The Keys of St. Peters

Sermon: Jesus Calls Sinners

Text: Matthew 9:9-13
Gospel Reading for St. Matthew’s Day

Grace to you and peace from God our Father
and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Eph. 1:2)

At first blush the calling of Matthew might feel kind of sudden, don’t you think? The short story begs the question: Why Matthew? Why did Jesus approach and call this man seemingly out of the blue? Well, this calling isn’t quite as random as we might think at first. Think for a moment what life would have been like for Matthew, day after day and year after year. Matthew would sit in his hot little booth, likely set up on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, waiting for travellers to pay the toll as they passed from one province to another. It is not like Matthew hadn’t heard anything about Jesus. Matthew certainly would know more than most people about what was going on in town. Everyone in the nearby cities had at least heard about Jesus. But Matthew just sits at his booth. Apparently he’s uninterested in this Jesus fellow. But one afternoon this Jesus, who is mobbed by a crowd that is showing lots of interest in him, walks up to a random, uninterested fellow sitting at a toll-booth, and says, “Hey you! Follow me.” And this tax collectors leaves his booth and follows Jesus.  Read More

Sermon: We proclaim a crucified messiah

Text: 1 Corinthians 1:18-25
Epistle Reading for Holy Cross Day

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Co 1:3)

A piece of graffiti from the early third century was discovered in Rome which depicts a man standing before a crucified figure with the body of a man but the head of a donkey. The inscription reads ‘Alexamenos worships his god’. This piece of graffiti is from a pagan Roman who felt he needed to mock a christian in the act of worship, and to mock Christ himself. And little has changed since A.D. 200. One commentator for the National Post wrote, “To be a serious Christian in modern Western culture is to be the favoured easy target of every progressive thinker and every half-witted comedian. It is to have your sensibilities and your deepest beliefs on perpetual call for taunts, mockery and desecration. At a time when all progressives preach full volume for inclusivity and sensitivity, for the utmost care in speech when speaking of others with differing views or hues, Christians, as Christians, are under a constant hail of abuse and disregard. There is nothing too low or too vulgar.” And he’s right. Its common for News outlets, Hollywood, and virtually all types of media to characterise Christians as superstitious buffoons to be mocked, or narrow-minded bigots to be denounced. And the Apostle Paul reminds us that this is the way it has always been. Read More

Sermon: Listen to The Lord and Live!

Text: Deut. 30:11-20 LXX
Old Testament for Proper 18, Series C.

Grace to you and peace from God our father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Philemon v. 3)

The story is told of Franklin Roosevelt, who often endured long receiving lines at the White House. He complained that no one ever really listened to what he said. One day, during a reception, he decided to try an experiment. To each person who passed down the line and shook his hand, he murmured, “I murdered my grandmother this morning.” The guests responded with phrases like, “Marvellous! Keep up the good work. We are proud of you. God bless you, sir.” It wasn’t until the end of the line, while greeting the ambassador from Bolivia, that his words were actually heard. Startled by the comment, the ambassador leaned over and whispered, “I’m sure she had it coming.” 

The Consequences of not Listening

Like FDR, Moses was worried that the people of Israel were not really listening to him. Read More

September 2019 Newsletter

Where do you go to get your news? A Russian news outlet decided to run an experiment. They only reported good news to their readers for an entire day. The results of the experiment were severely disappointing.  The site brought positive news stories to the front of its pages and found any and all silver linings in negative stories (“No disruption on the roads despite snow,” for example). The result was a buffet of sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows—that absolutely no one wanted to read. The news site lost two-thirds of its normal readership that day, according to one of the editors. Good news doesn’t sell. Instead, what sells is controversy, scandal, crime, murder, and war. It is particularly striking then that Christianity’s big idea is about good news. 

St. Paul wrote to the Romans, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” (Rom. 1:16). The translated here as “Gospel” can also be translated “good news”. This word comes from the greek translation of the Old Testament. There, it concerned God’s promise to defeat of Israel’s national enemies and the return them from their exile to the promised land. In the Roman world of the first century, “gospel” or “good news” referred to the announcement of the new age of peace and salvation ushered in by a new emperor’s birth, accession to the throne, or victory in battle.

In a world obsessed with bad news, Christianity brings “good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” (Luke 2:10). The Christian idea of the “gospel” or “good news” incorporates both the Old Testament and Roman ideas, and applies them to Christ. We proclaim the good news of the birth of a new king, the King of Kings. Jesus, the anointed Messiah and King of Israel will bring an era of peace and salvation. He offers peace with God. We are exiled out of paradise and the presence of God, and are now captive to sin, death, and decay. Christ our King has been victorious in battle upon the Cross of Calvary. He has defeated our enemies of Satan, Sin, and Death by his death on the Cross. He has ascended into heaven and sites enthroned as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. 

This is good news, and with all news, it is information. You do not “do the news”. News is not something which you do. It is a report about what others have done. In this case, it is a report of what Christ has done for us, and how he now offers us peace and pardon with God, and everlasting life in new heavens and new earth, where death, pain, and crying will be no more. (Rev. 21:2-4). It is that good news which calls us to trust in the King who has liberated us and offered us such blessings. That is the good news which is proclaimed here at St. Peter’s, and which keeps us in the truth faith, to life everlasting. May the peace of the good news of Jesus Christ give you hope this fall!

Your Pastor,
Rev. Matthew Fenn

Sermon: Down is the New Up

Text: Luke 14:7-14
Gospel for Proper 17, Series C

Grace to you and peace from God our Father
and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Rom. 1:7)

It’s a dinner party! One guest arrives early, looks over the seating arrangements, chooses a place at the head table, and ceremoniously seats himself. He loves it! All eyes are upon him at the front of the table. The sound of hushed voices fills the room. The attention makes him feel so good about himself. He imagines what admiring, respectful thoughts the others must be thinking about him. What a meal this is going to be! Everything is going to taste so good!

Is it his imagination? All of the guests are still starting at him. This is even better than he had hoped. Then he feels a presence hovering nearby. He look up. The host asks him to move so a more distinguished person can have this seat. Instantly, he feels hot. He cheeks are flushed with embarrassment. He gets up, head bowed, and quickly slinks to an obscure seat at the back of the room. Everyone’s eyes are still on him. There is no where he can hide. By seeking his own self-exultation, by trying to be recognised by others, he has demonstrated how little he really is. Read More

Sermon: Are You Going to be Saved?

Text: Luke 13:22-30
Gospel for Proper 16, Year C

Grace to you and peace from God our Father
and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Rom. 1:7)

Imagine for a moment that you have two airline tickets to some far off destination where you’ve always dreamed of going. You’ve arrived at the airport in plenty of time. Finally the plane begins to board. You’re checked in already, and you know that your seat is near the plane door; so you wait until almost everyone has got on. Maybe you take a moment and grab a coffee for the flight. 

As you approached the gate, to your horror the attendant shuts the door in your face. He apologises profusely, and says he hates this part of his job. The flight was overbooked, the plane was full already, and you’ve been bumped. “What about my confirmed seat,” you ask, showing him the ticket. ‘Yes,’ he said, ‘I know how you must feel. I am so sorry. We’re going to put you on the next flight in ten hours!’

Perhaps one of the most infuriating situations is the possibility of getting bumped from your flight due to the airline overbooking. A video went viral of a man being dragged down the aisle of a United Airlines plane after he refused to give up his seat. The idea that an airline can sell you a service and then not give it to you seems like it should be forbidden

Jesus’ warning in this passage sounds as though it’s every bit as unreasonable as the airline overbooking the flight. If you’ve got a confirmed seat, surely you ought to be allowed on board the plane. Our Gospel lesson may appear just as unfair. It seems unfair for the master of the house to let people in up to a certain point and then, when he’s shut the door in the faces of the next people, to protest that he never knew them. But a moment’s thought about what’s being taught in this passage will reveal that the warning is very much needed. Read More

Sermon: God’s Word Causes Division

Text: Jeremiah 23:16-30 &  Luke 12:49-56
Old Testament and Gospel Reading for Proper 15, Year C

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Rom. 1:7)

Sometimes, people don’t want to listen. Consider the example of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. Earlier this month, ELCA’s General Assembly took a surprising turn when a new policy about non-Christian religions was proposed. This new policy states that we cannot know for sure about what God thinks about other religions.  According to this policy, neither can we judge those who practice other religions. What do they mean? They’re claiming that other religions can be legitimate ways to God. Adherents of religions which deny Christ, don’t need the Gospel. As a large group of inter-religious guests stood on the stage, one Lutheran pastor opposed the new policy. This pastor came to the microphone and said yes, we can know exactly what God thinks of other religions. “We have a clear statement from Jesus, who is fully God and fully man” John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father but by me.” Despite his protest, the motion passed by 97% because they simply didn’t want to listen what God’s Word had to say. Jeremiah the prophet also had a problem with people who didn’t want to listen to God’s Word. Read More

Sermon: Faith and Righteousness

Text: Genesis 15:1-6
Old Testament Reading for Proper 14, Year C

Grace to you and peace from God our Father
and the Lord Jesus Christ.
(Rom. 1:7)

You no longer have to go to church to hear about faith. We are constantly surrounded with talk of faith and belief. From Hollywood to pop-music; professional sports to political campaigns; the language of faith is everywhere. And in each context, it seems to take on a new meaning.  We are told to have faith in ourselves, have faith in our dreams, and sometimes, we’re told simply to just have faith. In our culture, “the faithful” is another way of referring to people who use faith to muscle up belief in something that lacks evidence – blind faith we might call it. Strangely, that’s also how many Christians understand faith. It’s equivalent to wishful thinking, or something inspirational and motivational. 

And then we come to today’s Old Testament reading. “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.” This is one of the most important verses in the entire Bible. It is quoted by St. Paul in Romans and Galatians as definitive proof of his teaching that we are declared righteous by faith alone. It is not a teaching made up in the New Testament. Justification by faith can be found here in Genesis, at the beginning of God’s dealings with mankind. This goes to the very heart of Christianity and the good news which we proclaim to a sin-sick world. So, it’s important that we take a moment and look at Abraham and see what is meant by faith, and why that faith is counted as righteousness. Read More

Sermon: Do you have Dragon-Sickness?

Text: Luke 12:13-21
Gospel for Proper 13, Year C

Grace to you and peace from God our Father. (Col. 1:2)

J.R.R. Tolkien’s the Hobbit has become a classic of children’s books. The Hobbit’s plot couldn’t be simpler: A dragon dispossessed some dwarves of their mountain-home and their vast treasure hoard. Over the mountains and through the woods to Smaug’s house we go. Kill the dragon, get the gold. It is the very essence of an adventure story. But it is how Tolkien describes reactions to the gold which is of interest. Bilbo the Hobbit, “had heard tell and sing of dragon-hoards before, but the splendour, the lust, the glory of such treasure had never yet come home to him. His heart was filled and pierced with enchantment … and he gazed motionless at the gold beyond price and count.” After the dragon has been slain, Thorin the dwarf prince barricades himself and his men into the mountain, fearing others will seek some portion of his gold. Tolkien describes that Thorin “did not reckon with the power that gold has upon” people’s hearts. “The lust of it was heavy on him,” Tolkien writes. There’s a name he gives to this kind of insatiable lust for gold – this selfish greed – Dragon-sickness. It’s not just about the gold that one craves to possess, but gold that one believes is owed to them. Nothing else occupies that person’s mind. And when that treasure has been acquired, it will be protected and not one penny will be parted with. 

Tolkien is a master storyteller and is able to show in story-form how subtly greed can overpower our own hearts. And he isn’t the first one to use the story format to talk about the dangers of greed. Jesus uses a story it in today’s Gospel reading. Read More

Sermon: Questioning God’s Justice

Text: Genesis 18:17-33
Old Testament for Proper 12, Year C

Grace to you and peace from God our Father. (Col 1:2.)

One of the biggest obstacles to faith today is the presence of suffering in the world. This objection is often intensely personal and emotional. Those who have deeply experienced pain, suffering, abuse, and loss, are the ones who most commonly identify with this objection. One person remarked, “This is personal, I won’t believe in a God who allows suffering, even if he, she, or it exists. Maybe God exists. Maybe not. But if he does, he can’t be trusted.” Many refuse to trust or believe in any God who would allow history and life to go on as they have. The reasoning goes, if God is all good and all powerful, then surely he would have the motivation and ability to do something about the evil and suffering in the world. The fact that evil and suffering exist means to many that this God simply can’t be trusted. Once, Abraham also wondered if God was about to do the right thing. Read More