Archive for the ‘Advent 3A’ Category

Again I Say Rejoice!

Sunday, December 15th, 2013

Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church-San Diego
Advent 3A, December 15th, 2013

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Psalm 146

This morning, God invites us to rejoice, that is to praise Him while we still have life and soul within our bodies.  But is it really possible to praise Him all of the time?  Yes it is.  So let’s get started: Rejoice. Celebrate your awesome God.  When you are happy… rejoice.  When you are sad… rejoice.  When you are rich… rejoice.  When you are poor… rejoice.  If you are sick or healthy, able or disabled… rejoice!  Your God is with you.

Easier said then done, eh?  Well let’s look at our Psalm (Psalm 146) and see if there is a way to rejoice that comes with God’s work, because I think that you will agree with me, if it is up to our own strength we will fail.

“Praise the Lord, O my Soul!  I will praise the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.” [Vs. 1, 2]  First let’s get something settled right off the bat; you are no better or worse off than the author of this psalm.  You struggle with the results of sin and the weakness of flesh just as he did.  The psalmist knows this truth, so he calls out to each of us this morning, even though we are saturated with all of our sin, he calls us to praise the Lord.  He wants you to declare this mandate just as he has, so that it is no longer he speaking to you, but you speaking.  But who are you speaking to?    You are speaking to yourself.  But how can you speak to yourself without seeming a little strange?  Because you are not just flesh, you are also composed of a soul.

“Praise the Lord O my soul!”  Your soul needs reassurance; it needs hope because it is constantly under attack by the evil that surrounds it.  So we must speak truth, God’s truth to our souls so that they will not grow weak and discouraged.  We must speak words like, “Hope in God; confess to Him your sin, because He promises to forgive.”  And when we receive His forgiveness, our soul turns our hearts outward to others in need of forgiveness.  And with them, we share these encouraging Words:  “Return to your Creator God and be assured that He is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.”

So speak to your soul and say, “Praise the Lord, O my soul.”  Your soul is given truth and light from the Word of God.  Through the Word of God you are given reason to see beyond the created and observe the hand of the Creator.  Where others see darkness, you see the glorious light of God Himself!  Where others see despair and hopelessness you see good and hope.  And so through the Work of God’s Word and His constant presence you can encourage your soul when it is fearful and answer: “I will praise the Lord as long as I live!”

Now this is where the light of God makes things interesting for us creatures.  God is calling us to everlasting praise, but how can that be when we are simply flesh that is here today and gone tomorrow?  Because you are more than flesh, you are also a soul, and your soul is everlasting.

So you see your soul was created to praise the Lord in what ever station or calling of life you are in, and your flesh, well it doesn’t like that, so it answers, “But I am sinful and I will not praise Him!”  So what are we to do about this battle that goes on within us?

Verses 3 and 4 give us our answer: “Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation. When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish.”  Will your sinful flesh even hear these Words?  Yes, but it will not rejoice in them.  You see, these Words are not the advice of man, but the very voice of God speaking to you from Heaven.  They are meant to turn your eyes away from that which is created, even your own flesh, and look to the One who has created all things.

So, don’t trust people, not even yourself.  And if you can’t even count on yourself, then doesn’t it make sense that you shouldn’t put your hope in politicians, preachers, doctors, family, or friends, but trust only in The Lord?  Now you may counter this and say, “I try, but life is hard.  I have certain needs.  If I only had a more loving family, a better job, more government aid, or better health, then I could really praise the Lord.”  And to that, I must declare that God’s Word still stands and your sinful flesh must be silenced.

The truth is, you would be happy if some politician gave you more money or more stuff.  You would certainly be happy if your disease was cured by a doctor or your heart cheered by the love of church and family, but when it is your very Creator who speaks encouraging Words of truth and promises of healing and prosperity you doubt and reject that truth; you try to turn the soul towards the created and away from the Creator.

So hear this loud and clear:  When that man or woman that you trust is popped like a bubble and they go back to being dust and ashes where will your hope be then?  When you O sinful body, cease to have the breath of life, what will your outcome be?  Where O flesh is your pride now?  Where is your boasting?

So what are we to do if we can’t put our hope in men, in governments, family, and friends?

“Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, who keeps faith forever; who executes justice for the oppressed, who gives food to the hungry.” [Vs. 5-7]  Who is this God of Jacob; the Lord of your soul?

Well for us who have confessed our sins and by faith received forgiveness of those sins, there is only One true God, the Father, maker of heaven and earth, and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom all things are made.  Let this God and this God alone be our source of hope and trust.  Let the ungodly trust in their gods.  Their gods are things that are created; things that satisfy the hungers of this world; our God is He who created this world and everything that this world considers food.

Dear friends, we have a great God, so let us bless His name.  He alone has done great things for us; He has made us His great possession and He has bought us with a great price.

Sometimes, blessing Him in the flesh can be a challenge, because for now He is simply Spirit and we must worship Him by faith.  But look around at all that you see… our God made it all!  Does your flesh value this created world and all that it provides?  Fine, then remind it that the One true God created it all!  If what is here on earth isn’t enough to silence your flesh, then look up into the heavens and see the other wonders of God’s hand and tremble in awe.  Put your hope in that great God and no other.

Since our God made all of this, then let us rest in His power and presence, because He made us too!  Isn’t it true that He cares for all of His creation?  The birds eat at their appointed time and all living things find their sustenance from within the creation itself.  How much more will He care for you O sinful man, you who were created in His image?  Why do we say that we were created in His image?  Because we have a soul and only a soul can praise it’s Creator with intent.  What intent is that?  The intent of turning by faith to the only true God, who alone is faithful forever!

God sees and He knows the injustices of the world; He see’s the wrongs that you have suffered on account of your faith.  God not only sees, but He promises that He will avenge.  You who are hard pressed by your sin and the devil, God promises relief and justice.  He promises to give food for the hungry.  But what food?

Certainly, as we have already heard, He gives physical food for the body, food that feeds physical hunger.  But for you His children of faith He gives a special food, because you have another hunger.  You hunger for righteousness, that is, you hunger to be free of sin so that you may praise God with an upright spirit.  Jesus has also called you blessed because you hunger.  “Blessed are those that hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.”  For this one thing we must also praise God; we praise Him because He has given us a hunger and thirst for His presence and care for our souls.  How does He do this great thing?  Through His Word!  LISTEN:

“The Lord sets the prisoners free; the Lord opens the eyes of the blind.  The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the righteous.  The Lord watches over the sojourners; He upholds the widow and the fatherless, but the way of the wicked He brings to ruin.” [Vs. 8, 9]

In our gospel reading (Matthew 11:2-15), Jesus gives St. John the Baptizer and our eyes of faith great things to consider and declare.  Listen: “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”  [Vs. 4-6]

At the time Jesus spoke these Words, He meant to have John and us encouraged by the miracles that He was physically performing.  The blind saw, the lame walked, lepers were healed and the deaf could hear.  John and we, are to know that in Christ Jesus, God’s long awaited Messiah had finally come; God had truly come to be with and save His people!  Strangers, widows, orphans and misfits all, could then and can now, find a place, a home in the company of Jesus Christ the Son of God!  And if that was not enough, the dead were brought back to life!  But the physical miracles were nothing in comparison to what would take place after… after the cross… after the empty tomb… after His ascension and return to the right hand of God the Father, and after the Son of God’s second advent.

Once these things have all taken place, sinful flesh will bow as the redeemed souls of the baptized declare with the Centurion at the foot of the cross, “Surely He IS the Son of the Living God!”  Surely He has come to set us free from our sins; the captivity of the devil.  Surely through His Word, He has opened the eyes and ears of those who were once deaf and blind to their sin and allowed them to see their new spiritual reality: They are forgiven!  Freed from their prison of sin.  Surely, His saints can see that it is true, “By His stripes, we are healed” and cleansed from our spiritual leprosy.”

Surely, our flesh must now see and tremble over what our souls now know as truth; in our baptisms we have been saved, reborn… recreated unto eternal life; recreated to praise the Lord!

Be still O soul; the Lord is on your side.  “The Lord your God shall reign forever, your God, O Zion, to all generations. Praise the Lord!” [Vs. 10]  Rejoice in the Lord always and again, I say REJOICE!