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Posts Tagged ‘Peter’

Appointed Scripture Readings:  Acts 15: 1-21   Psalm 46   Galatians 2: 1-10   St. Matthew 16: 13-19

Prayer of the Day

Merciful and eternal God, Your holy apostles Peter and Paul received grace and strength to lay down their lives for the sake of Your Son. Strengthen us by Your Holy Spirit that we may confess Your truth and at all times be ready to lay down our lives for Him who laid down His life for us, even Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. 

St. Peter and St. Paul, Apostles

The festival of St. Peter and St. Paul is probably the oldest of the saints’ observances (dating from about the middle of the third century). An early tradition held that these two pillars of the New Testament Church were martyred on the same day in Rome during the persecution under Nero. In addition to this joint commemoration of their deaths, both apostles are commemorated separately: Peter on January 18 for his confession of Jesus as the Christ (Matthew 16:13-16) and Paul on January 25 for his conversion (Acts 9:1-19).

The confession of St. Peter did not arise in the imagination of Peter’s heart but was revealed to him by the Father. The reason this confession is important is seen in Jesus’ response: “You are Peter [Greek Petros], and on this rock [Greek petra] I will build My church” (Matthew 16:18). As the people of God in the Old Testament began with the person of Abraham, the rock from which God’s people were hewn (Isaiah 51:1-2), so the people of God in the New Testament would begin with the person of Peter, whose confession is the rock on which Christ would build His Church. But Peter was not alone (the “keys” given to him in Matthew 16:19 were given to all the disciples in Matthew 18:18 and John 20:21-23). As St. Paul tells us, Peter and the other apostles take their place with the prophets as the foundation of the Church, with Christ Himself as the cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20). The confession of Peter, therefore, is the witness of the entire apostolic band and is foundational in the building of Christ’s Church. Thus the Church gives thanks to God for St. Peter and the other apostles who have instructed Christ’s Holy Church in His divine and saving truth. 

St. Paul’s life-changing experience on the road to Damascusis related three times in the Book of Acts (9:1-9; 22:6-11; 26:12-18). As an archenemy of Christians, Saul of Tarsus set out forDamascus to arrest and bring believers toJerusalemfor trial. While on the way, he saw a blinding light and heard the words: “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” Saul asked, “Who are You, Lord?” The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” In Damascus, where Saul was brought after being blinded, a disciple named Ananias was directed by the Lord in a vision to go to Saul to restore his sight: “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine to carry My name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel” (Acts9:15). After receiving his sight, Saul was baptized and went on to become known as Paul, the great apostle.

Those who would remake the Church into what they want and desire, will eventually have Christ Jesus remade into their own image, that is, an idol.  Too many build the Church upon men’s opinions of Jesus Christ.  Our Lord’s question to the disciples, Who do men say that I am? was never intended by the Lord to be an eternal discussion question for so-called Bible studies in too many congregations. Every year, before Christmas and Easter, come the articles debunking some portion or portions of the Bible about Jesus, like clockwork.  The Lord’s question to Peter surfaced the rumors about Him and they were just that rumors, conjecture, innuendo. Peter and Paul knew that Christ  is the only Cornerstone of His Church and that all who were being baptized, were being built onto the Cornerstone,not the cornerstone upon them! See Acts 4:11,Ephesians 2:20, 1 Peter 2: 5-7.  The Holy Spirit conforms us to the Lord’s specs in the blueprint of His Church,  by His mercy for sinners, not according to our specs and schemes for His Church.

Peter and Paul had differences between them and much in common.  Both Peter and Paul were Jews.  Peter was an uneducated fisherman, while Paul was a highly educated Pharisee who was taught at the feet of the great rabbi, Gamaliel. Peter was with Jesus from the beginning, the first of the Apostles.  Paul, as he said, was the last of the apostles.  Both were zealous for the Law. Yet, Peter denied Christ.  Paul persecuted the Church and consented to the murder of Stephen, the first martyr of “followers of the Way”.  Both knew they were sinners whom the Law could not save and that Christ alone does atone.  Peter,
61 And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him,“Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.”62 And he went out and wept bitterly.” 
“Behold of a sudden the lover is a liar. (Peter) finds out what he is; he who had thought too highly of himself” (St. Augustine).  Peter’s tears were of godly sorrow that leads to repentance.  Paul wrote to Timothy, “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.   Paul was blinded by his sin in the glory of crucified Jesus on the road to Damascus.  Paul finds out what he is and like Peter, Paul also thought so highly of  himself and Christ taught him well:
For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. (Romans 12: 3)
Paul’s confession of sin was also of the godly sorrow. Called by Christ Jesus, Peter and Paul both knew by faith His forgiveness of them and each and everyone of us. Both confessed Jesus is Lord. Both were martyred, tradition says on this day, in Rome, remembering that Peter and Paul, and all Christian martyrs, unlike the Islamic variety, do not try to take people with them in death, but ever preached and taught, the Way to heaven, in faith, not to kill the infidel, but that the infidel come to faith and  live eternally in Jesus Christ.  

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And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.

The Word made flesh prays the Word to His Father as only His only begotten Son could.  John 17 is the Lord’s prayer based upon His last sermon in His earthly ministry. :

 In the Transfiguration hymn, “How Good Lord to be here”, we sing

How good, Lord, to be here!
Your glory fills the night;
Your face and garments, like the sun,
Shine with unborrowed light.

The Lord Jesus’ glory is unborrowed glory.  It is not on loan. It is not mortal. His glory is not reflected glory. He is not like the moon.  The Son is like the sun. He is the glory of the only-begotten Son in the love of His Father by whom He has so loved the world. He had this glory as He prayed, “…before the world existed”.   

 Many do not believe the Lord’s prayer that He was before the world existed.  These religions are:

Islam

Mormonism

Jehovah’s Witnesses

Strains of Liberal Protestantism

A heretic of the early Church, Bishop Arius, announced there was a time when Christ was not.  The upshot of all these heresies is that Jesus Christ did not accomplish our salvation once and for all, contrary to today’s Gospel and the entire witness of the Bible, God’s Word.  Note that Islam, Mormonism, and the Jehovah’s Witnesses then conveniently add new ‘scripture’.  The 10 Commandments show us exactly what is needed to do good and before that to be good.  It’s hard to get past the 1st Commandment most days:  No other gods before Me, when my heart is set on everything but the Lord. As St. Augustine forthrightly confessed:  “What am I to myself but a guide to my own self-destruction?”  Look at liberal Protestantism I do not mean numbers of congregants dwindling alone but the dwindling and even the destruction of the sound doctrine of justification by grace through faith..  I use to buy into the liberal lie that the Bible in it’s every Word  is not the Word of God, but it contains the Word of God.  Sounds so pious.  I can dismiss God’s Law as caution and warning, and so it finally means that the reason for our lives  to glory in the blood of Jesus is dismissed. Reformed theologian H. Richard Niebuhr, in the 50s, said it well:  “A God without wratch brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a Cross”.  Liberal Protestantism talk and preach much about the grace of God, but as foretold in the Bible, in the book of Jude:  For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality andd eny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.  Grace becomes license and yet you have to do something so the programs of social activism, consciousness raising and the like.  A lot of this is what goes for government.   So the Old Adam cuts down God’s Law to fit its self, write new scriptures so that say, the 5 pillars of Islam, I just do it and I’m good to go.  Tailor made law. Even civil law is not tailor made!  But as we attempt to tailor civil law to fit immorality, then confusion reigns as does division.

Yes, this is legalism and as one pastor, Matt Richards,  put it well:   “Legalists do not dismiss Christ, they trust Him a lot; however, they don’t trust Him alone. They want a comma after Jesus, not a period.”  There is always a comma, an ellipse:  dot dot dot. True prayer ends with a period.  Jesus is putting a period in His prayer to the Father of His work in the lives of the disciples and Israel and the entire world.  The period will be His Cross and the period to sin in His Forgiveness continuing in His resurrection and ascension. The Cross is the Lord’s Amen for us and for our salvation.

 The disciples kept His Word as He kept them safe from the world, the flesh and the devil.  Jesus prayed for His disciples. He interceded, prayed for them all.  He still does. Romans 8: “Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.”   Christ is ascended. He is ascended, indeed, allelulia!  The Lord sent His disciples into the world, but to be of the world. “They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.”  verses 16-17, as Jesus prays for His apostolic Church and the disciples.  The Lord assured the full witness of the Resurrection in the 12 Apostles as the beachhead of the Word of the Gospel into the world.  Jesus is now glorified in the presence of His Father.  It is the glory of love’s pure light.  He shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome nor understood it.  The world seeks it’s own glory to be powerful, Christ’s glory seeks us to find us and others.  Jesus began the prayer of John 17 today after He finished His farewell sermon, the last verse of chapter 16: “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”  We will have tribulation but take heart in the absolutely pure heart who overcame the world. 

 The Apostle Peter’s encouragement is needed today as it was then:

 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.

From the Ascension to Pentecost, the Apostles, Mary and women joined together in prayer, not a marathon church council meeting nor a Synod or district assembly.Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.  It is not that in Christ Jesus we are NOT going have anxiety.  We will. It is what it is done with it:  according to God’s Word.  Note:  The Word first says we can cast all your anxieties on Him, for He cares FOR YOU.  Luther wrote that the words FOR YOU are the Gospel, the good news of Jesus. Casting is praying.   He can take it.  He has on the Cross.  All our anxieties take us away from the Lord and each other.  And the devil uses them as such .  The devil knows that anxieties are his segue way into something worse, that is temptation and sin. The devil wants you to always be looking inside and not outside for help, that is, to the Lord.  Anxieties are not the last word:  Jesus Christ and His forgiveness and grace in His Church is the first Word and the last Word.

Be sober-minded; be watchful.

Sober-minded in regards to what is happening in the world. As I read religion articles in the secular news, they are mostly anti-religion articles, especially, anti-Christian, even antichrist articles.  Watchful yes and sober-minded about it all because no one can respond to it all.  Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

The devil in false doctrine, remembers, does not want you to know that Jesus died and rose for you and your salvation:  period.  He will always be trying to turn that period into a comma and all the while sounding mighty pious and religious and spiritual about the whole thing, again see Islam and Mormonism.

 Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.

Temptation is common to the brotherhood through the world.  In the  wealthy city, of Wenzhou in China,  which has many Christians, the State has ordered all the crosses to be removed from church buildings because of “building codes”, all of a sudden.  In Sudan, a Muslim woman, Meriam Ibrahim,  married to a Christian, Daniel,  herself became a Christian.  She was condemned to death for conversion, accused of “apostasy”.  She was pregnant when arrested and recently she gave birth in prison while her legs were shackled. Even so, she gave birth to her daughter.   In our country too many want to remove all mention of the Cross of Christ from the public square or churches lifting up the cross and the preaching of the Crucified, right out of churches.  The devil devours, he does not take little bites. Steadfast in the faith is steadfast in the doctrine, the sound doctrine as Jesus intercedes, prays,  for us all.

 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. 11 To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

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COLLECT OF THE DAY

Almighty God,by the glorious resurrection of Your Son, Jesus Christ,  You destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light.Grant that we who have been raised with Him may abide in His presence and rejoice in the hope of eternal glory;through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord,who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,one God, now and forever.

READINGS

Acts 3:13-15, 17-19

Psalm 61

 1 Corinthians 11:23-26

 St. John 21:1-14

Reflection on the Gospel LessonJohn 21: 1-14. In this Gospel reading, the risen Lord asked Peter 3 times, Do you love me more than these? 3 times the Lord said, “Feed My sheep”. Feed them in the pastures of His Word. The number 3 was quite significant to Peter as Peter denied Jesus three times. Then after the Lord’s Ascension Peter does not want to go to the Gentile Centurion, Cornelius’ home because Peter would eat unclean animals.  3 times a sheet is lowered with unclean and clean animals, the Lord telling him to eat. The name Peter means “Rock”.  It takes time for many of us “to get it through our thick heads”!  But Peter did not seem to have a hard heart. After Jesus walked on the water, Peter almost commanded the Lord and the Lord invited  him: “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” (Matthew 14)  Then we he saw the waves and the wind, the storm  and Peter began to sink.  When he saw the storm around the fire as Jesus was being taken to trial, likewise he sank.  A good heart is not enough.  Pr. Johann Gerhard made a crucial distinction regarding Peter for our edification:

 “We should also contemplate how Peter came to such a fall (i.e. his denial), in order that we avoid the same. He was entirely too daring (presumptuous)–meaning that it all depended upon a good heart and good intentions. When he noticed others who were not like him in this matter, he held them in disdain. Thus he experienced how very little we are capable of if God does not sustain us. Therefore we should indeed not rely on the strength of our own faith, or on our good intentions. God’s power does it, and it alone must do everything.

I think Peter was the first evangelical-born-again ”I made my decision” Protestant pietist. I would love a congregation of those kind of Peters, but I know I am more like Peter when he saw the waves and the Rock sank.  He was a good guy, but even our goodness, apart from God, also needs Christ’s redemption, His Body and Blood, His forgiveness every step of the Way. It is my good heart and good intentions that can wreak the greatest damage in congregations, families and nations.  A  good person will boast, I live for others.  C. S.Lewis said, you tell who that person is by the hunted expressions for those round about. Again, see Simon Peter and look to Jesus Christ. Don’t look to  your life for salvation, because the Law points out to us and our hearts and souls our sin.  Peter found that out after he denied Jesus three times, the arrested Jesus simply looked at Peter. Peter wept bitterly.  Peter finally knew his good heart was not enough, his decisions for Jesus did not bridge the gap between himself and the Lord, only the Lord’s hand, His Word did save him…again and again and again!  He is risen!

Back in Luke 5 and the miraculous catch of fish, when the boat begins to sink because of the haul of fish, Peter jumps into water and falls before the Lord, “Depart from me O Lord for I am a sinful man.” First note, that Jesus did not answer Peter’s prayer in the affirmative!  Peter would discover the depths of his sin and the greater depths of the forgiveness and mercy Jesus is, the heart of His Father in the power of the Holy Spirit.  After the resurrection, Peter would forget this as recorded in the New Testament but the Lord brought Him back to Himself in true repentance.  And in this scene from John 21, Peter once more throws himself into the depths, impetuously, impulsively, because he loved the Lord, for by His love  Peter, you, me and everyone we meet has been redeemed.  Now may His Word open their hearts to their Redeemer and  by faith be saved knowing the depths of His truth and grace for sinners and also for me and for thee as well day by day.  We pray…

O Lord Jesus Christ, look upon me, a poor sinner, with Your eyes of mercy, the same eyes of mercy with which You looked upon Peter in the assembly-room, upon Mary Magdalene at the banquet, and upon the malefactor on the cross. Grant to me also,OvYou, almighty God, that with Peter I bemoan my sin from the heart, with Mary Magdalene sincerely love You, and with the malefactor on the cross may live eternally with You in Your kingdom. Amen. (Johann Gerhard)

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Text:  St. Matthew 17: 1-9

Please note:  Today we worshiped in the Sanctuary/multi-purpose room of the Hillel House, the Jewish Campus Ministry center, for Washington and Lee University (see previous post) . If you are unfamiliar about synagogues, the center of a synagogue  is the bema (the place for the Torah Scrolls) and behind it the niche for the Scrolls.  The Hillel House is quite new and contemporary and the Torah niche is locked behind large wood sliding doors.  To my pleasant surprise, the doors were unlocked.  During the Sermon I opened up the niche at the point indicated in the sermon.

Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.

There are three set of threes in the Gospel lesson: 

First set:  Jesus takes up on the high mountain apart Peter, James and John

Second set:  Jesus conversing with Moses and Elijah

Third set:  The Son is transfigured, and then soon the cloud “overshadows” them all.  As when Mary asked the angel Gabriel, How can she conceive, “And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.”  The overshadowing cloud is the sign of the Holy Spirit and then the Father speaks, This is My Beloved Son. The third set of threes is the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, three yet the one God and Lord of us all.

 The first set:  Peter, James and John

Why did the Lord select Peter, James and John from the twelve disciples?  This happened on more than one occasion, for instance, He took them apart when He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane when the Lord was sorely distressed. Yet, on both occasions, Peter, James and John fell asleep. Asleep during the glory they wanted so much.  In the previous chapter from Matthew, Peter confessed Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God.  Upon this confession, Jesus said, I will build My Church. Sounds glorious, doesn’t?   To build His Church, He said He would be arrested, beaten, crucified, cast out and on the third day rise again. Not so glorious and so  Peter basically said, God forbid.  Peter wanted glory without the Cross, that is, the full pardon of sinners in the necessary judgment of sinners which Jesus bore fully in His sinless body and soul.  Luke tells us Peter and company fell asleep during the Transfiguration, overwhelmed by the light, not able to take it in.   James and John make the request of Jesus to sit on His left hand and His right hand…Jesus told them it wasn’t for Him to give but to those so appointed, in a sense Jesus was telling James and John  they could not take in such glory.

The Old Adam cannot take in earthly glory.  When in ancient Rome, after a military victory, there would be a great parade of the soldiers, exotic animals taken in the conquest, musicians and dancers to honor the conquering Roman General and then a slave would whisper in the general’s ear:   “All glory is fleeting”.  “Sic transit Gloria mundi”, thus passes the glory of the world.  The Romans got some things right but they said it with nostalgia for a glory that would persist and endure but they could not grab with all their military might and cultural glory. We see day in and day out, famous people at the pinnacle of achievement and power, acting to the world as if the glory would last forever and we think so as well, then stupendously fall.  Proverbs 16: 18: “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”  We will hear next week  in the Gospel for the 1st Sunday in Lent, the devil tempting Jesus three times and the two times, devil takes Him, where? The heights.  First to the pinnacle of the Temple then it is to a high mountain and then shows him all the kingdoms of the world, “…and their glory”.  We do not win in the Faustian bargain.  We cannot be safe in the devil’s dealing on our own.  Now most of us do not have to concern ourselves with such, but we do hanker after it…like at a gas station, a dollar and a dream in a lottery ticket. The Old Adam cannot take in temporal earthly glory in our depravity and so eternal glory? Hardly.  When the three disciples hear the Voice, then they fall down in terror, and Jesus touches them and they see Jesus only.  He goes to Jerusalem. No man nor woman can grab and hold on to glory, but the glory of the Word made flesh holds them and His hand is strong to save.  He is love’s pure light, His love to give and forgive in His hands.

So it was to the first set of three that the Lord showed His glory.  This is the main reason He took them with Him to the “high mountain apart”;  and then, at the end, before Good Friday, He showed them His suffering of soul in Gethsemane:   they may know that the One who goes to the Cross is fully God as He is fully man and a man, so we fully know in faith.

Second set of threes:  Jesus conversing with Moses and Elijah

Peter wanted to build three tents for the second set of threes, equally built.  Maybe another reason Jesus took the first set of three is this:  they were quick learners but like many quick learners, they can also get the lesson quickly wrong, as Peter did wanting to build those three tents.  In the midst of the glory of uncreated light, Peter butts in, he asserts himself when he should have been listening.  Not a shred of modesty and humility. 

 “…what we suffer from today is humility in the wrong place. Modesty has moved from the organ of ambition. Modesty has settled upon the organ of conviction; where it was never meant to be. A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth; this has been exactly reversed. Nowadays the part of a man that a man does assert is exactly the part he ought not to assert—himself.” (G. K. Chesterton) 

Peter is very careful in his speech: a tent, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah, implying Jesus is an equal with Moses and Elijah. Peter got that wrong.  Jesus is Moses’  and Elijah’s Lord. 

 “…He asked them:  Whom do men say that the Son of man is, they said to Him: Some say Elijah;  some others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.  And so He led them up into a high mountain, and showed that he was not Elijah, but the God of Elijah;  that neither was He Jeremiah, but He had sanctified Jeremiah in his mother’s womb; that neither was He our of the prophets, but the Lord of the prophets, and he had that had sent them.”—St. Ephrem

 Now in this place, to even say Jesus is equal to Moses and Elijah might be hotly contested, let alone He is the God of Elijah and Moses.  Elijah and Moses were talking with Him.  Luke tells us  the content of their holy conversation: it was about Jesus’ departure, literally His exodus.  Jesus does not insist on some bragging rights over against Moses and Elijah which would be sinful.  He wants us to know that all of that which the Lord inspired Moses and Elijah to write and to speak is to point us to the Lord. Joseph Smith and Mohammed, both heretics, rewrote the Bible, Jesus did not, He could not, for He know whom He inspired and knew what He needed for us to hear: the Law and the Prophets. These Words, in the these Scrolls, the first five books of Moses.  He did not rewrite the Bible,  He fulfilled it for us all, and He is clear that the Old Testament is God’s unaltered Word.

“…you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.(2 Timothy 3)

The Lord who called Moses and Elijah, not because they were great, but to show them His Word and now the Lord’s Word shines upon them as it did so many years ago. Still does.  In many and various ways God spoke to His people old by the prophets but now in these last days he has spoken by His Son. 

 Third set:  Father, Son and Holy Spirit

The Son is transfigured, the Holy Spirit descends in the cloud of light and the Father speaks.  Epiphany begins with Jesus’ baptism.  As the Son came up out of the water, the Holy Spirit descended as a dove and the voice spake:  Thou are my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased, the exact words the Father said of His Son in His Transfiguration but now He adds, Listen to Him.  The Father does not merely say, my Son, but my beloved Son:  for in the Lord, the Father loves the Son and that holy love pours forth in the Holy Spirit. “…God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Peter, James and John fell in terror, not at Jesus transfigured, not at the bright cloud but at the Word of God, yet it is the Word of such holy love…maybe that’s why they were sore afraid.  On another occasion when the Lord filled his fishing boats with so many fish the boats began to sink under the weight of so much goodness, Peter fell down before Him and said, Depart, from me O Lord for I am a sinful man.  Sinful man can not gaze into the unmasked utter goodness and mercy of the living God without terror at their own wretchedness.  The Father says to them and to us all, Listen to Him.  We will hear next week, again Lent 1, tell the devil, Man does not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God, quoting the Bible, specifically Deuteronomy.  We listen and hear every Word from God in the Bible and from the Word made flesh.  The love of God in Jesus Christ, literally touched them, Rise and fear not, Peter, James and John, I have loved you from before the foundations of the world and I will go down to die and then to rise. The first set of three is you and me.  The second set of three, the Church, in which we are made part of, His Body by our baptism into the Holy set of Three, In the Name of the Father, and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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Icon of Noah, Kramer Chapel, Concordia Theological Seminary, Ft. Wayne, IN

Psalm 29
Genesis 7:1-5, 11-12, 17-23
1 Peter 3:18-22 or Hebrews 11:1-3, 7; 12:1-2
Matthew 24:36-44

Almighty and eternal God,  according to Your strict judgment You condemned the unbelieving world through the flood, yet according to Your great mercy You preserved believing Noah and his family, eight souls in all.  Grant that we may be kept safe and secure  in the holy ark of the Christian Church, so that with all believers in Your promise, we would be declared worthy of eternal life,through Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen.

 Noah, the son of Lamech (Gen 5:30), was instructed by God to build an ark, in which his family would find security from the destructive waters of a devastating flood that God warned would come. Noah built the ark, and the rains descended. The entire earth was flooded destroying “every living thing that was on the face of the ground, both man and beast” (7:23). After the flood waters subsided, the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat. When Noah determined it was safe, and God confirmed it, he and his family and all the animals disembarked. Then Noah built an altar and offered a sacrifice of thanksgiving to God for having saved his family from destruction. A rainbow in the sky was declared by God to be a sign of His promise that never again would a similar flood destroy the entire earth (8;20).  Noah is remembered and honored for his obedience, believing that God would do what He said He would. (From LCMS website)

 

Reflection: This coming Sunday, 1 December, 2,013 is the First Sunday in Advent and the collect of day’s main petition is,

…Stir up Your power, O Lord, and come,  that by Your protection we may be rescued from the threatening perils of our sins and saved by Your mighty deliverance…”

The “threatening perils our sins” is like a flood rising higher and higher about to drown us and it has.  This is a fitting picture on the Commemoration of Noah and it fits together all together too well.  On our own, we can maybe tread water for awhile, under our own power, and think we are pretty good swimmers.  Once the Law of God shows us the peril, we  give out and realize  can not save ourselves.  The Lord interceded for obedient Noah and his family and the lesser creatures to save them.  The Lord interceded for us by sending His Son.  Jesus Christ was baptized into the flood our sins to save us.  The icons above and below are from the Baptistry of Kramer Chapel at Concordia Theological Seminary, Ft. Wayne, IN.  One is of Noah and the other of our Lord’s Baptism.  The sinless One Who did not need be baptized for His sin, nevertheless, immersed Himself into the sin of the world.  The immersion began when He was conceived in the Virgin Mary, in the amniotic fluid of His Mother, indeed:  

For You formed my inward parts;
    You knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are Your works;
    my soul knows it very well.” Psalm 139 

The prayer after the icon is by Martin Luther and it is prayed at a Baptism and it is a good prayer for anytime, as we are baptized and we are His.

Icon of the Baptism of Christ, Kramer Chapel Baptistry

Almighty eternal God, who according to thy righteous judgment didst condemn the unbelieving world through the flood and in Thy great mercy didst preserve believing Noah and his family, and who didst drown hardhearted Pharaoh with all his host in the Red Sea and didst lead Thy people Israel through the same on dry ground, thereby prefiguring this bath of thy baptism, and who through the baptism of thy dear Child, our Lord Jesus Christ, hast consecrated and set apart the Jordan and all water as a salutary flood and rich and full washing away of sins: We pray through the same Thy groundless mercy that Thou wilt graciously behold this N. and bless him with true faith in the Spirit so that by means of this saving flood all that has been born in him from Adam and which he himself has added thereto may be drowned in him and engulfed, and that he may be sundered from the number of the unbelieving, preserved dry and secure in the holy ark of Christendom, serve Thy Name at all times fervent in spirit and joyful in hope, so that with all believers he may be made worthy to attain eternal life according to Thy promise; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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COLLECT OF THE DAY

Almighty God,by the glorious resurrection of Your Son, Jesus Christ,  You destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light.Grant that we who have been raised with Him may abide in His presence and rejoice in the hope of eternal glory;through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord,who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,one God, now and forever.

READINGS

Acts 3:13-15, 17-19

Psalm 61

 Colossians 3:1-7 or 1 Corinthians 11:23-26

 St. John 21:1-14

Reflection on the Gospel LessonJohn 21: 1-14:  I lead a Bible study on Easter, concluding our Lenten look at People of the Passion and we studied Peter for two Sundays. We looked at some of many narratives involving Peter:  

  • After Jesus walked on the water, Peter almost commanded the Lord in Peter’s disbelief: But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” (Matthew 14)
  • Peter denied Jesus three times.
  • The risen Lord asked Peter 3 times, Do you love me more than these? 3 times the Lord said, “Feed My sheep”.
  • Peter does not want to go to the Gentile Centurion, Cornelius’ home because Peter would eat unclean animals.  3 times a sheet is lowered with unclean and clean animals.

I asked the class:  How would you characterize Peter’s personality? “Impetuous” “Acts before thinking” “Trusts himself” The class nailed it and especially an insight from Johann Gerhard in which he reflected the same:

“We should also contemplate how Peter came to such a fall (i.e. his denial), in order that we avoid the same. He was entirely too daring (presumptuous)–meaning that it all depended upon a good heart and good intentions. When he noticed others who were not like him in this matter, he held them in disdain. Thus he experienced how very little we are capable of if God does not sustain us. Therefore we should indeed not rely on the strength of our own faith, or on our good intentions. God’s power does it, and it alone must do everything.”

I think Peter was the first evangelical-born-again ”I made my decision” Protestant pietist. I would love a congregation of those kind of Peters, but I know I am more like Peter when he saw the waves, the Rock sank.  He was a good guy, but even our goodness, apart from God, also needs Christ’s redemption, His Body and Blood, His forgiveness every step of the Way. It is my good heart and good intentions that can reek the greatest damage in congregations, families and nations. Again, see Simon Peter and look to Jesus Christ. Don’t look to  your life for salvation, because the Law points to us and our hearts and souls our sin.  Peter found out after he denied Jesus three times, the arrested Jesus simply looked at Peter. Peter wept bitterly.  Peter finally knew his good heart was not enough, his decisions for Jesus did not bridge the gap between himself and the Lord, only the Lord’s hand, His Word did save him…again and again and again!   Back in Luke 5 and the miraculous catch of fish, when the boat begins to sink because of the haul of fish, Peter jumps into water and falls before the Lord, “Depart from me O Lord for I am a sinful man.” First note, that Jesus did not answer Peter’s prayer in the affirmative!  Peter would discover the depths of his sin and the greater depths of the forgiveness and mercy Jesus is, the heart of His Father in the power of the Holy Spirit.  After the resurrection, Peter would forget this as recorded in the New Testament but the Lord brought Him back to Himself in true repentance.  And in this scene from John 21, Peter once more throws himself into the depths, impetuously, impulsively, because he loved the Lord, for by His love  Peter, you, me and everyone we meet has been redeemed.  Now may His Word open their hearts to their Redeemer and  by faith be saved knowing the depths of His truth and grace for sinners and also for me and for thee as well day by day.  We pray…

O Lord Jesus Christ, look upon me, a poor sinner, with Your eyes of mercy, the same eyes of mercy with which You looked upon Peter in the assembly-room, upon Mary Magdalene at the banquet, and upon the malefactor on the cross. Grant to me also, 0 You, almighty God, that with Peter I bemoan my sin from the heart, with Mary Magdalene sincerely love You, and with the malefactor on the cross may live eternally with You in Your kingdom. Amen. (Johann Gerhard)

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