Archive for March, 2011

Look Who’s Coming to Dinner!

Saturday, March 26th, 2011

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Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
Friday Night Gospel Celebration, March 25, 2011

“When Ephraim saw his sickness, and Judah his wound, then Ephraim went to Assyria, and sent to the great king. But he is not able to cure you or heal your wound. For I will be like a lion to Ephraim, and like a young lion to the house of Judah. I, even I, will tear and go away; I will carry off, and no one shall rescue. I will return again to my place, until they acknowledge their guilt and seek my face, and in their distress earnestly seek me. “Come, let us return to the Lord; for he has torn us, that he may heal us; he has struck us down, and he will bind us up. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him. Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord; his going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.” What shall I do with you, O Ephraim? What shall I do with you, O Judah? Your love is like a morning cloud, like the dew that goes early away. Therefore I have hewn them by the prophets; I have slain them by the words of my mouth, and my judgment goes forth as the light. For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings. ” (Hosea 5:13-6:15, ESV)

” As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him. And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”” (Matthew 9:9-13, ESV)

“The Lord’s Prayer” Part 3

Thursday, March 24th, 2011

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Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
Midweek Lent Message
March 23, 2011

““And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you,” (Matthew 6:7-14, ESV)

God So Loved You!

Sunday, March 20th, 2011

The Second Sunday in Lent (A), March 21, 2011
Rev. Brian Henderson—Pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
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In last the last few weeks we’ve learned that the purpose of all of God’s Word is that we would know Jesus as our Lord and Savior.  Last week we learned that this was the case, even in the very first Words of Genesis… in the beginning!  Well, this morning we shall see that God is love; God is love for you!

 Now, don’t tune out this message simply because you can quote John 3:16; everyone who attended Sunday school for more than a year can do that.  No, you need to understand how God so loves you and that is exactly what this message will declare to us this morning.

I. “There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews.” [John 3:1]  Uh, oh!  Another Pharisee out to get Jesus?  No not this one; this Pharisee was known by all to be a good man.  He was on a real journey to live a God-pleasing life.  He’s highly educated and very moral and religious.  He is what others would call an upright man; he is not a hypocrite like many of the other Pharisees; he actually tries to please God!  In verse 10 we are told that he is Israel’s teacher, so we know that he is trying to help others please God as well.  So this man, Nicodemus comes to Jesus at night.  Why?  Well because he doesn’t want the other Pharisees to know that he is seeking out their enemy.  But why is he seeking out Jesus?  Because, he has seen the miracles and he has probably heard some of Jesus’ sermons and the Word of God is beginning to work within his heart.  In essence he wants to know more!

So he approaches Jesus and he starts a conversation in the usual way, he pays Jesus a compliment: “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with Him.” [vs. 2b]  Now if you or I were in Jesus position we would probably repay the compliment; but Jesus is not you or I!  Jesus is instead the Great Physician, and He must get right to work on the soul of Nicodemus.  “Jesus answered him (and said), “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”” [vs. 3] 

 Now that is strange, and Nicodemus thought so too; that’s why he asked, “How can a man be born when he is old (like me)?”  Poor Nicodemus’ mind must have been spinning out of control.  All of his education and religious training had taught him that he was doing everything he could to please God and now Jesus is telling him that he will never get into heaven as he is!  Nicodemus didn’t understand yet, and neither does our world today.  Why?  Because their focus is on what they do and not on what God does!

 So Jesus must adjust the focus of Nicodemus and He must adjust our focus as well!  Listen: “Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.  That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” [Vs. 5-6]  Jesus is actually saying that if we keep our focus on what we can do in our flesh, that is on our own we will never get beyond the flesh; that is we will never enter the kingdom of God; we will never inherit eternal life.  He is saying we need a new focus, a new life; we need to have spiritual eyes if we are to understand the work of God’s Spirit! 

 “But how?”  That’s the question of Nicodemus and the question of this unbelieving world!  They ask how because they still have eyes and a heart of flesh!  “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes.  So it is with everyone who is born of the Sprit.” [vs. 8]  What is this wind?  It is the Holy Spirit!  And what is its sound?  It is the spoken Word of God; it is the Living Word of God, Jesus Christ.  It’s He who was speaking to Nicodemus, and He who is speaking to you this morning!  Listen to the wind.  You believe in the wind because you can feel it and hear it; you can even see the effect it has around you right?  Well the sound of the wind is also heard in the Word of God.  “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”  You hear the Wind of God in these Words as well: “As I live, says the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn back from their ways and live.” [Ezekiel 33:11]  “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not perish but have eternal life.” [Jn. 3:16]

 In His love for the world God provides the sound of His Holy Wind, the public proclamation of His Word so that we can see His Son, Jesus Christ as our only means of salvation.  Through this means, God wants to call all people to eternal life; He wants to draw all of us unto Himself and to give us new birth.  He does this only through His Holy Wind, the Word of God.  “Since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save (through rebirth) those who believe.” [Acts 11:14]  “So faith comes through the proclamation, and proclamation comes through God’s Word.” [Jn. 17:17, 20]  And it is God’s will that all people should hear this proclamation and come to Jesus Christ.  And Jesus will never push anyone away from Himself, just as the Word of God declares: “Anyone who comes to me I will never drive away.” [Jn. 6:37]  So we see that our salvation is entirely a work of God’s Holy Spirit which He uses to cleanse us and blow new life into us.  It is God alone who “saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.” [Titus 3:5]

 II. Jesus told Nicodemus not to marvel at this teaching about this washing of new birth that comes through the Word of God and He is telling you not to be surprised by it as well. Where does this washing and rebirth happen?  Where are we brought to be cleaned from all of our impurities and saved from our sin?  First to the cross and then to the fount; the fountain of Holy Baptism.  Let me show you this in scripture.  Listen to God speak through the prophet Zechariah: “On that day there shall be a fountain opened for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and uncleanness.” [Zechariah 13:1]  Do you hear the wind of God blowing and promising a source of salvation outside of the power of sinful men?  Do you hear how God Himself would provide a fountain of cleansing and do you notice that it would do two very specific things?  What are those things?  It will cleanse from sin and impurity!  What is this fountain?  First it is the cross and second it is the font! 

What did Jesus say to Nicodemus about God’s means of providing eternal life?  He said, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him may have eternal life.” [Jn. 3:14-15]  Now why did Jesus feel the need to bring up Moses?  Because Moses and His Law were the very things that Nicodemus was trusting in to please God.  But Jesus wanted Nicodemus and everyone else to see that everything that Moses said and did was done by God so that we would look to  a prophet much greater than Moses; so that we would look to Jesus alone as our only source of hope.  The people with Moses had sinned greatly against God with their grumbling and lack of faith, so God had to get their focus off of their flesh and back to Him; He had to give them eyes of faith; they needed spiritual eyes.  They were being attacked by snakes and they were dying by the thousands; so God had Moses craft a bronze serpent and lift it on a pole.  It they would look to this bronze snake on a poll and trust in God’s means they would live!

So what does this have to do with anything?  Well let’s allow the prophet Zechariah to speak once again: “Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, against the man who stands next to me,” declares the Lord of hosts. “Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered; I will turn my hand against the little ones.” [Zechariah 13:7]  Now remember, in the earlier reading from Zechariah God promised to open a fountain that would cleanse the people of their sins, right?  Well this is the day that the fountain would be opened; the day that the Shepherd would be struck!  On that day there would be cleansing for all sinners, and it would come from a fountain that God would open!  Jesus Christ dear friends is the Good Shepherd!  He was the Shepherd who was struck down on the cross.  He is the final provision of salvation that the bronze serpent on the poll of Moses represented!  Remember on the day of our Lord’s death a Roman soldier pierced Jesus side with a spear?  What was the result?  A fountain of water and blood; a fountain of cleansing!  Now we must go to the cross and see Jesus dying in our place; we must go to the cross and see God’s means of cleansing us from all of our sin and uncleanness!  This is love!  The Son of God died for the world so that the world would not have to die!  “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.  For (you see) God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.” [Jn. 3:16-17]  But in order for this finished work of Jesus Christ to become yours you must travel by faith to the cross and then to the waters of your own baptism!

 III. It is in baptism, your baptism that God made His love for the world His love for you!  In the waters of your baptism God gave you His gift of forgiveness and cleansed you from all of your sins.  In your baptism God delivered you from death and the devil and gave you eternal life!  In your baptism God made you a disciple and part of the body of Jesus Christ.  Through your baptism you put on Jesus Christ, that is all of His righteousness was made yours through faith in the Gospel that assures you that God so loved YOU that He gave His Son up to death for YOU!  In the waters of your baptism you were buried with Christ into death, so that you would rise with Him into a new and eternal life.  That which IS Spirit has given birth to a new spirit!

 CONCLUSION: How can a person be born again when he is old?  Only by the work of the Spirit, the wind of God which gives eyes of faith and turns simple water in to a spiritual means of rebirth!  Simple water yes, but when it is combined with the powerful Word of God, it becomes God’s means of showing and giving you Jesus Christ.  First that Word shows you Christ high and lifted up upon the cross and then it shows you Christ high and lifted up, ascended and reining with the Father and Spirit in Heaven. 

 Yes friends, that is how God so loves you!  I pray that He continues to give to you eyes of faith that look to Jesus Christ alone as your only means of God’s love and grace… AMEN!

The Lord’s Prayer Part 2

Thursday, March 17th, 2011

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Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
Ash Wednesday Message
March 9, 2011

““And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you,” (Matthew 6:7-14, ESV)

The Desire of God!

Sunday, March 13th, 2011

The First Sunday in Lent (A), March 13, 2011
Rev. Brian Henderson—Pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
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In last week’s message we learned that the purpose of God’s Word is that you would know Jesus as your Lord and Savior.  St. John put it this way:  God speaks so  “that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.” [John 20:31  Think of it friends, all of God’s Word has been divinely prepared and preserved for you today, right now at this very moment so that you would hear him speak to you. 

This message of God comes from the very heart of God.  We hear God speak to us in the very first Words of Genesis where we discover how God created all things.  Listen:  In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, “Let there be…” [Genesis 1:1-3a]

 In that little bit of scripture we discover a couple of things about God.  First we learn that God is indeed all powerful. He created everything by simply speaking it into existence!  But we also learn that God is personal.  Think about that for a moment.  The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are One; One God and One mind and heart, yet He exists in a dialogue of three persons.  Now, God could very well have thought all of creation into existence, yet He chose to speak.  He spoke because He is a personal God!  So in the beginning, there was God, but there was no one for Him to be God for! 

 So God created something that He could be a God for; something that would be able to relate to Him in the same manner as He relates to Himself.  “Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” [Gen.1:26]  “(Then) the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. [Gen. 2:7]

Again, we learn that God wanted to be God for someone; He wanted to be God for you and me.  He created us in His image; He created us to have dominion and rule over the entire earth in His authority just as He has dominion and rule over us.  Listen: (So) God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” [Genesis 1:28]  Can you see the beauty in this Word of God?  Do you understand that God created the entire world as a cradle for people with whom He could relate with; they were made in His image, and designed to relate to Him and multiply, and care for the earth!  Do you see how passionate in His love God is for all of creation?  It was that same love that moved Him to empower us with the ability to reject Him by choosing evil over good.  Listen and you will understand: “The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.” [Gen 2:15-17] 

Many people love to say that God is love; they say it so quickly, but I wonder how many realize the infinite depth of that love.  God loves us so much that He not only gives us the ability to reject His love, but He also made the decision to share His love.  Listen: “The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” [Genesis 2:18]  Why did God do this?  Friends, God did this because He is love and love is not only passionate it is sacrificial.  It was God’s eternal love that motivated Him to share Adam with Eve!

 So, from all of this we now learn what the Garden of Eden was; it was a perfect place for perfect people, who related to a perfect God and one another in a perfect way; intimately and free of guilt and fear.  But God also created us to reflect His love and care towards each other and all of creation.  So when we hear that we were created in His image, that doesn’t mean that we were designed to look like Him; no, it means that we were created to act like Him; to reflect His character, His heart and priorities.  We were created to relate to Him and others as God relates to us—in love!  But something happened which caused us to lose that character of God; listen: “Now the serpent was craftier than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”  The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”  Now let me interject here and point out that God never said that if they touched the fruit they would die; that was Eve’s addition.  It was the first act of legalism and many such additions to God’s Word have followed ever since.  Remember this; legalism always turns a loving God into an angry God! 

Well now, seeing an opportunity, the devil pounces: “You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”  When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. [Genesis 3:1-7]

So what happened?  I’ll tell you what happened; they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and it’s been that way ever since!  It always starts the same way; it starts with Satan planting a seed of doubt.  Then once He gets us to doubt, He uses deception.  What did He say to Eve?  He said, “You will not surely die.”  What he meant was you won’t die immediately, but you will die eventually!  He was implying that God was holding back the best from us.  He was implying that we may think like Him, but we don’t know like Him.  And so began the insatiable desire of man to know the mysteries of God.  It is the prize that Satan has been promising to give ever since the fall! 

Now you see the beginning of our own sinful nature.  Can you see why Adam and Eve were to blame for the fall and not God; why we are to blame for our own sin?  It always starts the same way.  First we allow seeds of doubt to grow into discontent, and from there it’s just a simple turn towards sinful desires.  And once those sinful desires rear their ugly heads, full-blown disobedience… sin is sure to follow!  And disobedience and sin always come with a price, a big price.  Forever things were changed in a moment; the greatest blessing we could ever have or want was lost; we lost our relationship of love and trust with our Creator!  How?  Well, we chose knowledge over trust in God and when that choice was made we lost our ability to relate to Him in innocence and love!  Listen to how scripture explains it: “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.”  [Genesis 3:7]

In just one moment of sin, our peace and trust in God’s care was replaced with shame and guilt! But that wasn’t all; no there’s another thing that always follows sin and that is denial.  Listen: “Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”  The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” [Genesis 3:13]  Do you hear the denial? “The serpent YOU made.”  And ever since that great fall, God has been getting blamed for the things that sinful men and women do.  We’ve lost both our relationship with God and the ability to physically live forever! But there are other ways that we are suffering because of that sin.  Listen: To the woman (God) said, “I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children.  Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” [Genesis 3:16]  From that point on, the created order of things had changed.  No longer would the woman measure her worth through God’s love and care, but now she must turn to her relationships with others, but because they are sinful also, they will fail her as well!

So where did that leave Adam and Eve?  The same place it leaves God and you and me; we all long to return to what we lost in Eden.  We long to be in a relationship with each other.  God knows the way back because He made the way.  But we are never happy waiting on God; we don’t like to do things His way, so we take matters into our own hands and we try to fix what is broken on our own.  Listen again: “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.” [Genesis 3:7]  Nothing’s changed much since then has it?  Like Adam and Eve, we’re still trying to cover up and hide our sin!  We are still trying to get back into Eden through our own work and cover-up!

But God has a plan; a plan to restore what we lost; to fix what we messed up!  But in order to understand God’s way and follow His plan we have to first admit that there is only one person who’s never changed; we have to first confess that God is right and we are wrong!  That dear friends is simply called confession!  And to make our confession come a little easier, God wants each of us to know that He still wants us to return to Him and relate to Him in love and trust.  He wants us to remember that we were created to be in a close relationship with Him and each other; a relationship free of guilt and fear.  How will God accomplish all of this?   By forgiveness and grace! 

 Listen to God’s way of doing this very thing as He put the devil on notice: “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” [Genesis 3:15]  This was the first proclamation of the Gospel as God promised that He would defeat the devil and restore our fallen and broken relationship.  This is the same promise that He has repeated consistently through many different prophets.  Listen to God speak this same promise through the prophet Isaiah: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” [Isaiah 7:14]

What one man destroyed through choice, the God man, the child of the virgin would restore through another choice. “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.” [Romans 5:12-14] 

It was God’s love for the world, for you that moved Him to send His son to us in our flesh.  It was God’s love that moved Him to take away the leaves that we used to cover our shame and provide the skins of animals in its place.  Here is the first teaching of God that demonstrates to us that our sin is so serious that it requires more than a mere cover-up… it requires the shedding of blood!  “(So) the LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. [Genesis 3:21]  But animal blood was only a temporary solution to a permanent problem.  Human blood must be spilled for human sin. This is where the sending of God’s Son Jesus Christ becomes God’s way back to Eden.  Through the tree of knowledge sinful mankind lost their relationship of love and trust with God, but God raised up another tree, the cross of Jesus Christ!

 Through the cross we learn that God’s gift of love and forgiveness is the only way back to Eden.  “For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin.  For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification.” [Rom. 5:15-17]

 What do we learn first in the book of Genesis and then throughout the entire Bible?  You don’t get back to Eden through Eden.  You get back to Eden through the cross of Jesus Christ!  So God’s desire for you this morning is simply this; that by reading His Word you would believe and trust in His love and work for you through Jesus Christ and then be saved.  God desires that you would rest in the work of Jesus Christ, which was given to you in your baptism, and then be brought back into a right relationship with Him; a relationship of love and trust!

So here is the simple message of the cross, a message that you can speak to your neighbors.  God is creating a community of people who relate to Him by faith and one another in love so that He can bless them, and through them be a blessing to the world, by reconciling then to him through the one man, Jesus CHRIST!

The Lord’s Prayer-Part 1

Thursday, March 10th, 2011

Click here for audio of this message
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
Ash Wednesday Message
March 9, 2011

” “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you,” (Matthew 6:1-14, ESV)

[1]
[1] The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Transfigured by God’s Word

Sunday, March 6th, 2011

The Transfiguration of Our Lord, March 6, 2011
Rev. Brian Henderson—Pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
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INTRODUCTION:  What do you do, how do you feel when you are standing in the middle of God’s glory?  In our gospel reading this morning, we see what the three apostles did; they hid their faces in terror!  What would you do?  Well let’s try to put a more practical application to this question; think about your eyes and your ears for a moment.  Aren’t they wonderful?  With the ear we can listen to God’s Word.  We can hear about His law, which terrifies us because it shows how much God hates and punishes sin… our sin!  But then, we can also hear His gospel, which assures us that God is love, and that through faith in Jesus Christ, God has forgiven us of our many sins!  And then through our eyes, we can actually read this Word of God for ourselves.  We can discover and understand God in a way that is personal and real!  But what if, what if the eye and the ear fail us through disease or old age?  Does that mean that we should be afraid that God is angry with us?  Should we feel that God is punishing us?  Would God do that?  Could He do that?  Yes He could and He’s done it in the past!  Are you beginning to get a sense of the terror that the three apostles had?  Good!  That’s how a creature should feel about its Creator.  But to this terror, Jesus in that same Word taps you on your shoulder and says, “Rise, and have no fear.”  I AM with you!  So this presence and special protection of Jesus is what we will look at this morning.  And to do this, we will answer three primary questions: 1. What is the Transfiguration?  2. What is the Word of God?  3. What is the purpose of the Word of God?

I. What is the Transfiguration?  Well, the word “transfiguration” finds its origin in the Greek word “metamorpho” and it means to transform, or to metamorphose, or to change into another form. In the case of the transfiguration of our Lord, it means that the outward reality of His Human nature was changed to match the inward reality of His divine nature; a nature that was “veiled” (Hebrews 10:20) in human form.  So Jesus’ transfiguration was a glimpse at Jesus’ true glory; the Shekinah glory of God which has always belonged to the Son of God. And to make sure we understand this eternal reality, the voice of God the Father speaks to us with these Words: “This is my beloved Son, with who I am well pleased; listen to Him.” [Matthew 17:5b]

Through the audible voice of God, God’s Word explains His Work.  He is telling us essentially this: “I have sent my Son to you in your flesh!  I did this not to punish you but to lead and save you.  You must listen to Him if you wish to know and rest in my love and favor.”  So here dear friends is the wonderful Word of God first speaking in an audible voice to the three apostles, and now from the written Word of God He speaks to you!  Through this Living Word of God you like the three apostles are taken to a place where heaven and earth become one; you actually are allowed to experience a joining of heaven and earth!  But how can this be?  Simply because God’s Word, His means of grace and salvation are with you now!  They are with you to comfort you, to counsel and guide you!

II. But what really is the Word of God?  How can we be sure that our Bibles alone are truly God’s Holy Word?  Well friends, you can be sure because God has given you His own testimony to this truth in our Gospel reading this morning.  Think now; who appeared with Jesus and the three on that mountain top long ago?  It was Moses and Elijah!  Moses the great law-giver who promised that the Lord our God would raise up for us a great prophet from among us and it is this one that we should listen to! [Deut. 18:15] And Elijah the greatest of prophets of old is there with Moses to make sure that we understand that neither he nor any of the other prophets were the one that we were to look for!  And how do they appear?  Gathered around Jesus… listening to Jesus, all the while enveloped in the cloud of God’s glory.  And as Jesus, Moses, Elijah, and the three apostles are gathered in that place where heaven and earth join, the Word of the Father rings out like thunder: “This is my beloved Son!  (One who is far greater than the prophets and kings of old.)  Listen to Him!” [Vs.5]

And how do we listen to Him?  We listen to Him by hearing and reading the Word of God; both the Law and the prophets.  Now, some will say that there are many ways to know God, say like going to the beach or to the mountains.  But friends these things only speak about God in muffled tones and may I say they mainly speak to deaf ears and blind eyes!  What do you do when the sea becomes a Tsunami and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea because of a catastrophic earthquake?  How do you make sense of these things and find God’s wisdom when it seems that the whole earth around you and beneath you is going to hell in a hand basket?  You listen to God speak in the way that He has chosen to reveal Himself; you look to His Word which comes to us in our own history!  God has always been involved and even intervened in our history.  He has done it in mighty acts of judgment and even mightier acts of liberation!  Another way to say this is that God’s people always experience God among them saving them.  But why?  And that friends is the point; without the leading of God’s Holy Spirit calling up prophetic voices to explain what God is up to, all of this would remain a mystery and it would be subject to the whim of sinful human speculation!

But God did speak and He assures us that we can know what He has said.  To do this He has used many different voices of prophets to convey His message to His people of faith.  He has spoken and they have repeated in their own style exactly what God has said.  We can explain this use of prophets in a different ways.  In one way they are like a UN translator who takes the Words of a heavenly language and repeats their meaning into our language.  Or we can think of the prophets as different musical instruments.  As a flute or a trumpet, it is God who blows into them and pushes the different keys so that His musical composition can be heard each in the style of the instrument.  Or maybe He plucks the strings of a guitar or pounds the strings of a piano, but in each case it is God’s music singing into our hearts!  In the case of His Word, God choses to use language; He brings His Word to us in our own language. 

You know, there’s one thing each of us has in common, we like to talk; why we even talk even to ourselves.  We even think in words!  God has created us so that we organize our lives in words.  Because God designed us that way, He not only acted out His love in human history, He also explained those actions through the prophets in our own words.  Through the prophets we have both the promise and the power of our Lord Jesus Christ.  The entire Bible was recorded so that we would have something sure; so that we would have the prophetic and perfect Word of God, delivered to us exactly as God wanted it to be delivered!  And it is this Word that St. Peter tells us to pay attention to; he tells us to use it like a lamp that will shine God’s own light first in our dark hearts and then in a world that has been darkened by sin!  We are to use God’s Word with complete confidence knowing that no prophecy of Scripture, which is your Holy Bible ever came from someone’s own interpretation.  God assures you that nothing in your Bibles ever came by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit!  And what did they speak of?  They spoke of the very reason that God moved men to record His Word: So that you right now would know Jesus Christ as God’s only begotten Son and as your Savior! [2 Peter 1:19-21]

III. What is the purpose of the Word of God?  That you would know Jesus and by knowing Jesus know God!  This dear friends is also the purpose of our Lord’s Transfiguration.  It is God’s way of helping you make sense of the mystery which is the two natures of Jesus Christ.  It is God’s way of reassuring you that Jesus who is fully God and fully man is your Savior!  It is God’s way and means of telling us who Jesus is and what Jesus is doing; God is teaching us about Jesus mission and His ministry!  He is teaching us that Jesus was born to die for our sins and for our transgressions!  He is teaching us that Jesus is God’s beloved Son with whom He is well pleased and that we must listen to Him.

And when we listen to Him we discover that we have a God who is not only always with us but for us.  We discover that we have a mighty champion who fights for us and protects us.  When we listen to Jesus we find comfort and hope in a Savior who spoke these Words: “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.  And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.  For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” [Jn. 6:37-40]  This dear friends is the fulfillment of the same promise that God has consistently made from the very first pages of our Bibles.  This is the promise that God has made yours in the waters of your own baptism.  And in this fulfilled promise, God’s heavenly glory has come to you on earth; it is a glory that envelopes you in His Word and Sacrament.  As you knell at His table you know that for that brief moment you are being given a glimpse of His eternal glory to come.  As you dine with all the company of heaven you know that this is a foretaste of the feast to come!  And as His glory surrounds you, through His Word, by faith know that you are in the miraculous presence of your Great Prophet and King. 

CONCLUSION: Now for some, to be in the presence of God is a terrifying thing.  But for us, we know that because we are with Jesus, everything will be alright.  We know that because Jesus is with us, we have a God who is for us and never against us.  So let the oceans roar and let the mountains fall into the heart of the sea.  Let the eyes and the ears fail; we will not fear because we know that we have a God who has made all things new.  And when we doubt, Jesus through the Word of God tap us on our shoulder and says, “Rise, and have no fear.”  And when we lift up our eyes we will see no real threat, but instead we will only see Jesus!  May God grant this faith to each of us.  AMEN!