Archive for January, 2009

Tag…You’re It!

Sunday, January 18th, 2009

Pastor Brian Henderson, Trinity Lutheran Church-San Diego
Click here for audio of this message

INTRODUCTION: In our gospel reading this morning we encounter Philip, a follower of John the Baptist along with His friends who aren’t mentioned in this reading, but who are nonetheless there; there’s John (the author of this gospel), Andrew, Peter, and James, all of whom were fishermen from the same region.  Philip, is about to try his hand for the first time at witnessing to his friend Nathaniel, who was also a follower of John the Baptist.  He’s excited because he really believes that the five have finally encountered the real-deal, the Messiah, the Savior of the world.  There’s just one problem, He’s doesn’t fit the popular image about the Messiah; He’s the son of Joseph a carpenter from of all places…a very small and insignificant region called Nazareth.  “Oh well” thinks Philip, “at least I can use the other four as my back up”.  “Hey Nathaniel, just think of who we’ve found!  Yes I said we, you know the boys and I, John, Andrew, Peter, and James…We found the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth!”  Nathaniel pauses, “Where did you say that He’s from?  Nazareth?  Can anything good come from that place?  Do you really expect the Savior of the World, my Savior to come from a place like that?  Come on Philip, get real!”  Philip pauses for a moment and says the same thing he heard Jesus say to them, “Come and see!”  And guess what….He did!

I. What part do our expectations play in our faith?  Well, Philip had high expectations in Jesus, so he really played up the importance of knowing and following Him as Savior.  Nathaniel had low expectations in Jesus, but His friend persuaded him to at least go and meet Jesus for himself.  The result was the beginning of the church. What do you want out of this morning’s worship service?  What’s the reason you’re here?  What were your expectations when you walked through the doors of this church this morning?  Expectations can be amazing things and they can lead us in ways we never would have imagined.  Hollywood uses expectations to hype their latest “big” movie.  I can’t tell you how many times I have been excited by movie promos and trailers only to be terribly disappointed once I’ve seen the movie.  Unfulfilled expectations seem to be the tragedy of the American way of life.  But with God, that’s never the case.  When our hearts are set on really seeking the Lord and all that He really is, and not just what we think He is, our God will always meet and beat our expectations. 

If you came through the doors of this church this morning expecting to be entertained and made to “feel good” then you will most likely leave here disappointed.  But if you came here this morning fully expecting to meet with Jesus, then you WILL leave here like Nathaniel changed and rearranged.  Like the first six disciples, your encounter with the Son of God and Son of Man will change you because of what you expect to find and because of what you actually find in Jesus.  You see, Jesus is the difference between your expectations and God’s intention for your life. 

So many times, when we enter into worship, prayer, and the study God’s Word, our expectations are way too low.  The first five of six disciples had very high expectations for their encounter with Jesus, but they discovered, even these expectations were still too low.  The sixth disciple, Nathaniel had very low expectations and Jesus changed his whole world by demonstrating knowledge about Him that only God could have, “When you were alone, deep in prayer with your creator, under the fig tree, I was there and saw you!”  Yes in both cases, and in our case, expectations seem to have very little to do with our relationship with Jesus.  Why is this?  Well, God’s Word in Ephesians (3:20) tells us that Jesus is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or even think.  So, let me ask you again—what are you looking for this morning?  Are you looking for a teacher?  Are you looking for meaning?  Are you looking for a Savior?  Nathanial was, and He was not disappointed, in fact He received far more than this!  Are you ready to receive all that Jesus has to give? 

 II. What does Jesus give to us today?  The very same revelation that Jesus gave to Nathaniel, He offers to us this morning!  When Jesus looked into Nathaniel’s heart and he found a sincere man who really wanted to have a lasting relationship of love with God.  He wasn’t a fake, lip service Christian, but rather he was a man who hungered for God, but knew that because of his sinfulness God must be the one to first move towards him, so Jesus did just that, he moved towards Nathaniel.  This is what Jesus wants to give us today!  Sadly, most people in our society lack this simple kind of honesty.  They profess their love for Christ but on their own terms; they still secretly love the world and the sinful desires of their own flesh; they promise faithfulness to Christ on Sunday but Monday through Saturday they would rather live out their social and political ideals instead of their faith!  This is the kind of false love that prevented the Jews from seeing Jesus as their Savior; this is the half-way kind of love that doomed the apostle Judas to hell, and it’s the kind of half love that almost trapped St. Peter.  Even today, we have whole denominations that seem to have embraced this phony half love for God with the mantra of a society that says, “If it feels good do it!  Sex without marriage is alright as long as you love each other” they say; same sex marriage can’t be wrong they say, because God does not make mistakes.  In their minds, Adam and Steve is just as valid as Adam and Eve.  Not only this but, they also demand that those of us who are trying our hardest to live out our simple faith and follow our Lord’s will, accept their sin and call it good.  St. Paul speaks of this duplicit mindset in our epistle reading when he says, “The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14 And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. 15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?… Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” 

Now I know that this kind of faith is called bigotry and hate speak by some; they say that we are being judgmental and cruel, but is this true?  Who’s saying these things and why?  I know one thing for sure; it isn’t the working man and woman talking like this—demanding that others accept their behavior.  No, they’re too busy just trying to make a living in order to support a family; the last thing that they want to know about is what someone else is doing in their own bedroom.  But you see, these hard working people are the very people that Jesus called to follow him in the beginning of the church and they are the same people He calls today.  Jesus walked along the banks of the Jordan and through humble towns and market places, and He selected from the entire nation of Israel only those who pleased Him and who He considered to be best qualified for service in His kingdom. He intentionally avoided the big city lights of Jerusalem with its royal throne and political parties, its residences of the rich and famous. He refrained from calling the religious elite and rulers into His group. He gave the nation’s power players the cold shoulder.  He journeyed through the working class communities, through neighborhoods and market towns, and He selected the working poor like fishermen, carpenters, and good, simple, uncouth bumpkins. The great aristocrats “the Hollywood elite” of the day He left behind in Jerusalem, even though everybody assumed that these were the very people the Messiah would pick first. But Jesus did the opposite; He pursued His own plan and initiated His kingdom on His own terms with such an absurd simplicity that even the simplest of people could understand.

Christ’s only reason for such action was to prevent the high and mighty, the clever, and the powerful people from thinking that they could control access to the kingdom of Heaven and trample the simple God-fearing folk under their foot. To these lowly people, these working poor who simply seek God with all of their heart while raising a family, to these Christ says along with Nathaniel and you, “Behold, you are people of faith indeed, in whom there is no dishonest intent!”  “Truly, truly, I say to you, because you long for me and wait for me, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

III. What is this ascending and descending on the Son of Man?  This ascending and descending towards Jesus is nothing less than heaven itself opened allowing the angels and saints before us to gaze down upon us and allowing us through eyes of faith to gaze upon them.  It is a foretaste of the feast to come.  It is our new reality that we live in because of grace; because we believe by faith that Jesus is our Savior—God in human flesh who came to us to save us.  This is our reality every time we hear God’s Word preached or read; it is our reality because of our baptism into new life; and it is our reality every time we partake of His Holy feast receiving His body and blood in with and under the bread and wine!  Why do we do all of this?  For the forgiveness of sins! 

What does the forgiveness of sins give us?  Complete access, an e-Ticket to heaven!  How do we get this access?  Only by following Jesus Christ—only by responding to the invitation, “Come and see!”  But dear friends, don’t come alone…no this invitation is not just for you but for your children, your family, your friends, your neighbor, and yes even for the self serving politician, religious elite, and power broker.  All are welcome and you are the one that must extend to them the invitation.  So guess what?  Like Phillip and then Nathaniel, “Tag You’re IT!” 

May God continue to grant each of us wisdom, compassion, love, and mercy as we extend His kingdom one invitation at a time to all who will listen.  In Jesus name….  AMEN!  SDG

Steadfast in Christ’s Word!

Sunday, January 4th, 2009

Pastor Brian Henderson, Trinity Lutheran Church-San Diego
Click here for audio of this message

INTRODUCTION: “And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom.  And the favor of God was upon him.” Vs. 40

Does it seem strange to you that God the Son should grow, become strong, and be filled with Wisdom?  This is God, right?  God does not change, right?  Right, but this is also Jesus, son of man, born of the Virgin Mary.  What a mystery, God assumes human flesh and becomes the God Child Jesus Christ, but what does that mean and why is it so?  This morning we will explore these questions and receive some real answers that we can take home with us, but first, let’s go over our gospel lesson again.

I. Tucked away in a small town called Nazareth, is a young couple who started their union out in a way that is not uncommon to many other Christian couples today…they started out joined together by faith in God’s real presence in their lives.  Oh yes they were different, they were special, because they would raise God’s Son, but they were also very similar to us.  They lived in the real world, where a living must be earned, bills must be paid, and Children must be raised. 

Every year, this God fearing and God loving couple did the right thing; they made the long journey from Nazareth to Jerusalem to celebrate the eight day long pass-over festival.  This year was no different, in that they made the trip, but it was different, because their son Jesus had now turned 12 years old.  This was the age in which a Jewish boy became “a son of the law,” and was obligated to learn and to observe all of its provisions.  Well the eight day festival is over, and now it’s time to head back to Nazareth.  Joseph, Mary, and Jesus would return home along with about 100 hundred other families from Nazareth and other nearby villages and towns.  The caravan would be split into 3 groups, the men, the women and children, and then the young boys who often traveled together playing and having fun (yes even then, it wasn’t cool to hang out with your parents).  Parents really didn’t worry much about these young boys though, because they knew that they were somewhere in the traveling company, and back then neighbors were real neighbors and they all kept a watchful eye on each other’s children. 

Well after the first day of travel, as everyone in the caravan was pitching their tents for the evening, Joseph and Mary realized any parent’s worst nightmare, their child was missing!  There would be no rest for them, as they quickly turned around and went back up the hill making the long trek back to Jerusalem to search for Jesus.  Now it would be two days of travel without rest.  Once in the city, the couple began to search feverishly for their boy.  They retraced their steps and went to every place they thought that Jesus might be.  Finally, towards evening, they found Him, sitting on the steps of the temple as a student, engaged in a learning discussion about God’s Word with many teaching Rabbi’s who were also gathered there.  Whew…they were relieved of course but they must have been worn-out and irritated as well, for you see now it had been 3 days without rest.  But they held their temper and didn’t interrupt the discussion taking place between Jesus and all of those teachers.  It amazed them to hear Jesus asking and answering such deep spiritual questions.  The teachers seemed amazed at the boy’s wisdom too.  But now, Jesus seeing His parents, suddenly rises, and He obediently walks over to them.  And His mother says to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? See, your father and I have been searching everywhere for you; we were worried sick over you!” And Jesus who was honestly surprised by this said to them, “You were looking for me? Didn’t you know that I had to be doing my Father’s work?  Didn’t you know that I would be here in my Father’s house?”  And that was it, the dilemma was over!  Jesus and His family certainly got some rest, and then together they began the long trek back home to Nazareth.  Mary and Joseph didn’t understand, but they knew that Jesus was a good boy, and someday they would understand that He was also the “God-man”.  So Jesus grew as any child, and he became wise and strong, and he continued to find favor in the eyes of God and man!II. Why didn’t Mary and Joseph know where to find Jesus?  Why didn’t they remember what the angels, the Magi, and the prophets told them about their child 12 seasons ago?  Why didn’t they remember that Jesus was really God the Father’s Son?  Well, because Jesus was also a very real person.  As a boy, and latter as a man Jesus was under God’s authority and dependent upon him for all things just like we are.  As a boy, Jesus was expected to honor His parents and keep the 4th Commandment perfectly, just as you and I must do, but the difference between Jesus and us is He did it and we can’t!  But then why did Jesus become separated from Joseph and Mary if he wasn’t at fault?  Well the error was His parents.  When Jesus asked them how it was that they didn’t know where he would be, he wasn’t being sarcastic, but rather truthful.  “Why didn’t you look for me before you left?  I would have left with you, you know!  Have you forgotten who I really am?  Have you forgotten all that God told you about me?  Why would you need to wonder where I would be or where you must find me?  Have you forgotten who’s Son I really am?  I must be in my Father’s house!”  Here in our gospel lesson, at the age of twelve we see that Jesus clearly knew most certainly that God was his Father in a way in which he was not Father to anyone else!

Dear friends, do we understand the wonderful mystery here?   This boy Jesus is speaking as God the Son, begotten from eternity by the Father in an absolutely unique relation? Can we surrender to the mystery that declares that Jesus is true God and true man without trying to explain how this can be?  Yes we can if by faith we surrender the mystery into God’s capable hands!  And it is by faith that we believe, teach, and confess that the divine and human natures of Jesus are now and forever inseparable, not pasted together like to sides to a coin, nor one transformed or absorbed into the other, but rather, each essence simply is and completely retains itself in a way that truly makes Jesus the God-Man! 

According to this personal union this God-boy in our gospel lesson already and always possessed His majesty as God, and yet He allowed it to be hidden just as great clouds in the can hide the sun. This is how Jesus could grow in stature, wisdom, and grace before God and other people [Luke 2:52]. This is why Jesus, knowing that He was the true Son of God, continued being subjected to His earthly parents.  Make no mistake friends, Jesus knew that He was the Son of the Father, and He knew that He was divine, and yet, he continued as a child who was obedient to Joseph and Mary because by doing so He was being obedient to His Heavenly Father’s will. ILLUS: There’s a famous picture that depicts the boy Jesus running with outstretched arms to his mother, with the shadow of the cross being cast on the ground by his form as he runs. The picture’s underlying message is true. Jesus obedience is an example not just for children growing and preparing for adulthood, but for all of us!  He was obedient to His parents and He was obedient to God’s will; but His obedience is also so much more than just an example, because without it He could not have been our Redeemer, the Savior who came to free us from sin and death by His own death upon the cross.

III. Dear friends, when Jesus declared His relationship with the Heavenly Father and demonstrated His obedience to His earthly parents, He was also declaring His purpose for coming to this world; to fulfill his Father’s will, which was to seek and save all people who are lost to sin. By perfectly living His life, that same life became a perfect act of worship.  By being obedient to the will of God His Father in all things, He was obedient, even “unto death, even death on a cross” for us.  Through the obedient life of this God-boy, Jesus’ role as Savior was proclaimed every day until he obediently walked to His very death upon the cross.  As the God-Man Jesus lived and died to bring about reconciliation between God and us.  Jesus,  obedient to His Father’s will  brought all people back to a right relationship with His father, and He did that work finally just outside the very walls of the Jerusalem temple where His parents found Him-He did it on Calvary.  It was there upon that cruel cross that God the Father would forsake His obedient Son and lay upon Him the punishment for all of our sins.  But after three days, God resurrected His Son from death to life in order to ensure us of our own personal victory over sin and death.  Jesus was obedient, and because of His obedience we have been given the ability to call God our “Father,” not in the same way as Jesus can mind you, but in a very real way that eternally ensures us of a loving relationship between God and you.”

Can you accept this as truth?  Can you be like Mother Mary and simply treasure these truths in your heart?  Can you accept that God’s mysteries are beyond your comprehension and simply allow the living Word of God to remain steadfast within your heart allowing Jesus Christ to strengthen your faith unto eternal life?  I pray that you will.  In Jesus name…AMEN!

Walk-About Zion!

Thursday, January 1st, 2009

Pastor Brian Henderson, Trinity Lutheran Church-San Diego
Click here for audio of this message

INTRODUCTION: Have you heard the one about an older couple named Marvin and Gladys?  Marvin is on his death bed and he is recalling his life with Gladys.  “Oh Gladys, you have been a faithful wife.   When I lost my job, you were there; when I lost all my money in the stock market you were there; when I wrecked the car you were there; when I fell off the roof dear, you were there!  And now here you are with me again on my death bed.  Gladys, you know what, I just thought of something, you’re bad luck!”  Dear friends, Trinity Lutheran Church and Messiah Lutheran Church have never been bad luck.  Oh you’ve had good times and bad times but our church has always been a blessing, because God is always working through His church.  Trinity Lutheran Church has been a precious gift to me and to so many others.  That is why I have selected our text tonight especially from the Psalms, specifically Psalm 48:12-14.

Before we look at our text, let me remind you that the word Zion actually represents the city of God, the Temple of God, but most importantly for us today, Zion represents the Church of Jesus Christ.  Let’s read it together: Psalm 48:12Walkabout Zion, go around her, number her towers, 13consider well her ramparts, go through her citadels, that you may tell the next generation 14that this is God, our God forever and ever. He will guide us forever.

This evening, I want to speak to you about three things: #1 the lasting legacy of Trinity.  #2 the Living mission of Trinity.  And #3, the Loving Savior of Trinity.  Let’s take these on one at a time.

I. Lasting legacy of Trinity. “Walkabout Zion, go around her, number her towers, consider well her ramparts, go through her citadels”. [vs. 12,13a] You know I have visited many places in my life and had many experiences, but I have never been to a place quiet like Trinity.  Don’t you feel the same way?  I’ll bet those of you who are old time members of Trinity and Messiah feel the same way don’t you.  No matter where you go, don’t you find your heart and mind going home to Trinity? This church, has had a profound influence on so many lives.  For more than 10 decades now, how many people who have left this church for whatever reason have found their hearts and minds coming back to Trinity?  How many people who have moved out of state, have come back to visit this church from time to time and just walked around the property remembering good days?  Recalling cherished memories?  I have encountered a few of these visitors here, who are not visitors at all but children of the old church.  “Walkabout Zion, go around her, number her towers, 13consider well her ramparts, go through her citadels”. 

You know, I do that many times…just walk about the campus here at Trinity; I open doors and just soak in the memories that have been created all throughout this wonderful old church.  Did you ever wonder why I asked to have my office all the way in back in the old school principles office, secluded so far away from the rest of the church?  It’s not because I’m a hermit at heart, no it’s so I can be confronted everyday with the memories of what this place use to be!  In my mind’s eye, I can see new play equipment and clean painted classrooms.  I can smell Delores’s school lunch cooking ready to be served, but more than that, I can hear the excited voices of hundreds of children playing and enjoying themselves, and this gives me hope because I know that their hearts have been changed and loved by the Gospel of Jesus Christ that was spoken, taught, and explained to them in every aspect of this grand old church!  And it isn’t just here that those memories are crying out from within the walls and campus!  I also have visited the old Messiah campus and experienced the very same thing!  Oh, I can hear in my mind’s eye the wonderful spirituals sung with so much feeling.  I can tap my foot to the exuberant gospel music being led so powerfully by Messiah’s very large choir.  I can see the faces of each person worshiping God in song, with hands, and voices!  I can smell the many community fish fries and pot lucks that drew so many visitors.  Yes that old church too has memories.  In either of these two grand churches, I ask you in your heart, to just listen to the memories.  Let them speak to your heart. (Pause and Think) 

Did you know that for some maybe here tonight, those memories may seem more like ghosts!  The ghost of better days past!  Is that what we want our church to be, a haunting memory?  Is it alright for Trinity to become a well kept mausoleum that stands to testify of its glory days in the past?  Those who grew up in these churches and are separated by great distances and various life circumstances would not agree with this.  They will tell you that in their minds and memories, in their hearts and in their hopes, in their in their prayers and praises, they will always come back to this grand old church.  Dear friends, our text this evening speaks of whether we have the right to let cherished memories turn into ghosts; it speaks a resounding NO!

II. Let me prove this.  Listen to the Holy Spirit speak, “go through her citadels, that you may tell the next generation”. [v.13] Do you hear it?  Do you hear the living message and mission of the Church of Jesus Christ.  It’s your mission because it is the mission of Trinity Lutheran Church.  The mission is to tell the present and future generations of this dying, sin sick, fallen planet that needs a Savior so much, that Jesus Christ was conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilot, was crucified, died and was buried; He descended into Hell, but he rose again on the third day, He ascended into Heaven and He’s seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty, and He will come again to judge the living and the dead.  This is the mission, the living mission of Trinity Lutheran Church.

You know I have only been here for a little more than a year and a half, and sometimes I like to tell you stories about my old church in Imperial Beach.  Sixteen years ago, it was there at St. James that God finally broke my hard heart and opened my eyes so that I could see things the way He sees them.  He did this on one specific evening when I was going through a terrible personal time in my life.  I felt alone and as if my life lacked meaning. I went to that old church to pray.  The doors were locked, so I went to the patio area, where I knew a statue of Christ was located.  As I prayed, and tears of pain streamed down my face, I noticed for the first time that the statue of Jesus had no hands on it.  At first this appalled me!  What dirt bag would be so evil as to break off the hands of Christ?  But then, my eyes were drawn to a plaque on the base of the statue, and it read: “Now we are the hands of Christ!”  That one statement and the missing hands changed my life forever.  Suddenly my tears of sorrow and anguish turned to tears of overwhelming joy!  Why?  Because it was at that moment that I finally found true meaning, I had a mission and a purpose, I was to be the hands of Christ!  Now that brings to mind a poem I learned several years ago, it goes like this… “Christ has no hands but our hands to do his work today.  He has no feet but our feet to lead men in His way.  He has no arms but our arms to bring men to His side.  He has no lips but our lips to tell men how Christ died.”

You dear friends, the people of Trinity are His hands.  You are His feet.  You are his arms.  You are His lips in this day, for this generation, and all around you are people who need to know Jesus Christ and need to hear from you how He loves them!  Now, I know your lives are so busy with things that must get done, I am right there with you, but please hear me, the most important work you could ever do in your time here on earth is to participate in the work of the church of Jesus Christ, because the work of the church is eternal.  It is the work of building bridges for broken people back to God through faith in Christ, where they may stay in peace with their Savior forever; and that kind of work is worthy of your total and full investment of your time, talents, money, prayers and your heart.  Dear friends, please hear me…I know the church isn’t perfect, even this one.  It can sometimes have some serious problems.  In fact there’s more than a little truth in the next two sayings I’d like to share with you. 1. To live above with saints we love, that will be joy and glory; to live below with saints we know, now that’s a different story.  2. If you should find the perfect church without one spot or smear, for goodness sake don’t join that church, you’ll spoil the atmosphere.

Friends it’s no secret that our church is far from perfect, but if you choose to hold back from a whole hearted investment of your life in the living mission of Trinity Lutheran Church, your robbing two people; you’re robbing yourself, and you are robbing all those people in this community who need to know Christ and become part of the lasting legacy of this church, which is “That you may tell the next generation of God’s grace.”

III. The Loving Savior of Trinity. Now dear friends, please let’s spend just a few minutes talking about our loving Savior of Trinity.  “For this is God, our God forever and ever. He will guide us forever (even until the end).”  Now you know yourself and I know myself…we’ve got problems don’t we?!  There are times when we don’t feel worthy of being part of the lasting legacy of Trinity.  There are times where we don’t feel able to fulfill the living mission of dear old church.  Dear friends that is precisely the point of God’s invitation to you.  YOU ARE NOT WORTHY AND YOU ARE NOT ABLE!  That’s the very essence of God’s grace.  He calls those who are not worthy and those who are not able and he makes them worthy and able through Christ to fulfill is living mission.  This is the loving Savior of Trinity; this is the grace of God for you and me.  This is the story of the cross of Jesus Christ!  Yes, in and of ourselves none of us are worthy; all of us are broken and useless, but the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sins.  The righteousness of Christ covers our lives; it changes us…rearranges us…and it ENABLES and equips us to do wonderful and glorious things we could never imagine, let alone do on our own and by ourselves. But because of Christ, you are worthy to work with me as we continue to be the lasting legacy of Trinity Lutheran Church, within the San Diego communities of Jamacha, Encanto, the cities of Lemon Grove and Spring Valley, the state of California, throughout our nation and even abroad until the ends of the earth.  “For this is God, our God forever and ever. He will guide us forever (even until the end).” 

Now may the peace of God and the grace of Jesus Christ keep our hearts and minds steadfast as we continue to be the legacy of our dear old Trinity Lutheran Church….in Jesus name… AMEN!