Archive for April, 2011

Kingdom, Power, and Glory!

Sunday, April 24th, 2011

Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church-San Diego
Easter Sunday, April 24, 2011
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Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  What a wonderful announcement for this sinful world to hear!  We know why it is wonderful; we know why it is good news; it is wonderful and good because through the work of Jesus Christ, God has defeated our archenemies, sin, death, and the devil!  But to this unbelieving world what we call good and wonderful, they call foolish and a waste of time!  They dismiss what we hold precious, the death, resurrection, and glorification of our Savior, and in its place they put the easter bunny and earth day? 

We started what we call Holy Week with Palm Sunday.  On that day we recall the cheers of the jubilant crowd welcoming their King, our King with Hosannas and blessings to the one who comes in the name of our God!  I wonder what our society would chant if Jesus came in our midst today?  Maybe this: “Here comes the King, here comes the big number one!  The king is calling so loud and clear!  There is only one king…”  Does that sound good?  Well let me give you the rest of this jingle that was written in 1971: “Here comes the King, here come the big number one; Budweiser Beer is beer that’s second to none!  The king is calling, so loud and clear; there’s only one Budweiser Beer.  When you say Bud you say it all!” 

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

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

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

 “Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb.” [Matthew 28:1]  Dear friends this was no ordinary morning for the women in Jesus inner circle; no they weren’t on their way to the market to buy what they needed for breakfast; they were on their way to finish burying their King!  Jesus who they were certain was the Messiah; a king who would live forever was now dead!  All of their hopes and dreams seemed to be sealed away in that tomb with the body of Jesus!  He was buried so quickly on Friday evening because the Sabbath was soon to start at sundown; and every good Jew knew that you couldn’t do any work on the Sabbath; not even burying your king!  Well the Sabbath is over; the sun is now rising and it is a new day… Sunday to be exact.  So off they went to finish the work that was started on Friday.  Not only must they enter deeper into the dark valley of death, but they must smell and experience the decay of Him who they thought would not, no could not die! 

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

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

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

He is risen!  Glory be to God on high… Jesus is risen indeed!  And what a greeting He gives to these wonderful Christian women!  It is a shame that our translators chose such a boring word as “Greetings” to put in the mouth of Jesus.  A more accurate translation of Jesus greeting is “Happiness and joy in their fullness are yours!”  Amen and amen Jesus!  You are alive!  You are the living God; even death and the grave have no power over you!  Your kingdom is not only greater than the devil and sinful men, but your power and glory can never be defeated or replaced!  It’s no wonder that the women fell down and worshiped Him!  But Jesus has something to tell them, and through them He also speaks to us.  Listen: “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.” [vs. 10]  Do not be afraid!  Behold I have made all things new; I have defeated my enemies and I have brought you back into my Father’s Kingdom of power and glory!  Now go and tell my brothers, those who have believed my Word; those who were heavily burdened by sin and fear; those who turned to me for rest.  Tell them I am alive and just as I promised I will never leave nor forsake them!  

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

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

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

Our Lord’s Passion

Friday, April 22nd, 2011
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
Good Friday before the Resurrection of our Lord
NOTE: Scripture only for the 7 Meditations (short messages) are provided.  Audio for each meditation is available by clicking on the link provided at each message.

Meditation 1 (John 19:1-16a)
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1 Then Pilate took Jesus and flogged him. 2 And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe. 3 They came up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and struck him with their hands. 4 Pilate went out again and said to them, “See, I am bringing him out to you that you may know that I find no guilt in him.” 5 So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Behold the man!” 6 When the chief priests and the officers saw him, they cried out, “Crucify him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no guilt in him.” 7 The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has made himself the Son of God.” 8 When Pilate heard this statement, he was even more afraid. 9 He entered his headquarters again and said to Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. 10 So Pilate said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” 11 Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.” 12 From then on Pilate sought to release him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.” 13 So when Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called The Stone Pavement, and in Aramaic Gabbatha. 14 Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover. It was about the sixth hour. He said to the Jews, “Behold your King!” 15 They cried out, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.” 16 So he delivered him over to them to be crucified.

Meditation 2 (John 19:16b-22)
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So they took Jesus, 17 and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. 18 There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them. 19 Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” 20 Many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Aramaic, in Latin, and in Greek. 21 So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but rather, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’ ” 22 Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.”  16 So he delivered him over to them to be crucified.

Meditation 3 (John 19:23-24)
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23 When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his garments and divided them into four parts, one part for each soldier; also his tunic. But the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom, 24 so they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.” This was to fulfill the Scripture which says, “They divided my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.” So the soldiers did these things,

Meditation 4 (John 19:25-27 )
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25 but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” 27 Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.

Meditation 5 (Luke 23:39-45 )
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39 One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” 44 It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, 45 while the sun’s light failed. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two.

Meditation 6 (John 19:28-30)
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28 After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” 29 A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. 30 When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

Meditation 7 (John 19:31-42)
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31 Since it was the day of Preparation, and so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken and that they might be taken away. 32 So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who had been crucified with him. 33 But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 34 But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. 35 He who saw it has borne witness-his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth-that you also may believe. 36 For these things took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken.” 37 And again another Scripture says, “They will look on him whom they have pierced.” 38 After these things Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took away his body. 39 Nicodemus also, who earlier had come to Jesus by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds in weight. 40 So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews. 41 Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. 42 So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there.

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“What is This Bread and Wine?” (The Lord’s Prayer Part-7)

Friday, April 22nd, 2011

Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
Maundy Thursday, April 21, 2011
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On the night before He died, Jesus shared with His disciples the Passover, or the Seder. But in the midst of this Seder meal, Jesus served and instituted another meal, a new meal, a meal that was to be repeated; it was “The Lord’s Supper.”   What is this bread that they and we share and eat?  It is God’s very means of delivering and protecting us from evil; the very thing we ask for at the end of the Lord’s Prayer!  Think of the last petition that we pray in that prayer: “But deliver us from evil. Amen.”

In the Greek this petition actually reads, “Deliver or preserve us from the Evil One, or the Wicked One.” It seems to point to the devil as the sum of everything that is evil in this world; it’s as if the entire substance of our prayer is directed against our archenemy. And that makes sense because it’s the devil and his minions who obstruct everything we have asked for in this prayer, which is simply God’s name and honor, God’s kingdom and will, our daily bread, and a good and peaceful conscience.

So at the end of this prayer, we are simply summing up everything we’ve asked for with this request: “Dear Father, help us to get rid of everything that is evil.” So, in this petition God is showing us that our need to pray for His divine protection is in fact endless because the attacks of the devil and this sinful world are also endless! So, this task of praying for God’s protection is a full time endeavor, and like any endeavor we need to be strengthened for the task ahead, and this is precisely what God gives to us in His Holy meal.  This meal along with God’s Word and our baptism is God’s means of strengthening our faith so that we can receive and believe that He has truly forgiven our sins!  For if we are to live a victorious life of faith we must be assured that we are protected and delivered from all kinds of evil; we must be strengthened to keep God’s name holy and work to see His kingdom grow within us and among us; we must be empowered to see His will being done among us and believe that because of Christ’s work upon the cross and His work for in our baptism, we have complete forgiveness of sins!  We must be able to believe that in the end God will protect us from sin and disgrace and from everything else that tries to harm or injures us.

And to provide for this faith and strength, God invites us to a new meal; His holy meal that we call the Lord’s Supper!  What is this meal? Well…

The rest of the message is available in audio format by clicking here.

They Want to See Jesus!

Sunday, April 17th, 2011

Passion/Palm Sunday, April 17, 2011
Rev. Brian Henderson—Pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
NOTE: There is no manuscript for this message, only audio.  Click here for audio of this message

John 12:12–19

12 The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. 13 So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” 14 And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written,

            15      “Fear not, daughter of Zion;
                  behold, your king is coming,
      sitting on a donkey’s colt!”

16 His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about him and had been done to him. 17 The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to bear witness. 18 The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign. 19 So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him.”

John 12:20–43

20 Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. 21 So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 23 And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.
27 “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” 29 The crowd that stood there and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” 30 Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not mine. 31 Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33 He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die. 34 So the crowd answered him, “We have heard from the Law that the Christ remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?” 35 So Jesus said to them, “The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going. 36 While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.”
When Jesus had said these things, he departed and hid himself from them. 37 Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him, 38 so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:

                  “Lord, who has believed what he heard from us,
      and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”

39 Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said,

            40      “He has blinded their eyes
      and hardened their heart,
                  lest they see with their eyes,
      and understand with their heart, and turn,
      and I would heal them.”

41 Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him. 42 Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.

One Baptism!

Saturday, April 16th, 2011

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Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
Friday Night Gospel Celebration,April 15, 2011

NOTE: There is no written text for this sermon.  Please click this link to hear the message.

One Body with Many Members (1 Corinthians 12:12-29)

12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves [4] or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, [5] yet one body.

21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 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, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.

27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? 31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts.

The Lord’s Prayer-Part 6

Friday, April 15th, 2011

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Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
Midweek Lent Message
April 6, 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 Lord’s Prayer-Part 5

Thursday, April 7th, 2011

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Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
Midweek Lent Message
April 6, 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)

Light and Darkness

Sunday, April 3rd, 2011

The Fourth Sunday in Lent (A), April 3, 2011
Rev. Brian Henderson—Pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
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 INTRODUCTION: “Awake, O sleeper and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” So says the final words of our epistle lesson this morning (Ephesians 5:8-14).  But what do these words really mean?  Are we to think of our faith, our very salvation as nothing more than an alarm clock that rudely awakens us from a pleasant dream, leaving us the choice to either get up and walk the rest of our lives with Christ or simply hit the snooze button and drift off back to pleasant dreams?  Well, yes; that is if you feel separated from God because of the shameful things you’re doing and never repented of, or if you’ve always felt that being baptized or living our your baptism is either a childhood fantasy or a complete waste of your time, then yes quite frankly, this alarm is for you.  “Awake, O sleeper and (get up) from the dead, and (then) Christ will shine on you!”

 In our gospel lesson this morning Jesus leaves us with some ominous words.  Listen: “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” [John 9:39]  Now some of you may be confused; you may see Jesus only as the great Savior of the world.  You may want to quote our gospel from two weeks ago and remind me that God loves the world so much that He gave His only Son Jesus so that who so ever believes in Him won’t perish, but have everlasting life.  You’ll also no doubt, remind me that God didn’t come into this world to condemn it but to save it. [Jn. 3:16]  Now if you told me all of this, I would agree with you, but I would also add that Jesus came to save a sinful world!  So, what difference does that make?  Well, you have to first admit that you are part of that “sinful” world that Jesus came to save!  In other words, you have to first admit that you need saving; that you have sin that you can’t deal with on your own and you need God’s help… His means of salvation!  And this was exactly what we learned in our gospel reading this morning.

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

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

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

“Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man (that is the Son of God)?”  (And the man who was blind at birth but now sees) answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe?”  (Even though this man was confused about a lot of things and disappointed by a lot of people, Hew knew for certain that this man Jesus, who spoke truthfully and lovingly to him, who gave him something he thought he would never have this side of heaven was one man that he trusted.  So he was willing to go and believe in anyone that Jesus pointed out as being His Savior).  (And Jesus said to him, “You have seen Him, and it is he who is speaking to you.”  (Now it all made sense; now he understood why this man’s voice was so comforting and yet so authoritative).  (So) he said, “LORD!  I believe,” and he worshiped him.” [Jn. 9:35-38]

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

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

 Dear friends, if you see and know Jesus as your Lord and Savior; if you see in Him as both God and man; if you see him as your only means of pleasing God; and if you see all of this because God’s Word has both healed you and saved you then you are like the blind man in our gospel reading and like the blind man in my story.  By God’s grace and through the eyes of faith that He has opened with His Word, you see the brightness of God in Jesus Christ; you are drawn to this light and you follow it.  Jesus is your light that allows you to see not just your sin, but God’s forgiving love that shines from the cross.  You follow this light from the cross to the baptismal font, where you were bathed and washed clean in God’s own light; you were recreated!  And from the font it is your desire to follow that light where ever it leads you.  And where does it lead you?  It leads you out into our community where sin, death, and darkness blind our neighbors.  And what are you to do as you follow the light of Jesus?  You let it shine!  But make no mistake; this light is not your light, not even a little bit!  No, it is all God’s light reflecting off of you.  As Jesus is your Sun, you are His moon.  Your little gospel light is simply a reflection of Jesus wonderful light that is eternal in the city of God.  And your prayer as you follow Him is simply this, “Shine in my heart, Lord Jesus.  Bring your light into the darkness as I follow you.” 

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

The Lord’s Prayer-Part 4

Friday, April 1st, 2011

Click here for audio of this message
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
Midweek Lent Message
March 30, 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)