Archive for the ‘Psalm 54’ Category

From the Cross to Glory

Sunday, September 20th, 2015

17th Sunday after Pentecost, September 20, 2015
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Evangelical Church,
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego, CA 92114
http://www.tlcsd.org

Click here for audio of this message

“Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom.” [James 3:13]

When we read our gospel lesson this morning (Mark 9:30-37), did the apostles strike you as wise?  Is it ever proper or wise for Christians to argue over who is the greatest?  And yet, here we have the pillars of the church falling for one of the devils greatest allures; a diversion designed to cause the Christian to turn away from the cross that leads to eternal glory, and instead take a path of the world, the path of Satan, which promises that you can have the glory right now!  Do you want to avoid that dark path?  If so then pay attention to this message and understand that the devil will do everything he can to get you to follow his way and not the way of the cross.

Our Plea: This morning, each of us must understand the danger that surrounds us on our pilgrimage we call life.  We must seek to forever have this prayer, this plea on our lips: “Save me, O God, by your name; vindicate me by your might.  Hear my prayer, O God; listen to the words of my mouth.” [Psalm 54:1, 2]

All around us are folks that hunger for more and more earthly things.  They try to scratch an itch and feed a hunger that they can’t even truly identify.  For some, the allure is simply gathering more things, and for others its money, and for others it’s power and prestige.  They work to be noticed and clamor when they feel they are being ignored or devalued.  But what did Jesus tell his disciples was the key to being great in heaven?  Listen: “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.”

Is that Word from God enough to stifle your desire for a greater reward here on earth?  Now before you answer that question, let me simply say that if you lack faith, the answer will be “No!”  But take heart, the good news for you this morning is the truth that the very Word of God you have been hearing, a word which has already been delivered to you, is the same word within you, which creates that kind of faith.  There’s just one thing standing in the way of you and this faith, and it is what we will call…

Our problem: “Strangers are attacking me; ruthless men seek my life—men without regard for God.” [Psalm 54:3]  The Prophet Jeremiah, in our Old Testament lesson, like King David, was familiar with enemies who wanted to shut him up and shut him down.  Jeremiah was speaking out against the sin of the people.  He was warning that God was getting ready to take away their kingdom and lead them away in captivity.

In the people’s minds this could not be right; they had made great progress with their struggle to include God in their lives and government, and now all God had to do was cosign their plans for greatness.  So, if Jeremiah was going to continue living and speaking to them as if they were still gross sinners, well then they would just have to shut him up!

Jeremiah had what appeared to be a problem.  The people wanted one thing and God wanted another.  On the one hand, if Jeremiah simply shut up and went along with the plan of the people, life would certainly be easy for him; he would win his popularity back and most certainly would be well taken care of.  This path is what we will call the way of glory.  But God has a special word for double minded people like that, and Jeremiah certainly did not want to have God declare him to be an “adulterer!”

Does that sound a little harsh to you?  Well in our Epistle lesson [James 2:13-4:10], James addresses the Christians of his time who were grumbling against God.  They were upset that God had not blessed them with the “good life” as it appeared the Godless were enjoying.  So he answered them like this: “You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.  You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”?”

Truth be told, we are a lot like those early Christians.  Doesn’t our real problem lie within our own hearts?  Sure the devil is prowling like a lion seeking to devour all he can, but he can’t have us, because we have already been saved through Christ; we already have been washed with the water and the Word.  We already have been given and claimed the wonderful promises of eternal life; promises that come directly from God.

So what is our problem?  Is it other people; folks that just want to trip us up and shut us down?  No, they’re just tools of the devil, and remember the devil has been defeated.  Friends, our real problem comes from within our own hearts; those passions and desires that are modeled by the unbelieving world that has deceived us into thinking are necessary in order to be a success.  We have been tricked into thinking that we have to have it, but God won’t provide it, so instead of taking our anger to God, we take it out on our neighbor in the form of fighting and quarreling.  As a result, we become distant with God and quit talking to Him.  And so, because we don’t ask we don’t receive.  Or we ask and don’t receive, because we are asking in a way that is not God pleasing; a way that seeks only to satisfy our passions and desires but gives God no glory and offers no help to our neighbors in need.

When we embrace a life like this, we have become a friend of the world, and a traveler along the way of glory. And to this life style God indeed calls us adulterers.  We have left our first love and embraced the selfish path of self fulfillment; we have become a friend of the world, and a friend of the world is an enemy of God.

So what are we to do?  We are to embrace…

Our Solution: “Surely God is my help; the Lord is the one who sustains me.  Let evil recoil on those who slander me; in your faithfulness destroy them.” [vs.4, 5]

Long ago, David was persecuted by Saul relentlessly, but never captured by him; David always was given a way of escape by God.  Jeremiah like wise was persecuted by his own family and friends, from the very town he was from, but God saved him.  And now like those dear saints that went before us, it is our turn to trust in God as our great helper and sustainer.  It is our turn to ask God to destroy both the evil and the slanderer that surrounds us.  And it is our turn to realize that our prayer has already been answered.

At the cross, we see that Jesus allowed the crowd of accusers and glory road travelers to load both their accusations and their sins upon His shoulders.  He allowed them to ridicule and humiliate Him by hanging him upon the cross.  He listened as the devil laughed and the glory mongers cheered.  And as He drew His last breath, He sighed and said, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”  And then with His final words He proclaimed, “It is finished.  Their debt of sin is paid in full.  They are made right and new with the Heavenly Father.”

In His life and in His death, Jesus Christ the very Son of God, traveled the way of the cross.  The Lord of glory became the least of men so that you could become the greatest.  And all He asks of each of us is that we believe that this is enough to guarantee the world of an eternal glory that far out does any glory promised in this life time.  He asks you to walk with Him from the cross to your baptism, where all of His work upon the cross is given to you.  All of your fears, worries, and frustrations have been replaced with faith, salvation, and joy, if you will just walk this way of the cross; if you will walk by faith and trust in Christ.

While your sin may be great, and your faith weak, Jesus asks us this morning to understand that His grace, that is the Father’s love unearned by you is greater.  Through the way of the cross, God is asking each of us this morning to submit ourselves to Him.  To humble ourselves before the Lord, so that when our travel on the way of the cross is finished, each of us will finally realize…

The Promised Outcome: “He has delivered me from all of my troubles, and my eyes have looked in triumph upon the defeat of evil and the glory that awaits me in Paradise!” (Psalm 54:6)

The Lord alone will lift us up into a resurrected life of glory within God’s Paradise restored.  There within Paradise each of us will once again walk with our LORD in peace forever.  This is an outcome guaranteed for the travelers who follow the way of the cross.  It is an outcome realized by faith but not yet by sight.

I pray that faith is enough to sustain you on this journey of life.  I pray that it is enough to continue bringing you back regularly to this house of prayer for God’s Divine Service of Word and Sacrament.  And I pray that through His Service you will allow Him to equip you to live a life of thanksgiving and praise to His holy name.  I pray that when asked by those who are not yet traveling this way of the cross, you would always be ready to answer when asked why you travel such a lonely way simply as David responded in our Psalm this morning: “Because He has delivered me from all of my troubles, and my eyes have looked in triumph upon the defeat of evil and the glory that awaits me in Paradise… AMEN!”

Don’t Be Araid to Ask!

Sunday, September 20th, 2009

16th Sunday after Pentecost, September 20, 2009
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
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 Our text this morning is verses 31 and 32 of our Gospel lesson.  “He was teaching his disciples and saying to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him.  And when He is killed, after three days He will rise.”  But they did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask Him. [Mark 9:31, 32]

Why were the disciples afraid to ask Jesus what He meant when He said that He would be killed and after three days He would rise?  Well, for three reasons: First, because they did not understand.  Think about it, why would anyone want to continually predict their own death and not do anything to prevent it?  I mean, if you know what actions or activities are a threat to your personal safety then change your behavior, right?  But they didn’t understand that the Son of man is also the Son of God.  When God speaks it isn’t something to be discussed and analyzed as to its merits and faults, no, it’s something to be obeyed. 

 The second reason they were afraid to ask Jesus what He meant, was because they would not understand.  They had big plans for Jesus and His church.  Jesus was going to be their political savior, who would right all the wrongs in their world, and they would be there right along with Him in this new utopia as His most trusted allies.  No, what He was predicting wouldn’t mean victory, power and prestige, but instead, in their way of thinking, it would clearly mean defeat, weakness, and shame; no that wouldn’t do at all! 

 The third reason they were afraid to ask Him what He meant was the simple truth that they could not understand it until they experienced the cross.  Without the cross, all of God’s other plans could never make sense.  Without the sacrifice of His Son, there could be no forgiveness for the sins of the world.  Without the cross, there could be no resurrection, and without the resurrection, there could be no victory over sin, death, and the devil.

 Clearly, God’s way of thinking was not their way of thinking.  They needed to be adjusted.  They needed to be recreated in their spirit and mind, so that they could be part of God’s plan with confidence and excitement.  They needed the cross, and so do we.

 We need the cross because without the cross we can have no victory.  Without the cross we could never have confidence that our sins, our many sins have been forgiven.  Without the cross, we could never put to death our self-centered sinful nature.  Without the cross, God’s baptismal promise of new life in Christ could never be fulfilled.  Without the cross, the love of God and the power of the Holy Spirit could not change us.  Without the cross, we would still be held prisoner by things like envy, pride, bitter jealousy, and selfish ambition.  You see friends; we really do need the cross because it is the power, God’s power to save us.  But like the disciples we too are many times afraid of the cross because the cross ALWAYS comes with a price.

 The disciples were afraid to ask because they were afraid of what it would mean for them.  They were afraid of how the cross would dramatically change their lives.  We also are afraid to ask God what the cross means for our lives, because we know that it will also mean change… real change; it will mean self sacrifice.  This is what we Lutherans have always called the Theology of the Cross, or simply living under the cross.

 This life under the cross is communicated and lived out in all aspects of our lives.  Through the cross we can sincerely ask a family member or close friend if we can help with some chore or task their doing and not be afraid that they will say yes, and then we are tied up for most of the day.  Through the cross, we aren’t afraid to ask our neighbor who’s lost his job if we can help them get by through providing for some of their food or clothing needs, and we aren’t afraid if they say yes!  Through the cross, you can boldly ask your pastor if there is some way you can serve in the ministry of the church, without fear of him saying yes.  And it is this same cross that moves you to boldly respond to one of the needs that he makes known to you.

 How can you have a happy life?  Go to the cross!  How can you be freed from worry and fear?  Go to the cross!  How can your life really make a difference to others?  Go to the cross.  But going to the cross frightens us, because we know that the cross requires us to surrender our own self interests and by faith live every day with a heart and mind that wants to be doing the things God wants done.  St. James teaches about this life under the cross in our epistle lesson this morning, “Who is wise and understanding among you?  By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom.  But if you have bitter jealously and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth.  This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but it is earthly, unspiritual, (it is) demonic. [James 3:13-16]  “The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, (it is) impartial and sincere.” [vs. 17] 

 Dear friends, God made peace with us by sending His Son Jesus Christ to die for us.  Through the cross, Jesus death nailed every one of our sins to the cross… now and for eternity.  But that is not the end of the power of the cross, because with the cross comes life.  Through His death on the cross Jesus rose from the dead, proving that sin, death, and the devil had no power over Him nor over us.  Through the cross and then Christ’s resurrection came our promise of new life—A life without the worry of God’s judgment.  And through the cross came the fulfillment of God’s baptismal promise to us that He would give us a new heart.  A heart that freely and without fear asks God to give a cross. 

 Because of the Jesus’ cross friends, God has guaranteed us that we need never be afraid to ask Him for anything.  We can come to Him with all of our needs and know for certain that He always hears and answers us, but the first request we should always be bringing before Him is one for forgiveness. 

 We must confess to Him that we have been living a self-centered life.  We have been following selfish ambition instead of an ambition to do the things God wants done.  “But pastor” you say, “I do confess these things.  Why am I still living a life that seems to lack victory?”  Well friend, “You do not have, because you do not ask.  You ask and do not receive from God, because you are asking for the wrong things.”  Friends, instead of asking God to allow you to experience joy and happiness in your present life, why not ask for joy and happiness in a changed life—a life changed by the cross?  Many times we do not have joy and happiness because we are afraid to ask for our own cross. 

 Next time friends, when you confess your sins to God, instead of simply hearing the words of forgiveness in the absolution and then going about your happy way, ask yourself this question: “What does it mean to be forgiven?  How does this forgiveness impact my life?  Does it change my life?”  If the answer is no, then confess that also.  Be truthful with God, but don’t be happy just admitting that you fall short, ask Him to change you.  Ask Him to give you a servant’s heart.  Ask Him to give you a heart that gladly sacrifices its own self interest for God and for others.  Ask Him to show you your own cross.

 Finally fiends, we as a congregation also need to ask for forgiveness.  We need to ask for a cross too.  We need to ask collectively for a servant’s heart.  We need to be doing the things that God wants done.  What has God called us at Trinity to do?  “Simple” you say, “we’re to seek and save the lost!”  But what does that really mean?  Friends it means that we must be actively demonstrating the cross of Christ to everyone in all ways.  The cross is the very reason that we exist as a congregation.  We’ve been marked by the cross of Christ forever.  It is the very answer to the question that every church should be asking themselves: “Why do we exist?”  Why is Trinity here at 7210 Lisbon Street?  Friends, we are here to demonstrate the power of the cross.

 We are not here to serve ourselves, but rather to serve God and our neighbor.  We don’t have our own mission but instead we have been created, gathered, and sent to participate in God’s mission.  God’s mission sends us out into our community as His agents of healing and reconciliation in a broken world; we are sent out to share the love of God through Jesus Christ with everyone, everywhere, especially those who are right outside the doors of this church!  Friends, Trinity Lutheran Church is to bear witness to the redemptive reign of God in the world by becoming and being a community that demonstrates in life and ministry God’s grace, mercy, and peace in everything we do!

 Let me close with a story that I think demonstrates this point.  It’s a story about a lighthouse that was built on a cliff above a treacherous stretch of coastline.  Many ships crashed upon the rocks and many lives were lost at sea.  Eventually, it was decided to form a lighthouse society whose sole purpose was to tend to the light in order to warn sailors of the pending danger and save lives.  Very soon, the society became so effective that their stretch of the coast became known as the safest around.  After a while however, those who were members of the society became distracted with other tasks.  Some of them formed a social club so that members could enjoy one another’s company.  Others were involved in fund-raising in order to help finance the social gatherings.  And so they grew happy and content with their little society, until one day someone forgot to check on the fuel for the light in the lighthouse and the light went out.  Because the light was no longer warning the ships and only darkness remained on THEIR section of the coastline, several ships were lost at sea, and hundreds of sailors lost their lives.

 Dear friends, we as individuals and as a congregation need to always be reminded that we have been saved by the cross so that we can take part in the mission of the cross.  We need to be reminded that we have been saved, gathered, and feed so that we can be sent.  We need to remember that we have been sent with a mission—a mission to bear witness to God’s presence and to His wonderful work of reconciliation—being made right with God through the death of Jesus Christ upon the cross.  We need to be reminded that we are all called to participate in making God’s redemption—His work of forgiveness and love available to everyone, everywhere, while we lead a life that demonstrates that same redemption.

 If God’s mission to seek and save the lost, even you and me is what God is up to in our community, then each of us as individuals and as a congregation need to be asking, “What am I doing, and what are we doing to participate in a meaningful way in God’s mission?”  As we pray about this…as we think about it and discuss it, let us always remember that it is through the cross that we are saved and it is through the cross that we are always sent. 

Let’s pray now, and ask the Lord to do that work in us right now.  “Lord help us to remember that there is true freedom in asking for and living out a sacrificial faith.  Help us to always live through your cross and embrace our own, in Jesus name….AMEN!”