St. Nicholas, Bishop and Confessor
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
St. Nicholas was the fearless bishop of Myra, a Greek city, in what is today Turkey. He was a courageous confessor. He stood toe to toe with the emperor – more than once – and risked his life by calling him to repentance. He served time behind bars for this. He was also one of the authors of what we call the Nicene Creed. Legend says he lost his temper at the council and slapped Arius who was denying the Divinity of Jesus Christ. Nicholas was zealous for the Truth, intolerant of error. But today he is most famous for his charity and selfless giving. There are more legend about his anonymously helping the poor than any others, and of course, much of his story has been corrupted into a shallow imitation of charity in the form of Santa Claus. St. Nicholas did not bring mountains of toys to well-fed children, warm and snug in their beds. He fed the poor.
The actual St. Nicholas is an inspiration for us. We rightly seek to imitate his faith and his good works. But especially in our culture we need to keep in mind which comes first. St. Nicholas was indeed a generous and giving man and this should not be downplayed or dismissed. It is commendable. But for Nicholas, the source of his charity was everything. He didn’t plot to do good works. He was loved by Christ, was in the first place himself the recipient of charity, of generosity. That joy caused him to move out in love and mercy. So we should not be surprised that a man so zealous for the truth would also be zealous in works of mercy, for the zeal is the same and has the same source. And we should note that St. Nicholas is commemorated in the Church for being a Bishop and Confessor, because the greatest charity is the release of men from the bonds of sin by the proclamation of Jesus Christ.
As a Bishop, a man placed into the Apostolic Office by Christ, St. Nicholas ruled over us and spoke the word of God to us. We follow his faith and consider the outcome of his conduct. For he is a not merely a teacher of the faith who has handed us the Creed, he is also a role model, even if his passions sometimes got the best of him.
And is the Creed which he has left us any different than the parable of the talents told by Our Lord? For Our Lord Jesus Christ, for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary and was made man, to be crucified for us under Pontius Pilate in order to bestow gifts upon those who did not deserve them. That is the point of the parable. The Lord gives His Kingdom away. The servant who was given five talents not only keeps those plus the five profited, he gets the eleventh as well. The Lord is not a harsh man who reaps where He does not sow. He sows for others to reap. Who deserves this Kingdom, since when to servants keep the principle and the interest and get bonuses? The Lord gives away His Kingdom. And to you, who have been given much in the waters of Holy Baptism and made His heirs, He gives even more. Your faith is multiplied like talents well-invested. You, like St. Nicholas before you, reap where you did not sow, buy and eat without money, and never pay for your sins or debts. For Jesus Christ, the Lord of Nicea, bestows upon you a Kingdom which has no end.
In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.
Pastor David Petersen