A Witness in Desperation and Hope


June 18th, 2017

Second Sunday After Pentecost, June 18, 2017
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor of
Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
http://www.tlcsd.org and
Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
Http://www.orlcsd.org

Click here for audio of this message

“When (Jesus) saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” [Matthew 9:36]

Here’s a saying that has been proven to be true over the years: The more things change, the more they are discovered to remain the same. This is especially true when we look at human nature, particularly that part of human nature that directly involves God, faith, and the church.
In our Old testament reading (Exodus 19:2-8) God promises the people of Israel that if they commit to obeying His voice (His Word) and keep His covenant (the Law) He will always look to them as His treasured possession among all of the nations on earth. He promised them that they, the people of faith, would be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. And how did the people answer? They said “Yes, we promise.” And what did the people do time and time again? They broke their promise, their holy covenant with the Lord… they sinned.

These children of Abraham deserved to be punished for their sin; they deserved damnation, and yet time and time again, in great compassion, God forgave them. Their hope in times of weakness, disobedience, and suffering was always in their Creator God’s compassion. This morning, I declare to you that both the plight and the hope of the Old Testament saints is also the plight and hope of the New Testament church; it is our plight and hope.

God is our only hope.

Although we have been given many blessings in our lives we often forget them and grumble against God in times of testing. And when we grumble we betray our God of compassion and put His mercy and grace to the test. When we fear that God has rejected us because of our sinfulness or lack of faith, we put Him to the test. All of this simply proves that we have rejected God’s covenant of mercy and we are seeking to find salvation on our own. But while we were helpless Christ died for us.

Although we have been chosen as his children through faith in Christ, by the washing of water and the Word in Holy Baptism, although we are continuously promised that each time we sin, we will find forgiveness by turning to Christ alone, we still grumble, disobey, and tend to live our lives as one who doubts these promises. It is in these times that God reminds us in His Word that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. And because Christ died for our sins upon the cross, we are justified before God as holy and sinless, even though we have failed. By His death and resurrection we are saved!

But if we doubt God’s love for us as the godless do during times of suffering, sickness and disease, we will be tempted to see God as an enemy rather than a friend. If we will but become comfortable in God’s Kingdom as one who does not belong yet through Christ always belongs, we will receive God’s compassion in times of suffering and shame. If we will simply remember that while we were yet enemies of God, Christ died for us, well, then we will know true peace.

Through the work of God and through no contribution of your own, you are each here this morning because you have heard the proclamation of the Gospel. It is a Gospel that calls you to turn to Christ alone and be saved because the Kingdom of God is upon you! This is the very message that has transformed you and taken you out of the kingdom of fearful, disobedient grumblers and secures you in God’s Kingdom of grace.

You have been saved for a purpose. [Matthew 9:35–10:8]

You have not been put into God’s Kingdom to simply observe like a spectator at a sporting event, but rather you are in the field of battle to make a difference.

Since you are in God’s Kingdom it is wise that you understand just who you are facing in the kingdom you formally served. Your contenders in this kingdom of darkness are all those who will not turn to Christ alone. And along with them stand “every disease and infirmity” together with the “unclean spirits” who empower your opponents and seek to destroy your Christian faith.

Would it surprise you to know that the key to defeating those engaged in this battle against you is compassion? Yes, you are to see those who belittle you, disrespect you, and even hate you because of your Christian faith as lost and fearful sheep in need of a true Shepherd. Now this may seem strange to you, because in an earthly battle, showing compassion to an enemy dedicated to your utter destruction can mean death and defeat, but this is not an earthly battle. We battle against spiritual forces; powers and principalities. In this battle it is Christ’s compassion that upsets the opposition. That is the “good news” of the kingdom. Jesus’ authority, his clout to provide complete victory, is the curious upside-down power of a crucified Messiah and all the un-powerhouse terms that go with that, starting with “compassion.”

Matthew’s whole gospel can be read as the story of Jesus establishing authority over every enemy by putting himself under them all.

In Matthew 20:25-28, Jesus called together His disciples and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles that is the godless, lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you (my disciples). Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant (like me), and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve.” This dear friends is the mindset of a warrior within the Kingdom of God. It is the hinge text that defines our battle plan. These are Jesus’ own words about the authority model that He passes on to you his people. He continues to rule His Kingdom as we His disciples exercise the same upside-down authority in our everyday lives.

That brings us to the second item in the text that may come as a surprise.  It is every disciple (even you) who are given the marching order or commission to: “Go … and  proclaim as you go, saying ‘The kingdom of God is at hand,’ ” at hand, of course, here in Jesus.

If you recall, last week we heard the “Great Commission” given to all of the church. This week’s Gospel lesson occurred many months before that Great Commission was given. It was a commission given to the Apostles only. It was meant for them to experience and learn to trust the authority of Jesus, which is really the authority of God. The authority of God is needed for a warrior who fights in Christ’s kingdom. A short time after this sending out of the twelve, Jesus would also send out seventy two of his disciples with essentially the same commission. [Luke 10:1-23] When they came back they were amazed that even the demons were subjected to this authority. But Jesus warned them not to concentrate on the defeat of demons, but to be thankful that their names were written in the Book of life; they were to be amazed that God’s compassion found a way to transfer them into His eternal kingdom of grace and forgiveness.

And now in the Great Commission, God speaks to you the Laity. While you may not have been called to preach in a pulpit, you have been called to proclaim and witness to the coming of the Kingdom of God through the message of repentance and the forgiveness of sins by faith in Jesus name, person, and work. So…

For those who tend to become bogged down in fear, worry, and even disobedient grumbling, Jesus demonstrates His compassion for you by inviting you to become proclaimers and witness of His compassion and Kingdom, by teaching you to find comfort and rest in His kingdom. But He does not invite you to be idle in your rest, He also invites you to allow Him to use you who have been saved by His Compassion by demonstrating that same compassion to others who also need to hear of God’s mercy and forgiveness.
Your assignment then is to “go and proclaim as (you) go.” That means that wherever you go, Jesus has engaged you in the battle of proclaiming and witnessing God’s forgiving love. What should you tell them? Why not tell them of your own struggles with grumbling, disobedience, fear, and worry. Why not tell them that in spite of all of your failings and sins, you have discovered a saving God in Jesus Christ who always forgives. Why not tell them that you have discovered a Saving God who loved you just the way you were, yet He loved you too much to leave you in that condition. Why not tell them of a Savior who has given your life meaning by bringing you into His church, where your life has been given both a purpose and the strength to follow that purpose?

Dear saints, Who is in charge of your life? If you can say by faith, unconditionally that Christ is in charge, then He will do just that, He will take charge of your life when you go out from this place, and He will remind always to “confess him before people.” This then is how God works; He works through you and me, when we extend his compassionate kingdom to others by bringing his compassionate Word of repentance and forgiveness out into a world where there are other words demanding preeminence and in a place where other lords seem to be in charge. But when people trust that Word from Christ that you proclaim and offer them, behold the Kingdom has come. Just as on the cross Jesus “took charge” by the power of powerlessness, so in the weakness of our confessed words he does the same.

This is why Christ’s kingdom desires all of His disciples to be engaged and “proclaiming as we go.” And where do we go? We go into thousands of places where the pastor alone could not go or ever hope to get to. These places that you go to are the very places that God has authorized you His warriors to enter and break every chain and claim of destructive spirits, and take away the power of every disease and infirmity. In this way, God answers the second petition in the Lord’s Prayer: “Thy kingdom come.” He answers this request by sending forth workers into the harvest field; He sends you. May God continue to lead you as you go, and I ask this in Jesus name… AMEN!

The Mystery of the Holy Trinity

June 11th, 2017

Holy Trinity Sunday, June 11, 2017
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor of
Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA

http://www.tlcsd.org and
Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
http://www.ORLCSD.org


Click here for audio of this message

“Whoever desires to be saved must above all, hold the “universal” Christian faith.  And the “universal” Christian faith is this, that we worship one God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity, neither confusing the persons nor dividing the substance.” [vs. 1-3 of the Athanasian Creed]

God is one.  There is only one God.  The one God has always existed from eternity as one God—and He always will!  God alone is eternal.  And to this, your Muslim, Mormon, and Jehovah Witness neighbors would say a loud AMEN!

Does it surprise you to know that the folks from these other religions will appeal to this very truth and then attempt to draw you away from your Christian faith? 

You see, in addition to confessing that God is one, our neighbors from these other religions also know that we Christians similarly confess something that they can’t agree with; we confess that God is love, in fact we say that love is the very essence of God.  Now your neighbors from these other religions will never deny that God loves but they will deny that this love is the essence of God.  Why is that?

Because, they will claim that if God can’t be God unless He loves someone, then God can’t be God without someone to love.  So how can an eternal-almighty God be dependent upon His creation in order for Him to be God?  They will tell you that although God does love, love can’t be God’s essence, because He is dependent on no one.  But this kind of faulty thinking about the One True God isn’t any better than the beliefs that come from people who worship many gods.  You see, there’s no difference between having one idol and half a dozen idols.  Idols are idols.  The god of these other religions is an idol.  The true God is one, but the mere acknowledgement of this fact doesn’t mean a person is worshiping the One true God.  You see, the One true God is also united within Trinity.  The only God who exists is the Triune God.  And any god who isn’t triune is not God because a god who is not triune cannot be love, and God is love.

Dear friends, please do not ever let any devil lead you away from this truth because it is crucial to your very salvation.  If God wasn’t love then he would not have suffered and died upon the cross for you!

The love of God is not an attribute that makes Him dependent on us. 

It is the eternally defining attribute of God that defines His very essence as God in regards to His relationship shared between the three persons within the One Godhead.  When we say God is love we are also saying that God could not be love unless He was Triune.  You see, there’s an eternal unity of love between the Father who begets and sends His unique Son who is begotten.  This eternal unity of divine love exists as well between the Father and the Son, and the Holy Spirit who is sent from both of them. But as I said in the children’s message, this is far too high for us to grasp.  You see, how God relates within Himself is far too much for us to comprehend.  After all, He is the Creator and we are the creature!

While completely understanding God is far above us, we can know about Him by paying attention to what He has already revealed about Himself.  We know from scripture that the Father has begotten His unique Son on many occasions.  It was the Son and two angels who visited Abraham outside of Sodom and Gomorra to warn Abraham of the pending destruction of the two cities, so that His nephew Lot might be saved.  It was the God the Son begotten by the Father who took on the form of a burning bush so that Moses might behold some of the Lord’s glory and receive God’s Law that would teach Israel and the people of faith how to relate rightly to a Holy and loving God.  There are many more instances throughout scripture that demonstrate that God the Father begets or sends the One of a kind Son in order to accomplish the purpose of God, but for us, the best example is found in the Gospel of John: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” [John 1:14]

Do you hear in those words how the Son is now forever begotten in human flesh yet He still possesses eternal glory, grace and truth.  Do you understand how together the Father and the Son send the Holy Spirit?  It was God the Spirit who was hovering over the face of the waters in the very beginning of creation. He was sent by the Father and the Son, and together they created the heavens and the earth; He was sent by these Words: “”Let there be light,” and there was light.  And God saw that the light was good. [Genesis 1:1-4]  Like a marvelous symphony God’s Word’s of Love spoke forth creation and goodness.  It was an eternal love generated and sent from the heart of the One true God who has always revealed Himself in three persons.

But we must always remember that we can’t divide the person’s from the One True God or else we will lose His essence, which is love.  What do I mean by this? Well you see…

While it is the Father who begets His unique Son on Mission, and it is the unique Son who is begotten but not created, and it is the Holy Spirit who is sent together by the Father and the Son, there are not three God’s but One.

As One, the three persons in the God-head created everything together; together with one mind and one heart of love.  The divine mystery of God’s triune nature is this: As One they have always existed and since God does not change they will always be One in glory and majesty.  There is only One Uncreated, Eternal, and Almighty God.  When we pray to our Lord in heaven we don’t pray to three Lords, but rather we pray to one Lord because the Father is Lord, the Son is Lord, and the Holy Spirit is Lord.  Three persons united eternally in One essence of love, which is God!

After all of this, I think that we all now agree that God’s ways are far above our ability to understand, so why am I talking about an eternal relationship of love into which you and I could never find our way?  Because…

God has created a way; He has brought His love to us!  In so doing He has established fellowship with us.  But in order to enjoy all of the benefits of this relationship (eternal grace, mercy, and peace with God and each other), we must also faithfully believe that God the Son was begotten, that is He alone, took on our human flesh.  He did this not because He needed to, but rather He did it because He is God, a God Who loves.  We will understand this truth if we can see how badly we need God’s love. You see…

We are the ones in need! 

We need God to come to us.  Although God’s voice declared all that He had made was good, it was our own sinfulness that has forever turned good into evil.  Think now, in the privacy of your own hearts, who among us has not thought or done evil already this morning?!  Isn’t it true that without help we could never stand before a perfect and righteous God!  There is not a single thing that we can do to save ourselves…we need God’s mercy, pardon, and forgiveness.  And yet the punishment for sin is death, and that is precisely what it will take to pay for our sinfulness.  But as a true champion, our Redeemer God came to us begotten in our own flesh, and He paid for our sins Himself.  The entire God came to us.  Our creator wrapped Himself in creation, because only He could change our hopeless situation.

Listen to how God’s Word proclaims this mystery of His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ: “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.” [Colossians 1:15-20]

So why do I say that in Christ all of God came to us?  Because if you remember, we can never divide the essence of God; God always acts as one because He is one!  Now I know that once again, this is far above any of us to understand, but we must believe this truth because it is how God has revealed Himself.  Let me offer a crude representation that Martin Luther once referenced, and see if it might make this a bit easier to receive:
Before a wedding, there were three women in the dressing room putting a dress on the bride, who was one of the three and she participated as well with putting on the dress. We could say that all three were dressing her; and yet only one is being put in the dress. In a similar way, we see that all three Persons, as one God, created the one humanity, clothed the Son in this unique, one of a kind existence, and united it with His person, so that only the Son became man, and not the Father or the Holy Spirit, yet because God is One and not three, the Son who from the time of His birth as Jesus would now eternally be fully God and fully man.

Friends, it was this same Jesus who lived the sinless life on our behalf.  It was this same Jesus who allowed Himself to be put to death by sinful men.  He did not have to do this but rather He chose to suffer and die for us, because God is love.  Please hear me, “This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men,(because it was your sins that compelled God out of love to suffer and die for you.  But be of good cheer), God (has) raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.” [Acts 2:23-24]  By His stripes you have been healed.  By His suffering and death you have been released from the eternal punishment for your many sins!  By God’s love you have been saved!

At your baptism God’s work of re-creation was activated for you. 

There at the font, all of the benefits of Christ’s suffering and death were given to you.  The old sinful man or woman that was your identity at birth has now been put to death through His same Word of creation that was spoken “In The Beginning”.

This re-creation of life from death is now yours because of God’s own suffering and death through Christ Jesus!  Dear friends, do you see what a wonderful gift of love is now yours?  You have been freed from your former body of death and you have been given a new life.  Embrace and cherish this gift.  Live out this new life with certainty that it is yours!

As wonderful as this new life is and as sinful and undeserving as we may be, we must not doubt that this gift is ours, because it was given out of God’s love.  And yet when the troubles of life creep in, we do doubt, we can lose hope, and that is why Jesus hasn’t left us alone in life as orphans.  He promises that He and the Father are still with us in love, because He has sent us the gift of the Holy Spirit, and where the Holy Spirit is, there also are the Father and the Son, because God is One!

It is the Holy Spirit who moves our hearts to hunger for hearing and studying God’s Word.  It is the Holy Spirit that causes us to remember God’s saving love when we remember our own baptism.  It is the Holy Spirit that creates a hunger within us to gather at the Lord’s Table where we receive His very body and blood when we eat and drink for the forgiveness of sins.  It is the Holy Spirit that creates in us a clean heart, which in turn moves us to come to God in prayer, asking first for forgiveness and then for all the desires of our heart, with the assurance that God hears us and answers us according to His will.

Dear friends, the Holy Spirit is united for eternity with the Father and the Son, and together they lead us by faith so that they may strengthen and grow God’s Church.  The Holy Spirit, sent by the Father and the Son propels all believers out into our community, armed with His Word and Sacraments, personal witness and Christian living in order “to convince the world concerning sin and righteousness.”
So Jesus says to yo this morning…

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I Jesus your Lord have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” [Matthew 28:19, 20]

Next Sunday we will look at this Great Commission of Jesus a little closer, and the why and how behind it, as He sends each of us out into the mission field. But until then, let us pray to the Lord of the harvest for love, peace, and wisdom.

Let us pray: “O Lord, teach us to love our neighbor as you love us, and lead on O Lord; make us one in missionary zeal as you are One—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”  In Jesus name…AMEN!

What Is This Living Water?

June 4th, 2017

Pentecost SundayA, June 4, 2017

Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor of
Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA

http://www.tlcsd.org and
Our Redeemer Lutheran Church,San Diego, CA
http://www.ORLCSD.org

Click here for audio of this message

“On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” [John 7:37, 38]

Why does the church set aside and remember the Pentecost experience, which is so beautifully presented in all three of our readings? Is it because God wants to create in Christians a desire to speak in strange tongues? Is it because God wants us to notice that there are everyday Christians and then there are super Christians who have these miraculous gifts of the Spirit? Or maybe God wants to remind us how far the church has fallen from the position that He desires it to be in? Well, the answer to all three of those questions is a resounding “No!” The true reason for remembering the Pentecost experience can be found in our gospel reading in Jesus own Words. Listen: “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ ” [Jn 7:37b, 38] Let’s look at these Words a little closer and allow God to teach us what we are both to remember and celebrate during these next 23 weeks of Pentecost.

What we learn first is that if any of us are ever to experience the presence of the Holy Spirit, we must first perceive a need for Him; we must have a thirst for His presence and His power!

How are we to be given such a thirst? Through the power of God’s Word, specifically His Law that shows us how much we need His forgiving love! This is a forgiveness that we can never earn or achieve through our own efforts.

Sadly, many preachers today are simply leading their congregations deeper and deeper into thirst by telling them what they need to do, in order to know happiness, peace, and success. You see, telling someone what they need to do doesn’t ever give them the ability to do it! And to confront this truth, along comes Jesus with a teaching that is completely different. The truth is, Jesus actually does offer you a way to quench your spiritual thirst; a way to know God’s loving and kind heart! And where do you think He directs you to find this thirst-quenching drink? To Himself that’s where!

Jesus is telling us that all other sermons that preachers preach are simply the fancies of a sinful mind. He is telling us that there really is no way to be right with God except by coming to Him! Except by coming to Jesus through faith, there really is no way to bring peace to a conscience that knows it sins every day against God! Our sinful consciences long for one thing more than anything else; they long to hear, “Your sin is forgiven!” When we can hear these Words and believe them, then and only then will our spiritual thirst be quenched!
“If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.” In these words Jesus is telling us that outside of His message of gospel peace we will not find even one single drop of comfort, comfort that can satisfy our thirst! Outside of this invitation to come to Him and drink and rest there is only more thirsting and tormenting of our guilty conscience; a conscience that is really dying of thirst!

But what happens after we drink? What happens after we simply receive the forgiveness of Jesus Christ? Well Jesus says that “Whoever believes in Him, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ ” You see, because you have turned to Jesus, He assures you that as long as you keep coming to Him and His Words of life, you will have streams of living water coming out of you! He is assuring you that because you come to Him, He will equip you to not only have your thirst quenched but to also help bring others to the same living water so that they too can be satisfied! And now we are beginning to see the true miracle of Pentecost!

Through the Living Word of God, Jesus is promising to you that not only will He satisfy your own thirst, but He will use you to help satisfy the thirst for forgiveness that others have! And all of this is done through the Word of God, through the gospel! The longer the gospel is preached and shared, the more effectively it goes out satisfying your thirst and the thirst of others.

How can simply sharing God’s Word and forgiveness of sins do all of this? Because behind the Word is the power of the Holy Spirit! When Jesus was speaking these Word’s the Holy Spirit hadn’t yet been poured out on all those who believed in Him. Certainly the Holy Spirit was present, but His power to build the church and propel it out into a sinful world hadn’t yet been demonstrated. But make no mistake, where God’s Word is there is also His power; but it is His power, and we must remember that He uses it when, where, and how He determines. As Jesus spoke that day, the people whose hearts were prepared by the Holy Spirit began to experience a great quenching of their spiritual thirst! And as we are listening this morning, our thirst for God’s forgiveness is also being quenched! But how can this great work of quenching spiritual thirst, of forgiving sins be continued in a mighty way throughout history and across the entire face of the earth? Only through the power of God’s Holy Spirit. And that is the reason the great day of Pentecost is worth remembering and observing!

In our reading from Acts [2:1-21], we can make a couple of noteworthy observations.

First we see that everyone was equally filled with the Holy Spirit. That means men, women, and children; each was equally filled and equipped for the task that was given to them. There was no need for one person to desire the gifts of the other; they were equal. So the prayer of Moses in our Old Testament reading, that asked “that all the Lord’s people (would be) prophets, that the Lord would put His Spirit on them” was answered! [Numbers 11:29] Second, we see that the Spirit gave them utterance, or maybe a better way to say this is that the Spirit gave them the Words they were to speak! And now the real question is not how did they speak, but what did they speak!

You see, if you let your focus be only on the fact that they were able to speak in foreign tongues, well then you are missing the whole desire and will of God! And what is the will and desire of God? That all sinful men and women would repent, turn to Jesus Christ and be saved! That all of us would come to Jesus and drink of His life giving waters! That was the message that each one of the disciples were speaking that day and that is the message that God would have you share with your neighbors within this very community as He gives you the opportunity. And how are you to speak and what are you to say? Should you have some scripture memorized? What if your nervous; what if, what if, what if!

Look, if you let your worries and fears get in the way, then you are actually taking the focus off of the giver of the gift and looking at what kind of gift you want instead. Remember, God fills each of us equally. The Spirit fills every single believer in the church and He uses every one of us according to His desire and not ours. Our Heavenly Father is inviting you to simply rest in the truth that the day of Pentecost has raised each of us to the same level. Just as the Holy Spirit loosened the tongues of the disciples to praise God in the way He desired on that day, so He does for us today! Like them, our hearts shall overflow with grace and power, and our tongues will speak of that grace and power! Each of us have been equipped by the same Spirit to confess our faith, to pray and praise God’s name… Father, Son, and Holy Spirit! This is our testimony to Christ’s thirst quenching and life giving waters!

So why don’t you and I have the ability like the early disciples to speak in strange tongues? Well I suppose it’s simply because the Holy Spirit doesn’t desire us to! Back then, He determined that great signs and wonders were needed to propel the church throughout the world, all so that everyone who was dying of spiritual thirst could be quenched! I would say that He’s done a pretty good job of growing the church. Can you think of a single country where Jesus has not been preached? I can’t! But just because the Holy Spirit has changed the external way He works, doesn’t mean that He isn’t working!

In Holy Baptism, where you received the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, you too have been given the gift of faith so that you can understand the teachings of Jesus, teachings that have been handed down to you by the Apostles through the work of that same Spirit.

By the Holy Spirit, you’ve been given faith that clings to the promises of Jesus; promises, which assure you that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life. By the same Spirit you are given boldness to confess that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, the One who was crucified carrying the burden of your sins and the sins of your neighbor!

You have been given boldness to declare the He is the One who rose again, bringing you to life again with Him. By this faith which is yours from the Holy Spirit, you receive the very body and blood of Jesus Christ-a gift that also gives you forgiveness for all of your sins and the strengthening of your faith.

What is your message that God the Holy Sprit had equipped you to proclaim this Pentecost season?

Simply this, through Christ God has provided the only way for the entire sinful world to know true and complete forgiveness of sins. This is the life giving water that Jesus first gave to you, and it is the very thing He desires to give to your neighbor through you! When each of us gathers to hear the Word of forgiveness and receive the sacraments which both give faith in this forgiveness and then strengthen that faith, we are being given the power of the Holy Spirit to go out and share these very same things. And when we do this, we see the body of Christ growing; this is the true miracle of Pentecost! It is a symphony of confession, testimony, prayer and praise that rises up to the Holy throne of Jesus Christ in every language across this sinful world. This is the desire and will of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and it is the very mission that He has equipped you for! May God continue to do His Pentecost work within each of our hearts by the power of His Holy Spirit, and I ask this in Jesus name… AMEN!

We Stand Upon Christ and the Teaching of the Twelve Apostles

May 28th, 2017

Easter 7A, May 28, 2017
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor of
Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
http://www.tlcsd.org and
Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
Http://www.ORLCSD.org

Click here for audio of this message

“I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.  Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you.  For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me.” [John 17:6-8]

What is it that identifies the church as something different; something special that’s not of this world? I suppose another way to ask this is, what is it that brings so much comfort and peace to the lives of so many Christians that others in this world simply do not understand. Do we really have something special, or are we too, doomed to find truth in these words of William Shakespeare’s 5th Act of the play Macbeth. Listen: “Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and signifying nothing.”

Is Shakespeare right? Is life nothing but a shadow having no substance, no meaning? What is the meaning of life? This morning on this Lord’s Day, we speak the meaning of life in these words, “Christ has risen. Christ has risen indeed.” And because Jesus has been raised from the dead, so shall we, we redeemed sinners who simply trust in Christ alone, along with the Word He gives us through Holy Scripture alone, and the gifts that Word gives us… Grace alone and Faith alone. And that dear friends, is precisely that “something special” that we have, which not only brings us comfort and peace, but it also unites us as one around the promised hope of forgiveness of sins and eternal life. And all of this comes to us only through God’s Word, that is it comes through…

Scripture Alone.

In our first reading this morning (Acts 1:12-26), we join the eleven apostles and many disciples of Jesus as they are leaving the mount called Olivet, where for the last time, they physically saw their Savior, Jesus Christ, the very Son of God as He ascended into Heaven to be seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty. After they witnessed Jesus going up into heaven, they returned and stayed in Jerusalem, just as Jesus had commanded them. But it was the way that they were waiting, which has significance to our message this morning; they were waiting “with one accord, devoting themselves to prayer.” That is, they were devoted to worship and the study and declaration of God’s Word!

What was it that united them? Scripture alone, the Words of God that Jesus gives us as He declared in our gospel lesson this morning! It was through scripture that the work of the Holy Spirit moved Peter to make a motion to the assembled congregation, that the apostolic office once occupied by Judas should be filled. Judas Iscariot, the one who not only betrayed Jesus Christ and the Christian faith, but took his own life to boot!

Peter, filled with the Spirit of God, and moved by the Spirit, stands before the assembly and begins to apply scripture to their situation. How so? Well in this way, as the Spirit worked within Peter, he was reminded of two portions of Holy Scripture from the Psalms of David, which prophesied the betrayal of the Messiah, and the punishment and replacement of the betrayer. First, led by the Words spoken in Psalm 69, Peter proclaims, “May his camp become desolate, and let there be no one to dwell in it.” In other words, God is assuring His church, that the betrayer will be punished, and his betrayal of the faith will not be repeated again by the other apostles. The next Psalm that was brought before the heart of Peter was Psalm 109, when Peter declares, “Let another take his office.” That its let another apostle be called.

Now this is where we must pause for a moment and discuss just what the Word apostle means, and who the apostles were. The English word apostle, finds it’s origin in the Greek word apostolos, which means one who acts as an envoy, an ambassador, or messenger who is commissioned to carry out the instructions of the commissioning agent. If we were simply to take this dictionary meaning of the word, we might be tempted to say that we are all apostles, with pastors being the head apostles of a church and the members being subordinate apostles. But language is living and it’s meaning is defined by the one who is speaking. In other words, context is everything!

If we continue reading our text, we will discover that in verses 21 and 22, Peter defines the type of candidate that can rightly be called an apostle. This person must be a male, for Peter says that he must come from “one of the men who have accompanied us” and he must have been with Jesus “during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us (that is he must have been present to see Jesus ascend into heaven).” But perhaps the most important qualification for an apostle sent out to preach, teach and confess the saving message of the gospel to a world that is dying of sin is laid out in these words, “One of these men must become with us a witness to His resurrection.” In other words, the one who is chosen to replace Judas must have been a witness to Christ’s resurrection, and he must be able to declare with confidence as a material fact, that “Christ is risen indeed!”

The motion having been made and seconded was accepted in one accord. And what do we hear next? Was there a call for the question, or a lengthy discussion as to who the candidates would be? Was there an election of the voters’ assembly? No, instead, being that there were only two candidates who had the qualifications to be considered for the office, they brought them before the assembly and prayed, saying: “You Lord (that is Christ alone), know the hearts of all (people), show (us) which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place. And they cast lots for (Justus and Matthias) and the lot fell on Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven” that is, he became the twelfth apostle.

So what we learn from this is that it is Christ alone who chose His apostles. It is by the unmerited favor of God, that is by grace alone that any were chosen, and it is by faith alone that they will continue stead fast in this high call of God. Neither you or I, nor any other person who is living today can claim to be, under Peter’s definition, an apostle of Jesus Christ. But, what we can claim with certainty is that we are not just his disciples and servants, but his brothers, and a child of Almighty God the Father. We can claim this truth because in our baptism and the continued reception and use of God’s means of Grace, we are daily called by grace through faith into this relationship. And it is a faith that continues to come to us through God’s chief means of Grace, His Holy Word. You will need this Word every day, because like Judas we too can only be saved by…

Grace Alone.

And like Judas, we too are subject to fall from our call as Christians and betray our Lord, choosing the rewards of this sinful world over the grace of God. In fact, it has already begun in your life, hasn’t it? Wasn’t it your sins, like the sins of Judas that caused Jesus to obediently make that painful walk to the cross? Quickly, don’t deny it; simply say “Yes, Christ died for my sins.” Because if you cannot say that Jesus died for your sins, that it was your sins that led Him to the cross, then you cannot receive the forgiveness of sins that His death brings. That is, you cannot receive His grace, which is the undeserved gift of God’s forgiving love. This is a gift from God through Christ, which completely removes your sins, gives a new and eternal life that can never be earned. Yes, it is true that you do not deserve this gift but it is your’s through Christ none the less.

The story is told about a man from England who put his Rolls-Royce on a boat and went across to the continent to go on a holiday. While he was driving around Europe, something happened to the motor of his car. He phoned the Rolls-Royce people back in England and said, “I’m having trouble with my car; what do you suggest I do?” Well, the Rolls-Royce people flew a mechanic over! The mechanic repaired the car and flew back to England and left the man to continue his holiday. As you can imagine, the Englishman was wondering, “How much is this going to cost me?” So when he got back to England, he wrote a letter to the Rolls-Royce Corporation and asked how much he owed them. He received a letter from the office that read: “Dear Sir: There is no record anywhere in our files that anything ever went wrong with a Rolls-Royce.”
That is an example of grace.

Did Christ finish His work upon the cross? Did His death pay for the sins of the world, and is it enough for you to find peace? Can you see how dangerous it is to include anything you do with the righteousness of Christ, in order to appear justified, that is saved in the eyes of God? Jesus Christ will not allow you to add your works upon His in regards to your salvation. He must be all, or nothing, in regards to our salvation. If He has finished the work, what need is there of our additions? Did Christ finish the work of or salvation, and do you think He would ever share His glory and praise with us? No, no; Christ is no half-Savior. It is a hard thing to bring proud hearts to rest upon Christ for righteousness. God humbles the proud by calling sinners completely out from their own righteousness and into Christ for their salvation.

Listen friends, I know that it can be a hard thing to bring our proud hearts to rest completely upon Christ, but it is the way of God; He insist that proud sinners such as us surrender everything to Him and trust in the work of Christ alone. And to enable us to do this very thing, God calls us to gather together in Christ’s church and receive the gifts He freely gives. And these gifts, which come to us through Scripture alone, by grace alone, save us by creating and sustaining faith alone.

Faith Alone is that very thing, which allows you to receive and believe through the eyewitness testimony of the twelve apostles, that not only has Christ died to save the World, but also He died to save you!

By faith alone, you are able to say along with the entire church, “He is risen, indeed,” but you can also say with the certainty of faith, “He has risen for me.” That is, through Holy Scripture, the ancient teaching of the apostles of Christ’s church, I can say for certain that because He lives I too shall live with Him forever. Because he died to save sinners, He died to save me, and in my baptism, He has given all of this to me. In the washing of the water and the Word of God, I shall stand with confidence upon the work of Jesus Christ and the teaching of the twelve apostles, which alone not only promises, but gives eternal life.

Martin Luther, in one of his conflicts with Satan, was asked by the devil if he felt his sins forgiven. “No,” said the great Luther, “I don’t feel that they are forgiven, but I know they are, because God says so in His Word.” Paul did not say, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall feel saved”; but, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved.”

You see, Luther knew what we must know also, faith is simply the empty hand of a beggar, which has nothing of its own, but simply waits to be filled by God Almighty.

Dear friends, the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ, the Son of God is not a cleverly devised myth perpetuated by the types of false teachers we see today, proclaiming to be “apostles” of Christ. But rather, it was testified by the official eyewitnesses of Jesus’s public ministry, by people such as Matthias. That is good news for you; it is a promise and guarantee that you too will inherit the eternal kingdom of God in a new body created by God, and brought home by God. And where you go when this promise of God is fulfilled, just may be the best news of all… you see, you are going to an eternal place prepared just for you by Jesus Himself. Christ is risen… indeed, and so shall we. AMEN!

Are You Prepared to Witness?

May 21st, 2017

Easter 6A, May 21, 2017
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor of
Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
http://www.tlcsd.org and
Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
Http://www.ORLCSD.org

Click here for audio of this message

“But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15).

Are you prepared to make a defense, that is to be a witness, to give witness to Christ? What is it that we are called to witness to? Well, how about this for starters, “Christ is risen! He is risen in deed!”

This morning the question is not could you witness to someone about your faith in Christ, but would you? Yes, with the help of God. The help of God? Is there really something like that happening today? And the answer is yes, but I don’t want to give away the end of the sermon so you will just have to have patience, and I promise that not only will you learn what that powerful help is, but you will in fact know that you have received it.

In our first reading (Acts 17:16-31) we join St. Paul after he has taken a tour of the city of Athens, Greece.

During his walk-about, he learned an awful lot about the city and its people. For one thing, he discovered that they loved art and philosophy, but he also discovered that they were very religious. It was this devotion to religion that motivated Paul to strike up conversations with the people he met concerning their religion. Well, actually it was the Holy Spirit of God that moved him to do that. You see, God’s Spirit caused Paul to understand and communicate a message, which is central throughout Holy Scripture, and it is this: God is a jealous God, and He will not share His glory with anything or anyone. In the past, like during the time of Noah and before, He overlooked their sin of false worship, but now, now He is calling the people to repent; that is, he calls all people to return to Him through His Son, Jesus Christ. He calls them to receive that one thing needful by all people… the forgiveness of their sins and new life through the cross of Christ; it is then and only then that that they will be able to “worship Him alone and no other.”

And how did Paul speak this truth? He did it with the love of Christ and respect. He did it by becoming one with them. How so? With these words: “And (God) made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward Him and find Him. Yet He is actually not far from each one of us, for “’In Him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, “’For we are indeed His offspring.’ Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone (that is he is not like some of the religious statues that some people worship), (because that is) an image formed by the art and imagination of man. The times of ignorance God overlooked (that is before the flood during Noah’s time), but now He (this One true God who is very near to you and desires you to be near to Him), commands all people everywhere to repent (that is turn to Him and experience His presence and love), because He has fixed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by a man (who is also God’s very Son in human flesh) who He has appointed; and of this He has given assurance to all by raising Him from the dead.” [Acts 17:26-31]

Today, you have this same power and opportunity that Paul had long ago; an opportunity to witness to the people in our community the very same message. You will encounter these people in your various stations of life; that is the people you have built a relationship of friendship with. It may be at your place of work, at a shopping center, school, senior center, or even within your own family. The point is, God has placed you there for a reason, and the reason is so that you can make a defense, or give a witness to His real presence in your life and in theirs. But, I suppose this still leaves the question of “how does God do this work through me” begging to be answered. So let’s first look at “where” God does this work, before we answer the question of “how” he does it.

God equips you and empowers you to do this work at His Son’s church.

But where? And the answer is, “Through His Word.” Humor me for just a minute, and take the hymnal out of the pew rack, and then look at page 203, and then the following pages. As you do, you will notice that almost every word we speak or sing in our liturgy has a scripture reference. That means that our liturgy is nothing less than the very Word of God. So, if you have been coming to church for any length of time, you will discover that you have a whole lot of God’s Word memorized.

So why is that important? Because it is that very same Word that empowered St. Paul to give his witness. Now, just memorizing the Word of God is a good start, but you should also have an on-going way to internalize it and make it real and personal to you. And so you are doing right now as you hear the Word proclaimed in this message and as you do during Bible study and catechism classes. God is preparing you right here at this little church to give a witness to anyone who may ask you the reason for the hope that you hold onto, and is so important to you.

Today as we live our lives, God is giving us many opportunities to share our faith. I suppose the best and most productive way to share with people, is to be prepared to answer them when they ask: “Why do you go to church so much?” And now, you have learned that “We go to church to hear from God in His Word, that through His Son Jesus we are forgiven of all our sins, and now we must live out that forgiveness within our community and share it with others.”

Of course this only applies to those of us who really do make Christ and His church a priority in our lives. It applies to those of you who see a need for God’s continued voice and guidance in not just your lives but the lives of your family too. But it only applies when God’s Word has moved you to repent and receive not just the complete forgiveness of sins, but daily strength to follow and trust His Word.

Now some of you may be getting uncomfortable right now because the Word has struck close to home.

Let me first say to you… good! If that is what you are feeling then that is what God probably wants you to feel; that is the work of His law and it is His will. He wants you, like the people in Athens who Paul shared the Word with to simply turn to Him alone; that is He wants you to reject anything in your life that has replaced Him and His church as first place in your life. It won’t be easy, because you will not just be fighting your own desires but also the entire way our society has been programed. Let me show you what I mean.

If you are single and alone, society would have you think that getting out and having fun is the best way to find someone to share your life with. If you are married and have a family, society will tell you that working hard to support your family and then spending quality time with them is what you should be most concerned with. But this morning, God is telling you that you have it all wrong. He is telling you that He wants to be first place. Come to Him and allow Him to heal you, strengthen you, and fill you first, and then go out into the world and work hard and have fun. Let Him bring you to Mr. or Misses right and then you will know real happiness. Let Him provide employment that will then provide for your family.

And as these things take place, be sure to let others know the reason for the hope that you have. And that reason is Jesus Christ and His church; His church where He gives to you all of His gifts of grace that sustain you and make you into the “good” person that you are becoming by God’s grace. His church is His very means to give you the answer to our long awaited question: “What is the power that God gives to me so that I can witness my faith to others?”

Dear friends the power that God gives to you is His very Son; His Son who also gives to you Himself. But He does not give just His atoning death upon the cross, but He also gives you His resurrection. You see, you don’t just believe that Jesus died for the sins of the world, you also believe that Jesus died for you; for your sins, and His resurrection proves that you too will have eternal life. And how do you know this? Because Jesus has given you another Helper, the Holy Spirit of truth who forever dwells with you and within you.

And how do you know this gift is really yours?

Because like Noah and his family, eight souls in all, you have been called by the power of God’s Spirit out of the darkness of sin and you listened; you got into the ark that is His church, and because you entered into the ark of your salvation, the church, you do not fear the day of judgment that is coming. But how did you enter the church? That is, where and when did this great work take place that saved you? St. Peter gives us the answer in our epistle reading, listen: “Baptism, which corresponds to (how Noah and his family were saved from God’s judgment and the flood), now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.” [1 Peter 3:21, 22] (Talk about the baptism we just had).

So Holy Baptism is not just what saves you, but is the very source of both God’s continued presence in your life and His power that equips you with the ability to live that life in a way that both glorifies Him and blesses your family, friends and neighbors.

So how does baptism save you? Didn’t Jesus save us on the cross? Yes, of course He did; He paid for all sins on the cross, and baptism is that promise coming to you personally as part of the church now. So, baptism now saves you, not by removing the dirt or the stain of this world, but by the promise or the covenant from God to you that you are in fact clean of sin in His sight. This is why you are always taught that you are saved by grace alone and by faith alone. So in baptism, God has given you a promise that your sins are removed by the blood of Jesus, shed for you upon the cross. And now in God’s sight, your conscience can be entirely clean because you know that you don’t have to stand before Him, on the day of judgment by yourself; you know that Jesus stands with you, and that through Him alone you will not be judged guilty as a sinner. That’s how baptism saves you; by giving you a promise that you can believe in, and He gives you the means to believe in it through Scripture alone, right here in His church.

Baptism gives you something to have faith in… it gives you Jesus. Baptism equals Jesus promise. You have the promise of free grace, because of the resurrection of Jesus who now is at the right hand of the Father, and who has subjected all things to Himself.

Now, since Christ suffered because of your sinful flesh, to save you, then arm yourself with the same mindset, and expect that you too may have to suffer because of the attacks of the devils and your own sinful flesh. But as you wait for Christ’s return; as you are prepared to give a defense to anyone who should ask you why you go to church so much, remember it is God who gives you the Words to speak. And even if you have to suffer at the hands of others for giving that defense, for insisting that Christ’s church is important to you, God will continue filling you with faith and power as you trust in His promised blessings, which come with this declaration, “Christ has risen, Christ has risen indeed.” AMEN!

Be Ye Holy!


May 14th, 2017

Easter 5A, May 14, 2017
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor of
Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA

http://www.tlcsd.org and
Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, San Diego,
http://www.ORLCSD.org

Click here for audio of this message

This morning our message comes to us from our Epistle lesson (1 Peter 2:2-10), but before we can understand what God is saying to us through St. Peter we have to go back to the first chapter of the same epistle; specifically we want to go back and start with these words found in verses 15 and 16 in the first chapter. Listen: “As He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “(Be ye) holy, for I am holy.” Now is this law or gospel? Well the answer depends on who you are, or rather where you are with God. And just like our message this morning, we have to go backwards into our lives to get the answer.

In the beginning portion of our lesson, St. Peter says that we are like new born babies, longing for the pure spiritual milk that matures or grows us up into salvation. What is this milk?
Well, it is nothing other than the pure Word of God! The same Word that was given to you, perhaps long ago, within your baptism, and it is still given to you every day in your Bibles; that is God’s spiritual milk! In these things you have already experienced the Lord’s presence in your life; you have tasted the Lord!

So here is another question: Is He good? Do you like the flavor and the strength that He gives you in His Word? If you do, then St. Peter would tell you that you are Holy, so keep on being holy! How? By continually tasting the Lord and seeing that He is good through the studying of and resting in His Word and Sacraments! Keep hearing and reading that God so loved you that He sent His Son Jesus Christ into the world to suffer and die upon the cross for you! Why did He do this? So that you might be able to not only taste and see that the Lord is good, but so that you might have an abundant, full, and meaningful life!

As an infant hungers for the milk of its mother, so too do we need our Lord’s Word! And because of this spiritual milk, you are holy!

You are holy!

Listen, don’t worry about your past or even your future. Don’t worry about what you may have done or failed to do before, but concentrate on who you are today… you are holy! This isn’t something you need to do; if it was, you already know that you would be anything but holy; no this is entirely the work of God, and that is good, because in that way none of us can brag about what we did or do, instead we can give God all of the glory! And how do we give Him glory? Well Peter answers that question for us in verse 4, we keep coming to Him, a living stone rejected by men in the sight of God chosen and precious!

Who is this living stone? It is the living Word of God, Jesus Christ, and we keep coming to Him when we read His Word, gather to hear it preached, remember our baptism, and when we come to His Holy table to be served a meal of forgiveness! When we do these things we ourselves as St. Peter says in verse 5 are “like living stones being built up as a spiritual house.” Dear friends, this spiritual house is nothing less than the body of Christ, His holy gathered saints who are being preserved in a sinful time, in a sinful world as His own children!

You know one of the most interesting questions that Christians ask a pastor is this: “What are we going to be doing in heaven?” I smile at this question because in it I see the old sinful nature of this person fighting viciously to survive. The clue comes in one word that is contained in that question, “DO!” Do, do, do; that is always the desire of the old sinful nature that has been crucified with Christ, and drowned in the holy waters of baptism! No free lunches for that dead flesh; it wants to earn everything and be catered to as its reward! But dear saints, that is the wrong question to ask; instead we should learn to ask, “Who will I be in heaven?” And the answer is that you will be the same person in heaven that you are on earth; you will be Holy! Or as Peter continues to explain in verse 5, you will be what you are now, part of “a holy priesthood, offering up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ!”

What are those spiritual sacrifices?

Well, in Hebrews 13 we are told that through Christ we will, “keep offering up sacrifices of praise constantly to God, that is, the fruit of our lips confessing His name.” [Heb. 13:15] Then in Romans 12 we are invited to “present our bodies as a living sacrifice, which is well pleasing to God.” [Rom 12:1] Then in the fourth chapter of Philippians we are told that our prayers and praise are a “sweet fragrance, a sacrifice acceptable and well pleasing to God.” And in the eighth chapter of Revelations we are told that the prayers of all of the saints, the holy children of God are already upon the golden altar before His throne! These sacrifices are acceptable to God through Jesus Christ because they are given in His name, for His honor and glory!

So you see, the very same things that you are empowered to do here in this sinful world are the things you will do there, accept here and now we do them imperfectly because we still live in a sinful world and struggle every day to put to death our sinful nature. Here we remember that everything we have is really God’s, even our money! So we give it eagerly and liberally along with our time and talent as a sacrifice of praise unto our God!

But why do we give ourselves to God? Because we are His holy ones who live in His kingdom, and everything we do is for Him! So we see, even now as we struggle against our old sinful nature we are holy, but not yet perfect; soon in heaven, when we finally are free of our sinful flesh we will experience what God has declared us to be; holy, perfect, and righteous! This is the work of God alone and it is marvelous in our sight! But for now, we simply continue becoming what He has said we are; we continue being holy! And how do we do that? By resting upon Jesus Christ, the author and perfecter of our faith! Or as St. Peter says, we as living stones learn to rest upon our Cornerstone.

A long time ago, there was a stone offered up by God and all men were asked to build upon this great stone as their cornerstone. God assured them that if they built upon this stone, they would have a house of worship that could never be moved. But the builders examined that stone, and collectively and continually rejected it as inferior! They had other stones that could better serve “their” purposes for building.
So the stone of God sat discarded for centuries, rejected and even afflicted by the sinful builders. Their great building was complete; it was a giant temple that was said to be the very inhabitation of God! Many people gathered to admire the temple and worship a god that they had created in their own image. But one day, God caused that rejected stone that should have been the corner stone, to come alive among them! The Living Stone warned the builders that their house was not pleasing to God and it would not stand the test that God was bringing. He implored them to abandon their house of worship and build a new one upon Him! He explained to them that only by aligning all of the other stones upon Himself and using the mortar of faith would they be able to find a structure pleasing enough to God so that He would allow His Spirit to live among them!

Dear friends, Jesus is the Cornerstone that was rejected by a people who were once God’s people but no longer! Not only did God reject them as a people, but He destroyed their temple of worship; He destroyed it because it was built on a stone called pride. But in its place, He raised up a new temple, a temple of living stones held together by faith in the true Cornerstone, Jesus Christ! We are His building, a holy temple, called out of darkness to light; we are His people, holy nation of holy people! We are living by faith and not by sight. We are holy because we are resting upon the Holy Living Stone, Jesus Christ!

We are holy!

And as Peter says in verse 9, we are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession! We, His holy ones are like Him our Prophet, Priest, and King! We are prophets, each of us because we are to speak His Word; we are priests because each of us are called to offer our entire selves as a living sacrifice unto God. And we are kings because we are children of our Holy King, the living God!
Now it would be a terrible mistake if we were to think that after being given so much as holy children of the living God we could just sit back and take it all in; just contemplate our honor and our excellence! No, it would be more than a mistake it would be a sin if we did that! We were not created to be still and be served; we were created to be ever active and becoming what God created us to be. And what is that? We are to be His ambassadors, his witnesses sent into the darkness of sin to speak light and salvation! We are to announce the fame of the One who called us out of darkness into His wonderful light! We are to offer up our spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ! As living stones, we are to be used to ever build and expand the Kingdom of God! We are kingdom builders!

True believers, true holy ones of God can’t keep still; they simply must speak out with their mouths, time, talent, and treasure, because that is what we were created for! This is our calling as holy members of God’s royal priesthood. We are here and not in heaven right now because God has invited us to accompany Jesus on His mission!

We are to go out into the darkness and bring light! We are to go out to people who are trapped in the darkness of sin, and bring salvation to them. Who are these people? They are the very ones who rejected the great Cornerstone, Jesus Christ! God sends us who once were not a people, stones, which were once cold and dead but now alive, sheep once without a shepherd but now sheep in His pasture to seek, find, and bring salvation to others who are far from God’s love and forgiveness through Jesus Christ. Right now, in their current condition, they are non-people in God’s eyes, but our great Cornerstone is still calling out to them; there is still time if they will turn to Him! If they will turn to Christ they are promised that they will be a real people, part of God’s holy people, and He will be their King, Savior, Protector, Provider, and God!

So, be ye holy!

Be all that God has called you to be! Rest upon your Cornerstone, Jesus the Christ, the living Word of God, but then be living and always serving Him by proclaiming the wonderful works of God. Tell those lost what He has done for you; tell them how He alone saved you from sin, death, and the devil! And then gather again in this house of worship to celebrate and receive every gift that our Living Cornerstone has to give to us! May God continue to strengthen us for this wonderful mission that He has set before us as we go forth proclaiming, Christ has risen, He has risen indeed.” I ask this in Jesus name… AMEN!

Salvation Through a Dying Shepherd!

May 7th, 2017

Easter 4A, April 30, 2017
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor of
Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
http://www.tlcsd.org and
Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
Http://www.ORLCSD.org

Click here for audio of this message

Christ is risen, He is risen indeed! “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree (on the cross) that we might die (that is cease to exist) to sin and live to righteousness. By His wounds (by His suffering and death upon the cross) you have been healed.” [1 Peter 2:24] Jesus, our Good Shepherd laid down His life for us and now, He is calling out to us this morning to follow Him! We should follow Him, because we are His sheep; we hear His voice and we follow. The Jews, children of Abraham were His sheep by blood, but they refused to hear His voice; they refused to follow Him as children of faith. Their teachers would not enter by the door, simply because Jesus claimed to be the door, and so they would not (and will not) follow His voice. Instead, they beat Him and hung Him on the cross, hoping to silence the very voice that would save them. But what they meant for evil God used for good, our good. You see, by the same suffering of the whip and cross God brought salvation, healing from sins, and complete forgiveness. This is the true healing that Jesus wounds, His stripes provide. We who are gathered here are a fellowship, a congregation of healed and forgiven sinners simply because our Good Shepherd laid down His life and then took it back up again for wandering sheep such as us. Once we were lost sheep, but now we are called found sheep!

Another way to speak of the church, this fellowship of believers is to call it a sheep pen!

When Jesus used this metaphor in our gospel reading (John 10:1-10), He was of course speaking of His holy church, His body which is made up of true Christians. I trust that by faith in your Good Shepherd, you have heard His voice in His Holy Word and Sacraments and you are resting in His flock!

Let me ask you a question, how did you get into this pen that contains Christ’s flock? Was it because you are wise and prudent? Was it because you wanted to simply cover all of the bases concerning the afterlife, so you simply entered just to be on the safe side? Maybe you just followed your parents, family, or friends here and you have learned to be comfortable among the other sheep? If so, I am afraid that you may not be a true part of Christ’s flock. Now don’t misunderstand me, I am not making a judgment in regards to your eternal salvation, only your Good Shepherd can do that, but I am only speaking a word of caution along with a prayer that you will one day, hopefully soon, hear your true Good Shepherd call out to you and then surrender to His leading. In the meantime you may rest if that’s what you seek, but remember your time of waiting is growing short.

Time is running out, both for sinners and this sinful world. Soon our Good Shepherd will return to save His little lambs, and then He will call out to all who refuse to be His, and then cast them away with these Words, “Away from me! I never knew you!” And then they will find themselves in complete darkness where there will be only eternal misery and pain!

But if you are here because you heard His voice through His Word and you followed, then by His stripes you are healed! If you are here because in His Law you heard your Shepherd call out to you and prove that you were lost in your sins, and then you heard in His gospel promise that He found you and forgave you, healed you of your many sins, well then you are found and you are certainly part of His flock!

You see, Christ’s church, our congregation is a fellowship of lost and hurting sheep; sheep who were once lost but now found; sheep who finally find themselves following the Good Shepherd’s voice.

Here in this fellowship we who have been found, have also found peace and joy, but we still know pain and suffering. We are hurting people who are sometimes raw with emotion and pain. We still experience sickness, pain, disappointment, fear, and hard times. It’s alright to admit that; we all go through it. Our Good Shepherd knows and we readily admit that we either right now or in the past have been raw and beaten up by life, and we are also willing to testify to others that because we have turned to hear our Good Shepherd’s voice, we now rest safely in this fellowship with Him and other raw and hurting sheep of His flock; we have found rest!

The truth is friends, we live in a world that is full of raw people; they’re all around us! Have you ever wondered how many people in our community are struggling with sins like lust, alcohol and drug abuse, anger and rage?

Think for a moment and consider just how many people have been or are victims of these terrible things we call sin! Do you think they will ever find help with their raw human needs, needs that surround us every day? They will, if they hear the voice of “their” Good Shepherd! How will they hear? They will hear through the bleating of fellow raw and hurting sheep! They will hear through you!

We are our Good Shepherd’s flock, sheep of His pasture and pen!

We cannot afford as a church to simply live out a “business as usual” mindset when so many raw and hurting people are dying without Jesus Christ! What is a business as usual mindset? It is thinking that the church, the flock of Jesus Christ exists only for the sheep of His pasture. It’s thinking that the business of the church, the mission of the flock is to hold Sunday services, which satisfies only the needs of the flock. A business as usual congregation thinks that people who are part of the Good Shepherd’s flock are anyone who speaks like them, dresses like them, or worships like them. These kinds of congregations are only living to die, and soon they will do just that! But as the Good Shepherd’s flock, we know that we do not exist for our own glory and comfort, but instead we exist for God’s glory. And we know that God is glorified when other lost sheep are brought into the flock and the flock grows by adding more and more hurting and raw sheep to its number!

The truth is friends, only churches that are serious about rescuing the lost and hurting sheep will survive and make a difference… and friends that must be us! It must be us because it is God’s will! How can we remain a flock, a congregation that pleases our Good Shepherd? By continuing to be a healing fellowship where hundreds, maybe even thousands of lost and raw sheep can find rest and a home of forgiveness and healing. How do we do this? By following our Good Shepherd’s example; we must learn to trace His example and make it our life’s calling and passion. Listen to St. Peter’s words in our Epistle lesson again: “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you and example, so that you might follow in His steps.”[1 Peter 2:21] Let me illustrate this point with a couple of examples.

When I was a child, I wanted to learn how to draw portraits. I tried and tried, but my portraits always looked like… well they looked like a little child drew them. Then one day, I found some tracing paper in my father’s desk. I put that paper over a picture of my great grandmother, and I began to trace every shape and feature that made up her face. When I removed the tracing paper from the portrait I discovered that I had a perfect outline of the face, but it lacked dimension and depth. So I began to add shading and definition the best I could. Now when I was done, my mother saw the picture and commented on what a good job I had done, and how it resembled someone, but she couldn’t quite put her finger on it. “Its grandma” I responded, somewhat disappointed as I showed her the portrait I was copying! “Oh, of course it is” she replied. “Now I can see that. What a nice picture” she said!

Every day we follow the example of our Savior, walking the same way He did. We deal with the same disappointments and pain caused by raw and hurting people that He dealt with. At first we are just tracing His image, kind of going through the motions, but soon our faith deepens and our confidence in His voice strengthens, and we begin to add depth and nuances to our walk of faith that begin to look more like Jesus. And if people aren’t quite sure what to make of our lives, we will simply point out who our Good Shepherd is and why we are following Him. In that way, our lives will become attractive to others.
And speaking of following, let me close with one last story.

When I was a young Border Patrol Agent, I was assigned to work with a living legend in the Border Patrol. He was famous for following sign or evidence that is left behind by a person. In essence he became a master in the art of tracking. One night I was assigned to go with him to downtown San Diego and meet up with San Diego Police officers who were looking for some gang members that killed a San Diego police officer. I knew nothing about the art of tracking, so he told me to stay out of the way and simply follow him and learn. I stayed very close to him, as he explained what he was doing and what he was looking for, finding, and following! It took a very long time, and I was cold and hungry, but He said that we must keep going. After several hours, to my amazement, he moved a piece of plywood lying in the back yard of a residence, and found empty shell casings. After another hour, under a pile of trash he discovered the weapon that was used to kill the officer. Our job was over; the police officers took over, and later that night on the news I heard that they had arrested three gang members for the murder of that police officer.

The point of this story is this friends, we are to follow the way that Jesus went. We are to watch and learn. It is a way that was full of pain and sorrow; it was the way of the cross. As we follow our Good Shepherd we too will know pain, suffering, sickness, sorrow, and even death. But we will encounter all of these things with the confidence of knowing that we are being taught by our Master, and it is by His stripes, by His wounds we are forgiven and healed of all of our sins, and as an added blessing, we are assured that God loves us and will never leave us. We are assured that because Christ has risen, so shall we. We are assured that as we are tracing our Masters portrait and looking more like Him every day, one day we shall be just like Him! Because we hear His voice in His Word we are assured that just as He has overcome the grave so shall we!

But we also must understand that just as we were once found lost, hurting, and raw, Jesus wants to do the same thing for others within our community through us! How will he do this? The same way He did it for you, through His voice, through the living Word of God that is read every day and that will also live in them!

So when you leave this place of worship this morning knowing that you are forgiven and loved, don’t just live a life that only looks forward to next Sunday, but live a life that follows your Good Shepherd Jesus Christ Monday through Saturday, practicing the lessons that He teaches you each Sunday. And when you follow Him, be prepared. He is seeking out people who do not want to be found; not to punish them but to offer them pardon and forgiveness! In this way, you are like I was long ago following behind that living legend looking for the bad guys. You must stay out of the way with your prejudices and self-interests and simply learn from the master; you must learn that even those “raw” people who are straying away like sheep, are called to return to the Shepherd and Overseer of their souls, Jesus Christ! May God equip us to do this very thing, as we live lives that declare, Christ has risen, He has risen indeed!

Recreated to Praise God

April 30th, 2017

Easter 3A, April 30, 2017
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor of
Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
http://www.tlcsd.org and
Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
Http://www.ORLCSD.org

Click here for audio of this message

Christ is risen, He’s risen indeed. And because He lives, so too, the world may have rebirth and eternal life as well. But for you the baptized your hope is already made certain by faith in your resurrected Savior, Jesus Christ. Your faith is made living through the Word of God, the Gospel of Jesus. It is the Gospel that not only brings you a new and eternal life, but it brings you a life of purpose, right here and right now. Your purpose is to praise and glorify your saving God in all that you think, say, and do. And your service becomes pure and holy as you continue to read and learn from holy scripture. This learning is a life long process that begins in baptism, is continued as we grow, and it shall not end until the day we die. This is a process that became clear on that first Easter Day.

In our gospel reading, it’s once again the first day of the week, Easter Sunday.

Some of the women who were disciples of Jesus went to the tomb and found that Jesus wasn’t there; instead they found angels who declared that He had risen from the dead! They went back to where they were staying and found the 11 apostles and a vast number of disciples hiding behind locked doors, because they were afraid that the authorities would punish them as well! So when the women reported what they discovered and what the angels told them, the disciples were astounded, but soon their excitement wore off, and they all began the long trek back to normal living. In other words, they decided to ignore the reports of the resurrection!

That same day, two of those disciples were on their way to a town named Emmaus, about 7 miles from Jerusalem; they were trying to make sense of everything that had happened. They must have been discussing the last three years they spent with Jesus; how they were appointed witnesses and given authority to drive out demons and heal disease. They must have recounted how they followed this man they thought was the Messiah; the one who would anoint Israel to rule and bless the entire world. They must have recalled how on Palm Sunday He made His triumphant entry into the city and then into the temple to purify it from evil, which would then restore God’s rule on earth. But now, their hopes had been dashed by Judas’ betrayal of Jesus, who handed Him over to be killed by crucifixion and then sealed away in a tomb along with all of their hopes and dreams!

Now while they’re talking about these things and sharing their disappointment and shattered dreams, who is it that comes along side of them? None other than Jesus Himself that’s who!

But their eyes were kept from knowing who He is?

Now that’s strange! How did He do that? Well first, let’s remember who Jesus is, shall we?! He’s God, and He can do whatever He likes! But we also need to remember our message last week about Thomas; he refused to believe until he could actually see and touch Jesus, right? And what did Jesus have to say about that? He said that Thomas believed because he saw Him, but more blessed are those who believe without seeing; those who see not with physical eyes, but eyes of faith! Remember, Jesus is talking about you and me; we who believe because of the work of God’s Spirit that comes to us in His Word and Sacrament. Remember this, because it will be an important truth at the end of our message.

So back to our gospel reading and the two disciples who are kept from recognizing or seeing Jesus for whom He is. So Jesus asks them, “What is this conversation that you’re holding with each other as you’re walking along?” And they stood still, looking sad. That means that they were actually frozen by grief; they were so sad and depressed they couldn’t even find the strength or motivation to walk any further because of what they felt they lost; the one they thought was the Messiah is dead! “Then one of them named Cleopas, answered Him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened (in Jerusalem) these days?” (Dude have you been locked away in a tomb?!) And He said to them, “What things?”

Now that’s strange; I mean, why did Jesus ask “What things”; He’s God right? He knew, didn’t He? Sure He did! May I suggest that Jesus was testing their faith? In other words, He was taking their weak faith and making it stronger through proper instruction and understanding of the Word of God. You dear saints have experienced this method of instruction in your catechism study when the Pastor tests your knowledge of a topic with this question: “What does this mean?” And then you faithfully answer, “We should fear and love God so that…”

You see, Jesus had to completely destroy their hope in what they saw and perceived so that He could give them faith in what they could not perceive or understand! How? By opening up the scriptures and explaining God’s Word! What part of the Word? All of the Word; He did this by showing them that every page of scripture was about Him! He showed them that He was the key for not just unlocking scripture, but understanding it. How? By knowing that the gospel, the forgiveness of sins is exactly the very thing that God has always been up to throughout the history of man, and then by seeing that every word in scripture is recorded for that very reason! By showing them that Jesus, the Lamb of God, was the only sacrifice that could be made that would take away the sins of the world; even their sins!

So, what we learn this morning is that Jesus wants to remove our fears and disappointment and put Himself in their place! Listen to their confession after Jesus asked, “What things?” and see if you don’t hear fear and disappointment in their words. They answered, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people” (oops they forgot the part that He was begotten by the Holy Spirit; they forgot the part that says He’s the Son of God), but at least they got the last part of the creed right. Listen, “and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up (to Pontius Pilate), to be condemned to death, and crucified Him. But “WE” had hoped that He was the one (who would) redeem Israel.”

Then they continued their testimony about how some of their women amazed them by declaring that when they went to the tomb of their former Messiah the body wasn’t there, but instead they were greeted by angels who said that Jesus wasn’t dead but alive!

And this is where Jesus begins to speak faith into their hearts and even into ours this morning, and He does it first with a scolding:

“O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into His glory?”

And that is the fatal flaw of their false faith. In their faith, their freedom, their new world order, and their grief, their feelings were central to everything they believed. Their lack of glory, or their desire for glory was the central reason for their unbelief in Jesus! But Jesus reverses their thinking, their glory seeking, by showing them that His glory should be the center of their faith; He shows them that without His suffering and death, there could be no hope for them or the world; it was necessary for Jesus to suffer and die! Now Jesus brings faith and salvation into their hearts by preaching about Himself! Now the living Word of God begins to open their eyes of faith and our own so that we too might believe unto salvation. But then He stopped the sermon as they were drawing close to the village, and He acted as if He was going on farther.

“But they urged Him strongly (they insisted), saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So He went inside the home with them. “(And) when He was at table with them, He took bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them.” Now doesn’t that sound familiar? Listen to a similar statement found in Luke 22:19, “saying “(Take and eat,)This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” Yes, this appears to be a repeat of His actions when He instituted the sacrament of Holy Communion! “And (once he broke the bread and gave thanks), their eyes were opened and they recognized Him.” Where and how did they recognize Jesus? In His Word and in His sacrament!

Here dear friends is the great transition from becoming a disciple through the act of being an eye witness to becoming a disciple by being a witness through the power of God’s Holy Word and Sacraments. Once they were given faith through the Word and the breaking of the bread, their eyes were opened and they saw, they knew Jesus for Who He truly is, the eternal Son of God! “They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while He talked to us on the road, while He opened to us the Scriptures?” And that has been God’s means of bringing sinful people like us to faith ever since. It is His means and not ours. It is so He is glorified and not us!

Now, as I move towards closing our message, I would like to speak to you Christian parents and Grand Parents.

I can think of no greater honor that you could give to God than to lovingly direct your children’s hearts to burn in love for God, His Word and Sacraments, and your Christian family. Wouldn’t you agree with me that children seem to have a natural burning love, or at least a burning desire for the love of their parents and grand parents? So, your task dear Christian parents is to take that love and direct it first and foremost to God the Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

You have the challenge of teaching your children that if they value and respect your love, they must first value and respect the love of God the Father “who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds.” In other words, they are to develop both a love and fear for God! Or as our epistle lesson states, they are to learn to conduct themselves “with fear throughout (their)time in exile.” What does that mean, their time in exile? It means the time that they are living and waiting in this sinful world for Jesus to come back, until the time that God has determined will be their last moment here on earth! How will you accomplish this task? By reminding them that they were purchased or ransomed out of this sinful world with the precious blood and sacrifice of God the Son, Jesus Christ! In other words, you must help them see that their future does not depend on you or them, but upon Jesus Christ Crucified and Resurrected for them and the world! Or as Martin Luther wrote, we must teach them to believe that Christ has “purchased and won (them)… not with silver or gold but with His holy, precious blood, and with His innocent suffering and death, that (they) may be His own, and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him!”

Now dear Christian parents is the time to begin directing the hearts and minds of our children towards God, no matter their age! Do not stop to think about lost time; do not even wonder if it is too late! Remember, their salvation is not up to you, it’s up to God and His work through His means. It’s not what you have done or failed to do, it’s about what God has done through Jesus Christ and what He is continuing to do! Our only job is to always point them to Jesus Christ, crucified and resurrected for them and for us! That is the beautiful thing about grace… it’s never too late for faith in Jesus Christ! So for now on, let us resolve ourselves to giving our children, regardless of their age, the life changing exposure to God’s means of grace, His Word and Sacrament! Today dear friends is the first day of the rest of their lives. Let’s make it a blessed day by keeping Jesus Christ in the center of it! He has risen, He has risen indeed! AMEN!

The Resurrection is the Gospel

April 23rd, 2017

Easter 2A, April 23, 2017
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor of
Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
http://www.tlcsd.org and
Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
Http://www.ORLCSD.org

Click here for audio of this message

“Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory” [1 Peter 1:8]

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! When those words of joy were first spoken, they declared a truth; it was a truth that took all of Christ’s disciples, including the apostles by complete surprise. Jesus had warned them; He prepared them over and over again that He would come back. He had made it clear that it was His life to lay down into death and it was His to raise back up again, but all of them missed the meaning of His promise. But who would have understood? The truth is, in this life people just don’t come back from the dead. Isn’t it true, that there seems to be nothing as permanent as death?

I believe that our common experience tells us that…

Death is simply inescapable.

But Jesus Christ did rise from the dead. His power over death was declared over and over again throughout the Old Testament, and His resurrection is the very reason we have the New Testament; it’s the reason we have the Christian Church, and presumably, it’s the reason you are here this morning.

The day Jesus rose from the dead, He proved that He had power over sin, death, and the devil.

Easter Day took all of Jesus’ disciples by surprise, and it became the focus of their lives and the center of their thinking; it defined how they lived, and how they died. It became the very center of their beings. Christ had escaped death and brought new hope for the world and new life for those who would trust His cross and the message of the empty tomb.

To St. Peter, Jesus’ resurrection was life changing. You can hear his joyful exclamation of it’s effect on him in the opening words of our Epistle lesson [1 Peter 1:3-9]: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead”.

Imagine with me, that Jesus has allowed St. Peter to return from the dead for just an hour simply to tell his story one more time, in the flesh. Now imagine that we’ve been allowed to ask him any thing. Maybe we might ask him why the resurrection was so central in all of his writings. Now let’s allow him to answer that question and tell his story.

“Well, to understand why the resurrection is so important to me, you’d have to remember just who I was before Jesus rose from the dead; you’d have to remember the terrible things that I did.”

“I guess you could say that I was the spokesman for the other disciples. I was with Jesus from the beginning when He called me away from the family fishing business. I dropped everything and followed Him. Oh, how I loved the fact that the Holy Spirit first spoke through me, in order to declare that Jesus was the Christ, the very Son of God. Later, I even bragged that if all of the others left Him, I never would. Then when Jesus really needed me, I the great Peter let Him down! On the night when Jesus was betrayed and arrested, I the strong and dependable Peter denied Jesus three times, and I ran away and hid for fear of loosing my own life, just as Jesus warned I would.”

“Three times—I still feel sick to my stomach when I think about it—three times I the great Peter denied my Lord. I denied Him while He was getting ready to die for my sins. And while he hung there dying, John and the women were there with Him, but I did not have the stomach or the faith to watch it. You see, I had pinned all of my hopes on Jesus, and now He was dead. But even worse, instead of being thankful to God for being a part of Jesus’ life, I felt nothing but bitter shame and a sense that my entire life had been a complete waste of time and an utter failure.”

“But you can imagine how my life changed when the women came back from the tomb with the unbelievable news. Jesus was alive. He’s risen! At first I did not dare believe it, but then they spoke a message from the angels, and it changed everything. They said that Jesus told them to tell the disciples and Peter to meet Him in Galilee. Think about what those Words meant to me—and Peter! At that very moment, every doubt was erased from my worried mind and I not only believed that Jesus had defeated death, but that He truly was my God and my Savior! From that point on I was a changed man, I was forgiven, and the entire world had changed, and for the first time I knew that my eternal future was set and certain.”

At this point we might be tempted to ask Peter what he means, when he says that the entire world had changed, and that he knew that his eternal future was set and certain. Well, let’s let Peter answer us in his own words from verse 4 of our epistle reading: “(Friends, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we have been born again to a living hope) to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for us.” This is a strong declaration of faith; it’s a God given faith that learns to acknowledge our sins of the past, but then by grace, that same gift of faith teaches us to let go of the past and then simply trust in the completed work of Jesus Christ; a completed work that has given us a new identity as one who is “born again” for an eternal life in heaven.

Our sinful flesh fights this truth, as it attempts to set our eyes on anything else other than Christ’s cross and empty tomb.

Isn’t it true that we would rather think about how Peter let Jesus down instead of how we ourselves have abandoned Him time and time again? Isn’t it easier to see the darkness of Peter’s regrets rather than looking at our own darkness? Just as Peter was tempted to go back into his old life of fishing rather than waiting on Jesus, haven’t we also been tempted to go back to our old sinful ways, in fact haven’t we actually done that many times?

And when we go back to our sinful ways, isn’t it true that like Peter, we too have felt that we were letting the best of who we were, that is our relationship with Jesus just slip away through our fingers? Doesn’t it become easier to feed on our failures, that is our sinful weakness rather than repent; turn to Jesus in confession of those failures? Don’t we too, at times feel like Jesus has abandoned us?

When our marriage fails, when our family ties are falling apart, when our financial base has seemingly been destroyed, when addiction rears it’s ugly ahead once again, or when death takes the very one we love the most, aren’t we too tempted to run from God and His Church, or lash out at Him in anger? But then like Peter, we too receive the call to come to the empty tomb, and then everything is changed. Jesus is alive, not dead. Jesus is with us in His Word and Sacraments, He has not left us as orphans. Mankind’s greatest enemies, your greatest enemies, sin, death, and the devil have been defeated and destroyed.

On the cross we see how our enemies were defeated. Jesus died to save sinners, all sinners. He died to take away Peter’s sins, and He died to take away your sins. Upon the cross, the Son of God Himself made full payment for our sins. But in the empty tomb, we see how the power of our enemies has forever been removed from our lives. The empty tomb proves to us who have been saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, that when we were washed clean in the waters of our baptism, the empty tomb is also our reality. In our baptism Jesus resurrection becomes our resurrection. Death has been defeated and the dark wall that divides this life from our eternal life has been penetrated. Or, as St. Peter puts it in verses 4 and 5…

Our eternal destiny has been assured (as) “an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for (us who have been baptized), (and) by God’s power (we) are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” What these Words declare to us is simply this, no lie of the devil and no attacks from this sinful world can jeopardize our salvation and our eternal home with Jesus, because nothing can put Jesus back into the grave and nothing can undo what God has done for you upon the cross and within the waters of your baptism. No enemy can cheat you out of your inheritance; it can’t be stolen or destroyed. It is being kept for you by the fact that Christ has risen!

Now we could end our message right here and most of us would go home happy and at peace, but some of us would not. Some of us still have questions. And I believe that the primary question that holds us back in sorrow and prevents us to leave in joy is this: “If Christ’s resurrection makes such a difference in our lives, and since the future holds such glory, and since Christ has overcome all of His enemies, then why is there so much suffering in this world? Why is there so much suffering in “MY” world?” Now to this question, let’s let St. Peter answer once again in verse 6 from our Epistle lesson…

“Yes it is true, we still experience pain and sorrow just as every other person does in this world, but for we Christians, these experiences are only temporary.”

“And while we go through these things, we keep rejoicing in the hope of our inheritance because the Holy Spirit reminds us that “though now for a little while we may have to suffer various trials, (this is necessary so) that the genuineness of our faith, which is more precious than gold (may become evident to all), a faith, which though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

You see friends, Jesus is not only with you, through the Holy Spirit He is working in you. He is working to transform you everyday into what you will be for eternity, holy, perfect, and righteous. He is transforming your character. And like old Job, we may at times be asked to go through some times of testing so that others can see our faith in Jesus and the transforming power of the cross and the empty tomb. As Jesus allows us to enter into these times of testing He is also calling the attention of others to notice how we handle these times, but also how God brings us through them. And as we pass through these times, we prove to others that our love for God is not fleeting and we are not fair weathered friends of Jesus Christ, but we have been transformed forever unto eternal life.

The resurrection tells us that suffering, our suffering is only temporary. We can make it through those periods, because we are not alone. We can pass through it and not let it destroy us or take away our faith in Jesus Christ. Even if the suffering drives us to the very door of death, we know for certain that beyond that door our risen Lord Jesus Christ is waiting to receive us. We who have been baptized into the cross and empty tomb of Jesus, have been baptized into His death and into His resurrection. We who trust Him may loose a skirmish sometimes, that is we may fall into temptation and sin, but we are not defeated, because Jesus has won the war. Jesus’ resurrection tells us that suffering can never have the last word for those of us who belong to Him.

As we close our message this morning, I think that we should address one more challenge to living out our lives as baptized Christians, and it is this. We can read our Bibles, especially the stories about St. Peter and the others that were in Jesus’ inner circle and think, “I wish that I could have known Jesus and learned to love Him like they did.” And to that, I believe that St. Peter would say… “What do you mean youmwish?! You can. That’s the point of the resurrection. He lives now as certainly and as personally as He did then. You see Him by faith, which is the most precious gift of God that you could ever receive. Through the Word of God, all of it “has been written so that you would believe that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God” by faith. Listen friend, your vision of Jesus is more precious than mine. I believed in Him because He allowed me to be with Him for three years; He allowed me to touch, handle and eat with Him after His resurrection. But you believe because of the awesome power of God that has filled you through His supernatural gift of faith. “Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”

Dear friends, the resurrection of Jesus is the gospel.

It’s the gospel because He assures you that soon enough you to will follow Him and rise from the dead. Your own resurrection will be like Jesus resurrection in that it will be the final act of God upon your old flesh which proves, that God loves you so much that He has done everything that needs to be done to save you. It’s no wonder that Peter declared, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The resurrection meant to him that we had a sure inheritance, encouragement in suffering, and the joy of constant friendship with our Savior, Jesus Christ.

For Peter the resurrection was an historical fact. He was there when it happened and it changed the history of sinful men and women. Christ is risen… that is history. Christ is risen for you… that is your part in history in the making that only you can witness to. Now go out and tell anyone who will listen this gospel message that includes them too… AMEN!

Kingdom, Power, and Glory!

April 16th, 2017

Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor of
Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA

http://www.tlcsd.org and
Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
Http://www.ORLCSD.org

Click here for audio of the message

For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” [Col. 3:3]

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! What a wonderful announcement for this sinful world to hear! We know why it is wonderful; we know why
it is good news; it is wonderful and good because through the work of Jesus Christ, God has defeated our archenemies, sin, death, and the devil! But to this unbelieving world what we call good and wonderful, they call foolish and a waste of time! They dismiss what we hold precious, the death, resurrection, and glorification of our Savior, and in its place they put the easter bunny and earth day?

We started what we call Holy Week with Palm Sunday.

On that day we recall the cheers of the jubilant crowd welcoming their King, our King with Hosannas and blessings to the one who comes in the name of our God! I wonder what our society would chant if Jesus came in our midst today? Maybe His handlers would have Him coming in waving to the crowd, kissing babies and pressing the flesh to that Frank Sinatra song, “The Best is Yet to Come.”

Yes, once again this consumer driven world we live in takes what we hold dearest, the very thing we need, and tramples it under their feet, replacing it with things we want! Why is that? Because dear friends, to get to Easter, to get to God’s Kingdom, Power, and Glory, you must pass through Good Friday, pain, suffering, and death! They can’t understand how God’s kingdom can come in such a low manner as that; they will never accept that idea until they have let go of their own idea of kingdom, power, and glory. That was the problem with the people of Jesus time and it is still the problem with our world today! In order to get to God they must first see and address their sins, and that is what Holy week and Easter Sunday are all about!

In Christ battle with sin, death, and the devil, Jesus appeared to be a victim. He was put to death as a criminal. He ruled as a King from a cross, with a crown of thorns and the broken scepter of a reed. “What kind of a king is this” a sinful world asks? Yes, He was a victim, but He was a victim in our place. Only by taking on the role of victim could be become the victor! Yes He was the one who was put to death for sinners, but He is also the one Who was raised to give those same sinners, you and me the righteousness of God! Yes they mocked him as a king with a crown of thorns, but He was a different kind of king than they were expecting. His central concern was the truth; a truth that He both proclaimed and fulfilled! But why? So that God’s kingdom, power, and glory would come among us and replace our own sinful ideas of kingdom, power, and glory! Through death upon the cross, Jesus leads His subjects of His kingdom from the cross through death into the exaltation of the royal triumph of the empty tomb.

But in order to get to the empty tomb; in order to experience the triumph of the resurrection, you must pass through the dark valley of death; death that is always the result of sin, our sins! This is the truth that the women on Easter morning discovered first, and then the apostles and disciples after them!

“Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb.” [Matthew 28:1]

Dear friends this was no ordinary morning for the women in Jesus inner circle; no they weren’t on their way to the market to buy what they needed for breakfast; they were on their way to finish burying their King! Jesus who they were certain was the Messiah; a king who would live forever was now dead! All of their hopes and dreams seemed to be sealed away in that tomb with the body of Jesus! He was buried so quickly on Friday evening because the Sabbath was soon to start at sundown; and every good Jew knew that you couldn’t do any work on the Sabbath; not even burying your king! Well the Sabbath is over; the sun is now rising and it is a new day… Sunday to be exact. So off they went to finish the work that was started on Friday. Not only must they enter deeper into the dark valley of death, but they must smell and experience the decay of Him who they thought would not, no could not die!

Now, they arrive at the tomb of their king, “And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men.” [Matt. 28:2-4] Dear friends, don’t miss the significance of the earthquake! It is the same quaking that came after Jesus was put to death! It’s God’s expression of power after He confronts the evil plans of devils and men; plans that seek to replace His Kingdom, Power, and Glory with their own kingdom, power, and glory! The guards at the tomb knew that this was the power of God! Why else would they fall like dead men and shake like frightened children? What else can you do when you are an unrepentant sinner confronted by an angel of the Lord?

The women, no doubt were afraid as well. They were well within the deep, dark valley of death, but now they’ve encountered the unexplainable light of the Living God! “But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, (just) as he said (He would do). Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead!” [Matt. 28:5-7a] And there you have a perfect picture of God’s kingdom, glory, and power vs. the world’s kingdom, glory, and power! What the world meant for evil God turned into good! “They put (Jesus) to death by hanging Him on a tree, but God raised Him on the third day and MADE HIM TO APPEAR! [Acts 10:39b, 40]

“So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.” [Matt. 28:8-10]

 

He is risen!  Glory be to God on high… Jesus is risen indeed!

And what a greeting He gives to these wonderful Christian women! It is a shame that our translators chose such a boring word as “Greetings” to put in the mouth of Jesus. A more accurate translation of Jesus greeting is “Happiness and joy in their fullness are yours!” Amen and amen Jesus! You are alive! You are the living God; even death and the grave have no power over you! Your kingdom is not only greater than the devil and sinful men, but your power and glory can never be defeated or replaced! It’s no wonder that the women fell down and worshiped Him! But Jesus has something to tell them, and through them He also speaks to us. Listen: “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.” [vs. 10]

Do not be afraid! Behold I have made all things new; I have defeated my enemies and I have brought you back into my Father’s Kingdom of power and glory! Now go and tell my brothers, those who have believed my Word; those who were heavily burdened by sin and fear; those who turned to me for rest. Tell them I am alive and just as I promised I will never leave nor forsake them!

Dear friends, do not miss that wonderful description that Jesus uses to describe His apostles and disciples. He calls them brothers! Those who deserted Him at the cross out of fear; Peter who denied Him three times; we who have chased after the kingdom, power, and glory of this sinful world, Jesus calls brothers! With this simple word, Jesus brings all of His disciples, even you and me deep into His heart as His most dearest and closest relatives. In this one word, Jesus gives us all of His forgiving love and at the same time He also gives us the highest honor we could ever receive. If Jesus is our brother, what more could we ever need? Brothers in the flesh possess everything together; they have one Father and one inheritance. So we have a common possession of everything that belongs to Christ! And what is that possession? It is the Kingdom, Power, and Glory of God! All of this is what Jesus gained on that great resurrection day for Himself, but He has also given it to you!

You are Christ’s brothers and sisters because He has freed you from your sins and the kingdom of the devil! In His resurrection, Jesus defeated all of these things and now He invites you to rest in this truth. Jesus entered into death in order to triumph over it and reclaim you as His brother. His resurrection causes you who trust in this work to rest in it and remain steadfast, immovable, and always abounding in joy because of the completed work of Jesus Christ! As He gives you the fruits of His resurrection through your baptism, you are now walking and growing in a new life that He has created for you! In this new life, He stands alongside of you as you struggle against your enemy the devil, and your old sinful flesh. But you must never become discouraged, because you have been raised with Christ from the dead in your baptism, but more than that, you have been hidden away with Him. And because you are hidden, the devil and the sinful world can’t see what you see by faith, so they laugh at you and they attack you trying to move you into the same place they exist… fear and doubt! Oh let them rage on all they like; they can’t harm you because you are not only protected from them, you are hidden away, out of their reach!

Christ, who was their victim is now your Victor, and He has come back from the grave for you. You are His most prized possession and He delivers you to His Father into a Kingdom of Power and Glory! Yes friends, Christ has risen… He has risen indeed!