04 - Fishers of Men, Sept 22, 2019

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2 Corinthians 1:21 – 2:4

Luke 5:1 – 11

This morning’s fishing expedition is a prophetic event, except that the WORD of the LORD that came to the OT prophets in a vision has come to Peter, James and John in the flesh. And, the vision that always happened to the OT prophets—for, the OT never says that the WORD of the LORD came; it says that He happened or came to be to the prophet—is here not a vision but an actual event in space-time. Something, obviously, very “deep” is happening—coming to be—here. For, the creation of the world came to be. And, the same WORD of the LORD by whom creation came to be Himself came to be flesh in order to “dwell among us as in His Holy Temple” (that’s what the Greek means).

So, it would seem obvious that this morning’s fishing expedition in which these fishermen become “people-catchers”—in the same way that ordinary men of the OT became prophets when the WORD of the LORD happened to them—is not really an event among countless others, but an unfolding of the event, the primordial Beginning in which creation comes to be and receives its shape and its meaning that determines how it is configured, how it is put together and how it moves. It is all the mystery of “Christ in you,” hidden from the ages and the generations, unknown even to angels, until it was revealed in the mystery of God the WORD coming to be flesh and dwelling in us as in His Holy Temple.

In such a reading, one is all the more alert to deeper meanings of words that on the surface appear quite ordinary, and to the symbolism of certain key objects and movements that are like veils covering the mystery of God’s Holy Spirit as it is moves, if you will, over the face of the deep.

Let’s pause here for a moment. There’s already a teaching here that we can “draw up” and put into the net of our understanding. Our daily lives, much like this morning’s fishing expedition, appear very ordinary on the surface. But, if we are mindful of the LORD’s presence, if we are carrying Him in our remembrance as Simon’s boat carries Him this morning, then each moment of our life can come to be a veil beneath which the LORD is present to us, just as He was with Simon in his boat. In His hidden presence, we can descend in secret with our mind into our heart like Simon Peter, James and John letting down their nets into the deep for a “great catch.” Our secret catch, then, is the FISH, IXTHUS in Greek, an ancient Christian acrostic for: Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior. Catching him silently in the deep “chamber” (Mt 6:6) of our heart, we can draw Him up to our conscious remembrance, as the great catch of fish this morning was drawn up into the boats of Simon Peter, James and John. Then, like Simon Peter, our soul begins to tremble in fear of the LORD. But, such a healing fear! For, it produces godly sorrow; it engenders the sweetness of contrition, a deep groaning for humility, for cleansing, for healing in the Christ who is Himself our “hope of glory.”

The LORD says to Simon, “Go into the deep and let down your net for a catch.” The heart is deep, beyond all things, says Jeremiah. (17:5) In the heart, we come into the “beyond” where we find—if we are on the right Path—Christ Himself, the “Hope of Glory” in whom we were made (Col 1:26-27). In our heart, that is, we come into the deep where we “came to be” in Christ, the Image of God. (Col 1:15) We come into that “inmost chamber” where we ourselves are rooted in God, but where sin and death have taken root in us. Here is where we have come to be “dead in our sins and trespasses;” and, here is where we are re-fashioned, made new, restored to our original beauty in the awful mystery of the LORD’s Holy Pascha.

This is the deep, I think, that may by symbolized by the deep of this morning’s Gospel. It is the “deep” of the “waters of death”. Simon and his companions had been toiling in those waters all night but had caught nothing, it says. Simon and his companions, sitting all night in their boat on the sea, toiling for a catch, we can say, is a symbol of the prayer of those sitting in the region and shadow of death before God the WORD came to be flesh. That is, there was no Resurrection and Life in the waters of the soul, there was no Light, no FISH, no Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior. However long and hard the righteous toiled, they were still sitting in a boat on the waters of death. Even so, they were not without hope! They toiled in the hope of faith that the Day was coming when the WORD of God Himself would deliver the righteous even from death. This brings into view now a spiritual meaning in the LORD’s command to Simon. When He says to Simon: Go into the deep and let your net down for a catch, one hears: That Day of the LORD has come to be. I have come to be here, in the flesh! Prayer now can catch eternal life.

We can play with the Greek syntax and translate what Simon Peter says to the Savior like this: “As you say: I will let my net down into the abyss (calasw), into the deep of my heart where I am dead in sins and trespasses. But, I let down my net with Thy WORD, or by means of Thy WORD.” The WORD of the LORD is life to those who keep it (Ps 119:107, Prov 19:16, Jn 5:24). But, the WORD of the LORD is Christ Himself, who by His death on the Cross has destroyed death. So, “By Thy WORD” now is taken to mean: “With you, in you, by your Cross, I will follow You—for, You are the Right Path, the Way to the Father in the Holy Spirit—and I will resolve to descend with you into my heart to catch you, the Resurrection and the Life and bring you up into my boat. With you in my soul, my mind, my body, I will navigate the “deep” of my life, my every day, my every hour, my every moment to the safety of your calm Haven!”

Now, remember that the LORD Himself had climbed into Simon’s boat, made most certainly of wood. Only when the LORD was in the boat did He command Simon Peter to go out into the deep and let down his net for a catch. The boat is the Church. The Church is the Body of Christ, which is likened in liturgical texts to the wood of the Cross. And, Christ nailed to the wood of the Cross is a symbol of His coming to be absolutely one with us in our death by His death on the Cross.

The boats of Simon, James and John now come into view as the Church, the Body of Christ, divided but not disunited in all the churches throughout the world, including St Herman’s!  Now, the deep comes into view as the waters of Holy Baptism. For, into the deep, the Mighty River of Christ has poured forth from the Gate of the Temple Ezekiel saw in his vision (the Holy Theotokos). As Ezekiel foretold, it flowed from the Virgin eastward into Galilee and beyond, pouring into the “Arabah”, the “desert”—that is, into the “Dead Sea” and into the resurrection! There were a great many fish there, says Ezekiel. And, wherever that Mighty River went, the waters of death become fresh, the fish were made to live. For, wherever Christ went throughout Galilee, the blind were made to see, the deaf to hear, the lame to walk, the dead were raised! They came to be a “new creation”, for, they were touched by the “Living Waters” of Christ’s Holy Spirit that flowed all the way into the deep of our death. (Eze 47:1-12; cf. Jn 18:1) In the living waters of Christ’s death, our death comes to be the death of our death! We come to be a “new creation”, children of God.

Such a beautiful, glorious image of the Church, the Body of Christ! Scattered as so many apostolic boats to the “ends of the universe” (Ps 19:4), wherever the Church is, there the apostles’ nets are being cast into the deep of human hearts and raising a great many “fish” from death to life. And each church, like the boat of James and John helping the boat of Simon Peter, is helping the other to bring the great catch of people into the Boat of the Church, the Body of Christ, where death has been put to death and made to become the gate of our eternal life in Christ.

And, what do you think is the net by which the apostles would become "catchers of men"? The net the Church of the apostles casts into the deep of our souls is the Cross of Christ by which God has slain death. It raises us up into the Boat and brings us to the consecrated bread and wine of Christ’s Holy and Most Precious Body and Blood that washes away the deadly poison of the serpent, restoring us to our original beauty.

How should we interpret the nets almost breaking from the great catch of fish? I’m not sure. But, I believe the experience of those who have caught the FISH in their net, Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior, might see it immediately as an image of their heart breaking for joy even from a mere glimpse of the Savior! When His Cross penetrates all the way to the heart and embraces her in the outstretched arms of the Savior, the heart is filled with such inexpressible joy and longing and love she can scarcely contain it. She feels that she is going to break—but, she doesn’t, even as the nets do not break this morning! She only comes to be enlarged in the love of God! (Isa 60:5)

Let us take up this Cross! It’s given to us in the prayers, the fasting seasons, the divine services of the Church; and, let’s climb into the apostles’ net that we may be raised up into the Boat of Christ’s Church, sailing the deep of this life to the Heavenly Kingdom!