Saintliness
Confession of St. Peter
18 January 2018
All too often the holy saints and apostles are portrayed only as absolutely superior human beings. They surmounted every difficulty, blazed trails, sacrificed themselves, followed their Lord, and were often martyred for the holy faith. Who wouldn't want to emulate such persons? However, wanting to emulate them and being able to do so are two very different things. We are plagued by the weakness of our sinful flesh. We struggle to believe our Lord as we ought. We flounder about in the garbage of daily living. We seldom follow the exalted example of the saints and apostles.
 
However, we have failed to understand properly the true meaning of their example. They are not spiritual Supermen. None of them wore a big "S" on their chests or a cape on their back. On the contrary, their example also includes weaknesses just like ours, their struggles to confess faithfully the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their imperfection, and their sin. They are called saints not for their own sakes, but for the sake of the blood-bought righteousness of Jesus Christ. They are sinners like us made holy by holy blood.
 
When our conscience is troubled by our struggles and weaknesses we should turn our eyes upon the weakness of saints like Peter, who on the one hand faithfully confessed that Jesus is the Christ and yet on the other was brutally rebuked by his Lord. Saintliness is not a matter of my obedience to the example of the saints, but faithful listening to the sweet consolations of the Word of God. 

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

   Martin Luther
"Take note, then, all you who have a timid conscience, that you will not be saved by this or that work. For it will fare with you as with one who works in a sandpit: the more sand he shovels out the more falls upon him. That's why many have gone mad, as John Gerson says, so that they began to imagine things, one that he was a worm, another that he was a mouse, and so on. Just commit it to God and say: 'Oh, my dear God, I have sinned, but I confess it to thee, I pour it out to thee and pray thee for help; do thou help me!' This is what God wants of us.
 
"That's why I should like sermons about the saints to be more moderate in the sense that we would also tell how they fell, in accord with the gospel....For there can be no doubt that they too tripped and stumbled over great humps. They were of one flesh with us, one faith, one baptism, one blood. But we have now set them so high above us that we must despair of imitating them. Thus, for example, the gospel speaks of Peter after his confession concerning Christ, when he said to him, 'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God' [Mt 16:16]. But soon afterwards he had to take these words: 'Get behind me, Satan, you devil!' [Mt 16:23] whereas just a while before he had been told, 'Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona!' [Mt 16:17]. Just look; first he is blessed and holy, and afterwards he topples into hell and is called a devil.
 
"So it is: every one of us by himself is a devil, but in Christ we are holy. So when we thus connect the saints with Christ, they are Christ's true saints; but if we are not to despair, we must follow him.
 
"This Gospel (Jn 11:1-45) therefore expresses nothing but the sweetness of Christ in his obedience to the Father and that he bestows nothing because of merit. Therefore, when the devil assaults us with temptation, you say this: 'Ah, even though I have done nothing that is good, nevertheless I will not despair, for He always dealt with men sweetly,' and that is true. Only the damned must remain until they have paid the last penny [Mt 5:26]. This the Scriptures show again and again. In Ecclesiasticus [2:10] it is written, 'Who was ever forsaken by God?'...And to Jeremiah God says, 'Hear me, because you have hoped in me, I will deliver you with power, and even though the city go down, I will preserve you' [Jer 39:16-18]. From this we should learn how Christ loves us, even though he might justly be angry, in order that we should also love our brethren. Look, this is the way God treats you!" 

Martin Luther,
Sermon on the Raising of Lazarus

Acts 4:8-13

Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, "Rulers of the people and elders, if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead-by him this man is standing before you well. This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved."
 
Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus. (ESV)
Collect for the Confession of St. Peter
Dear Father in heaven, as you revealed to the apostle Saint Peter the blessed truth that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, strengthen us in that same faith in our Savior that we too may joyfully confess that there is salvation in no one else; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
 
For our Lutheran brothers and sisters in Nicaragua, and especially Pastor Marvin and Pastor Luis, that they would continue to confess Christ faithfully
 
For all those for whom death draws near, especially Flo Dula, and all those who care for them, that they would place their spirits in the hands of their heavenly Father
 
For the faculty and staff of Lutheran High North, that in their callings they might confess Christ the only Savior from sin
Art: CARAVAGGIO  The Crucifixion of Saint Peter (1600-01)
Memorial Lutheran Church
smurray@mlchouston.org
http://www.mlchouston.org
© Scott Murray 2018
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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