The Keys of St. Peters

Sermon: The House that God Built (2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16; Luke 1:26-38)

2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16; Luke 1:26-38
Fourth Sunday in Advent, Series B
Listen to the sermon here.

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

When was the last time you were lonely? Loneliness is a very real part of our human experience. For some, this pandemic has simply made their loneliness feel that much worse. I’m sure some here could agree that at times, going through this pandemic has been very lonely. The internet can keep some of us connected to hundreds of people online, but we might not even see one person’s face. We have to keep our distance from people to avoid spreading of the virus. No hugs, no handshakes. We have missed out on family events and spending time with friends. We’ve missed dining out and concerts. But most of all, we are missing relationships. It is almost certainly true that this epidemic has left most of us with a feeling of loneliness. We can feel like no one is there for us, or no one cares about us, or no one would miss us if we were gone. It can even feel like God himself is distant from us. This kind of loneliness is overwhelming and can be devastating to our souls. The texts for this Fourth Sunday in Advent have something to say to those feelings of loneliness. 

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Sermon: The Scandalous Lineage of Jesus (Matthew 1:1-6).

Text: Matthew 1:1-6
Wednesday after the Third Sunday in Advent
Listen to the sermon here.

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

North Americans love a good scandal. Scandals involve disgraceful or offensive activities. We’re captivated by the salacious details of celebrities’ lives, by politicians trapped in webs of corruption, greed, and infidelity and by clergy gone astray. Maybe we’re drawn to the lapses and misdeeds of the powerful because we delight in seeing the mighty fall or the hypocrisies of the arrogant exposed. Or maybe we enjoy the self-righteous comfort that comes from comparing our own messed-up lives to theirs: at least we’re not that bad! But tonight’s reading draws our attention to some striking scandals in Jesus own genealogy. Let’s spend a few minutes reviewing the family scandals.

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Sermon: A Crisis of Identity (John 1:6-8, 19-28)

John 1:6-8, 19-28
Third Sunday in Advent, Series B
Listen to the sermon here.

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

Who are you? In a culture obsessed with self-actualisation, we feel the constant pressure to ask ourselves who we are and how we define ourselves. We’re pressured to identify ourselves by our jobs, financial status, successes, family, sexual orientation, gender, appearance, what other people say about us. There are numerous ways that we may identify ourselves. But what happens to our identity when things change? We may experience failure or rejection, lose our family. We might find ourselves completely burned out. When our circumstances change, our identity, our sense of who we are, can change too. Someone whose identity is wrapped up in their spouse is going to have a difficult time if that spouse dies. So, “Who are you? What do you say about yourself?” That’s the question posed to John the Baptist by the delegation from Jerusalem, the religious priests and Levites who were sent to investigate this strange wilderness man. How John identified himself can help us find a reliable answer to this question: Who are you?

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Sermon: Jesus, Abraham’s Promised Son (Genesis 15:1-7,18)

Genesis 15:1-7, 18
Wednesday in the Second Week of Advent
Listen to the sermon here.

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

In some cities the light pollution makes it very difficult to see the stars at night. Night is never very dark in the city. One of my most vivid memories is of a camping trip in the Georgian Bay near Tobermory. When we arrived in the middle of the night, and I got out of the car, I stared into the sky in disbelief. There was no electric light to obscure our view. The dark velvet sky was simply blanketed with brilliant stars, sprinkled across the horizon. I like to imagine that it is this kind of night sky that Abraham saw in our reading for this evening. Abraham is doubting God’s promise. He sees no reason to believe that the promise will come true.

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Sermon: Comfort From God (Isaiah 40:1-11)

Text: Isaiah 40:1-11
Second Sunday in Advent, Series B
Listen to the sermon here.

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

What does comfort look like? When might we need to comfort someone else? You might think about the victims of calamity, or parents whose children have died. Your mind might dwell on people without the means to sustain themselves. Certainly those who are vulnerable to physical threat and bodily harm need comfort. There are those who have been the victims of trauma and abuse, and a comforting word might be needed a ray of hope for a dark and dreary mood. God’s message in today’s text from the prophet Isaiah is, “Comfort.” What’s surprising in our text is not that there are people who need comfort; it is that God commands that they be comforted. God wants his preachers to bring comfort to his people, to speak tenderly to his church. What is this comfort? And how does this comfort come to us? Read More

Sermon: Jesus, Son of David (Mark 10:46-52)

Mark 10:46-52
Advent 1, Midweek
Listen to the sermon here.

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

It was a hot, dry and dusty spring day, but the road leading out of Jericho was a good place for a beggar to beg. Scores of people travelled to and from Jerusalem. It was particularly good place for Bartimaeus. While he was sitting at the side of the road, he heard a big commotion. A large crowd was coming down the road. His sharp ears could pick out the voices. He heard the name Jesus. Jesus – that healer and teacher from Nazareth. Bartimaeus heard about Jesus. How Jesus healed the sick, and cast out demons, and raised the dead. He’d heard about Jesus’ compassion, His love for the lost, His call to discipleship. Bartimaeus believed that Jesus could help him. As the crowd drew closer, he began to cry out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me! Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

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Newsletter: December 2020

Welcome News From Heaven

“There were shepherds in that region, out in the open, keeping a night watch around their flock. An angel of the Lord stood in front of them. The glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. ‘Don’t be afraid,’ the angel said to them. ‘Look: I’ve got good news for you, news which will make everybody very happy. Today a saviour has been born for you—the Messiah, the Lord!—in David’s town. This will be the sign for you: you’ll find the baby wrapped up, and lying in a feeding-trough.’”

Luke 2:8-11, NTE

“They were terrified.” Ever wonder why people have always been terrified by the presence of the supernatural? Many of the scariest movies feature something supernatural. There has to be a reason for this universal fear of the supernatural. However, if you consider just how profoundly sinful humanity is, it begins to makes sense that we would fear the supernatural. There’s a subconscious fear of the supernatural. That certainly includes a fear of any message that comes from God. Imagine there was a camp of rebellious subjects who had risen in rebellion against their King. How do you expect they would feel if they were to receive a messenger from the court of the king? They would certainly be afraid. What kind of message do you think we may expect from God, the Creator of the universe, for our rebellion against him? Those shepherds may have had good reason to be terrified, but the angel didn’t think so. “Don’t be afraid… I’ve got good news for you!” How welcome do you think those words are?

Notice that the most welcome news ever announced was not made to the Emperor, nor to the Jewish nobility in Jerusalem, nor even to the religious leaders. No, this news was given to humble shepherds who were “keeping a night watch around their flock.” God picked lowly shepherds. Shepherd were social outcasts, people whom society thought really didn’t matter. It was people that didn’t matter whom God selected to hear good news. Society thought shepherds didn’t matter, God thought they did. They were overlooked by the world, but not by God. That’s the way God has acted ever since. The angel’s words of comfort are not just for those shepherds. They’re also for us. God chooses those whom we would have overlooked. He blesses though we think are not good enough.

“Don’t be afraid… I’ve got good news for you.” And this news was very good indeed! “Today a saviour has been born for you—the Messiah, the Lord!—in David’s town.” The shepherds learned that the long expected king, David’s true heir who would reign forever, had finally been born! But, instead of following David’s heir, we have sought to rule ourselves and to be the masters of our own destinies. How has that turned out for us? We suffer much and inflict suffering in countless ways, simply because humanity is guilty dethroning God. But, the hope of those shepherds is your hope too—the hope that under King Jesus this poor sin-stricken world will at last be set right again. Everything will be put back the way it should have always been, including all this world’s injustice, its godlessness, its violence, and its crime. In that little baby, born in a feeding-trough, God himself has become one of us—Divinity united to humanity. In that child, God has become our king once again, and he shall reign forever and ever (Rev. 11:15). We find our true peace and joy by trusting Jesus who is “the Lord” of all. This good news “will make everybody very happy.” That includes you.

What does it all mean for you? It means more than a day to gather with family. It means more than tinsel, trees and decorations. It even means more than all those gifts. On Christmas day a Saviour was born into the world, a Divine Redeemer, One who upon the Cross died to remove the one curse that infects our humanity. Christmas means: You are delivered from the deadly plague of sin. The promise of a Saviour means you have been forgiven and delivered from the degradation into which we have all sunk. It means freedom from our slavery and debt to sin. It means we have absolutely nothing to fear from God because he is not an angry judge nor a vengeful king. He is your loving heavenly Father, who sent his Son so that you might not perish, but have everlasting life (John 3:16). No matter how much you may think you don’t matter, you always matter to God. No matter how much you feel overlooked, God will never overlook you. No matter how distant you may feel from others, God is always near with his word and promises. Consider the depth of God’s patience towards us! Think for a moment of the boundless breadths of God’s compassion to us.

This Christmas may be far more simple than in other years. Yet, no matter how austere or reserved our celebrations may be this year, the “reason for the season” has not changed. The greatest Christmas gift is this wonderful news from heaven. Christmas assures us of God’s patience and compassion towards us in Christ. This welcome news is for everybody: men and women, boys and girls, children of all ages. It was welcome for those terrified and wondering shepherds. “A saviour has been born for you.” As we hear the angel’s words again this Christmas season, we know that they are for all the wide world, and, whoever we may be, for us.

Merry Christmas!

Sermon: Christ’s Advent Call: “Watch & Wait!” (Mark 13:33-37)

Mark 13:33-37
First Sunday in Advent, Series B
Listen to the sermon here!

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

Most modern houses don’t have a doorkeeper. It’s up to the owners to lock up, and perhaps set-up security alarms. But in some big cities, things may be a bit different. Many people now live in apartment buildings which employ a full-time guard by the main entrance. There may even be several guards on duty 24 hours a day. They see everyone who enters or leaves. This is how it would have been with a great house in Jesus’ day. Jesus says he’s like a man who goes on a journey and leaves his servants in charge, each with the authority to do their work. Watch! Be alert! Stay awake! Four times Jesus says it in four verses of this morning’s Gospel. That’s the spirit of Advent – watchfulness, alertness, waiting with sober vigilance. Be on the lookout, as they say. The Lord is near. This is the warning that Jesus issues to his followers as we face the troubles of this world.

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Sermon: God’s Gifts: Either use them or Lose them (Matthew 25:14-30).

Text: Matthew 25:14-30
Twenty-Fourth Sunday After Pentecost | Proper 28, Series A
Listen to the sermon here!

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

How many people here were audited by the CRA recently? Were you excited? Did you pop open a bottle of champagne and celebrate with your spouse? “Dear! We’re being audited! Come celebrate!!” No, far from it, we usually approach such an event with annoyance, and perhaps a bit of dread. It’s one thing to submit your tax information to the Government. It’s quite another to get the notice that the Government didn’t quite believe you and is now going to go over everything you submitted with a fine-tooth comb. Perhaps they’ll even ask you to submit receipts, proof of this or that, and most certainly, more wonderful forms to fill out. The amount of fear and dread that might come upon you is related to how accurate you were with your information. If you lied, or tried to hide something, it’ll be discovered. If you kept bad records and threw away those receipts, you won’t be able to claim it. And so on. It’s a real hassle isn’t it? So, we really don’t like being audited. In our Gospel lesson Christ our Lord tells a story about three slaves being audited.

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Sermon: Encouraging Words (1 Thess. 4:13-18)

Text: 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
Twenty-Third Sunday After Pentecost | Proper 27, Series A
Listen to the sermon here.

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

There once was a young man who rode the elevated railway to work regularly. One day, he noticed that in one place where the train moved slowly, he could see into a room where an elderly woman was apparently convalescing. For several weeks he saw her recovering there, so one day he put in the effort to learn the woman’s name and sent her a get-well card, signing it, “Just a young man who rides the train.” A week later as he rode the train home through the dusk he noted that the bed was empty and a sign, illuminated by a table lamp, was hanging on the window. It read, “Bless you.”

There are all times when we need to be encouraged. Maybe some here this morning could use a bit of encouragement. Well, the Apostle Paul has some words meant to encourage us, and this is the kind of encouragement that will give us a lasting confidence, and an enduring hope. In our epistle lesson Paul puts to rest all of the fears and concerns that Christians have about death. Christians of all ages and Christians of all times have turned to these verses again and again.

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