worked their fingers to the bone and had caught nothing. But when Jesus stepped in the boat and went with them the next day, they caught so many fish that their nets and boats could barely hold them.

The same Jesus Christ who was in that boat in the Sea of Galilee is in the church today. He promised to never leave us nor forsake us. But the fishing that takes place in the boat has to be in accord with His commands. Notice that when He is in the boat, and the fishing is done in the manner which He prescribes, they catch fish. If the church will acknowledge His presence with us and fish in the manner He prescribes, we will “catch” men.

A third lesson from this story for the church today is that even though we are unworthy for the task, Christ can accomplish great things through us. When Peter saw what Christ had done in this miraculous catch of fish, his eyes are opened to see two truths.

His eyes are opened first to see who Jesus is. At the beginning of this event, when Jesus tells Peter to launch out in the boat, he responds to Christ as “Master”; but after he sees what has happened with the fish, he calls on Jesus as “Lord.” This catch of fish is so great that this seasoned fisherman appears to be convinced that he is somehow in the presence of God.

Peter also begins to see himself in a new light. He recognizes that he is a sinful man in the presence of a holy God. He said, “Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” But Jesus pronounces to Peter, “Fear not” — and then commissions him to catch men.

If we are honest with ourselves, when we realize who Jesus is and what we are, we have to acknowledge that we are unworthy of joining Him in the task of building His kingdom. But as J.I. Packer has said, “God can use dull tools. Nobody knew that better than Peter.” What is amazing is that He would use us. All of us are sinful human beings who have been rescued by Christ. In spite of our failures, Christ bids us to come and join Him in the task of building His kingdom. Not one of us is worthy of the task, but Christ can greatly use one who commits his life to Him.

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