Fifth Sunday after Trinity.
"The kingdom of heaven is like unto a net that was cast into the sea and gathered of every kind. Which when it was full, they drew to shore and sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away." Matthew 13:47-48.
Our Saviour, who knew best the effects and characteristics of Christianity, has taken parables of trading, fields, grape vines, leaven, darkness, light, money, sheep, dough, and of all kinds of building materials, which people know well. These parables effect so much that the sorrowless do not understand much at all of His sermons, for which reason His disciples sometimes reproached Him and asked Him why He spoke to the people in parables, and did not preach God's truth straight, so that all would have understood His sermons. But He also told the disciples the reason why He preached in parables. The reason was this, that the sorrowless people did not understand anything of the effects of Christianity or the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, no matter how He would have preached the mode of Christianity. But to the disciples was given to know the mysteries of God's kingdom; therefore He explained some places to them which were still hidden from them, for the simple ones, who do not have such great power in the intellect, can certainly feel the effects of Christianity in the heart, although the understanding is not very clear.
What now pertains to this parable which is taken of catching fish, we must remind you that this net, of which the Saviour speaks in the 13th chapter of Matthew, has been cast into the sea long since and is always drawn to shore. But those fish, which the fishermen catch with that net are timid at first, as fresh water fish, which sometimes gape within the net but always find some hollow in the bottom, where they hide when the net is drawn. We cannot lament like Peter, that we have labored all night and have caught nothing. It would be a great dissatisfaction and unthankfulness if we would begin to complain that we had caught nothing, although we have not caught those big fish, which always go into that bottomless pit which is in the bottom, so we can nevertheless rejoice over that catch of fish which has been caught. Those small fish are also good fish, although some fishermen are not very satisfied when they have to go through so much trouble cleaning the small fish. There is much trouble with them, but they do not need as much salt as the large and fat fish, who do not feel the salt much. We hope that the small gold fish and small fish which have become caught in the net of the Holy Spirit must be drawn to shore and placed into vessels until that day when the Master of the net separates those decayed fish from the living fish. But the decayed fish, which have once been caught in the net of the Holy Spirit, are worthless for they do not feel the salt. What should the fishermen do with the decayed fish who do not feel the salt? Those decayed fish are thrown into the lake by the fishermen for the worms and sticklebacks for food. Lamentably, many decayed fish have come into the net, and we do not know whose fault it is that they have decayed, but that we know, that the decayed fish do not become suitable no matter how they are salted.
There are some decayed fish here which are cast by the Master and fishermen in the lake for food for worms and sticklebacks. Also those large fish which are called fresh water fish, which can stand no noise whatsoever, they cannot stand that the fishermen would speak; these fresh water fish often gape within the net. But when the net is drawn to shore, there is nothing in it, only moss and mud. They are called fresh water fish because according to the reminiscing of the old people, they are from the fresh water, that is, from the underground bottomless lake, and that is where they flee every time when they are attempted to be caught. Whoever fishes for such fish must be a sorcerer, but who now would begin to practice sorcery because of them? Let the fresh water fish go into that bottomless lake since they do not want to remain in the net of the Holy Spirit. We want to be satisfied when we have caught as many small fish as fit in the vessels. There is no longer so much salt that could be spared to salt those decayed fish, therefore the decayed fish are cast into that bottomless lake for the worms and sticklebacks, which gnaw at their bones. Some fishermen are such that they do not understand how they should catch fish. They cast the net, not on the right, but on the left side of the boat. They can labor all night and catch nothing. Some fishermen cast their net into the sea and catch only suckers, lizards, and frogs. No doubt they fish in such a bog, where tadpoles are conceived. Some fishermen stand themselves in the mud hole up to their armpits and are sloshing there. What better fish could such await than what they get, namely suckers, lizards, and frogs.
We must now finally mention that the net which is cast into the sea is the net of the Holy Ghost, which is of very stout fish line and made of the best hemp. That net is not easily broken. It soon tears off the scales from the fish. And that fish which is once truly caught in the net of the Holy Spirit cannot easily escape, except some pike, which swallow small fish; they tear themselves loose from the net and go their way. The fish do not go into the net before it becomes narrower. First when the net is cast into the sea, all kinds of fish are in the net, large and small, pike, salmon, perch, burbot, roe and other such ones. But the narrower the net becomes, the more some are in haste to escape. Some go over and gape on the outside of the net, mocking the fishermen. Some run toward the net and some get caught in it. Some wrench the net and tear it. Some press down into the mud and let the net go over their neck. Some small fish come to shore with the net. Do you see now what it means when the Saviour says, "The kingdom of heaven is like unto a net that was cast into the sea and gathered of every kind. Which when it was full, they drew to shore and sat down and gathered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away."
This net was cast into the sea before already, but then when the net was cast into the sea the first time, the fish were so proud that they did not want to stay in the net at all. They went out of the net, large and small, and began to gape on the outside of the net and show their tails to the fishermen. But now we bow our knees in the Lord Jesus' name, as Peter, because of that great draught of fish which has come, not through our wisdom, but by the Lord's power, who has gathered those fish in the net of the Holy Ghost and allowed them to be caught, and so our hope is that these fish will come to shore, will be put into vessels, will be preserved until that day when the Lord Jesus needs them. Remain therefore, inside the net, you small fish and gold fish, striped back white and red, wounded by the pike, remain in the net so that the pike will not be able to swallow you. The decayed fish, lizards, suckers, and young of the frogs will be cast away for food for sticklebacks. But for that great draught of fish which now has been caught, we must thank and praise the Lord and always pray that the great number of fish would be confined to the net. Hear, merciful Saviour, the sigh of all those who labor all night until the time the day breaks. Our Father, etc.
The Gospel: Luke 5:1-11.
We hear from today's gospel how the disciples became astonished at the great draught of fish. Peter thereby became conscious of his sins when he fell at the Saviour's feet and said, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man." He felt himself unworthy to be near the Saviour. We cannot now explain how deep this knowledge of sin was. But let us take substance for consideration from the Saviour's words, "Fear not, henceforth thou shalt catch men." Let us consider therefore, through God's grace, how Peter catches men. First: With what kind of a net does he fish? Second: What kind of fish does he catch? We know that the words of the Saviour have become fulfilled, for Peter has caught much fish. We poor and foolish fishermen are not worthy to catch anything. But if the Lord Jesus, of His great grace, would allow us to catch some small fish, we would be satisfied, for we have not been able to thank even for that which has been caught.
First: With what kind of a net does Peter fish for people? It is the net of the Holy Spirit which is made of very stout hemp cord. This net of the Holy Spirit is not made of such thin cord as Satan's net, which is as fine as a spider's web, so that a person does not feel how and when he was bound in them. But the net of the Holy Spirit is made of stout cord. It squeezes hard the heart of the fish, which has become caught in it. As you know, the heart of the fish is under the jaws, so also the hearts of those people rise under their chin, who have become caught in the net of the Holy Spirit. The fish knows well when he has become caught in the net of the Holy Spirit. But he who has become caught in Satan's net does not know that he is caught in that net; they can swim after their own will in fleshly lusts and pleasures. The net can never be seen, for it is so fine that the fish can neither see nor feel it, until he is drawn into that bottomless pit which is at the bottom of the lake. Sometimes the old man himself goes to spear some salmon, which is in the net. He first fetches fire from hell with which he kindles those dry trees and old tar stumps which he has gathered from the root stock of the world, and when the devil's fishing fire comes suddenly upon the fish which have been accustomed to swimming in the dark, then the fish become so blind that they do not understand to flee. And then the old man, the devil, stabs one blind fish after another and puts them into a kettle or else on coals to roast. The enemy is an old fisherman and also has helpers who fish with him. Although the devil's helpers have no part in the catch, when the catch of fish must be divided, but he keeps it all himself. But it comes from this, that the helpers of the enemy have no salt. If those fishermen had salt, they also could get a part of the catch of fish, but those wretches have no salt. Therefore all those fish decay, which are caught in those nets, which the foolish fishermen have woven from silk thread. They think that the fish would be caught more easily, the softer the thread is from which the net is woven, but there they become greatly deceived, for death cuts those threads of which that net is made, with which the grace thieves fish for fish. And then the enemy takes all of their catch, and the empty scraps, intestines, and scales he leaves for the fishermen. But that net with which Peter fished for men's souls for the kingdom of heaven was certainly not made of silk thread, nor spun of cotton batting, but it was of very stout hemp cord and in parts woven of wire, and very heavy to draw, so that if Peter had not had such power of the spirit and had strength, he certainly would have become weary of drawing the net of the Holy Spirit. We have just seen such fisherman who intends to cease fishing when the seine becomes little heavier to pull. And it is clear that the more fish are in the seine, the heavier the pulling of the seine becomes. But there is no other way. He who wants to take the fishes to the shore must pull with all the power the Lord has given him. And if the powers however are lacking, he must do as Peter, of whom it is told, that he made a sign to his companies so that they would come and help him. But a lazy and strengthless fisherman will cease with pulling the seine when it becomes heavy.
The first reason is this: The seine of the Holy Ghost is ten times heavier to pull than the seine of the grace-thief, which is made of silk cords. The second reason is this: Peter must sometimes work the whole night and he does not get anything. And when he finally throws his net in the fishing place according to the commandment of Jesus, then he gets fish, but then the seine becomes heavy to pull, and Peter must make a sign to other companions so that they would come and help him when the own boat begins to sink. But a lazy fisherman ceases to pull the seine when he feels that the seine becomes heavy. Would such a fisherman like to get the small fishes, who does not care to pull his seine to the shore or to the boat. And where would such a fisherman get enough salt in order to prevent the fish decay. The fishes will by no means retain their freshness without salt even thougt it is written in the gospel of this day, that the disciples left all of the fishes and followed Christ.
But those fishes did surely not decay there because without any doubt the family members of the disciples got the fish ready. Who knows how it will happen in the world always. Who knows if I also must follow Christ and leave all fishes, which are fastened to the net of the Holy Ghost by the power of Jesus, to be got ready by others.
I feel sorrow if I must leave the beautiful fishes, but if I shall receive an order from above, that I must follow Christ just like Peter followed him into the residence of he highest priests, so I ask you to pray for me that I should not do as Peter did at that time when he denied that he was a disciple of Jesus, but that I should rather do as Peter did after his fall, when the Savior said: “Follow me!” And by God’s help I shall follow.
Secondly. What kind of fishes Peter will get? All fishermen have the desire to get those larger fishes, but we see from all occasions that the largest fishes are so timid that they do not stay in the seine. The enemy has angled those larger fishes and the torchlight of the devil has made them blind. They swim in the depth of the wisdom of the World so that the net of the Holy Ghost does not reach those places where the large fishes swim in the depth of the fleshly wisdom. Thus only few of the larger fishes follow the seine. It is miraculous that a large fish fastens to the net of the Holy Ghost.
Paul writes that there are neither many of the wise of the World who are invited, nor many of high rank. They were far from Christianity already then. And the lords of the World seem still to have the same mind. They regard the Christianity as sorcery and an effect of the evil spirit. Without doubt the devil has succeeded to get so great rule over them that they flee the perifery of the light just like the large fishes are used to do. Peter and other fishermen must therefore be satisfied if they get some small young fishes. Those small goldfishes, white and red, which swim near the shore and seek food there, are caught every now and then, when the net is thrown in the sea. The large fishes are in the depth, far away from the shore, far away from the beautiful shore of the eternity. They swim there in the depth of the wisdom of the World where the whale-fish dwells. That whale-fish swallowed Jona the Prophet because he did not want to practise the office of the Prophet. He did not want to advice the pagans and warn them for God’s judgements.
The same whale-fish swallows still even other larger fishes who do not want to obey the heavenly commandment. Even if the whale-fish had to throw up Jona who cried to God in the stomach of the whale-fish, the other large fishes have no hope that the large whale-fish of the World will throw up them from his mouth. The reason is, that they do not cry to God like Jona, but they try by their intellect to make a hole in the stomach of the whale-fish, and they imagine that they can escape through that hole. But there is no exit from the stomach of the whale-fish.
The pike sometimes comes to the shore, but however he does not stay in the seine, but still swallows small fishes even though he himself is in the seine. And finally, when the seine becomes cramped, the pike flees through the seine and destroys the net. Thus there is not much hope that Peter or some one else of the fishermen would get larger fishes by the net of the Holy Ghost because the large fishes are quite too far from the shore. They are in the depth of the bottomless sea, where the net of the Holy Ghost does not run at all. It is better that Peter catches the smaller fishes which remain in the seine and come to the shore. Peter got many thousand souls on one day when he began to fish them by the net of the Holy Ghost. And even if we do not get so much at same time, we indeed had to thank to God for that small catch of fish which has been caught. If the small fishes would remain in the seine untill it will be drown to the shore, then some vessels would become filled. There would be enough fishes to salt with that much salt we have. Salt has no effect to those large and fat fishes but the small young fishes and goldfishes need not so much salt before they become good.
Those fishermen who fish in the mud pond maybe get ruffs, lizards and frogs. Such fishermen have sank in the mud down till the armpits, and there they keep wading. May God be merciful even with those wretched ones who are wading there! If only they first would be able to come up from the mud pond and throw their nets in the sea. Then they could get some small fishes. But as long as they stand in the mud pond and fish there they do not get anything else but lizards and frogs. It is told that in some places people eat frogs and lizards and put them salted in the vessels. But I know and I am sure that the frogs and lizards are not acceptable to the owner of the seine who has the net of the Holy Ghost, but he wants to get good fishes, which first are got ready and washed with the water of life and properly salted with the salt of the truth, so that they would remain fresh untill the owner of the seine needs them. We know that the lare fishes need much salt before they becomes acceptable. But the small fishes do not need as much salt as the large fishes.
Remain in the seine of the Holy Ghost, you small and young fishes! Do not swim far from the shore, you small young fishes! Do not hurry further in the depth, you small goldfishes! There is the pike who has a great throat. There is the dragon who has sharp teeth. There is the whale-fish who swallows thousands of large and small fishes at a moment. Remain nearer the shore, you white and red fishes who are small, so that you would come to the shore with the seine of the Holy Ghost when it is drawn, if you would be acceptable, so that the fishermen could put you in the vessels, and properly salted be acceptable for the owner of the seine when the quests come from heaven.
It is our desire when Peter and John throw their nets to the right side of the boat, that a big capture of fishes will be got through the grace and blessing of Jesus who now is standing and waiting on the shore. On the shore of eternity he waits for the tired fishermen! Amen.
The blue text is translated by the administrator of this website (Lauri). This part has disappeared from the papers we got from old Melvin Niska 1985.