Posts Tagged ‘Conversion’

Walking and Dying With Jesus

Monday, April 3rd, 2017

The Fifth Sunday in Lent (A), April 2, 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.

“So Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” [John 11:16]

When we hear Thomas’ words about dying, they are really God’s Words about dying. These Words are first to be taken spiritually that is, they are meant to first point our eyes of faith to a spiritual death, but then they force us to consider our physical death. They are Words that first bring a spiritual renewal and then the long promised physical resurrection, a resurrection from death. Do you think that Thomas was thinking about any of this when he said, “Let’s also go (with Jesus), (so) that we may die with him”? No, I think that these were the words of a pessimist; words of frustration that each of us can identify with. It’s as if they were saying, “Well, all of our hopes and dreams have been shattered, so there is nothing else to do but follow Jesus and die.” In those sentiments, I hear a spark of faith that moves their hearts to believe that if Jesus is leading them, some how, some way, everything would turn out alright. A spark of faith that would latter be revealed in the words of Martha and Mary when Jesus finally arrived in Bethany, a full four days after Lazarus had died: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.”

In our Old Testament reading (Ezekiel 37:1–14), we see something similar happening.

The prophet Ezekiel, who is living in exile in Babylon with his fellow Jews, is taken up in the spirit by the very hand of God and shown a vast valley of dead, dry bones. And (the Lord) asked him, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And (Ezekiel) answered, “O Lord God, you know.” Now let’s make sure that we remember those Words. The Lord knows. He knows what the outcome will be when we follow Jesus to what appears to be certain death, and He knows what the outcome will be in our lives when everything around us is telling us that living the life, or dying the death of a Christian should not have this much trouble, this much fear, this much worry. He knows, and because He knows, because He loves you and calls you to follow Him, we know that in the end everything will be well for our souls and our eternal life with Jesus.

Have you ever been so depressed that you just didn’t even feel like waking up in the morning? Some times it may be so bad that you don’t want to see anyone or talk to anyone. Even the Word of God seems to offer little help; well at least that’s what you tell yourself, when the truth is, the Word of God is the only thing that will do you any good; specifically that part of the Word that promises new life in a situation that seems completely hopeless and dead. And that is what God was speaking to Ezekiel and all of his fellow countrymen who were being held captive there in Babylon. Babylon was a place that seemed hopeless for the nation of Israel; they appeared to be dead as a people. But then God asked a question that was meant to test their faith and then cause it to grow. And where faith is alive and growing there is life and there is hope. “Son of man, can these bones live?” And to this, the weak voice of faith, like that of Thomas and perhaps like ours says, “O Lord GOD, you know.”

Do you hear the weak faith? Oh yes, it’s small, the size of a mustard seed I’d say, but it’s the kind of faith that let’s go of all hope that may come from within you or from this fallen world, and instead it simply chooses to trust only in someone greater and outside of itself and this world. It is the kind of faith that will cause our depressed hearts to take notice, and allow our unwilling ears to listen for at least a bit of “good news.”

Then (God) said to (Ezekiel), “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the Lord.” [Ezekiel 37:4-6)] What was God showing Ezekiel? This is an important question, because God is always consistent, so what He is showing Ezekiel, He is showing us. In other words, He is demonstrating something the church, you and I, should know right now, today!

What God was showing Ezekiel and what He is showing us today, is that the Lord who promised to bring life to dead bones in the vision is simply doing the very same thing He did long ago in the garden of Eden… He is Creating life: “Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. [Genesis 1:26] The LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostril the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” [Genesis 2:7]

Where does our hope of life come from?

Hope of a future, hope of life always comes from the very Word of God and the very breath of God.

But the Word must be spoken; it must be declared with the wind, Spirit, and power of God, that is it must have the breath of life behind it. “So” Ezekiel in obedience to the Word, speaks the Word “as (he) was commanded. And as (he) prophesied, there was a sound, and behold, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. And (he) looked, and behold, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them. But there was no breath in them. Then (God) said to (him), “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.” So (Ezekiel) prophesied as he (was) commanded, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army. [Ezekiel 37:7–10]

At the Lord’s command, Ezekiel prophesied to lifeless bones, and a miracle happened. There was a rattling noise as bone came together with bone. To Ezekiel the valley seemed no longer to be full of disconnected bones but of skeletons. God’s miracle continued, “Tendons and flesh appeared on them.” Now the valley resembled a battlefield littered with corpses. But God’s miracle was still not over. At God’s command Ezekiel continued to prophesy, and breath entered that army of corpses, and they came to life and stood up. Through a vision Ezekiel saw how God would re-create his people now apparently hopelessly lost in Babylon.

Ezekiel carried out his orders and the Lord kept his promise. He did not want to speak, I’m sure, and neither did the Jews want to listen; they were depressed and simply waiting to die. But, when God speaks, His Words carry the mighty life giving power of His Spirit. When He speaks, even the dead in their graves must listen and respond. When a corpse, even one with out ears, or one where all of the atoms have been scattered to who knows where is spoken to, they must listen, and they must respond!

This ought to be a description of our lives. When we are so depressed that even the chirping of the birds and our neighbors laughter and joy cause nothing but irritation and even anger, we have no choice but to listen and respond, as God speaks. As we are carried away by the power of the Lord’s Spirit, we have no choice but to carry out the Lord’s orders, and then watch as the Lord carries out his promises of life within us.

Dear friends, it is the knowledge that we are doing the Lord’s will in our lives that will take away the boredom, drudgery, and even the depression we find in life; it is what brings life to dead and dry bones.

It is this very knowledge when received by faith, that will transform our lives. When we realize that since our baptism we have been brought to death with Christ, but then raised to a new and eternal life with Him, that we are not just working for a paycheck, but we are serving our risen LORD and God, who through that paycheck is supporting our families, then that transformation is displayed in God’s power. This is the power of new life.

It is God’s power that teaches us that we are not just studying to get a passing grade in school, but we are instead using our minds to the best we can, because our Lord has called us to be good stewards, or managers of our intellects. It teaches us that we are not just taking care of the kids or grandkids, but we are shaping their souls as God’s own children, and teaching them about Jesus by the way we talk and act.

And through this power of God, we demonstrate God’s power even when we feel depressed and alone, because we know that behind every thing we do is the promise of God, that says “all things work together for good, for those who are called according to God’s purpose.” [Romans 8:28] And the Lord keeps his promises, just as he did when Ezekiel preached to those dry bones as he was instructed to.

This morning, just as Ezekiel was obedient to the call of God to prophesy, that is to preach the Word of God so that life could come amongst those who felt as good as dead, I too am called to preach the same message of life and renewal. It has been a long period of Lent, and we are tired, but our travels are not yet complete. We must continue to follow Jesus and learn to die with Him, so that we will live with Him.

So hear these last words:

“Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are indeed cut off.’ Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the Lord.” [Ezekiel 37:11-14]

This morning, some of us may be distracted by tragedy or loss in our lives. Maybe it is the loss of a loved one through death, or the sting of betrayal, or the fatigue and frustration of sickness or old age. Perhaps it is the loss of a job or the lack of one for a long period of time. And maybe, like Martha we have spoken similar words of pain and disappointment to our Lord: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” ‘If you had been with me, I would not be suffering this loss in my life.’ And now, the winds from the four corners begin to blow; the power of the spirit of God begins to fan that spark of faith that still lives in you, and along with Martha you are led by faith to proclaim: “But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.”

To Martha, Jesus said, “Your brother will rise again.” And to us, He is saying your hope, and indeed your very joy in life has not left you; I am still with you, and I will never leave nor forsake you.” And as Martha says, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day,” we may say with her, “I know that one day this depression, this sorrow will pass on the last day, when I am in heaven.” And to Martha and to us, Jesus says, “I AM the resurrection and your (joy of) life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.”

Dear baptized, do you believe this? Then your Master calls to you along with Lazarus, in the same power that brought life to the dried bones in Ezekiel’s vision, and He says: “Come out!” Come out with a purpose and a mission. Come out into a world that is dying and share the church’s story of faith; share your story. Tell others how God has saved you and is saving you. Tell them that how even in the midst of tragedy and disappointment, He is still with you.

Holy week is fast approaching and what a wonderful opportunity it is for us to invite our neighbors, family, friends, and coworkers to come and experience the wind of God that brings life to dead and dried up bones. You can start by inviting them to Palm Sunday, where they will experience the pomp and majesty of our Savior as He rides into Jerusalem upon a donkey, surrounded by the chants “Hosanna,” and knowing full well that be was about to die a criminals death for all sinners. And then, you can invite them to experience the nurturing power of God that was served to the apostles and now you, as we celebrate the last supper of our Lord on Maundy Thursday at Our Redeemer Lutheran Church. Then as you leave on Thursday night, invite them to come with you again to Trinity Lutheran Church on Good Friday and experience the passion of our Lord, as He suffered and died for every person that will ever live, even for them. And finally, make sure you invite them to experience the source of our joy, the resurrection of our Lord on Easter morning. The very exclamation point in God’s Word that assures all of us that one day soon, Jesus will make good on the vision given to Ezekiel, that all those who have fallen asleep in death will rise again in eternal life. AMEN!

On Light and Darkness


Monday, March 27th, 2017

The Fourth Sunday in Lent (A), March 26, 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

“Awake, O sleeper and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” So says the final words of our epistle lesson this morning (Ephesians 5:8-14). But what do these words really mean? Are we to think of our faith, our very salvation as nothing more than an alarm clock that rudely awakens us from a pleasant dream, leaving us the choice to either get up and walk the rest of our lives by faith with Christ, or simply hit the snooze button and drift off back to pleasant dreams? Well, yes; that is if you feel separated from God because of the shameful things you’re doing and never repented of, or if you’ve always felt that being baptized or living out your baptism is either a childhood fantasy or a complete waste of your time, then yes quite frankly, this alarm is for you. “Awake, O sleeper and (get up) from the dead, and (then) Christ will shine on you!”

In our gospel lesson this morning Jesus leaves us with some ominous words. Listen: “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” [John 9:39]

Now some of you may be confused; you may see Jesus only as the great Savior of the world. You may want to quote our gospel from two weeks ago and remind me that God loves the world so much that He gave His only Son Jesus so that who so ever believes in Him won’t perish, but have everlasting life. You’ll also no doubt, remind me that God didn’t come into this world to condemn it but to save it. [Jn. 3:16] Now if you told me all of this, I would agree with you, but I would also add that Jesus came to save a sinful world! So, what difference does that make? Well, you have to first admit that you are part of that “sinful” world that Jesus came to save! In other words, you have to first admit that you need saving; that you have sin that you can’t deal with on your own and you need a Savior; you need God’s help… you need His means of salvation! And this was exactly what we learned in our gospel reading this morning.

Consider this, a man blind from birth. He is a Jew and he has probably followed the true religion of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob all of his life. He comes from a good Jewish family with a mother and father who love him, pity him, because of his blindness, and they care for him as best that they can. If you were this blind man you would have long ago accepted that this was your eternal lot in life. Are you angry with people who treat you as less than a man? Maybe! Do you get angry with your parents because they still at times treat you like a child? Perhaps. Are you angry with God for allowing you to be born like this… probably so. And what do you do with all of this disappointment and anger? Well you do what everyone else does, you go to temple and you pay the prescribed sin offerings and then just hope that God will somehow find room for you in His heaven.

But one day you meet a man who speaks truthfully to you; he doesn’t talk down to you, but with you. He tells you that God is real and He knows precisely why you are blind. And then He lays hands on you, he comforts you, sends you to a pool in the temple to wash something off of your eyes that He just applied and… praise God from whom all blessings flow, you can see for the first time in your life! What would you do then? Well again, the rules of worship say you should go show yourself to the religious officials so that God can be praised. Well, you do that and they just belittle you just as they did when you were blind. Even your parents refuse to offer comfort and support; they tell you that you’re and adult and you should work it out on your own with the temple officials. So much for life being better if you could see! Now what? Are you angry with the people in the temple? Probably. Are you angry with your parents? Most likely. Are you still angry with God? Yes, maybe more so than when you were blind! Now what do you do? Well…. Nothing!

You see, this has never been about what you do, instead it is about what God does; it always has been. In our gospel lesson what did Jesus do after restoring the man’s vision? He went to the man who was blind. Because, you see there was still more to the work that God was doing for the man. Restoring his physical vision was just a way to wake him up from his sleep. Now Jesus must do the true work of God; He must speak the gospel to him.

“Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man (that is the Messiah)?” (And the man who was blind at birth but now sees) answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe?”

Even though this man was confused about a lot of things and disappointed by a lot of people, He knew for certain that this man Jesus, who spoke truthfully and lovingly to him, who gave him something he thought he would never have this side of heaven was one man that he trusted. So he was willing to go and believe in anyone that Jesus pointed out as being His Savior. And Jesus said to him, “You have seen Him, and it is he who is speaking to you.” Now it all made sense; now he understood why this man’s voice was so comforting and yet so authoritative. So he said, “LORD! I believe,” and he worshiped him.” [Jn. 9:35-38]

He worshiped Him! That means that He saw first who Jesus was and second, he saw the gospel truth in Jesus Words; he was saved! “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you!” Did you know that those words written by St. Paul were actually taken from an early church hymn. I suppose it’s possible that they could even have even been written by this man or someone from his time. They explain a lot about the gospel call that Jesus gave not just to that man born blind but to everyone who witnessed it and who reads about it today. If that hymn describes the call of God before the man received Jesus as his savior, then this hymn describes the song of his life afterwards and even our lives now. Listen: “I want to walk as a child of the light. I want to follow Jesus. God set the stars to give light to the world. The star of my life is Jesus! In Him there is no darkness at all. The night and the day are both alike. The Lamb is the light of the city of God. Shine in my heart, Lord Jesus!” [LSB 411 vs. 1]

The story’s told about a man who became blind at the age of ten. He came from a wealthy family, and they spared no expense in finding a medical way to restore their son’s eyesight, but nothing worked. The boy grew to be a man, and he was resolved to the fact that he would always be blind, so life went on for the blind man. He did as all men do, seeing or blind, he worked and provided for a future. One day part of his future began to take shape. He met the love of his life. The two were engaged to be wed and they set the date. Several months before the wedding, the man was called into his doctor’s office and told that there was now a surgical procedure that could restore his eyesight. The man was excited but also nervous; you see it had been 20 years since he saw nothing but darkness. Well after a moment of prayer, he of course agreed to have the surgery. The man informed his doctor that he would be married in 6 weeks, so he asked if he would be able to see his wife on his wedding day. The doctor assured him that the healing process would be complete by then and the bandages could be removed. On the day before the wedding, the doctor called the man into his office to remove the bandages, but the man refused instead, he asked the doctor to come to his wedding and take off the bandages at the altar. He said that the first image he wanted to see was that of his lovely bride standing before the altar of the Lord, so that he could marvel at her beauty and praise God at the same time.

Dear friends, if you see and know Jesus as your Lord and Savior; if you see Him as both God and man; if you see him as your only means of pleasing God; and if you see all of this because God’s Word has both healed you and saved you then you are like the blind man in our gospel reading and like the blind man in my story.

By God’s grace and through the eyes of faith that He has opened with His Word, you see the brightness of God in Jesus Christ; you are drawn to this light and you follow it. Jesus is your light that allows you to see not just your sin, but God’s forgiving love that shines from the cross.

You follow this light from the cross to the baptismal font, where you were bathed and washed clean in God’s own light; you were recreated! And from the font it is your desire to follow that light where ever it leads you. And where does it lead you? It leads you out into our community where sin, death, and darkness blind our neighbors. And what are you to do as you follow the light of Jesus? You let it shine! But make no mistake; this light is not your light, not even a little bit! No, it is all God’s light reflecting off of you. As Jesus is your Sun, you are His moon. Your little gospel light is simply a reflection of Jesus wonderful light that is eternal in the city of God. And your prayer as you follow Him is simply this, “Shine in my heart, Lord Jesus. Bring your light into the darkness as I follow you.”

So dear friends, God is calling those of us who once were in darkness, but now have been given eternal life through His gift of spiritual sight to walk as children of light.

What are we to do? We are to gather around His Word and Sacraments and try to discern through the leading of His light what is pleasing to the Lord. We are to be in the world, but not of it; we are to take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose the darkness by our lives that trust and follow Christ’s light. Through the Word of God, our lives are shaped and through that same Word we are shaping our community by exposing the darkness of sin with Christ’s own light. We are to be a reminder, an alarm that shouts into the darkness and this sinful world, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you (too)!” In Jesus name… AMEN!

I See Dead People!



Sunday, July 20th, 2014

Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego 92114
http://www.tlcsd.org
Pentecost 6A, July 20, 2014

Click here for audio of this message

“So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them.  Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’ ” [Matthew 13:28b-30]

The video clip that you’ve just watched is from the movie, “The Sixth Sense” starring Bruce Willis.  And the dialogue that specifically illustrates our message today, are these words: “I want to tell you my secret now.  I see dead people” says the boy to Malcolm, Bruce Willis’s character.  And Malcolm asks, “In your dreams?”  No the boy answers.  “While your awake” Malcolm asks?  “Yes” says the boy.  “Dead people, like in graves; in coffins” asks Malcolm?  “No” says the boy.  “Walking around like regular people.  They don’t see each other; they only see what they want to see.  They don’t know they’re dead.”  Malcolm asks, “How often do you see them?”  And the boy answers, “All the time.  They’re every where.”

In deed, there are walking dead all around us, and they do not know that they are dead; dead in their sins.  They think that they are alive and well; some will even tell you that they are blessed and hoping that they are living a God pleasing life.  They are so consumed with living their life style that not only do they not see each other, they can’t see God for who He really is.

In our gospel reading (Matthew 13: 24–30, 36–43) this is the situation that Jesus faces as He teaches the crowds; His listeners are dead in their sins and they don’t even know it; they don’t want to know.

Now it’s true that within the crowds of people, there were also true disciples of Jesus; they knew that through Him the Kingdom of God had broken out in their midst, so they clung to every Word that came out of Jesus mouth, but sadly, they were the small minority.

Most of the folks had come to see a miracle; just like people are drawn to the Side shows at carnivals today, they too were drawn to Jesus out of curiosity and the desire to see something mind blowing.  And among them were also the Pharisees.  They were the teachers who were suppose to help the folks know God, but most of them were just as dead in their sins as the people they were called to teach.  They could not see Jesus for who He really was, because they would not see that they were dead in their sins.  And because they could not admit this and find new and eternal life, they could not help turn the people’s eyes to God’s only source of salvation.  In essence most of the folks remained tightly trapped with in the bondage of death.

And yet, Jesus still teaches them; He still speaks Words that offer and give eternal life.  He says, “He who has ears, let him hear.” [v. 43b]  But hear what?  Hear that through Jesus the Christ, God is acting and reigning in the midst of men and women who are dead in their trespasses, in such a way that He is bringing them new and eternal life.  But, God’s way of breaking in and reigning as Lord and Savior comes in a way that most people will not expect, in fact many even find it unsatisfying and unfulfilling.  So the message of “The Parable of the Weeds of the Field” that Jesus taught to the curious, was a message that said the Kingdom of God was with them right that moment, but not yet in the way that they might expect, or desire it.  But the message also communicated that very soon, in God’s time, things would be much different, but for right now, this humble teacher who is the Son of God in human flesh, is all that you get.

There are many people today who, like the folks in Jesus’s audience then, just don’t want to hear this message.  Why?  Because they don’t want to wait!  And the sad truth is, they are being led by teachers and preachers who don’t wont to wait either.  They are the ones who teach that you don’t have to wait; you can have the glory, power, and good times right now, if you just have faith; faith in what they are teaching that is.  This message is in complete opposition to Jesus message that guaranteed us that, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart” Jesus said, “I have overcome the world.” [John 16:33]  So our hope is right now, yet it has been deferred for a little while until God acts.  Those of us who rest in this hope by faith, are the ones that Jesus calls “good seed!”  We are the wheat.  But planted right beside us are a whole different kind of plant; a weed called a “darnel”.  This kind of weed looks like wheat, but it is only a weed and not fit for anything but burning.  So here is the question that Jesus’ audience was to ask themselves and allow God to answer: “Am I good seed or bad seed?” If they had ears to hear and were listening, God’s law was meant to break down their pride and realize that apart from a miracle from God, they were bad seed.  Then and only then, would they be enabled to come to Jesus hungering for the gospel, the forgiveness of sins.

But I trust you saints who are gathered here this morning have already answered that question.  You have already received the painful blow of the law and have been restored by the healing balm of the gospel.  You know who Jesus is and you have become accustomed to waiting on God’s time.  You dear saints know all to well that the devil is alive and active in our midst; you too have even met some people that you would swear are “bad seed” or dead men walking.  And you may be tempted to root them out, but Jesus who is our Good Master within the parable says to us… “No, not yet!”  He tells you not only that you might inadvertently up root good wheat along with the weeds, but He says that the time to act is at harvest… that is the time of the final judgment.  That is the time when “the Son of Man will send His angels and they will gather out of His kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace.  In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”  But what are we to do until then?  We are to wait for our faithful and gracious God and His time.  We are to wait by faith, and it is in that faithful and grace-filled waiting that we “shine like the sun in the kingdom of (our) Father.”

And while we wait, God’s means of grace continues to strengthen both our faith and our resolve to agree with St. Paul in our epistle lesson (Roman 8:18-27) that our present suffering of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us (at the resurrection of all God’s saints who rest and trust in Christ alone).  But we do not wait alone, do we?  No, Saint Paul tells us that all of creation waits along with the church “with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God,” which is the time of final judgment and then reward for all who are the true “good seed.”

“For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.  And not only the creation, but we ourselves (who have seen both the agony and the beauty of the cross; the place where God dealt with the sins of the world once and for all through the blood and sacrifice of His Son who is also the Son of man, Jesus Christ).  And through the Word of God, our eyes of faith have been turned from a life destined to be bad seed, and instead through the washing of the water and the powerful Word of God, we have been declared good seed!

So while we wait, we who have the first fruits of the Spirit (that is the gospel promises of God’s Word), we wait eagerly for the promised reward of our adoption as God’s sons; that is we wait for the redemption of our bodies, the resurrection of the dead and eternal life.  It is in this hope that we are saved!

And as we wait, God invites us to see just who we are resting and trusting in.

In our Old Testament lesson (Isaiah 44:6-8), we hear these Words, “Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: “I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god. Who is like me? Let him proclaim it. Let him declare and set it before me, since I appointed an ancient people. Let them declare what is to come, and what will happen. Fear not, nor be afraid; have I not told you from of old and declared it? And you are my witnesses! Is there a God besides me? There is no Rock; I know not any.”

Dear friends, there is no God like the God of Scriptures.  He says that so wonderfully in these Words, “Apart from me there is no God.”  God does not desire that any of you should have any doubt of that truth; it was so important that God the Son Jesus Christ came to us Himself to make this truth undeniable.  And yet, sinful hearts still resist that truth.

So to quell all doubts, God has issued a challenge to those who trust in other gods and other messages that claim to be the gospel.  He challenges both the devil and those who teach and believe in a false gospel to match His abilities, specifically His power to care for His people who existed in the past and present, and to predict what will happen to His people in the future.  The God of Scriptures is a God of action.  He does all things for the benefit and the strengthening of faith for His people.  This morning God says, “If you are so wise and powerful you supposed lords and teachers, then do what I do; foretell your actions before they take place, and then allow each prediction that you claim has been fulfilled, to be verified!  Can any god created by sinful human imaginations, or can any false teacher of those gods do that?  No, dear friends, they all remain silent.

And yet your God dear church, is till acting on your behalf.  He is still creating and sustaining faith, which waits and trusts in Christ alone.  He alone assures you dear children that He can continue to care for you and sustain you as you wait for Him.  He assures you that He alone is your Rock; He alone has brought you out of the miry clay of your sins, and He alone will one day restore you in full glory.

This morning God’s mighty Word assures you not to be afraid or tremble.  In Jesus parable, you see that God agrees with our assessment that there are indeed dead people all around us, but it is not His will that they would remain dead in their sins, but that they would repent and like you, become good seed as they along with the church wait for the return of Jesus Christ and the resurrection of the dead.

Yes, we are to wait a little while longer, but we are to focus our eyes not on the dead but on the Word of Life, Jesus Christ.  Alleluia, alleluia, Lord to whom else would we go?  You alone have the Words of eternal life.  Help us we pray with a strong faith that gives bold confidence and hope built alone on our King, the Lord Almighty, our Redeemer, the First and the Last.  He alone is our Rock, Jesus Christ… AMEN!

Mmm, Mmm, Good Word!



Sunday, July 13th, 2014

Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego 92114
http://www.tlcsd.org
Pentecost 5A, July 13, 2014

Click here for audio of this message

“So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” [Isaiah 55:10, 11]

Those Words of our text this morning are meant to be a comfort for you faithful saints, but it is also meant to be a slap in the face, a wake-up call so to speak for those who are stubborn, lazy, or full of pride.  If you are resting in Jesus this morning, then thank God for His Word.  But if you are indifferent or hostile to Jesus, it is a fearful Word of God; this Word that you hear this morning will one day, both accuse you, convict you, and sentence you to an existence of eternal suffering and pain, out side of the very Word that sought to give you new life and eternal joy.

But for us who are trusting in Jesus Christ because of God’s Word, and in light of that old Ritz Cracker commercial, and in honor of Andy Griffith, God rest his soul, we can say that the Word of God is a, “Mmm, mmm, good Word!”

But in the eyes of an unbelieving world, the Word seems so weak and foolish; it appears that it has no strength in it.  The enemies of Christ’s Church point out that the Word of God stands powerless before the sacred halls of science.  And what’s more, the competing religions in our world will confront our dear church with a most disturbing question: “Why is it that you Christians insist that only your way is right and all others are wrong and will lead only to hell?  Do you really think that you are better than the rest of the world?’  And to that we reply, “Certainly not.  On our own, without the Word of God, we are no better or worse than the rest.  But with the powerful Word of God working within and through us, we are redeemed and sanctified; set apart for God’s purpose, which is to call the entire world into repentance and eternal life through the message about Jesus, the Son of God.  This is all on account of the Word of God alone and not because of anything we contribute.  But our opponents, those who wish to destroy God’s pure church do not exist only outside of us, but indeed they exist even within our very ranks as well.

There are those who call themselves Christians, who have even been baptized, who have become the very tools of the devil, and they too will attack our reliance on God’s Word alone.  They will confront us by asking, “Do you really think that everything regarding our eternal salvation depends entirely upon God’s Word?”  And then they will say, “That is ridiculous!  Don’t you realize that we also need to act upon the Word?  In our lives we must always think, decide, and work!”

But here, in our text this morning all of God’s enemies are answered.  They must either receive the truth of His Word, or they can go there own way, which is also the way of the devil.  In our text this morning, God does not say that “our works and our thoughts” do a mighty work, no, but what does He say?  He says that it is His Word that goes out from His mouth that accomplishes His will.

Just before the words of our text this morning are also words that act as a beautiful illustration of just how necessary the Word of God alone is to bring new life to sinful and condemned hearts.  Through the prophet Isaiah, God compares the work of His Word to the work of the rain and snow, which He sends upon the earth.  Without God’s watering, the earth cannot produce a single thing.

But reason says that life comes from the soil; good crops come from fertile land.  So reason will tell you, the power to produce an abundant crop lies in the earth, not in the rain and snow.  But let’s look at a comparison between southern California and my motherland, the state of Wisconsin.  I just returned from a visit there, and believe me when I tell you that everything is lush, green, and flourishing.  The farmers are having a record season, and the harvest is predicted to be one of the best on record.  And yes, the soil is dark and rich, but it is dark and rich for a reason; it rains or snows for a little while, almost everyday of the year.

Now compare the lush conditions of Wisconsin to our own conditions here.  You do not need to go far to see what I am talking about. Look at the front lawn here at our own church.  We no longer water it because water is so expensive, and as a result the grass is completely dead.  If you desire, you can dig up a little ground beneath the grass, and you will discover that it is grey, sandy, and dead.  Why?  Because it lacks life giving water!

So what does this mean for our church, indeed for all churches?  Simply this, the advancement and growth of the church, of the kingdom of God is not dependent on programs and campaigns, or any work of men, but instead it is dependent entirely upon the Word of God and it’s proclamation of truth.  The Word of God is declared with a promise that cannot be undone.  In it, God promises to do what He desires; the very thing that He sent it to do.  It won’t do what sinful men and women desire it to do, but it will do what God wants it to do, even if sinful men and women resist that Word; a Word that proceeds from the very mouth of God.

What is the mouth of God?  It is the very instrument that God speaks through.  Jesus of course is, was, and ever will be the living Word of God, but then God also speaks through other visible mouths.  This morning He has spoken to you through the recorded Words of the Prophet Isaiah and the Apostle Paul, just as He speaks through all mouths that belonged to other prophets and apostles.  But He is also speaking to you from the mouths of faithful preachers; preachers who do not mix the Word of God with their own sinful desires.  This morning, God is even speaking to you from the mouth of this redeemed sinner who you call pastor, who is called to bring to you His Word that both brings and sustains new life!

Dear friends, God has only promised to work through His spoken and recorded Word. He has chosen the Word as the means by which we can trust that through that Word He brings us good things. Of course, He could work through other means, but nowhere does God instruct us to look to other means, nor to trust in them. Throughout scripture, God invites sinners to listen to His Word and find wisdom and new life.  Just as the rain brings new life to dead soil, so the Word of God can change the heart of a sinner.

Whenever anyone thinks that he or she can do a good thing without hearing and receiving the Word of God that person has been deceived by the devil and the truth is not in him.

But the mystery of God’s Word cannot just be compared to the rain, but to a seed, which brings new life.

II. In our Gospel reading (Matthew 13:1-23), Jesus compares the Word of God to the seed that a farmer sows.  He says that some seeds fall by the path and are immediately devoured by birds.

Dear saints, I hope that you realize, there is a real spiritual battle going on around us; it is a battle for the eternal lives of men, women, and children; a battle for their very souls.   Sometimes, the best attack that Satan can employ is to simply prevent sinful men and women from hearing the message about God’s Son and His cross.  If you do not hear the message about God’s extravagant grace and mercy through Jesus Christ, then in the devil’s mind, you will never experience God’s forgiving love.  And do you know what?  The devil is right.  Do you see that even Satan has a high regard for the power of God’s Word?

But then Jesus also says that some of the seed fell on rocky ground and after springing up it soon withered and died. This is a picture of someone who hears God’s Word and at first they believe and follow Jesus—but for some reason, they do not put down roots deeply into Jesus and his truth, and when they experience personal difficulty or opposition that comes because they are a Christian, they turn away and no longer live as his disciples.

And then, Jesus describes how some seeds fall into and area of soil where thorns are also growing. Now allow me to declare a truth that you no doubt have seen proven in your own experience.  There are some people who initially hear, receive, and believe the Word of God and the message of the cross of Jesus, and they gladly become Christians, but when the distractions of wealth, that is the excitement of “chasing the cheese” comes along, they get distracted and choked off with not just the allure of wealth, but also all of the general worries of life that are sure to come to all people who live in this fallen age.  And when those problems come, they slowly put to death the hope and joy that exists in their lives, which exists by the power of the Good News of the reign of God through Jesus Christ.

So we see a sad truth in Jesus story; most of the seed that is sown never produces fruit. In that sense, the seed by the path, the seed in the rocky soil, and the seed among thorns all belong together as “seed that is sown that ultimately proves to be unfruitful.” This is a very hard concept for us to receive, let alone understand; when God at last comes to the world through His Son, Jesus Christ, as the promised and long awaited Savior, He comes in ways that are mysterious, humble, and by the world’s estimation, weak and resistible. And wile it is true that we may refuse to listen to the Word of God, or listen and then reject it or resist it, at the end of His parable of the Sower, Jesus speaks the same urgent invitation to the crowds, who ever they may be, just as all of scripture speaks: “He who has ears, let him hear.” (13:9).

And some do hear, as I trust you are hearing the gospel truth today.  Those who hear are those who are compared to the good soil on which some of the seeds fell, and they produce great results. Jesus was speaking the truth of His ministry then, which is also the truth of His ministry and ours today.  Some people will hear the Good News of how God the King is coming to reclaim and forgive His people and ultimately His creation. Some will hear and understand, and in their understanding, which is a result of faith, they become faithful and fruitful for God; that is, they become good soil through the work of God, and they are active in His Kingdom of Grace. They are those who are truly saved, who are rightly called saints, who believe and cling to the Word of God and the message of the cross of Jesus Christ. (Talk about good works of faith)

Dear friends, those of us who have been saved by grace, through faith in the message of Jesus Christ can look within our own hearts and marvel at the fact that God has indeed saved a wretch like ourselves.  In essence, we marvel at the generosity of God.  But Jesus spoke of this didn’t He?  When the farmer was described as scattering the seeds everywhere, anyone with any experience in gardening knows that you never do that.  You must plant meticulously and choose what ground will be prepared for the harvest.  And yet here we have an extravagant God who scatters the seed everywhere; why?  Because “God is patient toward all of us, and He does not desire that any should perish, but that all should repent and receive eternal life.” [2 Peter 3:9]

So we who rest and work within the body of Christ, even here at little Trinity, rejoice in God’s liberal application of gospel seeds, because it is within that liberal net that we too were caught up by a church that by command are fishers for men.  We too responded to the call to “come if we are laboring and find rest.”  God’s willingness to cast seed everywhere shows His wide-open invitation to all men, women, and children, who are red, yellow, black and white.  And so some will come while others will refuse.  And it is within this mystery of salvation that we continue to follow Jesus as we bear our cross of His making and choosing.  And as we follow we allow the Word alone to quell all doubts and fears, and we leave the unanswered questions such as “why do some not receive Jesus” unanswered for a while, until the day at Christ return when we will not only see all things clearly but understand them as well.

Until that day, may you along with the rest of Christ’s church continue to say along with the sainted Andy Griffith, “Mmm, mmm, good Word!”  Amen!

Light and Darkness

Sunday, April 3rd, 2011

The Fourth Sunday in Lent (A), April 3, 2011
Rev. Brian Henderson—Pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
Click here for audio of this message

 INTRODUCTION: “Awake, O sleeper and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” So says the final words of our epistle lesson this morning (Ephesians 5:8-14).  But what do these words really mean?  Are we to think of our faith, our very salvation as nothing more than an alarm clock that rudely awakens us from a pleasant dream, leaving us the choice to either get up and walk the rest of our lives with Christ or simply hit the snooze button and drift off back to pleasant dreams?  Well, yes; that is if you feel separated from God because of the shameful things you’re doing and never repented of, or if you’ve always felt that being baptized or living our your baptism is either a childhood fantasy or a complete waste of your time, then yes quite frankly, this alarm is for you.  “Awake, O sleeper and (get up) from the dead, and (then) Christ will shine on you!”

 In our gospel lesson this morning Jesus leaves us with some ominous words.  Listen: “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” [John 9:39]  Now some of you may be confused; you may see Jesus only as the great Savior of the world.  You may want to quote our gospel from two weeks ago and remind me that God loves the world so much that He gave His only Son Jesus so that who so ever believes in Him won’t perish, but have everlasting life.  You’ll also no doubt, remind me that God didn’t come into this world to condemn it but to save it. [Jn. 3:16]  Now if you told me all of this, I would agree with you, but I would also add that Jesus came to save a sinful world!  So, what difference does that make?  Well, you have to first admit that you are part of that “sinful” world that Jesus came to save!  In other words, you have to first admit that you need saving; that you have sin that you can’t deal with on your own and you need God’s help… His means of salvation!  And this was exactly what we learned in our gospel reading this morning.

 Consider this, a man blind from birth.  He is a Jew and he has probably followed the true religion of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob all of his life.  He comes from a good Jewish family with a mother and father who love him, pity him, because of his blindness, and they care for him as best that they can.  If you were this blind man you would have long ago accepted that this was your eternal lot in life.  Are you angry with people who treat you as less than a man?  Maybe!  Do you get angry with your parents because they still at times treat you like a child?  Perhaps.  Are you angry with God for allowing you to be born like this… probably so.  And what do you do with all of this disappointment and anger?  Well you do what everyone else does, you go to temple and you pay the prescribed sin offerings and then just hope that God will somehow find room for you in His heaven.

 But one day you meet a man who speaks truthfully to you; he doesn’t talk down to you, but with you.  He tells you that God is real and He knows precisely why you are blind.  And then He lays hands on you, he comforts you, sends you to a pool in the temple to wash something off of your eyes that He just applied and… praise God from whom all blessings flow, you can see for the first time in your life!  What would you do then?  Well again, the rules of worship say you should go show yourself to the religious officials so that God can be praised.  Well, you do that and they just belittle you just as they did when you were blind.  Even your parents refuse to offer comfort and support; they tell you that you’re and adult and you should work it out on your own with the temple officials.  So much for life being better if you could see!  Now what?  Are you angry with the people in the temple?  Probably.  Are you angry with your parents?  Most likely.  Are you still angry with God?  Yes, maybe more so than when you were blind!  Now what do you do?  Well…. Nothing! 

You see, this has never been about what you do, instead it is about what God does; it always has been.  In our gospel lesson what did Jesus do after restoring the man’s vision?  He went to the man who was blind.  Because, you see there was still more to the work that God was doing for the man.  Restoring his physical vision was just a way to wake him up from his sleep.  Now Jesus must do the true work of God; He must speak the gospel to him.

“Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man (that is the Son of God)?”  (And the man who was blind at birth but now sees) answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe?”  (Even though this man was confused about a lot of things and disappointed by a lot of people, Hew knew for certain that this man Jesus, who spoke truthfully and lovingly to him, who gave him something he thought he would never have this side of heaven was one man that he trusted.  So he was willing to go and believe in anyone that Jesus pointed out as being His Savior).  (And Jesus said to him, “You have seen Him, and it is he who is speaking to you.”  (Now it all made sense; now he understood why this man’s voice was so comforting and yet so authoritative).  (So) he said, “LORD!  I believe,” and he worshiped him.” [Jn. 9:35-38]

 He worshiped Him!  That means that He saw first who Jesus was and second, he saw the gospel truth in Jesus Words; he was saved!  “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you!”  Did you know that those words written by St. Paul were actually taken from an early church hymn.  I suppose it’s possible that they could even have been written by this man or someone from his time.  They explain a lot about the gospel call that Jesus gave not just to that man born blind but to everyone who witnessed it and who reads about it today.  If that hymn describes the call of God before the man received Jesus as his savior, then our sermon hymn this morning describes the song of his life afterwards and even our lives now.  Listen: “I want to walk as a child of the light.  I want to follow Jesus.  God set the stars to give light to the world.  The star of my life is Jesus!  In Him there is no darkness at all.  The night and the day are both alike.  The Lamb is the light of the city of God.  Shine in my heart, Lord Jesus!” [LSB 411 vs. 1]

ILLUSTRATION: The story’s told about a man who became blind at the age of ten.  He came from a wealthy family, and they spared no expense in finding a medical way to restore their son’s eyesight, but nothing worked.  The boy grew to be a man, and he was resolved to the fact that he would always be blind, so life went on for the blind man.  He did as all men do, seeing or blind, he worked and provided for a future.  One day part of his future began to take shape.  He met the love of his life.  The two were engaged to be wed and they set the date.  Several months before the wedding, the man was called into his doctor’s office and told that there was now a surgical procedure that could restore his eyesight.  The man was excited but also nervous; you see it had been 20 years since he saw nothing but darkness.  Well after a moment of prayer, he of course agreed to have the surgery.  The man informed his doctor that he would be married in 6 weeks, so he asked if he would be able to see his wife of his wedding day.  The doctor assured him that the healing process would be complete by then and the bandages could be removed.  On the day before the wedding, the doctor called the man into his office to remove the bandages, but the man refused instead, he asked the doctor to come to his wedding and take off the bandages at the altar.  He said that the first image he wanted was that of his lovely bride standing before the altar of the Lord, so that he could marvel at her beauty and praise God at the same time.

 Dear friends, if you see and know Jesus as your Lord and Savior; if you see in Him as both God and man; if you see him as your only means of pleasing God; and if you see all of this because God’s Word has both healed you and saved you then you are like the blind man in our gospel reading and like the blind man in my story.  By God’s grace and through the eyes of faith that He has opened with His Word, you see the brightness of God in Jesus Christ; you are drawn to this light and you follow it.  Jesus is your light that allows you to see not just your sin, but God’s forgiving love that shines from the cross.  You follow this light from the cross to the baptismal font, where you were bathed and washed clean in God’s own light; you were recreated!  And from the font it is your desire to follow that light where ever it leads you.  And where does it lead you?  It leads you out into our community where sin, death, and darkness blind our neighbors.  And what are you to do as you follow the light of Jesus?  You let it shine!  But make no mistake; this light is not your light, not even a little bit!  No, it is all God’s light reflecting off of you.  As Jesus is your Sun, you are His moon.  Your little gospel light is simply a reflection of Jesus wonderful light that is eternal in the city of God.  And your prayer as you follow Him is simply this, “Shine in my heart, Lord Jesus.  Bring your light into the darkness as I follow you.” 

So dear friends, God is calling those of us who once were in darkness, but now have been given eternal life through His gift of spiritual sight to walk as children of light.  What are we to do?  We are to gather around His Word and Sacraments and try to discern through the leading of His light what is pleasing to the Lord.  We are to be in the world, but not of it; we are to take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose the darkness by our lives that trust and follow Christ’s light.  Through the Word of God, our lives are shaped and through that same Word we are shaping our community by exposing the darkness of sin with Christ’s own light.  We are to be a reminder, no an alarm that shouts into the darkness and this sinful world, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you (too)!”  In Jesus name… AMEN!

Help Us!

Sunday, May 9th, 2010

Sixth Sunday after Easter, May 9, 2010
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church
Click here for audio of this message
 

We are on a mission—a mission from God! We are to share God’s love, first through the Word and then through our actions!  The words Jesus spoke to his first disciples still apply today; Listen: “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” [Jn. 20:21 and Jn. 17:18]  The universal church, every local congregation and every Christian in it, is sent into the world to fulfill a definite, defined task. Jesus, the church’s Lord, has issued marching orders. Individually and corporately, all God’s people are now in the kingdom building business… we are to seek and save the lost!  We are to pass on the love of God!

 This mission from God has three directives.  First and foremost, we have been called into the work of giving a worldwide witness, making disciples, and planting churches. [Matt. 24:14; 28:19-20; Mark 13:10; Luke 24:47-48]  We have been told that Jesus Christ is to be proclaimed everywhere as God in human flesh, Lord, and Savior  We are to make it clear that this is God’s only invitation to eternal life, and it can only be received by turning to Jesus in repentance and faith. [Matt. 22:1-10; Luke 14:16-24]  This message is to be delivered to the entire world. This morning, in our first reading (Acts 16:9-15), the ministry of church-planter Paul the evangelist models this primary commitment.  

The second directive that all Christians, and therefore every Christian on earth, are called to practice is sacrificial love; acts of mercy and compassion.  We are to model a form of neighbor-love that responds willingly to all forms of human need as they present themselves. [Luke 10:25-27; Acts 16:15; Rom. 12:20-21] 

The third directive is to ask God the Father in the name of Jesus to give us both the means and the will to do these very things.  Well that’s a lot to receive this morning, so let’s get right into it!

 In our first reading we are immediately asked to consider a vision, St. Paul’s vision.  Now even though it comes to him at night, we are told that it is not a dream, but a vision from God!  What does God show him?  A man in Macedonia standing in front of him urging and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us!” [Acts 16:9]  Now one thing we need to be clear on right away; this vision was not a surprise for Paul and his three companions.  You see, they had been praying and planning on a vision from God for quite some time, but this is the first time that God actually made it clear to them where they needed to go!

 Does this sound familiar to anyone this morning?  Have you ever had the Lord make something absolutely clear to you after praying and searching His Word for direction?  Certainly we as a congregation have experienced this!  Now, we didn’t need to ask where we must go, because God has already established us at 7210 Lisbon St., right in the middle of the communities of Jamacha and Encanto!  So, that’s a no brainer, but then again so was the vision that Paul had.  They were asking “Where should we go and what should we do?”  And the answer was, “Come over to Macedonia and help us!”  Help you do what?  “Help us obtain God’s love and mercy.  Help us receive salvation and then joy and peace!”

 What’s interesting about this part of our reading is that in the Greek presentation of the first verse we would really read it like this: “A man of Macedonia was continually standing there, and he kept on urging him and saying,  “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” [Acts 16:9]  Do you see the difference?  In a vision, Paul was told that first it was urgent that he and his friends go to Macedonia, and second their work there had to be continuous.

 Friends, that is God’s call to us as well with the vision that He has given us.  We are to continually bring the gospel of Jesus Christ to our neighbors with a long term strategy.  We aren’t to say, “Well, we’ll give it a try, and if it doesn’t seem to be working will just give up.”  No, remember, God has made it clear to us that our call to bring the gospel is urgent and continuous.

 Now let’s go back to our reading to see how Paul responded to the vision.  Starting in the 13th verse we read, “And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together. One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.  And after she was baptized”. [vs. 13-15a]

 The first thing we see in Paul is obedience.  He heard God’s call and he responded.  Once in Macedonia, he did three things—he searched for a place where spiritually minded people gathered, he looked for a person of peace that God had already been working within, and finally he shared the gospel.  Now, let’s look at our circumstances here at Trinity and see how we compare.  First, we as well have responded obediently to God’s vision.  We are very close to opening our Ministry School where media, music, and the arts will be taught, and we have also now added a Wednesday evening gospel service where gospel music that is meaningful to the community is offered along with prayer and a gospel message.  People will come to Trinity because first it is already know as a spiritual gathering place and second because we are willing to “sit down and talk with them” about things that are meaningful to them!

 Another thing we see in our reading is God’s work because of Paul’s obedience.  We are told that one of the women that were present to hear Paul speak was a woman named Lydia.  She was a non-Jew who was already familiar with and worshiping Jehovah God.  Now remember when I pointed out the difference in the Greek language compared to the English in regards to the vision of the Macedonian?  Well we have something similar happening again.  In vs. 14, we simply read, “One who heard us was a woman named Lydia”, but in the Greek language it reads more like this, “One who kept on hearing us was a woman named Lydia”.  What’s the difference?  Well from this we learn that Paul did not just spend one Sabbath day with them and “presto-chango” she’s a Christian.  No he invested time in developing a relationship.  She probably heard many messages from Paul over a period of several weeks, but eventually in God’s time and power Lydia came to know Jesus Christ as HER Lord and Savior.  Through the Word of repentance and faith in Jesus Christ she wanted God’s salvation to come to not to just her alone but to her entire family.  And how did it come…. Through the washing of the water and the Word… through Holy Baptism!  Imagine that, her and all of her children were born again.  Why?  Because God was faithful and Paul was obedient!

 Paul could have passed by that little group of woman as being insignificant.   But he didn’t.  He saw their needs and through the leading of the Holy Spirit he was moved to have compassion on them.  Lydia was baptized… born again unto eternal life.  She could have simply thanked Paul and dismissed him and his friends while she got back to her normal daily business routine, but she didn’t.  Instead, moved by the same Holy Spirit, she had compassion on Paul and his missionary friends, and asked them to not just live with her and her family, but to make her family’s home their missionary headquarters.  It only took a spark from the Holy Spirit’s presence to get a fire of Christian love and service going within the heart of the born-again Lydia!

 Friends, consider this for a moment—hasn’t God already asked us here at Trinity to open up our worship home to new neighbors who are seeking a relationship of love peace with God?  Haven’t already been convinced that He is asking us to bring in new people who need to know about Jesus in a personal way?  When you stop and think about it, God is asking us to be simultaneously both like Paul and Lydia.  We are like Paul in that we are asked to be on a mission from God, a mission to seek and save the lost.  And we do that by both proclaiming and teaching the gospel.  Some of the people we meet will have no idea about our faith or our Savior Jesus Christ.  Some, like Lydia will be familiar with God, even worshiping Him, but they do not know about His grace, mercy, peace, and joy He brings once you know Him unto salvation.  But, we are also like Lydia.  We who have been born again in the waters of Holy Baptism have been recreated.  We have been changed, and because of that change God has given us a heart that responds both to His Word and His living presence within us.  He asks us to respond with our time, talents, and even our treasure.  But that can be a scary thing; you see it requires faith!  Lydia must have been a little hesitant about opening her home up to strangers, even strangers that brought her eternal life through the gospel.  Like Lydia, we have God’s Word; we know His will and yet we begin to be uncertain.  So where do we go with our fears and worries?  We go to the Lord!  And what do we do?  We pray!

 In our gospel reading (Jn. 16:22-33) Jesus is speaking once again in that upper room just before His death and resurrection.  He knows His disciples are worried and afraid, so He speaks to calm their fears and prepare them for the joy and confidence that will come after His resurrection and ascension, on the day of Pentecost.  After that day, the Holy Spirit will come and live within every Christian as a result of their baptism.  And His presence within them will lead them to ask for all things that are centered in the name of Jesus.  Listen once again to His Words of assurance: “Whatever you ask of the Father in my name, He will give it to you.  Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” (vs. 23,24)   “In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.” (vs. 26, 27)

 Dear friends, Jesus tells His disciples, He tells us to ask “in (His) name.” And he seals this directive with a promise, “you shall receive” what you ask in my name. Why such a promise?  Well friends, so that our “joy may be fulfilled.”  By remembering that the Father loves us because we love His Son Jesus Christ our joy becomes fulfilled.  And as we experience this joy we begin to experience obedience as Jesus sends us out and leads us onto the mission field that is our community.  As we go out on our Heavenly Father’s mission… to seek and save the lost, we remember Jesus Words, so we ask the Father, in Jesus name to open the doors and hearts of our neighbors to our gospel message, so that they too may know Jesus Christ unto salvation! 

 Well, let me close with this short story:  There once was a man who refused to sell his home to a bank.  His house and property sat adjacent to a tract of land that the bank wanted to build on.  The bank wanted to buy his home and knock it down.  But the man refused!  The bank offered to pay top dollar, but again… no deal!  Ninety years old, the man had live in his house for most of his life.  He didn’t have to sell so he decided he wouldn’t!  But the bank wanted to build, so they decided they would!  The result of this failure to compromise is a new bank building shaped like a horseshoe around the man’s house.  An automatic teller machine dispenses cash fifteen feet from where he sleeps.  The cars drive through and idle in front of his kitchen window.  These two parties may be next to one another, but we certainly wouldn’t call them neighbors. 

 Do you want to find true joy in your life?  Stay close to Jesus and ask for the things He has promised to give you!  Walk where He leads you and let Him sacrificially love your neighbor through you.  And as you walk with Jesus, He will allow you to see a transformation in the people He loves through you.  After the people you witness to become disciples through faith, you will see them being transformed through daily contact with their Lord.  Through God’s Word and the power of the Holy Spirit, they will develop such a strong and abiding love for the Father that nothing can ever move them.  So don’t grow weary from doing well friends.  Keep trusting and following your Lord, even when you have doubts.  Remember, even though you’re on a mission from God, “in this world you will have tribulations (and trials).  But take heart (Jesus) has overcome the world! [Jn. 16:33b]