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Today Is The Day!

Sunday, October 11th, 2015

20th Sunday in Pentecost B, October 11, 2015
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego, CA

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But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. (Hebrews 3:13)

The song that you just heard, “No Show Jones” by George Jones and Merle Haggard will act as our mental hook to hang our message on.  Hopefully, the reason for the choice of this song will become clear throughout this message.

There’s a quote that became popular in the 90’s and still is today, and it goes like this: “It takes a village to raise a child.”  For us this morning, we could say that it takes a congregation to help us persevere in the Christian faith; a congregation that shows up as often as possible in God’s house to receive His means of grace that both creates and sustains faith.  But that same faith is what God uses within each of us to encourage, warn, and assist those who are beginning to falter and leave their faith in Jesus Christ.  A faith, that has sustained the church of God since the fall of Adam and Eve.

The threat of course is the temptation to wonder away from the gifts of God and to replace them with the ways of the world.

The threat is real, and it is immediate. It presents itself any time we become more consumed with the things of the world (anything of the world) than the things of God.  Just a quick thought can allow our minds to expand on what these things might be.  I can think of time with family who are visiting from out of town on a Sunday.  We will gladly go to the zoo, a ball game, or the beach, but to church, well that’s something we may not want to subject others to because, well it’s personal.  Or it might be sleep that competes with our time with God and His saints.  But then, maybe your tired on Sunday because you were up all night doing something on Saturday that you wouldn’t want your church family to take part in?

So this morning, God’s Word is giving us a warning that is for right now, and that warning is, “Watch your heart today.”  Another way to say that is “Hold on to the faith that God has given to you; hold onto it tightly.”  But we’re here today; isn’t that what were doing?  I sure hope so.  If you are here because you know that with out God’s Divine service you’ll end up lost again in sin, then great.  If you’re here because God has convinced you in His Word, that without Christ’s death upon the cross, the entire world would be helplessly lost in the condemnation of sin, great! If you are here this morning because you’ve been baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and going to church is the thing that sinners who have been saved do, that’s great too.  But I want to warn you that occasional church service is not enough to protect your heart from the sin that is all around us and within us.

Faith is something that is given freely, but it is something that is contingent upon your consistent and constant use of God’s Word and Sacraments.  It is dependent upon God’s plan to sustain your faith until the day He calls you home.  Think of Church and the study of God’s Word as part of God’s Divine Scheduled maintenance program.  Much as corrosion, grime, and constant use can wear down and wear out our vehicle, the same thing can happen to our faith throughout the week, due to the sin that surrounds us in our daily living.  So just as we must care for our vehicles with regularly scheduled maintenance, so it is God’s order that we daily care for our souls.

Warning! Whether you’re a 15 year old boy or a 80 year old woman, no one is exempt from the corrosion of sin; no one on their own can detect and overcome the allure and power of sin.  No one is exempt from sin’s deceit.

The people of Israel certainly weren’t able to do it.  Think of the great miracles they witnessed as God arranged for their deliverance from slavery in Egypt.  Think of the plagues that tortured many but never bothered them.  Think of the Red Sea that was parted so that they could escape the pursuing army of Egypt.  Think of the Manna from heaven and the water from the rock they were nurtured with when they hungered and thirst.  Think of the thundering voice of God they heard from the mountain top as Moses spoke with God.  Think of the pillar of fire that led them as they trekked through the wilderness.  And then think of how they grumbled and how they tested God with their unbelief and lack of trust in God’s care and God’s prophet, Moses.  And now think of the millions who due to God’s displeasure with their faithlessness, were allowed to fall and die in that wilderness.  Think of the millions of sun bleached bones that littered the path they followed, all because they forgot who the God of deliverance was.  So you see, Israel heard and witnessed God’s grace and still fell.

What we learn from this is that yesterdays faith does not save a person today. The fact that you are baptized proves that God saves through His chosen means.  Your baptism is not a one time entrance into God’s kingdom, but rather it is a source of Divine power and a certainty of faith that God has chosen you for today; for this moment.  Your baptism is not meant to simply be a milestone that allows you to check out of the life of faith, simply living on the memories of the past when you were once active in your attendance at church and your service to your church and community in the name of Jesus.  Living in the past does not guarantee anything today!

Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as those children of Israel.  Today, there is a need for fresh and new faith, in order to meet and defeat the threat of sin that is lurking at the door of your heart right now!

Today, there is a need for us to encourage one another, to hold onto the faith once taught and to fan that spark of faith into a flame of love for God and His means of grace.  Today, let us look at one another and admit that we need each other to overcome the attacks of sin and the devil.  Let us not be afraid to both encourage and rebuke one another when we begin to neglect the meeting of the saints on Sunday; when we begin to allow other things to take first place in our hearts above God’s Word and our family of faith.  This strategy is a sure defense against unfaith, but it is a strategy that many will resist and even attack you for.

In our Old Testament lesson, Amos says as much when he declares, “They hate him who reproves in the gate, and they abhor him who speaks the truth.”  So once again we find that God’s way is the difficult way; it is the way of the cross and a way that brings discomfort and pain.  This is why we must not attempt to walk this way alone; we need to act as a community of faith.  We need to resist becoming a “No Show Jones” and remember that we are part of that village or congregation that is called to help raise God’s children of faith.

Today, we must remember that what we were yesterday belongs to yesterday.  We must remember who God says we are today through Jesus Christ.  We must remember that we have been baptized for this moment.  And we must remember our tendency to base who we are today on what we have done yesterday and what we hope to do tomorrow.  Like the rich young man in our gospel lesson, we must understand our hearts natural desire to base our identity on our doing and not on the gift of faith that God has given us through Christ.

The rich young man became so enamored by the many regulations he felt he kept since he was a youth, that he seemed completely oblivious to the very relationship of faith and love that he was searching for; He could not and he would not see the great gift that Jesus offered him through faith in who Jesus is.

This morning, God is warning each of us that we too may get lost if we neglect the meeting of the saints; if we allow anything else to take first place over the time and place that God does His Divine Service for us and within us.
The truth is friends, every “today” becomes part of a long line of todays.  On their own they seem insignificant, but collectively they are the very thing that has and will sustain us until God calls us home to paradise restored.

When we live each day for today simply because God says that it is urgent to live this way, over time we find that we have been creating a legacy.  And the legacy we’ve created is not for us; it is not our way of showing God we are worthy of salvation, because that is a gift He has already freely given to us through Christ.  No, instead our legacy is a gift for those who follow us; for those who come after us.  It is a legacy of a life lived by faith, proving to other sinners that the only way back to God is living life one day at a time by faith.  It is a legacy for others to emulate and a legacy for us, that in the end leads to eternity, the eternal today!

Today is the first day of the rest of your life.  It is the day that the Lord has made for you to rejoice in and be glad.  Yesterday is gone and tomorrow may never come, so all we have is today.  Today, you are not a “No Show Jones” and with God’s strength and the encouragement of this congregation, I pray you will also be in place and in service tomorrow, as God provides.  So, What day is it?  Well then, go and do the work of today!  In Jesus name… AMEN!