Archive for April, 2019

These Things Are Written That You May Believe!

Sunday, April 28th, 2019

Easter 2C
April 28, 2019
Rev. Brian T. Henderson, Senior Pastor of
Trinity Lutheran Church
San Diego, CA 92114

Click here for audio of this message

Christ is Risen!  He is Risen indeed!  Jesus Christ is risen from the dead so that you can know for certain that sin, death, and the devil have no power over you!  That is the good news of the cross and the empty tomb!  We need to know this because each of us has a real and natural fear of death.  

On February 27, 1991, a few hours before President Bush announced the end of the Gulf War, a young soldier named Clayton Carpenter stepped on a land mine somewhere in the desert sands of Iraq.  In the confusion of battle, he was reported to have died.  That report was first given to his command and then delivered to his mother back in the U.S.  But three days later that same command discovered that this was a case of mistaken identity; Clayton Carpenter was still alive!  Clayton’s command quickly picked up the phone and called Clayton’s mother with the good news, “Clayton is alive!”  She would not believe it; she was still too deep in her grief!  Then her son called her; still it seemed like a dream… it seemed too good to be true!  So, she began to ask him questions she felt only he would know the answer to.  A short time latter two army officers arrived at her front door and assured her that it was true, her son was alive!

In a similar way, on a rocky hill called Golgotha, Jesus was crucified, but three days later, the Word was delivered, “He is risen!  He’s alive!”  The evidence kept pouring in hour after hour, more and more people were encountering their risen Lord and Savior, but for some it seemed too good to be true!

This is the tension that should be read into our gospel reading this morning.  

You see, it isn’t simply a historical account of events that happened long ago, but instead it is something that is happening in the here and now!  Jesus has risen, and yet so many people, maybe even our own loved ones refuse to believe.  To them it seems too good to be true!  

We can become discouraged when we share our faith; we may begin to doubt the effectiveness of our faith story, because after all we weren’t eye witnesses.  But that is not how God wants you to approach His mission of spreading the gospel, because believing and receiving the resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ is a work that He does within the hearts of sinful people; it is a work that He did even in your own heart!  You believe because of God’s Word and the gift of faith that He gave to you in His Word!  You believe because you see, but you do not see with physical eyes but eyes of faith!

You see, God has caused you to be born again into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.  And by God’s power (you) are being guarded through faith for a salvation (that is) ready to be revealed in the last (day). [1 Pet. 1:3b-5]

All of this is the same work that God began on Easter morning and it is a work that He continues today.  He does this work through two gifts: The gift of faith and the gift of mission!

Because faith is a gift from God, it only makes sense that He gives that gift in a way He desires, isn’t that true?  

Listen to how he first gave faith to a bunch of frightened disciples who were locked away in a room. “On (Easter evening) the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”  When He said this, He showed them His hands and His side.  Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.” [John 20:19-20]  Now, many will read this and think, “See He let them see Him!  Why can’t He do that today?”  But friends, the fact that they saw Him isn’t what gave them faith; instead it was only the tool God used to open their hearts to the same gift of faith that has saved you.  And what is it that God always uses to give faith?  What does scripture say?  “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing through the word about Christ.” [Rom. 10:17]

What Word did Jesus speak that gave them faith?  It was “Peace be with you!”  Don’t hear these words just as a standard greeting; you see when Jesus speaks them He gives exactly what He offers.  He gives faith that believes that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.  He gives faith that believes that Jesus has overcome the grave.  He gives faith to believe that Jesus has defeated the devil and completely removed the consequence of your sin!  That is the kind of peace that Jesus offers and gives to those who don’t reject it!  That is the very message of the cross and empty tomb that He wanted these frightened disciples who were locked away to receive!  

But He had another gift to give to them; one that would carry the same power of God out into a sinful and dying world.

Jesus gave them a mission; to not only announce the forgiveness of sins and victory over death and the devil, but to also provide these very things in His name and through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.  Listen: “Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you.  As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”  And when he had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.” [Jn. 20:21-23]

Now Jesus makes it clear that this peace that He is giving is not just for the “eyewitnesses” but it is for the entire world!  It is divine power for building, nurturing, and protecting His church.  It is the very thing that God uses to build His kingdom.  This peace first comes to the church, you and me and then it is sent out through us to a dying world!  So you see, in order to bring and give Christ peace we must first have that peace.  So what is that peace?  It is God’s power to forgive sins!  When Jesus breathed on them, He was giving the Holy Spirit not just to them but through them!  He was blessing their sharing of the peace through their sharing of God’s gospel or good news.  What is that good news?  Again, it is the forgiveness of sins.  Which sins?  All sins; the sins of the world!

But there is a condition isn’t there?  Yes, the one being forgiven must first admit that he has sinned.  If he will not agree that he needs God’s forgiveness then He will not receive that forgiveness!  The greatest sin is the refusal to believe that Jesus has risen from the dead!  If you will not receive that resurrection peace, then you cannot receive the gospel peace which frees you from sin, death, and the devil.  And that takes us to Thomas and his unbelief.

On that Easter evening, there was one person who was absent when Jesus appeared and gave them peace; a person who said that he was ready to die with Jesus!  So they went out and found him and told him, “(Thomas) We have seen the Lord!  He has risen!!”  

Poor old Thomas, he seems to be a skeptic lifted right out of our own community.  He responds to all of their joy and excitement with, “Unless I see in His hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.  (No way and no how!)” [vs. 25]

And so it is with the world today, maybe even some of our own friends and family!  But we shouldn’t be too hard on them, because doubt is understandable.  After all Jesus was crucified, dead, and buried!  No doubt about it, Jesus was dead!  And to that doubt, the disciples must have pleaded, “But we saw him!  We touched Him!  He spoke with us and even ate with some of us!”  And to that Thomas then and the doubting Thomases that live with us today, the response is, “Nope!  I won’t believe until He shows me Himself!”  How sad these cases of doubt are; it locks people away with their own sins and fears.  As long as they doubt and remain fearful they also remain miserable and lost.  How can we change them?  Well we can’t; only Jesus can give them His peace; all we can do is wait and pray!

“Eight days later, His disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them.  Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.”  Then He said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put your hand (out), and place it in my side.  Do not disbelieve, but believe.”  (And) Thomas answered Him, “My Lord and my God!”  Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me?  Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed!” 

How did Jesus give Thomas saving faith?  The same way He always does; through the power of His Word, a Word of gospel peace!  It was the same Word of forgiveness that He still gives today!  What about your unbelieving friends and family, and those throughout our community who doubt?  Where and how shall they receive the peace of the Lord, the forgiveness of sins?  Through that same Gospel Word of peace and forgiveness!  Keep on praying for them!  Keep on asking God to open their eyes of faith!  Keep on loving them, sharing God’s Word with them, and inviting them here to hear it for themselves!  It is the Word alone that brings that peace and Jesus will not give up on them, and neither shall we; after all, He died for them too!

(Let me close by reminding you that it is Christ’s resurrection alone that gives you complete victory on the final Day of Judgment.  That is why we confess, “I believe in the resurrection of the body.”  Christ has risen bodily, strong and victorious over death.  His resurrection wasn’t just a spiritual victory but also a bodily victory for us!  As He rose from the dead so shall we!  We can’t understand this, or imagine what kind of body we will have, but we know that it will be like our Lords; Holy, perfect, and righteous, just as it was in the beginning in the garden.  And because by faith, we know this is true, we can stomp on the grave and say, “Where, O death, is your victory” Thanks be to God!  He gives the victory (to each of us who know this truth by faith through the power of His Living Word) our Lord Jesus Christ!” [1 Cor. 15:55, 57]  Christ has risen!  He has risen indeed!

It’s a Fact!

Sunday, April 21st, 2019

Easter Sunday-C
April 21, 2019
Rev. Brian T. Henderson, Senior Pastor of
Trinity Lutheran Church
San Diego, CA 92114

“If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.” [1 Corinthians 15:19]

He is risen.  He is risen indeed?  Are you sure of that?  Can you be sure?  And so begins the incessant drip, drip, drip, of doubt and the voice of skeptics and atheists.  If you don’t believe me, turn on the Discovery or History channels on your televisions and see how they twist and turn, pick apart our hope in the empty tomb.  See how they love to cast doubt on the completed work of our crucified and resurrected Savior and King, Jesus Christ, the Son of God!  I say, through the power of God, let them babble on, because I know by faith my Savior lives.  He IS risen!  He HAS risen indeed! And that’s a fact Jack.

And yet, even good Christians like yourself, when you hear the Easter story, the report about a man who is also God, whose tomb was empty when his friends came to visit, and who was claimed by two angels — in dazzling white to be risen from the dead, you may be tempted to dismiss it — or if not that, to doubt it, and attempt to come up with a rational explanation; attempting to make the miraculous scientifically palatable. Why do people do this?  One reason may be that, they feel it’s just too good to be true and therefore it can’t be true.  It’s must just be a preposterous hoax. But wait just a minute there.  Isn’t the promise that all of our tears will be dried, that all our sorrows will be turned to joy, that all our tragedies will be transformed to triumphs, that beyond our death there is life, isn’t that really the universal hope of all people?  Then why should we dismiss that hope it if it might just be true?

Another reason for dismissing the resurrection may be because nothing like it has ever been reported before or since.  Most thinking people will gladly tell you that precedents are always indications that thinking people must proceed with caution and really dig into the facts. “Don’t be so gullible” the unbelievers tell us. “It’s an event without comparison. No one else has ever been raised from the dead never to die again; this story about Jesus’ resurrection is just to unique.”  But why should that surprise or confound any of us? History is, after all, a collection of unique events. No two wars are the same. No two artists or musical composers are the same. No two sunrises are the same. No two earthquakes are the same. Think of your friends; are any two of them the same? Only machines — like the copier in the church office, are able to duplicate documents and pictures precisely; and that has nothing to do with human interactions that make up events that, in turn, make up history. Yes, Jesus’ resurrection is a unique event — perhaps a little more, but certainly no less than any other. We must get over the truth that it can’t be repeated for scrutiny by scientists. But does its uniqueness disqualify it from having happened in history?

Now another reason, some of your doubting friends will encourage you to reject the miracles recorded in scripture, especially the resurrection of our Lord is the fact that the gospel accounts don’t seem to be reporting the exact same pieces of information.  They will tell you that obviously either the witnesses or the recorders of the witnesses statements didn’t get all of the facts straight. They want the testimonies to mesh like fine gears in an expensive watch, and if they don’t, “Well” they’ll tell you, “you’ll just have to agree that the story is mostly fable.” But these differences in witness statements shouldn’t surprise us. I was a law enforcement officer for 30 years, and I can tell you with certainty that eyewitnesses at the scene of a major accident or crime seldom agree precisely as they relate their impressions of what happened. And if they did, the investigating officers are always suspicious, and then they begin to look for another crime, collusion, or witness tampering.  You see, perception is always colored by emotional involvement. And yet all witnesses of a crime can agree that the crime really happened and what’s more, they saw it! And so it is with the Easter stories — the women, the disciples, whoever else were involved — they didn’t see Jesus actually rise, but they saw that He had risen, because they saw and spoke to Him!

 Others may shy away from taking Easter too seriously because if they did, they’d react just like the women at the tomb — with their eyes cast down. That is to say, if it is real, that Christ really did rise from the dead, well then He must really be the Son of God, and if He really is the Son of God, then all of those who doubt or attack the resurrection are really attacking God Himself; in other words, they’re in big trouble!  

You see, if the resurrection is for real, then it brings sinners face-to-face with a perfect and righteous God. Like the women at the tomb, they too may think that no one can see God and live, so they stare at the ground so as not to die if they should happen to look God in the eye. For all of our talk about Easter joy, there is a certain amount of terror that Easter strikes.  The first ones who knew the resurrection was a fact, were “terrified,” says St. Luke. They ran away “afraid”, says St. Mark. Indeed, the resurrection means that God really has forced His way into our reality, and His mighty arm has struck a deadly blow—to death. The fact that God has used divine power, can and should make weak and sinful men shudder.  It should make sinners fall over in terror.  Because you see, if Jesus really did rise from the dead, that means that death is not the end, and if death isn’t the end, then there really is a place that we will live eternally.  And because there is an eternity, then there must really be only two places that we will spend that eternity… in Heaven, or… in HELL!  If that is true then that means that we really are accountable for how we live; we are accountable for every sin we have ever committed.  And if all of this is true, then that means we really do need God’s intervening help; we really do need a Savior.

And this is really what Easter is finally about.  The resurrection is God’s final physical miracle to prove the ultimate spiritual truth… we need God and His intervention; we need His Son our Savior, Jesus Christ.  Yes it’s true that if the resurrection were not true, we of all people, we Christians are to be pitied above all others, because while we were living a life of sacrifice under the cross, we could have been living a life with no rules; a life that every day sought out all manner of pleasures, just like the rest of the unbelieving world.  

It is as if we have been living our lives like a mountain climber, clinging to the face of a giant mountain, following a very small ledge for most of the climb, while all others have been walking on a spacious road, complete with safety rails.  Below us is death, and above us are only clouds and more rock.  We know that we can’t go back, because the path has crumbled behind us.  So we push on ahead, and for that the others on that broad and spacious path laugh at us.  But we know that ahead of us, where some might see uncertainty, we see and push on towards the promise of rest and reward.  So we push on following our resurrected Lord, until one day, maybe sooner than we think, the ledge will lead to a wide path, which will connect to solid ground; to a meadow of lush and inviting vegetation.  And there in front of us at the end of a short path, is the beautiful city of Zion. 

And as we enter our new eternal home, we will hear our Savior King, Jesus Christ declare, “Behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind. But (here in your eternal home), be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create; for behold, I create (a new) Jerusalem to be a joy, and her people to be a gladness.  I will rejoice in (this new) Jerusalem and be glad in my people; no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping and the cry of distress.”  [Isaiah 65:17-19]

Oh what a day that will be; a day when we will finally see our God and Savior face to face.  It will be a time where we rejoice in His presence and He rejoices in gladness that we are finally home.  But for now, we must live our lives by faith; faith in the promise of what is to come.  We must hear the Words which proclaim, “He is risen” and know that “as in Adam all in sin die, so also in Christ all (people of faith) shall be made alive.  But each in his own order: Christ (as) the firstfruits, then at His coming (again) those who belong to Christ.” [1 Corinthians 15:22, 23]  Oh what a glorious day that will be. Christ is Risen… Amen!

What Jesus Passion Means For You

Saturday, April 20th, 2019

Good Friday, April 19, 2019

Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor of

Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
http://www.tlcsd.org

The last petition of the Lord’s Prayer requests that God would “Deliver us from evil.”  Tonight that is exactly what we both remember and meditate on.  In Christ’s passion God has delivered us from evil.

“For if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.” 

So goes the argument of St. Paul in his letter to the Galatians. [Galatians 2:21]  If we were somehow able to pay for our own sins, or if we could find the wherewithal to repent of them on our own without the leading of the Holy Spirit, then God may have been able to spare His own Son the agony of the cross, thereby removing His need to drink from the bitter cup of our salvation.  But since those things are in fact impossible for sinful men and women like us, God did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, and we can be assured that there was no other way but through the cross to defeat not just our sin, but even death and the devil.

Holy Scripture clearly testifies again and again that Christ Jesus suffered a painful death for us ungodly people, so that God could make righteous people out of unrighteous sinners through faith in the work of His Son Jesus.  And now this evening, we gather as a peculiar people redeemed for God and by God through the death of His Son.  It was His Son’s passion, that is His divine love that turned Him to the cross to suffer and die for you.  It was His love for you that caused Him to be obedient unto death, even death upon a cross so that by His stripes you may be healed; by His atoning death, you may be forgiven.  

It was the death of Jesus Christ that disarmed the principalities and powers of sin, death, and the devil and opened wide the very gates of heaven for miserable sinners like us.

A principal teaching of the Gospel is that Christ died for our sins.  

And the scriptures add a very important addendum to this truth: “We have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died.” [2 Corinthians 5:14]  Or as the prophet Isaiah said, “(Christ) died as our substitute.” [Isaiah 53:6]  It was our sins that He carried with Him upon the cross.  That is why you should care very deeply about this evening and our Lord’s passion.  He was wounded for your transgressions.  And with His stripes you have been healed, that is forgiven of all of your sins.  On that cursed, yet for us a blessed tree, Jesus chose to taste death, and for we sinners and our salvation, He experienced for the first time what it means to be forsaken of God and cast away from His presence.  As St. Paul said, “Christ became a curse for us.”  And by this, He redeemed us from the curse of the law.  In His kingdom there will never again be condemnation for sinners such as us; we who turn to Jesus, His passion, His death, and the gift of new life that He gives through the cross.

The absolute assurance that you have all of this work assuring your salvation is found in your baptism.  There you were baptized into the death of Christ and there you became a partaker of everything that He won through His passion and death.  In other words, baptism is your guarantee that while Christ suffered upon the cross, He had you on His mind and in His heart. Because you have been baptized into both Christ’s passion and death, baptism is not just confined to one act in your life, whether you were baptized as a child or an adult.  No, but rather it is the beginning of a life which is to be lived in fellowship with the crucified Christ and His passion to save sinners.  So, to live as a baptized child of God, that is as a Christian is to live “by faith in the Son of God, who loved (you) and gave Himself (up) for (you).” [Galatians 2:20]

Even though the death of Christ is the most world shaking event in history, it is also a constant source of assurance, joy, and thankfulness, because in His passion He has delivered you from sin, death, and the devil.  Because Christ Jesus died forsaken on the cross, any one who trusts in Him needs never be afraid that they will die forsaken and abandoned by God.  Because in His passion on Good Friday, Christ bore the sins of the whole world, we sinners can live our entire lives not as strangers to God, but as His own dear children by faith in Him who first loved us and died for us.  AMEN!

What is This Bread?


Thursday, April 18th, 2019

Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
Maundy Thursday, April 18, 2019

On the night before He died, Jesus shared with His disciples the Passover, or the Seder meal. But in the midst of this meal, Jesus served and instituted another meal, a completely new meal, a meal that was to be repeated; it was His Last Supper, or “The Lord’s Supper.”   What is this bread that we and the earliest disciples share and eat?  It is God’s very means of sustaining, forgiving, delivering and protecting us from evil; the very thing we ask for at the end of the Prayer our Lord has taught us to pray!  Think of the last petitions in that prayer: “Give us this day our daily bread, forgive our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.”

In the Greek the last part of the prayer is better translated as, “Deliver or preserve us from the Evil One, or the Wicked One.” In the Lord’s Prayer Jesus seems to be pointing to the devil as the ultimate source of everything that is evil in this world; it’s as if the entire substance of our prayer is directed against our archenemy. And that makes sense because it’s the devil and his minions who do their best to obstruct everything we have asked for in this prayer, which is simply that God’s name and honor, His kingdom and will, our daily bread, and a good and peaceful conscience be given to us.

Dear friends, in our Lord’s Supper we are given faith and strength to know that God the Father is with us, and that He hears every request we ask for in our Lord’s Prayer, and in Jesus name He answers yes!

Tonight as we allow God to prepare us to receive the Lord’s Supper, we also allow His Spirit to answer this question for us, “What is this meal?” 

I.  First, it is a historical meal.  In Exodus 12, we learn that the Seder meal was instituted as a way to help the Jews remember how God led them out of captivity in Egypt towards their promised land.  God alone did that. Not one Hebrew warrior stood against the mighty Egyptians; not one Israelite contributed anything in accomplishing their deliverance!  Freedom came in the blackest night while Hebrew slave families huddled around the Passover table, their bags packed, waiting for deliverance. Why was it called the Passover meal?  Well, it’s because the angel of death visited only the homes of the Egyptians and it passed over the homes of the Hebrew families because they had marked their homes as God directed them—with the blood of a lamb.  The Jews celebrate that event each year with humility and praise through the Seder meal.  In that meal they remember how God alone saved them; in this meal, there is no room for pride. For the children of Israel, independence from Egypt meant dependence on God. In fact, God comes back to this event throughout the Bible as a way of describing himself: “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt.” 

Much later, in the upper room, Jesus would give Passover night an even broader significance. In a time when Jews throughout the world were bringing out their choice lambs to slaughter, eat, and remember the blood and deliverance, Jesus would now show the world that He had been selected as the TRUE Passover Lamb, not just for the Jews, but for all of humanity (1 Corinthians 5:7). The words “When I see the blood, I will pass over you” (Exodus 12:13) came to convey a whole new meaning. The Lord’s Supper is now superior to the Passover meal in that it promises salvation not from physical slavery, but deliverance from the power of sin, death, and the devil.  But this meal is oh so much more than a historical event, because you see, it is also… 

II. A Memorial Meal That Remembers Christ’s Death on Behalf of Us All. St. Paul speaks of Holy Communion as a memorial meal in this way: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me (1 Cor. 11:23-25).

Did you notice that each time Jesus delivered the elements of His Holy Supper that he punctuated it with the need to Remember Him?  Since the bread eaten is Christ’s body “for us” and the wine drank “is the new covenant in (His) blood” then clearly this meal is a memorial or a way of remembering Christ’s atoning death. In churches all across the world, we can find other Christians partaking in the Lord’s Supper tonight and recognizing it as a meal that remembers Christ’s death. But sadly, sometime after the zeal of the Reformation wore off, some churches began to look at HIS Holy Supper as nothing more than a memorial meal.  Now it’s here that we need to turn our hearts towards God and receive everything that He’s lovingly giving to us in this meal, because it is so much more than a memorial meal, you see, it is also a….  

III. Holy Meal, because God’s very Word makes it holy.  When someone asks you “Why do you believe that the bread and wine are holy in the Lord’s Supper?” simply answer that “It is God’s Word that makes it holy!”  You see, the words of consecration that Christ spoke at the Last Supper and which we Pastors repeat each time this meal is served are the very power of God. Now, we do not say that a pastor by virtue of His ordination has the power to transform simple bread and wine into a holy meal, but rather it is the very Words of Christ spoken over the bread and wine that makes it holy; it is God’s Word that brings to us both bread and wine and Body and Blood. But why does God do this?  The answer to this question brings us to our next explanation of what kind of meal this is.   

IV. It is a meal in which God feeds us with forgiveness for all of our sins and serves us an overflowing cup of peace with Him.  In our Gospel reading you heard Christ Himself say, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” Friends, if you can only remember one thing about this meal then remember this, IT IS A MEAL OF FORGIVENESS!  Take your sins to this meal and exchange them for God’s mercy and peace!  This is where we learn that this meal is in fact God’s means of delivering us from evil!  You see, just as the preached Gospel announces and gives forgiveness through the cross of Christ to everyone who believes and is baptized, so does this meal. In the Lord’s Supper, that once-and-for-all forgiveness is freely given to each one of us who have been baptized and by faith, believe in His promise.  Be certain of this truth tonight friends as you approach His table, God wants you to experience the assurance that all of your sins, including the ones that are heavy on your heart right now, are completely forgiven.

That’s why we teach that the Lord’s Supper is for real sinners.  If you are sorrowing and struggling over your sinfulness, then Jesus says “Come unto me ye weary and I will give you rest!”  Come unto me and believe that the devil cannot with all of His attacks separate you from God’s love that is yours through Christ Jesus!  This is a meal created only for God’s baptized children who cry out “Have mercy on me Lord Jesus, an unworthy sinner!” 
 

V. But this is also a meal where we confess that all of the miraculous things we receive are completely God’s Work for Us, and not our work for Him.  Just as the Hebrews played no part in their deliverance from the oppression of the Egyptians, we also play no part in our Salvation and the complete forgiveness of our sins.  This is all entirely the work of Jesus.  It was His blood that was poured out for the forgiveness of your sins. In this holy meal, Jesus invites us to eat and drink His forgiveness. Can you see that it is Jesus, not us, who is the one who offers, prepares, and serves this Divine Supper?  He serves us His body “which is given for you” (Luke 22:19). He serves us His blood “which is poured out for you” (Luke 22:20). All the emphasis is on what He does for us. Our “job” is only to receive. 

VI. Next, scripture makes it clear that that this is a Meal in Which We Eat and Drink Christ’s Body and Blood.  Now most Christian traditions affirm that Christ is present somehow in the Lord’s Supper. But it’s not enough to just say that Jesus is present in this meal. Some Christians today speak of Christ’s “real” presence in the bread and wine as being spiritual.  Some will say that when Christians eat and drink they spiritually ascend to Christ who is at the right hand of God. While these words may seem harmless, we must not be deceived; remember, IT IS HIS SUPPER, NOT OURS!  Jesus clearly says “This IS my body” and “This IS my blood.”  He did not say that this represents my body and blood; nor did he say ‘I am spiritually present in the bread and wine.”  No, our Savior clearly states that the bread IS His body and the fruit of the vine “IS (His) blood of the new covenant!”

Friends, like the ancient church before us, we do not try to explain how this can be? No, instead we simply accept the plain sense of the words that the bread, somehow, is also Christ’s body, and the wine, somehow, is also Christ’s blood and we let it remain within those words.

VII. But this meal is also a Family Meal that gives and Celebrates Unity among all of us who eat it together.  The Lord’s Supper has often been called the Sacrament of unity. Why? In part, because of the words of St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 10:17 where he writes: “Since there is one bread, we who are many are one body; for we all partake of the one bread.”

These words hint towards two things. First, they tell us that the one bread broken and distributed signifies the oneness of the body of Christ, the Church. And while you may be receiving only one small piece of the loaf, every one here is being fed from the same source, Jesus Christ Himself.  

Second, the words of Paul infer that we who receive the one bread become one body; that is, the eating of this meal creates as well as celebrates unity within God’s people. St. Paul’s point is that it is wrong to enter into communion with those with which you have no true unity – and true unity includes recognizing all of the mysteries that are given in His Holy Supper.  For us here tonight, when we respond to His invitation to eat and drink, we are professing that we come together truly as a family that is one body in Christ, one in faith, and one in doctrine. When we eat this meal together, we will as one heart celebrate our Lord’s life, death and resurrection until He returns!

VIII. Finally, this is a Meal that is “a Foretaste of the Feast to Come.”  This phrase, beautifully expresses another aspect of the Lord’s Supper. It is a foretaste of that eternal, heavenly meal that we will enjoy with our God and with all of the dear saints that have gone to glory before us and those that go after us. So this meal points not only backwards but also forward in time. It looks to the past and remembers, looks to the present and receives and gives thanks, and looks to the future and anticipates!  It allows us to see how the Lord has by faith revealed to us that He is our Father in heaven who provides every good thing for us. In this meal God the Father has not only forgiven our sins, but He has also given us the ability and strength to forgive others who have sinned against us. In this foretaste of the Heavenly banquet to come, God is continually leading us away from temptation.  

And finally in the Lord’s Supper, God allows us to look forward into the future and see a time when there will be no more tears or pain, only joy and peace with the God who created us, redeemed us and sustains us in faith. Through this Holy Communion, we are assured that no matter how difficult our current circumstances may be, through our crucified and risen Savior, we shall overcome, and feast with Him in glory forevermore!  How can this Holy Supper do all of this?  Because He says so, and after all God always does what He says He will do!  I pray that God will richly bless each of us this evening as we approach His table to hear, see, touch, smell and taste forgiveness.  I ask this in Jesus name… AMEN and AMEN!

Hosanna! Great is the Lord!

Sunday, April 14th, 2019

Palm Sunday
April 14, 2019
Rev. Brian T. Henderson, Senior Pastor of
Trinity Lutheran Church
San Diego, CA 92114

Click here for audio of this message

“And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?”
And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”” [Matt. 21:10,11]

This morning, as we begin Holy Week, God wants us to ask this question about Jesus: “who is this Jesus? Who is He to me?”  Prophet yes, but also so much more!  In His flesh a man, but not just a man; no, because you see He is also God… the living Word of God to be exact!  This is Jesus, our Prophet, our Priest and our King!  This is the One who has come and is coming again; He is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!  He is the one who comes with all of God’s power and authority.  Why?  Because He is God!  He is the one who comes to us humbly, mounted upon a donkey.  He comes with compassion and mercy, but He also comes to judge and punish.  He is a God of contrasts, a God who comes to kill and make alive; to wound and to heal.  And when He acts, none can deliver out of His hand! [Deut. 32:39b]

In our Old Testament reading (Deuteronomy 32:36-39), Moses reminded the Jews about God’s anger for their past sins and He warned them about His coming anger for their future sins.  

But why was God angry?  What was this sin that angered Him so strongly that He would judge, punish, wound and kill? 

It was the sin of worshiping false Gods!  They did it in the past when they longed to return to Egypt as slaves, just so they could get their fill of the food they were accustomed to eating.  They did it when they tried to replace Moses as their leader, because they didn’t like the message.  And of course they did it when they created the golden calf to worship.  And now, God is telling His people that He will judge them.  He challenges them to turn to their false gods, their false means of hope for protection from His anger.  Listen to how God mocks their false gods: “Then (God) will say, ‘Where are their gods, the rock in which they took refuge”. [vs. 37] 

Through Moses, God reminded the Jews then and He reminds us today of our sinful tendency to set up false gods to worship and follow.  He reminds us in order to warn us.  “Return to the Lord your God, for He is faithful in steadfast love!”  What false gods do we set up in our lives?  Before you answer, remember that we are all by nature sinful and unclean. We are just like the Jews in Moses time, prone to wander.  One of the ways we wander from God is when we place our hope and trust in human authority and government.  When we listen to and trust the word of man more than the living Word of God.

Another false god in our lives can be found in our own self sufficiency.  Maybe you’ve experienced this sin as I have.  It happens when we trust ourselves and our own resourcefulness instead of having complete trust and confidence in God.

Another false god that we must consider is our family.  While it’s true that love for family is important, sometimes we can love them more than the God who gives us our family.  Sometimes our love for our children or other family members can lead us to do things that we know are wrong.

Finally, another false god can be the very comfort that God’s blessings bring to those of us who are part of Christ’s church.  We who are Christ’s body have been blessed with eternal life, washed clean in the waters of our baptism; forgiven of all our sins.  We enjoy a certain peace of mind and soul that no other person outside of grace can ever experience.  We are daily protected from the attacks of the devil and we have prospered.  We love our comfort and long for more of God’s blessings yet we ignore the leading of the very God who provides all of this for us.  How do we ignore Him?  By forgetting that we too need to cry out to Him like the crowds on the first Palm Sunday, Hosanna!  We need to live a life that demonstrates praise to our Savior God and to Him alone!

How do we do this?  By knowing God as He really is.  How do we know God?  

We know God by knowing Jesus!  

By knowing who Jesus is for us and who He is for our neighbor our lives will be transformed! God wants us to know that Jesus is more than just His Son; He wants us to know that He is also our brother.  He wants us to know that Jesus is at all times both God and man.  He is eternal; He is the Son of God, who together with the Father and the Holy Spirit are eternally worshiped and glorified, yet… Jesus was also born of the Virgin Mary.  What a mystery… God was born!  But even more mysterious, Jesus died… the God who is eternal and cannot die did in fact die—but not just any death… He died upon the cross.  He died the death of a slave, the death of a condemned criminal.  

And to all of this truth, our sinful minds question, “But how can any of this be?”  But asking how is the wrong question friends.  It is wrong because God’s ways are not our ways; His ways are far above ours.  The right question to ask is why?  If we understand the why, then the how becomes unimportant.  Hosanna!  Hosanna to the Savior God!

When the Son of God took on our flesh to save us, He chose to make Himself nothing by becoming our servant, so that as our servant, He could suffer and die in our place.  The God-man Jesus Christ humbled Himself for us, by dying for us!  From the moment He was conceived by the Holy Spirit He chose to be born in order to die.  Now here is where God’s ways become very mysterious to us; at no time did Jesus cease being God.  Not in the womb and not upon the cross.  Out of love for you, Christ put aside His deity and chose to live out your humanity.  At any time He could have walked away from our flesh, but if He would have done that, then He could not have paid the penalty for your sins.  If He would have allowed His angels to save Him from your death, the death that you should die, then He could not have won salvation for you!  

Dear friends, by taking on your flesh and dying your death for your sins, Jesus became your Warrior King.  When He rode into Jerusalem that first Palm Sunday, He indeed rode in as a warrior king.  But not the type of warrior king the people expected.  Warrior kings ride in on strong stallions, suited with armor and with sword and shield in hand.  But Jesus rode in on a donkey armed with only our flesh, our mind, and covered with our sin.  

He who is Spirit and truth, and without sin took on our flesh and our sins so that He could fight and win for us!  

But these strange weapons were exactly what He needed to defeat sin, death, and the devil.  They were in keeping with the work that He came to do.  He didn’t come to conquer nations or empires; He came to conquer your sin.  This was God’s means of waging war against our enemies.  Jesus had to be our substitute, and He could only do this by being obedient to the Father’s will; by suffering and dying to pay for our sins.  And make no mistake friends; He could not have done this without His full deity.  He had to attach the full weight of His deity to His human flesh in order to be obedient unto death, even death upon the cross.  And as we will proudly proclaim and celebrate next week on Easter morning, He must have all of His deity in order to rise from the dead.  Even in death, Jesus was mighty God so that by His death and resurrection we could be assured of the very same thing happening for us..  Hosanna!  Hosanna to our Savior King!

Dear friends, by knowing and believing in this truth our hearts can’t help but cry out Hosanna!  We will naturally cry out Hosanna when we know who our true Savior King is and how and for whom He came to save.  He came to save you dear friends, but not just you… He came to save your neighbor.  You have a message to declare… you have a story to tell.  It’s a story that God wants you to share with as many people as possible.  But what shall you tell them?  Tell them that they have a God who comes to them as a Savior; a Savior who put Himself to death so that they could live.  Tell them that by putting Himself to death for them God was able to heal the sins of the entire world… even their sins.  He is our true God and all that He asks from us in return is that we would worship Him and Him alone.  He asks us to trust only in His love for us and then rest in His presence and protection.

Friends, it’s no wonder that the crowds came out on that first Palm Sunday shouting “Hosanna in the highest!”  I pray that each of us will be moved to praise Him as well and share that message with whoever God puts in our path.  Let’s try to remember each day that it is the Lord alone who delivers us from all of our enemies, even sin, death, and the devil.  Let’s try to thank Him each day that He has not only given us grace, but the faith to believe that Jesus died for each of us.     

May we always say hosanna to our Savior God, because it’s He alone who saves us; He saves us from all harm.  He has defeated all of our enemies.  His name is great, and His name is Jesus, the most beautiful name that has ever been spoken.  And at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.  AMEN

Forgetting What Lies Behind

Sunday, April 7th, 2019

Lent 5-C
April 7, 2019
Rev. Brian T. Henderson, Senior Pastor of
Trinity Lutheran Church
San Diego, CA 92114

Click here for audio of this message

“But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” [Philippians 3:13b]

Perhaps you’ve seen a commercial on T.V. by J.G. Wentworth offering to help with structured law suit settlements. In each variation of the commercial, an average person shouts out, “It’s my money and I want it now!” They were playing on the inherit desire of the average person for instant gratification.

Unfortunately, they weren’t far off the mark.  We Americans do demand to have things immediately, and as Frank Sinatra sang, we want to do things our way.  We demand it from our politicians, from our auto manufactures, our computers, our schools, and I’m afraid even from our Creator!  But this morning, God wants us to know that our faith life is not like J.G. Wentworth’s commercial or Frank Sinatra’s song .  If we want life instantly our way, well then, we can’t have it God’s way!

This morning, we will be talking about our faith and our Christian life… God’s way.  This morning God is telling us to forget about our past… our former way of thinking and doing things.  He is saying, “Don’t consider the things of old.  Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” [Isaiah 43:18-19]   If you don’t perceive it, maybe it’s because you haven’t let go of your past?  Maybe you want to have your cake and eat it too?  Maybe you want the blessings of a relationship with God and not the change He is bringing into your life?  Maybe, just maybe, you want salvation on your terms and not God’s?  If so, then God wants you to know that you are deceiving yourself and the truth is not in you!

In our Epistle lesson this morning, St. Paul say’s that he “counts everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus as (his) Lord!”  

He also says that for (Christ’s) sake, (he) has suffered the loss of all things, (and what’s more) he count(s) them as rubbish, in order that (he) may gain Christ and be found in him.”  [Philippians 3:8]  Wow!  Those are strong words.  I know personally, that there are several people here this morning who know what it means to lose everything.  One moment you were on the top of the world and the next…bang…the world is on top of you!  Everything you loved and cherished was stripped away.  Or was it?  You’re here this morning aren’t you?  So Paul would tell you that the most important thing you can ever have, the most important thing you’ll ever need is still yours.  That most needful thing is of course Jesus Christ!  

But Paul still has more to tell us.  He still has his heart set on something deeper… something that gets to the core of the matter.  Listen: He says I lost everything that was important to me so that I would be presented to God “not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.” [v. 9] But why was he stripped of everything?  Paul answers that question as well, “(So) that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” [vs. 10-11]

What was Paul stripped of?  Well, it was something that left no room for God’s mercy, love, and forgiveness… it was his own view of goodness and success; it was his self righteousness!  Paul back then was named Saul; he was a religious leader… he was a teacher of God’s Law.  He went to the finest schools and hung out with the most influential people.  He was living life his way!  He thought though, that he was living a life that pleased God.  He was teaching others how to do the same, and punishing others who refused to follow his example.  We could say that Saul was pleased with his life… he was having things his way!  But he forgot something very important… there is a way that seems right to a person, but in the end it leads only to death… eternal separation from the very God he thought he was serving. [Proverbs 14:12]

Saul didn’t need to have things his way, but God’s way!  So on a dusty road to Damascus, which he was traveling on to find and punish Jews who believed Jesus was their Lord, he instead found Jesus Christ.  Jesus Christ… Him crucified and resurrected.  In a flash of bright light, he was blinded and heard the voice of the Living God speak these words: “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And Saul said, “Who are you, Lord?” And (the voice) said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” [Acts 9:4]

Just like that, Saul was converted.  The super religious Jewish teacher Saul became a humbled blind Christian named Paul.  “So what?” you say.  “It’s only a name change and a change of religion.  What’s the big deal?”  The big deal friends, is that now he became the hunted instead of the hunter.  He was now a Christian… hated by the world, but loved by God!  Now He knew Jesus Christ as He truly was… the living Son of God!  Now he knew Him as His Lord and Savior.  Paul would tell you that he found an inward possession that was more precious than everything he lost.  What was that inward possession?  It was the forgiveness of all of his sins.  Paul was forced to admit what he always knew… all of his self righteousness was like filthy rags before his creator.  All of his hope in pleasing God through religion was useless.  

On that dusty road, he had only one hope, to throw himself at the feet of the living God and call out for mercy and forgiveness!  And miracle of all miracles… God forgave him through the very person he helped kill and was now persecuting… he was forgiven through Jesus Christ!  

Paul was a wanted man.  

He lost his home, his family, all of his possessions, his prestige and his standing within the community.  Paul lost everything, but he counted all that he lost as garbage compared to what he gained.  What did he gain?  Well he got his eye sight back but that was nothing compared to the surpassing knowledge of God through Jesus Christ.  The one thing he searched for all of his life, the one thing that eluded him in all his searching was now his… peace with God!  Paul now knew a God that loved him and spoke to him as a friend and as a brother.  Paul’s most prized possession was now given to him as a gift from God; forgiveness of all of his sins—past present and future—were now his through Christ’s work upon the cross.  Christ’s suffering, death, and resurrection, were now Paul’s suffering, death and resurrection!

Friends, the great purpose of Paul’s loss of all his worldly wealth in an instant was done in order to make him gain Christ, and through Christ in an instant, be given true righteousness.  In that very moment, Paul was allowed to know Christ and the power of his resurrection.  For Paul, meeting and knowing Jesus unto salvation was immediate and dramatic.  His conversion was instantaneous!  

For all of us, our conversion was also instantaneous and for many of us, it happened within the waters of our baptism, but knowing Jesus has not been nearly as dramatic.  For most of us it has been continuous and gradual.  We’ve found that the longer we know him the deeper our understanding of God becomes.  

But we’re also like Paul in this way; we have a choice, we can either receive the change that God’s holiness brings in our lives or we can persecute Jesus.  

 “Persecute Jesus!  What do you mean?”  I mean friends, if you are not allowing God to steadily change you, to recreate you into His image more and more each day, then you are insisting on having things right now your way, and your way is not His way!  

If you are insisting that each day be some kind of award system for the good things you’ve done, then you are fighting against the very work of God that is happening within you now but will be rewarded latter in glory with Christ!  This is God’s truth!  Don’t you perceive it?  You either want things your way or God’s way.  Either you are a friend of the world or a friend of God’s.  You either want to be covered with the admiration and respect of people or the grace of Jesus Christ!  This morning, God is asking you, “Which will it be?!”

Do you know what God wants from you?  He wants you to look to the cross of Jesus and see the final and ultimate sacrifice for sin and then grasp Christ’s love and passion and never let it go!  He wants you to trust Him no matter what’s happening in your life.  He wants you to be filled with the new life He gave you in the waters of your baptism and be transformed with new spiritual power and abilities.  He wants you to hold on to this new life until it is time for the final grasp… when your eyes are closed on this earth for the last time. Then, on that day, He wants you to wake up and be with your Savior Jesus Christ forever!  God has you in His hand, but do you have Him in yours?

Dear friends, please don’t misunderstand what this grabbing hold of Christ means.  Your salvation is not up to you… everything you need to be assured of eternal life with God has been given to you within the waters of your baptism.  God indeed has hold of you; that is His active hold on you, but do you have Him?  You see there is also our passive grabbing hold of God.  We grab a hold of God in His means of Grace.  God gives us His Holy Word, our baptism, and His Holy Supper so that when trials, temptations, sin, sickness, and tragedy strike we will be strong enough to hold on; strong enough to know that our redeemer, our Savior, and our God lives and loves us.  He gives you these wonderful means of grace so that you can forget the past and the ways of the world and rest in the truth that He is always holding onto you… always loving you.  He gives you these things so that you can press on towards the goal… eternal life with Jesus Christ your brother; your Savior and your closest friend… even more than that your living and loving God!  I pray that you will hunger for His means of grace and hold onto Him, because He is holding onto you!