04 - Into the Deep for a Catch, Sept 27, 2020

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2 Corinthians 6.1-10

Luke 5.1-11

The LORD says to Simon, ‘Lead your boat out into the deep and loosen your nets for a catch.’ May I challenge you this morning to think more deeply than you may be accustomed to, and to think more in the images of poetry than in the dialectic of prose? I believe it is more than worth the effort.

The abyss, says the Psalmist, is the LORD’s garment that He wraps round Himself (Ps 102.6 LXX), and the deep, he says with the prophet Jeremiah, is the heart (Ps 63.6 & Jer 17.9 LXX). The deep of the heart, then, would seem to be not as deep as the abyss; yet, the abyss—we refer to it as the unfathomable abyss—is but the LORD’s outer garment.

In fact, I’m leading you back to the mind of early Syriac and Jewish Christianity and the biblical way of thinking. In this biblical mind, we see spacetime as the outer covering, let’s say the skin, of spiritual realities. The world of spacetime, then, in both its visible and invisible aspects, is a different aspect but not a separate reality from the invisible realm of spirit.

Read in this mind, the Gospel this morning, like a gate, opens to us a vision of the dread and awesome mystery of the LORD’s Incarnation. In His becoming flesh, the Son of God, who covers Himself with the unfathomable abyss as with a garment ( 102.6 LXX), wraps round Himself the deep of the human heart, and round that He wraps the outermost garment of His flesh, our flesh, thereby making Himself visible, audible, tangible, so that we can see Him with our eyes, hear Him with our ears, even touch and handle Him with our hands. And so, in His Incarnation, the eternal God makes visible in this realm of spacetime, in everything He says and does ‘out here’ in the flesh, the invisible mysteries of the spirit that are hidden in the ‘sea depths’ of the human heart.

Read in the biblical mind of early Jewish and Syriac Christianity, our Gospel this morning should shake us and awaken us to the Spirit that hides in the ordinary mundane routines of our everyday life in spacetime. It shows us that our everyday life, so ordinary that we are inclined to rush through it heedlessly so that we can get to those few moments of exhilaration that punctuate it—anniversaries, birthdays, presents under the tree, the first snow, the first signs of spring, summer weekends at the cabin—our ordinary everyday life, in fact, is the ‘land’ of this morning’s Gospel, let’s say, that merges into our inner man; not our internal organs—they are part of the outer world—but our immaterial, invisible spirit, our heart; not our heart as the muscle inside our chest that keeps us ‘alive’ so long as it’s pumping—that, too, is just part of the outer world—but the invisible heart that is our personal center, the point where we begin and end, where we are deep, beyond all things. But even the deep sea of our heart, as we read in the Psalms, itself opens, like a door (Rev 3.20), onto the depths of the unfathomable abyss of eternity; but, the unfathomable abyss of eternity is, again, but the outer garment that the LORD Jesus Christ wraps round Himself; for He is the eternal God, the only-begotten God, ‘He Who Is’ in the bosom of the Father (Jn 1.18, Ex 3.14), in whom all things were created, in whom is that eternal Life that is the Light of men (Jn 1.4). That Light is the knowledge of God the Father, whom the LORD Jesus Christ, the Father’s only-begotten Son, reveals; but, that knowledge of God is given in the interior deeps of the heart, the Bridal Chamber into which the crucified God descends when He is placed in the Tomb and becomes absolutely one with us (Heb 2.14) so that we can become one with Him as ‘partakers, communicants, of the divine nature,’ sharing in all the unfathomable riches of His own Glory and Power (2 Pt 1.3).

In this biblical vision, catch, now, the beautiful pathos of the crowds pressing upon the LORD this morning to hear, as it says, the ‘WORD of God’ as He was standing, in the flesh, along the shore of the sea. The Bible reveals Him to us as the Bridegroom of our soul. He is the Image, the Icon of the invisible God in whose Image we were made. The soul came to be in Him, not outside of Him, and in Him alone our soul finds her true rest. So, is the crowd pressing upon Him to hear ‘the word of God’ as a word or message from some gifted teacher, or are they pressing upon Him to hear His voice, like sheep drawn to the voice of the true Shepherd calling out to them? (Ps 95.7, Jn 10.27) Adam and Eve, remember, heard the sound of His voice and ran away to hide from Him. Today, the crowd hears His voice and presses toward Him like the bride of Solomon longing to hear the voice of her beloved; for, His voice is sweet, she cries, and His face is beautiful (Sg Sol 2.14).

In this biblical mind, we come to this, ‘When He rested from speaking,’ and wonder if this apparently ordinary expression, He rested, is not a veil hiding beneath it the mystery of the LORD’s Sabbath Rest in the tomb; for, the verb is the stem of ‘God rested on the Sabbath’ (Gn 2.1-4); and, the LORD’s burial in the Tomb on the Sabbath is the Sabbath Rest the LORD blessed, as Moses says, when He rested on the Seventh Day (Lenten Triodion, 656).

And, when He says to Simon [Peter], ‘Lead your boat out into the deep, and let loose your nets for a catch,’ one wonders if this gives the meaning of the angel’s word to the myrrhbearing women at the tomb of the risen LORD: ‘Tell His disciples, and Peter, He goes before you into Galilee. There, you shall see Him!’ (Mk 16.7) Is Galilee a poetic image for the deep heart of the human soul?

This morning’s Gospel, then, is Paschal. (What Gospel isn’t Paschal!) It proclaims the hidden, spiritual beauty of who we are: we are the sheep of the LORD’s pasture the Psalmist speaks of. Indeed, our soul is the Bride whom He loves; and He has come out looking for us, His lost sheep, His Bride. Emptying Himself, He has taken off His garment of the eternal abyss and wrapped round Himself the garments of our deep heart and our own flesh so that we can see Him and hear Him calling out to us from the depths, with sighs and groanings too deep for words (Rm 8.26), to lead the boat of our mind, soul and body away from the shore, away from the flesh that perishes and its desires and into the deep sea of our heart. Push off from the shore, the LORD says to Simon. Lay aside the garments of your fig leaves, your defenses, your excuses, your self-justifications. Let go the words of your own wisdom, the thoughts of your own reasonings, and in your deep heart, hear the WORD of the LORD’s command: ‘loosen your nets for a catch. Lead the boat of your mind out into the depths; go into Galilee. There you will see Me!’

And how do we know we are coming into His presence in the deep of our heart, and not into the presence of a messenger of Satan appearing to us as an angel of light? What does St Peter do this morning when his mind opens onto his heart and he suddenly sees that he is in the presence of the true and living God? He trembles with fear and cries out: ‘Depart from me, LORD, for I am a sinful man!’ What did Moses do when he came to realize that the fire burning in the bush yet leaving it unconsumed was the LORD? He passed from curiosity to fear, and hid his face (Ex 3.6). That is, when we come into the presence of the living God, we tremble with fear because the intensity of His fire burns away the masks behind which we prance around as though we were gods and we see ourselves as did Abraham: ‘I am but dust and ashes!’ or as Isaiah, ‘Woe is me, for I am a sinful man of unclean lips.’

But, now, let’s pull away for a moment from the poetry of this morning’s Gospel and turn to the fishing lines of some biblical prose in the hope of sealing our mind in an understanding of this morning’s Gospel teaching. Let’s turn to St Peter himself. Might he have had this adventure on the Sea of Genessaret in mind when he wrote in his second letter:

‘His divine power has given all things to us for eternal life and blessing [the active WORD (rhma) of His command has given to us such a great catch of fish] through knowledge of the One who called us to His own Glory and Virtue. Through Him we have been given promises most precious and splendid [the fish we caught through our obedience to His command], so that through them you might become partakers of the divine nature as you flee from the corrupting desires in this world.’

Or, how about this prosaic fishing line from St John, who along with his brother, St James, was also with St Peter, on the Sea of Genessaret:

‘Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the pride of life, is not of the Father but is of the world. The world and its lust are passing away, but he who does the will of the Father [he who leads his boat out into the sea depths of the heart and lets down the net of his mind for a catch, the riches of God] abides forever’ (1 Jn 4.15-17).

Lay aside the garments, says St Paul, of anger, wrath, meanness, blasphemy and filthy talk, fornication, envy, sexual immorality, greed; and do not be false to one another. Take off the garment of the old man with all its deeds and clothe yourselves with the new man—your heart that has been raised from the dead in Christ—that is being renewed in the knowledge of Him who created her in the image [of God]. Clothe yourselves with the great catch of fish given in the heart when you obey the LORD’s command: compassion and mercy, kindness, meekness, humility, patience and long-suffering, and above all, clothe yourselves with the Big Fish, Christ Himself, who is the love of God, for Christ Jesus is the bond of perfection, and let the peace of Christ rule your hearts’ (Col 2.8-15)

Let down your nets for a catch and let us strive to live in the LORD Jesus Christ in the deep of our heart beyond all things. Amen!