Archive for the ‘witnessing’ Category

Tag…You’re It!

Sunday, January 18th, 2009

Pastor Brian Henderson, Trinity Lutheran Church-San Diego
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INTRODUCTION: In our gospel reading this morning we encounter Philip, a follower of John the Baptist along with His friends who aren’t mentioned in this reading, but who are nonetheless there; there’s John (the author of this gospel), Andrew, Peter, and James, all of whom were fishermen from the same region.  Philip, is about to try his hand for the first time at witnessing to his friend Nathaniel, who was also a follower of John the Baptist.  He’s excited because he really believes that the five have finally encountered the real-deal, the Messiah, the Savior of the world.  There’s just one problem, He’s doesn’t fit the popular image about the Messiah; He’s the son of Joseph a carpenter from of all places…a very small and insignificant region called Nazareth.  “Oh well” thinks Philip, “at least I can use the other four as my back up”.  “Hey Nathaniel, just think of who we’ve found!  Yes I said we, you know the boys and I, John, Andrew, Peter, and James…We found the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth!”  Nathaniel pauses, “Where did you say that He’s from?  Nazareth?  Can anything good come from that place?  Do you really expect the Savior of the World, my Savior to come from a place like that?  Come on Philip, get real!”  Philip pauses for a moment and says the same thing he heard Jesus say to them, “Come and see!”  And guess what….He did!

I. What part do our expectations play in our faith?  Well, Philip had high expectations in Jesus, so he really played up the importance of knowing and following Him as Savior.  Nathaniel had low expectations in Jesus, but His friend persuaded him to at least go and meet Jesus for himself.  The result was the beginning of the church. What do you want out of this morning’s worship service?  What’s the reason you’re here?  What were your expectations when you walked through the doors of this church this morning?  Expectations can be amazing things and they can lead us in ways we never would have imagined.  Hollywood uses expectations to hype their latest “big” movie.  I can’t tell you how many times I have been excited by movie promos and trailers only to be terribly disappointed once I’ve seen the movie.  Unfulfilled expectations seem to be the tragedy of the American way of life.  But with God, that’s never the case.  When our hearts are set on really seeking the Lord and all that He really is, and not just what we think He is, our God will always meet and beat our expectations. 

If you came through the doors of this church this morning expecting to be entertained and made to “feel good” then you will most likely leave here disappointed.  But if you came here this morning fully expecting to meet with Jesus, then you WILL leave here like Nathaniel changed and rearranged.  Like the first six disciples, your encounter with the Son of God and Son of Man will change you because of what you expect to find and because of what you actually find in Jesus.  You see, Jesus is the difference between your expectations and God’s intention for your life. 

So many times, when we enter into worship, prayer, and the study God’s Word, our expectations are way too low.  The first five of six disciples had very high expectations for their encounter with Jesus, but they discovered, even these expectations were still too low.  The sixth disciple, Nathaniel had very low expectations and Jesus changed his whole world by demonstrating knowledge about Him that only God could have, “When you were alone, deep in prayer with your creator, under the fig tree, I was there and saw you!”  Yes in both cases, and in our case, expectations seem to have very little to do with our relationship with Jesus.  Why is this?  Well, God’s Word in Ephesians (3:20) tells us that Jesus is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or even think.  So, let me ask you again—what are you looking for this morning?  Are you looking for a teacher?  Are you looking for meaning?  Are you looking for a Savior?  Nathanial was, and He was not disappointed, in fact He received far more than this!  Are you ready to receive all that Jesus has to give? 

 II. What does Jesus give to us today?  The very same revelation that Jesus gave to Nathaniel, He offers to us this morning!  When Jesus looked into Nathaniel’s heart and he found a sincere man who really wanted to have a lasting relationship of love with God.  He wasn’t a fake, lip service Christian, but rather he was a man who hungered for God, but knew that because of his sinfulness God must be the one to first move towards him, so Jesus did just that, he moved towards Nathaniel.  This is what Jesus wants to give us today!  Sadly, most people in our society lack this simple kind of honesty.  They profess their love for Christ but on their own terms; they still secretly love the world and the sinful desires of their own flesh; they promise faithfulness to Christ on Sunday but Monday through Saturday they would rather live out their social and political ideals instead of their faith!  This is the kind of false love that prevented the Jews from seeing Jesus as their Savior; this is the half-way kind of love that doomed the apostle Judas to hell, and it’s the kind of half love that almost trapped St. Peter.  Even today, we have whole denominations that seem to have embraced this phony half love for God with the mantra of a society that says, “If it feels good do it!  Sex without marriage is alright as long as you love each other” they say; same sex marriage can’t be wrong they say, because God does not make mistakes.  In their minds, Adam and Steve is just as valid as Adam and Eve.  Not only this but, they also demand that those of us who are trying our hardest to live out our simple faith and follow our Lord’s will, accept their sin and call it good.  St. Paul speaks of this duplicit mindset in our epistle reading when he says, “The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14 And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. 15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?… Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” 

Now I know that this kind of faith is called bigotry and hate speak by some; they say that we are being judgmental and cruel, but is this true?  Who’s saying these things and why?  I know one thing for sure; it isn’t the working man and woman talking like this—demanding that others accept their behavior.  No, they’re too busy just trying to make a living in order to support a family; the last thing that they want to know about is what someone else is doing in their own bedroom.  But you see, these hard working people are the very people that Jesus called to follow him in the beginning of the church and they are the same people He calls today.  Jesus walked along the banks of the Jordan and through humble towns and market places, and He selected from the entire nation of Israel only those who pleased Him and who He considered to be best qualified for service in His kingdom. He intentionally avoided the big city lights of Jerusalem with its royal throne and political parties, its residences of the rich and famous. He refrained from calling the religious elite and rulers into His group. He gave the nation’s power players the cold shoulder.  He journeyed through the working class communities, through neighborhoods and market towns, and He selected the working poor like fishermen, carpenters, and good, simple, uncouth bumpkins. The great aristocrats “the Hollywood elite” of the day He left behind in Jerusalem, even though everybody assumed that these were the very people the Messiah would pick first. But Jesus did the opposite; He pursued His own plan and initiated His kingdom on His own terms with such an absurd simplicity that even the simplest of people could understand.

Christ’s only reason for such action was to prevent the high and mighty, the clever, and the powerful people from thinking that they could control access to the kingdom of Heaven and trample the simple God-fearing folk under their foot. To these lowly people, these working poor who simply seek God with all of their heart while raising a family, to these Christ says along with Nathaniel and you, “Behold, you are people of faith indeed, in whom there is no dishonest intent!”  “Truly, truly, I say to you, because you long for me and wait for me, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

III. What is this ascending and descending on the Son of Man?  This ascending and descending towards Jesus is nothing less than heaven itself opened allowing the angels and saints before us to gaze down upon us and allowing us through eyes of faith to gaze upon them.  It is a foretaste of the feast to come.  It is our new reality that we live in because of grace; because we believe by faith that Jesus is our Savior—God in human flesh who came to us to save us.  This is our reality every time we hear God’s Word preached or read; it is our reality because of our baptism into new life; and it is our reality every time we partake of His Holy feast receiving His body and blood in with and under the bread and wine!  Why do we do all of this?  For the forgiveness of sins! 

What does the forgiveness of sins give us?  Complete access, an e-Ticket to heaven!  How do we get this access?  Only by following Jesus Christ—only by responding to the invitation, “Come and see!”  But dear friends, don’t come alone…no this invitation is not just for you but for your children, your family, your friends, your neighbor, and yes even for the self serving politician, religious elite, and power broker.  All are welcome and you are the one that must extend to them the invitation.  So guess what?  Like Phillip and then Nathaniel, “Tag You’re IT!” 

May God continue to grant each of us wisdom, compassion, love, and mercy as we extend His kingdom one invitation at a time to all who will listen.  In Jesus name….  AMEN!  SDG

We Are One as He is One

Saturday, May 17th, 2008

Trinity Sunday, May 18, 2008

Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
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“Whoever desires to be saved must above all, hold the “universal” Christian faith.  And the “universal” Christian faith is this, that we worship one God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity, neither confusing the persons nor dividing the substance.” [vs. 1-3 of the Athanasian Creed]

God is one.  There is only one God.  The one God exists from eternity as one God.  God alone is eternal.  And to this, your Muslim and Jehovah Witness neighbors would say a loud AMEN!  Does it surprise you to know that they will appeal to this very truth in an attempt to draw you away from your Christian faith?  You see, in addition to confessing that God is one, we Christians also confess that God is love, in fact we say that Love is the very essence of God.  Now your Muslim and JW neighbors will never deny that God loves but they will deny that this love is the essence of God.  You see, they will claim that if God can’t be God unless He loves someone, then God cannot be God without someone to love.  So how can an eternal God be dependent upon His creation in order for Him to be God?  Muslim and JW(s) will tell you that although God does love, love cannot be of God’s very essence, because He is dependent on no one.  But this kind of thinking about God is a lie and it isn’t any better than the lies that come from people who worship many gods.  There’s no difference between having one idol and having a few dozen.  Idols are idols.  The Moslem and the JW god is an idol.  The true God is one, but the mere acknowledgement of this fact doesn’t mean a person is worshiping the true God.  The one true God is also united within Trinity.  The only God who exists is the Triune God.  Any god who isn’t triune is not God because a god who is not triune cannot be love, and God is love.  Dear friends, please do not ever let any devil lead you away from this truth because it is crucial to your very salvation.  If God was not love then he would not have suffered and died upon the cross for you![1] 

I. The love of God is not an attribute that makes Him dependent on us.  It is the eternally defining attribute of God that defines His very essence as God in regards to the relationship shared between the three persons within the One Godhead.  When we say God is love we are also saying that God could not be love unless He was Triune.  You see, there’s an eternal unity of love between the Father who begets and generates the Son who is begotten.  This eternal unity of divine love exists as well between the Father and the Son, and the Holy Spirit who is sent from the them.  But as I told the children, this is far too high for us to grasp.  You see, how God relates within Himself is far too much for us to comprehend.  After all, He is the Creator and we are the creature!

While truly understanding God completely is far above us, we can know about Him by paying attention to what He has already revealed about Himself.  We know from scripture that the Father has generated or begotten the Son on many occasions.  It was the Son and two angels who visited Abraham outside of Sodom and Gomorra to warn Abraham of the pending destruction of the two cities, so that His nephew Lot might be saved.  It was the God the Son generated by the Father who took on the form of a burning bush so that Moses might behold some of the Lord’s glory and receive God’s Law that would teach Israel and the people of faith how to relate rightly to a Holy and loving God.  There are many more instances throughout scripture that demonstrate that God the Father generates or begets the Son in order to accomplish the purpose of God, but for us, the best example is found in John 1:  “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” [John 1:14]
Do you hear in those words how the Son is now forever generated or begotten in human flesh yet He still eternally possesses eternal glory, grace and truth.  Do you understand how together the Father and the Son send the Spirit of Truth, the Holy Spirit.  It was God the Spirit who was hovering over the face of the waters in the very beginning of creation. He was sent by the Father and the Son, and together they created the heavens and the earth-He was sent by these Words: “”Let there be light,” and there was light.  And God saw that the light was good. [Genesis 1:1-4]  Like a marvelous symphony God’s Word’s of Love spoke forth creation and goodness.  It was an eternal love generated and sent from the heart of the One true God who has revealed Himself in three persons.  But we must not divide the person’s from the One True God or we will loose His essence, which is love.  What do I mean by this?

You see, while it is the Father who generates or begets, and it is the Son who is begotten but not made, and it is the Holy Spirit who is sent together by the Father and the Son, there are not three God’s but One. As One, the three persons created everything that is together.  The divine mystery of God’s triune nature is this: As One they have always existed and since God does not change they will always be One in glory and majesty.  There is only One Uncreated, Eternal, and Almighty God.  When we pray to our Lord in heaven we do not pray to three Lords, but rather we pray to one Lord because the Father is Lord, the Son is Lord, and the Holy Spirit is Lord.  Three persons united eternally in One essence of love, which is God! 

After all of this, I think that we all now agree that God’s ways are far above our ability to understand, so why am I talking about an eternal relationship of love into which you and I could never find our way?  

II. Because God has created a way-He has brought His love to us!  In so doing He has established fellowship with us.  But in order to enjoy all of the benefits of this relationship (eternal grace, mercy, and peace with God and each other), we must also faithfully believe that God the Son took on human flesh.  God did this not because He needed to, but rather He did it because He is love.  We are the ones in need!  We need God to come to us.  Although God’s voice declared all that He had made in the beginning good, it was our own sinfulness that has forever turned good into evil.  Think now, in the privacy of your own hearts, who among us has not thought or done evil already this morning?!  We must agree that without intervention we could never stand before a perfect and righteous God!  There is not a single thing that we can do to save ourselves…we need God’s mercy, pardon, and forgiveness.  And yet the punishment for sin is death, and that is precisely what it will take to pay for our sinfulness.  But as a true champion, our Redeemer God came to us in our own human flesh and paid for our sins himself.  The entire God came to us.  Our creator wrapped Himself in creation, because only He could remedy our hopeless situation.  Why do I say the entire God came to us?  Because if you remember, we can never divide the essence of God.  God always acts as one because He is one.  Now I know that once again, this is far above any of us to understand, but we must believe this truth because it is how God has revealed Himself.  Let me offer a crude representation that might make this a bit more intelligible:

ILLUS: Before a wedding, there were three women in the dressing room putting a dress on the bride, who was one of the three and she participated as well with the putting on of the dress. We could say that all three were dressing her; and yet only one is being attired in the dress and not the other two. Similarly we must understand here that all three Persons, as one God, created the one humanity, clothed the Son in this, and united it with His person, so that only the Son became man, and not the Father or the Holy Spirit, yet because God is One and not three, the Son who from the time of His birth as Jesus would now eternally be fully God and fully man. 

Friends, it was this same Jesus who lived the sinless life on our behalf.  It was this same Jesus who allowed Himself to be put to death by sinful men.  He did not have to do this but rather He chose to suffer and die for us, because God is love.  Please hear me, “This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men,(because it was your sins that compelled God out of love to suffer and die for you.  But be of good cheer), God (has) raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.” [Acts 2:23-24]  By His stripes you have been healed.  By His suffering and death you have been released from the eternal punishment for your many sins!  By God’s love you have been saved! 

At the baptismal font God’s work of re-creation was activated for you.  All of the benefits of His suffering and death were given to you.  The old sinful man and woman that was your identify at birth has now been put to death through His same Word of creation that was spoken “In The Beginning”. This re-creation of life from death is now yours because of God’s own suffering and death through Christ Jesus!  Dear friends, do you see what a wonderful gift of love is now yours?  You have been freed from your former body of death and you have been given a new life.  I implore you do not take lightly what God has done for you.  Rather, embrace it and cherish this gift.  Live out this new life with certainty that it is yours.  As wonderful as this new life is and as sinful and undeserving as we may be, we must not doubt that this gift is ours, because it was given out of God’s love.  And yet when the troubles of life creep in, we do doubt, and that is why Jesus has not left us alone in this life as orphans.  He promises that He and the Father are still with us in love, because He has sent us the gift of the Holy Spirit, and where the Holy Spirit is, there also are the Father and the Son, because God is One! 

It is the Holy Spirit who moves our hearts to hunger for hearing and studying God’s Word.  It is the Holy Spirit that causes us to remember God’s saving love when we remember our own baptism.  It is the Holy Sprit that creates a hunger within us to gather at the Lord’s Table where we receive His very body and blood when we eat and drink for the forgiveness of sins.  It is the Holy Spirit that creates in us a clean heart, which in turn moves us to come to God in prayer, asking first for forgiveness and then for all the desires of our heart, with the assurance that God hears us and answers us according to His will.

III. Dear friends, because God is One and God is love, and because we are called into fellowship with Him by love, then we are also called into the fellowship of His Mission to seek and save those that are lost and dying, separated from His love because of sin.  This mission is from the Father, and the Son who is the very message of the mission. This message, which you have been given is nothing less than the good news about the incarnation, suffering and death of Jesus Christ for all sinful men, women, and children.  The message is that “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”  Since the source of mission is God the Father and the message of the mission is God the Son, then what of God the Holy Spirit?  Dear friends, the Holy Spirit is the very power of God’s mission.  MISSION IS HOLY SPIRIT POWERED!  What this means is that God’s mission can’t fail because He is the very source, message and power of that mission, but God always uses means to accomplish His mission.  He uses simple things to confound the supposed wisdom of the devil and sinful men.  God chooses to use you and me!

Now while it is true that not all are called to be missionaries and pastors in the strict sense, all of us are called to be witnesses of God’s love in our own lives.  We are all called to be ambassadors of His love and we are to declare His message in our own words, but they are words that are centered in God’s love for us; they are centered in His Word, which is the very Word that has given us new life and sustained us while living out our lives in a sinful world!  As we live out our lives centered around God’s Word, the Holy Spirit is ever active within and around us, leading us out into our communities with the message of Jesus Christ.  When Jesus told his disciples and the church to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit, he promised that He would be with them always. [Matthew 28:18-20]  Jesus also promised the disciples (that’s you and me), that He would send the Holy Spirit, the counselor, who would teach them the truth, and this truth will “convince the world concerning sin and righteousness,” He promised that the Spirit would bear witness to Christ, and that He would live in them and endow them with His gifts (John 14:16,26; 15:26; 16:7-8).  You are God’s disciples.  You are the means by which God intends to reach the lost.

Dear friends, the Holy Spirit is united for eternity with the Father and the Son, and together They lead us by faith so that they may strengthen and grow God’s Church.  The Holy Spirit, sent by the Father and the Son propels all believers out into the mission field, our community, armed with the Word and Sacraments, personal witness and Christian living in order “to convince the world concerning sin and righteousness.  And to this truth we answer, “Teach us to love our neighbor as you love us, and lead on O Lord, and let us be one in missionary zeal as you are One-Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. 

In Jesus name…AMEN! 


A paraphrase of an idea expressed in a professional paper by Rev. Rolf Preus-ALC April 2003

Repent and Rejoice!

Saturday, April 26th, 2008

 Repentance; Salvation; Witnessing; Acts 17:16-32; 1 Peter 3:13-22; John 14:15-21; Easter 6A
 
 Sixth Sunday in Easter, April 27, 2008
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
Click her for audio of this message.

Perhaps the most important question someone will ever ask and have answered is, “How can we get to heaven?”  When you ask people this question as often as I do, you will be surprised by the many different answers you receive; most of them have nothing to do with how God has determined is the only way to come to Him.A little boy named Billy was caught being bad, something easily done for little boys who venture outside of the watchful eye of their parents.  His mother, who had become frustrated, asked him, “How do you expect to get into heaven acting like that?”  Billy thought for a moment and then said, “Well, I’ll just keep running in and out and keep slamming the door until they say, ‘For heaven’s sake Billy, either come in or stay out.’  Then I’ll go in!”  And that is the same foolish idea that many today have about pleasing God and entering into an eternity of peace.This morning I have a message to communicate to you that is so simple that it can be summed up in just one word, yet because of its simplicity many find it difficult to receive, so I will preface that simple Word with this story.
There was a couple many years ago that went through the long process of adopting a child.  Those of you who have been through the process can attest to how grueling and frustrating adoption can be.  When this young couple was finally approved as adoptive parents they were called down to the agency to meet and take home their new baby boy.

They arrived at the agency several minutes early and they were escorted to a waiting room upstairs.  After a few minutes they heard someone else come through the front door, and slowly walk up the same stairs.  Then they heard muffled voices and a door to a room next to them open and close.  Again they heard muffled voices but this time the voices were accompanied by uncontrollable sobbing, deep with anguish the sobs continued for several minutes.  Then suddenly, all was silent and they heard once again the same footsteps going down the steps, the same door closing.  After a few minutes, the case worker entered their waiting room and asked the couple to follow her into another room.  As they entered, they immediately saw a crib, and within the crib was a beautiful baby boy!  On a chair next to the crib was a brown paper bag that contained a change of clothes and two sealed letters from the birth mother, the woman they heard sobbing.  One of the letters was addressed to the adoptive parents; it thanked them for providing a loving home for her baby and accepted that under the terms of the adoption she was to have no contact with the child.  At the end of this letter the young mother added one request—Would they allow her little son to read the other letter on his 18th birthday?  She assured them that she hadn’t included any information about her identity, but rather simply wanted to communicate one thing in life that she had learned was more important than anything else.

The story never told what was in the letter; it’s point was to illustrate the enduring love of a mother for her child, a child that she could no longer care for.  But I can’t help but wonder what she wrote.  If you had to condense all that you feel about life and love into a few precious words, what would you write?  You wouldn’t have time for trivial things; you’d have to get right to the point.  Friends, this morning I find myself in a similar position along with the Apostle in this morning’s lesson from the book of Acts.  I must start and end this message with one thought, indeed with one word.  I pray that you will hear and understand this message clearly.  Please don’t listen to my accent; don’t worry about my hair or tone of voice; don’t think about my race or my education.  See past me and hear the word of God, “REPENT!”

This morning we find St. Paul delivering a message of repentance and salvation to the people of Athens.  Turn with me now in your Bibles to Acts 17:16-31. Starting in vs. 16 we read: 16Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols. 17So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there. 18Some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers also conversed with him. And some said, “What does this babbler wish to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities”—because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection.
 19And they took hold of him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? 20For you bring some strange things to our ears. We wish to know therefore what these things mean.” 21Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.

We’ve caught up with Paul waiting in Athens for his partners in ministry to join him there.  While he’s waiting he begins to observe things that really bother him in his spirit.  All around him are idols and evidence of false worship.  As Paul is trouble in his spirit, he felt compelled to address the cause of that trouble.  So Paul began to engage the citizens of Athens in discussion and debate about the One true God.  As he did this, it became apparent that there were two groups of thinkers that seemed to control all of the discussion about religion and faith; they were the Epicureans and the Stoics. 

The Epicureans believed that true religion was discovered in the pursuit of enjoyment.  If life was difficult for a person then that meant that, that person was searching for happiness in the wrong place.  If you were living a comfortable life then that was considered evidence that you were on the right path.  We could say that their motto was “Eat, drink, and be merry!”  The Stoics on the other hand believed that all of life was nothing more than a collection of atomic particles whose existence and order were predetermined by an unseen and unknowable force.  If one wanted to find happiness in life, then it was necessary to discover this force’s movement and follow it.  We might say that the Stoics motto was “Go along to get along” or “Go with the flow!”  Does any of this sound familiar?  We live in a consumer based society.  Every day we see people living their lives in the pursuit of things.  Young people, your parents and grandparents had a saying for this style of living—it was called “Keeping up with the Jones’”.  “My neighbor or friend has this gadget or that thing and they seem happy, so I need to somehow get it too!”  The problem with this style of living is that no matter how many things we collect, it’s never enough, we always want the next big thing!  But, we also can find another type of person whose philosophy is “It doesn’t matter.  The rich keep getting richer, and the poor just keep getting poorer.  What’s the use? I’ll never have a comfortable life style, so why bother!  I just won’t work for anything.  I’ll just settle for whatever the government and charities give me.  I just have to accept that as my lot in life!”

St. Paul tried to reason with both of these groups, by assuring them of something greater than themselves; he tried to tell them of a God who saw them as more than the things they had collected in life or failed to collect.  What was his reward?  They ridiculed him and called him a babbler, a speaker of nonsense, yet they could not reject the logic in his belief.  Now intrigued by his logic they say, “We wish to know more about what you are saying.”  And to this, Paul undoubtedly asked and answered the same question Martin Luther asks us in His Large Catechism concerning the First Commandment, “What does it mean to have the true God?” A God is the term we use to describe the one greatest thing or things we turn to, to find happiness; the things we find refuge in during times of need.  Therefore, to have a god is nothing else than the very thing that we trust and believe in with our whole heart.  So you see, it is trust and faith that makes both a God and a false god.  If our faith and trust are right, then our God is the true one, but where our trust and faith are falsely placed then we don’t have the true God but instead we are worshiping an idol.  Anything dear friends that our hearts rely on or desire, anything we depend on, that is our God.

What do we depend on?  I mean what is it that we really think will make our lives better?  For some it may be a certain life style.  For others maybe it’s a certain political party, or government program.  Maybe it’s a certain drug or substance that alters your mood.  And for others it might be a system of belief that says all religions lead to heaven and all worship is sacred to God the creator.  But all of these things if allowed to replace the one true God and His Word are simply false gods and idols.  This was the truth that Paul taught and it no doubt caused quite the commotion within the halls of academia, in the city of Athens.  And yet they wanted to hear more!

 [Vs. 22] 22So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious.   23For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. 24The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, 25nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. 
   26And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, 28for
    “‘In him we live and move and have our being’;
 as even some of your own poets have said,
    “‘For we are indeed his offspring.’
   29Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. 30The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

Dear friends, what St. Paul was saying to the people of Athens, he is speaking to us as well.  He is saying that the incarnation of God in Jesus means that even as we live our lives continually searching for meaning and knowing the true God, “Indeed he is not far from each one of us.”  If you have never truly known the love, mercy, and kindness of God, and you hunger to know the truth, HE IS NOT FAR FROM YOU!  Maybe you knew the sweetness of His presence once, but now because of circumstance either directly resulting from your actions or circumstances beyond your control you feel as though God has abandoned you.  Please hear this word, HE IS NOT FAR FROM YOU!  Perhaps you truly know God’s presence and enjoy a relationship of trust with Him, but something in this message has touched your heart, and you feel the need to confess your sin and be forgiven once again, then be of good cheer, HE IS NOT FAR FROM YOU!  Friends, the truth is, we can’t make God come any closer to us than He already is.  In Jesus, God lives in the flesh and He is redeeming our sinful lives every moment of every day!   I know, for some this undeserved gift of love from God in spite of our rotten, sinful living just seems too good to be true.  Of course it’s too good—that’s what makes every bit of it so wonderful!  IT—IS—TRUE!

The truth is we don’t have to live as if God is angry with us, because the God in whom “we live and move and have our being” doesn’t need a single thing from us, instead we need to receive from Him.  In our baptism we received all that was needed to approach Him with or aching and lonely hearts.  And when we look back at our baptism we are reminded that he has incorporated us into His continuous and mighty act of salvation, as a gift of love from Him to us!

Now, because of this gift, we belong to a God “who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth”.  We are not judged by a god who is separated from us.  For in Christ, the world is judged in righteousness, not in anger.  We are judged not by the virtue of any sacrifice we can make, but by the virtue of Christ’s glorious sacrifice for us—“By His wounds (we) have been healed.”  By his agonizing death for you, the death you should have died, you have been saved. 

Dear friends, St. Paul says that we can be sure of this promise because Jesus has risen from the dead, He is risen indeed!  So repent!  Turn away from your sins and turn to Jesus for forgiveness and life.  Repent and believe that God is for you, and then let His love transform you forever!  I pray that you will do this now, tomorrow, and every day in Jesus name…. AMEN!

The Joy of Fellowship!

Saturday, April 12th, 2008

Fellowship; Joy; Witnessing; Acts 2:42-47; Easter 3A

Good Shepherd Sunday
Fourth Sunday in Easter, April 13, 2008
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
Click Here For Audio of  this message.

Grace, mercy, and peace to you dear friends from God our Father and our Savior Jesus Christ!  Our message this morning comes to us from our reading in Acts (2:42-47).  I have asked our Organist Dale to softly play a series of notes for a few minutes to illustrate something that is expressed many times in our lesson this morning (In the background the organist begins to play a series of dissident notes).  There is a word in Greek, just one word that communicates a series of wonderful word pictures; it is Homothumadon. What you hear being played would represent the opposite of homothumadon.  Listen…it is unsettling, even uncomfortable to listen to isn’t it?  Hear how those musical notes seem to be working against each other?  These notes are called dissident notes.  Each pitch is fighting the other; each vying for supremacy.  But when we adjust the notes so that they compliment each other, they become pleasing to the ear, pleasing to the soul—they become homothumadon. Do you hear how the notes are moving together with one mind, with one accord, and with one passion?  It is a fellowship of sounds, each complimenting the other.  They are homothumadon, or a joyful fellowship of sounds.  As the notes of the organ harmonize in pitch and tone as Dale determines, we see an illustration of how God desires to work within His Church using us as His great symphony that declares His majesty and glory among His people and to those separated from Him by sin within the world.  The church, our church becomes God’s symphony of homothumadon when it adherers to 4 things: doctrine; fellowship; worship; and witness.

I. When we adhere to the Words of Jesus as taught by the apostles we are said to be following sound doctrine.  The disciples in our lesson this morning adhered to the teaching of the apostles as they recalled all that Jesus taught.  We can adhere to good doctrine as well because we have all that they taught recorded for us in our Bibles.  Everything that God wants us to know about Him and His will for us is recorded there.  If we study His word and live out His will, we will experience homothumadon.  But the devil’s desire is for you to be dissident to this will.  The devil desires friction and turmoil; he always has!  So the devil attacks the spread of Jesus Words and will.  That is the bad news, but the good news is, no matter how hard Satan and his devils try to prevent us from adhering to good Biblical doctrine, God—will—intervene!  When the devil tried to scatter the disciples in fear on Good Friday, God’s angel gathered them with the proclamation, “Jesus is risen, He is risen indeed!”  When the Jewish leaders led by the devils tried to force them behind locked doors, Jesus miraculously appeared and gave them the peace of His eternal presence through the gift of the Holy Spirit, which in turn empowered them with courage to go out and be His witnesses to the entire world until His return. As these witnesses spread throughout the world proclaiming the gospel, Satan tried to stop their witness once again by putting many of them in prison and eventually to death, but God again intervened by converting the tormentors.  He even converted Constantine, the Emperor of Rome into the fellowship of believers. 

So God’s people flourished and grew.  But Satan couldn’t stand to see them adhering to the true doctrine, so he used their ease to once again interrupt their fellowship with dissident doctrine—unbiblical teachings.  Satan began to attack God’s fellowship of believers from the inside—from the top down.  But God began to raise-up faithful stewards of His Word from within the church.  So began the seeds of the reformation.  Many brave reformers were imprisoned and even put to death for their insistence on Biblical doctrine, but one voice could not be silenced.  Martin Luther, by God’s grace rose up and boldly declared God’s message that has always been the source of our doctrine—we stand in the presence of a loving God by His grace, through faith in what our Bibles teach about Jesus Christ.  We stand by these things alone, and in this God is helping us and ensuring that this fellowship will not fail!  This is the doctrine that we still follow and insist on adhering to.  This is your inheritance indeed it is your legacy to live out and pass on to the next generation!  We find strength to live out this truth when we…

II. Adhere to Christian fellowship.  This Christian fellowship is first a fellowship of all believers—the universal church of true Christians unseen by all except God alone.  But the Christian fellowship is also a physical church, our church, and many other churches, and together we are all Christ’s church.  We are a fellowship because we adhere to one faith in Christ and one teaching, scripture alone.  We are a fellowship because it is only by God’s grace that we have been called out of the darkness of sin and into the light of eternal life and Christ’s body, the church.  This gives us great joy, because Christ first loved us while we were still sinners! 

Because of this truth, we along with the disciples of old, find it easy to support the fellowship, and to give to each other and to the ministry of this fellowship generously as the need arises.  We give out of our bounty because we know that if we are ever in need God will ensure that we are cared for as well.  This type of generous giving was never forced on the early church and it is not forced upon us.  We give because the Holy Spirit has recreated our sinful hearts and minds into something wonderfully new!   

Before the coming of our Savior, the people of faith, the Jews lived under the Mosaic Law, which was very specific about the care for the needy and downtrodden present within their fellowship of faith.  Under this law, God was teaching His people that it was His will that none of His children of faith should go hungry or be in need.  But if we read our Bibles, we will see that it is replete with example after example of the homeless, beggars, and helpless widows and orphans in need of but seldom receiving care.  These helpless ones were all people of faith.  The fact that they were not taken care of is proof that the Law of God cannot change a sinful heart!  No, rather it is only through God’s recreation, through the gift of new life that this type of giving and care can be assured.  So God changed the hearts of the early Christians and because of this change they gave not because they had to, but because their Lord asked them to.  They gave out of their love for Jesus because Jesus first loved them.  And friends, Jesus first loved us as well.  While we were still sinners He loved us, and He loves us still, so we give.  We bring our offerings as God leads our hearts so that each may be blessed by the ministry of this fellowship.  And when we feel our hearts growing cold and hard as they tend to do so easily in this sinful world, we pray.  And when we pray, we wait to be answered by God; we seek to be filled with His gifts.  But in order for this to happen, we know that we must…

III. Adhere to the fellowship of worship.  It is during worship that God will continue his work of ensuring that our old hearts that are hard and cold are destroyed and our new hearts are continually strengthened by His real presence and warmed with the gentle touch of His gospel.  We come just as the disciples of old came—hungry for the gifts of God—salvation through the forgiveness sin!

Our new heart hungers for and receives God’s Word as often as possible, even as the disciples of old gladly received His Word daily.  We hunger for and receive His Holy Supper, just as the disciples of old did, and through this breaking of bread and this drinking of the cup of the new covenant, our new hearts feast upon His very body and blood, making them joyful and our fellowship meaningful.

Now, with God working within us, we begin to hunger for a deeper fellowship with each other.  We long to celebrate another type of breaking of the bread…the fellowship of community meals.  Whether its coffee and donuts, church potluck or picnic, we long to gather together.  Not because we must, but because we desire the company of each other.  We have discovered as did the disciples of old that we need each other.  We need each other’s prayers and love.  We need each other’s support and care.  We need each other because we need Jesus, and we know that Jesus lives and works within each of us.  So we gather in our fellowship out of love and out of need.  But we are not yet complete, because we find God’s Spirit compelling us to…

IV. Adhere to the fellowship of proclaiming the gospel. It is only through the proclamation of the gospel, our witness to Jesus presence in this sinful world that the family of God will grow.  This morning Jesus says: “Even though you meet day by day, and you continue steadfast with one accord attending worship regularly together and breaking bread and receive your food together with glad hearts; even though you praise God for all of this, are you allowing me to add to your fellowship more and more people saved by grace and faith through scripture alone?  Do you want me to add to your number?  Do you want your fellowship to grow?”  And to this we say…Yes Lord!  Please teach us how.

Hopefully this illustration will do just that.  When I was a boy growing up in Wisconsin, there was a lot of water around.  I had wonderful adventures around lakes, ponds, and streams.  In our village park there were three bodies of water very close to each other, a pond, a river, and a spring fed stream.  The pond was fed every spring by the overflowing river.  When the winter snows melted, the pond teamed with life…I loved to play there and catch frogs.  The spring fed stream on the other hand was not as interesting to me.  It wasn’t nearly as spacious and inviting as the pond.  The spring bubbled water up, only to gush it down the banks of the little steam.  Everything there seemed so urgent. 

The pond on the other hand seemed to have everything I needed.  I could walk its edge at my leisure and let my mind wonder off on great “What If” adventures.  But every summer, something dreadful happened to that little pond—it died!  No longer was there the presence of life teaming around this water, instead there was brackish water and the stench of death and decay was everywhere.  Yet to my surprise I discovered that just a few hundred yards away, the stream was still teaming with life.  The water was still bubbling up and sending itself quickly downstream; but to where?  I followed the stream for almost a half mile and found that it met up with the Fox River.  And there within the river was all of the wildlife I came to love within the pond!  While the pond became a place of death, the stream kept bubbling life.  The stream continued to draw from the underground springs at its source and it gave life freely as it went along. 

Friends, it is God’s will that we travel out from this place as bubbling life.  He wants us to bring life to people and places where the decay and stench of death now exist.  What must we do?  Simply allow Jesus presence within us to lead and guide us.  Others will sense His presence and they will be drawn to you, because they are drawn to Him.  Within God’s Word, Jesus gives us this teaching when He says: “Give, and it will be given to you,” (Luke 6), and “Freely you have received, freely give.” (Matt. 10).  Jesus also taught His disciples of old and He teaches us today, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven…for where your treasure is there your heart will be also.” (Matt. 6)  You see, we gain by giving and lose by keeping.  But we can’t grow by keeping to ourselves.  We must go out and intentionally share God’s love with others, then they will see Jesus within us and hear our witness.

Before His death upon the cross, Jesus shared the key to living in an empowering fellowship with Him and others in our fellowship.  He told the disciples of old and He tells us today, “Love one another as I have loved you.  All men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)  Friends, God’s plan for all believers includes the demonstration of His righteousness in and through a loving community.  Jesus’ church is to demonstrate to the world that righteousness, homothumadon, when correctly understood means love and joy!  And this love and joy can only be demonstrated in His fellowship; His fellowship within us, around us, and through us.  When this transformation takes place, we are nourished in our growth towards becoming like Jesus through the ministry of each other.  In the acceptance and love of each other, we also begin to not just more deeply sense God’s love for us, but we also begin to reflect that love towards a dying world in great need of homothumadon…fellowship with God!  May God ensure that this is so within each of us…in Jesus name…AMEN!

Moving From Cowering to Courage!

Thursday, April 3rd, 2008

First Sunday in Easter, March 30, 2008–Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
Click here for audio of this message.

Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Because the Savior has risen from the dead, frightened and fearful humanity has Divinely-given hope. We no longer need to cower behind closed doors afraid of the unknown because we are no longer held captive in sin, or enslaved by the devil. Jesus Christ has conquered all of these things, and with His wonderful victory on Easter Sunday, He has assured us that we can believe without a doubt that no one can snatch believers from His loving hands. 
At the top of the one thousand foot mountainous peaks of Meteora, Greece, monasteries have been built.  Their inaccessible location gave the monks an opportunity to remove themselves from the cares and concerns of the world. These monasteries became places of solitude, safety and security. Up until the last century, goods and visitors had to be winched up to the monasteries in a basket that was hand-powered by the monks. Those who made the ascent found the ride a terrifying experience because of the basket’s swaying and swinging. One tourist recorded his adventure and admitted to getting very nervous about halfway up the cliff. That’s when he noticed the rope seemed to be very old and frayed. Thinking that he might relieve his fear, at least somewhat, he asked one of the monks who was riding with him, “How often do you people change the rope?” Without a moment’s hesitation, the reply came back, “Whenever it breaks!” That kind of response doesn’t give a person a feeling of absolute security, does it? In our Gospel reading this morning, we find Christ’s disciples fearfully cowering behind locked doors.  They were afraid because the word was out that if any of the ruling Jews of Jerusalem found any of Christ’s disciples their intention was to beat them, drive them forever out of temple worship, and quite possibly put them to death. Now you and I will probably never travel to Greece and visit the monasteries high upon the mountain peeks, and we will probably never be beaten and ordered by our government to stop speaking the name of Jesus, but we all have things that make us afraid; things that cause us to worry.  It’s these things that can make us do the unthinkable; forsake our Savior who has set us free from sin. 
Think about it this way, this morning we can say Christ has risen, He has risen indeed, and then when we go back to our homes, neighborhoods, schools and places of employment and we can very easily become silent and live a life that doesn’t demonstrate the truth that Christ has risen for us, indeed!  That is the reality that we find the disciples in our Gospel reading [John 20:19-31].I. [John 20:19-20] It is Sunday, Easter Evening.  The Lord has risen.  The women saw Him and reported this fact to the disciples.  Peter and John were told this very thing by an angel.  This is great news!  And yet we find the disciples cowering behind two sets of locked doors.  It is precisely in this condition that Jesus miraculously appears to them.  And to this sorry bunch of losers, this sordid bunch of sinners, Jesus begins to give them the scolding of their lives, right?  Wrong…rather Jesus says, “Peace be with you.”Jesus did not scold this fearful group of sinners; instead He forgave and encouraged them with His Word of peace, “shalom”.  This was the same shalom, which he had promised them on numerous occasions was and would be theirs because they believed in Him. And now, there He stands, truly giving that peace to them.  He gives them His peace through His forgiveness of their many sins.  “What sins” we may ask?  Well think about it, when He was being tried and crucified, all of them abandoned Him.  Peter denied Him three times; he even cursed with His last denial.  And now here they all are, except Thomas, knowing that Jesus had risen from the dead just as He promised, yet their fear prevents them from rejoicing, instead they’re hiding away behind locked doors.  But Jesus, their loving Savior calmed their fear and feelings of despair with this absolution, “Peace be with you.  Shalom”We’re not so different from them are we?  We too are often afraid of what can’t see or understand, and when we’re afraid, our fear leads to doubt, which breeds even more-fear. Because our minds are so puny we find it impossible to take in the infinitely great things of God, so like the disciples, we too may resort to a denial of what faith demands; we must believe what lies just beyond reason’s grasp,  and that is hope and a peace with God!  To these doubts and fears, Jesus also says to us, “Peace to you!!” “My peace that I give is like no one else can give.”  There is a saying that has been around for awhile, and it goes like this: “As the person so his word.” In this day and age when a man or woman’s word means very little, Jesus Word is more cherished than solid gold.  Friends, what the disciples found out that Easter evening is what we must discover as well, when Jesus says peace he actually gives what the word says.
 I remember one day after church, an incident occurred that involved the decorative and empty Christmas presents that were placed under the church Advent tree.  One day after advent dinner and before the service began, the parents of a small boy lost track of where their son was, so they set out to find him.  Very soon they found him inside the sanctuary under the tree opening all of the decorative presents.  The parents screamed his name in shocked horror and told him to stop at once.  The boy looked up with a irritated look on his face and replied, “Oh, it doesn’t matter anyhow, whatever kid’s going to get these presents sure has cheap parents…THERE’S NOTHING IN THEM!”  Friends, Jesus word of peace is not an empty package, but one that is filled with a heavenly reality far more beautiful  and active than any thoughts we can  conjure up to understand it.  It is only after we begin to experience the gift that we will truly understand the beauty and grandeur of true Shalom-Forgiveness of all our sins! 
With such a wonderful gift comes an awesome responsibility.  “Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you.  As the  Father  has sent  me, even  so I am  sending  you.””[vs. 21]  With these words, the disciples are now given two gifts in one: The peace of God and the invitation to be God’s messengers.  With this gift, they were told to quit cowering behind locked doors and go back out into their communities with the power of God and the message of God: “And  when he  had said  this, he breathed on them and said to them,   “Receive  the Holy  Spirit. If you  forgive  the sins of  anyone,  they are  forgiven;  if you  withhold  forgiveness from  anyone, it  is  withheld.”[vs. 22-23]Dear friends, this mission was not just the mission of the apostles but it is the mission of all of the disciples of Jesus.  This mission is still our mission, because there is still so much sin and suffering in this world.  This mission is not just the mission of pastors, but it is the mission of the entire church.  It is your mission. As Jesus told the disciples then, He also tells us today that just as the Father sent Him to seek and save the lost sinners of the world, He too is sending us on this very same mission; our mission is to proclaim the forgiveness of sins; we are to be God’s ambassadors and proclaim to all who will hear, “God loves you and wants you to come back to Him.  God forgives you through Jesus Chirst.”

Now with a mission so great and a message so wonderful, the disciples immediately rose to their feet and left that place of security and began to proclaim the good news, right?!  Well…no.  Verse 26 says, “Eight  days later,  his  disciples  were  inside  again, and  Thomas  was with  them.  Although  the doors  were  locked,  Jesus  came and  stood  among  them and  said,  “Peace be  with  you””.  There they go again, cowering behind those same locked doors for fear of the Jews.  And there Jesus is once again offering forgiveness and peace, and they need it too!  They are still captured by their own fears and concerns.  I can hear them now, “We tried to go out Lord, we really did.  We even tried to convince Thomas, you know the one who was missing the first time you popped in for a visit?  He wouldn’t believe.  Said he couldn’t believe unless he could touch you.”   Here we go again as well.  I can hear our excuses even now: “Lord, you don’t want to use me to invite people to church, why I can’t even get my own children and grandchildren to attend with me.”  To the disciples then and to us now, Jesus continues to say, “Peace be with you.”  You are forgiven.  Once again, Jesus announces the very essence of our mission.  Isn’t it wonderful that our God isn’t an angry task master, demanding that we produce results.  No, instead, we have a loving God who is willing to repeatedly demonstrate His principle of forgiveness within us, around us and through us. 
So there stand Jesus, smiling at all of His disciples.  I imagine that he may have said still smiling, “Now where is that doubter?  Thomas, front and center; you have been avoiding me far too long.”  God’s law now begins to confront Thomas and it calls him to task.  Now, Jesus looks directly into Thomas’s eyes, He speaks directly to His heart and says, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side.  Do not disbelieve, but believe.” [vs. 27-28] These aren’t angry words, but words of love.  This dear friends is the sweet word of peace.  It is the Gospel.  Jesus came back for Thomas just as the shepherd in His parable left the 99 secure sheep to find the one lost sheep.  Friends, Jesus is teaching us that He is willing to go to any lengths to save a sinner; even a doubting and self absorbed sinner like Thomas–even a sinner like you.  He will not quit until he has found you or your lost loved one.  Will you help him?  Will you confess your own sinfulness to Him and then joyfully receive His peace that comes with your forgiveness?  Will you help Him find the other lost sheep that are in your community?  He doesn’t need your help, He wants it.  He hasn’t demanded that you help Him, He’s asking.  Will you help?
 Some of you may say, “Oh if only I could have an experience like Thomas, then I would really be on fire for the Lord.  What a blessing Thomas received.”  And to this, Jesus says, “(No, rather) Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”  But how can we believe without seeing some may ask?  And to this question, our gospel reading answers, “(Well) Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not (even) written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe (so that you might have faith in the fact) that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” [vs. 30-31]  St. Peter also tells us in our Epistle lesson that “God, according to his great mercy, has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.  And that by God’s power, He is keeping an inheritance for us that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading.  This work of God’s power is your gift of faith which comes through the hearing, reading and proclaiming of God’s Word, and your inheritance is your eternal life with Jesus! [1 Peter 1:3-5]  If by faith you are willing to live out your life in this peace that Jesus gives, it will change you completely.  Allow me to close with a story that illustrates this point nicely.
There once was a lady who had a small house on the seashore of Ireland at the turn of the century.  She was quite wealthy but also quite frugal.  The people were surprised, then, when she decided to be among the first to have electricity in her home.            Several weeks after the installation, a meter reader appeared at her door.  He asked if her electricity was working, and she assured him it was.  “I’m wondering if you can explain something to me,” he said.  “Your meter shows scarcely any usage.  Are you using your power?” “Certainly,” she answered.  “Each evening when the sun sets, I turn on my lights just long enough to light my candles; then I turn them off.”
Friends, perhaps we are like that old lady.  Maybe we too have tapped into the power but we aren’t using it.  Maybe like the old lady’s electricity, our souls are saved but our hearts are unchanged.  Maybe we are trusting Christ for our salvation but resisting His transformation.  Oh, each Sunday we flip the switch, but when we go home, perhaps we’ve settle for shadows. What would happen if we left God’s light on?  What would happen if we not only flipped the switch but lived in the light?  That is precisely what Jesus is asking each of us to do this morning.  He wants us to trust in His presence and power and to walk with Him. 
Dear friends, since we truly believe that Christ died and rose for us, so that our many sins might be forgiven, then we as Thomas have only one response to this truth: “My Lord and my God.”  Lead on and we will follow.   Since we agree with St. Peter, that “though we have not seen him, we love him (and) though we do not now see him, we believe in him and rejoice with joy, then we are truly filled with God’s power.  And it is that power, which will prevent us from cowering along with our faith behind closed doors and lead us out from this place to walk with and serve Jesus with courage.   May God continue to do this good work within us so that we may always joyfully proclaim, “Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed!”  In Jesus name…AMEN!