Second Sunday after Trinity
Psalms 10 & 11: Judges 7: 1 – 23 and Luke 5: 1 – 11
O Lord, you will hear the desire of the meek; you will strengthen their heart, you will incline your ear to do justice for the orphan and the oppressed, so that those from earth may strike terror no more. Psalm 10: 17 and 18
Then the Lord said to Gideon, ‘With the three hundred I will deliver you, and give you the Midianites into your hand. Judges 7: 7a
Then Jesus said to Simon, ‘Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people’. When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him. Luke 5: 10b and 11
O Lord, who never failest to help and govern them whom thou dost bring up in thy steadfast fear and love: Keep us, we beseech thee, under the protection of thy good providence, and make us to have a perpetual fear and love of thy holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. Collect for the Second Sunday after Trinity
You may have noticed today’s theme as you read the passages of scripture. The topic is of being chosen and ready to serve, despite feelings of inadequacy.
Last week we noted that in Deborah’s time the land had rest from invasion and oppression for forty years. After that period of peace, Israel displeased God and the Midianites were allowed to rule over them, with help from marauding Amalekites. People fled to live in caves and the mountains and could not sow seed or tend their flocks, resulting in impoverishment. If you read Judges chapter six you will see how an angel eventually appeared to a man named Gideon. He was a mighty warrior, reduced to surreptitiously beating out wheat in a winepress to hide it from the Midianites. Gideon’s response to the command from God to lead the forces of Israel was lukewarm at best; he was from a minor family in the weakest clan of Manasseh, and he was the least even in his own family. His uncertainty lasts to the end of that chapter, where he tests God (6: 36 – 40) with a wet and then a dry fleece on two successive nights; God graciously tolerates Gideon’s uncertain faith.
Our reading in chapter seven describes how a large armed force of 22,000 was assembled. We might be surprised that this was not deemed satisfactory to God, but He said if they won it would seem as if it was by might of their own substantial army rather than by His power. Gideon was commanded to weed out the fearful and trembling, which left 10,000 troops. Still this was too many, and God instructed Gideon to whittle down the number by testing how they bent to drink water, either by kneeling and cupping their hands, or going down on all fours and lapping like a dog. Only 300 lapped like a dog and it was these that God wanted, while the other 9,700 went home. God’s plan was to use this paltry force to create a night-time surprise ‘attack’ encircling a vast enemy camp, simultaneously shattering earthenware jars concealing torches and blowing on trumpets. (Note that no offensive weapons were used.) The panic that ensued ended with the enemy fighting and killing each other and the frightened remnant fleeing for their lives. The lesson to Gideon and Israel was salutary: it was not by force of men or arms that victory was secured. Totally inadequate resources in military terms were used by God to surprise and panic the enemy; they could claim no credit – all the glory was with God.
Turning to our reading from Luke 5, we see a group of simple fishermen suddenly caught up in a throng of people who had come to hear Jesus. Their boats were idle by the shore after an unsuccessful night fishing and they were now cleaning their nets. Jesus commandeered Simon’s boat as a floating pulpit, and afterwards a miraculous catch of fish occurs against the professional knowledge of the local experts. This experience is so humbling to Simon that he asks Jesus to leave him because he realises he is a sinful man. Yet Jesus had other ideas, and called Simon, James and John to follow him.
Jesus could clearly see the potential of these down-to-earth working men and, as with God’s dealings with Gideon and the miracle of the fleeces, used the unexpected catch of fish to prepare them in humility and obedience to serve him. They were in future to catch men and women rather than fish, and it would all be in the strength of God and not their own resources.
We follow in these men’s footsteps, conscious of our own inadequacies – our lack of faith and understanding, our fears and lack of courage. God is gracious in who He chooses and we are privileged to have been called to work for God’s kingdom. We might feel few in number against great odds like Gideon, or feel we lack experience like the disciples. We pray with our Collect that God will help and govern us and give us that godly fear and love so we have confidence to go under the protection of thy good providence. Our verse from Psalm 10 also provides encouragement that God will hear the desire of the meek and He will strengthen our hearts. In this post-Pentecost season, it is a powerful reminder that it is the Holy Spirit who gives us the resources we need.
Kevin Boak, Lay Reader