Tag Archives: Saints

Kingdom Divided (All Saints Day) – November 1, 2015 (NL Week 8)

Sunday’s Reading:
1 Kings 12:1-17, 25-29

+ Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, in the unity of the Holy Spirit. Amen. +

One of the things that I’ve come to appreciate more and more as I wrestle with this collection of stories that we call the Bible is that it so often fails to be the collection that we want it to be. What I mean by that is this: we Christians sometimes have this unfortunate habit of deifying the Bible, placing the Bible on such a pedestal that it becomes almost as important to us as God. In many ways I understand that impulse. The Bible contains stunningly beautiful passages about God’s love for us, about the lengths to which God will go to forge relationships with humanity and the whole creation, and about the grace that is offered to obviously imperfect people like you and me. Some of these passages truly make my heart sing, and I treasure much of what Scripture has to say about God in Christ.

Then, of course, we have passages like the one before us today. Just two generations after David, the great king of Israel and Judah, we read of the division of the so-called United Monarchy because of the arrogance of Rehoboam, the newly crowned heir of Solomon. At the beginning of his reign, Rehoboam had the opportunity to right the wrongs of his father, who despite all of his famed wisdom made some really terrible choices as king, none worse than the establishment of a system of forced labor that was used for the construction of both his palace and the Temple in Jerusalem. Instead of heeding the advice of his more experienced counselors, who urged him to lessen the demands placed on the people and deal with them compassionately, Rehoboam threatened to increase the workload to prove his supremacy over the people. In response, the vast majority of his subjects – the members of the ten northern tribes of Israel – returned to their homes and pledged their allegiance to one of their own, a man named Jeroboam.

This is not a story that inspires love or devotion. It has little redeeming value except as an example of what not to do as someone who seeks to be faithful to God. Yet here it is, included within the pages of this holy book alongside the stories of hundreds of other broken and beautiful people. What makes Scripture so beautiful, so timeless, so important for us to dig into time and again, is precisely this fact – it is an imperfect book filled with stories about imperfect people who were nevertheless the object of God’s love and grace and guidance.

This is an important truth for us to ponder, not only because it helps us to see some good in an otherwise terrible story of abusive and unresponsive leadership from one of God’s anointed people, but because it reminds us of an equally important truth that often gets lost in our observance of the Feast of All Saints. When we gather to remember the saints, God’s holy people from throughout time and space, we are sometimes in danger of speaking of them the same way that we so often speak about Scripture. It is customary for us to observe to an extreme degree the old adage that it isn’t good to speak ill of those who have died, and again, I understand that impulse. Calling to mind the best and most admirable qualities of our departed loved ones is a practice born out of our affection for them. It helps us to focus on positive memories and to remember what is excellent or praiseworthy. I certainly wouldn’t counsel anyone to do the complete opposite and look exclusively at the faults and failings of those who have gone on to be with the Lord. Yet there is room for a middle way, and I think that middle way is beneficial to us in a number of ways.

First of all, it allows us to remember our loved ones in all their fullness, as complex individuals with their own particular mix of strengths and weaknesses, virtues and vices, bright spots and dark moments. Second, by remembering that all these “saints” of God were not perfect, we are reminded that our own imperfections are not barriers to relationship with one another or with God. Most importantly, refusing to look at the saints as perfect helps to shift our focus to the one who alone is able to make us saints – Jesus Christ, who came to live among us, to die as one of us, and to be raised for us and for our salvation.

In direct contradiction to the character at the center of today’s Scripture reading, we who are numbered among God’s saints are called to boast first and foremost in the power and presence of God that moves in our lives and enables us to do things that we might never think we were capable of doing. Instead of trumpeting our own status or influence or ability, we are called to draw the gaze of others beyond our own accomplishments to the one who does everything well. In their best moments, the saints we remember today would have told us that themselves – perhaps not in so many words, but in the subtle ways that so many of them deflected attention, or refused to receive praise for things that seemed to them to be perfectly unremarkable, or readily acknowledged their rough places and growing edges.

The stories of Scripture and the stories of the saints are first and foremost stories about the one who created us, redeemed us, and sustains us minute by minute. To read the Bible rightly is to remember that it is not holy in and of itself; it is holy because all of its letters, words, verses, chapters, and books point to the reality of God that is ultimately beyond our comprehension. To honor the saints rightly is to remember that they are not holy because of their own works or piety or prayers, but because God called them (and continues to call us) to faith, to a reliance on the grace of God that is ours in Christ that transforms us to be Christ’s body in the world. So on this All Saints Day, brothers and sisters, let us give thanks for Holy Scripture, this collection of stories that bears witness to God’s magnificent and messy relationship with creation, with humanity, with each one of us. Let us give thanks for God’s holy ones – both those known to us and those who stories we may never know – and for the testimony that they gave to the power and grace of Jesus Christ through their lives of faith. Most of all, let us give thanks to God, the one who calls us and makes us holy by the gospel of our Lord, and who sends us out to tell the story of love and life that is offered to all in Christ. Amen.

The Book of Hebrews: Week 5 – September 6, 2015

Sunday’s Reading:
Hebrews 11:1-12:2

+ Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, in the unity of the Holy Spirit. Amen. +

I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: Sometimes I think we Christians have an “Old Testament problem”. That’s not true of all of us, of course, and it’s not true all the time, but I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that at least some of the time, we find ourselves struggling with the Hebrew Scriptures. At the most basic level, we modern and post-modern people tend to favor what is “new” over what is “old”, and so the way we’re accustomed to talking about the two testaments tends to lead us to prefer one over the other. On another level, because we think so highly of Jesus – for reasons that are both obvious and perfectly valid – we tend to think more highly of the parts of Scripture that refer more directly to him. By the same token, I think we find the descriptions of “church life” in Paul’s letters and instruction about the Christian life to be more compelling because they seem more applicable to our lives. When it comes down to it, I think the Old Testament gets short shrift in our thinking because we find it more difficult to connect with the stories of the people of Israel.

As people who sometimes have an Old Testament problem, we would do well to pay attention to what’s going on in today’s reading from Hebrews. That’s because we find in chapters eleven and twelve a compelling case that the Hebrew Scriptures are much more relevant to us than we often think. Far from being filled with stories about people whose experience with God is too distant from us, the Old Testament is brimming with stories about people whose lives are surprisingly similar to ours. The people highlighted in today’s reading are not extraordinary characters, but ordinary people who responded to God’s call on their lives and who found their lives transformed by that call. Some of these stories are more familiar than others: Abraham and Noah generally get more airtime than Abel and Enoch, and Jacob’s life is recounted in much more detail than Isaac’s or Sarah’s, and yet all of them are lifted up by the writer of Hebrews as examples of faith to be emulated.

Scripture records nothing about Abel except that he gives a sacrifice to God, and that his brother Cain kills him because he is upset that Abel’s sacrifice is found to be more acceptable than his own. The only things we learn about Enoch are that he was born, that he had some children, and that one day he was simply taken up to be with God. These two individuals don’t appear to do anything remarkable, and yet their stories are remembered because of how God was involved in their lives. We know more about the others – Noah, Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Jacob – and what we learn about them is not that they are particularly remarkable people in themselves, but that they are chosen by God – sometimes despite themselves and their questionable characters – to fulfill some part of God’s purpose in the world, and that they respond in faith to the call that God places on their lives.

It’s important for us to note that the kind of faith they display is not simple or easy or convenient. It is a trust in God claimed over and over again amid the peaks and valleys of their lives – like the trust shown by Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Jacob, who step out in pursuit of promises whose fulfillment is long-delayed, leaving much behind in the process. It is a trust that God is able to bring the ordinary out of the extraordinary – as in the cases of Abel and Enoch, whose lives are mysteries that nevertheless testify to God’s care and concern even for those who are virtually unknown. It is a trust that echoes through the centuries, a trust that forms an unbroken chain linking us with those ancestors who heard God’s voice in many and various ways, a trust that carries us through times of uncertainty. It is a trust that lives in us because it has been passed down from generation to generation and continues to be strengthened by the Holy Spirit’s presence within us and around us.

It’s that last point – the point about this trusting faith that lives in us as much as it did in these noteworthy ancestors – that is perhaps the most remarkable. The writer of Hebrews is not merely trying to connect us with our forerunners in faith. He is making the claim that our lives are the continuation of a story that goes back to the beginning. Just as the stories of Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, and yes, Jesus, bear witness to God’s activity in the world, our stories bear witness to the fact that God is still speaking, still present to those who are being tested, still listening to and responding to the cries of the world, still receiving the prayers and praise of our earthly worship in the heavenly sanctuary. There’s both challenge and promise in that reality. The challenge, of course, is that we’re called not just to talk the talk – that is, to say or believe the right things about God in Christ – but to walk the walk (or, to use the metaphor in chapter twelve, to run the race). The nature of discipleship, after all, is to follow, and Jesus isn’t standing still. The promise, on the other hand, is that we’re not responsible for blazing the trail on our own. The path has already been forged by Christ and well-worn by countless saints who have walked it before us. More than that, the great cloud of witnesses who have already completed the course are now cheering us on from the sidelines, encouraging us by their own example, and pointing the way to the finish line where Christ awaits.

I started out today with the claim that we in the church sometimes struggle with an Old Testament problem. That’s a problem we need to face head-on, because next week we’re going to be diving back into the Old Testament part of the Narrative Lectionary. From September through mid-December, we’ll be making our way through the Hebrew Scriptures. Beginning with the Garden of Eden and moving through the words of the prophets, we’ll be exploring how God has moved in the lives of ordinary people to make the extraordinary possible. We’ll continue to see how those stories reverberate into our present and reveal the character of a God who is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love. We’ll find our own stories mirrored in stories that were written centuries ago and worlds away. Most importantly, we’ll be blessed by the knowledge that God’s love and mercy and grace reach across time and space to envelope us and inspire us to be God’s people in the world even as they were poured out upon our ancestors in the faith. As we begin that journey anew next week, let us pray that our “Old Testament” problem might be transformed into an appreciation for God’s Word – a word that speaks from Genesis to Revelation and is always relevant! Thanks be to God! Amen.

Elisha Heals Naaman (All Saints’) – Sunday, November 2, 2014 (NL Week 9)

Sunday’s Readings:
Complementary Text: Matthew 8:2-3
Preaching Text: 2 Kings 5:1-14

+ Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, in the unity of the Holy Spirit. Amen. +

Today’s text is in many respects well-summarized by the title on our lectionary inserts: “Elisha Heals Naaman”. Elisha was the prophet of the Lord, a task he inherited from his teacher, Elijah. He was called to proclaim the word of the Lord to the king of Israel, which was the nation comprised of the northern ten tribes that broke away from the kingdom of Judah after Solomon died in 922 BCE. The text before us today takes place around 100 years after the division of Israel and Judah, and concerns the great healing miracle that Elisha was able to accomplish for Naaman, a well-known and wildly successful general serving the army of Aram, Israel’s neighbor to the north. Naaman, despite his many great victories, was held back by the fact that he suffered from a debilitating skin disease. Our text calls it leprosy, but in reality it could have been one of any number of other diseases of the skin that often led people to ascribe sinfulness or uncleanness to those who suffered from them. After hearing about the healing power of the prophet Elisha from one of his servants, an Israelite girl captured in a raid, Naaman sent money to Jehoram, the king of Israel, in return for the healing that he expected to receive. Jehoram, of course, had no idea how he was going to be able to heal Naaman, and worried that the whole thing was nothing more than a pretext for the king of Aram to declare war on Israel. Elisha heard about his concern, and summoned Naaman to come to him, rather than to the king. When Naaman arrived, Elisha sent a messenger with his instructions, and the general was furious that he was not accorded the respect he felt he deserved. It wasn’t until Naaman’s servants pointed out how ridiculous his anger was that he followed the prophet’s instructions, washed seven times in the Jordan, and was cured of his leprosy.

I mentioned that the title given to this story is in many ways a good summary of the story, but in one very important aspect, it falls short. While most of the action in this story seems to center on the most powerful and influential figures – Naaman, the famous general; Elisha, the renowned prophet; Jehoram, the king of Israel; and Ben-Hadad, the king of Aram – a closer look at the narrative reveals that it is, in fact, the unnamed servants that move the story forward and help make this miracle possible. Consider this: without the Israelite girl who first told Naaman’s wife about the prophet Elisha, he may very well have suffered from leprosy for the rest of his life. Or consider this: Elisha never speaks directly with Naaman; instead, an unnamed messenger delivers the prophet’s message for him. Or, perhaps most importantly, consider this: when Naaman is ready to pack up in disgust and return to Aram without heeding the prophet’s call to go and wash, his servants dare to speak to him in his anger and give him that sage advice: “Father, if the prophet had commanded you to do something difficult, would you not have done it? How much more, when all he said to you was, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” (2 Kings 5:13).

I think it’s significant that on this All Saints’ Sunday we hear a story of God’s power being displayed to the nations, and that the most compelling testimony to that power is made, not by the powerful and important, but by those who in most circumstances would be overlooked. I’ve mentioned often that I think we are too quick to use the language of saints for people that we regard as extraordinary, and too slow to use it for ourselves, especially when we regard ourselves as being decidedly ordinary. As we contemplate the power of the gospel this day, and as we call to mind the body of Christ that transcends time and space, I’d like to share with you this reflection on the significance of the communion of saints:

To those who know a little of Christian history probably the most moving of all the reflections it brings is not the thought of the great events and the well-remembered saints, but of those innumerable millions of entirely obscure faithful men and women, every one with his or her individual hopes and fears and joys and sorrows and loves – and sins and temptations and prayers – once every whit as vivid and alive as mine are now. They have left no slightest trace in this world, not even a name, but have passed to God utterly forgotten by men [sic]. Yet each of them once believed and prayed as I believe and pray, and found it hard and grew slack and sinned and repented and fell again. Each of them worshipped at the Eucharist, and found their thoughts wandering and tried again, and felt heavy and unresponsive and yet knew – just as really and pathetically as I do these things. There is a little ill-spelled ill-carved rustic epitaph of the fourth century from Asia Minor – ‘Here sleeps the blessed Chione, who has found Jerusalem for she prayed much.’ Not another word is known of Chione, some peasant woman who lived in that vanished world of Christian Anatolia. But how lovely if all that should survive after sixteen centuries were that one had prayed much, so that the neighbors who saw all one’s life were sure one must have found Jerusalem! What did the Sunday Eucharist in her village church every week for a life-time mean to the blessed Chione – and to the millions like her then, and every year since? The sheer stupendous quantity of the love of God which this ever repeated action has drawn from the obscure Christian multitudes though the centuries is in itself an overwhelming thought.*

Brothers and sisters, today we hear the story of our God acting powerfully in the life of a complete stranger, bringing healing and wholeness where before there had been suffering and shame. We call to mind our kindred throughout time and space who were joined to Christ and freed for lives of loving service as they heeded the call to “wash and be clean.” We rejoice as eight remarkable young men and women prepare to gather with us and all the saints around the Table of our Lord to receive a foretaste of the feast to come. We delight in the Word that sustains us in our time of need, calms our doubts and fears, and gives us the strength to be Christ’s body in the world each new day. Most of all, we celebrate the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ, who by the power of his resurrection has won abundant and abiding life for us and for all the saints – past, present, and future. On this all Saints’ Sunday, as we remember those saints who have been so important to us – people who nurtured us and helped us to know and experience the love of God – let us also stand in awe of God’s grace in the lives of all those saints, both known and unknown, who helped the deposit of faith come to us, and let us celebrate the great gift of knowing God’s love through them so that we might pass it on to others. Thanks be to God! Amen.

*Dom Gregory Dix, The Shape of the Liturgy, Adam and Charles Black (London: 1945), 744-45.

Solomon’s Wisdom (Reformation) – Sunday, October 26, 2014 (NL Week 8)

Sunday’s Readings:
Complementary Text: Matthew 6:9-10
Preaching Text: 1 Kings 3:4-28

+ Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, in the unity of the Holy Spirit. Amen. +

 Today our preaching text centers on Solomon, the second and last king of the united monarchy of Israel and Judah. Next to his father, David, Solomon is one of the most celebrated figures in Scripture, and he is particularly noteworthy because of the reputation he had for exhibiting wisdom in the governance of his kingdom. In this morning’s reading we are reminded that Solomon’s wisdom was apparent from an early age; in fact, the request for wisdom that dominates the first half of today’s text is itself evidence that Solomon possessed wisdom beyond his years. In the second half of the reading, we then get to see that wisdom put to practice, as the king mediates a dispute between two women who both claim an infant as their own. While our modern sensibilities might be offended by the thought of that child’s life being  used as a pawn in settling the dispute, Solomon does bring that argument to a conclusion swiftly (and safely) by forcing the issue and laying bare the hearts of both women involved. In short order, Solomon’s wisdom is described as being unparalleled, and the results of his wisdom plain to see: Israel and Judah’s influence in the Ancient Near East was never greater than it was during the reign of Solomon.

Yet, like all human endeavors, if it sounds too good to be true, it is. Last week, Pr. Morrow mentioned God’s warning to the people of Israel, a warning about the abuse of power that was sure to follow when one person was elevated to a position of authority over another. It wasn’t long after Solomon was praised for his justice and wisdom that he succumbed to the temptation to use his authority for his own glory. Yes, Solomon built the first temple to the Lord in Jerusalem; at the same time, he built himself a huge palace that dwarfed the place where God’s name would dwell. Yes, Solomon created beautiful and important civic buildings and structures; he also built them on the backs of slave labor, a decision that revealed a stunning case of amnesia regarding where his people had come from. Yes, Solomon’s temple was considered a grand accomplishment that had lasting impact on the people of Israel and Judah; he also saw his own commitment to the Lord eroded through the many marriages and alliances that allowed idol worship to take root within his household. Like his father before him, the story of Solomon is a story of great achievement and devastating failure, but even more it is the story of God’s never-failing love for those that God has chosen. Though God allowed Solomon to suffer the consequences of his actions, God remained faithful to the promise that had been spoken to David and his descendants, and the house of David saw that promise of unending rule fulfilled centuries later in the person of Jesus Christ.

At first glance, this might seem an odd text for an occasion like Reformation Sunday. For years, we’ve been accustomed to hearing passages like Jeremiah 31, where the prophet proclaims God’s intention to renew the covenant and write it on the hearts of God’s people, and John 8, where Jesus declares that to know him is to know the truth and to receive the freedom offered by that truth. Those passages remind us of the gospel’s enduring power to change the lives of God’s people, and as Lutheran Christians who claim the heritage of the Reformation that message is not to be discounted. The benefit of reading Solomon’s story today is that it communicates an equally important truth to us: that even the most profound gifts and achievements can be compromised by our propensity for selfishness, greed, and arrogance. It is always a temptation for us to see Reformation Sunday as an opportunity to celebrate the Lutheran moment in the sun or to lionize Luther and the Reformers. But we do ourselves a disservice if we forget that one of Luther’s main contributions to Christianity is the understanding that we are simultaneously sinners and saints, that we are both gifted beyond measure and captive to our broken natures.

Like Solomon, Luther was gifted with a sharp mind, and he used that mind to pursue the truth. At the same time, Luther’s insight into the power of the gospel was hindered by his arrogance, prejudice, and intemperance toward people who disagreed with him. We rightly commemorate the wind of change that blew through the church of Luther’s day only if we also recognize the profound suffering wrought by the division and disunity that plagued Europe and the rest of the world for centuries after the Reformation first began.

Brothers and sisters, the story of Solomon reveals a truth that has played out in the lives of every person who has ever professed faith in God. The people of God have been the recipients of divine grace and mercy that we can scarcely fathom, and we have also been given gifts that we can share with those around us as we strive to extend God’s blessing to the world. We have also seen time and again how our best laid plans, our most sincere intentions, and our most promising endeavors have fallen short. Through it all, Scripture and history have revealed how God works through our failings and fears to accomplish God’s purposes for the world. Solomon, Luther, and each of us stand before God as sinners and saints, broken and blessed children who bear God’s image powerfully and imperfectly. On this Reformation Sunday, let us remember this truth about ourselves, not so that we would despair about our fallenness, but so that we might go out this week knowing that we have been freed by the gospel and intent on following Luther’s advice: Be a sinner and sin boldly, but believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly, for he is victorious over sin, death, and the world. Thanks be to God! Amen.

Peter and Paul, Apostles – Sunday, June 29, 2014

Sunday’s Readings:

Acts 12:1-11
Psalm 87:1-3, 5-7 (3)
2 Timothy 4:6-8, 17-18
John 21:15-19

+ Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, in the unity of the Holy Spirit. Amen. +

 Tradition tells us that it was on this day in the year 67 that two of the most important figures in the early church, the apostles Peter and Paul, were martyred in the city of Rome. Our building bears witness both to their significant ministries and to the manner of their deaths in stained glass images. Peter is represented here in the first window here on the east wall, with the combined symbols of crossed keys and the upside-down cross, said to be the instrument of his execution. Why an upside down cross? The story goes that Peter requested it himself, believing himself unworthy to die in the same manner as his Lord Jesus. Paul’s emblem is preserved in the window at the south end of the upper room, consisting of an open book with the words Spiritus Gladius, or “Sword of the Spirit” and a two-edged sword, the preferred method of executing Roman citizens like Paul. From very early on in the church’s history (at least as early as the year 258), the tradition regarding their deaths on the same day has led to their being remembered and celebrated together on June 29, but in another respect it is an odd thing that that they should share a day of celebration. After all, Peter and Paul found themselves opposed to one another fairly early in the church’s history. Acts recounts the story of the conflict as a disagreement about membership in the church, with Peter believing that Gentiles should be required to accept certain marks of Jewish identity to be considered Christian and Paul arguing that accepting the Gospel was the only condition for being welcomed into fellowship. The disagreement was bitter, and eventually led to a sort of stalemate: Peter would take charge of the mission to the Jewish people, while Paul would be responsible for the mission to the other nations of the world. Other parts of Scripture bear witness to the on-going feud, with Paul’s letters accusing Peter of hypocrisy regarding Gentile Christians and letters bearing Peter’s name panning the writings of Paul as too difficult to understand.

Clearly, despite their disagreement, these two figures were vitally important to the church’s growth during its earliest years. So what can we learn from these saints of God, whose lives bear witness to the power of the gospel?

First, we each need to be reminded that the central truth of their lives is also the central truth of our own: It is not our own power or ability that saves us, but the love of God in Christ that comes to us and establishes our relationship with God. Peter came from humble beginnings as a fisherman to be numbered among the foremost of the apostles, while Paul’s high status among the authorities in Jerusalem ultimately meant nothing when it came to his position before God.

Second, the lives of Peter and Paul remind us that the life of discipleship is costly. As much as we would like to think that following Jesus is the path to blissful, care-free living, Scripture teaches us otherwise. The apostles we remember today show us what it means to bear the cross, to pour ourselves out so that others might know the love and grace of God, to give without counting the cost. Though few – if any of us – will ever find ourselves in the position of facing death in service to the gospel, faithfulness may require us to take a stand before the powers-that-be, to speak a word of truth that might stir up division and conflict, to be willing to sacrifice our comfort or respectability for the sake of others. Because of the example of Peter and Paul, we know that this kind of discipleship is not only possible, but it is the kind of life that can change the world for good.

Third, the fact of their disagreement on an issue of vital importance to the early church demonstrates something about the church in the present: namely, that our unity is in Christ, and in our being joined to his crucified and risen life in the waters of baptism. The church in general (and our own ELCA in particular) is a body of unique individuals with widely varied understandings of significance parts of the life of faith, and yet our common identity as God’s people can transcend those disagreements, so that we see them as evidence of diversity to be celebrated rather than as obstacles to be overcome or eliminated.

Finally, we can draw strength from Scripture’s insistence that the one who calls us to share and serve is faithful, and that even our moments of greatest weakness are not enough to prevent God’s will from being done through us. Peter, of course, might best be remembered for his denial of Jesus on the night of his betrayal, an act of cowardice and self-preservation that could have derailed his ministry forever. Paul, on the other hand, witnesses with approval the execution of Stephen, the church’s first martyr, and was regarded as one of the foremost enemies of the church. God, however, would not allow either of them to be defined by their failures. Instead, each of them was changed by the grace of God and freed from their shame so that they could become powerful witnesses to the good news of Jesus. Today’s Gospel reading, for example, represents the undoing of Peter’s denial of Jesus: for each instance of betrayal on that fateful night, Peter is given an opportunity to profess his love for Jesus and a command to serve his brothers and sisters. In the same way, the second reading represents Paul’s testimony about his calling to preach the gospel and his confidence that God would strengthen him for the work of proclaiming the good news to the world. So it is with us. Each of us have been called to share the gospel in word and deed, and each of us struggles to overcome all the obstacles to that calling – like pride, fear, anxiety, shame, or doubt. Like Peter and Paul, we have also been united with Christ and assured of his presence with us, and so we can go out with good courage as they did, knowing that nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God that is ours in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Brothers and sisters, with the whole church we celebrate the example of our forerunners in the faith, the apostles Peter and Paul. May we be inspired by that example to bear the good news in everything we say and do, so that all the world might come to know God’s grace and life. For the lives of Peter and Paul and all the saints, and for divine love made flesh in Jesus Christ that frees us to love others in return: Thanks be to God! Amen.