Archive for the ‘Pentecost 12B’ Category

On Walking In The Light

Sunday, August 16th, 2015

12th Sunday in Pentecost-B, August 16, 2015
Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego, CA 92114
http://www.tlcsd.org

Click here for audio of this message

“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.  Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” [Ephesians 5:15, 16]

What does it mean to walk in the light?  Well, the audio clip from our Service of Light liturgy that we just heard answers that question: “Jesus Christ is the Light of the World.”  So to walk in the light is to walk with Jesus and to be led by the wisdom of the Holy Spirit.

In or Old Testament lesson (Proverbs 9:1–10), the Light of Christ is personified as lady Wisdom, who has built her house with seven pillars.  The pillars represent the support of a structure, in this case the church, and the number seven signifies the completeness or sufficiency of God.

Wouldn’t you agree that one of life’s more enjoyable moments is when we get together with friends and family for a dinner? The Bible reminds us that there is a more important spiritual feast more needful than any physical food we can eat here on earth: “Man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord” (Deuteronomy 8:3). Wisdom invites us to feast on God’s Word—by going to church, attending Bible classes, reading and sharing the Word at home and with friends.

This morning, Wisdom is announcing that Her house of prayer and Worship is ready; God’s Divine Service is for all who respond.  She calls out from the highest point in the city, because God is not trying to hide His invitation. Wisdom also sends out her maids. These Words can’t help but remind us of Jesus’ parable of the king’s invitation to the wedding banquet for his son (Matthew 22:1–14). He sent out servants to invite people in. Both the maids and the servants might represent God’s ambassadors, both pastors and laypeople who go out with the glorious gospel invitation to anyone and everyone.

But to accept wisdom’s invitation, we must first admit that we need it, that we are among the “simple” and “those who lack judgment” (verse 4). Then we also need to follow through and taste of the banquet—“eat my food and drink the wine” (verse 5). “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves,” writes James. “Do what it says” (James 1:22). All this begins to take place in our lives when the Holy Spirit through the gift of faith shows us that we are sinners in need of Divine forgiveness through Jesus Christ.  But what of those who are invited, but refuse to attend?

The Mockers are also invited. Wisdom has called out and made appeals, prepared her house, and shown to all who come in what she has to offer. Now we see the two possible responses to that appeal—wisdom is either accepted or ignored.

The mocker rejects God’s wisdom. He belittles it and insults it. He calls it a crutch for the weak or foolishness or a waste of time. Jesus used a striking picture to illustrate this: “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces” (Matthew 7:6). In ancient Israel the unclean street dogs were nothing but scavengers. Pigs were unclean animals. Some wicked people simply will not listen to God’s Word. They despise it, mock it, trample all over it.

Moreover, a mocker will hate you for offering him constructive criticism. Don’t even bother trying, says Solomon.  Of course, we can’t prejudge anyone to be a mocker. Let’s not excuse ourselves from witnessing to others simply because some will reject it.  Sad to say, most people do reject wisdom’s invitation. Returning to Jesus’ parable of the wedding feast, the Lord ended the parable on this note: “For many are invited, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14).

Who are the mockers of the faith?  I offer simply three examples, but wisdom tells us that there are many more that could be used as an illustration.

Think of the married man who begins to look at internet pornography, and sees nothing wrong with it.  Society and science claim that it is normal and natural for a man to have an active libido.  But Proverbs 5:18-23 in very intimate detail, encourages a man to remember the bride of his youth and not to chase after other beauty.  But this man, this married man is intent on getting what he wants, so he ignores God, embraces the world, and so becomes a mocker of God.

Think about the homeless man on the street that is of sound mind and was raised within a loving Christian family.  How did he get to such a low place?  Because he listened to the voice of folly and not of wisdom.  It started out with what society would call harmless recreational use of drugs.  But then one day he was introduced to Methamphetamine (Chrystal, Ice).  One hit was all it took, and from that point on he began his relentless race down into the rabbit hole chasing the dragon; longing to recreate the original high, that will never be.  He exchanged the truth for a lie; the Holy Spirit for and evil spirit.  Countless family and friends find him and plead with him to come off the streets and get help, but he refuses.  Why?  Because he has become a mocker of God.  He will not listen to the mighty voice of Wisdom, which pleads, “Do not get intoxicated with anything, for that is wickedness, but be filled with the Holy Spirit.”

And now finally think of the social butterfly, whose life is all about enjoying ever minute of that life.  They may even agree that it was God who gave them the gift of life, but they are so busy pursuing happiness that they very seldom take time out to thank Him for that gift.  Attending Sunday’s Divine Service or Bible Study is simply an inconvenience and a wasted opportunity to enjoy even more of what life has to offer.  These lost souls also are mockers of God.

But a wise man or woman isn’t like that. They gladly receive Wisdom’s invitation; they see a need for forgiveness, and they are open to the correction of God’s Word. By God’s grace, they have not been overcome by pride, and they still are not “above” rebuke, because they know that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”  It is the key to Walking as a Child of the Light, Jesus Christ the light of the world which no darkness can overcome.

Children of The Light are you who will not allow the world to deceive you with empty words; words that are empty because they contradict the Word of God.  You will not follow the folly of the world because you know that it is the path of disobedience, which leads only to the wrath of God.  You too at one time, walked the path of disobedience, of darkness and folly.

But for you, Jesus Christ has overcome that darkness and placed you on the path of light and righteousness. In holy baptism, you were born into that light, the Light of the Lord, which no darkness can overcome.  It is this light alone that holds you secure within the kingdom of grace.  This light is all of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, through the work of Jesus Christ.  It is a powerful light; a light that gives eternal life. As children of light you walk with your path illuminated by the Wisdom of God.  Being children of The Light, you cannot help but let your light shine in good works for the glory of God.  You were created in rebirth through the washing of the water and the word for this very purpose.  These good works are the very rays of light that shine forth and demonstrate to others just whose child you are.

Because you belong to the Light of the world, you walk within the wisdom of God.  You do not follow the opinion of the majority simply because they disagree with God.  In matters of eternal life and how you live your life, the majority does not rule, God does!

For we Christians who struggle to be Children of the Light, perhaps our greatest temptation is to revert back to the way of darkness.

We live in the midst of people who seem to make it their life’s ambition to cut themselves and others off from the light of God. Try telling them that darkness cannot produce fruit, and they will tell you metaphorically that they’ve developed an appetite for mushrooms, and hang around them long enough and you too will begin to desire that dark fruit!

As we interact and witness to these children of darkness we must remind them and ourselves that those who cut themselves off from Christ can never produce good works that will please God. Even the best works, which the world would call “good,” are sin. Association with darkness is clearly harmful, even detrimental to the Christian. How often do we take part in the unfruitful deeds of darkness? How often do we find ourselves doing shameful things when we cut ourselves off from the light, Jesus Christ, and from our fellow believers? In his first epistle, John says, “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin” (1:7). Our fellowship with the Lord Jesus, and our fellowship with one another, is clearly important in our walk as children of the light.

Walking together as children of light is a critical witness to the light, Jesus Christ, in this world of darkness. Together we are strong, not easily tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine, not easily pulled back into the darkness. First and foremost, in Christian love, our duty is to expose the deeds of darkness done by our own brothers and sisters in the faith. We confront one another in our sin, always with the goal of winning our brother or sister over and proclaiming Christ’s forgiveness.

Secondly, walking as children of light, we expose the deeds of darkness in the world. As the light of Christ shines upon the ungodly, we see the true nature of their deeds—death. It is our prayer that as the light of Christ shines on them, their eyes may be opened to this as well.

This morning, Wisdom calls.  The Light of the World has been revealed and it invites you to step into the path that it has shown, the path of wisdom unto eternal life. To enter into that wisdom, to have that insight, can make all the difference in the world concerning our attitudes and actions. Life depends not on our own wise or foolish efforts, but on the eternal wisdom of God who directs all things toward himself through his Son, Jesus Christ.  Wisdom said, “Come eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed.” And in that eating, she promised life, if we will leave simple-ness and walk in the way of Christ.

Our Lord is more specific in our Gospel lesson (John 6:51–69), when he speaks of real life bound up with eating the flesh of the Son of man and drinking his blood.  Without it, there is no real life, only the illusion of life.

The very life of Christ in us depends on our taking Christ into ourselves…not just mentally, not just “turning our heart and life over to him,” but eating and drinking that which he offers — Himself.

Wisdom said, “Turn in here.” To make the change from simple-ness to wisdom, people have to change the direction they’re going. Well, in Christ Jesus, our God changed the direction in which humanity was going. The cross and empty tomb were the simple foolishness with which God has confounded the wise. God is so down to earth in his Son, that many could neither see nor believe that God would act in such a way.  Insight comes when we take the simple action of God and take the simple words of Jesus in faith: ‘This is my Body. This is my Blood. Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.” In those words, in this action, is bound up all that God did for us ragamuffins and scoffers in sending the Christ, in having Him teach us, in having Him die, in raising Him on the third day, in receiving Him into the heavenly realms to rule and reign over us. But it happens here…when we turn in and sit at the table.  AMEN!

Where’s Your Heart?

Sunday, August 23rd, 2009

12th Sunday After Pentecost, August 23, 2009

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

 

Our text this morning is the 33rd verse of our Epistle lesson: “Let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.” [Eph. 5:33]

Introduction: Did you know that Christians are more likely to get divorced than non Christians?  I was shocked when I heard this.  According to the Barna Research Group, Divorce rates among conservative Christians were significantly higher than for other faith groups, and much higher than Atheists and Agnostics experience.  That finding took me by surprise.  I knew that divorce was high in the church, but I thought it was at least equal to society at large.  I know I can hear some people now: “Oh so what pastor, that’s just the reality of our world today.  Besides as long as we’re living in this sinful world that just the way it will always be, right?  And to that, the Lord, not me, says “NO!  That is not the way it should be.”  Friends, God doesn’t want you to live a miserable life; in fact, He wants you to have a blessed life… not just in heaven but right here, right now in this sinful world.   

 

I. St. Paul’s entire letter to the church in Ephesus is all about God’s desire to bless us within Christian relationships.  It’s about how the members of the church should relate to God and to each other.  The goal of his teaching was to ensure that everyone was built up and strengthened in their walk of faith by God and each other.  St. Paul also encourages Christians to demonstrate God’s love to an unbelieving world, so that God can draw unbelievers to Himself through His Word and the attractive lives of Christians.  Paul taught the Ephesians and he teaches us that no matter what position of life we find ourselves in, we are to let Christ’s presence within us “shine before others, so that (the unbelieving world)  may see our good works and give glory to our Father in heaven.” [Matt. 5:16]  This is what the church has always called our “vocation” or our calling, and this calling always involves a cross—a self sacrifice. 

 

You see, just as Jesus sacrificed Himself for us upon the cross, we too are called to sacrifice, or put to death our old sinful nature, because that nature was drowned and killed in the waters of our baptism.  That is our reality.  We were born again in those waters and given a new identity.  But the old you don’t want to die and leave this world of sin, so God must help that old you die every day.  In your calling, in your station of life there is always a cross; always a calling from God to put to death your old self centered sinful nature—it doesn’t matter if you are the president, a sports star, a pastor, a husband or wife, daughter, son, or a student, every position of life that a Christian finds themselves in they are to work towards crucifying their old human nature, by drowning it in the waters of their baptism.  Why?  So that God can work through you serving others.  In your vocation, you become the hands of God to your neighbor who is also bearing his own cross.  How does a Christian bear their cross?  By accepting all difficulties that come, no matter how large or how small; even trivial things like caring for babies to the point where your sleep is interfered with and loving a spouse even when they don’t seem to love you back these are all crosses that we are to willingly bear!  “Now wait a minute pastor, you’re getting a little personal here.  We all know that there really are bad marriages!”   Yes, I know that is what society says in this “no fault” divorce world, but that does not mean that it is true according to God’s way of seeing things.  But the truth is friends that many Christian marriages never should have taken place because God was not and is not in them!  These marriages stand before God, correctly evaluated by the words of Isaiah in or Old Testament reading: “These people draw near with their mouths and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me.” [Is. 29:13]   

 

I have a strong policy when it comes to performing marriages.  First, I will not officiate a wedding if a non-believer is one of the parties.  Second I will not perform the ceremony if they will not commit to 4 to 6 counseling sessions.  Third, I will not do it if I feel that one of them is not committed to the Lord and to their prospective spouse.  Now that’s a pretty sound policy for a pastor to follow, but the problem is that people are generally smooth talkers… they tell you what you want to hear.  They might be able to fool the pastor, but they can’t fool God.  Now over time, I’ve discovered that some of these marriages ended in divorced.  Why?  Because they rejected the high and holy cross of Christ; they refused to follow their baptismal identity, which was to die to self and live for Christ.  One of them or both, decided to live for themselves and when they did this they turned their back on their calling of marriage.  “Ah, you who hide deep from the Lord your counsel, whose deeds are in the dark, and who say, “Who sees us?  Who knows us?” [Is. 29:15]  Friends, I’ll tell you who sees and who knows, it is God, the potter who formed you O clay!

II. Now friends, let God open your ears and hear His plan for your life and for marriage if that is His will for you.  First of all, if you have been living as if there is no God, then confess this sin.  If your actions or your failure to act caused a prior marriage to end, confess this before the Lord and be forgiven.  If you have not been following God’s leading in your life regarding any kind of relationship that even resembles marriage confess this as sin before the Lord and get ready to be transformed and blessed.  You see friends, when we confess that we have put our selfish needs ahead of God and another person, God smiles and says “Now that’s a start.  Now you are beginning to understand your baptism.  You are beginning to see things the way I see them and not the way this sin soaked society sees them.”  The truth is friends, that God wants you to understand that the real problem all of us face is the fact that we are broken by sin, separated from God, and unable to find Him and happiness with others until we turn away from our old sinful identity and turn to our new identity in Jesus Christ.  God wants to return us to our original condition before the sin of Adam and Eve destroyed it.  He wants us to relate to Him through faith and each other in love—and the only way this can be done is by submitting to His will… surrendering to His loving care.  This is how Adam and Eve related to God and each other.  Eve knew that God loved her because Adam demonstrated that love to her.  Adam knew that God loved him because God proved it by sending him Eve, his life mate and helper.  Each time they looked at each other, they were seeing the love of God!

 

“Oh come on pastor” you may be thinking, “that’s an ideal that can never be realized!”  Yes that’s true for those who are separated from God because of sin, but you dear baptized friends are not under judgment, you are under grace.  Your marriage or future marriage has now been compared to Christ and His church.  You unmarried women, do you want a strong and blessed marriage?  Then look for a man who loves the Lord more than himself.  Look for a man that is living out his baptism; a man who’s struggling everyday to put to death that old sinful man.  Look for a man that will sacrifice himself to please God and his neighbor, because that is the kind of man who will sacrifice himself and his own selfish needs for you!  You unmarried men, do you want a woman to willingly allow you to take on the role of spiritual leader, provider, and protector?  Then look for a woman who humbly worships her God and cares for the needs of others above her own.  Look for a woman who values her baptism as the most important possession that she has.

 

“But pastor, what about those of us who are stuck in a bad marriage?”  Well what do you mean by bad?  If you are being physically abused by your spouse then you must get help… you must separate yourself from the abuse.  It is the Lords will that the abuser be stopped and that is why He has put government over us, to protect us, so tell it to the police.  But if by “bad” marriage you mean, that your Christian spouse does not love you as God intends, then may I refer you back to our Epistle lesson.  “Wives, are you voluntarily submitting to your own husband and trusting him as you do the Lord?  Do you agree with God’s Word that your husband is the head of your household just as Christ is the head of the church, His body, and is Himself its Savior? [Eph. 5:22,23]  “But pastor, it doesn’t work that way.  You’re being one sided.  It’s a lot more complicate than that!”  Yes, I suppose it is, but wait until you hear God’s direction for your husband.  “Husbands, do you love your wives?  Do you love them as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her?”  “Come on pastor, what does that mean?  Sure I would die for my wife!”  Fine man, then die for her!  Die for her by working to provide for your family, even to the point of exhaustion.  Love her and forgive her even when she does not love and forgive you.  Put her needs first above your own.  This is your calling… this is your cross… this is how God wants you to die for your wife.

 

Dear friends, we are all to die to our own sinful desires every day.  We are to die to self and live to serve God and our neighbor.  We do this by remembering our baptism.  We do this by remembering that Jesus loved us and the whole church, and He proved it by giving Himself up for us, so that he might sanctify us through the cleansing of the waters of our baptisms.  Through simple water and God’s Word he saved us, so that He might present us to Himself as holy and perfect, without a single blemish.  Jesus did this for us… He did this for you.  He suffered and died so that you would know the forgiveness of God, and then be able to rest in that forgiveness and reflect it to others!  This is the mystery that the world can never understand, but to you who know Him by faith it is no mystery.   For it is through God’s grace that comes through the cross of Jesus that we can truly love God with all of our hearts, and that is where our hearts are… they’re at the cross of Jesus, and through the cross we can truly love our neighbor, even our spouse as our selves.  Now may God’s Word and His message of love inspire each one of us men to: Love our wives as ourselves, and may you wives see that you respect your husbands. I pray that this will always be the desire of your heart…in Jesus name….AMEN!