Pastor Jeremy Husby delivers a sermon entitled “Jesus Is Anointed to Make Missionaries” based on Luke 5:1-11 at Peace Lutheran Church in Hartford, Wisconsin.
Delivered on Sunday, February 10, 2019
Did you notice the strong connection between the readings in Isaiah and Luke today? In both, God calls workers to share his Word; first Isaiah, then Peter, James, and John. In both, before the call is made, there is an impressive showing of God’s glory; for Isaiah, it was in a vision where the Temple shook and something as simple as the train of God’s robe filled the Temple and, of course, for Peter, James, and John there was this miraculous catch of fish that happened after catching nothing all night long. And, in both these readings from God’s Word, that show of God’s power elicited the same reaction from his prospective missionaries. Both Isaiah and Peter recognized that they were in the presence of God Almighty and were absolutely terrified—and then they were comforted, and then they were called.
It is actually quite interesting to note the timeline of Peter’s call into the gospel ministry. He had already been in Jesus’ company for some time. He must have witnessed some of the other miraculous signs that Jesus had been performing. He would have been a part of the crowds that had been gathering from all over to hear Jesus preach and teach. In fact, he was so enamored with Jesus that Luke records, in the chapter just before the Gospel appointed for today, that Peter had invited Jesus into his own home and, subsequently, watched as Jesus healed his mother-in-law.
Peter had been praying with Jesus. He had been meditating on the words that Jesus had been saying. He was gaining quite a bit of respect for this great teacher. So, naturally, when Jesus asked to use his boat as a pulpit to preach to the people on the seashore, he obliged. And, even when Jesus tried to tell him how to do his own job, after fishing and catching nothing all night, he submitted his pride and acumen to what the Rabbi wanted.
Prayer with Jesus and meditation on what Jesus said. That’s actually two-thirds of what Martin Luther said makes for a great theologian and missionary for God.
And, so, as the time was coming for Jesus to call Peter into his ministry, it was time to initiate that important third aspect. Prayer, meditation, and, in German, Luther called it Anfechtung. In Latin it’s called tentatio. In English? Well, there’s not really a word for word translation, but it is often described as an agonizing internal struggle—you know, like the kind when you find yourself face to face with the Almighty God who created you and, if he so wished, could destroy you.
You don’t have to read a biography about Luther to understand why he emphasized that last part, do you? Haven’t you experienced the same to be true? Don’t you find out the most about your God and your faith when you are going through or have gone through an agonizing internal struggle?
Or, maybe it’s easier to look at it in comparison. You just got a promotion at work. Your marriage couldn’t be stronger. Your kid just won another award and you just finished your basement renovation. Sure, you may recognize the guiding hand of your God behind it all and be thankful for his blessings, but which one causes you to spend all day talking to your God? Which one forces you to your knees, recognizing your helplessness, completely dependent on him?
That’s not to say that God’s physical blessings in your life are bad or that they somehow would disqualify you from being one of his workers here on earth. But, as it was for Isaiah and for Peter, it is important for you to recognize and remember exactly who God is, who you are, and what he has done for you before you seek to share that truth with others.
Your own personal Anfechtung and tentatio may differ from those around you. For some it is sickness, disease, or the separation of death. For others it is persecutions that come for being a Christian. Still others experience it when the Devil continually reminds them of that one scientific fact that doesn’t seem to jive with what the Bible says, when a Christian doesn’t act very Christian-like toward them, when, for what seems like no reason at all, a wife turns her attention to another man, or when all that life is throwing at them just becomes too much to handle.
It is in those moments when Christians, who have spent time in prayer with Jesus, who have meditated on the words that he has said, seek to find strength outside themselves because they recognize they cannot do it on their own. They realize, like Isaiah, that they are ruined in the presence of God and, like Peter, that their sin causes them to be unworthy of his care and concern.
There in the depth of despair, helpless and hopeless, in an existential and anxious awareness of your own failings and faultiness, is when you can finally search for, and find, true hope and assurance outside of yourself.
Don’t be afraid. That’s what Jesus said to Peter and that’s what he says to comfort you as well. Yes, the consequences of sin surround you in this world and they are difficult and painful and cause agonizing internal struggles. But none of them, no matter how powerful, can overpower Jesus and his work done for you or take you away from the love that he has for you. In fact, in his love for you, he often uses those terrible times in your life as opportunities to draw you closer to himself.
When you are sick, he sends you to pray and meditate more on his Word, where he tells you I know the plans I have for you…plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
When you are afraid, he sends you to pray and meditate more on his Word, where he tells you fear not, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, and uphold you with my righteous right hand.
When you are overwhelmed, he tells you to Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.
When you sit your 7-year old on her pretty pink ballerina bedspread, hold her tiny hands inside your own, and tell her that her mother is dead, he speaks and says I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.
He overcomes your anfechtung and tentatio with the only thing that will work; the only thing more powerful than them all: himself. He gives you all that he is and all that he has done for you—from his perfect life lived in your place and sacrificial death to pay the price for your sins to his ability and promise to work all things for you and for your good; to fulfill for you each and every one of your needs.
He has cleansed you. He has made you worthy in the eyes of your God. He has given you the strength to endure anything that this world might throw at you and now—after prayer, meditation, and an agonizing internal struggle, he calls you to share that cleansing, that worthiness, and that strength with everyone that you may meet.
Yes, God has made missionaries to share that good news with people in far off lands who do not yet know it, but even here in Hartford, among your co-workers and in your own circle of family and friends, God has called you to be his theologians and missionaries. The fields are ripe—go harvesting. Even if you have been working to catch your fish all night, drop down your nets again. Amen.