Archive for the ‘Philippians 3:8-14’ Category

Jesus is Our Foundation Stone

Sunday, March 17th, 2013

Lent 5C, March 17, 2013
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA

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The song you just heard, “I Can Feel It Coming in the Air Tonight” will act as our mental hook to hang the message on this morning.  It seems to play right into our text this morning: “Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” [Isaiah 43:16-21]

Are these Words encouraging us to know God by feeling or experiencing Him; are our emotions the means that God has chosen to use in order to give us hope.  Is that what God is saying; is He inviting us to “feel” Him?  No, not at all; you see, just before those Words of God were spoken by the prophet Isaiah, God invited the people of Israel and us to know Him by remembering the mighty works of salvation He had performed in the past, as a way of knowing what kind of God He is today, and will be in the future.  He was and still is that LORD who parted the Red Sea; a work which allowed His children of faith to safely cross over to the other side.  But when Pharaoh and His mighty army of chariot and horse, army and warrior followed, they were all made to lie down and die within the waters that God allowed to collapse around them.  They were extinguished, quenched like a wick. [Isaiah 43:16, 17]  So do you recall that story from the book of Exodus?  Good.  And remember, you recall it because God ensured that it was written so that you could know Him.  Well listen, today that same Word of God says to forget it; that is don’t live in the past, but expect more of Him in the future, that is your future.  Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old, because you “ain’t seen nothin’ yet!”

Behold, God is now doing something even greater in our midst today.  It’s happening all around you even within you right now.  So how will you perceive it then, if not by feeling it?  Through His old way, which is new again; through the Living Word of God, which is the way of faith; the way of the promise of a Savior, a champion, who intervenes in a powerful way to save His people.

In our gospel lesson this morning (Luke 20:920), Jesus, knowing that he was just two days away from dying on the cross, tried one last time before His death to get the people and the leaders of Israel to see that He was and is that new thing that God is doing.  He is the new thing, in that for the first time in man’s history God the Son, the Living Word of God was dwelling with His people, as one of them, in the flesh of Jesus Christ.  The very Son of God was sent to the people of God so that they would receive Him as their Savior from their greatest enemies, sin, death, and the devil, but they would not!

So Jesus, their Savior and God tries one more time to show these religious leaders the truth about their sin; He is still speaking to them and us, as He tells us His parable of the vineyard.

The heavenly Father of course, is the owner of the vineyard and the vineyard is the people of God; people who through God’s means of grace, live lives centered around His prophetic Word, and are given eyes of faith to believe in Him and trust His ways.  Now, just as God has always used His Word to teach and care for His people, He has also always used leaders from within the people to deliver that Word and teaching.  If these leaders delivered the Word correctly, and the people followed it wisely, well then the Word of the Lord would grow among His people.  But if these ambassadors of His did not use His means of grace correctly, then the people would begin to languish and perish.

As Jesus spoke, the religious leaders who were listening knew that He was talking about them.  The Sanhedrin were those leaders; they were the tenants who rejected all of the Father’s other servants who faithfully spoke the Word of God to create faith in the hearts of the people.  They were leaders who refused to look into the prophecies of God and see that they all predicted and announced the coming of God’s own Son to be the real leader of His Father’s people.

As Jesus tells His story; the purpose of the story begins to unfold.  The leaders were to see their own wickedness; a wickedness which is personified in their unbelief.  It is the same unbelief that caused the leaders to mistreat and even kill the prophets of old.  And as Jesus was speaking to them, they were planning His death.  Why?  Because they wanted God’s vineyard, the church all to themselves; they wanted to be gods!

Isn’t it amazing that even though Jesus knew how He would be treated by sinful men, He still came to the vineyard; He still came to sinful man to save us?  Isn’t it a glorious thing for us that our Lord hasn’t abandoned His vineyard, the church, and His people of faith, despite all of their rejections?  Even in the middle of this last rejection, Jesus demonstrated unbelievable patience and love.  Even though the scribes and the high priest wanted to lay hands on Him and kill Him, Jesus still loved them!  Even though Jesus knew that these same leaders and the faithless people would soon demand His death, and then watch Him be beaten and die on a cross, He still loved them.  Why?  Because Jesus Christ came to die and save sinners, even those sinners.

At the cross of Jesus, God gives us the place where our perceptions, our intellect, and feelings are suppose to rest.  At the cross, God the Father sends His Son into this sinful world, even into our hearts and says, “If you confess and believe that Jesus is the Son of God and your LORD, you shall be saved!”  At the cross, Jesus shows you all of your past sins, your past years of unbelief and says they have been obliterated; taken away for ever, if you will not reject the Son and understand that you are now part of His vineyard.

At the cross of Jesus, in His suffering passion and death you are told what to perceive.  You are told that you cannot create a false Savior or a false faith that is based on what you think is fair and right.  All of these false means of grace are to be discarded, and you are to trust in what God’s own Word says.  Along with Paul in our epistle lesson (Philippians 3:8-14), you are invited to count all of your accomplishments as complete loss and pure rubbish in comparison with what you gain in knowing Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.  At the cross you are shown a suffering savior, and you are invited to follow Him even in suffering, even unto death.  You will do this because God is creating within you the only fruit that is pleasing to Him: sorrow for your sins, repentance, and faith!

At the cross of Jesus alone, you are promised not only the love of God but complete forgiveness and an eternal life of peace with your God who created you and restores you.  So if you are resting there at the cross of Jesus then you have by faith perceived that God is indeed doing a new thing.

But perhaps for some of you today, like some who listened to Jesus tell this story then, are finding this talk about repentance and forgiveness, surrender and suffering a bit too much.  Maybe in your hearts as well, you are thinking “Surely not!  No way!”

Maybe some of you still prefer to perceive a different god other than the God of our message this morning.  This morning, as I speak, there are millions of Christians that still prefer to have a God of their own making.  This morning God’s Word warns them that how they respond to the Son will determine how the Father responds to them!  Jesus does this with one last parable about a stone; a stone that the builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.

It is quite clear that when Jesus talks about this cornerstone or capstone, He is talking about Himself.  The builders who are rejecting Him are still with us today.  They are the leaders of the church who preach, teach, and confess anything extra added to Christ Jesus, crucified and resurrected, as necessary for salvation.  They are the Jesus plus crowd.  Here is a mathematical certainty, Jesus plus anything else equals punishment and eternal death.

Sadly, the real Jesus of the Bible is still seen as a threat to much of the established church.  That Jesus, is considered only half a god that must be interpreted, explained, and augmented by the leadership itself.   In other words, they want you to believe that without them, you cannot understand God’s Word and know Jesus unto salvation.

And yet this morning Jesus teaches us the very opposite.  It is Jesus the Son of God alone who the Father honors.  It is this Jesus who was rejected by the leaders then and is still rejected by the false leaders of today.  The truth is, only the Jesus of the Bible is the capstone of our faith. A capstone is interesting because it is the load bearing support stone that holds up the entire gigantic arch.  Once the capstone is in place, all one is called to do is look upon it and marvel at its beauty and ingenuity.  You are even invited to come close to it; touch it if you like, but then you must be taught that it is this stone alone that is preventing all of the other stones from crashing down upon you and pulverizing you.  God wants you to see that if you try to dislodge it or replace it; well then, the full weight of all of the other stones that make up the arch will come crashing down on you.

Through God’s Word and the power of the Holy Spirit, we receive Jesus Christ as our capstone.  He alone becomes our sure foundation.  Sadly, there are Christian leaders today who are trying to replace Jesus with a false capstone.

Habemas Papa!  We have a pope!  Big deal, we have had one for over 1,500 years! The Pope is not your capstone or your foundation.  He is simply as I am, a pastor;  a sinful man who needs a Savior like everyone else; a sinful stone that rests upon the perfect capstone.  If you are trusting in the Pope, mother Mary, any of the saints, or any of the other plus Jesus things sinful men dream up, then I am afraid that one day all of your hopes and dreams will come crashing down around you.  So turn your eyes of faith off of the imperfect, and turn them instead to the cross of Jesus Christ, who alone is the author and perfecter of your faith.

In our spiritual lives, we need the solid foundation of Jesus Christ alone.  Our faith isn’t some slum lord’s shanty, but a glorious building of God’s design, which needs a firm foundation throughout our lives.  Tragedy, sickness, sadness, and loss during difficult times will shake us to the very core of who we are, just as it has for all people throughout the history of the world.  But Christ, our foundation and capstone is never shaken or removed.  He helps us and is with us through out all life events.  The good news for you this morning is that Jesus will never leave you nor forsake you.  In your baptism, He was with you to cleanse you and recreate you into a person of faith.  In His holy Supper He feeds you faith and forgiveness of sins.  In the messages, even from this pulpit He speaks Words of hope in uncertain and often tragic times.  In His Word proclaimed, He provides a solid foundation that you can place your faith in.  Jesus alone provides all of this, through His Word.

“Behold, He is doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?  WE HAVE A SAVIOR!”  I pray that you would trust your savior, Jesus Christ alone… AMEN!