Fifth Sunday after Trinity
“To Declare Independence”
Rev. Jacob Sutton, Pastor
St. Luke 5.1-11
04 July 2021
+ In the Name of Jesus +
Today, our nation observes the two hundred and forty-fourth anniversary of Independence Day – when the fathers of our nation stood up to King George and his parliament, issuing the Declaration of Independence. Sadly this seems like forgotten history to all too many!
For our culture has taken freedom from tyranny and the freedom to self-govern and have turned these into the right to have freedom from the rule of law, to have freedom from basic decency and morality. To top it off, many are willing to impose their wickedness upon others with a new tyranny – the “cancel culture” so many endure for being on the other side of the “woke” group-think. We should think of the Christian cake baker Jack Philips, in Colorado, who now is being hauled before the courts a second time for saying “no” to the homosexual agenda of trying to force him to design and make a cake approving of homosexual behavior. The Supreme Court refused this week to hear the case of a florist in Washington state who is similarly being persecuted for her Christian faith.
Many Americans – and let us say, every sinful heart no matter what country one lives in – but we live in this nation – believe or are tempted to believe that they have the freedom to do as they please, when they please, no matter what the consequences are to themselves or to those around them. Many believe they have the freedom to choose to end the life of the unborn child at their whim or for their convenience. Many believe they are free to take liberties with marriage, engaging in all manner of sexual immorality outside of the bounds of marriage as God has instituted it. Many believe they are free to snub their nose to God and His Word in so many ways. The command of Jesus to Peter, “Go out into the deep and let down the nets” would today be met with something like this: “You’re just a crazy, biased, religious zealot, Jesus, and your word about fishing has no standing here.”
Many take their civil liberties in this country to mean that they are free to do as they please, and never mind the consequences. But it’s not just “them” out there beyond these walls who are in bondage to this. You and I are so easily deceived into this sort of thinking – that living in this country, in our democratic republic, equates to a freedom from morality, decency, and a freedom from accountability and responsibility to the neighbor and the greater community around us, which is to assert freedom from God’s holy Word.
The irony is that this so called “freedom” is no freedom at all. It is a tyranny of its own. It is the slavery to sin, it is slavery to the power of the devil. It is slavery to death and the grave, a grim submission to the voice of Satan that first slithered out to our first parents in the Garden of Eden.
True liberty, true freedom is a gift and inheritance from the living God who created this world. Our first parents had the joy of living in this true liberty and freedom in the Garden of Eden, living under the benevolence of God’s gracious love and protection. This meant submitting to His Word, perfectly accepting His will for life, which was to exercise dominion over the earth and its creatures, to be fruitful and multiply and so receive from God the gift of children. They lived in perfect fellowship with God in His presence.
But another voice spoke to our first parents, it said, cross that boundary God had set between knowing only His good will, and knowing evil. It promised freedom from God while deceiving them into the bondage of sin and death. And that fatal and rebel will to declare our independence and to refuse to submit to God’s Word has been inherited from that moment on, and resides in you and in me to this day in the sinful flesh that even now clings to us and holds us back in sin and shame.
And so, here we are today, toiling with Simon, James, and John, all through the night of sin and death, out on the sea of time in the boat of life, hoping and praying for the best from God with every cast of the net. Here we are with Elisha plowing behind the oxen those thorn infested cursed fields, praying for daily bread to rise up.
How does one declare independence from sin and the devil? How, when all we see is the night of death and decay all around us? How, when we see the nets only come up empty all of the time? How do you forsake the world’s ways, find lasting freedom from sin, when the way of sin and this world is the super-majority viewpoint? When it seems everyone has thrown down God’s altars, and killed the prophets by the sword?
And how do you get rid of the bad feelings, the depressed mind, the beaten down conscience thanks to all of the times in your life when you have failed God, yourself, and your neighbors – and especially when all too often we have to live with the consequences for our failures? And to top it off, death and the grave looms for each of us. There seems to be no escape from sin’s tyranny.
If it is only you plowing, or just you out there in the boat throwing out the net, fishing according to the wisdom of this world and our flesh – there is indeed no escape. If you try to declare your own independence from the sin and shame that ails you, you will fail just as surely as Simon and the other disciples fished all night without a single catch.
There is a declaration of independence that really means something, however. It is not your declaration or your works that gets rid of the problem of sin. It is the dawn of the bright and shining Morning Star, when God invades back into our dark night with the light of His life and love. It is Elijah come to cast His mantle upon you. It is the entrance of Jesus Christ into your boat, into your life, bringing to bear His saving work on the cross. He must declare you, before His Father in heaven, free of sin’s tyranny, free of death’s hold.
When He said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch,” Jesus was simply repeating in different words what His Father had first told Him before eternity: “Go into this world and save my children.” Jesus did what this world and its evil prince considered to be foolish and weak: to save the world by dying for it on a cross, by dying the most shameful, humiliating death ever, bearing freely the punishment for your sin in your place, the Divine sacrificing Himself for the undeserving, unholy sinner.
Jesus submitted to the Word of His Father, perfectly, putting out into the deep water of this sinful, deadly world, and casting down the net of His own body and blood in order to catch you back from the clutches of Satan.
Jesus has declared your independence from Satan – “It is finished!” You are declared “not guilty” on account of Jesus’ saving act for you. He has risen from the dead, the Father has accepted this new declaration. Now, it pleases God through the folly of preaching this Good News to save those who believe.
Jesus applies this declaration of your independence from Satan to you when He calls you to be His own child through Holy Baptism, drowning your old Adam, burying you with Christ in order to share in His resurrection life. His Baptism gives you a liberty much greater than any civil liberty could ever give. He gives you a good conscience, freed from sin and death.
Simon the fisherman rightly feared God that day in the boat at the miracle catch of fish, but in a sense, it was his baptism day: “Do not be afraid,” Jesus spoke His blessing to Simon, surrounded by water, you know, “From now on you will catch men.” Jesus calmed his fears, bestowed on Simon a cleansed heart, and called him to preach. John’s Gospel records that Jesus also would give Simon a new name when He called Him to follow Him: Peter. (John 1.40-42) In your Baptism, the Holy Spirit cleanses your heart to trust in Christ, gives you a new name, His own, and purifies your lips to confess His holy name which He has placed upon you.
The real declaration of independence in the victorious and risen Jesus Christ has been declared for you. Listen to Jesus: “Do not be afraid,” even as civilized society crumbles all around us. Nothing in this world is worth clinging to, nothing worth truly being terrified about losing, and there is no one, as St. Peter reminds us in today’s Epistle, who any Christian should truly fear nor be troubled by – “Who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good?” (1 Pt. 3.13-14) Be so zealous to leave the fish, the lake, and the boats behind, to slaughter the oxen and burn the plowshares with Elisha and leave all behind. Do not look back. You have been caught alive by the preaching of the Gospel. You have Christ for you and with you, leading the way.
He has declared you free from sin and death, and united with Him you have the never-ending year of the Lord’s favor squarely ahead of you, when you will freely worship Him around His throne, knowing His love and peace in a freedom from sin and death that surpasses all we now know and understand, and will exceed all that we can ever desire.
+ In the Name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit +