Archive for the ‘Christmas 2A’ Category

God’s Gifts That Keep on Giving

Sunday, January 5th, 2014

Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church-San Diego
Christmas 2A, January 5th, 2013

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“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the  heavenly places, even as He chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before  him.”  Those are the Words St. Paul used to begin his pastoral letter to the church at Ephesus so that they would have certainty  and peace with God, knowing that He had done all things necessary to assure them that God would not abandon them.  And  now, for the very same reason I your pastor, declare these same words of comfort and peace to you.

Four phrases jump out at us and demand our attention through out our epistle reading (Ephesians 1:3-14).  They demand to be  considered and applied to our lives, as the precious gifts that keep on giving.  Precious indeed, and they are these: In Christ God  chose us; In Christ God loved us; In Christ God saved us from our sins; In Christ God adopted us as His Sons, that is as His  children.  So the theme and the very source of comfort for us this morning can be summed up in this way, “In Christ, all of God has chosen, loved, forgiven and saved, and adopted us as His very own child!  All of this He has done for His glory and praise!”

This morning God is speaking to you.  Don’t worry about what He is saying to anyone else, because this message is for you; it is between you and God.  So get rid of any and all distractions that are clouding your mind and hear Him speak.  God has saved the world, but more importantly, He has saved you.  By His death upon the cross He paid the ransom price for the sins of the world.  But by the power of His Word, through the washing of the water and the Word, He has saved you by giving you pardon for your many sins.  In your baptism, God has placed the seal of the Holy Spirit upon you and claimed you as His own child.  All that is left for you is to live out and trust this truth.  But this is a spiritual and eternal reality, one that is hard for our sinful flesh to actually receive.  So let me use an analogy that will illustrate your relationship with God.

Since the fall of Adam and Eve, mankind, that is you and I and all who have gone before us and will come after us have been born in bondage, that is we are condemned prisoners, even worse, we are slaves.  We are slaves to our sinful nature; that is, sin is our cage.  Our true enemy the devil, has installed himself as our master, and our punishment for our sin is life without the possibility of parole, ending in a death sentence.  There is nothing we can do to secure our release; it is eternal.  Locked away hopelessly lost from God our Creator is our eternal reality.  We are constantly being reprogrammed to believe that there is no God or that Satan himself is our master.  We cannot get to God, but He being God, He can come to us.  And come to us He has.  In the fullness of time, that is at just the right moment, God’s own Son came to us as a child, and He was named Jesus the Christ.  He came to be our Savior, Emmanuel.  This child Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God the Father; that is, in His humanity as the boy Jesus, God the Son grew as all humans do.  He grew mentally in the same way and attained more and more strength of mind, understanding, and reason.

At just the right time, this child became a man and announced to the world, first to His own people, the physical children of Abraham, and then to the gentiles, that He had come for them, to set them free.  And then at just the right time, this God-man fulfilled the mission that His Father sent Him on; He allowed sinful men to crucify Him upon a cross, so that His death would be a ransom payment for the sins of the world.  This ransoming work for the world includes all people from all times and generations; it includes you and your sins.

Now, the door to your cage has been torn open.  You are free from the bondage of your sin.  Death no longer has a claim over you, and the devil’s lie has been revealed.  He is not your master; your Master is Jesus Christ, the very Son of God.  Now ever so softly, the voice of the Holy Spirit speaks to you and says, “My Child, you are free.  Come out and enter the Kingdom of grace, which the Father has prepared for you.”

Most of us, when we first begin to really consider the gospel, the message of forgiveness of sins, have two main thoughts going on in our heads. Is this really true, and can it really be for me?! And to those questions, the Holy Spirit takes your empty hand of faith and fills it with the promises of the Word of God, and then points you to the waters of your baptism.  There in the washing of the water and the Word of God, He assures you that Jesus has taken you by the hand, sealed you with the Holy Spirit, and claimed you as His own dear child and His brother and friend.

The door of your cage is open.  The invitation to leave your bondage is real.  Will you allow Him to take you by the hand and lead you out or will you pull away?  God’s Word this morning makes it clear that it is His desire that you do not pull away.  He desires that for your entire life here on earth, you will allow His gift of faith to lead you away from sin and the devil, and then finally discover that your death is simply a departure from one place (here ), to another, in paradise.

This morning, God the Father wants you to know that He has loved you with an everlasting love and chosen you from the beginning of time, before the world was ever created.  He chose you to love you and for you to love Him.  In the Father’s love, that is, through His Word, He points your eyes and heart to the cross of Jesus Christ; through that cross He made you holy and blameless even though, as we know all to well we are neither!  But you must keep reminding yourself that it is only through the work of Christ upon the cross that God makes it possible for you to become adopted as His child.

So we can say that God chose us at the beginning of time; He saved us at just the right time; and He adopted us throughout time with an eye not on time but on eternity.  Everything that you have heard this morning is meant to open your eyes of faith so that you will see that it is God who does everything to save you and claim you as His own.  He isn’t bound to time or space, to influence or laws; He is the creator of all things.  Even if there are things that we can’t understand or figure out in our minds, our gift of faith can simply learn to trust God in all things, and believe that He has come to us.  He is the One who sees all things at all times as one fluid thought; from the beginning to the end He sees and knows, and He sees you and your life and what goes on as you live it.  And what He sees shouldn’t alarm you, but bring you comfort.  He has saved you and is saving you, because He has chosen you.  But He has not chosen you because of something He found in you; no, He has chosen you through Christ Jesus, His own dear Son.

God the Son has come to you to be your champion to set you free; every day, He continues to come to you.  Everyday, He reminds you that it was and is His sacrifice that does the choosing, the loving, the saving, and the adopting that the Father desires.  Through Jesus Christ, the Son of God, all of God has come to free us from our pain and suffering; to tree us from our struggles; to free us from all fear and worry, and to free us from our sins and death itself.  I say that in God the Son all of God comes to us because He is our triune God in human flesh.  Wherever the work of the Son is, there also is the sending heart of the Father and the power of the Holy Spirit.

Through Jesus Christ, God shows Himself to be our only provision and our only source of hope and security in a hopeless and insecure world.  Through Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit has sealed us with His sign in the waters of our baptism, and marked us as God’s own by taking residence within us.  Now think about that for a moment… God lives within you.  You can’t get much more secure than that!  And as the Holy Spirit lives within us, He assures us that God will never leave nor forsake us; He comforts, guides, teaches, builds up, and equips us with gifts that give real strength and power.  But strength and power for what?  To trust the presence of God that comes to the door of your cage and says come out.  Allow me to take you by the hand of faith and lead you upon life’s way.

Dear friends, the door is open.  Your bondage to sin, death, and the devil is over.  As Jesus once called Lazarus who had been dead for four days to come out from the tomb with the Words, “Lazarus, come out,” He now calls you as well.  Would it not have been ridiculous if once made alive, Lazarus chose to remain in the tomb as a dead man?  Is it not as ridiculous for us to live as if we are still in bondage?  So let’s rise upon our feet together, as God continues to lead us and sing the first verse of LSB Hymn 722, “Lord, Take My Hand and Lead Me.”

“Lord take my hand and lead me upon life’s way.  Direct, protect, and feed me from day to day.  Without Your grace and favor I go astray.  So take my hand, O Savior, and lead the way.  AMEN!”

Faithfully Obedient in Christ’s Word!

Sunday, January 2nd, 2011

2nd Sunday after Christmas A, January 2, 2011
Rev. Brian Henderson—Pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
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INTRODUCTION: “And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom.  And the favor of God was upon him.” Vs. 40  A man was sleeping one night in his cabin in Montana when suddenly his room filled with light and Jesus appeared. The Lord told the man he had work for him to do, and He showed him a large rock in front of his cabin. The Lord explained to the man that his job was to push against that rock everyday with all of his strength. So the man was obedient, and every day he worked at the task; his shoulders became strong as he daily pushed against the massive surface of the unmoving rock, pushing with all his might.  Each night the man returned to his cabin sore, and tired.  Eventually he began feeling like his whole day had been spent in vain.

Seeing that the man was showing signs of discouragement, the devil decided to pay him a visit and place negative thoughts into the man’s weary mind: “You’ve been pushing against that rock for a long time, and it hasn’t budged. Why kill yourself over this? You are never going to move it.”  After a while, these suggestive thoughts started giving the man the feeling that not only was his task impossible but also that he was a failure.  Eventually the man became depressed and he thought, “Why kill myself over this?  I’ll just put in my time, giving just the minimum effort and that will be good enough.”  And that’s exactly what he planned to do until one day he decided to take his troubled thoughts to the Lord in prayer.

“Lord” he said, “I have worked long and hard, putting all my strength into what you’ve asked me to do.  And after all this time, I haven’t even budged that rock by a millimeter.  What is wrong? Why am I failing?”

And to this the Lord lovingly responded, “My friend, when I asked you to serve me and you accepted, I told you that your task was to push against the rock with all your strength, which you have done faithfully.  Never once did I mention to you that I expected you to move it.  Your task was simply to push.  And now look at yourself.  Your arms and back are strong and muscled, your shoulders are square, your hands are callused from constant pressure, and your legs have become massive and hard.  Through opposition you have grown strong and your abilities now far surpass what you used to have.  And it’s true, you haven’t moved the rock.  But your calling was to be obedient and to push and to exercise your faith and trust in My wisdom.  This you have done.  And now friend, I will now move the rock.”

Obedience and faith; these are two things which always seem to go together.  We need faith to believe that God will do what He said He would do, and we need obedience to follow the path that God has put us on!  Mary and Joseph were obedient, but for the ultimate example of faithfulness and obedience we must turn to and trust Jesus!

I. Every year, Joseph and Mary obediently did the right thing; they took their son Jesus and made the long journey from Nazareth to Jerusalem to celebrate the eight day long pass-over festival.  This year was a little different, because Jesus had now turned 12 years old.  This was the age when a Jewish boy became “a son of the law” and was expected  to obediently learn and observe all that the law demanded.  Well the festival is over, and now it’s time to head back to Nazareth.  Joseph, Mary, and Jesus would return home along with of the other families from Nazareth and near by villages and towns.   

Well after the first day of travel, as everyone in the caravan was pitching their tents for the evening, Joseph and Mary realized any parent’s worst nightmare Jesus was missing!  They quickly turned around and went back up the hill making the long trek back to Jerusalem to search for Jesus.  Once back in the city, the couple began to search for their boy.  They retraced their steps and went to every place they thought that Jesus might be.  Finally, towards evening, they found Him, sitting on the steps of the temple as a student, engaged in a learning discussion about God’s Word with Rabbi’s who were also gathered there.  They were relieved of course but they also must have been worn-out and a little irritated as well, but they held their temper and didn’t interrupt the discussion that was taking place between Jesus and all of those teachers.  It amazed them to hear Jesus asking and answering such deep spiritual questions.  The teachers were amazed at the boy’s wisdom too.  But now, Jesus seeing His parents suddenly rose, and He obediently walked over to them.  And His mother said to him, Son, why have you treated us so? See, your father and I have been searching everywhere for you; (we were worried sick over you!)” And Jesus who was honestly surprised by this said to them, “You were looking for me? Didn’t you know that I had to be doing my Father’s work?  Didn’t you know that I would be here in my Father’s house?”  And that was it, the dilemma was over!  Jesus and His family began the long trip back to Nazareth.  Mary and Joseph didn’t understand, but they knew that Jesus was a special boy, but someday they would understand that He was also the “God-man”.  So Jesus grew as any child, and he became wise and strong, and he continued to find favor in the eyes of God and man!

II. Why didn’t Mary and Joseph know where to find Jesus?  Why didn’t they remember what the angels, the Magi, and the prophets told them about their child 12 years ago?  Why didn’t they remember that Jesus was really God the Father’s Son?  Well, because Jesus was also a very real person.  As a boy, and latter as a man Jesus was under God’s authority and dependent upon him for all things just like we are.  As a boy, Jesus was expected to be obedient to His parents and keep the 4th Commandment perfectly, just as you and I must do, but the difference between Jesus and us is He was able to do it and we can’t!  But then why did Jesus become separated from Joseph and Mary if he wasn’t at fault?  Well the error was His parents.  When Jesus asked them how it was that they didn’t know where he would be, he wasn’t being sarcastic, but truthful.  “Why didn’t you look for me before you left?  I would have left with you, you know!  Have you forgotten who I really am?  Have you forgotten all that God told you about me?  Why would you need to wonder where I would be or where you must find me?  I must be in my Father’s house!”  Here in our gospel lesson, at the age of twelve we see that Jesus clearly knew most certainly that God was his Father in a way in which he was not Father to anyone else!

Dear friends, do you understand the wonderful mystery here?   This boy Jesus is speaking as God the Son; even before He took on our flesh He was always eternally the Son of God! Can you surrender to the mystery that declares that Jesus is true God and true man without trying to explain how this can be?  Yes you can if by faith you obediently surrender this mystery into God’s capable hands!  And it is by this same faith that we believe, teach, and confess that the divine and human natures of Jesus are now and forever inseparable; not pasted together like two boards, nor one transformed or absorbed into the other, but instead, each essence of God and man simply exist together in an unchanged way that truly makes Jesus the God-Man! 

According to this personal union this God-boy in our gospel lesson already and always possessed His majesty as God, and yet He allowed it to be hidden just as great clouds in the sky can hide the sun. This is how Jesus could grow in stature, wisdom, and grace before God and other people [Luke 2:52]. This is why Jesus, knowing that He was the true Son of God, continued being obedient to His earthly parents.  Make no mistake friends, Jesus knew that He was the Son of the Father, and He knew that He was divine, and yet, he continued as a child who was obedient to Joseph and Mary because by doing so He was being obedient to His Heavenly Father’s will. ILLUS: There’s a famous picture that depicts the boy Jesus running with outstretched arms to his mother, with the shadow of the cross being cast on the ground by his form as he runs. The picture’s underlying message is true. Jesus obedience is an example not just for children growing and preparing for adulthood, but for all of us!  He was obedient to His parents and He was obedient to God’s will; but His obedience is also so much more than just an example, because without it He could not have been our Redeemer, the Savior who came to free us from sin and death by His own death upon the cross.

III. Dear friends, when Jesus declared His relationship with the Heavenly Father and demonstrated His obedience to His earthly parents, He was also declaring His purpose for coming to this world; to fulfill his Father’s will, which was to seek and save all people who are lost to sin. By perfectly living His life, that same life became a perfect act of worship.  By being obedient to the will of God His Father in all things, He was obedient, even “unto death, even death on a cross” for us.  Through the obedient life of this God-boy, Jesus’ role as Savior was proclaimed every day until he obediently walked to His own death upon the cross.  As the God-Man Jesus lived and died to bring us back to God in an eternal way that would give us peace with God.  Jesus,  obedient to His Father’s will  brought all people back to a right relationship with His father, and He did that work finally just outside the very walls of the Jerusalem temple where His parents found Him—He did it on Calvary.  It was there upon that cruel cross that God the Father would forsake His obedient Son and lay upon Him the punishment for all of our sins.  But after three days, God resurrected His Son from death to life in order to ensure us of our own personal victory over sin and death.  Jesus was obedient, and because of His obedience we have been given the ability to call God our “Father,” not in the same way as Jesus can mind you, but in a very real way that eternally ensures you of a loving relationship between God and you.”

Can you accept this as truth?  Can you be like Mother Mary and simply treasure these truths in your heart?  Can you obediently accept that God’s mysteries are beyond your comprehension and simply believe and by faith allow the living Word of God to remain steadfast within your heart allowing Jesus Christ to strengthen your faith unto eternal life?  I pray that you will.  I ask this in Jesus name…AMEN!