The Keys of St. Peters

Sermon: What God Has Joined Together (Mark 10:2-16)

Text: Mark 10:2-16
Proper 22, Series B
Listen to the sermon here.

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

In 2020, there were about 2.71 million people who had obtained a legal divorce in Canada. This figure has been steadily increasing since 2000 when there were about 1.88 million divorces in Canada. Divorce in the first century was a generally accepted part of life, both among Jews and perhaps more so within broader Roman world.

Many Christian brothers and sisters are experiencing or have experienced the misery of divorce. Some are caught between warring parents and others may have been the offending party. Situations in some lives can be so convoluted it is challenging to know how to apply Biblical principles. At the same time, the Church must be prophetic. We must speak God’s Word to a hostile culture—regardless of what the culture thinks. Let’s be honest. Few, if any, preachers out there will want to write a sermon on this text. But, it’s one of those texts in the Bible that if read out loud, you must preach on it. Divorce has touched too many lives to ignore a passage like this, especially when Jesus is talking. The bottom line is, what does Jesus say about marriage and divorce? 

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Sermon: True Greatness

Text: Mark 9:30-37
Proper 20, Series B
Listen to the sermon here.

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

What is greatness? The question of greatness has not gone away since the first century. You see, we think greatness is about being first. We think of greatness as being in positions of power, authority, and might in our world. That’s greatness in our society. Just think about those who we put up on a pedestal as “great”. They’re usually people who have excelled at something and have earned a lot of money, power, and worldly prestige because of it. We often put “great” at the end of people’s names: Alexander the Great, Herod the Great. It’s people like Muhammad Ali who boasted a generation ago about being “the greatest”. Or we may think of the best-known slogan of the recent American election – “Make America great again” – we continue to discuss and debate what constitutes greatness. And that question is at the heart of the Gospel reading appointed for this Sunday.  

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Sermon: When Faith Fails

Text: Mark 9:14-29
Proper 19, Series B
Listen to the sermon here.

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

Many of us have grown up watching movies and TV shows made by Walt Disney. Disney productions try to be somewhat inspirational. One of their big themes is “faith”. This often comes in the form of “believe in yourself.” If you believe in yourself, you can do anything you put your mind to. If you believe in yourself, you can accomplish your dreams. Sometimes the message is slightly better: believe in something greater than yourself. Disney portrays faith as a sort of power that you must activate to make anything possible. Faith is also a big theme in the gospel text before us, and it looks like the disciples have the Disney kind of faith.

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Sermon: Released from Fear (Isaiah 35:4-7a)

Text: Isaiah 35:4-7a
Proper 18, Series B
Listen to the sermon here.

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

What do you fear? We know something about feat. When you experience anxiety, your body reacts: you feel the adrenaline release as your heart races, your breathing accelerates, your stomach churns, and your muscles tense. It is a stress response that we call fight or flight. Our Old Testament Reading begins with a command to speak, proclaiming a remedy for fear. So, who needed to hear these words? The prophet says that the message is for “those of an anxious heart.” This message is for those whose hearts are literally racing in fear. We know about fear, so what’s the remedy?

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Sermon: Who is Your True Enemy? (Mark 7:14-23)

Text: Mark 7:14-23
Proper 17, Series B
Listen to the sermon here.

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

“We have met the enemy, and he is us.” Perhaps you have heard a version of that quote. The original came from an American naval officer in 1813 after the Battle of Lake Erie. It was made famous by Pogo the Possum in several cartoon strips in the early ’70s. Ever since, it continues to resurface here and there in moments of honesty, transparency. 

This quote makes a point similar to Jesus in our appointed Gospel. Of course, Jesus’ version comes out of a different context. Yet, both the quote and the Gospel reading tell us the truth about the source of evil and our condition.

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Wives and Husbands (Eph. 5:21-23)

Text: Ephesians 5:21-23
Proper 16, Series B
Listen to the sermon here.

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

Our epistle reading from Ephesians draws our attention to husbands and wives: “Wives, be subordinate to your husbands as the church is to Christ.” “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her.” Now, that is undoubtedly an unpopular passage today. Many Christians are trying to make their way through a world where God’s creation of marriage  between one man and one woman faces an all-out assault. There is an entire movement founded around the phrase, “Smash the Patriarchy.” But, don’t we live in the age of progress and liberation? Talk about wives being subject sounds oppressive, toxic, and misogynistic. That’s why many would say that passages like this are wicked and shouldn’t even be read out aloud. These words might sound oppressive and toxic in our ears, but no pastor should skip over these words just to please popular opinion. Who could better define the roles of husband and wife than he who created them in the first place? So, this morning we are going to take some time and try to unpack this text and see if we have correctly understood the passage or not.

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Blessed Among Women (Gal. 4:4-7)

Text: Galatians 4:4-7 and Luke 1:39-56
The Virgin Mary, Mother of Our Lord
Listen to the audio here.

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

Everyone has a mother, and our Lord is no exception. The Bible says that Jesus was “like us in every way.” So, that means he had a mother, just like us. His Father, of course, is a different story. In that way, He’s not like us, but He is like Adam. Jesus is the second Adam, the beginning of a new humanity. He was born without the inherited Sin of Adam. Yet, He had a human mother, and so is like us in every way except for sin. Today is when the Church has decided to remember Mary, the mother of our Lord Jesus Christ. The artists get it right. When you see the Blessed Virgin holding her child, you will notice that she tends to be looking either at Him or right at you, and with her hand, she gestures toward Him. Mary is not about Mary. Mary is all about your Jesus.

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The Kindness that Imitates God (Eph. 4:25-5:2)

Text: Ephesians 4:24-5:2
Proper 14, Series B
Listen to the sermon here.

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

How important would you suppose kindness is? When we talk about what holds a community together, I think we’d agree that kindness ranks pretty high. The reason for this is stated clearly at the end of our epistle reading: kindness is one of the purest forms of imitating God. Think about that for a moment. What would it be like if God were the kind of God who was always making snide or bitter remarks at us? What would worship and prayer be like if we thought God had been talking about us behind our backs, putting us down to others? How would you feel if you thought you couldn’t trust God to tell you the truth, or if he was constantly losing his temper with you? Of course, there are plenty of religions, ancient and modern, where the gods do behave in that sort of way. Well: how do people feel about us if that’s what we’re like? Sadly, there are all too many Christians, and sometimes whole churches, that have allowed themselves to forget that kindness is the very essence of the Christian community. So, this morning we’re going to look at five vices that threaten personal relationships within the Church the reason why we should imitate God’s kindness within the Church.

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Sermon: Working for Real Food (John 6:22-35)

Text: John 6:22-35
Gospel for Proper 13, Series B.
Listen to the sermon here.

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

One of the things my wife and I love to do if we get a chance is tour large art museums. So far, we have been to art museums in Berlin, Chicago, Detroit, and Montreal.  Imagine if we went hastily from gallery to gallery. In every room we walked around beside the wall and read all the details from the printed notices underneath the paintings, but all the while ignoring the paintings themselves. We might be able to tell you the artists’ names, their dates, where they lived, or the names of their key paintings. But if we did that, we would have never stood back and looked at the paintings themselves, and allowed them to speak to us. The printed notes were there to lead the eye, the mind and the heart to appreciate the paintings, not so that they could be only used to provide information.

John chapter six records the events surrounding Jesus’ miraculous feeding of the five thousand. Last week we looked at the feeding itself. This week, Jesus is clearly anxious that the people whom he fed with the loaves and fishes were going to end up looking the notices but missing the paintings. This morning, Jesus is trying to repair the faulty understanding the crowd took away from last Sunday’s text. You see, the sign that Jesus performed was not about having a belly full of food. That sign pointed to something else.

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Sermon: The King Who Feeds Us (John 6:1-21)

Text: John 6:1-21
Proper 12, Series B
Listen to the sermon here.

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

Economist Milton Friedman once wrote: “There is no such thing as a free lunch.” And he’s right. Someone has to pay. Somewhere, sometime. The five thousand who Jesus fed in our Gospel reading might disagree. They certainly got a free lunch, didn’t they? Christ generated fish and bread right out of thin air! It was an occasion where the need far surpassed the available resources. It was also an occasion where Jesus had to perform “a sign” to satisfy the want. A sign is not just a miracle. It is a miracle that tells you something about Jesus. The question before us this morning: what does the feeding of the five thousand tell us about Jesus’ identity?

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