Archive for November, 2013

Praise and Thanksgiving From a Loose Woman?

Thursday, November 28th, 2013

Rev. Brian T. Henderson
Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church
San Diego, California

Thanksgiving Eve, November 27, 2013

What did our forefathers mean by Thanksgiving?  Our forefathers were not so much thankful for something as they were  thankful in something. If they had a little or a lot, they remained thankful. In feast or in famine they were thankful. In joy or in  misery they were consistently thankful. There is a big difference between being thankful for things and being thankful in all  things.

Our sermon hymn this evening offers us a closer look into what I am talking about. It was written in 1607 by a German Lutheran  Pastor by the name of Martin Reinkardht. The name of the hymn is “Now Thank We All Our God.”  Pastor Reinkardt was the  son of a poor coppersmith, but somehow, he managed to work his way through an education. Finally, in the year 1617, he was  offered the post of Archdeacon in his hometown parish. A year later, what has come to be known as the Thirty-Years-War  broke out. His town was caught right in the middle. In 1637, a massive plague swept across the continent of Europe and it hit  the Eilenburg parish hard.  People were dying at the rate of fifty a day and the man they called upon to bury most of them was t  their dear Pastor Martin Reinkardt. In all, over 8,000 people died, including Martin’s own wife and children.  These were tough circumstances in which to be thankful. But he managed. And he wrote these words:

Now thank we all our God With heart and hands and voices; Who wondrous things hath done, In whom his world rejoices.

Did you catch the key verse for why thanks should be offered to God:  Who wondrous things hath done.”  It takes a magnificent spirit to come through such hardship and express gratitude. Here is a great lesson. Surrounded by tremendous adversity, thanksgiving is still offered up to God…with heart and hand and voices.  That is the kind of Thanksgiving we will be talking about tonight.

So why was the woman in our gospel reading (Luke 7:36-50) so thankful? She had only one thing on her mind: getting to Jesus. Why? Most of the best Biblical scholars have concluded that the woman was most likely a prostitute.  In all likelihood, she had heard Jesus preach and had her life touched in a way by him to the point where she received the gift of faith, which caused her to experience forgiveness of her sins. Now, full of joyful gratitude, and determined to do something for the one who had done so much for her, she made her way directly to Jesus.

There is an old story about the Greek Marathon. Muscular, conditioned runners paced nervously near the starting line for the long-distance race.  The time was near. They “shook out” their muscles, inhaled deeply, and put on their “game faces.” In the midst of it all, a young stranger took his place at the starting line. His physique was awesome. Taking no notice of the other contestants, he stared straight ahead. Two prizes would be awarded the winner of the Marathon: a magnificent bouquet of flowers and the honor of standing beside the king until the conclusion of other contests. There seemed to be no question among the runners about who would win the prize. It is alleged that the stranger was offered money not to run. Someone else attempted to bribe him with property. Refusing the offers, he toed the mark and awaited the signal to run. When the signal was given, he was the first away. At the finish line, he was the first to cross, well ahead of the rest.  When it was all done, someone asked the young man if he thought the flowers were worth as much as the money and property he had refused. He replied, “I did not enter the race for the flowers. I ran so that I could stand beside my king!”

Again, the woman who “intruded” into the Pharisee’s house apparently had one thing on her mind. She wanted to stand beside her king and offer him her gratitude.

Why was the woman’s response of gratitude so extreme?  It is the same reason why many “new adult Christians” today, are so joyful and exuberant in their praise for Jesus.  True thankfulness is displayed as the extreme response of the hopeless because they have received the impossible. Friends, we are not that much different from the prostitute.  We too have become hopelessly lost in our sins, yet for Christ’s sake alone, we have received the impossible gift of love and forgiveness, through no merit of our own! It is a temptation of some to say that the woman was forgiven because of her act of love, which was shown by her kissing and anointing the feet of Jesus.  But this is not so, and we know this because of our Savior’s own words.  What did he say?  He did not say, I admire your love, so your sins are forgiven.  No, but what did He say?  “You are forgiven.  Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

But it is hard to walk in this certainty, when everything around you seems to point out that this “good news” is not only impossible, but in fact ridiculous. This is a world whose mantra is, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.” Or, “you can’t get something for nothing.”  Many preachers in the church will only compound this lie for you.  They will say things like, “God wants to forgive you” rather than “God HAS forgiven you for the sake of Jesus.” They will place conditions upon you by saying, “God is waiting to bless you if only you will let Him,” rather than announcing to you, “God has already blessed you ‘with every spiritual blessing in Christ'” (Ephesians 1:3).

I am sure that the loose woman knew that her actions would be considered strange by Simon and his other guests, but that did not interfere in the least with her acts of thanksgiving.  When you are ridiculed for your “simple” faith, do not shrink away but pull closer towards the source of your faith; and like the woman, be content to lay at Jesus feet and cling to his promise, which says “your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

Perhaps some of you here tonight are still struggling with the simplicity of these Words of Good News; Simon the Pharisee was. But why?  Because his pride refused to admit his need for absolute dependency on God.  And those who will not completely depend on God cannot experience His great forgiveness.

Simon the Pharisee had been trapped by one of Satan’s deepest and most ancient temptations inflicted upon man, and that is to say that we must first do something in order to qualify for God’s forgiveness in Christ. Or perhaps the temptation may be to say, “I must first show Him that I want to make amends for the things I have done.” But this is a lie of the devil which causes us to follow “me” centered thinking and not “Christ centered” thinking.  It is right to say “Jesus earned forgiveness for me by His death on the cross,” but it is wrong to add, “All I have to do is prepare myself for it, make room for it, and accept it.”

Those five little words-“all I have to do” -are the devil’s greatest weapon which he skillfully uses to crush your faith, destroy your confidence in forgiveness and prevent you from walking with Jesus in a spirit of thankfulness. Friends, remember this, if we must do anything at all in order to walk with God in peace, then St. Paul’s judgment found in Galatians comes true: “Christ died for nothing!” (Galatians 2:21).  Martin Luther perhaps has said it best, “Thou art my righteousness and I am thy sin.”

But if we are so inclined to naturally reject the simplicity of God’s grace what are we to do?  God knows full well the hardness of our hearts and the many obstacles that the devil creates to derail our faith.  That is why he has provided the means to experience a radical faith.  He does this through His real presence.
Let’s look at the sequence of events in today’s Gospel: The woman first heard the good news, which was the certainty of God’s forgiveness and love, which was hers in Christ Jesus; this preached Word created faith within her; and finally, her God-given faith led her to go to Simon’s house, with gratitude demonstrated in the washing, kissing and anointing of Jesus’ feet.

The woman came to Jesus because she believed that His presence signaled the presence of forgiveness, and her demonstration of gratitude and love was her (natural) response to that gift.  We also come to Jesus because we believe that His real presence in Word and Sacrament provides and ensures us of our complete forgiveness, and like the woman, we too will naturally respond with our own demonstrations of gratitude and love.

St. John writes in his first letter: “We love [God] because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). Hear how natural and logical these words enter our ears.  But in case we have missed the simplicity of the words, St. John says it in another way, “This is love, not that we loved God, but THAT HE (first) LOVED US and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:10).

Think about the joy and blessing that this Gospel proclaims to you, dear saints! You have the rich blessing of Jesus’ forgiveness, and His forgiveness does not depend on your prior love for Him or your expressions of loyalty or even on your feelings of worthiness. You have the rich blessing of Jesus’ forgiveness, and this comes to you from the heart and mouth of God Himself, unprompted and unearned and even undeserved.

Our forefathers who came to this country so long ago, and Pastor Reinkhardt who wrote our sermon hymn, all knew this one central truth: We are all exactly like the prostitute who came to Jesus ashamed and trapped in sin.  And like the Prostitute, they knew that because of Jesus, they would not be helplessly lost in their sin.  Their reaction to this certainty and our own natural response will always be demonstrated in our ability to give thanks in all things, with hearts and hands and voices.  Theses acts of love and thanks we show Him are not the cause of His forgiveness, but they are the result of Being forgiven; they are the flower and fruit of our God-given faith; they are the praise we speak in response to what we have first heard.  They materialize through a variety of gifts and talents that God has given to each one of us so that we may serve Him within His body, which He calls His Church.

As we enter into Advent as His body, let us enter with each gift He has given us with love and gratitude to Him who first loved us as spoken in our sermon Hymn:

Now thank we all our God With heart and hands and voices; Who wondrous things hath done, In whom his world rejoices.

May God work this wonder in each of our hearts, for Christ’s sake….AMEN

Who Is Like the Lord?

Sunday, November 24th, 2013

Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church-San Diego
Last Sunday in the Church Year-C, November 24th, 2013

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“And (Jesus) said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.””

“Who is like the Lord?”  The Lord being, of course Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  But what does that mean, “Son of God?”  How you answer that question will determine whether or not you our worshiping and serving the One true God!

Some folks like to say that Jesus was a just man, filled with the Spirit of God.  And because He was “Spirit filled” His flesh was used by God to do great things for us; things like remaining sinless and rising from the dead.  Others will say that Jesus was simply a great prophet like the many prophets that came before Him and after Him.  These folks will deny things like virgin birth and the resurrection but will accept the other miracles that are recorded in the gospels as simply the power of God at work in a man of God!

If these false teachings and other wild ideas about Jesus were true, well then the scoffers recorded in our Old Testament reading (Malachi 3:13-18) might have some validity.  They spoke out loud, words like, “It is vain to serve God.  What is the profit of our keeping His charge or of walking as in mourning before the Lord of Hosts?  And now we call the arrogant blessed.  Evildoers not only prosper but they put God to the test and they escape.”  In other Words, these grumblers are saying that it is impossible to live up to God’s standard of perfection.  No one could do it; no one can keep the Law of God perfectly.  So, what is the point of trying?  Why should we keep feeling bad for our sins when the people who don’t care about God or His law seem to be living a great and blessed life?”

The people then, in the time of Malachi, and the people that gathered around Christ’s cross in our Gospel lesson (Luke 23:27-43) did not understand God’s plan or His ways, because they would not see who the Savior truly was and is!  They would not see that their struggling to be good, their trying to keep God’s Law and their many failures to do it were intended to turn the eyes of their hearts to God’s solution to the sinfulness of the world, even their many sins.  And that solution is Jesus Christ, the One who keeps the law for you!

To those people then and to us today Jesus speaks eight strong and powerful words: “Today you will be with me in Paradise.”  Not, “I hope you will be with me” but “you WILL be with me”.  Not a promise of condition, “If you keep the Law of God you will be with me” but “you WILL be with me”.  And not a promise fulfilled in an undetermined amount of time, but a sure and certain promise that will be fulfilled very soon, “TODAY you will be with me in Paradise.”  Jesus can make this promise then and today because He is the Lord; He is God the Son.  He is the BELOVED SON of the Heavenly Father.   And because He is the Son whom the father has loved throughout eternity…

(Colossians 1:13-17) “(The Father) has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son.”  Here you can place the favored saying of the church that points the hearts of all sinners, all victims of evil, all those who are weak and have fallen to disease, addiction, hopelessness and despair: “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

In Jesus Christ and through His suffering death upon the cross, God the Father made all things new and right.  Through Jesus Christ, the Son of God, all of God reached out to snatch the world out of the powerful darkness of sin and the control of the devil and return it into the Kingdom of God.  Through the cross of His Son, God rescued the world.  It is a rescue that could only be done through the power of God.  Why?  Well, because of where and how the world was being held captive.

Please don’t underestimate the power of the domain of darkness.  It is a power that no man or woman, nor any system of living and thinking could ever rescue you from.  Good teachings from wise teachers can only fail, because the power that holds us captive is the power of the devil and the desires of our own flesh.  Try telling a person who is dying of cancer that all they have to do to be healthy is believe that they are better and they will call you a cruel person.  And try telling an addict of any kind that all they have to do is want to get better, and you are likely to get a punch in the nose for your useless advice.

No, the kingdom of darkness, its power and domain, could only be destroyed and replaced by the coming of God’s kingdom and power.  And now the world has been delivered by that coming kingdom and it’s power.  But it can only be received through the One who has redeemed us; by the One who has purchased us and set us free through His own suffering and death.  In Him alone do we have this redemption and the forgiveness of sins, but don’t cheapen this by thinking that only some sins are forgiven.  When the Son sets you free you are free indeed (John 8:36); free and forgiven of all sins.  But how can this truly be?

Because Jesus Christ, the Son of God is the very image of the invisible God.  He Who is Spirit and can not be seen by flesh has come to flesh in flesh, so that we would know that there is a God who loves us.  Every essence of God worked to reach out to sinful men and women so that we would know forgiveness of sins and a new an eternal life with our Creator, but only the Son of God became Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world!  “He is the first born of all creation.”  He became like us in every way but He was and remains sinless.  He was born of the Virgin Mary, but He was not created.  When we say that He was the first born of all creation, we are simply declaring that He has always been first, over, and above all of creation.  He was begotten and not made; not created, because He is the Creator!

There is nothing that ever is or was, or shall be that is above or outside of the person of Jesus Christ the Son of God.  And there are no powers, governments, authorities, or rulers that are in place without the knowledge and permission of the Son of God.  He is very God of very God, and He is before all things, and in Him and through Him all things are held together and shall be.

This is the truth that we must never let any false teacher or religion tear from us.  We must never allow anyone or anything to turn our eyes from these truths.  And to be sure that we are not led astray, we have Jesus own Words to cling to and protect us.  This morning Jesus says to you, “I and the Father are One.” [John 10:22]  “He that has seen Me has seen the Father.” [John 14:9]  And we have the testimony of the apostles through St. John who wrote, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” [John 1:14]

(Colossians 1:18-20) But how can you know that this is true?  Because the love of the Father has come to you personally and testified that it is true.  By the power of the Holy Spirit of God, through the washing of water and His Word, He has called you by grace and truth, and given you faith, and allowed you to see and believe that Jesus is the Christ , the Son of God, “the head of His body, the church.”  Within the church, Christ’s body, you have continuously received the gifts of God to not only believe in and see the invisible God through Christ, but you have tasted and received the forgiveness of all of your sins!

It is here in Christ’s church that you have been taught that not only is He the beginning of all creation, but He is also the firstborn from the dead.  In His church you are not just shown a cross that paid for the sins of the world, but you are also shown and empty tomb.  You are shown Jesus resurrection and assured by God that like your Savior you too shall one day rise from the dead.  The empty tomb declares as fact what God has declared from the beginning:  Sin, death, and the devil no longer reign upon the earth.  You have been set free.

By faith, your eyes now move from the cross and empty tomb, and then to the waters of baptism, and there at the font you can say without a doubt, “It was there that God made the redemption of the world mine.  It was at the font that I was given forgiveness of sin unto eternal life, and it is at the font that my ears were opened so that I would hear and read God’s Word and receive faith to follow Jesus, the Son of God unto eternal life.

Who is like the Lord?  No one else but Jesus, because He is the Lord!  It is Christ alone who can not only assure a worthless sinner that “today you will be with me in paradise,” but also show that sinner that, which can not be seen.  What does He show us?  The fullness of God, which was pleased to dwell in Him.  And through Jesus Christ, the Son of God, we have been reconciled to our God; that is we have been made right with God forever.

Who is like the Lord?  No one… He is God!  AMEN!

You’re Still Here!

Sunday, November 17th, 2013

Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church-San Diego
Pentecost 26-C, November 17th, 2013
2 Thessalonians 3:1–13

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Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text this morning, from our epistle lesson:  “As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good.” 2 Thessalonians 3:1–13

We just sang one of my favorite hymns; a hymn that I draw much strength from.  But some use it as an excuse for their bad behavior.   Let me show you what I mean: “I’m but a stranger here, Heaven is my home.  Earth is a desert drear, heaven is my home.  Danger and sorrow stand, round me on every hand.  Heaven is my Father land,” so… oh forget it, I am going to sit here and wait for the end.  We know it’s coming soon; we heard it read in our readings, so what’s the point?  I’m going to do nothing until Jesus comes back.  I’m going to enjoy life while its mine to live.  You can go to church to worship, I’ll just worship God in my own way, after all, the preacher says I’ve been saved in the waters of baptism, so I seem to have the whole end time thing covered!

And to that way of thinking, I can only remind you that you are still here, and because you’re still here you still have a God given purpose!

But let’s play out that fatalistic way of thinking, shall we?  If you are only a stranger here, with no responsibilities, no obligations to make this place a little better, then why I are you still here?  Think about it for a moment.  Another word for stranger in the sense that it is being used in our sermon hymn is alien.  You are just an alien in this world.  Your true citizenship lies within the kingdom of God, and you’ve been told that one day you shall be relocated within the kingdom of Heaven… God’s Heaven… Jesus’ Kingdom.  So if you are an alien here, let me share with you one of the obligations within the immigration laws of any advance government.  The alien may not become a public charge or place a burden upon the government or they may be deported; that is removed.

Now here in the United States and again in most advanced governments, the only aliens that have a great deal of protection, or immunity from most laws, are those who are here serving as diplomats.  Some times it seems that these diplomats can get away with anything and still be protected from the law.

Ok, I can see the wheels turning in some heads; you’re thinking, “Yeah, that’s me.  I’m an alien, but I’m under diplomatic immunity.  I’m baptized!”  Ok, I’m with you on that, but again, let’s play that out.

Yes you are afforded a great deal of protection from the evil prince of this world, the devil.  He can neither pluck you out of the Father’s hand nor remove you from the heart of Jesus… but, you can remove yourself from the protection of His hand; you can reject the heart and forgiving love of Jesus!  But how?  By rejecting your office and the duties of that office!

Let me share a little ditty with you that will illustrate what I mean.  Listen: “To live above with saints I love, that will be all joy and glory.  But to live below with saints I know, well… that’s a different story.”  Or another way to illustrate what I’m trying to say is this other oldie but goodie.  Maybe you’ve heard it before.  “He or she is so heavenly minded that they are of no earthly good!”  And that is the point.  You are to live out your calling, your office as Christ’s Ambassador within your vocation, or your station in life, because you are still here!

If you are a student, you are in fact Christ’s student.  If you are an employee or manager, you are Christ’s employee or manager.  If you are a parent, grandparent, or child, guess what?  You are to live out those stations in life as Christ’s Ambassador.  In other words, while you live in this world that will one day be consumed, judged, and replaced, you are to live a quiet and productive life while seeking out those who are lost and through God’s work and His working through you, allow God to turn their eyes and heart toward Jesus Christ and His church.

While it is true that you have been redeemed through the cross and saved, washed clean in the waters of your baptism, you were not saved by things but by a person.  And that person is Jesus Christ.  It was not a wooden cross that saved you, but the blood of Christ that was shed and the life that was given upon the cross.  It was not just simple water that washed you clean and remade you, but the powerful Word of God that was applied within the waters of your baptism.  You have been saved by the living Word of God, Jesus Christ, and you are to live out your life forever changed and empowered by that living Word.  You are to cling to and trust in that Word of God alone, no matter how everyone else around you is living.

While it is true that there is evil all around us in this world; evil that hates and rejects the Word of God, for you, you must understand that it is that Word alone that prevents you from becoming like the world you live in.  The Word of God speeds ahead and brings honor to God by showing sinners their sins and then showing them their Savior, their only hope of salvation, which is Jesus Christ.  That is how you came to rest in this church.  But God’s work isn’t finished just because He found and saved you.  It still speeds ahead.  It does not stand still.  It speeds ahead through Christ’s ambassadors.  It speeds ahead through you!  It speeds ahead as you quietly live out your lives, your calling as His ambassador within your different stations in life.  You share the Word of God, that is you give a witness to Jesus Christ as God presents the opportunities.

Now I know some may counter and say, “But pastor, most of the people I know do not care about God; they neither fear nor love Him!”  Yes, I know that is true, but you do love Him!  And because you fear and love God you can and will be used by Him in a miraculous way.  As you live out the forgiven life, God works through you demonstrating His presence and power to others who either do not yet know Him or have abandoned Him.

“But wait” you say, “doesn’t the Bible teach that the devil is the prince of this world?  If I get involved to the extent that you are teaching, won’t I become a target of the devil?”  Well the short answer is yes.  But you need to understand, the day you were baptized you were already declared an enemy of the devil and his kingdom.  The only way you will not be his enemy is if you abandon your calling as Christ’s Ambassador; if you quit living in and working for the Kingdom of God.

Dear friends, the reality is that without Jesus and His Word, you are simply a tool of the devil; a tool that he will use to draw others away from Him.  It is the Word of God alone that establishes and guards you, your heart and your eternal life from the evil ones, whether they are spirit or flesh.  Here in this church, the body of Christ, you have both the Word of God and the prayers of your church family to sustain and protect you, and to forgive and empower you as you live out your calling and vocation.

You see we do not have the option of checking out and letting life pass us by.  If you are claiming the protections of God as a citizen of Heaven you will also live out your vocation, your station in life as one who works to further the Kingdom of God.  There is much to be done while we serve here in this world.  There are our homes to care for; children and grandchildren to raise and teach, so that they too may know how to serve the God who first loved them and saved them through the agony of the cross and powerful life giving waters of baptism.  We teach God’s love through His Word, and we model His love through our vocations, as we work to keep our homes in order and ensure that we have food on the table, clothes on our bodies, beds to sleep in and all other necessities.

But we also do the very same thing for our church home.  We give of our time, talent, and treasure so that this place can continue to be a bright light within our community, where God’s pure Word is confessed, preached, and taught.  We must have people who serve according to their talents in a way that fulfills the mission of Christ’s church and the needs of His people.  But we also must have funds; it is through your giving that Christ finances and continues to support His Church.

Do you see how important your presence and support is for both your physical family and your church family?  Your involvement in both is not optional it is essential.  And to prove it, the Spirit of God moved Paul to say these Words both to the church in Thessalonica and to our church today: “Keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition(s) that you (have) received (and been taught)”. [2 Thessalonians 3:6b]  And, “If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.” [2 Thessalonians 3:10b]

Dear friends, this morning God is asking something from you; He’s asking you to do what He has already given you the strength and the ability to do… live out your life as His ambassador.  As you have received the Word of forgiveness from Christ, live out and share that Word with others.  As He gives you opportunity to do a task, do it simply as the duty of a sinner who has been saved and knows that he owes a debt of love and gratitude to his Savior who saved him.

Remember that as a sinner yourself, God dealt with you not with threats and punishments but instead He used His love through His Son Jesus Christ to save you.  And remember that while it is true that through your baptism, God has declared you a saint, this very day, you are still struggling with your sin, and He still treats you with His love in order to correct you and empower you so that you can be His ambassador, sent out to help find other sinners.  And remember that as God sends you out in a foreign world to share the love of Christ with sinners, Christ also walked among sinners and treated them with wonderful patience and love.  It is this same love of God that speaks to you this morning; not in a thundering and threatening manner, but with encouragement as He says, “Do not grow weary in doing good.”  For Jesus sake… AMEN!

And now the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith to life everlasting. Amen.

You Are My Witnesses!

Sunday, November 10th, 2013

Proclaimer: Mark Kunkee—Deacon, Trinity Lutheran Church
San Diego, CA, November 10, 2013
Sorry, no audio for this message.

In the Name of Jesus

INTRODUCTION: You are my witnesses, Jesus says. Christ is the faithful witness as His life is a confession of the true faith that reveals our compassionate Father’s ever-giving heart. A witness to Christ confesses the true faith. By the power and grace of the Holy Spirit, our Lord has called us His witnesses as people who share what He has given to us so that all would know the Father’s saving love. You are my witnesses, then, is Christ’s call to our real identity for the true confession of the faith in words and actions that inspire works of mercy in our life together.
I. Christ Jesus our Lord speaks to us so that we are His witnesses.

He sends His Holy Spirit so that His people may be witnesses as repentance and forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all nations. You are my witnesses. When Christ speaks to us today. He speaks to us through  pastors, deacons/deaconesses and anyone who believes in the word no matter what the season is to preach the Word. How are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent?

Pastors are sent by God to preach and teach the Law, proclaiming what God expects of His people according to His divine goodness. That Word of Law shows us our sin, our blatant and rebellious disregard for Christ’s life and teaching and our ego-driven rejection of His promises. It shows how deaf we are to Christ’s  compassionate voice of forgiveness, life and salvation as we reject our identity as His witnesses. The Good News that Christ came into the world as the great witness to the Father’s abounding love to suffer and die for our sin and rise again so that we may live releases us from the bondage of suffering and death. As repentance and forgiveness of sins is proclaimed in His Name, the promised Holy Spirit continues to call, gather, enlighten and sanctify people in the one true faith. Commissioned servants also work in our church body as teachers, deacons /deaconesses, directors of  education, parish music, nurses and others witnessing the living Christ.

You are my witnesses, Christ says to us today. Christ Jesus has spoken to the women of the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League so that they may be His Lutheran Women in Mission. Throughout the ages, the Lutheran Woman’s Quarterly has included Bible studies that have been used by people all over the world. Through the Word, our Lord engages people for lives of witnessing. Stories of faith in those pages of the Lutheran Woman’s Quarterly exhibit the mutual conversation and consolation of the saints that we believe, teach, and confess in the Smalcald Articles of our Lutheran Confessions. Mustard Seed devotions from the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League left in hotel rooms, restaurants and greeting cards show how the witness of Christ continues to permeate the world. You are my witnesses, Christ says through His servants in the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League.

II. Christ not only speaks to us so that we are His witnesses; Christ leads us out so that we are His witnesses.

How does he do this?  He does this when He brings us to the waters of Holy Baptism where we die to our sin and rise to newness of life. Buried with Him in our baptism, we are united with Him in His resurrection witness. As He gathers His people at His altar to receive His precious Body and Blood, Christ leads His people out from the altar into the world. As the Divine Service concludes inside the church building, divine service continues in the world as the people of God are sent forth as witnesses. There is no need to fear; the resurrected Christ has gone before us to prepare the way for us. Christ has led the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League out to be Lutheran Women in Mission. The pledge of the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League is centered in Christ’s initiative. We consecrate to our Savior our hands to work for Him, our feet to go on His errands, our voice to sing His praises, our lips to proclaim His redeeming love, our silver and our gold to extend His Kingdom, our will to do His will, and every power of our life to the great task of bringing the lost and the erring into eternal fellowship with Him. Amen.” By the power of the Holy Spirit given in the Means of the Spirit, Christ has led Lutheran Women in Mission out from their individual homes and local congregations to cities and countries far away. With money collected in mites, the women of the Lutheran Women Missionary League have been led out by Christ to every continent on earth sharing His redeeming love as they have heard the voice of Christ saying, You are my witnesses.

III. Christ speaks to us and leads us as His witnesses and Christ blesses us to be His witnesses.

Even today, Christ opens His nail-pierced hands in love to satisfy the desire of every living thing as He blesses us for His service in the world through our various vocations. Today, we especially celebrate how Christ blesses the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League to be Lutheran Women in Mission. We celebrate God’s goodness shown to us in Jesus Christ by celebrating witness, mercy, and life together in the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League.

The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod and many others have been blessed through the hands of women who have shared the gifts that God has given for the extension of His Kingdom as congregations have been founded, schools have been supported, outreach centers have been funded, and lives have been transformed as Lutheran Women in Mission have confessed the truth of the Gospel by bearing witness to Christ It continues in worship as Christ speaks through us, leads through us, and blesses others through us. And it will culminate in endless worship as we look to the Day of His return when we who have been spoken to by Christ and who have been led out by Him are blessed to be raised from the dead and in our flesh to live in the joy of being His people forever. You are my witnesses, Christ our Lord says. Confessing the truth in love and serving the Lord with gladness, we rejoice that Christ speaks to us, leads us out and blesses us as He graciously entrusts us with the Gospel in our ears, eyes, hands, and mouths saying, You are my witnesses.

CONCLUSION: And as we today hear God’s word we also recognize the birth of our founding father Martin Luther.  It was Luther who God chose to use as a tool to free His Word so that it could empower His people to once again be His witnesses.  He empowers us with this brief slogan that Luther lived and died by; a slogan we too should embrace and celebrate as we live to give witness to God’s presence and forgiving love in our lives, and in our community.  The slogan is simply this: We live by faith alone, grace alone, and scripture alone.  I pray that this word you have received will help you to do just that, and I ask this in Jesus name… AMEN!

A Very Special Evening!

Tuesday, November 5th, 2013

When: This Friday evening, November 8, 2013 at 7:00 pm
Where: Trinity Lutheran Church-7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego, CA (in Encanto)
Location: Jazz Cafe (Fellowship Hall)
Why: Because Trinity loves our community of Encanto/Jamacha

At Trinity Lutheran Church, we’ve had some very special events that have help create some even great memories.  But this Friday night we will outdo them all!

For one night only, Trinity is proud to announce and invite you to both a concert and diner FOR FREE! In our Jazz Cafe, the renowned group Rachel Aldous & The Road Home will perform for you while you enjoy a free diner (a love offering is always appreciated)!  Here is a short bio of the group.

Singer songwriter, Rachel Aldous is best known for her hit single from the Transform Me album, A Mother’s Prayer that now boasts more than two million views on YouTube and was picked up for regular rotation by more than 350 FM radio stations worldwide.  In 2010 Lee Spotts (guitar),  Dave Martocchio (percussion), and Rachel Aldous (vocals) formed the band The Road Home, and soon afterwards Anna Tsai (fiddle and mandolin), Jerry Marcu (banjo and harmonica), Steve Schisler (bass), and Kelsey Spotts (harmonies)  joined the group.

The band’s new sound is a mix of sweet melodic harmonies and down home feel that will make your toe tap even if you’re tryin’ to hold still.  This group is drawn to those that need to feel the Love of Jesus in a fresh new way.
“Sometimes a person can hear God speak more clearly when it comes in the form of music.” says Rachel Aldous, “As a group we feel so incredibly blessed and honored to be able to put a smile on someone’s face that has been depressed and bring the Hope that only Jesus is to those that feel hopeless. It doesn’t get any better or more fulfilling that!”
Please join us.  This is an evening of fun and fellowship that you do not want to miss!

It’s God’s Way or the Highway!

Sunday, November 3rd, 2013

Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church-San Diego
Pentecost 24-C, November 3rd, 2013

Click here for audio of this message

“Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” [Isaiah 1:18]

This morning, God wants to have a discussion with you; don’t worry about anyone else, this is between you and Him.  He speaks to you now through His Word.  You have heard it read.  Those Words were powerful, because they are full of the Spirit of God.  They are spoken for one reason: So that you would see your sin and turn to God who alone is able to restore you and give your life meaning and purpose.  Are you ready to listen?  Is that what your heart desires?  Good, then God is doing something powerful in you this morning.  What you are about to hear is the only message that can save you; it is God’s only source of salvation open to you. In essence it is either God’s way or the highway.  Are you ready to listen?

Hear the Word of the Lord you who rule your own lives; you who say that you are your own man or woman.  Listen to God’s truth and learn.

Do you really think that coming to church makes you right with God?  Do you really think that the money that you place in the offering plate, no matter the amount is what God wants?  If you’re comfortable in these things, then God has a Word for you today, and it is this: “Who has told you that coming before me in worship without faith—real faith is acceptable?  You must stop thinking that your attendance at church gains you something in my eyes.  Your surface-only religion is something that I can no longer endure.  When you lift your hands in prayer, I will hide my eyes from you.  No matter how loud or how often you call out to me, I will not listen!  I can not listen, because your hands are stained with sin.”

Those are strong Words and hard for us to hear; they are strong because they are the Law of God, which thunders against the sin of all mankind.  They are a mirror that shows us the truth about who we really are, and they are a hammer that pulverizes any self-justification we may have brought in with us this morning.  They are harsh words because they are meant to destroy and kill.  The law of God is never meant to bring comfort to a sinner, instead it brings truth!  But that is not the end of our message.  No, God also speaks Words of hope; Words that bring peace, and those Words are called the gospel.  Listen now and let God reason with you.

“Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your sinful deeds before my eyes; cease to do evil, and learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.”  [Isaiah 1:16, 17]  And to this some of you may be wondering how you go about washing yourselves before God.  Is it a change of life style?  You already know that simply going to church is not sufficient in God’s eyes.  You may even be considering becoming more active in your community by doing the things God spoke of.  Being an activist who seeks justice, corrects oppression, brings justice to the fatherless children in our community, and helping out the single mothers who have such a hard time raising children in today’s society, are all good an noble acts that each of us should endeavor to do.  Maybe you are already doing those things?  Do they bring you any real assurance that God is pleased with you; do you know for certain that He has a place for you in His kingdom when your life here is complete?

By now, I trust that you see the futility of self-reliance and a “do it yourself” style of religion?  Isn’t it obvious that this washing that will make you truly clean in God’s eyes is something more; something beyond your ability?  Isn’t it apparent that this cleansing must come from God Himself? This feeling of being lost and hopeless in a sinful world is exactly what led our friend Zacchaeus in our gospel reading (Luke 19:1–10), to find Jesus as His last and only best hope to be right with God.  We can say that he had a broken spirit and a contrite heart.  He was ready to confess his sinfulness to God!

Zacchaeus was a Jew. He was most likely a religious Jew.  He practiced his religion as prescribed by the law.  He paid his tithes and offerings, attended synagogue and probably followed all of the outward traditions.  Yes, Zacchaeus was a Jew, but he was the kind of Jew who was despised by his own people.  Why?  Because he was a rich, political, self-serving Jew who made a living collecting the Roman tax from the Jewish people in Judea.

Everywhere Zacchaeus went people acknowledge his authority; they acknowledged his power to influence their lives; when he passed by people got out of his way and bowed out of respect, but when he was out of ear shot, how they really felt about him was declared loud and clear.  Words like tyrant, traitor, and hypocrite must have flowed freely from the lips of common folk.  Zacchaeus knew about his reputation, and so he turned to his religion to bring him some peace of mind.  He trusted in his circumcision; the sign of God that was instituted to set the Hebrews apart from the other people.  A sign that signified that they were God’s children of Abraham, who by faith were waiting for the promised Savior to come and set the world free from sin, death, and the power of the devil.  And while he waited with the rest of the Jews, he continued to hope not in God’s deliverance but in his own ingenuity and financial security.  He continued to collect more than the allotted tax.  He continued to live his extravagant life style.  While the poor got poorer, he became richer and more secure in this world.

Do you think that Zacchaeus cared what the people spoke about him behind his back?  Maybe, maybe not, but he did care what God thought of him.  He did care that to His God, the true and living God, all of this offerings, all of his works of charity were like filthy rags before God.  He cared that God knew that he had exchanged the promise of forgiveness and peace, with the promise of the world; the promise of pleasure and wealth.

That is why, when he heard that Jesus was coming to his city of Jericho, he had to find Him; he had to see Him, even if it was just a glance.  You see this Jesus was preaching that the kingdom of God was with them in the here and now.  Jesus was preaching that there was a way to be born again, cleansed of all sins, and ensured of an eternity in paradise right now.

What Zacchaeus did not understand then was that the Word of God found in Isaiah was beginning to work within his heart; the Word found Zacchaeus! A Word that spoke a promised hope: “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.”

Zacchaeus must have wondered if there was still hope for him.  He must have wondered if he could still turn to God’s mercy.  And right there before his eyes came his last and best hope… Jesus the Christ!  “So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way.”

“And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” [Luke 19:5] Notice, Jesus did not ask to spend the night at his home.  It was a statement of divine appointment.  “God has determined that I must stay with you this day!”

Don’t ask how Jesus knew which person was Zacchaeus.  Don’t ask how he knew which tree to look up into.  This is Jesus the Son of God.  When He required knowledge it was His at just the right moment.  And for Zacchaeus, now was that moment.  Jesus said, “I must stay at your house today!” Right now, today, if you hear his voice do not turn your heart away.

So he hurried and came down and together they went joyfully to the home of the hated traitor, the Chief Tax Collector, Zacchaeus.  “And when (the people) saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” Is there a place for sinners, real sinners in Christ’s church today, or has it become a clubhouse for the redeemed?  Are we willing to concede that even the Zacchaeuses of today can find forgiveness?  Or have we, the church too, simply become a group of redeemed grumblers?

Something wonderful happened in the home of Zacchaeus.  Because of Jesus’ Word, that mansion of the rich and infamous became a temple of the most high.  The humble seat of Jesus became a pulpit, and Zacchaeus’ family table became the Lord’s table where He served His meal of mercy and forgiveness.  As Jesus spoke the Word of God, both the law and the gospel, just as you have heard today, Zacchaeus and his household received the gift of faith… the desire to confess their sins to God so that he could receive the forgiveness of sins.  “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.”  They were washed clean.  Though there hands were red with sin they were cleansed through the washing of the water and the Word.

Zacchaeus was a child of Abraham, saved by the shedding of blood through circumcision.  He was saved to be part of a people who were waiting for the coming of the Savior, who would then be a light unto the unsaved so that they too would know the Savior of the world.  But somewhere along the way, like many other Hebrews, Zacchaeus became lost.  He no longer waited for the promise to be fulfilled, instead he sought security through the ways of the world. But Jesus found him, and Zacchaeus was saved from his sin.  His eyes that were once blinded by the light of wealth were now opened by the light of God so that he could turn to and trust in Jesus alone.

We know this is true by what he spoke next: “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” [Luke 19:8]  No one required this statement of repentance from Zacchaeus; the money that was offered was not the evidence of a new man, but the desire to do new and marvelous things.  His statement was spontaneous; it leapt from his heart through the work of the Holy Spirit.  It was the declaration of a new man; a man who no longer lived to please himself or build a kingdom in this world, but a man who had been redeemed by God to work for the kingdom of God that was now standing right in front of Him in the person of Jesus Christ.

Dear friends, the life of Zacchaeus is the life of each of you who have heard God speak to your hearts this morning.  You too have heard God reason with you.  You too have seen your sins and heard the offer of God to wash them clean; white as snow.  You have heard the Word that brings eternal life.  You have been shown the powerful work of Holy Baptism that now saves you by bringing you into the church.  The church!  No longer a place where you come to practice your religion and fulfill the requirements of God, but a place where God actually gives you His gifts of forgiveness of sins and eternal life and the ability and desire to give abundantly out of your time, talent, and treasure.  The church is a place where Jesus actually comes to you at your own table here, and makes it His own; a place where he feeds you His very self for the strengthening of your faith and the forgiveness of sins.

“Today salvation has come to this house, since (you) also (are sons and daughters) of Abraham (by faith).  For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” [Luke 19:9, 10] He came to seek and save you!  Zacchaeus received the gift of God, Jesus Christ, with an unfulfilled vision of who Jesus was.  He did not yet see the passion that was to come in one short week upon a cross planted on a stony hill called Golgotha.  He did not yet see the Savior of the World dying for the sins of the world, including all of Zacchaeus’ sins.  But you have been blessed to hear of this cross.  And by the power of God’s Spirit, you have been told that all of the sins of the world were put to death on that cross, including your own.

Unlike Zacchaeus, you see that the waters of your baptism are eternally linked to the cross and the lifeblood of Jesus Christ the Son of God.  It is from within this completed gospel, that you have been shown God’s only way of salvation.  Will you follow it or will you go your own way? “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.”  AMEN!