In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
What a bunch of hooey. That's all those who are perishing think when they hear the Word of the Cross - the message about Christ our Lord triumphantly owning yours and this world's sin and bearing it to death on Calvary so that He might give you and all the world the gift of forgiveness and bestow upon all who trust Him a life that never ends, resurrection, immortality, adoption as children of God, and a place in the Father's house forever. They can't but think it's a bunch of hooey. Nonsense. You'd have to be a fool to believe that one man's death - and such an ugly death at that - could do that.
So in our Epistle, St. Paul tells us the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing. But though they make think its hooey and and a pile of nonsense, for us who are being saved (note the BEING!), it is in fact the power of God. God has His net. His net by which He gathers up His elect children and brings them home to Himself. That net never changes - it's always the Word of the Cross, the preaching of Christ crucified, the good news of what the God Man accomplished when He was carpentered up to the wood of the Cross and then smashed through the gates of death and the grave.
God's works and ways cannot BUT look strange to us - for His thoughts are not our thoughts and His ways are not our ways. And that holds not only for those who are perishing, but also for you who are being saved.
You too struggle to make sense of what He's up to.
Take old Elijah in our first reading. He'd had a glorious moment of triumph there on Mount Carmel. Remember how he had taunted the worshippers of Baal as they sought to coax their fake god to deliver fire from heaven and absolutely nothing happened in response. Remember how Elijah then called upon the living God, the God of Israel, and the fire fell from heaven and consumed the sacrifice. How all the people had fallen on their faces and confessed that the Lord, Yahweh, He is God! Remember how Elijah had prayed for the drought to end and how God sent rain in abundance and how in the strength of God he'd run before Ahab's chariot in the downpour. But then when Jezebel sends word that she's planning on killing him - that his life is now forfeit - he panics. He feels like his ministry has been for nothing. He runs away and hides and finally comes to the mount of God. And there when God asks what he's up to, what does he say? "I've tried to serve you with zeal. And it's been a waste. I'm the only faithful one left and now they want to kill me." God's ways are not our ways. Doesn't make much sense to Elijah. Doesn't make much sense to us.
God tells Elijah: I've got a lot more people than you know about. 7000 no less who have not worshipped Baal, and you're work isn't over. Off you go to anoint a new king for Syria, and a new king for Israel, and to meet the man who will be your successor in office - Elisha - whom you have to train up. You're not done. And I'm still God and still in control. Now get moving.
God's ways not our ways. His thoughts not our thoughts. And so to the Gospel reading where Israel's God, come down in human flesh and blood, born of Mary, does an absolutely crazy thing. After absconding with Peter's boat and turning it into a pulpit, when Peter and his companions had just finishing cleaning and stowing their nets after that fruitless night of toil out on the lake, Jesus tells them: Okay, lads. Let's hit the lake again. The deep over there. Let down your nets for a catch.
You can see the fishermen looking at each other. What does this landlubber rabbi know of fishing? Peter tries to explain: "Master, we toiled all night. We took nothing. Don't know where the fish are, but they're not here." Unspoken were the words: "And you've taken over our boat, and we're tired and we just want to go home and get some sleep." But the look in Jesus' eye must have shut up Peter for he finally concedes: "Nevertheless, at your word we will let down the nets." Again, I suspect he and the others were relishing the moment they could turn to Jesus and say: "See, we told you so. No fish." But you know that's not how it turned out.
And then what? Fish everywhere. Glistening, flopping. The Lord of the sea had commanded his creatures to fill the nets, to swamp them, to tear those newly mended nets under the sheer weight of the gift given. "Good things that surpass all understanding" is how we put it in the Collect today.
Peter is floored. He falls to his knees, begs the Lord of the Sea (and earth and sky and heaven) to go away: "I am a sinful man, O Lord." But the Lord had no intention of going away without him. He does something even more nutsy than telling the fishermen to drop their nets into the sea for a catch. He tells him: "From now on you'll be catching men. Don't be afraid." He decides to take a bunch of fisherfolk and use THEM to cast the Gospel net that will haul in folks for the kingdom of God! He takes Peter and Andrew, James and John, and as they follow Him He begins to put into their hands the net they will use to gather in God's elect children: the saving Gospel that they were about to witness and whose witnesses they would be from one end of the earth to the other. The Gospel that is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes it!
No, God's ways don't make a lick of sense to our fallen reason, but that's fine. He has good things for us that surpass all understanding; promises that exceed all we can desire. And He has the craziest way of forking them over to us: a message of a man nailed to a tree for our forgiveness; a message of a man risen from the dead as the guarantee of our resurrection; places where He meets us to deliver all that and more: a water where sins are left behind and you are wrapped in a holiness not of your own creation, but that is truly yours for you to grow up into all your days and through all eternity; a table where He feeds into His own His body and blood as the foretaste of the feast to come; hands laid on that wipe out sins - and suddenly you're inside the Parable of the Prodigal Son, and the Father's arms are wrapped around you in welcome; words in a book that go on giving faith, capturing hearts with a gospel net and hauling them into the Kingdom.
The world will never NOT think that this is just a bunch of hooey and that we're deluded and deceived. You know that you are not the ones who are deceived. You are the ones who by the Spirit's gift can acclaim the marvelous wisdom and power of God - for His foolishness is wiser than our smarts; His weakness is greater than our power - and to Him alone be all the glory, honor, and worship, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, now and to the ages of ages! Amen.