Archive for the ‘Word of God’ Category

Give to Caesar What’s Caesar’s and…

Sunday, October 22nd, 2017

20th Sunday After Pentecost-A, October 22nd, 2017
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor of
Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
http://www.tlcsd.org and
Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
Http://www.orlcsd.org

Click here for audio of this message

Matthew 22:15-22

Our text for this morning is one that is very familiar with many of you. “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” [Matthew 22:21b] I’m sure that you’ll all agree with me that the one thing our modern day Caesar wants the most from us is our money! Oh they’re going to get it, you can be sure of that, after all their name is all over “your” money… even though it’s in your pocket right now, it isn’t really yours, it’s Caesar’s, and he’s just letting you use it!

In this political season there’s a lot of talk about the best way to take our money and then the best way to spend it. In our political system here in the U.S., we are assured that we have a say in how this decision will be made; we have elections and the person or the party with the best ideas in how to collect and spend our money will supposedly be the one elected. But in the end, no matter who is elected we are always reminded that it never really was our money. We are reminded that the golden rule of any form of government is, “He who makes and distributes the currency, makes up the rules.”

But if we would just remember that our money really belongs to someone else, life sure would have a lot more peace and contentment in it. Like the old folks use to say back home, “Money will buy ya a nice dog, but only love will make him wag his tail and be your friend!”

In our gospel lesson this morning we discover something else about money… it can be a trap, even when you use it to trap someone else!

We meet Jesus teaching in the temple and it is the week of His passion; in other words He is only days away from His suffering and death. He knows this; He knows what is waiting for Him, so this is His last attempt to bring faith to an evil self-serving nation. He is teaching in the temple for good reason; it is the very heart of their identity as a people called by God to relate to Him in love and trust and then reflect that relationship to other people… other nations. He has just finished condemning the religious leaders as phonies, imposters. The word I used last week was posers! And now they’re flaming hot with anger and thinking only of revenge; they want to trap Jesus with His own words so that they can arrest Him and turn Him over to Caesar for execution.

The Pharisees went off away from the others and devised a way to trap Jesus. Jesus own words will be coaxed out of Him and they will be words of treason! Once that was done, with the members of the Herodian political party as witnesses, the governor will quickly arrest Jesus. So the Pharisees picked some of their youngest and brightest disciples and taught them what and how to ask Jesus. So while Jesus is teaching, this group of strangers approaches Him and begins to ape the words of admiration and praise that their teachers taught them: “Teacher, we know that you are (the real deal and that you) teach the way of God truthfully, and (we know that) you don’t care about anyone’s opinion (of you, because you’re) not (fooled) by appearances.”

Now stop and think about that for a moment. If they really believed that, would they have said what they just said? After all weren’t they just doing the very thing they said Jesus could see through? If only they had eyes of faith to see that they were actually talking to God! Well so much for that; the puppets had to ask the question that the puppet masters put into their mouths. So here it is: “Tell us, then… Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?”

Now remember, because of their lack of faith they do not see God in Jesus. To them there is nothing divine about Him; he is just a man who’s causing troubles with the status quo; He’s rockin’ the boat and they want Him thrown out so that they will continue to have smooth sailing. But Jesus is God and He sees the evil intent in their hearts, so He says to them: “Why are you putting me to the test you hypocrites? (You who say one thing with your mouth but then you do the evil that is in your hearts. You don’t really want to hear God’s powerful Word and allow that Word to change you. You are in it for the money! You are here to just keep getting richer while God’s Kingdom suffers at your hands and His people pay for your greed!) Show me the coin for the tax.” And out of their own pockets comes the very thing they supposedly hate… Caesar’s money; money that undeniably belongs to Caesar, because it has his name and his face on it! So Jesus asks, “Whose likeness and inscription is (on) this?” And the answer they gave not only reveals their hypocrisy but Jesus divine wisdom. “And they (answered) “(It’s) Caesar’s.” (And Jesus) said to them, “(Then give back to Caesar the things that belong to Caesar), and to God the things that are God’s.” Scripture says that they were amazed at Jesus answer; they marveled at the wisdom in His Words, but they would not let that wisdom change them. Why? Because they were hypocritical impostors that didn’t care one bit about being rich in the Kingdom of God; they only cared about becoming rich in the kingdom of men!

The funny thing about money is that it will buy you a bed, but not sleep. It will buy you books, but not brains. It will give you a beautiful house, but not a home. It can afford medicine, but it can’t give you good health. It will bring you amusement, but not happiness. It can buy a beautifully hand carved crucifix, but not the Savior who hung upon it! No, to have the things that money can’t buy, we have to be resting in God’s mercy and forgiveness, and that rest can only come through Jesus Christ!

When the Pharisees presented a coin to Jesus, He pointed out the image of Caesar.

By doing this He’s presenting the reality that each of us lives simultaneously in two kingdoms: the kingdom of man and the Kingdom of God. He was teaching them and us that just as the coin was created in the image of Caesar, we are created in the image of God. This means that every thing on earth and every part of our bodies, even the smallest of thoughts in our minds, belong to God!

Now there may be some here this morning that are like those disciples of the Pharisees; they’ve given God their mind but their heart is far away from Him. Some may have given Him their heart, but they’re unwilling to truly hear and learn from the Word, because they have their own way of thinking about how God’s Kingdom should be built. Some may be willing to give their muscles, but unwilling to bring their bodies consistently to worship and Bible study! Many give God 1 or 2 hours a week of their time, but God wants all 168 hours of every week! Some consistently give God about 2% of their income, thinking that someday they’ll reach the 10% goal, when in reality it all belongs to God, even if Caesar’s image is on it!

It becomes so easy for us to forget that God is actually with us in this sinful society when all around us evil greed and injustice seems to control everything. But just a few short days after the occurrence of our gospel reading, Jesus would be standing before Pontius Pilate, teaching him this very truth. There before Pilate, Jesus stands beaten and bloody, and Pilate asks Him if He realizes that he has the power to free Him or execute Him. And to this Jesus Words ring in our ears with the truth about the kingdom of men: “You would have no authority over me at all unless it were given to you from above.” [John 19:11] And here is the meat of Jesus teaching for us this morning: While the kingdom of man and the Kingdom of God are two separate kingdoms, they both are ultimately controlled by God!

In God’s Kingdom of grace we are changed… we are recreated so that we can be in God’s presence even while living in the kingdom of man. God’s Word gives and teaches us and eternal righteousness of the heart so that through us and the sharing of the gospel, others may know of God’s mercy and love and be drawn into His Kingdom of Grace also. But God’s Kingdom does not destroy or take over the kingdom of men, instead it enters into individual families, communities, and governments it and changes them by changing the people who live in them.

What is the change that the gospel brings into these various groups that make up the kingdom of man? It brings a realization of God’s presence! As individuals, families, communities, and governments begin to realize that everything they do is not only seen by God, but ultimately judged by Him, God’s Kingdom is breaking in and His way of love, forgiveness, and mercy begins to be seen in how all of these groups serve each other. Individuals begin to give of their time, talent, and treasure in a way that honors God and helps build His Kingdom. Families begin to work, live, and worship together in a way that is pleasing to God! Communities begin to care for the weakest and poorest members in a way that reminds them that they aren’t alone! And governments remember that they are there to serve first the will of their Creator, and then address the needs of their constituents.

Now I know that all of this can seem a bit ideal, and that is because it is ideal!

It’s a picture of the Kingdom of God breaking into the kingdom of men! It is what was happening that day in the temple when Jesus was teaching the people about God’s love as the Pharisees were demonstrating men’s greed! Jesus, God in human flesh came to His people that day to plead with them one last time to repent. He asked them to turn to Him and walk to the cross; a place where God’s own blood would be spilled for them as a payment for their sins. He asked them to follow Him by faith and see a better way; a way that trusts in God even when it seems that evil has won the day. He asks them and He asks us today to hear His Words of forgiveness spoken for those evil men that persecuted and crucified Him: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do!” And He shouts so all can hear God’s proclamation of victory, even you and me today: “It is finished!” Your debt is paid in full! I your God have broken into your reality; I came to you myself and became your Savior, your Brother, and Friend!

So there you have Jesus teaching. It is not as simple as the simple minded hypocrites like to make it. Living in two Kingdoms at the same time never is easy. One kingdom says the rich should keep getting richer so that they can provide for the poor, and the other kingdom says you will always have the haves and have-nots, the question is what is it that they have or don’t have? Do you have Jesus? Is he the most important thing in life to you? Are you resting in the Kingdom of God knowing that Jesus is with you while you’re waiting and working in the kingdom of man, or is the Kingdom of God something that you will take seriously someday, just not this day?

I’ll close with this story. A businessman had an angel come to visit him, and the angel promised him that God would grant one wish. The man asked for a copy of the Wall Street Journal, with the stock market quotes for one year in the future. As he was studying the future prices on the stock exchanges, he became excited at the certainty of acquiring even more wealth, wealth beyond his wildest dreams. But then he glanced across the newspaper page, only to see his own picture in the obituary column. Suddenly, all of his current and future wealth meant nothing to him. He fell on his knees and confessed before God his sinfulness and his lack of faith and trust in Jesus gift of eternal life. How do you think that man spent his wealth from that point on?

And now dear friends, God grants the same blessing to you. He tells you now, that one day, perhaps soon you will die! Knowing that will you turn to Jesus? Will you rest in what God has done for you upon the cross and within your baptism? Will you allow the Kingdom of God to transform you and work within you, and then use the time, talents, and money that God has given to you to break into the kingdom of man? Will you be satisfied with what you have and use it to help those who don’t know Jesus have peace with God? I pray that God will enable each of us to do this very thing. And I ask this in Jesus name… AMEN!

Dependable Strength

Wednesday, October 18th, 2017

November, 2017

Pastor Brian Henderson

Psalm 23: 4Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

As I write this devotion, I can still see in my minds eye the smoke that filled the air due to the wild fires of 2007. That fire, like the ones raging in central and Northern California destroyed lots of homes, injured and killed many. Today like then, those reports of deaths seem to occupy many of my thoughts. Like many of you, I turn to God’s Word for comfort, and the 23rd Psalm is an excellent place to start.

A story, which I have no reason to doubt, is told about a seasoned martial arts instructor who happened to come across a deranged thief who was running away from law enforcement officers, inside the grounds of one of our crowded local Swap Meets. The man had a knife in his hand and was wildly slicing the air towards anyone who approached him. As the seasoned martial arts instructor observed this “mad man” approaching, he calmly reached out and flipped/tripped/disarmed the maniac, who was quickly arrested by the pursuing deputies. The deputies later commented that our seasoned martial arts instructor seemed to be a stable rock within all the confusion and fear. Our hero, the “karate man”, reacted to a violent situation completely different than the other people around him. While others were wisely running away from the maniac, our friend seemed to find a predictable order of movement in what others perceived as the utter chaos of a mad man. Our friend’s training and experience became a hidden resource of wisdom and strength. This same idea can be applied to the “Christian soldier” who is founded in the correct Christian faith.

There is no marvel on earth more wonderful than a mature Christian conducting themselves independent of life’s present outward circumstances. The wisdom, love, and guidance of God’s presence becomes their guide through the circumstances, because the inward light of God illuminates even the darkest corners of the unknown! There is a calm easy peace that can be ours, when we trust the providence of God completely. Even death itself, cannot silence the song in the heart of a child of God who walks by faith under the shadow of the cross, illuminated by the grace of Christ Jesus! The worst death and destruction can do is to remove the song of the heart from this temporary earth it brightens. But death cannot silence the song within the heart of a believer, because even if it is removed from this earth, it will instantly become part of God’s heavenly choir. The heart of a Christian can sing with joy, a chorus of, “O death where is your sting; where is your victory!?” The song of an earth-bound Christian is temporary; the song of a citizen of heaven is eternal.

Friends, if you are trouble by the tragedy of the firestorms or any thing else in this temporal world, you can have confidence in the Holy Spirit’s power to comfort and heal. If your trial is financial, do not be afraid, God can give you an abundance of His presence in your time of poverty that even the rich can not experience in their greatest time of wealth. Even our own imaginations cannot wonder what joys and blessings our Lord has waiting for us in His eternal kingdom. Maybe you are watching your body’s strength slip away because of illness. Possibly the fear of restless nights filled with pain are the thing which makes you afraid. Don’t worry; God can make your own sick bed or even your deathbed a royal throne of grace. Even in this trial, God can launch a powerful ministry through you! He maybe using this time as a period of refining, burning away the impurities of your life, which for so long have prevented you from developing your relationship with Him. Are your eyes and ears becoming weak through age? Let Jesus be your light and the song of your heart! Let whatever temporary circumstances you face today be transformed by the strength, wisdom, and love of the Father’s grace through Jesus Christ, so that tomorrow, when others observe you they will marvel at your God’s ability to strengthen His child!

In your Word, O Lord, we put our trust. What ever may come, we pray that we may be enable to find comfort in you alone. In Jesus name…. AMEN!

Don’t Cross-out the Cross!

Sunday, September 3rd, 2017

Thirteenth Sunday After Pentecost-A, September 3, 2017
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor of
Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
http://www.tlcsd.org and
Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
Http://www.orlcsd.org

Click her for audio of this message

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” [Matthew 16:24]

One of my favorite shows on TV is the “Myth Busters”. So following that shows premiss that some things that we accept as true are simply false, We are going to debunk a couple of myths in Christianity. What is a myth? Well, it’s a little bit like an Old Wives’ Tale. A wives’ tale is s traditional belief or a societal myth that’s often founded in superstition. Here are a few to try on for size: If you swallow your gum it will sit in your stomach and turn into a hair ball! No not true. Gum passes out the digestive track like everything else! How about this one: If you eat water melon and drink milk you will get a poison in your system and it could kill you! Sorry, you might get a belly ache but it won’t kill you! Here’s one more myth that you mothers won’t like me debunking: If you go outside in the cold with a wet head, you will catch a terrible cold! Sorry Moms, that isn’t true either. No matter how much you protest, science has known for some time that colds are caused by germs that enter our bodies through our mouths!

This morning we are going to debunk a couple more myths about our Christian faith. These are myths that were created in a sinful world by sinful people. The first myth says that your Christian faith will protect you from harm, misfortune, poverty, and even sickness! Now this sounds good; we might even get in line to learn about this kind of Christianity, but if we did, we’d be falling into a trap!

Now the second myth about our faith says that what Christ did on the cross was a good start for us, but we have to reinforce that work of His with our own suffering and sacrifice; No pain, no gain! The folks that follow this myth really set aside Jesus suffering as perfect, and they believe they’ve got to add to it in order to please and angry God! But now Jesus takes this “no pain, no gain” mentality and He turns it on its head! Jesus says, without MY pain you can have no gain. Follow me to have eternal life, but as you follow me, you too will know pain!

So where did we receive our call to follow Jesus and live under His cross?

Well through His Word of course! It was His Word that spoke to many of our parents long ago, teaching them the need to bring us to the life giving waters of baptism. And it was that same Word that latter grabbed a hold of each of us and convicted us of our sin and our need for our Savior, Jesus Christ. It is the Word of God that mysteriously and lovingly speaks to our hearts after we confess our sins and convinces us that we are forgiven. And it is the same Word that somehow creates the real presence of Jesus’ body and blood along with the bread and wine at our Lord’s Table, all so that we can know and experience forgiveness of sins!

It is this same Word that speaks to us now and says: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” [Matthew 16:24] Now why did Jesus speak this word about following Him and the need to pick up our cross? Because He knows that we like Peter want to follow the easy way; the myths of this world. But these myths were created first by the prince of this world the devil and they’re spread by the sinful people who have been trapped by his lies and myths.

In our gospel reading this morning Jesus began to teach his disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer and die for each of them, even for you and me! And what was Peter’s reaction to this discovery? Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him with these words, “Far be it from you Lord!” That’s just not going to happen (and I’ll make sure of it)! And how did the Son of God, the Savior of the world respond? He rebuked Peter, or maybe a better way to put this is that He rebuked the sin in Peter and the cause of that sin; He rebuked the father of all lies, Satan Himself! [Matthew 16:21-23]

Jesus knew that voice and the temptations that it brings; He recognized the devil and his ministry of lies which promises glory without sacrifice! He encountered that same voice out in the wilderness on a forty day fast. That voice tempted Jesus with food, power, and glory! And how did Jesus defeat the devil? With the same Word he now speaks to Peter: “Get behind me Satan!” And after Jesus rebukes the devil, He speaks and teaches both Peter and us with these Words of life, He says: “You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

Now what did Jesus mean by that? He meant that Peter wanted to follow the way of the devil and not the way of God!

Friends, the truth is that each of us are a lot more like Peter than we care to admit. Let me show you what I mean.

The word that Jesus used, which our Bible translates as hindrance is really the Greek word skandalon. It’s where we get our English word scandal. A skandalon is the little stick that holds the mouth of a trap open. Trappers will use some kind of bait that is irresistible to the prey they’re hunting and place it at the skandalon. And when the prey goes for the bait, they trip the skandalon and… SMACK! The trap springs shut trapping and killing the prey. So Jesus is telling Peter that his plan and idea to cross out the cross is actually that kind of trap! First it was a trap for Jesus; but Jesus is God, and far too wise to be tempted away from the cross. But it is also a trap for Peter and it is a trap for us.

Peter like us, wanted things the easy way. He wanted a life of ease and a cushy ministry. He wanted a Savior that would be a champion who would defeat the devil and create a Christian government here on earth! He wanted fame, fortune, and glory now, not later! How would he follow a dead Savior?

So what are some of the scandalons in our lives? Well let’s be honest, each of us wants the same thing! We want a great high paying job, a beautiful or handsome spouse, obedient children, a nice home and car, lots of bling, and we want it now! We might even reason that because we are children of the Living God, called out of darkness into light, forgiven of all of our sins, we deserve a prosperous life, free of pain, suffering, sorrow and poverty! So when God’s Word talks about suffering, we might not say it out loud but we think it, “Far be it Lord!” So what are we tempted to do? We’re tempted to go off in search for a different message; a message about prosperity and glory! We look for a message with less cross and suffering and more prosperity and glory; a message that tells us that we can have heaven here on earth! But if we follow this way of thinking, we are following the way of the devil. If we follow this way of thinking we are crossing out the cross and Jesus saving work upon it; we are following the way of glory or the scandalon of the devil!

So what does Jesus want for us? Well, He wants the same things for us that we want, He just wants them in a different way; He wants them through the way of the cross! You see, Jesus was committed to the cross, because it was the only way that salvation could be won for Peter and for us. Jesus committed Himself to the cross because He knew the will of His Father; a Heavenly Father who sent Him to suffer and die as the Savior of the world. He knew the reason for His gruesome death… “All have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory;” a glory that was first with us in the beginning. He knew that the only way that this glory could be recovered for us was if He was willing to pay for our salvation with His very life. So, He came to do that very thing. He came to give His life as a ransom for us (Matthew 2:28) and as a sacrifice for our sins! He was wounded for our transgressions, and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquities of us all. [Isaiah 53:5-6] This was and is God’s love for us in action!

Jesus didn’t cross out the cross and neither will we when we see our lost sinful condition and by faith turn to that cross for forgiveness!

As we follow Jesus we must take up our own cross!

Again Jesus says, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me!” Now don’t confuse Jesus cross with our cross. The truth is that only Jesus’ cross, His suffering and death can and does save sinners like us. So then what is this cross that Jesus wants us to take up? Well, it is a pattern for our whole lives! Our cross is all of the suffering, trouble, and hardships that will come to us because we are His followers. Whoever would follow Jesus Christ must follow His example. They must live to please God and give all that they have to bring His kingdom to every sinner. Whoever follows Jesus must be willing to deny themselves and live to please God. To deny, simply means to turn away from someone or something. In this case, God wants us to turn away from our old sinful nature and turn to Him. Every day He wants us to refuse to be associated in anyway with our old sinful nature and desires that were drowned in our baptisms. He wants us to live a life that disowns our old sinful identity and lives to only please our Savior Jesus!

The cross meant suffering for Jesus and it means suffering for us, but it is suffering for a purpose; suffering for a hope! We lose our lives so that we can gain them. If we refuse to die to our old sinful desires and embrace the ways of glory we are turning away from our only source of help and hope, the cross of Jesus! But if we receive and live out our new nature of sacrifice for God and our neighbor we are gaining not just the promise of a new and glorious eternal life, but the ability, the faith to live out this temporary life of suffering.

Young people, if you are ridiculed and unpopular because of your Christian faith you have God’s promise that you are blessed in God’s heavenly kingdom. Older people, if your Christian convictions cost you money and promotion at work, your cross is to keep on following Jesus, keep on fighting until you get the victory… eternal rest and joy in God’s Heavenly Kingdom. Parents and grandparents, God knows your pain for a child that seems to have walked away from their faith in Jesus and His cross! Through His Word He gives you faith to hold on and know that a change is coming; He gives you faith to keep praying for them. Dear saints, if there is a certain sin that seems to keep tempting you and it is a sin that you keep falling to, do not give up your fight to defeat it under the cross of Jesus. Struggle to remember that even that sin has been forgiven at Jesus cross.

The truth is for all of us, whatever crosses we have, we have them only because we are followers of Jesus and His cross! And as we follow Jesus and live out our cross, we are also exalting His name with the sweet song of alleluia!

Dear friends, as we fight the temptation to cross-out the cross of Jesus, God is strengthening our faith. We fight the temptation to cross out the cross by looking to Jesus alone who suffered and died for us in order to show God’s deep love for us! As we follow Him He is always urging us to continue taking up our cross and follow Him until the day He calls us home to a place that He has prepared for us in heaven!

I would like to close our message with a story: There was once a monastery that raised monarch butterflies. One day a young monk watched a butterfly struggle for hours to free its self from its cocoon. Finally, the sympathetic monk could take no more. He began to help the butterfly be free by peeling away the cocoon. Once the butterfly was free, the monk expected it to spread its wings and fly away; instead it only clung to the stick that it was perched on and finally toppled over and died. An older monk watched with great interest, and approached the sad young monk and offered this wisdom. “Brother you tried to help the butterfly by removing its burden, but what you didn’t realize was that it is the struggle under the burden that brings strength and vitality to not just its wings, but to its entire existence. So by providing and easy way out you removed the very thing that would bring it life!”

Brothers and sisters, we have been given the gift of eternal life with God. It is ours now, but not yet. Until our time in this sinful world is through, God calls us to struggle in our faith. He asks us to follow the way of Jesus’ cross knowing that at the end of our earthly lives of struggle, there is an eternity of living in God’s glory waiting for us. He asks you to struggle, putting to death your sinful nature with the sure and certain hope that one day you will enter heaven! This is faith in action; it’s a faith that doesn’t cross out Jesus’s cross or our own. It’s a faith that comes along side of others who are struggling with their own cross and helps them shoulder the burden. It’s a faith that knows and declares that we are not alone in our struggle; we are in this struggle together, and Jesus is here with us promising that soon and very soon we will be going to see our King; our King who comes in glory to pour out the fullness of His gift of eternal life. It is a Kingdom that will richly compensate each of us for all of our own suffering and loss for His sake.

May God help each of us to continue having faith in this promise… in Jesus name… AMEN!

 

Do You Really Want to See Jesus?


Monday, April 10th, 2017

Palm Sunday, April 9 2017
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor of
Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA

http://www.tlcsd.org and
Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
Http://www.ORLCSD.org

Click here for audio of this message

Text: “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” [John 12:21]

This is the request that the Greeks presented to Phillip, and I think it is the request that many people still ask of God today. It’s as if they are really saying, “I want to believe in Jesus as Savior, as my Savior, if only He would prove that He’s a Savior to me.” Well, at any rate, that was the last we heard from the Greeks. I would like to think that after the request was made to Jesus, and after His almost strange response to that request as delivered in His Sermon to the people who were gathered in the temple that He eventually met with them. And the answer He must have given to them privately, probably was not much different than the content of His Sermon.

The Savior the Greeks sought and the Savior many still seek today is not the kind of Savior Jesus really is, because Jesus is a suffering Savior Who calls His disciples to follow in His foot steps.

Jesus makes it clear that the jubilant joy of the Hosannas that were still ringing in the people’s ears, was not the glory that He was riding into the city to receive. You see, Jesus had long ago set His face towards the cross; a cross of suffering and pain that awaited Him on Good Friday.

It was Good Friday that would be “the hour for the Son of man to be glorified.” It was in His passion where Jesus would accomplish something glorious. It was His passion that would bring on both His resurrection and His return to paradise. It was through His passion that believers throughout time would also finally be assured that there is a place for them in God’s restored paradise.

Jesus was glorified by the obedience he rendered to the Father even unto the death of the cross, and in His death, He also achieved redemption for the fallen world; He was glorified when the Father highly exalted him, giving him a name above every name and seating Him at his right hand; He was and is glorified in the work of the Holy Spirit as He leads thousands to the feet of the Savior. Jesus’ glory begins with His passion—Jesus sees how from his passion and his death a magnificent vista opens, reaching onward through the ages into all eternity, and it is one shining path of glory.

With solemn assurance Jesus depicts the truth of what this great “hour” brings.

Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

If a grain of wheat is not put into the soil, it will, indeed, not die, but it will then “itself remain alone” and produce nothing. So will the Son of man remain alone if he does not stoop to death on the cross. But if the grain falls into the earth, dies, and is consumed, it brings much fruit. And this is exactly what the Son of man, God’s incarnate Son will accomplish through His death.

Jesus is like the grain of wheat which by dying produces much fruit, that is, it makes many thousands upon thousands of children of God. Now these true Christians are all like Jesus in that they do not selfishly love their own lives and this sinful world more than God and His Heaven.

Jesus is now teaching that the act of a Christian who by faith is willing to give up control of His life to God is a person who understands the passion of the Christ. But a person who is so attached to their life, with all of its happiness and its treasures, will ultimately see it all slip away and disappear.

To stress this truth, Jesus adds that conversely, a person “in this world” who hates his life of sin, and wants it defeated once and for all, is a person who’s ready to go against it and allow that old self to be denied, crucified and put to death. This is what it means to see Jesus and to follow Him.

But there is a great difference between the divine Grain of Wheat’s death which gives us life, and our own dying to self. We are the “much fruit,” that is produced in Jesus passion and our new life, which is always dying and forever germinated in Jesus’ Word and sacraments. It is only through Jesus’ suffering that sinners such as us can be saved, and through His death produce the church of believing children of God. All that we can do—and that only by his grace not of ourselves—is to use our earthly and natural life so as to gain for ourselves the life eternal. He alone is the Savior, we are nothing but the saved. He needed no salvation; we cannot save even our own selves.

So what the Greeks and all other sinners in search for a Savior must understand is that the salvation Jesus offers and the way He offers it is never what the world expects. If they and we will receive this truth, Jesus says, “Let (them) follow me.” Did the Greeks and the pilgrims on Palm Sunday understand what a high privilege Jesus offered and is still offering in the invitation to follow Him?

If you were in Jerusalem the day Jesus rode into town, humbly seated upon a donkey, do you think you would have gone after Him; made your way out to see him knowing what kind of Savior He is and the kind of salvation He was offering?

I think that you probably would have, aside from the truth that Jesus fame was spreading quickly due to the news that Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead, the very invitation to follow Jesus was powered by the same Holy Spirit that brought you into Christ’s church today. You are searching after the very same thing that some we’re seeking on that first Palm Sunday, salvation.

Hosanna literally means, “Save Us!” Do you need saving? Do you see Jesus as someone who can save you? Now, if you say you see Jesus as someone who could save you, the next question sets the stage for further investigation into who you think Jesus was and is. Are you ready? What would you want Jesus to save you from? I mean the choices are numerous. Should he save you from a bad marriage, addiction, unemployment, poverty, sickness, or a corrupt government? Or do you see Him as who He says that He is, very God in human flesh? Another way to ask this is, do you see Him as a kind of Messiah who will make all things right and good now, in this world, or is He your Messiah who makes all things well with you and your Creator for all of eternity?

Would you still be a sinner shouting Hosanna after discovering that Jesus is a suffering Savior who comes not to bring freedom from life’s woes and tragedies, but a Savior who comes to bring eternal life and peace with God. If you knew this in advance would you be more prone to shout Hosanna or “Crucify Him!”

Those were the words that a similar crowd shouted just a few days after Palm Sunday. Instead of saying “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel,” they said, “We have no king but Caesar!” They are the ones who complained that the whole world had gone after, and were following Jesus. They were the ones who were incensed that Jesus had turned over the market tables within the Lord’s Temple and called them a brood of vipers and accused them of turning the House of Prayer into a den of thieves!

They are the ones that continually came to Jesus for the miracles, but then walked away from Him when He demanded that they acknowledge Him as the Son of God. They are the ones that flocked to see the sight of the blind restored, the lepers cured, the multitude fed, and the dead raised, but when He offered forgiveness of sins, they rightly said that no one could forgive sins but God, and then, they picked up stones to kill Him for being a blasphemer.

To those people then and many today, Jesus was acceptable as a good man, a wise man, a wonderful teacher, but they were certain that He never should be called God and worshiped in a way that excluded all other ways of being a good in a religious sense. People then and today will gladly hear a message preached about the good Samaritan, and then agree with you that we should all demonstrate brotherly love through tolerance, but when you tell them that only Jesus can ever be the “Good Samaritan” and that outside of Jesus’ work for sinners, we can never know peace with God and our neighbor, they will call you an intolerant zealot.

Now let’s look at the people in the crowd that shouted Hosanna.

Do you think that they really wanted the kind of Savior that Jesus said He was? Did they even understand who Jesus really was? Maybe not, but they did know that before Jesus came into their lives, it seemed that if God was not dead, He was at least silent in their lives. The cruelty of the Roman government was getting more severe everyday; hunger and poverty were rampant to the point that there seemed to be only two groups of people, the very rich and the very poor. Sickness and death seemed to be the only reward for the average person, and then along comes Jesus. He was teaching with authority about a God who wasn’t angry with their sins as much as He was saddened by them. He was presenting a God Who wasn’t so much a punishing God as He was a forgiving God for those who turned to Him in repentance for mercy. He no longer was simply the God of their Fathers, but Emmanuel, a God who was with them right now, in what ever they were going through.

While Jesus taught in ways that caused the religious zealots to be angry, those who really listened to Him teach, felt shame over their sins, but then they experienced comfort and hope when Jesus proclaimed God’s forgiveness. In essence they were changed. They saw past the miracles and saw the man, who was much more than a man or a teacher. Could it be that what Jesus said is true? Is He really the God-man, the Son of God? While their faith was weak, and they were not quite sure what to make of Jesus, one thing was certain, they knew that He was sent by God; God was no longer silent in their lives, because in Jesus’ Words, God was right there with them.

So where do you stand within these two groups? Isn’t it true that in each of us, God can find a mindset that on some days may yell both “Crucify Him” and “Hosanna” within the same day? Don’t we many times, say one thing and then do another? Don’t we enjoy God’s forgiveness and the forgiveness of our neighbor and then quickly refuse forgiveness to another, or at least withhold it until they feel our pain? Haven’t each of us been guilty of ignoring our need to worship God at His Church, or perhaps the opposite, when we have put the practice of our religion ahead of the demonstration of our faith? Does it not become an easy thing for us to justify our own sins, but at the same time amplifying the sins of our neighbor?

So what shall we do? And to answer that question, we turn to the Words of St. Paul in our Epistle lesson (Philippians 2:5-11), who says…

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus”.

What mind? Well, the mind of faith; a mind that is first led by faith and then rational thought. A mind that is part of a life that has been renewed in Holy Baptism and is sanctified every day by the Word of God. A mind that sees Jesus on the colt of a donkey and remembers that the prophet Zechariah spoke about this moment, long before it occurred through these Words: “(Fear not, that is) rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, humble, and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”

This is the Word of God that allows you to receive both the truth and the will of God. It is a mind of faith that is able to see God as both righteous and forgiving; a mind that sees Jesus as both fully God and fully man. This is the kind of mind that understands that when the Son of God came to us sinners, He came to provide for our salvation; that is, He knew that He was coming to die for us. Even as He rode in on Palm Sunday and one group chanted Hosanna, He knew that another group was plotting to kill Him, and very soon would shout, “Crucify Him!” But here is the wonderful mystery that is hard but essential for us to understand… Jesus came to die for both groups; He came to die for sinners and saints, and He came to die for you!

In our Psalm this morning, we heard that Jesus is the gate of the LORD, and that He is the answer to our prayers for salvation, that is forgiveness for our sins. But, He is also the capstone of that gate, which the self-righteous and self sufficient people rejected then and reject still today. But how do they reject Him? When they refuse to repent of their independent ways and refuse to see Jesus as who He is. And who is he? He is God and there is none other. Outside of Jesus, there is no salvation; He is the only way to eternal life. He is the one who by taking on our flesh, that is by humbling Himself, became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

These are the people who reject God; they reject Jesus as God who not only died for sinners, but he died for them. Here then, is the gospel message for this morning; a message for all people, saints and sinners, rich and poor alike: Jesus died for you! While He rode in on that donkey, He had both the cross and your salvation on His heart.

This week, we will gather on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday to honor God and highly exalt our Savior, Jesus Christ. We will look deeply into His passion for sinners such as us, and we will allow both His Word and His real presence to transform our sinful minds. We will experience real truth, such as we have experience this morning. Real truth that exposes both our love for Him but also our sin that still clings to us. He alone will teach us His truth, and He alone will comfort our fears. And then on Easter morning, we will greet our Savior Jesus Christ, whom God has highly exalted, and we will proclaim the truth of that name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” AMEN

Listen, God is Calling!

Sunday, June 5th, 2016

Second Sunday After Trinity-HL, June 5th, 2016
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor
Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego, CA
http://www.tlcsd.org

Click here for audio of this message

“And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled.  For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.’ ” [Luke 14:23, 24]

Listen.  Stop all that you are doing, rid your self of all those things that are vying for your attention right now, and just listen.  Listen, because God is calling out to you!  He’s been calling you for a long time, but we wont worry about those other times, let’s just concentrate on Jesus call right now.  Any time Jesus invites sinners to gather around Him and receive His gift of forgiveness, of salvation through His means of grace, God is calling out to you.

In our gospel reading, God was calling out to a bunch of Pharisees who were sinners; He was calling out for them to repent, that is turn to the guest of honor, Jesus the Christ, the very Son of God and be saved from their sins.

If they would only stop, turn their attention to His Word and listen to the call of grace, they would be saved.  Would they stop and listen?  Did they see a need to turn away from their hollow religion and find salvation in the One who was speaking to them; teaching them with Words of eternal life?

Jesus let them know that there were three major reasons why they may not stop, turn, and listen.  The reasons were simply excuses that were seeds of dissent, which were planted by the enemy, the devil.  Let’s look at those “reasons”:

“I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.”  Here, within this excuse, many young families of Jesus’ time, and perhaps even our time can be seen.  “I just bought a house, and I have to get settled in first.  I agree that being right with God, of knowing Him intimately and personally is important, but I have to get my personal life in order first and then there will be time, real quality time available for me to dedicate myself to God.”  And then there is this “reason”…

“I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them.”  Oh the demands of employment, who could not understand this reason?  “I just started a new job, and if I go insisting on having Sunday’s off for worship, I probably won’t keep my job very long, or I will at least be destroying any hopes I have for promotion and advancement in the future.”

What is interesting to note here is that in both of these reasons given, the person responding to God’s call is not saying that they don’t need to respond to God’s invitation, they are simply saying that now is not the right time.  In other words, “At this time I must respectfully decline your invitation, but please keep me in mind the next time the invitation goes out.”

And finally the third response or excuse…

“I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.”  In other words, “No thank you.  I have a spouse who is not a religious person and has no desire to become one.  I will adopt their attitude towards religion.  Please take my name off of your list!”

And what happens to all three of these sample groups of people in Jesus story?  He tells the servant who is sending out the invitations to take them off of the list; to bar them from the privilege of attending the banquet.  There will be no further offers of salvation; they’re done.  But then He does something amazing; He orders that others be brought in to take their place.  And still there’s room after the new group is brought in.  So…

So bring in the low life; go out everywhere and anywhere and “compel people to come in, that my house may be filled.”  Bring in the beggars who never would have thought that they would be invited and let them know that they are not only invited but they are valued by God.

And that dear friends is where you and I enter the story.  We are the beggars who never thought that God would call or even desire to call us, and yet… He has and He is!  Listen, God is calling.  Do you hear Him?

When someone asks you to respond to God’s call, they are really asking you to accept His invitation to live within His Kingdom.

The Gospel message or God’s invitation to be forgiven, is one that makes it clear to you, that He is inviting and welcoming you to come and rest within His kingdom of grace, which is a kingdom of forgiveness.  Jesus compares this to an invitation to attend a great feast or a royal wedding as a welcomed and honored guest.  But Jesus also reminds us that the strange and remarkable thing is that there are many who are invited who just don’t desire to respond at all.

So how is the invitation sent out?  Well, an invitation could come either by a messenger or by a letter.  And both of these methods are used with God’s gospel invitation; that is Christ’s invitation for you to come unto Him and rest in His kingdom of forgiveness.

Our Lord has sent out His apostles first and then His disciples, and He sends all of them out with an invitation, which comes to you within His Word.  The invitation to come into His kingdom comes when we both hear the Word preached and when we read it in the Bible.

But Baptism also implies an invitation.

It is through baptism that we have been received into the kingdom of God.  To a Christian, baptism is meant to be what the celebration of the Passover was to the Jews, Listen: “And it shall be to you a sign on your hand and as a memorial between your eyes, that the law of the Lord may be in your mouth.” [Exodus 13:9]

It is God’s will that each and every Christian look back upon their baptism as God’s final word or judgment which makes it clear to the one baptized, that He accepts and receives you just as you were found by Him.  But we must also remember that He loves us far too much to leave us in that “first found” condition.  The point is however, that no one who is baptized should ever doubt whether God wants to have a long lasting relationship of love with them.  You see, it’s when people forget God that His holy Word convicts us of our sinfulness and invites us to renew our relationship of grace with Him, by returning to Christ’s invitation, that is He invites us to return to our baptismal grace, which is still ours if we will but return to it.

This fresh call of God comes to us through the Word of God.  Personal sorrows over our sins, a fresh encounter with other Christians, and an inner emptiness, or a vague unrest in the conscience are all circumstances God may use to prepare the soil of our hearts to receive a fresh gospel seed of forgiveness and renewal.  But the invitation itself always implies that God in some manner is saying to us again: “Listen.  Jesus is calling.  Come; for all is now ready.”

The time may come when you hear God’s Word in a new way, and you try to rationalize that hearing and that moment as simply a coincidence.  But that coincidental hearing of God’s Word, perhaps your hearing of that Word right now, is really a part of God’s plan.

This is His moment; that’s why we call this time Divine Service.  He has had it planned since the beginning of time.  The Bible describes God as One who is “seeking” His people, not like a shepherd who goes out searching for new sheep to shepherd, but as a shepherd searching for His sheep who are lost; sheep that He often finds caught in the bramble and thorny vines.  And when He reaches his hand to free the lost creature, and then reassures it that it has been found and is safe, that lost sheep, you and me, may be saved immediately, if that is what we desire.

Today, as with all invitations received in God’s Divine Service, we are experiencing a moment of destiny-filled seriousness.  For sinners like us there is always the possibility of wriggling loose from the grip of God.  But then there is also the possibility, which is even greater than before, of our coming home to God and staying there; staying in Christ’s church.  Listen.  God is calling.  So…“Today, when you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion,” and “seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near.” [Isaiah 55:6]

When God seeks us, when we hear God calling us, that is the time when we should seriously seek Him, it’s a time that we should seriously begin to seek Him through His means of grace that He has made readily available to us.  Through His Word always, but also in the waters of our baptism and at His altar where He offers to feed our baptized  spirits with real food and drink that both strengthens our faith and assures us of our forgiven state.  These means of grace are the very sacraments that God uses to both create in us a desire to hear Him speak and then also  ability to understand Him.  Through these things God invites us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, but also to rest in that salvation with great faith and confidence in all that Jesus has done for us, “holding fast the word of life,” [Luke 11:28] and to be concerned with hearing, learning, understanding, and applying the Word of God in our lives.

When we do this, then God has promised to continue the good work in our hearts and to bring it to completion.

May God continue to do this very thing within each of you as you listen to God call out to you, in Jesus name… AMEN!

Tension

Saturday, January 16th, 2016

A Funeral Sermon for the Christian Memorial Service of Father and Son, our brothers in Christ, James Albert Love and Orgrette Lloyd Love
January 16th, 2016
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor
Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego, CA
http://www.tlcsd.org

Click here for audio of this message

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” [Proverbs 14:10] (But praise His name) “The Lord is not slow to fulfill His promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. [2 Peter 3:9]

Grace, Mercy and Peace to you dear family and friends of James and Orgrette Love.  Today, it is my privilege and honor to declare to you as pastor to both James and his son Orgrette, that His patience won the day as both father and son went to sleep in both repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.  Both had followed the way that seemed right to them, even if it was obviously wrong to everyone else, but both eventually repented of their own way and in fact, by faith they embraced and followed the narrow way of holy  baptism, of confession, contrition, repentance, and forgiveness.

Both father and son started out the same way that all of us started out, sinners in need of a Savior.

Thank God, both had parents that knew that their children’s lives, even as infants, must be turned over to God.  Both were baptized, like most of us, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Both father and son were taught of God’s love and mercy; both knew that it was only through Jesus Christ alone that they could be saved, and yet both like most of us, chose a way that seemed better, a way that seemed right to them; a way not of the Lord.  And so within their hearts, they consciously walked off of the narrow way of Christ, and embraced a different way; the way of the world.

Can you feel the tension?  If you can, then you are looking at their lives from the perspective of God.  You know, you can only have that perspective if you yourself are already resting within God’s grace through Jesus Christ.  You can only have that perspective if you’ve been given a more excellent kind of love that can come only from God the Father through His Son Jesus Christ.  For you see, this kind of tension or un-comfortableness is only possible when you can understand the hurt God feels when one of His own walks away from Him.  This is why preachers like myself can boldly declare to sinners, all sinners that it is never too late to return to your God, to embrace the gifts that the Son of God, Jesus Christ freely and gladly gives to sinners, all sinners; even you.

You see, our God is patient; He does not desire the death or eternal punishment of any sinner.  Now, perhaps there are some, maybe even some here this morning, who may not understand how this could be true for James or Orgrette.  Perhaps they have caused pain or turmoil that some may feel was never atoned for or made right; maybe you feel that their sin can never be made right.  But God knows, and God waits.  He knows what we could never know, and He waits for opportunities and circumstances in life that we could never foresee.  God waits because God loves each of us sinners; He loves us and He does not wish for us to die apart from Him.

Both the father James and Orgrette the son knew of God’s love and mercy.  They both knew that there was another Father who would show His love to sinners, any sinners, all sinners, through another Son, His Son Jesus Christ.  You see, both sinners, father and son, came to know of the love of The Father, through the love and sacrifice of The Son.  And both would have me tell each of you this morning that this very same love of God is for you as well, if you will only see a need for it.  Both would have me tell you, that upon their death-beds, each repented of their sins all sins, and both of them were heartily sorry for any hurt they may have brought to God and you.

So which way are you following today?

I know that you are here, within the tent of the Lord; but are you only visiting or are you living within it?  Do you want to flourish within the love of the Father and find both forgiveness and new life through the grace of the Son Jesus Christ, or are you determined to follow your own way; a way that God and not the preacher declares leads to death?  Are you uncomfortable with the question, because you have always considered yourself a Christian?  But let me ask you another question, “Is it possible that your un-comfortableness is due to what God calls backsliding; walking away from God’s way?

This morning, God calls us to do now, what James and Orgette also did; He asks us to consider our ways and think of every step in life we have taken.  And after you consider those things, can you agree that you have a need for a Savior, for a Champion who can bring you back out of darkness into God’s own light.  Can you agree that you do need to turn away from the way of the world, from the way that seemed right to you, and return back to what God started for you?

Brother James Love, was a trusted and valued member of this congregation.  He is the only man in the history of both Trinity and Messiah Lutheran Church that I know of, that was granted through a unanimous vote of the members of this church, an honorary title of Elder Emeritus.  It would be an understatement to say that He was loved and cherished by us.  It is this man, who freely confessed to be a sinner as defined by sins past, but gladly confessed to be a saint through the work of Jesus Christ, who would remind me constantly of two things, and for fact, I was assured by Orgrette that his father repeated these words to him as well, and here they are…

“Pastor, ya gotta remind the people that CHRIST will come again like a thief in the night; ya gotta remind them that they need to come back to Jesus before it’s too late. They got that Atomic bomb, and they’re not afraid to use it.  If they wait to come back to Jesus it might be too late.”

I promised brother Love that I would somehow work that into every message; I would do my best to communicate the urgency of returning to Jesus, or coming back to the church, a clear and trusted message.  And this morning, once again I am making good my promise.  But there was one more promise I made to Elder Love that I must tell you of; it is a promise that rests on his conviction that members of Messiah Lutheran Church would never be forgotten nor forsaken by Trinity.

Elder Love felt that the reason that so many never moved from Messiah to Trinity was because of his past failures or sins to keep the church together under the same zeal that Pastor Brink used, in order to form Messiah, long ago.  So, he asked me to never give up on his children and all of the other children that were now themselves adults, parents, and grandparents.  He requested that they remain members of Trinity in perpetuity; that is a promise I made and still intend to keep.  This dear friends is a picture of the repentant heart of Brother/Elder James Love.  And because of this promise, I beseech you in the name of Jesus Christ to be reconciled to God; come home to Christ’s church.  He and we, are here for you, and we love you; we always will.

Your God, Jesus Christ is here at Trinity in the very same way He was with you at Messiah.  He has not given up on you; He still saves a seat for you at His Table, where each Sunday, we become part of His Holy Communion, where we eat and drink His forgiveness of sins through Christ’s body and blood, in, with, and under the bread and the wine, just as you were taught long ago at Messiah Lutheran Church.

As I close this special funeral message, I can assure you that both James and Orgerette were able to see the Father, through Holy Scripture and the body and blood of Jesus Christ.  You dear saints, each of you have through the years also come to know the Son, and because you know the Son, you also know the Father and His forgiving love.

I pray that you will believe that Jesus is One in and with the Father and that the Father is here in Christ’s body, His church, even here at little Trinity Lutheran Church.  I have now in Christ’s Word shown you both the Father’s righteousness and His mercy, His grace and His love.  Will you be reconciled; will you come home?  I pray that you will, and I ask this in Jesus name… AMEN!

There’s Something About the Name Jesus


Sunday, December 27th, 2015

Christmas 1 (HL), December 27, 2015
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor
Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego, CA
http://www.tlcsd.org

Click here for audio of this message

“And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.” [Luke 2:21

Just like every other Jewish baby-boy, Jesus was circumcised a week after His birth.  Maybe that’s the reason why this gospel lesson always falls so close to New Years Day; so we can begin our New year with the name of Jesus on our lips and in our hearts.  You see…

It was at God’s command that Jesus’ name was given.

The name Jesus means “God Saves” or, as we simply say in English, Savior.  That’s why the Angel said to Joseph: “You shall call His name Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.”

So, the name Jesus is given to God the Son by God the Father Himself, and because of this, all of God’s power is contained within that name.  Within the name of Jesus is everything that all of creation needs to be saved from the sins of the world.  That’s why the name Jesus is to be used and spoken only with the highest reverence and respect.  When we speak and use this name, we are in fact dealing with God Himself.

Within the name Jesus, is contained all that Christ possesses and is. When that name is mentioned, He is present Himself with all of His power, but here is something you must always remember when you speak or call upon His name; He is Jesus for you!

You know, we’re living in a time, within a society, that not only celebrates political correctness, it demands it.

This is an age where everyone is free to speak the name of their “god” but no one wants us to speak the name Jesus; and because we don’t want to offend the Muslims, the Jews, the Buddhist, nor the atheists, and because of our desire to get along with everyone, we end up avoiding the sweet name of our Lord, thus providing a witness to no one.

Once perhaps, when we were young and new to our love for Jesus, we spoke His name freely and with joy, but now, maybe thinking that we have matured and become respectful of others, we have possibly regressed into an immature state, and within this regressed state, we’ve left the very foundation of our faith and life, which is Christ crucified and resurrected.

This morning, the Holy Spirit calls out to us in love, and He warns us; He testifies to us concerning the name of Jesus; if we choose to shy away from our Savior and the blessed name of Jesus, it will at one point become near  impossible to be renewed again to repentance, since as deniers of His name we will be crucifying the Son of God all over again to our own harm as we allow Jesus to be held up to contempt. [Hebrews 6:1-5]

Jesus said that whoever is ashamed of Him (His name) and His Words (His gospel message), (He) the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person when He comes in His glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. [Luke 9:26]

So I want you to know, that there will come a time, that at the name of Jesus every knee (will) bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth.”  [Philippians 2:10]  That means that the day is coming (whether they acknowledge it or not) when every Muslim, Buddhist, Jew, and atheist that you are afraid of offending, will have to get down on their knees in judgment before God, and confess before they depart to the place where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth, that Jesus is Lord!

Listen friends, Jesus knew that His name would bring division and trouble to this world; that is why He declared, ““Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.”  As Simeon said in our Gospel lesson (Luke 2:22-35), Jesus has been appointed for the fall and rising of many, and for a sign that is opposed and a sword that will pierce not only through Mary’s soul, but the souls of all, so that they may receive the recreating work of the gospel.

Do we really want to be shy, ashamed, and muzzled while so many who persist in unbelief will only know the edge of God’s sword, which is His law?  Is that what you want?  Do you want them to be lost without knowing what you know about the wonderful name of Jesus?  You see, Jesus doesn’t want them to wait for that last day; He wants them to avoid the eternal darkness; He want us to speak His name; the sweetest name they’ll ever know.

His name is Jesus; Wonderful Counselor, mighty God, and Prince of Peace.

By faith in His name, the saving name of Jesus, His work of salvation is for you and for all that still can not nor will not allow that name to be spoken!

It was because of the mighty name of Jesus that the apostles performed their great miracles.  To preach in the name of Jesus then, to speak, to teach, and to witness to that name, means not just speaking His name, but to speak in a very personal way through Scripture, which He has promised will be filled with His Spirit and power first for you and then for those who will listen to you.

To believe in Jesus, can therefore be said to have faith in His name and only His name.  To believe in and speak the name Jesus, is to proclaim to all who will listen, that there really is forgiveness of sins for those who will receive Him!  To believe and speak His name, is to proclaim to all those who do not yet know Him, that there really is a way back to God’s love.  This is why the name Jesus really is the sweetest name you will ever know.  To speak His name freely then, is simply to be a Christian, that is a child of God through Christ, who through Jesus, has life in His name; life He brings for you!

Jesus!  It’s a name that shoots out from not just the dead stump of Jesse, but from every stump that once represented the best intentions of men and women, from within a culture that once was great, but now is dying or completely dead.  It’s a shoot of new life that promises that there is a way that most certainly leads to an eternity of joy and happiness.

Through the name of Jesus, we are taught by God Himself that the Holy Scriptures are to be taken literally, because they are the very things that teach you both of Jesus and the power of His name.  And through these same scriptures, we are to have no doubts in our minds or our hearts when we hear that: “there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”  “… at the name of Jesus every knee should bow… and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.” [Acts 4:12 & Phil 2:10]. And when we hear His name spoken, our hearts and our lips are compelled to proclaim, “He is my Lord; He is my God!”

To pray in the name of Jesus, then, means to pray by faith in Jesus, under the protection of Jesus, with all of our sins forgiven that would otherwise prevent us from being heard by God, and with Jesus as our helper and our intercessor, we may always know that not only are we heard, but we are in fact forgiven.

And finally, to do something in the name of Jesus, whether we go to His table for His Holy meal, or rest quietly at home preparing for the New Year, by faith, we take Jesus with us, to stand under His forgiveness and His protection, and to know that He is with us always and everywhere, all of our days, and in everything we do.

Dear friends, can you see that you are in the very same place as Simeon?  You too may now behold the anointed one of God, Jesus Christ, and you may depart in both faith and peace.  For your ears have heard the good news of salvation and forgiveness of sins; your eyes too, have seen His salvation, in the breaking of the bread and the lifting up of the cup for the forgiveness of sin.  You are partakers of the very salvation that God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have prepared in eternity in the presence of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to God’s people who both speak and rest in the blessed name of Jesus.  Oh, there is indeed something about the name of Jesus; it is the sweetest name I know!

In the name of Jesus then, let all God’s people say… AMEN.

On Cleaving and Clinging

Sunday, November 15th, 2015

Pentecost 25B, November 15, 2015
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego, CA 92114
http://www.tlcsd.org

Click here for audio of this message

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” [Hebrews 10:24, 25]

Growing up as a Christian I heard a lot of talk and teaching about cleaving and clinging.  I was taught in Sunday school that I must cleave, or split away from the naughty way and always search out the good way.  I was taught that I must “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” [Matthew 7:13, 14]

Now, I was taught that this meant that I must leave my sinful life and cling to Jesus and the road to salvation.  The only problem with this teaching is that no one ever told me how to do this, and no one bothered to tell me that in Holy Baptism, I was already on the narrow road of salvation; Jesus had already found me and given me the new, forgiven life.

This morning, we will look at what means God uses to both keep us on that narrow way and help others to find it also, and then, we’ll learn to trust in Jesus alone.  And to do this, we will simply allow God’s Word to speak to us and teach us how He draws us to Himself, and then secures us in His love.  And then we will learn how God uses we, who are clinging to Jesus, to draw others who are still trapped within a life of guilt and separated from God’s love.

First, as a way of refreshing our memories, let’s define God’s love, or Agápē love. It is God’s own love for creation, for you and me; a love that is intelligent (He knows all of the facts about you and still loves you) and works to bring about new purpose and new life for you and within you.  It is God’s Agápē love that saw the world and all of mankind from the very beginning as sinful, defiled, and lost in darkness, and yet it was this Agápē love that moved God to act in such a way that His act of love would save every last sinful person who was willing to be saved.  To accomplish this mission of salvation centered in Agápē love, God the Father called upon His Son to make a way, a path, or a road back to Paradise.

God sent His Son Jesus to us as one of us, so that He could be our true High Priest. There were priests before Christ came to us, very many of them who were called upon to serve under the old covenant of the law; they were called to do a monotonous service, “offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.” [Hebrews 10:11] But God sent His Son and named Him Jesus (God saves).  The very name was to indicate the mission that this God-child, born of the Virgin Mary was sent on.  He would grow to become the God-man, the only One who could live a perfect life, and then out of love for sinners, by way of Pontius Pilate offer His life upon the cross in exchange, or as payment for our imperfections… for our hideous sins.

Prior to Christ our Great High Priest, the high priest of the old covenant was the only one who could pass through the curtain that separated sinners, all sinners, from the holy of holies, the Ark of the Covenant, and the Mercy Seat.  All of these were physical representations of a spiritual reality, and a real place and position, which was simply beyond the reach and beyond the comprehension of sinful mankind.

“But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God.” [Hebrews 10:12]  This single sacrifice is both the very definition of Agápē love and the source of our salvation and our own expression of God’s Agápē love.  Through the sacrifice of His body and the spilling of His blood, Christ has brought into completion both our rebirth and our perfection.  Through God’s Agápē love, Christ has paid for the sins of the world, but more importantly, His passion, His payment, included your sins.

“By a single offering He has perfected for (eternity) those (of us) who are being sanctified (that is perfected in His holiness.  And so that you will be convinced of this truth), the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us.” [Hebrews 10:14, 15]  Within His Word and throughout your life, as you cling to Jesus, the Living Word, God demonstrates that He has put His law on your heart and He has written His Word in your mind.  And then He says, through Christ your High Priest, “I will remember your sins and your lawless deeds no more.” [Hebrews 10:17]

Here is a truth worth remembering: God draws all sinners to Himself only through the Cross of Christ and His chosen means of grace.

It is through God’s means of grace where all of the Agápē love of the Father becomes yours personally, through the work and sacrifice of your Great High Priest Jesus Christ.  Through the blood of Christ, the entrance into the true Holy of Holies is open for you in connection with that blood, and it shall never be closed to you.  Jesus made a way, a very narrow way back to Paradise for all sinners.  It is narrow because it excludes all other ways.  It is a way, because you follow it every day; it is a living way, because the very veil that you must pass through is through Christ’s flesh.  The Son of God, Jesus Christ Himself is the living way, the truth, and the only source of eternal life.  In the old covenant or the old way, only the high priest himself could enter the holy of holies by way of the great veil or curtain, but this new way is for all of us; each of us are to use Jesus’ flesh as the great means of entry.

The crucified Christ is our entrance into both the holy of holies and the very mercy seat of God.  Jesus reminds us of this truth with these words, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” [John 14:6]  This morning Jesus holds out His hand to each of you and makes sure you understand all of this as He says, “My blood.  My body.  No other means.  I am the veil that separates sinful men from God the Father.  To get to the Father you must pass through me.”

So how may one enter through Christ our great veil and curtain?  We must continue to draw near to God “with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” [Hebrews 10:22]  Dear friends, we are drawn by God, that is we are pulled away from our sinful lives and into God’s Agápē love through the cross of Jesus Christ.  Through the suffering, death, and resurrection of our Great High Priest, His very body and blood are the only method of payment the Father will accept as atonement for our sins.  So, “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” (James 4:8)  But how are we to draw near to God?

We draw near to God with a clean heart; with a pure conscience.  How?  With our hearts sprinkled clean by the blood of Christ and our bodies washed clean with the pure water of Holy Baptism.  And what is it that makes the water pure?  Nothing but the life giving, life changing, Agápē making Word of God.  Through His means of grace, God gives us both rebirth and continual forgiveness of all sins.  And through these gifts we are given a new way to love God and each other; we are given Agápē love; the love of intellect and purpose.  A love that finds it’s definition in the cross of Christ; a love that compels us to bear our own cross of sacrifice and the giving of our selves to our neighbor.

“(So) Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” [Hebrews 10:23-25]

How do we continually leave our sinful past and cling to Christ? How can we receive the strength and ability to continually love God with all of our heart and mind, and love our neighbor as ourselves?

By holding fast to our confession of faith. By hearing the Word of God often and receiving the blessed assurance of complete forgiveness and the promise of eternal life.  By remembering our baptism and all that it represents.  By gathering each week to confess our sins together before God, and then quickly being assured that through Christ we are forgiven and loved.  By allowing God’s Word read, declared, and preached to sustain our faith and to increase within our hearts a hunger for a deeper relationship of Agápē love with our Heavenly Father.

And then, as faith and love lead us, we are to approach the mercy seat of God, take our place around this altar and receive the very body and blood that continues the Father’s work of Agápē love within us.

And now we must follow this work of Christ that God does within us to a new place.  There is no longer a need to continually focus on only our hearts when God has promised to do such a great work within them.  But now, God asks us to be concerned out of Agápē love, for the countless hearts around us; people lost in darkness and sin that God wants us to focus on.  But how?

By being a living representation of the very Agápē love that saved us; by encouraging “one another, and all the more as we see the Day (of judgment) drawing near.”

In these words, God is telling us that our time is both short and precious; He is inciting us, by the leading of His Spirit and the gift of Agápē love to cling to Christ alone, to come alive, and to help bring new birth and forgiveness to others.

Dear friends, our faith and God’s Agápē love that comes out of us are living, busy, active, and powerful things.  Martin Luther once said that faith and love do not ask “whether good works are to be done; but before the question is even asked, it has (already done) them and is always engaged in doing (those good works).” [C. Tr 941, 10]

Brothers and sisters, we need to meet weekly within this communion of saints,  because from within this very place, out of God’s Divine Service for us, we are continually filled with both faith and God’s Agápē Love, which then sends us out offering and performing good works for Christ’s church and our neighbor.

But because our human nature is constituted in such a way that we would rather be around and deal with those who are only good and perfect, and then neglect and ignore those who are imperfect and hard to love—because of this sinful tendency within us, we notice that those who are weaker cause those who are more perfect to be haughty, spiteful, judging, selfish and unloving while, on the other hand, those who are more perfect, more mature in their faith, cause those who are weaker to envy and be disrespectful.  This is why not only this epistle focuses in on our relationship with other saints, but indeed all of the epistles do the same as a way of warning and countering this evil, so that divisions and false teaching can not arise in Christ’s church.

So how can we avoid these terrible things and live our lives in a way that pleases our Great High Priest and Savior, Jesus Christ?  By leaving these things, confessing these things, and then by clinging to Christ alone; by turning to His cross and seeing atonement, and then turning to the Font and seeing new life.

When these things are active in our lives, it will be God’s Agápē love within us and around us that will bring peace and a strong witness to our community, the very people that need to know Jesus Christ unto eternal life.

This, therefore, is the Christian love that we cling to; it is the Agápē love that is shown to those who are contemptible and unworthy of love; this, Christian love that dwells within each of you, is the kindness that is given to those who are evil and ungrateful. For this is what God did for us; and we, too, are commanded to love as He loves.

Dear friends, broken people are messy, time consuming, and very hard to love; love them anyhow because God chose to love you!  AMEN!

Christians Are At War With One Another As Americans Leave The Church In Droves

Thursday, November 5th, 2015

By Michael Snyder, on November 4th, 2015

Christianity is under attack from a thousand different directions all at once, and yet many believers have turned their guns on one another.  This war among Christians seems to intensify with each passing year, and believers are often fighting for some of the stupidest reasons you can possibly imagine.  Meanwhile, people are leaving our churches in droves and church attendance is way down.  This is especially true of younger Americans.  According to an incredible new report that was just released by the Pew Research Center, only 27 percent of all Millennials (U.S. adults born since 1990) attend religious services on a weekly basis.  When you go into many churches in America on Sunday mornings, all you see are “the greys”, and I am not talking about space aliens.  But instead of focusing on fixing what has gone wrong, many Christians (including a number of very prominent ministers) spend most of their energy savagely attacking their brothers and sisters in Christ.  This is absolutely disgraceful and it needs to stop.

America is on the exact same path to secularization that Europe has already gone down.  The Pew Research Center discovered that the percentage of Americans who are “absolutely certain” that God exists declined from 71 percent in 2007 to 63 percent in 2014.  Meanwhile, the percentage of those that are “religiously unaffiliated” rose from 16 percent in 2007 to 23 percent today.

Atheism, agnosticism and other religions are on the rise in America, and Christianity is in decline.  And as I noted above, this is particularly true among our young people.  Here are some more numbers from an excerpt that I pulled directly out of the Pew report

Millennials – especially the youngest Millennials, who have entered adulthood since the first Landscape Study was conducted – are far less religious than their elders. For example, only 27% of Millennials say they attend religious services on a weekly basis, compared with 51% of adults in the Silent generation. Four-in-ten of the youngest Millennials say they pray every day, compared with six-in-ten Baby Boomers and two-thirds of members of the Silent generation. Only about half of Millennials say they believe in God with absolute certainty, compared with seven-in-ten Americans in the Silent and Baby Boom cohorts. And only about four-in-ten Millennials say religion is very important in their lives, compared with more than half in the older generational cohorts.

It has been projected that if current trends continue, the percentage of Americans attending church in 2050 will be about half of what it is today.

So those that are supposedly “leading the church” in America today need to wake up.  What you are doing is not working.  This nation is falling away from God, but many of you are spending much of your time and energy attacking one another.

Another thing that should deeply, deeply alarm Christian leaders is the fact that a large percentage of “believers” do not even seem to grasp the essential basics of the Christian faith.  I am talking about things like who God is, the plan of salvation and the authority of the Bible.  Here is more from Pew’s new report

Among Christians, two-thirds say many religions can lead to eternal life, and most of them (50% of all Christians) say some non-Christian religions can lead to life everlasting. The view that some non-Christian faiths can lead to eternal life is held by roughly two-thirds of Catholics (68%) and mainline Protestants (65%), as well as 59% of Orthodox Christians. Fewer members of the historically black Protestant tradition (38%), evangelical Protestants (31%) and Mormons (31%) say some non-Christian religions can lead to salvation. Just 5% of Jehovah’s Witnesses say some non-Christian faiths can lead to eternal life.

If other religions can lead to eternal life, then why did Jesus have to die on the cross?  Why couldn’t He have just come down and pointed us in the direction of all those other faiths?  Many Christians don’t seem to understand that Jesus had to die for us on the cross because there is no other payment for our sins.  He took the penalty that we deserved, and now He offers us a new life as a free gift.

Without Him, we would have absolutely no hope and no future.  But because of Him, our sins are forgiven and we have been given eternal life.

But a very large percentage of believers does not understand this.  Sadly, many Christians seem to think that you can believe whatever you want and it will all be okay in the end.

So as you can see, the church in America today is a mess.  As a Christian myself, this pains me greatly.

But instead of working to fix the problems and praying for revival, many believers seem to take glee in tearing down their fellow Christians.

One of the bad things about the anonymity of the Internet is that it gives people an opportunity to show what is really in their hearts.  And in many cases, what comes out of the hearts of many supposed “Christians” is absolutely frightening.

If you venture into places where believers hang out on Facebook, on Twitter, on YouTube and on various Christian websites all over the Internet, you will find some of the most vile things imaginable being said about specific individuals.

I have seen Christians use curse words to describe one another, and good, solid believers that I know personally have been called “whores”, “heretics” and “scumbags” just to give you a few examples.  There are even some “Christians” that publicly wish for their brothers and sisters in Christ to die and go to hell.

This kind of thing should not be happening.  In Matthew chapter 22, Jesus gave us instructions about how we are to treat one another…

36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law?

37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.

38 This is the first and great commandment.

39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

On my websites I talk about some very hard things, but you will notice that I don’t attack specific individuals that are on the same side as me.  In this day and age, it is imperative that we all figure out who our friends are.  None of us are ever going to agree 100 percent on everything, and that is okay.

Yes, sometimes there are things that need to be addressed, but the vast majority of times they can be taken care of privately.  I have had some very honest discussions with people that are on the same side as me in private, but I would never air that stuff publicly.

If we are going to make it through what is coming, we have got to learn how to love one another.  And we have got to stop viciously attacking one another over stupid stuff.  Yes, there are some things that are so important that they must never be compromised on, but most of the attacks that I see happening are over very petty things.

And without a doubt, there are times when it become necessary to rebuke someone.  But when at all possible it should be done in private, and it should always be done in a spirit of love.

Because in the end, if we do not have love, we are nothing.  You can have all of the “knowledge” in the world, and you can go around correcting everyone else, but if you are lacking in love you are just a baby.

This is a hard lesson that I had to learn, and hopefully what I have written here will be helpful for someone.

This war among Christians needs to stop.  Our faith is under attack like never before, and we desperately need to learn how to start working together.

At some point, hopefully we will begin to actually live the words of our Savior in John chapter 13…

34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.

35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

Lutheran Church-Missourri Synod officials say recent videos ‘lay evil bare’

Thursday, August 20th, 2015


“It had a face. … Its nose was very pronounced. It had eyelids.” In the seventh Center for Medical Progress video, Holly O’Donnell, ex-procurement technician for StemExpress, describes what she witnessed in a Planned Parenthood clinic: A baby boy, an abortion survivor, was rinsed off and dropped in a pie plate for the procurement of his organs.

She continues, recounting the doctor’s words and her own thoughts: “‘I want you to see something cool, kind of neat.’ … She has one of her instruments and she just taps the heart and it starts beating. I’m sitting here and I’m looking at this fetus, and its heart is beating. ‘You know why that’s happening?’ I knew why it was happening. It’s because an electrical current, nodes were still firing.”

Her words are heart-stopping.

A child, still alive, is then cut — through the chin and face and forehead — so that his brain can be invoiced and sold. “I can’t even, like, describe, like, what that feels like,” O’Donnell says.

But we as the Church can. It feels like — it is — evil.

The infanticide that is occurring at Planned Parenthood must end. It is not simply time to defund that organization; it is time to end abortion in the United States altogether.

As for us, we can no longer claim that we didn’t know Planned Parenthood doctors killed children so ruthlessly or that we weren’t aware human bodies were cannibalized for their organs.

We can’t just say it’s a woman’s choice or shrug our shoulders and mumble, “Who are we to judge?”

We can’t hide behind the half-truths that women have no other place to find health care or that Planned Parenthood provides millions of mammograms per year.

It doesn’t matter. None of it matters.

Children are being killed, their organs are being sold, and their mothers are left with physical scars and — greater still — haunting memories that sometimes never fade. The death of these children is barbaric, and it is evil, and we are without excuse. Silence and attempts at justification are no longer options. The only option is for each one of us to act. Here’s what you can do:

  • Participate in the nationwide Aug. 22 Planned Parenthood protest. Search online for protest locations. Give up two hours of your Saturday morning to speak out against the infanticide occurring at these clinics.
  • Write a letter to the president and to your congressman or senator regarding this issue. Ask them if they’ve watched the videos. Tell them why you believe life — no matter how young — has innate worth. Encourage them to end abortion and to defund any organization that performs them.
  • Support LCMS Life Ministry. Its staff members are committed to teaching why human lives and bodies matter and why there is hope and healing in Christ.
  • Call your LCMS representatives who serve at local, state or federal levels of government. Remind them of their Baptism and confirmation vows, of the faithful confession they are called upon to make, even when it’s unpopular.
  • Use your social media channels to share pro-life resources or LCMS life-related social media imagery (click on “Religious Freedom Toolkit”).
  • Share resources from Lutherans For Life, start a life team or kick-start a young adult life team in your congregation.
  • Pre-order a new, free resource from the LCMS — the Ultrasound Education Project — that will bring the miracle and sanctity of human life into the middle-school and high-school classroom through the use of ultrasound technology.

We see in these videos how Satan thrives on darkness and chaos, how he delights in baby boys and tiny girls picked apart with sterile utensils. And while we are repulsed and horrified, we no longer have the option to turn away. In this, we have been provided with the biggest opportunity of all: to highlight a still greater need that every person — pro-abortion or pro-life — has for the mercy and forgiveness of Christ.

Without Him, we are all capable of performing equally horrifying acts, of seeing children as nothing more than line items or cadavers. But our Lord is merciful. Because of Him, we have been given consciences that cause us to act and tongues that can speak truth in the midst of evil. We have been given His forgiveness in water and Word, and so we speak it, in turn, to hurting mothers and repentant participants in the deaths of these babies. We have the truth, and we are no longer ashamed to call the deaths of 55 million children what it is: genocide.

Our heavenly Father, it turns out, knows a thing or two about hearts. He knows our own, and He knows each heart of each child, even as He knows their faces and noses and eyelids. We are the reason He allowed His own Son’s heart to stop beating for a time, so that ours may thrive for all eternity. In so doing, He shows us His own heart, full of grace, mercy and compassion.

Through each of these videos, He has seen fit to lay evil bare, and by His grace, our hearts and lips are freed to speak, to act, to pray, to repent, to call upon His name and to trust in His heart, which is ever turned toward us in Christ.

It’s all that matters.

Rev. Kevin Robson, Chief Mission Officer
Rev. Bart Day, executive director, Office of National Mission

Rev. Heath Curtis, coordinator, Stewardship Ministry
Rev. Dr. Roosevelt Gray, director, Black Ministry
Rev. Joel Hempel, interim director, Specialized Pastoral Ministry
Rev. Dr. Carlos Hernandez, director, Hispanic Ministry, Church and Community Engagement
Rev. Ross Johnson, director, Disaster Response
Rev. Mark Kiessling, interim director, Youth Ministry
Rev. Todd Kollbaum, director, Rural & Small Town Mission
Deaconess Dorothy Krans, director, Recognized Service Organizations
Tracy Quaethem, project coordinator, Life and Health Ministries
Deaconess Grace Rao, director, Deaconess Ministry
Rev. Steve Schave, director, Urban & Inner-City Mission
Terry Schmidt, director, School Ministry
Rev. William Weedon, director, Worship
Rev. Mark Wood, director, Witness & Outreach Ministry
Rev. Marcus Zill, director, Campus Ministry and LCMS U