9. July 2023
When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish which they had taken… And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men.” So when they had brought their boats to land, they forsook all and followed Him.
In the holy Name of + Jesus. Amen.
Jesus preached the Word to the multitudes from Peter’s boat. Afterward, He finished preaching and confirmed His Word with a divine miracle. He told Peter to row into the deep water and let out the nets. They caught a great haul of fish, although there had not been a nibble the night before; the net tore but held the great mass of fish, and the boats began to sink yet did not sink, and both fish and men came safely on land. And now Peter and the rest are called to do the same in the world with the Word as the dragnet to gather the little fishes, you, through water and into His boat, the Church.
Is Jesus saying that we should forsake the needs of our family and livelihood and commit to church vocations, be it pastor, teacher, musician, or otherwise? Some are called to a ministry that depends on the congregation’s love for income and other needs. But not all are called to walk away from their work to pursue new careers at Jesus’s command.
Obedience to the Third Commandment and obedience to the Seventh Commandment may occur together; indeed, they should occur together. They do not contradict one another, for adherence to the Seventh Commandment cannot be fully God-pleasing unless accompanied by obedience to the Third Commandment.
In the Third Commandment, the Lord God commands us to keep the Sabbath holy; that is, we are diligently to hear His Word and not merely to hold a weekly, external Sabbath worship—but daily to keep a lasting, spiritual Sabbath within one’s heart, in the longing for the heavenly treasures, and abstention from sinful deeds. In the Seventh Commandment, the Lord God commands us not to steal; that is, we are to be content with what we have and to provide for ourselves by the work of our hands.
You see, these two commandments do not strive one against the other; for they are God-given. Therefore, obedience to one commandment goes with adherence to the other. Christians often gather together, even on workdays, to hear God’s Word and nourish themselves by it—or, rather, the Lord God nourishes them—even if it is using a miraculous fish catch. Work in your vocation does not hinder or harm godliness so long as one performs it rightly. This is why Christ constrained Peter to come on board and tend to his fisherman’s trade after He had preached from the boat. God has ordained that man should “eat his bread in the sweat of his brow” (Gen. 3:19) so that by working, our lustful flesh may be tamed and subjected to the obedience of the Spirit.
That which the Lord God Himself ordains cannot hinder piety or fear of Him. We must serve the Lord God in our vocation by true faith within our hearts, by godly reverence and love, by showing love to our neighbor, and by a patient and humble expectation of divine blessings. Interrupting our work at a special time to hear God’s Word is not the only way to serve Him, but in the middle of our work, we can lift our hearts to God and sing a hymn of praise and begin and end our work with thanksgiving. We could listen to the Congregation at Prayer or one of the many other devotional resources. For by the divine Word and prayer all our deeds are sanctified (1 Tim. 4:5). Thus, when viewed properly, obedience toward the Third and Seventh Commandments is in no way contradictory; for obedience to the Seventh Commandment is not wholly pleasing to God unless it is accompanied by obedience to the Third Commandment.
If we are to feed ourselves by the work of our hands, God’s blessing must accompany it. If God is to bless our work, we must celebrate His Sabbath both inwardly and outwardly—because breaking the Sabbath is punished by the curse. Peter first loaned Christ his boat, and then he caught the great haul of fish, even though previously he had caught none. Therefore, take care first of your soul; take Christ into the little boat of your heart; let Him teach and work in it; then your work will be blessed. The Third Commandment comes first, and then the Seventh follows. Obedience to the Third Commandment should be first to us, for then we will follow the Seventh Commandment.
But our work does not achieve faith. We pray for our daily bread; if we could accomplish this through our work, why should we humbly pray for it? If we are to receive our daily bread from God’s hand, we must also follow God’s admonition, as He says in Matthew 6:33: “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, then all these things shall be added to you.” God’s kindness is the wellspring of all blessings, even in earthly goods. Whatever is not drawn from this little spring cannot be blessed, as it says in Psalm 37:16: “A little that a righteous man has is better than the riches of many wicked.”
Why is this? With prayer and thanksgiving, the righteous man has received the little he has from God; it is blessed and sanctified. Conversely, the godless amass their temporal goods against God’s will, and consequently, they cannot be blessed or sanctified. The righteous man possesses the little he has with a good conscience, but a godless man suffers a constant, nagging conscience. Tell me, who is the richer? The righteous man who has little but has God, the greatest Treasure? He is rich in God. Or the godless man who does not have God’s grace? This is why he is poor, even though he may possess a kingdom. For what has the man who does not have God, who owns all things?
Essential is a strong faith, an inner longing for heavenly riches, a profound disregard for earthly things, and a heart that clings alone to God as the greatest possession and treasure; as Asaph says In Psalm 73:25, ”Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You. My flesh and my heart fail; But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”
Jesus calls you to receive with your hearts His saving Word and the means to which He has attached that Word of forgiveness. He has preached His Word to restore you to faith, to bring you through the water of your Baptism into the holy Ark of the Christian Church, to be nurtured, restored, and saved. He may call you into more specific church vocations, or He may give you to labor in the factory, on the farm, or for the home. Regardless, remain in Jesus and His Word and everything else will follow according to His gracious will. Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guards your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amen.
Rev. Christopher R. Gillespie
St. John Ev. Lutheran Church & School – Sherman Center
Random Lake, Wisconsin