Archive for the ‘Pentecost 9C’ Category

One Thing Needful

Sunday, July 21st, 2013

Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church-San Diego
Pentecost 9C, July 21st, 2013

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“But one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”” [Luke 10:41]

Martha, Martha, why do you worry so much?  Have you never heard the saying that worrying is like a rocking chair; it will give you something to do, but it won’t get you anywhere.  You know, if  you keep stressing over the little things in life, your liable to get an ulcer.  Someone has also said that ulcers aren’t necessarily caused by what we eat, but often times they’re caused by what’s  eating us!

All of us can be Martha(s); we know what needs to be done to achieve our goals, and if we don’t do it, well… experience has taught us that it just won’t get done!  And to those of us that can  become overwhelmed with all that needs to be done, Jesus reminds us that without the one thing needful, the one thing that is necessary, all of our planning and all of our work is like trying to  shovel smoke!

So what is that one thing needful; is it something we can develop by following a strategy of easy steps towards a goal?   In our epistle reading, Paul calls it a mystery, but it is only a mystery to  those outside of the church.  Please get out your Bibles or your bulletins, and let’s look at our Epistle reading this morning (Colossians 1:21-29).

How many here this morning love reading mysteries or watching a good “Who done it” on television?  Well I don’t!  When I am reading a mystery, I’ve been know to skip right to the end after the  first two or three chapters, just to find out who did it!  And that is what Paul does for us who call ourselves Christians; He tells us who did it.  Turn with me to vs. 26, where we read: “the mystery  hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in  you, the hope of glory.” [vs. 26, 27]

So there’s the answer to who done it, but the answer to why is still unanswered to you unless you go back and read, as Paul Harvey says, “the rest of the story.”

The reason God the Father sent His Son Jesus Christ is because you needed Him.  Or as Paul says in vs. 21, “You were alienated and hostile towards Him in your mind, doing all kinds of evil deeds.”  In other words, you were lost in sin and helpless, doomed for destruction.

Ok, that explains why you needed God, but it certainly does not explain why God decided to help you.  So why did God send His Son to die for a world full of sinners?  Because God is love.  God does not want anyone to die in their sins, to be separated from Him, but instead, He desires that all of us should repent, that is turn to Him for forgiveness and have eternal life.  [1 Peter 3:9]

But some may ask, “How can it be that simple?  How can God just erase all of my past, all of my sins and say I am forgiven?  I mean, what about my next great fall from grace?  Who am I kidding?  There may be some “good” church people who can walk that narrow path to heaven, but I know me like no one else and I can tell you, I am going to screw it up again!”  And to this, Paul in vs. 22 gives us an answer: “Christ has now reconciled (us, or made us right with God), in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before Him.”

Do you hear that good news?  Christ has reconciled you forever, through His suffering and death upon the cross.  His death is your death; the death that you should have died but now you don’t need to, because God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son to die for the worlds sinfulness.

Sing with me the first two verses of that wonderful hymn, “In the Cross of Christ I Glory” (LSB 427) and let the words minister to you:

  1. In the cross of Christ I glory, Tow’ring o’er the wrecks of time.  All the light of sacred story Gathers round its head sublime.
  2. When the woes of life o’er take me, Hopes deceive, and fears annoy, Never shall the cross forsake me; Lo, it glows with peace and joy.

So there is the answer to the “Who done it”, the “why He done it”, and the “how He done it.”  But the lesson is not over; no Paul still has more to say, and it comes to us by way of warning.  Let’s turn to vs. 23, where Paul says this salvation is completely yours, “if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.”

Now I know that some of you are thinking, “Yes there’s the rub.  That is exactly what I was talking about before.  You see, there is a way for me to screw it up, and where there is a way, trust me, I will find it!”  And to this, Jesus in our gospel reading (Luke 10:38-42) speaks to Martha and Mary, and He speaks to us.  He tells us that we must look for and hold onto the one thing needful; the one thing necessary, that absolutely guarantees our salvation… Himself!  He is always there ahead of you, all you need to do is turn to Him and trust Him.  It is Jesus upon the cross suffering and dying.  It is Jesus body not dead in the tomb, but alive and reclining at the table eating and drinking with you; you who are no longer alienated from God’s love as an enemy, but reconciled as His own dear child.

And the good news is, Jesus has done all of the work for you.  He began it in your baptism when He gave you Himself; the one thing needful.  He gave you the fruit of the cross; the forgiveness of sins so you never need worry about whether His Father’s love and mercy are truly yours.  And to make sure that you never loose this wonderful gift, He promises that He will never leave you nor forsake you, nor take away all that He has done for you!

Now, I don’t want you to get the impression that St. Paul thought that life is just one good time after another.  He wasn’t ignorant of life’s challenges and heartaches.  Let’s start reading again in vs. 24 and let Paul speak for himself: “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known.” [Vs. 24, 25]

What Paul is telling us is that in this life we will have troubles; he had plenty of them!  In fact, he is saying he had more than most of us, because he was a minister of the gospel; an apostle who was constantly under the attack of Satan himself.  But through out all of those hardships and heartaches, he (Paul) never lost sight of Christ’s suffering and death for the entire world.  He never forgot the empty tomb or the waters of his own baptism.  He never forgot that he was called to continue following Jesus and then allow others to see through his own life, that no matter how many times he fell down under the burden of life, Christ always picked Him up.

That same Jesus Christ who was given to you as a gift from the Father in your baptism is still with you.  In a few minutes you will feast at His table of forgiveness and receive His body and blood which will reassure you that no one can take you away from Him, not even your own sin.  All you need do is receive Him and seek after Him where ever and when ever you need Him!

Our life in Christ can be compared to an aqueduct, the stone waterways that brought water from nearby mountains into parched cities in Italy and Spain, and that are still used in some countries today.  The objective foundation of our spiritual lives, Jesus Christ, the living Word of God, is like the huge stone aqueduct itself. The subjective elements, our daily experience with Christ, are like the fresh water flowing through it.

Some Christians neglect the Word and seek only the subjective experience. But without the solid Word of God to contain and channel that experience, the experience itself drains away into error and is lost.  Other Christians boast about well-engineered aqueducts based on extensive knowledge of the Bible, but they are bone dry, lacking no experience, which brings help and refreshment. Strong spiritual lives require both a strong knowledge of the Word of God and an intimate daily experience with Christ.  And that dear friends is precisely what Jesus offers you here in this house of worship, and anywhere else you need Him, if you will simply turn to Him and allow Him to speak through His Word.

May we with Paul continue to trust in Christ and His cross, proclaiming the mystery of the one thing needful, which is Christ in us, the hope of glory!  Please stand and sing verses 3 and 4 of the hymn “In the cross of Christ I Glory.”

  1. When the sun of bliss is beaming Light and love upon my way, From the cross the radiance streaming Adds more luster to the day.
  2. Bane and blessing, pain and pleasure By the cross are sanctified; Peace is there that knows no measure, Joys that through all time abide.  AMEN!

“We Who Are Evil”

Sunday, July 25th, 2010

Ninth Sunday after Pentecost, July 25, 2010 “Service in the Park”
Rev. Brian Henderson—Pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
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On the day of Martin Luther’s death, February 18, 1546, his friends found a scrap of paper on which he wrote his last thought.  “We are beggars; this is true.”  What did he mean?  Now while some of us may have been homeless before and had to beg others for gifts of love, to say that all of us are beggars seems to be a stretch.  So what did he mean? 

To understand Luther’s point we must turn to our gospel reading for an explanation.  Jesus ends His teaching this morning with these Words, “If you then who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” [Lk. 11:13] For some here this morning, these are hard words to hear; Jesus is calling His disciples evil… He is calling you and me evil… and this is true.  We have sinned against heaven and God Himself… this is true!  But it is also true as our Old Testament reading promises to Abraham that we have been called by God.  It is God who is calling you right now, and if you will hear His voice in these Words and respond as He requests, you are also like Abraham in that you have been chosen!  But chosen for what?  Chosen to receive His forgiveness, mercy, and love!  Chosen to teach your children and your neighbor about God’s righteousness and justice; chosen to speak both His frightening Law and His comforting Gospel.  Chosen to keep the way of the Lord! [Genesis 18:18] But friends, we have a problem, we are evil and because we are evil we must depend solely of the mercy and love of God.  If you don’t believe that we are evil, let me prove it to you.

I. How does God’s love and forgiveness come to us?  Through His Word: Holy Scripture asks, “Who has believed our message?” Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.”  So I ask you: Haven’t you been hearing the Word of God? Of course you have! [Rom 10:16b-17]  God’s Word is all around you.  It was first with you in your baptism.  You hear it often in the absolution and the comforting Words of the Gospel that is preached every week to you.  It is there in the Lord’s Supper.  But who is listening and who is in amazed at this truth?  Each of us are either moved to little or not moved at all by God’s great threats or His loving promises of comfort, forgiveness and peace which He gives to us through His blessed Word and Sacraments.  Who is to be blamed?  Certainly not God because He is always calling out to you!  Who then?  We are to be blamed… we deserve all of the blame because we won’t allow ourselves to be concerned with things that that the angels stand in awe of.  Even if we suddenly were visited by a band of angels preaching in all of their heavenly glory, we would not be any more affected than we are now when we hear the pastor or ministers of God’s grace preaching to us.

Dear friends, if we could believe the amazing truth that right now we are hearing the very Word of God speak to us, we wouldn’t become bored and sleepy.  But because we think that it is only a man speaking to us and that it is only the word of men that tickles our ears we treat the holy things of God as if we are a herd of pigs tramping priceless pearls and diamonds.  So what are we to do?  We are to cry out to God with cries of grief and anguish that our sin is so great that we on our own are helpless to do anything else!  What are we to cry out for?  Forgiveness and a new heart and mind; the heart and mind of Jesus Christ!  We are beggars… we are evil; this is true.  But this morning Jesus comforts us and reminds us that because of His love for the Father and God’s love for you, you are now so much more.  Hear the gospel of our Lord.  You who are evil have a Father who doesn’t want to leave you in that evil condition.  You have a Father who can give so much more than you can give.  And He desires to give it all to you!  How does He give?  Through the Word!  And how do we receive?  By asking through prayer!

Jesus said, and when you pray, pray like this: “Father, hallowed be your name, Your kingdom come.” [vs. 2] Who is this that teaches you to pray?  It is God Himself in our own flesh; it is Jesus your Savior, your brother and friend!  If you will not hear the Word of God which brings you faith, then you will care a less if God’s kingdom comes or His name is kept holy.  But because you have been hearing His Word, and because you have been called you will pray that His name is first kept holy in your own heart and that His kingdom would come first to you and then through you to others!  You will know that you are helpless to accomplish these things on your own so you pray and ask God to do them through you and He does!

Again Jesus says, “Give us each day our daily bread”. [vs. 3]  If you are shutting out the Word of God you will care a less how you get not just your food but your nice home, car and all of your bling.  An evil person simply keeps on taking because they believe they have a right to anything their heart desires.  But if God’s Word is indeed working within you, you know that all good things come from God above, so you pray that He will continue to provide you with all that you need in this life.  And whatever He provides you are content with.

But Jesus also adds this teaching, “Forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.” [vs. 4a]     If the Word of God is being shut out by your hard heart you will care a less whether you are forgiven, let alone forgiving others.  After all, you follow the thinking of this sinful world: “Do unto others before they do unto you!”   But when God’s Word is changing you, you will not just see the need to be forgiven by God but also the need to forgive others.  Because after all we are all just beggars, and you know that this is true!

And finally Jesus says that we must pray: “Lead us not into temptation.” [vs. 4b]  An evil heart that will not hear the Word of God could care a less about this last portion of our prayer.  Why?  Because this kind of heart sees nothing wrong with what God calls sin, as long as it isn’t illegal or if it is, as long as he doesn’t get caught.  But a heart that is being changed by the Word of God sees the evil that is within itself so it prays that God would continue to destroy its evil desires and protect it from both the presence and the temptation of the evil within it and around it!

II. Do you see friends why your Savior asks you to pray?  Prayer is simply and extension of the power and the work of His Word.  The same Holy Spirit that empowers the Word of God which speaks of God’s love and forgiveness empowers your prayers.  The same Holy Spirit of God who hears your words of prayer also molds your words of prayer so that they are requests for the very things that are guaranteed to be approved and answered by God.  This same Holy Spirit reassures your heart to be bold in prayer; to have no fear in the fact that through Jesus Christ, your heavenly Father not only hears you but always wants to hear from you.  And to illustrate this, Jesus in a series of contrasts compares you who are evil in need of rescue to a righteous and holy God who doesn’t need a thing.

“What father among you, if his son asks for a fish will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?  If you then who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” [vs. 11-13]    Dear friends, Jesus is asking you to consider this heavenly truth: As earthly fathers prove themselves fathers by giving “good gifts” to their children, so your heavenly Father proves to you that He is, indeed, your Father, and you are indeed, His children by giving to you, in answer to your asking in your need, all things that are a benefit to you!  And what is the one thing that you are most in need of?  Forgiveness!  And what is the only way that you can receive this forgiveness?  By asking; by being bold in your asking.  By admitting to God that it is you who are in need of His care and His provisions.

III. Dear friends, Jesus’ illustration of the person who pounds on the door of his neighbor in the middle of the night isn’t telling us to be simply persistent in our begging to God; no instead He is telling us to be bold!  Ask, seek, and knock.  He is saying don’t be ashamed to ask for forgiveness because you have asked so many times.  Don’t be afraid that God has given up on you because you feel you have let Him down so many times!  Be bold and believe that you have a God who is for you and not against you.  Be bold to speak to Him as a son or daughter!  But we ask, “How can a miserable sinner like me be so bold and expectant with such a holy and righteous God?”  And to this Jesus answers because I have called you my brother and friend.  Because through my blood and righteousness, through my suffering and death you have been bought with a great price!  You are no longer the swine that tramples the pearl of great price beneath its feet; you are that pearl of great price! 

Dear friends, you are the Father’s and He is yours!  If a weary and stubborn neighbor will finally get up and help, how much more will your loving Heavenly Father (who never sleeps) meet the needs of His own child!  So keep on “asking, seeking, and knocking,” not to break down God’s door but to reveal to Him your great concern that His will be done, first in your own heart and then in the world.  And remember, the purpose of prayer is not to get man’s will done in heaven but to get God’s will done on earth.  And what is that will?  First he forgiveness of your own sins and then the sins of the world.

Yes, we are all beggars and that is true, but we are beggars with a need and a vision.  The need is forgiveness which God assure us is ours through Jesus Christ, and the vision is the restoration of relationships.  First our relationship with God and second the restoration of our families and community with the same forgiveness, so be bold dear friends and continue to live out the life of a beggar.  I pray this for you in Jesus name…. AMEN!