29 June 2008

St. Peter and St. Paul, Apostles

From today's "Weekly News" page of our bulletin at Hope Lutheran Church, St. Louis, MO:

Today, June 29, we observe the minor festival of St. Peter and St. Paul, Apostles. The observance of this day began early in the 300s, and this day is probably the most ancient of all of the Apostles’ days. One tradition says that St. Peter and St. Paul both suffered martyrdom on the same day, June 29, in A.D. 67, but other sources give February 22, in A.D. 68, as the date of their martyrdom. It is more likely that June 29 marks the day when the bodies of both St. Peter and St. Paul were removed to the catacombs in the year 258 and that this date became the date for the feast. Since both Apostles were martyred for the faith, the color for today is red.

As we celebrate the day of St. Peter and St. Paul, Apostles, we get to hear excellent Bible readings that we do not often hear in the course of the Church Year. Acts 15 tells us of the first great Church council in Jerusalem, which St. Peter and St. Paul both attended and advised. The council had to decide if Gentile converts to Christianity should be circumcised before being welcomed into the Church. The council rightly decided that even Gentiles become Christians by God’s grace. In Galatians 2 St. Paul tells us about his welcome by the other Apostles. In Matthew 16 St. Peter makes the good confession of Jesus as “the Christ, the Son of the living
God,” the confession on which the Church is built and stands to this day.

Of course, we thank God for giving St. Peter and St. Paul as Apostles who proclaimed the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the world. Peter was considered the “Apostle to the Jews,” and Paul was considered the “Apostle to the Gentiles.” The Apology of the Augsburg Confession (XXI:4-6) says this about honoring saints such as Peter and Paul: “Our Confession approves honoring the saints in three ways. The first is thanksgiving. We should thank God because He has shown examples of mercy, because He wishes to save people, and because He has given teachers and other gifts to the Church…. The second service is the strengthening of our faith…. The third honor is the imitation, first of faith, then of other virtues. Everyone should imitate the saints according to his calling.”

Collect of the Day
Merciful and eternal God, Your holy Apostles Peter and Paul received grace and strength to lay down their lives for the sake of Your Son. Strengthen us by Your Holy Spirit that we may confess Your truth and at all times be ready to lay down our lives for Him who laid down His life for us, even Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Hymn Verse
We praise You for Saint Peter;
We praise You for Saint Paul;
They taught both Jew and Gentile
That Christ is all in all.
To cross and sword they yielded
And saw Your kingdom come;
O God, these two apostles
Reached life through martyrdom. (LSB 518:19)

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