Archive for the ‘Matthew 28:16-20’ Category

The Mystery of the Holy Trinity

Sunday, June 11th, 2017

Holy Trinity Sunday, June 11, 2017
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor of
Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA and
Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA

Click here for audio of this message

“Whoever desires to be saved must above all, hold the “universal” Christian faith.  And the “universal” Christian faith is this, that we worship one God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity, neither confusing the persons nor dividing the substance.” [vs. 1-3 of the Athanasian Creed]

God is one.  There is only one God.  The one God has always existed from eternity as one God—and He always will!  God alone is eternal.  And to this, your Muslim, Mormon, and Jehovah Witness neighbors would say a loud AMEN!

Does it surprise you to know that the folks from these other religions will appeal to this very truth and then attempt to draw you away from your Christian faith? 

You see, in addition to confessing that God is one, our neighbors from these other religions also know that we Christians similarly confess something that they can’t agree with; we confess that God is love, in fact we say that love is the very essence of God.  Now your neighbors from these other religions will never deny that God loves but they will deny that this love is the essence of God.  Why is that?

Because, they will claim that if God can’t be God unless He loves someone, then God can’t be God without someone to love.  So how can an eternal-almighty God be dependent upon His creation in order for Him to be God?  They will tell you that although God does love, love can’t be God’s essence, because He is dependent on no one.  But this kind of faulty thinking about the One True God isn’t any better than the beliefs that come from people who worship many gods.  You see, there’s no difference between having one idol and half a dozen idols.  Idols are idols.  The god of these other religions is an idol.  The true God is one, but the mere acknowledgement of this fact doesn’t mean a person is worshiping the One true God.  You see, the One true God is also united within Trinity.  The only God who exists is the Triune God.  And any god who isn’t triune is not God because a god who is not triune cannot be love, and God is love.

Dear friends, please do not ever let any devil lead you away from this truth because it is crucial to your very salvation.  If God wasn’t love then he would not have suffered and died upon the cross for you!

The love of God is not an attribute that makes Him dependent on us. 

It is the eternally defining attribute of God that defines His very essence as God in regards to His relationship shared between the three persons within the One Godhead.  When we say God is love we are also saying that God could not be love unless He was Triune.  You see, there’s an eternal unity of love between the Father who begets and sends His unique Son who is begotten.  This eternal unity of divine love exists as well between the Father and the Son, and the Holy Spirit who is sent from both of them. But as I said in the children’s message, this is far too high for us to grasp.  You see, how God relates within Himself is far too much for us to comprehend.  After all, He is the Creator and we are the creature!

While completely understanding God is far above us, we can know about Him by paying attention to what He has already revealed about Himself.  We know from scripture that the Father has begotten His unique Son on many occasions.  It was the Son and two angels who visited Abraham outside of Sodom and Gomorra to warn Abraham of the pending destruction of the two cities, so that His nephew Lot might be saved.  It was the God the Son begotten by the Father who took on the form of a burning bush so that Moses might behold some of the Lord’s glory and receive God’s Law that would teach Israel and the people of faith how to relate rightly to a Holy and loving God.  There are many more instances throughout scripture that demonstrate that God the Father begets or sends the One of a kind Son in order to accomplish the purpose of God, but for us, the best example is found in the Gospel of John: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” [John 1:14]

Do you hear in those words how the Son is now forever begotten in human flesh yet He still possesses eternal glory, grace and truth.  Do you understand how together the Father and the Son send the Holy Spirit?  It was God the Spirit who was hovering over the face of the waters in the very beginning of creation. He was sent by the Father and the Son, and together they created the heavens and the earth; He was sent by these Words: “”Let there be light,” and there was light.  And God saw that the light was good. [Genesis 1:1-4]  Like a marvelous symphony God’s Word’s of Love spoke forth creation and goodness.  It was an eternal love generated and sent from the heart of the One true God who has always revealed Himself in three persons.

But we must always remember that we can’t divide the person’s from the One True God or else we will lose His essence, which is love.  What do I mean by this? Well you see…

While it is the Father who begets His unique Son on Mission, and it is the unique Son who is begotten but not created, and it is the Holy Spirit who is sent together by the Father and the Son, there are not three God’s but One.

As One, the three persons in the God-head created everything together; together with one mind and one heart of love.  The divine mystery of God’s triune nature is this: As One they have always existed and since God does not change they will always be One in glory and majesty.  There is only One Uncreated, Eternal, and Almighty God.  When we pray to our Lord in heaven we don’t pray to three Lords, but rather we pray to one Lord because the Father is Lord, the Son is Lord, and the Holy Spirit is Lord.  Three persons united eternally in One essence of love, which is God!

After all of this, I think that we all now agree that God’s ways are far above our ability to understand, so why am I talking about an eternal relationship of love into which you and I could never find our way?  Because…

God has created a way; He has brought His love to us!  In so doing He has established fellowship with us.  But in order to enjoy all of the benefits of this relationship (eternal grace, mercy, and peace with God and each other), we must also faithfully believe that God the Son was begotten, that is He alone, took on our human flesh.  He did this not because He needed to, but rather He did it because He is God, a God Who loves.  We will understand this truth if we can see how badly we need God’s love. You see…

We are the ones in need! 

We need God to come to us.  Although God’s voice declared all that He had made was good, it was our own sinfulness that has forever turned good into evil.  Think now, in the privacy of your own hearts, who among us has not thought or done evil already this morning?!  Isn’t it true that without help we could never stand before a perfect and righteous God!  There is not a single thing that we can do to save ourselves…we need God’s mercy, pardon, and forgiveness.  And yet the punishment for sin is death, and that is precisely what it will take to pay for our sinfulness.  But as a true champion, our Redeemer God came to us begotten in our own flesh, and He paid for our sins Himself.  The entire God came to us.  Our creator wrapped Himself in creation, because only He could change our hopeless situation.

Listen to how God’s Word proclaims this mystery of His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ: “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.” [Colossians 1:15-20]

So why do I say that in Christ all of God came to us?  Because if you remember, we can never divide the essence of God; God always acts as one because He is one!  Now I know that once again, this is far above any of us to understand, but we must believe this truth because it is how God has revealed Himself.  Let me offer a crude representation that Martin Luther once referenced, and see if it might make this a bit easier to receive:
Before a wedding, there were three women in the dressing room putting a dress on the bride, who was one of the three and she participated as well with putting on the dress. We could say that all three were dressing her; and yet only one is being put in the dress. In a similar way, we see that all three Persons, as one God, created the one humanity, clothed the Son in this unique, one of a kind existence, and united it with His person, so that only the Son became man, and not the Father or the Holy Spirit, yet because God is One and not three, the Son who from the time of His birth as Jesus would now eternally be fully God and fully man.

Friends, it was this same Jesus who lived the sinless life on our behalf.  It was this same Jesus who allowed Himself to be put to death by sinful men.  He did not have to do this but rather He chose to suffer and die for us, because God is love.  Please hear me, “This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men,(because it was your sins that compelled God out of love to suffer and die for you.  But be of good cheer), God (has) raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.” [Acts 2:23-24]  By His stripes you have been healed.  By His suffering and death you have been released from the eternal punishment for your many sins!  By God’s love you have been saved!

At your baptism God’s work of re-creation was activated for you. 

There at the font, all of the benefits of Christ’s suffering and death were given to you.  The old sinful man or woman that was your identity at birth has now been put to death through His same Word of creation that was spoken “In The Beginning”.

This re-creation of life from death is now yours because of God’s own suffering and death through Christ Jesus!  Dear friends, do you see what a wonderful gift of love is now yours?  You have been freed from your former body of death and you have been given a new life.  Embrace and cherish this gift.  Live out this new life with certainty that it is yours!

As wonderful as this new life is and as sinful and undeserving as we may be, we must not doubt that this gift is ours, because it was given out of God’s love.  And yet when the troubles of life creep in, we do doubt, we can lose hope, and that is why Jesus hasn’t left us alone in life as orphans.  He promises that He and the Father are still with us in love, because He has sent us the gift of the Holy Spirit, and where the Holy Spirit is, there also are the Father and the Son, because God is One!

It is the Holy Spirit who moves our hearts to hunger for hearing and studying God’s Word.  It is the Holy Spirit that causes us to remember God’s saving love when we remember our own baptism.  It is the Holy Spirit that creates a hunger within us to gather at the Lord’s Table where we receive His very body and blood when we eat and drink for the forgiveness of sins.  It is the Holy Spirit that creates in us a clean heart, which in turn moves us to come to God in prayer, asking first for forgiveness and then for all the desires of our heart, with the assurance that God hears us and answers us according to His will.

Dear friends, the Holy Spirit is united for eternity with the Father and the Son, and together they lead us by faith so that they may strengthen and grow God’s Church.  The Holy Spirit, sent by the Father and the Son propels all believers out into our community, armed with His Word and Sacraments, personal witness and Christian living in order “to convince the world concerning sin and righteousness.”
So Jesus says to yo this morning…

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I Jesus your Lord have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” [Matthew 28:19, 20]

Next Sunday we will look at this Great Commission of Jesus a little closer, and the why and how behind it, as He sends each of us out into the mission field. But until then, let us pray to the Lord of the harvest for love, peace, and wisdom.

Let us pray: “O Lord, teach us to love our neighbor as you love us, and lead on O Lord; make us one in missionary zeal as you are One—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”  In Jesus name…AMEN!

What Our Soul Sings

Sunday, June 19th, 2011

Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church-San Diego
Pentecost A, June 19, 2011
Click here for audio of this message

Let us begin this and all things, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit!  “Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee, how great Thou art!  How great Thou art!”  What wonderful words we just finished singing!  It is the very song of our souls, but not because we chose to sing these words, but because we must.  It’s the song that our new “baptismal nature” was created to sing; it’s a song that only a Christian can sing.  It’s the song of our soul!  But it wasn’t always that way.  You see, there’s another song we can easily get caught up in; it’s a song of a sinful nature that sings about itself; “Then sings my soul, I live to satisfy me; how great I am!  How great I am!”

Without the work of God we would be lost in that sinful song that celebrates the desires and accomplishments of self; we would be caught up in the pursuit of knowledge and accomplishments simply to satisfy our own pride and desire to grow greater and stronger!  So, you could say that there is a battle going on within our own souls over which song will be sung loudest and longest.  But that’s why you are here today; you’ve come here to feed your new nature; a nature that was raised in baptism after your old nature was put to death.  It’s why you gather to hear God’s Word proclaimed, remember the gift He gave you in your baptism, and be feed His Holy Supper of forgiveness.  We need these gifts of God because they are the very things that protect and strengthen our new nature.  But this struggle of putting to death one nature and raising up and strengthening another was not always our condition.

In our Old Testament lesson we are reminded that there was a time that we were created in the image of God; after His own likeness.  What must that have been like?  Well let’s look at those Words and see!  “Then God said, “Let “US” make man in OUR image, after OUR likeness.””

What we learn from those Words is that God speaks to Himself; not in the way you and I might do, as we are trying to think through a problem; and He isn’t speaking to an audience, because remember as of yet, there was no human kind to speak to.  No God is speaking in a plural tense because God is one being, One God, but three persons.  And here is something else to remember, the very fact that He speaks to Himself amongst the three persons proves that these persons are real within the being of the One True God, and that they are relational.  They relate to one another in truth, power, and love, equally and without division!  They rule all of creation as one God, with one heart and one mind!  But there’s more to learn, because God continues speaking in our Old Testament Lesson; He speaks His intention.  Listen: “And let (the men) have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” [Gen. 1:26]

After God created all things and saw that they were good, He blessed man and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion!”  And for a short while, God our creator walked with man in the cool of the day.  We spoke with our creator as a friend, no more than that, we spoke with Him in love, because we were created to be in a relationship of love and truth with Him, just as His one being of Almighty God relates within the Godhead of three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit!  But something happened; something that certainly was not a shock or surprise to God, but it was to the first men, Adam and Eve; sin happened and it happened quickly with immediate and devastating consequences.  Adam and Eve chose knowledge that God forbid them.  They chose knowledge over an eternal relationship of love and trust with their creator.  And because of that decision, gone forever was the image of God within the only creature that was created to be like God!  And now, forever the song of the souls of all sinful men and women would be about regaining that lost image of God; we can’t help but sing about our former greatness because it exists within our hearts like a giant whole; it’s a void and a vacuum that was once filled by God Himself!

So we try to fill that whole with everything within this created world.  We try to recreate our relationship of intimacy, love and truth with other people, and they fail us.  We try use mind altering substances that lie to our psyches, but those leave us worse than we were without them.  We search and search for meaning within us and our sinful world, but nothing fills the void!  But then we hear the powerful Words of Peter’s sermon in our second reading (Acts 2:14a-22-36) and we see that God has created a way back to a relationship of love and trust with Him; a way that is outside of ourselves.  Listen: “I saw the Lord always before me, for He is at my right hand that I may not be shaken; therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; my flesh also will dwell in hope.  For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One see corruption.  You have made known to me the paths of life; your will make me full of gladness with your presence.” [vs. 25-28]

In these blessed Words of scripture, we discover that God has not left us alone; He still wants to relate to us as He relates within Himself.  He still desires a relationship of love and trust with us.  He has never left us and He will not abandon us; even the death of our sinful flesh can’t separate us from His love.  But how; how is this to be?  Well, in order to answer this question, we must first understand that while this prophecy speaks to sinful men it is ultimately about God Himself; specifically it is about the Son of God, Jesus Christ who took on our own flesh to be our champion, redeemer and savior.  It is about a God who came to us and took our sins upon Himself so that He could pay the penalty for our sins; so that we will no longer be separated from a God of love and truth; so that the giant whole in our souls can be filled with what they were created to filled with, the presence of God!

This then is God’s way of recovering a relationship of love and trust that both of us lost.  Through His Son, Jesus Christ God entered into our reality and made all things new for all who will receive and believe in His Work.  But believing is impossible for a soul that simply wants to sing about its own greatness.  It’s impossible to believe in a God who we cannot see or walk with in the cool of the day.  It’s impossible unless God makes a way to believe.  And make a way He does.  How does He make this believing possible?  He does it by the power of the Holy Spirit and the means that the Father of all creation choses.  He does it with His Word and Sacraments!

In these means of Word and Sacrament, God the Father brings to us a message from His very heart, the heart of one God in three persons.  The message is the gospel; a gospel that promises you that “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.”  This message is given by the Father and it is about what His Son did to save you and the world, and it is empowered by His Holy Spirit who opens the eyes of your heart with faith so that you will believe that through His Son He has won you back and brought you once again into a relationship of love and trust.  Through His means of grace, God is daily proving to you the truthfulness of this message, as you continue to hear it, trust it, and seek to know His will!

And now, because you are using these means that God chooses, He is beginning to change you.  Your old identity that seeks to find its own satisfaction and fulfillment is being put to death just as God the Son died for you.  And in its place, God has raised up and is growing your new nature, your baptismal nature that seeks to know more love and truth from its creator; a nature that seeks to gain honor for God and not for itself.  It is this nature alone that believes that all truth originates from God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; one being, One God but three persons!  And as this new nature grows stronger you begin to become humble like the Son of God.  You begin to live to do the will of the Father.  As your new nature grows, you begin to become more like the Holy Spirit, working to honor the Father by pointing to the work and presence of God the Son, Jesus Christ!  But to whom are you pointing out Christ to?  To those who have not yet returned to their Creator God!  You are pointing to those who still have not been recreated!

In our gospel lesson (Matt. 28:16-20) Jesus gave a mandate and the means for each of us to be missionaries.  Each of us are simply to go out into our lives to whoever we encounter and share God’s desire to have them return to Him by faith, through the completed work of Jesus Christ!  Someone once asked me if Jesus is my personal Savior, and the answer I gave him confused him.  I said, “No, I like to share Him!”  You see, God didn’t recreate us in baptism to be a private Christian.  We were created to have a relationship of love and truth with Him and to share that relationship with others.  “We are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, god’s own people, that we may declare the wonderful deeds of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light.” [1 Pet. 2:9]  In other words, we are members of the body of Jesus Christ, a body that is living, growing, fruitful and always following the model of the Holy Spirit, by pointing to Jesus Christ and proclaiming His work for us and for our neighbors.

Dear friends, as the body of the Son of God, Jesus Christ our blessed heart and head, we are sent out to be His witnesses throughout the world to all people, all ethnic groups, and in all times until He comes again!  We are to simply do what we have been created to do… we are to sing His praises to all who will hear.  And as we sing to Him in our own witness, the Holy Spirit uses God’s means of Word and Sacrament to convert them as well and turn their hearts and minds toward a Triune God who enables them and us together to do good works of love and continue to turn even more people lost in sin towards their loving God!  In this way, God puts us back on track; He returns us to our original mandate to be fruitful and have dominion over the earth.  What is that dominion?  Building the kingdom of God by letting God work through us!  Eden is restored; or relationship of trust and love with our creator is returned to us and we are asked to spread this very thing throughout the face of the earth!  “Then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee, how great Thou art!  How great Thou art!”   In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit… AMEN!