Archive for May, 2014

Are You Prepared to Witness?

Sunday, May 25th, 2014

Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego 92114
Easter 6A, May 25, 2014

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“(B)ut in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15).

Are you prepared to make a defense, that is to give a witness to Christ?  What are we called to witness to?  Well, how about this for starters, “Christ is risen!  He is risen in deed!”

This morning the question is not could you witness to someone your faith in Christ, but would you?  Yes, with the help of God.  The help of God?  Is there really something like that happening today?  And the answer is yes, but I don’t want to give away the end of the sermon so you will just have to have patience, and I promise that not only will you learn what that powerful help is, but you will in fact receive it.

In our first reading (Acts 17:16-31) we join St. Paul after he has taken a tour of the city of Athens, Greece.  During his walk-about, he learned an awful lot about the city and its people.  For one thing, he discovered that they loved art and philosophy, but he also discovered that they were very religious.  It was this devotion to religion that motivated Paul to strike up conversations with the people he met concerning their religion.  Well, actually it was the Holy Spirit of God that moved him to do that.  You see, God’s Spirit caused Paul to understand and communicate a message, which is central throughout Holy Scripture, and it is this: God is a jealous God, and He will not share His gory with anything or anyone.  In the past, like during the time of Noah and before, He overlooked their sin of false worship, but now, now He is calling the people to repent; that is, he calls all people to turn to His Son, Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins, and then worship Him alone and no other.”

And how did Paul speak this truth in love and respect?  He did it by becoming one with them.  How so?  With these words: “And (God) made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward Him and find Him.  Yet He is actually not far from each one of us, for “’In Him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, “’For we are indeed His offspring.’ Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone (that is he is not like some of your religious statues that you worship), (because that is) an image formed by the art and imagination of man.  The times of ignorance God overlooked (that is before the flood during Noah’s time), but now He (this one who is very near to you and desires you to be near to you), commands all people everywhere to repent (that is turn to Him and experience His presence and love), because He has fixed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by a man (who is also God’s very Son in human flesh) who He has appointed; and of this He has given assurance to all by raising Him from the dead.” [Acts 17:26-31]

Today, you have this same power and opportunity that Paul had long ago; an opportunity to witness to the people in our community the very same message.  You will encounter these people in your various stations of life; that is the people you have built a relationship of friendship with.  It may be at your place of work, at a shopping center, school, senior center, or even within your own family.  The point is, God has placed you there for a reason, and the reason is so that you can make a defense, or give a witness to His real presence in your life and in theirs.  But, I suppose this still leaves the question of “how does God do this work through me” begging to be answered.  So let’s look at “where” God does this work, before we answer the question of “how” he does it.

God equips you and empowers you to do this work at His Son’s church; even here at little Trinity Lutheran Church.  But how?  And the answer is, “Through His Word.”  Now, I have notice that many of you follow our liturgy, that is our order of worship by looking at the screens, and that’s ok, but remember that the screens simply are an aid for tired eyes; the actual liturgy is taken right out of our hymnals.  This morning, we are following Divine Service-Setting 4, which begins on page 203 in the Lutheran Service Book.  Humor me for just a minute, and take the hymnal out of the pew rack, and then look at page 203, and then the following pages.  As you do, you will notice that almost every word we speak has a scripture reference.  That means that our liturgy is nothing less than the very Word of God.  So, if you have been coming to church for any length of time, you will discover that you have a whole lot of God’s Word memorized.

So why is that important?  Because it is that very same Word that empowered St. Paul to give his witness.  Now, just memorizing the Word of God is a good start, but you should also have an on-going way to internalize it and make it real and personal to you.  And so you are doing right now as you hear the Word proclaimed in this message and as you did during Bible study and catechism classes.  God is preparing you right here at little Trinity to give a witness to anyone who may ask you the reason for the hope that you hold onto, and is so important to you.

Today as we live our lives, God is giving us many opportunities to share our faith.  I suppose the best and most productive way to share with people, is to be prepared to answer them when they ask: “Why do you go to church so much?”  And now, you have learned that “We go to church to hear from God in His Word, that through His Son Jesus we are forgiven of all our sins, and now we must live out that forgiveness within our community and share it with others.”

Of course this only applies to those of us who really do make Christ and His church a priority in our lives.  It applies to us who see a need for God’s continued voice and guidance in not just our lives but the lives of our family.  It only applies when God’s Word has moved you to repent and receive not just the complete forgiveness of sins, but daily strength to follow and trust His Word.

Now some of you may be getting uncomfortable right now because the Word has struck close to home.  Let me first say to you… good!  That is what you should be feeling; that is God’s will.  He wants you, like the people in Athens who Paul shared with to simply turn to Him alone; that is He wants you to reject anything in your life that has replaced God and His church as first place in your life.  It won’t be easy, because you will not just be fighting your own desires but also the entire way our society has been programed.  Let me show you what I mean.

If you are single and alone, society would have you think that getting out and having fun is the best way to find someone to share your life with.  If you are married and have a family, society will tell you that working hard to support your family and then spending quality time with them is what you should be most concerned with.  But this morning, God is telling you that you have it all wrong.  He is telling you that He wants to be first place.  Come to Him and allow Him to heal you, strengthen you, and fill you first, and then go out into the world and work hard and have fun.  Let Him bring you to Mr. or Misses right and then you will know real happiness.  Let Him provide employment that will then provide for your family.

And as these things take place, be sure to let others know the reason for the hope that you have.  And that reason is Jesus Christ and His church; His church where He gives to you all of His gifts of grace that sustain you and make you into the “good” person that you are.  His church that is His very means to give you the answer to our long awaited question: “What is the power that God gives to me so that I can witness my faith to others?”

Dear friends the power that God gives to you is His very Son; His Son who also gives to you Himself.  But He does not give just His death, but also His resurrection.  You see, you don’t just believe that Jesus died for the sins of the world, and that His resurrection proved that there is the hope of eternal life, but you also believe that Jesus died for you; for your sins, and His resurrection proves that you too will have eternal life.  And how do you know this?  Because Jesus has given you another Helper, the Spirit of truth who forever dwells with you and within you.

How do you know this gift is really yours?  Because like Noah and his family, eight souls in all, you have been called by the power of God’s Spirit out of the darkness of sin and you listened.  And because you entered into the ark of your salvation, the church, you do not fear the day of judgment that is coming.  But how did you enter the church?  That is, where and when did this great work take place that saved you?  St. Peter gives us the answer in our epistle reading, listen: “Baptism, which corresponds to (how Noah and his family were saved from God’s judgment and the flood), now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.” [1 Peter3:21, 22]

So Holy Baptism is not just what saves you, but is the very source of both God’s continued presence in your life and His power that equips you with the ability to live that life in a way that both glorifies Him and blesses your neighbor.

So how does baptism save you?  Didn’t Jesus save us on the cross?  Yes, of course He did; He paid for all sins on the cross, and baptism is that promise coming to you personally as part of the church now.  So, baptism now saves you, not by removing the dirt or the stain of all of your sin, but by the promise or the covenant from God to you that you are in fact clean of sin in God’s sight.  This is why you are always taught that you are saved by grace alone by faith alone.  So in baptism, God has given you a promise that your sins are removed by the blood of Jesus shed for you upon the cross.   And so in God’s sight your conscience can be entirely clean because you know that you don’t have to stand before Him, on the day of judgment by yourself; you know that through Christ you will not be judged guilty as a sinner.  That’s how baptism saves you; by giving you a promise that you can believe in, and He gives you the means to believe in it through His Word, which you receive right here at church.

Baptism gives you something to have faith in… it gives you Jesus.  Baptism equals Jesus promise.  You have the promise of a free covenantal grace, because of the resurrection of Jesus who now is at the right hand of the Father, Who subjected all things to Himself, including angels, authorities, and all powers.

Now, since Christ suffered because of your sinful flesh, to save you, then arm yourself with the same mindset, and expect that you too may have to suffer because of your own sinful flesh as you wait for His return; as you give a defense to anyone who should ask you why you go to church so much.  And even if you have to suffer at the hands of others for giving that defense, for insisting that church is important to you, God will continue filling you with faith and power as you trust in His promised blessings.  AMEN!

You Need God’s Strong Word

Sunday, May 18th, 2014

Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego 92114
Easter 5A, May 18, 2014

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“And the twelve (Apostles) summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables.” [Acts 6:2]

Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed! You know that He has risen because His Word has told you so; you know that this Word is true because His Word is strong in deed; full of grace and the very power of God.  It is this Word alone that saves sinners and brings them new life, and that is why the Apostles said that they should not be distracted from the study, preparation, and the declaration of God’s strong Word.  The Sunday proclamation of God’s Word is the source of God’s grace and power, but you dear saints, like Stephen are the result of that grace and power when it is active in the life of a redeemed and sanctified saint of God.  And like Stephen, you need God’s strong Word so that you will know both God’s heart regarding your sin, indeed all sin, and so that you will not only know God’s solution to your sin, but also so that you will embrace His solution with all of your heart.

God’s heart concerning your sin is hate.  God hates sin because sin is the very thing that separates you from Him, and God loves you.  Sin is that thing which refuses to die, and with great obstinacy, clings to your flesh and cries out “There is no God.  But if there is a Creator, He can’t possibly be interested in my sin.”  Therefore, sin is that thing which either elevates you as your own god, or it allows you to define who or what your god is.  The sainted Dr. Martin Luther once said that a god is anything you turn to in times of trouble or turmoil.  God’s strong Word tells us today, that not only is He powerfully present in your life, He is also powerfully active, bringing you grace (that is the undeserved kindness and mercy of God) and power (that is God’s power, which takes away your sins, and then gives you a peace with Him that surpasses all understanding).

You need God’s Word today because there are very many “false teachers” who take God’s strong Word, which is to be for Christians, as pure “breast” milk is to infants (1 Peter 2:2), and they either dilute it or replace it all together.  But how do they do this?  When they confuse the Law of God with the Gospel of God.  But why do they do this?  Well for the very same reason the Sanhedrin whom Stephen confronted in our first reading (Acts 7:51-60) abused the law of God then; they are by nature stiff necked people and uncircumcised in (their) hearts and ears; (they) always resist the (grace and power) of the Holy Spirit, just as sinners have always done and always will do.

To be stiff necked is to be unwilling to bend or respond to the work of God’s strong Word, as He shows you your sins.  That is, stiff-necked people refuse to be molded or recreated into God’s will.  To be uncircumcised in the heart and ears means that the listener refuses to hear God’s solution to their sins.  We received a powerful example of this behavior when Stephen, full of God’s grace and power simply reported the enormity of the Sanhedrin’s error; in their sins they had blindly crucified God’s solution… Jesus Christ.  “Full of the Holy Spirit, Stephen gazed into heaven and (was allowed to see) the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.  And (Stephen) said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”  But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him.” [Acts 7:55-57]

You see, false teachers then and false teachers today think that by living a certain way and believing in certain principles, they have received a way to please God; they think that through their attempts to keep God’s Law, they are safe and secure from the judgment of God. They take the very means, which God has instituted to show them the ugly truth about their sins and they have twisted it into a way to please God and assure them happiness.

It is a shame that the people who stoned Stephen that day, and the people who will not hear God’s strong Word today would not and will not listen to God’s strong Word.  It is that very Word, which the Apostles proclaimed and the people followed that is still preached today in Christ’s true church.  It is the strong Word, which is still the very rhythm of life for all children of God, and the work of that strong Word is called repentance.  What is repentance?  Simply this, the strong Word of God shows you your sins and you are grieved over them.  As a result, you feel lost and separated from God, that is you feel pain over your sins; real pain, but then the strong Word of God, the Gospel of God shows you His solution to your sins… the very Son of God, Jesus Christ!

You see friends, this truth is so simple that even little children can understand it, but little children must be taught this truth and they must learn to refuse to be fed any other teaching.  Another way to say this is that “Jesus Christ alone is our corner stone; He alone is God’s chosen and precious solution to our sin, and whoever believes in Him will not be put to shame.” [1 Peter 2:6]  Only those little ones who believe and confess this truth may declare with a certain confidence, that “Christ died for sinners; He died for me!”  But for those false teachers and for those who do not believe that Christ alone is God’s only means of salvation, “The (corner) stone that the builders (that is the false teachers) rejected (has become for them) a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.”

They stumble because they disobey the Word of God.  They stumble because they will not allow God’s Word to declare them hopeless, helpless, and unclean in their sins.  They stumble, because they will not allow God’s Word to lead them into that condition of heart, which the church calls contrition… real pain for real sins.  And because they will not allow God’s Law to work within them, they will not, no they can not receive the Gospel of God, which declares that only the cross of Christ and His resurrection can bring peace with God and eternal life.

Stephen knew this truth and it transformed him forever.  As he declared the Word of God, he was also filled with the power of God.  But again, this truth makes no sense to the false teachers today, just as it would have been a pathetic joke to the Sanhedrin then.  Where is the power in an execution?  Who is the one in control?  To the rock throwers they were in control; they had the power of death.  If you were to tell them that with each rock they threw, Stephen became stronger and stronger, they would ultimately point to the pummeled, lifeless body of Stephen and asked, “Where is his power now?”  But this is always what happens to those who will not receive the Gospel of Jesus Christ, because you see, God’s message to sinners is not just the cross, but it is also the message of the empty tomb; the resurrection of the dead!

Stephen died for the Gospel of God because he knew that was what God had called him to do.  Would you do the same if called upon by God?  You would, if you were trusting in His strong Word.  Stephen was not an apostle, nor was he a pastor.  He was simply a redeemed sinner transformed and then nurtured by God’s own means of grace.  The position he held is what we would today call deacon.  The assignment that he fulfilled was much like the ministry our own deacons perform in their respective ministries here at Trinity.  Stephen was in charge of one of several help or charitable distribution centers, set up to help the poor, much like our own pantry, which Deacon Mark oversees, or the legal aid Deacon Clifton offers here at Trinity in the name of Jesus as an attorney.

So where did Stephen get filled with such grace and power that enabled him to give such a strong witness?  He received the teaching of the apostles just as you are doing today.  He was first baptized and filled with all of the Spirit’s power, just as you have been.  Each time he heard the Word about forgiveness of sins in Christ’s name preached, he was filled with that power.  Each time he received the absolution from the lips of his pastors, the apostles, he was renewed just as you are being renewed today.  Each time he approached the Lord’s Table and received the very body and blood of our Lord in, with, and under the bread and wine, he not only heard, saw, touched, and tasted forgiveness of sins, but he also received a powerful strengthening of his faith, which is the very thing that happens to you here at this altar.

We will close our message with the final portion of our first reading and two thoughts that God willing, will carry us through this week, until we gather again next Sunday to be filled once again with God’s strong Word: “Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.” [Acts 7:58-60]

Think about this truth first: As hard as a sinner’s heart may be, as lost as they may have become in the unholy doctrine of false teachers, God’s strong Word is still working to reach them.  This truth was proven true in the heart and life of the young man named Saul, who supervised Stephen’s execution.  For you see, this young man named Saul, would later encounter the resurrected Jesus Christ, the very Son of God as he was traveling down a dusty road to arrest and oversee the execution of even more Christians.  And after that encounter, Saul would for ever be know as St. Paul, the apostle of Jesus Christ.  And he would follow in the footsteps of Stephen and also die for his Lord.

The second truth that we are led to see, is how God magnificently demonstrates His grace and His power in the lives of Christians just like us.  He does it as He did it through Stephen… He does it through the forgiveness of sins.  As you have received the absolution of God through the gospel of Jesus Christ this morning, it is God’s will that when you leave this place but not His presence, you too, would say along with Stephen, when someone does you harm, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”  Can you forgive as simply and freely as Stephen?  Yes, indeed you can, with God’s strong Word working within you!  AMEN!

You Need The Good Shepherd

Sunday, May 11th, 2014

Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego 92114
Easter 4A, May 11, 2014

Click here for audio of this message

“The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.” [John 10:3b, 4]

Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed! But more than that He has risen for you!  Before His death, He assured His disciples then, as He assures us today, that He would not leave us alone as orphans; He promised us that He would come back to us!  And He has.  This morning, in our readings and in our message He speaks to you and you hear His voice.  You have been hearing His voice since your baptism, where He first called you by name.

This morning, like all other mornings He speaks to you and He invites you to follow Him out, but out of what, and out to where?  Well, our message this morning will answer that very question, but before we begin, let’s first agree on what He does not “yet” lead you out of.  He does not yet lead you out of this world.  You must follow your Good Shepherd within this life of sorrows and trouble.  There are many dangers here in this world, as all who have lived any sort of life will agree.  The question each of us must answer is, “Do I want to pass through this way of danger with or without the Good Shepherd?”

So, are you ready to follow where Jesus leads us in this message?  Good, let’s get started!

The first thing that Jesus leads us out of is our sins.  Every misery in your life and mine, can be traced back to sin, either our sins or someone else’s.  Sin is the very thing that leaves us alone; it separates us from the love of God and His real presence in our lives.  Isn’t this true in all relationships in our lives?  If we sin against spouse, friend, coworker or neighbor, aren’t we going to be deprived of those relationships if something isn’t done to repair them?  And so enters the need for an apology.  But an apology without real change in the one who has done the harm is simply a string of empty words; something substantive must take place to repair and restore that lost relationship.  This is what we call making amends.

And so enters your Good Shepherd.  Upon the cross, His bitter suffering, agony, and finally His death made amends for your sin.  Jesus died for sinners; He died for you.  Jesus died to pay for your sins; to remove your sins from your standing before a righteous and perfect Creator; sins you have committed first against your Heavenly Father and second, sins you have committed against your neighbor.  That is what He did for the entire world, but this atonement, this making amends wont help you in the least if you do not claim it as a work that He does for you.  In your baptism, He gives you the means to do this very thing!  In your baptism not only does He give you complete restoration with Him, but He also provides you with the real presence of His Holy Spirit and the Sprit’s power; He gives to you the Good Shepherd Himself, Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

Now, as you go out in the real world you will encounter real dangers; dangers that on your own you can’t overcome.  That is why you need the Good Shepherd.

On your own, you are only a little lamb.  You need the Good Shepherd because bad things really do happen to righteous, baptized children of God; in fact, bad things happen to everyone.  Bad things happen, because until the end of all things when Christ returns, God’s Children of faith are still to be living, breathing, and finding their very purpose of life in Him, here in this sinful and broken world.  But, as we wait for Christ’s return, we wait with a purpose, or for a reason.  We live first to give God glory in all things, and then we live to share God’s presence and gifts with other sheep who have not yet heard their Good Shepherds voice, or have maybe forgotten that voice and have wandered away into danger; the real danger that exists in this world.

So, as we wait, we are busy listening to our Savior’s voice and following Him through some pretty rough places. If we listen, we will find comfort and assurance that safer pastures are just around the bend, down the hill, or through the canyons.  If we listen we are assured that the Living Water is always with us to quench our thirst, and we little sheep can really work up a thirst, especially when we are wandering away from our Good Shepherd’s voice, and falling into some pretty sinful places; places that we have no business being in or going to.  Of course, the Living Water that I am speaking of is the privilege that comes to us who are baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  And that privilege is the forgiveness of all of our sins.

Each and every time you receive the absolution, you are being picked up, cleaned off, and brought back to the fold by your Good Shepherd.  But remember, you are here for a purpose, and that purpose is to glorify God and to help others know his forgiving love as well.  An excellent way for you to do this very thing can be observed in how you pass through those dangerous times of life when you are following your Good Shepherd.  What kind of dangerous times?  Well right off the bat, we might include illness, tragedy, and disaster; and those would be good examples, but what about when you suffer unjustly at the hands of another simply because as a Christian you are an easy target; a target that will not fight back by meeting evil with evil?

You see, whether you sin by responding to an unjust attack with a similar counter attack, or simply let it pass without response, you still will have to endure through the suffering.  “But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.” [1 Peter 2:20b, 21]  To what have we been called?  To suffering?  Well… yes, but you are suffering for a mission, with a purpose.  What purpose?  That others will see your life and how you live it and give glory to Jesus, your Good Shepherd.

Think of how much Jesus suffered for you; think about His passion to save you, and then remember the wonderful gift of complete forgiveness that is yours because you have been baptized.  Isn’t that enough to move you into a condition of heart that simply desires to listen to the voice of your Shepherd and follow Him through this dark valley you are passing through?

Do you Remember the choice we were given in the beginning of our message?  You can either pass through that danger with or without Him?  Now before you answer, consider what your Good Shepherd did to save you.  “He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting Himself to Him (that is God the Father) who judges justly.  He himself bore (your) sins in his body on the tree, that (you) might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed (that is you have complete forgiveness of sin).  For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” [1 Peter 2:22-25]  Do you really want to wander away from all that your Good Shepherd provides?

I trust that the voice of your Good Shepherd has put your little feet back on the straight and narrow, so now, let’s follow Him as He shows us how to live our lives in both the obligation to bless and glorify God and to bless each other and our neighbor with His service to us and through us.

Let’s be clear on something, God does not need our worship nor our service.  God is God and He neither lacks or needs a thing.  But He insists that we both worship and glorify Him and serve our neighbor.  Why?  Because we need Him and your neighbor needs you.  We need to meet God and receive His divine service, and we receive that very thing when we gather around the teaching of the apostles in His Word and the breaking of bread, that is His Holy Supper, where Jesus gives us both His body and blood, for the forgiveness of sins.  We need to hear Him speak forgiveness to us, but we also need to ask for it; that is we need to speak to Him in prayer.  In other words friends, we need God’s Divine Service so that we can continue to follow our Good Shepherd as He leads us out.

Again, let’s consider where He leads us out to; He leads us out to be with first our brothers and sisters in Christ (that is, the church), and then He leads us out to be with our neighbors who are lost little sheep without the Good Shepherd.  To get an idea of how this life style might look, let’s read a portion of our first reading: “And all who believed (that is all who were given the gift of faith through the Word of God about their Good Shepherd), were together and had all things in common.  And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.  And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” [Acts 2:44-47]

That dear friends is a picture of a wonderful and forgiven flock of sinful sheep that simply have learned to trust their Good Shepherd.  All who believed were willing to trust all that they had to the use of their Good Shepherd.  All who believed were reminded that all that they had was simply a gift from the very One who was still leading them into an eternity where there would be no more suffering nor pain, sorrow nor offense, sin nor death.  That is where their Good Shepherd was leading them, and that is where He is leading us.

Isn’t it a little thing to simply follow the One who has given and done so much for us?  Is it too much for Him to ask, that as we go on our way following Him, that we praise Him and tell everyone what He has done for us and for them?  Shouldn’t we have glad and generous hearts that freely give as we have received?

Jesus said, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” We confess in the Creed, “I believe in one holy Christian and apostolic Church.” We believe what we cannot see. We cannot see the unity in the body of Christ, instead we see division. We cannot see the holiness of the church, instead, we see sin. But we must have faith, not in what we see, but in what Jesus our Good Shepherd says.

When we place our faith in His Word, we will find that our unfaithfulness is simply no match for His faithfulness. He who gave his life for the sheep has never accepted our sin; He died for it!  He has never excused our sin; He forgives it!  His voice, is what unites us with Him. His voice is what unites us with each other. His voice – his holy Word – is our greatest treasure in this life. It leads us through some pretty dark and rough times, and it teaches us how to receive and share God’s heavenly treasures here in Christ’s Church on earth.  May each of us forever follow His voice as He leads us to our eternal heavenly home… Amen!