Archive for January, 2010

Love in Action

Sunday, January 31st, 2010

Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church-San Diego
Epiphany 4C, January 31, 2010
Click here for audio of this message

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Cor. 13:4-7) 

INTRODUCTION:  A woman was injured as a streetcar derailed and veered slightly off the track and onto a portion of the platform where she was standing. She was caught beneath one of the cars. The police sent for a crane to lift the car off her body. While waiting for the crane, a crowd of people gathered out of curiosity.
    One man pushed through the crowd, crawled beneath the car that had been derailed and was teetering precariously, and said to her, “Take my hand.” As she took his hand, she felt warmth and courage. This calmed her and prevented her from going into shock.
    After the crane arrived and the woman was released, she said, “I never thought an outstretched hand could mean so much.” 

We all love to hear heroic, self sacrificing stories like this one because they communicate some of the best qualities of love that people can display.  We celebrate this type of “self sacrificing” love when we hear about it, and God agrees… we should celebrate!  And yet, God doesn’t want you to just admire and celebrate this type of love, He insists that it should be alive and central within each of us!  He wants you to be a doer not just an admirer!  Listen to how Jesus uses love to sum up the all of the 10 Commandments: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” [Matthew 22:37–40]

 This morning dear friends, God is stretching out His hand to you in this sinful world and He wants you to grab onto Him through His Word.  He wants His Word to change you and rearrange you so that this type of self giving even self sacrificing love WILL be natural within you.  He has already begun this great work within your heart through your Holy baptism, and now he wants to continue that work.  Listen to the Words God gave to St. Paul and let His Spirit work within you.  

I. Love is patient and kind: A better word I think for patience is “longsuffering”.  Love is longsuffering and kind!  This world we live in is full of evil people; dare I say there are even evil people in Christ’s church.  When evil confronts us, when a Christian brother or sister deliberately sins against us, our society advises, “Pay them back!”  But God’s Word says, “No!  Because you are to love me, you must then let that love step in and take over.  Don’t pay evil for evil, instead love your enemy; pray for them.  Don’t follow your natural instinct because it is sinful, instead suffer long, and be kind to that person.” 

I know, already we’ve been confronted with God’s Word in a way that really makes us uncomfortable, and yet that is the true meaning of what God demands from us within His commandments.  But our text this morning takes us even deeper; deeper to the point of despair.  Listen as God explains how we must love each other: 

A. Love does not envy!  Another way to say that is, “Love does not speak or do evil out of jealousy!”  That green eyed monster called Jealousy is never happy with what it has, but it’s always eyeballing what someone else has and saying, “That should be mine.  I deserve that too!”  Why if we let it, that monster would trample over anything and anyone just to get what it wants.  But if you really love as God demands, you won’t let jealousy control you! 

B. Love doesn’t boast or brag!  We know envy is wrong, and so, to combat it what do we do?  We brag about what we do have, knowing that these very words may lead others to become jealous!  So, love does not envy or boast!  Not in words and not in actions!        

C. Love isn’t arrogant!  In other words, if you really love, you will not be “full of yourself” but full of God’s love for others; when your ego is bigger than your heart, someone will always get hurt.  Is that what you want?

D. Love is not rude!  Another way to say this is, “Love never behaves improperly!”  True love is always concerned for what is right in God’s sight and then it goes out of its way not to offend others.  Paul uses this same word in other places when he talks about how people are shamefully and improperly led by their sexual desires.  If you really have love, then you will act properly!

E. Love doesn’t insist on its own way!  What this means friends, is that love is not self pleasing.  If you know others are watching you and will be offended by something you do or don’t do, don’t simply say, “Well I’m saved by grace so I can do or not do whatever I like!”  No friends, true love is always interested in the welfare of others!

F. Love isn’t irritable… it isn’t easily provoked into anger!  Well these words speak for themselves, so we’ll let them stand. 

G. Love isn’t resentful!  Or another way to say this is that love does not keep a list of wrongs on someone else.

H. Finally, love doesn’t rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth!  If we love friends, we will not keep silent when we see something happening that we know is wrong!  If we love, we will not let political correctness or peer pressure keep us from speaking the truth in love!  Wrong doing will hide the truth, but God’s love is displayed in His Word!

 God’s Word… so full of love but so full of truth, and truth can be a hard pill to swallow!  God’s truthful Word comes to our sin like a bright search light searching for any threat to God’s perfect righteousness.  It shows us what we must discover…something we would rather not discover.  And when we see it, we try to pretend it isn’t there!

ILLUS:
A wealthy old woman was staring at an image she had never seen before in the city’s art museum. She called to an employee and said, “Come here young man! What is the meaning of this awful picture you have displayed here?  I find the image shallow and revolting! What do you call it?” The employee answered without even the slightest expression, “That madam, is a mirror.”

Dear friends, God’s Word is also a mirror. We may pick it up and read it simply to evaluate it with a critical eye, but in the end, we always find that we are the ones being evaluated. It shows us how we really look..  But if you are willing to force yourself to look, and if you will fight the urge to turn away, Jesus will show you a more excellent way!  He will step in front of your reflection and cover it with His own and say, “Let my reflection be yours!  Look at my image and then see your new reflection; a reflection that I gave to you within your baptism.  Look now at my love and let it change you!”

 II. Well, let’s do just that.  Let’s look at the same list that describes perfect God-given love and see how Jesus did with it.  Let’s see what a marvelous reflection He’s exchanged for ours:

 A. Love does not envy! Jesus said, “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.  For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.” [Jn. 6:37-39]

B. Love does not boast or brag! As the all powerful Son of God hung upon the cross, “knowing that all was now finished, (He) said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” [Jn. 19:28]

C. Love is not arrogant! “But (He) made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” [Phil. 2:7]

D. D. Love is not rude!  “When he had said these things, one of the officers standing by struck Jesus with his hand, saying, “Is that how you answer the high priest?” Jesus answered him, “If what I said is wrong, bear witness about the wrong; but if what I said is right, why do you strike me?” [Jn. 18:22-23]

E. Love doesn’t insist on its own way!  “For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of Him who sent Me.” [Jn. 6:38]

F. Love isn’t irritable… it isn’t easily provoked into anger!  “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem (Jesus said), the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!” [Lk. 13:34]                   

G. Love isn’t resentful!  “And when they came to the place that is called (Golgotha) The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left.  And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” [Lk. 23:33-34]

 III. Dear friends, Christ has really replaced your sinful reflection with His own.  He has covered your “unrighteousness” with His righteousness; He did this long ago upon the cross… the tree of love and longsuffering.  He chose to be planted and crucified upon the hard rock called Golgotha so that by His pain, suffering, and death your hard rocky heart of sin might be smashed and rebuilt into a heart of love.  And all of this work was made yours in your baptism.  In your baptism, Jesus promised you that you are not alone!  Like the man in the story who crawled under the street car with the trapped and dying woman to hold her hand and encourage her to hang on, Jesus is with you!  He is reminding you that His love and long suffering are now yours and He is encouraging you to take it.  This love friends, is a spiritual gift which moves your heat and hands to serve and become a Christ-like person for your neighbor.  True God given love dear friends, is the name not for the act of love, but for the heart that feels it!  This sinful world might be able to imitate the actions of love, but without Christ love implanted within their hearts, their work is simply as St. Paul says, “Like a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.”  It is nothing!

 CONCLUSION: This morning friends, if you find yourself falling short, go to the one who is longsuffering and patient, kind and loving!  Go to the only person who never fell to envy or pride!  Go to your brother who is never arrogant or rude.  Go to Jesus Christ, your brother and your friend, who is also your God and your Savior.  Confess to Him how you’ve fallen short of His love and then hear His Words of forgiveness and restoration new and fresh!  

Believe that through His Word first given to you in the waters of your Holy baptism you were born again.  Believe that through His Holy Meal you are allowed to hear, see, smell, touch, and taste forgiveness.  And then leave this place refreshed and forgiven for a purpose… you are to be Christ for your neighbor!  You are to be a person who lives for others! 

 You will be this person, because He who began this good work in you long ago will complete it!  We pray this truth in Jesus name… AMEN!

One Baptism—One Body!

Sunday, January 24th, 2010

“For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body” [1 Corinthians 12:13b]
Rev. Brian Henderson—Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church of San Diego, CA
Click here for audio of this message

INTORDUCTION: First Corinthians is a letter from St. Paul to a church that God created out of nothing in a pagan city called Corinth.  In this letter, Paul continually reminds the Corinthians that they need to strive for unity within the body of Christ (12:12). In other words, there is only one body and one Spirit, one Lord, and one Baptism [12:4 ff., 13]. And yet, Paul has discovered the very opposite is true in their church!  Instead of unity, there are divisions and factions.  Paul’s intention then, is to unite these factions and remove the confusion that’s been caused by bad doctrine.  If they will listen and follow God’s Word then God will unite them! God unites the Corinthians the same way he unites us, by reminding us of our baptism.  A baptism, which reminds us that while we may be many members, we are but one body—while we may be many congregations, we are but one Church!

I. (vs. 12-13) Friends, Christ’s church, our church, is like the human body.  Let’s consider the human body for a moment.  Within our bodies we see the very picture of unity and completeness through a lot of individual parts. Now, this is also true with Christ’s body, the Church. To illustrate this truth, Paul begins with the oneness of the body and then to its many parts through these words: “the body is one and has many members”; he then goes backward from the many parts to the oneness of the whole by saying: “and all the members of the body, being many, are one body.” And throughout Christ’s body, He is always present and active in each one of us—He is throughout the whole body!  How?  Through God’s mysterious work in our own baptism.

In Holy Baptism friends, each one of us was baptized “in” one Spirit, in union with Jesus.  Our baptism is a vital connection with him. In our baptism, God’s Spirit is always present and always making a spiritual change within us—a change, which creates a new spiritual life within us and maintains a right spiritual relationship with God and other members of His Church.  This mystical union of Christ with the church friends is our true union with God, and it is a union that is identically sustained within each of us through Christ’s own Word and sacraments. 

Now, think about what this truth must have meant to the Corinthian church, and then think about what it means for Trinity.  “Jews are equal to pagan Greeks?”  Friends, do you see how in Christ’s body… the Church, all extremes of the human race have been drawn together into Christ and then melted and fused together into one indistinguishable whole? What was lower than a slave, human property with almost no rights? Yet Paul is telling those rich cats and property owners, many of who owned slaves that they are their equals! Christ is in their slaves just as he is in them… they are one!  It’s quite the wakeup call isn’t it?  The same is true with us friends; through our baptism, we are one with the butcher, the baker, the president, the junkie, the homeless, the parent and the child.  People of all races and back grounds, through their baptisms are “one body” just like the physical human body. 

Now with this central truth stated about our physical bodies and the church, think of how preposterous it would be for a toe no longer wanting to be part of the foot, or an eye thinking that it is better than the ear.  We need all of our body parts to function the way God designed them so that we can have a complete and healthy body, and this is also the truth with Christ’s body the church! 

II. (Vs. 14-20) So why do some members of Christ’s Church feel inferior and jealous of others if all of us are baptized into the same body?  To answer this question, let’s first go back to Paul’s illustration of the human body.  Why does the ear say, “Because I am not an eye, I’m not important so that must mean that I’m not really part of the body?”  Does the ears feeling change the fact that it is truly part of the body?  All of its gripping won’t change a thing. It’s not only useless; it’s foolish, because the body can’t be just one member!  We need each member because each member has its own function. Wouldn’t it be foolish if the foot tried to grasp something or shake hands with somebody when it’s real purpose is to help the body walk and move from one place to another?  The same is true about an ear that wants to be an eye when the body really needs it for hearing.  This unity in diversity friends is what makes the body whole and functioning.  Instead of complaining about what it isn’t each part should celebrate what it is, because without each part, the body wouldn’t be whole.  This is also true about each member of Christ’s church and our congregation. Suppose a member were actually what these complainers say: not a part of Christ’s body—well what would it be? Jesus answered this question clearly; He said it would be a dead branch, fit only to be burned. Dear friends, instead of wishing we were someone else or something “better,” we should thank God for the place he has assigned to us and then work with the Holy Spirit to do our part not only expertly but also joyfully!

Don’t you think that all of this jealousy and envy is foolishness?  After all, wasn’t it “God (who) arranged (all of) the members in the body, each one of them, (just) as He chose(?) (If each of us were the same member), where would the body be?  (So, we see friends), there are many parts, yet one body.” [vs. 18-20]   All of this is part of God’s divine work of creation!  He did it all according to His will when He formed the human body and when He created His church!   He desired that both bodies would consist of many members. Each one He set into its perfect place within the body. Do we really want to find fault with what God did? Do we really have the audacity to think that we can improve on His work? Well, the fact stands: God made the true Church what it is and He made you as you are for a purpose… now we must live out that purpose as He leads us! 

III. (Vs. 21-26) Ok, but then why do some people act like they’re superior or better than others?  Or as Paul says, “Why does the eye say to the hand, “I don’t need you,” or the head to the feet, “Go away, you’re not needed”?  Why indeed and here we go again!  Once again there’s grumbling within the body; but this time it’s a different kind of grumbling.  Now it’s the eye and the head’s turn to voice their sinful feelings, each looking down on a different body part and thinking that they are superior to them.  One looks down on the hand, and the other is looking down on the feet.  What’s going on here?  There seems to be trouble throughout the body!  And this is what Paul is saying about the church at Corinth.  And so we see him expertly using God’s law to attack their habit of looking down on others. 

Let me ask you a question: When are we more likely to look down on others?   I think the answer is when we think that they’re not in our class!  Social status, education, health, and many other conditions fuel our disdain for others!  We’re inclined to look down on others when we feel that their talents or position seems lower than our own. To illustrate this, Paul lets the eye and the head speak. Now, because the eye is able to reach out to great distances it looks down on the hand which can only grasp what is in arms reach. And because the head is placed so high above all of the other members, it is prone to look down with disdain on the feet, which are dutifully plodding away on the hard and dirty streets below! So you see, those who have been given what seems to be greater gifts and talents might be tempted to foolishly think that they don’t need those who have what appears to be inferior gifts and talents, but in reality, once again each of us must remember that we are not individuals but part of a whole.  What each part has is only part of the whole body… a body designed by our Creator! 

But what about our more humble parishioners; the very old, the sick, and the disabled?  Paul compares them with our private body parts; the ones we keep hidden—the parts that we might be ashamed of?  Listen to what he says: “And on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.  If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.” [vs. 23-26]

ILLUSTRATION (Please listen to the audio attached with this message to hear the illustration)

Dear friends, when I think about my Aunt Dianne and her little church, I can’t help but wonder if we as a congregation demonstrate the same interest and care for our weaker members.  I hope that we do, don’t you?

God will help us do this very thing if we will remember that it was the Creator who put all of us in our proper place within His Church and within this congregation!  But what if we are having problems living out this truth? 

IV. (Vs. 25-30) What’s the solution? How are we to be saved from these terrible sins that divide us?  Well friends, God does this very thing by taking us back to our own baptism—back to the truth of our equal standing as sinners before God.  He takes us and back His Word, which promises and gives forgiveness; a word that reminds us that each of us, as members of God’s church, are equally loved by Him.  And friends, God wants us to demonstrate that same love and care to others who are also members of His church.  With His Holy Spirit living within us, He reminds us that if one of us suffers, then all of us suffer together; if one member is honored, then all of us will celebrate together.

Let’s look to our own bodies one more time to illustrate this truth: If our foot is in pain, even if it’s the little toe, won’t our eye immediately look to see what’s wrong?  And won’t we use our fingers to hold it and caress it, as our face twists in pain and our whole body bends over to assist in its care?  And as the entire body is caring for this one ailing part, the entire body is benefited when the pain is soothed!  

Dear friends, isn’t it a blessing to be part of a body where “if one member suffers, all members suffer together, and if one member is honored, all members rejoice together?”

CONCLUSION: Rejoice dear friends in the truth that Christ’s suffering and death upon the cross was equally given to each of us within the waters of our own baptism—for you see it is the same sin that was covered, but more than covered, it was the same sin that was drowned and destroyed.  It is that same sin that equally drives each of us to the font with the same need and the same identity… beggars in need of God’s grace.  And as we remember this truth let’s also rejoice together in yet another truth…He is still giving us that same grace through His Word and His Holy Supper!  Praise God dear friends!  Praise Him all creatures here below.  Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost…AMEN!

 

I Will Not Keep Silent!

Sunday, January 17th, 2010

Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church-San Diego
Sanctity of Life Sunday, January 17, 2010
Click here for audio of this message
 

Grace, Mercy and Peace are yours, from God our Father and for the sake of our Savior Jesus Christ!  AMEN

“For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not be quiet, until her righteousness goes forth as brightness and her salvation as a burning torch.” [Isaiah 62:1]

INTRODUCTION:  A professor in a medical school once posed this medical situation — an ethical problem — to his students: “Here’s the family history: The father has syphilis. The mother has TB. They already have had four children. The first is blind. The second had died. The third is deaf. The fourth has TB. Now the mother is pregnant again.  So the parents have come to you for advice. They are willing to have an abortion, if you decide they should. What do you say?”

The students broke into small groups for “consultation.” All of the groups came back to report that they would recommend abortion.

“Congratulations,” the professor said, “You just took the life of Beethoven!”

Well that’s just a story pastor.  We live in the real world.  Ok, here’s a “real world” poll taken in New England, which revealed that, if parents were able to know these things in advance, 1 percent of them would abort a child on the basis of sex, 6 percent would abort a child likely to get Alzheimer’s disease, and an incredible 11 percent would abort a child predisposed to obesity.  In essence, they would abort many of us!

I.  Sin is sin.  God’s Word clearly identifies what is sinful and what is pleasing to Him.  There are no gray areas in God’s eyes, and yet we like to create these gray areas, don’t we?  We make the gray areas because we don’t like facing our own sinfulness.  Oh, and in case you think that claiming ignorance of God’s will might offer you some protection, listen to God answer you from the book of Proverbs: “If you say, “Surely we did not know this, “Does not He who weighs the heart consider it?  He who keeps your soul, does He not know it?  And will He not render to each man according to his deeds? [Proverbs 24:11-12]

Friends, we’ve been called by Jesus Christ, the living Word of God to be both His church and His voice of truth in this world of sin.  We are His prophets.  But before we can fulfill this role, we need to agree that God is right and we are wrong!  Now as your pastor, you have called me to speak and teach you that Word, so together we will hear His Word, be changed and strengthened by it, and then go out into our communities where we can be God’s salt and light.  Now here’s the fascinating part of this calling; if we are faithful, God assures us that to the world, we will be like a crown of beauty, a royal diadem in His hand.  In other words, we’ll bring Him glory here on earth!

Friends, if we are faithful in speaking for God to those we encounter, He promises that we will experience his blessings in a way that will change the very way we think and live.  In other words, God promises that through our obedience we will discover that we are not only precious in His sight, but we are in fact His delight.

II. But we have a slight problem; the enemy doesn’t want us to live out this new identity, so he’s set some traps in order to deceive us.  These traps come to us through the use of science and the sinful society we live in; a society that loves to call evil good and good evil.  But even if we successfully avoid these traps, the enemy still has one more trick up his sleeve; he intends to stop us by overwhelming us with so much opposition and anger that we’ll no longer see the good of speaking God’s truth to such an evil society.  In other words, he wants to demoralize us to the point where we just simply give up.  Now, this same tactic has been used by the enemy in the past with great success.  It’s called institutionalized sin—sins that have been accepted by our society as normal.  If you don’t believe this truth, just look back no farther than 150 years ago when the institution of slavery—the trafficking of human beings was considered normal.  And even after a bloody civil war that nearly destroyed our nation, that sin still remains and it is still trying to capture the hearts and minds of our children.  This hatred of others is a sin that places “self” as the ultimate authority, which in turn allows us to see some people as less than human.

Today we celebrate “Sanctity of Life” Sunday.  This is the day that we as a church have set aside to remind us that God has declared all human life precious in His sight; the unborn, born, and even those who are frail and near death.  But science and our society tell us something very different—they say that the unborn are merely potential life, and the old and frail are just a life that’s already been lived.  They would have us believe that neither can really be counted important.  But listen to God speak through the voice of the Psalmist and let the voice of our enemy the devil and this sinful society be silenced: “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” [Psalm 139:13-18]   And if that’s not enough for you, listen to the living Word of God drive home the message through the Apostle Paul: “(Don’t) you know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” [1 Corinthians 6:19-20] 

 Friends, you have heard God’s Word… you know that there are no gray areas.  Right is right and wrong is wrong.  Now God wants to send you out into this world as His burning torch of truth and salvation.  But you say, “Pastor what can I do?  It’s the law of the land; abortion is legal, right?”  Well do you have a mouth?  Then for the sake of the unborn and for the credibility of the church, speak out.  Use your mouth to change hearts and minds, and use your vote to change the law.  And all the while, God wants you to pray!  Pray for your leaders and pray for your neighbors, and then work against the enemies of God who joyfully lead others astray by convincing them to take a life through abortion.  Pray that God will change both their hearts and minds so that this evil will be erased from our society.  Listen to St. Paul’s advice; he says, ” First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” [1 Timothy 2:1-4]  Pray dear friends, pray and don’t grow weary of prayer.  Don’t give up in speaking the truth; don’t surrender in the fight.  Keep on doing what you know is right.  Listen to God’s Living Word, and then be decided in your heart that you will do what Jesus tells you!

 III. In our gospel reading this morning, Mary, the mother of God the Son, Jesus Christ had a dilemma.  She was one of the matrons, or sponsors responsible for the smooth operation of a wedding party.  But the wine was running low, and the party was still jumping!  Now granted, when compared to other real life issues, running out of wine means very little in the large scheme of things, but at the time it was important to Mary.  She had doubts and fears; so where did she go?  She went to Jesus!  Now the fact that she went to Jesus isn’t that fascinating, after all, Jesus is her son, but what happened next would change everything.  It would change the way faithful people live and it would change the way faithful people think!

 Have you ever wondered why Jesus called His own mother “woman” instead of “mother”?  “Jesus?  Son?”  Mary called.  “They are almost out of wine,” she says.  And to this Jesus answers, “Woman, what does this have to do with (you and) me?  My hour (or my time) has not yet come.”  Here friends, Jesus mother turns to her son as she undoubtedly did so many times before, but this time it is different…it’s a critical moment where ordinary help won’t suffice.  She knew that Jesus had no money and as a stranger in this town he had no connections.  Yet they needed wine.  So why turn to Jesus?  Because friends, she never forgot that her son was also the Son of God, the Messiah… her Savior.  You see, in this small dilemma, ordinary help would fail; they had neither the time nor the means to get more wine, so Mary knew she must look for extraordinary help.  Mary didn’t need familial help, she needed divine hope.  And to give this hope, Jesus must first eternally change her relationship with Him. 

 Friends, when Jesus called His mother woman, He was declaring to her that His position as a dutiful son was eternally ended.  He was telling her that from that moment on He would be assuming a much higher position; one as Savior and Redeemer.  And this divine work can only be done on God’s terms and in God’s time, not hers and not ours.  Like Mary, we too must learn that if we really want divine hope and help, we must first recognize who Jesus really is.  It is Jesus, the Son of God, together with the Father, and the Holy Spirit alone who determine when and how God will miraculously intervene—even in hopeless situations!

 Friends, it was this first miraculous sign from Jesus—turning water into wine—that would forever direct both Mary and the entire church to ask and receive all things through Jesus Christ alone, and then simply and trust that He would act according to His time!  It is in Him alone that we are to place our trust.  And with this new truth, Mary has a new teaching to share with her assistants at the party and with us…

 “Do whatever He tells you.” [John 2:5b]  Do you understand what this means friends?  It means that we must do whatever God’s Word says.  What God’s Word calls good, we are to call good.  What He calls sinful and evil we are to say also.  In His Word alone, we are to live, breath, and find our existence and fulfillment.  Yet we still sin daily.  We sin against God and we sin against each other.  Since this is most certainly true, it is critical that we hear what comes next.  It there is anyone here this morning who has in the past had an abortion, assisted with or counseled for an abortion, performed an abortion, or has simply been indifferent to abortion, let God speak to your heart.  Let His Spirit convince you that abortion is a sin?  Has He shown you that it is your sin?  Are you sorry for this sin and all others that you have committed and do you sincerely repent of them?  Is it your intention to agree with God that this is an evil that must be defeated… that was defeated upon the cross of Jesus Christ?  Do you desire to be free of this evil now and for all eternity? 

Dear friends, because Jesus has defeated both the devil and all evil through His death upon the cross, and because He has given this victory to you through the washing of the water and the Word in your own baptism, hear the sweet words of the gospel, the forgiveness of your many sins.  You are forgiven!  You no longer need to live in shame and reproach.  Through God’s Holy work alone He has taken away your sorrow and shame and He has given you a new name…. you are called Christian.  You are a child of faith!  As a member of the Holy Christian Church you are now the beloved bride of Jesus Christ Himself!

Now dear saints, as the beloved bride of Christ, hear the words of mother Mary fresh and new… “Go, and do whatever our Lord tells you.”  What is He telling us?  Speak up for those who have no voice!  Call evil what it is!  Don’t be afraid of the ungodly, because they will soon have their punishment handed down to them.  Instead, speak up and speak out to those who will hear the Word of God and repent, just as you have.  Join your pastors and the whole church and preach Christ Himself and His Holy Word until He comes again to judge the living and the dead.  Do whatever God’s Word tells you because He is your salvation, and let politics and this sinful society be damned!

Let this world and our sinful society see our Holy God’s righteousness shine through each of us as individuals and as His church so that all may see us as justified and equipped by God for this battle—not with the laws of man but with the highest law there is… the Living Word of God!

CONCLUSION: Dear friends, do whatever Jesus tells you.  Repent and be baptized.  Repent and believe you’ve been forgiven and changed.  This is the message we are to speak to our neighbors and even to our elected leaders.  Let’s speak this message in our conversation and let’s speak it through the ballot box.  We will not be silent… because we cannot be silent.  Yes we’ll be ridiculed and marginalized, but as I said in the beginning of this message, we must speak out, because we are God’s crown of beauty and we are a holy and royal diadem in His hand.  We alone can bring Him glory, because we alone are called by a new name…. Christian!  Jesus we are yours… save us!  AMEN!

She Loved With All Her Mite

Sunday, January 3rd, 2010

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

 Grace, Mercy and Peace are yours, from God our Father and for the sake of our Savior Jesus Christ!  AMEN

“They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything–all she had to live on.”  Thus far our text.

 The story is told of a very wealthy man who had never been known for his generosity to the church. The church was involved in a big financial program and they resolved to pay him a visit. When the committee met with the man one afternoon, they said that in view of his considerable resources they were sure that he would like to make a substantial contribution to this program.

“I see,” he said, “so you have it all figured out have you? In the course of your investigation did you discover that I have a widowed mother who has no other means of support but me?” No, they responded, they did not know that.  “Did you know that I have a sister who was left by a drunken husband with five children and no means to provide for them?” No, they said, we did not know that either. “Well, gentlemen, did you know also that I have a brother who is crippled due to an automobile accident and can never work another day to support his wife and family?” Embarrassingly, they responded, no sir, we did not know that either. “Well,” he thundered triumphantly, “I’ve never given any of them a cent so why should I give anything to you?”

Giving is easier for some than others.  Some give liberally but others seem to be challenged and even overcome with the worries and demands of life. 

For a few moments this morning I do not want to talk about dollar amounts that are given to the church but instead let’s talk about motivation. Why do we do what we do? What is the motivation behind our giving?

Our gospel reading has been called the story of the widow’s mite. Many of you are familiar with this event in the life of our Lord.  It’s about an incident where a widow gave all the money she had in a Temple offering and through her giving she received praise from God himself. The gospel lesson is generally perceived to be one about giving and clearly that element is there. In terms of the actual amount that she gave it was a mere pittance—less than one penny in today’s money. The extravagance in it was that it represented all the money she had.  But there is another element to this story that maybe we fail to see.  Let me explain.

 Jesus had just been watching the Pharisees in their giving practices. Now, we are talking big bucks. And they were very open about their giving. Everyone knew their giving record; in fact, they made it a point to ensure that everyone could see and acknowledge how generous they were!   It was in the light of this, that Jesus pointed out the widow.

Picture Jesus is sitting now with the leaders of the temple—the Sadducees, and observing the people as they came in, watching their donations. There’s no paper money so it all makes a terrible noise as it rolls down this long horn shaped object and then it falls into the pool of coins. So here comes this little old lady and she has two small coins and she drops them in. They barely make a noise. You can almost see the Temple leaders as they roll their eyes and hope for better results with the next person who walks in the door. Then Jesus calls his Disciples over and says, “This poor widow has put more in to the treasury than all the others.” To the Sadducees this woman is a waste of time but to Jesus she is the stuff that Kingdoms are built by. So, at its heart, the widow’s mite is not a story about giving, but rather it is a story about motivation. Why do we do what we do? What do we hope to achieve by our giving? The Pharisees and Sadducees gave to receive peer recognition. And, Jesus said that they had already received their reward. People praised them. The woman, on the other hand, she gave out of love for God. According to Jesus, she also received her reward, peace with God.

What can we learn from this?  Jesus watches us from a location opposite of where we place our attention.  He sees what others cann’t; specifically He sees into our hearts.   He notices the rich and the poor; the important and the simple.  Jesus pays special attention to those things that are most important to us, because they are what motivates every thing else that we do in this life.  While I do not know everything that Jesus sees within my own heart, I do know what he hopes to find in all of our hearts.  He hopes to find a heart that is like the widow’s; a heart that seeks to find and maintain a relationship of trustful dependency on Him.  That is a relationship he desires to bless and develop.  This relationship is sustained by faith, but it is born in love.

Love is what led the widow to give all that she had to the Lord.  Love is the natural response of a forgiven sinner.  And love is what naturally motivates us to give our time, talent, and yes even our money to the Lord.  Now, these words may have made you a bit uncomfortable, because they don’t address what we all really want to know, “How much of my time, talent and treasure, should I give?”  Well, the Gospel’s advice is that ‘We should give according to the dictates of our own hearts,’ and that brings me back on topic.

 Do you remember when Jesus asked St. Peter shortly before He ascended into heaven, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?”  And Peter answered, “Yes, Lord,” you know that I love you.” What did Jesus say next?  “Feed my sheep.”  Did you ever wonder why Jesus asked him three times?  Well, how many times did Peter deny knowing Jesus?  Three times; so Jesus was telling Peter that His forgiveness was complete—lacking nothing; as deep seated as Peter’s sin was, God’s forgiveness goes even deeper.  But, I submit to you that He also asked the question three times in order to change Peter’s heart and our hearts!  In this question and in the story of the Widow’s mite, Jesus is asking us to look within our own hearts and discover what things are really most important to us, and if His forgiveness and love for us aren’t our first priority, then He wants to change our hearts!  And once our hearts have been changed friends, He asks us to respond with our actions by “Feeding His Sheep.” 

 Friends, do you hear Him in your heart speaking to you this morning: ‘Dear Saints at Trinity, do you love me?  Do you trust me?  Do you realize that your church is really my Church?  Then feed my sheep.  My sheep are fed the Words of eternal life right here at Trinity, and they are right outside your doors in the communities of Encanto, Jamacha, Lemmon Grove and Spring Valley.  Friend, do you love me?  Do you understand that my sheep through Holy Baptism have been given assurance that a seat has been reserved for them at my Father’s table, just as has been done for you?  Then feed my sheep.  Friend, do you truly love me?  Then you must know that my sheep are sustained by my very body and blood at my table right here in this church, just as you are.  Feed my sheep.’ 

Friends, since we love God, then it only makes sense that we will love the place where he faithfully meets us in Word and Sacrament.  Since Jesus has truly saved us from our sin and eternal separation from God, then it is only natural that we will love Him who first loved us! 

In the next year, a lot of exciting ministries will be starting here at Trinity.  Each one of these ministries will have God’s Word as its central power.  These ministries will present many opportunities for you to demonstrate your love for God as you feed His sheep through your time, talent, and treasure.  Pray and ask God to show you how you can become a part of His love which flows from His Holy Word and Sacraments to you, and out to your neighbor.  Pray, and ask this always in Jesus name, AMEN!

  Now may this love and peace that surpasses all understanding be yours, through Christ Jesus our Lord!  AMEN