Archive for September, 2011

We Need Jesus to Survive!

Sunday, September 25th, 2011

Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost A, September 25, 2011
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
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Philippians 2:1-18

Do you know the music that’s playing?  Yes it’s the theme song to the reality T.V. show, “Survivor.”  it’s playing because I want to start off our message this morning with an analogy to that show.  On Survivor, the premise is this: If you want to survive, you need to outlast, out smart, and out play your opponents who are isolated with you on the island.  Well our message this morning calls us to do the opposite.  Like the reality show, we too are gathered together, not on an isolated island, but here in Christ’s church.  We are gathered together with a bunch of people who are completely different than us, yet we are all exactly the same.  Each of us has different life time experiences, but each of us are fighting against the same opponents, sin, death, and the devil!  Instead of playing to eliminate your fellow islanders by out-playing them, you’re living to see that they make it all the way to the end!

On the tv show, each player tries to obtain what’s called an immunity idol.  This “idol” protects the players from the strategy and attack of their opponents.  In our walk of Christian faith, we have our baptism.  It also makes us immune, immune from the attacks of sin, death, and the devil; as long as we are resting in our baptism, these evil forces can’t eliminate us from winning eternal life.  Now here is where the greatest difference is; in our walk of faith our goal isn’t to eliminate others but to include them by helping them reach the same goal… eternal life with Jesus.  How can this be done?  Only by having, and then helping others have the heart and mind of Jesus Christ; a heart and mind that can only be obtained through God’s Word!  Through the Word, we’re given Jesus and a new faith and obedience to trust and obey God!  When we have Jesus, we will naturally live to “Out Love, Out Sacrifice, and Out Serve” each other.  We will come to see the truth in the saying, “I need you, you need me, and we all need Jesus to survive!

In our epistle lesson this morning (Philippians 2:1-18), St. Paul is asking us to live a life of humility.  He’s asking us to put the needs of others above our own by out loving them, out serving them, and out sacrificing for them.  He is asking us to be a source of encouragement and comfort by participating in the ministry of the church.  He’s asking us to utilize our time, talent, and treasure to help further and build the Kingdom of God.  He says in verse 3 that we are to “do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than (ourselves).”  He says that we are to look not only to (our) own interests, but also to the interests of others. [vs. 4]

But how?  How can broken sinners like us fill such a tall and perfect order?  How can we sacrifice our time, talent, and treasure to spread God’s Kingdom of grace when everything in us and around us is convincing us to do the very opposite?  By being obedient to God’s will!  Here’s a truth that you might want to write down and remember: “Selected obedience isn’t obedience at all; it is merely convenience.”  Saints of God, we haven’t been called to do what is convenient, but what is inconvenient.  When we give of our time, talent, and treasure when it isn’t convenient, God calls that sacrifice.  And when God sees sacrifice, He sees love!

A husband and wife were discussing the possibility of taking a trip to the Holy Land.  The husband said, “Wouldn’t it be great to stand on Mount Sinai and shout out the Ten Commandments?”  To that the wife said, “Wouldn’t it be even greater if we stayed home and kept them?”  Men of God please hear me; our families and our community are waiting for us to be the spiritual leaders that God has created us to be!  They are waiting for us to lead them through love, sacrifice, and service!  The question is will we respond?  How do any of us respond?  How do we begin?

And to this Paul says: “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but 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.”  And there you have it… we must have the heart and mind of Jesus.  We must live in the same frame of mind that He had; what is even more interesting is the fact hat he says we already have Jesus’ heart and mind! And what is the heart and mind of Jesus?  Well it’s the heart and mind of a slave and of a servant!  Do you see yourself as God’s slave and as the servant of your brothers and sisters in the church?  Do you see Jesus example and desire to make it your own?  If you’re anything like me, you are probably getting a little uncomfortable and feeling a little inadequate.  If you are, good!  That’s the work of God’s Law reminding you that on your own you can do nothing!  If you are listening right now, if you are really paying attention then you are also feeling helpless.  And that’s good, because you see, after God shows you your sin and you confess it, it’s no longer about you… it’s all about God and what He did for you through Jesus Christ!

Who is Jesus Christ to you? Is he really the Son of God who came to us in our flesh to set us free from our sins or is He only partly God’s Son or only a man and not even partly God’s Son? This isn’t some theological issue that only scholars argue about, this is an issue involving the life or the death of every Christian, including each of us.  How we believe will determine whether we’re obedient or disobedient; it will determine where we will spend our eternity! How we answer this question and what we believe about Jesus involves the whole saving work of Jesus for sinners like you and me!  The key that unlocks God’s Kingdom for us and allows us to be and remain in it rests entirely on who Jesus is, what He did, and whether or not He is our source of sincerity, obedience, and true sacrifice.  In Jesus we must see that the only sacrifice pleasing to God, could only be made by Jesus the Christ, Son of God and son of man!  If He was not truly man, then He could not have suffered and died for the world… for only man can pay for the sins of men.  Jesus suffered and died for you!

On Good Friday, Jesus the Christ suffered and died to pay for what we cannot pay for!  On that day Jesus defeated our chief enemy,which is sin!  But if His work stopped there, if His work in our flesh was all that He gave to us, then we would still have no hope, because our other enemies death and the devil would still be our master.  But His work didn’t stop there, because on Good Friday not only did Jesus the man die for us but Jesus the Son of God died as well!  On Good Friday, that which can’t happen happened… God died for us!  God had to do this, because only God has the power over life and death.  In the person of Jesus, the Son of God emptied Himself for us when He became our Christ… our Savior.  He became our brother by emptying Himself, becoming a slave and dying a slave’s death upon a tree!  But He also proved that He was our God by taking His life back up again.  God did all of this to save us; so that we could return to Him!  He did this so that you could enter and remain in His Kingdom of forgiveness and love.

This death and resurrection was something only the Son of God could and did do, and He did it for us!  And when it was finished this act gave Jesus the Christ the Name, which is above all names, so that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord!  [vs. 10, 11]

But you already know this don’t you?  You are already struggling to live out this truth.  Or as Paul says, we are “(working) out (our) own salvation with fear and trembling.”  Why fear and trembling?  Because we know that our God not only suffered and died for us, but He also lives and works within us!  He not only wills that we live a life of love, service, and sacrifice, but He is accomplishing that very thing within us through the heart and mind of Jesus!  And because we know this is true, we find comfort knowing that the same God who has ignited a spark of true godliness in our hearts will keep right on working until it becomes a blazing bonfire!  We know that in our weakness and failures, we have a God who comes to us and strengthens us with divine help!

And how does He help us?  Only through His Word!  It is His Word alone that tells us that we have been saved by grace alone through baptism and new life!  It is His Word alone that not only encourages us but enables us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling.  It is the gospel that tells us that we have a God who is for us and not against; a God who is willing and working in us and among us to bring and sustain His Kingdom of peace and forgiveness.  And as we remain centered in His Word in our worship, prayers, and service we begin to sense His presence as we witness ourselves “(doing these) things without grumbling or questioning”. And this is God’s work within us, the real change He brings so that we may know that in His Kingdom, we are blameless and innocent children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom (we) shine as (bright) lights in the world.”  And all of this is done only because we are “holding fast to the Word of life, the Word of God, Jesus Christ!

I’d like to close with this story.  A missionary translator worked hard to find a word for “obedience” in the native language. This was a virtue that seemed to be lacking among the people into whose language he wanted to translate the New Testament. As he returned home from the village one day, he whistled for his dog and it came running at full speed. An old native, seeing this, said admiringly in the native tongue, “Your dog is all ear.” Immediately the missionary knew he had his word for obedience.

Dear friends, God wants us to be all ear; He wants us to hear His Word and allow Him to transform us.  We need the new obedience, the heart and mind of Jesus, which God’ Word provides. Yes, we need God and we need each other.  I need you and you need me, because together we are all part of God’s Kingdom.  I need you through the presence and power of God to out love, out serve, and out sacrifice me, and you need me and each other to do the very same thing.  I need you and you need me, but each of us needs Jesus to survive!  May God continue to do this great work of providing for our needs through Jesus Christ… AMEN!

Abraham’s Bosom

Saturday, September 24th, 2011

What Are You Seeking?

Sunday, September 18th, 2011

Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost A, September 18, 2011
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
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“Seek the Lord while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near” [Isaiah 55:6]

 INTRODUCTION: The title of our message this morning is a question; it is a question from God!  What is it that you are seeking? Why did you come here?   Are you here for the one thing you really need… forgiveness, or are you here for other reasons? 

 One of the biggest hurdles to faith that I encounter as a pastor is a person’s lack of forgiveness; either they feel that God won’t forgive them or they can’t forgive someone else.  Really, the two issues are just different sides of the same coin, because they represent a heart that won’t let God change it.  Let me give you a general conversation I’ve had with many people: “Why don’t you feel God loves you?”  Well, I did something a long time ago that I never dealt with and now that I’m older, well… I think it’s just too late!  “Why do you think that?”  I don’t know really, I just feel that its true! 

 At this point, my job is simply to assure them with scripture that God’s call to come to Him, to seek His love and forgiveness is really for them and it’s a lifelong process.  As long as we keep coming and seeking Him, He keeps forgiving.  Listen to the words of King David as He confirms this same truth in a very personal and experiential way: “When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord” – and you forgave the guilt of my sin.” [Psalm 32:3-5]

This morning we come to God, we come to His Church seeking His forgiveness within His Word and Sacraments, and miracle upon miracle, He keeps forgiving us!  Our response to this is simply falling down at the foot of the cross in a spirit of worship.  And as we worship we hear God’s still soft voice assure us that we are changed, but we are changed with a purpose.  We are changed to serve Him and reflect His love and forgiveness to others.

I. Before we seek forgiveness we must first see a need to be forgiven, and the only way we can see this is if we come to God in His Word.  In His Word we hear first that we are sinful and unclean.  That means that as we are, God won’t love us!  When we see this truth and admit it, it does something terrible but wonderful in our hearts and minds… it destroys us!  God’s Law takes away any hope we have in knowing happiness and peace and it assures us that no matter what we try to do to remove our feeling of guilt, it will never work!  But then the call of the gospel comes to us and reminds us that God not only will forgive us but He has forgiven us; all God asks us to do is simply agree with His Word that we are sinners in both what we’ve done and what we have left undone.  If we can admit this then He gives us ears of faith to hear the gospel.

You are forgiven!  “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon!” [Isaiah 55:7]  This is God’s call to each of us to turn to the only way He has opened in order to be right with Him… and that way is through the cross of Jesus! We must turn to Jesus alone for God’s assurance that all of our sins are paid for… forgiven… covered with the blood of God’s Lamb of Sacrifice, Jesus Christ. 

 In both the Law and Gospel of God we are taught that sin is real and it needs to be dealt with.  Either God covers it or we cover it up!  And there’s a big difference between the two.  As Rudyard Kipling said, “Nothing is ever settled until it’s settled right.”  When the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ becomes our only source of peace and happiness, well a true joy comes over us, because we know when God covers our sin, it’s settled forever!

 So what is the reason God wants us to come to His church?  For His Divine Service! We come to receive God’s work of forgiveness.  And when we receive this work, this gift of forgiveness, all we can do is simply fall down at the feet of Jesus and worship Him as our Savior and God!  So are you here for the right reason?  Have you dealt with your sin?  If not, what is it that you’re waiting for?

 The story is told about a farmer who hated the church and his Christian neighbors.  When he died he left a will giving all that he had to the devil.  The will was contested by his family and the court was forced to make a decision.  After several months of deliberation it handed down the following verdict:  “It is decided that the best way to carry out the wish of the deceased is to allow the farm to grow weeds, the soil to erode, and the house and barn to rot.  In our opinion the best way to leave something to the devil is to do nothing.”

 So there is the truth that some here face this morning.  To put off allowing God’s Word to change your heart is like willing your soul to the devil!  So God is saying that today is the day that you should settle any feelings of anger, bitterness, and hate.  Today is the day that you should seek His love, because “the Lord is near to all who call on Him, to all who call on Him in truth.  He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; He also hears their cry and saves them. [Psalm 145:18, 19]  So come to Jesus.  Let your desire for forgiveness lead you to seek Jesus; demand Him as your only means of help.  Strive after Him and run to His cross.  Let God’s Word move your heart to stretch out your arms of faith toward Him and then embrace Him and cling to Him alone.

II. In our gospel lesson (Matthew 20:1-16) Jesus tells us a story about what God’s Kingdom of Grace, His Kingdom of Forgiveness is like.  In the story He presents two groups of people.  The first group of people are the last group to be called to work in God’s Kingdom of Grace.  They are real Christians, with real sin that they know must be dealt with by God’s means.  They entered the church with no conditions; they simply came for forgiveness and a right relationship with their God; then they gladly worked in His kingdom by sharing the very same thing with the people that were in their lives.  The second group of people is the first group that was called to work in God’s Kingdom of Grace.  They are phony Christians; lip service Christians who are members of a congregation for reasons other than dealing with their own sin.  God’s vineyard simply represents the church, even our own little congregation here at Trinity.  The work that each of us is to perform is that of Kingdom Building, or allowing God to use us to expand His Kingdom throughout our community; it’s the very same work that brought each of us into His Kingdom; it is the work of forgiveness of sins through the Word of God which tells about the Savior of the World Jesus Christ!

The payment, or the denarius is first the privilege of living and working in the church, and second it is an eternity in heaven or hell!  One group lives in God’s kingdom but doesn’t really do the work of God’s Kingdom; they are forgiven but they will not forgive as God has forgiven them.  They are in the Kingdom simply to receive the recognition and praise that the Kingdom brings to them while they live here on this earth.  Long ago they lost sight of their own sin and their need of forgiveness, so asking them to forgive as they have been forgiven is ridiculous.  The other group, the true Christians, have been humbled by their sinfulness and the gospel truth, which declares that God not only loves them but forgives them for Christ’s sake; it is their belief in this truth that is forever changing them that brings them new life and peace with God.  And now because they’re changed; because they have peace with God, they share that same forgiveness with whoever God put’s in their path.

When the workers are called together on judgment day, one group is told to enter and receive all the riches of God’s Kingdom as joint heirs with Jesus, the Son of God.  The other group, the lip service Christians are told that they’ve been paid in full!  They had their entire lives as a gift resting in the church and receiving God’s means of grace.  The Word was always speaking to them, but they would not listen; they would not turn to Jesus and God’s means of grace and new birth.  So Jesus tells this group that on the judgment day they have received all that they will get.  On that terrible Day of Judgment, they will be told to run along; run straight to hell, forever separated from God’s love and kindness.

 CONCLUSION: So which one of these groups do you belong to?  Well didn’t we start God’s Divine Service with our confession of sins?  Didn’t we hear His Word of forgiveness?  Isn’t He inviting us next to His table of mercy; a table where we will eat and drink forgiveness?  In these very things God not only gives you assurance that your sins are forgiven but He gives you assurance that you have nothing to fear.  How can this be? Well to this question, God answers, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” [Isaiah 55:8, 9]  Do you believe this?  If you are struggling with faith to believe, then God says keep coming to my church; keep hearing my Word and seek me in the person and cross of Jesus Christ.  And when you hear that you are forgiven, simply worship me with a thankful heart.  And after worship, leave this place changed with a purpose and a mission… give that same Word of forgiveness to all that you meet.  May this be the work that God does in each of us, and I ask this in Jesus name… AMEN!

The Power of God’s Love!

Saturday, September 17th, 2011

Friday Night Gospel Celebration, September 16, 2011
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
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NOTE: Only the scriptures and some main points are available for this message.  For the entire message please listen, using the audio link above.

Romans 12:

 (Vs. 9) “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.”    Right from the beginning St. Paul is making it clear to us that everything that follows is centered in love.  But this kind of love is different from the kind that we naturally show others; it’s the kind of love that is the ultimate fruit of God’s love for us.  It is the kind of love that gives you faith to believe that Jesus is your Lord and Savior. 

 (Vs.10-13)Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, and serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.”

  (Vs. 14-16) “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.  Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.  Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.”  Do these words sound familiar?  They should, because they are a paraphrase of Jesus’ own Words: “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” and “bless those who curse you.” [Matt. 5:44; Luke 6:27-28]  Think of Jesus last words upon the cross before he died, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).  I know what you’re thinking: “Well sure, He was the Son of God, of course He could bless and forgive.  No man could do that could they?”  Well what about Stephen, who opened his mouth in a blessing upon those who were stoning him to death?  Do you remember the last words that he uttered? “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (Acts 7:60)

  (Vs. 17-20) “Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.  If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.  Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”  To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.”  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”  There is no question that the man who does us evil ought to be paid back with the exact proportion. This is God’s own principle, and Paul isn’t ignoring that. But if God applied only that principle to us, where would we be?  And that is the point, without God’s grace through Jesus Christ we would be damned along with our worst enemy.  Friends, it is God’s work alone that saved us, and we should do everything to glorify Him and bring honor to His presence in our lives by living a life that demonstrates that same grace.   

CONCLUSION: Dear friends, the summary of all of this can be found in Paul’s last words: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” God demonstrated this principle for us long ago, when He sent His only Son to die for you upon the cross.  While we were still sinners, Christ died for us!  Just as Jesus prayed for us long ago upon the cross, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing” so too, we must pray for those who hurt us.  We need to pray and ask God for love as we try to show kindness to our enemies. Will they take advantage of us? Will they hate us even more? Only the Lord knows. Our task is not to protect ourselves but to obey the Lord and leave the results with Him.  Friends, even if our enemy refuses God’s love, we will still have experienced the love of God in our own hearts and we will grow in His grace.

Is It Well With Your Soul?

Sunday, September 11th, 2011

Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost (A), September 11, 2011
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA 
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“Do not fear, for am I in the place of God?  As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” [Genesis 50:19, 20]

INTRODUCTION: These words from our Old Testament reading are the words of a Kingdom builder; they’re the Words of the Lord of the Kingdom of God, which are simply being spoken by a subject of the King.  They are Words of restoration and peace; they are Words of forgiveness.  They are Words that make all things well with our souls!  With all of this being true, then why do we find it so hard to speak them?  Why is it such a battle to say, “I forgive you”? 

 Surely we have reasons, good reasons not to trust some people.  I would not put a convicted embezzler in charge of our church bank account, would you?  Would you want a convicted child molester teaching Sunday school?  Of course not, but does that also mean that we should withhold forgiveness, love, and restoration from them?

I. In our Old Testament lesson (Genesis 50:15-21) we encounter Joseph, a man who had every reason to be bitter, hold a grudge and get revenge.  His own brothers threw him in a well in the middle of the desert and then sold him  to slave dealers.  But Joseph experienced something that changed him forever; he experienced God’s presence and God’s protection.  In the home he was a slave to, he eventually became the head slave and had complete freedom to run the entire home and its business.  But trouble always seems to follow people who know they worship a merciful and loving God and Joseph was no exception.  Very soon he was falsely accused by the wife of the lord of the very home he was serving in.  Bam!  Joseph’s life was turned upside down.  Once again he was falsely imprisoned, but this time it wasn’t in a well but in a real prison!  But Joseph knew that he wasn’t in that prison alone; he knew that the God of mercy was with Him and where ever God is, all is well with the soul of a child of the Kingdom of Heaven.

 Once more God would prove to Joseph that He was a God who makes a way out of no way; He would prove that He was a God who never leaves or forsakes His little ones who serve in His Kingdom; Joseph was given the keys to the prison and allowed to run it!  But that’s not all is it?  No, eventually it became known to the Pharos that Joseph was a man of God who could interpret dreams.  So as a result of one meeting with Joseph who spoke the Word of God truthfully, Joseph was made second in command of all of Egypt. 

And now before him stands his brothers who did unthinkable evil against him; they were standing before the second most powerful person in the world.  So this was Joseph’s chance to make things right; to right the wrongs that were done to him.  And what does he do?  He makes things right; right in the Kingdom of God!  He offers forgiveness and restoration.  But why… how?  Because that is how the Kingdom of God operates!  You see, the Kingdom of God makes a way out of no way.  In a earthly kingdom where only death and punishment reign supreme, God’s Kingdom brings life and forgiveness. Out of fear and danger God assures His child that all is indeed well with his soul! 

 Do you think that Joseph had questions about the sincerity of his brother’s confession of sin?  Sure, but having questions, having doubts isn’t what is important here, it’s where you take those questions and doubts.  As a citizen of the Kingdom of God, Joseph immediately gave these things to God and He forgave all of them.  It’s as if he was saying to them, “If God’s forgiven you, who am I to do anything differently?  Don’t you see that what you meant for evil against me, God in His wonderful counsel has turned into something marvelous in our sight.  He’s not only frustrated your evil plan, but He’s used it to bring abundant life and blessing for both me and you!”  And that is always how things work in the Kingdom of God.  You see, as citizens of God’s Kingdom of grace, “We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” [Romans 8:28]

So we see, in this way God causes good to result from evil, not that He wants us to do evil, but in His goodness He can take even our great wickedness and turn it into good.  It’s God’s nature to forgive a fearful and sobbing sinner who is begging Him for mercy.  And this is the very lesson that Jesus was trying to get Peter to understand; it’s the lesson He wants each of us to go home with this morning.

II. In our gospel lesson (Matthew 18:21-35) Peter asked Jesus how many times he should keep forgiving someone for something they do against him over and over.  Now, the Jewish teachers said that three times is enough to satisfy the mercy of God, so that the justice of God could take over.  So Peter took that number and multiplied it by 2 and threw in one more for good measure and answered his own question with a question: “Seven times?”  Now don’t be too hard on Peter, because from a human standpoint, a flawed and sinful standpoint Peter did pretty well.  Even our own society today would call that excessive and a bit naïve.  You know the old saying, “Fool me once shame on you; fool me twice shame on me!”

So now learn the lesson about how things work in God’s Kingdom.  “Jesus said to (Peter), “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.”  Now that’s excessive!  But the number isn’t the point of Jesus teaching, it’s the attitude or the spirit.  Jesus is teaching us that the new nature of a baptized child of God is the type of nature that doesn’t keep count.  Even if you did count how many times someone kept sinning against you, isn’t it true that you would lose count long before you got to 490?  So the nature of a citizen in God’s Kingdom simply does as Joseph did, He gives it to God and trusts that all things will work together for the good that God has determined.

III. Joseph learned to trust God and so did Peter.  They learned that even when it seems that things are at their worse, God is still present and in control!  Each of us must learn this as well, and God has made sure that we can do this very thing.  He did it by breaking into our existence, into our history through one event that has rendered everyone subject to One Judge… Jesus Christ Himself!  The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ has led not only the past, but it has shaped the present and the future.  Joseph trusted in the coming Savior along with every other citizen of Heaven that came before and after Him.  And when the Son of God took on our flesh and broke into our present and our future, the words of Joseph become the Words of Jesus: “As for you and your sinful ways, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. (Through my suffering and death your sins have been wiped clean.  My death brought you life!  Will you rest in this gift or reject it?)”

Today friends, we who are baptized into Christ Jesus can confidently say “I am a citizen of heaven.  I was saved by Christ death on the cross, and through that work of the cross, forgiveness of sins was given to me in my baptism! I haven’t refused that forgiveness and I pray for it every day.  Daily through the power of God’s Word, I continue to see the sin that is still within me, but through that same Word I am given the promise of forgiveness and the ability to fight and destroy that sin, as I turn to Jesus and His cross for forgiveness!  Every day I see the unthankful forgiven sinner within me holding grudges and planning revenge against my brother who sins against me, but I take this nature and I drown it in the waters of my baptism; I crucify it upon the cross of Jesus!  Every day I fight to allow God to love my brothers and sisters through me even when they sin against me.  I do this not because they deserve it but because God has done and always will do this very thing for me!”  This dear friends is the life of a child who lives in the Kingdom of God.

 Now I could end here and we would have a wonderful message about forgiving our brothers and sisters, but then you wouldn’t have God’s entire message.  In order to complete our message, we must import one more bit of scripture.  In Matthew, chapter 5, Jesus has one more group of people that we must learn to love and forgive… our enemies!  “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” [Matthew 5:43-45]

Now this can be a hard lesson for all of us to accept, especially on this tenth year anniversary of the September 11 attack against our nation by Muslim terrorists, and yet God is asking us to not only accept His will but to fulfill it!  Here the Living Word of God, Jesus Christ gives us a command; we must love those who hate us and attack us.  We must pray for the ability to forgive them and also pray that they would turn to Jesus for forgiveness and restoration.  This kind of love can exist only in the Kingdom of God; indeed it is the very thing that separates it from all other kingdoms.  Now don’t misunderstand, God isn’t asking you to put your arm around your enemy; He knows that we have reason not to trust them or like them.  But He is asking you to be filled with the love of Jesus and let Him do this work within you!  This is a higher form of love that can only come from God.  It’s the kind of love that says “I know that I will never like a murderous terrorist, or a criminal who may have robed me or threatened my life; I can’t like a false and lying, slanderous person who has attacked my character over and over again; but I can by the grace of Jesus Christ love them all; I can see what’s wrong with them and follow God’s Spirit within me and work to do them good.  I can pray that God will free them from their vicious ways just as He has done and is doing for me!”

CONCLUSION: Is living in the Kingdom of God easy?  No, of course not!  It requires the same things that Joseph had and that Peter received.  It requires faith and trust in a God who promises that all things will work together for the good for those who love Him and trust in His calling and purpose!  Will you struggle with this command to forgive?  Yes!  Will you fail sometimes and fall back into a spirit and mindset of the world, probably so!  But remember, its God’s presence and mercy; it’s His forgiveness for you that will carry you through until the end and deliver you safely into His Kingdom! 

ILLUSTRATION: I’d like to close our message this morning with this story about Eric (Little) Liddell, an Olympic Champion runner who became a missionary to China.  His life was made famous by the movie Chariots of Fire. In one scene in the movie, Liddell fell down just a few yards into a 440-yard race. The crowd groaned in disappointment. His hopes for a medal seemed destroyed. But to their amazement, Liddell got back on his feet, leaned his head back in characteristic fashion, ran even harder, and actually caught up with and defeated his opponents, with a 20 yard handicap! This became Liddell’s signature—not the way he began his races, but the way he finished them: head tilted back, mouth wide open, body in full stretch, and feet moving faster than those of any other man in the world! He is a classic portrait of the adage “It’s not how you begin the race but how you finish that is important.”

How true that is in the Christian life! None of us begins very well. We begin as sinners, desperately in need of God’s grace. But even when we are baptized, receive forgiveness, and try to live out His Word, we find that our life is often filled with falls and re-starts. Life doesn’t always proceed as smoothly as we wished it would. But we realize that, while the way we live our lives is important, what is most important is how we finish. Will we give up or will we let God’s grace, His forgiveness and restoration change us?  If we will keep on living our lives as children of the Kingdom of God we know that one day soon we will run into the arms of Jesus with our heads tilted back and our souls in full stretch.  If  we will remember that we are “children of our Father in Heaven not because of our decision but because we are reborn by grace through faith in the Son of God, we will not only be able to love and forgive our brothers and sisters, but even our enemies because that is how our Heavenly Father loves them.  As we struggle every day to remember this, we keep turning to Jesus; we keep running to His cross, and we can truly say, “It is well with my soul!”  In Jesus name… AMEN!

Let’s Keep In Touch

Sunday, September 4th, 2011

Let’s Keep In Touch
12th Sunday after Pentecost (A), September 4, 2011
Rev. Dr. Wally Turner (Guest Preacher),
Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA

Click here for sermon Hymn “Beautiful Savior” (Gospel Arrangment)

Click here for recorded sermon (Sorry no written manuscript available)

Click here for sermon illustration of: “Reach Out and Touch Somebody’s Hand”

Index of Readings

Sermon Text: “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us—  that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.  And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.”  [1 John 1:1-4]

Ezekiel 33:7–9

7 “So you, son of man, I have made a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. 8 If I say to the wicked, O wicked one, you shall surely die, and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from his way, that wicked person shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. 9 But if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, that person shall die in his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul.

Romans 13:1–10

13 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4 for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. 6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. 7 Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.
8 Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

Matthew 18:1–20

18 At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them 3 and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
5 “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, 6 but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin,1 it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.
7 “Woe to the world for temptations to sin!2 For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes! 8 And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. 9 And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell3 of fire.
10 “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.4 12 What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? 13 And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. 14 So it is not the will of my5 Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.
15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18 Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed6 in heaven. 19 Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

“Move Up Higher”

Saturday, September 3rd, 2011

Friday Night Gospel Celebration, September 2, 2011
Rev. Brian Henderson—Pastor of
Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
Click here for audio of this message

INTRODUCTION: Tonight, one word seems to jump out at us in our reading [Luke 14:1-14], and that word is humility! When we speak of humility we can speak it as a command or as grace. Let me show you what I mean; “Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord!” That is the law… it’s a command. It doesn’t offer you any help in accomplishing it and if you are truthful with yourself and God tonight you know that on your own you can’t fulfill that command. But, if I put Jesus into the equation, Jesus for you, it becomes the gospel; it becomes good news for you! Listen: Jesus humbled Himself in the sight of the Lord for you! Jesus, who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant… He humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross (for you)!” [Philippians 2:6-8]

Do you see the point? If the focus is on you and your abilities and actions then you have the law, but if the focus is on Jesus and what He did for you in His life and death upon the cross, well then, you have the gospel. In one way of thinking you have yourself as the center of attention, as the provider of your needs and in the other way of thinking you have God as your focus and Jesus and His cross as your provider for everything… even your eternal salvation. You see, that is the difference between a theology of glory and a theology of the cross.

I. In our gospel reading tonight we join Jesus at a dinner party. But make no mistake, this was not a friendly gathering of supporters or men who simply wanted to hear Jesus teach the Word of God; no in fact this was a hostile crowd that invited Jesus with just one purpose… they wanted to observe Him and use His own Words in order to destroy Him! But Jesus accepted the invitation so that He could observe them and then offer them His Word, both law and gospel so that He could save them.

Picture in your mind’s eye, Jesus has entered the home of the host, a Pharisee, when He observes other Pharisees in attendance rushing to get the best seats at the dinner party. There in front of him are a group of men, the distinguished teachers of Israel behaving like a bunch of first graders fighting over who get’s to sit next to the teacher; they are each trying to elbow the other out of the way so that they can have the best seats. Jesus filed this observation away as an object lesson for his second topic of instruction, but first He wanted to address their false teaching about what constitutes doing work on the Sabbath day.

Jesus looks around and spots a poor soul looking in on the diner party. This man had a disease called dropsy. Dropsy is an illness where parts of the body retain an unhealthy amount of fluid and become swollen. Jesus motions for this man to come to him and asks the Pharisees a question: “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?’ But they remained silent.” [Luke 14:2-3] I imagine that Jesus let such an unusual amount of time lapse that it became uncomfortable. The question was a very simple one, yet because of their pride and self-serving interests, they refused to answer, so Jesus humbled them. “(Then) Jesus took (the man) and healed him and sent him away.” [Luke 14:4] And there is your answer; it is always good to do good on the Sabbath!

II. Now it was time for lesson #2! This lesson would deal with their self-serving and self-glorifying behavior, which Jesus observed earlier. “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this person,’ and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place. But when you are invited go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” [Luke 14:7-11]

Now see how masterfully our Lord teaches; He uses an earthly example in order to make a heavenly point! He was speaking to the Pharisees, but He’s also speaking to us, and He does it by showing us His own life. It was Jesus who stooped down to our level. It was Jesus, God the Son who humbled himself by becoming a man! He took on the humble form of a servant so that He could serve the sinful world his own obedience unto death, even death on a cross. Jesus served us by taking the last place at the banquet of death when He sat Himself upon the cold and splintered bench of the cross! What is the point of this parable? Simply this, “Everyone who exalts himself (above God and his neighbor) will be humbled, and He who humbles himself (before God and his neighbor) will be exalted!” [Luke 14:11] “Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord and He will lift you up!” [James 4:10] Once again, Jesus demonstrated that a man centered theology of glory stands in complete opposition to God’s way… the way of the cross! Jesus is saying that it t is better to be honored by God than by men. It is better to be humble so that God will reward you than to be full of pride, which will cause God to humble you. And to really understand this parable Jesus decides that we need to hear another one.

III. “Jesus said also to the man who had invited him (to the party), “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” [Luke 14:12-14]

So what’s the point? Simply this: don’t do things with a self-serving agenda. Don’t worry about rewards in this life, but concentrate on Jesus and the humble way of the cross and you will acquire your reward in heaven. You see, Jesus knew that the only reason that He was invited to the party was so that the host would gain standing with his fellow Pharisees. He wanted to be known as the one who helped bring Jesus down! But what he was really doing was bringing him down, down to hell.

Jesus used the thunder bolt of the law to shatter that man’s self-righteousness and expose him as an enemy to God! But He didn’t do it to punish him but to save him! Jesus shared these teachings so that the sinful Pharisees and you and me might be moved to seek God’s mercy and forgiveness by turning away from our self-serving life styles and turn to God’s mercy. In other words, Jesus wants us to repent and see Him as who He really is… our Savior!

Tonight, we need to understand that Jesus isn’t telling us to go out and throw a party for the poorest of the poor and the most needy of the needy. Instead, He’s trying to get us understand our sinful and self-serving reasons for why we do what we do! If we’re happy with being like the self-serving Pharisees, well then what we get in this life is all that we’ll get. But if our motivation is to serve God and build His Kingdom, then we should be happy doing things no one would ever notice, and if they did notice, they would never reward.

The truth is friends, the only way we can change our motivations from being self-serving to becoming God-serving is if we allow God’s grace to change our hearts and our minds. But like the Pharisees, we need to first admit that there is something that needs changing! We need to confess our tendency to be self-serving and then ask God to help us take our eyes off of ourselves and teach us to look to the cross and to Jesus Christ!

CONCLUSION: Tonight, I’d like to leave you with this question: “Will you allow God to teach you humility and learn to rest in Jesus?” Now if you’re honest with yourself, you will admit that while your heart says yes, you know that your sinful flesh will do everything in its power to break that promise. So what can you do? Nothing but turn to Jesus and remember who He is; He is God with us and God for us!

Jesus is here with us right now in His Word. He is always with you, strengthening you through His means of grace; every day He works to take your focus off of who you are so that you will know more clearly who He is. Every day He’s moving your focus to His cross and to the place He’s prepared for you in heaven. He is working within you and around you so that as you’re strengthened in His grace you won’t be afraid to humble yourself and place God’s will and the needs of your neighbor above your own. Because you haven’t rejected the work of his cross, in essence you have taken your own humble seat next to your Savior. And you know by faith that one day soon you will hear your Savior call to you, “Friend, move up here!” I pray that you will always desire to hear those Words and I ask this in Jesus name… AMEN!