04 - Deep Calls to Deep, Sept 27, 2009

II Corinthians 6:1-10

Luke 5:1-11

St Paul quotes from the prophet, Isaiah, when he says in his epistle to the Corinthians this morning: In an acceptable time I have heard you, and in the day of salvation I have helped you.[1] This takes us to Isaiah 49. Here, Isaiah is speaking of the Lord coming to Zion as to the mother of His children, the Israelites, who have forsaken God their father and Zion, their mother. With their mouths, the Israelites swear by the name of the Lord, but in their hearts, they willfully give themselves to other gods, and so they are taken prisoners by foreigners and made exiles in a foreign land.[2] Even so, God prophesies through his prophet, Isaiah that at an acceptable time (i.e. when the season is right; e.g., when it is the season for apples), He will come and make Zion, who has become barren, the mother of many children, even of the Gentiles (He will come and pick apples). Having called to mind this prophecy of Isaiah, St Paul then says: Behold, that acceptable time is now (e.g.; it is now the season for picking apples; the fruit growing on the tree of salvation is ripe and ready for picking). The day of that salvation prophesied by Isaiah is now. He is referring of course, to the coming of Jesus Christ. He is the one of whom Isaiah speaks when he says: “The Lord hath called me from the womb; even though Israel does not come, even so I shall be glorious in the eyes of the Lord, and my God shall be my strength.”[3] The faithful Christian reads this prophecy of Isaiah and thinks of the Lord Jesus Christ voluntarily ascending the Cross to draw all men to Himself, even as His own people reject Him, His own disciples and followers flee and forsake Him, even betraying Him; even denying Him three times.

It is significant also to understand that Israel forsakes the Lord willfully. We read in Isaiah: “This people draws near to me with their mouth, and with their lips do honor me, but their heart is removed far from me.” Of the heart, Jeremiah says – according to the Greek translation of the LXX: “The heart of man is deep (baqoV) beyond all things.” But in the Hebrew, this same passage from Jeremiah reads: “The heart of man is deceitful beyond all things.” The LXX and the Hebrew taken together tell us that the deceit of man is so deep because it originates in his heart where his conscious will originates. On this point, also, Isaiah speaks: “Woe to those who seek to hide their will deep, deep from the Lord, whose deeds are in the dark and who say: “Who sees us? Who knows us?’”[4]

These passages from the prophets illumine this morning’s Gospel; for the word they are using for deep to speak of the heart or the will or the mind of man, or even of God (rather than the other word for deep, abyss), is the same word used by Jesus when He says to Simon Peter: “Go forth into the deep (baqoV) and cast your net for a catch.”[5] So when Jesus says to Peter, “Go forth into the deep,” the spiritual meaning is suggested, “Go forth into the depths of your heart and make a catch of your conscious  will where you choose whom you will serve: God or the  world.” Given this meaning, it suddenly becomes easy to understand why, after the great catch of fish, Simon Peter falls to his knees before Jesus in terror and cries out: “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” He descended into his heart, following the “words”, the “command”, of the Savior, and he saw the depths of his sinfulness, his deceitfulness as Jeremiah describes it. He sees it clearly because he sees also in the deep of his heart that he is standing before the Lord of glory in whose heavenly Light the deceitfulness that covers his heart like a thick cloud of darkness is made vividly manifest. This, I submit, is the foundational experience of those who have encountered Christ and fallen in love with Him, and who in that deep love, leave everything to follow Christ. This takes us back to the “day of salvation that is now here,” that we read this morning from St Paul’s letter to the Corinthians.

This last week, we celebrated the Feast of the conception of St JnBapt. Reading St Luke’s Gospel of JnBapt’s conception, I was struck by the care that the writers of the Gospel take to note the political rulers that were in place at the birth not only of St JnBapt but also of Christ. Scholars will tell us that this is done to locate the time when they were born. But it struck me that there is another reason.

Of JnBapt, the Archangel Gabriel says to Zacharias that he will go forth before the Lord God in the spirit and in the power of Elijah the prophet. Now, Elijah is the prophet who would come again to announce the Messiah. But Elijah also stood up to the King of Israel, Ahab, because he turned Israel away  from God and toward idols; and in confronting Ahab, Elijah incurred the wrath also of the king’s wife, Jezebel.

It struck me that the Gospels note who was the king when JnBapt and Christ were born because the kings and rulers represent the world and the choice mankind has made deep in his heart that JnBapt and the Christ came to expose and to confront. That choice, of course, was made by Adam and Eve in the beginning, so that Isaiah’s words can be applied not only to Israel but to all mankind: “From the beginning I declared it to thee, before it came to pass I showed it to thee, [but you turned to idols]. From that day your ear was not opened. You heard it not. You knew it not. For, I knew that you would deal very treacherously, and were called a transgressor from the womb.”[6] 

I hear Isaiah saying that mankind has made his choice. The rulers and leaders of the world, political, philosophical, and religious – in short, all the powers and institutions of the world – have rejected God in the deep of the heart from the beginning. Mankind has chosen death and darkness instead of life and light; and when the Light came, Christ Jesus, the Lord of glory, the world murdered Him according to its perverted justice.

The world has chosen to lust after the power of Caesar. And so the world, in effect, has come to an end. It is passing away and everything associated with the world, its political, social, religious, intellectual, scientific, cultural institutions and mores are passing away with it. Man’s obsession with political ideology, scientific knowledge, historical and philosophical theories, cultural diversity (or homogeneity) is empty and futile. It is to chase after worldly things that have no substance, shadows and dreams that vanish and that will all dissolve away into the dark nothingness of the abyss.

Christ came into the world, knowing it would reject Him, choosing death instead of life, in order to call to Himself all those who would desire in the deeps of their heart to love God, and to escape the wrath of God that is to come by uniting themselves to Christ in the likeness of His death – this is your Holy Baptism – in order to pass over with Him through the world’s end and dissolution out onto the other side into the Resurrection. The net of the apostles’ preaching that they have cast out into the sea of this life is this Good News that goes forth into the depths, the heart of man, where we make our choice of whom we will serve, whom we will follow. It is the Gospel, the Good News that God has thrown a net out to those who wish to escape the end of the world that began when the rulers of this world crucified the Lord of glory. That net is the Cross of Christ. Caught fast in the net of the cross when we choose to follow after Christ in the depths of our heart, we are taken up into Christ’s death and out of this world that is passing away. And, we are taken up with all the saints into the width and length, the height and depth (baqoV) of the love of Christ. This is the Cross of Christ that is the perfect, concrete manifestation of the love of God that exceeds all knowledge.[7] United to Christ in a death like His, we escape the wrath of God that is to come on this world that has rejected God in the depths of its heart, and we pass through the waters of death not alone in the darkness but in Christ in the Light of His Holy Spirit, and by His Holy Spirit, we are raised up in Christ as children of Zion, born of God from above, living and walking in the Spirit of Christ. Beloved faithful, the day of salvation is here. The Word of God calls to the depths of our heart from the unsearchable depths of God’s great love through the preaching and teaching of the Church. Receive it, embrace it in the deeps of your heart and let the net of the Cross draw us out of the sea of this world that is passing away and onto the shore of His heavenly Kingdom. Amen.

[1] Isa 49:8

[2] Isa 48:1

[3] Isa 49:1 & 5

[4] Isa 29:15

[5] Cf Eze 7:24: “That which is, is very deep. Who can find it?” – which confirms that being is personal, not impersonal. It is personal communion because being is rooted in the heart which is rooted in the Personal God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

[6] Isa 48:5-8

[7] Eph 3:18-19