Archive for January, 2013

Anointed for Revival!

Sunday, January 27th, 2013

Epiphany 3C, January 27, 2013
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA

Click here for audio of this message

“And the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law.” [Nehemiah 8:3b]

Oh that this would be true not only this morning, but whenever a minister of the gospel and the saints of God share His Word with those  who are lost in sin and separated from their God of love!  But let’s not pray only that ears are attentive to the word, but hearts as well.    Let’s keep praying as a church that we would see the gift of faith go out from us and be received by our family, friends, and neighbors in  a way that a great revival of the church will appear before our very eyes.

Let’s pray for this revival, not so that our pews and the offering plate will be full, but so that the kingdom of God grows and the kingdom  of the devil diminishes.  Let’s pray for this great revival so that those who are blind to God’s presence would be allowed to see His  power.  Let’s pray, that God would allow the spiritually blind and deaf to see and hear His real presence among us and receive His  forgiving love.  Because when that happens, when His Word is received, our family, friends, and neighbors, who are being held in the  bondage of sin, death, and the devil will be freed and the kingdom of God will advance, one forgiven sinner at a time.

Yes, let’s pray for a revival, but before we do, let’s understand that this revival can only come through God’s anointing!

In our Old Testament reading (Nehemiah 8:1–10), we see this very thing happening among God’s people who were gathered on the tenth day of the seventh month, a festival commanded by God to celebrate His presence and forgiveness.  The people of God had been released from the bondage of foreign oppressors and had recently returned to their homeland.  It had been many generations since the people gathered as one to worship their God; it had been just as many years since they gathered for the public proclamation of His Word.

As men and women and even children who could understand gathered and heard, something wonderful and mysterious began to happen to them… the Word of God began to speak to their hearts and they were able to listen and understand.  Please don’t miss this point, because it comes in two parts, listening and understanding.  The ears can always hear but in order to listen, well this requires a certain gift from God.  It requires wisdom and understanding, which are words that are synonymous with faith.  And faith is always a gift from God that comes through the hearing of His Word and the illumination of the Holy Spirit.

So you could certainly say that that the Holy Spirit was present among His people that day.  He caused the spiritually blind and deaf to see and hear, and through His Word He set His people free from spiritual captivity, just as He set them free from physical captivity earlier.

And what was the people’s response?  Well, they wept because God, through His Law showed them their sin; He showed them their lack of love and their self-serving hearts.  But God would not allow them to stay in this valley of death, which the Law had spoken into their hearts; no, you see, He also spoke the gospel, the good news that their sins had been forgiven, and they were free to be the people of God.

All of this wonderful work of redemption took place simply through the proclamation of the Law and Gospel of Jehovah-God.

Oh that this would still happen today; that it would happen here among us!  Do we as a church still have hope of that that kind of revival will take place among us?  Yes, and again I say yes, but it only happens according to God’s means and according to His will.

In our Gospel reading (Luke 4:16–30), Jesus shows us both the will of His Father and the mission of the church, that is, He shows us our mission.  As He stood up and preached in a synagogue in Nazareth he read these Words of the prophet Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.  And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”” [Luke 4:18-21]

The Spirit of the Lord is upon Him… He has been anointed to proclaim the good news.  The proclamation of this good news is nothing less than the very power of God that comes through the Word of God; both law and gospel.  But this proclamation is not about a thing, but about a person… the Messiah, the very Son of God, Jesus Himself.

In His baptism the Spirit of the Lord descended upon Jesus and the voice of the Father declared Him to be His only begotten Son.  After His baptism He went immediately out into the world, into the wilderness and was tempted in ways we could never fathom, and yet just as before this wilderness experience, He never faltered and He never failed to please His Father; that is He never sinned.

He went out proclaiming forgiveness of sins through the anointing of God’s Word and the Holy Spirit.  He proclaimed that God would redeem His people; God alone would atone for their sins.  And how was He received?  Well in our gospel lesson, we discover that even the good people of Nazareth, His home town wanted to throw Him off a cliff; they wanted Him dead.

And so is the desire of all sinners who will not hear; who will not be baptized into His name.  But amazingly, that was also the will of God; it was the will of Jesus that eventually He would not mysteriously pass through their presence, but He would allow them to arrest Him and crucify Him simply for speaking the truth and proclaiming the forgiving love of His Father.  It had to be that way, you see…

Jesus was anointed to suffer and die for your sins so that you would not have to; He was anointed to bring you back to your Creator and make you right with Him.  In your baptism, you too have experienced the descending of the Holy Spirit, and He has been content to exist within you.  In your baptism, the fruit of the cross, which is the forgiveness of sins, has been made your personal gift, and you have been redeemed and sanctified.  But you have been sanctified for a purpose, and this is where we can say, you have been anointed!  You have been anointed with a purpose, but what purpose?  So that you can become part of the many that are one!

We are the church.  We are many sinners saved by God’s anointing through the washing of the water and the Word, yet we are one, the body of Jesus Christ.  Each of us, on our own are foreign and hostile to God, and yet through the preaching of His Word He gathers us together, shows us our sin and then assures us that through His Son He has forgiven us; He has opened our eyes to see and our ears to hear that we have been redeemed.

Now this alone would be enough to bring us peace, but He doesn’t stop there.  No, you see, He also tells us that we have a purpose… a mission.  We are to allow Him to sanctify our time, talents, and treasure, that is we are to allow Him to bless all the gifts He’s given to us so that we can be a blessing to His body, the church, that is each other, and then to the world.

You see, God’s forgiving love is not only for us, but for them.  You know who “them” are don’t you?  They are “those people,” the ones that you once were a part of.  They are blind and deaf to God’s will and His love.  They are the unlovable.  But they are also dear and precious to Him just as you are.  They are part of that world that God so loved that He gave His only begotten Son upon the cross for, all so that “they” would not die in their sins, but believe and be saved.

Many years ago in the south, during the depression, an elderly black man knocked on the door of a southern mansion.  An equally elderly white man, the owner of that estate answered the door.  The black man was begging for food, because he was alone and hungry.  The owner told the beggar to go around to the back door, which was socially proper at the time, because of his color and status.  He assured him that he would meet him there and help him.

The old rich man met the old beggar at the back door, with a piece of bread, and said that they must say grace over this gift from God.  He said, “Now repeat after me, ‘Our Father…”  The beggar said, “Your Father…”  The rich man asked the poor man, “Why do you insist on saying, ‘Your Father, when I keep telling you to say ‘Our Father?’  The beggar answered, “Well, boss, if I say ‘Our Father,’ that would make you and me brothers, and I’m ‘fraid the Lord wouldn’t like it, you makin’ your brother come to the back porch to get a piece of bread.”

Dear friends, in our baptism, we have been anointed to both celebrate God’s forgiving love and to share it.  We are not to discriminate in any way who hears that or who we will receive as part of our congregation, after they believe.  We are simply to speak and to become all that God has willed.

Now it’s true, that as we go out proclaiming this message of forgiveness and inviting those who hear it into our congregation, the kingdom of God will grow; and it is also true that this place will be loaded with sinners; sinners that can bring a self-serving spirit of confusion that can cause division.  But the solution to this problem doesn’t rest with us, but with the same God that is anointing and reviving sinners.  It is the same solution that we gather to receive every day.  It is the same solution God used long ago among His people in our old testament lesson.  It is His Word.  His Word of Law and Gospel; repentance and forgiveness.  It is the message about His Son and it is a message about you and me, and even a message about them, “those people” who also need a Savior.

May God continue to use us and forgive us so that others can be forgiven and use to bring this same message.  And together, may we see that we have been anointed for a revival.  I ask this in Jesus name… AMEN!

Surprise!

Sunday, January 20th, 2013

Epiphany 2(C), January 20, 2013
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA

Click here for audio of this message

There’s a very famous prayer that many if not all Christians throughout the world, in every denomination study; it’s called Jesus’ High Priestly  Prayer.  I wanted to just share just one small portion of it with you, as a way to look at all three of our readings.  Listen: “And I am no longer in the  world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one,  even as we are one. While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has  been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. [John 17:11-12]

So, if the stated will of the Son of God is that we would all be one, that is be in concord with each other, then why is the church so divided?  We are   broken down in groups such as those who claim God’s Word is infallible, those who say it is only inspired, and those who say that history must  decide what parts of the Bible are true or fable.  We are further divided along denominational lines over following a historical liturgy and those who  follow no liturgy.  Some denominations claim that they follow no preconceived confessions of faith, while others, such as our own denomination  have an entire book of written confessions, with the stated purpose of defending the church against error.  We have divisions over the question of  what gifts listed in our epistle lesson are valid and what gifts are no longer needed.  Why we don’t even have to look outside of our own  congregation to find division; we have some people here at Trinity who feel that all forms of music are valid for worship, while some say only the  Organ and classical instruments and music should be used.

So what went wrong?  How did the church get in such a mess?  Is this something new, and particularly an American phenomenon that we are  experiencing? No!

In such a time as ours, when so many are claiming that the church ought to be free to follow the working of the Holy Spirit, we need to know what God has already spoken on the subject, and I can think of no better book in the entire Bible to start with, than the one our Epistle lesson (1 Corinthians 12:1-11) comes from.  When Paul wrote this letter to the Church in Corinth, they were becoming fragmented; divided over doctrine that was not centered in the Word of God, but the will of men.  Things like immorality, stunted spiritual growth, and confusion, were threatening to rip this little church apart at the seams.

Paul discovered that several divisions, or groups had developed that followed its own chosen human leader, exercised their spiritual gifts and time, talent, and treasure selfishly, and cared very little for the health or ministry of the entire body, the church.  The Christians at Corinth had received an abundance of spiritual gifts (1. Cor. 1:4-7), but they were lacking in the higher spiritual graces, that is the kind of Christ centered character the Holy Spirit desired to create and keep in them.

Like the congregation at Corinth, we also suffer from divisions and party spirit, which undermines God’s work among us.  And yet to God’s glory and our shame, He still leads us to a true confession of faith through Jesus Christ, our Savior, and the Spirit’s work among us.  Oh that God would mute our idolatrous pride and curb our party spirit.  So let’s examine our message today, so that the Lord can do just that; let’s allow Him to combine our hearts in works of love and praise to Him, into a true confession that declares “Jesus is Lord among us!”

In both our Old Testament lesson and our gospel lesson, the theme seems to be a wedding.  But we must understand that the wedding motif or theme is always used by God to symbolize unity, and His relationship with His covenant people.  In the old covenant, it was the nation of Israel, the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob who were united to God as a bride to her husband.  Specifically, it was that peculiar group of people who willingly followed, trusted, and obeyed the true God.  To follow Him alone and forsake all other false god’s required faith.  Faith to admit that on their own they could not keep His commandments and laws, and faith to believe that it was God alone who would save them from their sins and create a clean heart within them through the coming of the Messiah, the Savior of God’s people.  When God’s people trusted Him, no matter what, they were called His faithful bride.  By faith, they were to know that they were not forsaken or forgotten; He alone would redeem them and save them from their enemies.  Just as a young man marries a young woman, so shall we be married to our God; just as a bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall God rejoice over His people.

In our Gospel reading (John 2:1-11), we find Jesus, the Son of God in human flesh, a guest at a wedding party.  Wedding parties are to be celebrations; a time to celebrate not just the joining together of man and woman into one heart and mind, but just as much, a celebration that they are not two threads or strands that make a binding, but three.  It is the third strand that gives the cord it’s strength, and the third strand is God Himself.  Jesus was among His people to celebrate the joining together and to bless their marriage with His presence and approval.

Now, in the middle of this celebration of life, a problem arose; they ran out of wine.  If the bride and groom and the honored guests knew who it was that was celebrating with them, they would have no need for worry.  But Mary, Jesus blessed mother knew.  She knew that in her Son, God’s own power was with them.  She didn’t need to send someone to the local liquor store to get more; she knew that if God was pleased with their celebration, Jesus would continue to bless it.  So she came to Jesus and simply stated the facts: “They have no (more) wine.”  And then she did something wonderful; she shared the calming of faith and the power of the Holy Spirit with these simple words: “Do whatever He tells you.”

That profound advice to the party goers from Mother Mary is still great advice for us today; as a church, if we want to see divisions healed and the kingdom expand with power among us, we must also do whatever He tells us to do!

So, let’s go back to our Epistle reading (1 Corinthians 12:1-11), and let the Holy Spirit tell us what the will of Jesus is.

In the first three versus, it becomes clear, God’s will is that we share in the same confession of faith, and that confession is that Jesus is Lord; He is God in human flesh.  He was born, lived among us as one of us, He suffered and died for our sins as a man, but He is also God.  He must be 100% God as well in order to rise from the dead and declare that all things have been made new.  He must be God in order to declare that your sins have been put away and you have been made right with your creator and redeemer.

In the early days of the church, a Roman citizen was required once a year to put a pinch of incense on an altar and say, “Caesar is Lord!”  For you Christians to be united with your brothers and sisters scattered throughout the world, you must agree that the very idea of declaring anyone or anything Lord over you is a cursed thing.  The Holy Spirit leads you to see that it is better to die for your faith than to confess trust and worship in anyone else but Jesus Christ.  And for us to be one in confession of faith, we will also see that it is only the Holy Spirit who can by the Word of God create this kind of faith within the heart of someone who calls themselves Christian.

In Verses 4-6, we see the church is much like the human body.  It has diversity and yet it has unity.  Our human members all differ from each other, they all work together for the health of the body.  In the spiritual body, Christ body on earth, the church, even our little congregation possess gifts which come directly from the Holy Spirit.  These gifts such as our time, talents, and treasures, some of which are listed in our lesson, can be found outside of the church, but here in Christ’s church, these gifts have been gathered and sanctified, that is they’ve been blessed by Jesus to give God glory and help advance His kingdom among us, in the middle of this sinful world, and within our community here in Encanto, within the City of San Diego, CA.

We have been blessed with so many spiritual gifts for two reasons, to serve God by being a blessing to each other and our community.  It is God’s will that each of us use our time, talent, and treasure, in a way that brings for His gift of forgiveness to a dying world.

Finally, in verses 7-13, we see a list of even more gifts that are not to be used to build or further our own reputations as individuals but to build up the church.  That is the gifts are to benefit the whole church.  Now as sinners, this can become problematic if we forget that (1) the Supreme Gift, that is the forgiveness of sins is not only the most important, but it is the very gift that unites us as one.  Each of us received this gift in the waters of our baptism, and each of us has the exact amount of “Holy Spirit” power to accomplish great things within the body of Christ.  It is this power of God that gives us other minor spiritual gifts as well, which are (2) the ministries of the church.  Through these ministries, Jesus blesses us with both natural and supernatural abilities and talents that both bless and change sinners into saints.  And all of these ministries have one thing in common; they are gathered and united around Word and Sacrament. (3) Then there are the spiritual offices, which are positions of trust within each local congregation.  What awful disasters have befallen various churches when their pastor comes among them not to bless God’s people, but to bless their own bank accounts!

(4) And finally, we find another kind of gift that we might call spiritual graces or miraculous gifts of the Spirit. Today, we hear a lot of talk among our brothers and sisters from other denominations, about faith healers and the outpouring of the Spirit that gives the gift of speaking in tongues.  I do not think that the intent of God’s message for us today is to dig to deeply in these minor and miraculous gifts, other than to say that if the minor gift becomes more important that the Supreme gift of forgiveness, then something is terribly wrong in the church.  If Christ’s gifts to His bride, causes division and not unity then we would not be worshiping a God of peace and unity, but a God who brings only division and chaos.  And if that is the kind of god some are worshiping, then we should want no part of that kind of god!

I find it fascinating that Jesus first miracle was at a wedding party.  I also find it fascinating that it was among a bunch of people who most likely had too much to drink already, and Jesus provided even more.  The point is not whether Jesus approves of drinking of wine, but that He is among those sinners who are drinking the wine.  He is a Savior who is interested and engaged in the simple things of life, even the pleasure and thirst of party guests.  Is that the kind of Jesus that most churches are comfortable worshiping?  Are you comfortable worshiping Him?

The point of His first miracle there in Cana was not to bless a party but to manifest His glory; that is Jesus was there to let sinful people know that He cared for and loved them; He wanted them to know that there is a God who is among His people.  And because of that miracle, many became His disciples and believed on Him.  Many were united and would become united in worship around a God who would and did save His people from their sins.

Let us pray… “Dear Jesus, you are no longer in the world as you once were, but you are in the world among us in your Word and Sacraments.  We thank you that even as you left in body to be with the Holy Father, you have kept us in your name, which you have given to us in our baptism, so that we may remain in you and be one with our brothers and sisters, even as you and the Spirit are one with the Father. Keep us we pray, as one, in your name, the name that the Father has given you.  Continue to guard us and keep us in your grace and concord, AMEN!

Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ… AMEN!

Gladly Say It!

Sunday, January 13th, 2013

Baptism of our Lord Year (C), January 13, 2013
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA

Click here for audio of the Children’s Message

Click here for audio of the Sermon

“Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”” [Luke 3:21, 22]

This morning we will explore two questions by looking at our two natures.  The two questions are: 1. Why was Jesus baptized?  (And) 2.  Why is your baptism such a big deal?

First, Jesus was baptized because it was necessary to fulfill all righteousness.  What I mean by that is, when He entered into the Jordan  that day to be baptized by John, He was announcing to this sinful world that His ministry to redeem and save it had begun; He was  announcing to all sinful men and the devils too that the promise of the Savior was being fulfilled and would be accomplished once and  for all by Him and Him alone.  When Jesus fulfilled all righteousness, He was declaring judgment upon the devil.  On that day He was  declaring to you that He would be your righteousness; you would be spared the final judgment for your sins because He would take the  punishment that you and your sins deserved.

Now this is both good news and bad news.  It is good news for you, that is for your new baptismal nature that God has given to you in  your baptism.  That new nature, the nature we identify as a saint, rejoices in this proclamation of righteousness.  Our sermon hymn, “God’s Own Child, I Gladly Say It” is in modern terms, the theme song of our baptismal life.  That new nature celebrates that Jesus has now sanctified the waters of baptism through the power of the Holy Spirit.  No one has to convince it that God is love and has saved it; it’s very existence makes this self-evident.   But you have another nature; your old sinful person that does not see this as good news, because it means that it must die.  This old nature will do everything it can to live.  That nature has many “theme songs”, but perhaps this one is one of the best.  (The song “If Loving You is Wrong, I Don’t want to be Right” by Luther Ingram plays.)

Our old Nature says, “If loving you is wrong, then I just don’t care about being right.”  The “you” in the song is a mistress in an adulterous relationship.  But in our lives, the mistress is anything that we call right, which God says is wrong.  Intimacy without marriage is wrong, and marriage is between a man and a woman God says; wrong says the sinful nature, if it feels good and makes me feel fulfilled, then it can’t be wrong.  In regards to our bodies, God’s Word says, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?  You are not your own, for you were bought with a (great) price.  So glorify God in your body.” [1 Corinthians 6:19, 20]  “Wrong” says the sinful flesh of today’s modern woman, “A woman’s body is her’s alone and the life within her womb is hers to decide whether it will be born or not.”

God’s Word says, “Thou shalt not have any other god’s before or beside Me,” and our sinful flesh shakes it fist at the law of God, and follows the law of society which says, “If it feels good, just do it!”  So we as a people, as a nation pursue happiness at all costs because that is our right as one who is simply doing what feels good and seems right.  We pursue and procure all things that promise happiness and a better life.  “I have a right to this and a need for that.”  So we set out on the pursuit of things that this sinful world and our own sinful desires say are necessary.  And this pursuit that seems good right and salutary makes itself central to all things; and when our sinful nature becomes central to our existence, we become the god of our lives.  We can easily justify lying, stealing, coveting, and even murder, because after all, it makes us feel good.  So we agree, “If loving (this or that) is wrong, then I don’t want to be right.”

And God sees all of this and warns us that we are lost in sin, and if left on our own we are dead, forever lost and separated from Him because of our sins.  In His word, He shows not only our sinful fallen nature, but He also shows us the only way to ever be right with Him; He shows us our Savior, His Son Jesus Christ.  Jesus came to us not just to show us the truth about our sins, but to pay for them.

Why was Jesus baptized?  So that through His Word, through His cross, and His empty tomb, we would know the truth and that truth would set us free.  So that through the same water that He Himself sanctified as He set His face to the cross, we would know that nothing can ever separate us again from the love of God.

Now that you have heard His truth, hear this truth also.  “Baptism, which corresponds to (the ark, which saved Noah and his family from the flood) now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” [1 Peter 3:21] “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” [Romans 6:4] This is why your baptism is a big deal!

It is God’s promise to those of you who are worried about your sin; those things which cause you to fear that God no longer cares for, or loves you.  When you are cut to the heart and don’t know how you will ever know peace with God, listen to St. Peter, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” [Acts 2:37-39]. You are baptized and your sins are forgiven, so continue to repent and turn to Jesus Christ alone!

For you who long to hear words of comfort, hear the gospel in our sermon hymn, and let it be your new nature’s theme song.  Let these Words speak to your heart.  Agree with God and shake your fist at the devil and your own old, sinful nature.

God’s own child, I gladly say it: I am baptized into Christ!  He, because I could not pay it, Gave my full redemption price.  Do I need earth’s treasures many?  I have one worth more than any, that brought me salvation free; lasting to eternity! Listen, I know my own self, and you know yourselves; we shouldn’t be God’s own child.  We know that in our old sinful nature, that is on our own, there is nothing worth loving or saving within us, and yet, God’s Word declares that He does love us and He has saved us through the life, death, and resurrection of His Son our Savior Jesus Christ.  That one gift is greater than anything the world has to offer.  Claim that gift that was first given to you in your baptism and rest in it forever!

Sin, disturb my soul no longer:  I am baptized into Christ!  I have comfort even stronger: Jesus’ cleansing sacrifice.  Should a guilty conscience seize me since my Baptism did release me in a dear forgiving flood, sprinkling me with Jesus’ blood? We do have guilty consciences don’t we?  Well, let the Word of God, the gospel of Jesus Christ give you peace.  Jesus died to bring forgiveness to the world, and in your baptism He came to give it to you personally.  You are forgiven!  Let that truth soak in and live out it’s truth.  Fight the sin that is within your old nature.  And when you fall into sin, don’t let that old nature trick you into thinking you have sinned beyond God’s ability to save.  Shut its mouth with the Word of God and continue to remind it that “you have been baptized into Christ Jesus and into His death.  The old nature was buried with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, you too might walk in newness of life.” [Romans 6:1-11]

Satan, hear this proclamation: I am baptized into Christ!  Drop your ugly accusation, I am not so soon enticed.  Now that to the font I’ve traveled, all your might has come unraveled, and, against your tyranny, God, my Lord, unites with me! So when the devil begins to throw your sins in your face, and when he taunts you with your weaknesses and doubts, even when he threatens you with the fear of hell, simply tell him, “Devil you go to hell because that is what you desire; as for me, I admit that I am a sinner, what of it?  You see I know of One who is greater than my sin and has conquered all of my fears and tormentors, even you!  His name is Jesus Christ, and where He is, there I will be one day with Him as well!”

Death, you cannot end my gladness: I am baptized into Christ!  When I die, I leave all sadness to inherit paradise!  Though I lie in dust and ashes faith’s assurance brightly flashes: Baptism has the strength divine, to make life immortal mine. We’ve talked about the fear of death quite a bit this last season of Advent, but it bears repeating.  A Christian who fears their own death because they are uncertain about what or where their life will be after they leave this sinful earth, is a Christian who has small faith and lacks the joy of their salvation.  But small faith, the size of a mustard seed is better than no faith.  God shall one day take that small faith and show you what miracles He can and will do with it.  You will behold your God one day with your own eyes; you and not another for you, and He will say, “Welcome baptized Christian, come and enter your Fathers heaven, and rest in a place that He has prepared for you.”

(So you see), There is nothing worth comparing to this lifelong comfort sure!  Open-eyed (our) grave is staring: Even there (we’ll) sleep secure.  Though (our) flesh awaits its raising, still (our) souls continues praising: (We are) baptized into Christ; (We are) children of paradise! You are baptized dear saints.  Your old sinful nature will never gladly celebrate this truth, in fact it will fight it until your last breath.  It knows that it has lost, and it knows that it must die, but like the devil it will not go quietly.  Together, your old sinful nature and the devil want only to cheat you out of your inheritance, but if you will simply hold onto the promises of God, rest in the cross of Christ and your own baptism, you will be clothed with divine strength, which in the end will provide you with eternal life and everlasting peace with God.  It is that nature, with God’s means of grace protecting and providing for it, declares now and forever: “By baptism, I am God’s own child, and I will gladly say it!  AMEN!

Idou!

Sunday, January 6th, 2013

Epiphany Year (C), January 6, 2013
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA

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““Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.   For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you.  And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising. [Isaiah 60:1-6]

Luther’s Large Catechism states: “Neither you nor I could ever know anything about Christ, or believe in him and receive him as Lord,  unless these were offered to us and bestowed on our hearts through the preaching of the gospel by the Holy Spirit. The work is finished  and completed; Christ has acquired and won the treasure for us by his sufferings, death, and resurrection, etc. But if the work remained  hidden so that no one knew of it, it would have been all in vain, all lost. In order that this treasure might not remain buried but be put  to use and enjoyed, God has caused the Word to be published and proclaimed, in which he has given the Holy Spirit to offer and apply  to us this treasure, this redemption. Therefore being made holy is nothing else than bringing us to the Lord Christ to receive this  blessing, to which we could not have come by ourselves.”

This morning, through our gospel lesson (Matthew 2:1-12), we will examine four questions: 1. Why do some not see Jesus as the Son of  God? 2. What is it that causes some to see Jesus as the Son of God? 3. Why do you believe that Jesus is the Son of God? 4. And finally,  because we do believe, what difference should that make in our lives?

(The Great Pretender music plays for a moment).  The song you just heard was “The Great Pretender” by the Platters.  I chose it as our mental hook to not just set this morning’s message on, but I also thought that it would be a great theme song for King Herod, and all other pretenders and enemies of the church.  Of course the first pretender, and the greatest Pretender of all, was Satan himself.  After his fall from heaven, he has been using deception and tricks, pretending to be something great, so that he can take the hearts of men and women off of their only hope; the Great Savior, the Messiah Jesus Christ.

King Herod was led away from the truth in the same way; his eyes were misdirected off of the promises of God, through the Word of God, and instead his trust, his security was placed in the government of men, at that time the Roman Empire.  When the wise men from the east were brought to Herod because they were asking everyone and anyone within the city of Jerusalem where the child who was born King of the Jews might be found, what was Herod’s response?  “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.”  Worship him; really?  As we know from scripture, Herod wanted to know where the child was so that he could have him killed!  Oh yes, Herod was an evil pretender!

And what of the chief priests and scribes?  “When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.  They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:  “ ‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’ ”   Do you see that?  They knew exactly where the child would be born.  And if He had come, as the wise men suspected, and if scripture was being fulfilled, why didn’t they go to see for themselves?  Because they were putting their hope and trust in their wealth and their position.

Sadly today things are not any different with the many pretenders that live among us.  They will pass themselves off as wise men, but really they are only “wise guys;” they are wise in their own sight.  They place their trust in knowledge and learning, but have no time for the wisdom of God; the miracles of God that alone lead to eternal life and salvation.  They will tell us that the story of the wise men following the star is simply a fable; a child’s story.  They will tell you that no star could behave the way this one did; appearing, disappearing, and reappearing, hovering, moving, and settling on one little house in Bethlehem.  And they are right; no star in the heavens could do that, but a light sent from God to lead people to the Savior of the world could.  They dismiss the miracle of the light, and when they do they also dismiss the miracle of the baby God-man, the Savior of the world.  But there were learned men who did allow the light of God to lead them, and they went from wise guys to wise men.

“And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him.”   Behold… or in the Greek, idou.  Today, the young folks might say “check it out!”  Whenever that word idou appears, we have what we might call an “ah-ha” moment.  It means that God is intervening in the time and history of men in order to do something wonderful.  It means that He is acting in a miraculous way, so that sinful men, wise guys like Herod, the Sanhedrin, and chief priest, and you and me, won’t be mistaken; it means God is serious and He has something that everyone better take note of.

You know, like when Joseph the husband of mother Mary, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly, (and) behold (idou), an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.  She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” [Matthew 1:19-21]  Or, how about this one:  “And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold (idou), I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. [Luke 2:8-14]

Imagine, God chose to tell the good news of a Savior for the people of Israel, to dirty no good sinners; foreign and pagan idiots who accumulated a lot of knowledge but no wisdom.  This was an affront to the good people of Jerusalem, the God-fearing Jews.  After all this was their Savior, the one that they were waiting for, so why did God invite the Magi?  He invited them so that they might see the Word of God, the prophecy of God in Micah fulfilled and become part of God’s people; part of the people of faith that He would shepherd.  He called them after He said “idou”.  Idou, all who hear; listen, repent, believe, and be saved.  So He called the Magi and they listened, they became wise onto salvation, but Herod, the Chief Priests and Sanhedrin, would not listen, so they just remained wise guys.

God is still calling out to sinners; He is still bringing light into darkness.  And today, wise men, illuminated by the miracle light giving God still listen and find Jesus.  They allow God to lead them out of the darkness and into the light, because they see a need for a Savior and a new beginning.

You too have had your idou moment; in fact you are having one now, as the Word of God continues to change and rearrange you; you are being asked to behold your God who is with you!  It first started long ago in your baptism, when God reached into the darkness of this sinful world, into the darkness of your own sin and saved you.  It was there in those holy waters that He first gave you the gift of His Son, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, crucified upon the cross for the sins of the world, died and was buried.  But just as on the third day He arose, so to, you out of the waters of your baptism arose a new person; holy, blameless, and righteous, simply because that was God’s will for you.

And now, you live out each day a person who is wise and is becoming wise unto salvation.  You are asked every day to put to death that great pretender, the wise guy, who was drowned in baptism, hung on the cross at Golgotha, and then allow the Word of God to illuminate you with His idou, His gift of Epiphany to you.  The days of pretending are over; each day as you are led by God’s light, you are learning to agree with Him that there is nothing good or wise within you accept for the things He gives to you.  And what is the result of this work of God within a child of God?  As your shepherd, He is leading you into worship and witness!

We worship Him when we come to Him here in church and lay before Him our time talent and treasure.  We worship Him when we simply are still, hear Him speak and know that He is God, our God.  We worship Him when we agree that there is a way that seems right to sinful men, wise guys, but in the end it leads only to death.  We worship Him when we hunger to hear His Word, His message of forgiveness.  And then in the middle of worship, behold (idou), He moves us away from this place, but not His presence, into a world dark with sin, to simply live and let His light illuminate both us and other pretenders who need to know the mystery of God.  The wise guys, the pretenders who are foreign to God are also invited to be fellow heirs, members of the same body (our church) and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel, the message of forgiveness. [Ephesians 3:4-6]

Dear friends, this was a message that once was hidden in the darkness of sin to even you, but now you have received the light of God, the message of God that has made you wise unto salvation.  This is the message that changes sinful pretenders into redeemed children of God; it is a message that changes “wise guys” into wise men and women.  It worked and is working for you; it has saved you!  And it is God’s desire that the message of forgiveness would save not just you, but also your family, friends, and neighbors too.  I pray that you will continue to follow the light of God and invite others to follow Him as well, and I ask this in Jesus name… AMEN!

Walk About Zion

Tuesday, January 1st, 2013

New Year’s Eve, December 31, 2012
Pastor Brian Henderson, Trinity Lutheran Church-San Diego

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Have you heard the one about an older couple named Marvin and Gladys?  Marvin is on his death bed and he is recalling his life with  Gladys.  “Oh Gladys, you have been a faithful wife.   When I lost my job, you were there; when I lost all my money in the stock market  you were there; when I wrecked the car you were there; when I fell off the roof dear, you were there!  And now here you are with me  again on my death bed.  Gladys, you know what, I just thought of something, you’re bad luck!”  Dear friends, Trinity Lutheran Church  had never been bad luck.  Oh you’ve had good times and bad times but our church has always been a blessing, because God is always  working through His church.  This specific place, Trinity Lutheran Church has been a precious gift to me and to so many others.  That is  why I have selected our text tonight especially from the Psalms, specifically Psalm 48:12-14.

Before we look at our text, let me remind you that the word Zion actually means the city of God, the Temple of God, but most  importantly for us today, Zion represents the church of Jesus Christ.  Let’s read it together: “Walkabout Zion, go around her, number  her towers, consider well her ramparts, go through her citadels, that you may tell the next generation that this is God, our God forever  and ever. He will guide us forever.” [Psalm 48:12]

This evening, I want to speak to you about three things: #1 the lasting legacy of Trinity.  #2 the Living mission of Trinity.  And #3, the Loving Savior of Trinity.  Let’s take these on one at a time.

Lasting legacy of Trinity. “Walkabout Zion, go around her, number her towers, consider well her ramparts, go through her citadels”. [vs. 12,13a] You know I have visited many places in my life and had many experiences, but I have never been to a place quiet like Trinity.  Don’t you feel the same way?  I’ll bet those of you who are old time members of Trinity feel the same way don’t you.  No matter where you go, don’t you find your heart and mind going home to Trinity? This church, has had a profound influence on so many lives.  For almost 12 decades now, how many people who have left this church for whatever reason have found their hearts and minds coming back to Trinity?  How many people who have moved out of state, have come back to visit this church from time to time and just walked around the property remembering good days?  Recalling cherished memories?  I have encountered a quite a few of these visitors here in the last 5 years, people who are not visitors at all but sons and daughters of this old church and school.  So, “Walkabout Zion, go around her, number her towers, consider well her ramparts, go through her citadels”.

You know, I’ve done that many times…just walked about the campus here at Trinity; I opened doors and just soaked in the memories that have been created all throughout this wonderful old church.  As some of you know, when I first came here five years ago, my office was all the way in the back in the old school principles office.  Now, I didn’t choose to be back there because I was a hermit at heart, no it was so I could be confronted everyday with the memories of what this place use to be!  In my mind’s eye, I could see new play equipment and clean painted classrooms.  I could smell Delores’s school lunch cooking ready to be served, but more than that, I could hear the excited voices of hundreds of children playing and enjoying themselves, and that gave me hope for this old church, because I knew that what once was the legacy should and could be again.  I knew that just as there once was hundreds of children who had  their hearts changed and loved by the Gospel of Jesus Christ that was spoken, taught, and explained here, there could be the same experience again.

And it isn’t just here that those memories cry out to us, but they also are there at the old Messiah and Samoan church campuses. I have visited both campuses, and I could hear in my mind’s ear the wonderful spirituals and Polynesian harmonies being sung with so much feeling.  I can tap my foot to the exuberant music being led so powerfully by both very large choirs.  I can see the faces of each person worshiping God in song, with hands, and voices!  I can smell the many community fish fries and pot lucks that drew so many visitors.  Yes those old churches have many memories too.  So I ask to take a moment and just listen to the memories.  Let them speak to your heart.

Did you know that for some maybe here tonight, those memories may seem more like ghosts!  The ghost of better days past!  Is that what we want our Trinity to be, a haunting memory?  Is it alright for Trinity to become a well kept mausoleum that stands to testify of its glory days in the past?  Those who grew up in this church and are separated by great distances and various life circumstances would not agree with this.  They will tell you that in their minds and memories, in their hearts and in their hopes, in their in their prayers and praises, they will always come back to this grand old church.  Dear friends, our text this evening speaks of whether we have the right to let cherished memories turn into ghosts; it speaks a resounding NO!

Let me prove this.  Listen to the Holy Spirit speak, “go through her citadels, that you may tell the next generation”. [v.13] Do you hear it?  Do you hear the living message and mission of the church of Jesus Christ; the mission of Trinity Lutheran Church.  The mission is to tell the present and future generations of this dying, sin sick, fallen planet that needs a Savior so much, that Jesus Christ was conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilot, was crucified, died and was buried; He descended into Hell, but on the third day he rose again, He ascended into Heaven and He’s seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty, and He will come again to judge the living and the dead.”  This is the mission, the living mission of Trinity Lutheran Church.

You know, I know I have told this story about my old church, St. James many times, and if for some it is excessive repetition, I apologize in advance, but I feel compelled to share this one again.

Almost 20 years ago, it was there at St. James that God finally broke my hard heart and opened my eyes so that I could see things the way He sees them.  He did this on one specific evening when I was going through a terrible personal time in my life.  I felt alone and as if my life lacked meaning. I went to that old church to pray.  The doors were locked, so I went to the patio area, where I knew a statue of Christ was located.  As I prayed, and tears of pain streamed down my face, I noticed for the first time that the statue of Jesus had no hands on it.  At first this appalled me!  What dirt bag would be so evil as to break off the hands of Christ?  But then, my eyes were drawn to a plaque on the base of the statue, and it read: “Now we are the hands of Christ!”  That one statement and the missing hands changed my life forever.  Suddenly my tears of sorrow and anguish turned to tears of overwhelming joy!  Why?  Because it was at that moment that I finally found true meaning, I had a mission and a purpose, I was to be the hands of Christ!

Now that brings to mind a poem I learned several years ago, it goes like this… “Christ has no hands but our hands to do his work today.  He has no feet but our feet to lead men in His way.  He has no arms but our arms to bring men to His side.  He has no lips but our lips to tell men how Christ died.”

You dear friends, who are gathered here at Trinity are Christ’s hands.  You are His feet.  You are his arms.  You are His lips in this day, for this generation, and all around you are people who need to know Jesus Christ and need to hear from you how He loves them!  Now, I know your lives are so busy with things that must get done, I am right there with you, but please hear me, the most important work you could ever do in your time here on earth is to participate in the work of the church of Jesus Christ, because the work of the church is eternal.  It is the work of building bridges for broken people back to God through faith in Christ, where they may stay in peace with their Savior forever; and that kind of work is worthy of your total and full investment of your time, talents, money, prayers and your heart.

Dear friends, please hear me…I know the church isn’t perfect, even this one.  It can sometimes have some serious problems.  In fact there’s more than a little truth in the next two sayings I’d like to share with you. 1. To live above with saints we love, that will be joy and glory; to live below with saints we know, now that’s a different story.  2. If you should find the perfect church without one spot or smear, for goodness sake don’t join that church, you’ll spoil the atmosphere.

Friends it’s no secret that our church is far from perfect, but if you choose to hold back from a whole hearted investment of your life in the living mission of Trinity Lutheran Church, your robbing two people; you’re robbing yourself, and you are robbing all those people in this community who need to know Christ and become part of the lasting legacy of this church, which is “That you may tell the next generation of God’s grace.”

Now dear friends, please let’s spend just a few minutes talking about our loving Savior of Trinity.  “For this is God, our God forever and ever. He will guide us forever (even until the end).” Now you know yourself and I know myself…we’ve got problems don’t we?!  There are times when we don’t feel worthy of being part of the lasting legacy of Trinity.  There are times where we don’t feel able to fulfill the living mission of dear old church.  Dear friends that is precisely the point of God’s invitation to you.  YOU ARE NOT WORTHY AND YOU ARE NOT ABLE!

That’s the very essence of God’s grace.  He calls those who are not worthy and those who are not able and he makes them worthy and able through Christ to fulfill is living mission.  This is the loving Savior of Trinity; this is the grace of God for you and me.  This is the story of the cross of Jesus Christ!  Yes, in and of ourselves none of us are worthy; all of us are broken and useless, but the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sins.  The righteousness of Christ covers our lives; it changes us…rearranges us…and it ENABLES and equips us to do wonderful and glorious things we could never imagine, let alone do on our own and by ourselves. But because of Christ, each of us ARE able to work with Him as we continue to be the lasting legacy of Trinity Lutheran Church, within the San Diego communities of Jamacha, Encanto, the cities of Lemon Grove and Spring Valley, the state of California, throughout our nation and even abroad until the ends of the earth.  “For this is God, our God forever and ever. He will guide us forever (even until the end).”

Now may the peace of God and the grace of Jesus Christ keep our hearts and minds steadfast as we continue to be the legacy of our dear old Trinity Lutheran Church….in Jesus name… AMEN!