Posts Tagged ‘Death’

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.

Are You Listening?

Sunday, August 3rd, 2014

Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego 92114
http://www.tlcsd.org
Pentecost 8A, August 3, 2014

NOTE: The congregation first watched this very short video before hearing the Message.
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“Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David.” [Isaiah 55:3]

This morning, God’s Word has invited you to come to His house and listen to His Word, and here you are!  Yes you’re here, but have you been listening?  Are you listening?   I hope you are, because our message is one that brings and sustains life; real life.  That is something only God can give, and He gives it in only one way.  Death on the other hand is something that you do not need to look for; you don’t need to ask for it, because it has already found you, and now it is just biding it’s time, waiting for the moment that has already been determined as your time.

One thing that is common with most PowerPoint presentations shown at many problem solving think tanks is the way they start out.  The lead slide will usually start out with stating “The Problem” to be overcome, and then the next slide will ask, “How Did We Get Here?” and then somewhere in the presentation will be a slide that initiates the presenters proposal, under the heading, “The Solution”.  And then finally, the presentation also includes “Words of Encouragement,” meant to move us to embrace the Solution.  So, why don’t we follow that format and see where it takes us.

I. The Problem: It is self evident, isn’t it?  The problem is we are all going to die!  Death literally is all around us, hounding every moment of our lives.  It has been that way ever since Adam and Eve’s expulsion from Eden.  Eden, a perfect place created for perfect people.  A place where there was no sickness or disease; no turmoil, suffering, and of course no death.  But something happened, didn’t it?  God’s people exchanged God’s truth for the devils lie.  So in came sin and death.  “Like taxes” we say, “death is unavoidable.”  It calls out to all of creation like a vendor at an open-air market saying, “Come here and sample my wares.  Don’t walk away from me; you know eventually I will claim you as a consumer, so why not enjoy your wait?”  All of us hear the siren call of death; people young and old, rich and poor, from celebrity to the homeless, from the president to the average Joe, we all must respond to death’s call; give him his due so to speak.

God’s people of faith are no different, are they?  We too hear that siren call, don’t we?  In our Old Testament lesson, Isaiah also comments on deaths call when he asks, “Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?”   And that’s a good question isn’t it?  Why do we do things that are not God pleasing; why do we do them so easily?  And that takes us to our next question…

II. How Did We Get Here? Well, the answer to that was the same reason given in our explanation of the problem.  The same problem that Adam and Eve created is still our problem today.  We still have a desire to exchange God’s truth for the devil’s lies.  We still want to live in paradise, but under our own terms and rules.  Why is that?  Because we still live under the stain of original sin; it is in our very DNA so to speak.  We still hear the call of the devil inviting us to buy those things that are not life giving or sustaining; we still seek to satisfy our body but not our soul.  “Come and buy,” says the devil.  “But why” we ask?  And his answer is, “To make life a little more enjoyable with the little bit of time and life you have.”  And to our sinful minds, that sounds reasonable.  And to justify our purchase of those things, ideas, and life-styles that are not God pleasing, we tell ourselves “After all, nothing lasts forever.  You only live once, so I might as well enjoy it.”  And the devil laughs quietly and says, “Come, my child.  Come and live life according to your own terms, and you will experience life like you’ve never known it.”

But one day, perhaps sooner than you think, you will hear another call; the call of death.  When his whispered invitation of “Come” is heard, you will not be able to resist, and then all that you labored for, all that you valued as important will be in vain.  But this morning, we hear another call; a better call, and that call is the solution to the problem of sin, death, and the devil.

III. The Solution: God’s voice calls out to us throughout scripture and here in the voice of the prophet Isaiah, “Come everyone who thirsts (for peace and righteousness; for an assurance of an existence without fear or worry; for an eternity where there will be no more sin, death, nor the devil), come to the waters (the holy washing of God’s Word, where all of your sins and the devils traps are removed); and he (even you right now) who has no money, come buy and eat!  Come buy wine and milk (and all of the best things in life) without money and without price.”

This morning dear friends, God issues His invitation to everyone, not just to his Old Testament people, but to all people who desperately need His blessings; all who want to get back to Eden, to paradise lost. Just as Jesus invited “all you who are weary and burdened” (Matthew 11:28), so the Lord God invites “all you who are thirsty.” Sin and death make us tired of the rat race we call life here, but they also make us thirsty for God’s blessings.

Because of the work of the devil, God’s voice, His invitation to come can get lost in this open air market we call life.  If we are not listening, it can be drowned out by all those other messages that are hawking the devil’s products. If we are not careful, we might begin to think that Christ and His church are just another vendor in life, offering one of many opportunities to be happy.  But unlike the world’s version of milk and wine, God’s version will never spoil or run out. He has spiritual blessings to dispense to everyone who comes, and he has a fervent desire to share them with everyone. And here’s the best part, not only are God’s products different, but they are also free. This wonderful invitation clearly speaks of God’s grace. No human can offer God anything for his blessings.

In our gospel lesson (Matthew 14:13–21), Jesus offered an inexhaustible supply of earthly food to a hungry mass of people so that they would listen to the spiritual message behind the miracle; a message that would save their souls.  Sadly, many people today, like the crowds then, can not see God’s solution to their sin problem, because they have set their eyes on those things that only satisfy the body and not the soul.  And the result is that they still hunger and thirst; they still have no assurance that the whisper of death can bring them no harm.

IV. A Word of Encouragement: This morning, God calls us out of this illusion of the devil, and He tells us to come and buy eternal life, without money.  How do you buy without money?  Well, we dare not think that we can purchase the gifts of God by our own effort. We all know that God’s gifts cannot be earned; they are gifts “without cost.” God calls us away from every effort to earn what only He can give. St. Paul said it best: “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8, 9). There isn’t a thing of value that we could place on the scales of God that would weigh enough to buy forgiveness and eternal life! Only the work of the Servant of the Lord, who “was crushed for our iniquities” (Isaiah 53:5), could earn the gifts of God, which are the forgiveness of sins, freedom from the power of the devil, and eternal life. These are the gifts that God only offers by grace. It is our own sin and the tricks of the devil that cause us to think we can earn these priceless gifts through something we do.

This morning, God tells us that the solution to our problem can only be realized if we embrace His solution: “Listen to me” He says. Now keeping with the comparison of this sinful world with an open-air market, the idea of listening suggests that we would have to pay attention in order to hear what we must do. But here God tells us to listen to what He has done. Listen to what God has said and done in His everlasting covenant and His steadfast love for David. Here, God tells us that this covenant flows from His faithful love promised to David, which originated in the promise long ago to Adam and Eve, and was repeated to everyone who followed and would listen.

Throughout our Bibles, God promises that the Messiah would come.  And then finally God promises that our Savior would come from David’s line (2 Samuel 7:11–16). God was not under any obligation to make such a promise, but he did it out of His pure undeserved love. And once God promises something, He is always faithful and does what He said.

This Son of David, the Christ is none other than Jesus, the Son of God, born of Mary from within the lineage of David.  He brings completion to God’s promise to King David that He would be an eternal leader and witness of God’s steadfast love and mercy. Jesus is David’s greater Son, and He is The Witness to the nations declaring God’s undeserved love.

Our Savior came from heaven to earth to dwell with sinful men.  But He did more than just dwell with us; He came to set us free.  He came to be lifted high upon the cross so that “everyone who believes in him may have eternal life” (John 3:15). And He has come to save more than just a small Jewish remnant returning from captivity in Babylon. He came to call people back to the paradise that was lost, but now restored.  He calls all nations to come to him—even strangers who did not know Him as the One true God. The words of the gospel now draw all sinners in, and those same Words give them the ability to listen to Jesus their Savior and receive all of the promises of God.

This morning all of us have been gathered by God’s Spirit to hear the only message that will destroy the power of the devil, remove our sins, and silence the song of death.  This morning this message is meant to give you peace where others experience worry and fear.  This morning, you are invited to listen to the very same message that God first spoke to your soul within the waters of Holy Baptism: Through faith in what Christ has done for you upon the cross, you are saved!  Through faith, you still hear the Words of eternal life and you find assurance and purpose.  Through faith you are invited to approach the Lord’s Table, and receive His very body and blood in, with, and under the bread and wine, and then experience spiritual nourishment, the likes of which the world could never give.

My prayer for each of you is that you would continue to come to this place often; continue to listen diligently and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in God’s rich spiritual food.  And I pray that you would allow your ear to really listen to the voice of God declared in His Word here in this place, and then continuously come to Jesus so that your soul may live.  And I ask this in Jesus name… AMEN!