The Keys of St. Peters

Sermon: Jesus Our Great High Preist (Hebrews 5:5-10)

Text: Hebrews 5:5-10
Fifth Sunday in Lent, Series B
Listen to the sermon here.

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

As Protestants living in North America we get a little fidgety when we hear talk of “priests” don’t we? When talking to people about coming to church or about going to private confession, one sometimes encounters a certain amount of resistance. The ideas and concepts associated with priesthood are not a popular subject. The common attitude of many is, “I don’t need a priest, I can go directly to God and ask forgiveness. I have a personal relationship with God. I often go to him in prayer, asking him to forgive my sins. Why would I need a priest to get in the way when I can do it myself? My faith is between me and God alone.” This kind of attitude can be a dangerous one though. Sometimes we feel perfectly capable of managing our relations with God in our own way, at our own pace, and according to our own desires. It’s that North American, independent, do-it-yourself kind of attitude. However, our second reading from Hebrews tells us that we can’t do it ourselves. We cannot go to God directly. We need a priest. Read More

Sermon: “The Gospel and the Promises of God” (Matthew 28:16-20)

Text: Matthew 28:16-20
St. Patrick, Bishop and Missionary
Listen to the sermon here.

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

It may come as a shock to you, but St. Patrick was not Irish. He was British, and a citizen of the crumbling Roman Empire.  His grandfather was a priest and his father a deacon, but Patrick rejected his family’s faith. At the age of sixteen, Patrick was kidnapped by Irish pirates. He was sold into slavery to a cruel master who left him cold, hungry and alone. Patrick spent his days tending to pigs and flocks of sheep in the wilderness. This gave the young slave time to think about spiritual things. He started getting up early to pray, and, before long, it was what he lived for. The Holy Spirit was moving in his heart, showing him his sin and calling him to a deep love for God and people.  After he had endured six years as a slave in Ireland, God sent Patrick a vision urging him to escape and make a run for it. Amazingly, he made the 200 mile journey to the coast and found a ship to take him back home.

Patrick hugged his parents and settled back into British life. But he didn’t settle long. After a few years, he had a dream in which the people of Ireland begged Patrick to return and live among them. Patrick told his parents he was going back to Ireland. His parents find this inconceivable. Why would Patrick go back to the very people who had enslaved him? Why give any more time to those who stole six years of his life? What could have possibly motivated him? And what can we learn about it?

Read More

Sermon: The Snake on the Stick (Num. 21:4-9)

Text: Numbers 21:4-9
Fourth Sunday in Lent, Series B
Listen to the sermon here.

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

Snakes had infested the camp of Israel. They slipped into dark corners, and slithered into tents and into sleeping bags. These were not garter snakes. No, they were deadly and their venomous bites caused fiery inflammation. Israelites were dying all over the camp. Where’d these snakes come from? The Lord sent them. And then our Gospel reading comes along and tells us that this whole event is supposed to remind of us the Crucifixion of our Lord Jesus Christ.  How? Wasn’t the snake the problem, not the solution? Surely Jesus isn’t suggesting that he was like the poisonous snakes that had been attacking the people?  Let’s unpack these texts together.

Read More

Sermon: Cursing the Hideout of Hypocrisy (Mark 11:15-19).

Text: Mark 11:15-19
Wednesday after the Third Sunday in Lent, Series B
Listen to the sermon here.

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

On the 8th of June in the year of our Lord 793, Vikings launched a devastating attack on the island of Lindisfarne, off the coast of England. The the church of St. Cuthbert was destroyed, goods were stolen and much innocent blood was shed. This was an event that shook the Christian world to its core. It was so traumatic that historians have agreed it should mark the official beginning of the Viking Age. 

Place yourself for a moment in that church service. The service is violently interrupted by a hoard of heathen Vikings determined to pillage and plunder. As a parishioner, what might you be thinking or feeling? What would your reaction be to so much violence? What if the interruption extended into desecration? (Mistreating the body and blood of our Lord). Would you be shocked, angry, frightened?

Now your feelings and emotions in such a situation are similar to those watching the astonishing scene in the Temple from our Gospel reading. We are so used to this Bible story that we can forget how shocking it must have been. It raises some questions: what was wrong with the Temple? Why did Jesus do what he did? And can we be guilty of the same thing?

Read More

Sermon: We proclaim a crucified messiah (1 Cor. 1:18-25)

Text: 1 Corinthians 1:18-25
Third Sunday in Lent, Series B
Listen to the sermon here.

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

Near the palatine hill in Rome, there is this remarkable piece of graffiti from the third century, scrawled into the wall of the dormitory of imperial pageboys. The graffiti depicts a Christian boy being mocked for worshipping a crucified man with a donkey’s head. The boy, standing in front of the cross, raises his hand in adoration of this donkey God. Scrawled below the picture are the words: “Alexemenos worships his God.” This graffiti, as you might suspect, is not a compliment. In ancient Rome, the donkey was reviled for its stupidity and stubbornness. It became the primary metaphor for describing people’s foolishness. Christians in ancient Rome were slandered as worshipping foolishness. And little has changed since then. In North America, Christianity is not incredibly popular. Its common for News outlets, Hollywood, and virtually all types of media to characterise Christians either as superstitious buffoons to be mocked, or narrow-minded bigots to be denounced. Today, the Apostle Paul reminds us that this is the way it has always been. 

Read More

Sermon: Healing the Incurable Wound (Jeremiah 30:12-17)

Text: Jeremiah 30:12-17
Wednesday after the Second Sunday in Lent, Series B
Listen to the sermon here.

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

In November of 1997, a forum called “Sin and the Art of Zen Archery” was held at a synagogue in New Jersey. The forum, which featured panelists from several world religions, was on the topic of sin. In the discussion that followed, one woman objected to the whole idea of sin, saying, “I don’t know whether there is any proper place for evil in human nature. If I believe part of me is evil, how will I ever overcome evil?” That question is haunting. If sin is within me, how can I ever escape it? 

Read More

Sermon: The Sacrifice of the Beloved Son (Genesis 22:1-14)

Text: Genesis 22:1-14
Old Testament Lesson for the Second Sunday in Lent, Series B
Listen to the sermon here.

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

Our Old Testament reading is one of the most brilliantly told and emotionally heavy narratives in all the Bible. Imagine the dialogue in the first scene for a moment. Abraham heard God’s thunderous voice call his name, “Abraham!” “Yes, Lord?” Abraham was eager and willing to respond to God’s call. “You know your son?” “Which one, I have two.” “Your only son Isaac. You love him, don’t you?” “Oh, yes,” confirms Abraham, “He has brought me such joyous laughter. He means the world to me.” After a bit of a pause, God replies, “Sacrifice him for me, then, will you?”

Read More

Sermon: The Word of God and Prayer (Acts 1:15-26)

Text: Acts 1:15-26
The Feast of St. Matthias, Apostle
Listen to the sermon here.

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

The Church faced a particular problem with the filling of an Apostolic vacancy. It was like the kind of problem you might have experienced yourself. You’ve bought something from Ikea. You open the package, and begin to sort out all the bits and pieces that have to be assembled. Soon, you begin to panic, because they didn’t send the instructions. That must have been exactly how the apostles felt in the very early days. What are we supposed to do

Read More

Sermon: The God Who Promises (Gen. 9:8-17)

Text: Genesis 9:8-17
First Sunday in Lent, Series B
Listen to the sermon here.

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

There was once a pastor who was talking about the Flood during a children’s sermon. The children were called to the front of the sanctuary and asked to use their imaginations in thinking about the story: “What do you see? What do you smell? What do you hear?” One youngster answered, “I hear the people in the water outside the ark screaming for help.” That was not an answer the pastor was expecting. The story of Noah and the flood is one of those biblical stories that can reveal a lot about what we think about sin. Many contemporary authors think that the story of Noah’s Ark portrays a wrathful God who flies off the handle in a fit of genocidal violence. Is that really the picture of God that is portrayed here? Let’s not rush too quickly to the rainbow. After all, it won’t mean anything to us until we come to terms with the why there is so much death and destruction.

Read More

Sermon: Return to the Lord (Joel 2:1-2, 12-17)

Text: Joel 2:1-2, 12-17
Ash Wednesday
Listen to the sermon here.

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

It’s Lent again. The time of self denial. The time to pray more, fast, and give to those in need. Do those things sound like drudgery to you? The little child in all of us cries out, “I don’t wanna! Do I have to?!”

Read More