Posts Tagged ‘Advent’

Behold Your God!

Sunday, December 10th, 2017

Second Sunday in Advent-B, December 10, 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

Isaiah 40:1-11

INTRODUCTION: What kind of God do we serve? When we give a testimony about Him to our neighbors, what should we say? Well listen to His own Words and then behold your God: “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.”

Not just once, “Comfort”, but twice, “Comfort, comfort.” So the Lord begins with a single repeated command; it’s a command to the preacher of God’s Word, that would be me, and it’s a command to God’s ambassadors, that would be you. This command flows from the mind of God, and God himself directed it to his messengers, messengers who will announce the good news of his love. God wants everyone to hear this message. He claims all people as His own when He calls them, “my people.” Think about that for a moment; after all of our unfaithfulness, all our rebellion, all our sins, we are still his people. God remains our God; for us He is still faithful and gracious, just as he promised to be: “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin” (Exodus 34:6, 7).

I. What is our warfare?

A. It is our struggle to fulfill God’s Law. It is realizing that because of our sin we can’t make things right with God. But in order for our warfare to be over, in order to receive a double portion of God’s own comfort we will need to see our sin and want it removed; we need to hunger for His forgiveness; we need to receive it according to His terms and not ours. Each of us must admit that we alone bear the responsibility for our hard life, the hard service that our life represents. It was our own sin that separated us from God’s love and it is our insistence on atoning for that sin our own way that causes such warfare.

B. This morning God is asking each of us to agree with Him that all of our accomplishments, the things that we count as good are like grass and the beauty of wild flowers in a field. The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the Lord blows on it, when He calls us home. Then all of our goodness vanishes as we stand before a perfect and holy God.

This was the message of John the Baptist as he lived his life proclaiming the way of the Lord; preparing the way of the Lord!

TRANSITION: This morning, that same Word, that same message is crying out to us from the wilderness of our hearts: “Prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

II. Prepare the way of the Lord.

A. To our sinful ears, this is a hard word to understand, because it sounds like God is asking us to do even more to earn His love; but that is exactly what He isn’t saying. No, instead, He’s telling us that He will no longer let us do things our way. To prepare the way of the Lord means to prepare ourselves for the Lord’s activity in us, so that He alone may be our source of help and pride; so that our lives and eternities will be one with His Son Jesus Christ. But how is this way prepared? What are the obstacles and obstructions we are to remove? Nothing other than our own arrogance and pride. Those are the very things that prevent people from receiving the grace of Christ.

B. So how hard can it be? Well to walk this way, you have to get onto God’s royal highway naked as a Jay bird! You can’t travel with any merits of your own; you have to receive only the clothing that God provides! You must be clothed only with His double gifts of grace and faith! Your heart must agree with the psalmist and say: “If You, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand,” (who could walk on your royal highway to your royal kingdom)? “But with you there is forgiveness (there is grace and faith)” [Ps. 130:3]

C. Now, this is where all sinners equally stand at the edge of a cliff; they will either allow God to turn them away from certain death and see the beauty of God’s way, or they will ignore the way of the Lord all together and jump head-long into pride and an eternity of death. Those who choose death, hear the command to prepare the way of the Lord and say, “What more do you want me to do? I go to church every Sunday and I try to be good. What do you want from me now?” But what they fail to see is that if there is any doing to be done, it must be done by God. They fail to see that the mountains and valleys that God wants leveled are in our own hearts. Martin Luther said that the Mountains are saints, and valleys are sinners. As we stand before God all of us are the same without distinction, whether we are saints or sinners. In fact, you who are baptized are both at the same time! This is the way of God; He levels the playing field. But why? So that the gospel can be receive by everyone with the exact same assurance; God’s Word gives exactly what it promises… an eternal life of peace with God. Before God all things must be leveled.

TRANSITION: In God’s declaration of double comfort is the assurance that the Law has been fulfilled for us. Our sin has been removed from us. He is telling us that we have been set free from our sins, not by working and struggling but by the forgiveness that the Son of God, Jesus Christ provided for us through His suffering and death upon the cross. This is the continual message of God’s Word, which teaches deliverance from sins by forgiveness and grace; grace completely removed from anything we do or fail to do. This is not the way of the world, but it is God’s way! God’s way is the gospel, and the gospel doesn’t look backwards at the life we led, but it looks to Jesus Christ upon the cross Who says, Believe God, trust in God. For your faith receives forgiveness for sins.

III. Faith is completely a gift from God.

A. It allows you to hear His Word and believe it. It is a Word, which declares that you are no longer a slave to sin; you are no longer locked in the dungeon of fear and pain! Your hard service is over, not because you’ve earned it or because you’ve done your time and satisfied the law. No, your bondage is over because God has provided your release through his Son, Jesus Christ!

B. Jesus alone paid the debt, a debt caused by every twisted and perverted sin ever committed, even your sins! Your debt has been paid off. Your sins are forgiven; they were paid for by the suffering and death of Jesus Christ. “The Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6).

C. So as our reading says this morning, we have been paid double. Not only have we been forgiven and promised to receive the blessing of an eternal life of peace with God, but by faith, we may also enjoy that blessing in the here and now, in this sinful world. But you have been blessed to be a blessing to others. How? By speaking the gospel. The gospel alone saves people from all sin. It alone is what saved you, correct? So the voice of God speaks to us this morning and says, Cry out! You who have heard the good news and been freed from the bondage of your own sins, “lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, and do not be afraid; say to the people” in your community, “Here is your God! See the Sovereign Lord born in a manger; see Him high and lifted up, crucified for you… for your sins. He is the Sovereign Lord who is coming again with power and His arm rules for Him. His arm is His Holy Word, and His reward and recompense is in the gospel for you. Jesus died to save you!

D. Speak the gospel, and do not be afraid to give your witness, because that witness and the Word of God are the very power of God! No one can become a Christian, no one can be saved unless they hear the Word of God and receive the gift of faith from God which comes through the hearing of His Word.

TRANSITION: I’d like to close with a Christmas story that explains very nicely how God prepares us and puts us on His road of salvation. It was Christmas almost Fifty years ago when a man named Rex was stationed in Korea as a young Marine lieutenant. His wife and new born daughter were home in the United States.
On Christmas morning the thermometer hovered around zero with several inches of snow covering the ground. Outdoor worship services were planned and Rex decided to attend out of respect and “to set a good example for the other men.” Nearly two hundred Marines turned out for the service. They sat on their helmets in the snow. They faced a small portable altar. The chaplains had no microphones, and the portable organ suffered from the extreme cold.

Something happened to Rex in that worship service. God broke into his life. He thought of all that was precious to him: home, his wife, his unseen infant child. In that moment as they tried to sing Christmas carols in the cold air he realized that knowing God does not depend on anything he has done or will do; it doesn’t depend on a building or nice clothes, instead knowing God is an act that God does in our hearts so that it can be celebrated and shared with others.” Far from home and loved ones, Rex realized that Christmas Day — in itself — is not important, but the faith it represents is.”

The truth is, God often breaks into our lives in unexpected ways and at unexpected times. He always does it through His Word and He does it through people speaking and sharing that Word in love.

CONCLUSION: Behold the mystery of your God; He comes to you in your own flesh, and in your own language! Born as a baby in a manger; beaten and bloodied by the government and mocked with the words, “Behold your king!” Crucified to silence Him, and now reigning with power and might! Behold your God! Behold the Lord God comes as your Savior who will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms, (even you); he will carry (you) in his bosom, and gently lead you to your eternal heavenly home. Come Lord Jesus, come! AMEN!

The King’s Royal Roots-Back to the Future

Sunday, December 20th, 2015

Advent 4-C, December 20, 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

“But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.” [Micah 5:2]

There’s something about going back to your roots; it can help you remember who you really are. Isn’t it true that sometimes we can lose our way in life, and isn’t it also true that becoming lost usually happens so slowly that we hardly realize that it’s happening.  I think that it’s kind of like getting lost in the woods, when suddenly you realize that you don’t recognize where you are or where you’re going. And what do you do then? You retrace your steps; you look for and go back to familiar landmarks, until you find your way home.

Well, like getting lost in the woods, we can get lost in life, too. We have plans, even strategies for achieving them. We have values and priorities. We have a sense of who we are, who we want to be, what we want to do. And then… and then life happens.

Now there always seems to be some people who appear to instinctively stay on track. They have a plan and strategy for their life, and they seldom deviate from it. But others, or maybe most people, somehow get off track, because, well, life happens, and things pull us in all different directions. And when that happens, we can find ourselves far off the course we had set for our lives.

This kind of thing can happen in our spiritual lives, too.

Many of us were baptized into the death and resurrection of Christ when we were infants or children, and when it happened, we were totally dependent on God’s grace and his action in Christ, for us. But as we grew older, something happened; we became more independent and more sure of ourselves and our place in this world, and then we started to think that God needed our help with some things.  And so, we began to evaluate our spiritual life on what we had done or wanted to do, instead of what God has done and will do for us.

Perhaps when we were confirmed in our faith as young teenagers, we promised to remain faithful, even unto death. And then came high school, and college, our career, and, well, life happened. And then, maybe we found ourselves distant and disconnected from God, His Word, His will, and His way.

This can even happen to the church too. Frankly, it’s what happened at the time of Luther—the whole Reformation was really a course correction for a church that had, over time, drifted away from the basic truths that became the great themes of the Reformation: grace alone, faith alone, scripture alone, Christ alone!

It can even happen to an entire denomination. Sometimes churches can find themselves majoring in the minors, or emphasizing Christian living for its own sake and not for the sake of accompanying Christ on His mission. We can become so caught up in our priorities and strategies that we begin to lose our theological mooring, our identity as Lutheran Christians. Or conversely, we can focus so much on who we are that we forget what we are to be—and to be about—on mission with Christ.

Yes sometimes even we Christians can loose our way, and when we do, we have to recalibrate our spiritual GPS—in our lives, as a congregation, as the church, as the kingdom of God in grace on earth. This is really what had happened in the time of Micah, the prophet of our text. As we’ve heard the last few Sunday’s during our Advent journey, the people of God had lost their way. The kings of the house of David acted as though they were the real kings, not the servants of God for the kingdom of God. The people had become more interested in themselves, in their own success, than serving God and their neighbor.

And the prophets had some hard words, as we have heard before. Of the great citadel Jerusalem and its temple, Micah said, “Zion will be plowed as a field; Jerusalem shall become a heap of ruins. Yet their message was not without hope. They spoke of a new king, another son of David. But there was also a sense that the new king was not just another David, as though maybe just one more generation was needed to get it all back on track. No, this was not just about going forward, this was a message of going back, remembering where they came from, and getting back on course.

For the king, this meant remembering David and his humble beginnings, back in his home town of Bethlehem. It wasn’t “David’s royal city” then. It was a small rural town, and Jesse and his sons were shepherds. Remember that Samuel looked for a son to anoint as king, and they paraded all of Jesse’s sons past him but David, he was the youngest and was out in the fields doing his work. He wasn’t even under consideration, but he was the one.

Of course, we know by a simple reading of scripture that when David became king, he quickly outgrew his humility and meekness. It didn’t take long for the house of David to get off course. And God would have to find them, having lost their way, and bring them back. Back to the beginning. Back to Bethlehem.  Back to a new birth of a new king.

Dear friends in Christ, we started our advent journey toward understanding God’s king and his kingdom by talking about “home,” the place, the city that is the king’s capital, which identifies his kingdom. We talked about the importance of a place to call home, with its safety and security. But we also noted that even a king who is serving in the kingdom of God could confuse his ideas about the kingdom with what God really wanted and intended it to be.

And now, this morning, we hear God’s solution to our sinful tendency to get lost; a Messiah would be born, One who would be ruler in Israel. His origins, and his “goings forth” (that is to say, where he came from and where he was going) was all part of God’s everlasting plan to send a Savior who would save the world, save the church, and save you and me, from our irresistible tendency and temptation to get ourselves lost, to get off course, to wander from God’s plan and then even to wonder if we are still God’s people.

In our text today, on this last Sunday of Advent, now less than a week away from Christmas itself, God calls us to consider not just our home, as we did when we started this journey, but our roots—not where we live, or lived, but where we were born; where we started, where our family comes from.

We think immediately of our family home, but in our spiritual lives, God reminds us to consider where and when we were born into His family. For some of you, that may have been right here, at this baptismal font. For others, it may have been in other churches in other places, but the point is, it was within the same waters of holy baptism, all of which has the same power of God unto salvation wherever and whenever it comes to his people.

So, as we prepare to celebrate our Savior’s birth, we recall that little town of Bethlehem, not for the sentimental scenes we might find on Christmas cards but for the holy history that it conveys: this was the birthplace, if you will, of the kingdom of God with men.

And as we prepare for Christmas, we remember how God himself went back to the beginning, back to the basics, back to Bethlehem. And this time the son of David got it right. No losing his way. No selfish sinful acts. This son of man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom.

Yet He was the King, a true and greater King than any ruler of Israel or president of the greatest democracy on earth. An angel choir announced his birth – not to the people of power in high places but to shepherds, out in the fields, doing their jobs like David was doing back in the day, just outside of that little town of Bethlehem.

He was God’s true King: David’s son but also David’s Lord. He would come to His capital city in a royal procession and be crowned with a crown of thorns. He would take upon himself the sin and suffering for all, to bear our sin and be our Savior, securing God’s forgiveness for all of our own sin. And He would be raised again, ascended to his heavenly throne, where he lives and reigns to all eternity, for us and for our salvation.

Yes, there will be peace, even on earth, not just for the house of Israel, but to the very ends of the earth!

As our Advent season draws to a close, and we draw nearer to the manger itself, our preparation turns, too, back to the beginning, back to the basics, back to the font, back to the baptismal waters where it all started for you and for me. There we received our own new life. There the Christmas message became a lasting truth for our personal lives. There we became God’s people, forgiven, to live under him in his kingdom, and to serve him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness!

O morning stars, together proclaim the holy birth— And praises sing to God, the King!—and peace to all the earth!  AMEN.

The King Will Have His Day!

Sunday, December 13th, 2015

Advent 3-C, December 13, 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

Isn’t it true, that life, our lives seem to be full of what we perceive to be good days and bad days? And if we feel we’re having a bad day, then we just look forward to a day when things will be better. And sometimes, in the middle of a bad day, other folks will try to cheer us up by saying, “Well, tomorrow is another day, and hopefully a better one!”

Of course, how we evaluate our days, whether they’re good or bad, are often affected by our own definitions of what is good or bad, and sometimes what we think is a bad day turns out to be not so bad, or we might even discover latter on down the road, that it was even for our good. And then on the other hand, what we may think is good can many times turn out to be bad.

Kings in the time of our Old Testament lesson (Zephaniah 3:14–20)—and I suppose world leaders today as well, too—can have good days and bad days. They don’t like to talk about the bad days, and they certainly don’t like their fellow citizens—or their enemies either for that matter—to hear about anything bad coming out of their kingdom or government. And it’s also true that as sinful people, we all have a very selfish and self-serving way of measuring things, and we really want things in our lives to be good, and if they turn out not to be good, we at least want things to appear to be good.

Of course, deep down we know the truth; we are not immune to bad days.  How many times have we sensed that others (and yes, also ourselves) are putting up a good front? Maybe it’s also true that we’ve gotten good at hiding our problems or internalizing our sadness, and because of this facade we’ve built, we’d rather talk about good days rather than dealing with the bad ones.

The Old Testament prophets talked about good days and bad days. But they had a better perspective on the realities of life. They measured and evaluated by something higher than human wants and wishes, needs or notions. They understood reality— past, present, and future—from the perspective and vantage point of God Himself, who made all of our days.

One of the biggest problems that these prophets—well, let’s just call them preachers, one of the biggest challenges they encountered was the tendency of the people to get the good days and the bad days mixed up, turned around. Isaiah gets to the heart of this problem when he says “(You call) evil good and good evil, you put darkness for light and light for darkness, (you call) bitter sweet and sweet bitter (Isaiah 5:20). In other words, we pick what looks good, but too often it turns out that is was not so good for us.

Part of the problem was that the people thought that God was obligated to giving them only the good stuff that they wanted. Since they were the people of God, they thought they were privileged to have things their way. And since God was a God of salvation and deliverance, they assumed that he would, well, save and deliver them no matter what the circumstances were.

And there was this phrase that the people kept talking about; about God’s great day—the “day of the Lord”—and their understanding was that it would be a day of salvation; a day that was anticipated as the time when God would finally give them victory over all of their earthly enemies. But the prophets (those faithful “preachers” of the Old Testament) had a way of turning this saying on its head. Amos, for example, preached, “Woe to you who desire the day of the Lord! Why would you have the day of the Lord? It is darkness and not light! It is as if a man fled from a lion, and a bear met him, or he went into the house and leaned with his hand against the wall (safe at home) – and a serpent bit him. Is not the day of the Lord darkness and not light, and gloom with no brightness?” [Amos 5:18]

Last Sunday we had a similar taste of how the truth of God can turn us upside down, when Malachi told the people who were crying out for justice that when the king comes to bring justice, they’ll get justice all right—and none of them would be able to endure the day of his coming.

Today, in our text from Zephaniah (Zephaniah 3:14–20), we hear another prophet who talks about the day of the Lord.

Listen to a portion of Zephaniah’s sermon in chapter 1 (14‒16) before his sermon found in today’s lesson.  He says: “The great day of the LORD is near, near and hastening fast; The sound of the day of the LORD is bitter; the mighty man cries aloud there. A day of wrath is that day, a day of distress and anguish, a day of ruin and devastation, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and think darkness, a day of trumpet blast and battle cry against the fortified cities and against the lofty battlements. I will bring distress on mankind so that they shall walk like the blind, because they have sinned against the LORD.”

Does that sound like a good day to you? But here’s the rub, all of these words that bring fear and trembling had to be spoken so that mercy and grace could follow. It is a serious warning that God had to make clear to His children of faith. God comes as King to get the job done right?  He doesn’t come to acquiesce to our definitions of good and bad, light and darkness. In the end, if we’ve sinned and fallen short of the glory and goodness of God, then every day, and especially our last day, our judgment day, will be a day of darkness and distress unless God can make a way out of no way.

But before God will do this work for us, He wants us to first agree with Him, that all of our days lived apart from His perfection and light—are days of darkness. And, if we can see things God’s way; if we can admit that He’s right and we are wrong, then like the plot twist in a good novel or movie, we will encounter God’s great reversal; we will discover that God has made a way out of no way—his one and only way—of showing us that all those bad days have been made into good days.

This is because of the one great day, a day that according to human standards, should be called the worst day of all, the day on which the innocent Son of God and our Lord and King was put to death, not for anything He had done but for the sins of all the world. A day that seemed to bring out the greatest injustice of all, turned out to be the best day of all, and the King finally brought justice in a very swift and severe manner. And what do we call this “bad day”? We call it GOOD Friday! It’s good, because God has turned the mother of all bad days into the best day of all. And now, the darkness of that day and all days following, we can claim as light, the glorious light of Easter morn: He is risen, and ascended, and lives and reigns to all eternity.

Dear friends in Christ, gathered today on this third Sunday of Advent, we are in the midst of our own good and bad days, busy days preparing for holidays. But every day is lived in the shadow of the darkness and the light of Good Friday and Easter morning.

Here, in the midst of Advent, we are already thinking ahead of our Lord’s passion, death, and resurrection, as we do every Son-day, in the light of God’s son, our Lord, our King. Last Sunday the theme of Advent turned dark. Malachi reminded us that the King Whom we are seeking will come—but with a twist. Though His coming is well announced, He will come suddenly, and with a surprise. Those who were looking for justice will find judgment. Those who were looking for light will find darkness.

Today, the prophet Zephaniah brings us to the end of the story; those having a dark day will see the light. Even in the midst of the dark deeds all around us, in the dark uncertainties of our world and our lives, even in the midst of the dark secrets that we keep hidden, out of sight and out of the light, God has a message of a very, very Good Day: “Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion, . . . Rejoice and exult with all your heart . . . The LORD has taken away the judgments against you. The King of Israel is in your midst—Right here, right now, in His word of grace and forgiveness, in His body and blood, given and shed for the forgiveness of YOUR sin.  ON THAT DAY (like today it’s a good day, hear the Word of God) It shall be said to Jerusalem (that includes you, right here, right now) Fear not, O Zion!  Let not your hands grow weak.  The LORD YOUR God is in YOUR midst— A mighty One who will save.

This morning the prophet Zephaniah has abruptly ended his message of law, and immediately breaks into songs of joy and he calls us to join him in praising God.  Why?  Because the Lord has taken away YOUR punishment, He has turned back YOUR enemies, sin, death, and the devil.  They were YOUR enemies that He defeated.  It was YOUR sins He took away.  He did it for YOU!

YOUR enemies and YOUR sins were removed by YOUR King and Savior, Jesus Christ. Death and hell are no longer a threat to YOU who cling to and trust in Christ your King, only!  This very morning, the Lord promises YOU that while you may not perceive it fully today, He has restored YOU, His faithful people, to a position of honor and praise. No longer are you to be despised and ridiculed by a world of unbelieving and faithless people. The last, great day of the Lord has come in Jesus Christ, and it will come again as a completed day of universal deliverance. You dear saints, will be among the sea of faithful children of God through Christ, who will be the center and joy of His creation, as He always intended the crown of his creation to be. On that final and great day of the advent of our God, our Lord will restore the original beauty of His creation and open up to us once again our heavenly home, Paradise restored!

Yes, the kings of the earth have their days, good days and bad days. So do we. We all may wait to “have our day,” but this day, this very day, is our day indeed. It is the Lord’s Day, it is the Day of the Lord. The king has come and had his day; it was a bad day that turned out to be a Good Day, a Good Friday.  And because of His day, He makes all our days His—His good days, for us!  AMEN!

The King’s Herald and Messenger

Sunday, December 6th, 2015

Advent 2-C, December 6, 2015
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor
Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego, CA
http://www.tlcsd.org

SORRY, NO AUDIO FOR THIS MESSAGE.

How do you feel about unannounced guests arriving at your home? I think most of us would agree that it usually is not a good thing!  If it’s a good friend or family member, well, ok—come as you are and we’ll take you as we are. But what if someone rather special—say your boss, the media, or maybe your pastor just showed up out of no where with no warning?

Sometimes, in the time of our Old Testament reading, leaders—and kings—would arrived unannounced; they wanted to surprise their subjects so that they could discover the truth. I think we would all agree that announced visits by anyone are always preferred.

Finally, two things are worth noting in relation to our text today. First, we need to understand the important role that messengers or heralds played; they were the individuals who announced the coming of the king.  And then we need to understand what it usually meant for the king himself to come visit his people.

Our Old Testament text this morning [Malachi 3:1-7a] begins like this, “Look, I am about to send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me.” [Mal 3:1]

Messengers were an important part of the way that the ancient world communicated. Long before the Internet and email, long before CNN or telephone and telegraph, even before the pony express, it was the feet of messengers that brought the important news. And the news was generally good. If it was bad, well, it wasn’t worth reporting, and the king usually didn’t want you to know about it any how. Of course, sometimes the news was not what people wanted to hear, and that’s where we get the old saying: “don’t kill the messenger.”

So we can say that the messenger came to “prepare the way” for the king. The Old Testament prophets used this image to prepare the people for the coming – not just of any king, like David or Hezekiah, but for the great and glorious “once and for all” King Who was yet to come.

Today we consider the words of Malachi, whose name itself means “my messenger.” You see, the prophets were also the “messengers of God” who not only prepared the way but also communicated the message from the King of the kingdom of God to His people of faith.

So in a sense Malachi is serving as a herald in announcing that another herald after him, would announce the coming of the king.

So now that we’ve been warned, how do we prepare? Both Isaiah and Malachi use language that describes clearing the road: getting rid of obstacles. Isaiah actually talks about a highway, like a superhighway that would provide smooth travel for the King; no traffic lights, no CalTrans construction, nothing in the way. But it was God who actually did the preparation, through his servants. The people were to simply anticipate the coming of their King.

And that brings us to a question that will lead us to the second important understanding: What did it mean for the king to come? Again, we need to think about this question with an Old Testament mindset. Kings marched home to their capital city in a victory parade; that’s just what kings did. Do you remember from last weeks message the close relation between the king and his city? This morning we think about the king himself coming home to his royal city. The grand processional included a good deal of pomp and circumstance. He was to be recognized and honored for whatever victories, conquests, and spoils of the nations that he was bringing with him. It was all about the king, and he did not come unannounced.

But did you catch the subtle little word in our text, “suddenly.” The whole point of this passage is about the messenger who’s only job was to prepare the way, and about people who were “seeking” their kingly lord. You would think they would be well prepared. Yet when “the Lord” comes, he comes suddenly.

So, dear saints, what are you expecting, now that the herald has announced the coming of the king? Victory? Triumph? The spoils of a conquering king shared with his people—or if not shared, then at least trickled down from rich to poor?

In Malachi’s day the people were expecting God to come and finally fix the problems of an unjust world.

They thought that the kingdom of God should be doing better than it was.  To them, God seemed to have somehow lost His vigor and power over the nations in the last few waning centuries.  So the people were waiting, they were wanting for something greater to happen. They had witnessed a lack of good leadership in their kings, and even the devotion of the people seemed to be dying or dead.   And now the priests were losing their edge, taking any old sacrifice as long as it came with money to fund the temple or grease the palms of the priests. Many people had lost their trust in the way of God, and they were just going through the motions; if the priests simply did the ritual, they thought they’d be fine, no matter how they chose to live their lives, attended to their marriages, families, and vocations. The way they looked at things, was that God was certainly big enough to accept a wide variety of spiritual practices and conduct!

But “suddenly” the whole scene seems to shift from a joyous occasion to pending gloom here in our text. The eager expectation of the coming king is met by the sudden and striking question: “who can endure the day of his coming?” Something seems terribly wrong here. The king was supposed to bring the wealth of the nations, whether gained justly or not, to his kingdom. The enemies were the ones who should be punished for practicing injustice; they knew nothing about good and evil, but these heralds are saying that the punishment would begin right here within the king’s  kingdom! And those who wanted justice – well, they were going to get it. And those who thought God should reward their self-­‐‑asserted goodness in a better way, well, they are going to realize that they’re not as good as they thought they were. And those who thought that God should punish evil, well, they are going to find out that the evil they want punished is a lot closer to them than they thought; it’s within their own hearts!

For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fuller’s soap” (this was long before ivory was 99.44% pure and gentle!). And he will purify the sons of Levi, yes starting first with the corrupt priests and leaders, but then moving on to the common folk and their weak and pathetic sacrifices and offerings.

And you see, this is really a good thing! It might not be what we expected, or even what we wanted, but it is what was truly needed. “Create in me a clean heart, O Lord—purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean!” (Ps 51:10, 7).

What could be worse than thinking you’re doing all the right things, when you’re not? What is worse than telling God how to be King, when he is King, and you are not? Do we want to be clean or just “blessed” in our mess?

Yes, the King is coming, this Lord whom we are seeking. And He has a few surprises for us, and for everyone, when He comes. But he is not coming unannounced. John the Baptist made sure of that (actually it was God working behind the prophet, who was his messenger, remember, to prepare the way). John had some hard and harsh words to say, too, as we heard in this weeks Gospel reading. [Luke 3:1-14]

And just behind John came Jesus Himself, but he didn’t come like other kings; no, He came as the very Lamb of God to take away the sins of the world. And it is this very truth that completely separates Jesus from all other types of kings and leaders. You see, the message that both John and Jesus brings isn’t about conquest and victory; it isn’t about distribution of wealth and physical blessings; it’s a message of repentance and forgiveness of sins. If we are to have justice, then it will come by God’s mercy and through his grace. Our sins will be paid for, but not by you or me.

The Lord, whom we are seeking, came to his people. They wanted justice, and he gave them justice; he exposed their sin, yes, our sin, but then he let our justice be done and paid for by His own suffering and agony, as He, through His life-blood and death paid for our sins himself.

The Lord, whom we are seeking, came to his temple. At one point He even mimicked the king’s triumphant entry, but it was a parody; He came upon a donkey and not a steed; He came in a procession leading sinners and rag-a-muffins rather than the king’s parade accompanied by warriors. A procession that eventually continued down and out of the city He had entered, and then up a steep hill called Golgotha.  Why, you ask?  Because He came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom, for YOU.

And then, but only then, came the victory parade: not into the city, but out of the tomb!  He came to those hiding in an upper room, scared of the world out there! And then, He went out to Galilee, back to Jerusalem, and sent His peculiar people of faith, His redeemed sinners and rag-a-muffins He calls Christians, out with a mission and message to herald his kingdom to the end of the earth.

And then he left, but He WILL come again. Will his return be unannounced? Certainly not!  God used Malachi, and then John, as his messengers, his heralds the first time Christ came. And now, God wants his coming to be announced again. We know he is coming, soon, even though it may well come “suddenly.” But he has announced it. And He asks us announce it, too.

Advent is a time of preparation, for the coming of the King has been announced. “Hark, the herald angels” we will be singing in another great announcement very soon. We are waiting for His arrival. It is the Lord that we are seeking. Our expectant hearts turn to the preparations at hand. Repent, for the kingdom of God is, indeed, at hand! AMEN.

Are You Ready For The Rending?

Sunday, November 30th, 2014

First Sunday in Advent-B, November 30, 2014

Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego, CA 92114
http://www.tlcsd.org

Click here for audio of this message.

“Time Enough at Last” became one of the most famous episodes of the original Twilight Zone, and has been frequently parodied since. It is “the story of a man who seeks salvation in the rubble of a ruined world” and tells of Henry Bemis, played by Burgess Meredith, who loves books, yet is surrounded by those who would prevent him from reading them. The narration of the episode begins with these words: “Witness Mr. Henry Bemis, a charter member in the fraternity of dreamers. A bookish little man whose passion is the printed page, but who is conspired against by a bank president and a wife and a world full of tongue-cluckers and the unrelenting hands of a clock. But in just a moment, Mr. Bemis will enter a world without bank presidents or wives or clocks or anything else. He’ll have a world all to himself…without anyone.”

Bank teller and avid bookworm Henry Bemis is at work at his tellers window, while reading David Copperfield, and because of the distraction of the book, he shortchanges a customer who becomes annoyed. Bemis’s angry boss, and later his wife, both complain to him that he wastes far too much time reading books.

The next day, as usual, Bemis takes his lunch break in the bank’s vault, where his reading will not be disturbed. Moments later he sees a newspaper headline, which reads “H-Bomb Capable of Total Destruction”, and just then, an enormous explosion outside the bank violently shakes the vault, knocking Bemis unconscious. After regaining consciousness and finding his thick glasses that he needs to see, Bemis emerges from the vault to find the bank demolished and everyone in it dead. Leaving the bank, he sees that the entire city has also been destroyed, and realizes that a nuclear war has devastated the Earth, but because he was in the vault, he was spared.

Finding himself totally alone in a shattered world with food to last him a lifetime, but no one to share it with, Bemis begins to be overcome with despair, but in the distance, Bemis sees the ruins of the public library. Investigating, he finds that the books are still intact and readable; all the books he could ever hope for are his for the reading, and (as he gazes upon a huge fallen face of a clock) he realizes that he has all the time in the world to read them without interruption.

His despair gone, Bemis contentedly sorted through the books he looked forward to reading for years to come. Just as he bent down to pick up the first book, he stumbled, and his glasses fell off and shattered. In shock, he picked up the broken remains of the glasses that are now useless, leaving him virtually blind, and he says, “That’s not fair. That’s not fair at all. There was time now. There was all the time I wanted…! That’s not fair!”, as he burst into tears, surrounded by books he now can never read.

Mr. Bemis was not ready for the rending of the heavens and the final judgment day; he was not ready to discover that it is God alone who defines what is fair and what is not.  He was not ready for God to come in power, are you?  Can you truly agree with the prophet Isaiah and say…

“Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at your presence—as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil—to make your name known to your adversaries, and the nations might tremble at your presence!  When you did awesome things that we did not look for, you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence.  From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen a God besides you, who acts for those who wait for Him.  You meet Him who joyfully works righteousness, those who remember you in your ways.” [Isaiah 64:1-5]

God has come down and “rended” the heavens in the past; He came to meet sinful yet faithful men and women as they were.  He answered the prayers of His people when they were in bondage in Egypt and caused great plagues to strike the land and its people until mighty Pharaoh let His people go!  He parted the Red Sea so that they could escape on dry land, but then allowed the waters to recede and destroy the pursuing Egyptian army.  He listened to the faithful prayer of King Hezekiah, and thwarted the Assyrian army that had amassed itself around Jerusalem by striking down tens of thousands of Assyrian soldiers in their camp while they slept.”

Faith, which is a gift of God turns to the Lord in prayer.  Even when God seems shut away and silent in heaven, faith prays.  The message that God desires us to take with us this morning is that even in ominous times, God wants His children of faith to call out to Him in prayer.  He wants us to call out to Him, “Our Father, our Redeemer from of old” (Isaiah 63:16), “Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at your presence!” These are the words of a believer—a child of faith who is facing difficult times, but still clinging to God’s promises of power and grace.  For those who cry out like this, everything may seem to be “out of whack” in this world; evil may seem to be over powering good, and the devil may seem to be stopping even God’s will, but faith still prays.

In times like those, when God’s enemies seem to be defying His rule and authority, the prophet Isaiah encourages all believers to call out to God and ask that He step in and correct this apparent imbalance.  “O Lord, come quickly.  Assert your power; protect and deliver your people.  Destroy your enemies and the enemies of your people.”

But there is just one little problem.  If we are honest, we too are many times found to be acting as if we are faithless; we too because of our sins, have been and will be again the enemies of God.  We remember the God of old and His mighty deeds, and we are afraid.  We are afraid because we know that we too fall short of the qualification of joyfully working towards righteousness.

“Behold, you were angry, and we sinned; in our sins we have been a long time, and shall we be saved?  We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.  We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.  (This is why) There is no one who calls upon your name, who rouses Himself to take hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us, and have made us melt in the hand of our iniquities.” [Isaiah 65:5-7]

So what is the solution to our apparent inability to call out to God, to see and hear God in a righteous way?  How can we possibly rid ourselves of so many and so vile of a list of sins, sins which soak into our very being making us in God’s eyes simply a bunch of filthy rags?  (Filthy rags which are like those discarded by a woman during her menstrual period.). The answer is that we can do nothing to rid ourselves of this curse of sin, but God can!  He alone must work once again in a way that this sinful world would never expect.  He must do what we can not.  He must come quickly to be our defender and our Savior.

No one could have foretold of the mighty deeds God did in Egypt to free His people; no one could have foretold that God would rend the heavens and shake the mountains as He met Moses on the mountain top and spoke with Him.  No one could have foretold that God would save Jerusalem by striking down the Assyrian army as they surrounded the remnant of Israel.  And no one would have guessed that all of this was leading up to God’s greatest miracle for sinful men and women such as us.  Sinful men and women who since the fall of Adam and Eve, have been held in the cruel bondage of sin.  We could never love God and our neighbor as God’s perfect law demands… it is beyond us.  But God made a way out of no way.

Who could ever have imagined that God would bring us back to Him by grace through faith, by sacrificing His own Son upon a wooden cross at Calvary?  What human mind could have anticipated the empty tomb?  Could anyone have anticipated that by faith in God’s Son and Servant Jesus Christ, a man or woman could become an adopted child of God?  But this is always how our mighty God acts; He reveals His truths to humanity… in a way that all of creation must simply stand in awe and receive His gift of presence with thanksgiving and praise.

The wisdom of God’s gracious and powerful plan lies completely outside of our realm of understanding.  If any man or woman is to understand and receive God’s work of redemption they must first be given the ability to believe and receive it through the faith giving power of the Holy Spirit that comes to them through His proclaimed and fulfilled Word of promises.  In other words, they must hear and receive the gospel of Jesus Christ.

In our Old Testament lesson, which is simply a prayer of the prophet Isaiah, we are drawn to God’s loving heart along with the prophet to call out to God in prayer and then hold fast to a principle which teaches, that God always acts on behalf of those who wait for Him.  But He only acts for those who know Him as Father and Savior.  He acts for those who know that He is the potter and they are His clay; they are His creation.

“But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.  Be not so terribly angry, O Lord, and remember not iniquity forever.  Behold, please look, we are all your people. [Isaiah 64:8, 9]

Why should God even listen to our prayers, let alone respond to them?  Because we are the clay, and He molds us after His will.  We are the work of His hands; His mighty hands, the hands of Jesus, which were pierced for our transgressions.

In one part of God’s Word, we discover that our disgusting sins are all that is needed to separate us from God’s love, but in another part of God’s Word, the gospel, faith tells us of another way; it tells us that through His Son, Christ Jesus, we may turn to Him by faith and trust in His gracious promises to both redeem and save us, and to remake us into the image of His Son.

Many of you have been taught since your were children to both begin your prayers “in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” and to always pray “in Jesus’ name.”  Why do you suppose that is?  It is because God has no reason to listen to any of us outside of the miraculous work of His Son Jesus!  We come to Him in the name of Jesus, who has shed His blood to wash away our sins and cover us with His robe of righteousness.  When we call upon and trust in the name of Jesus, God invites us to pray to Him as dear children and to ask their dear Father for those things that we need.  We can pray with confidence and boldness because, in Jesus, God IS our dear Father.

As we enter into the season of Advent, it is my prayer that the peace of God will allow your heart to boldly call out to God, asking Him to come again through His Son and rend the heavens and make all things right and well for each of you, as you are transferred from the Kingdom of grace into the Kingdom of glory and power.  I ask this in Jesus name… AMEN!

Emmanuel: A Gift That Keeps on Giving!

Sunday, December 23rd, 2012

4th Sunday in Advent of the Church Year (C), December 23, 2012
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA

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““Behold I have come to do your will, O God. [Hebrews 10:7a]

Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist knew that the Lord was with her; and her unborn baby John knew that the Lord was with him, which is  why he leaped in the womb of his mother.  Do you know that He is with you?  In spite of your fears that the end of the world could have come  just two short days ago, in spite of the fact that the end of the world did come for 26 Sandy Hook elementary school children and their  teachers, do you understand that God is with you, even when you have your doubts?

““Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means God with us).” [Matthew 1:23]  This  morning, the Words of the pre-incarnate Son of God ring out for us this morning and declare, “A body have you prepared for me; Behold I  come to do your will, O God”!

And what is the will of God the Father?  That you would see His love for you in the gift that He has given to the world; a gift that He gives to you  personally: His Son, Immanuel… a gift that keeps of giving.

But something terrible has happened; something that just won’t allow you to see how wonderful His gift is.  It is something that moves our hearts to look at God’s gift as insignificant and inadequate for facing this hard life we are living.  In this life we know the fear of senseless violence; we know the fear of lack of wealth and even homelessness.  We know the fear of lost love and appreciation.  We also know that in order to deal with these things we need something big; we need a windfall and a miracle that will turn things around for us.  So we look past the baby in the womb of Mary; oh we appreciate the coming of the baby in the manger with no crib for a bed, but this is the real world where people are dying for no good reason.  This is a world where the greedy and the violent seem to always have the upper hand…  so how does a little baby born in Bethlehem help anything… at all?

Well, simply put, this little baby in the womb of mother Mary is your only real source of help because He is in fact God in human flesh.  You see, Mary is not just Mary the mother of Jesus; she is also mysteriously the Mother of God.  The fruit of her womb is not just a baby who will soon be resting Away in a Manger; He is the God and Creator of all things; a God who never slumbers nor sleeps.  He is the one who keeps His entire church safe, even a sinner like you!

Maybe we tend to look down or even away from this little baby in the womb of Mary, because we know that He will also grow up to become the God-man who suffered and died upon the cross for our sins.  And there really I think is the problem; we must admit that He was born to die for our sins.  We are alright saying that God must punish the sins of the killer who struck at the school in Connecticut, we are alright with saying that God must punish the Bernie Madoffs of this world, and even the social leeches who produce and sell drugs in our neighborhoods, but is God really concerned with our sins?  Yes!  It is your sins as small as you may say that they are which separate you from the love of God.  But truth be told, you and I know that if others really knew the evil and vile things that go on in our hearts and minds, no one would want to be around us.

Why don’t we appreciate the gift of Immanuel?  Because we don’t like to be shown our need for it; we don’t want to admit that in God’s eyes we are just as bad as a mad-man or a serial killer.

So hear Immanuel speak to you again; hear Him give to you a gift that keeps on giving: “Behold I have come to do your will, O God!”

Now dear friends let’s allow the Spirit of God to remind us just how important and exciting this gift really is.  God has come to our world in power; He has come in the flesh of Jesus Christ.  God is Spirit and truth, and in the flesh of Jesus, the very Son of God comes to you to give you true peace!  Peace in the middle of your fears; peace in the middle of your worries; peace in the middle of your ungodly sins, He says I shall be your champion and your deliverer.  I was born to die for you.  I spent my whole life walking to a cross on Golgotha, outside of the Temple.  I suffered and died alone abandoned by my Father, because I carried your sins with me; I died the death of a criminal, of a murder so that you could go free!

Behold I have come to do the will of the Heavenly Father; I have come to bring life where there is death; I have come to make all things new… even you!  This news is so good that a fetus jumped for joy; John the Baptist, who was as of yet unborn jumped for joy in the womb of his mother Elizabeth.  A life unborn responded to the presence of his Savior with unbound joy!  You who have been baptized, perhaps also as a small baby have been baptized into this same joy.

Your reason for being joyful then and now is the same reason that moved John to leap for joy: Your God has come to you in our own flesh.  He has come to live a hard life; the same life you have lived and are living, but He also came to die an agonizing death, and in death be separated from His Heavenly Father.  This is the death that you deserve to die, but never will, because you are resting in the truth that Immanuel came to do the Father’s will.

And what is that will?  That when you leave this veil of tears you would never again know suffering, pain, fear, or sin, but instead that you would dwell forever in the house and love of the Lord!

Even now dear saints you have something interesting happening within your hearts; you are experiencing God’s work of removing your shame and guilt; guilt perhaps centered around your tendency to look down upon this baby as insignificant in times of trouble, but even stronger than that truth is the reality that you truly are forgiven. Even now, you are beginning to experience the joy of remembering just what He came to do.  You remember that He has set you free from the things that can separate you from the love of God.  You remember that God alone in His mercy has given His Son to die for you and for His sake forgives you all of your sins.

So let your heart leap for joy; call out if you wish; praise Him with cries of thanksgiving and praise; shout glory even in the darkness of this sinful world; even in the darkness of your own sin.

Today, if this good news has softened your hard heart once again, then I pray that you will let the joy of the Lord fill you and lead you from this place of worship out into a community that is dark and cold, and dying in sin.  I pray that in the joy of the Holy Spirit you will go out and live a joyous life, even though you know that you will experience both rejection and acceptance; failure and success; death and life.  Live with joy in the midst of every tension, because you  know that your Savior did the same thing.  And through His birth, life, death, and resurrection, He has brought to you the assurance of everlasting peace.

This morning God calls each of us by faith to follow His Son from the cradle to the grave, and from the grave unto our eternal home with confidence knowing that we are not alone.  Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the son of Mary came to do God’s will; He came to prove to you that it is God’s will that you should not die alone in your sins but have eternal life.

This morning, God’s Word shows you that He uses little things to make a big difference in this world of sin.  He comes as a simple fetus in the womb of a young woman.  He rests as a simple and helpless baby in a manger in Bethlehem.  He comes to you in simple language in the Word, but He also comes in simple elements like water, bread, and wine.  But because He comes in accordance with His will and not the sinful will of men, He takes these simple things and He does marvelous things with them.

This little baby grows to be the God man who dies for the world, but then takes His life back up again and ascends to heaven, forever defeating sin, death, and the devil.  And this God-man assures us that every Word that God has ever willed to be recorded can be found within the pages of your Bible so that you will know His Son Jesus Christ as your Savior and King.  And He takes those Words and He attaches them to water so that the gift of salvation for the world becomes your own personal gift within the waters of your baptism.  He takes that simple bread and wine and He tells you that it is also His body and blood consumed for your continued forgiveness and the strengthening of your faith!

So you see, the incarnation of the Son of God who is also the son of Mary is really what makes all of the difference.  It takes a bunch of sinners like us who have nothing and recreates us in to saints who have the greatest gift of all… Immanuel: the gift that keeps on giving.

Now may the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus… AMEN!

Rejoice, Always; Really?

Sunday, December 16th, 2012

3rd Sunday in Advent of the Church Year (C), December 16, 2012
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA

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““Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. [Philippians 4:4]

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

What kind of response do you think I would receive from someone who just found out they were in stage 4 cancer, and I greeted them  with the word, “Rejoice!”?  What about the homeless or the hungry?  Do you think a Christian parent worried about their young adult  child and the life choices they are making would appreciate me telling them to rejoice?  Probably not, but that is because they are  living in the right now, a bad right now, and in their minds the time of rejoicing is something that perhaps will come in the future, a  very distant future, if at all.  For now, all they can see; all they can think about is that dark right now.  And yet God’s Word does that  very thing; in all three of our readings, God’s people are encouraged to rejoice in the middle of a dark right now.

In our society, we let our joy, or our rejoicing be dependent on external things like our health, wealth, and relationships.  Or another  way to say that is, that our peace seems to be dependent on how we feel.  Whenever our health, wealth, or relationships are threatened,  we will immediately shift from being happy Christians to fearful and unhappy children of this world.

But the prophet Zephaniah in our Old Testament reading (Zephaniah 3:14-20) never lost sight of God’s promises to His people of faith as they waited for deliverance out of their bondage in Babylon.  So God spoke another Word of promise, of deliverance to Zephaniah; it was a Word of hope that he was to speak to God’s children of faith who were losing hope: “Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel!  Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem!  The Lord has taken away the judgments against you; He has cleared away your enemies.”  In other words, even when you think all is lost, look to the Lord and the promises of His Word and shout, “Glory!”

As St. Paul sat in a dark and dank Roman prison with a death sentence looming, wrote to the brothers and sisters in Philippi (Philippians 4:4-7), Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. But wait a minute there Paul, you are experiencing seclusion, hunger, physical pain, and the knowledge that soon you will be put to death.  How can you be rejoicing?  Are you really rejoicing?  Why?

Yes, it is clear that people of great faith seem to be able to find joy even in the middle of suffering; even when their health, wealth, and relationships are falling apart.  But what about us normal people?  When we become afraid or worry, does that mean we lost our faith?  Does that mean God has given up on us?  Well, let’s look at someone who fits that description, and let Jesus speak to that concern.

In our Gospel lesson (Luke 7:18-28) we find John the Baptist in the middle of Herod’s prison.  He also was experiencing fear and worry.  What was he afraid of?  He was afraid that Jesus, the Son of God no longer cared that he was wasting away in his cell.  Day and night after lonely night, John was alone in Herod’s prison.  He seemed to be living in a time of perpetual waiting and uncertainty.  John knew that Jesus was the Christ, the Savior of the World; in fact He had been preaching that very thing before Herod had him arrested, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”

But John also knew that there were certain prophecies that must be fulfilled by the Savior.  He knew that the blind would see, the lame would walk, the deaf would hear, the lepers would be cleansed, the dead would be raised, and those in prison would be set free.  And to John’s knowledge, it seemed that all of them had been fulfilled accept one; John was still in prison.  So, yeah, John is a little impatient, maybe even a little peeved.  He’s watching, waiting, and enduring.  He knows the time is right and He knows that the Word of God will always be fulfilled so, so… WHY IS HE STILL IN PRISON?   With that question looming in his heart, he sends a delegation to Jesus to ask a stupid question that he already knows the answer to; he asks it because it expresses his fear and worry; he asks it so that words of faith can be spoken by Jesus to take away his fear and worry.  “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?”

Can you hear it in John’s words?  It is really a prayer: “How long Lord will you wait?  Come to me quickly and comfort me.  I need you; the one you love is afraid and alone; I might even be dying!”

And to John’s prayer, Jesus speaks Words of life; words that create both faith and joy.  Jesus speaks to John and all others in prison; He speaks to the elderly person dying all alone in a nursing home, seemingly forgotten by his family and church; He speaks to the addict who just wants to be free of the addiction; he speaks to the homeless and hungry; he speaks to the cancer patient and all those who are sick; and he speaks to the Christian parent who worries about their adult child and their lack of faith.  “I am He who gives sight to the blind, causes the lame to walk, cleanses lepers, gives hearing to the deaf, and raises the dead.  You have the good news preached to you; you know that I have taken away your sins.  You are blessed if you will concentrate on this truth and not lose faith in me; you will be blessed with eternal life.  So hold onto my Word and do not stop coming to my church where I will continue to strengthen your faith.

St. Paul, this morning gives us the same Word of encouragement.  He says that “the Lord is at hand”.  Your time of waiting, your time to be comforted and assured that all is well here.  He comes to you in His Word.  It is the same Word that told the waters, “Peace, be still!” and they were.  It is the same Word that called Lazarus out of the grave and brought Him back to life.  It is the same Word that promised Zephaniah and his countrymen that their bondage was soon to end, and one day they would celebrate in front of, and with God Himself.  It is the same Word of peace that spoke new life into us at our baptism.  It is a Word that says continuously, “The Lord is near.”

He comes to you in His Word and He fills you with faith.  He reminds you that you are forgiven and all is well with your soul.  He comes to you in the Word at His table, and He says, “Take eat; this is my body.  Take and drink; this is my blood.  I come to you in these things; these means… the Word, the water, the bread and the wine.  I come to you, as your brothers and sisters speak forgiveness to you and you speak the same forgiving Words back to them.  But soon and very soon, I am coming in the flesh again, to set you free from the prisons that this sinful world has built to hold you captive.”

What is it that holds us in bondage?  Isn’t it our fear and worry?  Isn’t it our sinful flesh?  Isn’t it our flesh that is in the bondage  of sin?  But our spirit is free; it was created to be free!  It is your spirit that hears the Word of God and rejoices.  It is your spirit that looks at temporary things like health, wealth, and relationships and knows that these are not what define your future.  It is your spirit that remembers the promises of God and waits for them to be fulfilled.  It is your spirit that knows that it is “He who began the good work in you who will complete it, on the day of Christ’s return.” [Philippians 1:6]

The Lord did not forget His promise to Zephaniah and the children of faith who were in bondage in Babylon.  He did not forget His promise to John the Baptist or St. Paul as they waited in their prisons.  He spoke to them and reminded them that He was there with them.  They were not alone, and neither are you.  He knows you are waiting.  He knows that you are patiently enduring attack after attack upon your health, wealth, and relationships.  He does see how dark and lonely you can be.  He sees your sadness and knows your pain.  He understands your worry and even your doubts.  He hears your prayers and supplications and he remembers your prayers of thanksgiving.  He is not silent; He has not forgotten about you.  He is answering the cry of your heart even now!  But to hear Him speak, you must be still and silent.  You need to look only to the means that He has given to us to hear Him and experience Him.  You must receive Him by faith in His Word and in His sacraments.

This morning, God wants you to know that the heavens and earth will pass away but His Word will never pass away.  The grass withers and the flower fades, but the Word of the Lord will always be with you.   Turn your eyes to the Word of God in human flesh.  Look to Him and no other for hope and peace.  Listen to Jesus speak to you and hear His promises of eternal blessing.  Watch and wait for the one who has come and is coming again.  Receive His coming now in His Word and in His body and blood, in with and under the bread and wine.  He comes to comfort you in the middle of your sadness and depression.  He takes away your sins, gives you peace and a clean conscience as He removes all fear and worry from your heart.  In the middle of uncertainty, he gives you assurance; a blessed assurance.

In this season of Advent we wait together in joy.  The joy of being certain; we wait for He who has come and is coming again.  We wait for a God who always fulfills His promises.  Let this season of waiting be a time of peace, and faith-filled confidence that comes always and only through the mighty Word of God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  AMEN!

What Does This Mean?

Sunday, December 2nd, 2012

First Sunday in Advent of the Church Year (B), December 2, 2012
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA

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“”“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell securely. And this is the name by which it will be called: The Lord is our righteousness.’” [Jeremiah 33:14-16]

Behold the days have come, Jesus Christ fully God and fully man was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered  under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried.  He descended into hell.  The third day He rose again from the dead.  He  ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.  From thence He will come to judge the living and the  dead.  Christ has come and He will come again.  Let the church say AMEN!

That is the whole point of Advent.  We remember how Christ came; we remember the anticipation of the people of faith as they awaited  the coming of the Messiah.  And today, the church celebrates that He has come, and we look forward to His return.  Should any of this  make a difference?  What does advent mean to our community, to our nation, and to this world?  What does this mean to you?  Does it  make a difference in your life?  Can others see that difference in the way you live?

In last week’s news paper, my wife pointed out three stories that represented three related realities about this world we live in.  The first story was national in scope.  It was about that mega shopping day, Black Friday; so mega in fact that it could not be constrained to just Friday.  It seems that shoppers have been duped into using the holiday of Thanksgiving as just another day to acquire more stuff, instead of giving thanks and praise to God, on the one day we as a nation have set aside to acknowledge and thank Him for His many blessings.  How sad!

On another section of the paper, a story was run about the ever increasing pandemic known as hunger and homelessness here in America’s finest city, San Diego, California.  What jumped out at me especially was not the fact that the food bank is running out of food, and that the shelters are quickly filling; no what jumped out at me was the fact that the church no longer plays a lead role in caring for the hungry and homeless.  Now, you see organizations like Jewish Family Services and the Jacobs foundation are leading the way and teaching us as a community to be loving and kind to others.

Then on the international page I read another story about the newly elected president of Egypt seizing complete power, suspending the democratic rights of the people, but promising that if they just trust him, everything will be alright.  And while he is making everything alright, people who are in the streets crying out for help and justice are being terrorized and killed by that same man.

So why am I sharing these three stories with you?  Because as Jesus taught us in our gospel lesson (Luke 21:25-36), His pending return, or His advent will remind us that we are in a season of turmoil and distress, so much so that it will cause people to faint with fear and trembling because of what is coming on the world.  It is a time when the powers of the heavens will be shaken and those living will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.  And Jesus said that when these things happen, the things that cause turmoil and distress, we should straighten up and raise our heads, because our redemption is drawing near.  The righteous branch of David is coming and he will execute justice and righteousness in the land.

Christ has come.  Born as a baby to a virgin girl in Bethlehem, He came to us in our flesh to make all things right; all things new.  This is the truth that the ancients waited for and it is the truth we celebrate today, this first Sunday in Advent.  Christ has come, what does this mean?  It means we must live out His coming; it means we must be His righteousness in this world, until He comes again to make all things new and right.

It means that on a day of Thanksgiving, we as the body of Christ, as His church here in our sin-soaked community must be His light; His source of righteousness.  While others are busy acquiring things, we should be busy demonstrating a spirit of thankfulness; we should be acknowledging and thanking our God and Savior, Jesus Christ.  It means that when there is a Thanksgiving church service, we will go out of our way to attend; after all, this thanksgiving business isn’t about us, it is about God!

Christ has come, what does this mean?  It means that when people are going hungry in this world and have no place to live, we as the church, the body of Christ ought to be making a difference.  We ought to be leading the way in demonstrating acts of love, because Jesus our Master and King, our Redeemer and Savior is the Source of all true love.

Is that what we do?  On the screen, you see some pictures of our pantry. Look at how empty those shelves are.  If we waited for food donations from this community before we were able to help out the hungry and homeless, it would not happen, because those donations are almost nonexistent.  While our cupboards are full at home, we can’t even seem to bring in and drop off a few nonperishable food items, or throw a few extra dollars in the Agape fund.  Instead, where do we get the food for our pantry?  We have to buy it from the food bank, which is run by the Jewish community, who seem to be “out-loving” Christ’s own people.

Christ has come.  Does it seem like He’s coming in places like Egypt, Israel, even here in the United States?  No, and the reason is clear, people have placed their trust in men and the governments of men instead of God’s promise to deliver and provide.  But Jesus warns us not to let these things, these truths demoralize us.  He says, “But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.” [Luke 21:34-36]

How do we stay awake?  How do we make sure that the way we live here in this world is pleasing to God?  We do it by remembering that Christ has come, and is coming again.  We do it by hearing the prophet Jeremiah’s words this morning, not as a threat, but as words of comfort.  We remember that we have an eternal King whose eternal concern and rule has us as His central interest.  It is Jesus who even right now, is watching over us in all our ways to keep us safe for Himself.  We have a High Priest who has a permanent priesthood, sealed by His own blood.  He is God’s permanent presence in our lives; He alone is not only the source of all love and charity, He is OUR source of love and charity.  “He is able to save completely those who come to God through Him, because He always lives to intercede for them”. [Hebrews 7:25]  We have the confidence that “if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.  He is the atoning sacrifice for our sin, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” [1 John 2:1,2]

Christ is the one perfectly righteous King; He alone is able to rule and govern us perfectly.  He will never provide a reason for you to depose Him or impeach Him as earthly rulers deserve.  He reigns with perfect righteousness and delivers perfect justice.  He alone has laid down His life to earn your love and respect, and He alone took back up His life to gain your worship.  He alone can forgive sins, heal the broken hearted, and set the captives free.  It is He alone who can truly care for the poor.

Christ alone cares for you and He wants to care for your neighbors, even the world.   He does it first through His Word and Sacraments.  They are the means of the Father to bring new life and hope into the lives of sinners caught up in the darkness and hopelessness of sin.  He comes through these means with complete forgiveness, but these means come through people; they come through the church, a group of other sinners who were once also trapped in sin and hopelessness, but now have been freed and patiently wait for the return of their King.

How can we live lives of hope and trust when all around us seems to be overwhelming fear and faithlessness?  We do it because we are not alone.  We are together as the body of Christ.  You saints of Trinity are a light in this community we call Encanto, in a city named San Diego.  You are a city on a hill, where God works out his righteousness within you and through you.  You are those who have learned that true religion does not exist to deliver us from suffering and pain, but instead it leads us through those things as we draw others to follow us as we are following our King.  So the season of Advent reminds us that as Christ’s body here on earth, we have been appointed to follow our Savior and experience pain and suffering even as He did.

Before I close, I wanted to share my heart with you as your pastor.  Most of you know that since I arrived here, one of my primary tasks was to be your chief evangelist within our community.  I have done that tirelessly along with my staff, who are here every day of the week.  Together, we represent you and we do it well.  We pour out ourselves for those who come looking for rest, hope, and peace.  But I must confess that we do sometimes feel defeated and alone.

So many times we have reached out to our neighbors with the best of our time, talent, and treasure, and we have seen them flourish in God’s love, forgiveness and healing, only to see them leave without so much as a thank you.  We see them drawn to other churches or fellowships that have not ministered to them, but instead, upon their arrival, they give them more of the very world that destroyed them.  We see our neighbors take advantage of our love and in essence spit in our face.  So what are we to do?

“We are to continue walking the path before us (the same path our Lord walked), as (He alone) makes us increase and abound in love for one another and for all, even as we do for all of you.”  Why do we do these things, even though they bring us pain and suffering?  Because we know that the Holy Spirit will establish our hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” [1 Thessalonians 3:11-13]  Wont you join us in our journey following our King?  Will you support us and come along side of us with your time, talent and treasure, as together we proclaim the powerful Advent message: Christ has come, Christ is coming again… AMEN!

Behold the Kingdom of God!

Sunday, December 18th, 2011

4th Sunday in Advent B, December 18th, 2011
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16

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As 2011 is coming to a close, there’s a lot to be thankful for, but there were also a lot of things that we might like to forget, and think of as a bad nightmare.  For instance, we are told that the peak in the foreclosures has not yet been experienced.  There are a lot of good people out there who will continue to lose their homes in 2012.

What started out as the American dream, has turned into an American nightmare.  I have personally met a lot of those good people who’ve lost their homes.  They’ve showed up in record numbers here at our church seeking help in our food pantry and our free community breakfast.  Each one, to the person tells the same story.  Their dream turned to a nightmare when they or someone in their household lost their job in the recession, and then were unable to find a new one.  As time went by, they were forced to choose between eating or paying the mortgage, they chose to eat, and so began the slow and steady decline to foreclosure!

Who’s to blame?  Is it the fault of the homeowner for buying more home than they could afford?  Perhaps.  Is it the fault of the mortgage broker and the banks, writing loans that they knew the perspective buyer couldn’t afford?  Maybe.  Or is it God’s fault?  God’s fault, why would I say that?  Well because more than a few of the people I’ve met have wondered out loud to me, why God allowed this to happen.  They wonder if God was trying to teach them something.

So is it God’s fault?  No, it was their decision to borrow or to give.  They were the ones taking the chance, hoping that God would bless their decision after-the-fact.  This is somewhat similar to the decision King David made, when he decided to build a house, a temple for God.

Since the time of Moses, the Hebrew people toted around the tabernacle of the Lord.  Although vast amounts of earthly wealth were used to create the tabernacle, it was still nothing more than a series of tents.  And now King David had just finished building his palace in Jerusalem, when he realized that the Lord’s Ark of the Covenant was still living in a tent.  So David gets an idea that he’s sure will please God: “I will build the Lord a beautiful temple!”  Now that he had the idea, David wanted to make sure that it would be blessed by God, so he found the Lord’s prophet Nathan and told him about his plan.  And what did the prophet say?  “Go (and) do all that is in your heart, for the Lord is with you.”  The only problem with this is, no one bothered to ask God what He wanted done!

So what did God want?  Well he wanted a home, but not one that David would build; He wanted a home that He would build Himself and establish by His own strength.  And this is where we discover that God’s no isn’t a bad thing, but a blessed thing.  It is the promise that something greater than we could ever imagine or think would be given in its place!

Now eventually, God did allow a house or temple to be built in order to worship Him, but it would not be a temple that could hold Him.  After all, He is God and He is present everywhere.  So while David’s son Solomon would be allowed to build, it would not be the building that would fulfill the Words of promise that came from God Himself.  Listen: “Say to my servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, In all of the places where I have moved with all the people of Israel, did I (ever) speak a Word with (anyone), saying, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?”  (Now) the Lord declares to you that the LORD will make you a house.  And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me.  Your throne shall be established forever.’”

Do you hear God’s “no” in those Words?  But do you also hear His “just wait” in those Words as well?  So what happened?  Well David’s son, King Solomon was allowed to build a house for the Lord, and after Solomon there were a few more from David’s family who sat upon David’s throne, but like all earthly reigns, it came to an end.  And yet God said that David’s house and kingdom would remain forever.  Did God foreclose on the mortgage to David’s reign and throne?  No!  God is not a man that He should change His mind, and He’s not like a bank that He should foreclose.  Behold the Kingdom of God.  A kingdom that comes after God’s no and in the middle of His just wait!

“And the angel said to (Mary), “Do not be afraid for you have found favor with God.  And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call His name Jesus.  He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.  And the Lord God will give to Him the throne of His father David, and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.” [Luke 1:30-32]

Behold the mystery of God’s Kingdom.  Sinful man thinks that he can take a dream and build something that will cause God to bless him; something that will contain the good pleasure of the Creator of the universe.  And God takes that desire and turns it on its head and makes something that will save sinful mankind from their bondage of thinking, living, and dreaming independent, apart from Him!

God used the temple in Jerusalem, a temple that expressed the dream of all people that one day their God and Creator would be pleased with them and live with them.  And through that earthly temple He pointed to an even greater temple;  a temple of human flesh, created by God and occupied by God.  He used our flesh, created in the womb of a virgin through the work of His Holy Spirit.  And then He sent His Son to forever live in that flesh so that God could live among His people.  Behold the mystery of God’s Kingdom!  That Creator moved into and lived among the created forever!  That which is all powerful took on the form of a humble servant.  That which can not contain God does in fact contain God; all of God!  The God Who is the creator of all, took on the form of man so that He could save sinful man!  The flesh of sinful men and women would forever be redeemed and inhabited by God!

Are there any dreams in your life that you’ve been holding onto, waiting  so long for God to respond to?  Have there been dreams that seem to have been lost or foreclosed by God?  Maybe what you thought was God’s final no was really His wait and see.  Maybe, you’ve been walking by faith for so long that you’ve lost track of where you came from and where you’re going?  Maybe you’ve lost sight of your final destination!

So where are you right now?  You are in His Kingdom of Grace!  A Kingdom you neither built nor established.  A Kingdom where your God comes to you embodied in His Living Word and Sacraments.  You can see and hear these things, and you receive them but you can’t explain them.  They are a mystery to you, and yet within the mystery you know by faith that your God is really with you.  In these things you’re shown a crucifix like this one and told that our God who came to us in our flesh died for you, for your sins, and by faith you believe this.  In the waters of your baptism, you are told that you were given a life giving bath of simple water empowered by His Word and Spirit.  By faith you believe that not only is your Savior Jesus Christ really with you, but He will never leave or forsake you!  In the Lord’s Supper, you are given simple bread and wine and through His Living Word you are told and you believe that within those simple elements are Christ’s very body and blood; given for you and shed for you… for the forgiveness of all of your sins.  And within this meal God proves that it was He who began the good work of faith by coming to us in our flesh, dying for our sins, and inhabiting our souls through our baptism, who will complete that work, all while He and He alone is nourishing and strengthening your faith so that you can wait patiently to see God’s wait and see turn into an “I told you so!”

In our Old Testament lesson this morning there’s one important part left out of our reading, and it is David’s response by faith to God’s promise of building a house that will last forever.  Listen, because his response is amazing: “Who am I, O Sovereign Lord, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far?  And as if this were not enough in your sight, O Sovereign Lord, you have also spoken about the future of the house of your servant.  Is this your usual way of dealing with men?” [2 Samuel 7:18-19] The answer to David’s question is a resounding, yes!  This is always how God responds to His children whom He has called into His grace through Jesus Christ, by faith, through the power of His life giving Word!  God’s promise to build your house, to build your future is set on the solid foundation of His Holy Word.  You can’t afford this gift and you can’t earn it; but you can relax and celebrate it because God doesn’t foreclose.  While it’s true that He will allow you to walk away from this gift, He will never ever leave you nor forsake you!

So what is our response to all of this?  We simply cry out with the blessed virgin Mary and say, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your Word.”  AMEN!

Wait!

Sunday, November 27th, 2011

1st Sunday in Advent B, November 27th, 2011
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
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We spend our whole lives waiting.  We learn to wait for Mom or Dad to hold us when we cry.  We waited for Christmas and Easter with great anticipation.  We waited to be old enough to go to school.  We waited anxiously to start high school and then we waited to graduate.  We wait for our first kiss and then we wait for our first love.  We wait to find our spouse and then we wait for our first child.  We wait for the perfect calling or occupation and then we wait for retirement.  We wait for grandchildren, and then we wait and wonder whether it will be our spouse or ourselves who will die first.  How sad it is for those who wait without hope!

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!  These are more than just words of greeting and introduction from our epistle lesson, (1 Corinthians 1:3-9) they are the gospel itself. Within these words are the very truth that “God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” [John 3:16]  This is a statement of fact.  God loves the entire world; He sent His Son Jesus Christ to die for everyone including you!  There is no room for discussion within these words, because it is a certainty.  If you will receive this truth you will have peace; not a feeling of peace that the world tries to sell as peace, but real God given peace; assurance that even if everything is going to hell around you, for you it is well with your soul because God loves you and Jesus died for you.

How do you know that this peace is real?  You just do; you see, it’s more than just a feeling it is a certainty, and this certainty is the result of God’s gift of faith; faith to believe that in spite of everything that is going on around you, God is still with you and will never leave you.  By faith His Word promises that one day soon, He will come among us again and He will take you home to be with Him.  You know this is true because His Word, like the Word in our gospel lesson this morning (Mark 13:24-37) promises you this very thing.  And so you wait.

But there are some who hear this truth and they are not moved in the least.  Even though they have waited their entire lives for everything else, for this one thing that is the greatest of all other things, they refuse to believe and wait for it!  They refuse to put their name in the statement of fact that God so loved them, that He gave His only Son Jesus, so that they can receive Him, love Him, and believe in Him as their savior and God!

Then there are those who believe that God’s grace through Jesus Christ is theirs; they believe that Jesus died for them but their lives don’t demonstrate the love and loyalty of someone who is waiting for Jesus to return.  They have in fact received God’s gift of grace that was given to them in Jesus Christ, and in every way they have been enriched by God’s Word, which has come to them in all manner of speech and knowledge, yet they are living a life that in no way demonstrates that they are waiting for Jesus to come again.  Why?  I mean, they’ve had His message of grace confirmed among them in all manner of ways; they lack nothing in terms of God’s mighty gifts that reveal Jesus presence among them, and it does not seem to make the least bit of difference in their lives.

Theirs is the washing and regeneration of the water and the Word in their baptism!  Theirs is the sweet Word of forgiveness and the leading of the Holy Spirit into repentance!  Theirs is God’s own meal of forgiveness through the body and blood of Jesus!  All of these things continually provide grace and peace, yet they still live a life that reflects nothing of that grace and peace given by God Himself.  They live like someone who has nothing to wait for!  Why?

With both of these different yet similar groups of people, God’s Word still calls out to them to repent; turn to His forgiving heart that comes only through the life, death, resurrection, ascension, and return of Jesus!

I am praying for these people with anguish in my heart that they would see the season of Advent as more than just a time of waiting for Christmas and baby Jesus.  Oh how I have cried my heart out to God for so many of them; so many who seemed to have deliberately chosen His coming judgment over salvation.  I have tried to convince, implore, and even to my shame out of desperation, I have tried to manipulate these people into God’s Kingdom of grace, but still they will not turn in repentance to God’s grace and peace.

But you dear Christians have.  You have heard the advent Word of repentance and you have taken your sins to the cross of your Savior.  Through God’s gift of faith, you have not rejected Jesus, and because of that faith, you know that you are not lacking in any gift of God.  By faith you rest in God’s grace, peacefully waiting until Jesus returns.

In grace, you wait peacefully and you watch for the revealing of your Lord Jesus Christ.  It is God’s gift of grace and peace that sustains you to the very end, and as you wait you continue to feed your soul with the gospel Word that assures you that when Jesus returns, He will present you as His gift to the Heavenly father; a gift that is guiltless.  You know this because your God is faithful.  By faith, you know that it was He who called you into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord and it is He alone who will sustain that same faith through His

In our gospel reading this morning, Jesus gives us some interesting words to close with.  He says that “this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.  Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”

What is the generation that Jesus speaks about?  It is the generation of those who wait, and those who refuse to wait!  They were there when He was born in a manger, they were there when He was crucified upon the cross, and they are still here today.  Some will wait expecting to be greeted by God’s loving heart and they will not be disappointed.  Others refuse to wait and will dismiss our Lord’s coming as  pure rubbish.  Will they one day repent before it is too late?  I hope so; I pray so.  But as we pray and wait to see the outcome, for us, the church of Jesus Christ, our waiting is really a time of peace, because it is well with our souls.  So we wait and during this season of advent we sing: “Savior of the nations, come, Virgin’s Son, make here Your home!  Marvel now, O heav’n and earth, that the Lord chose such a birth.” [LSB 332 vs. 1]