The Keys of St. Peters

Sermon: Every Christian’s Battle

Text: Romans 7:14-25
Fifth Sunday after Pentecost, Series A
Listen to the Sermon here!

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

Go back for a moment to those classic Saturday morning cartoons. Sometimes these cartoons picture a character wrestling with a temptation. The internal struggle is visualised by two miniature versions of the character’s self, an Angel and a Devil. They sit on each shoulder, with the Devil on the left. The angel and devil are shown both whispering into one ear, hoping to motivate the character to choose evil or good. It’s a trope we are all familiar with and seems to go all the way back to the second century AD.

The struggle which can be depicted in cartoons, is even more elaborately explained by St. Paul in our Epistle lesson. “I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do,” says Paul (Rom. 7:19). How many here can relate to that? Have you felt that struggle between what you know is right, and the evil you’re tempted to do? Have you ever asked yourself, “Why do I keep on sinning when I don’t want to sin? Why the struggle? Why the battle?” St. Paul helps us to see why every Christian must face this struggle, and what hope we have. Read More

July Newsletter

How May I Help My Neighbours?

At some point in our lives, we are likely to have been asked the question, “How may I be of service?” Usually, this question is addressed to us by someone working some sort of service job. Once we inform them of our specific need, they go to work in providing that need. Similar to those who work in the service industry, it is our duty to serve our neighbours. But oftentimes we talk about the fact that we must love and serve our neighbours, but we sometimes neglect to talk about how and why we are to do so.

This is important to consider as we enter the sixteenth week of this Coronavirus pandemic. It is relatively easy to become disillusioned with the whole thing and forget why we are going through all this. Conspiracy theories and disinformation abound online and can plant seeds of doubt.

An important point to emphasise right away is that the government is not persecuting us. While this may seem self-evident, for many it is not. Many Christians seem to have a martyr-complex and would love nothing more than to be persecuted by the government. But that is simply not the case in this situation. No, our governments, both provincial and federal, were not targeting Christians.

What are they doing then? They are trying to preserve bodily life. This is included in the government’s basic job description. The obligation of the Fifth Commandment applies both to the government and also us individually. “We are to fear and love God, so that we neither endanger nor harm the lives of our neighbours, but instead help and support them in all of life’s needs” (SC I.10, Kolb and Wengert, 352). The Government has a duty to preserve our lives. We have the duty to what we can, according to our vocations, to protect and support of neighbours.

Another reason to obey public health recommendations stems from the Fourth Commandment, where we are told that, “we are to fear and love God, so that we neither despise nor anger our parents and others in authority, but instead honour, serve, obey, love, and respect them” (SC I.8, Kolb and Wengert, 352). These public health recommendations are more than simply suggestions which we are free to take or leave. Instead, the government is expecting us to do the right thing, to make sure we “neither endanger nor harm the lives of our neighbours.” They do not want to have to enforce this. As Christians, we should be the first in line to be part of the solution, not the problem. This means that when health officials give us recommendations to help slow the spread of Covid-19, we can and should think of our compliance as our loving service to our neighbours.

Many, especially those who are more vulnerable or at risk, have struggled with fear during this time. But, should we view these public health measures with fear? Far from it! These are not the measures of fear. No, they are tangible ways we can express our love for our fellow Canadians. Given our situation, there are tangible and concrete ways you can love and serve your neighbours. Wearing masks whenever appropriate, keeping two metres apart from those not in our “social bubble”, and washing our hands, are just a few examples.

Now, this requires something of us (James 2:15-16). Wearing masks can be hot and uncomfortable. We’re tired of making sure we stay physically distant from other people. But, the sacrifice of our comfort is for the health and well being of our neighbours. Is not your neighbour’s life worth more than a bit of discomfort? It may be a sacrifice of time, to call a lonely friend or acquaintance and see how they are doing. Whatever the sacrifices we have to make during this time, we make them because we love of neighbours and want what’s best for them. This also implies that we should make allowance for those who are unable to wear masks. We certainly would not want to endanger our neighbour by forcing them to wear a mask!

The fundamental question we need to be asking ourselves right now is, “How may I help my neighbours?” Certainly, following the public health guidelines is one way. But we should not look at the regulations and ask ourselves, “What is the least I have to do?” Instead, we should be permeated with a concern to not endanger the lives of others.

It is important that we do not endanger our neighbours at Church also. This is especially true now that we have resumed in-person services. Churches can be places with a high risk of infection, if the right precautions are not taken. The Fourth Commandment suggests that we should trust the expertise of those placed in charge of public health. And so, Church Council has worked hard to make sure we are not only following the recommended provincial and local health guidelines, but that we are doing what we can to show you that we love and care for your physical well being. Certainly, we may find these measures distracting or intrusive at first. But, the physical well being of our neighbours is worth it.

The Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) contains an important lesson on this point. Why did the priest and the Levite pass the man who was robbed and left for dead? Because they had to attend to religious functions and duties, which were commanded by God through Moses. However, Jesus places more value on the bodily well being of the robbed man over even religious regulations given by Moses! Our neighbours are no good to us dead, and we should not be so Pharisaical as to allow the precision of ritual to endanger our neighbour.

While wearing masks, washing hands, and being physically distant are minor discomforts and inconveniences, they are tangible ways we obey the Fourth and Fifth Commandments. They allow us to show and demonstrate our love for our neighbours right now. We are motivated to do so, because of the Cross. What Jesus Christ our Lord went through was far worse than a minor inconvenience or discomfort. Christ is our own Good Samaritan. By his shed blood and gruesome death on our behalf he has cleansed us of our sins. He has put us up in the inn of the Holy Christian Church. He feeds us with his Word and with his Body and Blood, the medicine of immortality. He does so, not just while we were his neighbours, but his enemies. He tells us not to fear, but to trust in Him because he has conquered the world (John 14:1; 16:33). With such extravagant love shown to us, how can we not do what we can to not endanger our fellow Canadians at this time?

Sermon: Why Can’t We Keep the Law? (Romans 7:1-13)

Romans 7:1-13

Proper 8A, Fourth Sunday After Pentecost
Listen to the sermon here!

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

Have you ever visited a shopping mall and seen those rent-able carts for children? Sometimes they are designed to look like race cars with a fake steering wheel so that the child can have some fun as the parents shop. These carts usually have a bag on the back where you can put your personal or shopping items. Quite often they also have a sign on the bag: “DO NOT PUT CHILD IN BAG.” Why is that sign there? Because some parents were putting their kids in the bag! Maybe someone got hurt. Maybe the bags were damaged. Something happened, and a sign needed to be made. Up until the very moment when you saw the sign, you hadn’t even thought about doing that. But now, since you were told not to do it, what happens? You have a sudden urge to put the child in the bag! I should never have known what it was to want to put the child in the bag, if the sign had not said, ‘Do not put child in bag.’  Through that sign sin found its opportunity, and produced in me all kinds of wrong desires.

In his letter to the Romans, St. Paul the Apostle tell us that this situation reveals a serious defect in us. In order help us to understand what’s going on when we have that desire to put the child in the bag, Paul says first that the Law exposes sin. Second that sin exploits the Law. And third, that sinners need grace. Read More

Sermon: The Slavery that Liberates

Text: Romans 6:12-23
Third Sunday After Pentecost, Series A
You can listen to the sermon here.

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

The story of the Prodigal Son is well known (Luke 15:11–32). The younger son tells his father to drop dead, and hand over the inheritance. Venturing off into the world, he spends the entire inheritance on his party life. Finally, he comes home, in what he thinks will be utter disgrace. Then, to his amazement, he finds his father running down the road to meet him, and throwing a huge party in his honour. He’s welcomed back as a son, even though he doesn’t deserve it (and despite his older brother’s complaints).

Now imagine it’s a year or two later. The young man has a unexpected thought. Life has resumed a normal routine again. His older brother tolerates having him around, more or less; his father is getting older. He remembers with a happy sigh all those parties. He also remembers how he felt that day he came up the road and his father came running to greet him … And he thinks, what if I did it again? Why not help myself to a little cash, run away for a few weeks, and then play the penitent and come back again? Maybe I’ll get another party!

Absurd? Unthinkable? Don’t think it’s that farfetched. It’s exactly what a lot of people think. “I like sinning. God likes forgiving. It’s the perfect arrangement!’” And many people today seem to believe that the church’s only message should be forgiveness and acceptance. The Apostle Paul ran into people who thought that he was teaching this very thing. They objected to Paul’s teaching that Christians are free from the Law. People were worried that this would cast off all moral restraint: ‘Paul, you can’t go around saying that Christians are free from the Law! People will get the idea that they can do whatever they want!’ Our epistle reading was written to answer that objection and to show us that the Gospel does not give us a license to sin. Read More

Sermon: When Our Ruin Meets God’s Grace

Text: Romans 5:6-15, 18-21
Second Sunday after Pentecost, Series A
You can listen to the sermon here.

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

The sculptor had finished creating a fine statue. It was placed with pride in the town square. The statue was of a local hero. At great risk to his own life, he had single-handedly rescued a boatload of people caught off the rocks in a winter storm. The town was grateful, and commissioned a statue of him from the sculptor.

But it wasn’t long before trouble arrived. The next summer, a gang moved into the town. They rampaged up the little main street; they broke a couple of windows, and they burned down a shop. When they got to the statue, they defaced it with spray-paint. Then they pushed the statue off its base and crashed into the pavement, smashing into bits. It was ruined! The town council didn’t know what to do! They could not afford a new statue. But the sculptor had an idea. At once, he set to work. He remade it, at his own expense. When the town council asked him why he did it, the sculptor said it was simply because he loved this town.

This little story highlights the main point the Apostle Paul is trying to get across in our epistle reading. Paul talks about how far Sin has gone in ruining the human race, and how God’s grace in Christ is stronger than sin and death, and promises us restoration. Read More

Sermon: Why does the Trinity Matter?

Text: Acts 2:14-36
Second Reading for Trinity Sunday, Series A
Listen to the sermon here!

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

There is a saying that goes something like this, “In the beginning God created man, and ever since man has been returning the favour.” There’s something to this. We are tempted to fashion God after ourselves, to have a god to suit our fancy. We are tempted invent a god who will solve all our problems or satisfy all our perceived needs. And this is exactly why many don’t like the Creeds, because they won’t be told what to believe. People want to have a pick-and-choose, do-it-yourself, smörgåsbord kind of god.

But, today is the Sunday of the Holy Trinity. Today we confessed the Athanasian creed. This creed stands in the way of our self-chosen gods and says, “Whoever desires to be saved must confess this catholic faith.” Trinity Sunday is a day to take a big, deep breath and confess the incomprehensible – God as one Divine Essence in three Divine Persons, a Unity in Trinity and a Trinity in Unity. “Neither confusing the Persons nor dividing the Substance.” But it’s sure confusing, isn’t it? But this raises two important questions: what exactly is the Trinity and why does my eternal salvation depend upon confessing it? Read More

Sermon: “And the Lord Came Down”

Text: Genesis 11:1-9; Acts 2:1-21
Pentecost, Series A
Listen to the Sermon here!

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

What’s the tallest building you’ve ever seen?  The CN tower? Perhaps a skyscraper in New York City? Postcards and photographs are taken of major cities skylines which are dotted with buildings which seem to defy gravity. But to see these buildings in person is truly breath taking. You stand at the bottom and look upward at what seems to be an unending conglomeration of concrete, glass and steel. And every so often, what was once the tallest building is soon dwarfed. Today’s Old Testament lesson contains the story of mankind’s first skyscraper. Read More

Sermon: The Dangers of Pride

Text: 1 Peter 5:5b-11
Sunday after the Ascension, Series A
Listen to the Sermon here.

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

Overconfidence can get you into a whole heap of trouble. In the early 20th century captain Edward Smith said that his new ship was unsinkable. It was made with the latest state-of-the-art technology and had more safeguards than any other ship. On its maiden voyage across the Atlantic, Smith received several transmissions from other ships indicating that there were ice floes in the vicinity, yet he continued to speed ahead at full throttle. And so, because of pride, the RMS Titanic hit an iceberg and the “unsinkable ship” sank in the frigid waters of the North Atlantic, with massive loss of life.

We can be guilty of much the same thing – placing too much confidence in ourselves and our own abilities. It can sometimes be quite difficult to acknowledge our own weaknesses. There is always the temptation to admire ourselves for our own strength, power, and worthiness. This is what is called “Pride”and it is a real danger to the Christian life. St. Peter the Apostle explains why pride is a serious threat, and what our attitude toward God should be. Read More

Sermon: Why should we care about the Ascension?

Occasion: The Ascension of our Lord
Readings for the Ascension of our Lord.
Listen to the Sermon Here.

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

Welcome to the Forgotten Feast! Today is Ascension Day, or, as it’s more properly called, the Feast of the Ascension of Our Lord. But there is reason to call it the “Forgotten” Feast. Ascension Day is classed in the church year as a major festival, which means it’s a day for all churches to hold the Divine Service. It’s a day on par with Christmas, Good Friday, and Easter. The sad fact is that many congregations and many Christians have forgotten all about celebrating this important feast.

We understand the reason why we celebrate Good Friday: Jesus’ sacrificial, atoning death on the cross for the salvation of the world. We understand why we celebrate Easter: Because of Jesus’ resurrection, the tomb is empty, and death is defeated. He is risen indeed! Alleluia. But Ascension Day? For many, it isn’t even remotely on the radar. There are no Ascension Day parades, no Ascension Day sales at the mall. I have never heard anyone say, “Sorry, we can’t make it to church, we’re going to Grandma’s for Ascension Day.” When compared to Christmas and Easter, Ascension seems not to be very important.

But the Ascension of Jesus is important. It’s very important. If Christ is not Ascended, then we’ve got a big problem. Where in the world is He? So why should we care about Ascension Day? Read More

Sermon: Christ’s Work – Help for Troubled Christians

Text: 1 Peter 3:13-22
Epistle for the Fifth Sunday After Easter, Series A
Listen to the sermon here!

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

Are Christians being persecuted for their faith today? We could certainly answer that in some places in the world they are. It was just over five years ago that 21 Coptic Christians were martyred by the Islamic State in Libya. How about here in North America? Well, we are not being thrown to the lions or taken off to be executed. We enjoy a freedom to gather together as Christians and worship our Lord. However, because of our faith, our obedience, and refusal to participate in the sins of our society, Christians often face ostracism, ridicule and contempt by others. This happens in schools, at places of employment, and even among families. Can you think of times when your commitment to the Christian faith was the cause of some ill treatment? With Bible-believing Christians in the minority, we face an increasing pressure to conform to society’s beliefs and standards. We can’t even watch the news or enjoy many forms of entertainment without being exposed to perspectives at odds with Christian faith and morality. So, despite not being persecuted in an overt or life-threatening way, Christians in North America nonetheless face challenges and at times injustices because we are Christians. In the face of these challenges to our faith as Christians, St. Peter the Apostle offers us a perspective which will help us to endure whatever society might throw at us. Read More