Archive for the ‘Mark 6:30-44’ Category

Gathering the Scattered!

Sunday, July 22nd, 2018

Pentecost 9B
July 22, 2018
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor of
Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street
San Diego, CA 92114

Click here for audio of this message

“When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were
 like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things.” [Mark 6:34]

Do you know what happens to sheep when they don’t have a true shepherd?  That’s right, they scatter!   And once they scatter they can get into all kinds of trouble; trouble that usually ends in their death.  Why even sheep who have a shepherd can get themselves into a whole lot of trouble; that’s why the shepherd will leave the 99 to search for the one who has wandered off. 

An American, traveling in Syria, saw three native shepherds bring their flocks to the same brook, and the flocks drank there together. After a few minutes, one of the shepherds got up and called out, “Men-ah! men-ah! ,” the Arabic word for “follow me.” His sheep came out of the mixed herd and followed him up the hillside. The next shepherd did the same, and his sheep went away with him, and neither shepherd even stopped to count them. 

The American said to the remaining shepherd, “Give me your turban and staff, and let’s see if they’ll follow me like they follow you.” So he put on the shepherd’s dress and called out, “Men-ah! men-ah!” Not a single sheep moved.  “Will your flock never follow anybody but you?” inquired the American. The Syrian shepherd replied, “Never, unless their sick, then they will follow any one.”

This morning I want to talk about two distinct kinds of sheep; those with a shepherd and those without.  

You could also call them Christians and non-Christians, or the righteous and the unrighteous.  St. Paul, in our Epistle lesson (Ephesians 2:11-22) called them Jew and gentile.  But he also pointed out that that old classification no longer existed, because the True Shepherd had come and taken down the wall or fence that separated them.  That separation of course was the Law of God that shepherded the Jews, and condemned sinners like you and me.  In Paul’s time, many well-meaning Jewish Christians were insisting that gentiles had to first become Jews before they could become Christians, or in other words, they had to be Jewish sheep before they could be Jesus’ sheep.  Paul’s goal was to show them that this was not only incorrect thinking, but dangerous thinking; it would serve to scatter and divide God’s people of faith, rather than gathering them into one family, one body, one sanctuary, which is the body of Christ, His church.

So let’s look at the two groups of people that live all around us today, Christians and non-Christians.  But before we do, let me share another story with you. 

A newspaper in Camden, Maine, ran two photos on the front page; one showed the city council of Camden gathered together at a meeting, and the other picture was of a flock of sheep. The editor mistakenly reversed the captions of the two photos. Under the picture of the sheep, the caption identified them, left to right, as town officials; under the other photo of the city council, the caption read, “The Sheep Fold—naive and vulnerable, they huddle for security against the uncertainties of the outside world.”

Now as funny as that story is, I think that it describes both Christian and non-Christian alike; we are naïve and vulnerable.  And like the sick sheep in my other story, we Christians when we are tired, lonely, sick, or afraid might follow any old voice that seems sympathetic and able to help.  That is why we all need to learn, know, and follow our true Shepherd’s voice.  We all need the gift of faith to hear Jesus’ voice and to grow in that faith so that we will never follow another.

In our gospel reading (Mark 6:30-44), the contrast between the two groups of people is evident; the over-worked, under-appreciated, and tired disciples, who were ready for a break, and those who were lost, “like sheep without a shepherd.”  

We might also call them people with a mission and vision and the people without a vision who were wandering in life aimlessly.  This morning, in our gospel lesson, Jesus spoke to them both.  This morning Jesus speaks to both of those classes of people who are gathered here at Trinity.

This morning there are some of you who are just plain tired. You have been active in your Lord’s church for most of your life, and some have in the last eight or so years given the best of your time, talent, and treasure, to help make Trinity a city on a hill, a bright light here in Southeast San Diego, Southwest Spring Valley, and Southeast Lemmon Grove.  You have done so much and gone so far, that now you are just plain tired.  Many of you along with me, have the feeling of always being “on-call,” with more demands on your time than you could ever hope to meet.  I know your heart, because it is centered in God’s love for the wandering sheep; you are afraid of letting people down, and so you push yourselves past the limits.  You dream of getting away from it all and you pray that there would be more people to help shoulder the burden.

Well this morning Jesus, who is your Sabbath rest, knows your fatigue; He sees it and He speaks to you as He spoke to His disciples in our gospel reading.  “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” [v. 31]  

Many of you know the need for rest and you have been intentional on setting aside vacation time; you have had your rest already, and some of you have scheduled your vacation for a future date.  But the truth is, even when we are on vacation, we are never really away from it all.  It seems that the troubles of this world follow us every-where we go.  Even the best planned vacations don’t work out as planned.  There are always more demands for our time, and more needs to meet.  Sometimes we don’t even have time to eat!

So where do we go for true rest; for real peace?  It isn’t found in our vacations; it doesn’t happen when we try to get away from it all; no it’s only found when we get back to Jesus; back to the true Shepherd of our souls.  Our refreshment and new energy will not be found simply by going to a certain place, but instead it is found in Him who takes us to that place.  The disciples weren’t able to get away from it all because the crowds found them; but they were able to be close to Jesus and His miraculous presence; a presence which still stands ready in all situations to help us today.

For the non-Christians, those who are counted among the sheep without a shepherd, their days are spent in endless hours of useless activity meant to fill each day with meaning.  Whether its sports, politics, careers, partying, or just staring out a window they find little fulfillment and joy in the gift of life.  They feel like “aliens and strangers” [Ephesians 2:12] separated from the joy of really knowing God and His will for them.

Like sheep without a shepherd, their wandering sinful nature looks for meaning through self-pleasing activities, but eventually all of their attempts to find happiness end in failure.  So they set out on an endless search looking for meaning.  Some end up in cults and false religions.  Others find themselves in a church, which speaks the Word of the true Shepherd, but clouds that Word in philosophy, legalism, or liberalism.  Undoubtedly, these were some of the things that Jesus also saw as He looked out on that great crowd of people who were like “sheep without a shepherd.”

And Jesus had compassion on them.  He didn’t look at them as “no good” sinners, but as part of His scattered flock.  He claimed them as His own, and He taught them.  They were always His own, His purpose for coming; He came to bring them into His flock.  He came so that the scattered and the gathered might come together and know peace; peace with God, and peace with each other.  He came to give us all rest!

This morning, Jesus speaks to both groups and calls us together as one.  

He shows us that each of us have a common reconciliation… Himself!  Through His work alone upon the cross He makes all men and women right; He makes us righteous with His Father.  You who were at one time separated from God because of your sins are now gathered into His forgiving heart through Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  By His blood He has purchased you, redeemed you from a commonwealth of judgment and eternal punishment, and transferred you into His Kingdom of grace and forgiving love. 

You who were once separated from God are now part of His body, the church.  You are one of many countless living stones set upon the Rock of Ages, the Cornerstone of God’s Eternal Sanctuary.  You are set upon Jesus Christ along with many other saints and together you are a living and ever-growing sanctuary.  How does the sanctuary, the body of Christ grow?  By the very same means that you were converted into a living stone; through the Word of Jesus Christ, the message of His gospel.

And this is the message that God would have you hear today.  You are forgiven through Jesus Christ.  In that message alone, God really gives you rest, fulfillment and joy.  But in that message, God also wants your life to have meaning and purpose.  You are here to live under and work out the will of God in your life.  And what is His will?  That you would rest in His Kingdom of grace and see it grow, one forgiven sinner at a time.  (Talk about inviting others.)

Jesus’ disciples and the scattered hungry were all fed by the very same Word.  Christ’s own personal preaching was full of peace for both Gentiles and Jews.  But what about now; do we still have that same care and concern?  Yes!  What we must always remember is that when Christ sent his message out into the world, he told His messengers: “I am with you always, even to the end of the world,” (Matt. 28:20). He assured them and He assures us that “He who hears you also hears me,” Luke 10:16; “Truly, truly, I say to you,” He said, “whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.” John 13:20. 

So congratulations to all of you here today; you who are tired may find rest in the same Jesus who invigorated the apostles.  He is here with you now!  You who were once scattered and lost, are now gathered and found, by Jesus Himself.  He has gathered you into the kingdom of God through the message of His cross; He has washed you clean in the waters of baptism and recreated you to live a life of peace. He himself is your peace and rest, now go and share that same peace, share that same rest with those who are still counted as scattered!  I pray you would do this very thing, and I ask it in Jesus name…Amen.

With Jesus, A Little Is a Lot!

Sunday, July 10th, 2016

Eighth Sunday After Trinity-HL, July 10th, 2016
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor
Trinity Lutheran Church, and
Our Redeemer Lutheran Church
http://www.tlcsd.org
http://orlcsd.org

Click here for audio of this message

Our Gospel lesson this morning joins Jesus and His disciples after a successful missionary outing.  Each group was returning to Jesus with reports about how God had proven His faithfulness by providing for all of their needs, and even validating their message of forgiveness by healing the sick and casting out demons.  It was a wonderful time!  But it was also a time of emotional pain and disappointment; the kind that comes from devastating news.

Just as they were finishing up their reports, they were told that not far from them, King Herod had beheaded John the Baptist, a man that all of them including Jesus, had grown to love and admire.  Now, as Jesus looked around at each face of his friends and students, he came to the conclusion that He and they needed time alone; they needed to get away from the crowds, in order to rest, reflect, and learn.

So they left the crowds and headed to the opposite shore of Lake Galilee. St. John tells us that they had a little bit of  “alone time” with Jesus on the grassy slope of a large hillside, until Jesus looked off into the distance and pointed out a very large mass of people that was making its way towards their now, not so secret location; the crowd had found them again!

So for the rest of the day, Jesus stayed with the people teaching them and curing their illnesses.  As their true “Good Shepherd” Jesus was tending to their spiritual and physical needs.  And as the day was drawing to a close, and the disciples own stomachs began to grumble and growl with hunger they reminded Jesus of the hour (the dinner hour), and they began to plead with Him to send the people away, because they were hungry!  But Jesus answered them and said, “You give them something to eat.”  ‘What?  How!?  Even if we had that huge amount of money, where would we find a place so close that could even provide that much food?’  Where indeed!  There were about 5,000 in that group, and that estimate included only the men in the crowd; when you include women and children, the true size of the crowd was probably closer to about 11,000 people!  That’s enough to fill the San Diego Sports Arena!!

In my mind’s eye, I can see Jesus smiling and slowly looking around at the twelve stern and concerned faces, amazed at their lack of faith.

What a sad vignette.  This is the picture of a congregation of Christians that’s tired, hungry and frustrated by a lack of members and resources.  But we can learn something from this story; something eternal and life changing; something that just might reinvigorate life in our own ministries here and within our communities.

In our Gospel reading, Jesus has just administered a “Pop Quiz” designed to help the apostles along with us learn two things:

1.      What the true quality of our faith in God is.  And…
2.      The truth that God wants us to experience His faithfulness.

Once we have learned these two lessons, we will then also discover these two truths:

1.      With God, a little is a lot.
2.      To Jesus, there’s no such thing as leftovers!

Like the apostle’s, we all must discover what the quality of our own faith is-and Jesus used just one challenge to help the apostles discover the quality of theirs.

A challenge is like a riddle; you know there’s a way to solve it, you just have to figure out how!  Notice that Jesus didn’t ask, “Can you give them something to eat?” but instead he commanded them to do it by saying, “You give them something to eat.” A  response to this type of teaching requires a lot of thought and even discussion on the part of the students, and in regards to the teacher, He better know the correct answer to the riddle before he issues the challenge!

Now it’s easy for us modern day Christians to be judgmental of the apostles.  After all, we have the luxury of looking backwards into time.  It’s easy for us to wonder why they so quickly forgot the Canaan wedding miracle where Jesus turned water into wine.  We could remind them of Jairus’ daughter and even the widow of Nain’s son who both were raised from the dead.  Certainly we would have faired better than they, with our perspective of time, or would we?

Well this morning, I would like to ask you a question, and I want you to think for a moment before answering it: “What is the biggest problem, our own test that’s facing our congregation today?”  (Pause) Many might quickly answer that it is a lack of resources or a lack of members that’s holding us back.  But I submit to you, that the biggest problem facing the church today is not a lack of resources or church members, but rather it’s the same problem that the apostles had, a lack of faith.  And…

To our lack of faith Jesus asks us to report what little we have on hand.

To the 12 apostles Jesus asked, “How many loaves do you have?  Go and see.”  What did the apostles report to Jesus?  “We have 5 loaves and two fish.”  St. John’s gospel records that they finished their report with these words, “But what are they for so many?”

What’s the first question someone will ask when a necessary expense request is brought into almost any church council, “Where’s the money coming from?” But I submit to you that that’s the wrong question. The only question we should ask is: Is this God’s will for our church? And if it is His will, shouldn’t we trust Him to provide what is needed?  Like the apostles, our faith many times, even with the advantage and perspective of time is still very small.  But what is it that Christ said? “…if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” And we would add (if it is in keeping with God’s will). [Matthew 17:20-21]

What we must remember is that just as Jesus tested the faith of the apostles, He also tests our faith as well, by putting us in difficult situations with no easy answers. Why?  So that we can learn what the quality of our own faith is.  After asking and waiting so long, do you still trust Him to find you a job?  Do you trust Him to help repair a broken relationship?  Do you trust him to overcome your illness or disease?  Do you trust Him to replace your depression with passion and joy?  Do you believe that He will bless and strengthen our church, which is His church? You see, it’s during times like these, when prayers seem to go unanswered, that we may become frustrated, just as the apostles were. However, frustration is never what God wants us to feel! The faithful disciple will trust that God has answered their prayer, but it can only be experienced in His time.  The apostles fell short because they allowed their faith to be weakened by their own limited resources instead of seeking God’s limitless resources.

Both the apostles and even us today, seem to want God to work according to what we want instead of what God wants.  But in the midst of our worry and concern we hear similar words that Jesus spoke to address His disciples concerns, “Have the people sit down.”   I wonder what the disciples were thinking after he said that!  I can hear it in my mind: “What is he doing?  Why is He having all these people sit down as if their going to dine on this little bit of food?  Is he going to make them watch us eat our dinner?”  The truth is, sometimes we need to just sit down, relax, pray and wait on the Lord.  Sometimes we must simply learn to be willing to set aside our worries and concerns and simply wait for Jesus.

And so they did just that, they waited, they listened, they watched and then they learned and remembered that…

God wants to bless us by allowing us to experience His faithfulness!

Our Lord once said that “What is impossible with people is in fact possible with God.”  (Luke 18:27)  And now the God-man Jesus Christ demonstrates that truth by taking a few loaves and 2 fish and miraculously making it fill the bellies of over 11,000 people!  Only one person could do that … the sinless Son of God; the one who also followed His humiliating suffering and death with His exalting and miraculous resurrection from the dead to gain forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life for all of us; even for you!

Those who witnessed and personally benefited from Jesus’ feeding miracle, and we along with them who have believed by faith and benefited from His miraculous resurrection, joyfully realize and gratefully admit that all things do in deed work together for the good of God’s children and His church, only because we are called according to His purpose! [Romans 8:28]  And what is that purpose?  Well, the other three Gospels augment verse 11 by stating that Jesus had the apostles acting as waiters, by bringing food out to the people in baskets, all 11,000 of them.  The apostles were tired and they were hungry, but here they were in total amazement and invigorated with a new vitality as they partook in a miracle and served Jesus by serving the people who didn’t yet know Jesus!

Dear friends, God’s desire, His central concern after our own salvation is that as Christ’s disciples, you and me, should be continually working with Jesus to seek out and save the lost!

As I stated earlier, this message now leaves us with two eternal truths and they are: First, with Jesus, a little is a lot. The disciples’ reluctance to wait for Jesus to attend to the crowds was not really based on their concern for the people, but rather on their own tired bodies and empty stomachs.  While they knew the people must be fed, they could not see how what little they had could be used for that.  So they quit; they gave up and asked the Lord to bless their failure.  But Jesus wanted to do so much more with them, and He wants to do so much more with us!  If we will only trust in His promise to provide for our every need, then we will discover as the apostles did that day, that Jesus will provide all that we need as we follow Him.

And finally, I promised you a second truth, and it’s this, there are no leftovers with Jesus! Have you ever wondered why Jesus had the disciples gather up all of the remaining loaves and fish with 12 baskets?    May I suggest, and this is only a guess, that it was because those little baskets were intended by Jesus to be their lunch boxes, which Jesus Himself ensured were filled so that they could in-turn, each eat and be filled.

Friends, Jesus was faithful to provide for them, but He did it after they served their community; but what about Jesus?  Wasn’t He hungry as well?  Well sure He was, but may I also suggest that Jesus expected the Twelve to share their abundance with him?  Maybe 10% from each apostle?  Wow what a concept!  Friends, Jesus still pours his abundance out to us today, and He expects us to remember him in our giving to the needy, to the support of the church and with our own personal service to our congregation and the community we are located in.  May God help us to remember these lessons and believe in the miraculous real presence of Jesus that is still with us and teaching us today!  I ask this in Jesus name, AMEN!

Gathering the Scattered!

Sunday, July 22nd, 2012

Eighth Sunday in Pentecost B, July 22, 2012
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA

Click here for audio of this message

When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were
like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things.
[Mark 6:34]

Do you know what happens to sheep when they don’t have a true shepherd?  That’s right, they scatter!   And once they scatter they can get into all kinds of  trouble; trouble that usually ends in their death.  Why even sheep who have a shepherd can get themselves into a whole lot of trouble; that’s why the  shepherd will leave the 99 to search for the one who has wandered off.

An American, traveling in Syria, saw three native shepherds bring their flocks to the same brook, and the flocks drank there together. After a few minutes, one  of the shepherds got up and called out, “Men-ah! men-ah! ,” the Arabic word for “follow me.” His sheep came out of the mixed herd and followed him up the  hillside. The next shepherd did the same, and his sheep went away with him, and neither shepherd even stopped to count them.

The traveler said to the remaining shepherd, “Give me your turban and staff, and let’s see if they’ll follow me like they follow you.” So he put on the shepherd’s  dress and called out, “Men-ah! men-ah!” Not a single sheep moved.  “Will your flock never follow anybody but you?” inquired the gentleman. The Syrian  shepherd replied, “Only if their sick, then they will follow any one.”

This morning I want to talk about two distinct kinds of sheep; those with a shepherd and those without.  You could also call them Christians and non-  Christians, or the righteous and the unrighteous.  St. Paul, in our Epistle lesson called them Jew and gentile.  But he also pointed out that that old classification  no longer existed, because the True Shepherd had come and taken down the wall or fence that separated them.  That separation of course was the Law of God  that shepherded the Jews, and condemned sinners like you and me.  In Paul’s time, many well-meaning Jewish Christians were insisting that gentiles had to  first become Jews before they could become Christians, or in other words, they had to be Jewish sheep before they could be Jesus’ sheep.  Paul’s goal was to show them that this was not only incorrect thinking, but dangerous thinking; it would serve to scatter and divide God’s people of faith, rather than gathering them into one family, one body, one sanctuary, which is the body of Christ, His church.

So let’s look at the two groups of people that live all around us today, Christians and non-Christians.  But before we do, let me share another story with you.

A newspaper in Camden, Maine, ran two photos on the front page; one showed the city council of Camden gathered together at a meeting, and the other picture was of a flock of sheep. The editor mistakenly reversed the captions of the two photos. Under the picture of the sheep, the caption identified them, left to right, as town officials; under the other photo of the city council, the caption read, “The Sheep Fold—naive and vulnerable, they huddle for security against the uncertainties of the outside world.”

Now as funny as that story is, I think that it describes both Christian and non-Christian alike; we are naïve and vulnerable.  And like the sick sheep in my other story, we Christians when we are tired, lonely, sick, or afraid might follow any old voice that seems sympathetic and able to help.  That is why we all need to learn, know, and follow our true Shepherd’s voice.  We all need the gift of faith to hear Jesus’ voice and to grow in that faith so that we will never follow another.

In our gospel reading, the contrast between the two groups of people is evident; the over-worked, under-appreciated, and tired disciples, who were ready for a break, and those who were lost, “like sheep without a shepherd.”  We might also call them people with a mission and vision and the people without a vision who were wandering in life aimlessly.  This morning, in our gospel lesson, Jesus spoke to them both.  This morning Jesus speaks to both of those classes of people who are gathered here at Trinity.

A. This morning there are some of you who are just plain tired. You have been active in your Lord’s church for most of your life, and some have in the last four years given the best of your time, talent, and treasure, to help make Trinity a city on a hill, a bright light here in Southeast San Diego, Southwest Spring Valley, and Southeast Lemmon Grove.  You have done so much and gone so far, that now you are just plain tired.  Many of you along with me have the feeling of always being “on-call,” with more demands on your time than you could ever hope to meet.  I know your heart, because it is centered in God’s love for the wandering sheep; you are afraid of letting people down, and so you push yourselves past the limits.  You dream of getting away from it all and you pray that there would be more people to help shoulder the burden.

Well this morning Jesus, who is your Sabbath rest, knows your fatigue; He sees it and He speaks to you as He spoke to His disciples in our gospel reading. [Mark 6:30-44]  “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” [v. 31]

Many of you know the need for rest and you have been intentional on setting aside vacation time; you have had your rest already, and some of you have scheduled your vacation for a future date.  But the truth is, even when we are on vacation, we are never really away from it all.  It seems that the troubles of this world follow us every-where we go.  Even the best planned vacations don’t work out as planned.  There are always more demands for our time, and more needs to meet.  Sometimes we don’t even have time to eat!

So where do we go for true rest; for real peace?  It isn’t found in our vacations; it doesn’t happen when we try to get away from it all; no it only is found when we get back to Jesus; back to the true Shepherd of our souls.  Our refreshment and new energy will not be found simply by going to a desolate place, but instead it is found in Him who takes us to that place.  The disciples weren’t able to get away from it all because the crowds found them; but they were able to be close to Jesus and His miraculous presence, which stands ready in all situations to help them and us.

For the non-Christians, those who are counted among the sheep without a shepherd, their days are spent in endless hours of useless activity meant to fill each day with meaning.  Whether its sports, politics, careers, partying, or just staring out a window they find little fulfillment and joy in the gift of life.  They feel like “aliens and strangers” [Ephesians 2:12] separated from the joy of really knowing God and His will for them.

Like sheep without a shepherd, their wandering sinful nature looks for meaning through self-pleasing activities, but eventually all of their attempts to find happiness end in failure.  So they set out on an endless search looking for meaning.  Some end up in cults and false religions.  Others find themselves in a church, which speaks the Word of the true Shepherd, but clouds that Word in philosophy, legalism, or liberalism.  Undoubtedly, these were some of the things that Jesus also saw as He looked out on that great crowd of people who were like “sheep without a shepherd.”

And Jesus had compassion on them.  He looked at them not as “no good” sinners, but as part of His scattered flock.  He claimed them as His own, and He taught them.  They were always His own, His purpose for coming; He came to bring them into His flock.  He came so that the scattered and the gathered together might know peace; peace with God, and peace with each other.  He came to give us all rest!

This morning, Jesus speaks to both groups and calls us together as one.  He shows us that each of us have a common reconciliation… Himself!  Through His work alone upon the cross He makes all men and women right; He makes us righteous with His Father.  You who were at one time separated from God because of your sins are now gathered into His forgiving heart through Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  By His blood He has purchased you, redeemed you from a commonwealth of judgment and eternal punishment, and transferred you into His Kingdom of grace and forgiving love.

You who were once separated from God are now part of His body, the church.  You are one of many countless living stones set upon the Rock of Ages, the Cornerstone of God’s Eternal Sanctuary.  You are set upon Jesus Christ along with many other saints and together you are a living and ever-growing sanctuary.  How does the sanctuary, the body of Christ grow?  By the very same means that you were converted into a living stone; through the Word of Jesus Christ, the message of His gospel.

And this is the message that God would have you hear today.  You are forgiven through Jesus Christ.  In that message alone, God really gives you rest, fulfillment and joy.  But in that message, God also wants your life to have meaning and purpose.  You are here to live under and work out the will of God in your life.  And what is His will?  That you would rest in His Kingdom of grace and see it grow, one forgiven sinner at a time.

Jesus’ disciples and the scattered hungry were all fed by the very same Word.  Christ’s own personal preaching was full of peace for both Gentiles and Jews.  But what about now; do we still have that same care and concern?  Yes!  What we must always remember is that when Christ sent his message out into the world, he told His messengers: “I am with you always, even to the end of the world,” (Matt. 28:20). He assured them and He assures us that “He who hears you also hears me,” Luke 10:16; “Truly, truly, I say to you,” He said, “whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me” John 13:20.

So congratulations to all of you here today; you who are tired may find rest in the same Jesus who invigorated the apostles.  He is here with you now!  You who were once scattered and lost, are now gathered and found, by Jesus Himself.  He has gathered you into the kingdom of God through the message of His cross; He has washed you clean in the waters of baptism and recreated you to live a life of peace. He himself is your peace and rest, now go and share that same peace, share that same rest with those who are still counted as scattered!

Now, may the peace of God which passes all understanding, guard your hearts and minds through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The God of How!

Sunday, November 8th, 2009

The God of How![i]
Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
November 8, 2009
Click here for audio of this message.

In our gospel reading this morning, we join Jesus and the apostles at the end of a day full of ministering to the needs of thousands of people who gathered to be with Jesus. The disciples had just returned from a field trip where much was learned through God’s miraculous presence as Jesus taught them how to minister to the needs of others.  If we looked at their day as being a typical day of seminary for future ministers then their course of study for this day would be: The Providence of God, The Two natures (God and Man) of Jesus Christ, Teaching the Faith, Service to Others, and Care for Others.  Yes, it was a full day of on-the-job-training.  The apostles were tired and hungry, so Jesus had them come with him to a quiet place where He could debrief them and give them some well needed rest and food. 

So off they went to get away, but alas, the crowds saw where they were going and they followed.  It seemed that there would be no rest for the weary, because you see, Jesus had compassion on the crowds.  The teaching of the apostles continues…Lesson #1…always have a heart for the things that matter to God!

After hours of teaching and ministering to the people it was getting late in the afternoon, and the apostles were tired and hungry, so they said to Jesus, “(Lord) send them away to go into the surrounding countryside and villages (so they can) buy themselves something to eat.”  Now Jesus could have called an end to their school day, but the most important lessons still had to be taught and learned.  Jesus said, “You give them something to eat.”

How Lord?  With what we have on hand, we don’t have even enough for ourselves.  What you have asked us to do is impossible!  Oh?  Impossible for who?  Impossible for you yes, but for God…never!  If what you are asking for is in keeping with God’s will, then He will take the little you have and do great things with it.  Lesson #2, our God is the God of How!  How can it be done…God knows!  How can the impossible become a reality…God knows!  “Then (Jesus) commanded them all to sit down in groups on the green grass.  So they sat down in groups…And they all ate and were satisfied.”

Like Nehemiah in our Old Testament lesson this morning, the apostles could not see how their vision of feeding the large crowd could ever become a reality with only 5 loaves and 2 fish.  Yet God created a way.  Lesson #3…God wants to do a work of faith within you so that He can do a work of ministry through you.  And what is that work of faith?  That you might know that He is the God of How!

Nehemiah knew the answer to “what must be done” before He knew the answer to how it would be done.  He knew that the wall and the Temple in Jerusalem must be rebuilt, but he had to wait 6 months before God intervened and moved the heart of the king to sponsor and finance his vision. Nehemiah knew what God had called him to do, but he didn’t have a clue how God would do it.  For months nothing happened, and he had no indication that anything was about to happen.  He knew that humanly speaking, there was absolutely no way this vision was ever going to get off the ground.

But God had a plan.  God knew how to secure Nehemiah’s release from service to the king and God knew how to move the king’s heart to finance the rebuilding project.  God had already worked out all of the critical details.  What God desired was a who!  By embracing and internalizing the burden that God placed on his heart, Nehemiah became God’s answer to “who”!

Friends, when God puts something in our heart to do, He goes to work behind the scenes to ensure it happens.  Think back for a moment about any Old or New Testament story and try to think of any instance where it was the responsibility of a man or woman to figure out how to implement a divine vision?  Did Moses have to come up with a way to get the Israelites out of Egypt?  How about through the desert?  Was it David’s responsibility to figure out how to get Saul off the royal throne so he could ascend to it?  When Jesus told the apostles to feed the five thousand were they responsible for figuring out how to do it?  Later, were the apostles responsible for figuring out how to spread the gospel throughout the whole world?  When Sanballat and Tobiah were trying to discourage Nehemiah and the Jews in order to stop their work on rebuilding the wall was Nehemiah responsible for shutting them up?  No!  But what did they do?  They turned to the God of How!  They called out to God and said, “Hear, O our God, for we are despised.  Turn back their taunts on their own heads…for they have provoked you to anger in the presence of the builders.”  In essence, they surrendered the hopelessness of their situation into the hands of the author of their vision.  They trusted in the presence and care of the God of How!  Listen: “When our enemies heard that it was known to us and that God had frustrated their plan (to discourage us and stop our work), we all returned to the wall, each to his work.”  And the progress and completion of the vision becoming a reality continued.

In every Biblical example of fulfilling a God-given vision, it was God who orchestrated all the events so that everyone involved would stand in awe of God and recognize without a doubt that God had done all of the impossible work!  And this is true in your own life!  It was God through His law that convinced you that you were lost in your own sins and that you could never on your own return to Him and trust in Him alone for your eternal salvation.  And it was God alone who through no help of your own, removed the obstacles that separated you from his eternal love and care.  Through Jesus Christ, God the Son came to this world, in our own flesh and lived the perfect life that we must live but cannot.  Through Jesus Christ, God suffered and died for you.  This was the penalty for your sins that you were to experience, but because of God’s love for you, He took your place so that you might forever not just know His love for you but eternally experience it!

Dear friends, when you stand before God and feel the convicting weight of His law upon your heart; when you feel the impossibility of pleasing a perfect God, do not turn to your own solution, but turn to the God of How, who has provided the how through the cross…through the completed work of Jesus Christ, for you!

Finally, let’s talk about good ideas vs. God ideas!  Good ideas are limited to our own potential, actions, and resources.  If you are chasing after a good idea then you will have to devote a lot of time, energy, and resources in trying to implement your idea.  A God idea, a divine vision, on the other hand, is limited only by God’s potential and resources.  That means anything and everything is possible if it is in keeping with the will of God!

Our challenge is that sometimes we have to stand back for a while and trust in God’s work.  Since we never know exactly when or how God is going to step in, it is critical that we remain focused on our relationship with Him through Jesus Christ, and second we must keep our hearts on the vision He has given to us.  We must ask God to help us focus on what He has called us to do, not on what He needs to do or How He is going to pull it off.

 Dear friends, how is never a problem for God. If God has anything that’s even close to a problem, it’s us!  He isn’t waiting on us to come up with everything we need to accomplish the vision He has created within us.  Remember this: If your self esteem tricks you into thinking that you have what it takes to get the vision done, you’re wrong, because this is a God Thing…it always has been!  God has called you but He’s not depending on you.  You are a player and not the whole team.  God is looking for your obedience…He’s looking for your dependence and reliance on Him.  Dependence and reliance that actively waits for the God of how!

 


[i] This is a series based upon the book “Visioneering” by Andy Stanley, published by Multnomah Publishers, Inc., ISB #1-57673-538-9

A Little Is a Lot!

Sunday, July 19th, 2009

7th Sunday of Pentecost, July 19, 2009

Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
Click here for audil of this message

 

Today, our message comes to us from our Gospel lesson, with special attention on verse 34.  “When He went ashore He saw a great crowd, and He had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd.  And He began to teach them many things. (Mk. 6:34)

 

Introduction:  Our Gospel lesson this morning is an account of the only miracle that made it into all four of the gospels.  In Matthew, you will find it in the 14th chapter.  In John, it is located in the 6th Chapter, and in Luke it is in the 9th Chapter.  It was a time marked by great success; Jesus had just completed several days of teaching and healing and many of his disciple had just returned from their “two by two” evangelism mission, which Jesus had sent them on with instructions to preach repentance.  They were reporting to Jesus how God proved His faithfulness, by providing for all of their needs and even validating their message by healing the sick and casting out demons.  It was a wonderful time!  But it was also a time of emotional pain and disappointment; the kind that comes from devastating news.  Just as they were finishing up their reports, they were told that not far from them, King Herod had beheaded John the Baptist, a man that all of them including Jesus had grown to love and admire.  Now, as Jesus looked around at each face of his friends and students, he came to the conclusion that He and the twelve apostles needed time alone; they needed to get away from the crowds, in order to rest, reflect and learn.

 

So they left the crowds and headed to the opposite shore of Lake Galilee. St. John tells us that they had a little bit of  “alone time” with Jesus on the grassy slope of a large hillside, until Jesus looked off into the distance and pointed out a very large mass of people that were making their way towards their now, not so secret location; the crowd had found them again!  All day long Jesus stayed with the masses teaching them and curing their illnesses.  As their true “Good Shepherd” Jesus was tending to their spiritual and physical needs.  As the day was drawing to a close, and the disciples own stomachs began to grumble and growl with hunger they reminded Jesus of the hour (the dinner hour), and they began to plead with Him to send the people away, because they were hungry!  But Jesus answered them and said, “You give them something to eat.”  ‘What?  How!?  Even if we had that great amount of money, where would we find a place nearby that could even provide that amount of food?’  Where indeed!  There were about 5,000 men in that group, and that’s not even including the women and children that must have been with them.  The true size of the crowd was probably closer to about 11,000 people!  That’s enough to fill the San Diego Sports Arena!!  In my mind’s eye, I can see Jesus smiling and slowly looking around at the twelve stern and concerned faces, amazed at their lack of faith.

 

What a sad vignette.  It is the picture of a congregation of Christians that is tired, hungry and frustrated by a lack of resources.  But we can learn something from this story; something eternal and life changing; something that just might reinvigorate life in our own ministries here and within our communities.

 

In our Gospel reading, Jesus has just administered a “Pop Quiz” designed to help the apostles along with us learn two things:

1.      What the true quality of our faith in God is.  And…

2.      The fact that God wants us to experience His faithfulness.

Once we have learned these two lessons, we will then also discover these two truths:

1.      With God, a little is a lot.

2.      To Jesus, there’s no such thing as leftovers!

 

I. Like the apostle’s, we all have to discover what the quality of our own faith is-And Jesus used just one challenge to help the apostles discover the quality of theirs. Challenges are like riddles.  You know there is a way to solve it, you just have to figure out how!  Notice that Jesus didn’t ask, “Can you give them something to eat?” but instead he said, “You give them something to eat?” A response to this type of teaching requires a good deal of thought and even discussion on the students part and in regards to the teacher, He better know the correct answer to the riddle before he issues the challenge!

 Now it is easy for us modern day Christians to be judgmental of the apostles.  After all, we have the luxury of looking backwards into time.  It’s easy for us to wonder why they so quickly forgot the Canaan wedding miracle where Jesus turned water into wine.  We could remind them of Jairus’ daughter and even the widow of Nain’s son who both were raised from the dead.  Certainly we would have faired better than they, with our advantageous perspective of time, or would we?

 

Well this morning, I would like to ask you a question, and I want you to think for a moment before answering it–What is our biggest problem, our own test facing the church today?  (Pause) Many might quickly answer that it is a lack of resources that is holding us back.  But I submit to you, that the biggest problem facing the church today is not a lack of resources, but rather it’s the same problem that the apostles had, a lack of faith.  To this lack of faith Jesus asks us to report what little we have on hand.  To the 12 Jesus asked, “How many loaves do you have?  Go and see.”  What did the apostles report to Jesus?  “We have 5 loaves and two fish.”  St. John’s gospel records that they finished their report with these words, “But what are they for so many?”   What’s the first question someone will ask when a necessary expense request is brought into almost any church council, “Where’s the money coming from?” But I submit to you that that’s the wrong question. The only question we should ask is: Is this God’s will for our church? And if it is His will, shouldn’t we trust Him to provide what is needed?  Like the apostles, our faith many times, even with the advantage of the perspective of time is still very small.  But what is it that Christ said? “…if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” And we would add, (if it is keeping with God’s will) [Matthew 17:20-21]  

 

What we must remember is that just as Jesus tested the faith of the apostles, He also tests our faith as well, by putting us in difficult situations with no easy answers. Why?  So that we can learn what the quality of our own faith is.  After asking and waiting so long, do you still trust Him to find you a job?  Do you trust Him to help repair a broken relationship?  Do you trust him to overcome your illness?  Do you trust Him to replace your depression with passion and joy?  Do you believe that He will bless and strengthen our church? It’s during times like these, when prayers seem to go unanswered, that we may become frustrated, just as the apostles were. However, frustration is never what God wants us to feel! The faithful disciple will trust that God has answered their prayer, but it can only be experienced in His time.  The apostles fell short because they allowed their faith to be weakened by their own limited resources instead of seeking God’s limitless resources. 

Both the apostles and even us today, seem to want God to work according to what we want instead of what God wants.  But in the midst of our worry and concern we sometimes hear the same words Jesus spoke to address His disciples concerns, “Have the people sit down.”   I wonder what the disciples were thinking after he said that!  “What is he doing?  Why is He having all these people sit down as if their going to dine on this little bit of food?  Is he going to make them watch us eat our dinner? The truth is, sometimes we need to just sit down, relax, pray and wait on the Lord.  Sometimes we must just learn to be willing to set aside our worries and concerns and simply wait for the Lord.  And so they waited, they listened, they watched and then they learned and remembered that…

 

II. God wants to bless us by experiencing His faithfulness! Our Lord once said that “What is impossible with people is in fact possible with God.”  (Luke 18:27)  And now the God-man Jesus Christ demonstrates that truth by taking a few loaves and 2 fish and miraculously making it fill the bellies of over 11,000 people!  Only one person could do that … the sinless Son of God; the one who also followed His humiliating suffering and death with His exalting and miraculous resurrection from the dead to gain forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life for all of us; even for you!  Those who witnessed and personally benefited from Immanuel’s feeding miracle, and we along with them who have believed by faith and benefited from His miraculous resurrection, joyfully realize and gratefully admit that all things do in deed work together for the good of God’s children and His church, only because we are called according to His purpose! (Romans 8:28)  And what is that purpose?  Well, the other three Gospels augment verse 11 by stating that Jesus had the apostles acting as waiters, by bringing food out to the people in baskets, all 11,000 of them.  They were tired and they were hungry, but here they were in total amazement and invigorated with a new vitality as they partook in a miracle and served Jesus by serving the people who didn’t know Jesus!  Dear friends, God’s desire, His central concern after our own salvation is that as Christ’s disciples, you and me, should be continually working with Jesus to seek out and save the lost! 

 

CONCLUSION:  As I stated earlier, this message now leaves us with two eternal truths and they are: First, with Jesus, a little is a lot.  The disciples’ reluctance to wait on Jesus to attend to the crowds was not really based on their concern for the people, but rather on their own tired bodies and empty stomachs.  While they knew the people must be fed, they could not see how what little they had could be used for that.  So they quit; they gave up and asked the Lord to bless their failure.  But Jesus wanted to do so much more with them, and He wants to do so much more with us!  If we will only trust in His promise to provide for our every need, then we will discover as the apostles did that day Jesus will provide all that we need as we follow Him.  And finally, I promised you a second truth, and it is this, there are no leftovers with Jesus!  Have you ever wondered why Jesus had the disciples gather up all of the remaining loaves and fish with 12 baskets?    May I suggest that it’s because those little baskets were intended by Jesus to be their lunch boxes, which Jesus Himself ensured were filled so that they could in-turn, each eat and be filled.  Friends, Jesus was faithful to provide for them, but He did it after they served their community; but what about Jesus?  Wasn’t He hungry as well?  Well sure He was, but may I also suggest that Jesus expected the Twelve to share their abundance with him?  Maybe 10% from each apostle?  Wow what a concept!  Friends, Jesus still pours his abundance out to us today, and He expects us to remember him in our giving to the needy, to the support of the church and with our service to our community.  May God help us to remember these lessons and believe in His miraculous real presence that is with us today!  In Jesus name….AMEN!

The God of How!

Thursday, March 19th, 2009

The God of How![i]
Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
Click here for audio of this message

INTRODUCTION: In our gospel reading we join Jesus and the apostles at the end of a day full of ministering to the needs of thousands of people who gathered to be with Jesus. The disciples had just returned from a field trip where much was learned through God’s miraculous presence as Jesus taught them how to minister to the needs of others.  If we looked at their day as being a typical day of seminary for future ministers then their course of study for this day would be: Teaching the Faith 101, Service to Others 101, Care for Others 101, Aid for Others 101, and Contributing to the comfort or happiness of others 101.  Yes, it was a full day of on-the-job-training.  The apostles were tired and hungry, so Jesus had them come with him to a quiet place where they could get some rest and food and be debriefed by Jesus.

So off they went to get away, but alas, the crowds saw where they were going and they followed.  There seems that there would be no rest for the weary, because you see, Jesus had compassion on the crowds.  The teaching of the apostles continues…Lesson #1…always have a heart for the things that matter to God!

After hours of teaching and ministering to the people it was getting late in the afternoon, and the apostles were tired and hungry, so they said to Jesus, “(Lord) send them away to go into the surrounding countryside and villages (so they can) buy themselves something to eat.”  Now Jesus could have called an end to their school day, but the most important lessons still had to be taught and learned.  Jesus said, “You give them something to eat.”

How Lord?  With what we have on hand, we don’t have even enough for ourselves.  What you have asked us to do is impossible!  Oh?  Impossible for who?  Impossible for you yes, but for God…never!  If what you are asking for is in keeping with God’s will, then He will take the little you have and do great things with it.  Lesson #2, our God is the God of How!  How can it be done…God knows!  How can the impossible become a reality…God knows!  “Then He commanded them all to sit down in groups on the green grass.  So they sat down in groups…And they all ate and were satisfied.”

Like Nehemiah, the apostles could not see how their vision of feeding the large crowd could ever become a reality with only 5 loaves and 2 fish.  Yet God created a way.  Lesson #3…God wants to do a work of faith within you so that He can do a work of ministry through you.  And what is that work of faith?  That you might know that He is the God of How!

I.What” always precedes “How”! Nehemiah knew the answer to the what must be done before He knew the answer to how it would be done.  He had to wait 6 months before God intervened and moved the heart of the king to sponsor and finance his vision of rebuilding the wall of the city and the temple in Jerusalem.  Nehemiah knew what God had called him to do, but he didn’t have a clue how God would do it.  For months nothing happened, and he had no indication that anything was about to happen.  He knew that humanly speaking, there was absolutely no way this vision was ever going to get off the ground.

But God had a plan.  God knew how to secure Nehemiah’s release from service to the king and God knew how to move the king’s heart to finance the rebuilding project.  God had already worked out all of the critical details.  What God desired was a who!  By embracing and internalizing the burden that God placed on his heart, Nehemiah became God’s answer to “who”!

II. What God originates He orchestrates.  When God puts something in your heart to do, He goes to work behind the scenes to ensure it happens.  Think back for a moment about any Old or New Testament story in which the responsibility of figuring out how a divine vision would be fulfilled fell to the men or women to whom God gave the vision?  Did Moses have to come up with a way to get the Israelites out of Egypt?  How about through the desert?  Was it David’s responsibility to figure out how to get Saul off the royal throne so he could ascend to it?  When Jesus told the apostles to feed the five thousand were they responsible for figuring out how to do it?  Later, were the apostles responsible for figuring out how to spread the gospel throughout the whole world?  When Sanballat and Tobiah were trying to discourage Nehemiah and the Jews in order to stop their work on rebuilding the wall was Nehemiah responsible for shutting them up?  No!  But what did they do?  They turned to the God of How!  They called out to God and said, “Hear, O our God, for we are despised.  Turn back their taunts on their own heads…for they have provoked you to anger in the presence of the builders.”  In essence, they surrendered the hopelessness of their situation into the hands of the author of their vision.  They trusted in the presence and care of the God of How!  “When our enemies heard that it was known to us and that God had frustrated their plan (to discourage us and stop our work), we all returned to the wall, each to his work.”  And the progress and completion of the vision becoming a reality continued.

In every Biblical example of fulfilling a God-given vision, it was God who orchestrated all the events so that everyone involved would stand in awe of God and recognize without a doubt that God had done all of the impossible work!  And this is true in your own life!  It was God through His law that convinced you that you were lost in your own sins and that you could never on your own return to Him and trust in Him alone for your eternal salvation.  And it was God alone who through no help of your own, removed the obstacles that separated you from his eternal love and care.  Through Jesus Christ, God came to this world, in our own flesh and lived the perfect life that we must live but can not.  Through Jesus Christ, God suffered and died for you.  This was your penalty for your sins that you were to experience, but because of God’s love for you, He took your place so that you might forever not just know His love for you but eternally experience it!

Dear friends, when you stand before God and feel the convicting weight of His law upon your heart; when you feel the impossibility pleasing a perfect God, do not turn to your own solution, but turn to the God of How, who has provided the how through the cross…through the completed work of Jesus Christ, for you!

III. Good ideas vs. God ideas!  Good ideas are limited to our own potential, actions, and resources.  If you are chasing after a good idea then you will have to devote a lot of time, energy, and resources in trying to implement your idea.  A God idea, a divine vision, on the other hand, is limited only by God’s potential and resources.  That means anything and everything is possible!

Our challenge is that sometimes we have to stand back for a while and trust in God’s work.  Since we never know exactly when or how God is going to step in, it is critical that we remain focused on our relationship with Him through Jesus Christ, and second we must keep our hearts on the vision.  We must focus on what God has called us to do, not on what He needs to do or How He is going to pull it off.

CONCLUSION: Dear friends, how is never a problem for God. If God has anything that’s even close to a problem, it’s us!  He isn’t waiting on us to come up with everything we need to accomplish the vision He has created within us.  Remember this: If your self esteem tricks you into thinking that you have what it takes to get the vision done, you’re wrong, because this is a God Thing…it always has been!  God has called you but He’s not depending on you.  You are a player and not the whole team.  God is looking for your obedience…He’s looking for your dependence and reliance on Him.  Dependence and reliance that actively waits for God’s how!



[i] This is a series based upon the book “Visioneering” by Andy Stanley, published by Multnomah Publishers, Inc., ISB #1-57673-538-9