Archive for July, 2013

One Thing Needful

Sunday, July 21st, 2013

Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church-San Diego
Pentecost 9C, July 21st, 2013

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“But one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”” [Luke 10:41]

Martha, Martha, why do you worry so much?  Have you never heard the saying that worrying is like a rocking chair; it will give you something to do, but it won’t get you anywhere.  You know, if  you keep stressing over the little things in life, your liable to get an ulcer.  Someone has also said that ulcers aren’t necessarily caused by what we eat, but often times they’re caused by what’s  eating us!

All of us can be Martha(s); we know what needs to be done to achieve our goals, and if we don’t do it, well… experience has taught us that it just won’t get done!  And to those of us that can  become overwhelmed with all that needs to be done, Jesus reminds us that without the one thing needful, the one thing that is necessary, all of our planning and all of our work is like trying to  shovel smoke!

So what is that one thing needful; is it something we can develop by following a strategy of easy steps towards a goal?   In our epistle reading, Paul calls it a mystery, but it is only a mystery to  those outside of the church.  Please get out your Bibles or your bulletins, and let’s look at our Epistle reading this morning (Colossians 1:21-29).

How many here this morning love reading mysteries or watching a good “Who done it” on television?  Well I don’t!  When I am reading a mystery, I’ve been know to skip right to the end after the  first two or three chapters, just to find out who did it!  And that is what Paul does for us who call ourselves Christians; He tells us who did it.  Turn with me to vs. 26, where we read: “the mystery  hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in  you, the hope of glory.” [vs. 26, 27]

So there’s the answer to who done it, but the answer to why is still unanswered to you unless you go back and read, as Paul Harvey says, “the rest of the story.”

The reason God the Father sent His Son Jesus Christ is because you needed Him.  Or as Paul says in vs. 21, “You were alienated and hostile towards Him in your mind, doing all kinds of evil deeds.”  In other words, you were lost in sin and helpless, doomed for destruction.

Ok, that explains why you needed God, but it certainly does not explain why God decided to help you.  So why did God send His Son to die for a world full of sinners?  Because God is love.  God does not want anyone to die in their sins, to be separated from Him, but instead, He desires that all of us should repent, that is turn to Him for forgiveness and have eternal life.  [1 Peter 3:9]

But some may ask, “How can it be that simple?  How can God just erase all of my past, all of my sins and say I am forgiven?  I mean, what about my next great fall from grace?  Who am I kidding?  There may be some “good” church people who can walk that narrow path to heaven, but I know me like no one else and I can tell you, I am going to screw it up again!”  And to this, Paul in vs. 22 gives us an answer: “Christ has now reconciled (us, or made us right with God), in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before Him.”

Do you hear that good news?  Christ has reconciled you forever, through His suffering and death upon the cross.  His death is your death; the death that you should have died but now you don’t need to, because God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son to die for the worlds sinfulness.

Sing with me the first two verses of that wonderful hymn, “In the Cross of Christ I Glory” (LSB 427) and let the words minister to you:

  1. In the cross of Christ I glory, Tow’ring o’er the wrecks of time.  All the light of sacred story Gathers round its head sublime.
  2. When the woes of life o’er take me, Hopes deceive, and fears annoy, Never shall the cross forsake me; Lo, it glows with peace and joy.

So there is the answer to the “Who done it”, the “why He done it”, and the “how He done it.”  But the lesson is not over; no Paul still has more to say, and it comes to us by way of warning.  Let’s turn to vs. 23, where Paul says this salvation is completely yours, “if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.”

Now I know that some of you are thinking, “Yes there’s the rub.  That is exactly what I was talking about before.  You see, there is a way for me to screw it up, and where there is a way, trust me, I will find it!”  And to this, Jesus in our gospel reading (Luke 10:38-42) speaks to Martha and Mary, and He speaks to us.  He tells us that we must look for and hold onto the one thing needful; the one thing necessary, that absolutely guarantees our salvation… Himself!  He is always there ahead of you, all you need to do is turn to Him and trust Him.  It is Jesus upon the cross suffering and dying.  It is Jesus body not dead in the tomb, but alive and reclining at the table eating and drinking with you; you who are no longer alienated from God’s love as an enemy, but reconciled as His own dear child.

And the good news is, Jesus has done all of the work for you.  He began it in your baptism when He gave you Himself; the one thing needful.  He gave you the fruit of the cross; the forgiveness of sins so you never need worry about whether His Father’s love and mercy are truly yours.  And to make sure that you never loose this wonderful gift, He promises that He will never leave you nor forsake you, nor take away all that He has done for you!

Now, I don’t want you to get the impression that St. Paul thought that life is just one good time after another.  He wasn’t ignorant of life’s challenges and heartaches.  Let’s start reading again in vs. 24 and let Paul speak for himself: “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known.” [Vs. 24, 25]

What Paul is telling us is that in this life we will have troubles; he had plenty of them!  In fact, he is saying he had more than most of us, because he was a minister of the gospel; an apostle who was constantly under the attack of Satan himself.  But through out all of those hardships and heartaches, he (Paul) never lost sight of Christ’s suffering and death for the entire world.  He never forgot the empty tomb or the waters of his own baptism.  He never forgot that he was called to continue following Jesus and then allow others to see through his own life, that no matter how many times he fell down under the burden of life, Christ always picked Him up.

That same Jesus Christ who was given to you as a gift from the Father in your baptism is still with you.  In a few minutes you will feast at His table of forgiveness and receive His body and blood which will reassure you that no one can take you away from Him, not even your own sin.  All you need do is receive Him and seek after Him where ever and when ever you need Him!

Our life in Christ can be compared to an aqueduct, the stone waterways that brought water from nearby mountains into parched cities in Italy and Spain, and that are still used in some countries today.  The objective foundation of our spiritual lives, Jesus Christ, the living Word of God, is like the huge stone aqueduct itself. The subjective elements, our daily experience with Christ, are like the fresh water flowing through it.

Some Christians neglect the Word and seek only the subjective experience. But without the solid Word of God to contain and channel that experience, the experience itself drains away into error and is lost.  Other Christians boast about well-engineered aqueducts based on extensive knowledge of the Bible, but they are bone dry, lacking no experience, which brings help and refreshment. Strong spiritual lives require both a strong knowledge of the Word of God and an intimate daily experience with Christ.  And that dear friends is precisely what Jesus offers you here in this house of worship, and anywhere else you need Him, if you will simply turn to Him and allow Him to speak through His Word.

May we with Paul continue to trust in Christ and His cross, proclaiming the mystery of the one thing needful, which is Christ in us, the hope of glory!  Please stand and sing verses 3 and 4 of the hymn “In the cross of Christ I Glory.”

  1. When the sun of bliss is beaming Light and love upon my way, From the cross the radiance streaming Adds more luster to the day.
  2. Bane and blessing, pain and pleasure By the cross are sanctified; Peace is there that knows no measure, Joys that through all time abide.  AMEN!

Hey Fortunate One… Must You Always Win?

Sunday, July 7th, 2013

Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church-San Diego
Pentecost 7C, July 7th, 2013

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“But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” [Galatians 6:14]

I suppose a better title for our message might be, “Must you brag so much about always winning?”  Or, “Is winning really that important to you?”  Any way you put it, you are communicating  something yourself… you are jealous of another person’s status; their knack for always coming out on top.  You know those people don’t you?  It’s those golden children, who seem to live a  charmed life that we say things like, “They were born with a silver spoon in their mouth.”  Or maybe we say things like, “They live a charmed life; they’re the fortunate one.  But it ain’t me.  I ain’t  no fortunate son!”

How do you see your self?  Do you really want to be a fortunate son; or are you happy being a blessed one?  This morning, Paul wants us to see what it means to be a blessed one of Christ, and  then he wants us to see what living that blessed life looks like.

First thing, right off the bat, Paul wants us to know that being a Christian means that we are spiritual; that is, we know that this life we live now is not what defines us; there is another reality  that is eternal that defines us and that is our new life, or our baptismal identity.  If you are living out that new nature then you truly are the blessed one.  But there are others in our family of Christ,  within our church who may not realize how blessed they are.  They are the ones who only look at the physical life to determine their blessedness.  Because they don’t live in a nice house or drive a  decent car, or have a high paying job, they may become discouraged; they may become jealous and covet those who seem more fortunate than themselves; they covet what others have..  This  would be an example of what Paul means when he says, “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.” [Galatians 6:1a]

So what do we do, how do we respond when one of our brothers or sisters becomes discouraged or even bitter about their current vocation, or position in life?  Paul says that ; we should restore them; return their eyes to Jesus Christ, the author and perfecter of their faith.  We should encourage them to look past their temporary physical reality, and see the eternal truth that they are loved by God and important.  Their finances are not the only things that God uses to minister to others, but instead, all of who they are in this world becomes a tool in the hand of the Creator to reach out and communicate His message of forgiveness to those who don’t know Him.

But Paul continues with a warning for those of us who others might consider fortunate and blessed: “Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.” [6:1b-3]  What do you think Paul is trying to tell us here?

It is a warning… a notice that all things we have or don’t have in this world are transient.  They each in their own way are gifts from God, which are given according to his purpose.  What is that purpose?  Well, there are two purposes really; one is immediate and the other is long-term.

The immediate purpose is to bear each other’s burdens, to support each other in the body of Christ.  In our song of praise, we sang “I need you; you need me.  We’re all a part of God’s body.  It is His will that every need be supplied.  You are important to me; I need you to survive.”  This is what Paul is talking about here; we are all in this life together.  We each have burdens that are heavy at times, and we each have blessings that are designed to lighten the burdens of others.  The question that begs to be answered is: Are you seeing your many blessings through spiritual eyes?  Do you see that you have what you have, whether it is forgiveness or finances for a spiritual purpose?  When you are secure, do you see that as an opportunity to help your brother or sister who is insecure, or is it simply proof for you to proclaim how blessed you are?  If you find your self being tempted to look away from your brother or sister when things are going good for you, and simply enjoy the good life, well then, Paul is warning you that you are being tested, and if you are not careful you will fall to the sin of pride, and it will be you who needs to be restored!

And that brings us to the other purpose, the long-term reason that we are who we are, and we have what we have.  Each of us has a precious cargo that God has given us to carry, and that cargo is the gospel, the good news about Jesus Christ.  Listen once again to Paul speak to us: “But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load.” [Vs. 4-5]

Have you heard of the church, the body of Christ compared to a ship, or an ark before?  Why we even call the part of the building that you are sitting in the “nave”.  Look up and notice the supports in the ceiling; it is not by accident that it resembles the ribbing of a ship.  A flood of sin is overcoming this world and the only way we can be saved is by entering His majesty Jesus Christ’s ship.  He gave the whole world an invitation to enter, to believe and be saved, when He gave His life on Calvary; when He died upon the cross for the sins of the world.  But He gave another invitation to you, a very private one, in your baptism.  It was there at the font that He transferred you from darkness to light, from death to life.

So now, the question that must be answered is this: What do we do while on board this ship?  Do we sit back and enjoy the voyage, or is there something else that Jesus would have us accomplish?  Well, when Paul says that each of us must bare our own load or carry are own cargo, it implies that we must take the cargo, the gospel message somewhere, does it not?  But how?  Following the analogy of the church being a ship, why not think of your self as many small lifeboats that are being sent out to seek and save those who are lost and dying with out the safety of the gospel?  If you look at your status as being a continuation of the mission of Jesus and His church, then who you are and what you have become and are becoming, seem to be a lot more important don’t they?  Who cares who’s life boat is prettier or more lavish, they both were designed for the same purpose: To reach out to a certain group of people with the message of forgiveness of sins and eternal life!

Do you want something to brag about?  Do you want something that shows just how blessed you are?  Look to the cross and see what Jesus did for you, what He did to assure that you would not die in the flood of sin and darkness.  Once again let’s hear Paul speak: “But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” [Vs. 14]

You have been plucked out of the angry sea of sin and despair.  Your eternal safety is guaranteed if you will simply trust your Savior, the very One who plucked you out of that lost condition.  You offered Him absolutely no reason to save you, nor did you offer any help in accomplishing it, and yet He did save you.  It was the cross of Jesus Christ that changed you from a condemned man or woman into a blessed man or woman.

Do not loose heart when the world looks at you with physical eyes and counts you as unfortunate.  You instead have been called to look at them with spiritual eyes of pity, see them as condemned in sin, and in need of saving.  You must know, and we must remind each other every day, just how fortunate we really are!  Each of us are in this Gospel ship we call the church, together.  Each of us is being sent out into our communities in our various callings, to seek and save the lost.  And when we find these lost ones, we will undoubtedly need the help of others to bring them into eternal safety.

And this is precisely why we need our church family; why we need each other.  We must remind each other that we, like Paul have been crucified to the world.  That is, we do not think like them or live like them.  They are physical and we, while living in this physical world are primarily spiritual.  We see things as our Savior Jesus sees them.  Physical things, like our time, talent, and yes our treasure are simply tools that our Savior uses in His church to continue the mission.  The world laughs at this, because it does not make sense.  But we laugh at the devil who has deceived this sinful world, and we reply that this world has been crucified to us.  We do not care what the devil or this lost generation thinks of us; all that is important is that Christ’s mission must be carried out.  And so we continue to carry our cargo, the message of the gospel to all that will hear.

In our gospel reading, when the 72 returned from their gospel mission, they rejoiced that even the demons fled from them.  And what did Jesus say in reply?  He said, “Do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” [Luke 10:20]  In other words, don’t get caught up in the different ways Jesus provides to us so that you can continue your mission, but instead, be thankful that His mission has found and saved you, and that He has empowered you to continue that mission.  Be thankful that you are resting and serving on board the gospel ship called Christ’s church, and then be confident in the knowing, that if you stay on board you are absolutely assured that your final destination will be paradise!  AMEN