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Heavenly Father,You revealed to the apostle Peter the blessed truth that Your Son Jesus is the Christ. Strengthen us by the proclamation of this truth that we too may joyfully confess that there is salvation in no one else; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Readings: Acts 4:8-13 Psalm 118:19-29  2 Peter 1:1-15 St. Mark 8:27-9:1

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. (The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

Reflection:  All of the Church is to confess Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God,the sweet sound of salvation for sinners.  “…it is certain that the Church is not built on the authority of a man but on the ministry of the confession which Peter made, when he declare Jesus to the Christ, the Son of God” (The Treatise on the Power and Primacy of Pope, The Book of Concord, the Lutheran Confessions)

The Lord has called His apostolic Church to be faithful in confessing Jesus is the Christ, that He is the Lord.  Peter eventually led the way of the holy Apostles in preaching and teaching Christ.  Peter who had denied Christ, was faithful to Christ’s command to him, “Feed My Sheep”. Pastors are called  to be faithful in confessing Christ, to feed and lead His people so that others may hear of the Savior.  If pastors, ministers and priests trust their own thinking about Christ, and not the Word, they,  “…will lose Christ” (Luther).

In a school, principals are worthless without the authority and care of a principled principal to educate with students.  Principles are words.  So likewise  a principal without sound principles, a standard, is anarchy.  Principals who do not promote teaching sound principles is useless. The Lord’s pastorate is principled in the Word of Law and Promise to teach His people.  If we follow their own lesson plans, then there is anarchy.  What makes Christianity Christian is Christ so we can be Christians, taught and fed by faithful Christian pastors, as we are  built on the Rock of our salvation, Jesus the Christ, even when steeples are falling. As Pr. Dietrich Bonhoeffer preached on St. Matthew 16:  

What is the difference between Peter and the others? Is he of such heroic nature that he towers over the others? He is not. Is he endowed with such unheard-of strength of character?  He is not. Is he gifted with unshakable loyalty? He is not. Peter is nothing, nothing but a person confessing his faith, a person who has been confronted by Christ and who has recognized Christ, and who now confesses his faith in him, and this confessing Peter is called the rock on which Christ will build his church.  Peter’s church–that means the church of rock, the church of the confession of Christ.

Peter’s church, that does not mean a church of opinions and views, but the church of the revelation; not a church in which what “people say” is talked about but the church in which Peter’s confession is made anew and passed on; the church which has no other purpose in song, prayer, preaching, and action than to pass on its confession of faith; the church which is always founded on rock as long as it remains within these limits, but which turns into a house built on sand, which is blown away by the wind, as soon as it is foolhardy enough to think that it may depart from or even for a moment to neglect this purpose.

From a sermon by St. Augustine, delivered on the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, from The Sunday Sermons of the Great Fathers, a Roman Catholic publisher:

“Thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my Church.”

For thou art Peter.

Peter from the rock (petra); not the rock from Peter. So, Peter, because of the Rock; as Christian, because of Christ.  Would you know after what rock (petra) Peter is called? Listen to Paul answering: “I would not have you ignorant, brethren, the Apostle of Christ says, “I would not have you ignorant, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea. And all in Moses were baptized, in the cloud, and in the sea. And all did eat the same spiritual food. And all drank the same spiritual drink; and they drank of the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ (I Cor. x.)”. From this rock Peter came. (emphasis my own)

The Lord gives to His catholic and apostolic Church the keys of the Kingdom. Immediately following Peter’s Confession, Jesus tells them He must suffer, die and rise again.  This is key.  His all-availing Sacrifice means the forgiveness of sins and the justification of sinners. This is key.  In Him, He builds us into His Church and the key is His blood shed in forgiveness for us all.  He gives us the Holy Spirit to teach and preach Christ Jesus. This is key. 

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If God Himself be for me,
I may a host defy;
For when I pray, before me
My foes, confounded, fly.
If Christ, the head and master,
Befriend me from above,
What foe or what disaster
Can drive me from His love?

Lutheran Service Book #724

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One of the clichés of counseling back 20-30 years ago was, he’s carrying some baggage. It meant the negative aspects of the past that the person has not left behind – so a person with “baggage” makes life more difficult for him  by carrying around the burden of the ‘unfinished business’ of their life. It was an overused metaphor and a shallow diagnoses. So much of the negative aspects of the past are not unresolved emotional problems per se, but those bad feelings arising from wrong unforgiven:  baggage, that is, weight, burden, burden of sin.  All those folks coming to be baptized by John for repentance was not on account of unresolved Oedipal complexes, but the complex of sin, death and the power of the devil.  And the sinless One who had no need whatsoever to repent came to the Baptism of John’s for full immersion into our sin. John the Baptist was overwhelmed by Jesus coming to the Jordan.  John’s question from the Greek was more like, “I, I myself need to by baptized by YOU, and do you, yourself come to me?”

“This is that mystery which is rich in divine grace to sinners: wherein by a wonderful exchange our sins are no longer ours but Christ’s, and the righteousness of Christ not Christ’s but ours. He has emptied himself of his righteousness that he might clothe us with it and fill us with it; and he has taken our evils upon himself that he might deliver us from them.”-Luther

He was baptized so I may be baptized into Christ. 2 Corinthians 5 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Who’s the greatest sinner who ever lived, most likely in hell, and the usual answer is Adolf Hitler.  I do have an answer that may surprise you:  the worse sinner who ever lived was Jesus Christ.  He became a thief, a murderer, an adulterer, an idolater and the like as He bore the sin of world in His sinless body.  He was absolutely pure yet bore our sins in Himself thus becoming, in a sense, the worse sinner who ever, ever lived. Passively carrying our sin, never actively committing sin. John the Baptizer was incredulous that Jesus came to him to be baptized in a baptism of repentance.  John knew he needed Jesus to baptize him.  No says, Jesus this is to fulfill all righteousness, the righteousness of God by which He justifies, makes right those who cannot in a million lifetimes self-justify themselves. As foretold by Isaiah centuries before:

11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
    make many to be accounted righteous,
    and he shall bear their iniquities.
Isaiah 53:11 English Standard Version (ESV)

 I like the discussion of who is the worse sinner because it makes me feel good, I’m not so bad…not as bad as Hitler!  In response to the question, who is the worse sinner, no one ever says, Oh, yeah, that would be me.  St. Paul jumped in with the right answer, I am the chief of sinners.  Paul knew that he could not make himself right.  He knew that on account of Jesus Christ because He was made right. Further note that when one discovers the  wrong by what was thought, said or did, there is no escaping, like deer caught in the headlights of God’s Law.  The overwhelming flood of feeling is, yes,  I am the worse. It’s like the weight of the world is on you. I can’t believe what I did.  Believe it, says the Lord, this is the beginning of contrition, sorrow over sin and believe My Son, My Christ. The light then shines on Christ and His Cross for you.  He  was immersed into a baptism of repentance He did not need, baptized into a baptism of repentance He did not need so the need of forgiveness is fulfilled, all righteousness, so that you can repent and be saved, washed, as if all over again. The wages of sin is death…Jesus did not receive the minimum wage, but all the wages of our sins, once and for all.  The free gift is eternal life.

When the voice of the Father sounds forth, there is no thunder, no lightening, only grace and peace, This is my Beloved Son with Whom I am well pleased.  The Son comes out of  Jordan River waters, the Holy Ghost descends and the Father speaks. -Luther

The Holy Spirit appears in the lovely form of an innocent dove. Among all birds, a dove is known for its gentle nature, peaceful and not aggressive. (And when Noah wanted to know if there was dry ground after the rains had ceased, he finally sent out a dove who returned with an olive branch in it’s beak.  The sign of shalom, peace once more with God was made through His  grace) So the Holy Spirit reveals himself in the friendliest of forms to show that he is not wrathful toward us, but wants to help us become holy and rescue us through Christ.”(Luther)

St. Ambrose, preaching on the Baptism of our Lord: “Why are you plunged into the water?  We read:  ‘May the waters bring forth living creatures (Gen 1:20).  And the living creatures were born.’  This happened at the beginning of creation.  But for you it was reserved that water should bring you forth to grace, as that other water brought forth creatures to natural life.  Imitate this fish, who has received less grace.”

Many of the icons depict Jesus up to His neck in the waters, which one day would overwhelm Him to fish us out of the deep by Baptism into Christ, Romans 6.  The icon above cover shows Jesus with fish in the water.  Jesus said to the Apostles, I will make you fishers of men. Imitate the fish, who has received less grace. Jesus would sleep with the fishes, drowned by the sin of the world, to rescue us from the depths.   I like that: imitate the fish for we have received the greatest grace:  life in Jesus.

And so, we are enjoined by the Lord in His Word to pray unceasingly.  What but by Thy grace can foil the tempter’s power? This means we need to pray at all times, walking wet in our Baptism.  

“…every time we bend our knees for prayer and then rise again, we show by this action that through sin we fell down to earth, but our Creator, the Lover of Mankind, has called us back to heaven.” (St. Basil) 

Jesus was baptized and He still is baptized.  Falling in prayer is not failing, but acknowledging our failing. We can confess our failings, and called back to heaven by the Lord is the renewing flood of Baptism.  Falling in prayer is adoring Him who created and redeemed us and all mankind in Christ Jesus. He calls us back and we need His call back every day.  Luther wrote in the catechisms that living our baptism is daily dying and rising in Christ Jesus.  He is baptized and so we are. We can lay down our baggage, don’t look to yourself, look to Christ, He lifted that weight of sin in the weight of His glory for you.

The One God in three persons was revealed when the Lord was baptized.  The Son comes out of  Jordan River waters, the Holy Ghost descends, and the Father speaks. Clasp onto your heart day by day the Name of the Lord in prayer, praise and thanksgiving. The Lord does not love us the way we are, but on account of the way we are He was baptized to set us free from the way we are and have been to be His. He is baptized so others may be, dying and rising, In the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.  Amen.

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Creator Spirit, by whose aid
The world’s foundations first were laid,
Come, visit every humble mind;
Come, pour Your joys on humankind;
From sin and sorrow set us free
May we Your living temples be.

Lutheran Service Book #500

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The Law of God is good and wise
And sets His will before our eyes,
Shows us the way of righteousness,
And dooms to death when we transgress.

Lutheran Service Book, #579

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Baptized into your name most holy,
O Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,
I claim a place, though weak and lowly,
Among your seed, your chosen host.
Buried with Christ and dead to sin,
I have your Spirit now within.

Lutheran Service Book, #590

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“Baptism doesn’t actually do anything but if you don’t do it the right way the nothing that it doesn’t do doesn’t happen so you need to do it again so that the nothing that it doesn’t do does happen” is one of the stranger theological positions in Christendom

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