Archive for the ‘Psalm 146’ Category

Again I Say Rejoice!

Sunday, December 15th, 2013

Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church-San Diego
Advent 3A, December 15th, 2013

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Psalm 146

This morning, God invites us to rejoice, that is to praise Him while we still have life and soul within our bodies.  But is it really possible to praise Him all of the time?  Yes it is.  So let’s get started: Rejoice. Celebrate your awesome God.  When you are happy… rejoice.  When you are sad… rejoice.  When you are rich… rejoice.  When you are poor… rejoice.  If you are sick or healthy, able or disabled… rejoice!  Your God is with you.

Easier said then done, eh?  Well let’s look at our Psalm (Psalm 146) and see if there is a way to rejoice that comes with God’s work, because I think that you will agree with me, if it is up to our own strength we will fail.

“Praise the Lord, O my Soul!  I will praise the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.” [Vs. 1, 2]  First let’s get something settled right off the bat; you are no better or worse off than the author of this psalm.  You struggle with the results of sin and the weakness of flesh just as he did.  The psalmist knows this truth, so he calls out to each of us this morning, even though we are saturated with all of our sin, he calls us to praise the Lord.  He wants you to declare this mandate just as he has, so that it is no longer he speaking to you, but you speaking.  But who are you speaking to?    You are speaking to yourself.  But how can you speak to yourself without seeming a little strange?  Because you are not just flesh, you are also composed of a soul.

“Praise the Lord O my soul!”  Your soul needs reassurance; it needs hope because it is constantly under attack by the evil that surrounds it.  So we must speak truth, God’s truth to our souls so that they will not grow weak and discouraged.  We must speak words like, “Hope in God; confess to Him your sin, because He promises to forgive.”  And when we receive His forgiveness, our soul turns our hearts outward to others in need of forgiveness.  And with them, we share these encouraging Words:  “Return to your Creator God and be assured that He is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.”

So speak to your soul and say, “Praise the Lord, O my soul.”  Your soul is given truth and light from the Word of God.  Through the Word of God you are given reason to see beyond the created and observe the hand of the Creator.  Where others see darkness, you see the glorious light of God Himself!  Where others see despair and hopelessness you see good and hope.  And so through the Work of God’s Word and His constant presence you can encourage your soul when it is fearful and answer: “I will praise the Lord as long as I live!”

Now this is where the light of God makes things interesting for us creatures.  God is calling us to everlasting praise, but how can that be when we are simply flesh that is here today and gone tomorrow?  Because you are more than flesh, you are also a soul, and your soul is everlasting.

So you see your soul was created to praise the Lord in what ever station or calling of life you are in, and your flesh, well it doesn’t like that, so it answers, “But I am sinful and I will not praise Him!”  So what are we to do about this battle that goes on within us?

Verses 3 and 4 give us our answer: “Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation. When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish.”  Will your sinful flesh even hear these Words?  Yes, but it will not rejoice in them.  You see, these Words are not the advice of man, but the very voice of God speaking to you from Heaven.  They are meant to turn your eyes away from that which is created, even your own flesh, and look to the One who has created all things.

So, don’t trust people, not even yourself.  And if you can’t even count on yourself, then doesn’t it make sense that you shouldn’t put your hope in politicians, preachers, doctors, family, or friends, but trust only in The Lord?  Now you may counter this and say, “I try, but life is hard.  I have certain needs.  If I only had a more loving family, a better job, more government aid, or better health, then I could really praise the Lord.”  And to that, I must declare that God’s Word still stands and your sinful flesh must be silenced.

The truth is, you would be happy if some politician gave you more money or more stuff.  You would certainly be happy if your disease was cured by a doctor or your heart cheered by the love of church and family, but when it is your very Creator who speaks encouraging Words of truth and promises of healing and prosperity you doubt and reject that truth; you try to turn the soul towards the created and away from the Creator.

So hear this loud and clear:  When that man or woman that you trust is popped like a bubble and they go back to being dust and ashes where will your hope be then?  When you O sinful body, cease to have the breath of life, what will your outcome be?  Where O flesh is your pride now?  Where is your boasting?

So what are we to do if we can’t put our hope in men, in governments, family, and friends?

“Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, who keeps faith forever; who executes justice for the oppressed, who gives food to the hungry.” [Vs. 5-7]  Who is this God of Jacob; the Lord of your soul?

Well for us who have confessed our sins and by faith received forgiveness of those sins, there is only One true God, the Father, maker of heaven and earth, and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom all things are made.  Let this God and this God alone be our source of hope and trust.  Let the ungodly trust in their gods.  Their gods are things that are created; things that satisfy the hungers of this world; our God is He who created this world and everything that this world considers food.

Dear friends, we have a great God, so let us bless His name.  He alone has done great things for us; He has made us His great possession and He has bought us with a great price.

Sometimes, blessing Him in the flesh can be a challenge, because for now He is simply Spirit and we must worship Him by faith.  But look around at all that you see… our God made it all!  Does your flesh value this created world and all that it provides?  Fine, then remind it that the One true God created it all!  If what is here on earth isn’t enough to silence your flesh, then look up into the heavens and see the other wonders of God’s hand and tremble in awe.  Put your hope in that great God and no other.

Since our God made all of this, then let us rest in His power and presence, because He made us too!  Isn’t it true that He cares for all of His creation?  The birds eat at their appointed time and all living things find their sustenance from within the creation itself.  How much more will He care for you O sinful man, you who were created in His image?  Why do we say that we were created in His image?  Because we have a soul and only a soul can praise it’s Creator with intent.  What intent is that?  The intent of turning by faith to the only true God, who alone is faithful forever!

God sees and He knows the injustices of the world; He see’s the wrongs that you have suffered on account of your faith.  God not only sees, but He promises that He will avenge.  You who are hard pressed by your sin and the devil, God promises relief and justice.  He promises to give food for the hungry.  But what food?

Certainly, as we have already heard, He gives physical food for the body, food that feeds physical hunger.  But for you His children of faith He gives a special food, because you have another hunger.  You hunger for righteousness, that is, you hunger to be free of sin so that you may praise God with an upright spirit.  Jesus has also called you blessed because you hunger.  “Blessed are those that hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.”  For this one thing we must also praise God; we praise Him because He has given us a hunger and thirst for His presence and care for our souls.  How does He do this great thing?  Through His Word!  LISTEN:

“The Lord sets the prisoners free; the Lord opens the eyes of the blind.  The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the righteous.  The Lord watches over the sojourners; He upholds the widow and the fatherless, but the way of the wicked He brings to ruin.” [Vs. 8, 9]

In our gospel reading (Matthew 11:2-15), Jesus gives St. John the Baptizer and our eyes of faith great things to consider and declare.  Listen: “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”  [Vs. 4-6]

At the time Jesus spoke these Words, He meant to have John and us encouraged by the miracles that He was physically performing.  The blind saw, the lame walked, lepers were healed and the deaf could hear.  John and we, are to know that in Christ Jesus, God’s long awaited Messiah had finally come; God had truly come to be with and save His people!  Strangers, widows, orphans and misfits all, could then and can now, find a place, a home in the company of Jesus Christ the Son of God!  And if that was not enough, the dead were brought back to life!  But the physical miracles were nothing in comparison to what would take place after… after the cross… after the empty tomb… after His ascension and return to the right hand of God the Father, and after the Son of God’s second advent.

Once these things have all taken place, sinful flesh will bow as the redeemed souls of the baptized declare with the Centurion at the foot of the cross, “Surely He IS the Son of the Living God!”  Surely He has come to set us free from our sins; the captivity of the devil.  Surely through His Word, He has opened the eyes and ears of those who were once deaf and blind to their sin and allowed them to see their new spiritual reality: They are forgiven!  Freed from their prison of sin.  Surely, His saints can see that it is true, “By His stripes, we are healed” and cleansed from our spiritual leprosy.”

Surely, our flesh must now see and tremble over what our souls now know as truth; in our baptisms we have been saved, reborn… recreated unto eternal life; recreated to praise the Lord!

Be still O soul; the Lord is on your side.  “The Lord your God shall reign forever, your God, O Zion, to all generations. Praise the Lord!” [Vs. 10]  Rejoice in the Lord always and again, I say REJOICE!

Praise To The Lord!

Sunday, September 6th, 2009

14th Sunday after Pentecost, September 6, 2009

Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
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Our text this morning is the 14th verse of our Epistle lesson.  And it comes to us in the form of a question: “What good is it my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works?  Can that faith save him?” [James. 2:14]

Introduction: Indeed, that is the question, “Can that faith save him?”  Can someone who is without works find comfort in God’s gospel proclamation, like the one found in our OT lesson?  Listen, “Say to those who have an anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not!  Behold your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God.  He will come and save you.”  James answers this question with a resounding NO!  Instead, James would say that a person who has faith without works should hear this message more as Law instead of the gospel.  I believe that this is how James would present this message to a person with a faith that does not have good works: “But say to those who have no anxious heart; who have no fear or dread because of their sinful hearts, “Be afraid.  Be very afraid!  Because the day of the Lord approaches and you shall eternally experience God’s vengeance and His punishment!”

 

I. What is faith?  “Easy” you say, faith knows God through Jesus Christ, right?  Well…yes and no.  You see, if you know who God is, that is only a general kind of faith.  “But wait” you counter, I believe that Jesus was born of the virgin Mary, that He suffered under Pontius Pilot, He was crucified and buried, and descended into Hell.  And I also believe that on the third day He rose from the dead and ascended into heaven, and He is now seated at the right hand of God the Father.”  Well, James would tell you that the Devil and his demons believe that too; and yet they tremble with fear because they know that God’s judgment is coming very soon. [James 2:19]  “But wait Pastor” you say, “I know scripture pretty well, and didn’t Paul say, “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”” [Rom. 10:17]?  Ah yes, an excellent proof text for reminding all of us how important it is to be in God’s Word every day.  But, you can bet the devils know that verse by heart, and many others as well.  What good does that do them?

 

Are you confused?  Well let me shed a little bit of light on what kind of faith, is a faith that can’t save you.  Let’s imagine that there is a policeman who is issued a bullet proof vest but he refuses to wear it because it is just too hot and bulky.  One day he is tragically shot and killed.  Is the vest to blame for his death? No, of course not!  You see, the vest can offer no protection if it isn’t put on; if it doesn’t become part of his daily routine.  And that is the way it is with faith that can’t save you.  You can know the entire Bible and be an expert in Christian doctrine, but if you aren’t living in that faith and allowing it to lead you and change you, it can’t save you!  It’s what we call only a general faith.

 

But, if you know that Jesus suffered and died for you—if you admit that He needed to suffer and die for you; that he descended into hell and rose from the dead for you; if you know that He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God to someday judge you, not guilty of being a sinner, but holy, perfect and righteous because you trusted in Him alone, well then my friend… you have saving faith!  So you see friends, true saving faith grabs onto Jesus and what he provides and it makes Him its personal Savior.

 

II.  Well the question we might ask next is this, “What does faith look like?  Can you see faith in action?”  Yes, most definitely.  You can see both general faith and saving faith in action, and you can easily tell them apart.  In our Epistle lesson [James. 2:14-18], James gives us a good illustration of general faith.

 

General faith sees a Christian brother or sister in trouble…in need of food and clothing and says, “I hope you find food, and I’ll pray you stay warm” and then walks away feeling good about themselves.  James asks us this morning, “Can that kind of faith save him?”  “What kind?” we ask.  Well, the kind of faith that is never seen in practical service towards God and neighbor.  Friends, the answer is no!  Any faith that doesn’t result in a changed heart… in a life that’s changed and full of good works, James says is really an empty faith.  So you see friends, while it’s true that it’s faith alone that justifies, it is also true that justifying faith can never be alone… it can never be without works of love.  But saving faith, looks at its brother or sister in need, and because that saving faith is still holding on to Jesus, it is compelled to act.  As Christians who are led by the love of Christ, because of our saving faith, we are also compelled to help meet the needs of our neighbors.  St. Paul in his letter to the Galatians taught about this when he said, “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all people, especially the needs of those who are of the household of faith.” [Gal. 6:10] 

 

Friends, when we serve our brothers and sisters in need, we can clearly hear Jesus reminding us with a smile, “Inasmuch as you have done it unto one of the least of these My brothers, you have done it unto Me.” [Matt. 25:40] Friends, saving faith hears these words of Jesus, and it wants to always be working and serving others.  But saving faith doesn’t work because it thinks it will earn a reward, instead saving faith works because it is powered by the love of God through Christ Jesus.

 

Dear friends, we love Jesus because He first loved us and gave His life up for us.  Because He sacrificed Himself for us we find that we are also compelled by our saving faith to sacrifice ourselves for our neighbor as well.  When a Christian mother and father loves their child and teaches them about God’s love, and ensures that they are baptized, present at Sunday school, and latter confirmed, that is the love of saving faith being expressed in those Christian parents.  In fact, no matter what calling we find ourselves in whether it is parent, child, civil servant, employee, employer, student or teacher, if we serve our neighbor as Christ serves us, then my friends, that is saving faith in action. 

 

III. Well how do we know if we have saving faith?  Friends, for the answer to this question let’s look at our gospel lesson this morning.  In the gospel we encounter Jesus healing a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment.  Listen: “And taking him aside from the crowd privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue. And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ef-fa-tha,” that is, “Be opened.”  And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly.” [Mark 7:33-35]   What a wonderful miracle!  Everyone who witnessed it agreed that it was most certainly a work of God.  The witnesses proclaimed, “He has done all things well.”  They concluded that Jesus could at any time give anyone who’s deaf the ability to hear and anyone who is speechless the ability to speak.  Did the crowd have saving faith? I don’t know.  They certainly were amazed, but yet, it wasn’t their ears that were given hearing and it wasn’t their mouth that was given speech.  But the man who was deaf and speechless, now that’s a different story.  How could He not have love for Jesus, the loving man that spoke ever so gently to him in a sign language that he could understand?  How could he not have been moved to trust Jesus in whatever He asked or told him?  Certainly he had to be moved to use his new voice to praise Jesus as the Savior, as his personal savior!

 

Dear friends, in your baptism, Jesus has done an even greater thing than this for you.  Through the water and the Word, He has opened your heart!  Through His Word, He has privately and in a very personal way taken you out of a sinful and dying world and secured you in His love.  Through the gift of faith, He has opened your ears so that you can hear His Word even the Word being preached right now and be changed!  Listen friends, your heart has been recreated so that it no longer fears God’s judgment, but instead it’s resting in His love.  By faith you are now able to live your life knowing that you have a God who is for you and never against you.  By faith friends, you have a mouth that desires to share with your neighbor just how wonderfully God has demonstrated His love for you!  And by saving faith, you now have hands that are being moved to serve God out of love; not because they must serve but because they want to serve.  Your heart through saving faith wants to serve your neighbor here in this church, and there out in the community where there are thousands of people dying without knowing the life giving and life changing touch of the Savior of the world Jesus Christ.   

 

CONCLUSION:  Dear friends, our faith, our saving faith, is a divine work that God does within us; it’s a work that changes us by killing the old self centered person and then daily replaces it with a personality of faith in action!  Your saving faith is a living, busy, and active faith that is mighty in the power of God.  Your saving faith doesn’t ask if there are any good works that must to be done, because it is already doing them before anyone can even ask!  I pray that every day you fight to let this living and saving faith control you and lead you as you daily praise the Lord, in thought, word, and deed!  In Jesus name….AMEN!