Archive for November, 2016

Who Do You Say He Is?

Sunday, November 27th, 2016

First Sunday of Advent-HL,
November 27th, 2016
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor
Trinity Lutheran Church, and
Our Redeemer Lutheran Church

Click here for audio of this message

“And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.” [Jeremiah 23:6b]

img_0040Who do you say Jesus is? This maybe the most important question you could be asked, and it is critical that you not only know the answer, but that you believe it. Today, many people love to give an answer that they feel comfortable with; an answer that won’t offend and offers hope in a way that they feel will be most appreciated. But God will not allow you to be comfortable with any answer but His own. Jesus is not simply your source of strength in trying times; Jesus is not your illustration to prove a political point; Jesus is not your last resource in desperate times. You see, Jesus alone is your only source of righteousness before God the Father; Jesus is our righteousness.

This morning, if you say that Jesus is your King, well very good, but what do you mean by that?

You see, He is more that just someone great who rules over your life. He is more than “your” king. By His birth He is the Son of David, and the people who called out to Him in our Gospel lesson (Matthew 21:1-9), were correct in acknowledging Him as their true King. But He is oh so much more that the King of the Jews.

He is a king indeed, and there is none other like Him; He has a kingdom that is not of this world, and it is the type of Kingship that will last forever. The subjects of other kings must humbly come to them, but this King comes to His subjects, humbly seated upon a donkey. Other kings draw all of their income from their subjects, but this King gives all that He has and is to a people who do not seek Him, nor do they care to know Him as He truly is.

This King has a proper title that also defines His person; He is the Christ. Christ is the Greek translation of the Hebrew word Mashiach, which we translate as Messiah. Both words mean “the Anointed One,” or if you prefer “the Crowned One,” or better yet, “the King.” It was the Jewish name for the Lord who God had promised through the prophets. It was upon His shoulders that the government would rest, and His Kingdom would be established and upheld “with righteousness for this time forth and forevermore.”

When the people shouted, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel” (John 12:13), this was a tribute to the Messiah of God. The church today offers the same tribute to our Lord today, on this first Sunday in Advent, and also on Palm Sunday. The lessons for this Sunday say the same as our own Hosanna: Jesus is the Christ, He is God’s Messiah, the Promised One that will come again, our King, the Lord of the whole creation. He alone is our righteousness!

“So you are a king?” Pilate asked. And Jesus answered: “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world.” It was no accident that Jesus was born of the lineage of David, of royal blood. And yet He was not Just a descendant of royalty. He himself says to the Pharisees that even David called Him Lord. This King existed in the time of David, and even before Abraham was, and He is Lord over all. All of history before and after His birth had its goal in Him. Since humankind has risen in defiance of God, God has planned this way—the only possible way of salvation for His children. In the fullness of time God sent His Son. All of the long preparation of Israel has its meaning only because it pointed forward and prepared the way for Christ.

Through the entrance of Christ into the world something decisive took place in history. And it is a this place that every human being is forced to make a decision. To answer the one great question: Who do you say that He is? We can either confess with St. Peter that He is the Christ, the Son of the Living God or we can scoff at the question and turn down God’s great invitation to turn to this Christ and His cross for eternal life.

The enemies of Jesus felt that this was a place where commitment was called for. Their chief accusation against Him was: He claims to be the Messiah, a king. For a long time they did their level best to avoid the question of who Jesus is. When they were face to face with the power of His mighty acts they declared that He was in league with the devil and that He practiced sorcery. Finally the high priest asked a direct question: “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” And when Jesus answered that He was, they condemned Him to death. [Mark 14:61] They really had only two choices, the same choices we have; either they must acclaim Him as King and Messiah, or they must declare that He was a liar and a blasphemer. The high priest chose the latter rather than the former. Which do you choose? They would not submit to the power of Jesus, will you?

How you make your choice depends on if you see Jesus as your only source of righteousness; that is if you see Him as the only way you can be acceptable before a perfect and mighty God.

This morning, the psalmist (Psalm 24), asks us a very important question: “Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in his holy place?” And before we can have time to formulate an answer, He gives it to us: “He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully.” Is there any hope for you; can you accomplish these things? Did you know that it is God’s deepest desire for you that you will? God is so serious about having you ascend to His place reserved for you, this paradise restored, that He encourages you with these promised blessings once you arrive: “He (who ascends) will receive blessing from the Lord and righteousness from the God of his salvation.” Is God speaking to you? Yes, He is. Listen: “Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek the face of the God of Jacob.” The time is now, and the generation is yours, and all you must do is seek Him in the way He can be found.

This morning, God declares to you that if you can not boldly declare that you are the person who can stand before Him with out guilt or fear, if you are not the person with clean hands and someone who has no deceit in them, then you are almost ready to ascend the holy hill of the Lord. All that you lack is God’s provision to be righteous before Him. And now, hear the good news: Jesus is that provision’ Jesus is your King and source of righteousness.

Jesus is called the King of glory because he is true God and because he has defeated all the enemies of God’s people. He came in glory when he entered the world as a baby, born to die for our sins, but his glory was concealed, except to the eyes of faith. Many of the people of Israel did not recognize Christ’s glory when he came, and they still refuse to welcome him today. When Jesus entered the gates of Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, he received a royal welcome, but it was superficial and short-lived—yet he will not be deprived of the honor due him.

When the psalmist urges the gates of Jerusalem to open wide so that the King may enter, he is really inviting all of God’s people to welcome their King with joy when he comes. Jesus comes in glory now through the gospel, and we welcome him with joy when we receive that Word in faith. Jesus’ glory will be more openly displayed when he comes to judge the world. When Jesus returns, the angels will gather all believers so that all of us can welcome him. [1 Thessalonians 4:14] When Jesus returns in glory, He will receive from his people a royal welcome that will last forever.

But how do you know that you are counted as one of His people? Because you have been baptized in His name, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And because of this work of God, you have both a desire and an ability given through the Word of God to not only know this King, but to be numbered as one of His beloved. In Holy Baptism, you put on Christ, or rather, He was put on you. On that day the Holy Spirit of God began to dwell in you richly. And now God, invites you to daily “put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provisions for the flesh, (or) to gratify its desires.” [Romans 13:14] That is everyday, you are empowered by the Holy Spirit to live a life that glorifies and pleases God.

In holy baptism Jesus brings you into His rule of righteousness.

The effect of His rule of righteousness is promised to be dramatic. Judah would be saved; Israel would dwell in safety. These are pictures of confidence, certainty, and peace. Such security and well-being are conveyed along with the righteousness of Christ, the forgiveness of sins given to every repentant baptized sinner. This picture describes the peace that the work of Christ brings to the believing child of God. The believer has peace because of the final word of Christ’s promise.

The cause of their peace and its guarantee, its true character, are revealed by the name that the Lord gives to the Messiah: The Lord Our Righteousness. This is the whole gospel, the whole message of Scripture, summed up in a few precious words. The Lord himself is our righteousness. For that to be true, the Lord himself must have become one of us, having taken all that we are upon himself.

These words point us to the Christmas miracle of the incarnation, the Word of God made human flesh. But they also point to that most comforting truth: not only is the Messiah righteous in himself, but through his perfect life of obedience, His suffering and death and rising to life, He won for us justification and reconciliation with God, through the forgiveness of sins. What He is and what He has done, he has done for us, and it is given to us a gift, the gift of righteousness, a righteousness that we could never have gained for ourselves. Here is the way that allows you to ascend God’s Holy hill; here is the door that opens paradise and keeps it open: The Lord is our righteousness; yes, the Lord is my righteousness; the Lord is your righteousness. What He did, He did for you. And this is what He gives to you in holy baptism: He has made you His own. This is your certainty, your hope, your confidence: the Son of God who loved you and gave Himself for you.

Now that you know God’s only answer to the question, “Who is Jesus?”, it is time for you to answer for yourself. What God has spoken and done here today is for your own eternal salvation; that is, your eternal salvations depends on the answer that you give. And so Christ asks you here and now: “But who do you say that I am?” [Mark 16:15]

The King’s Judgment is Final!

Monday, November 21st, 2016

Last Sunday of the Church Year-HL, November 20th, 2016
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor
Trinity Lutheran Church, and
Our Redeemer Lutheran Church

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” Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. ” [Matthew 25:1-2]

cross theologyThe Last Sunday of the Church year always gives us hope; hope in the eternal life and the Paradise that is prepared and waiting for us. But inevitably some will always focus on the judgment and condemnation rather than the picture of hope. They seem to bypass the message of joy that awaits us when we join Jesus, our Christ and King, and instead they focus on the foolish or condemned, which is personified in verse 12 of our reading: “Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.”

So with this in mind let’s address immediately why Jesus says to one group that waits for His return that He does not know them.

Those who wait for eternal life can be divided into two different groups, the foolish and wise. What separates the two? In Jesus story it is the lack of or the presence of oil for their lamps.

Both groups of virgins wanted to be at the wedding banquet. Both had lamps and the desire to use them, but only the ones with working lit lamps actually made it into the banquet. Friends, the oil in the lamp represents God’s grace; His undeserved forgiveness for our many sins. And this oil or grace must be purchased or received only as God has determined. “But isn’t God’s grace free” you may counter? Well certainly it’s free, but you have to have it working for you in order to benefit from it! How?

Well in Jesus story, you had to by oil for your lamp ahead of time. If the oil represents God’s grace then the money to buy the oil represents God’s Word and Sacraments! Friends, in order to live within and under grace we must be in God’s Word, because it is only through His Word that you will be able to believe and live out the truth that God’s forgiveness and mercy are truly yours; that you are already judged righteous and worthy to enter Paradise. “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing through the Word of (Jesus) Christ!” [Romans 10:17]

The five wise virgins were proven wise because they acquired and used the oil. What would have happened if they bought the oil, but never used it? They too would have remained outside, separated from the wedding banquet. They would have been just as foolish as the other five. So the oil, or faith in Jesus is the evidence that your mansion in paradise is waiting for you. To understand what Paradise will be like let’s allow the Prophet Isaiah to show us.

Through Isaiah, God has given each of us a glimpse at His new heavens and earth; it’s a paradise that is so unique, so beautiful, so wondrous, that the “former things (of this world) shall not be remembered” (Is 65:17).

In this new creation, neither the sound of weeping nor the cries of fear nor pain will be heard (v 19). This glorious new life in Christ will never be cut short by death. Predator and prey will dwell together in harmony: “the wolf and the lamb shall graze together” (v 25). Carnivores would once again be herbivores: “the lion shall eat straw like the ox” (v 25). Once again, animals will live together in peace. People will live in peace. People and animals will once again walk together without fear of each other. Just as God had created the original creation, so there will be no destruction or violence in this new world. There will be no crime or terrorism. “They shall not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain,’ says the Lord” (v 25). In this creation, God will preserve mankind and the angels from falling into sin. Never again will sin, Satan, or death threaten God’s creation.

This new creation isn’t just a future hope, but it’s also a present reality. Christ has completed the work of the new creation upon the cross. Already, right now, you are a new creation. You’re no longer bound by sin and death. With new life created by the Holy Spirit through Word and Sacrament, the old has passed away for you. St Paul says it this way, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” [2 Corinthians 5:17]

We live in the time of “now, but not yet.” God’s new creation is a present reality for us, but the totality of His new creation has not yet been revealed to us. As a result, the old sinful Adam still lives alongside your new baptized nature in a constant daily struggle. We can plainly see that we live in a world ripe with the consequences of sin, a world engulfed with the division and suffering that won’t exist in the new world. And as we experience the consequences of sin—sickness, suffering, pain, and death—all of creation groans right along with us as we await the redemption of our bodies. [Romans 8:22–23]

What the Lord describes through Isaiah is simply the mixing of the New Testament church in this world with the church triumphant in eternity. Old Testament prophets often viewed the future without distinctly specifying the first or second coming of the Messiah. It’s as if Isaiah saw the church as a great mansion with a massive courtyard around it. The mansion itself represents the home of the church triumphant and at rest, the eternal Jerusalem that waits for all believers. The courtyard is gated and walled because the Lord protects all within. Yet those in the courtyard have not yet entered the mansion. They wait because they represent the church in action, believers who still live in this world. God’s prophets see them both at once. But once we leave this broken sinful world where the courtyard exists and enter the King’s mansion in paradise, we won’t remember the former troubles and difficulties that we leave behind. We will be glad and rejoice forever! We know that this new Paradise restored exists and is waiting for us because God has said so. Although we wonder about it and sometimes have doubts while we wait in the courtyard, God has devised a way to help us wait in confidence. We wait by faith, which is always created by God’s Word and Sacraments and sustained in prayer.

We live sustained by the Word of God and prayer. We listen to the Lord as he speaks to us in His Word. When we face trouble, heartache, and danger, we don’t wait alone, but we wait together as the church, as a congregation, and we wait in prayer. Verse 24 provides powerful encouragement to pray; listen: “Before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking I will hear.” As we believers wait in God’s courtyard, we call out to Him in every trouble. And He promises to hear our prayer and respond!

But as we wait we also have one eye always on the judgment of Christ the King. This judgment will always loom with a degree of fear, but God does not desire us to be afraid or uncertain about our own judgment but instead we are to be afraid for those who do not wait in the same faith that sustains us. This is why we gladly give our witness of God’s love to all who are willing to hear. So what does God’s Word say about the final judgment? Well…

The Final Judgment is just that… final!

There will be a day of judgment, “because (God) has fixed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by a Man whom He has appointed.” [Acts 17:31] It will come for all of us, and on that day, Jesus the Son of Man “will sit on His glorious throne. Before Him will be gathered all the nations.” [Matthew 25:31] Before Him will be gathered all peoples and all ethnicities. And all who are in their graves will arise and be gathered before Him.

This will be the final judgment. None beyond this will be held. There is no higher court so to speak, that a person may appeal to. That day “when God has endured with much patience” all the evil of the world will come to an end. There will be a separation forever from God for those who would not come to Christ, and the door to paradise will be closed forever.

And what about the judgment? Well, it will be carried out in accordance with the deeds we have done. “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one (of us) may receive good or evil, according to what (we have done) in the body.” [2 Corinthians 5:10] But scripture also states that this judgment will be given out according to our faith in Jesus. For Jesus clearly says, “… he who believes in (Me) has eternal life.” [John 3:15] Whoever believes in Jesus shall not perish and will not be brought to condemnation.

There is no contradiction in this. Our deeds are the kind of work that we do by faith. Our works reveal whether there is faith or not. And among those things that God seeks of us and expects of us is that we should believe in Him and His Son, Jesus Christ Whom He has sent. When we ask what should we do to do the works of God, Jesus answers, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him Whom He has sent.” [John 6:29] And to love God above all else, which is the chief commandment; this can only be done through Jesus Christ.

But we must remember that neither our love for God nor our love for our neighbor will ever be so strong that we can stand innocent of guilt before the judgment seat of God. This is why in Christ, God has atoned for all of our sins and has made it possible for us by faith in Christ to be partakers both of forgiveness and eternal life. To be found with faith in Christ then is first and foremost.

With Christ, life and good deeds will always follow. The thief on the cross could no longer do good, yet he was saved. But the person who has an opportunity to serve his neighbor for the sake of Christ will always do just that; it will simply be natural. A person of faith doesn’t think highly of his own deeds, and you won’t even bring it up on the day of judgment. You will be surprised and shocked when you hear about all of your good works that God was pleased with. But for now, we simply live life here in the courtyard as poor sinners who hope for mercy for the sake of Christ. And because of this grace centered thinking that is focused “on Christ,” we dear saints remember that in Christ there is no condemnation. [Romans 8:1]

And so we wait with one foot in the courtyard, which we can call the “church in action” and another foot in the King’s mansion, which we can call paradise, or the church triumphant and at rest. And while we wait, we are ever watchful because we do not know the hour that our King and Lord Jesus Christ will call us home and speak the judgment: “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy (and rest) of your Master.” [Matthew 25:21]

Are You Ready For The Rending?

Monday, November 14th, 2016

Twenty Fifth Sunday After Trinity-HL, November 13th, 2016
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor
Trinity Lutheran Church, and
Our Redeemer Lutheran Church

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“Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at your presence” [Isaiah 64:1]

isaiah-42-1-o-that-you-would-rend-the-heavens-red-copyAre you ready for the rending; for Christ to come again? He has done everything to prepare you for that momentous day. For you the baptized who are fed His Word and Sacrament right here in this place, He has given you faith to see the day of His return as a day of joy. But for those who lack this gift of faith, for those who can not or will not find His grace sufficient as promised in His Word, the day that Jesus rends the heavens will be a terrifying day of judgment. On that day, the God that burned with anger on Mt. Horeb will return, and this time there will be no relenting in His anger and punishment.

In our Old Testament reading [Exodus 32:1–20] we find that the incredible blunder and sin of the people of Israel was almost enough to move God towards wiping out the entire lot of them, men, women, children, and even little babies from the face of the earth. He was ready to start over and only allow Moses to survive. Why?

Because they forgot. They forgot about the One true, only almighty God that had rescued them from severe bondage in Egypt. They forgot that God had been their God since the promises He made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They forgot the signs and wonders God used to accompany them through the wilderness so that they could gather around Mt. Horeb and receive the covenant promises of God. It is incredible that these people should forget so quickly the mighty work of their Savior-God. What happened?

Sin happened. All throughout God’s Word we are reminded that sin, our sin and other folks sin strikes when it is least expected, and often times it is committed by people who should know better; people who have experienced the Lord’s abundant mercy.

So in the midst of their sin of false worship, God speaks to Moses and says, “Go down to your people now and watch me destroy them.” With these Words, God is putting Moses to the test; He is seeing what the character of Moses’ faith is, and He is testing Moses trust in God’s call to lead the people. And Moses stands the test! He serves as a true shepherd and mediator between and angry God and a sinful people. “Why should your anger burn against your people,” Moses replies, “whom you brought out of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand?” And finally Moses uses perhaps his most persuasive argument, “Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac, and Israel….” Remember the promises you made to the fathers of this people! And the Lord who is faithful to all of His promises, “relented” and did not carry out His threat to destroy Israel.

God did not change His mind. The God of all grace, who has promised to hear the prayers of His children, wants them to hold Him to His Word of promise. He wants us to do the same in our time of need. St. Paul puts it this way: “No matter how many promises God has made, they are Yes in Christ. And so through Him the Amen is spoken by us to the glory of God.” What a comfort for us who trust in God’s mercy by faith. By faith we can turn to the same Lord in times of trouble and simply hold Him to His Word. This truth comes out clearly in our Gospel reading (Matthew 24:15-28).

In our Gospel lesson this morning Jesus warns His little lambs about a terrible day that will soon come after His return to heaven. It will be a day that signals that Jesus is coming again in anger to judge and punish the sinful world, and this time He will not relent..

In the year 70 AD the abomination of desolation occurred just before Jerusalem and the temple fell to the Romans. It took place when the Zealots, who held the temple under arms supposedly to protect from it Roman Army, allowed a non-Jewish group of rabble rousers known as the Idumeans entry into the temple. Once in, fighting broke out within the temple, even within the Holy of Holies and the blood of over 8,000 people was shed.

News of this atrocity spread quickly throughout the city, and because Jesus had warned His disciples of this event, most if not all the Christian-Jews within Jerusalem were able to escape the city before the Roman siege took place. And as history tells us, all of Jerusalem was destroyed, along with the temple and its way of worship. The Old Covenant religion given to man by God on Mt. Horeb had come to an end.

If we were to look for a physical sign of the birth of the Christian New Covenant Church that would exist throughout the world, this would be the time. Jesus knew all of this and warned His little lambs that the wrath of God, which He relented from at Mt. Horeb, would finally come and put an end to the Old Covenant promises; a covenant that the people of Israel had broken time and time again. But these new children of Abraham, who were children by faith would be safe because they trusted in Christ alone!

Christ has come and Christ will come again!

This was the mantra of the early church and it still is today. Christ will come again. Jesus has said so time and time again with promises like this: “Hereafter you will see the Son of man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” And “The Son of man shall return in the glory of His Father, and then He shall repay every man for what he has done.”

This teaching is irrevocably bound together with the fact that Jesus is the Son of God who became man, who redeemed all things, and then rose again, and through all of this He brought forth a new humanity and a new creation. In the drama of salvation there remains only the final scene, His rending; His return in power and glory. This is what the Bible speaks of as “His coming again.”

When will His coming again happen? Jesus was very explicit in stating that no one knows the time, not even the angels in heaven. And none will ever know until it happens. We His disciples, His little lambs, have been warned that it’s coming; that we must live by faith. We must remain dressed for action and our lamps must always be burning. We are to be like servants who are waiting for their master, and we must stay awake so that we may open the door to Him immediately when He comes and knocks. And Jesus stresses this truth with these Words: “Watch, therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour. In a time you do not expect the Son of man will appear. That day will come like a snare upon the whole earth.”

But you dear saints can rest easy in faith, because you know that God has indeed placed a limit on the amount of sin and suffering, and the time that this world has left; the earth will have its final day. And when this day comes, it will be the beginning of a new age, a new creation, and a new beginning in our collective history. This day of the Lord will “come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved by the fire of the Lord, and the earth and all that is upon it will be burned up, in a twinkling of the eye.” We know that God with a single Word and just a movement of His finger can destroy everything that He has created.

But why does God wait? Isn’t there already too much evil in this world? Yes, and all of it will meet its end when Christ comes again! The Bible has given us an answer to help explain why God seems to be taking His time: “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” [2 Peter 3:9] This evil world remains because of the mercy of God. There is great reason to trust in God’s promises and have courage. We can be certain that God still has work to do among us. There are still souls to be won for Christ and saved for the Kingdom of God.

Dear saints, the church does not live in a vacuum; we can not deny the turmoil that our nation is facing right this moment because of a divided election that has taken place. But whether the person you voted for won or lost, you are not to identify with those emotions that are being poured out on the streets and the cyber-world of social media. You are to be above the anger, hate, and fear, because you serve the One true Saving God, Jesus Christ. You serve Him knowing that all will be well with you and those who also trust in His promises. So you have a message of hope and peace to declare in the midst of the turmoil.

The truth is, no one knows when Christ will come again. But there are signs that we are to look for; signs that will preceded His return. They will be the last phase in the battle between God and the forces of evil. Nation will rise against nation, people against people. Famine, war, and catastrophes will be upon the face of the earth, and brutality will increase. Hmmm… does that sound familiar?

Many people today and tomorrow will refuse to read these signs, and that is where you come in; you must help them by speaking of a forgiving God who is coming again very soon. They will try to reassure themselves through political action that soon enough if they work hard enough, everything will be alright in their world, but it really wont be; things will only get worse. So you are to remind them that we have a mediator who is greater than Moses: Jesus Christ, who “bore the sins of many, and made intercessions for the transgressors.” [Isaiah 53:12] And concerning this Jesus the very Son of God, the writer of Hebrews declares, “He is able to save completely those who come to God through Him, because He always lives to intercede for them.” [Hebrews 7:25] And when He comes again, when He rends the heavens, in an instant, He will raise the dead, transform the believers into His likeness and then bring to effect our final deliverance.

Let’s pray… O Lord Jesus, You have revealed to us the manner of Your return. Therefore we pray, keep us watchful for You so we do not follow those who seek to deceive us. Amen

Eternal Life: Now/Not Yet

Monday, November 7th, 2016

Twenty Fourth Sunday After Trinity-HL, November 6th, 2016
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor
Trinity Lutheran Church, and
Our Redeemer Lutheran Church

Click here for audio of this message

eternal-lifeThis morning, St. Paul speaks for all true pastors, “(We have not ceased in) giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints of light.” [Colossians 1:12]

Now that is good news. God the Father has qualified you in Holy Baptism, through the cross of Jesus Christ to share in the inheritance of heaven, as and with the saints in light. So behold a host, arrayed in white; behold the saints with palms; behold the saint gathered also to receive holy communion, yonder there they stand. Can you see them? Sure you can, with eyes of faith, but for right now you cant see them with your physical eyes. But one day, soon and very soon, maybe sooner than you think you will not only actually and visually perceive them, but you will be them. In fact, God’s Word tells us that we the baptized are a part of them right now!

You do believe in eternal life don’t you? I only ask because those eggheads known as the Sadducees during the time of Jesus, didn’t believe.

At one time, they even tried to embarrass Jesus by asking Him a double pronged question about who in heaven would be the husband of a woman who had had several spouses in this world. Their question showed, said Jesus, that they understood neither the Scriptures nor the power of God.

You see, Holy Scripture teaches that after the resurrection we will live in a new age and in a new manner of life, “like angels,” within a new Paradise where heaven and earth have become one. We will still be individuals in that new life, with our being and even with a new body. St. Paul calls it a “spiritual” body as a way to help us keep our new bodies distinct from our present ones. Our new bodies will not know sickness nor disease, fatigue nor temptation. But at the present time, we still must live in and be thankful for our “physical” body, even though we may even right now be experiencing sickness, disease, temptation, and fatigue. Why? Because our bodies right now are being animated by the life which God in creation bound together with the brain, the nerves, and the living substance of our tissue and limbs. So in other words, this life, our lives are gifts from God! But even so, these bodies are destined to die.

But in the resurrection God will give us a new body, like the body of Jesus after His resurrection. Life in that new body is similar to the very life of Christ. So, in regards to this truth, God confronts us this morning, He confronts our fears of death in this physical world with these Words we read in our Old Testament reading (Isaiah 51:9-16), “Who are you that you are afraid of man who dies, of the son of man who is made like grass, and have forgotten the LORD, your Maker? (You) who are bowed down (in old age, in sickness and disease, in temptation and fatigue) shall speedily be released, (you) shall not die and go down to the pit, and neither shall (God’s care for you) be lacking.”

This morning, each of us finds our selves very much in a similar situation as the ruler and the woman who suffered from a discharge of blood for twelve years in our Gospel lesson (Matthew 9:18-26).

We are similar in that all that we have to place our trust in is Jesus. You have not really seen with your own eyes the power that this Son of God has, but you have heard Word of who He is and what power He has. For the ruler who’s daughter had died, this meant having faith in a Messiah who was even Lord over death. For the woman with the blood disease, it meant believing that Jesus is the Great Physician, who can heal disease and sickness.

But you are dissimilar to these two people of faith in that the Word of God, the promises of God are far more numerous and specific than the ones they had to go on. Notice, I did not say more powerful, because where ever the Word of God is, there is all of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in power and in strength. But the specificness and completeness of all of God’s promises have shown you an even greater miracle. Jesus is also the Lord of eternal life.

Because all of God’s Word is yours by faith, you now can put your trust in the truth that through Jesus Christ, His life, death, and resurrection, God has atoned for your sins, removed them from you as far as the east is from the west. Through His life blood, Jesus has ransomed the world out of the prison and punishment of hell, and in your baptism He has done this great work just for you. But that is not all. Because Jesus has risen from the dead, He promises that you too, like those saints that died in their baptismal faith before you, shall also rise from the dead in a new body to live in a new paradise.

So for us, by faith, eternal life is something that has already begun even in this fallen and sinful world.

But our eternal life is hidden in our faith in Jesus Christ. Just as Christ dwells with the saints in heaven with His life-giving spirit, so too, He dwells with us right now in the same manner, in Word and Sacrament. We live by faith and they live by sight.

On the blessed day of our baptism we were clothed in Christ and we have grown together with Him since then, so that one day we might also share with Him a resurrection that is like His. This is why Jesus can promise you that, because you believe in His work and gifts for you, you too shall obtain eternal life. But Jesus can also say, “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” [John 17:3] “…He who hears my Word and believes Him who sent me has eternal life; He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” [John 3:36; John 5:24; Romans 6:13]

This morning in our prayers, we will speak/hear the names of our loved ones, saints who have fallen asleep in Jesus. When we speak of them, we remember God’s grace and mercy that saved them and set them apart as sanctified to do His will during their earthly lives. And when we remember, we give thanks for the life of faith that they lived as an example for us who still walk by faith.

For us this morning, Holy Scripture speaks of eternal life that is hidden with Christ in God by faith. For us, we can compare it to a great treasure hidden within earthen vessels. When the time comes for us to join Jesus and our loved ones who have gone ahead of us, we will, like those who have gone before us, experience eternal life in all of its fullness and glory. But in the meanwhile we walk and live a life of faith that Christ gives us always through His Word and Spirit.

These two forms of life eternal are bound together in this way. One must possess the hidden life of faith if one is to become a partaker in the full revelation of the glory of the resurrection. We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ. But to appear there without a portion in the life of Christ, Jesus says, is to be raised up unto judgment and not unto life. Therefore it is true both here and in eternity: “He who has the Son has life.” [1 John 5:12]

This morning we end our message as we began it, confronted with the Word and promise of God. Hear your God speak and be filled with awe and faith and then simply believe those Words: “I have put my words in your mouth and covered you in the shadow of my hand, establishing the heavens and laying the foundations of the earth, and saying to (you the baptized), ‘You are my people.’ ”

May God continue to give us eyes of faith to believe this truth until we are given eternal eyes to see that all things do indeed work together for our good. In Jesus name… AMEN!