Archive for April, 2016

All Dressed Up and…

Sunday, April 17th, 2016

Easter 4-HL, April 17th, 2016
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor
Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego, CA
http://www.tlcsd.org

Click here for audio of this message

Would you agree with me, that it is never easy waiting for something you really desire?  Here’s a truth that we should really think about this morning: We all desire an end to sickness, disease, violence, hatred and prejudice.  And we all know that as long as we live in this sin-soaked world, these things will never end.  Further, we all know that the only way to be free of those things is to leave this world; we have to die.

By now some of you are saying, “No thanks, I’ll wait.”  But some of you are thinking, “Yes, that would be fine by me; the sooner the better.  I just want the Lord to take me home.”

A Christian may have many reasons for wanting to leave this world.

Scripture and our own life experiences seem to bear witness to this truth.  St. Paul perhaps put it best, when he said that he would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord Jesus.  [2 Corinthians 5:8]   But where would our understanding of God’s grace and the beautiful gift of faith be if God had taken Paul home too early?

Every day through our understanding brought through God’s Word, we are made more and more aware of a sinful reality that is at work in our bodies; a law that convicts us of the sin that lies within our flesh.  Isn’t it true that the more we understand our sinful tendency to do things we know are wrong, the more we wish to be free from this reality?  Do you understand that your baptized, born again nature is at war with the desires of your sinful flesh?  Isn’t it true that you have one nature that urges you to serve the Lord and another that urges you to serve your own wants and desires.  The truth is, we have the desire to do what is right, but when it comes to fulfilling that desire, we sometimes seem to be in a sort of holding pattern.

None of us is ever exempt from this daily struggle between the spirit and the flesh.  And it is not simply an internal struggle of weakness versus strength, or cowardice versus bravery, no, we are also dealing with this sinful world and all the spiritual powers and principalities that seek to destroy both our own souls and the work of God for us and among us; in other words, these forces are dead set on attacking us in such a way that even our faith and hope in God will be crushed and destroyed.

We are reminded in our Old Testament lesson (Lamentations 3:22-33) that all trials and tribulations are allowed to come to us in accordance with God’s will; in other words, their final purpose is meant to strengthen our faith in Him, and so we must bear them with patient submission.

We are to see all things that seek to separate us from the love of God through the lens of Christ’s own suffering upon the cross.  In other words, we are to see them as mere inconveniences, because nothing can diminish the saving power of Christ’s cross for you.

Even when those things or people seem to be an enemy much stronger than us, we must remember that our Lord has already defeated them through His life given upon the cross.  So, although our enemies, whether they be spiritual powers and principalities, or physical people who are simply being used as tools of the devil may seem more powerful that us, we must remember that God has allowed these attacks to come our way, and since they are ultimately under the control of Jesus and His cross, we must look at them as simply annoyances and futile, evil persecution that in the end will amount to nothing.

We are called by St. Peter in our Epistle lesson (1 Peter 2:11-20) to remember that we are simply sojourners and exiles in this world.  Our job then is not to win battles but we’re called to trust God and resist the enemy.  Our task then is to remain faithful to our Lord’s call of repentance and to daily receive His forgiveness of sins through His Son Jesus Christ, as citizens of His kingdom of grace.

In His Word, God continually promises us, His children of faith, both forgiveness and new life.  He promises us that His same divine love that saved us from our sins will also keep us and protect us from the evil that surrounds us, even if that evil may be within our own flesh.  As members of God’s kingdom and joint heirs with the Son of God, we saints are called to simply and quietly wait for the Lord; to wait for Him to decide when our day will be when we will depart this place where we are foreigners and move to our new home where are true citizenship lies; a place where we will inherit the riches of Christ’s kingdom; riches that we’re told we already possess here in this place but are not yet utilizing in their fullest sense.  And so we do that very thing, but as we wait, we do so with a holy purpose.

So now, let’s talk about why it is not the right time for you “to go home and be with the Lord.”

You see, it is God who has determined that we should still be living here in this world.  He has a purpose for our being here.  Before us there are “good works which God has prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” [Ephesians 2:10]  In other words, God knows something of your purpose in life that you do not.  God has already both equipped and prepared you to accomplish things that must take place in accordance with His will; things that perhaps He will use to help someone understand Christ’s passion upon the cross and the truth and implication of His resurrection for them.

As the Lord gives us life, we are helped to believe that He wants us here for His purpose.  Even when all of our physical powers fail us, we are still able to contribute in a God pleasing way; we’re able to pray for others, prayer that God both commands and blesses, so that others may be blessed and strengthened in response to our prayers.

So it isn’t a bad thing when a mother wishes to live long enough among her children so that she may help them to grow in their Christian faith.  And likewise, it isn’t wrong for a man to pray for longer life because he feels he still hasn’t fulfilled his life’s work that God has called him to perform.

You see, it is these very works, which God has both clothed and equipped you to do long ago within in the waters of your baptism.  In your baptism, God called you to be a witness of His grace and mercy to others so that they too might experience that same thing.  Even if others mistreat you and speak badly of you, your life and how you live it will be a testimony to them of God’s work and presence in their lives.  And when God moves them to see this truth, He will also move them to see the ultimate truth:  They are sinful and lost for eternity unless they seek the same God of mercy who has saved you!

We Christians are called to remain faithful and serve God and our neighbor at the very place where God has placed us.  As we serve, God is ever working to ensure that we are able to withstand all kinds of mistreatment and neglect from those who live among us, simply because we find our value and worth not in them but solely in the Word and promises of God.

When the day comes when God will finally call us home, we will go thankfully through the gates of eternal life and into the joy of the Lord that is waiting for us in paradise.  But until that time, God’s time, we know that we haven’t been  dressed up with out a purpose and with no where to go.  Our purpose is to serve our resurrected Savior Jesus Christ, and we go where ever He has determined.  And as we go, we also wait.  We wait for the Lord’s will and we live equipped by Him to carry out what ever His purpose is for us in this foreign land.

St. Paul writes: “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith.”  [Philippians 1:21-25]  May God move our hearts to live each moment of our lives with this very mindset as we testify to all who will receive our message, that “Christ has risen, indeed!”  In Jesus name… AMEN!

Behold, Your GOOD Shepherd!

Sunday, April 10th, 2016

Easter 3-HL, April 10th, 2016
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor
Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego, CA
http://www.tlcsd.org

Click here for audio of this message
NOTE: This is the recorder message as delivered at Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA

I am not your Good Shepherd, and neither are Pastors Shamburger nor Falemao Esera!  This may seem a lot like stating the obvious, but nevertheless, it must be stated, for you see, all we (including pastors) are like sheep who are prone to wander, but thanks be to God Who does not punish us for our tendency to wander off into the wilderness, but rather He has laid the iniquity of all of our sins upon this Supreme Shepherd, Jesus Christ!

The truth is, our little word “good” does not do justice to what Jesus refers to Himself as this morning in our gospel reading. In the Greek, that little word we call good in English, is actually to be taken more as the source of all goodness.  In other words, Christ is saying that He is the Supreme Shepherd.

Christ proves His supremacy as the Ultimate Good Shepherd through the Easter truth that we still celebrate and proclaim this morning, “Christ has risen!”  You see, it is Christ resurrection that declares that His goodness as the Shepherd of our souls, of our eternal lives, is above all other shepherds. Because God has “brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep,” He has become the Shepherd of us all.

God the Father has raised His Son and Servant from the dead, and He has sent Him to bless all of us who have been drawn by the Holy Spirit to relate to God by faith.  And now this Good Shepherd is everywhere, throughout our world, and He is seeking His lost sheep.  He has compassion upon the crowds in the streets, the people in the business world, the crowds that flock to some churches seeking entertainment and amusement instead of forgiveness; He is even with the broken hearted and discouraged who sit with us in the pews here at this church.

Why?  Because He cares for you; because He sees us as “harassed and helpless like sheep without a shepherd.”  He seeks to gather us all together that there may be one fold and only One Supreme Shepherd.

The Good Shepherd has given His life for the sheep, and therefore He is still our shepherd today, and He does this very thing “by the blood of the eternal covenant,” a covenant of redemption and forgiveness, which promises that all of us can be whole again.

Do all of us today who are being saved by God’s means and gifts of grace still need that work of the Good Shepherd?  Yes, absolutely, because “All we like sheep have gone and are still going astray,” but remember, like I stated earlier, God has laid the iniquity of us all upon the Supreme Good Shepherd.  He alone bore our sins upon the tree.  It is for this reason that we can confidently look to Him and trust in Him to be “the Shepherd and Guardian of our souls,” and this is true even for the most pitiful, ragged, and lost of us.

But how does all of this happen?  How can it even be possible?  For many people, all of the statements and promises of forgiveness and redemption found in Holy Scripture seem to good to be true.  Does this seem strange to you, that some refuse to believe, that they see no need for a Supreme Good Shepherd in their lives?  It shouldn’t.  You see, a lot of folks have experienced a lot of hurt and disappointment  at the hands of people who proclaim Christ as their Good Shepherd.  And because of this hurt, they keep themselves just out of reach of both “church people” and their Good Shepherd, simply because they don’t want to be hurt again.

Because of this hurt and disappointment, they can’t see how what they perceive to be an invisible Savior can help them.  They call Him invisible because they reject the means of grace that God has given to sinners to see with eyes of faith, and then they judge the “invisible” Shepherd by His very visible sheep, or even by His under shepherds.  They don’t understand that the sheep and the under shepherds are just like them, so very prone to wander off… lost and afraid, seeking direction and shelter from the evils without and within.

But Jesus’ Word is spoken today and always, so that we can all see Him as a very visible Shepherd who created each of us, even you, for Himself, to be a very visible church, a church with all of its issues that seem to define wandering sheep, yet together we are still called to be and to become His Church.  This church, this place you call “Trinity” is really Christ’s church, His voice, and His hands His feet that are used to seek out and save those who appear to us to not yet be part of His flock.  So, I hope that by now you can see that there is a very necessary relationship between the Great Shepherd, His under shepherds, and His sheep.

When Christ returned to heaven He had installed the apostles as His messengers and ambassadors. They were to continue His work, speak in His name, and forgive sins on His behalf.  And today, the Good Shepherd continues His work through the many shepherds; men whom He has called and commissioned, not only the apostles but also the countless number of men who have followed them as called and ordained pastors.

St. Paul speaks of how Christ has given us shepherds and teachers for the building up of His church, until we all attain the unity of the faith. [Ephesians 4:11]  He says to the “elders” or pastors at Ephesus, “Take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you guardians, to feed the church of the Lord which He obtained with His own blood.” [Acts 20:28]  Peter likewise admonishes the pastors to be shepherds for the flock of God which is under their care in such a manner that they may have their reward from the Chief Shepherd. [1 Peter 5:2]

So it is not a little thing if a called pastor seeks to get along through life as a Lone Ranger-sheep who does not need the help of his brother pastors.  And it is also not a small matter if the entire flock begins to wander from each other and the very means of grace that the Supreme Shepherd has put in place to hold them together as one, and protect them from the attacks of that wolf, the devil.

So it is also, a very important thing, that we constantly pray that the Supreme Shepherd would send us laborers into the harvest field, properly trained and called pastors, and that He would create in us both clean hearts and a desire to help our pastors go out into the mission field, seeking the very large abundance of wandering sheep, who are also frightened and lost.

These lost and wandering sheep are part of us too, whether they see that truth or not.  We know that our God does not wish that any should perish, but that all should repent and have eternal life.  It is not an easy mission that our Good Shepherd has asked us to join Him on.  You see, there are false teachers, hirelings popping up every where, and they are spreading their false teachings, teachings which simply confuse and scatter the wandering sheep even further; further from their Good Shepherd and His church.

So this morning, Christ is renewing His call to you the gathered sheep to be strengthened by His means of Grace, called and equipped in His Word, washed clean in the waters of Holy Baptism, and fed abundantly at His very table of mercy, to go out and gather.  Go out and invite any and all who are lost, found, or somewhere in between to come just as they are and be recreated, renewed, and restored.  We do this because Christ came for them too, and so shall we!

What We Believe About the Resurrection of the Dead

Sunday, April 3rd, 2016

Easter 2-HL, April 3rd, 2016
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor
Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego, CA
http://www.tlcsd.org

Click here for audio of this message

How are the dead raised?  And what kind of bodies do you think they’ll have when they’re resurrected up to eternal life? These are questions that are asked in the New Testament, and indeed they are questions that folks still ask today.  Listen to the answer that St. John gives in his first epistle: “Beloved, we are God’s children; it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when He appears we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” [1 John 3:2]

“It does not yet appear.”

No one’s ever met a resurrected person, and you won’t until our earthly bodies that we currently live in are completely transformed at the resurrection of the dead.  The perishable must put on the imperishable and the mortal must put on the immortal.

There is only One who has done this.  At only one moment in history has this transformation been seen as a visible and tangible reality.  And this was the resurrection of Christ.  During the forty days after Easter the disciples met Him again and again in His resurrected form.

And “we know that we shall be like Him.”

Christ is “the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep,” the beginning of His church and His people.  Already we are members of His body.  We live by the bread which comes down from heaven, and one day we shall be partakers of His new, immortal life.

What kind of body did the Savior have after the resurrection?

Well, He wasn’t a spirit.  He had a real body that could be touched and seen.  Thomas was permitted to reach out his hand and touch the wounds that had been left by the nails.  He spoke with them as He had done before.  He ate in their presence.

But even though His presence was real, it was still not just an earthly body.  He could walk through closed doors.  He could vanish from their sight.  He could come to them when and how He wished.

The most important thing the Bible says about His resurrected body is this: “We know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.”  You see, He had clothed Himself with a body that belongs to the kingdom of God and to eternity.

There are “spiritual” bodies and “heavenly bodies,” just as real as ours, but they are free from our diseases, our pain, and our mortality.  Therefore that body is called a “glorified body.”  And to partake of Christ is to possess a “glorified body,” that is, to have His promise is to have a part in His life and to become like Him.  “For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep.”  Christ, “will change our lowly body to be like His glorious body, by the power which enables Him even to subject all things to Himself.”

But how can we know that we are part of the lowly bodies that will be changed by Christ and subjected to His Kingdom of love?  Well what does our Epistle lesson say?

“For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world.”

Wasn’t it in your baptism where you were assured that you were born of God?  Weren’t you baptized into His name, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?  Was it not first there in those holy waters where the water, the blood, and God’s own Spirit testified to you that you were now His child through Christ with whom He was well pleased?

And what were you given there in those holy waters?  You were given two things; first you were given a new name and identity and second you were given the gift of faith; faith to believe that all that God speaks to you is true.  This faith is what overcomes the condemnation of the world.  Faith grabs hold of God’s own pronouncement of forgiveness of sins through Christ and it teaches you to see that this forgiveness even applies to your most grievous sins.  Who is it that overcomes the world?  It is you who believe that Jesus is the Son of God, crucified, resurrected, and ascended for you!

On the evening of the resurrection of our Lord, the apostles and disciples were hiding behind locked doors, because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders.  The fear was this, as Christ died so surely must the disciples follow in kind.  Wouldn’t you be afraid?  And to this fear, Jesus appeared in their midst out of no where.  And what did He say to them?  Did He say, “Oh you miserable cowards.  Why did you abandon me at the cross?  Why are you hiding from mere men?  Shouldn’t it be God the Son that you should be afraid of?” No, that is not what He said.  But what did He say?  He said, “Peace be with you.”

Jesus is the only one who can both speak peace and give it.  His peace is perfect and it surpasses all of our understanding.  As He speaks, so He acts, and act He did.  What He did next is what He still does today.  “Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”  And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.” [John 20:21-23]

In your baptism, you were given both the desire and the ability to forgive others just as you have been forgiven.

Jesus has given all of His disciples what the church has historically called “the Power of the Keys.” While it is true that only God can forgive sins (Mark 2:7), you can rest easy knowing that God hasn’t given away that authority to us His disciples who make up the church. It is still Jesus who dismisses and who holds sins, yet by this act of His, He empowered His disciples, He empowered you as His agents—He speaks and acts through us. So we are by this very commission bound to forgive or not forgive sins completely in accordance with the will of Jesus. We can forgive, even better, we must forgive the sins of any and all persons who repent and believe, even if we don’t want to.  And conversely, we must hold the forgiveness of sins of all those who will not confess their sinful thoughts, words, and deeds by faith in the forgiving name of Jesus Christ.

Why do you suppose Jesus gave us this authority?  Did He also give us the ability to look into a person’s heart with direct and infallible vision so we could expose all of the hypocrites?  No, remember, His is a Kingdom of love and mercy.  He gave us this commission, so that we would live a life worthy of our calling as redeemed and forgiven sinners in both our confession of faith through words and our confession of faith in action, that is how we live our lives. And He gave us this commission so that we could be empowered to live lives that declare as a witness to all…

Christ has risen!  And as He has risen so shall I, and as I shall be raised to eternal life so can you, if you see a need and desire to believe in such a Savior as Jesus Christ the Son of God.  Repent then and be baptized, believe and become, persist and be resurrected unto eternal life in paradise.  Christ is risen… AMEN!