Archive for February, 2019

Loving Like Jesus

Sunday, February 24th, 2019

Epiphany 7-C
February 124, 2019
Rev. Brian Henderson, Senior Pastor of
Trinity Lutheran Church
San Diego, CA 92114

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“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back.” [Luke 6:27-30]

Wow! That’s some kind of “crazy love right”? Love is beautiful! Love is messy! Love makes the world go ‘round. There are more songs written about love than any other topic. People will tell you that love is what makes us unique from all other creatures. But this morning Jesus is telling us that what we think love is, is not the kind of love He’s given us or wants us to demonstrate to this unbelieving world. If you settle for the kind of love that the world thinks is good, then you don’t yet know God’s love. You say, “Well I really love my family and close friends”, and to that Jesus says, “If you just love those who love you, so what, even sinners who won’t receive me as the Son of God and their Savior do that.” If you counter that deficiency by saying, “But I always try to do good for them, even when it is a sacrifice.” Jesus responds, “So what, even the worst of sinners will do good for people they know and like.” And to that you say, “But Lord, I’m a giving person and I try to give when ever I can.” And to that Jesus says, “Is that right? Well even judged and condemned sinners say the same thing.”

So what is going on here? If we are no better than those who don’t know Jesus, how can we be sure that God loves us and saves us? Well let’s look at the rest of our gospel lesson and try to understand what Jesus is saying and also offering us this morning.

“And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.” [Luke 6:31]

A person of this world, that is a person without Jesus sees these words as a challenge or a goal. It hears them as the Golden Rule, you know… “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” This worldly person considers the golden rule and says, “You know, I like that rule; I’ve tried to follow it most of my life, and for the most part I’ve done pretty good with it. But sometimes, considering the people I’m dealing with, there are exceptions. With some people, the rule, my rule is either avoid them or “Do unto them before they do unto me.”

For people of this world and even for Christians who have allowed this world to cloud their judgment, this “Golden Rule” has become a bronze suggestion. And instead of feeling guilt when they cannot love the way Jesus asks us to love, they congratulate themselves for a good try. They no longer see the perfection of God in His Word or in their life, instead they see it as an unreachable goal but worthy of keeping as a standard. When they do this they’ve downgraded Jesus as simply another lifestyle coach.

These worldly people are easy to spot and their just as easy to mix with. And when we mix with them long enough, we can get lost in the midst of them. But thank God Jesus promises in our Baptism, that He will never leave nor forsake us! Thank God that through the Holy Spirit Who dwells in us richly, we hear in both the Golden Rule and the rest of our Gospel lesson both the impossible perfection of God and the mercy, love, and forgiveness of God!

“Become merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” [Luke 6:36]

A Baptized child of God hears the Words of Jesus this morning, and recognizes the perfection of God; a perfection which can never be attained by sinful men and women like us. A baptized child of God has been taught to look at the things of this world and see them as they are, sinful and unclean. You see, our new baptized nature calls a thing what it is; it admits that on its own it could never truly possess and reflect the kind of love that Jesus is calling for, because in its nature, that is if left alone, it is sinful and unclean, left without hope or health. It knows that this kind of sacrificial love can only come as a gift from God. 

Through this message of Jesus Christ we are forced to see God’s perfection, and then we are moved to confess to Him that we have fallen short and deserve only His punishment. But in that same message, we are shown God’s mercy for the world. And through the cross of Jesus Christ we are moved to hope that this same mercy would be ours. In God’s Gospel of mercy and forgiveness, we hear the Words,  “God so loved the “world” that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” and we hope that these Words, this kind of love, mercy, and forgiveness would include us in the “whoever” part. And God in His love hears our cry for mercy and forgiveness and makes this gift of love personal, for you! God gives to you who turn to Him forgiveness. And now, that which was very public (for the world), has become very personal; you have become the whoever. He gives you this personal love and mercy in the waters of your baptism. 

To you who both believe and receive the gift of His Son Jesus, you have been born again by the mercy of God. Born again by the forgiveness of God. Born again through the cross of Jesus Christ. You have been recreated through the washing of the water and the Word. You have been saved, recreated solely through the work of God’s Holy Spirit. And now, God’s Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus lives within you. You who are baptized have been transformed, are being transformed, and will be transformed by the renewing of your mind and heart. This new nature is called the baptismal life.

This new baptized nature of yours has been created through God’s forgiving love and shown to you in mercy for the sake of Jesus Christ. This forgiven nature of yours can’t help but love as Jesus loves; it can’t help but show mercy and forgiveness just at you were given these things. But there is just one problem, your old sinful nature is not quite dead yet. So your new nature must be encouraged with Words like…

“Give and it will be given to you.” [Luke 6:38]

In order for us to be filled with and express God’s forgiving love, we are encouraged every day to fight our sinful nature. We are asked to crucify it with Christ and to drown it in the waters of our own baptism. And as we fight this “good fight” we will come to know both victory and defeat. When the victories come, and they will, let us remember to thank God for His work of love, mercy and forgiveness within us and through us. And when defeats come, that is when we sin, let us be quick to confess this to God and then turn to Jesus and His cross where we are reminded constantly that through Him, God the Father has come to us in love, and in our Baptism He has forgiven us of all our sins and loves us eternally. This rhythm of life is called repentance and it alone produces divine love and forgiveness, which can only come through Christ.

For a moment, let’s allow our Old Testament lesson (Genesis 45:3–15) to illustrate this truth. Remember Joseph has been through a lot.   He was sold.  He was accused of sleeping with another man’s wife…and he did not.  He was put in jail. He was almost forgotten about….but through it all God did not forget about him.   In the sight of God, we are all on a level playing field.   God does not forget about us.  God does not forsake us.  His eye is always on the sparrow and He’s always watching out for us. When he reveals Himself to his brothers now…they are probably trembling in their sandals.   Joseph has made it to the top.   Joseph is at the top, but not because of Joseph, but rather this is God’s doing.  Joseph said, God sent me here.  Joseph acknowledged  that he was where he was, he had what he had, he was blessed as he was, because it was God who had brought him through all that he had been through.  He wasn’t mad at his brothers, though we certainly would understand if he was. He was not getting even with his brothers, he was not judging his brothers because of the wrong that they had done.  Perhaps he remembered the “silver rule”, which says that two wrongs don’t make a right?  If someone else is wrong, don’t join them in their wrongness.  Wrong is wrong….no matter who is doing it or saying it.    I think I remember hearing  somebody said, “When they go low, we go high?”

You know friends, our life in Christ is so much more than keeping the Golden Rule or the Silver Rule, isn’t it? In our Gospel lesson Jesus isn’t just telling us that if we follow His rules precisely we’ll be saved, because even our combined best “good deeds” can’t even put a dent in our personal debt of sin, let alone humanity’s sin. If doing our best to keep rules was all that was needed to overcome humanity’s ills, there wouldn’t have needed to be a cross to provide lasting forgiveness. 

Ultimately, we can’t please God by being good, only Jesus can do that. But, Jesus is inviting us to receive the goodness that He has paid for; to receive it in faith and to let it work within us. He’s asking us to hand over the grudges, the hurts, the sins to Him and let Him remove them through the power of His forgiveness. He’s asking you to receive His mercy by grace so that He can unleash the power of His forgiving love through your life to others. That’s God at work in Jesus’ love and passion through Christians like us; encouraging us to give to others as He has given so much to us.

Listen, God knows forgiveness is difficult. He knows that it takes courage and strength to offer mercy where it is undeserved. God the Father paid the highest price for our sins by sending His only begotten Son Jesus to an undeserving, gruesome death. But he also wants us to live out the truth that Jesus rose from the dead so that we would know that one day so shall we. But in the mean time Jesus invites us to live as He lives, bringing one forgiven sinner at a time the love and mercy of God through the forgiveness of sins. Through the work of Christ, God has wiped your slate clean so that he has restored His relationship of love with us. And now he asks you to become a minister of reconciliation to all who have ever hurt you. He longs to overwhelm you with his love and mercy to the degree that offering others mercy and love comes from a place of overflow rather than your own strength. He longs to fill you with courage and perspective so that you can forgive those who need a glimpse of God’s forgiving love and mercy, unearned and given only through Jesus Christ. AMEN.

CHRIST IS RISEN!

Monday, February 18th, 2019

Epiphany 6-C
February 17, 2019
Rev. Richard Stark, Assoc. Pastor of
Trinity Lutheran Church
San Diego, CA 92114

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Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, (1 Corinthians 15:1-4)

CHRIST IS RISEN!  (response: He has risen indeed)

When my children were little, and even sometimes today, when I would see them hurt or struggling with uncontrollable issues in their lives, I often wished I could trade places with them. I wished that either I could wave some magical wand and make it all disappear… or that God could somehow lay those burdens on me and lift them off of my children.  

One of my boys used to suffer from “night terrors” or terrible nightmares and he would wake up screaming in the middle of the night. My wife would hold him, carry him, and walk around with him, trying to sooth him and convince him that these things were not real.  Sometimes simply waking him up would calm him down. Sometimes he’d continue screaming and crying, and as a father, I would look on helplessly, praying that God would take these nightmares away and sometimes I would pray for them to afflict me instead of my son.

I don’t say these things to boast my abilities as a father; there are many things I could have done better. But, I think all parents have those feelings for their children at some point. It’s part of the way we love our children and part of a parent wanting the best for their children. For me, it’s part of my “fatherly love” for my boys.  Again, I think every parent experiences similar feelings when their children are hurting and struggling.

And even if you’re not a parent, I believe everyone has similar moments when you see another human being suffering, whether family or not, and you just wish you could take that pain away, or wish that the pain could afflict you for just a moment, to give that person relief.

Throughout Scripture, in fact the entire Bible, is full of examples of our Almighty God’s Fatherly love that He has for us. And especially throughout the Epistles, St. Paul repeatedly and painstakingly points out just how much God really loves us.  It is Paul who tells us in Romans chapter 5:

“…God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by His blood, much more shall we be saved by Him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies [of God] we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by His life.” (Romans 5:8-10)

And, Paul points out that out of His “Fatherly love,” God looked upon us in our wicked, sinful condition and He lovingly longed to take away our afflictions and in doing so, He sent His Only Son, God became man, He sent His Only Son to take our place and put all our afflictions upon Himself, so that we could be reconciled to our Heavenly Father. God did this simply because He loves us and longs for a relationship with us.

I find it interesting that in today’s Epistle lesson, Paul speaks about how some of the people in the church at Corinth were struggling with the concept that Jesus died and then rose from the dead. It’s a situation that I wish I had more information on. I mean, it leaves us wondering was it simply that these Corinthians were having a hard time comprehending the miraculous? Or, was it that they were being deceived by someone? Maybe it was a rabbi who didn’t believe in the afterlife? Or, a Greek scholar who believed that consciousness was the only real reality, and that reality ended with death? We just don’t know.  But we do know that someone within the Corinthian church challenged the idea that Jesus died and rose from the dead, otherwise Paul would not have written about it.

Here’s the problem as Paul addressed it, if these people were right… if there was no resurrection from the dead for Jesus, then there could be no resurrection for us. If that’s the case, then what are we doing here? We might as well go home now, put a “For Sale” sign on the front of the church and just go home.

Everything we do here in this church, everything we proclaim, finds its root in the claim that Jesus has rose from the dead.  Everything we believe, teach, and confess, hinges on that one core act of love by our God, that Christ is risen from the dead.

Paul tells us that if Christ has not been risen from the dead, then our preaching, our proclaiming the Gospel, our faith and everything about it, would be in vain.  

Think about it. According to scripture we proclaim, there is only one thing that saves us – Christ crucified, Christ died, and Christ resurrected. If Jesus did not rise from the dead then what we proclaim is nothing more than a lie.  Our readings, our teachings, our hymns, and everything we do to proclaim God’s glory, would be nothing more than a centuries old scam.

We love to celebrate Christmas, the “birth” of our Lord and Savior. But without the resurrection, Jesus would have been just another child born some 2000 years ago. Without our foreknowledge of what Christ would do for us, the birth of this child would mean nothing.  Every person, man or woman beside Adam and Eve, that has ever lived were born of a mother. You and I were born into this world. Without the resurrection, Jesus’ birth would be just another baby born into this world.

And even Jesus’ death, His death on the cross, without the resurrection would be just another person dying.  Again, every man or woman that has ever stepped on this earth either has died or is going to die. You and I are going to experience an earthly death.

In doing my research for today’s lesson, I wanted to find an example of someone who gave his life in order to save someone else.  And I wanted to somehow tie it in with Black History Month. Amazingly, what I learned is that 89 different African-American men have been awarded the Medal of Honor in service to this country. Reading through those men’s stories was fascinating.

What I was looking for is a story similar to USMC Private First Class James Anderson Jr. of Los Angeles, California.  PFC Anderson joined the Marine Corps in February 17, 1966 (That’s 53 years ago today).  PFC Anderson went through Basic Training right here at Marine Corps Recruit Depot – San Diego. And, then he was stationed at Camp Pendleton before being sent off to fight in Vietnam.  On February 28, 1967, (a little over a year later) He served as a rifleman in Company F, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division.  While in the Quang Tri province on Vietnam’s central coast, PFC Anderson and his platoon were the lead element on a mission to rescue a heavily besieged patrol when they themselves came under heavy fire in the dense jungle.

The platoon reacted swiftly, getting on line as best they could in the thick terrain, and began returning fire. PFC Anderson found himself tightly bunched together with other members of the platoon, only 20 meters from the enemy position. An intense firefight ensued. Suddenly, an enemy grenade landed in the midst of the Marines, right next to and rolled alongside PFC Anderson. Without hesitation and with complete disregard for his own personal safety, he reached out, grasped the grenade, pulled it to his chest and curled around it as it went off.  PFC Anderson’s body absorbed the major force of the explosion, taking his life, but sparing the rest of his platoon. 

PFC Anderson was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously by President Lyndon B. Johnson later that year. He was the first African-American Marine awarded the Medal of Honor. PFC Anderson would have only been 72 years old this year.

While Jesus tells us, “Greater love has no man then this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13) Jesus was talking about Himself and what He was about to do.  While PFC Anderson’s actions were substantially courageous and honorable to sacrifice his own life to safe his friends, his actions were only temporary and could only offer his friends a short reprieve. 

And while the Pharisees thought that Jesus’ death on the cross was the end of Him, it was just the beginning of eternal life for you and I.

What then do we have faith in, if not the promise of God to save us from our sin, and give us eternal life? And, if Jesus did not rise from the dead, then we have no link to that forgiveness, or the gift of everlasting life.

Again, Paul tells us in Romans, chapter 6:

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 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.

If there is no resurrection from the dead, the act of baptism is meaningless. It is an empty act and we don’t have the assurance of eternal life or the forgiveness of sins.  

If that were the case, I might as well not finish… Jeez! I might as well just walk out of here now and not even worry about this afternoon… for if Jesus did not rise from the dead then the act of baptism, the gift of communion, the assurance of confession and absolution… are all meaningless… they mean nothing without the Good News of the Gospel.

The Good News is summed up in the words of Martin Luther:

“Therefore one must teach as follows: ‘Behold, Christ died for you! He took sin, death, and hell upon Himself and submitted Himself. But nothing could subdue Him, for He was too strong; He rose from the dead, was completely victorious, and subjected everything to Himself. He did all this in order that you might be free from it and lord over it. If you believe this, then you have it! For we are not able to do all this with our own power.” We can’t even belief without the power of the Holy Spirit.   Luther goes on to say, “Consequently, Christ had to do it, otherwise there would have been no need for Him to come down from heaven.”

The next to last verse of our Epistle lesson is a bit unnerving, it tells us what the end result would be if Christ is not alive, if He did not conquer death. It says:

If our hope in Christ is good for this life only and no more, then we deserve more pity than anyone else in all the world. (1 Corinthians 15:19 GNT)

In other words: If all we get out of Christ is a little inspiration for a few short years, then we’re a pretty sorry lot. (1 Corinthians 15:19 MSG)

If there is no resurrection, then the Christian faith as we know it falls apart, it’s practices, it’s teachings would all be lies, for they are all based on Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection.

But here is what changes everything – Yes indeed, CHRIST IS RISEN!  (response: He has risen indeed)

We know that when we proclaim THIS GOSPEL, people come to life, and people come to faith. Our baptism affirms us to it; our celebration of the Lord’s Supper shouts it out – Jesus died and rose again for us!  Jesus died and rose again for you!

And, this faith that has been ignited in us by the Holy Spirit, tells us that our credo means something. It is at the heart of our confession and absolution, for without Jesus’ atoning death, without His blood having been shed for us, there is no forgiveness of sin. When we say the creed, look at the words following the words, “Jesus”: was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, he is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he will come to judge the living and the dead. 

 THIS IS WHAT WE BELIEVE! We stake our lives on the fact that Jesus rose from the dead. We stake our lives on it, now and eternally. 

And we bear witness that we are free from guilt, free from shame, free from sin and free from Satan and death; We live in Christ now and we will live in Christ eternally!

We live each day knowing that Christ has died, Christ rose from the dead, and Christ will come again – And He will to bring us to glory with the Father in heaven. And, we say, “Come Lord, Jesus, come!”

Now, may the Father who gives us that peace that surpasses all human understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

And all the faithful said, “Amen.”

OK, If You Say So!

Sunday, February 10th, 2019

Epiphany 5-C
February 10, 2019
Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor of
Trinity Lutheran Church
San Diego, CA 92114

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It’s been a long morning of hard work for Simon-Peter.  Fishing, fishing, and more fishing and not a single fish to show for his labor.  Peter is tired and he is discouraged!  He’s sitting at the edge of the lake cleaning his nets, hearing Jesus speak… hearing Him teach, but not really listening to the words.  He’s more concerned about how he’s going to care for his family.  Have you been there?  Do you know how Peter feels?

The crowds are pressing in on Jesus to hear the word of God. 

They seem hungry to hear it, and all Peter can think of is how hungry his family will be if he can’t put food on the table!  As the crowd presses in on Jesus, they’re also moving Him to the water’s edge. What’s Jesus answer to this dilemma?  He calls for a floating pulpit, a boat, Simon Peter’s boat to be exact.  Peter must have thought, “Well at least it’s good for something!  It sure didn’t do me any good today!”   Jesus climbs into the boat and begins to teach the people about God and His kingdom of grace. They are hanging on His every Word, because they are like sheep without a shepherd…  Within the voice of this shepherd, unlike false ones, they find an unexplainable sense of comfort and assurance within His words.

We don’t know exactly what Jesus preached that day because it isn’t recorded for us.  Peter probably didn’t know either, because He was more interested in cleaning his nets and providing for his family.  But we do know that He was most certainly preaching faith into the hearts of those who were listening!  “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing the Word of God,” which is always centered in the message of Christ Jesus!   What is that message?  Repent!  Turn away from your sinful notions about God and His Kingdom of righteousness; hear the truth about your sinful nature, and then hear how the Father of mercy and love has solved that fatal problem, and hear how He gives you new life through the forgiveness of your many sins!

Now when Jesus had finished His sermon, knowing that those Word’s were bringing new life into the hearts of the people, He turned to the one man who needed to be listening, but wasn’t.  

Jesus turned to Simon-Peter and said, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”  And Peter answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” [Luke. 5:4-5]

Could you hear the frustration in Peter’s words?  “Put out?!  What do you think we’ve been doing all morning?  But, ok Lord… if you say so!  But I’m not happy with this!”  

Some of us might find fault with Peter for throwing his little fit… I mean after all, this is the same Jesus who recently healed his mother-in-law from a life threatening illness!  “Come on man!” we might be thinking, “Where’s your appreciation?  Where’s your faith?”  But the proof of faith is in the fruit of service! Peter did as the living Word of God instructed, all be it reluctantly.  And in the end, he was blessed because of his obedience.

Friends, attitude and obedience are not the same thing!  Attitudes change like the winds, or like the waves upon the waters that are being fished!  But obedience and trust in God’s Word are the very thing that controls the winds and the waters, even the fish beneath them.  

While Peter was busy tending to the worries of life, hundreds of people were blessed with faith unto salvation, which came to them through the living Word of God.  This was a Word that Peter had probably heard many times.  Maybe he felt that he could afford to do something else with his time… this time, but Jesus had other ideas.  Jesus wanted Peter to be blessed also.  So He calls and Peter responds!  Reluctant but obedient!  

Peter needed to hear the Word… we need to hear it!  But what is that word?

It is the same message that the people on shore needed to hear… forgiveness!  

What was Peter’s reaction to the miraculous catch of fish that he, John and James took in?  He was ashamed!  Ashamed that he neglected the Words of His Master!  Ashamed that His heart was not centered on the miraculous Words of Jesus.  And so we hear his confession, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” [vs.8]   

Dear friends, in this simple story we see the loving care that Jesus demonstrates for all God’s children, even the ones who aren’t listening or won’t listen!  Peter’s ears had checked out because his heart was consumed by other things.  But He needed to hear the Word; he needed to hear about God’s love, so Jesus engaged his eyes in order to open his heart!  And so it is with us!

So many times we let the worries and cares, or maybe the fun and distractions of our lives drowned out God’s Word… His living presence in our lives.  And when we do this, we begin to lose perspective, God’s perspective; so He intervenes.  What is it that He’s trying to tell us?  That we need Him… we need His forgiveness… we need His Words of eternal life!  For in Him we live and breathe, and find our existence!  

And when He gets our attention, like Peter, we are ashamed and full of remorse!  We confess to Him that we’ve lived our lives as if He did not matter.  And praise God for this confession friends, because it is the very thing that moves Him to quickly speak His Words of love and forgiveness to us.  “Do not be afraid!  I have overcome sin, death and the devil!  You are saved from these things… you are forgiven.  But you are saved with a purpose!”

And what’s that purpose?  To be obedient!  Jesus wants you to follow Him where ever He leads!  He wants you to take His Word with you in your heart wherever you go!  What Word is that?  The same Word you received in your baptism… the same Word you hear preached and read for yourself… the same Word you eat and drink; the Word of repentance and forgiveness!  Jesus wants you to bring Him and His message of eternal life to your neighbor… He wants you to be a fisher of men!  And unlike the fishing that takes place in rivers, lakes, and oceans, where being caught means death, He wants to help you catch your neighbor so that He can bring them life!  He wants you to catch people unto eternal life!

Jesus asked Peter to leave everything and follow Him.  And for some, for pastors, chaplains, and missionaries, that is still His call!  While that certain call is admirable, it is not the only call!  Jesus calls each of us in whatever position of life we find ourselves to be fishers of men!  You don’t need to take a course on evangelism or persuasive speech to fish these waters!  All you need is a call!  All you need is a Word from God!  And my friends, each of us has this call, and each of us has the message.  We are to speak the Words of life… we are to speak of repentance and forgiveness.  The same message that saved us is the very message that will save our neighbors!

Dear friends, this story about Peter’s experience is recorded here for us, so that his experience will become ours; so that the same faith and energy that was created in Peter will be created in us.  

God wants us like Peter to have a strong faith that will overcome the doubts of this world, and then He wants us to have the obedience to follow Jesus and see others caught by the very same message.  

As you live your life friends, be ready to allow God to speak to you and through you… be ready to let Him call you and lead you.  And when you have an opportunity to speak for Him, share His message with your neighbors.  The ones that God has prepared friends will listen and they will follow you, just as the crowds on the lake shore hung on every Word that Jesus spoke.  And where will you lead them?  To the very same place that God dutifully ministers to you… right here in this very church!  Here where the baptism font waits to destroy the power of sin, death, and the devil!  Here to hear the Words of eternal life proclaimed!  Here to feast at His table where forgiveness is served through His body and blood in, with, and under the bread and wine!

Friends, after Jesus gave Peter his direction, and after Peter responded in obedience, the God given result was a catch of fish that was miraculous.  Seeing that this catch was far more than he could have imagined or handled alone, “(Peter) signaled to (his) partners in the other boat to come and help (him). And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink.” [vs. 7]  

What we learn in these Words is that fishing for men is a team endeavor.  We need each of you if we are to fill this boat, Christ’s church, even this little boat we call Trinity.  That’s your calling; it’s the calling of each and every one of us!  And why should we fill this church?  So that the Word that is proclaimed may draw other “fishers of men” into the service of Christ, and so that the Kingdom may be expanded one forgiven sinner at a time!  

I pray for a blessed and fruitful catch, in Jesus name…. AMEN!

The Way of Love!

Sunday, February 3rd, 2019

Epiphany 4-C
February 3, 2019
Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor of
Trinity Lutheran Church
San Diego, CA 92114

Click here for audio of this message

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Cor. 13:4-7)

A woman was injured when a trolly derailed and veered onto a portion of the stations platform where she was standing. She was caught beneath one of the cars. The police sent for a crane to lift the car off her body. While waiting for the crane, a crowd of people gathered out of curiosity.
    One man pushed through the crowd, crawled beneath the car that had been derailed and was teetering precariously, and said to her, “Take my hand.” As she took his hand, he began to pray for her, and she felt warmth and courage. This calmed her and prevented her from going into shock.
    After the crane arrived and the woman was released, she said, “I never thought an outstretched hand could mean so much.”

We all love to hear heroic, self sacrificing stories like this one because they communicate some of the best qualities of love that people can display.  We celebrate this type of “self sacrificing” love when we hear about it, and God agrees… we should celebrate!  And yet, God doesn’t want you to just admire and celebrate this type of love, He insists that it should be alive and central within each of us!  He wants you to be a doer not just an admirer!  Listen to how Jesus uses love to sum up all of the 10 Commandments: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” [Matthew 22:37–40]

This morning dear friends, God is stretching out His hand to you in this sinful world and He wants you to grab onto Him through His Word.  He wants His Word to change you and rearrange you so that this type of self giving even self sacrificing love WILL be natural within you.  He has already begun this great work within your heart through your Holy baptism, and now he wants to continue that work.  Listen to the Words God gave to St. Paul and let His Spirit work within you.  

Love is patient and kind: A better word I think for patience is “longsuffering”.  Love is long-suffering and kind!  This world we live in is full of evil people; dare I say there are even evil people in Christ’s church.  When evil confronts us, when a Christian brother or sister deliberately sins against us, our society advises, “Pay them back!”  But God’s Word says, “No!  Because you are to love me, you must then let that love step in and take over.  Don’t pay evil for evil, instead love your enemy; pray for them.  Don’t follow your natural instinct because it is sinful, instead suffer long, and be kind to that person.”

I know, already we’ve been confronted with God’s Word in a way that really makes us uncomfortable, and yet that is the true meaning of what God demands from us within His commandments.  But our text this morning takes us even deeper; deeper to the point of despair.  Listen as God explains how we must love each other:

Love does not envy!  Another way to say that is, “Love does not speak or do evil out of jealousy!”  That green eyed monster called Jealousy is never happy with what it has, but it’s always eyeballing what someone else has and saying, “That should be mine.  I deserve that too!”  Why if we let it, that monster would trample over anything and anyone just to get what it wants.  But if you really love as God demands, you won’t let jealousy control you!

  

Love doesn’t boast or brag!  We know envy is wrong, and so, to combat it what do we do?  We brag about what we do have, knowing that these very words may lead others to become jealous!  So, love does not envy or boast! Not in words and not in actions!        

Love isn’t arrogant!  In other words, if you really love, you will not be “full of yourself” but full of God’s love for others; when your ego is bigger than your heart, someone will always get hurt.   

Love is not rude!  Another way to say this is, “Love never behaves improperly!”  True love is always concerned for what is right in God’s sight and then it goes out of its way not to offend others.  Paul uses this same word in other places when he talks about how people are shamefully and improperly led by their sexual desires.  If you really have love, then you will act properly!

Love doesn’t insist on its own way!  What this means friends, is that love is not self pleasing.  If you know others are watching you and will be offended by something you do or don’t do, don’t simply say, “Well I’m saved by grace so I can do or not do whatever I like!”  No friends, true love is always interested in the welfare of others!

Love isn’t irritable… it isn’t easily provoked into anger!  Well these words speak for themselves, so we’ll let them stand.  

Love isn’t resentful!  Or another way to say this is that love does not keep a list of wrongs on someone else.

Finally, love doesn’t rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth!  If we love friends, we will not keep silent when we see something happening that we know is wrong!  If we love, we will not let political correctness or peer pressure keep us from speaking the truth in love!  Wrong doing will hide the truth, but God’s love is displayed in His Word!

God’s Word… so full of love but so full of truth, and truth can be a hard pill to swallow!  God’s truthful Word comes to our sin like a bright search light searching for any threat to God’s perfect righteousness.  It shows us what we must discover…something we would rather not discover.  And when we see it, we try to pretend it isn’t there!


A wealthy old woman was at her city’s art museum, and she was intently staring at a framed image she had never seen before. She called to an employee and said, “Come here young man! What is the meaning of this awful picture you have displayed here?  I find the image shallow and revolting! What do you call it?” The employee answered without even the slightest expression, “That madam, is a mirror.” 

Dear friends, God’s Word is also a mirror. We may pick it up and read it simply to evaluate it with a critical eye, but in the end, we always find that we are the ones being evaluated. It shows us how we really look..  But if you are willing to force yourself to look, and if you will fight the urge to turn away, Jesus will show you a more excellent way!  He will step in front of your reflection and cover it with His own and say, “Let my reflection be yours!  Look at my image and then see your new reflection; a reflection that I gave to you within the waters of your baptism.  Look now at my love and let it change you!”

Well, let’s do just that.  Let’s look at the same list that describes perfect God-given love and see how Jesus did with it.  Let’s see what a marvelous reflection He’s exchanged for ours:

Love does not envy! Jesus said, “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.  For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.” [Jn. 6:37-39]

Love does not boast or brag! As the all powerful Son of God hung upon the cross, “knowing that all was now finished, (He) said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” [Jn. 19:28]

Love is not arrogant! “But (He) made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” [Phil. 2:7]

Love is not rude!  “When he had said these things, one of the officers standing by struck Jesus with his hand, saying, “Is that how you answer the high priest?” Jesus answered him, “If what I said is wrong, bear witness about the wrong; but if what I said is right, why do you strike me?” [Jn. 18:22-23]

Love doesn’t insist on its own way!  “For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of Him who sent Me.” [Jn. 6:38]

Love isn’t irritable… it isn’t easily provoked into anger!  “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem (Jesus said), the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!” [Lk. 13:34]                   

Love isn’t resentful!  “And when they came to the place that is called (Golgotha) The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left.  And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” [Lk. 23:33-34]

Dear friends, Christ has really replaced your sinful reflection with His own.  

He has covered your “unrighteousness” with His righteousness; He did this long ago upon the cross… the tree of love and long-suffering.  He chose to be planted and crucified upon the hard rock called Golgotha so that by His pain, suffering, and death your hard rocky heart of sin might be smashed and rebuilt into a heart of love.  And all of this work was made yours in your baptism.  In your baptism, Jesus promised you that you are not alone!  Like the man in the story who crawled under the street car with the trapped and dying woman to hold her hand and encourage her to hang on, Jesus is with you!  He is reminding you that His love and long-suffering are now yours and He is encouraging you to take it.  This love friends, is a spiritual gift which moves your heart and hands to serve and become a Christ-like person for your neighbor.  True God given love dear friends, is the name not for the act of love, but for the heart that feels it!  This sinful world might be able to imitate the actions of love, but without Christ love implanted within their hearts, their work is simply as St. Paul says, “Like a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.”  It is nothing!

This morning friends, if you find yourself falling short, go to the one who is long-suffering and patient, kind and loving!  Go to the only person who never fell to envy or pride!  Go to your brother, friend, and Lord, the one who is never arrogant or rude.  Go to Jesus Christ, who is also your God and your Savior.  Confess to Him how you’ve fallen short of His love and then hear His Words of forgiveness and restoration new and fresh!  

Believe that through His Word first given to you in the waters of Holy baptism you were born again.  Believe that through His Holy Meal you are allowed to hear, see, smell, touch, and taste forgiveness.  And then leave this place refreshed and forgiven for a purpose… you are to be Christ for your neighbor!  You are to be a person who lives for others!  

You will be this person, because He who began this good work in you long ago will complete it!  We pray this truth in Jesus name… AMEN!