Archive for the ‘1 Kings 19:1-8’ Category

If It Had Not Been For The Lord…

Sunday, August 12th, 2012

Eleventh Sunday in Pentecost B, August 5, 2012
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA

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“And this is the will of Him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that He has given me, but raise it up on the last day.” [John 6:39]

This morning our gospel reading drives home the point that Jesus is the solution, our solution to death.  He says Himself that He has come to give life for  the world!  He repeats the message that we heard last week, that He alone is the Bread of Life, but this time He points out that if you don’t receive this  bread, you will die.  But if you will eat the bread that He offers, well then you will have life, an abundant life, even if you sometimes don’t feel like eating  that bread!

In our Old Testament reading [1 Kings 19:1-8], we jump smack dab in the middle of a crisis.  It was a dark moment in the life of the prophet Elijah.  By  dark, I mean Elijah was in the middle of deep depression; so deep, all he wanted to do was lie down and die.  Have you ever been there?  I’d like each of  you to pause for just a moment and recall that time in your life; a time where all you felt was loneliness and perhaps hopelessness.

Isn’t it true that sometimes, that feeling of depression can sneak up on you when you least expect it?  For Elijah it came immediately after a huge  victory.  He was sent by God to confront the wicked Queen Jezebel and her false prophets of Baal.  He was sent to prove to the people of Israel who their  true God was and is!  It was a perfect day; Elijah called down the fire of heaven and left the false prophets and the people of Israel speechless.  There was  one problem though… the sinful Queen was enraged.  She swore that she would get her revenge quickly by taking Elijah’s life; he was a wanted man.

So off he ran, into the wilderness where he sought refuge in a place of seclusion.  Alone with his thoughts and weary from being zealous for God, he laid  down under a shade tree; he laid down to die!  He asked God to take his life and end his existence.  He was tired of doing the right thing and then paying  the price.  You could say that he found a degree of truth to the saying, “No good deed goes unpunished!”

Have you ever felt like that?  Did you ever lay down in your bed, completely happy with never opening your eyes again?  Have you ever felt like everything was set against you?  And yet you are still here; you are no longer in that dark place.  Something happened that got you out of that dark place and carried you to another place.  Maybe you can look back at some of those darker days and say, “If it had not been for the Lord… well I don’t know where I’d be right now!”  And that is certainly how Elijah must have felt; for you see, in the middle of his dark and depressed sleep, God sent His angel to wake Him.  There at his feet was a nutritious meal, and an angel who said, “(Elijah)Arise and Eat.”

Now scripture doesn’t say what Elijah’s answer was, but I can’t help but think that he must have grumbled; he must have responded in a way that any of us would who were camped out in that valley of darkness would: “No!  Leave me alone; I’m not hungry!”  And to that God must have told him, “Eat any how; it will be good for you.”  Not wanting to devote any more time to fighting God or dealing with any of the problems He led him into, I can see Elijah saying, “Fine.  I’ll eat, if after that you will just leave me alone to die.”

And what happened next?  A few hours later, after he had eaten, the Lord sent the angel again to wake him and have him eat again!  This time though, he was feeling just a little better, and besides that, there was not only Word from the Lord, but purpose; God had given him a reason to live another day and a new mission: “Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you.”  And he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God.” [1 Kings 19:7-9]

We can learn something wonderful from this story about a depressed man of God; something wonderful that can help us through our own dark moments, but before we do there is one question that needs to be answered.  Why was God taking Elijah to a mountain far away named Horeb?  Does anyone know why that mountain was important to Elijah or any of the God fearing and God trusting Jews?  Well….?  That’s right, that is the very same Mt. Horeb where God first spoke to Moses and proclaimed that He saw His people held in captivity in Egypt, and He was now going to do something about it.  It is also the same mountain where God later spoke to Moses and sent him down to his people with the Law of God; a law that would protect His people and prepare them to enter the promised land of milk and honey!

If it had not been for God, where would Elijah be?  If it had not been for God, where would those sinful wandering sheep known as the Hebrews be?  If it had not been for God speaking tenderly but sternly to you, where would you be?  When you were lost and alone, when you thought you lost your way, He spoke to you also and said, “Arise and eat!  Remember my promise to you in my Word!  Arise and read!  Go to church and hear the Word preached to you!”

Oh we are not much different than Elijah; we too have had many times in our lives where the Lord has had to spoon feed us so to speak; “I don’t want to go to church; I don’t want to hear a sermon; I don’t want to hear that I am forgiven.”  And to that God’s consistent message has been, “Do it anyhow, because your journey and your purpose is not complete.  You will need the strength!”  Oh, if it had not been for the Lord, I don’t know where I’d be right now!

And just what is it that the Lord has done for us?  In our 2nd reading (Ephesians 4:17-5:2), we get the answer, and oh what an answer it is!  He has not only fed us, he has given us a holy appetite for heavenly-spiritual food; food that not only nourishes us but continually recreates us!  Just as God made Elijah go back to the beginning at Mt. Horeb, St. Paul does the same thing for us this morning.  He takes us back to the beginning of our new nature; he takes us to our baptism.  There in that holy washing with simple water and God’s powerful Word, he points us to His mysterious work that is daily transforming us again and again.  This morning, God is asking you to look backwards in order to reestablish your bearings; in order to see your life as He sees it; you have a purpose!

In your baptism, and every day since, you have been learning to live a life walking with the Son of God, Jesus Christ.  You have learned that in your baptism, your old dark nature has been crucified with Jesus; put to death, and yet you still live, or Jesus, the mind and heart of Jesus lives within you leading you and strengthening you.  You are taught every day to put off your old self.  You must put it to death because that is the self that is prone to doubt and prone to grumble and wander away.

In your baptism, you are told, “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit” (who lives within you), because you belong to God; you are His beloved child.  If you want meaning in your life, you can’t give up; instead you have to continue receiving God’s nourishment.  You will need that nourishment if you are to imitate your Savior, your Bread of Heaven.  So arise and eat!  Even if you don’t feel like it, get out of bed; with every source of energy you can muster stand up within your depression and get to the place where you are fed the Word of God; with every exhausted muscle in your body turn yourself towards Jesus and receive the Words of life… YOU ARE FORGIVEN!  Hear, read, listen, and receive that nourishment, because without it you really are headed for death, and not the kind of death that leads from trouble to peace, but an eternal death that forever knows nothing but trouble and never a moment of peace.

In our gospel lesson (John 6:35-51), Jesus was pleading with the people to eat that true bread of heaven; bread that would bring them life.  In last week’s gospel lesson, they bragged that their ancestors ate manna from heaven, but Jesus countered that while it was true that they ate that bread, it was also true that they were all dead.  But this morning Jesus tells us that if we eat the Bread of Heaven, we will live forever!

The people in Jesus audience grumbled and complained and wanted to know how they would live forever!  “Isn’t this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know?  How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven?’”

And to this grumbling spirit that is born in the darkness of sin; sin that gives birth to doubt and the hopeless feeling of depression, Jesus speaks not in the thundering threats of the Law; He doesn’t demand faith but instead in a still soft whisper He gives faith by speaking the gospel: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.  And I will raise him up on the last day… Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes (in me) has eternal life.  I am the Bread of Life.”

And there in those sweet Words, Jesus speaks faith into each of us by taking us back to our baptism.  He reminds us that we did not choose Him, but He chose us; the Father, His Father chose us.  He sealed us to Himself within our baptism, and He daily draws us into Himself.   In those words, Jesus reminds us that just as He has been crucified and resurrected, so it is true with our own identities.  Our old sinful nature is behind us and we are to look forward every day to our own resurrected life.  And to reassure us every day that this is not only our new identity, but also our eternal future, Jesus speaks in that still soft voice, “Arise and eat!  I am the living bread that came down from heaven.  If anyone eats of this bread, He will live forever.  And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.  (My flesh crucified for the sins of the world; even your sins)!  And in those Words we find hope; we find peace with God.  OH, IF IT HAD NOT BEEN FOR THE LORD…!  AMEN!

What is This Eating and Drinking?

Sunday, August 9th, 2009

10th Sunday After Pentecost, August 9, 2009

Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
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Introduction: This morning, Jesus says to us, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” [Jn. 6:35]  All of us by nature hunger for a relationship with God.  This hunger’s been with us since the fall of Adam and Eve.  Since Adam’s fall into sin, the relationship that man once had with God has been severed.  Innate within each of us is a longing to love God and be loved by Him.  Each of us was created to love God and to live out His purpose in our lives… we know it with every fiber of our being!  Many people spend their entire lives trying to find meaning and purpose for their lives.  They try to fill that God sized hole with anything that seems to work.  Anything except the one thing God says we need, Jesus Christ.


Self help books, new age religions, cults, and false religions all claim to hold the key to fulfillment—yet each of them ultimately provides the same result, disappointment.  A hunger to love God and to be loved by Him still remains strong.  Many people immerse themselves in their careers or some noble cause, yet the emptiness remains.  It is an itch that can’t be scratched and a throbbing pain that can’t be soothed.  And to this emptiness Jesus proclaims to us this morning, “I am the bread of life; whoever believes in me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”


I. Baptismal Doubts: Dear friends in your baptism, Jesus has filled you with God.  In your baptism, He has filled the hole in your aching heart with all that His Father promised—He has filled you with the love of God; now that relationship between man and God, which was once broken has now been repaired.  The hunger for knowing God is no longer out of your reach but it’s yours daily to feed and satisfy.  In our gospel reading this morning, the Galileans grumble and said, “Isn’t this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose Father and Mother we know?  How does he now say, “I have come down from Heaven” [v. 42] Today, we still hear a similar challenge to our Lord, and it goes like this: “Isn’t this the same Jesus that I was taught about as a child?  Isn’t this the same faith that taught me that my baptism saved me?  If all of that stuff is true then why hasn’t it worked for me?  Why do I feel like I’m no better off than other people who never even knew Jesus?  No thanks, I’ve tried that Jesus business and it didn’t get me anywhere, so forget it.  No, I need something more… something stronger… something I can put my whole body, mind, and spirit into; something that will give me real satisfaction.


To this, Jesus replies “Stop your grumbling!  No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. [vs. 44]  Ah, now the Lord is speaking to our real need.  “Yes Jesus, that is exactly what we’ve been needing.  We want to be drawn by God; we want to come to Him.  That’s the ache in our hearts that seems can never be soothed!  And to this, Jesus says, “Friends, when you see me, you see the Father.  I and the Father are one!”  “(Remember I said) that you have seen me and yet you do not believe.” [vs.37] “Quit doubting and believe!”  “I am the bread of life.  I am the living bread that came down from heaven.  If anyone comes to me I will never cast them out.  If anyone eats of this bread he will live forever. [vs. 48, 50] 


II. Baptismal Life: You see friends, in your baptism, you were given everything you need to have not just a full and meaningful life here, right now, but you were also given the eternal gift of peace with God.  It doesn’t matter whether you were a baby or an adult when you were baptized; it’s the same gift—eternal life!  It doesn’t matter if you can remember the feel of water upon your body or the power of God’s Word that saved you, recreated you, and made you whole, because God remembers friends, in fact He has sealed you with the Holy Spirit, so that you are now His!  Besides, He has ensured that there is an ample supply of water around you, so that you may touch it, splash it, even dunk yourself in it, if that is what you need to remember that He has saved you.  But what will you remember?  Well, you will remember, through the hearing, reading, and preaching of His Word that He has chosen you and saved you.  He has filled you with His living Word, His bread of life, so that you need not hunger for His love ever again!  


Dear friends, it’s the Word of God that draws you into His love and forgiveness.  It’s God’s Word that invites you to experience His love through His chosen means and not the means that this sinful world has declared will give meaning to your life.  It is through His means alone that He has decided to bring you back to Him.  In other words,  you can only know the Father through His Son Jesus Christ.  To get to God friends, we must believe in Jesus Christ and be baptized—believing in Jesus means trusting in Him completely.  Friends, God is telling us that we must shut our eyes and ears to every other method that this sinful world says will give us peace, and trust in Christ alone!  Yes, it does requires letting go of other things that you may have grown accustom to, but God promises that you will never be the same once you experience His love through faith in His Son.


Many of you know that I have recently gone through a battle with cancer.  I stand before you not just as your pastor, but as a man that was forced to let go of everything that gave him security and cling to Christ alone.  When the prognosis was delivered, I immediately and naturally felt fear.   I tried to rationalize my way into hope and peace, but that soon gave way to worry.  I began to think about things like, “What would happen to my wife if I die?  No,” I thought, “there must be some way out of this!”   I began to feverishly research the internet for any hope concerning my cancer.  In regards to Anal Cancer I had, it was in stage 3B or 4A, I had a 30 to 40% chance of death within a few years.  Now, fear and worry was no longer my biggest concern, panic was!  In a desperate attempt to find peace, I threw myself down on my face and began to pray the most powerful prayer one can ever pray: “HELP!”  Immediately after that prayer, I began to feel a perfect peace that completely surrounded me.  Suddenly, I was no longer afraid.  I stood on my feet, and I knelled at this very altar and simply rested in God’s love.  And then, a very still, soft voice whispered to me, “I will never leave or forsake you!  Will you trust me?”  “Yes Lord, Yes!” I sobbed.  At that moment friends I knew that everything would be perfect, because God was in control.  Why was I so certain?  Because His Son Jesus died for me, and because I trust in His Son’s love!  I immediately went to my Bible, and began to let God’s Word speak to my heart.  And here is the Word that He gave me: Fulfill your vows to the Most High, and call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor Me.” [Psalm 50:14-15]  What was the vow that I made?  Well, I imagine that it is the same one you made at your confirmation—I vowed to continue believing and loving Jesus as my Savior with the help of God!  Has He delivered me, you better believe it!  And He will continue until I go home to be with Him!  And telling you my story is how I am honoring Him.


Dear friends, St. Paul in our Epistle lesson calls this trust in Jesus, the putting on of the new self.  But to do this we must daily return to our Baptism, because it was there at the font where God’s creative Word first gave us new life—a life free from the guilt of sin and packed full of His assurance that He does loves us and will never leave us, because of our faith in His Son!  Putting on the new self also means that we will also forsake the old self, our old sinful nature.  Every day, God wants us to drown that sinful nature in the waters of our baptism.  He wants us to allow the presence of His living Word to take control of our lives and shatter our old hard hearts.  We do all of this friends, when we turn away from our sinful desires, confess our sins when we fail, and then remember the forgiveness that is ours for all of our sins, through Christ, our living bread!  This is the putting on of the new self.  It is a new identity; an identity created in the image of God’s own Son, Jesus Christ!  When doubt, fear, and worry come, and they will come, God wants us to be willing to let go of these things and simply trust in His love!


III. This is love dear friends, not that we love God but that He first loved us and gave His Son to die for us. [ 1 Jn. 4:10]  Listen to Jesus’ own Words in verse 51: “And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” [Jn 6:51]  How does He give this life?  Through the sacrifice of His flesh, through His death upon the cross.  How do we receive this gift of life?  By believing that Jesus provided it for you in your baptism; and then friends, we are called to come to Jesus and trust Him as God’s only means to save a sinful world—as God’s only means to save you!  Do you want this gift?  If so, then do not search for it anywhere else but in your baptism.  Close your eyes and ears to the madness of this world and simply rest and trust in God’s means of salvation.  Trust in Christ alone!  Cling to His Word and remember the waters of your baptism and then leave the rest to Him.  This is the eating and drinking that Jesus was talking about—coming to Him and trusting in Him alone!

CONCLUSION: Dear friends, because Jesus is the bread of life for the entire world, He is also your bread of life.  And because of this, you have God’s assurance that as long as you are receiving this bread He will never cast you away.  You are loved by Him forever.  That is the message He wants you to leave here with.  But it is not a message that He wants you to keep to yourself; He wants us as a church to share it with the world.  He wants you as an individual Christian to share it with your neighbor. You may have noticed that for the last few months I have been leaving the lid of the baptismal font open.  I do this to remind us, that mission of the church is to proclaim God’s offer of life giving bread to the world.  We begin this miraculous feeding here at the font.  Are you ready?  Let’s all go out as hungry, redeemed, and saved sinners and simply tell other hungry sinners where God’s living bread is being served–the only bread that can satisfy an eternal apetite.  I pray that God will lead us in this mission always….In Jesus name….Amen!