The Courtyard: A Place of Renewal - Psalm 53 Sermon March Prayer Service
Prayer Service March 2nd - 2016. Rev. Ted A. Giese, Mount Olive Lutheran Church, Regina SK. Psalm 53 & Luke 22:54–62 - The Courtyard: A Place of Renewal - Lenten Midweek Service
The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”
They are corrupt, doing abominable iniquity;
there is none who does good.
God looks down from heaven
on the children of man
to see if there are any who understand,
who seek after God.
They have all fallen away;
together they have become corrupt;
there is none who does good,
not even one.
Have those who work evil no knowledge,
who eat up My people as they eat bread,
and do not call upon God?
There they are, in great terror,
where there is no terror!
For God scatters the bones of him who encamps against you;
you put them to shame, for God has rejected them.
Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion!
When God restores the fortunes of His people,
let Jacob rejoice, let Israel be glad.
Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in Your sight O Lord. Amen.
Grace peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Good Christian Friends. After Jesus' Last Supper with His disciples, as they walked to the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away, for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” Peter said to Him, “Even though they all fall away, I will not.” And Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” But [Peter] said emphatically, “If I must die with You, I will not deny You.” And they all said the same." Psalm 53 says, "God looks down from heaven on the children of man to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all fallen away; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one." Not even Peter, not even Peter who had confidently confessed about Jesus, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Peter who had heard the voice of God the Father say about this same Jesus, “This is My beloved Son; listen to Him.” In the Garden of Gethsemane Peter along with the rest had run away, fallen away. And even though Peter with John had made their way to the place of the Courtyard of the High Priest's house where Jesus' trial was initiated, even there in that place Peter finds himself falling away all over again as Jesus' words to him come to pass.
As Peter went out from the courtyard weeping bitterly did he feel the fool? Psalm 53 say, "The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”" He'd denied Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God, not once! But three times! What bigger fool could there be? Peter's confidence seems to have evaporated under pressure: Leaving him to eat his own words, his heart gripped in terror, as he weeps, “Even though they all fall away, I will not,” Peter had said.
So many people say - if I could see a miracle, if God would speak directly to me then I'd believe, and here's Peter who had all of that and more and yet he couldn't stand firm. Was he caught by surprise? Did he throw that blasted sword in the ditch - the one he'd struck Malchus' ear off with. Did Peter walk into the High Priest Caiaphas' courtyard saying to himself, "Yes. yes I ran from the garden but I won't run from Jesus again!" ... and then ... and then he finds himself saying, “Woman, I do not know Him.” “Man, I am not [one of them].” “[Me a Galilean?] Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” For Peter this must have been a moment of self-revelation. The kind that leaves you saying, "if we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us." Tonight, in this moment of self-discovery for Peter, Peter sees who he is in terms of his denial. But, by God’s grace, Jesus also holds out another picture for us. A picture of who Jesus is for Peter: his Savior. This evening, we will meditate on these two pictures—Peter’s denial and Peter’s Savior. Doing that, it is my prayer that we will grow in trust of our Savior, who enters places of denial, the courtyards of our hearts, and turns them into places of renewal in His love. Jesus who turns our heart from foolish denial to "fools for Christ's sake."
Consider the courtyard. The place of Peter’s denial. As Peter has his moment of painful self-revelation. He hears a sound, sees a face, and remembers a word. Luke writes, “Immediately, while [Peter] was still speaking, the rooster crowed. And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord” (Luke 22:60–61). Peter at this point remembers and sees. He remembers what Jesus said. Jesus knew him better than he knew himself. Peter said he would follow Jesus to prison. He’d follow Him to death. But instead, he denied he ever knew Jesus. This is a moment of spiritual self-revelation, the mirror of the law held up to Peter's face as Peter had broken the 1st and 2nd Commandments, denying God and cursing God's name with a lie, breaking the 8th Commandment bearing false witness against Jesus, and Peter's relationship with Jesus, as Jesus stands trial nearby. By our own might, we are unable to follow Jesus, unable to keep God's law faultlessly. Salvation then is not dependent on what we do for Jesus. It never has been, and it never will be. And, if we ever rely on our own strength rather than Jesus, we’ve entered into a place of denial.
That is what really makes a place of denial. Not the drama of having other people question you about Jesus but the simple nature of your relationship to Him. Whenever we rely on our own strength instead of Jesus, we’ve entered into a place of denial. Think about our places of denial. They are not as dramatic as Peter’s. But they are places of denial, nonetheless. Here's one you've likely not thought of: It could be a place of honor in the church. We are founding members of the congregation. It could be a place of great leadership, as we’ve done much to further the kingdom of God. It could be the frequency and fervor of our devotional life. We look at these things: our years of membership, our leadership, our attendance in a congregation, our time spent in Bible study and prayer, and the temptation is for us to slowly begin to think that we are strong in the faith because of our own doing, we become like Peter before the resurrection. We can become bold, but farsighted, unable to see the sin right in front of us. Proverbs 16:18 says, "Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall." Proverbs 11:2 says, "When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom." Jesus doesn't leave Peter in disgrace, Peter remains and in the end after Jesus' resurrection, in humility, Peter is restored and becomes wise.
Have you been like Peter? Have you foolishly denied Jesus when you've been asked about your Christian faith? Have you become enamoured with your own Christian devotion thinking that you are contributing to your salvation? Have you come to the mature realization that all sin is a denial of who Jesus is and His forgiveness? To such people, Luke offers a word of hope this evening. The word of Jesus. The story of His Passion. In the midst of our failure, Jesus is and remains the one who takes away our sin. Our salvation does not depend on how much we can bear for Jesus. Instead, it depends on what Jesus bears for us. Our forgiveness does not depend on what we do or say for Jesus. It rests securely on what Jesus does and says for us. In the face of Peter’s denial as His disciple, Jesus continues to be Peter's Lord. While Peter goes out to weep bitterly, Jesus goes on to suffer for this man that is weeping. It is His work, His love, His mercy that overcomes our sin. Jesus knew Peter better than Peter knew himself. And Jesus knows you better than you know yourself. He sees this denial, our foolishness, and our sin, and yet He continues to go to the cross. We are not saved by giving our lives up for Jesus; Jesus saves us by giving up His life for the forgiveness of our sin. That’s what Luke reveals to us this evening. When Peter is caught in the act of denial, Jesus continues in His act of love.
By doing this, Luke asks us to see a different picture. The picture of a Saviour’s love. Jesus comes to us in the most awkward of moments. He does not wait until we get it all together to visit our homes. He does not wait until we have overcome our temptations and fought our demons and conquered our sins and achieved our goals. No. He comes now, while we struggle. Now, while we confess our failure. Now, while we feel like we’ll never be the person God wants us to be. He comes now to assure us that “by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one can boast (Ephesians 2:8–9). Jesus is the foundation of our life before God. God the Father received His life for your life that He might give you His love for all time.
Jesus comes to you tonight with a love that never changes. Time passes and our life is filled with change. We move from our parents home to a dorm to an apartment, from an apartment to a house, from a house to a condo, from a condo to a retirement center, from a retirement center to a skilled care facility, from the skilled care facility to our grave, and from our grave we will be raised to live in our Saviour’s kingdom. In each place, however, Jesus remains the same.
Psalm 53 concludes with these words, "Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion! When God restores the fortunes of His people, let Jacob rejoice, let Israel be glad." As Peter went out from the courtyard weeping bitterly Jesus went to the cross and won that salvation. Zion is Jerusalem, and on Easter morning out of Zion came salvation for Israel, for you, for me for all people. Psalm 53 is fulfilled in Jesus and in Him alone. Jesus restores the fortunes of His people, Jesus is the one who forgives our sins and saves our souls. Even at the end, after death and the grave, we will be raised to find Him as we have always known Him to be. The one who went to the cross to die for our sin and rose from the grave for our salvation. Jesus brings us tonight a picture of His love.
In those times when you are faced with the painful self-revelation of your sin, Luke in the Gospel of Luke and David in Psalm 53 want you to see your Savior. Trust in His love, live in His kingdom, pray in His name, be glad in your salvation, turn to him for forgiveness and know that Jesus is most certainly, "the same yesterday and today and forever." Jesus enters our places of denial and makes them places of renewal in His love.
And what about Saint Peter? After the resurrection Peter was forgiven for his denial of Jesus and Peter eventually wrote these words in 2 Peter, "For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For when He received honour and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to Him by the Majestic Glory, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with [Jesus] on the holy mountain. And we have the prophetic Word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts." God did grant to Peter the strength Peter needed, and in the end Peter died for the name of Jesus as a martyr. No longer denying, but gladly confessing, Jesus as Lord and God. Amen.
Let us pray:
Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.
 This Sermon has been adapted from: Resources for Lent–Easter Preaching and Worship, Places of the Passion, Concordia Publishing House 2015, Sermon series by David R. Schmitt. "Midweek of Lent 4, The Courtyard: A Place of Renewal ," Luke 22:54–62.
 Mark 14:27-31
 Matthew 16:16
 Mark 9:7
 John 18:10
 Luke 22:57-60
 1 John 1:8
 1 Corinthians 4:10
 Luther's Small Catechism, Concordia Publishing House 1986, Pg 11. "The First Commandment: You shall have no other gods. What does this mean? We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things."
 Ibid, Pg 11 - 12. "The Second Commandment: You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God. What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not curse, swear, use satanic arts, lie, or deceive by His name, but call upon it in every trouble, pray, praise, and give thanks."
 Ibid, Pg 13. "The Eighth Commandment: You shall not give false testimony against your neighbour. What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not tell lies about our neighbour, betray him, slander him, or hurt his reputation, but defend him, speak well of him, and explain everything in the kindest way.
 Hebrews 13:8
 John 22:15-19
 2 Peter 1:16-19