Posts Tagged ‘Anxiety’

Oh Death

Sunday, September 11th, 2016

Sixteenth Sunday After Trinity-HL, September 11th, 2016
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor
Trinity Lutheran Church,
http://www.tlcsd.org and
Our Redeemer Lutheran Church
http://orlcsd.org

Click here for audio of this message

The song you just heard, “O, Death” was from the movie entitled, “O Brother, Where Art Thou.”  It is a mournful and honest look at death in a unique way that only our brothers and sisters from the south can proclaim.  We are afraid of death, because it is not natural according to God’s original created order.  We were not created to die.  But we do die, don’t we?  So how much longer do you have to live?

If you were to have posed that question early in the morning to any of the 2,969 people who died as a result of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, they probably would have replied that they had much longer to live.  But instead, on that day, death entered into their lives, the lives of their families and into our lives as a nation in a very violent way.  What impacted us as a nation the most on that fateful day I think, was the fact that we were forced to realize that the threat of war, violent attacks, suffering and death are certainly a part of our reality as Americans; even if we are simply minding our own business and just trying to live our lives the best we can.

In or Old Testament reading [1 Kings 17:17–24], a widow woman who was chosen by God to care for the great prophet Elijah discovered the truth about death also.

There she was, minding her own business when God broke into her life.  She must care for this stranger and trust him and the God who sent him.  And now, her son is dead?  Was it because of her sins that she was being punished?  Does God punish us with sickness, suffering, and death simply because we are sinners?

The Bible assures us that God never punishes His people whom He has called through His Word for the sins they have committed.  Listen to what Paul declares in the book of Romans: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. [Romans 8:1]

But the truth is, there is a direct correlation between sin and death; not your specific sins but sin in general that shattered our reality when Adam and Eve first rejected the truth of God’s Word for the lie of the devil.  And since that first sin, we like all those who came before us are trapped within a sinful world.  Sickness, violence, disease, and death are constant reminders that we live in a broken sinful world; the perfection of Eden is gone!  But God is not; He has not abandon us.  He is with us in the person of Jesus Christ, the Son of God!  Suffering is the reality of life; the gospel and the presence of Jesus Christ does not deny it nor negate it, but instead through the Gospel, Jesus passes with us through these things.

In our Gospel reading (Luke 7:11-17), Jesus, the Prince of Life, meets and confronts death as it is carrying away yet another helpless prey that it has successfully stalked and conquered.

But Jesus confronts death in a very dramatic and supreme way; He declares to sin, death, and the devil that He has come as the champion of those who would otherwise simply be prey and victims. The city of Nain was walled in, and the closest way out of the city on the way to the cemetery was this one large gate in the wall. As Jesus was about to enter this gate with his large number of disciples, the dead man, his mother and the large funeral procession were about to leave the city.  Jesus and his great following stopped, as the large funeral procession came toward him and then they also stopped.

Let’s put ourselves in the shoes of the dead man’s mother.  This was not the first time that she made this trip to the cemetery, because our reading says that she was a widow.  That means that she and her son who is now dead at one time, made this very same trip with husband and father.  But this time it is different.  This time she is truly alone, or is she?

In the middle of her great sorrow, Jesus the Prince of life enters into her grief and says, “Do not weep.”  And almost at the same time He reaches His hand out, touches the dead man’s funeral bier and says, “Young man, I say to you arise.”  And this grieving mother is given back her only begotten son by the only begotten Son of the Heavenly Father.

In this brief moment of time, death, which is the destroyer of dreams and a usurper of hope, is confronted and defeated by Jesus.  And with this act of compassion, Jesus proves that He is God, because only God has mastery over death.

That people must die is a misfortune.  It was not meant to be.  God did not create us to die.

God did not bring death, sin did, and our sin still does.  Sin is intrinsically bound together with the fact that we have fallen from God and that human life is not what God would wish it to be; it’s not what He created it to be.  Death has come upon us all, for we all have sinned.

Because of sin we experience death as an enemy and a misfortune.  We dwell in a land of deep darkness and in the shadow of death.  We are those “who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage.” [Hebrews 2:15]  When young people die we feel especially the shattering and crushing power of the dominion of death.  Even Jesus felt this when He was confronted with the death of His friend Lazarus.  Lazarus, along with the other two people He raised from the dead were all young people.  We are told that “He was deeply move in the spirit and troubled at the graves of these young people and that He had compassion when He saw the widow of Nain.  Even Jesus knew the taste and pain of death.

That Jesus raised the dead is proof that He is the Son of God.  God alone grants life, and it is He who determines all of life.  And as the Father can raise the dead, so to the Son of God has the power to give life to whomever He wills.  By raising people from the dead Jesus has proven two things: First, who He is.  “These very works” He says, “which I am doing bear witness that the Father has sent me.” [John 5:36]  But beyond this He has revealed that death is something that must be overcome, and that it does not belong in the kingdom of God.  Here, as always, the deeds of Christ bear witness to the kingdom that is to come.  And there, even death will be conquered.  There in paradise restored, there is no more death.

There is a decisive difference between these miracles of raising the dead and the resurrection of Jesus.  When the widow received her son back again alive, he was the same person as before; that is he would die again.  Yes life had returned, but the body was just as mortal as before.  However, when Jesus arose from His death upon the cross, He could no longer die, and death had no more dominion over Him.  Jesus rose with a “glorious-glorified body.”  He was the first fruits of a new recreated humanity and the new world to come.  He was the first to rise from the dead, but not the last.  One day the whole world will be born anew, when God creates a new heaven and a new earth, it will be for you and your new glorified body.  Then there will be no more death. [2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:1, 4]

Since it is Christ who has destroyed the power of death, it is through Christ that we can become partakers of the life over which death has no dominion.  Eternal life is the gift that Christ grants to His own, you who are baptized and believe that Jesus is the Christ.  This morning, Jesus assures you His little ones that “Whoever lives and believes in me shall never die.” [John 11:26]  And “If the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Jesus from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit which dwells in you.” [Romans 8:10]

This is our Christian hope in the presence of death.  It isn’t a hope based on human speculation.  It is based on the acts that God Himself has done and has allowed us to know and see.  “In fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first-fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when (the Son of God) delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For He must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.  “Death is swallowed up in victory.”

O death, where is your victory?  O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. [1 Corinthians 15:20-56]

Let Us Pray: O God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, may the richness of your Word which has now been declared through the power of Your Holy Spirit strengthen each of us with faith and hope, so that we may know for certain that death no longer is our master, nor need bring us fear.  May each of us forever be rooted and grounded in Your divine love, so that we may have the strength to comprehend with all of the saints what is truly the breadth and length and height and depth of your real presence in our lives, and may we come to truly know the love of Christ that surpasses all knowledge, so that we may be filled with all of Your fullness.  AMEN.

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Let the church say… Amen.

Don’t Be Anxious

Sunday, September 4th, 2016

Fifteenth Sunday After Trinity-HL, September 4th, 2016
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor
Trinity Lutheran Church,
http://www.tlcsd.org and
Our Redeemer Lutheran Church
http://orlcsd.org

Click here for audio of this message

“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” [Matthew 6:34]

Our Gospel lesson today picks up directly after Jesus was teaching about the danger of replacing the worship of God with the pursuit and accumulation of material things.  From the warning against this lure of false worship Jesus now transitions his disciples into embracing a life that can and should be lived “worry free.”  But we do worry don’t we?

We worry about our health, we worry about out family and even the wealth that we hope to pass along to them; we worry about employment, and yes we worry about our church and it’s future.

There has always been anxiety and worry, ever since sin came into the world.  “In toil you shall eat of it, all the days of your Life” (Genesis 3:17)  God said that to Adam, after he and Eve were tempted and fell.  The Book of Job warns of the same thing with these words, “Has not man a hard service upon earth?” [Job 7:1]  The entire Old Testament seems to describe our life as that of a hired-hand, and that life, even at its best, will be full of toil and trouble.   And alongside of this view we need only look at two verses from this morning’s New Testament readings to clarify and direct or thoughts this morning: “Sufficient for the day is its own troubles.” [Matthew 6:34b] And, “For each will have to bear his own load.” [Galatians 6:5]

No one can avoid the load of anxieties that life brings.  But we should know how to manage them.

Managing them is just like being able to control our daily speech or having the capacity to be thankful.  It reveals what we think about God.  If we try to have God alongside of everything else in our lives, then we will certainly be held captive to our anxieties.

We can’t have God simply as some helper who sometimes breaks in and puts our lives back in order.  For instance, when our health fails or our marriage or family begins to fall apart, then and only then do we think of giving God priority and first place in our lives.  We can’t serve God and the things of this world.  If God is not our God alone, all of the time, then we will find ourselves being held hostage by our pursuit of money, possessions, work, or by the conflicts with the many people who are in our lives.  Not to mention, the thousands of duties and responsibilities that harass us from the time we wake up to the time we drift off to sleep for the night.

There are at least two valid ways of dealing with our tendency to worry. First, we must be warned that our worry is a symptom of a dangerous lack of faith, and then we simply confess it as the sin that it is. When we do this, we are then turning from our worry, confessing our sin, and turning to God’s forgiveness and strength so that we can begin anew.  But another way to be free of your anxiety is to follow the course that Jesus teaches today in our gospel lesson.  Through a series of gentle, rhetorical questions, Jesus invites us to remember that we are living our lives under our Heavenly Father’s care.

Listen to Jesus speak to you now…

“Life is something more than food and the body is something more than clothing, aren’t they?” And to this we answer, “Of course!” “You are worth much more than the birds and other animals that God takes care of, aren’t you?” Now perhaps reluctantly, and somewhat embarrassed we answer, “Well, yes, now that you put it that way, Lord.” And now concerning our health and how much longer we will live, Jesus asks you, “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” Again the slow response: “Well, Master, I guess that no one can do such a thing after all.” And now, so that He can address our fear that we will lack proper clothing Jesus asks, “Why are you worrying about what you will wear? After decking out the lilies of the field in a manner greater than Solomon’s splendor, God the Father will certainly clothe you His children of little-faith, won’t He?” And now, how can any of us respond other than saying, “Yes. Yes, He will do that.” And finally Jesus says to us, “So… don’t worry.” And how shall we answer Him this morning.  Maybe like this: “I’m sorry Lord.  I lost my bearings; I have been someone of little faith. I forgot that God was my heavenly Father and that He knows that I have these needs and that He will indeed provide for them.”

To say that God the Heavenly Father is your Father through Jesus Christ is to also agree that you live in His Kingdom and you are under His sovereign protection.  This is why Jesus so emphatically says, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” [Matthew 6:33]

You see, Jesus won’t let anyone be in His kingdom half way; He won’t permit anyone to say that He must first say good-bye to someone, or arrange a funeral, or look after his property, or think about his honeymoon before they can accept a call to be a Christian. [Luke 9:57-62]  Jesus didn’t even accept Martha’s eagerness to get the household chores done before she was willing to listen and learn from Him. [Luke 10:40]  If God is to be our God, the one we rest in and find strength for today, then He must always be first in our lives; we must always make it a priority to find time for Him.  So as Christians, we should find ourselves struggling to make the right choices in those decisive moments of life.  We can do this when we simply take time to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to His saving Word.  This morning, you are doing that very thing, and through His Divine service, God is now equipping you with the proper faith to be and remain His children, and afterward when you leave this place but not His presence, He will teach you how to clear up your anxieties.

Now, what does it mean to “seek” this kingdom of God? What is the method of reaching it, and what way or path leads us to it? Well it is simply believing in Christ and practicing and applying the Gospel, to which your faith clings. This involves living out your new baptismal life that you were given long ago, and growing and being strengthened at heart through preaching, listening, reading, singing, meditating, and every other possible way that includes the Word of God in your life. And through the power of the Holy Spirit, you will discover both an ability and desire to do good works that come out of your new life, and then through these good works, together with other saints, you will work to advance God’s kingdom, and lead many other people to it.

Dear friends, as children of the Heavenly Father who already live in and serve within His kingdom of grace, you no longer need to worry about your future.

Your baptismal life, lived under the cross of Jesus will daily make it clear to you that God surrounds you always with His almighty presence.  He feeds the birds of the heavens and clothes the grass of the field.  He thinks of us more highly than the rest of creation, so why worry if He will supply for your needs?  He has said that tomorrow must bear its own load.   When the time comes He will bear both our burdens and us. [Psalm 68:20]

Now all of this being said and true, it does not mean that we can just fold our hands and lay down in ease and do nothing.  We have been called to carry the burdens of others.  No one can do this without work and without knowing that there is a burden to be carried.  We must not become weary in doing good.  And if we do become weary we must pray for renewed strength from God the Father for the sake of Jesus Christ His Son, our Savior.  All of our worries and concerns over the fear that we might not be able to do our part, must simply be placed in the capable hands of our Lord who says: “Cast your burdens upon the Lord, and He will sustain you.” [Psalm 55:22]

Dear friends, God has your tomorrows covered, so walk with Him today.   “Tomorrow will worry for itself” is simply Christ’s invitation to you His little lambs to throw all your worries onto His shoulders; or into the lap of tomorrow and then live your life without worry day after day. If tomorrow is to do the worrying, then today we are free; and since tomorrow is always in the future and just beyond us, our worries are also always to be just beyond our reach. The idea is not, “Let God worry!” because He never worries. And we are not to say, “Wait until tomorrow comes and then I’ll worry!” No you see, tomorrow always moves on, and it will never be today; it does not exist today. If, then, tomorrow is to do the worrying, no worrying will ever be done. And that is what Jesus desires.

Why not be satisfied with today as though it has plenty of concerns without having to go into the future and borrow more? May God give us faith to believe this and live it out, in Jesus name… AMEN!

One Thing Needful

Sunday, July 21st, 2013

Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church-San Diego
Pentecost 9C, July 21st, 2013

Click here for audio of this message

“But one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”” [Luke 10:41]

Martha, Martha, why do you worry so much?  Have you never heard the saying that worrying is like a rocking chair; it will give you something to do, but it won’t get you anywhere.  You know, if  you keep stressing over the little things in life, your liable to get an ulcer.  Someone has also said that ulcers aren’t necessarily caused by what we eat, but often times they’re caused by what’s  eating us!

All of us can be Martha(s); we know what needs to be done to achieve our goals, and if we don’t do it, well… experience has taught us that it just won’t get done!  And to those of us that can  become overwhelmed with all that needs to be done, Jesus reminds us that without the one thing needful, the one thing that is necessary, all of our planning and all of our work is like trying to  shovel smoke!

So what is that one thing needful; is it something we can develop by following a strategy of easy steps towards a goal?   In our epistle reading, Paul calls it a mystery, but it is only a mystery to  those outside of the church.  Please get out your Bibles or your bulletins, and let’s look at our Epistle reading this morning (Colossians 1:21-29).

How many here this morning love reading mysteries or watching a good “Who done it” on television?  Well I don’t!  When I am reading a mystery, I’ve been know to skip right to the end after the  first two or three chapters, just to find out who did it!  And that is what Paul does for us who call ourselves Christians; He tells us who did it.  Turn with me to vs. 26, where we read: “the mystery  hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in  you, the hope of glory.” [vs. 26, 27]

So there’s the answer to who done it, but the answer to why is still unanswered to you unless you go back and read, as Paul Harvey says, “the rest of the story.”

The reason God the Father sent His Son Jesus Christ is because you needed Him.  Or as Paul says in vs. 21, “You were alienated and hostile towards Him in your mind, doing all kinds of evil deeds.”  In other words, you were lost in sin and helpless, doomed for destruction.

Ok, that explains why you needed God, but it certainly does not explain why God decided to help you.  So why did God send His Son to die for a world full of sinners?  Because God is love.  God does not want anyone to die in their sins, to be separated from Him, but instead, He desires that all of us should repent, that is turn to Him for forgiveness and have eternal life.  [1 Peter 3:9]

But some may ask, “How can it be that simple?  How can God just erase all of my past, all of my sins and say I am forgiven?  I mean, what about my next great fall from grace?  Who am I kidding?  There may be some “good” church people who can walk that narrow path to heaven, but I know me like no one else and I can tell you, I am going to screw it up again!”  And to this, Paul in vs. 22 gives us an answer: “Christ has now reconciled (us, or made us right with God), in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before Him.”

Do you hear that good news?  Christ has reconciled you forever, through His suffering and death upon the cross.  His death is your death; the death that you should have died but now you don’t need to, because God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son to die for the worlds sinfulness.

Sing with me the first two verses of that wonderful hymn, “In the Cross of Christ I Glory” (LSB 427) and let the words minister to you:

  1. In the cross of Christ I glory, Tow’ring o’er the wrecks of time.  All the light of sacred story Gathers round its head sublime.
  2. When the woes of life o’er take me, Hopes deceive, and fears annoy, Never shall the cross forsake me; Lo, it glows with peace and joy.

So there is the answer to the “Who done it”, the “why He done it”, and the “how He done it.”  But the lesson is not over; no Paul still has more to say, and it comes to us by way of warning.  Let’s turn to vs. 23, where Paul says this salvation is completely yours, “if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.”

Now I know that some of you are thinking, “Yes there’s the rub.  That is exactly what I was talking about before.  You see, there is a way for me to screw it up, and where there is a way, trust me, I will find it!”  And to this, Jesus in our gospel reading (Luke 10:38-42) speaks to Martha and Mary, and He speaks to us.  He tells us that we must look for and hold onto the one thing needful; the one thing necessary, that absolutely guarantees our salvation… Himself!  He is always there ahead of you, all you need to do is turn to Him and trust Him.  It is Jesus upon the cross suffering and dying.  It is Jesus body not dead in the tomb, but alive and reclining at the table eating and drinking with you; you who are no longer alienated from God’s love as an enemy, but reconciled as His own dear child.

And the good news is, Jesus has done all of the work for you.  He began it in your baptism when He gave you Himself; the one thing needful.  He gave you the fruit of the cross; the forgiveness of sins so you never need worry about whether His Father’s love and mercy are truly yours.  And to make sure that you never loose this wonderful gift, He promises that He will never leave you nor forsake you, nor take away all that He has done for you!

Now, I don’t want you to get the impression that St. Paul thought that life is just one good time after another.  He wasn’t ignorant of life’s challenges and heartaches.  Let’s start reading again in vs. 24 and let Paul speak for himself: “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known.” [Vs. 24, 25]

What Paul is telling us is that in this life we will have troubles; he had plenty of them!  In fact, he is saying he had more than most of us, because he was a minister of the gospel; an apostle who was constantly under the attack of Satan himself.  But through out all of those hardships and heartaches, he (Paul) never lost sight of Christ’s suffering and death for the entire world.  He never forgot the empty tomb or the waters of his own baptism.  He never forgot that he was called to continue following Jesus and then allow others to see through his own life, that no matter how many times he fell down under the burden of life, Christ always picked Him up.

That same Jesus Christ who was given to you as a gift from the Father in your baptism is still with you.  In a few minutes you will feast at His table of forgiveness and receive His body and blood which will reassure you that no one can take you away from Him, not even your own sin.  All you need do is receive Him and seek after Him where ever and when ever you need Him!

Our life in Christ can be compared to an aqueduct, the stone waterways that brought water from nearby mountains into parched cities in Italy and Spain, and that are still used in some countries today.  The objective foundation of our spiritual lives, Jesus Christ, the living Word of God, is like the huge stone aqueduct itself. The subjective elements, our daily experience with Christ, are like the fresh water flowing through it.

Some Christians neglect the Word and seek only the subjective experience. But without the solid Word of God to contain and channel that experience, the experience itself drains away into error and is lost.  Other Christians boast about well-engineered aqueducts based on extensive knowledge of the Bible, but they are bone dry, lacking no experience, which brings help and refreshment. Strong spiritual lives require both a strong knowledge of the Word of God and an intimate daily experience with Christ.  And that dear friends is precisely what Jesus offers you here in this house of worship, and anywhere else you need Him, if you will simply turn to Him and allow Him to speak through His Word.

May we with Paul continue to trust in Christ and His cross, proclaiming the mystery of the one thing needful, which is Christ in us, the hope of glory!  Please stand and sing verses 3 and 4 of the hymn “In the cross of Christ I Glory.”

  1. When the sun of bliss is beaming Light and love upon my way, From the cross the radiance streaming Adds more luster to the day.
  2. Bane and blessing, pain and pleasure By the cross are sanctified; Peace is there that knows no measure, Joys that through all time abide.  AMEN!