Archive for the ‘Ephesians 3:14-21’ Category

A Promise is a Promise!

Sunday, July 29th, 2012

Ninth Sunday in Pentecost B, July 29, 2012
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA

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Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, to Bethsaida [Mark 6:45a].

Another way to say that is, Jesus compelled them; no He insisted that they get into the boat.  He had them get into a boat that He knew  would soon be in all kinds of trouble.  He had them get into a boat that He knew would soon face trouble as they headed into a storm that  He knew was about to kick up on the lake.  He had them get into a boat that He knew would soon face trouble as they headed into a storm,  and then He planned to walk out to them on the water, knowing it would cause grown men to cry out in fear like children.  Why?

When all three of my boys were younger I had the distinct joy that I sometimes think only a Dad can truly appreciate; I took the training  wheels off of their bicycles and made them learn to ride their bikes.  I did it knowing that they would fall, scrape their knees, and maybe  even bloody their lips; I did it because I wanted them to experience freedom from fear.  I wanted them to learn that they could trust me  and their bike.  I promised each of them that they could learn to ride a bike without the training wheels.  And after a few falls and  encouragement from me, they learned that I was right, they could ride a bike!

So why did Jesus compel the disciples to get into that boat.   So that they would learn that God keeps His promises!  They needed to learn  that Jesus would never leave nor forsake them; even when it seemed that He wasn’t with them He really was.  He was watching them from  a secret location that they were not aware of.  They needed to learn that Jesus is the God-man who even controls the wind and sea; why  He even controls sickness and disease.

So what things does God compel us to do today?  Well certainly as we pray every day in the Lord’s Prayer, we discover that He compels us to pray for His Kingdom and His will to be done every day here on earth as it is done in heaven.  But when we pray those petitions, He is also inviting us to experience God’s kingdom and invite His will to lead and guide us every day as we live our lives.  As Luther taught long ago, God’s kingdom and His will come and are done whether we pray for them or not, but in the Lord’s Prayer we are invited to ask God that they would first come in us and then be done through us.

Now I believe there is a question that begs to be asked; I really must ask it, even if it causes fear.  Do you really want God’s Kingdom to take over your life?  Do you really want His will to be done in your life?

What if having His kingdom come in your life means that you must admit that He is right and you are wrong?  What if it means that you must agree with God and admit that a certain style of living that our society says is ok, is really a sin? And what if agreeing with God about that sin will upset a whole bunch of people who are close to you?

What if having God’s will being done in your life means that you must leave a place of employment, a good job, because it builds and celebrates a kingdom of darkness instead of God’s kingdom of grace?  What if God’s will being done in and through you means that He may allow you to become sick with an illness or disease?  Do you still have the courage to pray for that will?

You will, if you remember who it is that is with you.  It is Jesus, He who sees all things, even things we cannot see or understand.  It is Jesus who not only walks on water but controls everything that makes you afraid.  And just as Jesus spoke Words of comfort to the apostles in the boat, He speaks Words of comfort to you this morning: “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” [Mark 6:50]  This morning, Jesus would like you to remember that He has always been with you and He always will be.  He promises that He will never leave nor forsake you and no one can snatch you out of His hand.

Dear friends, God’s promises are always powerful and they are always reliable.  In our Old Testament lesson, He promised Noah and His family that He would never again destroy the earth by way of a flood.  And to be sure that they would remember that promise and count on it, He placed a sign in the sky, the rainbow!

Listen don’t worry about silly things like how the rainbow is naturally made when raindrops act like a prism and reflect sunlight, breaking white sunlight into colors.  That is simply an explanation of how we see a rainbow; we need to concentrate on the why we see it!  We see the rainbow because God knew that we needed to have a sign of life, not death.  We needed to learn that we could count on His blessing and good will.  We need that sign to bring us comfort not fear.  We need to remember that God keeps His promises!

That rainbow like all of the other signs that God gives to us, should remind us to thank God and give Him praise for His goodness and forgiving love.  Every time we see the rainbow we should remember that God’s anger over our sin has been replace by His forgiving love that is ours through the cross.  Through Jesus’s life blood that was spilled for our sins, we no longer have an angry God, but instead we have a loving and forgiving God!  And in your baptism, God gave you another great sign; He gave you the sign of that very cross that set you free.

In your baptism the sign of the cross was made upon your heart and your brow to mark you as God’s own child.  You have been sealed with the promise that God through Jesus Christ has won you; He has redeemed you as His very own.  And because you are His own, He promises that He will never leave you nor forsake you!  But the promise is not just for you it is for the entire world; for anyone who will not reject that Holy washing; for anyone who will simply trust and rest in God’s divine power to do exactly as God says He will do… save you from sin, death, and the devil himself!

An elderly Christian was in much distress as he lay dying. “Oh, Pastor,” he said, “for years I have relied upon the promises of God, but now in my time of death I can’t remember a single one to comfort me.” Knowing that Satan was disturbing him, the preacher said, “My brother, do you think that GOD will forget any of His promises?” A smile came over the old man’s face as he exclaimed joyfully. “No, no! He won’t! Praise the Lord, now I can fall asleep in Jesus and trust Him to remember them all and bring me safely to Heaven.” Peace flooded his soul, and a short time later he was ushered by the angels into the light of God’s eternal day.

Dear friends, in your baptism God has given you not only His promise that He is with you and that all things will work for your good and your eternal salvation, but He has also given you a sign.  Whenever you are afraid, whenever you are lonely and unsure of your life, remember God’s promises by remembering your baptism, and then make the sign of the cross and thank and praise God for His goodness!  Remember as St. Paul said in our Epistle reading (Ephesians 3:14-21), He has given you everything you need to be strengthened with His power through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.  And then remember that wherever the Holy Spirit is, there Jesus is as well.  Do you hear that good news?  Jesus is always with you living in your hearts by faith.  And through that wonderful gift of faith, God gives you peace by assuring you that Jesus is always with you, strengthening and protecting you, just as His Word promised long ago in your baptism, when He first washed you clean.  It is that same Word you hear preached to you now, and it is the same Word you will soon receive in our Lord’s meal of forgiveness.  God is good!

Just as God was with Noah and His family before, during, and after the flood He is with you now.  Just as the Son of God was with the apostles before, during, and after the storm on the lake, He is with you now and always will be.  He lives in His Word, in the promises it makes about forgiveness of sin and eternal life, and He lives, He dwells within you in power.

Within each of you is the fullness of God; it fills you and if you will trust it, it will well up within you and come out of you like living water.  No matter the cost to living out God’s will, He provides everything you need to know that He is with you.  As you rest in His kingdom, He is not only protecting you, he is living in you, attracting and inviting others to experience that very same presence of God.  It goes before you as you trust His promises of presence and forgiveness and as you speak those promises to others.

Dear Lord may your kingdom come and your will be done in us and through us in Jesus name… AMEN!

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” [Ephesians 3:20-21]

Don’t Be Afraid!

Sunday, July 26th, 2009

8th Sunday of Pentecost, July 26, 2009

Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
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INTRODUCTION: Do you ever feel like life is one big test, and you keep failing?  That must have been how the apostles felt after a couple of years with Jesus.  No matter how hard they tried to anticipate the right response to Jesus questions, statements, and actions, it must have seemed to them that they were continually missing the mark!  Why they simply had to remember back a couple weeks and they were confronted with memories and experiences that proved that true.  There was the time on the Sea of Galilee when Jesus was asleep on the boat.  When that terrible storm came upon them they panicked and woke up Jesus asking Him if He even cared that they were all about to die.  And what did Jesus do?  He stretched and commanded the sea to be still, and it did.  Oh yes, and He scolded them for their lack of faith!


Then there was the preaching tour that Jesus sent them out on.  “O.K.  This will be pretty simple” they must have thought.  “All we have to do is preach that people should turn from their sinful lives and we’re done!  We don’t know why He wants us to do that without Him, but will do it to please Him.  After all, He’s the Master!”  And what happened while they were out?  Was it that simple?  No. In fact, God moved in a mighty way.  They were amazed, even dumfounded when people were healed by the droves and multiple demons were cast back into the pits of hell!  Who could have figured that one out?!


Oh yes, then there was their logical demand that Jesus send the thousands of people away from the deserted place so they could buy food.  No, that was wrong too!  He fed the masses Himself with just a few loaves and a couple of fish.  And now, in our gospel reading this morning we read of yet one more failure on the part of the apostles.


Jesus had sent them out onto the Sea of Galilee once again, but this time without Him.  Back to the same body of water that almost claimed their lives.  “Why?” they must have thought, “Doesn’t He know this is storm season?”  But off they went, and sure enough, just as they got about midway across the sea (about three miles), another nasty storm broke out.  They fought the waves for hours and they seemed to be frozen in the same spot; not able to go forward or even back to Jesus.  Here we go again!  Why does He keep letting us get into these situations?


Does any of this sound familiar?  Have you been there before?  If you have lived any amount of time then you know exactly how the apostles felt.  We’ve got trouble all around us, and the cause of all these troubles is sin!


I. Sin?  Yes friends, one way or another all of our troubles are related to our sin or someone else’s!  Illness, disease, premature death, and the weakness and chronic pain of old age are all signs that God’s perfect creation is broken because of sin.  Broken relationships, hunger, crime, tragic accidents, and heart aches of every kind are here slapping us in the face each day because of our own sinful choices or someone else’s.  Oh we try to protect ourselves the best we can, but no matter how hard we try avoid pain and tragedy, it seems to find us!


Friends, no matter what a politician or preacher tells you, life won’t get any better by following their plan for the future or a few simple biblical rules…it won’t!  Why?  Because this is a broken and sinful world.  Jesus Himself said that “In (this) world you will have troubles.”  But He also said that we should “take heart” because He has overcome the world. [Jn. 16:33]  He said that He came so that you may have life and have it abundantly! [Jn. 10:10]  But how?  How can this be true when we are smack dab in the middle of a crisis?  How can we feel God’s goodness and love when we are out in the middle of an angry sea amidst a storm?


Friends, this is the question of a hard heart; this is the question of a sinful heart;  this is the question of our hearts.  Our hearts forget that the one we call master and Savior is also the creator of the world.  He is the one who see’s all things.  Remember the 12 apostles out on the boat on that stormy sea?  It was 3:00 in the morning and its pitch black out.  The winds are howling, the rain is coming down in sheets, and Jesus sees their trouble.  He sees that they’re trapped and in danger so He goes out to them.  Jesus saw what was impossible to see because He’s God!  Jesus did what no one else could do, He not only calmed the sea, but He walked on water to get to them.  And when He got to them, He didn’t jump right in and make everything better; no, but what did He do?  He veered slightly away from them.  Why?  Doesn’t He care?  Sure He does, but may I suggest to you that He wanted them to call out to Him; He wanted them to invite Him into the boat, into their dilemma.  And did they do that?  No, instead they let their sinful superstitions grounded in fear take over.  “Ahhh!  It’s a ghost!”  Did Jesus walk away from them in disgust for their lack of faith?  No.  Instead He said, “Take heart; it’s me.  Don’t be afraid.”  In the boat He goes and before they can even ask Him about the walking on water thing, the storm died down, the sea became peaceful and as John’s gospel tells of the same account, they were immediately docked on shore!


II. Friends, many times we find the truth hiding in plain sight.  God’s grace and His comforting presence in our lives are always there but we find ourselves living as if it isn’t.  Like the apostles we too can think back on the many hard and even tragic times in our lives and see that somehow things turned out O.K.  We made it through even stronger perhaps then when we went in.  We chalk it up to luck, the help of a friend or family or even our own resourcefulness, completely dismissing the presence of Jesus.  We do this because of our sin; we do this because of our hard hearts.  But God will not let this type of hard heart remain with us; He can’t because you see, He has claimed you as His own just as He claimed His disciples of old.  In your baptism, you’ve been allowed to see that which is hiding in plain sight.  Through your baptism, God has shown you what the 12 apostles in the boat would have to wait and see…Jesus Christ the Savior of the world who was crucified and resurrected for you!  Through your baptism God has put to death the old sinful you; you know that person don’t you?  It’s the one who has a hard heart and can’t seem to accept the truth of God’s divine presence for every moment of your life.  It’s the old you that tries to rationally explain away every mystery and miracle that is God.  But that isn’t the real you.  You see, that old person that you were has been put to death, drowned in the holy waters of your baptism.  Through simple water and God’s creative Word, you have been reborn in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  You have been born again as a person of faith…faith in the miraculous presence of Jesus Christ in every aspect of your life.


Through the Holy Spirit God is leading you to look back in your life and see that it was always Him protecting and guiding you.  It wasn’t the ghost of blind luck, rational thinking, government intervention, or your own resourcefulness; it was He who knew you in your mother’s womb.

ILLUS: There was once a boy who rode in an elevator for the first time with his father.  When he got home he was dying to tell his mother about the experience.  “Mom” he said excitedly.  “You should have seen it!  Dad took me into this little room and when he shut the door, he made the upstairs come down to me!”  Friends, God wants us to be that little boy.  He wants us to be amazed at His miraculous presence in our lives.  He wants us to know for certain that He has made the upstairs come down to us.  He has brought heaven and His love to us through His Son Jesus Christ.  He wants us to know that because He loves us and we love Him, all things, even the darkest storms of life will work together for our own good because He has called us according to His purpose!


Friends, life isn’t a test.  We don’t have to be afraid of getting it wrong, for you see through the presence of the Holy Spirit, Jesus is always right there beside you.  Through your baptism God has given you all that you need to experience His real presence in your lives.  Through your baptism you have been given His Holy Spirit to guide you through His Word.  Through the Holy Spirit you have been given the eyes of faith to see that which to others remains hidden in plain sight.  Through the gift of grace you have been brought into the body of Christ, His holy Church as a true son and daughter of God the Father.   


CONCLUSION: Dear friends, it is my practice each day, before I begin my work here at church, I come into this sanctuary and like St. Paul, I pray for you.  I pray that Christ’s presence in your life will grow stronger each day so that you too maybe rooted and grounded so firmly in His love that you will always know the immensity of that love; a love so vast that even the world’s most sophisticated computers can not measure it.  I also ask God to allow you to know even greater, the love of Christ and that you would hear His voice speaking to you in whatever life storms might come your way.  Listen friends, He is speaking to you and saying, “Take heart; it is I.  I am with you.  Do not be afraid.”


Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within you, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever.  AMEN! [Eph. 3:20-21]