The Keys of St. Peters

Sermon: Jesus, Son of David (Mark 10:46-52)

Mark 10:46-52
Advent 1, Midweek
Listen to the sermon here.

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

It was a hot, dry and dusty spring day, but the road leading out of Jericho was a good place for a beggar to beg. Scores of people travelled to and from Jerusalem. It was particularly good place for Bartimaeus. While he was sitting at the side of the road, he heard a big commotion. A large crowd was coming down the road. His sharp ears could pick out the voices. He heard the name Jesus. Jesus – that healer and teacher from Nazareth. Bartimaeus heard about Jesus. How Jesus healed the sick, and cast out demons, and raised the dead. He’d heard about Jesus’ compassion, His love for the lost, His call to discipleship. Bartimaeus believed that Jesus could help him. As the crowd drew closer, he began to cry out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me! Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

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Newsletter: December 2020

Welcome News From Heaven

“There were shepherds in that region, out in the open, keeping a night watch around their flock. An angel of the Lord stood in front of them. The glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. ‘Don’t be afraid,’ the angel said to them. ‘Look: I’ve got good news for you, news which will make everybody very happy. Today a saviour has been born for you—the Messiah, the Lord!—in David’s town. This will be the sign for you: you’ll find the baby wrapped up, and lying in a feeding-trough.’”

Luke 2:8-11, NTE

“They were terrified.” Ever wonder why people have always been terrified by the presence of the supernatural? Many of the scariest movies feature something supernatural. There has to be a reason for this universal fear of the supernatural. However, if you consider just how profoundly sinful humanity is, it begins to makes sense that we would fear the supernatural. There’s a subconscious fear of the supernatural. That certainly includes a fear of any message that comes from God. Imagine there was a camp of rebellious subjects who had risen in rebellion against their King. How do you expect they would feel if they were to receive a messenger from the court of the king? They would certainly be afraid. What kind of message do you think we may expect from God, the Creator of the universe, for our rebellion against him? Those shepherds may have had good reason to be terrified, but the angel didn’t think so. “Don’t be afraid… I’ve got good news for you!” How welcome do you think those words are?

Notice that the most welcome news ever announced was not made to the Emperor, nor to the Jewish nobility in Jerusalem, nor even to the religious leaders. No, this news was given to humble shepherds who were “keeping a night watch around their flock.” God picked lowly shepherds. Shepherd were social outcasts, people whom society thought really didn’t matter. It was people that didn’t matter whom God selected to hear good news. Society thought shepherds didn’t matter, God thought they did. They were overlooked by the world, but not by God. That’s the way God has acted ever since. The angel’s words of comfort are not just for those shepherds. They’re also for us. God chooses those whom we would have overlooked. He blesses though we think are not good enough.

“Don’t be afraid… I’ve got good news for you.” And this news was very good indeed! “Today a saviour has been born for you—the Messiah, the Lord!—in David’s town.” The shepherds learned that the long expected king, David’s true heir who would reign forever, had finally been born! But, instead of following David’s heir, we have sought to rule ourselves and to be the masters of our own destinies. How has that turned out for us? We suffer much and inflict suffering in countless ways, simply because humanity is guilty dethroning God. But, the hope of those shepherds is your hope too—the hope that under King Jesus this poor sin-stricken world will at last be set right again. Everything will be put back the way it should have always been, including all this world’s injustice, its godlessness, its violence, and its crime. In that little baby, born in a feeding-trough, God himself has become one of us—Divinity united to humanity. In that child, God has become our king once again, and he shall reign forever and ever (Rev. 11:15). We find our true peace and joy by trusting Jesus who is “the Lord” of all. This good news “will make everybody very happy.” That includes you.

What does it all mean for you? It means more than a day to gather with family. It means more than tinsel, trees and decorations. It even means more than all those gifts. On Christmas day a Saviour was born into the world, a Divine Redeemer, One who upon the Cross died to remove the one curse that infects our humanity. Christmas means: You are delivered from the deadly plague of sin. The promise of a Saviour means you have been forgiven and delivered from the degradation into which we have all sunk. It means freedom from our slavery and debt to sin. It means we have absolutely nothing to fear from God because he is not an angry judge nor a vengeful king. He is your loving heavenly Father, who sent his Son so that you might not perish, but have everlasting life (John 3:16). No matter how much you may think you don’t matter, you always matter to God. No matter how much you feel overlooked, God will never overlook you. No matter how distant you may feel from others, God is always near with his word and promises. Consider the depth of God’s patience towards us! Think for a moment of the boundless breadths of God’s compassion to us.

This Christmas may be far more simple than in other years. Yet, no matter how austere or reserved our celebrations may be this year, the “reason for the season” has not changed. The greatest Christmas gift is this wonderful news from heaven. Christmas assures us of God’s patience and compassion towards us in Christ. This welcome news is for everybody: men and women, boys and girls, children of all ages. It was welcome for those terrified and wondering shepherds. “A saviour has been born for you.” As we hear the angel’s words again this Christmas season, we know that they are for all the wide world, and, whoever we may be, for us.

Merry Christmas!

Sermon: Christ’s Advent Call: “Watch & Wait!” (Mark 13:33-37)

Mark 13:33-37
First Sunday in Advent, Series B
Listen to the sermon here!

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

Most modern houses don’t have a doorkeeper. It’s up to the owners to lock up, and perhaps set-up security alarms. But in some big cities, things may be a bit different. Many people now live in apartment buildings which employ a full-time guard by the main entrance. There may even be several guards on duty 24 hours a day. They see everyone who enters or leaves. This is how it would have been with a great house in Jesus’ day. Jesus says he’s like a man who goes on a journey and leaves his servants in charge, each with the authority to do their work. Watch! Be alert! Stay awake! Four times Jesus says it in four verses of this morning’s Gospel. That’s the spirit of Advent – watchfulness, alertness, waiting with sober vigilance. Be on the lookout, as they say. The Lord is near. This is the warning that Jesus issues to his followers as we face the troubles of this world.

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Sermon: God’s Gifts: Either use them or Lose them (Matthew 25:14-30).

Text: Matthew 25:14-30
Twenty-Fourth Sunday After Pentecost | Proper 28, Series A
Listen to the sermon here!

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

How many people here were audited by the CRA recently? Were you excited? Did you pop open a bottle of champagne and celebrate with your spouse? “Dear! We’re being audited! Come celebrate!!” No, far from it, we usually approach such an event with annoyance, and perhaps a bit of dread. It’s one thing to submit your tax information to the Government. It’s quite another to get the notice that the Government didn’t quite believe you and is now going to go over everything you submitted with a fine-tooth comb. Perhaps they’ll even ask you to submit receipts, proof of this or that, and most certainly, more wonderful forms to fill out. The amount of fear and dread that might come upon you is related to how accurate you were with your information. If you lied, or tried to hide something, it’ll be discovered. If you kept bad records and threw away those receipts, you won’t be able to claim it. And so on. It’s a real hassle isn’t it? So, we really don’t like being audited. In our Gospel lesson Christ our Lord tells a story about three slaves being audited.

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Sermon: Encouraging Words (1 Thess. 4:13-18)

Text: 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
Twenty-Third Sunday After Pentecost | Proper 27, Series A
Listen to the sermon here.

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

There once was a young man who rode the elevated railway to work regularly. One day, he noticed that in one place where the train moved slowly, he could see into a room where an elderly woman was apparently convalescing. For several weeks he saw her recovering there, so one day he put in the effort to learn the woman’s name and sent her a get-well card, signing it, “Just a young man who rides the train.” A week later as he rode the train home through the dusk he noted that the bed was empty and a sign, illuminated by a table lamp, was hanging on the window. It read, “Bless you.”

There are all times when we need to be encouraged. Maybe some here this morning could use a bit of encouragement. Well, the Apostle Paul has some words meant to encourage us, and this is the kind of encouragement that will give us a lasting confidence, and an enduring hope. In our epistle lesson Paul puts to rest all of the fears and concerns that Christians have about death. Christians of all ages and Christians of all times have turned to these verses again and again.

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Sermon: What About Heaven? (Revelation 7:2-17)

Text: Revelation 7:2-17
All Saints’ Day, 2020
Listen to the Sermon here!

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

Do you want to know something about heaven? There’s deep longing to learn something about where you go when you die. And here in our reading from Revelation we catch a glimpse. We are especially interested in knowing about heaven when our own loved ones are there. I’m certain that includes many here today. So, we can look to the Scriptures to find the hints that they give. We find hints in the Transfiguration of our Lord on the holy mountain. We can meditate on the many sayings of his apostles. But, today, we’ll look at this section of the Book of the Revelation. We don’t know where heaven is, but here we have a vivid picture of heaven and those who dwell there. This passage was written to comfort the hearts of the suffering and give them needed hope, as it has given hope to countless throughout the centuries.

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Newsletter: November

Dealing With Conflict

In television and movies drama and conflict are what propel the plot forward, create tension, and grab the viewers interest. However, when drama and conflict appear in our personal lives, they are often unwelcome guests. Some people like watching soap operas, but when our lives start to resemble them, we soon become weary.  Sometimes television dramas get to the bottom of an issue, showing how to put the problem fair and square on the table, how to express anger, confusion and hurt while trying to see the other point of view as well. Actually, I think true reconciliation—the kind that doesn’t crack under pressure—happens more often in movies than in real life. I think that our own congregation needs to take reconciliation seriously, and a passage in Matthew 18 is bedrock for the basic principles.

“‘If another disciple sins against you,’ Jesus continued, ‘go and have it out, just between the two of you alone. If they listen to you, you’ve won back a brother or sister. But if they won’t listen, you should take with you one or two others, so that “everything may be established from the mouth of two or three witnesses”. If they won’t listen to them, tell it to the assembly. And if they won’t listen to the assembly, you should treat such a person like you would a Gentile or a tax-collector. I’m telling you the truth: whatever you tie up on earth will have been tied up in heaven; and whatever you untie on earth will have been untied in heaven,” (Matt. 18:15-18 NTE).

Complimentary to this is Martin Luther’s explanation of the eighth commandment, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour.”

“What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not tell lies about our neighbour, betray him, slander him, or hurt his reputation, but defend him, speak well of him, and put the best construction on everything,” (SC I.16).

If we have been on the receiving end of some injury, insult, lie, sin etc., from a fellow member of Christ’s Church, the first step is to visit them. That’s not our go-to solution. Many of us prefer to pretend there isn’t a problem. We can refuse to face the facts. We can’t seem to swallow our anger or resentment. We paper over the cracks and try to carry on as if nothing happened, all the while seething with rage inside. That’s hypocrisy. Or we can simply avoid and ignore the other person or group and pretend they don’t exist. That’s not loving nor Christian. What does Jesus tell you to do? Go and tell your fellow Christian their fault just the two of you. “Have it out.” Speak to them privately. That means alone. Don’t go and publish their fault on Facebook. Don’t blab it to your friends or family in an attempt to find sympathy or support. “Love endures all things,” (1 Cor. 13:7 NTE). The eighth commandment admonishes you to not gossip or tell others. We need to hold our tongue in the presence of others and go to the offending party, get them alone and talk to them. “Above all, keep absolutely firm in your love for one another, because ‘love covers a multitude of sins,’” (1 Pet. 4:8 NTE). Speak to them! It’s better to tell them what they’ve done wrong than to brood over it and let if fester. But speaking to them may require courage. It will certainly require prayer and humility. The other person may well respond with a counter-accusation, and there is always the possibility that there may be truth in it which you need to recognise. When we approach them, we must remember to, “let your words always be gracious, never insipid,” (Col. 4:6 REB). Do not go in “guns blazing.” A kind, gentle, faithful, straight-forward, empathetic approach is the most likely course to win your fellow Christian. (It may be a matter of Christian wisdom to repeat this private admonition several times).

If that doesn’t work, and if after thought and prayer you still think a wrong was committed, Jesus tells you to take one or two others along. This is not to gang up on them. This is a reality check on your own judgment. You should choose people who are prepared to tell it straight. They may have some uncomfortable truths to tell you. But, if you are in the right and the person refuses to see it, they are your witnesses that you’re not just making it up. If the person still refuses to repent, the last resort is to tell it to the Church, that is, the assembly or congregation. At this stage, we refer the whole matter to the Christian congregation of which we are all members. The goal of this appeal and admonition is to win back your brother or sister. If they fail to listen to the congregation, then it means a necessary break of fellowship. Reconciliation can only come after the problem has been faced.

What if you’re a neutral party? Perhaps someone has come to you and in the course of conversation has presented you with a complaint about a person. What should you do? You should ask them if they have talked to the person responsible. If they have, ask about the response. If they have not talked with the person alone, encourage them to do so! Do not have anything to do with it until they have, because at this stage it’s none of your business. If they don’t want to confront the person, then exhort them to forgive the other person and move on. The first thing in any complaint is to make sure that the one complaining has already brought this to the proper person.  If they have not, complaining is nothing more than gossip, slander, and betrayal.

Let’s not pretend this is simply good advice to keep in mind in case of some unlikely eventuality which might arise one day. No, there is drama and conflict here in our church. How do I know this?  Well, whenever two or more sinners are together, toes are bound to be stepped on. In all this, we must remember that God has come and made our sin known to us. He has shown us in his Law how we have sinned against him and offended him. He continues to remind us of our sin whenever the Law is preached. In addition, Christ our Lord has come, died for our sins, and offers us forgiveness. May we treat our fellow Christians with the same grace that we were shown in Christ.

Your pastor,
                Rev. Matthew Fenn

Sermon: The Freedom of the Gospel (John 8:31-36)

Text: John 8:31-36
Reformation Day (Observed), 2020
Listen to the sermon here.

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

“Freedom.” It is hard to miss the theme of freedom in our text from John. Freedom is also a slippery word. It can mean a many different things for many different people. For some the mention of freedom is closely tied with the political realm. Freedom is about democracy and the ability to elect our own representatives. Others will link freedom closely to the economic sphere. Freedom is about the free-market, and the great range of choices before many consumers. Some people use the language of freedom to speak about their right of self-determination. Freedom is about the ability to do whatever you want, to gratify your own desires, without being hindered or controlled. And since this is Reformation Sunday, it’s useful to remember that freedom was a major concern for many of the Reformers. They wanted freedom from certain traditions and superstitions which Rome was commanding apart from God’s Word. The Reformers insisted that many of Rome’s precepts and regulations did not earn forgiveness or favour with God. One of Martin Luther’s most famous writings is “The Freedom of a Christian,” which he wrote in 1520 just before he was excommunicated. In fact, in our text, Jesus talks about this last kind of freedom, Christian freedom, the freedom offered by the Gospel.

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Sermon: A Reason for Hope (Psalm 147)

Text: Psalm 147:1-11 (LXX Psalm 146) & Luke 10:1-9
Text: Gradual Psalm for the Feast of Saint Luke, Evangelist
Listen to the sermon here!

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

Have you or someone you know been seriously sick and refused to get help or medical treatment? Why do some of us just refuse to see the seriousness of our sickness and get help for it? It comes down to pride. Sometimes it’s a confidence in our own strength. When faced with sickness, we often just like to “power through it”. We don’t want to ask for help. Asking for help means admitting weakness and that’s humiliating! Of course, this can be very harmful. If you try to ignore the sickness and “power through it” you could be wasting valuable time. If you catch the illness soon enough, the doctors may be able to save you, but try to “power through it”, and it could be too late. That’s the point of course. If you have a serious disease, the earlier you seek medical attention, the better your chances, the more hope you have.

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Sermon: Christ’s Remedy for Anxiety (Matthew 6:25-34)

Text: Matthew 6:25-33
Thanksgiving Day, 2020
Listen to the sermon here!

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

Many, if not all of us, simply cannot wait until 2020 is over. Events have been unpredictable and the situations we’re facing are new to most of us. We’re in the midst of this worldwide epidemic, with many places partially shut down, others struggling to reopen safely. There are areas where the coronavirus infection rates are getting worse and restrictions are increasing again. Others areas are bracing for what may come next. All of us have been watching the headlines and wondering, “When is this going to end?” For many, it’s that uncertainty which surrounds coronavirus that is the hardest thing to handle. We still don’t know exactly how this will impact us personally. We don’t know just how bad the economic fallout will be. We have no idea how long this is going to last, or how bad things might get. And that makes it all too easy for us to spiral into overwhelming dread and panic. It is hard not to be anxious. We are anxious about abiding by the proper health and safety precautions. We’re anxious about our jobs and livelihoods. This makes caring for our normal everyday necessities all that much more complicated. Some people have become so addicted to worry that if they haven’t got anything to be anxious about they worry that they’ve forgotten something. Certainly there are some have anxiety due to a medical issue, and God has provided medical professionals to help deal with that type of anxiety. That’s not exactly the type of anxiety we’re dealing with. But even in the face of this unique crisis—Christ provides us with three remedies for our anxiety and a reason to be truly thankful this Thanksgiving.

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