The Keys of St. Peters

Sermon: Bearing Fruit in the True Vine (John 15:1-8)

Text: John 15:1-8
Fifth Sunday of Easter, Series B
Listen to the sermon here.

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

One of many areas in which I possess near-total incompetence is gardening. I am not a gardener. But I can mow the lawn, pick berries, and maybe even keep a cactus alive for a bit. After I bought my first house in Windsor, it was time to cut the grass for the first time. I decided that the flowerbed was not worth the effort, so I mowed it right over and left to be grass. My wife thinks I’m a terrible person. Thankfully, the picture of the Vine in our Gospel reading isn’t an instruction manual for gardening. The image of the Vine takes us out to wine country. Think of Niagara-on-the-Lake with its rolling vineyards lush with grapevines. Fruitful branches thick with grapes growing on an old, gnarled vine with roots that reach deep into the ground. Jesus is that true Vine, the only Vine planted by God. You, baptised Christian, are one of the branches. This is a metaphor, a story that describes the nature of our relationship with Jesus.

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May Newsletter

God’s Kingdom, on Earth as in Heaven

The coronavirus epidemic has demonstrated the inadequacies of human government, hasn’t it? Then again, can you think of a government on this Earth that isn’t either unreliable at best or corrupt at worst? Many places have corrupt and self-serving leaders instead of good ones. We certainly suspect that there might be some leaders out there who are more concerned about winning the next election and pushing their own agendas than caring for the people. Things like these are the reason why it is pretty easy to become jaded and cynical at the entire political process. We have lost hope that human governments will be able to free themselves from their own corruption or provide lasting solutions to our real problems. Although we know the genuine limitations of human government, we still recognize our need for good government. God has established authorities in the world as part of the goodness of creation. He did this because the bullies and the malevolent would always get away with it without them. 

But the question is: are we able to recognize our need for God? We see our need for a stable and good government; we can see the problems and inadequacies in our government, but can we see our need for God? We can recognize our human needs. But do we see our need for Jesus? Do we understand that Jesus is the King of creation? Behind our need for a just society and good leadership is our utter dependence on God. What we need is the tangible and real reign of God. Only God has the solution to our problems. That’s why the Christians confess that God is our King and continue to pray, “Thy kingdom come on Earth as it is in heaven.” 

When the Bible talks about God’s kingdom, it never is talking about Heaven. It always refers to God’s kingdom coming on Earth as in Heaven. That’s what Jesus taught us to pray. It can be easy to think that ‘the kingdom of heaven’ means that God’s kingdom is in ‘heaven.’ But the Bible does not talk like that. The point about Heaven is that Heaven is the control room for Earth. Heaven is the CEO’s office, and Earth is run from there – or it’s supposed to be, which is why Jesus tells us to pray for that to become a reality.

God’s kingdom is his reign. We need God’s reign and rule on Earth as it is in Heaven, because the God who reigns is a righteous King. What does righteous mean? We tend to think it means upright and moral. That’s part of it. God’s reign is just and fair because he enforces his moral order, seeing to it that both the righteous and wicked receive their due compensation. But there’s more to it than that. 

To be righteous is to be faithful, reliable, and live up to his promises and obligations. He always does right by those he loves. He never lets us down. God’s righteousness means you can trust his promises because he is reliable. God is loyal to his own commitment to give you what you need. He provides for the physical needs of both the righteous and the wicked. He takes care of his creation, from plants and animals to us humans. 

But more than that, God’s Kingdom has begun to put everything right again. Our sin has bent and distorted this world, but God is righteous, and the crookedness will be set straight. God’s righteousness moves him to intervene, to act on our behalf and to rescue us from our distress. It’s a kingdom that does not come with might or power or politics but by the Spirit of God. God’s kingdom is not a reign over nations but over hearts and minds.  

As you hear God’s Word read and proclaimed to you, that is the reign and rule of God coming near. As you strive to lead a godly life and to turn from sin, that is not your power, but the power of the Kingdom of God at work in you. As you go into the world to love your neighbour as yourself, that is the Kingdom of God at work in you. God’s kingdom comes as the church, powered by the Spirit, goes out into the world to pray for people, love and serve them, call the erring to repentance, and give the repentant the hope of forgiveness and life in Christ. 

Prayer and sharing the gospel bring healing and hope to people, but this will often result in a challenge to economic, political, or cultural structures at one level or another. This may well bring resistance against the message and perhaps suffering for the church. But, the church must remind all of their God-given duty and must hold them to account.

We believe that Jesus Christ is is our rightful Lord and King. We believe that the church has a responsibility to support our governments by prayer, by reminding them of what they are there for and occasionally pointing out when they’re getting it wrong. Because they often get it wrong, we need to recognize our need for God’s Kingdom to come on Earth as in Heaven. His kingdom of grace and mercy founded by Jesus Christ, the King of Kings, is our only hope. We can trust his promises to us because he is reliable. His reign is not for one or two terms, but it lasts forever and ever. God is first and last, and there is no other. None preceded him, and none shall succeed him. His reign is a reign without end, and that’s a reign we need. To him be the glory! Amen.

Sermon: The Good Shepherd and His Sheep (John 10:11-18)

Text: John 10:11-18
Fourth Sunday of Easter, Series B
Listen to the sermon here.

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

One of my wife’s favourite icons is the picture of the Good Shepherd carrying the wayward sheep on his shoulders. We have it hanging in our house. My wife also grew up hearing that little children’s hymn many learned in Sunday school. In fact, when my kids are fussy, tired, or need a little comfort, Laurin and I will sing this little hymn to them:

I am Jesus little lamb;
Ever glad at heart I am.
For my Shepherd gently guides me
Knows my need and well provides me
Loves me every day the same
Even calls me by my name. 

LSB 740:1

The image of Jesus as the good shepherd might seem quaint and cute to many. Something we tell our children. It has a warm, gentle glow of safety and warmth about it. If we think we’ve outgrown that little song, we need to spend a little quality time with image of Jesus the Good Shepherd. We may have grown from little lambs to big sheep, but we’re just as much in need of a shepherd. “I am the Good Shepherd,” Jesus says. This is more than a nice little figure of speech for the children. It’s a solemn revelation of who Jesus is. This morning we’ll look at what this revelation says about us, and what is says about Jesus.

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Sermon: What You Need to Know About Jesus (Luke 24:36b-48)

Text: Luke 24:36b-48
Third Sunday of Easter, Series B
Listen to the sermon here.

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

There is a book out there entitled All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.  The title is a bit of an exaggeration, but the point it’s trying to make is quite true. The skills we need to get along with others in the world, are learned in Kindergarten. If you can share, refrain from hitting, clean up after yourself, apologise when you hurt someone, and so on, you will be well on your way to becoming a kind and productive citizen.

How would you respond if I told you that everything you need to know about Jesus Christ is found in our Gospel reading from Luke? Now that’s also a bit of an exaggeration, however this text does serve as an important summary of Jesus’ life, ministry, and the very gospel message we proclaim. This means this passage will help us to discover how all of this Jesus stuff applies to us.

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Sermon: The Unexpected Job Offer

Text: John 20:19-31
Second Sunday of Easter, Series B

In the name of Jesus. Amen. 

Imagine for a moment that you have applied for a job at a pharmaceutical company. You’ve already been interviewed, but now management wants to have a meeting with you. Now, imagine that instead of offering you the job you applied for, management offered you the one above it. A senior position in the whole company. You would be running an entire department. A huge budget. Lots of benefits. Overseeing much of the company’s operations. You may think that you’re simply not up to it. ‘I couldn’t possibly do that!’ You may say. ‘Well,’ says the owner, ‘we think you can. Of course, there’s going to be a lot of responsibility. But we think you’re right for the job, and we’re going to change some things around so you get the right assistance. You’ll have everything you need to succeed.’  An unexpected job offer! Read More

Sermon: Hear Mary’s Testimony (John 20:1-18)

Text: John 20:1-18
The Resurrection of our Lord
Listen to the sermon here.

Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! 

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

It was Sunday, the first day of a new week. It was still dark. A woman has broken through her fear in order to tend to the dead body of her teacher and friend. In the dim light she saw the stone door had been rolled away, the grave was open. The woman assumes the logical worst – someone had taken the body of her friend and teacher. That was the reasonable thing to think. Dead men don’t rise. Someone must have moved the body. Nevertheless, she runs back to tell others what she believes has happened. “They’ve taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they have laid him.” The body of Jesus of Nazareth is missing.

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Sermon: “Behold the Man!” (John 19:4-7).

Text: John 19:4-7
Good Friday
Listen to the sermon here.

We find ourselves on a Friday morning, on the sixth day of the week, looking at the Roman governor and his peculiar new prisoner. This prisoner has been scourged. He lets the soldiers dress him up as a king—of sorts: the crown of thorns, and the slapping about the face, tell you what they thought about such a claim. And Pilate says the words that still haunt us: ‘Behold the man!’ Pilate is not saying this to the scribes, the Pharisees, the chief priests and rulers of Israel. Pilate is saying “Behold the man” to you, to me. Pilate is asking us what we will do with this Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews. The same Jesus who was displayed by Pilate to the people of Jerusalem is set before us who hear his gospel, and these words are addressed to all to whom the Word is preached: “Behold the Man!” This morning, on the Friday we have called “Good,” we will behold the man.

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Sermon: The Service of Jesus
 (John 13:1-17, 31-35)

Text: John 13:1-17, 31-35
Holy (Maundy) Thursday
Listen to the sermon here.

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

Tonight is the first of the three holy days leading up to Easter. On these days, we will meditate on what Jesus did for us in order to save us, how He laid down His life as a ransom for many, how He went to the cross as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Tonight we begin in an upper room in Jerusalem and Jesus with His disciples. Paul, reminds us how our Lord on the night of His betrayal took the bread and the cup of the Passover and made them something new and something more: His own Body and Blood which He would give the next day on the cross for the life of the world. John fills in the gaps around the Supper, focusing on what Jesus said and did. And so there two things we want to focus on this evening: first is Jesus’ example, and second is what this example means.

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Sermon: Barabbas or Jesus? (Mark 15)

Text: Mark 15:1-47
Sunday of the Passion, also called Palm Sunday
Listen to the sermon here.

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

Welcome to the beginning of Holy Week. We start our week with shouts of Hosanna! and end it with cries of Crucify! They don’t fit together nicely, do they? It’s a collision of two agendas, two kingdoms, two crowds and two messiahs. On the one hand is Barrabas. On the other hand is Jesus of Nazareth. Whom would you choose? Whom do you choose?

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Sermon: The Greatness of Jesus (Luke 1:26-38)

Text: Luke 1:26-38
The Annunciation of our Lord
Listen to the sermon here.

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

Before there’s a birth, there has to be a conception. Conception takes place nine months before birth, give or take a few weeks. So, why are we having a service tonight? Today we have paused in the midst of this season of fasting and repentance and take a moment to celebrate. Why? Think about it. What other church festival always happens on the 25th of a month? That’s right, Christmas, which always falls on December 25. And since we celebrate our Lord’s birth on December 25, nine months before that, on March 25, is the Feast of the Annunciation, the day Mary heard the Word of God spoken by the angel and conceived the Son of God, our Savior Jesus. “Conceived by the Holy Spirit” on March 25, “born of the virgin Mary” on December 25, nine months later. Today we hear again the angel Gabriel and his startling claim that Mary “will conceive in [her] womb and bear a son … and he will be great.” 

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