Sermon 1 Lent, Yr C

1 Lent Yr C, 25/02/2007

Lk 4:1-13

Rev. Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson

Pastor of Grace Lutheran Church, &

Chaplain of The Good Samaritan Society’s

South Ridge Village, Medicine Hat, Alberta

 

“Temptation”

 

One man was determined to shed some pounds. Soon, however, the agony of deprivation became so intense that he talked himself into thinking maybe God wanted him to have a little relief. He decided to test his theory. He told himself that if there was a parking place in front of the bakery, which was usually crowded with cars, it would mean that, yes, God wanted him to indulge. Well, sure enough, on his tenth trip around the block, there was a parking place right in front of the door.

Temptation—we all face them. If we lived without temptation we wouldn’t be human, or at least we wouldn’t be sinful humans—but we are sinners, and thus we all face temptations. The devil, Satan, old scratch, Cloutie, the powers of evil, whatever you prefer to call him or it, is very real, even though we don’t understand him or it completely. There are some contemporary theologians, biblical scholars, psychiatrists and psychologists who do not have much to say about the devil or evil powers. But I personally think they are quite mistaken, all one has to do is read the front page of the newspaper on practically any day to discover that the devil or the power of evil is very much alive, real and active in the world and in people’s lives. In both Testaments of the Bible, the devil is described as a deceitful, malevolent power at work to destroy the relationship of love and trust between God and human beings. Even more sobering is today’s gospel, which gives us an account of the temptations of Jesus. Now if Jesus who was and is the perfect sinless Son of God, if he was tempted, then definitely you and I are going to be tempted—sinners that we are. So, if that is the case, then let’s have another look at our gospel and see what we can learn from it.

In the first temptation, the first thing to note here is that the devil tempts Jesus not at a time when he is at his strongest—although that can happen too—rather, he is tempted to turn a stone into bread after he had fasted for forty days, and Luke tells us Jesus was famished. This is instructive for us too, for is it not in our weakest moments when evil or the devil catches us off guard that we are tempted? For example, this I think is especially so for folks who struggle with addictions. If you’re struggling with an alcohol or drug problem, then it’s likely going to be more difficult—perhaps even impossible—to resist them if you’re at a party where everyone is over indulging than if you were in an alcohol or drug free environment. We are least able to resist temptations when we are at our weakest.

In the first temptation of Jesus, the devil plays on our Lord’s physical weakness of hunger with the offer of immediate gratification. It places so much emphasis on being rewarded right now, instantly that it confuses our needs with our wants. Our wants become an endless slavery whereby they are the be all and end all for us. Moreover, to be a slave to our immediate gratifications blinds us to the big picture of the consequences of how such behaviour can harm us, others and God’s creation. We have seen the immediate gratification kick spiralling out of control concerning matters of the environment and non-renewable resources. This has increased land, water, and air pollution to unprecedented levels. It has caused all kinds of illnesses; it has endangered many plant and animal species; it has caused social problems; and alienates us spiritually too from one another and from God. It is, in our instant society of goods and services, very difficult to resist the temptation of immediate gratification. However, Jesus, filled with God’s Holy Spirit was able to resist such a temptation.

In the second temptation, the devil offers Jesus worldly and political wealth and power and authority. Reflecting on this, Pastor John Sumwalt tells the following present-day story of this second temptation, as well as the third temptation of placing one’s life in danger for the sake of sensationalism:

The devil came to me the other day, as he often does, and he said, “Preacher, how about joining me for a little walk. It never hurts to walk and talk a little bit, now does it?” I had to admit that I couldn’t see any harm in walking and talking, and so I agreed to walk with him for a little while. He led me out the door of the church and up the street to one of our neighbourhood convenience stores. He took me up to the counter and said, “I’ll tell you what, I’ll buy you one of these lottery tickets. He took out his wallet, flashed a large wad of bills, paid the cashier and handed me the ticket. My hands were trembling as I took it. I knew the jackpot this week was $40 million. “Hang on to that ticket and you will be a big winner,” he said. “You won’t have to work another day in your life.” I didn’t want to be impolite, so I discreetly put the ticket into my pocket as we left the store, thinking to myself, “I’ll tear it up later, after he’s gone.”

Then he took me up and showed me all the great pulpits of the church in a moment in time. I saw Riverside Church, and the pulpit of the great Harry Emerson Fosdick, and the Crystal Cathedral in all of its splendour. I imagined myself in a beautiful blue robe, preaching to a television audience of millions. “All of this can be yours,” he said. “I can build you a cathedral even bigger and grander than this one, and you will have more viewers than any other preacher in history. To you I will give all of this authority and glory, for it is mine to give, and I can give it to whomever I choose. If you help elect me Bishop, it shall be yours.”

I gulped as I looked at all those influential pulpits in big churches that are coveted by so many preachers but I want you to know that somehow I managed to say, “No, thank you, I’ll stay here in my little church where I’m loved and appreciated.”

And then the devil took me to the top of the Sears Tower in Chicago. He let me look through the telescope they have up there at a net he had set up on the pavement below. There was a large crowd gathered around the net. They were chanting, “Go go go, go for it.” I could see the television crews from CBS, ABC and CNN setting up to film the action. “Go ahead, jump,” the devil said. “It’s never been done before. Just think, you will be in The Guinness Book of World Records. There will be endorsements, talk shows, movie contracts. Think of all the souls you will be able to save when you are famous. Don’t worry about the risk. God will keep you safe. Come on, go for it.”

I think that was when I fainted. I’m afraid of heights. And when I came to, the devil was gone, at least for the time being. But I have a feeling that I’ve not seen the last of him.

Come to think of it I still have that lottery ticket….people asked me for months afterwards if I ever scratched off that ticket. I never did.1

The second temptation is to believe in a lie and not believe the truth. The devil DOES NOT have all authority over the worldly kingdoms—Christ does. Christ’s authority is greater and more powerful than the devil’s and thus it is to be trusted. (See Jn 1:1-4; Matt 28:18 & Col 1:16-17)

The third temptation is using sensationalism, the spectacular to dazzle, awe and wow people. It is to tempt or test God by deliberately placing oneself in dangerous situations to entertain people—e.g. to do things like walking across Niagara Falls on a tight rope and other life-threatening stunts.

The power of evil or the devil is a reality, as are our temptations. World history and Church history are full of examples of sinful humans falling into temptations of selfish and abusive power-tripping; placing more value in immediate gratification above all else regardless of the consequences; and the sin of idolatry—worshipping human power, glory and fame instead of God. However, God’s power and the reality of God are greater—that is the message of today’s gospel and that is the message of other Bible passages too. We know that the devil’s power, the power of evil is limited. The Good News is that one day, according to the Bible, the devil, the power of evil shall be defeated. In the meantime, we can learn from Jesus here in this gospel story to keep praying and depending on God for our strength to resist temptations; to remember the promises and truths in the Bible as we face temptations; to trust in the power of the Holy Spirit to guide and protect us; to trust in the saving power of Christ’s life, death and resurrection, he has won the ultimate victory over evil. (See e.g. Matt 25:31; Jn 12:31; 14:30; 16:11; Rev 2:10; 12:9, 12; 20:2, 10) He will see us through every temptation and evil. (See e.g. Matt 6:13; Heb 2:17-18; Ja 1:12) Amen.

 

1 John Sumwalt, Lectionary Stories Cycle C: 40 Tellable Tales for Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter and Pentecost (Lima, OH: C.S.S. Publishing Co., Inc., 1991), pp. 52-53.

 

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Sermon Transfiguration Sunday Yr C

Transfiguration Sunday Yr C, 18/02/2007

2 Cor 3:12-4:2

Rev. Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson

Pastor of Grace Lutheran Church, &

Chaplain of The Good Samaritan Society’s

South Ridge Village, Medicine Hat, Alberta

 

“With unveiled faces”

 

Sometimes it is important for us to be reminded of how the Bible is read and interpreted. For example, behind our second lesson today, Paul, trained as a Jewish rabbi and steeped in the Hebrew Bible, employs a rabbinic method of reading and interpreting the Bible. The method or principle behind the apostle Paul’s words today is this—scripture interprets scripture. Paul, having been given a direct vision of Christ on his way to Damascus, now writes much differently because his understanding of scripture has changed. Behind his words in today’s second lesson, Paul is thinking of today’s first lesson and gospel. Paul is referring back to the Exodus text and remembering Moses’ encounter with God on Mount Sinai and “after effect” of that encounter, namely, his shining face, which was a manifestation of God’s glory. Paul is also recalling the event of Christ being transfigured in today’s gospel, which he may very well have learned of first hand from Peter, James or John, who were eye witnesses of the transfiguration.

Now, in this rather troubled, tense, and intense second letter to the Christians at Corinth, Paul proceeds to interpret these two events. As a person who has been involved in dialogue with the Jewish people and Jewish faith, I must confess to you that I struggle with Paul’s words today. One other important factor that we all need to be mindful of in this second lesson is that we only have Paul’s side of the story. However, as you all know, there are never less than two sides to every story. It has been my experience that the Jewish people of faith do not see their covenant with God as a legalistic burden to be dreaded. No! Rather, they see their covenant with God and all of the 613 laws in the Torah as a gift of God’s grace and love to them. For example, they would not say that they obey a commandment like “you shall not kill” because it is against the law. No, rather, they would say that they obey this commandment out of love for God and for their neighbour. This, too, is how I would interpret the commandments—they are not legalistic, burdensome laws, rather, they are a gift from God and a sign of God’s love and grace for us.

So, when Paul says that Moses had to wear a veil and that the Jewish people, whenever they read or hear God’s word miss the meaning of it because it is like they still all have a veil covering their eyes and minds; Paul is speaking this I think, as a result of his intensive Damascus road experience and encounter with Jesus. I am not saying that Paul’s experience and encounter was wrong or false. No, however, what I am saying is that I think it was unfair of Paul, and it is also unfair of us Christians today, to assume that all Jews of the old covenant in Paul’s day and in our day have a veil covering them, and that therefore they cannot see the true meaning of scripture as we see, because for us the veil has been removed. I am challenging that assumption. I believe that it is very dangerous for us Christians to take a proud and arrogant attitude towards our Jewish neighbours—believing that we are superior or more enlightened than them. I believe that even today we Christians too have veils covering our eyes, minds and hearts, preventing us from seeing and understanding as Jesus would have us see and understand. I believe that both Jews and Christians need to approach our God and our Bibles with humility and honesty, confessing our blindness and repenting of it. If we are to do this, then it is helpful for us to consider what kind of veils cover our eyes, minds and hearts today. I think there are several.

There is the veil of prejudice. The word itself reminds us of two words, pre and judge, to judge something or someone too soon, before we have all of the necessary information. We, too, often go to scripture to find support for our own views rather than to find the truth of God. For example, there was a few years ago, a documentary on T.V. about some sectarian group who beat their children severely, and justified it by saying the scripture supported what they did—quoting the old familiar phrase, “spare the rod and spoil the child.”

There is the veil of wishful thinking. Too often we find what we want to find, and neglect what we do not want to see. To take an example, we may delight in all the references to the love and mercy of God, but pass over all the references to his wrath and judgment. Most, if not all of us do not enjoy being the subjects of God’s or for that matter anyone else’s wrath and judgment. We would much sooner avoid it.

There is the veil of fragmentary thinking. The Bible is best read, studied and interpreted as a whole. It is easy to take individual texts and criticize them. It is easy to prove that parts of the Old Testament are sub-Christian. It is easy to find support for private theories by choosing certain texts and passages and putting others aside (in fact, I think people do this all the time). But it is the whole message that we must seek; and that is just another way of saying that we must read all scripture in the light of Jesus Christ. Martin Luther emphasised this principle a lot. He said that those passages of scripture which reveal Christ most clearly are the most important. He also, following Paul, found Christ behind every nook and cranny in the scriptures where others may have overlooked him.

There is the veil of disobedience. Very often it is moral and not intellectual blindness which keeps us from seeing God. If we persist in disobeying him we become less and less capable of seeing him. Something that is immoral is not moral merely because it becomes a law of the land. If God clearly says it is wrong and sinful, then who are we to twist it into saying that it is right and permissible? The vision of God is to the pure in heart.

There is the veil of the unteachable spirit. As the Scots saying has it, “There’s none so blind as those who winna see.” The best teacher on earth cannot teach the person who knows it all already and does not wish to learn. God gave us free will, and, if we insist upon our own way, we cannot learn his.1

According to Paul, now thanks to God’s grace given to us in Jesus, we are able to see the glory of the Lord with unveiled faces. The veil is gone, removed from us. What blinded our seeing, our thinking, and our acting has now been taken away by Christ. He has done the necessary spiritual surgery to remove our blindness and give us sight.

I am told that the French Impressionist, Monet, at midlife, suffered from cataracts. It is apparent when viewing the paintings of this period, that the cataracts took their toll. The colors were muddied. Then Monet had surgery, the cataracts were removed. The next paintings show a marked difference. The colors are clear, vibrant, expressive. The “veil” had been removed. He saw with new eyes.2 So, too, thanks to what Christ has done for us through his life, teachings, suffering, death and resurrection; we can see the glory of the Lord with unveiled faces. In that seeing, everything is different in that it is filled with new life. Life filled with new hope, new understanding, new opportunities new freedom to love and serve our God and neighbour. Amen.

 

1 Wm Barclay, The Letters to the Corinthians (Burlington, ON: G.R. Welch Co. Ltd., 1975), pp. 192-193.

2 As cited in Wm Willimon, Pulpit Resource Vol. 26, No. 1, January, February, March 1998, (Inver Grove Heights, MN: Logos Productions Inc.), p. 33.

Sermon 6 Epiphany, Yr C

6 Epiphany Yr C, 11/02/2007

1 Cor 15:12-20

Rev. Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson

Pastor of Grace Lutheran Church, &

Chaplain of The Good Samaritan Society’s

South Ridge Village, Medicine Hat, Alberta

 

“Paul on the Resurrection”

 

The sceptic and cynic looks for a coffin whenever he or she smells flowers. Believes life is a car wash and he or she is riding a bike. Looks at the land of milk and honey and sees nothing but calories and cholesterol. Stays up on New Year’s Eve to make sure the old year leaves. Looks both ways before crossing a one-way street.

In today’s second lesson, the apostle Paul is speaking to some folks of the Corinthian church who have a similar sceptical and cynical outlook on life. They are putting forth the view that there is no resurrection. Christ was not raised from the dead, and neither shall we be raised from the dead. There is only one life, it is right here, now in this world. It is interesting how Paul answers their scepticism and cynicism. He sounds here like a philosophy professor in a university classroom engaged in a vigorous debate. He says, “Okay, let’s explore in the form of logical syllogisms what the implications are for us if there really is no resurrection, and if Christ actually was not raised from the dead.”

Professor and pastor, Eugene Peterson, in his contemporary paraphrase of the text in The Message, states it like this: “Now, let me ask you something profound yet troubling. If you became believers because you trusted the proclamation that Christ is alive, risen from the dead, how can you let people say that there is no such thing as a resurrection? If there’s no resurrection for Christ, everything we’ve told you is smoke and mirrors, and everything you’ve staked your life on is smoke and mirrors. Not only that, but we would be guilty of telling a string of barefaced lies about God, all these affidavits we passed on to you verifying that God raised up Christ—sheer fabrications, if there’s no resurrection.”

“If corpses can’t be raised, then Christ wasn’t, because he was indeed dead. And if Christ wasn’t raised, then all you’re doing is wandering about in the dark, as lost as ever. It’s even worse for those who died hoping in Christ and resurrection, because they’re already in their graves. If all we get out of Christ is a little inspiration for a few short years, we’re a pretty sorry lot. But the truth is that Christ has been raised up, the first in a long legacy of those who are going to leave the cemeteries.”1

As you can perhaps see from this passage in 1 Corinthians, there is much intensity in what Paul is saying. He writes, and likely spoke as if his life depended on him being able to win this debate against his opponents. He comes across as trying to prove the resurrection. For Paul, Christianity stands or falls on the resurrection. Now, today, unlike Paul, I don’t think we can actually prove the resurrection some two thousand plus years after the event. We, unlike Paul and the first apostles, have not actually seen the risen Christ. Yet, we trust, we have faith in, their witness to us through the Bible. For us too, then, Christianity stands or falls on the resurrection. Is that not why our choice day of meeting to worship is on a Sunday, the day when Christ was raised from the dead? Thus, every Sunday serves as a reminder to us of the resurrection. Celebration of the resurrection is not limited to Easter Sunday or the Easter season, it is a year round truth and reality, if we but have the eyes of faith to see.

There are other pointers or signs or realities in life today that point us to the truth of the resurrection.

An old legend tells of a parish priest who found a branch of a thorn tree twisted around so that it resembled a crown of thorns. Thinking it a symbol of the crucifixion of Christ, he took it into his chapel and placed it on the altar on Good Friday. Early on Easter morning he remembered what he had done. Feeling it was not appropriate for Easter Sunday, he hurried into the church to clear it away before the congregation came. But when he came into the church, he found the thorn branches blossoming with beautiful roses.2 Where there is no life, God is able to work and produce new life. There are resurrections that surprise us in many different places and experiences of life.

When the world seems a defeat for God and you are sick with the disorder, the violence, the terror, the war on the streets; when the earth seems to be chaos, say to yourself, “Jesus died and rose again on purpose to save, and his salvation is already with us.”

Every newly-opened leper-hospital is an act of faith in the resurrection. Every peace treaty is an act of faith in the resurrection. Every agreed commitment is an act of faith in the resurrection. When you forgive your enemy; when you feed the hungry; when you defend the weak you believe in the resurrection. When you have the courage to marry; when you welcome the newly-born child; when you build your home, you believe in the resurrection. When you wake at peace in the morning; when you sing to the rising sun; when you go to work with joy, you believe in the resurrection.3 Yes, there are many small resurrections in life, in the Church, and in the world—all of which point us to and remind us of the big resurrection of Easter morning, and eventually, we shall share in a resurrection like Christ’s.

In Paul’s rigorously reasoned defence of the resurrection, he concludes in verse 19 that: “If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.” How true Paul is, for life in this world is very short. Indeed, for the majority of the world’s people, it is way too short, and full of misery and suffering, without any hope for improving their quality of life. Even for those who are blessed with wealth and a higher quality of life, they shall not be able to take what they value in this world with them when they die, so what hope is there for them if there is no life beyond this one—if there is no resurrection? Moreover, what quality is their life really, if they live with an underlying fear of death and nothing beyond death? One’s hope is useless if it is only for this life.

However, Paul goes on to conclude that there is more than hope for this life only. In verse 20, he says: “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died.”

Paul is thinking in terms of a picture which every Jew would recognize. The Feast of the Passover had more than one significance. It commemorated the deliverance of the children of Israel from Egypt. But was also a great harvest festival. It fell just at the time when the barely harvest was due to be ingathered. The law laid it down, “You shall bring the sheaf of the first-fruits of your harvest to the priest; and he shall wave the sheaf before the Lord, that you may find acceptance; on the morrow after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it.” (Leviticus 23:10, 11). Some sheaves of barely must be reaped from a common field. They must not be taken from a garden or an orchard or from specially prepared soil. They must come from a typical field. When the barely was cut, it was brought to the Temple. There it was threshed with soft canes so as not to bruise it. It was then parched over the fire in a perforated pan so that every grain was touched by the fire. It was then ground in a barely mill and its flour was offered to God. That was the first-fruits.

It is significant to note that not until after that was done could the new barley be bought and sold in the shops and bread be made from the new flour. The first-fruits were a sign of the harvest to come; and the Resurrection of Jesus was a sign of the resurrection of all believers which was to come. Just as the new barley could not be used until the first-fruits had been duly offered, so the new harvest of life could not come until Jesus had been raised from the dead.4

It was poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge who once said: “Work without hope draws nectar in a sieve, and hope without an object cannot live.” We Christians have been given every reason to work and hope, for our nectar, our object of work and hope is the saving power of God who raised Jesus from the dead. One day we too shall be raised from the dead. Therefore we can work, hope and live with the confidence of our Christian faith that Christ’s resurrection has made all the difference in this world and the next for us. Amen.

 

1 Eugene H. Peterson, The Message (Colorado Springs, Colorado: NavPress, 1993), p. 318.

2 Albert P. Stauderman, Let Me Illustrate (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1983), p. 101.

3 Carlo Caretto, citation in “Lent,” by Megan McKenna.

4 Wm. Barclay, The Letters to the Corinthians (Burlington, ON: G.R. Welch Co. Ltd., 1975), pp. 149-150.

 

 

Sermon 5 Epiphany, Yr C

5 Epiphany Yr C, 4/02/2007

Isa 6:1-8; 1 Cor 15:1-11; Lk 5:1-11

Rev. Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson

Pastor of Grace Lutheran Church, &

Chaplain of The Good Samaritan Society’s

South Ridge Village, Medicine Hat, Alberta

 

“Humility in the Presence of The Holy”

 

A pastor was asked why he never delivered a sermon about sin. He replied, “I hate to talk to such nice people about such a dreadful subject.” The answer is right in step with our cultural trends. The word sinner seems such a down-putting word. Martin E. Marty passes along some comments of Brian Able Ragen…about the way the lyrics of hymns can be changed to reflect current sensibilities of middle-class (North) Americans. Ragen cited one hymnal where the second line of “Amazing Grace” had been changed from “That saved a wretch like me” to “That saved and strengthened me.” Ragen commented, “Our culture does not believe in wickedness—that is, in culpability. The conviction of sin is hardly possible to us. We believe not in sin and forgiveness but in illness and recovery. It is the endless message of our culture that everyone is basically good and most of our problems will be solved when we realize this—in other words, when we build up our self-esteem.” He observed that in our churches we avoid the idea of real sinfulness, yet sentimentally cling to the idea of redemption, which if there is no wickedness, or captivity, or lostness is emptied of meaning.1

In stark contrast to this trend in society today, all three of our Bible passages underscore human sinfulness and the place of humility in the Presence of God the LORD, The Holy One.

Isaiah, when he sees God in a vision while in the Jerusalem temple confesses his sinfulness and speaks with humility, saying: “Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”

The apostle Paul, speaking of his ministry in our second lesson, has this to say: “Last of all, as to one untimely born, he (i.e. Jesus) appeared to me. For I am the least of the apostles unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.”

And in today’s gospel, after Simon Peter has had a hard night of fishing and coming home with empty nets, he speaks sceptically when Jesus tells him to lower the nets in the deep water, and reluctantly does as he is told. Then, the miracle, nets so full of fish that all of the fishing partners struggle to bring in the over abundant catch. Simon Peter, upon seeing this, realises the holiness of Jesus, and his own sinfulness, and confesses it in humility on bended knee, saying: “God away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!”

I wonder, how is it with you? Have you ever been in the Presence of The Holy? Have you realized at that time your sinfulness and confessed it to the LORD, like Isaiah, Paul and Simon Peter? What is this state of humility anyways? In today’s world such a state is not considered to be a virtue, but a vice, not a plus, but a minus. Yet, over and over again we see the important place of humility in the Bible and in people of faith.

Long ago, Confucius said, “Humility is the solid foundation of all the virtues.” Mother Teresa, on one occasion, when speaking to reporters about her work with the poor of Calcutta, had this to say: “I am a little pencil in the hand of God. He does the writing. The pencil has nothing to do with it.”

Basically humility is the attitude of one who stands constantly under the judgement of God. It is the attitude of one who is like the soil. Humility comes from the Latin word humus, fertile ground. The fertile ground is there, unnoticed, taken for granted, always there to be trodden upon. It is silent, inconspicuous, dark and yet it is always ready to receive any seed, ready to give it substance and life. The more lowly, the more fruitful, because it becomes really fertile when it accepts all the refuse of the earth. It is so low that nothing can soil it, abase it, humiliate it, it has accepted the last place and cannot go any lower. In that position nothing can shatter the soul’s serenity, its peace and joy.2

How do we admit our sinfulness and live with humility? Many years ago now, there was a very interesting story in one of our newspapers about the importance of admitting our sinfulness and living and working in humility. The story goes like this:

Nine-year-old schoolboy David Liddlelow, told by his father that only Jesus was perfect, wanted to know if famous people like the Queen, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Archbishop of Canterbury ever did wrong.

So he wrote and asked them. And to his surprise, they all responded, according to press reports…

A lady-in-waiting replied on behalf of the Queen:

Christians certainly believe that Jesus did no wrong. We also realize that no human being is absolutely perfect, not even kings and queens, though, like our Queen they do their very best to show us how to live a good life.”

Mrs. Thatcher answered in a handwritten note:

“As prime minister I try very hard to do things right and because Jesus gave us a perfect example I try even harder. But your father was right in saying we can never be perfect as He was.”

And Archbishop of Canterbury Robert Runcie wrote: “Your Daddy is quite right. Everyone has done wrong except Jesus. But we can all have His forgiveness if we ask Him.”

David, delighted with the answers, told the London Daily Express:

“I argued with my dad because I did not think the Queen could have done anything wrong. He said, ‘Why don’t you ask her?’ So I did.”3

Isaiah, Paul, and Simon Peter all make it clear that we are sinners. In the Presence of The Holy, we admit our sinfulness. However, the story doesn’t end there. The Good News is that for Isaiah, for Paul, and for Simon Peter their sins were forgiven them and, by the grace of God, they were called to be witnesses of God’s grace and the message of salvation to others. Isaiah was told: “your guilt has departed and your sin blotted out.” Paul said: “by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me has not been in vain.” To Simon Peter, Jesus said: “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.” As we celebrate God’s Word and Sacrament today, Jesus is Present, we confess our sin, and Jesus tells us: “Your sins are forgiven you. Go now and be fishers of people. Spread the Good News of God’s Word, God’s love and grace.” Amen.

 

1 Arthur H. Kolsti, “Caught by grace,” cited in Emphasis Vol. 24, No. 5, January-February 1995 (Lima, OH: CSS Publishing Co., Inc.), p. 40.

2 Anthony Bloom, Living Prayer, cited in: Rueben P. Job & Norman Shawchuck, A Guide to Prayer (Nashville: The Upper Room Books, 1983), p. 321.

3 Regina Leader Post, February 13, 1980.