Archive for January, 2019

One Baptism—One Body

Sunday, January 27th, 2019

Epiphany 3-C
January 27, 2019
Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor of
Trinity Lutheran Church
San Diego, CA 92114

Click here for audio of this message

“For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body” [1 Corinthians 12:13b]

First Corinthians is a letter, or an epistle from St. Paul to a church that God created out of nothing in a pagan city called Corinth.  In this letter, Paul continually reminds the Corinthians that they need to strive for unity within the body of Christ (12:12), because in God’s design there is only one body or Church, and one Spirit, one Lord, and one Baptism [12:4 ff., 13]. And yet, Paul has discovered the very opposite thing is being displayed in their church!  Instead of unity, there are divisions and factions.  Paul’s intention then, is to unite those factions and remove the confusion that’s been caused by bad doctrine or teaching.  If they will listen and follow God’s Word then it will be God Himself who will unite them! God would unite the Corinthians the same way he unites us, by reminding each of us of our own baptism.  Our baptism then reminds us that while we may be many members, we are all part of one body—while we may be many congregations, we are but one Church!

(vs. 12-13) Friends, Christ’s church, our church, is like the human body.  

Let’s consider the human body for a moment.  Within our bodies we see the very picture of unity and completeness through a lot of individual parts. Now, this is also true with Christ’s body, the Church. To illustrate this truth, Paul begins with the oneness of the body and then proceeds to its many parts through these words: “the body is one and has many members”; he then goes backward from the many parts to the oneness of the whole by saying: “and all the members of the body, being many, are one body.” And throughout His body, Jesus is always present and active in each one of us!  How?  Through God’s mysterious work done in each of our own baptisms.

In Holy Baptism friends, each one of us was baptized “in” one Spirit, the Holy Spirit in union with God the Father and God the Son, Jesus Christ.  Our baptism is a vital connection with Jesus. In our baptism, God’s Spirit is always present and always making a spiritual change within us—a change, which creates a new spiritual life within us and maintains a right spiritual relationship first with God, and then with the other members of Christ’s Church.  This mystical union of Christ with the church friends, is our true union with God. It’s a union that is identical within each of us, and it is also identically sustained within each of us through Christ’s own Word and sacraments.

Now, think about what this truth must have meant to the Corinthian church, and then think about what it means for us.  “Jews are equal to pagan Greeks?”  Friends, do you see how in Christ’s body… the Church, all members of the human race have been drawn together into Christ and then melted and fused together into one indistinguishable whole? What was lower than a slave, human property with almost no rights? Yet Paul is telling those rich folks and property owners, many of whom owned slaves, that their slaves are their equals! Christ is in their slaves just as he is in them… they are one!  It’s quite the wakeup call isn’t it?  The same is true with us friends; through our baptism, we are one with the butcher, the baker, the president, the junkie, the homeless, the parent and the child.  People of all races and back grounds, through their baptisms are “one body” just like the physical human body.

Now with this central truth stated about our physical bodies and the church, think of how ridiculous it would be if a toe no longer wanted to be part of the foot, or an eye thought that it was better than the ear.  We need all of our body parts to function the way God designed them so that we can have a complete and healthy body, and this is also the truth with Christ’s body the church! 

(Vs. 14-20) So why do some members of Christ’s Church feel inferior and jealous of others if all of us are baptized into the same body?  

To answer this question, let’s first go back to Paul’s illustration of the human body.  Why does the ear say, “Because I am not an eye, I’m not important so that must mean that I’m not really part of the body?”  Do the ears feelings change the fact that it truly is part of the body?  All of its griping won’t change a thing. It’s not only useless; it’s foolish, because the body can’t be just one member!  We need each member because each member has its own function. Wouldn’t it be foolish if the foot tried to grasp something or shake hands with somebody when it’s real purpose is to help the body walk and move from one place to another?  The same is true about an ear that wants to be an eye when the body really needs it for hearing.  This unity in diversity friends is what makes the body whole and functioning.  Instead of complaining about what it isn’t, each part should celebrate what it is, because without each part, the body wouldn’t be whole.  This is also true about each member of Christ’s church and our congregation. Suppose a member were actually what these complainers say: not a part of Christ’s body—well what would it be? Jesus answered this question clearly; He said it would be a dead branch, fit only to be burned. Dear friends, instead of wishing we were someone else or something “better,” we should thank God for the place he has assigned to us and then work with the Holy Spirit to do our part not only expertly but also joyfully!

Doesn’t all of this jealousy and envy sound like foolishness?  After all, wasn’t it “God (who) arranged (all of) the members in the body, each one of them, (just) as He chose(?) (If each of us were the same member), where would the body be?  (So, you see friends), there are many parts, yet one body.” [vs. 18-20]   All of this is part of God’s divine work of creation!  He did it all according to His will when He formed the human body and when He created His church!   He desired that both bodies would consist of many members. Each one He set into its perfect place within the body. Do we really want to find fault with what God did? Do we really have the audacity to think that we can improve on His work? 

Well, the fact stands: God made the true Church what it is and He made you as you are for a purpose… now we must live out that purpose as He leads us!

(Vs. 21-26) Ok, but then why do some people act like they’re superior or better than others?  Or as Paul says, 

“Why does the eye say to the hand, “I don’t need you,” or the head to the feet, “Go away, you’re not needed”?  Why indeed and here we go again!  Once again there’s grumbling within the body; but this time it’s a different kind of grumbling.  Now it’s the eye and the head’s turn to voice their sinful feelings, each looking down on a different body part and thinking that they’re better than the other parts.  One looks down on the hand, and the other is looking down on the feet.  What’s going on here?  There seems to be trouble throughout the body!  And this is what Paul is saying about the church at Corinth.  And so we see him expertly using God’s law to attack their habit of looking down on others.  

 Let me ask you a question: When are we more likely to look down on others?   I think the answer is when we think that they’re not in our class!  Social status, education, health, and many other conditions fuel our disdain for others!  We’re inclined to look down on others when we feel that their talents or position seems lower than our own. To illustrate this, Paul lets the eye and the head speak. Now, because the eye is able to reach out to great distances it looks down on the hand which can only grasp what is in arms reach. And because the head is placed so high above all of the other members, it is prone to look down with disdain on the feet, which are dutifully plodding away on the hard and dirty streets below! So you see, those who have been given what seems to be greater gifts and talents might be tempted to foolishly think that they don’t need those who have what appears to be inferior gifts and talents, but in reality, once again each of us must remember that we are not individuals but part of a whole.  What each part has is only part of the whole body… a body designed by our Creator!

But what about our more humble parishioners; the very old, the sick, and the disabled?  Paul compares them with our private body parts; the ones we keep hidden—the parts that we might be ashamed of?  Listen to what he says: “And on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.  If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.” [vs. 23-26] 

I pray that God will help each of us both desire and work together to ensure this very thing, and He will if we simply remember that it was the Creator who put all of us in our proper place within His Church and within this congregation!  But…

(Vs. 25-30) What if we find ourselves having trouble living out this truth, this Divine balance? 

How are we to be saved from this terrible sin that seeks to divide us?  Well friends, God does this very thing by taking each of us back to our own baptism—back to the truth of our equal standing as sinners before Him, and then through that same Word, He reminds each of us that He equally forgives us all of our many sins.  In this way, as members of God’s church, God assures each of us that we are equally loved by Him.  And friends, God wants us to demonstrate that same forgiving love and care to others who are also members of His church.  With His Holy Spirit living within us, He reminds us that if one of us suffers, then all of us suffer together; if one member is honored, then all of us will celebrate together. 

Let’s look to our own bodies one more time to illustrate this truth: If our foot is in pain, even if it’s the little toe, won’t our eye immediately look to see what’s wrong?  And won’t we use our fingers to hold it and caress it, as our face twists in pain and our whole body bends over to assist in its care?  And as the entire body is caring for this one ailing part, the entire body is benefited when the pain is soothed!   

Dear friends, isn’t it a blessing to be part of a body where “if one member suffers, all members suffer together, and if one member is honored, all members rejoice together?” 

Rejoice dear friends in the truth that Christ’s suffering and death upon the cross was equally given to each of us within the waters of our own baptism—for you see it is the same sin that was covered, but more than covered, it was the same sin that was drowned and destroyed.  It is that same sin that equally drives each of us to the font with the same need and the same identity… beggars in need of God’s grace.  And as we remember this truth let’s also rejoice together in yet another truth…He is still giving us that same grace through His Word and His Holy Supper!  Praise God dear friends!  Praise Him all creatures here below.  Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost…AMEN!

I Will Not Keep Silent!

Sunday, January 20th, 2019

Epiphany 2_C
January 20, 2019
Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor of
Trinity Lutheran Church
San Diego, CA 92114

Click here for audio of this message

Grace, Mercy and Peace are yours, from God our Father and for the sake of our Savior Jesus Christ!  AMEN

“For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not be quiet, until her righteousness goes forth as brightness and her salvation as a burning torch.” [Isaiah 62:1]

A professor in a medical school once posed this medical situation — an ethical problem — to his students: “Here’s the family history: The father has syphilis. The mother has TB. They already have had four children. The first is blind. The second had died. The third is deaf. The fourth has TB. Now the mother is pregnant again.  So the parents have come to you for advice. They are willing to have an abortion, if you decide they should. What do you say?”

The students broke into small groups for “consultation.” All of the groups came back to report that they would recommend abortion.

“Congratulations,” the professor said, “You just took the life of Beethoven!”

Well that’s just a story pastor.  We live in the real world.  Ok, here’s a “real world” poll taken in New England, which revealed that, if parents were able to know these things in advance, 1 percent of them would abort a child on the basis of sex, 6 percent would abort a child likely to get Alzheimer’s disease, and an incredible 11 percent would abort a child predisposed to obesity.  In essence, they would abort many of us!

Sin is sin.  

God’s Word clearly identifies what is sinful and what is pleasing to Him.  There are no gray areas in God’s eyes, and yet we like to create these gray areas, don’t we?  We make the gray areas because we don’t like facing our own sinfulness.  Oh, and in case you think that claiming ignorance of God’s will might offer you some protection, listen to God answer you from the book of Proverbs: “If you say, “Surely we did not know this, “Does not He who weighs the heart consider it?  He who keeps your soul, does He not know it?  And will He not render to each man according to his deeds? [Proverbs 24:11-12]

Friends, we’ve been called by Jesus Christ, the living Word of God to be both His church and His voice of truth in this world of sin.  We are His prophets.  But before we can fulfill this role, we need to agree that God is right and we are wrong!  Now as your pastor, you have called me to speak and teach you that Word, so together we will hear His Word, be changed and strengthened by it, and then go out into our communities where we can be God’s salt and light.  Now here’s the fascinating part of this calling; if we are faithful, God assures us that to the world, we will be like a crown of beauty, a royal diadem in His hand.  In other words, we’ll bring Him glory here on earth!

Friends, if we are faithful in speaking for God to those we encounter, He promises that we will experience his blessings in a way that will change the very way we think and live.  In other words, God promises that through our obedience we will discover that we are not only precious in His sight, but we are in fact His delight.

But we have a slight problem; the enemy doesn’t want us to live out this new identity, so he’s set some traps in order to deceive us.  

These traps come to us through the use of science and the sinful society we live in; a society that loves to call evil good and good evil.  But even if we successfully avoid these traps, the enemy still has one more trick up his sleeve; he intends to stop us by overwhelming us with so much opposition and anger that we’ll no longer see the good of speaking God’s truth to such an evil society.  In other words, he wants to demoralize us to the point where we just simply give up.  

Now, this same tactic has been used by the enemy in the past with great success.  It’s called institutionalized sin—sins that have been accepted by our society as normal.  If you don’t believe this truth, just look back no farther than 150 years ago when the institution of slavery—the trafficking of human beings was considered normal.  And even after a bloody civil war that nearly destroyed our nation, that sin still remains and it is still trying to capture the hearts and minds of our children.  This hatred of others is a sin that places “self” as the ultimate authority, which in turn allows us to see some people as less than human.

Today we celebrate “Sanctity of Life” Sunday.  This is the day that we as a church have set aside to remind us that God has declared all human life precious in His sight; the unborn, born, and even those who are frail and near death.  But science and our society tell us something very different—they say that the unborn are merely potential life, and the old and frail are just a life that’s already been lived.  They would have us believe that neither can really be counted important.  But listen to God speak through the voice of the Psalmist and let the voice of our enemy the devil and this sinful society be silenced: “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” [Psalm 139:13-18]   And if that’s not enough for you, listen to the living Word of God drive home the message through the Apostle Paul: “(Don’t) you know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” [1 Corinthians 6:19-20]  

Friends, you have heard God’s Word… you know that there are no gray areas.  Right is right and wrong is wrong.  Now God wants to send you out into this world as His burning torch of truth and salvation.  But you say, “Pastor what can I do?  It’s the law of the land; abortion is legal, right?”  Well do you have a mouth?  Then for the sake of the unborn and for the credibility of the church, speak out.  Use your mouth to change hearts and minds, and use your vote to change the law.  And all the while, God wants you to pray!  Pray for your leaders and pray for your neighbors, and then work against the enemies of God who joyfully lead others astray by convincing them to take a life through abortion.  Pray that God will change both their hearts and minds so that this evil will be erased from our society.  Listen to St. Paul’s advice; he says, ” First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” [1 Timothy 2:1-4]  Pray dear friends, pray and don’t grow weary of prayer.  Don’t give up in speaking the truth; don’t surrender in the fight.  Keep on doing what you know is right.  Listen to God’s Living Word, and then be decided in your heart that you will do what Jesus tells you!

In our gospel reading this morning, Mary, the mother of God the Son, Jesus Christ had a dilemma.  

She was one of the matrons, or sponsors responsible for the smooth operation of a wedding party.  But the wine was running low, and the party was still jumping!  Now granted, when compared to other real life issues, running out of wine means very little in the large scheme of things, but at the time it was important to Mary.  She had doubts and fears; so where did she go?  She went to Jesus!  Now the fact that she went to Jesus isn’t that fascinating, after all, Jesus is her son, but what happened next would change everything.  It would change the way faithful people live and it would change the way faithful people think!

Have you ever wondered why Jesus called His own mother “woman” instead of “mother”?  

“Jesus?  Son?”  Mary called.  “They are almost out of wine,” she says.  And to this Jesus answers, “Woman, what does this have to do with (you and) me?  My hour (or my time) has not yet come.”  Here friends, Jesus mother turns to her son as she undoubtedly did so many times before, but this time it is different…it’s a critical moment where ordinary help won’t suffice.  She knew that Jesus had no money and as a stranger in this town he had no connections.  Yet they needed wine.  So why turn to Jesus?  Because friends, she never forgot that her son was also the Son of God, the Messiah… her Savior.  You see, in this small dilemma, ordinary help would fail; they had neither the time nor the means to get more wine, so Mary knew she must look for extraordinary help.  Mary didn’t need familial help, she needed divine hope.  And to give this hope, Jesus must first eternally change her relationship with Him.  

Friends, when Jesus called His mother woman, He was declaring to her that His position as a dutiful son was eternally ended.  He was telling her that from that moment on He would be assuming a much higher position; one as Savior and Redeemer.  And this divine work can only be done on God’s terms and in God’s time, not hers and not ours.  Like Mary, we too must learn that if we really want divine hope and help, we must first recognize who Jesus really is.  It is Jesus, the Son of God, together with the Father, and the Holy Spirit alone who determines when and how God will miraculously intervene—even in hopeless situations!

Friends, it was this first miraculous sign from Jesus—turning water into wine—that would forever direct both Mary and the entire church to ask and receive all things through Jesus Christ alone, and then simply trust that He would act according to His will and time!  It is in Him alone that we are to place our trust.  And with this new truth, Mary has a new teaching to share with her assistants at the party and with us…

 “Do whatever He tells you.” [John 2:5b]  Do you understand what this means friends?  It means that we must do whatever God’s Word says.  What God’s Word calls good, we are to call good.  What He calls sinful and evil we are to say also.  In His Word alone, we are to live, breath, and find our existence and fulfillment.  Yet we still sin daily.  We sin against God and we sin against each other.  Since this is most certainly true, it is critical that we hear what comes next.  

If there is anyone here this morning who has in the past had an abortion, assisted with or counseled for an abortion, performed an abortion, or has simply been indifferent to abortion, let God speak to your heart.  Let His Spirit convince you that abortion is a sin.  Has He shown you that it is your sin?  Are you sorry for this sin and all others that you have committed and do you sincerely repent of them?  Is it your intention to agree with God that this is an evil that must be defeated… that was defeated upon the cross of Jesus Christ?  Do you desire to be free of this evil now and for all eternity?  Then by faith in the name of Jesus and the will of God, you are forgiven!

Dear friends, because Jesus has defeated both the devil and all evil through His death upon the cross, and because He has given this victory to you through the washing of the water and the Word in your own baptism, hear the sweet words of the gospel, the forgiveness of your many sins.  You are forgiven!  You no longer need to live in shame and reproach.  Through God’s Holy work alone He has taken away your sorrow and shame and He has given you a new name…. you are called Christian.  You are a child of faith!  As a member of the Holy Christian Church you are now the beloved bride of Jesus Christ Himself!

Now dear saints, as the beloved bride of Christ, hear the words of mother Mary fresh and new… “Go, and do whatever our Lord tells you.”  What is He telling us?  Speak up for those who have no voice!  Call evil what it is!  Don’t be afraid of the ungodly, because they will soon have their punishment handed down to them.  Instead, speak up and speak out to those who will hear the Word of God and repent, just as you have.  Join your pastors and the whole church and witness to Christ Himself and His Holy Word until He comes again to judge the living and the dead.  Do whatever God’s Word tells you because He is your salvation, and let politics and this sinful society be damned!

Let this world and our sinful society see our Holy God’s righteousness shine through each of us as individuals and as His church so that all may see us as justified and equipped by God for this battle—not with the laws of man but with the highest law there is… the Living Word of God!

Dear friends, do whatever Jesus tells you.  Repent and be baptized.  Repent and believe you’ve been forgiven and changed.  This is the message we are to speak to our neighbors and even to our elected leaders.  Let’s speak this message in our conversations and let’s speak it through the ballot box.  We will not be silent… because we cannot be silent.  Yes we’ll be ridiculed and marginalized, but as I said in the beginning of this message, we must speak out, because we are God’s crown of beauty and we are a holy and royal diadem in His hand.  We alone can bring Him glory, because we alone are called by a new name…. Christian!  Jesus we are yours… save us!  AMEN!

Arthur’s Dash

Wednesday, January 16th, 2019

A Christian Funeral/Memorial Sermon for Arthur Lozier
January 16, 2019
Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor of
Trinity Lutheran Church
San Diego, CA 92114

Click here for audio of this message

“And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” [Philippians 1:6]  

Grace mercy and peace to you dear family and friends of Arthur James Lozier, from God our Father and our Savior Jesus Christ.

When I was a boy my brothers and I liked to walk around in the old cemetery near our home. We were fascinated by the old head stones dating back to the mid 1800’s.  They were for the most part simple and old granite head stones, which said something like, “John Doe 1804-1880.” As we walked around the head stones we wondered and talked about what kind of life they must have lived. Without more information, their entire lives seemed to be summed up with a dash that fell between their date of birth and their date of death. The dash simply acknowledged their life. 

Arthur Lozier’s dash, his life was rich and full. It was rich and full because the Lord Jesus Christ had claimed Art and had never left him!

Arthur’s life in Jesus began when as a small baby, he was baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit at Zion Lutheran Church, in Oakland, California.

It was there in the waters of Holy baptism where God promised to complete the good work of salvation that He began in both Art and you dear baptized Christians. Listen to a few more of those promises contained in your Bibles: 

1. “The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever. [Psalm 138:8]
2. “(God) will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” [1 Cor. 1:8]
3. “This is the work of God, that you believe in (Jesus Christ) Whom He has sent.” [John 6:29]

Throughout Art’s life, God continued to complete His good work of forgiveness of sins and eternal life. As a boy, Art was instructed in the Word of God by Christian parents and the pastor at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Berkley, CA. There at Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Arthur was confirmed in His Christian faith and equipped by God to be able to approve what is excellent. Through this work of God, Art was promised that on the day of judgment he would be pronounced pure and blameless not because of the life he lived but because he trusted in Christ alone. 

It was then after the confirmation of His faith that Arthur as a young teen was invited to the Lord’s Table, and was offered and received Christ’s body and blood in with and under the bread and wine for the forgiveness of sins, the strengthening of faith, and the remembrance of the good work Christ both began and promised to complete throughout Art’s life.

Arthur’s dash of earthly life also included the blessing of marriage and the birth of two sons, Karl and Kurt.

During this time, Art would move his family to Australia. But as is true for all of God’s baptized saints, trouble and sin were always near Art. Art found Christ’s promise of forgiveness and comfort to be personal and true after his marriage ended in divorce. It was then and there that this promise of Christ found Art: “I have told you these things, so that you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart, I have overcome the world.” [John 16:33]

Out of the tragedy of sin and divorce, Art was retaught a truth that all of us Christians learn over and over again; we live out our dash of life simultaneously as a baptized saint and a earth bound sinner. In the Word of God, the law of God forces us to look within our own hearts and discover sin and condemnation. But in that same Word of God we are daily taught that God’s Son Jesus Christ has overcome the world and our own sin; He has set us free from that sin with Words of forgiveness, redemption and new life. This Good News of forgiveness is what turned Art’s heart back to Christ’s cross and the waters of baptism. It is this very thing that continues to draw each of us back to God seeking a renewed life in Christ.

When Art left Australia and returned to the U.S., he felt the calling of God to reconnect to Christ’s Church, and he did that very thing right here at Trinity Lutheran Church in San Diego, and we his church family are glad he did!

Art’s dash, his earthly life here among us at Trinity was always centered around the promises of God through Jesus Christ. 

In God’s Word, Arthur found forgiveness for his many sins, and comfort and strength to live out his redeemed life in a broken world. He found comfort because God’s Word had convinced him that He was never outside of Jesus ability to save him. He found the strength to continue living in dark and sometimes lonely times, because he knew by faith that through Christ Jesus, God would never leave him nor forsake him.

Art was active in both growing and expressing his Christian faith here at Trinity. He was a regular member of both our Sunday and Wednesday morning Bible Studies where he dug deeper into God’s Word. He asked honest questions about the Christian faith and celebrated both the revealed will of God and the unrevealed will of God. For instance, Art celebrated the truth that through Christ’s death upon the cross and the life giving waters of baptism all are offered forgiveness, yet this truth some times irritated and saddened him, because he could not understand why so many baptized Christians seemed to happily reject God’s gift of forgiveness and eternal life. As with most of us, Art found that he had no choice but to trust the same God who began the work of salvation to complete that good work as well. Art had faith that one day the people he knew and loved who rejected God’s gift of forgiveness and salvation through Jesus Christ would finally surrender to Christ and find salvation.  

Art was active in the Men’s Club and served on the Board of Elders up until his death. Art also loved to read the Word of God publicly at Divine Service. All of you who are members here a Trinity can easily close your eyes and hear in your mind his strong base tone enunciating each syllable that made up the readings for the day!

Dear friends, Arthur James Lozier’s life must not be defined simply by a date of birth and a date of death but by the redeemed life that is represented in the dash. I end this message as we began this service with this proclamation of God’s own truth: In Holy Baptism Brother Arthur James Lozier was clothed with the robe of Christ’s righteousness that covered all his sin.  St. Paul says, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?” Each of us then along with Art were buried therefore with Jesus 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. 

Art has found redemption and peace with God in a place not made with hands, but in a paradise prepared by Jesus Himself.  May God By faith confirm this promise in each of our hearts in Jesus name… Amen!

Gladly Say It!

Sunday, January 13th, 2019

Baptism of the Lord-C
January 13, 2019
Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor of
Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street
San Diego, CA 92114

Click here for audio of this message.

 

“Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”” [Luke 3:21, 22]

This morning we will explore two questions by looking at our two natures.  The two questions are: 1. Why was Jesus baptized?  2. (And) Why is your baptism such a big deal?

First, Jesus was baptized because it was necessary to fulfill all righteousness.  What I mean by that is, when He entered into the Jordan that day to be baptized by John, He was announcing to this sinful world that His ministry to redeem and save it had begun; He was announcing to all sinful people and all the devils that the promise of the Savior was being fulfilled and would be accomplished once and for all by Him and Him alone.  When Jesus fulfilled all righteousness, He was declaring judgment upon the devil.  On that day He was declaring to you that He would be your righteousness; you would be spared the final judgment for your sins because He would take the punishment that you and your sins deserved.   

Now this is both good news and bad news.  It is good news for you, that is for your new baptismal nature that God has given to you in your baptism.  That new nature, the nature we identify with as a saint, rejoices in this proclamation of righteousness.  Our call to Worship hymn, “God’s Own Child, I Gladly Say It” is in modern terms, the theme song of our baptismal life.  That new nature celebrates that Jesus has now sanctified the waters of baptism, through the power of the Holy Spirit.  No one has to convince it that God is love and has saved it; it’s very existence makes this self-evident.   But you have another nature; your old sinful nature that does not see this as good news, because it means that it must die.  This old nature will do everything it can to live.  That nature has many “theme songs”, but perhaps the song by Luther Ingram, “If Loving You is Wrong, I Don’t want to be Right” is the best.

Our old Nature says, “If loving you is wrong, then I just don’t care about being in the right.”  

The “you” in the song refers to a mistress who is in an adulterous relationship.  But in our lives, the mistress is anything that we might be tempted to call right, which God says is wrong.  God says that intimacy without marriage is wrong, and marriage is between a man and a woman; wrong says the sinful nature, if it feels good and makes me feel fulfilled, then it can’t be wrong.  In regards to our own bodies, God’s Word says, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?  You are not your own, for you were bought with a (great) price.  So glorify God in your body.” [1 Corinthians 6:19, 20]  “Wrong” says the sinful flesh of today’s modern woman, “A woman’s body is hers alone and the life within her womb is hers to decide whether it will be born or not.”

God’s Word says, “Thou shalt not have any other god’s before or beside Me” and our sinful flesh shakes it’s fist at the law of God and follows the law of society which says, “If it feels good, just do it!”  So we as a people, as a nation pursue happiness at all costs because that is our right as one who is simply doing what feels good and seems right.  We pursue and procure all things that promise happiness and a better life.  “I have a right to this and a need for that.”  So we set out on the pursuit of things that this sinful world and our own sinful desires say are necessary.  And this pursuit that seems good right and salutary makes itself central to all things; and when our sinful nature becomes central to our existence, we become the god of our lives.  We can easily justify lying, stealing, coveting, and even murder, because after all, it makes us feel good.  So, “If loving (this or that) is wrong, then I don’t want to be right.”  

And God sees all of this and warns that there is a way that seems right to you but in the end, it really does lead to death.  You can’t agree that I am right and you are wrong, so I will come to you myself and not only show you the truth, but I will pay for your sins.  I will send my Son to you who will teach you and allow you to see all things clearly.  Through His Word, through His cross, through His empty tomb, you will know the truth and that truth will set you free.  I will cleanse you with the same water and Word that He Himself sanctified before He set His face to the cross in order to procure your salvation.  

Now since you are hearing His truth, hear this truth also.  “Baptism, which corresponds to (the ark, which saved Noah and his family from the flood) now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” [1 Peter 3:21] “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.” [Romans 6:4] 

This is God’s promise to those of you who are worried about your sin; those things which cause you to fear that God no longer cares or loves you.  When you are cut to the heart and don’t know how you will ever know peace with God, listen to St. Peter, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” [Acts 2:37-39]

For you who long to hear words of comfort, hear the gospel in our call to worship hymn, and let it be your new natures theme song.  Let these Words speak to your heart.  Agree with God and shake your fist at the devil and your own old, sinful nature.


God’s own child, I gladly say it: I am baptized into Christ!  He, because I could not pay it, Gave my full redemption price.  Do I need earth’s treasures many?  I have one worth more than any, that brought me salvation free; lasting to eternity!  

Listen, I know my own self, and you know yourselves; we shouldn’t be God’s own child.  We know that in our old sinful nature, that is on our own, there is nothing worth loving or saving within us, and yet, God’s Word declares that He does love us and He has saved us through the life, death, and resurrection of His Son our Savior Jesus Christ.  That one gift is greater than anything the world has to offer.  Claim that gift that was first given to you in your baptism and rest in it forever!

Sin, disturb my soul no longer:  I am baptized into Christ!  I have comfort even stronger: Jesus’ cleansing sacrifice.  Should a guilty conscience seize me since my Baptism did release me in a dear forgiving flood, sprinkling me with Jesus’ blood?

We do have guilty consciences don’t we?  Well, let the Word of God, the gospel of Jesus Christ give you peace.  Jesus died to bring forgiveness to the world, and in your baptism, He came to give it to you personally.  You are forgiven!  Let that truth soak in and live out it’s truth.  Fight the sin that is within your old nature.  And when you fall into sin, don’t let that old you trick you into thinking you have sinned beyond God’s ability to save.  Shut its mouth with the Word of God and continue to remind it that “you have been baptized into Christ Jesus and into His death.  The old nature was buried with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, you too might walk in newness of life.” [Romans 6:1-11]

Satan, hear this proclamation: I am baptized into Christ!  Drop your ugly accusation, I am not so soon enticed.  Now that to the font I’ve traveled, all your might has come unraveled, and, against your tyranny, God, my Lord, unites with me!  

So when the devil begins to throw your sins into your face, and taunts you with a future of doubt and even fear of hell, simply tell him, “Devil you go to hell because that is what you desire; as for me, I admit that I am a sinner, what of it?  You see I know of One who is greater than my sin and He has conquered all of my fears and tormenters, even you!  His name is Jesus Christ, and where He is, there I will be one day with Him as well!”

Death, you cannot end my gladness: I am baptized into Christ!  When I die, I leave all sadness to inherit paradise!  Though I lie in dust and ashes faith’s assurance brightly flashes: Baptism has the strength divine, to make life immortal mine.  

We’ve talked about the fear of death quite a bit this last season of Advent, but it bears repeating.  A Christian who fears their own death because they are uncertain about what or where their life will be after they leave this sinful earth, is a Christian who has small faith and lacks the joy of their salvation.  But small faith, the size of a mustard seed is better than no faith.  God shall one day take that small faith and show you what miracles He can and will do with it.  You will behold your God one day with your own eyes; you and not another for you, and He will say, “Welcome baptized Christian, come and enter your Fathers heaven, and rest in a place that He has prepared for you.”

There is nothing worth comparing to this lifelong comfort sure!  Open-eyed my grave is staring:     Even there I’ll sleep secure.  Though my flesh awaits its raising, still my soul continues praising: I am baptized into Christ; I’m a child of paradise!  

Do you hear that dear friends? You are a baptized saint.  Your old sinful nature will never gladly celebrate this truth, in fact it will fight it until your last breath.  It knows that it has lost, and it knows that it must die, but like the devil it will not go quietly.  Together, your old sinful nature and the devil want only to cheat you out of your inheritance, but if you will simply hold onto the promises of God, rest in the cross of Christ and your own baptism, you will be clothed with divine strength, which in the end will provide to you eternal life and everlasting peace with God.  It is that nature which now and forever, with God’s means of grace protecting and providing for it declares now and forever: “By baptism, I am God’s own child, and I will gladly say it!  AMEN!”

THE EPIPHANY OF OUR LORD

Sunday, January 6th, 2019

Epiphany-C
January 6, 2018
Mr. Rick Stark, Vicar of
Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street
San Diego, CA 92114

Click here for audio of this message.

“And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.”

By fortunate circumstance due to the recurring and predictable nature of the calendar, the Epiphany of Our Lord falls on a Sunday this year. That Sunday is today. And by even greater circumstance, but by no means a random one, you get to be in the house of our Lord, listening to the Lord’s Word, on the day we celebrate the Epiphany of Our Lord.

Whether you’re our congregation’s youngest believer, or whether you’re pushing your way into your ninth or tenth decade of faith, you are not here on account of your own goodness. You are here because by God’s grace and by His election, you have received your own “epiphany of our Lord and Savior” somewhere along your life’s path

But just what is “Epiphany”?  Many in the secular world think that Epiphany, which always occurs 12 days after Christmas, is the standard allotted time to take down your Christmas decorations.  In some cultures of the world, Epiphany is a grander, larger scale, celebration than Christmas itself. And just to the south of us in Mexico, Epiphany is commonly celebrated with such things as cutting the “King cake” and gifts left in shoes for the children.

The word ‘Epiphany’ comes from Greek and literally means ‘a manifestation’. In other words, it has to do with something being revealed that has previously been hidden, or at least obscured for some time. Certainly the people of the old world, even the people of Israel, didn’t have a full understanding of just who God really is and how He was going to bring about their eternal salvation prior to the birth of Jesus.

There were plenty of prophecies of how all this would happen. This morning, our Old Testament lesson from Isaiah, foretold what would happen when God revealed His glory to the world: “Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn. “Lift up your eyes and look about you: All assemble and come to you…”All people will be drawn into that glory, and all people will be drawn into God’s family.  And, from our Gospel lesson, we heard the quotation from Micah that was used by Herod’s advisors to direct the wise men to Bethlehem: “And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.”

 These clues gave the people of ancient times a bit of a puzzle to consider. Each little revelation, each answer to a prophecy, put more and more information at their disposal. And, using that information, some eager souls attempted to predict the when, the where, and the how of the coming of the Messiah.

It’s kind of like our own day and age, where people attempt to use the far fuller content of the Scriptures to predict the end of times, or the time, the place, and the circumstances of the Savior’s Second Coming. Of course, to do this, they have to set aside Jesus’ own words, they have to disregard what Jesus Himself told us, that no one can predict it, “… for no one knows these things… only the Father.” Too often, though, in ancient times and now, all the speculation on the when, and the where, and the how of the coming of the Messiah misses the what — and, more importantly, it misses the whyof the Messiah’s coming.

Speculation like this will always happen. It is part of our sinful human nature to want to calculate, to speculate, or just plain guess about things which God, in His wisdom, has chosen to keep hidden from us for the time being. The ironic flip-side of that is, of course, that too many times we ignore that which God has already revealed to us.

Consider, for example, what we already know and what we don’t know about the wise men, or the “magi,” who came to worship the one born King of the Jews. We know that they came from the east, but what we don’t know is how far from the east, or that it was necessarily due east from Bethlehem. We can speculate, as others have, that they might have learned the teachings about the Messiah of Israel from Jewish exiles who lived in Babylon or more likely Persia. Or, they could’ve been from Arabia, or even from as far away as modern day India or China; we just don’t know. And, we need to be humble enough before God and with one another to admit that.

My apologies to Christmas card writers and the hymn writers, but we don’t know if these wise men were the “Three Kings of Orient Are.” Nowhere in the Bible does it say they were kings, nor does it say that there were three. (Most people assume there were three wise men because of the three gifts presented, the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, which are mentioned in the Bible.) Isaiah does prophesy that kings will come to the brightness of the Messiah’s rising, but we can’t, with any certainty, connect that verse directly to this particular visit.

And what about the legend that the three wise men were named Gaspar, Melchior, and Balthasar, or any names similar to that? There’s no biblical mention of names. They are probably something that cropped up in the Middle Ages in misguided attempts to answer people’s curious questions, instead of redirecting them to what really is important in this story.

Also of legend, rather than biblical accuracy, is the idea that the wise men rode in on camels. Again, Isaiah mentions that camels of Midian and Ephah and Sheba shall come. But Matthew’s account doesn’t document the wise men’s mode of transportation. There’s nothing wrong with picturing the wise men coming on camels, but there’s nothing to make it a point of certainty, either.

So, about now you’re probably thinking, “What’s your point Vicar? Are purposely trying to ruin our sentimental impressions of Christmas and the manger scene? Are you trying to upset our childhood memories? Or, confuse us with lots of details?”

No, not really. My hope in pointing out such details is that you’ll be encouraged to read the Scriptures, not just more often, but with a greater eye for what they contain and what they do not contain. And I would pray that you will know the difference when you hear people talk. Quite often we hear people say (or we might even say ourselves), “Well, I think the Bible says such-and-such…” But unless we know actually what it does say, offering our opinion can be dangerous, both to them and to us.

Now in these things I brought up here today, it’s really like what Pastor Brian would say, “It’s adiaphora!” It really doesn’t matter because it doesn’t change the important aspects of the Biblical account. It doesn’t change what really matters!

When we actually turn to the Scriptures, we may find that what God’s Word has revealed to us is significantly different, or sometimes even silent on the topic. And, it is sinful for us to quote God’s Word inaccurately for the purpose of convincing people of our own ideas, rather than what God’s Word tells us. We have likely all fallen victim to it at sometime or another.

Another hope I have in suggesting that you consider the content of Scripture more discerningly is that you’ll begin to see the connections God has put there for us much more clearly. Yes, the Bible is a difficult and mysterious book in many ways. But sometimes we make it much more difficult than it needs to be, because we want to carve it up into isolated snippets rather than trying to see the rich, broad minutiae of its tapestry. Sometimes the temptation is to use a particular verse, maybe out of context, to win ego-building arguments, rather than to convey the wholeness of God’s Law and Gospel message to a fallen, lost, and dying world. And in doing so the true message of God’s Word get’s lost.

Again, we should repent of our failings, for the power of God’s Word is not to be used for our own purposes, but for the His glory, and for the benefit of sharing His grace with others. We should pray for the motivation to more diligently and deeply read and study Scripture, pray for the Holy Spirit’s guidance for better clarity and understanding of it, and finally, pray for the courage and opportunities to share that understanding with others, so that they might have their own “epiphanies” with the Lord.

If we allow ourselves to be led by the Holy Spirit, to seek a greater understanding, God will not disappoint us. He will overcome that sinful desire to shape or twist His Word for our own purposes, so that He might accomplish His greater good. He will help us to see how Matthew’s account of the wise men’s visit truly does connect with Isaiah’s prophecy, with Micah’s prophecy, and with the entirety of all the other Bible books, as well. After all, the Bible itself is ultimately the inspired work of God, and not the work of the individual writers.

The wise men’s visit shows us several things. First, it illuminates how the message of God’s salvation through the Messiah had reached out into the world even before Christ’s coming in the flesh. The wise men were not just sitting around one night, observing the sky, and suddenly came to the conclusion on their own that this new star indicated the birth of a king to the Jews. This idea had to have been planted in their minds from some source with an understanding that the coming of the Messiah would be accompanied by great signs, including a great light from the heavens.

Among these revelations, recorded in book of Numbers, chapter 24 Balaam prophesied, “…a star shall come out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel.” A special star or other astronomical events such as comets or meteors was taken to symbolize divine validation of a king’s right to rule.

Balaam went on, “Edom shall be dispossessed.” Now it’s no coincidence that Herod, the king who ruled at the time of Jesus’ birth, was not an Israelite king at all, but an Edomite who had been installed by the Romans as their puppet ruler.

When the wise men appeared, telling Herod that a star had arisen in Israel to indicate the birth of a Jewish king, he had good reason to fear for his rule. The Scriptures said that Edom would be dispossessed. You see, Herod was not an Israelite king at all, but an Edomite who had been installed by the Romans as their puppet ruler. Herod knew enough of Israel’s history and of the Jewish religion to realize that God often worked on behalf of Israel through supernatural means. However, the deception and violence Herod used in response, were manifestations of the same evil inclinations that we exhibit whenever we seek to shape things to our own desires, apart from the revealed will of God.

The second important point of this lesson is that prophecies in the Scriptures are fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Even though Herod used Micah’s prophecy about the birth of the Messiah in Bethlehem for despicable purposes, that was to kill innocent children, it nevertheless shows that Jesus’ miraculous birth took place exactly where God had revealed it would, the way God had said it would. For nearly 700 years, since the time of Micah, that information might have seemed of little importance. But in the prophecy’s fulfillment, those few verses take on immeasurable significance.

Thirdly, when the star finally stopped where Jesus was, and the wise men reached the end of their journey, they were pleased beyond measure. The text says, “they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.” They were beside themselves with joy! (similar to the joy we heard bout with Simeon last week.) They may not have realized just what sort of king they were about to encounter, and even though he was merely a child at this point, they knew that something great and miraculous had come into their lives.

If only we could experience such joy when we come into contact with our heavenly King who came from God the Father, was born as an infant to suffer and die on that old rugged cross for our sins! And our life of faith is more than just an emotional experience!

How often do we allow our faith to be lived out in cold drudgery or in a bland routine? The Creator, the Redeemer, and the Sanctifier of the world has revealed Himself to you! He has chosen you to be His own, to receive the full favor of His grace, to receive forgiveness and to give you eternal life with Him in heaven! You should not just be excited about that, you should be joyful, thrilled, energized, and motivated to seek and follow His will!

A final key point of this lesson is that God continued to reveal Himself to the wise men even after they had followed the star and met the miracle of God in the flesh. He used another miraculous means—a dream—to show them His will. And, He prevented them from going back to Jerusalem, and protected the Holy family and the young Baby Jesus, so that His plan and timetable of salvation would not be interrupted or short-circuited by Herod.

You know, God does this for you, too, even today. He continues to reveal Himself to you in miraculous ways: The spoken word brings God’s power into your lives, each and every time you hear the declaration of absolution and the proclamation of the Gospel for the forgiveness of your sins. He doesn’t bring you gold, frankincense, or myrrh, but far more precious gifts of His own body and blood in the Sacrament of the Altar, satisfying your spiritual hunger and quenching your soul’s thirst, even as it burns away your sins with a power brighter and hotter than that of any star.

Maybe faith came to you as an infant or young child as you were baptized by loving, believing parents and given the Holy Spirit’s gifts by water and Word. Maybe, like others, you were reached later in life through the proclamation of that same Living Word, and the Spirit chose to enlighten your heart with the wisdom of the Gospel and then you received the gifts of the Holy Spirit through your baptism.

Either way is fine, really. God has chosen those means—Sacrament and Word, Word and Sacrament—to reveal Himself to us and to draw us near to Him. Through them, He grants us our own epiphanies. They may be personal ones, but they are by no means “little ones”, for the granting of faith is like a tectonic plate shifting in our lives and in our standing in God’s eyes. No longer are you aliens, strangers, and enemies to God. Instead, you are family, made His very own children—reborn, not as kings or queens of the Jews, but as princes and princess of heaven and earth – children of God, redeemed by Christ the Crucified, and royal citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Rejoice that the Lord’s Epiphany has come to you, revealing who He is and re-creating who you are, so that you may join the wise men in “rejoicing with exceedingly great joy” at His coming to the world for your salvation.

In the holy name of our God, who has been made flesh and was revealed to the nations, for all to see, and for all to believe, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.