Archive for December 2nd, 2012

End of Year Report

Sunday, December 2nd, 2012

Dear friends in Christ,

This month, I am using/borrowing a Pastor friend’s  Newsletter (Rev. Dr. Scott Rische, founder and  director of the City Transformation Ministry) as a  template to help me communicate what I feel is an  important message to all friends of Trinity Lutheran Church.  If you are a member, then certainly you are a friend.  If you have ever attended any of our worship services on Sunday or Friday evenings, then you are our friend.  If you have enjoyed listening to our sermons that are posted on our various websites, you are a friend of Trinity.  So as friends, I have three important words for you: Everyone, Everyday, Everywhere.  These words are foundational for the work we are doing here at Trinity Lutheran Church.

Everyone – it has to be about more than just the pastor and the staff that faithfully serves here Monday through Saturday. Yes, the pastor and his  staff are critically important, but the work of the Kingdom is not going to be accomplished if it is only or primarily the pastor and his staff who are  doing the work of the Kingdom. It needs to be all of God’s people together doing the work under the leadership and guidance of pastors and other  leaders.

Everyday – it has to be more than just Sunday mornings. The congregation gathered as a community for worship is crucial to the health and  vitality of a congregation. But God’s design is for His people to be engaged in the work of His Kingdom every day of the week, not just for a couple  hours on Sunday morning. It’s about God’s people living out the Kingdom every day and every hour of the week in every aspect of their lives.  Often Sunday worship services are relied upon to accomplish most if not all of the worship, evangelism, and discipleship of a congregation. God does show up with His people when they are gathered on Sundays around the Word and Sacraments. But He is also with His people ALL of the time, and wants His people to be about the Kingdom twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, not just for a few hours one day a week.

Everywhere – it has to be more than just at our church and school grounds. When the disciples didn’t catch any fish in Luke 5, Jesus  had to remind them to throw their nets WHERE THE FISH WERE! They had been fishing, but not where the fish were. Most churches  and church campuses around the world do not fill up with unbelievers just because the doors are opened on Sundays or because a  program is offered during the week. Jesus didn’t wait for unbelievers to find Him. Jesus went out and found the unbelievers, where  they were. Church facilities are a great gift from God. But if disciples are to be made, and all are to come to know Jesus as Savior, then  all God’s people, everyday, are going to need to get out from their church buildings and into the world where the unbelievers actually  are. People come to faith by hearing the Gospel, but they are never going to hear the Gospel if believers are not connected to them or  building relationships with them.

So it’s Everyone, Everyday, Everywhere.

Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. 42 But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny.

43 Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others.44 They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”

What can God do with such a small church membership, and only a few (under paid) staff members?  The answer is: He can do much, because it is His Spirit that empowers the labor.

It is in that spirit that we now operate our ministry here at Trinity Lutheran Church, as we reach out to people of all walks of life; the wealthy, the poor, the  foreigner, the young, and the old. On the whole, our ministry still has that insignificant feel that the widow knew well; by church standards we are small,  often worshiping under 60 at our Sunday morning service, and under 30 at our Friday night service. We constantly preach that although we are few in  number and resources, we should be bold to give all that we have to see the church do her work of bringing many into a relationship with Jesus.

Over the past four years, our small group of forgiven sinners has done significant work in bringing the Gospel into our community of Encanto, Lemon  Grove and parts of Spring Valley. Here are some of the things that we have accomplished over our time here:

  • Some 1,325 families were fed through our pantry this year, which means about 4,655 people were given food and the Word of God, along with the opportunity to be prayed for and over by Deacon Mark.
  • Some 282 unique seniors were given a nutritious breakfast, Monday thru Friday.
  • The average attendance for our weekly Bible study on Wednesday was approximately 25 people, with more than 3/4th being non-members.
  • Our Friday night gospel/jazz service averaged approximately 25 people a week, with more than half of the attendees being non-members.
  • Our Christian Martial Arts ministry’s average biweekly attendance was about 20 people, with the greater majority being nonmembers.
  • Our Tuesday and Friday evenings the average attendance for the Line Dancing ministry was approximately 25.
  • One adult baptism was performed and one adult was welcomed into new membership.
  • In 2012, Trinity has acquired 10 individuals who faithfully attend worship service, but as of yet have not begun work towards membership.
  • Entered into a new relationship with Christian brothers and sisters from American Samoa, who worship here at Trinity on Sunday afternoons at 1:30 p.m.  They are led by Pastor Fale Esera, who has a strong foundation within our Lutheran Confessions (Book of Concord).  Though they are small in number (about 45) they are mighty in spirit, and they are beginning to look at Trinity as their new home.  Pastor Fale and I are in bi-monthly talks towards establishing union and concord.  Please pray for this relationship to grow as God leads.

NOTE: The martial arts ministry, line dancers, neighbors using our pantry, and the neighbors joining us for breakfast all receive the word of God and opportunity for prayer.

As you can see, God is doing some amazing things through our people and our ministry. We may not be seeing these new friends of ours writing the biggest checks or showing up with large groups of friends, but then again neither are we the established membership doing that.  So, together as the body of Christ here at Trinity, we will continue to receive what God brings to us and offer that and so much more as He provides, back to Him, knowing full well that when we give all that we can, He will be pleased, bless our offering and work, and continue to give to us more than we could ever dream of.

We at Trinity pray that we, along with you make an impact in our communities, realizing that we each have our own gifts to significantly contribute to the Kingdom.

“Let none hear you idly saying, “There is nothing I can do,” while a multitude are dying and the master calls for you. Take the task He gives you gladly, let His work your pleasure be; answer quickly when he calls you, “Here am I, send me, send me!”

Pastor Brian

P.S. As God leads you, your financial support helps Trinity make its entire ministry possible and also creates the ability to expand and extend the work even further. Remember, your financial gifts are tax deductible. If you would are unable to attend on Sunday, but would like to give to our ongoing ministry here in our community, please send your checks to:

Trinity Lutheran Church
7210 Lisbon Street
San Diego, CA 92114

What Does This Mean?

Sunday, December 2nd, 2012

First Sunday in Advent of the Church Year (B), December 2, 2012
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA

Click here for audio of this message

“”“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell securely. And this is the name by which it will be called: The Lord is our righteousness.’” [Jeremiah 33:14-16]

Behold the days have come, Jesus Christ fully God and fully man was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered  under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried.  He descended into hell.  The third day He rose again from the dead.  He  ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.  From thence He will come to judge the living and the  dead.  Christ has come and He will come again.  Let the church say AMEN!

That is the whole point of Advent.  We remember how Christ came; we remember the anticipation of the people of faith as they awaited  the coming of the Messiah.  And today, the church celebrates that He has come, and we look forward to His return.  Should any of this  make a difference?  What does advent mean to our community, to our nation, and to this world?  What does this mean to you?  Does it  make a difference in your life?  Can others see that difference in the way you live?

In last week’s news paper, my wife pointed out three stories that represented three related realities about this world we live in.  The first story was national in scope.  It was about that mega shopping day, Black Friday; so mega in fact that it could not be constrained to just Friday.  It seems that shoppers have been duped into using the holiday of Thanksgiving as just another day to acquire more stuff, instead of giving thanks and praise to God, on the one day we as a nation have set aside to acknowledge and thank Him for His many blessings.  How sad!

On another section of the paper, a story was run about the ever increasing pandemic known as hunger and homelessness here in America’s finest city, San Diego, California.  What jumped out at me especially was not the fact that the food bank is running out of food, and that the shelters are quickly filling; no what jumped out at me was the fact that the church no longer plays a lead role in caring for the hungry and homeless.  Now, you see organizations like Jewish Family Services and the Jacobs foundation are leading the way and teaching us as a community to be loving and kind to others.

Then on the international page I read another story about the newly elected president of Egypt seizing complete power, suspending the democratic rights of the people, but promising that if they just trust him, everything will be alright.  And while he is making everything alright, people who are in the streets crying out for help and justice are being terrorized and killed by that same man.

So why am I sharing these three stories with you?  Because as Jesus taught us in our gospel lesson (Luke 21:25-36), His pending return, or His advent will remind us that we are in a season of turmoil and distress, so much so that it will cause people to faint with fear and trembling because of what is coming on the world.  It is a time when the powers of the heavens will be shaken and those living will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.  And Jesus said that when these things happen, the things that cause turmoil and distress, we should straighten up and raise our heads, because our redemption is drawing near.  The righteous branch of David is coming and he will execute justice and righteousness in the land.

Christ has come.  Born as a baby to a virgin girl in Bethlehem, He came to us in our flesh to make all things right; all things new.  This is the truth that the ancients waited for and it is the truth we celebrate today, this first Sunday in Advent.  Christ has come, what does this mean?  It means we must live out His coming; it means we must be His righteousness in this world, until He comes again to make all things new and right.

It means that on a day of Thanksgiving, we as the body of Christ, as His church here in our sin-soaked community must be His light; His source of righteousness.  While others are busy acquiring things, we should be busy demonstrating a spirit of thankfulness; we should be acknowledging and thanking our God and Savior, Jesus Christ.  It means that when there is a Thanksgiving church service, we will go out of our way to attend; after all, this thanksgiving business isn’t about us, it is about God!

Christ has come, what does this mean?  It means that when people are going hungry in this world and have no place to live, we as the church, the body of Christ ought to be making a difference.  We ought to be leading the way in demonstrating acts of love, because Jesus our Master and King, our Redeemer and Savior is the Source of all true love.

Is that what we do?  On the screen, you see some pictures of our pantry. Look at how empty those shelves are.  If we waited for food donations from this community before we were able to help out the hungry and homeless, it would not happen, because those donations are almost nonexistent.  While our cupboards are full at home, we can’t even seem to bring in and drop off a few nonperishable food items, or throw a few extra dollars in the Agape fund.  Instead, where do we get the food for our pantry?  We have to buy it from the food bank, which is run by the Jewish community, who seem to be “out-loving” Christ’s own people.

Christ has come.  Does it seem like He’s coming in places like Egypt, Israel, even here in the United States?  No, and the reason is clear, people have placed their trust in men and the governments of men instead of God’s promise to deliver and provide.  But Jesus warns us not to let these things, these truths demoralize us.  He says, “But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.” [Luke 21:34-36]

How do we stay awake?  How do we make sure that the way we live here in this world is pleasing to God?  We do it by remembering that Christ has come, and is coming again.  We do it by hearing the prophet Jeremiah’s words this morning, not as a threat, but as words of comfort.  We remember that we have an eternal King whose eternal concern and rule has us as His central interest.  It is Jesus who even right now, is watching over us in all our ways to keep us safe for Himself.  We have a High Priest who has a permanent priesthood, sealed by His own blood.  He is God’s permanent presence in our lives; He alone is not only the source of all love and charity, He is OUR source of love and charity.  “He is able to save completely those who come to God through Him, because He always lives to intercede for them”. [Hebrews 7:25]  We have the confidence that “if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.  He is the atoning sacrifice for our sin, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” [1 John 2:1,2]

Christ is the one perfectly righteous King; He alone is able to rule and govern us perfectly.  He will never provide a reason for you to depose Him or impeach Him as earthly rulers deserve.  He reigns with perfect righteousness and delivers perfect justice.  He alone has laid down His life to earn your love and respect, and He alone took back up His life to gain your worship.  He alone can forgive sins, heal the broken hearted, and set the captives free.  It is He alone who can truly care for the poor.

Christ alone cares for you and He wants to care for your neighbors, even the world.   He does it first through His Word and Sacraments.  They are the means of the Father to bring new life and hope into the lives of sinners caught up in the darkness and hopelessness of sin.  He comes through these means with complete forgiveness, but these means come through people; they come through the church, a group of other sinners who were once also trapped in sin and hopelessness, but now have been freed and patiently wait for the return of their King.

How can we live lives of hope and trust when all around us seems to be overwhelming fear and faithlessness?  We do it because we are not alone.  We are together as the body of Christ.  You saints of Trinity are a light in this community we call Encanto, in a city named San Diego.  You are a city on a hill, where God works out his righteousness within you and through you.  You are those who have learned that true religion does not exist to deliver us from suffering and pain, but instead it leads us through those things as we draw others to follow us as we are following our King.  So the season of Advent reminds us that as Christ’s body here on earth, we have been appointed to follow our Savior and experience pain and suffering even as He did.

Before I close, I wanted to share my heart with you as your pastor.  Most of you know that since I arrived here, one of my primary tasks was to be your chief evangelist within our community.  I have done that tirelessly along with my staff, who are here every day of the week.  Together, we represent you and we do it well.  We pour out ourselves for those who come looking for rest, hope, and peace.  But I must confess that we do sometimes feel defeated and alone.

So many times we have reached out to our neighbors with the best of our time, talent, and treasure, and we have seen them flourish in God’s love, forgiveness and healing, only to see them leave without so much as a thank you.  We see them drawn to other churches or fellowships that have not ministered to them, but instead, upon their arrival, they give them more of the very world that destroyed them.  We see our neighbors take advantage of our love and in essence spit in our face.  So what are we to do?

“We are to continue walking the path before us (the same path our Lord walked), as (He alone) makes us increase and abound in love for one another and for all, even as we do for all of you.”  Why do we do these things, even though they bring us pain and suffering?  Because we know that the Holy Spirit will establish our hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” [1 Thessalonians 3:11-13]  Wont you join us in our journey following our King?  Will you support us and come along side of us with your time, talent and treasure, as together we proclaim the powerful Advent message: Christ has come, Christ is coming again… AMEN!