The Keys of St. Peters

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?”

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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

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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.

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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?!”

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Sermon: A Glimpse of Glory (Mark 9:2-9)

Text: Mark 9:2-9
Transfiguration of our Lord, Series B
Listen to the sermon here.

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

The Transfiguration of Jesus is a bit like one of those movie previews that play before the main attraction, the ones narrated by the guy with the dramatic voice. They reveal just enough of the movie to make you want to see it, without giving away too much of the plot. Coming soon to a theatre near you. A sneak preview of coming attractions. And that’s what the Transfiguration is. A sneak peak, a glimpse of Jesus’ glory as the Son of God and the coming attraction of the kingdom he brings with his dying and rising. This morning, on this Transfiguration Sunday we are going to consider: why did Peter, James, and John need to see this sneak peak of Jesus glory? What benefit does this have for us here and now?

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Sermon: Hope in the Midst of Despair (Isaiah 40:21-31)

Text: Isaiah 40:21-31
Fifth Sunday After the Epiphany
Listen to the sermon here.

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

One of Europe’s leading psychiatrists was imprisoned in Nazi concentration camps during the Second World War. During this time, he saw something that distinguished the survivors and the dead, and it wasn’t physical health and strength. What made the difference between those who survived and those who didn’t was hope — something to live for beyond the barbed wire, something to look forward to, something to go home to after the war. If someone had lost faith in the future — their future — was doomed. Without hope these people often let themselves decline and became subject to mental and physical decay. They often simply gave up.

This really highlights the importance of hope, of having something to live for beyond the barbed wire of this life. This lack of hope is a common condition, we call it despair. In our Old Testament reading for today Isaiah points the way out of despair toward a renewed hope.

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February Newsletter

God’s Dramatic Rescue

“If the Lord had not been on our side—let Israel now say—if the Lord had not been on our side when our foes attacked, then they would have swallowed us alive in the heat of their anger against us. Then the waters would have carried us away and the torrent swept over us; then over us would have swept the raging waters. Blessed be the Lord, who did not leave us a prey for their teeth. We have escaped like a bird from the fowler’s trap; the trap is broken, and we have escaped. Our help is in the name of the Lord, maker of heaven and earth.”
Psalm 124, Revised English Bible.

Things are looking bleak for our heroes: they gave it their best, and they briefly gained the upper hand, but in the end, the villains were too strong, the heroes too few, defeat is certain, and all that’s left is just enough time for some last words….Wait, what’s that? Did I just hear a trumpet? Who is it? It could be the Riders of Rohan galloping to their aid. It could be Robin Hood’s Merry Men of Sherwood Forest mounting a rescue. It could be the Avengers storming in at the last minute. But ultimately, they rescue the heroes and convert what would be a pretty depressing ending into an out-and-out win for the good guys.  This is a common element in many stories, and one I particularly enjoy when it is done well. It’s the sudden and dramatic rescue.

Psalm 124 is about how the Lord suddenly and dramatically rescued us, when it looked like our enemies were going to win!  The Psalmist plays a game of “Let’s pretend.” Let’s pretend for a moment that God had never intervened in our lives. If God hadn’t stepped into your life to rescue you, but  instead left you to your own desires, reason, and strength, where would you be? What would happen if the Riders of Rohan, or Robin Hood’s men, or the Avengers never came? Then evil would have won, and all hope would have been lost.

Part of the reason why the sudden and dramatic rescue is used so frequently is because it gives voice to something which we know is very true. We all long for a saviour. We all have a deep realisation that our situation is dire and that we’re in desperate in of being rescued. What if that the Lord had not been the one on your side, imagine where you’d be. Imagine the darkness. Imagine the horror. Imagine the pain of it. Where would you be if God hadn’t stepped into your life and dramatically rescue you? You’d be swallowed up, engulfed by the waters, caught by the teeth of some ravenous beast. You’d be trapped, and there’d be no way out.

Why we haven’t been engulfed by water? Why we haven’t been caught in the trap of the hunter? Why we haven’t been devoured by the teeth of a terrifying beast? Who is our help and deliverer? Who is on our side? Who is going to rescue you? The psalm says it’s the Lord of heaven and earth. He is on our side and he has suddenly and dramatically rescued us from sin, death, and the devil.

The message of the Psalm is that God is for you; he’s on your side. He has committed himself to rescue you from the hands of your enemies. The Almighty God himself, the one who created this universe with a mere word, who continues to uphold, sustain, and keep this universe going, that’s the one who has decided that he is on your side. He’s got your back. And so, in our time of need we cry out to God and we implore his aid. “Help us! Save us! Rescue us!” And the God of the universe comes to fight for us.

Just how much God is on your side? He sent his only Son into the world, that’s how much. Jesus is the one who rescues you from your enemies. Consider the language of the psalm: when Jesus was surrounded by enemies who wanted to attack him, who hated him with a deep and fiery hatred, God did not rescue him. God did not rescue his Son when he was swallowed up alive by Death. God did not rescue his Son from the teeth of the ravenous beast. He was trapped in the hunter’s snare and the Lord did not rescue him. Where would you be if God had not come to rescue you. Imagine the darkness. Imagine the horror. Imagine the pain of it. Where would you be? That’s where Jesus was. This Jesus of Nazareth is the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth. Our help is in him alone. He is our deliverer. He is the one who has rescued us This Jesus who endured darkness, horror, and pain, has suddenly and dramatically rescued you. 

God has demonstrated that he is for us; he is on our side. No matter what should happen to you in this life, you can cry out to God in prayer. Even if you must come face to face with your own evil, God is on your side! Even if the Devil is hunting you, Christ will rescue you. Even when it’s your turn to face Death itself, you need to be afraid. As one hymn puts it,

If God himself be for me, I may a host defy;
For when I pray, before me my foes, confounded fly.
If Christ my Head and Master, befriend me from above,
What foe or what disaster can drive me from his love?”
LSB 724

Through the word and Sacraments of the Church, Jesus rescues us from all our enemies, from sin, death, and the Devil. We continue to experience the rescue of God in the weekly receptions of God’s gifts! Our enemies have been defeated! God has suddenly and dramatically rescued us through his Son Jesus Christ. 

Your pastor,
Rev. Matthew Fenn

Sermon: The Authority of Jesus (Mark 1:21-28)

Text: Mark 1:21-28
Fourth Sunday After Epiphany, Series B
Listen to the sermon here.

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

There was a great disaster at sea. A ferry, loaded with cars and tourists, had failed to shut its doors properly; the water began to pour in; the boat began to sink, and panic set in. People were screaming as the happy, relaxed atmosphere of the ship turned in minutes into something from a horror movie. All at once one man—not a member of the crew—took charge. In a clear voice he gave orders, telling people what to do. Relief mixed with the panic as people realised someone at least was in charge, and many managed to reach lifeboats they would otherwise have missed in the dark and the rush. The man himself made his way down to the people trapped in the hold. There he formed a human bridge: holding on with one hand to a ladder and with the other to part of the ship that was nearly submerged, he enabled still more to cross to safety. When the nightmare was over, the man himself was found to have drowned. He had literally given his life in using the authority he had assumed—the authority by which many had been saved.

Take that picture to a different sea coast, that of Galilee. A hundred meters inland, in the little village of Capernaum there was a synagogue — a place of prayer, Bible reading, teaching, worship, and community gathering.  In that synagogue there was a man beginning to teach who was not one of the official, recognised teachers. This man was Jesus, the new rabbi on the block. What would he say? The people were all ears. The passage today form Mark’s Gospel is all about Jesus’ authority. Who has authorised his teaching? What kind of authority does Jesus have, and how does that relate to our lives?

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Sermon: The Cost of Christianity (Mark 1:14-20)

Text: Mark 1:14-20
Third Sunday After the Epiphany, Series B
Listen to the sermon here.

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

Last Sunday we heard Jesus call Philip and Nathanael. In today’s Gospel reading he calls four fishermen at the Sea of Galilee — Peter, Andrew, James and John. The astonishing part of this story is that they dropped everything, put their lives on hold, left their dad in the boat, and followed Jesus. They followed Jesus without any idea where it would lead, or what it would cost. This invites the question: Would you leave it all to follow Jesus? Many of the decisions we make in life are economic. Can we afford it? Will it break the bank? Is there enough money? We make important choices in our lives by counting the cost. How much do you think it costs to be a Christian? Of course, being a Christian does cost us some time and money, but so does everything else in life. But how much does it really cost? Can you have forgiveness without repentance? Can you have baptism without church discipline? Can you receive the benefits of communion without confessing your sin? Can you have justification without sanctification? Can you enjoy God’s grace without suffering, the cross, and trial? This morning we’re going to meditate upon the call of Jesus in your own life. How has Jesus called you? How much does it cost to be a Christian?

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Sermon: The Stairway to Heaven (John 1:43-51)

Text: John 1:43-51
Second Sunday After Epiphany, Series B
Listen to the sermon here.

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

The book of Genesis paints the Patriarch Jacob as a schemer and a trickster. He tricked Esau out of his birthright and even swindled him out of his father’s blessing. But Jacob’s trickery came back to bite him: Esau was going to kill him. Jacob left in a hurry, not a penny to his name and nothing but the clothes on his back. One night, while on the run, he had a dream. He saw a staircase with its foot on the ground and its top reaching up to heaven. God’s angels were going up and down on it. The Lord God himself came and stood beside him. God promised to be with him that he would bring him back to his land in peace and prosperity.  Fast forward to our reading from John’s Gospel, Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see haven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” Jesus identifies himself with, of all things, the stairway in Jacob’s dream. A stairway connecting earth to heaven, a stairway which the angels ascend and descend. So, why does Jesus identify with a stairway? 

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