Sermon for THE 5TH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY, July 20, 2014
Vicar Zachary Marklevitz


Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, 


Is Jesus present? Is He here? Many of our beloved brothers and sisters in Christ would examine this question with follow-up questions. They would look for signs in a local church and ask, “Is the pastor charismatic? Will this local church bring people in? Do people leave here perceived as ‘better’ Christians than before they came in?” These same people, asking these investigative questions, would believe that if you are able to find outward signs which are commonly understood for being a vibrant and healthy church – then you are able to locate the presence of God. But are these truly good, right, and salutary questions to ask? Or do these questions drown out the very presence of God?


In the Old Testament reading, the Lord says to Elijah, “Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.” Suddenly, a strong wind passed by, so strong that rocks were split apart; yet God was not in the wind. Afterwards, a violent earthquake shook the ground, yet God was not in the earthquake. Then a great fire appeared, yet God was not in the fire. Finally, when all

Sermon for THE 5TH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY, July 20, 2014
Vicar Zachary Marklevitz


Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, 


Is Jesus present? Is He here? Many of our beloved brothers and sisters in Christ would examine this question with follow-up questions. They would look for signs in a local church and ask, “Is the pastor charismatic? Will this local church bring people in? Do people leave here perceived as ‘better’ Christians than before they came in?” These same people, asking these investigative questions, would believe that if you are able to find outward signs which are commonly understood for being a vibrant and healthy church – then you are able to locate the presence of God. But are these truly good, right, and salutary questions to ask? Or do these questions drown out the very presence of God?


In the Old Testament reading, the Lord says to Elijah, “Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.” Suddenly, a strong wind passed by, so strong that rocks were split apart; yet God was not in the wind. Afterwards, a violent earthquake shook the ground, yet God was not in the earthquake. Then a great fire appeared, yet God was not in the fire. Finally, when all these had passed, God came to Elijah, in the sound of a low whisper. Elijah recognized the presence of God, not in a strong wind, or a violent earthquake, or a great fire, but in the sound of a low whisper.


The wind, earthquake, and fire are wonderful signs of God’s power, but these signs did not contain God’s presence. Signs do not equal presence. Peter understood this distinction when Jesus instructs him to cast his empty net into the sea. Peter insists that Jesus’ request is in vain because he and his fellow fishermen have been fishing all night, and took nothing. Yet, when Peter dropped the net at Jesus’ command, they enclosed a large number of fish, so much so, their nets were breaking. At that moment, Peter feared the presence of Jesus. He turned to him and said, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” Peter did not fear the sign that Jesus gave, which were the many fish overwhelming their nets, but he feared the very power and holiness of Jesus’ presence.


Jesus responds, not accompanied with hosts of angels and sounds of trumpets – but with the sound of a low whisper, “Do not be afraid.” Peter, after witnessing this great miracle, feared Jesus’ presence – For Peter feared that his sin left him unworthy to be in Jesus’ presence. In a way, Peter is right, yet God’s mercy is a low whisper. It is natural to respond to the sound of God’s low whisper as Peter had, in fact, it is our natural response. It is natural because our nature seeks rebellion to God’s command. Our flesh yells over the low whisper of God. When God whispers, we yell as Peter had, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man!” When God whispers, we give up, as Elijah had. When God whispers, we leave, as Elisha had. When God whispers, we become blind, as Paul had become.


Yet, despite our yells, God does not depart from us, but comforts us in his low whisper, “Do not be afraid.” God did not depart from the yells of the prophets and apostles, but used these men to drop the net of grace to the world. On the day of Jesus’ miracle, where Peter’s nets were overwhelmed with fish, Peter was delivered his daily bread. However, for Peter, this was too much because he knew his sin. He needed more than Jesus’ gracious gift of daily bread to live, he needed Jesus’ forgiveness. 

Peter received forgiveness. Yet the net of forgiveness extends beyond Peter. For Christ used Peter’s confession and the apostle’s confession of Christ to establish His Church. By giving the Keys of Heaven, the net of Forgiveness for sin has been lowered to You and me. The Keys of Heaven include baptism, in which we are secured in the net of God’s unconditional love. At baptism we hear the low whisper of One, Triune God, claiming us into His family. At the Lord’s Table, we are secured in the net of God’s unconditional mercy. As Christ sets the table, we hear Him as the Host, whispering, “Take, eat, this is my body, which is given to you. Drink, this is my blood, shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.” It is here we are delivered the bread for this day and the days to come.

Christ did not establish His Church with visible signs that people might seek, such as charismatic preachers, or egocentric Bible studies. Instead, the visible sign that Christ is present in His Church is the preaching of Christ crucified! For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles.  


Elijah, Elisha, Peter and Paul, were set apart by God to tell the world of grace. He called them as prophets and apostles to preach a God that humbled himself in this world, to die for your sin. Those men He calls as pastors today, He sends with the same message – Christ crucified! For Jesus hung on the cross and caught your sin in the net of His mercy. Yet, the whisper of Christ dying on the cross was drowned out by the yells that were seeking for great signs: “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe him.” Instead, Christ, the power of God and the wisdom of God, stayed up on the cross for the world to see the greatest sign of all; Divine forgiveness for you.


As our culture yells today, the sound of God’s low whisper is drowned out by those seeking their own signs. They say, “If God is here, then you will speak in tongues! If God is here, then you will be blessed with the easy-life and the world will not be in opposition to you. If God is here, then you feel his presence like a strong wind, or a violent earthquake, or a great fire.” Instead, preachers like Peter and Paul come preaching the crucified Christ, forgiveness of sins, and means of grace.


Eventually, when the yelling passes by, and we are left hearing a sound of a low whisper…So brothers and sisters in Christ, I ask again, is Jesus present here? Yes. We gather for Divine Service, we receive the gifts that Christ gives us. As Peter knew he could not live without Divine forgiveness, we too, obtain heavenly life by God’s gracious gift. As you heard on your day of Baptism, you also hear today, the low whisper of Christ saying, “Do not be afraid, you are forgiven.”

Luther Memorial Chapel & University Student Center | 3833 N Maryland Ave | Shorewood, WI  53211
(414) 332-5732 |lmcusc@lmcusc.org

Divine Service: Sundays - 9:00a Mondays - 7:00p Bible Study & Sunday School: Sundays - 10:45a