Archive for the ‘Pentecost 9B’ Category

A Debt of Praise and Love

Sunday, July 26th, 2015

9th Sunday in Pentecost-B, July 26, 2015
Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego, CA 92114
http://www.tlcsd.org

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“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” [Ephesians 3:20, 21]

Last week, you may recall that I said that neither God, the church, nor your brothers and sisters in Christ owe you anything, accept the debt of love.  But love is a debt far greater than anything else we could ever owe; it is great because the kind of love we all owe to God and each other, comes only from God to His children who have been given the gift of faith to receive Jesus Christ as their Savior; as their God.  So we must always remember that this debt of love and the ability to repay it always comes from faith.  It is this kind of divine love, which prevents us from willingly offending God and our neighbor.  Now I say this so that I may qualify what I am about to declare next.

When someone justifies his or her sinful action by saying, “I guess I can’t help my self, that’s just the way I am.”  Or, “I am acting this way because of someone else’s behavior.  Don’t blame me, blame so and so.”  When I hear this kind of talk, I become very concerned about the eternal condition of the person speaking.  I begin to wonder if they still have faith, because they appear to be demonstrating a lack of divine love; love for God and love for their neighbor.  Another way to say this is that they appear to be refusing to repent; turn to Christ alone, who makes all things new.

The solution for this person, if they even care to be restored to God through Christ, is to remember the power, the anger, and the love of their Creator God.

I. The Power of God: How did we start out the Apostles Creed this morning?  Wasn’t it with a statement of God’s almighty power?  Listen: “I believe in God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth.”  And how did God create?  Was it an arduous task that took great effort and strain?  No.  But how did he created?  Simply with His spoken Word.  God said and there was.  Now that is power.  God created everything out of nothing simply because He chose to; simply by speaking and it became!

After God created the world, His Word in Genesis makes it clear that He created it for a purpose; He created it to be a cradle for His greatest creature… man.  Through God’s power, God created man in His own image; that is He created man to be a steward or caretaker of the very world that would be the cradle that God would place man into so that man could learn to relate to God by faith; so that man could know God for who He was… the source of all power and strength.

When Adam and Eve fell to the trick of the Devil, the cradle of life that was to sustain them, became hostile and it had to be worked and mastered by the power and intellect that God gave to man.  With His hand, man was to work the land to produce a livelihood; a means to sustain the very life God gave by His power, in the beginning.

As man began to obediently go forth and multiply upon the face of the earth, they began to collectively grow distant from God.  That is, they forgot who God was in power and strength.  They began to offend God in what they thought, said, and did.  So God decided with His power to respond to the sinfulness of man as…

II. The God of Anger. “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thought of his heart was only evil continually.  And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and it grieved His heart.  So the Lord said, I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.”  But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.” [Genesis 6:5-8]

Today, we love to talk so much about how God is love, and that thank God is true, but we also must remember that God is power, and that God does get angry.  Listen: “And God said to Noah, “I have determined to make and end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them.  Behold, I will destroy them with the earth.”

What God was telling Noah was that the very earth that He created for man as a cradle and as an asset for man to manage, God would now use to destroy man.  How would he do that?  By using His power in response to His anger towards the collective sins of man.  By doing something, creating a phenomenon that up this time had never existed; God cause it both to rain relentlessly and He caused all of the great water stores beneath earth to rise simultaneously and collectively upon the surface of the earth where all of life, including man existed.

But our powerful God, in His anger remembered Noah and His family, eight souls in all; He remembered that they alone feared and honored God, and they found favor in God’s eyes, so God spared them by placing them within the ark before the flood began.  But God also remembered that He had created man with a purpose; in the image of God to be a steward of God’s creation, so God also spared a sample of all creation for man to manage.  God did this for Noah, because God is also…

III. The God of love. God loved Noah and his family because they retained their fear and love for God.  To fear and love God was an ability outside of themselves; it was a gift from God that came by their faith in God.

Noah and his family remembered their debt of love for God because they retained and cherished God’s Word of promise that declared one day through God’s Champion, they would be allowed to return to Paradise; the Word that was the very first covenant that God made with sinful men and women.  Noah remembered that covenant and he had faith in it; it was the very proof that declared God is love.  And by faith He would receive another covenant from God in the form of a visible sign, a rainbow.

Through the rainbow, God assured those eight people of faith who were about to set out on their new lives, that through His covenant promise, they could be assured that He would never destroy the earth by flood again.  But why a rainbow?  So that they would have a physical sign to remember God’s grace.  Martin Luther rightly pointed out in one of his sermons that Noah and his family must have lived in great trembling.  What they had just gone through for such an extended period of time must have terrified them, because they experience God’s great power and anger.  All around them was evidence of fearful destruction.  So out of love, God saw that these frail creatures of dust needed every bit of assurance and love that they could receive.  So God gave them a visible sign as a seal of the truthfulness of His promise.  “I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh.” [Genesis 9:13-15]

Dear friends, our God of love has given us other powerful signs.  Jesus tells us Himself that His death upon the cross is a sign that assures each of you that God’s power and anger has been satisfied with His death upon that cross.  For you it is a sign that God has relented in His anger and desire to punish all of creation for it’s sinfulness.  And Jesus Himself said that the sign of Jonah, three days in the belly of the whale pointed towards His own victory over death itself.  But the good news from our God of love does not stop there; because Jesus desires that you receive that gift of forgiveness of sins and victory over death personally.  And so God comes to sinners like us Himself with another sign and another use of His Word to create another covenant promise.

In Holy Baptism, Jesus Christ, the living Word of God promises that through the washing of the water and God’s Covenant Promise, we are born again.  Listen: “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.”

Dear Christians, what a wonderfully powerful and loving God we have.  He is a God who came to us through His Son in our own flesh to make all things new; all things right.  He comes to us because we can not go to Him.  He is a God who promises that He will never leave us nor forsake us.  Sometimes in life we may feel that He sends us out onto a sea of turmoil, in a flimsy vessel alone, but he is always watching us and ready to sustain us by giving us both great faith and love.  He comes to us, even in the midnight hour He comes.  And when He speaks, His very Word gives what He commands, “Peace be to you.  Take heart; it is I.  Do not be afraid.”

Like the apostles, we will not always understand what we are going through or why, but we will always remember that Christ was ever with us.  And as we remember our God of power who’s anger was appeased by the very life blood of His Son Jesus Christ, we remember that we are a part of a vast host of saints we call the church who owe God and each other an eternal debt of love and praise for the great things He has done.  But we also remember what He is still doing through this vast church that must always be expanding and growing one forgiven sinner at a time.

And so out of our debt of love and praise to God we give that same debt of love to our neighbor as we forgive them and point their hearts and minds to the very same source of new life.

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”

Which Bread Do You Want?

Sunday, August 2nd, 2009

9th Sunday of Pentecost, August 2, 2009

Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA

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Introduction: Everyone is impressed by miracles.  We love to hear about mysterious, unexplainable events that others have experience.  When we hear the stories, we wish that something like that would happen to us too!  And when we do experience something great and unexplainable in our lives we inevitably want more and we long to repeat the original experience.  This is how the crowd that followed Jesus from the other side of the Sea of Galilee must have felt.  They wanted more…more of His wonder bread!

 

I. We read in our gospel, “On the next day the crowd that remained on the other side of the sea saw that there had been only one boat there, and that Jesus had not entered the boat with his disciples, but that his disciples had gone away alone. (Jn.:22)  When the crowd saw that Jesus was not there, nor his disciples, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum, seeking Jesus.  When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” (24-25) Oh they were saying, “Bless us again Jesus!”  They knew there was something miraculous happening once again with Jesus.  “He didn’t take a boat to get here, and he couldn’t have walked around the shore or we would have spotted Him.  OK you wonderful miracle worker, how’d you get here?  Come on fess up.  You did something fantastic again didn’t you?  You’re the man Jesus!  As long as you keep making that wonder bread and amazing us with these unexplainable happenings, you are our lord and teacher!”

 

The people wanted things.  They wanted to be amazed.  They didn’t really need more bread; they simply wanted the experience of the bread.  Now last week you heard me declare to you that we should not look to politicians for a plan towards a better future or to a preacher for simple steps that we can follow so God will bless our lives make life more pleasant.  Today, we’ll expound on this.

 

In our Old Testament reading (Exodus 16) we see the very same kind of attitude from people who lived long before Israel was even a nation.  They too had an insatiable appetite for miracles.  God had brought them out of slavery in Egypt with one miracle after another.  He even parted the Red Sea so that they could escape the Egyptian Army.  God had proven time and time again that He would care for His children whom He had called out of darkness and into His light.  Did they trust Him?  Well only so long as the miracles continued.  When the daily supply of food was running low, instead of waiting on the Lord to provide, or even asking Him to provide, they began to grumble: “Oh that we would have died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate our fill of bread, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill us with hunger.”

 

To all of these people and to us today, Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw the sign, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.  Don’t work for food that perishes (for things), but (work) for the food that endures (and will give you) eternal life, which (I) the Son of Man will give to you. For on Him God the Father has set His seal.”  (There is no other way for you to obtain this true food of God except through me!) (Jn. 6:27)  Friends, in Jesus own Words, we hear Him explain exactly why the crowd followed Him; not because of His miracles and His teaching but because they wanted “things”!  They wanted Him to be a political savior, their messiah who would free them from the tyranny of the Roman Empire.  They wanted Him to provide them with the desires of their hearts and gratify all of their wants.  Even today, we see these people gathered in churches across our nation eagerly welcoming politicians to speak during worship, so that they can assure them that if they elect or reelect this person, they will have their needs met and they will have a bright future.  And right along with those eager to hear from politicians, are those who are just as eager to hear a gospel of prosperity from their preachers.  They do not want to hear God’s message of Law and Gospel; no these people are flocking to churches wanting to hear a message that will ensure them of an easy life here of earth.  And then there are those who gather where God’s Law and Gospel is correctly and boldly preached, but they find no meaning or comfort in His Word.  And when they leave worship and the company of other Christians they seek out a new message; a different way to satisfy their desires.  They live as if Christ didn’t matter and God doesn’t see.  They long for the experience of another type of teaching.  Just like the Hebrew people that were led out of the Egyptian captivity, they begin to pant after the meat of prosperity.  You see friends, in all three cases each group has turned to God and said, “Don’t give us want you say we need, but instead give us what we want!”

 

II. And there is yet another type of person that listens to Jesus but doesn’t hear the message; it is the kind of person that looks to replace His ministry of grace and faith with a ministry of self righteousness.  These people actually think that they can earn God’s love and forgiveness, and a place in heaven.  Listen to their words in our gospel reading: “They said to (Jesus), “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” (vs. 28)  It’s as if they’re saying, “OK teacher, tells us what you say is the bottom line of your teaching.  What do we have to do to make God happy?  Tell us and we’ll do it!”  In our Epistle lesson, St. Paul gives a pretty good list; as if he’s saying, “OK let’s look at how God wants us to love Him and our neighbor, and treat each other.  Aside from living out your calling to love God with all of your heart and soul, He’s also called you to live a life of humility and gentleness, with patience, putting up with one another in love, and being eager to maintain the unity of peace with Him and each other.” (Paraphrase of Eph. 4:1-3).  So how do you think the people Jesus was addressing were doing in their attempts to fulfill God’s demand for perfection and holiness in their lives?  Not too well huh?  But Jesus spoke the gospel to them then, and He speaks the good news also to us here this morning.  And it is this—there aren’t many works that “we” must do, but only one work that God must do so that we can please Him.  “This is the work of God” Jesus said, “that you believe in him whom He has sent.”  (vs. 29)

 

Friends, the only work that is sure to please God the Father is to believe in and not reject the person and teaching of His Son.  You see, the Son is the only way that the Father has provided salvation for us.  He’s the only one who has come with the Father’s seal.  Believing in Jesus is the only work that assures you of eternal life … we must have faith in Him!  Now Jesus did call faith a work, but He doesn’t call it our work; you see, it is a work of God.  Sure, we are the ones doing the believing, but we believe because God is working within our hearts.  Yes, we are the ones who must trust Jesus, but it is God’s Spirit who first moves us to trust Him through the hearing of His Word.  So you see, faith is the opposite of all of the other works we can think of.  Faith receives from God and the other works only return to God what He first gives to us.   Friends, the truth is that if we don’t know and trust the Son we can never truly know and please the Father.  And a heart that is not trusting in Jesus is always saying…

 

III. Prove it to me!  “What sign do you do, that we may see and believe you?  What work do you perform?  Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.” Oh how quickly they forget!  They forgot the miracle of the wonder bread because they wouldn’t receive the teaching that went with it.  You see, once their appetites were satisfied by the teacher, they no longer were impressed by His teaching.  But to these selfish hearts Jesus still reaches out with His grace; with His message of forgiveness and says: “Truly, truly I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread of heaven.  For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” (vs. 32-33)   Oh friends, do you understand the wonderful meaning of these words?  God isn’t giving us worldly bread that will only satisfy our hunger for a few hours, or for just a select group of people.  No He is giving you bread that will last forever and satisfy the whole world.  He is giving you Himself.  Then “Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”” (Vs. 35)

 

CONCLUSION: Friends, do you want to prosper and experience God’s blessings?  Then come to the bread of life!  Do you want to know that you are accepted and loved by God?  Then come to Jesus!  Come to church each Sunday expecting to hear Jesus speak to you, teach you and change you.  Hear His message and hunger for the bread that He is giving to you.  It’s bread that you neither earned nor deserved.  It’s the gift of His Spirit, real food and real life.  It is His Word!  A Word that you get in every aspect of your worship here in His house!

 

Next week we will hear more about this bread of life.  And will learn more about the faith that it creates and sustains within us.  But for today, we’re happy to just rejoice in the truth that Jesus has been feeding us since we began our worship.  In just a few short minutes we’ll move from the pulpit to His Holy Table where our feeding continues.  And there we’ll receive His body and blood in His holy meal.  And by faith we’ll be reassured that all of our sins have been forgiven.  By faith we trust that the supply of His bread of life will continue to nourish and strengthen us.  And by faith we receive and give Him thanks and praise.  Come to His table hungry dear friends, come hungry!  AMEN!