Archive for November, 2017

Are You a Sheep or a Goat?

Sunday, November 26th, 2017

Last Sunday of the Church Year-A, November 26, 2017
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor of
Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
http://www.tlcsd.org and
Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
Http://www.orlcsd.org

Click here for audio of this message

“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. Before Him will be gathered all the nations, and He will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.” [Matthew 25:31-33]

In the time of Jesus, it wasn’t uncommon for shepherds to allow the goats and sheep to graze or pasture together. But at the end of the day, the shepherd would separate them according to their kind. And that is a picture of the Day of the Lord, judgment day. Some will be considered sheep; they are the apple of our Lord’s eye. On judgment day they will hear Jesus say, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” But others, others who are goats, will hear something completely different; they will hear Jesus say, “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”

So what is it that determines whether we are sheep or goats? Is it something we can get our hands on and protect; something we can have as our most cherished possession. Is there a ticket to heaven? Well… yes and no! If we were to look at our gospel lesson this morning, we might be tempted to think that our ticket to heaven or our identity as a sheep or goat is based on good works, or something we do to earn God’s love and forgiveness. But you’re all much to informed about what your Bibles say to believe that. So what then; what is this blessed assurance that promises us that we will be citizens of heaven in a place that has been prepared and waiting for us since the foundation of the world? Well, it is nothing less than faith… faith in the atoning death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. When the Son of Man comes in His glory, will He find faith; will He find faith in you? Are you a sheep or a goat?

If this question is making you a bit uncomfortable, then may I be the first to say congratulations; congratulations for not being happy at the prospect of being a goat!

You see there’s one thing I know about goats and it’s this, they’re just fine with being a goat. In fact, for the most part they’re stronger, faster, and more clever than sheep. They don’t have a problem with being a goat. But not so with you; you want to be a sheep; you want to know that there is a place for you in heaven, just waiting for you to move in. And because this is true, then you won’t have a problem with admitting something about yourself and something about God.

You are faithless! That’s right, I said it; on your own you are completely powerless and useless for assuring that your eternal abode will be something other than weeping and gnashing of teeth. Now don’t feel too bad about this, because you see it’s something you were born into! St. Paul in our epistle reading (1 Corinthians 15:20-28) explains it like this, he says that death came by a man, the first man Adam to be exact. In Adam all of us are guaranteed nothing more than an eternal death; a separation from God and His kingdom. Instead of inheriting a mansion, well we’re cast out into the outer darkness; a place where there will be eternal longing and desire.

What was it that Adam did that was so bad that it condemned all of his ancestors? He doubted God’s goodness and love; He doubted that God would provide everything that was good and withhold nothing helpful, while He protected him from everything that was harmful. So from the doubt of Adam and Eve has proceeded every sin that each of us has committed. From the doubt of Adam each of us has been judged guilty. From the doubt of Adam our relationship with God has been lost. The church has always called this doubt the original sin.

Now most goats don’t like this doctrine. They don’t like the fact that they’re being punished for something someone else did long ago! They get angry with God and they say, “I didn’t ask to be born this way! This isn’t fair; since my birth, you’ve put me on a road that goes only to hell!” Yes, the goats are so upset with this idea of original sin that not only do they protest against God, but they get angry with anyone who will repeat the doctrine. Why is that? Simply put, if this doctrine is true, then that means that their salvation, their ability to inherit the Father’s Kingdom is entirely outside of their control. It means they have to have faith, and remember, that is the one thing goats do not have; goats are faithless.

So what is the solution?

Well, goats must be saved by someone who can give them faith. They must be saved by someone who is faithful. They must be saved by someone who can fill them with this faith; someone who can make them faith-filled!

Jesus is that someone and His Word is the means that God uses to fill goats with His gift of faith; it’s how he turns goats into sheep. But faith in what? Faith to believe that Jesus, God’s own Son came to this earth, lived a perfect life for you, suffered and died for you in order to remove the curse of sin, Adam’s and your sin from you. Now, if you are agreeing with this premise, that’s all well and good, but some goats believe this too. No, I’m afraid that you must hear the rest of the premise before you celebrate. You see, Jesus also rose from the dead in His body, and promises that you will do the very same thing because you’ve received His gift of faith.

Now this is where many of the learned people discover that they aren’t sheep at all and they don’t care. They can receive the idea that sin has to be paid for, even original sin. And the fact that God paid for it Himself, makes perfect sense to them, because well, He was the One who allowed everything to break-down in the first place. But raising a body from the dead, a body that’s been dead and decomposed for hundreds, maybe thousands of years, well that’s just foolishness to them. What about people blown into thousands of little bits in explosions during war or a tragic accident, how in the name of science, will they be raised?! Or what about people who die at sea and are eaten by a million little fish who then scatter what’s left of their bodies all over the ocean floor?! No, I’m afraid that to the goats this is just too big of a leap of faith! They believe in Jesus, a spiritual Jesus; a Jesus who inhabits the best of man’s philosophies and religions, but not a physical Jesus. They believe in a spiritual resurrection but they can never accept a physical one! That goes against everything that is sensible to them. It goes against the very laws of physics!

But if this is how you feel, then you are condemning God’s entire Word as fantasy. You have recreated God’s plan into a plan of your own making. You do this because you are a goat; you are a goat because you are faithless. But if the goats are right and we sheep are wrong, then we are to be pitied ahead of all others; because that means we sheep have staked our very lives and eternity on a lie! Poor sheep; poor lost sheep, who will save us! Jesus Christ the true shepherd will! He will smash the head of the king of the goats, the devil himself and speak words of faith that turn goats into sheep! Listen: “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by (the God) man (Jesus Christ) has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all died, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in His own order: Christ the first-fruits, then at His coming those who belong to Christ.” [1 Corinthians 15:20-23] Those who are called sheep!

This is the gospel! This is your hope!

By His death upon the cross and the empty tomb on Easter morning Jesus has declared and demonstrated His victory over your enemies, sin, death, and the devil. When you hear that Jesus suffered and died for you, you are given faith… you are filled with faith to believe that He also rose from the dead for you! And you also know by faith, that as the head of the church, which is His body, which you are a part of, you must follow your Lord and Savior; for where the head goes so must also follow His body!

This is the truth, God’s own truth. It is what sheep believe because they are faith filled by a Savior God who is faithful. It is the truth that goats can never believe in because they are faithless. This is the truth that has sent untold numbers of sheep peacefully into the arms of their Savior at the time of death, and it is the truth that will lead you home as well! But I must warn you, that the devils don’t want you to lie down on your last day with this truth. They look at you as another victim. Another morsel that they can eat. They’ll do everything they can to get you to doubt God’s own truth. If they can get you to live in doubt then I’m afraid that they’ve trapped you again in the same old sin of Adam.

Remember, to them, you are nothing more than a tasty morsel that they plan to devour. You are a sausage sandwich waiting to be gulped down. But if you’ll simply rest in God’s Word and the work He did for you on the cross and in your baptism you will see that Jesus is the one who does the devouring. And He’s not only devoured the devil, but your own sin and death. If you will continue feasting upon the Lord’s Table where He offers you His body and blood, then by faith you will not only be eating and drinking forgiveness for your doubts, but the very gift that makes you a sheep; you will be fed faith!

So at your time of death when the devil goes to bite into you, all he’s going to get is a mouthful of the poison that He gave to you. We might say he only has a mustard and ketchup sandwich to look forward too, because you will not be there; you will be with your Lord, in a new body; a body that will never know sickness and death, sorrow or sin. This is how Jesus, the Son of God, puts all things under God the Father. He does it so that God may be all in all and sin, death, and the devil will be no more, ever again!

But now let me close with the proclamation of a mystery. This process has already begun and it is already completed. All that is left is for you to experience it outside of this world of sin and death. Indeed the day has already come when you can say, “I will praise you, O Lord. Although you were angry with me (because I behaved as a goat), your anger has turned away and you have comforted me. Surely God is my salvation (and His resurrection is the source of my joy); I will trust and not be afraid. For the Lord, the Lord, is my strength and my song; He has become my salvation. With joy (I can draw from my baptismal water) that is the well of your salvation, and give thanks to the Lord. So let us call upon the Lord (who is faithful); let us call upon His name. And let us make known His saving work of the cross and the empty tomb throughout our community, and let us proclaim the exalted name of Jesus! Let us shout and sing for joy because the Lord who has done wondrous things is with us and promising to take us with Him in paradise.” [Isaiah 12:1-6]

May God’s Word continue to make each of us faith-filled sheep, as He continues to be our God, in this life that began with our baptismal death as sinners and in our baptismal resurrection to new life in Jesus Christ. AMEN!

Arise!

Sunday, November 19th, 2017

24th Sunday After Pentecost-A, November 19, 2017
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor of
Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
http://www.tlcsd.org and
Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
Http://www.orlcsd.org

Click here for audio of this message

Matthew 25:14-30

Does the day of the Lord frighten you? For many it can, because it can be looked at as a day of judgment rather than a day of reward. But if you are trusting in Christ and the gift you’ve been given in your Baptism, you have nothing to fear. So get up and don’t be someone who thinks and lives in darkness, but live as you have been called to live… live in the glorious light of Christ Jesus your Savior. It is your Savior who brings you into the Kingdom of His Heavenly Father, while the light of the Holy Spirit takes you by your hand and says “ARISE”!

Now this sounds good to everyone who has been baptized, and yet when we leave this place but not God’s presence, our sinful flesh will do everything in its power to convince us to lie back down and sleep a little longer.

Your sinful flesh backed up by a chorus of devils will try to convince you that there’s no need for urgency. As you’ve heard me say before, in our sinful nature we’d rather worship at a place called St. Mattress than a place called St. Matthew!

Knowing we are but flesh and subject to falling back into our sinful nature, God’s Word calls out and says arise… wake up you sleeper and walk in the light!

What is that light? It is God’s Law and His Gospel. This morning we will use God’s law first as a Mirror, a mirror that will show us the darkness of sin that surrounds us, and then we will hear His Gospel; the good news that is God’s Word of love, love which dispels the darkness and surrounds us with His love!

Why is God’s Law a mirror?

Because if we aren’t trusting in God’s forgiving love, it clearly shows us that the day of the Lord is something that we should dread; it is a day of punishment for sin, our sin! That’s why so many people today don’t want to hear God’s law preached; they only want to hear a message of prosperity, health, and wealth; they don’t want to hear the truth. What is the truth? We are broken in sin; we are separated from God; we are sick and death is inevitable! This is what the law of God shows us!

You shall love the Lord your God with all of your heart, with all of your mind, and with all of your soul! That is the demand of God. You heard me right it’s a demand, and it offers you no help in accomplishing it! It’s a demand that forces you to admit that you can’t do the law, you’ve never been able to do it, and on your own, you never will! That’s why it’s a mirror; it simply shows you the truth about who you are… you are a sinner who has only judgment to look forward to!

Truthfully, on are own, we are the wicked and lazy servant that God gave one talent to. Instead of using that talent we want to hide it away; we don’t really want to take care of it. For some, perhaps they spend their whole life hiding the talent, and they convince themselves that God loves them no matter what, and the proof is is the talent that He gave them, but they never use it! They can skip Divine Service and never think twice about it. They can come to the Lord’s Supper with bitterness and an unforgiving heart and then think that there will be no repercussions. They can give a small sum of money as their weekly offering and dismiss any feelings of inadequacy or sinfulness by simply repeating what they were taught in Sunday School: God loves a cheerful giver! You wicked and lazy servant, the day of the Lord will come upon you like a thief in the night; punishment is at hand! Now, don’t look away or close your ears, because we aren’t done looking in the mirror.

You shall love your neighbor as yourself. That’s the demand of God’s Law. It’s a demand and not a suggestion.

Who is your neighbor? Your neighbor is your spouse. The very person that you promised God you would love and honor till death do you part. The very person you promised that you would be lover, supporter, and comforter to in good times and bad, sickness and health, in periods of wealth and poverty. And how do you show that love? With unfaithfulness! You give the best of your passion, your time, your comfort, and support to something or someone before your spouse. And maybe you justify your actions with the argument that times have changed and so have relationships! Now maybe you are dismissing this guilt by saying to yourself that you’ve never actually cheated or turned to the arms of someone else, but isn’t it true that marriage is oh so much more than the physical aspect?

Who is your neighbor? It is your children and grandchildren! Each time you hear God’s Word reminding you to spend more time with your family and demonstrate your love to them by teaching them the truths in God’s Word as found in your catechism, and each time you do the opposite, you are not loving your neighbor! Have you forgotten that your Master is coming and will expect a full account of how you used His talent that He gave to you?

Who is your neighbor? Your neighbors are those who can benefit from any of the many ministries we have here at our church, if you would only invite them and bring them. Now I know that many of you don’t like to do church things on a day other than Sunday, especially in the evening, but have you forgotten that it’s not about you, it’s about your neighbor, your neighbor who is dying without knowing God’s love through Jesus Christ. Your neighbor that hasn’t even been given a talent from the master yet!

Who is your neighbor? Your neighbor may be someone in this congregation that you have held a grudge against or harbored a bitter spirit against for some time. Instead of going to your brother or sister and explaining how they’ve sinned against you and allowing God’s grace and Spirit to bring reconciliation, you harbor resentment and anger. Oh we wicked and lazy servants, it is time for us to arise… to wake up from our deep dark sleep and let God’s Word rescue us.

But how… how will this happen? By turning to His face of love; by embracing his gift of love that He has given to us!

What is God’s face and gift of love?

It’s the cross of Jesus Christ. In His cross you see God’s love, and when you see His love, you fall in love with Him yourself. In His arms of grace you feel connected and never disconnected; you feel his forgiveness. In His cross you see His sacrifice, His death upon the cross as a gift for you. In His cross God shows you that Jesus death was your death. In the cross of Jesus, God provides a very great gift for all of us… He provides His talent.

What is this talent? It is first and foremost the gift of faith; faith that allows us to be free from the terrible threatening of God’s Law and then faith to see God’s forgiveness. But this gift of God’s love doesn’t just come with wishful thinking, but instead it comes through God’s means; it comes through His Word! In His Word, God the Father is always telling you to turn to His Son, to turn to His Son’s cross and confess that you have failed in satisfying the demands of His Law. In the cross of Jesus, God is always reminding us that it is He alone who rescues us from our sins, from the attacks of the devil, and from our own death and the day of judgment.

God’s Word about Jesus’ sacrifice for you is the breastplate of faith and love… it is the helmet of your salvation. Without the Word of God you can have neither faith nor love; you can have no talent from God. Without the Word of God, you can have no helmet of salvation that protects you from the sinful thoughts that so easily entangle you and lead you back into a world of darkness and slumber! Without the Word of God you cannot walk as a child of the light.

Oh you can pretend to be following Jesus, but without the Word of God leading you and changing you, you are just going through the motions.

So this morning God’s Word simply has one command and it is Arise!

That’s it. Get up and take up His holy Word. Stay in the Word and embrace the light that it gives to you. Oh, and because God has given you a talent, the gift of faith, He now assures you that you don’t need to be afraid of His Law anymore; you don’t need to avoid reading and meditating on that Law. He doesn’t want you to see His Law as something to be avoided, but see His Law as a Law of love; see it as His way of continually recreating you into His image; it is part of the talent or gift of faith that He’s given to you so that you’ll no longer see yourself as a wicked and lazy servant, but as a wise, appreciative and loving servant who will only hear Words of praise and reward on the day of the Lord! Under the council of God’s Holy Law He is teaching you how to multiply the talent that He has given you. In His Word He is not only teaching you how to love Him but also how to love and forgive your neighbor as He has loved and forgiven you!

As God’s Word continues to save you, it will also continue to change you and rearrange you; it will teach you how He has specifically gifted you with special talents, and then He will teach you how to use those talents to help bring others out of darkness and judgment and into the glorious gospel light of love and forgiveness.

I’d like to close our message this morning with this story: One day, Satan held a strategy session for defeating Christ’s work of salvation. “What shall we do?” asked Satan. A daring demon stood and shouted, “I have it! I know what we can do! We can tell people that there is no life after death, that they die like animals.” Satan’s face fell as he answered, “It will never work. Man is not stupid; even atheists will admit that they have times when they sense a tomorrow after death.” Another demon spoke, “Here’s the solution! Let’s say that the god who started life is dead—let’s say that while he started the universe, he’s long gone now.” Satan replied in dismay, “That won’t work either; most of them know there is a God, even though they don’t look for him.”

Other ideas were presented, but none brought hope to the devils. Finally, as they were about to give up, one demon jumped to his feet in joy, “I have it! This is sure to work!” The other demons crowded around to hear the plan. “Go tell them that God is real and the Bible is God’s Word.” A gasp came from the audience as the demon continued, “And tell them that Jesus really is God’s Son and that He died to free them from their sin.” The other demons were horror-stricken, thinking that their associate had lost his mind, until, with a smile, he added, “Then tell them that this is not the best time to turn their lives over to Jesus. Help them make excuses for living in a life of darkness. Tell them there is no hurry!” If we do this we will fulfill the warning in Proverbs, “How long will you lie there, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man.” [Proverbs 6:9-11] The demons danced in delight, realizing a workable plan had been discovered.

But those devils aren’t celebrating this morning at our Church; no, because this morning we have heard the gospel command to Arise! We’ve heard God’s Word, and because of that Word of God and the gift of faith it brings, we can truly say, “I want to walk as a child of the light, I want to follow Jesus!”

May God through His Word continue to turn our hearts and minds to Jesus and His cross, and may He continue to give all of us the faith, the talent and the strength to keep doing that very thing until the day of the Lord. In Jesus name… AMEN!