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A Pastor’s Prayer

Sunday, December 6th, 2009

Second Sunday of Advent, December 6, 2009
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
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 Grace, mercy, and peace to you friends from God our Father and our Savior Jesus Christ!  Our text this morning is verses 9 and 10 from our Epistle lesson: “And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” [Philippians 1:3-11]

Our epistle lesson is a letter from God to the church in Philippi, through their Pastor—Pastor Paul, the apostle.  Now I ask you in advance to forgive the first person nature of the sermon this morning, but it can’t be helped.  Because you see, through it God has put me in Paul’s place, and all of us in the place of the Philippians.  This morning we will be talking about prayer—prayer that calls out to God because of love, joy, and concern. 

 You may have had Friends tell you that they’ve been thinking of you, and usually that will warm your hearts.  But an even greater encouragement comes when someone tells you that they’ve been praying for you.  This is what St. Paul is telling the Philippians and this is what I would like to tell you this morning.

 Some of you know that I try to start each day of ministry right here in this sanctuary with prayer.  I always begin my prayer by thanking God for bringing me here to Trinity.  I ask Him to let His love for this church and for all of you be my love.  I don’t ask that He help me to love you more, but instead, I actually pray that He will love you through me! 

 I. He does this by helping me remember how He has demonstrated His love to this congregation in the past.  He does this by helping me remember that it was God who began the good work in this church and within each of your hearts, and it will be Him who will complete that work when Christ comes again.

As I pray, I remember how God first started this congregation as a mission way back in 1890.  And as I thank God for His good beginning I remember the Pastors that He worked through.  I remember Pastors Leimbrock, Scherf, Knippenburg, Theiss, Hilgendorf Sr., Brink, Sorenson, Hilgendorf Jr., Robibnson, Lueker, Beyer, Cluver, Gunter, and Harms.  Each of them in their own way certainly prayed a prayer similar to what I am praying.  And this is what I pray: “Lord love and lead these people through me!”  And how does the Lord respond?  He tells me, “I have and I will!”

II. As I continue to pray, I also remember the joy that this ministry has brought to so many people.  And God did this by taking a tiny mission congregation that met in downtown San Diego, just a few like minded German Lutherans, and He turned it into the very first Lutheran church in San Diego.  And from that start little old Trinity went on to help plant one church after another in San Diego County.  And one of those new churches that Trinity helped plant was another little missionary church, perhaps you’ve heard of it?  Of course I am talking about Messiah Lutheran Church.  Again, God took something small, a group that started out with just a few kids in a Sunday School and He built the very first black Lutheran congregation in San Diego.  God did what no man ever could on his own… In both cases he took a little group of sinners and turned them into a vibrant and growing congregating of saints.  Yes friends, I thank my God in all remembrance of you!  From the beginning to the last day when Christ shall return, indeed, God must be glorified!

 Oh I can hardly wait to hear our Lord speak to us all as we enter into His glory.  I can just hear him now in my mind’s eye: “Saints of Trinity and Messiah… Well done my good and faithful servants!”  Friends, when we hear those words, we will know beyond all doubt that it was indeed He who began this good work within our congregation who completed it.  Yes, there is a lot to be thankful for and a lot to be filled with joy over.  Praise the Lord for the great things He has done!

 III. But my prayer doesn’t stop with joy and praise.  No you see while I celebrate God’s continued care for this church, I am also filled with concern.  I am concerned with those of you who are still here in this sinful world just trying to survive this thing we call the Christian life.  I am concerned for those of you who are just waiting to take your place alongside of all those other saints of our dear church who have gone home to be with the Lord.  I am concerned that many of you have grown tired and maybe somewhat cold in your love for the Lord, the one who first loved you!  I am concerned that you now look at your baptism as simply a “ticket to heaven” instead of an invitation to go deeper and deeper into a relationship of love with Jesus.  I am concerned that you no longer place your desire to know and please God as the most important priority in your life.  And finally, I am concerned that you may have let things like pride and comfort elbow out your need to receive and to give love and forgiveness, so I pray even harder for you.  And like St. Paul, this is what I pray…

 IV. May God fill you also with the love of Christ!  Friends, I pray that through His love within you, you will learn to love this little church with His love.  What I mean by that is that you would be so filled with His love that you will come to see this church as He sees it; as shining city on a Hill that represent both His presence and His love for you and the people within our community.  I pray that through Christ’s love within your hearts you will know that He is truly present here, filling you with even more love; and that through His Word spoken, taught, and preached here you will value this place above all others with exception to your own homes.  And in response to His love within you, I pray that you would care for and maintain this place of worship with the best of your time, talent, and treasure.

 But as I pray friends, God moves me even deeper into His love for you by leading me to pray that through Christ’s love and forgiveness you would learn to love and forgive each other just as He has forgiven you.  I pray that through Christ’s love you might learn how to praise, thank, and encourage one another as you serve together within your respective ministries here.  I also pray that through the same love of Christ, God would also give you a great love and concern for your Christian brothers and sisters so that when you see them straying from the truth or stumbling in their walk of faith you will want to warn them and then in love help them return.

 And finally friends, it is always my prayer that as you grow in the affections of Christ and your joy for His church and each other, that you would also have a burden in your heart for the lost… those dying without a love relationship with Jesus Christ.  I continually ask God to help each one of us to see our neighbors, those who live outside this church in these neighborhoods as Trinity’s mission field; I pray that Christ’s compassion for those poor souls would be our compassion; that His passion and zeal for them would also be ours.

CONCLUSION: Dear friends, I know that God hears my prayer each morning just as He has heard the prayers of the Pastors who have gone before me.  How do I know this?  Well, because it is self evident—you are still here!  Trinity Lutheran Church is still here.  Even now while I am proclaiming this message He is filling us with the fruits of righteousness; He is working within your hearts the desire to serve Him, each other, and our neighbors.  And as He continues to fill us and work through us we will walk as a congregation that has been changed, because we have!  We have been changed and we will continue to be changed because we are a people of faith who are growing and becoming more like our Lord every day.  And that is the message we take out to our community.  We tell them together as a congregation and alone as saved sinners, “Come and see a God who loves me and you just as we are.  But because He loves us He won’t leave us that way—He wants to change us by living in us.  Neighbor, God says to each of us, “Return to me and I will return to you.””

 Now it’s true, life is hard, there’s no denying that.  But God is good and He walks with us as our Savior and our friend.  So out of the love of Christ, which dwells richly within us, together we press on towards the day of Jesus Christ.  And as we do, we do it all to the glory and praise of God through Christ Jesus! 

Friends, Jesus is coming….He is coming indeed!  Maranatha…come Lord come quickly!  AMEN!!