Archive for the ‘Matthew 21:1-14’ Category

Encourage One Another!

Saturday, October 16th, 2010

Friday Night Gospel Celebration, October 15, 2010
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church. San Diego, CA
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Tonight, God’s Word brings us Words of comfort and encouragement, but He also brings us Words of warning.  These Words of comfort and encouragement are the certain promise that the death isn’t something that we should fear, but instead it’s something we should anticipate with a feeling of joy.  Now I know that these words might sound a little strange, because death is well…intimidating.  We’ve never died before.  Let’s be honest, when we dream of the future we don’t dream as far as after death.  We can sum up all of our thoughts and worries about death with just one simple word: MYSTERY!  It’s a mystery because, well we never died before.  But friends, there were a lot of firsts in our lives, things we never did before, but after we did them and the mystery was removed the fear was removed right along with it.  Isn’t that true?

Tonight, St. Paul through the Holy Spirit seeks to remove some of the mystery and fear from death and replace it with anticipation.  He tells us that God doesn’t want us “to be uninformed, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.” [1 Thess. 4:13] Did you catch the word St. Paul used for death?  He said asleep!  Now at first this might seem a little confusing; we might say, “Now wait just a minute…I have always been taught that the minute I leave this body of flesh, I will immediately be present with the Lord.  You know, “Absent from the body, present with the Lord.”  Do you mean I will be in some kind of suspended animation?”  No, not at all…NO!  Paul isn’t saying that our soul, or our consciousness will sleep, but simply that our tired old bodies will be at rest until they are raised new at the resurrection of all flesh.  He is comparing the death of our flesh, with a deep and pleasant sleep that in no way should be feared.  Why?  Because your savior has already conquered death for you.  He has already gone ahead and prepared a place for you.  Not just a place for you to wait for the resurrection, but a real place for you to live forever in the joy your Savior has provided for you!

Let me share a story with you that makes this a little clearer.  There once was a dying Christian man who was very afraid of death, even though he believed that in his baptism, Christ gift of salvation was given to him. He expressed his feelings to his Christian doctor, who was making a house call. The physician was silent, because he didn’t know what to say. Just then a whining and scratching was heard at the front door. When the doctor opened it, in bounded his big beautiful dog, who often went with him as he made house calls. The dog was glad to see his master. Sensing an opportunity to comfort his troubled patient, the doctor said, “Did you see that?!  My dog has never been in your home before, so he didn’t know what it was like in here. But he knew I was in here, and that was enough, so he bounded right in. In the same way, I’m looking forward to heaven. I don’t know much about it, but I know my Savior is there, and that He’s waiting for me. And that’s all I need to know!”

Friends, we don’t really know what kind of life is waiting for us on the other side of this one, but we do know that it will be an eternal world with God filled with love, joy, wonder, and peace; it will be like nothing we have ever experienced before.  We know that it’s going to be off the hook, because our master, Jesus the living Son of God is there waiting for us.  We believe this because He said that it’s so.  But why do some find this truth so easy to believe and others find it frightening and worrisome?  Well let’s go over to the gospel of Matthew (Matt. 25:1-13) and let Jesus answer this question.

Jesus said, “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise.” [vs. 1-2]  Here Jesus is telling us that those who wait for heaven can be divided into two different groups, the foolish and wise.  What separates the two?  In Jesus story it is the lack of or the presence of oil for their lamps.  Think of it like a ticket to a Chargers game.  Either you have it or you don’t.  You can go down to Qual Com Stadium on a Sunday morning and holler all you want, but without a ticket you aren’t getting in!  With the ticket, you are gladly and easily admitted into the Stadium.  In Jesus story, both groups of virgins wanted to be at the wedding banquet.  Both had lamps and the desire to use them, but only the ones with working lit lamps actually made it into the banquet.   Friends, the oil in the lamp and the ticket for the ball game both represent the very same thing, God’s grace; His undeserved forgiveness for our many sins.  “But God’s grace is free?”  You may counter.  Well certainly it’s free, but you have to have it working for you in order to benefit from it!  How? 

Well in Jesus story, you had to by oil for your lamp ahead of time.  If the oil represents God’s grace then the money to buy the oil represents God’s Word!  Friends, in order to live within and under grace we must be in God’s Word, because it is only through His Word that you will be able to believe and live out the truth that God’s forgiveness and mercy are truly yours.  “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing the message of Jesus Christ!”  The five wise virgins were proven wise because they acquired and used the oil.  What would have happened if they bought the oil, but never used it?  They too would have remained outside, separated from the wedding banquet.  They would have been just as foolish as the other five.

Friends, God’s Word is here with us tonight; it has always been with you, but the truth is, for some, it will not always be with them.  Will you be wise or will you be foolish?  There are some here right now who have not been taking their faith seriously.  They’ve been simply going through the motions.  Oh they started out with the real deal, but ever so slowly the practice of their faith in Jesus Christ simply became a habit.  Get up early, get ready, go to church (never mind bible study), shake some hands, share some coffee and conversation and go home and get on with life, but their Christian faith and involvement in Christ’s church started out so much differently.  At first, they even actually enjoyed attending Bible Study, and their personal devotions were always an anticipated private time with their Savior.  But something happened over time…life happened and God’s Word and the Worship of His Divine presence in their lives became boring.  The first indication that something wasn’t right was the habitual daydreaming during the worship service.  Then, personal devotions began to fall.  Then there was no more time for Bible study, because, well…just because.  The result, the oil runs out.  God’s Word no longer has its way with them, but instead they have their way with His Word.  This sounds very much like our gospel reading; “As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept.” [vs. 5] 

Tonight dear friends, Jesus is nudging you; even now He’s whispering in your ear…even now He is screaming “WAKE UP!  Nap time is over.  Let me give you oil.  Fill your lamp and be ready before it is too late!  Listen to this message.  Read and study my Word.  Let me prepare you so that it will not be too late when you hear this, “‘The bridegroom is here! Come out to meet him.’” Friends, if we haven’t been prepared by God’s Word, Jesus says something like this will be the result: “Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.” [Vs. 6-9] 

Foolish virgins, why didn’t they come prepared?  Everyone knows you need oil to use an OIL-LAMP!  But why ask why of a fool?  The reason they act foolish is self evident…they are fools!  They are fools, but what are we?  Are we expecting to have faith in God’s grace without being anchored in His Word?  If you are then I won’t ask you why, because well, it’s self evident.  But I pray that if there are any foolish Christians here tonight, God would use His Word to make each of us wise before it’s too late.  “For (when you least expect it), the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.  Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air”. [1 Thess. 4:16-17b]  Then dear friends, it will be too late to acquire the truth that sets us free.  It will be too late hear the Word that gives us faith in His promise….too late.  But not too late if….through living in God’s Word and by the power of that Word within us “we (are enabled to) believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring [all of us made safe by that Word] with him, [everyone of us] who have fallen asleep.

 Please let me close with one last story.  When my son Thomas was very little, he was stung by a bee.  That bee sting seemed to make him always terrified of bugs of any kind.  One day when he was a little older, we were riding in my old Datsun, on our way to our favorite fishing hole, when a bee entered through an open window.  It began to dart around madly and Thomas was again terrified.  What could I do?  I didn’t want to stop because the road conditions didn’t permit it.  Instead, I reached out my hand and grabbed the bee and let it sting me.  This made Thomas scream even louder, until I had him look at my hand.  “Do you see the red spot in my hand son?”  Yes he whimpered.  “Do you see the stinger?”  Yes he moaned.  Then don’t be afraid anymore, because a bee can only sting once, and I took the sting away from the bee so it couldn’t sting you!” 

 Dear friends, this is God’s grace…this is the message that He wants you to be filled with through His Word!  Jesus took the sting of death for us.  Another way to say this is that He took the sting out of death.  “We believe that Jesus died (he died the death that we should have died, but we also believe that Jesus) rose again, (and) through Jesus, God will bring with him (all of) those who have fallen asleep.” [1 Thess. 4:14]. 

Oh friends, this is the wonderful message that God’s Word continually declares to us.  It is a message that He wishes to make a part of our very essence so that when the end of this world for us comes, and it will come soon enough, either by our natural death or Jesus’ second coming and the resurrection of all flesh, we will be filled with only joyful anticipation.

 Listen friends, we have such a wonderful message of grace to declare to each other don’t we?  We really need to be reminded of it as often as possible.  We need to take this wonderful message outside of these walls and into our community.  Let’s pray for this now: Dear Lord, strengthen us with your message of peace and grace, and empower us to encourage anyone who needs comfort with the truth that one day we will meet our Lord in the air, and then we will always be with Him in peace.”  In Jesus name…AMEN!

The Invitation

Sunday, October 12th, 2008

  Twenty Second Sunday in Pentecost, October 12, 2008
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church. San Diego, CA
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 Our Gospel lesson this morning is another parable that comes to us in a string of parables Jesus used to teach about the kingdom of heaven.  In each story, his audience was forced to find themselves in one of the characters (usually the one that pridefully rejected God’s kingdom and His Messiah).  In our reading this morning Jesus says that the kingdom of heaven can be compared to a king who threw a wedding party and then told his servants to go out into the streets and invite anyone they could find so that they could celebrate with the king.  It’s a wonderful story that illustrates how badly God wants everyone to turn to Him, on His terms and enter into a relationship of love and trust.  It is a story that invites us all to be friends with God, children of God through Jesus Christ…but..there is tragedy in this story too! Sadly, Jesus story teaches us that many will reject God’s invitation.

There are three classes of persons who reject God’s Invitation.

First there are those who are too busy.  In Jesus day, people were much the same as our day.  There were businesses to run, farms to tend, jobs to report to, and families to raise, so many of his listeners would have identified with those who were just too busy to attend the kings banquet.  But this was not just any banquet; no this was a banquet that would honor the Son of the King and His bride.  Do they dare turn down the king’s invitation?  Yes, because there just wasn’t time.

Then there are those who are offended and angered by the invitation
because it represented their lack of authority; these people represented the religious establishment of Jesus day.  In the story, it made no sense for these people to get angry and abuse, even kill the servants that thought they were bringing “good news”.  But that is exactly what they did, and that is precisely what Jesus was telling the religious leaders that they were doing and would soon do by persecuting, punishing, and even killing his disciples. 
Finally, there are those who respond to the invitation in a self-serving manner. “But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment.  And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless.” [Matt. 22:11-12]  And he was speechless!  What a sad state of mind to be in when approached by the King!  He knew the rules, one simple rule actually… “In order to sit at my table, you must wear the attire that I provide.  Friend, you chose to come into my presence on your own terms, and because of that you have rejected my hospitality and a chance to enter into a friendship with me.”  The man couldn’t argue, because the king was right.  The king is always right, because you see the king in Jesus’ story represents God the Father.  And the son of the King is none other than Jesus Himself.  And the feast well, that’s a little different, because you see; it represents a couple of things. 

First, it represent the great feast that will be held on our Lord’s return, on the Last Day, but it is also speaking about the great feast of eternal life that God has lovingly provided for us right now, here in this church; a feast that we call the Divine Worship.  At this feast we gather as one body to hear the life-giving words of Jesus; we gather to be baptized and to remember our baptism; we gather to not just confess our sins to our Lord, but to hear His sweet words of forgiveness…the absolution…the obliteration of those sins; and finally, we gather to feast upon the sacrament of our Lord’s Body and Blood, which is served to us upon the banquet table of His altar.  But as the words of our liturgy say, this is a “foretaste of the feast to come.”  But this feast of God’s Word and Sacrament is a REAL heavenly feast nonetheless, for as John the Baptist and even our Epistle reading this morning states, “The (kingdom of the) Lord is at hand.” But what kind of feast is this Divine Worship?  What does our Lord say?  “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every Word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4) and again He says, “I am the bread of life; unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life and I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:35, 53-54).  Yes friends, the kingdom of heaven has come to us and it is continually coming to us through the real presence of Jesus Christ, through His Word and Sacraments.   

 Now what do we make of this special garment that Jesus spoke of in the story? 

Well, it had to be supplied by the king.  I’m sure that the man in the story chose to wear his finest suit of clothes.  He probably paid a lot of money for that suit.  It represented his hard work and probably his style.  What’s the sense of having good things if you can’t use them, right?  I’ll bet the king will be impressed!

Wrong, at least not in Jesus story, because you see the clothes that the man insisted of wearing represented his own way; it represented a works righteousness that God will always reject.  The prophet Zephaniah spoke of this strange garment, which was foreign to God in this way, “Be silent before the Lord God! For the day of the Lord is near; the Lord has prepared a sacrifice and consecrated his guests.  And on the day of the Lord’s sacrifice- “I will punish the officials and the king’s sons and all who array themselves in foreign attire.””  Friends, there is only one attire that is not foreign to God and if we want to understand what this garment is, then we need look no farther than the baptismal font. 

It was at the font of life giving water where the command went out to all of God’s servants to seek out anyone they found and call them to the feast of victory, the feast of salvation for our God, Jesus Christ.   It was there at the baptismal font that your King plucked you out of your life of sin and death and washed you white as snow in the blood of the lamb, the blood of His Son, your Savior.  It was there at the font where the general invitation to anyone found became a special invitation of love for you.  It was there at the baptismal font that Your King gave you your own very special garment of salvation.  St. Paul puts it this way, “for as many of you who were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” [Gal. 3:27]  You have been clothed in Christ!  This is the same garment that Isaiah mentions when he says, “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.”

What happened to the man in Jesus story who wouldn’t wear the right garment?  Well, this man and all of the others did not fare well. Jesus Words are clear, “Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” [v. 13] Friends there can be no doubt that this man’s punishment was eternal separation from God!  Because when he chose to reject God’s robe of righteousness, he also chose to reject God’s invitation for salvation.  ILLUS: If you were told that you must enter an area that was contaminated with disease and sickness, but you would be in no danger if you wore a special biological suit and respirator, would you reject that personal protective equipment and go in as you choose, or would quickly put it on, wear it properly and be thankful that someone was looking out for you? 

Friends, we must learn to use our baptism in the same way!  In our baptism, God has clothed us with Christ’s holy, perfect nature; He has clothed us with Christ!  He has given us Christ’s protective suit if you will, to wear in our baptism.  If we will simply approach our own baptisms as a gift of love from God, and if we will just cling to it and allow it to save us, comfort us, and change us, we need never fear being thrown out of God’s presence where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth!  But aren’t there times that we too have rejected God’s invitation by neglecting to wear our garment of faith in Christ?  Haven’t we allowed God to take second place, even third or fourth place in our lives?  Yes, we have, if we are honest with ourselves…but the invitation still stands for us to repent and return to God’s love and forgiveness, for remember this is but a foretaste of the feast to come.  The final feast will be when our Lord returns or when we go to him after our last day on this earth, and then it will be too late to put on Christ.  Until then, we gather at houses of worship, we gather here at Trinity, and we cry out to God, “create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from Thy presence and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation and uphold me with Thy free spirit.” [Psalm 51]  Oh how sincerely those words pour out of a heart that realizes it has been living without being clothed in Christ!  How earnest, is the cry of a heart that knows it needs forgiveness because of sinful living!  Restore unto me the joy of Your salvation O, God.

Dear friends, this Wedding Feast we call the Divine Service has one purpose, and that is to re-clothe us in Christ and to restore our joy and confidence in the truth  that God still loves us and He has forgiven us! God has ordained worship so that it will strengthen your faith.  Dear friends, Jesus delights to answer the prayer of a repentant heart. He would never cast you out into the darkness. He hears your sorrowful cries and He answers you with mercy. He answers with His forgiveness and salvation. He answers us by clothing us in His righteousness.  Friends, when you leave here this morning, once again restored with joy, let this be your confidence that God will never leave or forsake you in a place where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth, so long as you are wearing His heavenly attire; so long as you are living out your faith in Jesus Christ, because God is working in your life, and because of His work, you are righteous, innocent, and blessed forever because you are wearing His wedding garment.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit…AMEN!