Archive for the ‘Acts 13:13-26’ Category

Comfort…Do You Need It?

Sunday, June 24th, 2012

The Nativity of St. John the Baptist, June 24, 2012
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
Click here for audio of this message

Do you need comfort?  Did you notice that I didn’t ask you if you wanted comfort, I asked do you need it?  There’s a difference.  If I were to ask you if  you wanted me to comfort you, and if you weren’t going through any perceived crisis or threat, you’d probably think I was out of my mind.  But if I  were to tell you, I have comfort to give and you will see a need for it in the future, would you let me comfort you?

Such was the case in our Old Testament reading (Isaiah 40:1-5).  The Prophet Isaiah is proclaiming the very heart of God; God wants to comfort His covenant people;  He wants Isaiah to speak tenderly to them and declare that their warfare is ended and their sins are forgiven.  In fact, He wants His people to know that  within this comfort comes a double portion of blessing, directly from the hand of their Creator and Redeemer God!  But they didn’t get it.  They saw no  need for comfort because their lives seemed to be going smooth.  They still had their homes, a good job, money to buy food, and national pride!  Why  what more could they want?  So comfort, no thanks Isaiah, but we will take that double portion of blessing from God that you mentioned.

What they refused to acknowledge was God’s appraisal of their sinful lives.  They refused to agree with God that how they were living was sinful; that God  was right and they were wrong.  They refused to hear God’s Word of Law.  And because of that, God promised through the prophet Isaiah that they  would be destroyed as a nation and occupied; they would be forcefully removed from their homeland and taken away in bondage.  They would feel  helpless and abandoned.  Then they would want comfort, because then they would see a need for it.  So through the prophet, God is saying, here is My  comfort, and after knowing all that I’ve told you, do you think you need it?

Do you need His comfort?  If you find yourself this morning a little like the stiff necked people of Judah that Isaiah was preaching to, thinking that your life is fine right now, let me help you out a little by being blunt.  You do need His comfort and so do I!  We need His comfort because we are sinful and broken!

Do you understand that everything that is and ever will be wrong with your life is the result of your sin and the sin of people around you?  Somewhere in your past, maybe even in the near past you have made decisions that you knew were unpleasing to God;  maybe you’ve done something or failed to do something that has had a drastic effect on your present or your future.  God wants you to know that you can’t undo that past, but you can find comfort.

Maybe there’s a character flaw in your personality that keeps hurting the people closest to you; maybe the hurt you’ve caused others is so deep that you may never have a loving and healthy relationship with them ever again.  Maybe because of that sin, you feel alone and abandoned?  If so God says that He has come to bring you comfort!

Perhaps, at one time you seemed to have everything.  God had blessed you with money, reputation, and authority, but now it seems that all of this has been taken from you.  You may see yourself as a shadow of what you once were.  If so, God wants me to speak comfort to you this morning.

Or maybe, you are looking back at your family, your children and it seems that what was once a strong Christian family has become dysfunctional and distant from God and His divine service.  Maybe the hunger to know God’s forgiving love and mercy is no longer a priority to you or your children.  Maybe you’ve struggled with answering the question who is to blame?  Is it your fault, your adult children, or a combination of the two?  This morning God is telling you that regardless of who is to blame, He wants to bring peace and comfort to you and your family.

And finally, maybe God wants us to look back together as a congregation and see how far we’ve fallen as a worshiping family of faith.  Maybe He wants us to look back at our strong legacy of sharing the gospel that was once Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church.  Maybe He wants us to see how we are but a shadow of what we once were, and then agree with Him that our fall from greatness is the result of our own sin as a congregation.  Maybe within our collective congregational guilt, you too can find some personal responsibility and guilt on account of what you failed to do or give that would have helped the church’s mission?  If so, God wants me to speak Words of comfort to you this morning!

What is this message of comfort?  Simply this, your warfare is over, the battle is won!  You no longer have to worry about how you will account for  your sinful life to God; you don’t have to wonder what you can do in order to take away your guilt.

This morning, God is telling each of us that it’s good that we see our sin and our inevitable death as punishment for that sin; that’s the proper work of His law.  But God also wants you to hear and believe the other portion of His Word that brings you new life, the gospel.  He wants you to know that if your sinful heart longs for freedom and release from your guilt, then He has heard your cry.  He has sent His Son, your Savior and King to take away your guilt.  Yes you have sinned, and yes your sin is offensive to your holy and perfect God, but He and He alone has acted to take away that sin.  You need never worry that God will not forgive, or that He will take away His love from you.  Instead, He wants you to hear His Words of comfort.  You are forgiven!  You are no longer locked up in a prison of your own making.  Your sin no longer defines you.  In other words, you are no longer a slave to your sin.  The devil can no longer threaten you with an eternity of punishment in hell, because Jesus has come to set you free.  Upon the cross His life-blood was spilled to set you free!

And to make sure that you will have no doubt about God’s complete and perfect work, He makes the gospel very personal, by coming to you in the waters of your own baptism.  It is there where He assures you that every one of your sins has been washed away and that you have been, and everyday are being recreated into the very image of your Savior, Jesus Christ!  Just as Judah could not pay for her own guilt that Isaiah made so plain to them in his preaching, you can do nothing as well.  You are helpless and must depend totally on God’s mercy; you must stake everything on His undeserved love.  And in your baptism, that is what you do every day.  You remember that it was God alone who saved you and is saving you.  Listen, its true, someone must pay for your sins, and someone has; it is Jesus Christ, not just the Son of God and your Savior, but the Heavenly Father’s Suffering Servant who came to suffer in your place! In your baptism, Jesus took away your guilt and sin and exchanged it with His obedient life and death upon the cross.  So in your baptism, God wants you to see that on the cross, Jesus not only took away the sins of the world, but He especially took away your sins!  Hear this word, believe it, and be comforted!

But there is one more piece of comforting news for you this morning.  God has not come to the world in one great moment upon the cross and then left us alone.  He did not come to you once in your baptism to wash you clean with the water and the Word and then abandoned you.  No, His Word this morning promises you a double portion of blessing; in other words the blessing of His real presence is with you, it is eternal, and it will never end.

In this season of Pentecost, God wants you to remember that His Holy Spirit is with you always.  When you were baptized, God put His seal upon you and declared to the devils and this sinful world, “This one is mine!”  He is always with you protecting and blessing you.  When you read God’s Word and stay in that Word, His Spirit is teaching you things so great that the angels stand in awe.  In His Word you hear and understand about a comfort from God that will never leave you or forsake you!  In His Word you learn that while God will not take away the discomfort and the temporary consequences of your sin, He has taken away the eternal consequence.  “You are free!  You are forgiven!”  Now that is a message of double blessing, and through the Holy Spirit He repeats it to you over and over!

Now do you see that you have really received a double blessing? Good, then God wants you to leave this place with not just gratitude and appreciation, but with a new personality; a new mindset.  God wants you to leave here knowing one simple thing.

You have been blessed to be a blessing to others.  How?  By speaking the gospel; by speaking the same message of comfort to your neighbor.  Speak the gospel and live the gospel.  And as you speak and live the gospel, God wants you to invite others to be changed by the gospel.  Tell them that there is a place at 7210 Lisbon Street, in the city of San Diego, where they too can hear a message of comfort that will change them just as it has changed and is changing you.

This morning friends, it is my prayer that you not only see your need for comfort but that you would also want it, now and always.  I pray that God has shown you that you are not to be defined by your past, by what you have done or failed to do, but only by what the Son of God Jesus Christ did for you upon the cross and what He gave to you within your own baptism.  I pray that this realization will change you and you like St. John the baptizer, you will leave this place speaking and living a message of repentance; always turning to Jesus Christ, the author and perfecter of our faith and your Christian life.  I pray this always in Jesus name… AMEN!