The Keys of St. Peters

Sermon: Welcoming Those Who Differ

Series: Romans / Romans 14:1-12
Fifteenth Sunday After Pentecost / Proper 19, Series A
Listen to the sermon here!

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

There are things which God commands, and there are things which God forbids. That’s fairly obvious. What are some things which God commands? God commands us to fear, love, and trust in him above all things and to love our neighbours as ourselves (Lk 10:27). He commands us to to preach his word, and proclaim repentance and the forgiveness of sins in his name (Lk 24:45-47). He commands us to baptise and teach (Mt 28:18-20). He commands us to receive Christ’s Body and Blood with bread and wine (1 Co 11:23-29). The list goes on. What are some things which God forbids? We know that God forbids murder and theft (Ex. 20:13, 15). He forbids sexual immorality (1 Co 6:18). He forbids drunkenness, jealousy, and quarrelling (Gal 5:19-21). Of course there are more. What about that grey area? What about the things which God has neither commanded nor forbidden? People can use different liturgies in their worship. They can have different hymnals. Some sing old hymns and some sing new hymns. Pastors can wear different types of gowns in worship services. Some bow and some don’t. Some can’t drink alcohol; others do so without guilt. Some fast for Lent, and others don’t.

Things that don’t matter: that’s where Christians tend to fight each other. Curiously, the things that don’t matter seem to matter to us much more than they matter to God. It was things that didn’t matter that became a point of contention in the Church in Rome. The way St. Paul the Apostle addressed the situation in the first century can help us when we start fighting about things that don’t matter. Read More

Sermon: Loving our Neighbours 
by Listening to Government (Romans 13:1-10)

Series: Romans / Romans 13:1-10
Fourteenth Sunday After Pentecost / Proper 18, Series A
Listen to the sermon here!

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

What do you owe? To whom do you owe it? When I ask that question, most assume I’m speaking about money. According to the Bank of Canada, the average Canadian owes over $1.70 for every dollar of income they earn per year, after taxes. For most Canadians debt is a fact of life, at least at some point. We borrow to buy houses, cars, smart phones, food, medicine, clothes, appliances. College students take on staggering debts to finance their education. Churches borrow immense sums to erect buildings. Debt can be a tool that allows people to smooth out their spending throughout their life. Besides monetary debt we recognise that there are other types of debt. Consider personal debt for instance. If someone does you a favour, you may reply by saying, “I owe you one!” Or, the opposite might happen. They may tell you, “You owe me one.” Debt comes in various forms. St. Paul in our epistle reading talks about a certain debt that all humanity owes. There is a massive debt which is always owed and can never be settled. In fact, our Christian life and conduct, and our duties to society have their basis in this debt which we owe. Read More

Sermon: Loving Those Who Hurt Us

Series: Romans / Romans 12:9-21
Thirteenth Sunday After Pentecost / Proper 17, Series A
Listen to the Sermon here!

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

The headline said one word, in thick black letters right across the top of the front page: REVENGE. The story was a classic tale of spurned love. A woman’s husband had cheated on her and went off with her best friend. She bided her time, waiting for her opportunity and then killed them both, not instantly but in a way which allowed her to extract maximum satisfaction by giving them maximum terror. It was a nasty, sorry, sordid story. But I think the reason why it made the front page was because deep down a lot of us know someone we would like to ‘get even with’. Even more troubling, at any given moment there is likely someone who would love to take revenge on us. The desire for revenge is like a deep itch somewhere right down inside. The media knows that if we can’t scratch that itch ourselves we like hearing about someone else who could and did. Read More

Newletter: September 2020

Patience

It’s most commonly believed that the phrase “patience is a virtue” originated from the poem, “Piers Plowman”, which is said to have been written around AD 1360 by English poet William Langland. One line in the poem states that “patience is a fair virtue.” We tend to use this phrase as a sort of exhortation to someone being impatient. But what is patience? What is a virtue for that matter?

The Greek word used in our Bibles that we translate as patience “refers to steadfastness and perseverance under certain circumstances” and an “unyielding, defiant perseverance in the face of aggressive misfortune” (Radl 1990, 3:405). Luther’s friend and fellow reformer Melanchthon says that patience “is obeying God in enduring adversities… and not being broken down” (Loci 1559, 514). A virtue is what happens when you have trained yourself to behave in a certain way, and it may eventually become second nature (Wright 2010, 20; Loci 1559, 507). Putting this all together, when we say that “patience is a virtue” we’re saying that if we are enduring difficult circumstances, misfortunes, or hard times, patience should be our response. It is something that we have to cultivate and discipline in ourselves. But, it is not just that patience is something worth cultivating, but it is also something that God himself grows in us, since patience is one of the Fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23).

We live in a world that wants everything immediately. There is an immediacy which the latest technology and media have given us that fosters impatience. We order something on Amazon and expect it within days. We send a text message or email and become agitated when we do not receive a response within a given period of time. We cannot seem to wait patiently very well anymore as a society.

St. James encouraged Christians going through severe trials to have patience. “My dear family, when you find yourselves tumbling into various trials and tribulations, learn to look at it with complete joy, because you know that, when your faith is put to the test, what comes out is patience. What’s more, you must let patience have its complete effect, so that you may be complete and whole, not falling short in anything” (James 1:2-4, NTE). Paul similarly writes about patience, “We also celebrate in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces patience, patience produces a wellformed character, and a character like that produces hope. Hope, in its turn, does not make us ashamed, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the holy spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:3-5, NTE).

Like those to whom James and Paul wrote, there are many in our own congregation who are enduring situations which require patience. Some may have health issues. Others may have financial issues. Some may be trying to juggle a busy work and family life. Of course there are also those who are facing the trials of increased age. In these situations, and more besides, we need to learn to cultivate patience.

With the Coronavirus epidemic now nearing half a year, the need for patience has never been greater. We need to have patience with one another as we all seek to work our way through situations we have not had to encounter before. We need to have patience with our neighbours, because we do not know what they are going through. We need to show patience with our government, and those working to serve us in our communities. We need to show patience with those who are trying to lead our Church family through this time, all the while still reach our community with the Gospel. We are all ready for this to be over, but we need to be patient.

We need to train ourselves to not let life wear us down. We should not give way to grief, despair, anger, resentment, or discontentment, but instead take a deep breath, and wait on God. These situations test our faith. How far does our trust in God go? Will we trust in Jesus “come hell or high water”? Are you only going to trust in Jesus while the going is good? Will you trust Jesus even when the dark clouds gather and all looks bleak? This is where patience comes in. Remember, God “has been truly affected by His concern for our troubles” (Loci 1559, 357). God has shown you just how concerned he is for you by showing you His own Son. God did this so that you may be certain of His mercy towards you. God promises His help and deliverance to those who “call upon him in every trouble”. We should have patience because God has been incredibly patient with us poor, miserable, sinners. By our sins we have justly deserved God’s present and enteral punishment. Yet God not only has patience with us and our many failings, but he forgives us and helps us endure whatever comes our way. Jesus Christ, even though he could have destroyed his enemies in a blink of an eye, bore their cruel torture with patience, and even prayed for his enemies. He endured this so that God could forgive and be patient with you. You are reconciled to God through the cross of Christ and nothing can take away the hope of Eternal life from us. Though this life is often deeply painful, we can hold our heads high and have patience with others because of God’s patience towards us in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Works Cited:

Wright, N. T. 2010. After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters. New York: HarperCollins.
Wright, N. T. 2011. The New Testament For Everyone. London: SPCK. [NTE]
Melanchthon, Philip. 2011. The Chief Theological Topics: Loci Praecipui Theologici 1559. Second English edition. Translated by J. A. O. Preus. St. Louis: Concordia. [Loci 1559].
Radl, W. 1990. “ὑπομονή.” Pages 405-406 in vol. 3 of Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament. Edited by H. Blaz and G. Schneider. English Edition. 3 vols. Edinburgh: T&T Clark.

Sermon: Our Sacrificial Life (Romans 12:1-2)

Text: Romans 12:1-2
Twelfth Sunday After Pentecost, Proper 16A
Listen to the Sermon here!

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

If you were to examine the oldest records on earth, you’ll find that sacrifice often formed a part of many ancient religions. In fact, it’s a nearly universal idea that in order to be pardoned, or to be blessed and receive the aid of your deity, you needed to offer something to obtain it. The ancient Israelites also had a whole range of sacrifices they offered to the Lord. Daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, and on various ever-recurring occasions, the altars of the temple ran with blood from the dead bodies of slain beasts and birds. The temple was a veritable slaughter-house. But Christianity said, “No more of this!” When Christians think about sacrifice, we think about what Jesus has done for us on the cross. But, is that the end of the story? Is the sacrifice of Christ upon the Cross the only sacrifice which Christians should talk about? In our epistle reading from Romans, the Apostle Paul talks about a kind of sacrifice which all Christians must still offer. Read More

Sermon: God’s Mercy For All (Romans 11)

Text: Romans 11:13-24, 28-32
Eleventh Sunday After Pentecost (Proper 15A)
Listen to the sermon here.

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

‘This town ain’t big enough for the both of us!’ We’ve all heard that phrase. It originally came from western movies, and now has become a stock phrase used to emphasise that two rival characters cannot coexist. But, this stock phrase can be descriptive of very real situations where rivalry and conflict arise. Sometimes it’s in an office where two managers are both wanting their plans to go ahead. Sometimes it’s in a sports team where two players both want to be the star. Sometimes, it’s in a home where two squabbling teenagers both want to run things their way.

It’s even uglier when this kind of rivalry gets played out in a church; and that’s what Paul is anxious about here in our epistle reading. He is dealing with an ugly rivalry between Jewish and Gentile Christians. Israel as a whole has rejected the Messiah; but an increasingly large number of Gentiles believed in Jesus and joined the small minority of Jews who did accept the Gospel. Because of this, some Gentile Christians seem to have thought that they had ‘replaced’ Jews in God’s plan, that the church was now a ‘Gentiles-only’ club. This is where the jealousy, rivalry and old prejudice come in. The Church is not big enough for both Jew and Gentile, they think. So Paul is answering these questions: Can any more Jews be saved, or has God rejected them? What really constitutes the people of God? Read More

Sermon: Four Questions For Every Christian (Romans 10:5-17)

Text: Romans 10:5-17
Tenth Sunday After Pentecost (Proper 14A)
Listen to the Sermon here!

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

What does St. Paul the Apostle have in common with young children? The love of questions. Throughout his letters Paul asked questions, and it seems as if he expected the reader to give an answer to all of them. That’s why questions are frequent in this Epistle to the Romans, and on carefully examining them we see that they not only show us Paul’s enthusiasm, but they are there to teach us something. There are four questions before us in our epistle reading, and the apostle seeks to press home the absolute necessity of preaching the Gospel. Last week we saw Paul sorrowing for the unbelief of the Jews, and he begins this chapter by saying that his heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they might be saved. Then, as he goes on, he begins to think about the salvation, not only of the Jews, but also of the whole world. He says, “there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (vv. 12-13). And then, as his mind moves to the unbelieving world lying in darkness, he asks these four questions which we are going to look at this morning (vv. 14-15). Read More

Sermon: Why Do Some Believe? (Romans 9:1-18)

Text: Romans 9:1-18
Ninth Sunday After Pentecost (Proper 13A)
Listen to the sermon here!

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

Have you ever known someone who used to be a Christian? Did you wonder what went wrong? How is it possible that a person – born and raised in the Church, baptised, confirmed, part of Sunday School, could just walk away? Have you known people like that? I’m sure you not only know people like that, but you also feel some sense of sorrow and anguish over them. They had all these blessings: they knew their Bible, they learned the Catechism, they had a Christian family, they were members who served in the Church. Where did it all go wrong? Why don’t they believe?

This is the kind of question which the Apostle Paul is asking in our Epistle reading. Last week we read that nothing “will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:39). No sooner has Paul said this, then he immediately thinks of his fellow Israelites. Paul is talking about God’s chosen people, his treasured possession. And Paul is agonising over it. He has deep sorrow and even wishes that he could be cut off from Christ, if by doing so he could save his fellow Israelites. That’s how deeply Paul feels this sorrow. The question on the table is this: What went wrong? Why did Israel, through whom the Messiah came, reject the Messiah? Why didn’t Israel believe? Why, given their special status as God’s priestly people with all the covenants, promises, worship, legislation, prophets, why did Israel not believe and get behind Jesus, the true son of Israel? It’s a tough question. And an important one, for us here today because we face a similar question. Read More

Sermon: The Plan of God’s Inseparable Love (Rom. 8:28-39)

Text: Romans 8:28-39
Eighth Sunday After Pentecost, Proper 12A
Listen to sermon here!

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

There were two towering figures during the Reformation. One was, of course, Martin Luther. The other was Philip Melanchthon. These two were best friends. Luther was always singing Melanchthon’s praises. While Luther was often like bull in the china shop, Melanchthon was timid, and approached things with the calm and precision of a scholar. When Luther died, Melanchthon was the one who preached at the funeral. What gave Melanchthon his strength? What made this gentle, timid, scholarly fellow boldly stand with Luther against the world? The answer is verse 31 of our Epistle reading: “If God is for us, who can be against us?” In his lectures, Melanchthon quotes that verse more than any other. In his personal crest, it is the motto. When Melanchthon knew he was on his death bed, the pastor with him read Romans 8:31. Melanchthon exclaimed, “Read those words again!” The pastor read them, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” Melanchthon clung to those words as he lay there dying. He murmured, “That’s it! That’s it!” That text was the greatest comfort to him. Even in the darkest hours of his life, as he lay in death’s cold grip, he boldly clung to those words, “If God is for us, who can be against us?”

This section of Romans 8 has brought similar comfort to many Christians throughout the centuries. And that was exactly its purpose. St. Paul the Apostle wrote these words so that we may come away from this text with assurance and confidence in God’s love for us in Christ. As we examine what Paul wrote in these verses, we’ll see why this passage continues to bring comfort and hope to millions of Christians. Read More

Sermon: What Does God’s Spirit Do For Us?

Text: Romans 8:12-17
Sixth Sunday After Pentecost, Series A

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

Sometimes it seems as though the Holy Spirit gets the short end of the stick. God the Father does the work of creating and God the Son does the work of saving. The Holy Spirit makes a few prominent appearances, like at the Baptism of Jesus, but otherwise, it may seem like the Holy Spirit doesn’t get mentioned a lot. This downplaying of the Spirit can spill over and become a habit in Churches as well. Someone once complained that they could not remember a single Sunday when the Holy Spirit was mentioned more than simply the occasional reference during a reading, creed, benediction, or prayer. Beloved, the Spirit does far more than simply make the occasional cameo appearance. The work of the Spirit is vital to your life as a Christian. What is that work? What does the Holy Spirit do for us? St. Paul the Apostle in our epistle reading says, first, the Spirit leads us, and second, the Spirit bears witness to us. Read More