Sermon delivered on Sunday, Oct. 7 based on the Gospel lesson from Luke 5:1-11
At that time Jesus was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was pressing in on Him to hear the word of God, He saw two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore. Then He 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 let down your nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if You say so, I will let down the nets.” When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats, so that they began 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 he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken; and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.” When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed Him.
“We have toiled all night and took nothing.”
This was the response of Peter when Christ tells him to cast nets again after fishing all night. Peter was an experienced fisherman, he knew what he was saying – if you didn’t catch anything all night, it’s unlikely you’ll be more successful in the morning.
“We have worked all night and took nothing,” said Peter. In other words, “We had no luck, Jesus.” But he continues, “But at Your word, I will do as You tell me.” Even if my better judgment, even if my logic tells there is no point in letting down the nets again, I will do it because You asked.
So they cast their nets again, and what happened? They caught so much fish that two boats almost sank! Did they get lucky all of a sudden?
In fear Peter fell down at Christ’s feet and said, “Please depart from me, I am a sinful man and don’t deserve this miracle.”
Why did this miracle happen in the first place? Was it because Jesus was so good and He could do it? Yes, He is that good, but if He’s going to be throwing miracles left and right, what’s the point of them?
The miracle happened because of Peter’s words, “At Your word I will do as You tell me.” Peter listened to Christ. He obeyed.
Obedience is something that has become foreign to us. It’s one of those topics that is quickly shut down, people roll their eyes, and women hide their children. We’ve become over-sensitive and allergic to this word.
We live in a free world, who needs obedience? Obedience is for the weak. We are not weak, we are strong!
But here’s the thing, we are so obedient, we are so enslaved to the many small things in our lives that we don’t even notice them.
Who likes to drink coffee in the morning? Ever tried going a few days without coffee? You get angry, irritated, can’t think straight, right? Well, that’s slavery, that’s not even obedience.
Or think about smartphones. An instrument of zombification. I’ve tried to limit my usage, I’ve tried avoiding it, but I cannot. And to think that we willing give them to our kids! You see adult zombies roaming the streets with noses in their phones, but now more and more we see kids, younger and younger, nose in the phone walking from school. Nose in the phone, hanging out with their friends outside.
I am not even talking about the content that they can access with the phone, where sexual predators and all sorts of maniacs can spy on them. Phone companies themselves are worried how hooked we are with their devices that they have created these apps for us to control our screen time, so that we won’t fry our brains out.
So, we are obedient to things, even if we are under the illusion that we are not. And, we are obedient, we are slaves to sin, to our passions, even if we are under the illusion that we are not. They could be the little things that have become normal, like cursing, gossiping, judging, or smoking. Or something more serious, like pornography and fornication, violence and murder.
Once we repeat these things often enough, we become obedient to them, they take control of us. We turn from free people we claim to be, to slaves.
From this slavery Christ came to save us, and from this slavery He continuallysaves us. Every time we are enslaved by a thing or by a passion, we abandon God. After all, Jesus did say that we can’t serve two masters – either we serve sin or we serve God, never both.
To help us in this fight against our passions, Christ has instituted things like confession in His Church. It’s when we come to reconcile with God, to recognize Him as our true Master.
When Peter obeyed Christ, and let the nets down and caught all that fish, what were the first words that came out of his mouth? “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!”
He recognized greatness in Jesus, Peter recognized divinity, he recognized God! When we come face to face with God, His holiness makes us aware of our sinfulness. In other words, it’s impossible to be in the presence of Christ and feel ok, feel good.
We call Jesus the only sinless One. If He is the only sinless One, then everyone else is sinful. To think otherwise is lunacy, and a sin.
I’ve heard people say, “Why does church want us to feel miserable? Why do the clergy insist that we are sinners and that we need repentance? Jesus was all about love, He never insisted on that.”
First of all, it’s not true. The Lord does say that He came to save sinners, not the righteous. To save those sinners who, at the very least, are aware of their sinfulness.
Second, acknowledging our sinfulness does not lead to misery, unless we are doing something very wrong. It’s like sitting in a room, while the whole house is on fire, and saying, “Well, at least this room is not on fire.”
Recognizing that we are weak and controlled by our passions, gives us awareness of what the problem is. In my short life I have not yet met a person who said that they never had problems in their life. But I have met people who claimed to have no sins, or didn’t do anything seriously bad. And they were no saints.
In fact, saints are those who seek Christ, and through this come to the same realization as Peter did in today’s reading, “I am sinful, Lord!”
Realizing our sinfulness, allows us, with the help of Christ, through His Church, to root out our sins, to confess them and repent of them, and to change our life, to shake off the dependence, the slavery to sin.
Being constantly aware of our sinfulness and unworthiness before God, does not make us miserable. In fact, it makes us lighter, it makes us joyful, it makes us free because we cast off the weight of sin.
We can’t be saved if we refuse to admit that we need salvation. We can’t be healed, if we refuse to admit that we are ill. We can’t be free, if we refuse to admit that we are enslaved to passions.
In response to Peter’s words to depart from him because he is sinful, the Lord said, “Do not be afraid.”
Do not be afraid. Christ came to save every sinner who wants to be saved. Do not be afraid to have faith. Do not be afraid to confess and let go of the passions and become free.
To Christ, our Liberator and Master, we give glory, forever and ever.
Unless otherwise specified, the articles here are posted by Father Aleksey, who has no sense of humor and is extremely straight forward.