Archive for March 16th, 2014

Go, Blessed to be a Blessing!

Sunday, March 16th, 2014

Lent 2 (A), March 16, 2014
Rev. Brian Henderson
Pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA

Click here for audio of this message

“In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” [Genesis 12:3b]

In God’s promise to Abram, you, your children, your grandchildren, your neighbor, our community, our nation, and indeed the entire world IS blessed!  What promise is that?  Well, it is the very first promise made by God to sinful man way back in Genesis 3.  You remember that promise from last weeks Old Testament lesson, don’t you?   God promised Adam and Eve that through one of their descendants would come a Champion, a Savior who would crush the head of Satan, thus defeating sin, death, and the devil, but that old crafty serpent would also bruise the heal of man; that is there would be a great degree of suffering that would come through the victory of the Savior.

Who is this Savior?  Well Jesus made it obvious to Nicodemus in our Gospel reading that He was the Savior of the world.  [John 3:1-17]  Listen:  “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.  “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” [John 3:14-17]

It is Jesus alone that the world is to look upon as He is lifted up before our eyes of faith; lifted up hanging between two thieves.  Why?  Because God loves the world, He loves you that much, so much so that He sent His very Son to be your Savior!  This is the same Champion that God guaranteed to Adam and Eve would come and save them and their descendants, and it is the same champion that God promised Abram would come through his lineage to be a blessing to the world.

Today, I declare to you that God has fulfilled His promise through His Son Jesus Christ.  The devil has been defeated, his lies have been exposed, and sin and death, that is even your own sin and death have been undone.  Now some of you may be thinking, “Then why is this life I live and this world I live in so messed up?”  Because the heal of the Servant Savior is still being bruised!  That is there must be suffering.  Why?  Because some still lack faith in the promise of God.

Let’s look at faith during the time of Abram and faith during our time and perhaps, just maybe we will understand how God’s plan of salvation for the world is unfolding, that is how everything is moving along just as it should.

During the time of Abram, whom God latter renames to Abraham, the descendants of Noah who were the descendants of Adam and Eve, had only been out of the Ark after the flood about 500 years.  The children of Noah were now very old, but still very much alive.  They had seen first hand God’s anger towards sin, specifically the sin of idolatry, which is the worship of false God’s.  The penalty of course was death, and in regards to all but Noah’s family, that death came in the form of a flood, which wiped out the entire world, with exception to the animals that God placed into Noah’s ark.  Wouldn’t you think that a global catastrophe of that kind would be sufficient to warn mankind that God is serious about sin?  But here we have Abram, living in an age where people once again worshiped all kinds of false gods, or no God at all, and they saw no problem with that, including Abram.

Now don’t get me wrong, Abram was a good man in the eyes of the world.  He was wealthy but he was also kind and generous with his wealth.  He came from a good family; in fact many believe that his grandfather Shem, the son of Noah was still living.  Yes, Abram and his family seemed to have it all, all but one thing… they no longer remembered God’s promise that He would one day send a Savior who would bring sinful mankind back to paradise; maybe they didn’t even believe that the promise was ever made.  So while Abram was a good man in the eyes of other men, in God’s eyes Abram was like all other men, sinful and unclean!  He was an idolater.

So what does that have to do with faith?  Well simply this, when God called Abram to leave his home, the land of his father and take everything with him, never to return, Abram listened and was obedient.  In God’s call through His powerful Word, Abram was once again given the promise that God Himself would send a Savior.  Abram’s heart was reminded of the promise made in the Garden of Eden and his eyes of faith were directed to trust both the promise and the Creator God who made the promise.  This is a wonderful example of how God’s Spirit works faith within the sinful heart of a sinner; working faith where and when the Spirit chooses, through the Word of God. In Abram, we see saving faith that believes in a God who will do what He says He will do.  God promised Abram that He alone would make Abram into a great nation, blessing all the world through the Son of God who would come through both Abram’s lineage and his faith in that One who was to come.

Now you are the children of Father Abraham; you are those who by faith are to be a blessing to a dying and sinful world.  You are the church, the body of the promised Savior who has come, Jesus Christ.  You too are told to go, that is go out where ever God leads you and be a blessing to those you meet.  Let’s see how we are doing; let’s see how faith in the Savior who has come is faring today.

You dear Christians today are blessed beyond expression.  You know that the Savior of the world has come and defeated your sin and undone your certain death, and He has even crushed our mortal enemy the devil!  You know the Easter story of the empty tomb, the ascension of the Son of God at the right hand of the Father, and the promise that through the Holy Spirit, God our champion is still right here with us.  You have this wonderful house of worship that you may come to and receive God’s mercy and forgiving love, through His means of grace, which are abundantly showered upon you in the preaching of the Word, the washing of Holy Baptism, and the Holy meal of forgiveness at our Lord’s Table.  Abram saw none of these things and yet he had great faith.  In fact, he had many reasons why he should doubt God’s promise and follow the promises of the devil and sinful society.  His marriage up to that point was childless.  Where was this great nation God was speaking about?  And then there was the fact that no one but him even knew about this God who was still jealous and angry over the sin of idolatry.  So we can see that the faith of this holy man of God was great, because he believed those promises as if they had already taken place before his eyes.  So with Abram’s great faith before us, let’s compare it to our own little faith.

We know that Jesus Christ will come again on the Last Day and He will destroy all of His enemies.  We know that until then, we are to wait here in the land of those enemies, even if those ungodly idolaters persecute us and make our lives unbearable.  We also know that while we wait, Christ is here with us through grace, and He is strengthening us so that we can wait in faith, while He preserves both His church and it’s great and sound doctrine, along with real God-pleasing worship.  And yet, all to often we live our lives as if God is only secondary to our needs and concerns with this life.  We live a life that is many times wrapped in fear and worry.  We allow our schedules and the demands of society to pull us away from God’s promises of grace, and many times we act as those who have no hope at all!

If we really believed what we declare in our Creeds of faith, do you thing that it would be possible for any of life’s circumstances to take our eyes off of our Savior and His cross?  So, if we do have faith, I think that we must all admit that our faith is very small, very weak.  We really are people of little faith and in no way could we begin to compare ourselves to father Abraham, who receives the invisible things with a strong faith, and lives a life as though he were already holding the promises in his hand.

Oh we of little faith.  Why do we doubt so?  Because we need strong faith, and we forget that God alone gives faith only through His chosen means.  Through His means of grace, God fulfills His promise both to Abram and us, “I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing (to the world).”

Our great blessing is the Son of God, who has come to us to make us sons as well.  By Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection, we have been set free from the demands of a Law that offers us no help in doing the things that please God, thus leaving us in the penalty and bondage of sin, death, and the devil.  But thanks be to God, through the promises of the gospel, that is through Christ alone, we have been given a new heart, a heart that desires to not only see the things of God, but do them ourselves.  And in our doing, that is in our proclaiming and living out the gospel message, which boldly declares that God loves the world enough to send His Son as it’s champion, we become a blessing to the world.

In our doing we gather together often, at least weekly around God’s chosen means of grace as we allow Jesus to continually fill us with His presence and clothe us in His righteousness.  In our doing, like Abram, we establish new places of worship, places pleasing to God so that others within our own community and other places outside of our community are blessed.  They are blessed because through God’s gifts, our feeble little faith grows and trusts His gospel promises and desires to share them with others.

Like Abram, we simply go as God directs and trust that it is He who began the good work in us who will complete it through our Savior, Jesus Christ!

This morning dear friends, God’s Word has filled you with faith.  As Martin Luther said long ago, “Faith is a vigorous and powerful thing; it is not idle speculation, nor does it float like a (duck) on water.  But just as water that has been heated, even though it remains water, is no longer cold but is hot and altogether different water, so faith, the work of the Holy Spirit, fashions a different mind and different attitude, and makes an altogether new (person out of us).”

Now you have been filled with the same faith that filled Abram.  It is an active and powerful force of God.  It is something that has been done to you, not something that you do or have earned.  It is the kind of faith that changes your heart and mind.  It alone is able to comprehend the will of God and stand in awe of things that are against reason and seem to not yet be present.

So once again, I declare to you that God has fulfilled His promise through His Son Jesus Christ.  The devil has been defeated, his lies have been exposed, and sin and death; that is even your own sin and death have been undone. May this fulfilled promise of God keep your hearts and minds in the one true, active, and transforming faith, as you go out into our community blessed and in the name of Jesus to be a blessing to those you encounter… AMEN!