Archive for the ‘Stewardship’ Category

Faithful is Our God!

Sunday, November 20th, 2011

23rd Sunday after Pentecost A, November 20th, 2011
(Last Sunday of the Church Year)
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA

INTRODUCTION: “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne.  Before Him will be gathered all the nations, and He will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. [Matthew 25:31-33]

In the time of Jesus, it wasn’t uncommon for shepherds to allow the goats and sheep to graze or pasture together.  But at the end of the day, the shepherd would separate them according to their kind.  And that is a picture of the Day of the Lord, judgment day.  Some will be considered sheep; they are the apple of our Lord’s eye.  On judgment day they will hear Jesus say, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”  But others, others who are goats, will hear something completely different; they will hear Jesus say, “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”

So what is it that determines whether we are sheep or goats?  Is it something we can get my hands on and protect; something we can have as our most cherished possession.  Is there a ticket to heaven?  Well… yes and no!  If we were to look at our gospel lesson this morning, we might be tempted to think that our ticket to heaven or our identity as a sheep or goat is based on good works, or something we do to inherit God’s love and forgiveness.  But you’re all much to informed about what your Bibles say to believe that.  So what then; what is this blessed assurance that promises us that we will be citizens of heaven in a place that has been prepared and waiting for us since the foundation of the world?  Well, It is nothing less than faith… faith in the atoning death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  When the Son of Man comes in His glory, will He find faith; will He find faith in you?  Are you a sheep or a goat?

I. If this question is making you a bit uncomfortable, then may I be the first to say congratulations; congratulations for not being happy at the prospect of being a goat!  You see there’s one thing I know about goats and it’s this, they’re just fine with being a goat.  In fact, for the most part they’re stronger, faster, and more clever than sheep.  They don’t have a problem with being a goat.  But not so with you; you want to be a sheep; you want to know that there is a place for you in heaven, just waiting for you to move in.  And because this is true, then you won’t have a problem with admitting something about yourself and something about God.

You are faithless!  That’s right, I said it; on your own you are completely powerless and useless for assuring that your eternal abode will be something other than weeping and gnashing of teeth.  Now don’t feel too bad about this, because you see it’s something you were born into!  St. Paul in our epistle reading (1 Corinthians 15:20-28) explains it like this, he says that death came by a man, the first man Adam to be exact.  In Adam all of us are guaranteed nothing more than an eternal death; a separation from God and His kingdom.  Instead of inheriting a mansion, well we’re cast out into the outer darkness; a place where there will be eternal longing and desire.

What was it that Adam did that was so bad that it condemned all of his ancestors?  He doubted God’s goodness and love; He doubted that God would provide everything that was good and withhold nothing helpful, while He protected him from everything that was harmful.  So from the doubt of Adam and Eve has proceeded every sin that each of us has committed.  From the doubt of Adam each of us has been judged guilty.  From the doubt of Adam our relationship with God has been lost.  The church has always called this doubt the original sin.

Now most goats don’t like this doctrine.  They don’t like the fact that they’re being punished for something someone else did long ago!  They get angry with God and they say, “I didn’t ask to be born this way!  This isn’t fair; since my birth, you’ve put me on a road that goes only to hell!”  Yes, the goats are so upset with this idea of original sin that not only do they protest against God, but they get angry with anyone who will repeat the doctrine.  Why is that?  Simply put, if this doctrine is true, then that means that their salvation, their ability to inherit the Father’s Kingdom is entirely outside of their control.  It means they have to have faith, and remember, that is the one thing goats do not have; goats are faithless.

II. So what is the solution?  Well, goats must be saved by someone who can give them faith.  They must be saved by someone who is faithful.  They must be saved by someone who can fill them with this faith; someone who can make them faith-filled!

Jesus is that someone and His Word is the means that God uses to fill goats with His gift of faith; it’s how he turns goats into sheep.  But faith in what?  Faith to believe that Jesus, God’s own Son came to this earth, lived a perfect life for you, suffered and died for you in order to remove the curse of sin, Adam’s and your sin from you.  Now, if you are agreeing with this premise, that’s all well and good, but some goats believe this too.  No, I’m afraid that you must hear the rest of the premise before you celebrate.  You see, Jesus also rose from the dead in His body, and promises that you will do the very same thing because you’ve received His gift of faith.

Now this is where many of the learned people discover that they aren’t sheep at all and they don’t care.  They can receive the idea that sin has to be paid for, even original sin.  And the fact that God paid for it Himself, makes perfect sense to them, because well, He was the One who allowed everything to break-down in the first place.  But raising a body from the dead, a body that’s been dead and decomposed for hundreds, maybe thousands of years, well that’s just foolishness to them.  What about people blown into thousands of little bits in explosions during war or a tragic accident, how in the name of science, will they be raised?!  Or what about people who die at sea and are eaten by a million little fish who then scatter what’s left of their bodies all over the ocean floor?!  No, I’m afraid that to the goats this is just too big of a leap of faith!  They believe in Jesus, a spiritual Jesus; a Jesus who inhabits the best of man’s philosophies and religions, but not a physical Jesus.  They believe in a spiritual resurrection but they can never accept a physical one!  That goes against everything that is sensible to them.  It goes against the very laws of physics!

But if this is how you feel, then you are condemning God’s entire Word as fantasy.  You have recreated God’s plan into a plan of your own making.  You do this because you are a goat; you are a goat because you are faithless.  But if the goats are right and we sheep are wrong, then we are to be pitied ahead of all others; because that means we sheep have staked our very lives and eternity on a lie!  Poor sheep; poor lost sheep, who will save us!  Jesus Christ the true shepherd will!  He will smash the head of king of the goats, the devil himself and speak words of faith that turn goats into sheep!  Listen: “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.  For as by a man came death, by (the God) man (Jesus Christ) has come also the resurrection of the dead.  For as in Adam all died, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.  But each in His own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at His coming those who belong to Christ.” [1 Corinthians 15:20-23]  Those who are called sheep!

III. This is the gospel!  This is your hope!  By His death upon the cross and the empty tomb on Easter morning Jesus has declared and demonstrated His victory over your enemies, sin, death, and the devil.  When you hear that Jesus suffered and died for you, you are given faith… you are filled with faith to believe that He also rose from the dead for you!  And you also know by faith, that as the head of the church, which is His body, which you are a part of, you must follow your Lord and Savior; for where the head goes so must also follow His body!

This is the truth, God’s own truth.  It is what sheep believe because they are faith filled by a Savior God who is faithful.  It is the truth that goats can never believe because they are faithless.  This is the truth that has sent untold numbers of sheep peacefully into the arms of their Savior at the time of death, and it is the truth that will lead you home as well!  But I must warn you, that the devils don’t want you to lie down on your last day with this truth.  They look at you as another victim.  Another morsel that they can eat.  They’ll do everything they can to get you to doubt God’s own truth.  If they can get you to live in doubt then I’m afraid that they’ve trapped you again in the same old sin of Adam.

Remember, to them, you are nothing more than a tasty morsel that they plan to devour.  You are a sausage sandwich waiting to be gulped down.  But if you’ll simply rest in God’s Word and the work He did for you on the cross and in your baptism you will see that Jesus is the one who does the devouring.  And He’s not only devoured the devil, but your own sin and death.  If you will continue feasting upon the Lord’s Table where He offers you His body and blood, then by faith you will not only be eating and drinking forgiveness for your doubts, but the very gift that makes you a sheep; you will be feed faith!

So at your time of death when the devil goes to bite into you, all he’s going to get is a mouthful of the poison that He gave to you.  We might say he only has a mustard and ketchup sandwich to look forward too, because you will not be there; you will be with your Lord, in a new body; a body that will never know sickness and death, sorrow or sin.  This is how Jesus puts all things under God.  He does it so that God may be all in all and sin, death, and the devil will be no more, ever again!

CONCLUSION: But now let me close with the proclamation of a mystery.  This process has already begun and it is already completed.  All that is left is for you to experience it outside of this world of sin and death.  Indeed the day has already come when you can say, “I will praise you, O Lord.  Although you were angry with me (because I behaved as a goat), your anger has turned away and you have comforted me.  Surely God is my salvation (and His resurrection is the source of my joy); I will trust and not be afraid.  For the Lord, the Lord, is my strength and my song; He has become my salvation.”  With joy (I can draw from my baptismal water) that is the well of your salvation, and give thanks to the Lord.  So let us call upon the Lord (who is faithful); let us call upon His name.  And let us make known His saving work of the cross and the empty tomb throughout our community, and let us proclaim the exalted name of Jesus!  Let us shout and sing for joy because the Lord who has done wondrous things is with us (Isaiah 12:1-6) and promising to take us with Him in paradise.

May God’s Word continue to make each of us faith-filled sheep, as He continues to be our God, in this life that began with our baptismal death as sinners and in our baptismal resurrection to new life in Jesus Christ.  AMEN!

Walk-About Zion!

Thursday, January 1st, 2009

Pastor Brian Henderson, Trinity Lutheran Church-San Diego
Click here for audio of this message

INTRODUCTION: Have you heard the one about an older couple named Marvin and Gladys?  Marvin is on his death bed and he is recalling his life with Gladys.  “Oh Gladys, you have been a faithful wife.   When I lost my job, you were there; when I lost all my money in the stock market you were there; when I wrecked the car you were there; when I fell off the roof dear, you were there!  And now here you are with me again on my death bed.  Gladys, you know what, I just thought of something, you’re bad luck!”  Dear friends, Trinity Lutheran Church and Messiah Lutheran Church have never been bad luck.  Oh you’ve had good times and bad times but our church has always been a blessing, because God is always working through His church.  Trinity Lutheran Church has been a precious gift to me and to so many others.  That is why I have selected our text tonight especially from the Psalms, specifically Psalm 48:12-14.

Before we look at our text, let me remind you that the word Zion actually represents the city of God, the Temple of God, but most importantly for us today, Zion represents the Church of Jesus Christ.  Let’s read it together: Psalm 48:12Walkabout Zion, go around her, number her towers, 13consider well her ramparts, go through her citadels, that you may tell the next generation 14that this is God, our God forever and ever. He will guide us forever.

This evening, I want to speak to you about three things: #1 the lasting legacy of Trinity.  #2 the Living mission of Trinity.  And #3, the Loving Savior of Trinity.  Let’s take these on one at a time.

I. Lasting legacy of Trinity. “Walkabout Zion, go around her, number her towers, consider well her ramparts, go through her citadels”. [vs. 12,13a] You know I have visited many places in my life and had many experiences, but I have never been to a place quiet like Trinity.  Don’t you feel the same way?  I’ll bet those of you who are old time members of Trinity and Messiah feel the same way don’t you.  No matter where you go, don’t you find your heart and mind going home to Trinity? This church, has had a profound influence on so many lives.  For more than 10 decades now, how many people who have left this church for whatever reason have found their hearts and minds coming back to Trinity?  How many people who have moved out of state, have come back to visit this church from time to time and just walked around the property remembering good days?  Recalling cherished memories?  I have encountered a few of these visitors here, who are not visitors at all but children of the old church.  “Walkabout Zion, go around her, number her towers, 13consider well her ramparts, go through her citadels”. 

You know, I do that many times…just walk about the campus here at Trinity; I open doors and just soak in the memories that have been created all throughout this wonderful old church.  Did you ever wonder why I asked to have my office all the way in back in the old school principles office, secluded so far away from the rest of the church?  It’s not because I’m a hermit at heart, no it’s so I can be confronted everyday with the memories of what this place use to be!  In my mind’s eye, I can see new play equipment and clean painted classrooms.  I can smell Delores’s school lunch cooking ready to be served, but more than that, I can hear the excited voices of hundreds of children playing and enjoying themselves, and this gives me hope because I know that their hearts have been changed and loved by the Gospel of Jesus Christ that was spoken, taught, and explained to them in every aspect of this grand old church!  And it isn’t just here that those memories are crying out from within the walls and campus!  I also have visited the old Messiah campus and experienced the very same thing!  Oh, I can hear in my mind’s eye the wonderful spirituals sung with so much feeling.  I can tap my foot to the exuberant gospel music being led so powerfully by Messiah’s very large choir.  I can see the faces of each person worshiping God in song, with hands, and voices!  I can smell the many community fish fries and pot lucks that drew so many visitors.  Yes that old church too has memories.  In either of these two grand churches, I ask you in your heart, to just listen to the memories.  Let them speak to your heart. (Pause and Think) 

Did you know that for some maybe here tonight, those memories may seem more like ghosts!  The ghost of better days past!  Is that what we want our church to be, a haunting memory?  Is it alright for Trinity to become a well kept mausoleum that stands to testify of its glory days in the past?  Those who grew up in these churches and are separated by great distances and various life circumstances would not agree with this.  They will tell you that in their minds and memories, in their hearts and in their hopes, in their in their prayers and praises, they will always come back to this grand old church.  Dear friends, our text this evening speaks of whether we have the right to let cherished memories turn into ghosts; it speaks a resounding NO!

II. Let me prove this.  Listen to the Holy Spirit speak, “go through her citadels, that you may tell the next generation”. [v.13] Do you hear it?  Do you hear the living message and mission of the Church of Jesus Christ.  It’s your mission because it is the mission of Trinity Lutheran Church.  The mission is to tell the present and future generations of this dying, sin sick, fallen planet that needs a Savior so much, that Jesus Christ was conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilot, was crucified, died and was buried; He descended into Hell, but he rose again on the third day, He ascended into Heaven and He’s seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty, and He will come again to judge the living and the dead.  This is the mission, the living mission of Trinity Lutheran Church.

You know I have only been here for a little more than a year and a half, and sometimes I like to tell you stories about my old church in Imperial Beach.  Sixteen years ago, it was there at St. James that God finally broke my hard heart and opened my eyes so that I could see things the way He sees them.  He did this on one specific evening when I was going through a terrible personal time in my life.  I felt alone and as if my life lacked meaning. I went to that old church to pray.  The doors were locked, so I went to the patio area, where I knew a statue of Christ was located.  As I prayed, and tears of pain streamed down my face, I noticed for the first time that the statue of Jesus had no hands on it.  At first this appalled me!  What dirt bag would be so evil as to break off the hands of Christ?  But then, my eyes were drawn to a plaque on the base of the statue, and it read: “Now we are the hands of Christ!”  That one statement and the missing hands changed my life forever.  Suddenly my tears of sorrow and anguish turned to tears of overwhelming joy!  Why?  Because it was at that moment that I finally found true meaning, I had a mission and a purpose, I was to be the hands of Christ!  Now that brings to mind a poem I learned several years ago, it goes like this… “Christ has no hands but our hands to do his work today.  He has no feet but our feet to lead men in His way.  He has no arms but our arms to bring men to His side.  He has no lips but our lips to tell men how Christ died.”

You dear friends, the people of Trinity are His hands.  You are His feet.  You are his arms.  You are His lips in this day, for this generation, and all around you are people who need to know Jesus Christ and need to hear from you how He loves them!  Now, I know your lives are so busy with things that must get done, I am right there with you, but please hear me, the most important work you could ever do in your time here on earth is to participate in the work of the church of Jesus Christ, because the work of the church is eternal.  It is the work of building bridges for broken people back to God through faith in Christ, where they may stay in peace with their Savior forever; and that kind of work is worthy of your total and full investment of your time, talents, money, prayers and your heart.  Dear friends, please hear me…I know the church isn’t perfect, even this one.  It can sometimes have some serious problems.  In fact there’s more than a little truth in the next two sayings I’d like to share with you. 1. To live above with saints we love, that will be joy and glory; to live below with saints we know, now that’s a different story.  2. If you should find the perfect church without one spot or smear, for goodness sake don’t join that church, you’ll spoil the atmosphere.

Friends it’s no secret that our church is far from perfect, but if you choose to hold back from a whole hearted investment of your life in the living mission of Trinity Lutheran Church, your robbing two people; you’re robbing yourself, and you are robbing all those people in this community who need to know Christ and become part of the lasting legacy of this church, which is “That you may tell the next generation of God’s grace.”

III. The Loving Savior of Trinity. Now dear friends, please let’s spend just a few minutes talking about our loving Savior of Trinity.  “For this is God, our God forever and ever. He will guide us forever (even until the end).”  Now you know yourself and I know myself…we’ve got problems don’t we?!  There are times when we don’t feel worthy of being part of the lasting legacy of Trinity.  There are times where we don’t feel able to fulfill the living mission of dear old church.  Dear friends that is precisely the point of God’s invitation to you.  YOU ARE NOT WORTHY AND YOU ARE NOT ABLE!  That’s the very essence of God’s grace.  He calls those who are not worthy and those who are not able and he makes them worthy and able through Christ to fulfill is living mission.  This is the loving Savior of Trinity; this is the grace of God for you and me.  This is the story of the cross of Jesus Christ!  Yes, in and of ourselves none of us are worthy; all of us are broken and useless, but the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sins.  The righteousness of Christ covers our lives; it changes us…rearranges us…and it ENABLES and equips us to do wonderful and glorious things we could never imagine, let alone do on our own and by ourselves. But because of Christ, you are worthy to work with me as we continue to be the lasting legacy of Trinity Lutheran Church, within the San Diego communities of Jamacha, Encanto, the cities of Lemon Grove and Spring Valley, the state of California, throughout our nation and even abroad until the ends of the earth.  “For this is God, our God forever and ever. He will guide us forever (even until the end).” 

Now may the peace of God and the grace of Jesus Christ keep our hearts and minds steadfast as we continue to be the legacy of our dear old Trinity Lutheran Church….in Jesus name… AMEN!

She Loved With All Her Mite

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008

Pastor Brian Henderson, Trinity Lutheran Church-San Diego
Click here for audio of this message.

 

Grace, Mercy and Peace are yours, from God our Father and for the sake of our Savior Jesus Christ!  AMEN

44They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything–all she had to live on.”  Thus far our text.

Introduction:  The story is told of a very wealthy man who had never been known for his generosity to the church. The church was involved in a big financial program and they resolved to pay him a visit. When the committee met with the man one afternoon, they said that in view of his considerable resources they were sure that he would like to make a substantial contribution to this program.

“I see,” he said, “so you have it all figured out have you? In the course of your investigation did you discover that I have a widowed mother who has no other means of support but me?” No, they responded, they did not know that.  “Did you know that I have a sister who was left by a drunken husband with five children and no means to provide for them?” No, they said, we did not know that either. “Well, gentlemen, did you know also that I have a brother who is crippled due to an automobile accident and can never work another day to support his wife and family?” Embarrassingly, they responded, no sir, we did not know that either. “Well,” he thundered triumphantly, “I’ve never given any of them a cent so why should I give anything to you?”

Giving is easier for some than others.  Some give liberally but others seem to be challenged and even overcome with the worries and demands of life. 

I.  For a few moments this evening I do not want to talk about dollar amounts that are given to the church but instead let’s talk about motivation. Why do we do what we do? What is the motivation behind our giving?

Our gospel reading this evening has been called the story of the widow’s mite. Many of you are familiar with this event in the life of our Lord in which a widow gave all the money she had in a Temple offering and thereby received the praise of the Master of Life himself. The story is generally perceived to be one about giving and clearly that element is there. In terms of the actual amount that she gave it was a mere penance. Less than one penny in today’s money. The extravagance in it was that it represented all the money she had.

But there is another element to this story that perhaps we fail to see. Jesus had just been watching the Pharisees in their giving practices. Now, we are talking big bucks. And they were quite open about their giving. Everyone knew their giving record; indeed, they made a point that everyone knew it. It was in the light of that that Jesus pointed out this widow. Picture Jesus sitting now with the leaders of the temple—the Sadducees—observing the people as they come in and watching their donations. There is no paper money so it all makes a terrible noise as it rolls down this long horn shaped object and falls into the pool of coins. So here comes this little old lady and she has two small coins and she drops them in. They barely make a noise. You can almost see the Temple leaders as they roll their eyes and hope for better results with the next person who walks in the door. Jesus then calls his Disciples over and says, “This poor widow has put more in to the treasury than all the others.” To the Sadducees this woman is a waste of time but to Jesus she is the stuff by which Kingdoms are erected. So, at its heart, the widow’s mite is not a story about giving, but rather it is a story about motivation. Why do we do what we do? What do we hope to achieve by our giving? The Pharisees and Sadducees gave to receive peer recognition. And, Jesus said that they had already received their reward. People praised them. The woman, on the other hand, she gave out of love for God. According to Jesus, she also received her reward, peace with God.

II.   What can we learn from this?  Jesus watches us from a location opposite of where we place our attention.  He sees what others can not; specifically He sees into our hearts.   He notices the rich and the poor; the important and the simple.  Jesus pays special attention to those things that are most important to us, because they are what motivates every thing else that we do in this life.  While I do not know everything that Jesus sees within my own heart, I do know what he hopes to find in all of our hearts.  He hopes to find a heart that is like the widow’s; a heart that seeks to find and maintain a relationship of trustful dependency on Him.  That is a relationship he desires to bless and develop.  This relationship is sustained by faith, but it is born in love.

 

III. Love is what led the widow to give all that she had to the Lord.  Love is the natural response of a forgiven sinner.  And love is what naturally motivates us to give our time, talents and yes even our money to the Lord.  These words may have made you a bit uncomfortable.  We want to know, “How much shall I give?”  Suffice to say, the Gospel’s advice is that ‘We should give according to the dictates of our own hearts,’ and that brings me back on topic.

 

Do you remember when Jesus asked St. Peter shortly before He ascended into heaven, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?”  And Peter answered, “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” What did Jesus say next?  “Feed my sheep.”  Did you ever wonder why Jesus asked him three times?  He did this because He wanted to emphasize to Peter and to us the importance of the question.  In this question and in the story of the Widow’s mite, Jesus is asking us to look within our hearts and discover what things are really most important to us, and if our love for Him truly is our first priority, then he asks us to respond with our actions by “Feeding His Sheep.”  Do you hear Him in your heart speaking to you this evening: ‘Dear Saints at Trinity, do you love me?  Do you trust me?  Do you realize that your church is really my Church?  Then feed my sheep.  My sheep are fed the Words of eternal life right here at Trinity, and right outside your doors in the communities of Encanto, Jamacha, Lemmon Grove and Spring Valley.  Friend, do you love me?  Do you understand that my sheep through Holy Baptism have been given assurance that a seat has been reserved for them at my Father’s table, just as has been done for you?  Then feed my sheep.  Friend, do you truly love me?  Then you must know that my sheep are sustained by my very body and blood at my table right here in this church, just as you are.  Feed my sheep.’ 

CONCLUSION:  Friends, since we truly love God, then we will love the place where he faithfully meets us in Word and Sacrament.  Since Jesus has truly saved us from our sin and eternal separation from God, let’s respond through love, by dedicating all that we have to Him who first loved us! 

  Now may this love and peace that surpasses all understanding be yours, for Christ’s sake…AMEN