Archive for November 17th, 2013

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.