The Keys of St. Peters

Newletter: September 2020


It’s most commonly believed that the phrase “patience is a virtue” originated from the poem, “Piers Plowman”, which is said to have been written around AD 1360 by English poet William Langland. One line in the poem states that “patience is a fair virtue.” We tend to use this phrase as a sort of exhortation to someone being impatient. But what is patience? What is a virtue for that matter?

The Greek word used in our Bibles that we translate as patience “refers to steadfastness and perseverance under certain circumstances” and an “unyielding, defiant perseverance in the face of aggressive misfortune” (Radl 1990, 3:405). Luther’s friend and fellow reformer Melanchthon says that patience “is obeying God in enduring adversities… and not being broken down” (Loci 1559, 514). A virtue is what happens when you have trained yourself to behave in a certain way, and it may eventually become second nature (Wright 2010, 20; Loci 1559, 507). Putting this all together, when we say that “patience is a virtue” we’re saying that if we are enduring difficult circumstances, misfortunes, or hard times, patience should be our response. It is something that we have to cultivate and discipline in ourselves. But, it is not just that patience is something worth cultivating, but it is also something that God himself grows in us, since patience is one of the Fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23).

We live in a world that wants everything immediately. There is an immediacy which the latest technology and media have given us that fosters impatience. We order something on Amazon and expect it within days. We send a text message or email and become agitated when we do not receive a response within a given period of time. We cannot seem to wait patiently very well anymore as a society.

St. James encouraged Christians going through severe trials to have patience. “My dear family, when you find yourselves tumbling into various trials and tribulations, learn to look at it with complete joy, because you know that, when your faith is put to the test, what comes out is patience. What’s more, you must let patience have its complete effect, so that you may be complete and whole, not falling short in anything” (James 1:2-4, NTE). Paul similarly writes about patience, “We also celebrate in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces patience, patience produces a wellformed character, and a character like that produces hope. Hope, in its turn, does not make us ashamed, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the holy spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:3-5, NTE).

Like those to whom James and Paul wrote, there are many in our own congregation who are enduring situations which require patience. Some may have health issues. Others may have financial issues. Some may be trying to juggle a busy work and family life. Of course there are also those who are facing the trials of increased age. In these situations, and more besides, we need to learn to cultivate patience.

With the Coronavirus epidemic now nearing half a year, the need for patience has never been greater. We need to have patience with one another as we all seek to work our way through situations we have not had to encounter before. We need to have patience with our neighbours, because we do not know what they are going through. We need to show patience with our government, and those working to serve us in our communities. We need to show patience with those who are trying to lead our Church family through this time, all the while still reach our community with the Gospel. We are all ready for this to be over, but we need to be patient.

We need to train ourselves to not let life wear us down. We should not give way to grief, despair, anger, resentment, or discontentment, but instead take a deep breath, and wait on God. These situations test our faith. How far does our trust in God go? Will we trust in Jesus “come hell or high water”? Are you only going to trust in Jesus while the going is good? Will you trust Jesus even when the dark clouds gather and all looks bleak? This is where patience comes in. Remember, God “has been truly affected by His concern for our troubles” (Loci 1559, 357). God has shown you just how concerned he is for you by showing you His own Son. God did this so that you may be certain of His mercy towards you. God promises His help and deliverance to those who “call upon him in every trouble”. We should have patience because God has been incredibly patient with us poor, miserable, sinners. By our sins we have justly deserved God’s present and enteral punishment. Yet God not only has patience with us and our many failings, but he forgives us and helps us endure whatever comes our way. Jesus Christ, even though he could have destroyed his enemies in a blink of an eye, bore their cruel torture with patience, and even prayed for his enemies. He endured this so that God could forgive and be patient with you. You are reconciled to God through the cross of Christ and nothing can take away the hope of Eternal life from us. Though this life is often deeply painful, we can hold our heads high and have patience with others because of God’s patience towards us in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Works Cited:

Wright, N. T. 2010. After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters. New York: HarperCollins.
Wright, N. T. 2011. The New Testament For Everyone. London: SPCK. [NTE]
Melanchthon, Philip. 2011. The Chief Theological Topics: Loci Praecipui Theologici 1559. Second English edition. Translated by J. A. O. Preus. St. Louis: Concordia. [Loci 1559].
Radl, W. 1990. “ὑπομονή.” Pages 405-406 in vol. 3 of Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament. Edited by H. Blaz and G. Schneider. English Edition. 3 vols. Edinburgh: T&T Clark.

Sermon: Our Sacrificial Life (Romans 12:1-2)

Text: Romans 12:1-2
Twelfth Sunday After Pentecost, Proper 16A
Listen to the Sermon here!

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

If you were to examine the oldest records on earth, you’ll find that sacrifice often formed a part of many ancient religions. In fact, it’s a nearly universal idea that in order to be pardoned, or to be blessed and receive the aid of your deity, you needed to offer something to obtain it. The ancient Israelites also had a whole range of sacrifices they offered to the Lord. Daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, and on various ever-recurring occasions, the altars of the temple ran with blood from the dead bodies of slain beasts and birds. The temple was a veritable slaughter-house. But Christianity said, “No more of this!” When Christians think about sacrifice, we think about what Jesus has done for us on the cross. But, is that the end of the story? Is the sacrifice of Christ upon the Cross the only sacrifice which Christians should talk about? In our epistle reading from Romans, the Apostle Paul talks about a kind of sacrifice which all Christians must still offer. Read More

Sermon: God’s Mercy For All (Romans 11)

Text: Romans 11:13-24, 28-32
Eleventh Sunday After Pentecost (Proper 15A)
Listen to the sermon here.

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

‘This town ain’t big enough for the both of us!’ We’ve all heard that phrase. It originally came from western movies, and now has become a stock phrase used to emphasise that two rival characters cannot coexist. But, this stock phrase can be descriptive of very real situations where rivalry and conflict arise. Sometimes it’s in an office where two managers are both wanting their plans to go ahead. Sometimes it’s in a sports team where two players both want to be the star. Sometimes, it’s in a home where two squabbling teenagers both want to run things their way.

It’s even uglier when this kind of rivalry gets played out in a church; and that’s what Paul is anxious about here in our epistle reading. He is dealing with an ugly rivalry between Jewish and Gentile Christians. Israel as a whole has rejected the Messiah; but an increasingly large number of Gentiles believed in Jesus and joined the small minority of Jews who did accept the Gospel. Because of this, some Gentile Christians seem to have thought that they had ‘replaced’ Jews in God’s plan, that the church was now a ‘Gentiles-only’ club. This is where the jealousy, rivalry and old prejudice come in. The Church is not big enough for both Jew and Gentile, they think. So Paul is answering these questions: Can any more Jews be saved, or has God rejected them? What really constitutes the people of God? Read More

Sermon: Four Questions For Every Christian (Romans 10:5-17)

Text: Romans 10:5-17
Tenth Sunday After Pentecost (Proper 14A)
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Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

What does St. Paul the Apostle have in common with young children? The love of questions. Throughout his letters Paul asked questions, and it seems as if he expected the reader to give an answer to all of them. That’s why questions are frequent in this Epistle to the Romans, and on carefully examining them we see that they not only show us Paul’s enthusiasm, but they are there to teach us something. There are four questions before us in our epistle reading, and the apostle seeks to press home the absolute necessity of preaching the Gospel. Last week we saw Paul sorrowing for the unbelief of the Jews, and he begins this chapter by saying that his heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they might be saved. Then, as he goes on, he begins to think about the salvation, not only of the Jews, but also of the whole world. He says, “there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (vv. 12-13). And then, as his mind moves to the unbelieving world lying in darkness, he asks these four questions which we are going to look at this morning (vv. 14-15). Read More

Sermon: Why Do Some Believe? (Romans 9:1-18)

Text: Romans 9:1-18
Ninth Sunday After Pentecost (Proper 13A)
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Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Have you ever known someone who used to be a Christian? Did you wonder what went wrong? How is it possible that a person – born and raised in the Church, baptised, confirmed, part of Sunday School, could just walk away? Have you known people like that? I’m sure you not only know people like that, but you also feel some sense of sorrow and anguish over them. They had all these blessings: they knew their Bible, they learned the Catechism, they had a Christian family, they were members who served in the Church. Where did it all go wrong? Why don’t they believe?

This is the kind of question which the Apostle Paul is asking in our Epistle reading. Last week we read that nothing “will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:39). No sooner has Paul said this, then he immediately thinks of his fellow Israelites. Paul is talking about God’s chosen people, his treasured possession. And Paul is agonising over it. He has deep sorrow and even wishes that he could be cut off from Christ, if by doing so he could save his fellow Israelites. That’s how deeply Paul feels this sorrow. The question on the table is this: What went wrong? Why did Israel, through whom the Messiah came, reject the Messiah? Why didn’t Israel believe? Why, given their special status as God’s priestly people with all the covenants, promises, worship, legislation, prophets, why did Israel not believe and get behind Jesus, the true son of Israel? It’s a tough question. And an important one, for us here today because we face a similar question. Read More

Sermon: The Plan of God’s Inseparable Love (Rom. 8:28-39)

Text: Romans 8:28-39
Eighth Sunday After Pentecost, Proper 12A
Listen to sermon here!

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

There were two towering figures during the Reformation. One was, of course, Martin Luther. The other was Philip Melanchthon. These two were best friends. Luther was always singing Melanchthon’s praises. While Luther was often like bull in the china shop, Melanchthon was timid, and approached things with the calm and precision of a scholar. When Luther died, Melanchthon was the one who preached at the funeral. What gave Melanchthon his strength? What made this gentle, timid, scholarly fellow boldly stand with Luther against the world? The answer is verse 31 of our Epistle reading: “If God is for us, who can be against us?” In his lectures, Melanchthon quotes that verse more than any other. In his personal crest, it is the motto. When Melanchthon knew he was on his death bed, the pastor with him read Romans 8:31. Melanchthon exclaimed, “Read those words again!” The pastor read them, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” Melanchthon clung to those words as he lay there dying. He murmured, “That’s it! That’s it!” That text was the greatest comfort to him. Even in the darkest hours of his life, as he lay in death’s cold grip, he boldly clung to those words, “If God is for us, who can be against us?”

This section of Romans 8 has brought similar comfort to many Christians throughout the centuries. And that was exactly its purpose. St. Paul the Apostle wrote these words so that we may come away from this text with assurance and confidence in God’s love for us in Christ. As we examine what Paul wrote in these verses, we’ll see why this passage continues to bring comfort and hope to millions of Christians. Read More

Sermon: What Does God’s Spirit Do For Us?

Text: Romans 8:12-17
Sixth Sunday After Pentecost, Series A

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

Sometimes it seems as though the Holy Spirit gets the short end of the stick. God the Father does the work of creating and God the Son does the work of saving. The Holy Spirit makes a few prominent appearances, like at the Baptism of Jesus, but otherwise, it may seem like the Holy Spirit doesn’t get mentioned a lot. This downplaying of the Spirit can spill over and become a habit in Churches as well. Someone once complained that they could not remember a single Sunday when the Holy Spirit was mentioned more than simply the occasional reference during a reading, creed, benediction, or prayer. Beloved, the Spirit does far more than simply make the occasional cameo appearance. The work of the Spirit is vital to your life as a Christian. What is that work? What does the Holy Spirit do for us? St. Paul the Apostle in our epistle reading says, first, the Spirit leads us, and second, the Spirit bears witness to us. Read More

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