Archive for the ‘Advent 3C’ Category

The King Will Have His Day!

Sunday, December 13th, 2015

Advent 3-C, December 13, 2015
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor
Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego, CA

Click here for audio of this message

Isn’t it true, that life, our lives seem to be full of what we perceive to be good days and bad days? And if we feel we’re having a bad day, then we just look forward to a day when things will be better. And sometimes, in the middle of a bad day, other folks will try to cheer us up by saying, “Well, tomorrow is another day, and hopefully a better one!”

Of course, how we evaluate our days, whether they’re good or bad, are often affected by our own definitions of what is good or bad, and sometimes what we think is a bad day turns out to be not so bad, or we might even discover latter on down the road, that it was even for our good. And then on the other hand, what we may think is good can many times turn out to be bad.

Kings in the time of our Old Testament lesson (Zephaniah 3:14–20)—and I suppose world leaders today as well, too—can have good days and bad days. They don’t like to talk about the bad days, and they certainly don’t like their fellow citizens—or their enemies either for that matter—to hear about anything bad coming out of their kingdom or government. And it’s also true that as sinful people, we all have a very selfish and self-serving way of measuring things, and we really want things in our lives to be good, and if they turn out not to be good, we at least want things to appear to be good.

Of course, deep down we know the truth; we are not immune to bad days.  How many times have we sensed that others (and yes, also ourselves) are putting up a good front? Maybe it’s also true that we’ve gotten good at hiding our problems or internalizing our sadness, and because of this facade we’ve built, we’d rather talk about good days rather than dealing with the bad ones.

The Old Testament prophets talked about good days and bad days. But they had a better perspective on the realities of life. They measured and evaluated by something higher than human wants and wishes, needs or notions. They understood reality— past, present, and future—from the perspective and vantage point of God Himself, who made all of our days.

One of the biggest problems that these prophets—well, let’s just call them preachers, one of the biggest challenges they encountered was the tendency of the people to get the good days and the bad days mixed up, turned around. Isaiah gets to the heart of this problem when he says “(You call) evil good and good evil, you put darkness for light and light for darkness, (you call) bitter sweet and sweet bitter (Isaiah 5:20). In other words, we pick what looks good, but too often it turns out that is was not so good for us.

Part of the problem was that the people thought that God was obligated to giving them only the good stuff that they wanted. Since they were the people of God, they thought they were privileged to have things their way. And since God was a God of salvation and deliverance, they assumed that he would, well, save and deliver them no matter what the circumstances were.

And there was this phrase that the people kept talking about; about God’s great day—the “day of the Lord”—and their understanding was that it would be a day of salvation; a day that was anticipated as the time when God would finally give them victory over all of their earthly enemies. But the prophets (those faithful “preachers” of the Old Testament) had a way of turning this saying on its head. Amos, for example, preached, “Woe to you who desire the day of the Lord! Why would you have the day of the Lord? It is darkness and not light! It is as if a man fled from a lion, and a bear met him, or he went into the house and leaned with his hand against the wall (safe at home) – and a serpent bit him. Is not the day of the Lord darkness and not light, and gloom with no brightness?” [Amos 5:18]

Last Sunday we had a similar taste of how the truth of God can turn us upside down, when Malachi told the people who were crying out for justice that when the king comes to bring justice, they’ll get justice all right—and none of them would be able to endure the day of his coming.

Today, in our text from Zephaniah (Zephaniah 3:14–20), we hear another prophet who talks about the day of the Lord.

Listen to a portion of Zephaniah’s sermon in chapter 1 (14‒16) before his sermon found in today’s lesson.  He says: “The great day of the LORD is near, near and hastening fast; The sound of the day of the LORD is bitter; the mighty man cries aloud there. A day of wrath is that day, a day of distress and anguish, a day of ruin and devastation, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and think darkness, a day of trumpet blast and battle cry against the fortified cities and against the lofty battlements. I will bring distress on mankind so that they shall walk like the blind, because they have sinned against the LORD.”

Does that sound like a good day to you? But here’s the rub, all of these words that bring fear and trembling had to be spoken so that mercy and grace could follow. It is a serious warning that God had to make clear to His children of faith. God comes as King to get the job done right?  He doesn’t come to acquiesce to our definitions of good and bad, light and darkness. In the end, if we’ve sinned and fallen short of the glory and goodness of God, then every day, and especially our last day, our judgment day, will be a day of darkness and distress unless God can make a way out of no way.

But before God will do this work for us, He wants us to first agree with Him, that all of our days lived apart from His perfection and light—are days of darkness. And, if we can see things God’s way; if we can admit that He’s right and we are wrong, then like the plot twist in a good novel or movie, we will encounter God’s great reversal; we will discover that God has made a way out of no way—his one and only way—of showing us that all those bad days have been made into good days.

This is because of the one great day, a day that according to human standards, should be called the worst day of all, the day on which the innocent Son of God and our Lord and King was put to death, not for anything He had done but for the sins of all the world. A day that seemed to bring out the greatest injustice of all, turned out to be the best day of all, and the King finally brought justice in a very swift and severe manner. And what do we call this “bad day”? We call it GOOD Friday! It’s good, because God has turned the mother of all bad days into the best day of all. And now, the darkness of that day and all days following, we can claim as light, the glorious light of Easter morn: He is risen, and ascended, and lives and reigns to all eternity.

Dear friends in Christ, gathered today on this third Sunday of Advent, we are in the midst of our own good and bad days, busy days preparing for holidays. But every day is lived in the shadow of the darkness and the light of Good Friday and Easter morning.

Here, in the midst of Advent, we are already thinking ahead of our Lord’s passion, death, and resurrection, as we do every Son-day, in the light of God’s son, our Lord, our King. Last Sunday the theme of Advent turned dark. Malachi reminded us that the King Whom we are seeking will come—but with a twist. Though His coming is well announced, He will come suddenly, and with a surprise. Those who were looking for justice will find judgment. Those who were looking for light will find darkness.

Today, the prophet Zephaniah brings us to the end of the story; those having a dark day will see the light. Even in the midst of the dark deeds all around us, in the dark uncertainties of our world and our lives, even in the midst of the dark secrets that we keep hidden, out of sight and out of the light, God has a message of a very, very Good Day: “Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion, . . . Rejoice and exult with all your heart . . . The LORD has taken away the judgments against you. The King of Israel is in your midst—Right here, right now, in His word of grace and forgiveness, in His body and blood, given and shed for the forgiveness of YOUR sin.  ON THAT DAY (like today it’s a good day, hear the Word of God) It shall be said to Jerusalem (that includes you, right here, right now) Fear not, O Zion!  Let not your hands grow weak.  The LORD YOUR God is in YOUR midst— A mighty One who will save.

This morning the prophet Zephaniah has abruptly ended his message of law, and immediately breaks into songs of joy and he calls us to join him in praising God.  Why?  Because the Lord has taken away YOUR punishment, He has turned back YOUR enemies, sin, death, and the devil.  They were YOUR enemies that He defeated.  It was YOUR sins He took away.  He did it for YOU!

YOUR enemies and YOUR sins were removed by YOUR King and Savior, Jesus Christ. Death and hell are no longer a threat to YOU who cling to and trust in Christ your King, only!  This very morning, the Lord promises YOU that while you may not perceive it fully today, He has restored YOU, His faithful people, to a position of honor and praise. No longer are you to be despised and ridiculed by a world of unbelieving and faithless people. The last, great day of the Lord has come in Jesus Christ, and it will come again as a completed day of universal deliverance. You dear saints, will be among the sea of faithful children of God through Christ, who will be the center and joy of His creation, as He always intended the crown of his creation to be. On that final and great day of the advent of our God, our Lord will restore the original beauty of His creation and open up to us once again our heavenly home, Paradise restored!

Yes, the kings of the earth have their days, good days and bad days. So do we. We all may wait to “have our day,” but this day, this very day, is our day indeed. It is the Lord’s Day, it is the Day of the Lord. The king has come and had his day; it was a bad day that turned out to be a Good Day, a Good Friday.  And because of His day, He makes all our days His—His good days, for us!  AMEN!

Those Fickle Children

Sunday, December 13th, 2009

Third Sunday of Advent, December 13, 2009
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
Click here for audio of this message

 Grace, mercy, and peace to you friends from God our Father and our Savior Jesus Christ!  Our text this morning is our gospel reading, with special attention on these words: “And blessed in the one who is not offended by me.” [vs. 23]

In this season of gift giving, God wants us to remember the gift that He’s given to each of us in our baptism.  He wants us to remember that through simple water and the presence and power of His Word alone, we have been spared from His judgment and His punishment for our many sins, and He has done this by grace alone…that is by His love and forgiveness, which we can never earn or deserve.  And because we have receive this gift from Him, in return, He wants His grace to change us in such a way that our greatest desire will be to love and worship Him with all of our hearts, souls, and minds.  

Good news right?  Yet for some, the gift of God’s love is unacceptable to them, or it doesn’t suit their tastes, so they want to trade it in, upgrade it to something more in keeping with their life style.  What is it that they want?  Well let’s turn to our gospel reading for some insight. 

We join Jesus in the middle of a conversation with two of John the Baptist’s disciples.  They’ve been sent by John to ask for guidance.  You see John couldn’t come in person because he was locked up in King Herod’s dark and dank prison for preaching the very message God had given him to proclaim throughout the land, “Repent and be baptized!” Why did that offend King Herod?  Well, John empowered by the Holy Spirit, pointed out that king Herod was committing adultery by sleeping with his brother’s wife.  As you can imagine, the king and is illegitimate spouse didn’t like hearing that they needed to repent and dissolve their relationship.  Now it’s tempting for some to think that John had lost his faith as he sat suffering in his cell alone; feeling as if God had abandoned him.  Where is the judgment that God told him to warn people about?!  Now while it is true that any normal person would lose hope in circumstances like these, we must remember that John was not a normal man, he was a faith-filled man.  Could it be that such a faith-filled man had really lost his faith?  Well let’s consider that for a moment. 

Here is a man who was called by God to proclaim one message: “The Savior and the Judge of the world is coming.  Repent and be baptized!”  He knew that Jesus was that Messiah, the savior of the world, and he expected Jesus to do all of the heavenly works that had been promised by God through the prophets.  He knew that there would be works of grace, miracles that demonstrated God’s love and forgiveness and he knew that there would also be works of judgment.  He must have asked himself, “Where are the works of judgment?  Where is the day that is coming which none can endure and no one can stand when He appears?  Where is the refining fire and all of His furry that I have been warning everyone about?” [Malachi 3:2] 

You see friends, John wasn’t losing his faith, but rather he was confused.  So where does a faithful man of God go with his confusion?  Why He goes to the very source; he goes to Jesus!  So through a couple of messengers, John asked a very simple question, that when answered would restore his clarity: “Will another one follow you?  When will the works of judgment begin?” 

Jesus answered John’s question in a way that would strengthen his faith by reminding him of God’s faithfulness.  Jesus said, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the cripple are walking, lepers are cleansed, the deaf can hear, the dead are raised, and then tell him that just as the prophet Isaiah foretold, the poor have the good news preached to them.” [Isaiah 35:5,6; 61:1]  With this short answer, Jesus sends John’s disciples back to their teacher confident that this Word would relieve John’s worry and strengthen His faith in God’s faithfulness. 

Are you wondering how that relieved John’s confusion?  Well John’s disciples may have wondered that too, but make no mistake John understood it loud and clear.  You see, Jesus was taking John back to the same Old Testament prophets that John had been quoting in his sermons that proclaimed the need of repentance. He was helping John remember that God’s grace must take priority over the coming judgment.  The gospel must first be preached in its fullest before judgment would come.  All who confess before God that they are spiritually poor, completely empty and destitute will be filled by Him.  The gospel must continue to be preached until God’s predetermined time of judgment begins. 

Friends, John’s mistake was the same mistake that many Christians make today; they forget that how God marks time is not the same as how we mark it.  We along with John need to remember that throughout the Old Testament prophecies and even in the message given by John the Baptist, one thing has always been left unanswered—the interval of time between the first coming of Jesus with grace and mercy and His second coming when He brings judgment to those who have rejected His grace.  So we need to really hear the words that Jesus dismisses the messengers of John with, because they are also for us: “Blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”  We must not doubt God and be offended that He does not mark time as we do.  We must live every day as if Jesus is coming this day.  Blessed is the one who is not offended. 

Some of us might ask, “Why would anyone be offended by that?”  Well maybe for the same reason that some in the crowds that followed John and Jesus were offended: We are all by our very nature two faced and self serving… we are fickle!  We’ll take the baptism that saves us but we refuse to embrace and live out the message….Repent!  Turn away from your sins and turn only to Jesus who is your savior. 

This was the point that Jesus was making when He asked the crowds the same question three times, “What did you go out into the (desert) to see (when you looked for John)?”  Friends, when Jesus repeats anything three times you better believe that it’s important!  Did you go out to see a tiny marsh reed being swayed in the wind?  Did you go to see a person who is more worried about political opinion and the favor of the king than following God’s Word and Spirit?  If so, then that isn’t what you found is it?  So why did you let him baptize you if you didn’t agree with his message? Well maybe you went out to see a fancy talking, well dressed speaker who could get you motivated to improve and enhance your life?  Someone who would preach a message of blessings and prosperity…someone who would tell you that you could have heavens rewards right here on earth?  But you didn’t hear that either did you?  No instead you heard God’s true message: “Repent everyone of you and be baptized!  Turn away from your sinful life and in confession turn to God alone who can forgive and restore you!”  Where is your repentance and confession?  

Are you offended by Jesus evaluation of us this morning?  Are you offended by the truth?  Like the crowds that were judged by Jesus as fickle, are you shocked to hear that you are fickle too?  Are you shocked that you find yourself being judged as double minded and indecisive about your need for a savior, much like the children in Jesus’ story who neither wanted to dance nor to weep? 

If this is you friends, then may I say you’re not alone?  Because you see, this is all of us!  We are all convicted by the same verdict—guilty of not loving God with all of our hearts, minds, and souls.  Guilty of loving our flesh more than our savior!  Since this is true, and it appears God’s word has found us out, then hear the Word of God, the very lips of Jesus speak to you this morning:  “The blind have received their sight, the crippled can walk, the lepers have been cleansed, the dead have been raised, and you who are sinful and poor in spirit have been washed clean of your sins through simple water and the power and real presence of God’s own Word.” 

This morning friends, Jesus says to us: “Let this truth change your heart.  Let your heart hear this message and be changed by it.  By my stripes you have been healed.  By my death upon the cross for you, your sins have been paid for.  Behold, I have made all things new!  This is a gift from me to you…will you confess that you need it and that there is no other name or message under heaven that can save you?  Will you simply rest in this good news and let it change you? 

That is your gift this advent season from God friends.  I pray that as you open God’s baptismal gift to you every day, you will allow Him to make you like John the Baptist… resolute, strong, and faithful.  Open it every day friends and live out your new life.  Do not wait.  Remember God does not mark time as we do.  Jesus could come again at any moment.  Jesus is coming, He is coming indeed!  Maranatha… come Lord come quickly.  AMEN!