I’m writing just as we prepare to start VBS 2019, while you will be reading this on the Sunday immediately after having seen the blessing that God has granted to the work of our hands. Our theme this year, “Caught in His Net,” presents a compelling if atypical view of our entrance into God’s kingdom through the water of baptism. We were caught by the power of the Spirit. Of our own volition we would fight as hard an any fish caught in a net. As Paul writes to the Romans “…the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot,” (Rm 8.7). So were we before being “caught.” But the Spirit has called us, enlightened us, sanctified us and keeps us as we learned in the Small Catechism.
Our theme song this year was “Fishers of Men” from Luke chapter 5, our story for Monday morning. You recall the great catch of fish, to the point that their nets were breaking, that preceded Jesus’ invitation. As their harvest from the lake of Gennesaret, so also would be their harvest among the nations as Jesus promised to Simon and to us, “Do not fear, from now on you will be catching men” (Lk 5.10b). So we cast our net wide among the young people of our community trusting that the Spirit will work through word and song and the loving witness of our VBS staff.
It was not our work but His as we recounted the old, old story. The story of God’s love for His creation that would not allow our rebellion to be the final word. A love that confronts us with the reality of our sinfulness through the law so that we despair of our own efforts to be righteous. Only then can we come with empty hands to a gracious God and receive the righteousness of another, the righteousness of Jesus, God’s Son. He was like us in every way except without sin. His death and resurrection atone for our sin and the sins of all believers, all those who have been caught in His net. This is the gospel counterpart to the sting of the law; the wonderful news of what God has done for us in Christ.
VBS is a wonderfully busy, at times exhausting week, but God has promised in Isaiah 55: “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it,” (10-11). In prayer we look for His blessing that His name might be glorified among us and in our community. Amen.