Archive for May, 2013

Do We All Believe in One True God?

Sunday, May 26th, 2013

Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church-San Diego
Holy Trinity Sunday C, May 26h, 2013

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Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death. [John 14:26]

After hearing those words of Jesus, most people who call themselves Christian, would respond with a hearty AMEN! And if this world were not controlled by our enemies, sin, death, and the crafty devil, we could  let it go at that; we could shake their hand, pat them on the back, and call them brother and sister. But this world is controlled by our enemies, and all that glitters… is not gold! So what can we do to protect  ourselves from the threats of our enemies and the false teachings that they have tried to sneak into the church since the very beginning of creation? We must keep God’s Word and accept the truth, that we don’t  all believe in One true God!

This morning, we have done something we only do once a year; we have read together the Athanasian Creed. Why did we do that? So that we can keep God’s Word; so that we can abide in it, be protected by it,  and so that we can protect it from the attacks of the enemy. That is also why every Sunday we recite either the Apostles Creed or the Nicene Creed. If we do not know the truth, then unfortunately we will fall for  anything new, but as Solomon has said, “There is nothing new under the sun” and that includes the various forms of false teaching that bombard us today. Long before there were Jehovah Witnesses, Oneness  Pentecostals, Mormons, and Newagers, the church had to defend itself against Satan’s attack.

It started in the garden, when he used the serpent to cause doubt, with the words, “Did God really say you shall die if you eat of the fruit. You shall not die!” Once that crafty devil was given an inch by our first  parents, he has been taking mile after mile ever since. And his attack has been relentless, with false teaching after false teaching. What the cults and phony preachers are spewing out today is no different than the  lies that were proclaimed thousands of years earlier. And at the heart of all of their blasphemy, is the regurgitation of the same lie… God may express love, but God is not in His essence love! So let’s allow God to  shine His light on this lie so that we can continue to keep, teach, and confess His pure Word.

First, God’s own Word declares that He is love. Throughout Holy Scripture we see a compassionate and forgiving God; slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. We discover that God is not slow to punish  sinners, but He is patient, and He doesn’t wish that any should perish, but that all would return to Him and have eternal life. [2 Peter 3:9] And “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”  [1 John 4:10]

Do you hear that? You can know that God is love by remembering that God has a Son, and that He sent His Son to die for you; to atone for, or pay for your sins. Remember those words always, because without them, the enemy can once again take an inch in your life, with the sole aim of taking away your eternal life.

The first attack of the devil is always to cause doubt; in this case, he wants you to doubt that God has a Son and His name is forever Jesus Christ. The devil doesn’t care if you believe in the Holy Spirit nearly as much as he cares about your belief in God the Father’s only begotten Son. He does not want you to believe that Jesus is God’s Son who is forever begotten and not made, because if you loose this faith, you will no longer see God as love, and if you no longer see Him as love, you will no longer see His desire to give a Savior who is sent to you in love.

In all three of the Creeds, we confess that the Son of God is begotten of the Father. Now this doesn’t mean that God some how reproduced Himself and created a Son in the same biological way that we reproduce. No the Son of God was not reproduced; He has always been God. You see, the First Person of the Trinity has always been the Father, and He has always been in a relationship with the Second Person of the Trinity, the Son. Their relationship has always been one of perfect love and it always shall be that way. Why? Because “God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind.” [Numbers 23:19] In Him, “there is no variation or shadow due to change.” [James 1:17]

The Creeds, which God has given as wonderful gifts of security to the church, also express this relationship between the Father and Son together, with the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is always proceeding from, or is sent out by the Father and Son together. Many have tried to explain with illustrations what this relationship is like, but ultimately all illustrations fall short and really do an injustice to our Triune God and once again invite the enemy to take another inch. What we do know is that the Holy Spirit, being sent by the Father and the Son uses the means that together they have chosen to bring faith and eternal life to sinful men and women. The Father and Son together send the Spirit on a mission to save a fallen creation, simply because…

GOD IS LOVE. In Scripture, whenever it is referring to the “inner relationship” of the Trinity, we are given a glimpse into the relationship that is also at the very heart of the God head… love!  This love that they share is more than mere affection and it is more than just an ideal; it is at the very heart of who God is.  You see, in order to say that you have love, you really must have someone to love, right?  Listen to how St. Paul describes love, and see if you don’t see this is exactly what he is saying: “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful”. [1 Corinthians 13:4-5]

Another way we could say this is that love is always… and I mean always directed at another person, correct? Isn’t true love always a denial of your own comfort over another’s? This is why I always cringe when modern psychology says, “If you don’t love yourself, how can you love someone else?” Of course we should love our self; but that is not the kind of love that IS GOD! Self-love is really kind of a oxymoron, isn’t it? It’s like saying someone is a “married bachelor”. The point is, we cannot love ourselves if we truly understand what love is. Love is always about another.

So if God is love, the epitome of love, then God must have another person to love, correct? It just can’t be enough to say that He loves us, His creation, because then whom did He love before the creation? No, if God is love in its perfect and scriptural definition of love, then love must also describe who He was before creation. In other words, God has always had another to love; He has had Himself in the person’s of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Father loves the Son and the Spirit. The Son loves the Father and the Spirit. The Spirit loves the Father and the Son. In other words, God is One, but since God is love, He loves within Himself, in the way of the Holy Trinity!

So when we confessed the Athanasian Creed this morning, we see that not only is God love, but He is never alone. God Himself is a community of love; He is a relationship in and of Himself. He is One God but also Three Persons. God is love and…

THIS LOVE IS PASSED ONTO US. Through the Word of God we know that not only is God love, but that He loves us.  He has sent His Only Begotten Son to live and die for us.  In the cross, we see the extent of God’s sacrificial love for the world, and in our baptism we have been assured that His love is specifically now and forever given to each of us as individuals.  In baptism, we have been recreated into the very image of God… into the image of love.  God’s means of simple water and His powerful Word have recreated us to express our love not by ourselves, not by looking into a mirror, but in community.

This community is first expressed in family as husband and wife, parents and children, and then it widens into our church family, then our community, and finally out into the world, a world that God loves so much that He sent His only begotten Son to die for. When tragedy strikes in any of our circles of love, God’s Holy Spirit moves us in this true love to gather around those we love who are hurting, and we support them and uphold them with God’s gift of love.

Today, we celebrate Memorial Day; a day that we remember the great sacrifice so many in our armed forces has given. In their sacrifices, we see pain and suffering; we see the cost of love. But we also see the greatest of all sacrifices in the giving of a Heavenly Son by a Heavenly Father so that we may be One with our Triune God; so that by keeping Jesus Word, a Word that proceeds from the Father and the Son, through the blessed power of the Holy Spirit, we might have eternal life… abundant life, and never ever fear death.

As we prepare to leave this place but not God’s loving presence let us also remember our brothers and sisters in Oklahoma, who have been hit so hard by another tornado. Let us keep them in our prayers, and where God provides let us find ways to come along side of them in love. When we do this small thing for them and any who are hurting within our family circles, we are really celebrating our relationship of love with one God in Three Persons, each relating to and loving one another and each other… and loving us. In Jesus name… AMEN!

What Makes You Come Alive?

Sunday, May 19th, 2013

Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church-San Diego
Pentecost C, May 19th, 2013

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“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”  [John 14:26]

This is the answer to the how questions that we Christians so often ask of God, and it is the answer to the questions our unbelieving friends ask of us.  “How can I make it through this?”  “How can I find the strength to get up, and to go on?”  “How can you believe in an invisible God?”  The answer, of course, is that on our own, that is with out the help of God we can not, but because of the work of the Holy Spirit, we not only will make it through what ever this world and the devil throw at us, we will in fact thrive after we pass through it.  Not only do we find strength to get up and go, but we get up and go with a purpose.  Not only do we believe in what the sinful world calls an invisible God, but we also hear and follow Him everywhere He leads.

Now to this response, some may ask, “How can that be?”  And our answer is that we abide in Christ.  That is that through the work and gift of the Holy Spirit, who uses God’s Word and Sacraments to give faith, we not only believe that Jesus is with us, we abide in that truth!  This is what Jesus means in verse 23 of our Gospel reading (John 14:23–31) when He says, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.”

Do you remember when Jesus used a vine as an illustration to describe what it means to love Him and trust Him?  He said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” [John 15:5]  On the screen is a picture of a grape vine my wife has been tending to for almost 20 years.  Do you see how thick and sturdy it is?  Its roots go down deep and wide.  But that is nothing compare to its many branches that grow and thrive above the ground.  Look at this other picture now; can you see how it’s branches are growing and thriving up above?

In our children’s message, I held up a branch of that vine and asked the children if they could guess how many grapes I would get off of that branch if I took care of it.  Of course they eventually understood that I wouldn’t get anything off of it, because apart from the vine, it was dead.  They understood that eventually that branch would dry up and be thrown away.  It was hopeless… without being part of the vine.  The branch lives because it is part of the vine.  When it abides in the vine, it is as if its life song is “Glory to the vine in the highest, and peace to the branches who abide!”

In our Old Testament lesson (Genesis 11:1–9), this is the very thing that God wanted the people to understand.  After the world was destroyed by the flood, God kept for Himself faithful Noah and his family as a way to restart fallen creation.  He wanted them to continue to be faithful and go throughout the earth and multiply.  He wanted their ancestors to remember that apart from living a life centered in Him, in His glorious presence with them, they would not have life.  He wanted them by faith to be obedient to His call to repopulate the earth with a people who knew Him and loved Him.  But something terrible happened… the subsequent generations began to forget about their God.  They became full of pride and no longer wished to venture out populating the earth, so they attempted to detach themselves from God’s presence.  They no longer gathered around His Word, which told them to go.  They thought that like the branch I showed the children, they could sprout roots and live; thrive with out the God who created them.  “Glory to man in the highest, and peace to their children who build!”

But what should we expect from a branch?  Not only can they not live outside of the vine, they can’t even no what’s best for them.  And this is the very message that God communicated to them when He came down and confused their language.  Now, instead of acting as one sinful heart and mind, they would be force into an obedience that God wanted to come out of them willingly, by faith.  When God confused their language He was punishing them for acting as if they were the vine; as if they were God!  “I am the LORD,” He has told us.  “I will not give my glory to another (Isaiah 42:8).”  It is as if He is saying, “In Me only do you have life and move and have your being.” [Acts 17:28]

Has anything really changed today?  Yes, I know, man did go forth and multiply; the earth is full of people, but what kind of people?  Don’t we still, each of us deep down inside, like to have things are own way?  Don’t nations still go to war against each other because we do not abide in the God who created us?  Isn’t there an abundance of resources available controlled by a few; enough to feed, clothe, and house the worlds poorest and yet we do not share?  So what’s the answer?  Is it politics?  Is it war?  Civil unrest? Communism or socialism?  No, it is none of those things.  The answer to these problems is you… or rather you who are abiding in Christ… you who love Him because He first loved you… you who keep His Word and are loved by the Heavenly Father.

It is you and the rest of us who make up the church, who are fed and nourished by God’s own Word and Sacraments; you who have heard the message of the cross, the emblem of not just suffering and shame, but God’s love for the entire world.  It is you who are a product of God’s mighty work of rebirth through the water and His life giving and life sustaining Word, who are then equipped to allow God to do even more mighty deeds through you.  You love Jesus, because you know that through His atoning suffering and death you have been forgiven of so much.  It is you alone who can love Jesus and please God by singing “Glory to God in the highest, and peace to His people on earth.”

But what about those who don’t love Jesus; those who won’t abide in Him by keeping His Word?  Well that is where the mighty work of God is continued through those of us who do!  We are a branch of the vine for a reason.  We abide in Him and He has made His home in us as individuals and as a church for a purpose.  We are to share His Word with those who still want to make a name for themselves, apart from resting in God’s glory.

In our epistle reading (Acts 2:1-21), we see God’s solution to both our problem of wandering and the problems of those who will not abide, or receive and rest in His real presence in their lives; it is the Word of God and the Spirit of God that is received in that Word.

Prior to that first day of Pentecost, God’s Spirit was thought to be almost the exclusive possession of the Jews.  Through their own selfish sin of pride, they forgot once again that they were to go forth and multiply; that is they were to share God’s desire of restoration with all humankind.  But just as God acted in a mighty way at the tower of Babel, so He acted on Pentecost.  In St. Peter’s sermon, His text came from the prophet of Joel, listen: “And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh.”  Who does God want to save?  All sinful human flesh!  “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” [John 3:16]

And now, witness dynamic proof, once and for all that God is serious about not sharing His glory with anyone or anything.  Witness the explanation mark upon Jesus declaration of “It is finished” before He gave His last life breath upon the cross for all sinful creation.  The Holy Spirit was in the house; like tongues of fire He appeared and He was saying that He is getting ready to make all things right.  He is going to make sure that all of those sinful branches that are disconnected from the vine understand that apart from Jesus there is no hope of life.

But the Holy Spirit is not just in the house, He’s out in the streets like a locomotive; like a tornado, tearing down strongholds, powers, and principalities, all so that God’s people can speak the gospel to their neighbors, just as Peter did!  Wouldn’t it have been a shame if the disciples never left the upper-room of that building?  Over 3000 people would not have heard the gospel Word, and would not have been returned to the vine that gives them life.

Isn’t it a shame if we refuse to go out into our community and speak gospel words of life to our neighbors who are also dying?

This morning God wants you to know that He still pours out His Spirit on all flesh; He wants His people who are separated from Him by sin to know that He still is coming to them.  We who believe in Jesus—are those whom the Spirit has called and gathered.  We are being enlightened and sanctified by God’s means for a purpose.  We are to prove to our neighbors that there is a God who loves them.  When we meet them, we are to invite them to come to the same vine that nourishes and strengthens us.  We are to invite them to come to church, even our little church and simply abide; to love Jesus who first loved them.  This morning Jesus wants us to know that through the Holy Spirit, He and the Father are targeting everyone with the same message of forgiveness.  While it is true that we may encounter closed doors, or broken branches that refuse to abide, who refuse to hear our testimony about God’s forgiving love, the Spirit of the Lord, the Holy Spirit, is still going about His work and will continue to do so without pause, until the very last day.

What makes you come alive?  Abiding in the vine; being obedient to go forth and multiply.  I pray that you will remember that without being a part of Christ’s church, that is apart from His Word and Sacraments, you can do nothing, but wither and die.  But by resting in Christ, receiving His means of grace, through the mighty power of the Holy Spirit, you will not only abide, you will thrive.  I ask you then to both abide and thrive, and I ask this in Jesus name… AMEN!

He Prayed For You!

Sunday, May 12th, 2013

Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church-San Diego
Easter 7C, May 12h, 2013

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“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word.”  [John 17:20]

This morning Jesus shows you that He has prayed for you.  In the prayer which is brought to us in our gospel reading (John 17:20–26), He makes some pretty exciting promises. Do you trust His  Word?  Do you really believe that when He says something, it is in fact God Himself speaking to your heart, and when He says something it is not only going to happen, in fact, in God’s  perspective,  it has already happened!  If you answered yes, well then, this message will be both exciting and challenging for you.  If you answered, no or you aren’t sure, well then, it is God’s desire  that this morning’s message would be one of faith; a message that will both create faith within you and sustain it.  Would you like that?  Good!  Let’s get right into it.

This morning Jesus prays for two things: Unity and Glory.  He prays that we would be one in thought, word, and deed, just as He and the Father and the Spirit are one, and He also prays that just  as He is now in glory, seated at the right hand of the Father, we too would join Him there in glory.

This last Thursday was a day to celebrate, but because it did not fall on a Sunday, it probably passed you by.  On Thursday, the church celebrated the ascension of our Lord.  The day Jesus ascended  into Heaven and into His glory.  But when He left, He gave us this commission, backed by a powerful promise.  Listen: “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and  make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” [Matthew 28:18-20]

So when Jesus prayed for you in our gospel reading, He backed up that prayer in Matthew 28, when He ascended into Heaven. He’s letting you know that what He is praying for is powered by His real presence with us.  He is ever interceding for His church as it fulfills its mission to bring God’s love to the world.  And, He prays for you who are here this morning to be an active part of that mission.

He prays for you who believe that when Jesus says something it is fact; He knows that you will believe because you have been given faith through the word of the apostles, which is the very Word of God. (v. 20) Through the Word of God you have been brought into the body of Christ.  So as part of Jesus body, the church, you are also one with the Triune personhood of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

And now as part of the church, you have been given the glory of God.  What is this glory that God gives you?  Is it a glory that makes you better than your neighbor?  Is it a glory that makes you the head and not the tail?  No, not at all; instead it is a gift that not only invites us into unity as one body, but in fact it gives us the unity. (v. 22)

But how can we be one?  Well to answer that question, we will need to jump ahead to verse 26, where we hear Jesus declare this wonderful promise: “I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” (v. 26) So here is the very thing that empowers our mission into a world that is lost to sin; it is the love of God.  (Talk about a Mother’s love) It’s a love that was and always shall be communicated through the Father’s giving of His Son unto death so that a world lost and dead in its sins may live.  This is the great purpose or mission of the church: To be filled with the love of God and to share that love with the world.  This is now both the mission of the church, and its gift to the world:  A love from God that fills us and fulfills us.

It’s the love of God that not only gives us our mission but our unity.  Jesus prayed that as He and the Father were one, that we would be one with Him and each other. (vv. 21, 22b)  He prayed that the glory of God would be within us and fulfill us in unity so that…

The world might believe.  But believe what?  That Jesus, is the Son of God, and in a gift of love that God the Father has given so that we would believe that God is still with us and that He still loves us!  Another way to say this is, through our unity with God and each other the world will see God’s forgiving love and believe that both Jesus and His gift of eternal life are real!

So how do you think we are doing with that mission?  In our community alone we have hundreds of churches of various denominations and creeds.  It is not uncommon for these churches to compete for a finite number of believers.  This competition is always centered on truth, but not necessarily God’s truth.  So many churches seem to have become its own living definition of what truth is, thus separating itself further and further from their brothers and sisters in other denominations and churches.  And the unbelieving world sees this and shakes their head at us.  A world that we are suppose to be reaching with the truth is laughing at some church’s made up truth and never really getting to see the power of God’s own truth in action.

And what is the source of unity, love, and truth?  Nothing but the pure Word of God; not opinions, not theories, but only the pure Word of God, which is both truthful and mysterious.  Where the Word declares bold truths concerning sin and salvation, punishment and forgiveness, we are suppose to also as one voice declare the very same message.  Where the Word is silent or mysterious, we are never allowed to “fill in the blanks” so to speak but simply remain silent and trust even more in God’s mercy and grace.  While it is true that even when God’s Word is declared in purity and unity many may still reject His call to repentance, that is not suppose to trouble us.  We are simply asked to speak Words that give faith and then turn them to the object of their faith, Jesus Christ, crucified, resurrected, and ascended; Jesus the Son of God who alone is able to intercede for them and grant them eternal life and peace with God.

So, is the mission of the church hurt by defective Christians?  Yes, but it is never destroyed.  Each one of us must remember this one great truth… Jesus is praying for us!

As he prays, He prays for his church’s glory.  He knows that there is a great division between His church and those lost in this world of darkness.  Listen: “O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. (v. 25)

In these Words Jesus not only assures you that you belong to Him but also, ultimately it is His burden to bring faith to those who are lost in sin.  We are simply to look out upon this world and see the difference between faith and faithlessness.  We are to see the difference in the lives of those who live under the Father’s judgment and those who live out His gift of grace. Our mission this morning is to not only see the difference but live out that difference so that others will see the presence of God among us, through His gifts of love, forgiveness, and unity, and then desire to be a part of our community that gathers around those gifts.

So you see, it is for you that Jesus prays.  He prays that you will trust Him and rest in His love for you.  He prays that in His Word you will see Him always with you, always interceding for you who have been given to him by the Father.  But He also prays that you will let Him lead you out into our community seeking peace first with each other, then with your brothers and sisters of different denominations, and finally with the lost and unbelieving world.  And finally, He prays to remind you, that the kind of peace He invites you to share with others can only be found in the pure Word of God.

This morning, Jesus’ desire is that one day soon you will come to His side to a place where there will be no more sorrow, suffering, sickness, or disease; a place where all divisions will cease.  “No longer will there be anything accursed (among us), but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and we His servants will worship Him.” [Revelations 22:3]

Will you trust His Word; will you rest in a reality that declares, Jesus prays for you?  If you will, you won’t be disappointed; you will see His glory and you will forever know the Father’s love.  AMEN!

A Little Message of Joy!

Sunday, May 5th, 2013

Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church-San Diego
Easter 6C, May 5h, 2013

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“Until now you have asked nothing in my name.  Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” [John 16:24]

NOTE: The congregation has just sung the following verses of Dear Christians, One and All, Rejoice.”

1. Dear Christians, one and all, rejoice, with exultation springing, and with united heart and voice, and holy rapture singing.  Proclaim the wonders God has done, how His right arm the vict’ry won.  What  price our ransom cost Him!

2. Fast bound in Satan’s chains I lay; death brooded darkly o’er me.  Sin was my torment night and day; in sin my mother bore me.  But daily deeper still I fell; my life became a living hell, so firmly sin  possessed me.

3. My own good works all came to naught, no grace or merit gaining; free will against God’s judgment fought, dead to all good remaining.  My fears increased till sheer despair left only death to be my share;  the pangs of hell I suffered.

4. But God had seen my wretched state before the world’s foundation, and mindful of His mercies great, He planned for my salvation.  He turned to me a father’s heart; He did not choose the easy part but  gave His dearest treasure.

The sermon hymn that we just sang, “Dear Christians, One and All, Rejoice” is a beautiful hymn, but if we do not finish it this morning, that is if we stop at the 4th verse the message really doesn’t give us much to be joyful over.  So, a little later, we will sing the next 6 verses as part of our message, our little message on joy.

Haydn, the great musician, was once asked why his church music was so cheerful, and he replied: “When I think upon God, my heart is so full of joy that the notes dance and leap, as it were, from my pen, and since God has given me a cheerful heart it will be pardoned me that I serve Him with a cheerful spirit.”

So our desire this morning is to leave here knowing that we have true joy; a gift from God that can only come from God.  If we understand this truth, we will not have to pretend to be joyful, but we will rejoice and trust that God is our champion who fights for us, no matter how contrary to this truth things may appear.

In our gospel reading this morning (John 16:23–33), things did not appear very joyful there in the upper room as our Lord and His Holy Apostles prepared to depart for the Garden of Gethsemane, where Judas would betray His Master by leading the temple guards to arrest Him in secret.  Jesus knew what was about to happen, but He also knew that after the betrayal, in His arrest, suffering, and death, all things would become clear to the apostles and the disciples.  They would see that it really is true that the things that the devils and sinful men mean for evil, God turns into good.

So Jesus says to them, “In a little while you will no longer see me; and then in a little while you will!  Amen, amen, I say to you, that you shall sob and wail, but the world will rejoice.  You will be filled with sorrow, but your sorrow will become joy.”  [John 16:16-20]

Very soon, in just a few short hours, the first part of Jesus proclamation would become crystal clear.  They would see him beaten, hung on a cross, suffering, with death the final outcome.  Most of them would abandon Him there at the cross and one would deny Him completely.  “In a little while you will no longer see me.  In a little while you will sob and wail.”

Imagine, something that you have staked your entire past, present, and future on is ripped away; that was plan A and you have no plan B!  You have been left alone, lost, hopeless, and you seem to be damned by God.  That is what our sermon hymn is communicating to us in the 2nd and 3rd verses.  Listen to those words again:

“Fast bound in Satan’s chains I lay; death brooded darkly o’er me.  Sin was my torment night and day; in sin my mother bore me.  But daily deeper still I fell; my life became a living hell, so firmly sin possessed me.  My own good works all came to naught, no grace or merit gaining; free will against God’s judgment fought, dead to all good remaining.  My fears increased till sheer despair left only death to be my share; the pangs of hell I suffered.”

That is the true nature of one who has not been baptized, but it is also the true nature of a person who has walked away from their baptism.  They are prisoners of war so to speak.  Satan has them trapped in the chains of sin; their sin and the sin of the world.  The more they try to escape the hold of sin, death, and the devil, the tighter the chains bind them.

But how does a person try to escape without Jesus?  Well, they think that they can do it through there own good works of course; by trying to be a good and noble person; by trying to be compassionate and considerate, outside of God’s blessings through Jesus Christ.  Well what is wrong with that; good is good isn’t it?  And to that question, God answers, “No!”  Outside of Jesus Christ, all of our good works are like filthy rags!  But, if you are seeking glory only in this world, it will be at the expense of glory in the next.  And mark these words, there is a next; there is another place that you will live forever after your time here is through.

For those who hear the gospel call and ignore it, or for those who have heard and for a little while believed, but latter walked away from the call to trust, follow, and believe in Jesus in search of other things, Jesus says that the little while where they will no longer see Him or experience Him is now.  It is a dark time of sobbing and wailing.  But if you will hear and believe what He says next, He promises that you will once again rejoice!

“Again, in a little while you will see me and your sorrow will become joy.”  This is precisely what verse 4 is saying; listen: “But God had seen my wretched state before the world’s foundation, and mindful of His mercies great, He planned for my salvation.  He turned to me a father’s heart; He did not choose the easy part but gave His dearest treasure.”

So how can we have this loving heart of God the Father?  By receiving His Word, which alone gives us His dearest treasure, His Son, Jesus Christ!  Please sing with the me, the next five verses of our sermon hymn:

5. God said to His belovèd Son: “It’s time to have compassion.  Then go, bright jewel of My crown, and bring to all salvation.  From sin and sorrow set them free; slay bitter death for them that they may live with You forever.”

6. The Son obeyed His Father’s will, was born of virgin mother; and God’s good pleasure to fulfill, He came to be my brother.  His royal pow’r disguised He bore; a servant’s form, like mine, He wore to lead the devil captive.

7. To me He said: “Stay close to Me, I am your rock and castle.  Your ransom I Myself will be; for you I strive and wrestle.  For I am yours, and you are Mine, and where I am you may remain; the foe shall not divide us.

8. “Though he will shed My precious blood, me of My life bereaving; all this I suffer for your good; be steadfast and believing.  Life will from death the vict’ry win; My innocence shall bear your sin, and you are blest forever.

9. “Now to My Father I depart, from earth to heav’n ascending, and, heavn’ly wisdom to impart, the Holy Spirit sending; in trouble He will comfort you and teach you always to be true and into truth shall guide you.

10. “What I on earth have done and taught guide all your life and teaching; so shall the kingdom’s work be wrought and honored in your preaching.  But watch lest foes with base alloy the heav’nly treasure should destroy; this final word I leave you.”

This morning Jesus declares to you, “In that day (that is the day of your salvation), you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” [Vs. 23, 24]

Now here is where our joy is full and complete.  What is the greatest thing you could ever ask of God?  Is it money, fame, or fortune?  No, but isn’t it the complete forgiveness of your sins?  Isn’t it having the absolute assurance from God that you are at peace with Him and have nothing to fear?  This is God’s will for all people; this is what He wants us to ask of Him.  He loves all sinners, baptized and unbaptized.  For the unbaptized, He wants nothing more than that they should turn from their evil ways and receive His Son’s love and grace, within the waters of baptism.  For the baptized who have walked away, He wants nothing more than they would return to the Lord their God, because He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.  And for those of us who are still trusting in His Son Jesus Christ, seeing the remedy for our sin, which is the cross applied to us through the washing of water and His Word, nourished in the meal of forgiveness at His Holy table, and reassured in the Holy Absolution of forgiveness, He wants us to have our joy fulfilled.

Imagine the joy the disciples were increasingly filled with after Easter morning, when time after time, their resurrected Lord appeared to them.  Imagine how their despair and hopelessness was replaced with joy and confidence; a confidence that declared with the centurion at the cross: “Surely He was the Son of God!”

Dear friends in His Word this morning, you have heard Jesus speak Words of peace and encouragement to you.  You have heard the Spirit of truth once again declare to you.. “You are forgiven.” I pray that these Words will not only bring you peace but also joy.  I pray that through God’s forgiving love your frown brought by fear and worry, would be turned into the smile of peace and confidence: “(You know) a smile costs nothing, but creates much. It enriches those who receive it without impoverishing those who give it. It happens in a flash, and the memory of it sometimes lasts forever. None are so rich that they can get along without it, and none so poor but are richer for its benefits. It fosters good will in a business, it creates happiness in the home, and it is the countersign of friends. It is rest to the weary, daylight to the discouraged, sunshine to the sad, and nature’s best antidote for trouble.” —Henry H. Evansen

This morning God in His Word is smiling upon you; I pray that you will do the same towards each other and your neighbors this week, simply because you know that for Jesus sake, God loves you. I ask all of this in Jesus name… AMEN!