Archive for the ‘Pentecost 26C’ Category

You’re Still Here!

Sunday, November 17th, 2013

Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church-San Diego
Pentecost 26-C, November 17th, 2013
2 Thessalonians 3:1–13

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Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text this morning, from our epistle lesson:  “As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good.” 2 Thessalonians 3:1–13

We just sang one of my favorite hymns; a hymn that I draw much strength from.  But some use it as an excuse for their bad behavior.   Let me show you what I mean: “I’m but a stranger here, Heaven is my home.  Earth is a desert drear, heaven is my home.  Danger and sorrow stand, round me on every hand.  Heaven is my Father land,” so… oh forget it, I am going to sit here and wait for the end.  We know it’s coming soon; we heard it read in our readings, so what’s the point?  I’m going to do nothing until Jesus comes back.  I’m going to enjoy life while its mine to live.  You can go to church to worship, I’ll just worship God in my own way, after all, the preacher says I’ve been saved in the waters of baptism, so I seem to have the whole end time thing covered!

And to that way of thinking, I can only remind you that you are still here, and because you’re still here you still have a God given purpose!

But let’s play out that fatalistic way of thinking, shall we?  If you are only a stranger here, with no responsibilities, no obligations to make this place a little better, then why I are you still here?  Think about it for a moment.  Another word for stranger in the sense that it is being used in our sermon hymn is alien.  You are just an alien in this world.  Your true citizenship lies within the kingdom of God, and you’ve been told that one day you shall be relocated within the kingdom of Heaven… God’s Heaven… Jesus’ Kingdom.  So if you are an alien here, let me share with you one of the obligations within the immigration laws of any advance government.  The alien may not become a public charge or place a burden upon the government or they may be deported; that is removed.

Now here in the United States and again in most advanced governments, the only aliens that have a great deal of protection, or immunity from most laws, are those who are here serving as diplomats.  Some times it seems that these diplomats can get away with anything and still be protected from the law.

Ok, I can see the wheels turning in some heads; you’re thinking, “Yeah, that’s me.  I’m an alien, but I’m under diplomatic immunity.  I’m baptized!”  Ok, I’m with you on that, but again, let’s play that out.

Yes you are afforded a great deal of protection from the evil prince of this world, the devil.  He can neither pluck you out of the Father’s hand nor remove you from the heart of Jesus… but, you can remove yourself from the protection of His hand; you can reject the heart and forgiving love of Jesus!  But how?  By rejecting your office and the duties of that office!

Let me share a little ditty with you that will illustrate what I mean.  Listen: “To live above with saints I love, that will be all joy and glory.  But to live below with saints I know, well… that’s a different story.”  Or another way to illustrate what I’m trying to say is this other oldie but goodie.  Maybe you’ve heard it before.  “He or she is so heavenly minded that they are of no earthly good!”  And that is the point.  You are to live out your calling, your office as Christ’s Ambassador within your vocation, or your station in life, because you are still here!

If you are a student, you are in fact Christ’s student.  If you are an employee or manager, you are Christ’s employee or manager.  If you are a parent, grandparent, or child, guess what?  You are to live out those stations in life as Christ’s Ambassador.  In other words, while you live in this world that will one day be consumed, judged, and replaced, you are to live a quiet and productive life while seeking out those who are lost and through God’s work and His working through you, allow God to turn their eyes and heart toward Jesus Christ and His church.

While it is true that you have been redeemed through the cross and saved, washed clean in the waters of your baptism, you were not saved by things but by a person.  And that person is Jesus Christ.  It was not a wooden cross that saved you, but the blood of Christ that was shed and the life that was given upon the cross.  It was not just simple water that washed you clean and remade you, but the powerful Word of God that was applied within the waters of your baptism.  You have been saved by the living Word of God, Jesus Christ, and you are to live out your life forever changed and empowered by that living Word.  You are to cling to and trust in that Word of God alone, no matter how everyone else around you is living.

While it is true that there is evil all around us in this world; evil that hates and rejects the Word of God, for you, you must understand that it is that Word alone that prevents you from becoming like the world you live in.  The Word of God speeds ahead and brings honor to God by showing sinners their sins and then showing them their Savior, their only hope of salvation, which is Jesus Christ.  That is how you came to rest in this church.  But God’s work isn’t finished just because He found and saved you.  It still speeds ahead.  It does not stand still.  It speeds ahead through Christ’s ambassadors.  It speeds ahead through you!  It speeds ahead as you quietly live out your lives, your calling as His ambassador within your different stations in life.  You share the Word of God, that is you give a witness to Jesus Christ as God presents the opportunities.

Now I know some may counter and say, “But pastor, most of the people I know do not care about God; they neither fear nor love Him!”  Yes, I know that is true, but you do love Him!  And because you fear and love God you can and will be used by Him in a miraculous way.  As you live out the forgiven life, God works through you demonstrating His presence and power to others who either do not yet know Him or have abandoned Him.

“But wait” you say, “doesn’t the Bible teach that the devil is the prince of this world?  If I get involved to the extent that you are teaching, won’t I become a target of the devil?”  Well the short answer is yes.  But you need to understand, the day you were baptized you were already declared an enemy of the devil and his kingdom.  The only way you will not be his enemy is if you abandon your calling as Christ’s Ambassador; if you quit living in and working for the Kingdom of God.

Dear friends, the reality is that without Jesus and His Word, you are simply a tool of the devil; a tool that he will use to draw others away from Him.  It is the Word of God alone that establishes and guards you, your heart and your eternal life from the evil ones, whether they are spirit or flesh.  Here in this church, the body of Christ, you have both the Word of God and the prayers of your church family to sustain and protect you, and to forgive and empower you as you live out your calling and vocation.

You see we do not have the option of checking out and letting life pass us by.  If you are claiming the protections of God as a citizen of Heaven you will also live out your vocation, your station in life as one who works to further the Kingdom of God.  There is much to be done while we serve here in this world.  There are our homes to care for; children and grandchildren to raise and teach, so that they too may know how to serve the God who first loved them and saved them through the agony of the cross and powerful life giving waters of baptism.  We teach God’s love through His Word, and we model His love through our vocations, as we work to keep our homes in order and ensure that we have food on the table, clothes on our bodies, beds to sleep in and all other necessities.

But we also do the very same thing for our church home.  We give of our time, talent, and treasure so that this place can continue to be a bright light within our community, where God’s pure Word is confessed, preached, and taught.  We must have people who serve according to their talents in a way that fulfills the mission of Christ’s church and the needs of His people.  But we also must have funds; it is through your giving that Christ finances and continues to support His Church.

Do you see how important your presence and support is for both your physical family and your church family?  Your involvement in both is not optional it is essential.  And to prove it, the Spirit of God moved Paul to say these Words both to the church in Thessalonica and to our church today: “Keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition(s) that you (have) received (and been taught)”. [2 Thessalonians 3:6b]  And, “If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.” [2 Thessalonians 3:10b]

Dear friends, this morning God is asking something from you; He’s asking you to do what He has already given you the strength and the ability to do… live out your life as His ambassador.  As you have received the Word of forgiveness from Christ, live out and share that Word with others.  As He gives you opportunity to do a task, do it simply as the duty of a sinner who has been saved and knows that he owes a debt of love and gratitude to his Savior who saved him.

Remember that as a sinner yourself, God dealt with you not with threats and punishments but instead He used His love through His Son Jesus Christ to save you.  And remember that while it is true that through your baptism, God has declared you a saint, this very day, you are still struggling with your sin, and He still treats you with His love in order to correct you and empower you so that you can be His ambassador, sent out to help find other sinners.  And remember that as God sends you out in a foreign world to share the love of Christ with sinners, Christ also walked among sinners and treated them with wonderful patience and love.  It is this same love of God that speaks to you this morning; not in a thundering and threatening manner, but with encouragement as He says, “Do not grow weary in doing good.”  For Jesus sake… AMEN!

And now the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith to life everlasting. Amen.

The Peace of Christ’s Kingdom

Sunday, November 21st, 2010

26th Sunday after Pentecost C, November 21, 2010
Rev. Brian Henderson—Pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
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In the Lord’s Prayer we pray, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  But what is the Kingdom of God and how is God’s will done?  First, we must understand that God’s Kingdom certainly does come with or without our power.  In fact, for the last few weeks we have been reading about His Kingdom of Power, when Christ shall come to judge and recreate all of creation into a new Kingdom, a Kingdom of Glory.  And there is yet another Kingdom, a Kingdom of Grace, which you dear saints are held secure in by God’s Power and His glory.  It is this Kingdom of grace which brings you God’s will for your life, and that is peace!  Peace seems to be well out of sight, and yet God’s Word clearly teaches us that we do have peace right now?  But how?  Well let’s allow God’s Word to answer that.  In Psalm 34 we are encouraged to “Taste and see that the Lord is good!” We are told that “Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!” [Psalm 34:8] 

Did you know that before I came to Trinity as your pastor I had never tasted sweet potato pie?!   Coming from the Midwest, we eat pumpkin pie.  To me, sweet potato pie was a crude imitation of good old pumpkin pie.  No sir, you would never get me to eat that sweet potato pie; “Uh ah, aint gonna happen!” I said.  But one day right here at Trinity, at a pot luck dinner, I picked up what I thought was pumpkin pie, and I had a big old slice.  I remember telling my wife that that particular piece of pumpkin pie was the best I ever tasted.  Well my wife smiled at me and said, “Dear that is sweet potato pie!”  Ever since then, as we say around these parts, “I can eat me some sweet potato pie!”  Oh taste and see dear saints, that the Lord is good!  Don’t you know friends that you have to be in the Word of God in order to know His goodness; in order to know the peace that he brings?  So we see peace with God and peace with ourselves and our neighbors always comes through the Word of God!

But some people don’t want to taste the Lord; they don’t want to be in His Word because they’ve heard that it says that a man who was born in a manger and died like a thief upon a cross is the King of all creation.  They’ve heard tell about portions of scripture like our epistle lesson this morning, that say Jesus is God!  Listen: “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]  Sadly for some the very thought of Jesus being King and God, their King and God is just too much.  Like me and the sweet potato pie, they will not taste and see that the Lord is good! 

In our gospel reading this morning, we discover three groups of people and two different reactions to Jesus, who is Christ the King. 

Our first group of people are the women of Jerusalem.  As Jesus is led out carrying His own cross to Golgotha, our reading says that a great multitude of people and many women were there along the roadside mourning and lamenting for him.  And Jesus, exhausted and in great pain turns and says, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.” [vs. 29] Now that seems strange.  First if it were you or me carrying that cross, we wouldn’t have the strength to say anything, let alone give an encrypted warning.  But Jesus is not just like you and me.  Oh he is human flesh to be sure, but he is also something so much more… He is God!  And God is always concerned about our eternal salvation.  God does not wish that anyone should perish, but that all would turn to the Lord, taste the Lord, and experience His peace and live!  These women sobbed for Jesus as a good man in pain who would soon be dead; they were moved by their emotions and the passion and suffering of Jesus the man!  But they failed to hear in His teachings that He is the God-man, their creator; the author and perfecter of their faith.  Such tears are a complete waste to Jesus, so He orders them, “Stop weeping over me and weep over yourselves and your children.”  Jesus knew that these women weren’t weeping over the sins of their leaders, they weren’t weeping for the sins of the crowd that demanded His death, and they weren’t weeping over their own sins that God said demanded death.  Jesus knew that they would never have this kind of sorrow and repentance unless they first saw their sins and then knew Him as God’s only means of forgiveness; they needed to see Him as their Savior and King!   

Well, the next group of people we must look at are the very ones that brought Jesus to this painful torture and death.  They are the religious leaders of the Jewish society, the Sanhedrin.  They wanted a leader and a king alright, but not one that would replace their authority.  They wanted a king that would destroy Roman rule and set them up as the true authority.  But this “man” Jesus only wanted to talk about the rule and authority of God.  He kept insinuating that He was God!  No He must be removed so that someone they could control could come and destroy Roman rule.  So they instructed the crowd to scream, “Crucify him!  Crucify him!” And the Roman Governor of Judea heard and answered.  He answered by complying with their request.  It seems that this is another group of people that would not and could not taste and experience the peace of God!  But Jesus, God the Son who could have struck them dead does just the opposite… He prays for them.  “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” [vs. 34]  If they only would have really listened to God speak to them in Scripture and Heard Jesus Word’s they would have known who Jesus is. Jesus prays forgiveness yes, but He also prays that they will have life by knowing God’s grace.

Soon, when Jesus rose from the dead, they would know the truth about who He was and is, and then they alone would bear the responsibility for their many sins.  But Jesus wanted so badly for them and us to know that through His cross they could truly find forgiveness and peace with God!  Would they know, would they receive the truth that as Jesus hung upon the very cross that they placed Him on He was bringing forth the very means that would bring them eternal life?  Would they taste the Lord and know the peace of His kingdom of grace?

Well the next class of people that we need to look at are the two thieves that were hung on the cross next to Jesus!  For a moment in your minds eye, picture hundreds of people gathered around Jesus’ cross and the two thieves next to Him on either side, and then hear the crowd and the thieves taunting Him by saying something like, “So there hangs Jesus, King of the Jews huh?  Hey Jesus, you saved others so let’s see you save yourself!”  They couldn’t spit on Him anymore, but they could taunt Him and attack Him with their vicious and cowardly tongues!  And after one of the thieves heard the crowd and leaders shouting about how Jesus saved people, he thought as only a desperate man will think, “Maybe he’ll save me too from this painful and certain death.  It’s worth a try!”  And so he shouts at Jesus saying, “(Aren’t) you the Christ (that they’re talking about)?  (Well then) save yourself and save us!” 

This first thief who speaks is a big mouth; unrepentant sinners always are!  He wanted Jesus to be his Savior, but he wanted Him to be a Savior on his terms.  He wanted Jesus to free him from the agony of the cross.  He wanted life, but he wanted his old life, not the new kind of life that Jesus promised.  Why?  So he could go right back to his life of sin!  In essence, he wanted to cheat justice!  He wanted temporary salvation.

But the second thief doesn’t join in with the other’s taunts; instead he rebukes the loud mouth next to him with the fear of God.  Listen: “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?  And we indeed (deserve it), for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.”  Why did this thief rebuke the first thief this way?  May I be so bold as to say that if we were to list the good works of this man’s life, this would be first on the list?  And what was this work?  It was the work of repentance; a turning to Jesus for life and salvation.  You see friends, when you turn to Jesus you also turn away from your sin!  One thief is unrepentant and will pay for his many sins and the other is repentant.  And this repentance always leads to confession and salvation.  Do you remember his confession?  He said, “We are receiving the due reward of our deeds!”  In other words, he is saying “We have sinned!”  But after his confession comes a powerful prayer; the sinner’s prayer: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”  In these Words, this repentant thief is saying, “Remember me O Heavenly King; include me and do not bar me from your presence because of my many sins when you come into your kingdom!”  And to this confession and request for forgiveness, Jesus declares the absolution: “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” 

Yes friends, it was faith in the real Jesus, the Son of God that moved this thief above his fear and suffering to believe that Jesus was his King, the only King that could bring God’s peace.  But how did this happen?  How did he in such a short time taste and know the peace of God?  Well, how does faith always come?  It comes through God’s means, His Holy Word and the cross of Jesus Christ!  Think of how many sinners over the centuries have echoed that thief’s prayer, “Remember me!”  Faith, that wonderful gift from God has always come through the Word and it alone enables sinners to rest in that prayer.  On the cross that day, God the Father handed his dying Son a prize of victory in the repentance and salvation of this thief.  The dying soul of a sinner was refreshed by the King who came to seek and save the lost!

Oh friends, by faith through the Living Word of God continue to come to God’s Word and taste and see, taste and know that the Lord is good! In His Word taste and know the Kingdom of God and the peace of God, a peace that surpasses all understanding and let every part of your life be transformed by that peace.  Take all of your pain, suffering and fear, and lay them at the foot of the cross.  Bring them into the light of God’s love, and like the repentant thief you too will be with your King Jesus in Paradise.  May we daily hunger for this peace, and I ask this in Jesus name… AMEN!