Archive for November, 2018

PROCRASTINATION

Sunday, November 25th, 2018

Last Sunday of the Church Year-B
November 25, 2018
Mr. Rick Stark, Vicar of
Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street
San Diego, CA 92114

Click here for audio of this message

Hi, my name is Rick and I’m a procrastinator… at least that’s what my wife tells me.

However, it’s not really a problem, I can stop procrastinating any time I want to… Maybe I’ll work on that next week. 

You know, sometimes procrastination actually pays off.  If we ignore a problem long enough, sometimes it really does just go away. But that’s only on very rare situations. 

So, what is procrastination? A simple definition, procrastination is “delaying performing a task, or making a decision, until a future time.” In other words, “putting something off until later.”

In a psychological context, the term “procrastination” refers to the act of replacing high-priority tasks with tasks of lower priority, and thus somehow making them less important.  

Procrastination something we all do, such behavior is a natural mechanism for coping with high stressors, such as anxiety associated with starting or completing a task, or making decisions, (especially difficult decisions or life-changing decisions.

Procrastination can create its own set of problems.  Procrastination affects us individually by adding to our stress, by compounding the stress that we’re already dealing with. Procrastination can create a sense of impending crisis. It can cause feelings of guilt for not getting something done in a reasonable time and manor.  And, procrastination can cause loss of productivity at work or at home, and in some cases both work and home.

Procrastination also affects those around us, especially when they become aware of the procrastination.  Procrastination can cause the disapproval of others when you don’t meet your commitments and your responsibilities. 

But like I said before, procrastination is something that everyone does, some more than others, but we all do it in some aspect of our own lives!

We find reasons to put off what we don’t want to deal with right now, what we need to deal with today.  In our fallen state, we procrastinate even when we know what the consequences of our actions could be.

Sometimes, we hope the problems will just go away on their own.

So, here we are preparing for Christmas already.  Talk about a season for procrastination! How many people do you know that wait until the last minute to buy their Christmas presents?

Today is actually the last Sunday of the church year; next week we begin to celebrate Advent, which is the first season of the church year.

The word Advent comes from the Latin word advenio, which means, “To come.”  Simply put, Advent is the season we celebrate of the coming of the Lord.  Which makes since as we head into Christmas. Advent is celebrated the 4 weeks leading into Christmas.

But Advent is not just about the coming of the Lord with birth of the baby Jesus. Even more important then that is how we prepare for the second coming of Christ.

Our Gospel lesson today is a continuation of last weeks Gospel lesson. If you remember, Jesus was on the Mount of Olives. And, He was talking with Peter, James, John, and Andrew. They had asked Him to tell them about the end times and what will be the signs of these things. 

So, Jesus told them of things that are going to happen before the end times, things they/we need to watch for.  Jesus said, “Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray.” And He spoke of wars where “nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.” And He warned against natural disasters, earthquakes and famines. But He said, “…the end is not yet… these are but the beginning of the [end].  And Jesus warned that “brother will [rise up against] brother, and the father [against] his child, and children will rise against [their] parents and have them put to death.  And He said, “And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake.”  Does this sound familiar? Does it sound like things that are going on in the world around us today?  And, Jesus assured them,  “the one who endures to the end will be saved.” (Mark 13:3-13)

Jesus continues in our lesson today, He said,

32 “But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, not even the Son, but only the Father. 33 Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come. 34 It is like a man going on a journey, and, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands – the doorkeeper to stay awake and keep watch. 35 Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning— 36 lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. 37 And what I say to you, I say to all: Stay awake.”

When I was in college, I had to write a paper for an English class.  The focus of the essay was, “What if you know the exact date and time you were going to die?”  I don’t remember, but I probably waited until the night before it was due to write it, after all I am a procrastinator.  

But what if you knew the exact date and time of your death, would you live your life differently from the way you live now?  It was very thought provoking.

Thinking about it now, it makes me think, What if you knew the exact date & time of Christ’s second coming?

What if, say, we knew that 6 months from now, on a Saturday at 8:32 in the evening, Christ will return to judge all men, living & dead?

Would you live your life any differently over the next 6 months? Maybe live a little more like Christ? Live a little more true to His word.

Would you spend a little more time in prayer? 

Maybe make time to finally read His word the way you’ve been meaning to? 

Maybe give a little more to the poor?

Or maybe you’d share with all your family and friends the love of Christ and how He has already paid the price for their sins, share it with people you don’t want to be left out of eternity…

Back at the turn of the century, while everyone was partying “like it was 1999” some people actually believed the world would end with ringing in of the new millennia.

And in 2012, many people believed the world would end as time ran out on the Aztec calendar.

The point is no one knows the day or the hour of Christ’s return. 

Mark 13: 32 tells us, “…no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, not even the Son, but only the Father.”

St. Matthew relates the same lesson in chapter 24, 

42 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. 43 But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.

Jesus may return at any moment; and it seems certain that He will come soon. 

Be alert, don’t be caught asleep or off-guard

I’m not talking about living for today and not worrying about tomorrow, 

I’m not talking about canceling reservations for next year’s summer vacation.

My dear brothers & sisters, what I am asking you is this, “Are you ready?”

What have you left undone in your spiritual life?  What in your spiritual walk with Jesus needs to be addressed today and not put off until tomorrow? Don’t procrastinate; take care of what needs to be taken care of today. I’m talking about staying alert spiritually, be ready, be on watch for the Master to come and take us home.

The signs of the end times are all around us, constant reminders that “heaven and earth will pass away.” But all of these signs are centered in the cross of Jesus Christ, whereby He has conquered sin and death, that we might be raised with Him in righteousness through His Word of the Gospel, which “will not pass away.” (Mark 13:31)

Paul tells us in Romans, Chapter 6,  “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His.”

Jesus is “the firstborn of the dead,” who in His great love “has freed us from our sin by His blood.” (Revelation 1:5)  His salvation, that is salvation through Him, is certain because “His dominion is an everlasting dominion [and His Kingdom] shall not be destroyed.” (Daniel 7:14)

For this very reason Jesus came into the world, to reign in love through His voice of the Gospel, which is the truth. (John 18:37) So this is the righteousness of Christ, “a light to the peoples {which] will never be dismayed” because it is the justice of His cross and His resurrection which saves us. (Isaiah 51:4-6)

Only Jesus “is able to keep you from stumbling and [is able] to present you blameless before the presence of His glory with great joy.”  (Jude 24)

Jesus is coming, we don’t know when, but we know it could be soon!

The last 2 verses in the Bible, in the last chapter of the Revelations, the last thing God’s word leaves us with:

And He who testifies to these things says, “Surely, I am coming soon.” Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

[May] the grace of the Lord Jesus be with [you] all. Amen. (Revelation 22:20-21)

Are You Ready?

Sunday, November 18th, 2018

Pentecost 26
November 18, 2018
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor of
Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street
San Diego, CA 92114

Click here for audio of this message

“And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time.  But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book.” [Daniel 13:1b]

If the end of the world were too come today, would you be fine with that, or does that cause you to worry?

Are you ready for the end of the world?  Can you ever be ready?

The truth is friends, God has been telling us in his Word that there will be an end of all things created and we need to be ready.  You can sense it can’t you?  Isn’t it true to say that there are a lot of things in this world that just aren’t right; things that seem to be so unfair in this life that this can’t be all that there is?  

If you need proof of life’s brokenness, all you have to do is just look at all of the wars and threats of wars, the earthquakes, hurricanes, fires, cancer, and all of the senseless deaths.  Nations and alliances are formed yet peace is always destroyed, no matter how hard we try to keep it.  Children disrespect their parents and parents abuse and abandon their children.  False messiahs and cults seem to pop up everywhere and cancer hits even children.  Isn’t that proof enough that something big, something terrible is getting ready to happen?

I use to like to go into Wal-Mart with some spare change in my pocket, so I could drop it into that charity bin they have.  You know the one I’m talking about don’t you?  It looks like a big concave bowl sitting on top of a giant funnel that drops the change into a glass box.  I liked to drop my change from the top of the bowl and watch it go around and around and around.  And the closer it got to the hole in the bottom, the faster and faster it went, until it plops into the box and disappears.  

That’s how I feel this world is moving.  In the beginning God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. [Genesis 2:7]  But in just the next chapter of Genesis we read how God’s first children, our parents rebelled against their Creator, and one of the terrible consequences of that sin appeared… death.  And just like that, our existence as as a people has been dropped into the bowl of death and it is going faster, and faster, and before you know it, plop each of us will be dropped into the bin of death.  

The truth is, like Adam and Eve, all of us must return to the ground from which we came.  In every generation since Adam and Eve’s fall from paradise, our greatest fear and our greatest enemy has always been death. 

So how should we feel about our death and the end of all things; should we be afraid or should we feel fine?  Well, that all depends on the kind of death you have to look forward to.

In our Old Testament reading from Daniel (Daniel 12:1-3) we are told of two different kinds of deaths; there are those who die with their names written in God’s book of life, and those who aren’t recorded in that book.  

Each of us, after we die will rise again; we will all be called to face and give an account to our Creator.  And many of us who are raised from death will be given everlasting life in paradise, but far too many will be given everlasting life in shame and contempt.

Those who spent their lives avoiding God and running after false gods and false messiahs will experience a dreadful day, even if they don’t believe it now.  They will hear God say, “Very well, you wanted to be without me; now be without me—forever!”  And they will be sentenced to and eternal divorce from God—a never ending existence of shame and emptiness.  It will be a loneliness that will consume them like fire, yet they will never know and end to suffering, helplessness, and hopelessness. 

That idea of hell and suffering doesn’t go well with many people today; they’d prefer to turn God into some lovable, soft-hearted, incompetent old fool who can be appeased with good works.  But God’s Word says different, doesn’t it?  God’s anger and His punishment are evident throughout scripture.  We start with the expulsion from paradise of Adam and Eve, and then we go to the flood where countless people screamed out of the agony of death by drowning.  And then God’s Word takes us to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah in a hurricane of fire.  Yes He is the same God who fed evil Queen Jezebel to the dogs and allowed countless people, including children, to die in wars that He sent Israel to wage against unrepentant sinners.  That same God still reigns in heaven today!  And what’s more, He has told us that He does not change; what He has done before, He will do again; He is doing again.  

And those who’s names are not written in His book of life will stand before Him on judgment day and be sentenced to shame and everlasting contempt.  They won’t simply cease to exist, as if they were cast away into some celestial junk yard to simply rust away into nothing.  No, God would never dishonor His creation like that.  For all eternity those who fall into judgment will retain their personality and the ability to experience God’s eternal rejection and His displeasure.

But for you dear saints, for you who are resting and trusting in the promises of God’s forgiving love, things shall be much different.  

You are those who God told Daniel are wise.  From God’s Word you have learned to recognize your sin and the need for a Savior from that sin.  You have learned to trust God in hard times; times of war, natural and man-made disasters, economic despair and sickness.  You’ve learned through God’s Word to remain hopeful and to show restraint and sound judgment even when your savings are dwindling and there is no food in the cupboard.  You’ve simply learned to wait on the Lord to provide both comfort in times of trouble and a way out of that trouble.  This then, is one of the ways that you shine like a bright star in heaven.  As others are suffering and crying out in fear and desperation you are waiting for your God.  You become one who shows others what the peace of God that surpasses all understanding is by how you live.  You are a light in your community that helps others find the way into God’s family and ultimately into a place at God’s side.

You and the many other saints who wait in the peace of the Lord will live forever in glory, as you shine like the brightness of heaven.  You will shine because you know that on judgment day, the end of the world as we know it, you will stand before God and be inspected, and you will actually survive that inspection because you have the promise of the gospel!  In the Word of God you have learned and you believe by faith, that death in this life is for you simply leads you to eternal life in Paradise.  But how?

Because of Christ alone.  

It is Jesus, God’s own Son who has forever sat down at the right hand of the Father as all of His enemies and your enemies are put at His feet like a foot-stool. [Hebrews 10:11-25] What enemies are those?  Sin of course; your sin and even the sin of our first parents that was committed long ago in the Garden of Eden.  But another enemy, the great serpent, the father of all lies, Satan himself will have to submit to the rule of the Son of God on that great day.  And finally, the enemy that we all fear the most, death, your death itself will be defeated.  All because the Son of God was obedient to the will of His Father; a will that led Him to the cross to suffer and die for the sins of the World, even your sins.

It is the promise of God that tells you to hold on; change is coming.  It is a change that the world may fear, but you need not fear it because each and every promise was given to you as a certainty in the waters of your own baptism when you were sealed in the very essence of God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Even when the great monuments and governments of this world are falling, you need not fear.  Even if your own family is against you because of your strong faith in the promises of God and the real presence of His Son Jesus Christ in your life, you need not fear.  Even if you should be persecuted because of your faith in Jesus by the government itself, you need not fear, because through the gift of faith in Jesus alone, you are able to grab onto His perfect life and wait to be brought into Paradise.  By faith in the cross and the empty tomb of Christ, you are able to claim His innocent death and resurrection as your very own, and find not only pity from God, but His delight; just as a father delights in his own child. [Mark 13:1-13]

To be sure there is trouble ahead, and it will only get worse until the end of the world as we know it arrives, but there is also the promise of God that forgives you and loves you through Jesus Christ. It is that same Word of promise that assures you that God will never leave you nor forsake you.  And it is this promise of God which assures you that you really are fine because you are resting in Christ Jesus.

Now, may the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus until we enter into God’s new world that He has prepared for us since the beginning of time… AMEN! 

Claim it and Claim it!

Sunday, November 11th, 2018

Pentecost 25
November 11, 2018
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor of
Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street
San Diego, CA 92114

Click here for audio of this message

“And she went and did as Elijah said.  And she and her household ate for many days.” [1 Kings 17:15]  “For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.” [Mark 12:34]

This morning, our message is one of stewardship; not the way some might define it, with the words “Name it and claim” it behind their message; no our message comes directly from the heart of God.  It’s He alone who speaks to our hearts, not sinful men, and He alone gives us faith and courage to follow and believe what He says in His Word.

In our Old Testament reading (1 Kings 17:8-16), Elijah the prophet is given a test from God meant to help him trust in His Word and then take action that is born out of that trust, or faith.  The test from God isn’t meant to trap Elijah, but to prove to Him that God loves him and will always provide.  But God’s testing of faith, or His creating of faith, didn’t stop there.  God also spoke to a poor widow woman who had a home and family, and no more resources to provide for it.  The world was in the middle of a famine and this poor woman only had enough flour to make one last meal for herself and her child.  She must have been wondering, “Is there a god, and if there is does that god really care?”

And this is exactly the place where the living God desires to prove that He is real and He does provide for those who trust in Him.  God provided for Elijah and through His Word of promise and the faith that comes with it, He would provide for the widow as well. God’s promise to her was simple: the bowl of flour and the jar of oil will not be exhausted until the famine is over.  

When Elijah spoke the promise of God to the widow, she heard and believed.  She passed God’s test of new found faith by preparing the bread for Elijah.  The widow acted as though the flour and oil would last forever.  And that is the very essence of faith; the widow trusted God’s Word.  “Faith is being certain of what we do not see”. [Hebrews 11:1]

Does God still look for examples of that faith today?  

Yes!  But how, how is that kind of faith even possible?  Only by the Word, the promises of God; only when the one being blessed by the promise of God is trusting in the promise.  What promise?  Well there are many great promises that God makes in His Word, but the greatest of them all for sinners like us, is the promise of complete and total forgiveness of sins.  Have you claimed that promise?  Are you truly trusting that God has done that for you?  If you have then it should completely redefine your life.  It should change you in the very core of who you are and why you are living in this sinful world.  Has it; has it really changed you?  Well, let’s put it to the test.

One of my favorite hymns is “We Give Thee But Thine Own”. I like it because the lyrics challenge my faith; it even forces me to measure it.  Listen to this verse: “We give Thee but Thine own, whate’er the gift may be; all that we have is Thine alone, a trust, O Lord, from Thee.”   If God were to ask you right now if the amount that is in your giving envelope is a good example of how much you trust Him and love Him, would you be embarrassed?  If you’re honest with yourself, I think you already know the answer.  

If you are a member here at Trinity, you are provided giving envelopes every year.  Do you ever read the different messages on each envelope?  Each message is designed to focus our hearts and minds on God’s forgiving love and then speak to our hearts as God helps us determine what to give.  This morning’s message on my envelope gets to the very heart of the question, “Why should I give more than a little to the church?”  Listen: “Wherever your treasure is there your heart [and thoughts will also be.” [Matthew 6:21]  So how much is in your envelope this morning?  How much have you decided to praise Him with?

Ok, I know the message is getting a little uncomfortable for us this morning; that always happens when the Law of God begins poking and probing into those secret and protected places.  

And what does God want us to see in all of this poking and probing?  The quality of our faith.  He is always looking to test our faith, so that He can strengthen it.  And how does He do that?  Well, let me first tell you how He doesn’t do it; He surely doesn’t do it through worldly teachings and opinions.

When Elijah was sent to the widow to be cared for, God was already preparing the widows heart to be used by Him.  When the man of God came and spoke the words, “Do not fear” God was already giving faith and courage to the woman so she could hear what came next: “make for me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterward make something for yourself and your son.”  Now, those are challenging words, in fact they are impossible words for anyone on the brink of starvation.  It is an all or nothing proposition.  You would have to be a fool to believe those words, unless they were God’s Words.  You see God’s Word always provides faith to believe the promise within the Word.  What was the promise?  That she would never lack!  It was not Elijah saying that but God speaking through a true prophet.  She knew who Elijah was; she knew he was the real deal.  So the question that God was asking her was not if she trusted Elijah, but if she trusted Him.  God’s Word provides faith and it provides courage; God’s Word and not the word of men.  

Earlier I referred to the phony evangelists and preachers who are known as the word of faith preachers.  Some of them use the slogan, “Name it and claim it!”  Or as I like to say, “Blab it and grab it!”  When they speak about seed money and sowing for blessings of wealth and prosperity, they really mean it; the only problem is that they’re talking about their own wealth and prosperity and not yours!  They aren’t preaching the gospel of forgiveness but the gospel of redistribution of wealth, from your hand to theirs.  These are the type of phonies that Jesus was talking about in our gospel reading this morning (Mark 12:38-44), listen: “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes and like greetings in the marketplaces and have the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, who devour widows houses and for a pretense make long prayers.”  

Today, we might say beware of the prosperity preachers, who like to walk around in Armani suits wearing Rolex watches, expensive jewelry, living in lush million dollar homes, and driving around in a new Mercedes Benz.  You know who they are don’t you?  Where ever they go they want everyone in the community to notice them.  They are the ones who will use wonderful sounding prayers intended to manipulate you and take your last penny, with the promise that God will bless you.  Baloney!  Jesus says that those kind of phony preachers will receive great condemnation!  He tells you that for a reason; He wants you to take your heart and eyes off of the promises of men and instead focus on the promises of God.

After Jesus condemned the scribes He called His disciples to His side, and He asked them to look at a poor widow who was putting a penny in the offering.  

After the widow deposited her offering, Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box.  For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

Like the widow in our Old Testament reading, God worked within the heart of the widow with the penny to give everything and then trust in His care and blessing.  It was God who did that and not sinful man.  Why did God ask them to give everything?  So that He could be praised, not so the preacher or even the giver could be admired.  What was the reward for the widows in their giving?  Stronger faith; faith to know and experience God’s care and love, even in hard times.  

Now, we’ve arrived at the conclusion of our message and many of us are asking ourselves this question, “Could I do that; could I give everything if God asked me to?”  The answer is simple; yes you could if God willed it!  

But the truth is friends; the kingdom of God does not rest upon your obedience or lack of it.  God doesn’t need your time, talent, or treasure to build His kingdom, but He does invite you to use those things and be a partner in seeing that kingdom grow.  Why?  “Because all that you have is from God; it’s a trust from Him, a tool that God wants to use to test and strengthen your faith.  But faith in what?  Faith in God’s faithfulness; faith in His forgiving heart, which speaks to you forgiveness of sins… the gospel of Jesus Christ!

It was Jesus, the Son of God who “appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin (your sin), by the sacrifice of His own life.  And just as it is appointed for (each of us) to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sin of many (yes, even your sins dear baptized, He) will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those (you and I), who are eagerly waiting for Him.” [Hebrews 9:26b-28]

How much does God ask us to give to Him?  All of it, everything we have, but when we realize this truth He also takes the fear of giving away.  You see, He gives it back to us and asks us to hold onto it as a trust from Him.  He asks us to hold onto it with an open hand so that He can take of our time, talent, and treasure as He sees fit.

How much should you give?  I do not know; that is between you and God, but I do know this, you don’t decide to become a steward of God’s gifts after your saved, and you don’t decide to become a steward after you have a good job.  No Christian stewardship demands that we take good care of our time talent and treasure because we have been commissioned by Jesus to manage those things for God’s glory and the spreading of His kingdom of grace one forgiven sinner at a time.  You see, we are all stewards, the only question is whether we are good stewards or bad ones.  I know that God is always testing our faith so that we will get better and better at trusting Him and believing that all we have is His alone, a trust from God to us.  May He continue to give us faith to believe this… in Jesus name… AMEN!

More Than a Feeling!

Sunday, November 4th, 2018

All Saints Sunday
November 4, 2018
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor of
Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street
San Diego, CA 92114

Click here for audio of this message

And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, He said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” [Mark 12:34]

In 1976, the Rock band Boston released the hit song “More Than a Feeling.” This morning let’s use that title to keep us centered in an important truth:  God’s Word, specifically His Holy Law, is not supposed to make us feel good about ourselves.  It isn’t meant to congratulate us on how much we love our Creator and our neighbor; in fact it should produce the opposite effect in us.  God’s Law should first terrify us, because it shows us how little we love Him and how poorly we love our neighbor, and then it should move us to call out to God for a solution to our lack of love.

And yet, like the Scribe in our gospel reading (Mark 12:28-37), we can become comfortable with how we think we are keeping God’s law.  Oh how easy it can become for us to turn off our ears and blind our eyes to the truth; we fall far short.

So is this a message about feelings?  Yes and know.  You see, we all have feelings; God created us to have emotion, but our emotions are defective; they lie.  No, our message this morning is first one of truth; God’s truth, and then God centered emotions, or feelings will follow.

The young scribe in our gospel lesson, is someone we might call a seeker in today’s lingo.  

He is genuine in his desire to live a God pleasing life.  What we must understand is that he comes from a confusing culture, where the Law of God exists within the frame work of not just 10 commandments but 613 commandments.  Can you imagine that?!  There were 248 positive commandments, or commandments that told you what you should do, and then there were 365 negative commandments, or commandments that told you what you should not do.  With all of these commandments a person could get lost trying to prioritize them.  So the young scribe presents a valid question to Jesus, “Which commandment is the most important of all?”

The young scribe, like many people today, felt that he really did love God; He really wanted to please the Heavenly Father, and he thought trying hard to do that would please Him.  And second He had been listening to Jesus for some time now, and he really did respect Jesus and His teaching.  He probably found a great degree of wisdom in the Words of Jesus; he seemed to be comfortable around Him, listening to Him.  So when he asked Jesus, which commandment was the most important, he was really asking for Jesus’ guidance.

And Jesus seeing a desire for truth in the young man looked directly into His eyes and says, “Hear, O Israel”.  (Don’t just listen to the Word of God, but really hear it; let it enter your heart and mind, and let it change you; let it give you wisdom.)  “The Lord your God, the Lord is One.”  (He isn’t like the false god’s of your neighbors; He doesn’t inhabit certain regions or nations.  He is the ONLY real God, the Creator of everything.  He is all powerful, all present, and all knowing.  He can come to you in any way He desires, and His Word and His teaching are the only source of real truth.  So now hear that truth and let it enter you; let it penetrate you.)  You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.  The second (most important commandment) is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  There is no commandment greater than these.” [Mark 12:28-31]

The operative Word there in those two great commandments is Love.  Let’s look at that word.  This kind of love that God demands for Himself isn’t mere affection and it doesn’t mean passion either.  God isn’t telling you to have a warm fuzzy feeling about Him and your neighbor.  He isn’t saying that you should just be passionate about Him and your community either.  He is telling you that the kind of love that you are to have is based on something foreign to you; something that is completely outside the realm of possibility for you.  He is telling you that the kind of love you are to have is more than a feeling; it is more than a decision to be nice.  It is an intellectual assent to something higher and beyond your natural ability.  It is a God given love that will sacrifice everything in order to see this kind of love rule and reign over you and within you; when this God given love is present, it loves all things that God loves and it loves others just as it loves it self.

So we see now, these are tough words, meant to give wisdom.  Is that what the young scribe received?  Well almost; He almost understood.  Listen to His response: “You are right, Teacher.  You have truly said that (God) is one, and there is no other besides Him.  And to love Him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

Well, that sounds pretty good.  He did a fine job of paraphrasing Jesus Words.  He even seemed to be paraphrasing another bit of wisdom that Jesus taught earlier concerning worship, “Go and learn what this means” He said, “‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’  For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”  [Matthew 9:13]  And so Jesus looks Him in the eye once again and says, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” [Mark 12:34]  You are almost there; you almost are wise unto eternal life.”  If only that young man would have asked Jesus to give him that heavenly love!

This morning Jesus is teaching an important lesson.  Knowing God and pleasing God are similar but separate.  Oh they’re close, but they aren’t so close as being the same.  There are two things that separate those who know God from those who please God.  And both of those things come only from God. They are the Word of God and the love of God, as given through the Son of God, Jesus Christ.

This morning, the Word of God calls out:  Hear O sinners.  Listen to the Word of God and let it penetrate you.  When you listen to the Word, when you really hear what it is saying you will know God’s truth and you will know His heart.  The truth of God is that you are trapped in your sins.  On your own you can never really love Him or your neighbor.  That kind of love can come only from your Creator.  And how does He give that love?  By allowing us to hear His Word.  And when we let God’s Word do what God intends for it to do, He gives us faith.  “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” [Romans 10:17]

If our gospel lesson ended right there, we along with the young scribe could go home with a lot to think about; a lot to pray about.  But Jesus does not send us home just yet.  He continues teaching.  I would like to think that as He continued teaching, He winked at the young scribe, slapped him on the back and said “Listen to what I say next, young man.”  

 And this is what He said next: “How can the scribes say that the Christ is the Son of David?  (I mean,) David himself, in the Holy Spirit declared, “The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet.”’  (You see there,) David himself calls Him Lord.  So how is He his Son?’

I can also imagine Jesus returning to the young scribe privately and saying, “Did you wonder why I winked at you?  Or did you see and understand what I just taught?  You know all about your traditions that teach about God’s final and righteous rule right?  You know the time is promised by scripture to come when the Messiah will take power and reign don’t you?  So, you also know that when the kingdom of God comes it will be visible and apparent, and everyone will have to acknowledge who it is that really runs all of creation, right?  Well listen now… it is happening right now.  I am the Messiah.  I am God’s Anointed One, who has come to make it all visible to all who have faith; to all who believe.”

This morning, Jesus has given to each of you the wink so to speak; a wink that unlocks the wisdom of God; the truth of His Word.  This morning you are being shown Jesus in the Word; Jesus in your baptism, and Jesus at the table in the meal.  And in these means of grace, you are being given faith to believe you are forgiven and faith to speak forgiveness. 

Through the writings of the apostles and the testimony of all of scripture, you along with the saints throughout time, read God’s Word with Jesus as the central figure and find Divine love, forgiveness, and faith.  

You can go from the commandments of the law to the fulfillment of the Law, which is the gospel, in the person of Jesus, the One true God; God in human flesh.  Because of the love of the Father and the gift of faith through the Holy Spirit, you can hear the Words of the Son of God, Jesus Christ and know that through Him, God alone has made all things new and right, including you.  You learn that the same love that led Jesus the Messiah to the cross to die for the sins of the world also leads you to love God with your whole being, and to love your neighbor as you love yourself.  

What is impossible for you to do, becomes possible when God is the one working in you and through you.  By faith, you know that in Jesus Christ, much more than all of the burnt offerings and whole sacrifices have been provided to make you right with your Creator.  Through Jesus, you see God Himself coming to you offering both sacrifice and obedience, and as a result, by faith you receive His forgiving mercy.  And now as our epistle lesson (Hebrews 9:11-22) states, you have received a Savior Who is your “high priest, holy, blameless, unstained, separated from sinners, exalted above the heavens.”  Through Jesus life and death and the faith that comes from the very Word of God, you have been brought into the Kingdom of God just as was done for the saints before you.  

On this All Saints Sunday, let’s look back in our minds and remember those dear saints who died in Jesus and then, let’s remember the examples of faith, love, and service that they left behind for us to admire and follow. Let’s give thanks to God for the lives they lived and the impact they made on us and Christ’s church. And like those dear saints who have gone before us, let’s also be moved to give thanks to God Our Father In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Yes, let’s remember what real love as given from God is not meant to bring guilt and shame because we fall short, but rather it brings God’s forgiving love that desires to use us to speak words of faith, forgiveness, and love to those who do not yet know the grace and love of Jesus Christ.