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!

Do You Really Want to See Jesus?


April 10th, 2017

Palm Sunday, April 9 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

Text: “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” [John 12:21]

This is the request that the Greeks presented to Phillip, and I think it is the request that many people still ask of God today. It’s as if they are really saying, “I want to believe in Jesus as Savior, as my Savior, if only He would prove that He’s a Savior to me.” Well, at any rate, that was the last we heard from the Greeks. I would like to think that after the request was made to Jesus, and after His almost strange response to that request as delivered in His Sermon to the people who were gathered in the temple that He eventually met with them. And the answer He must have given to them privately, probably was not much different than the content of His Sermon.

The Savior the Greeks sought and the Savior many still seek today is not the kind of Savior Jesus really is, because Jesus is a suffering Savior Who calls His disciples to follow in His foot steps.

Jesus makes it clear that the jubilant joy of the Hosannas that were still ringing in the people’s ears, was not the glory that He was riding into the city to receive. You see, Jesus had long ago set His face towards the cross; a cross of suffering and pain that awaited Him on Good Friday.

It was Good Friday that would be “the hour for the Son of man to be glorified.” It was in His passion where Jesus would accomplish something glorious. It was His passion that would bring on both His resurrection and His return to paradise. It was through His passion that believers throughout time would also finally be assured that there is a place for them in God’s restored paradise.

Jesus was glorified by the obedience he rendered to the Father even unto the death of the cross, and in His death, He also achieved redemption for the fallen world; He was glorified when the Father highly exalted him, giving him a name above every name and seating Him at his right hand; He was and is glorified in the work of the Holy Spirit as He leads thousands to the feet of the Savior. Jesus’ glory begins with His passion—Jesus sees how from his passion and his death a magnificent vista opens, reaching onward through the ages into all eternity, and it is one shining path of glory.

With solemn assurance Jesus depicts the truth of what this great “hour” brings.

Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

If a grain of wheat is not put into the soil, it will, indeed, not die, but it will then “itself remain alone” and produce nothing. So will the Son of man remain alone if he does not stoop to death on the cross. But if the grain falls into the earth, dies, and is consumed, it brings much fruit. And this is exactly what the Son of man, God’s incarnate Son will accomplish through His death.

Jesus is like the grain of wheat which by dying produces much fruit, that is, it makes many thousands upon thousands of children of God. Now these true Christians are all like Jesus in that they do not selfishly love their own lives and this sinful world more than God and His Heaven.

Jesus is now teaching that the act of a Christian who by faith is willing to give up control of His life to God is a person who understands the passion of the Christ. But a person who is so attached to their life, with all of its happiness and its treasures, will ultimately see it all slip away and disappear.

To stress this truth, Jesus adds that conversely, a person “in this world” who hates his life of sin, and wants it defeated once and for all, is a person who’s ready to go against it and allow that old self to be denied, crucified and put to death. This is what it means to see Jesus and to follow Him.

But there is a great difference between the divine Grain of Wheat’s death which gives us life, and our own dying to self. We are the “much fruit,” that is produced in Jesus passion and our new life, which is always dying and forever germinated in Jesus’ Word and sacraments. It is only through Jesus’ suffering that sinners such as us can be saved, and through His death produce the church of believing children of God. All that we can do—and that only by his grace not of ourselves—is to use our earthly and natural life so as to gain for ourselves the life eternal. He alone is the Savior, we are nothing but the saved. He needed no salvation; we cannot save even our own selves.

So what the Greeks and all other sinners in search for a Savior must understand is that the salvation Jesus offers and the way He offers it is never what the world expects. If they and we will receive this truth, Jesus says, “Let (them) follow me.” Did the Greeks and the pilgrims on Palm Sunday understand what a high privilege Jesus offered and is still offering in the invitation to follow Him?

If you were in Jerusalem the day Jesus rode into town, humbly seated upon a donkey, do you think you would have gone after Him; made your way out to see him knowing what kind of Savior He is and the kind of salvation He was offering?

I think that you probably would have, aside from the truth that Jesus fame was spreading quickly due to the news that Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead, the very invitation to follow Jesus was powered by the same Holy Spirit that brought you into Christ’s church today. You are searching after the very same thing that some we’re seeking on that first Palm Sunday, salvation.

Hosanna literally means, “Save Us!” Do you need saving? Do you see Jesus as someone who can save you? Now, if you say you see Jesus as someone who could save you, the next question sets the stage for further investigation into who you think Jesus was and is. Are you ready? What would you want Jesus to save you from? I mean the choices are numerous. Should he save you from a bad marriage, addiction, unemployment, poverty, sickness, or a corrupt government? Or do you see Him as who He says that He is, very God in human flesh? Another way to ask this is, do you see Him as a kind of Messiah who will make all things right and good now, in this world, or is He your Messiah who makes all things well with you and your Creator for all of eternity?

Would you still be a sinner shouting Hosanna after discovering that Jesus is a suffering Savior who comes not to bring freedom from life’s woes and tragedies, but a Savior who comes to bring eternal life and peace with God. If you knew this in advance would you be more prone to shout Hosanna or “Crucify Him!”

Those were the words that a similar crowd shouted just a few days after Palm Sunday. Instead of saying “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel,” they said, “We have no king but Caesar!” They are the ones who complained that the whole world had gone after, and were following Jesus. They were the ones who were incensed that Jesus had turned over the market tables within the Lord’s Temple and called them a brood of vipers and accused them of turning the House of Prayer into a den of thieves!

They are the ones that continually came to Jesus for the miracles, but then walked away from Him when He demanded that they acknowledge Him as the Son of God. They are the ones that flocked to see the sight of the blind restored, the lepers cured, the multitude fed, and the dead raised, but when He offered forgiveness of sins, they rightly said that no one could forgive sins but God, and then, they picked up stones to kill Him for being a blasphemer.

To those people then and many today, Jesus was acceptable as a good man, a wise man, a wonderful teacher, but they were certain that He never should be called God and worshiped in a way that excluded all other ways of being a good in a religious sense. People then and today will gladly hear a message preached about the good Samaritan, and then agree with you that we should all demonstrate brotherly love through tolerance, but when you tell them that only Jesus can ever be the “Good Samaritan” and that outside of Jesus’ work for sinners, we can never know peace with God and our neighbor, they will call you an intolerant zealot.

Now let’s look at the people in the crowd that shouted Hosanna.

Do you think that they really wanted the kind of Savior that Jesus said He was? Did they even understand who Jesus really was? Maybe not, but they did know that before Jesus came into their lives, it seemed that if God was not dead, He was at least silent in their lives. The cruelty of the Roman government was getting more severe everyday; hunger and poverty were rampant to the point that there seemed to be only two groups of people, the very rich and the very poor. Sickness and death seemed to be the only reward for the average person, and then along comes Jesus. He was teaching with authority about a God who wasn’t angry with their sins as much as He was saddened by them. He was presenting a God Who wasn’t so much a punishing God as He was a forgiving God for those who turned to Him in repentance for mercy. He no longer was simply the God of their Fathers, but Emmanuel, a God who was with them right now, in what ever they were going through.

While Jesus taught in ways that caused the religious zealots to be angry, those who really listened to Him teach, felt shame over their sins, but then they experienced comfort and hope when Jesus proclaimed God’s forgiveness. In essence they were changed. They saw past the miracles and saw the man, who was much more than a man or a teacher. Could it be that what Jesus said is true? Is He really the God-man, the Son of God? While their faith was weak, and they were not quite sure what to make of Jesus, one thing was certain, they knew that He was sent by God; God was no longer silent in their lives, because in Jesus’ Words, God was right there with them.

So where do you stand within these two groups? Isn’t it true that in each of us, God can find a mindset that on some days may yell both “Crucify Him” and “Hosanna” within the same day? Don’t we many times, say one thing and then do another? Don’t we enjoy God’s forgiveness and the forgiveness of our neighbor and then quickly refuse forgiveness to another, or at least withhold it until they feel our pain? Haven’t each of us been guilty of ignoring our need to worship God at His Church, or perhaps the opposite, when we have put the practice of our religion ahead of the demonstration of our faith? Does it not become an easy thing for us to justify our own sins, but at the same time amplifying the sins of our neighbor?

So what shall we do? And to answer that question, we turn to the Words of St. Paul in our Epistle lesson (Philippians 2:5-11), who says…

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus”.

What mind? Well, the mind of faith; a mind that is first led by faith and then rational thought. A mind that is part of a life that has been renewed in Holy Baptism and is sanctified every day by the Word of God. A mind that sees Jesus on the colt of a donkey and remembers that the prophet Zechariah spoke about this moment, long before it occurred through these Words: “(Fear not, that is) rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, humble, and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”

This is the Word of God that allows you to receive both the truth and the will of God. It is a mind of faith that is able to see God as both righteous and forgiving; a mind that sees Jesus as both fully God and fully man. This is the kind of mind that understands that when the Son of God came to us sinners, He came to provide for our salvation; that is, He knew that He was coming to die for us. Even as He rode in on Palm Sunday and one group chanted Hosanna, He knew that another group was plotting to kill Him, and very soon would shout, “Crucify Him!” But here is the wonderful mystery that is hard but essential for us to understand… Jesus came to die for both groups; He came to die for sinners and saints, and He came to die for you!

In our Psalm this morning, we heard that Jesus is the gate of the LORD, and that He is the answer to our prayers for salvation, that is forgiveness for our sins. But, He is also the capstone of that gate, which the self-righteous and self sufficient people rejected then and reject still today. But how do they reject Him? When they refuse to repent of their independent ways and refuse to see Jesus as who He is. And who is he? He is God and there is none other. Outside of Jesus, there is no salvation; He is the only way to eternal life. He is the one who by taking on our flesh, that is by humbling Himself, became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

These are the people who reject God; they reject Jesus as God who not only died for sinners, but he died for them. Here then, is the gospel message for this morning; a message for all people, saints and sinners, rich and poor alike: Jesus died for you! While He rode in on that donkey, He had both the cross and your salvation on His heart.

This week, we will gather on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday to honor God and highly exalt our Savior, Jesus Christ. We will look deeply into His passion for sinners such as us, and we will allow both His Word and His real presence to transform our sinful minds. We will experience real truth, such as we have experience this morning. Real truth that exposes both our love for Him but also our sin that still clings to us. He alone will teach us His truth, and He alone will comfort our fears. And then on Easter morning, we will greet our Savior Jesus Christ, whom God has highly exalted, and we will proclaim the truth of that name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” AMEN

Walking and Dying With Jesus

April 3rd, 2017

The Fifth Sunday in Lent (A), April 2, 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.

“So Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” [John 11:16]

When we hear Thomas’ words about dying, they are really God’s Words about dying. These Words are first to be taken spiritually that is, they are meant to first point our eyes of faith to a spiritual death, but then they force us to consider our physical death. They are Words that first bring a spiritual renewal and then the long promised physical resurrection, a resurrection from death. Do you think that Thomas was thinking about any of this when he said, “Let’s also go (with Jesus), (so) that we may die with him”? No, I think that these were the words of a pessimist; words of frustration that each of us can identify with. It’s as if they were saying, “Well, all of our hopes and dreams have been shattered, so there is nothing else to do but follow Jesus and die.” In those sentiments, I hear a spark of faith that moves their hearts to believe that if Jesus is leading them, some how, some way, everything would turn out alright. A spark of faith that would latter be revealed in the words of Martha and Mary when Jesus finally arrived in Bethany, a full four days after Lazarus had died: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.”

In our Old Testament reading (Ezekiel 37:1–14), we see something similar happening.

The prophet Ezekiel, who is living in exile in Babylon with his fellow Jews, is taken up in the spirit by the very hand of God and shown a vast valley of dead, dry bones. And (the Lord) asked him, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And (Ezekiel) answered, “O Lord God, you know.” Now let’s make sure that we remember those Words. The Lord knows. He knows what the outcome will be when we follow Jesus to what appears to be certain death, and He knows what the outcome will be in our lives when everything around us is telling us that living the life, or dying the death of a Christian should not have this much trouble, this much fear, this much worry. He knows, and because He knows, because He loves you and calls you to follow Him, we know that in the end everything will be well for our souls and our eternal life with Jesus.

Have you ever been so depressed that you just didn’t even feel like waking up in the morning? Some times it may be so bad that you don’t want to see anyone or talk to anyone. Even the Word of God seems to offer little help; well at least that’s what you tell yourself, when the truth is, the Word of God is the only thing that will do you any good; specifically that part of the Word that promises new life in a situation that seems completely hopeless and dead. And that is what God was speaking to Ezekiel and all of his fellow countrymen who were being held captive there in Babylon. Babylon was a place that seemed hopeless for the nation of Israel; they appeared to be dead as a people. But then God asked a question that was meant to test their faith and then cause it to grow. And where faith is alive and growing there is life and there is hope. “Son of man, can these bones live?” And to this, the weak voice of faith, like that of Thomas and perhaps like ours says, “O Lord GOD, you know.”

Do you hear the weak faith? Oh yes, it’s small, the size of a mustard seed I’d say, but it’s the kind of faith that let’s go of all hope that may come from within you or from this fallen world, and instead it simply chooses to trust only in someone greater and outside of itself and this world. It is the kind of faith that will cause our depressed hearts to take notice, and allow our unwilling ears to listen for at least a bit of “good news.”

Then (God) said to (Ezekiel), “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the Lord.” [Ezekiel 37:4-6)] What was God showing Ezekiel? This is an important question, because God is always consistent, so what He is showing Ezekiel, He is showing us. In other words, He is demonstrating something the church, you and I, should know right now, today!

What God was showing Ezekiel and what He is showing us today, is that the Lord who promised to bring life to dead bones in the vision is simply doing the very same thing He did long ago in the garden of Eden… He is Creating life: “Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. [Genesis 1:26] The LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostril the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” [Genesis 2:7]

Where does our hope of life come from?

Hope of a future, hope of life always comes from the very Word of God and the very breath of God.

But the Word must be spoken; it must be declared with the wind, Spirit, and power of God, that is it must have the breath of life behind it. “So” Ezekiel in obedience to the Word, speaks the Word “as (he) was commanded. And as (he) prophesied, there was a sound, and behold, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. And (he) looked, and behold, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them. But there was no breath in them. Then (God) said to (him), “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.” So (Ezekiel) prophesied as he (was) commanded, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army. [Ezekiel 37:7–10]

At the Lord’s command, Ezekiel prophesied to lifeless bones, and a miracle happened. There was a rattling noise as bone came together with bone. To Ezekiel the valley seemed no longer to be full of disconnected bones but of skeletons. God’s miracle continued, “Tendons and flesh appeared on them.” Now the valley resembled a battlefield littered with corpses. But God’s miracle was still not over. At God’s command Ezekiel continued to prophesy, and breath entered that army of corpses, and they came to life and stood up. Through a vision Ezekiel saw how God would re-create his people now apparently hopelessly lost in Babylon.

Ezekiel carried out his orders and the Lord kept his promise. He did not want to speak, I’m sure, and neither did the Jews want to listen; they were depressed and simply waiting to die. But, when God speaks, His Words carry the mighty life giving power of His Spirit. When He speaks, even the dead in their graves must listen and respond. When a corpse, even one with out ears, or one where all of the atoms have been scattered to who knows where is spoken to, they must listen, and they must respond!

This ought to be a description of our lives. When we are so depressed that even the chirping of the birds and our neighbors laughter and joy cause nothing but irritation and even anger, we have no choice but to listen and respond, as God speaks. As we are carried away by the power of the Lord’s Spirit, we have no choice but to carry out the Lord’s orders, and then watch as the Lord carries out his promises of life within us.

Dear friends, it is the knowledge that we are doing the Lord’s will in our lives that will take away the boredom, drudgery, and even the depression we find in life; it is what brings life to dead and dry bones.

It is this very knowledge when received by faith, that will transform our lives. When we realize that since our baptism we have been brought to death with Christ, but then raised to a new and eternal life with Him, that we are not just working for a paycheck, but we are serving our risen LORD and God, who through that paycheck is supporting our families, then that transformation is displayed in God’s power. This is the power of new life.

It is God’s power that teaches us that we are not just studying to get a passing grade in school, but we are instead using our minds to the best we can, because our Lord has called us to be good stewards, or managers of our intellects. It teaches us that we are not just taking care of the kids or grandkids, but we are shaping their souls as God’s own children, and teaching them about Jesus by the way we talk and act.

And through this power of God, we demonstrate God’s power even when we feel depressed and alone, because we know that behind every thing we do is the promise of God, that says “all things work together for good, for those who are called according to God’s purpose.” [Romans 8:28] And the Lord keeps his promises, just as he did when Ezekiel preached to those dry bones as he was instructed to.

This morning, just as Ezekiel was obedient to the call of God to prophesy, that is to preach the Word of God so that life could come amongst those who felt as good as dead, I too am called to preach the same message of life and renewal. It has been a long period of Lent, and we are tired, but our travels are not yet complete. We must continue to follow Jesus and learn to die with Him, so that we will live with Him.

So hear these last words:

“Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are indeed cut off.’ Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the Lord.” [Ezekiel 37:11-14]

This morning, some of us may be distracted by tragedy or loss in our lives. Maybe it is the loss of a loved one through death, or the sting of betrayal, or the fatigue and frustration of sickness or old age. Perhaps it is the loss of a job or the lack of one for a long period of time. And maybe, like Martha we have spoken similar words of pain and disappointment to our Lord: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” ‘If you had been with me, I would not be suffering this loss in my life.’ And now, the winds from the four corners begin to blow; the power of the spirit of God begins to fan that spark of faith that still lives in you, and along with Martha you are led by faith to proclaim: “But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.”

To Martha, Jesus said, “Your brother will rise again.” And to us, He is saying your hope, and indeed your very joy in life has not left you; I am still with you, and I will never leave nor forsake you.” And as Martha says, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day,” we may say with her, “I know that one day this depression, this sorrow will pass on the last day, when I am in heaven.” And to Martha and to us, Jesus says, “I AM the resurrection and your (joy of) life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.”

Dear baptized, do you believe this? Then your Master calls to you along with Lazarus, in the same power that brought life to the dried bones in Ezekiel’s vision, and He says: “Come out!” Come out with a purpose and a mission. Come out into a world that is dying and share the church’s story of faith; share your story. Tell others how God has saved you and is saving you. Tell them that how even in the midst of tragedy and disappointment, He is still with you.

Holy week is fast approaching and what a wonderful opportunity it is for us to invite our neighbors, family, friends, and coworkers to come and experience the wind of God that brings life to dead and dried up bones. You can start by inviting them to Palm Sunday, where they will experience the pomp and majesty of our Savior as He rides into Jerusalem upon a donkey, surrounded by the chants “Hosanna,” and knowing full well that be was about to die a criminals death for all sinners. And then, you can invite them to experience the nurturing power of God that was served to the apostles and now you, as we celebrate the last supper of our Lord on Maundy Thursday at Our Redeemer Lutheran Church. Then as you leave on Thursday night, invite them to come with you again to Trinity Lutheran Church on Good Friday and experience the passion of our Lord, as He suffered and died for every person that will ever live, even for them. And finally, make sure you invite them to experience the source of our joy, the resurrection of our Lord on Easter morning. The very exclamation point in God’s Word that assures all of us that one day soon, Jesus will make good on the vision given to Ezekiel, that all those who have fallen asleep in death will rise again in eternal life. AMEN!

On Light and Darkness


March 27th, 2017

The Fourth Sunday in Lent (A), March 26, 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

“Awake, O sleeper and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” So says the final words of our epistle lesson this morning (Ephesians 5:8-14). But what do these words really mean? Are we to think of our faith, our very salvation as nothing more than an alarm clock that rudely awakens us from a pleasant dream, leaving us the choice to either get up and walk the rest of our lives by faith with Christ, or simply hit the snooze button and drift off back to pleasant dreams? Well, yes; that is if you feel separated from God because of the shameful things you’re doing and never repented of, or if you’ve always felt that being baptized or living out your baptism is either a childhood fantasy or a complete waste of your time, then yes quite frankly, this alarm is for you. “Awake, O sleeper and (get up) from the dead, and (then) Christ will shine on you!”

In our gospel lesson this morning Jesus leaves us with some ominous words. Listen: “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” [John 9:39]

Now some of you may be confused; you may see Jesus only as the great Savior of the world. You may want to quote our gospel from two weeks ago and remind me that God loves the world so much that He gave His only Son Jesus so that who so ever believes in Him won’t perish, but have everlasting life. You’ll also no doubt, remind me that God didn’t come into this world to condemn it but to save it. [Jn. 3:16] Now if you told me all of this, I would agree with you, but I would also add that Jesus came to save a sinful world! So, what difference does that make? Well, you have to first admit that you are part of that “sinful” world that Jesus came to save! In other words, you have to first admit that you need saving; that you have sin that you can’t deal with on your own and you need a Savior; you need God’s help… you need His means of salvation! And this was exactly what we learned in our gospel reading this morning.

Consider this, a man blind from birth. He is a Jew and he has probably followed the true religion of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob all of his life. He comes from a good Jewish family with a mother and father who love him, pity him, because of his blindness, and they care for him as best that they can. If you were this blind man you would have long ago accepted that this was your eternal lot in life. Are you angry with people who treat you as less than a man? Maybe! Do you get angry with your parents because they still at times treat you like a child? Perhaps. Are you angry with God for allowing you to be born like this… probably so. And what do you do with all of this disappointment and anger? Well you do what everyone else does, you go to temple and you pay the prescribed sin offerings and then just hope that God will somehow find room for you in His heaven.

But one day you meet a man who speaks truthfully to you; he doesn’t talk down to you, but with you. He tells you that God is real and He knows precisely why you are blind. And then He lays hands on you, he comforts you, sends you to a pool in the temple to wash something off of your eyes that He just applied and… praise God from whom all blessings flow, you can see for the first time in your life! What would you do then? Well again, the rules of worship say you should go show yourself to the religious officials so that God can be praised. Well, you do that and they just belittle you just as they did when you were blind. Even your parents refuse to offer comfort and support; they tell you that you’re and adult and you should work it out on your own with the temple officials. So much for life being better if you could see! Now what? Are you angry with the people in the temple? Probably. Are you angry with your parents? Most likely. Are you still angry with God? Yes, maybe more so than when you were blind! Now what do you do? Well…. Nothing!

You see, this has never been about what you do, instead it is about what God does; it always has been. In our gospel lesson what did Jesus do after restoring the man’s vision? He went to the man who was blind. Because, you see there was still more to the work that God was doing for the man. Restoring his physical vision was just a way to wake him up from his sleep. Now Jesus must do the true work of God; He must speak the gospel to him.

“Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man (that is the Messiah)?” (And the man who was blind at birth but now sees) answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe?”

Even though this man was confused about a lot of things and disappointed by a lot of people, He knew for certain that this man Jesus, who spoke truthfully and lovingly to him, who gave him something he thought he would never have this side of heaven was one man that he trusted. So he was willing to go and believe in anyone that Jesus pointed out as being His Savior. And Jesus said to him, “You have seen Him, and it is he who is speaking to you.” Now it all made sense; now he understood why this man’s voice was so comforting and yet so authoritative. So he said, “LORD! I believe,” and he worshiped him.” [Jn. 9:35-38]

He worshiped Him! That means that He saw first who Jesus was and second, he saw the gospel truth in Jesus Words; he was saved! “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you!” Did you know that those words written by St. Paul were actually taken from an early church hymn. I suppose it’s possible that they could even have even been written by this man or someone from his time. They explain a lot about the gospel call that Jesus gave not just to that man born blind but to everyone who witnessed it and who reads about it today. If that hymn describes the call of God before the man received Jesus as his savior, then this hymn describes the song of his life afterwards and even our lives now. Listen: “I want to walk as a child of the light. I want to follow Jesus. God set the stars to give light to the world. The star of my life is Jesus! In Him there is no darkness at all. The night and the day are both alike. The Lamb is the light of the city of God. Shine in my heart, Lord Jesus!” [LSB 411 vs. 1]

The story’s told about a man who became blind at the age of ten. He came from a wealthy family, and they spared no expense in finding a medical way to restore their son’s eyesight, but nothing worked. The boy grew to be a man, and he was resolved to the fact that he would always be blind, so life went on for the blind man. He did as all men do, seeing or blind, he worked and provided for a future. One day part of his future began to take shape. He met the love of his life. The two were engaged to be wed and they set the date. Several months before the wedding, the man was called into his doctor’s office and told that there was now a surgical procedure that could restore his eyesight. The man was excited but also nervous; you see it had been 20 years since he saw nothing but darkness. Well after a moment of prayer, he of course agreed to have the surgery. The man informed his doctor that he would be married in 6 weeks, so he asked if he would be able to see his wife on his wedding day. The doctor assured him that the healing process would be complete by then and the bandages could be removed. On the day before the wedding, the doctor called the man into his office to remove the bandages, but the man refused instead, he asked the doctor to come to his wedding and take off the bandages at the altar. He said that the first image he wanted to see was that of his lovely bride standing before the altar of the Lord, so that he could marvel at her beauty and praise God at the same time.

Dear friends, if you see and know Jesus as your Lord and Savior; if you see Him as both God and man; if you see him as your only means of pleasing God; and if you see all of this because God’s Word has both healed you and saved you then you are like the blind man in our gospel reading and like the blind man in my story.

By God’s grace and through the eyes of faith that He has opened with His Word, you see the brightness of God in Jesus Christ; you are drawn to this light and you follow it. Jesus is your light that allows you to see not just your sin, but God’s forgiving love that shines from the cross.

You follow this light from the cross to the baptismal font, where you were bathed and washed clean in God’s own light; you were recreated! And from the font it is your desire to follow that light where ever it leads you. And where does it lead you? It leads you out into our community where sin, death, and darkness blind our neighbors. And what are you to do as you follow the light of Jesus? You let it shine! But make no mistake; this light is not your light, not even a little bit! No, it is all God’s light reflecting off of you. As Jesus is your Sun, you are His moon. Your little gospel light is simply a reflection of Jesus wonderful light that is eternal in the city of God. And your prayer as you follow Him is simply this, “Shine in my heart, Lord Jesus. Bring your light into the darkness as I follow you.”

So dear friends, God is calling those of us who once were in darkness, but now have been given eternal life through His gift of spiritual sight to walk as children of light.

What are we to do? We are to gather around His Word and Sacraments and try to discern through the leading of His light what is pleasing to the Lord. We are to be in the world, but not of it; we are to take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose the darkness by our lives that trust and follow Christ’s light. Through the Word of God, our lives are shaped and through that same Word we are shaping our community by exposing the darkness of sin with Christ’s own light. We are to be a reminder, an alarm that shouts into the darkness and this sinful world, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you (too)!” In Jesus name… AMEN!

Jesus Is The Rock Who Cleaves For You!


March 20th, 2017

Lent 3 (A), March 19, 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

IMG_0088“Is the Lord among us or not?” That’s perhaps the most common question both sinners and saints ask the church. Maybe you’ve asked that question before as well? Is He with us or are we simply left on our own to fend for ourselves? So, let’s settle that question right now, this morning.

“Is the Lord among us or not?”

That is the very question the Israelites asked Moses as they grew thirsty in a land of rocks and sand. Did the Lord really lead us out here or was it you, Moses? Did you bring us out here to die of thirst?
Oh how quickly they have forgotten how miraculously powerful the Lord had freed them from slavery in Egypt land! Oh how conveniently they’ve dismissed the Lord’s ever-present cloud by day and pillar by night. Oh how easily they have dismissed the Lord’s continuous care, through the mysterious feeding of the manna and quail.

Who here this morning can blame Moses one bit for crying out to the Lord, “What shall I do with this people?” as they had stones at the ready, just waiting to stone him to death! But the Lord was listening; He was in control; He was more than pleased to show His people once again, that He indeed was with them.

Oh how quickly the Israelites forgot, and oh how quickly we too forget. How easily we too forget or dismiss the proof of our Lord and His presence with us all of these years. Think back, for many not so long ago, where you can truly say that “If it had not been for the Lord, I would have…” well, you can fill in the blank.

The people back then forgot that they were following the God that not only makes the water, but He actually is in, with, and under the water. And so do we. They actually grumbled against their God who provided for their needs through the mask of Moses, and so do we, as we dismiss the majority of the pastor’s words as simply the wisdom of a gifted communicator. When we forget our many blessings that we have received regularly here in this house of worship and outside of this place, we too are forgetting the God who is behind those wonderful gifts.

God was not absent then and He is not absent now; He would not allow His people under the leadership of Moses to live as if there is no God leading them, and He will not allow us to live that way either. God had a plan then, and He still has a plan today. God’s children of faith are to be a light in a world dark with sin. Through the promised Savior God’s plan is to open wide His store-house of blessings and through His children of faith, bless the entire world as well. But nowhere did God ever promise that our trek out of our bondage of sin would be painless and easy. God has promised us nothing in this life except the privilege of experiencing His forgiving love and glory.

In our Old Testament lesson, we read that God had Moses and some of the elders pass before the vast company of the grumbling Israelites, displaying the staff that parted the water, and there in front of those stiff necked people, He directed Moses to strike a certain Rock. Moses did as he was told, and out from the cleft rock came a gush of living and refreshing water!

What kind of rock was this, and just what kind of water was it?

If we will for but a moment, simply dismiss any scientific explanation about the origin of the water, and instead allow God’s Word to explain it’s source, we can then wonderfully see the God who is not only in, with, and under the water, but also the God who is the source of it.

But the source came from the rock, didn’t it?! Yes, that’s right, but again, let’s not put to much effort into understanding the how of the water, but instead let Holy Scripture tell us the Who and the why of it. What scripture is that? How about this information from St. Paul: “I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. [1 Corinthians 10:1–4]

The Savior-God showered His grace on his people Israel by means of this rock in the desert, just as God has blessed us in Christ beyond all that we sinful creatures deserve. “Nevertheless,” Paul continues, “God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered over the desert. These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come. So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall (be careful that you are not by choice, choosing to plant your feet of faith on some other foundation than the Rock of Ages, Jesus Christ)! No temptation has seized you except what is common to all people. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear (that is He will not allow you to fall completely away from the Rock of your salvation). But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it (as you stand upon the Rock)” (verses 5, 11–13).

That way out friends is the Son of God, Jesus Christ Himself who sought you out and found you in your sins, while you were still an unredeemed condemned enemy of God, and He suffered and died for you, by placing you and your wretched condition upon His very existence! Make no mistake, God found you and not the other way around. He alone has cleft for you and incorporated your very existence upon His own.

In your baptism, Jesus came to you through simple water. But how?

Again, like the water from the rock, do not be concerned with the how, but the Who and why of it. Jesus, all of Jesus was and is in the water of your baptism. When I say all of Jesus, I truly mean all of Him. Jesus who was fully man and fully God was there within the font when each of you were baptized. All of “Jesus the man” had to be there, because only real blood can pay for real sins. Only real suffering and finally death can free a sinner from the price of sin. But then again, only all of God can have complete victory over sin, death, and the devil. Only all of God can raise a dead sinner into a living saint.

Ok, to satisfy those of you who still want to know the how behind the water, here it is. God does it through the rock of ages, Jesus Christ, who by the power of the Spirit of God is in, with, and under the water of your Holy Baptism by the power of His Holy Word; a Word that promises salvation; a Word that promises that all of God is always with you! And all of this He does through a living water that is a bath for sinners and a cool and refreshing drink for saints who are struggling to pass through this wilderness of sin.

The bath is needed if we want to be regarded as one of God’s children of faith. It is the only means that He has provided that will truly wash us clean and remove our sins. But it is also the very source of refreshment that will forever quench our thirst for God’s righteous presence and protection in our lives. Holy Water is the very resource that will turn us again and again to our Savior, who declared to the sinful woman at the well, “Whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” [John 4:14]

And yet, how often do we who have been washed clean by this holy bath, refreshed by this living water grumble and complain about God’s way of dealing with us. Oh how easy we forget the God who is in, with, and under the water, and how easy we forget that through Christ, we are never disconnected from God! How easy we forget His plan for us to be His light of forgiving love in a world darkened with sin, so that the world will see the Rock of ages cleft for them too, and know once and for all that there is a God among them!

“Sir,” we must say every day to our Lord, as the Samaritan woman did, “give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty.” [John 4:15] We must say everyday, “Lord, help me live in, with, and under this spiritual water, and protect me when I thirst for other sources of refreshment offered by the devil and this sin-darkened world.”

Dear friends, like the Israelites following God through the leadership of Moses, we too are traveling through a desert of sin. We to will know pain and suffering along our journey. It will be tempting to grumble against God and those who lead us through the proclamation of His Word, but God is not absent in these times of testing; He is not hiding some master plan from you that you know nothing about! The master plan is first and foremost your salvation through the cross of Jesus and the washing of His water and Word. And next, that plan is for you to listen and follow Him out into our community that is dying of thirst. They need to know about the God-man Jesus Christ who knows everything about them, and yet still loves them!

Dear saints, let’s learn from the mistakes of the people of Israel and not allow Satan to draw us into a spirit of grumbling and complaining, which is really a sign of unbelief. Instead, let’s keep our eyes on the Rock of Ages, the Author and Perfecter of our faith Jesus Christ. He is the God who is among us as our Rock and our Living Water; He is the One who has cleaved Himself wide open so that we to may fit within His own body, the church. AMEN!