The Keys of St. Peters

Sermon: The Stairway to Heaven (John 1:43-51)

Text: John 1:43-51
Second Sunday After Epiphany, Series B
Listen to the sermon here.

Grace to you and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 

The book of Genesis paints the Patriarch Jacob as a schemer and a trickster. He tricked Esau out of his birthright and even swindled him out of his father’s blessing. But Jacob’s trickery came back to bite him: Esau was going to kill him. Jacob left in a hurry, not a penny to his name and nothing but the clothes on his back. One night, while on the run, he had a dream. He saw a staircase with its foot on the ground and its top reaching up to heaven. God’s angels were going up and down on it. The Lord God himself came and stood beside him. God promised to be with him that he would bring him back to his land in peace and prosperity.  Fast forward to our reading from John’s Gospel, Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see haven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” Jesus identifies himself with, of all things, the stairway in Jacob’s dream. A stairway connecting earth to heaven, a stairway which the angels ascend and descend. So, why does Jesus identify with a stairway? 

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Sermon: The Voice of the Father (Mark 1:4-11)

Text: Mark 1:4-11
The Baptism of our Lord (First Sunday After the Epiphany)
Listen to the sermon here.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 

Some people may have a difficult time relating to God as a father. Fatherhood is an idea that we’re all very familiar with, and we may project our own expectations or experiences of what a father should be, or has been, onto our heavenly Father. Many children grow up in our world who have never had a father say to them ‘You are my dear child’, let alone, ‘I’m pleased with you.’ Many never get that kind of affection, neither in words, in looks, or in hugs. In the Western world, some fathers who think this in their hearts might be too tongue-tied or embarrassed to tell their children how they fell; how delighted they are with them. Many, alas, go by the completely opposite route: angry voices, bitter rejection, the slamming of doors. For many, the word father may bring up memories of abuse or neglect. But, the baptism of Jesus tells us something very important about what our Heavenly Father says to Jesus, and what he wants to say to us.

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Sermon: God’s Secret Plan (Ephesians 3:1-13)

Text: Ephesians 3:1-13
The Epiphany of our Lord
Listen to the sermon here.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 

Traditional mysteries often follow a pattern. The classic mysteries are set in a manor house in Scotland with a small cast of characters: an elderly widow, a servant with peculiar habits, and a distant relative who has inexplicably shown up for a visit after many years. The usual event is a tragic death, which turns out to be a murder. As the detective investigates the case, he often finds that there is intrigue going on over who is to receive a sizeable inheritance. The clues in the case are assembled. The police are confused and follow the wrong track. But eventually the master detective solves the case and shows how the pieces of the story fit together. In the final pages, the mystery is solved. The meaning is made known to the readers. The story is over.

“Mystery” is the term that occurs fives times in our reading from Ephesians. But, when Paul uses “mystery,” you shouldn’t be thinking about whodunnits. It’s not that kind of mystery. Then what does Paul means by mystery? Paul tells us what he means by mystery. “This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (3:6). What Paul is calling mystery is not a whodunnit mystery. It’s all about God’s secret plan. This secret plan has three points. 

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Sermon: Looking for Jesus in all the Wrong Places (Luke 2:41-52)

Text: Luke 2:41-52
Second Sunday After Christmas
Listen to the sermon here.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Today’s Gospel reading reminds me of the movie: Home Alone. The movie Home Alone takes place when a frantic family jets off to Paris for Christmas only to discover too late that they had left their youngest child behind. The plot is a bit farfetched don’t you think? How could a family leave a house, ride all the way to the airport, board a plane, and only THEN, midway over the Atlantic Ocean, realise a child has gone missing? “How in the world could something like this ever happen?” you may want to ask. Of course, if I asked that question in the presence of Joseph and Mary, they’d soon start looking down at their feet and shifting their weight side to side in discomfort. They did, after all, take off from Jerusalem, and it took them an entire day to realise they had left their son behind. Worse, they took off without God’s son. The left the Son of God in a city that was a large and potentially dangerous place, full of dark alleys and strange people. This was not a place where one would be happy to leave one’s son for a few days. Does it get any worse than to be entrusted with the Son of God and then you lose him? 

The agony of Mary and Joseph, searching for three days, contrasts sharply with the calm response of Jesus when they found him. Jesus asks, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be about my Father’s business?” These same questions face us this Second Sunday after Christmas, as peace and goodwill fade and Christmas leaves so many of us wanting. The text invites us to wonder why Mary and Joseph looked for Jesus in all the wrong places.

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Sermon: What’s in a Name? (Phil. 2:5-11 & Luke 2:21)

Text: Philippians 2:5-11 & Luke 2:21
Eve of the Circumcision and Holy Name of Our Lord Jesus Christ. 
Listen to the sermon.

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other word would smell as sweet.”

Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, 2.2.46-47

Shakespeare’s Juliet declares that she doesn’t care about the rival family name of her lover, Romeo. Her love for him transcends this label despite the potential social consequences.  Peoples’ names have historically mattered quite a bit.  In many cultures, your place in society was determined by your family name. If you were descended from someone special, then you were due some title, honour or notoriety simply for being born into that family. We still see this a bit today.  Think about the Royal family, or what you might assume meeting a Kennedy from Massachusetts. Our own family history affects who we are and our names become the descriptor of us. Don’t we tell people to go and  “make a name for yourself?” If someone steals our name, we call that “identity theft.” 

If names matter, then there is one such historical name whose pedigree is unmatched. This is the Name that causes controversy, scandal, offence. This is the Name that causes kings to tremble and judges to judge and legislatures to legislate. This is the name that sets the many on edge. This is the Name that may not be uttered in the public square lest unbelievers be offended. No other Name causes such a stir. This is the holy name of Jesus. This evening I want to highlight how the Holy Name of Jesus can tell us two things. First, this name tells us who Jesus is. Second, this name tells us what Jesus does. 

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Sermon: The Gifts God Sent (Galatians 4:4-7)

Text: Galatians 4:4-7
First Sunday After Christmas, Series B
Listen to the sermon here.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Why do we like receiving gifts? Well, receiving gifts can help to uplift our mood. It can make us feel special in most cases. A gift shows that someone else is thinking about you. A well chosen gift, that shows intimate knowledge of you, can actually demonstrate just how much they care for you. Overall, this is a joyous event for us and its part of what makes our celebration of Christmas special. As you unwrap your gifts to each other and reflect upon the meaning of Christmas, this third day of Christmas is a good time to reflect upon the gifts which God has sent to you. St. Paul in this morning’s epistle reading notes three gifts which God has sent to you. Let’s open them together.

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Sermon: Your God Is Not Distant (Isaiah 52:7-10)

Text: Isaiah 52:7-10
Christmas Day
Listen to the sermon here.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Have you ever felt that God was distant and removed from your life? Have you ever felt God was uninterested and unaccessible? We can go through life feeling like God doesn’t care about what happens to us. God is way up there and I am way down here. Maybe God has forgotten about me. He must have more important things to worry about, right? It’s not uncommon to feel like we’ve been left on on own own. Many don’t think that God shows up in their lives, so in return they don’t give him thought. What has he ever done for me? Do you watch the news and scroll through social media, shaking your head, asking, where’s God? 

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Sermon: God Became a Child (Luke 2:1-20)

Text: Luke 2:1-20
Christmas Eve

Listen to the sermon here.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Imagine you’re trying to show your dog something. You point your finger in the direction you want the dog to look. But the dog looks at your finger instead of at the object you’re trying to point to. This is frustrating, but it illustrates a natural mistake we all make from time to time. It’s the mistake many people make when reading the Christmas story in Luke’s gospel. What do people know about Jesus’ birth? The manger—the Christmas crib “where ox and ass are feeding.” The most famous animal feeding-trough in all history. You’ll find it on Christmas cards. We even have our own manger scene, and some churches encourage people to say their prayers in front of them. The question we’re going to consider this Christmas Eve is why has Luke mentioned the manger? Why mention it three times in this story?

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Sermon: The House that God Built (2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16; Luke 1:26-38)

2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16; Luke 1:26-38
Fourth Sunday in Advent, Series B
Listen to the sermon here.

Grace to you and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 

When was the last time you were lonely? Loneliness is a very real part of our human experience. For some, this pandemic has simply made their loneliness feel that much worse. I’m sure some here could agree that at times, going through this pandemic has been very lonely. The internet can keep some of us connected to hundreds of people online, but we might not even see one person’s face. We have to keep our distance from people to avoid spreading of the virus. No hugs, no handshakes. We have missed out on family events and spending time with friends. We’ve missed dining out and concerts. But most of all, we are missing relationships. It is almost certainly true that this epidemic has left most of us with a feeling of loneliness. We can feel like no one is there for us, or no one cares about us, or no one would miss us if we were gone. It can even feel like God himself is distant from us. This kind of loneliness is overwhelming and can be devastating to our souls. The texts for this Fourth Sunday in Advent have something to say to those feelings of loneliness. 

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Sermon: The Scandalous Lineage of Jesus (Matthew 1:1-6).

Text: Matthew 1:1-6
Wednesday after the Third Sunday in Advent
Listen to the sermon here.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

North Americans love a good scandal. Scandals involve disgraceful or offensive activities. We’re captivated by the salacious details of celebrities’ lives, by politicians trapped in webs of corruption, greed, and infidelity and by clergy gone astray. Maybe we’re drawn to the lapses and misdeeds of the powerful because we delight in seeing the mighty fall or the hypocrisies of the arrogant exposed. Or maybe we enjoy the self-righteous comfort that comes from comparing our own messed-up lives to theirs: at least we’re not that bad! But tonight’s reading draws our attention to some striking scandals in Jesus own genealogy. Let’s spend a few minutes reviewing the family scandals.

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