Posts Tagged ‘Divine Service’

It Is Good To Be Here!

Sunday, February 11th, 2018

Transfiguration of our Lord Sunday B, February 11, 2018
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
http://www.tlcsd.org
Mark 9:2-9


Click here for audio of this message

“And Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here.” [Mark 9:5a]

Have you ever had something happen to you, which was so profound that it seemed to change how you look at everything in your life? Peter, James, and John did, but to understand their experience correctly, we need to look at their recent experiences with Jesus.

In the last couple of years, the apostles experienced one miracle after another; they must have felt like they were on top of the world.

And then, out of nowhere, Jesus started talking about denying themselves, taking up their cross and following Him into suffering and death! Why, He even said that if they wanted to save their lives they must first lose them. Then He said that even He would need to suffer and die at the hands of sinful men in order to fulfill the will of the Father.

Now to Peter, that was crazy talk, and he didn’t want to listen to anymore of that doom and gloom, so he took Jesus aside and tried to enlighten Him on how He thought a Messiah should speak. But Jesus wouldn’t have any of that; that was the devil speaking not Peter, so Jesus rebuked Peter with the often-quoted words, “Get behind me Satan.” He said that Peter was seeking the way of the world, and not the way of God!

Peter and the other apostles must have been thinking, “What’s going on here? This isn’t what I signed up for! What happened to all of the happy-clappy times that come with “walking and talking with our minds stayed on Jesus” the Messiah?” You see, they wanted more of the glory, fame, and high life, but Jesus was telling them that instead of living large and in-charge, they would need to experience suffering, shame, and death.

And then out of nowhere, Jesus gave them this little bit of information to think about: “Some of you will not taste death until you see the kingdom of God come in power.” [Mark 9:1]

So now, six days later there is Peter along with James, and John, up on a mountaintop, watching Jesus pray.

Little did they know that they were about to experience the kingdom of God in all of its glory and power! It was getting late and they were tired; their eyes got heavy when all of a sudden, boom! It was as if all of the light in the world was pouring out of Jesus and the two visitors that suddenly appeared. And they weren’t just any visitors either; they were Moses and Elijah!
The three earth bound apostles were overwhelmed with the experience. The other gospels tell us that Jesus, Moses and Elijah were speaking about Jesus death, resurrection, and the day He would leave this sinful world, but Peter skipped right over those Words. All he seemed to care about was the glory! He must have thought, “Now this is the kind of Messiah I signed up to follow!” So with a mixture of fear and excitement (after all he was standing in the presence of God and the two greatest heroes of faith that ever lived), Peter interrupts Jesus’ discussion with these deep and insightful words: “(Hey, a) Rabbi, it is (a)good (thing) that we’re here (with you).” Do you want me to pitch a few tents for you and your guests?

I call that a Homer Simpson moment: “Dolp!”
With all of the responses someone should or could have had, maybe something like Alleluia, why in the world did Peter ruin that divine moment with such a stupid statement and question? And after Peter’s Homer Simpson moment, what happened next? A thick cloud suddenly appeared and Moses and Elijah were gone.

The experience was over. Or as B.B. King would say, the thrill is gone. But why? Well simply put, Peter’s attention was centered on what He was experiencing and not the Words He was hearing. He completely missed the conversation about Jesus leaving this world; he missed it because it was another message about suffering and death.

Aren’t we a lot like Peter too?

We love it when we come to church and we get to sing our favorite hymn or spiritual. We love it when the preacher is talking about heaven and what a time will have there with no more suffering, pain, sickness, and death, but as soon as the message starts showing us where we fall short or what God expects from us, we tune it out.

We love to be entertained for about an hour, but as soon as the service starts cutting into our Sunday afternoon plans we get fidgety, and then irritated! We love the fellowship and coffee but get bored with the liturgy and ritual! You see, like Peter we say that it’s good to be here in church, but only if it meets our desires; as soon as worship time gets personal we become nervous and hope that it ends soon.

Now you might not interrupt the sermon or the readings with a foolish statement like Peter’s, but you too have your Homer Simpson moments. For you, it happens the minute you tune out to what’s happening in Divine Service and tune into what you wish was happening. Peter wanted to silence the conversation and stay in the glory moment, and we aren’t any better. We love those mountaintop highs of worship, and if we could make it happen, that’s all we would ever experience.

Does that mean that emotion during worship is bad? No, not at all, but the good times aren’t suppose to be the center of why we worship. So what’s the solution?

Well, we just need to let Jesus be Jesus and then let Him do what He does.

Do you see what I just did? I took the emphasis off of you and me and put it on Jesus. That’s always the solution to most every thing, isn’t it? Yes church, we must remember that worship, our worship of God is simply our response to what He has done and is doing right now for us! This is what we call Divine Service; God’s service amongst and within us; His work of dealing with our sins. If we really stoped to think about what’s really going on around us and within us each time we attend Divine Service (the devil being defeated, our sin being removed, and our eternal death being trounced, all as our faith to believe all of this is strengthened exponentially) we would not let anything get in the way of our attending Divine Service.

In our Epistle lesson, St. Paul talked about a veil that remains over the eyes of the unbelieving Jews. For us, that veil represents our flesh or physical desires; its our natural way of trying to get what we want, but Jesus always gives us what we need. When we listen to Jesus, the Word of God, God Himself removes the veil of this world off of our spiritual eyes and He allows us to see an entirely different reality… a spiritual one. Only through (Jesus) Christ can this veil be taken away.

You see, when we turn to Jesus and what He is doing or saying and receive that Word and that Word only, the veil is removed; we are freed from our own expectations of what our Christian faith and worship is, and then we can truly hear what Jesus is really saying. And when we hear what Jesus is saying, then and only then can we be transformed slowly but surely, into the same image and glory of our Lord.

Peter and the boys missed the obvious. They were awed by Jesus’ glory, because He was their man, the Messiah who would be their champion by righting all wrongs. They were so excited about what they thought Jesus would do that they missed what God had already done. There standing with Jesus, were Moses and Elijah shining in the same glory as Jesus. Moses the great teacher who brought us God’s law, was listening to Jesus. Elijah, the great prophet who was taken up to heaven in bodily form, was listening too.

What did it all mean? Only Jesus could explain it; and to make sure that they would one day understand, God’s Divine Service kicked into action again. Moses and Elijah disappeared within a dense cloud of God’s glory and the voice of the Father announced: “This is my beloved Son; listen to Him.”

How does our worship go wrong?

It happens when we shut down our hearts and minds to the message in exchange for the experience. How does God make things right? By taking our focus off of the experience and putting it back onto the Word, this Word: “Jesus is My beloved Son, my elected One; LISTEN TO HIM!”

The truth is, without the Word of God speaking to us, there can be no experience. What is the experience? Dying and living and Living and dying. In the Word you hear God’s law make demands that you can never meet; this is a Word that terrifies you, because you are a sinner standing in the middle of God’s perfect and blinding glory, and the result is your death, the death of your glory.

In the gospel of Jesus Christ, the good news about His life, death, resurrection, and ascension, you hear about a loving God who came to you, to take away your sins; the result is new life, a life free of condemnation and full of God’s love. In this good news you are taught that Jesus walked the painful way to the cross for you; He suffered and died to pay for your sins. In His death He conquered not just your sin and the devil, but also your own death. In His death and resurrection, all things can be new again, even you!

In your baptism, Jesus brought you into His glory by drowning and destroying your old sinful nature and by bringing you into the cloud of His divine presence. In your baptism He chose you and He cleansed you. And what He cleanses, He also molds and changes. What He molds, He fills. And what He fills, He uses. So now, you live! Every day you choose to live for God as you put to death your old sinful and self-serving nature; you live for God and you live for others!

Dear friends, God is leading us out into the real world; a place where there is real suffering and pain. But He is leading us out with our hearts and minds focused on His Word and the real change He’s made and is making within each of us. When you get afraid or tired, and just feel like quitting, think of this place and all of the wonderful gifts that God has given to you here, all so that you would be His witness of love and life in a dying world. Think of His glory that He has placed within you; a glory that can’t be seen with physical eyes but will one day shine as bright as the glory of our Lord’s own Transfiguration. And when you remember these things, it’s alright to feel excited but just remember emotions will eventually die off, and then it’s just you and Jesus.

So, until we meet again next Sunday for our next encounter with God’s divine service and our next foretaste of the glory to come, may He forever lead and guide you by the Word of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior… AMEN!

Living Beyond the Mountain Top

Monday, February 27th, 2017

Transfiguration of our Lord Sunday A, February 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

“And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here.”” [Matthew 17:1]

Transfiguration-Cal-34-Mar1Have you ever had something happen to you, which was so profound that it seemed to change how you look at everything in your life? Peter, James, and John did, but to understand their experience correctly, we need to look at their recent experiences with Jesus.

In the last couple of years, they experienced one miracle after another.

They must have felt like they were on top of the world. And then, out of nowhere, Jesus started talking about denying themselves, taking up their cross and following Him into suffering and death! Why, He even said that if they wanted to save their lives they must first lose them. Then He said that even He would need to suffer and die at the hands of sinful men in order to fulfill the will of the Father.

Now to Peter, that sounded like crazy talk, and he didn’t want to listen to anymore of that doom and gloom, so he took Jesus aside and tried to enlighten Him on how he thought a Messiah should speak. But Jesus wouldn’t have any of that; that was the devil speaking not Peter, so Jesus rebuked Peter with the often-quoted words, “Get behind me Satan.” He said that Peter was seeking the way of the world, and not the way of God!

Peter and the other apostles must have been thinking, “What’s going on here? This isn’t what I signed up for! What happened to all of our visions of glory that come with ‘walking and talking with our minds stayed on Jesus’ the Messiah?” You see, they wanted more of the glory, fame, and high life, but Jesus was telling them that instead of living large and in-charge, they would need to experience shame, suffering, and death. And then out of nowhere, Jesus gave them this little bit of information to think about: “Some of you will not taste death until you see the kingdom of God come in power.” [Mark 9:1]

So now, six days later there is Peter along with James, and John, up on a mountaintop, watching Jesus pray and seeing the kingdom of God enveloping them in power.

God’s power and glory always comes through His Living Word and many times Jesus, the Living Word, comes when we least expect Him.

It was getting late and they were tired; their eyes got heavy when all of a sudden, boom! It was as if all of the light in the world was pouring out of Jesus and the two visitors that suddenly appeared. And they weren’t just any visitors either; they were Moses and Elijah!

The three earth bound apostles were overwhelmed with the experience. The other gospels tell us that Jesus, Moses and Elijah were speaking about Jesus death, resurrection, and the day He would leave this sinful world, but Peter skipped right over those Words. All he seemed to care about was the glory! He must have thought, “Now this is the kind of Messiah I signed up to follow!” So with a mixture of fear and excitement (after all he was standing in the presence of God and the two greatest heroes of faith that ever lived), Peter interrupts Jesus’ discussion with these deep and insightful words: “(Hey, a) Lord, it is (a)good (thing) that we’re here (with you).” Do you want me to pitch a few tents for you and your guests?

I call that a Cool Hand Luke moment; you know… “What we have here, is a failure to communicate.”

With all of the responses someone should or could have had, maybe something like Alleluia, why in the world did Peter ruin that divine moment with such a stupid statement and question? Because many times when it comes to listening to God, we have a listening problem.

KGO talk radio in San Francisco once conducted a call-in poll. Ron Owens invited listeners to express their opinion. Thirty-five percent said yes, 33 percent said no and 32 percent were undecided. One listener, aghast at the large number of undecideds, protested, “It’s this sort of apathy that’s ruining America.”

The only problem with all these responses was that the radio station had never posed a question. It’s not apathy that is getting most of us in trouble – it is shooting our mouths off and shouting our lungs out over things that we know nothing about.
After Peter’s “Cool-Hand Luke” moment, God allowed a thick cloud to appear, and it suddenly swept Moses and Elijah away. Why? Because God was making sure that they both heard Him speak, and that they also understood why He spoke.

Aren’t we a lot like those apostles too?

We love it when we come to church and we get to sing our favorite hymn or spiritual. We love it when the preacher is talking about heaven and what a time will have there with no more suffering, pain, sickness, and death, but as soon as the message starts showing us where we fall short or what God expects from us, we tune it out.

We love to be entertained for about an hour, but as soon as the service starts cutting into our Sunday afternoon plans we get fidgety, and then irritated! Or maybe, we love the fellowship and coffee but get bored with the liturgy and ritual! You see, like Peter we say that it’s good to be here in church, but only if it meets our desires; as soon as worship time gets personal we become nervous and hope that it ends soon.

Now you might not interrupt the sermon or the readings with a foolish statement like Peter’s, but you too have your “Cool-Hand Luke” moments. For you, it happens the minute you tune out to what’s happening in Divine Service and tune into what you wish was happening. Peter wanted to silence the conversation and stay in the glory moment, and we aren’t any better. We love those mountaintop highs of worship, and if we could make it happen, that’s all we would ever experience.

Does that mean that emotion during worship is bad? No, not at all, but the good times aren’t suppose to be the center of why we worship. So what’s the solution?

Well, we just need to let Jesus be Jesus and then let Him do what He does. Do you see what I just did there? I took the emphasis off of you and me and put it on Jesus. That’s always the solution to most every thing, isn’t it? Yes church, we must remember that worship, our worship of God is simply our response to what He has done and is doing right now for us! This is what we call Divine Service; God’s service amongst and within us; His work of dealing with our sins as individuals and as a congregation.

In our Epistle lesson, St. Peter used his mountaintop experience and the Word of God he heard that day, as a way to guide both his life and ours’ every day as we live not on the mountain top but in the valleys.

The greatest growth in the apostle’s lives did not take place on the mountaintop, but instead it took place on the way to a garden and a rocky hill. The vision of Moses and Elijah is not what shaped the three, but instead it was the three years they spent with Jesus listening to His Word; the very Word that would predict His own betrayal and death; it would lead them to the Garden of Gethsemane where He was arrested and then to Golgotha where they witnessed their Savior’s death upon a cross. It was not Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration that impacted them eternally but instead, it was His death, resurrection and ascension into heaven, which confirmed that “truly He was the Son of God” for them and for the world.

The day Jesus was crucified, that hill where they planted His cross became the highest mountain in the world, because it reached heaven for us. Jesus did not go up that hill to pray, but he did pray, he prayed for you: “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” You see friends; the experience at the Mt. of Transfiguration is inferior to the experience at Calvary’s holy hill, because it is only at Calvary where you receive forgiveness of sins.

Peter and the boys missed the obvious. They were awed by Jesus’ glory, because He was their man, the Messiah who would be their champion by righting all wrongs. They were so excited about what they thought Jesus would do that they missed what God had already done. There standing with Jesus, were Moses and Elijah shining in the same glory as Jesus. Moses the great teacher who brought us God’s law, was listening to Jesus. Elijah, the great prophet who was taken up to heaven in bodily form, was listening too. What did it all mean? Only Jesus could explain it; and to make sure that they would one day understand, God’s Divine Service kicked into action again. Moses and Elijah disappeared within a dense cloud of God’s glory and the voice of the Father announced: “This is my beloved Son; listen to Him.”

How does our worship go wrong?

It happens when we shut down our hearts and minds to the message in exchange for the experience; when we allow Jesus Word to become secondary to the experience. How does God make things right? By taking our focus off of the experience and putting it back onto the Word, this Word: “Jesus is My beloved Son, my elected One; LISTEN TO HIM!”
The truth is, without the Word of God speaking to us, there can be no experience. What is the experience? Dying and living and living and dying. In the Word you hear God’s law make demands that you can never meet; this is a Word that terrifies you, because you are a sinner standing in the middle of God’s perfect and blinding glory, and the result is your death, the death of your glory.

In the gospel of Jesus Christ, the good news about His life, death, resurrection, and ascension, you hear about a loving God who came to you, to take away your sins; the result is new life, a life free of condemnation and full of God’s love. In this good news you are taught that Jesus walked the painful way to the cross for you; He suffered and died to pay for your sins. In His death He conquered not just your sin and the devil, but also your own death. In His death and resurrection, all things can be made new again, even you!

In your baptism, Jesus brought you into His glory by drowning and destroying your old sinful nature and by bringing you into the cloud of His divine presence. In your baptism He chose you and He cleansed you. And what He cleanses, He also molds and changes. What He molds, He fills. And what He fills, He uses. So now, you live! Every day you choose to live for God as you put to death your old sinful and self-serving nature; you live for God and you live for others!

When the light show is over and the glory cloud vanishes, there is no one but you and Jesus, but not the bright as the sun Jesus, but the flesh and blood Jesus. He’s the one who moves around in this world of sin, loving, suffering and dying for sinners. He’s the One who speaks to them and through His Word makes them saints. How does He do that? Through the proclamation of His church… through you and me!

Remember in our gospel reading when He told the three not to say a word to anyone about what they had seen until He had risen from the dead? Well that time has come and gone. In case you haven’t noticed, everyone who knows is telling anyone who doesn’t what Jesus life, death, resurrection and ascension means… it means the forgiveness of all sins and eternal life! But you can only share that message if you are willing to come down off of the mountain top of worship and go out into the real world where there are real sinful and hurting people, dying without knowing Jesus. The exciting part about all of this is the fact that God wants to reach them through you!

So, until we meet again next Sunday for our next encounter with God’s divine service and our next foretaste of the glory to come, may He forever lead and guide you by the Word of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior… AMEN!

The Lord Is In His Holy Temple

Sunday, January 10th, 2016

Epiphany 1 (HL), January 10th, 2016
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor
Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego, CA
http://www.tlcsd.org

Click here for audio of this message

The Lord is in his holy temple; the Lord’s throne is in heaven; his eyes see, his eyelids test the children of man.” [Psalm 11:4]

Each Sunday we hear a similar call and a declared need to both worship our God and be surrounded with His glory.  But do these words still apply to our churches today?  In Israel the temple was considered to be the dwelling place of the Lord, the place where His glory resided.  Is this true for us today, or is the time past when the worship of God is confined to a special place?

We can answer both yes and no to that question.  Without a doubt the time of the Old Covenant temple, with its sacrifices and ordinances is long past.  All that the Old Testament commands about the offerings, the service of the temple, and the festivals doesn’t concern us.  But on the other hand, the time isn’t past when God reveals Himself to us through distinctly tangible and physical means.  The God who surrounds us on all sides and fills the whole universe, Him we cannot meet or truly know as our dear Heavenly Father except through Jesus Christ.  It is in the Gospel, in the Word and the Sacraments, that we possess God as our God.

In every place where GOD’S Word is preached and the Sacraments are administered God comes near to us, in the same way that He drew near to His people Israel within the temple.

When a church building is set aside for worship, it is properly consecrated by the Word of God and by the prayers of God’s people who gather there to be both surrounded and filled with His glory.  This is why we call our church a holy place, because it is set apart for God, to be the meeting place where He comes to meet us within His means of grace.

Jesus Himself modeled for us a life that honored both the temple and the local synagogue.  As we heard in our gospel lesson this morning (Luke 2:41-52), at the age of twelve Jesus already spoke of the temple as “my Father’s house.”  As a mature man He drove the traders out of the temple and wouldn’t even allow them to carry anything through the sanctuary.  It was meant to be a house of prayer for all people.  It is stated that it was His custom to go to the synagogue.  Evidently this means that He attended the local houses of worship.  And following that same pattern of living, the apostles as well were loyal to both temple and synagogue as long as they were able.  And then when they were no longer welcomed, they found other rooms for worship, which in time became the forerunners to our Christian churches.

You see dear friends, we have both the right and the obligation to foster the same love toward our own churches, which the godly Israelites had with regard to the temple.  The truth is, our baptized souls and minds long for the house of the Lord; it is there where our hearts, whether we admit it or not, seek rest, as rain rests upon a lake, at the altars of the Lord of hosts.

We peculiar people who are called “Christian” in our spirits, are glad when they say: “Let us go to the house of the Lord!”  When we arrive at his house we truly can “enter His gates with thanksgiving and praise” and we can go forward “to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple.” [Psalm 27:4]  We are aware that in the house of God that “Splendor and majesty are before Him; (and) strength and beauty are in His sanctuary.” [Psalm 96:6] Word for word a Christian can say: “Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you.  So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands.”  [Psalm 63:3, 4]

And we will need this work of God, because this entire world and really our own sinful nature both implore and even demand that we give up our faith and style of worship, which is considered by many, to be antiquated and a relic of the past.  To these voices from within the darkness of sin we respond, “The LORD has said that He would dwell in thick darkness.” [1 Kings 8:12] So “In the LORD I take refuge.  How can you say to my soul, ‘Flee like a bird to our places of safety.  All is lost within your religion, and we non-Christians surround and out number you.  Can’t you see that your foundations are destroyed?  So why do you cling to a faith and religion that can’t protect you?”  “Ha” we respond confidently…

“Our help is found by resting in the Lord; by allowing our faith to be strengthened through the means of grace that God Himself has determined to work through for our good.” You see, when we do this, we become part of the “foundations” of the very society God has instituted.

So what are these foundations that the darkness of sin threatens to destroy?  They are very simply the church, government, and family.  Luther called these institutions the stations of life, and he said, “Where such stations operate as they should, there things go well in the world, and there is the very righteousness of God.  But where such stations are not maintained, it makes for unrighteousness.  Now God declares (that) these stations must remain if the world is to stand, even though many may oppose and rage against them.” [AE 13:58 cf AE 54:446]

Now, while it is true that if we judge this world by what we see, all seems to be lost and enveloped by the darkness of sin, but remember God and His glory dwell within the darkness; even from within that darkness God declares, “I AM.”

The Lord is in His holy temple in heaven, but His glory fills all of creation; His eyes see and He guides you, and even if the world only see’s Him as if His eyes are closed, and even if they think He does not see or know, HE IS.

But the truth is friends, this darkness isn’t just something that surrounds us, but in fact it resides even within our own sinful flesh.  And because of this darkness we can begin to be flooded with doubts and fears.  Although it might sometimes seem that the wicked are prospering in their wickedness, God is still ruling in the heavens. Nothing escapes his detection. He sees the deeds of the ungodly, and he will punish them fully in His time. The Lord hates evil and He loves righteousness. When He comes in judgment, he will punish every sin of the unbeliever. But those who are righteous through Christ, you who trust in Christ alone, will dwell with God in eternal happiness.

Even when the very foundations of society seem to be undermined, this assurance of Isaiah remains true: [The Lord] “will be the sure foundation for your times” (Isaiah 33:6). Even when wickedness and lies flourish, “God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: ‘The Lord knows those who are his,’ and, ‘Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.” [2 Timothy 2:19]

Dear saints, we must be filled with all these promises, comfort, and strength regularly, and God does this very thing within His Divine Service here within our church home, which is His church.

The truth is, we who are God’s saints are being built up as His very foundation for maintaining His glory within this sin-darkened world.

We are drawn by the work of the Holy Spirit to this place; we come to be filled with light so that the world in darkness may know the source of our light.  We come as sinners forgiven through the Holy cross of Jesus, washed clean in the waters of our baptism, so that others will be drawn for the same reason and to the same source of new life and cleansing… Jesus Christ!

When the world looks for you to throw in with them, to be like them, and to act with them; when they look for you to follow them, and in surprise comment how strange it is that you will not; that you still find it necessary to “go to church,” you can then, through the work of the Holy Spirit respond as Jesus responded to Mary and Joseph, “Why do you wonder where I’ll be on Sunday?” “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”

You see, through Christ, God is not just the Father of His Son Jesus, but He is also your Father as long as you see your need to take His Son as your Savior from your many sins.  And because God is your Father, you will also have the same regard as Jesus did for His and your Father’s house.  You will not neglect the meeting of the saints nor the up-keeping of the church and its ministry, because it is within that place of meeting and within those means of grace, that God freely gives you both forgiveness and new life.

Dear friends, our faith is often tested and its often found wanting. God’s faithfulness and mercy toward us, however, never weakens or fails. Despite our lack of faith and even our wicked deeds, He extends His grace as a refuge from our sinful nature and the sinful works of others. He does this so that we can both see and hear Him work through His Word and Sacraments, in order that we will have access to His undying testament, which guarantees His great and unending love for us.  Let us pray…

In You, O Lord, we take refuge. Though we are found lacking righteousness, save us by the righteousness of Christ. We ask this in Jesus name… Amen!

It Is Good To Be Here!

Sunday, February 15th, 2015

Transfiguration of our Lord Sunday B, February 15, 2015

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

Mark 9:2-9

Click here for audio of this message

“And Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here.” [Mark 9:5a]

Have you ever had something happen to you, which was so profound that it seemed to change how you look at everything in your life?  Peter, James, and John did, but to understand their experience correctly, we need to look at their recent experiences with Jesus.  In the last couple of years, they experienced one miracle after another; they must have felt like they were on top of the world.  And then, out of nowhere, Jesus started talking about denying themselves, taking up their cross and following Him into suffering and death!  Why, He even said that if they wanted to save their lives they must first lose them.  Then He said that even He would need to suffer and die at the hands of sinful men in order to fulfill the will of the Father.

Now to Peter, that was crazy talk, and he didn’t want to listen to anymore of that doom and gloom, so he took Jesus aside and tried to enlighten Him on how He thought a Messiah should speak.  But Jesus wouldn’t have any of that; that was the devil speaking not Peter, so Jesus rebuked Peter with the often-quoted words, “Get behind me Satan.”  He said that Peter was seeking the way of the world, and not the way of God!

Peter and the other apostles must have been thinking, “What’s going on here?  This isn’t what I signed up for!  What happened to all of the happy-clappy times that come with “walking and talking with our minds stayed of Jesus” the Messiah?”  You see, they wanted more of the glory, fame, and high life, but Jesus was telling them that instead of living large and in-charge, they would need to experience suffering, shame, and death.  And then out of nowhere, Jesus gave them this little bit of information to think about: “Some of you will not taste death until you see the kingdom of God come in power.” [Mark 9:1]

So now, six days later there is Peter along with James, and John, up on a mountaintop, watching Jesus pray.  Little did they know that they were about to experience the kingdom of God in all of its glory and power!  It was getting late and they were tired; their eyes got heavy when all of a sudden, boom!  It was as if all of the light in the world was pouring out of Jesus and the two visitors that suddenly appeared.  And they weren’t just any visitors either; they were Moses and Elijah!

The three earth bound apostles were overwhelmed with the experience.  The other gospels tell us that Jesus, Moses and Elijah were speaking about Jesus death, resurrection, and the day He would leave this sinful world, but Peter skipped right over those Words.  All he seemed to care about was the glory!  He must have thought, “Now this is the kind of Messiah I signed up to follow!”  So with a mixture of fear and excitement (after all he was standing in the presence of God and the two greatest heroes of faith that ever lived), Peter interrupts Jesus’ discussion with these deep and insightful words: “(Hey, a) Rabbi, it is (a)good (thing) that we’re here (with you).”  Do you want me to pitch a few tents for you and your guests?

I call that a Homer Simpson moment: “Dolp!”

With all of the responses someone should or could have had, maybe something like Alleluia, why in the world did Peter ruin that divine moment with such a stupid statement and question?  And after Peter’s Homer Simpson moment, what happened next?  A thick cloud suddenly appeared and Moses and Elijah were gone.

The experience was over.  Or as B.B. King would say, the thrill is gone.  But why?  Well simply put, Peter’s attention was centered on what He was experiencing and not the Words He was hearing.  He completely missed the conversation about Jesus leaving this world; he missed it because it was another message about suffering and death.

Aren’t we a lot like Peter too? We love it when we come to church and we get to sing our favorite hymn or spiritual.  We love it when the preacher is talking about heaven and what a time will have there with no more suffering, pain, sickness, and death, but as soon as the message starts showing us where we fall short or what God expects from us, we tune it out.

We love to be entertained for about an hour, but as soon as the service starts cutting into our Sunday afternoon plans we get fidgety, and then irritated!  We love the fellowship and coffee but get bored with the liturgy and ritual!  You see, like Peter we say that it’s good to be here in church, but only if it meets our desires; as soon as worship time gets personal we become nervous and hope that it ends soon.

Now you might not interrupt the sermon or the readings with a foolish statement like Peter’s, but you too have your Homer Simpson moments.  For you, it happens the minute you tune out to what’s happening in Divine Service and tune into what you wish was happening.  Peter wanted to silence the conversation and stay in the glory moment, and we aren’t any better.  We love those mountaintop highs of worship, and if we could make it happen, that’s all we would ever experience.

Does that mean that emotion during worship is bad?  No, not at all, but the good times aren’t suppose to be the center of why we worship.  So what’s the solution?

Well, we just need to let Jesus be Jesus and then let Him do what He does. Do you see what I just did?  I took the emphasis off of you and me and put it on Jesus.  That’s always the solution to most every thing, isn’t it?  Yes church, we must remember that worship, our worship of God is simply our response to what He has done and is doing right now for us!  This is what we call Divine Service; God’s service amongst and within us; His work of dealing with our sins.

In our Epistle lesson, St. Paul talked about a veil that remains over the eyes of the unbelieving Jews.  For us, that veil represents our flesh or physical desires; its our natural way of trying to get what we want, but Jesus always gives us what we need.  When we listen to Jesus, the Word of God, God Himself removes the veil of this world off of our spiritual eyes and He allows us to see an entirely different reality… a spiritual one.  Only through (Jesus) Christ can this veil be taken away.

You see, when we turn to Jesus and what He is doing or saying and receive that Word and that Word only, the veil is removed; we are freed from our own expectations of what our Christian faith and worship is, and then we can truly hear what Jesus is really saying.  And when we hear what Jesus is saying, then and only then can we be transformed slowly but surely, into the same image and glory of our Lord.

Peter and the boys missed the obvious.  They were awed by Jesus’ glory, because He was their man, the Messiah who would be their champion by righting all wrongs.  They were so excited about what they thought Jesus would do that they missed what God had already done.  There standing with Jesus, were Moses and Elijah shining in the same glory as Jesus.  Moses the great teacher who brought us God’s law, was listening to Jesus.  Elijah, the great prophet who was taken up to heaven in bodily form, was listening too.  What did it all mean?  Only Jesus could explain it; and to make sure that they would one day understand, God’s Divine Service kicked into action again.  Moses and Elijah disappeared within a dense cloud of God’s glory and the voice of the Father announced: “This is my beloved Son; listen to Him.”

How does our worship go wrong? It happens when we shut down our hearts and minds to the message in exchange for the experience.  How does God make things right?  By taking our focus off of the experience and putting it back onto the Word, this Word:  “Jesus is My beloved Son, my elected One; LISTEN TO HIM!”

The truth is, without the Word of God speaking to us, there can be no experience.  What is the experience?  Dying and living and Living and dying.  In the Word you hear God’s law make demands that you can never meet; this is a Word that terrifies you, because you are a sinner standing in the middle of God’s perfect and blinding glory, and the result is your death, the death of your glory.

In the gospel of Jesus Christ, the good news about His life, death, resurrection, and ascension, you hear about a loving God who came to you, to take away your sins; the result is new life, a life free of condemnation and full of God’s love.  In this good news you are taught that Jesus walked the painful way to the cross for you; He suffered and died to pay for your sins.  In His death He conquered not just your sin and the devil, but also your own death.  In His death and resurrection, all things can be new again, even you!

In your baptism, Jesus brought you into His glory by drowning and destroying your old sinful nature and by bringing you into the cloud of His divine presence.  In your baptism He chose you and He cleansed you.  And what He cleanses, He also molds and changes.  What He molds, He fills.  And what He fills, He uses.  So now, you live!  Every day you choose to live for God as you put to death your old sinful and self-serving nature; you live for God and you live for others!

This is the true nature of our hidden life in Jesus. When the light show is over and the glory cloud vanishes, there is no one but you and Jesus, but not the bright as the sun Jesus, but the flesh and blood Jesus.  He’s the one who moves around in this world of sin, suffering and dying for sinners.  He’s the One who speaks to them and through His Word makes them saints.  How does He do that?  Through the proclamation of His church… through you and me!

Remember in our gospel reading when He told the three not to say a word to anyone about what they had seen until He had risen from the dead?  Well that time has come and gone.  In case you haven’t noticed, everyone who knows is telling anyone who doesn’t what Jesus life, death, resurrection and ascension means!  They are telling them that they are free of shame, worry, and fear.  So now, guess what?  It’s your turn to share the good news.  But you can only do that if you come down off of the mountain top of worship and go out into the real world where there are real sinful and hurting people, dying without knowing Jesus.  The exciting part about all of this is the fact that God wants to reach them through you!

Are you a little afraid to share this good news?  That’s alright; Peter and the others were afraid too.  They didn’t want to leave the safety and awesomeness of their worship experience, but they had to, because Jesus led them out, and He’ll lead you too!  Dear friends, God is leading us out into the real world; a place where there is real suffering and pain.  But He is leading us out with our hearts and minds focused on His Word and the real change He’s made and is making within each of us.  When you get afraid or tired, and just feel like quitting, think of this place and all of the wonderful gifts that God has given to you here, all so that you would be His witness of love and life in a dying world.  Think of His glory that He has placed within you; a glory that can’t be seen with physical eyes but will one day shine as bright as the glory of our Lord’s own Transfiguration.  And when you remember these things, it’s alright to feel excited but just remember emotions will eventually die off, and then it’s just you and Jesus.

So, until we meet again next Sunday for our next encounter with God’s divine service and our next foretaste of the glory to come, may He forever lead and guide you by the Word of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior… AMEN!

It Is Good To Be Here!

Sunday, February 19th, 2012

Transfiguration of our Lord Sunday B, February 19, 2012
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA

Mark 9:2-9

Click here for audio of this message

“And Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here.” [Mark 9:5a]

Have you ever had an experience so profound that it seemed to reshape your entire outlook on life?  Peter, James, and John did, but to understand  it more deeply, we have to rewind their recent experiences with Jesus.  In the last couple of years, they experienced one miracle after another, and  they must have felt like they were on top of the world, when out of nowhere, Jesus started talking about denying themselves, taking up their cross  and following Him.  Follow him to where?  To suffering and death!  Why He even said that if they wanted to save their lives they must first lose  them.  Then He said that even He would suffer and die at the hands of sinful men in order to fulfill the will of the Father.

Wait… What?!  To Peter, that was crazy talk, and he didn’t want to listen to anymore of that doom and gloom, so he took Jesus aside and tried to  enlighten Him on how He thought a Messiah should speak.  But Jesus wouldn’t have any of that; that was the devil speaking not Peter, so Jesus  rebuked Peter with the often quoted words, “Get behind me Satan.”  He said that Peter was seeking the way of the world, and not the way of God!

Peter and the other apostles must have been thinking, “What’s going on here?  This isn’t what I signed up for!  Where’s all the happy-clappy  moments that come with walking and learning from the Messiah?”  They wanted glory, fame, and the high life, but instead Jesus told them that  suffering, shame, and death were right around the corner.  And then out of nowhere, Jesus gave them this little bit of information to think about:  “Some of you will not taste death until you see the kingdom of God come in power.” [Mark 9:1]

I. So now, six days later there is Peter along with James, and John, up on a mountain top, watching Jesus pray.  Little did they know that they were  about to experience that kingdom of God in all of its glory!  It was getting late and they were tired; their eyes got heavy when all of a sudden, boom!  It was as if all of the light in the world was pouring out of Jesus and the two visitors that suddenly appeared.  And they weren’t just any visitors either; they were Moses and Elijah!

The three earth bound apostles were overwhelmed with the experience.  The other gospels tell us that Jesus, Moses and Elijah were speaking about Jesus death, resurrection, and the day He would leave this sinful world, but Peter skipped right over those Words.  All he noticed was the glory of Jesus… the glory of God!  He must have thought, “Now this is the kind of Messiah I signed up to follow!”  So with a mixture of fear and excitement (after all he was standing in the presence of God and the two greatest heroes of faith that ever lived), and filled with excitement, Peter interrupts Jesus’ discussion with these deep and insightful words: “(Hey, a) Rabbi, it is (a)good (thing) that we’re here (with you).”  Do you want me to pitch a few tents for you and your guests?

I call that a Homer Simpson moment: “Dolp!”. With all of the responses someone should or could have, maybe something like Alleluia, why in the world did he ruin that divine moment with such a stupid statement and question?  And after Peter’s Homer Simpson moment, what happened next?  A thick cloud suddenly appeared and Moses and Elijah were gone.

The experience was over.  Or as B.B. King would say, the thrill is gone.  But why?  Well simply put, Peter’s attention was centered on what He was experiencing and not the Words He was hearing.  He completely missed the conversation about Jesus leaving this world; he missed it because it was another message about suffering and death.

B. Aren’t we a lot like Peter too?  We love it when we come to church and we get to sing our favorite hymn.  We love it when the preacher is talking about heaven and a time where there will be no more suffering, pain, sickness, and death, but as soon as the message starts showing us where we fall short or what God expects from us, we tune it out.

We love to be entertained for about an hour, but as soon as the service starts cutting into our Sunday afternoon plans we get fidgety, and then irritated!  We love the fellowship and coffee but get bored with the liturgy and ritual!  You see, like Peter we say that it’s good to be here in church, but only if it meets our desires; as soon as worship time gets personal we become nervous and hope that it ends soon.

Now you might not interrupt the sermon or the readings with a foolish statement like Peter’s, but you too have your Homer Simpson moments.  For you, it happens the minute you tune out what’s happening in the Word and tune into what you wish was happening.  Peter wanted to silence the conversation and stay in the glory moment, and we aren’t any better.  We love those mountaintop highs of worship, and if we could make it happen, that’s all we would ever experience.

Does that mean that emotion during worship is bad?  No, not at all, but the good times aren’t to be the center of why we worship.  So what’s the solution?

II. Well, we just need to let Jesus be Jesus and then let Him do what He does.  Do you see what I just did?  I took the emphasis off of you and me and put it on Jesus.  That’s always the solution to most every thing, isn’t it?  Yes church, we must remember that worship, our worship of God is simply our response to what He has done and is doing right now for us!  This is what we call Divine Service; God’s service amongst and within us; His work of dealing with our sins.

In our Epistle lesson, St. Paul talked about a veil that remains over the eyes of the unbelieving Jews.  For us, that veil represents our flesh or physical desires; its our natural way of trying to get what we want, but Jesus always gives us what we need.  When we listen to Jesus Word, the Word of God, God Himself removes the veil of this world off of our spiritual eyes and He allows us to see an entirely different reality… a spiritual one.  Only through (Jesus) Christ can this veil be taken away.

You see, when we turn to Jesus and what He is doing or saying and receive that Word and that Word only, the veil is removed; we are freed from our own expectations of what our Christian faith and worship is and we can hear what Jesus is really saying.  When we hear what Jesus is saying, then and only then can we be transformed slowly but surely into the same image and glory of our Lord.

Peter and the boys missed the obvious.  They were awed by Jesus’ glory, because He was their man, the Messiah who would be their champion by righting all wrongs.  They were so excited about what they thought Jesus would do that they missed what God had already done.  There standing with Jesus were Moses and Elijah shining in the same glory as Jesus.  Moses the great teacher who brought us God’s law was listening to Jesus.  Elijah, the great prophet who was taken up to heaven in bodily form, was listening too.  What did it all mean?  Only Jesus could explain it; and to make sure that they would one day understand, God’s Divine Service kicked into action again.  Moses and Elijah disappeared within a dense cloud of God’s glory and the voice of the Father announced: “This is my beloved Son; listen to Him.”

III. How does our worship go wrong?  It happens when we shut down our hearts and minds to the message in exchange for the experience.  How does God make things right?  By taking our focus off of the experience and putting it back onto the Word, this Word:  “Jesus is My beloved Son; LISTEN TO HIM!”

The truth is, without the Word of God speaking to us, there can be no experience.  What is the experience?  Dying and living and Living and dying.  In the Word you hear God’s law make demands that you can never meet; this is a Word that terrifies you,  because you are a sinner standing in the middle of God’s perfect and blinding glory, and the result is your death, the death of your glory.  In the gospel of Jesus Christ, the good news about His life, death, resurrection, and ascension, you hear about a loving God who came to you, to take away your sins; the result is new life, a life free of condemnation and full of God’s love.  In this good news you are taught that Jesus walked the painful way to the cross for you; He suffered and died to pay for your sins.  In His death He conquered not just your sin and the devil, but also your own death.  In His death and resurrection, all things can be new again, even you!

In your baptism, Jesus brought you into His glory by drowning and destroying your old sinful nature and by bringing you into the cloud of His divine presence.  In your baptism He chose you and He cleansed you.  And what He cleanses, He also molds and changes.  What He molds, He fills.  And what He fills, He uses.  So now, you live!  Every day you choose to live for God as you put to death your old sinful and self-serving nature; you live for God and you live for others!

IV. This is the true nature of our hidden life in Jesus.  When the light show is over and the glory cloud vanishes, there is no one but you and Jesus.  But not the bright as the sun Jesus, but the flesh and blood Jesus.  He’s the one who moves around in this world of sin and suffering, dying for sinners.  He’s the One who speaks to them and through His Word makes them saints.  How does He do that?  Through His church… through you!

Remember in our gospel reading when He told the three not to say a word to anyone about what they had seen until He had risen from the dead?  Well that time has come and gone.  In case you haven’t noticed, everyone who knows is telling anyone who doesn’t what Jesus life, death, resurrection and ascension means!  They are telling them that they are free of shame, worry, and fear.  So now, guess what?  It’s our turn to share the good news.  But we can only do that if we come down off of the mountain top of worship and go out into the real world where there are real sinful and hurting people, dying without knowing Jesus.  The exciting part about all of this is the fact that God wants to reach them through you!

CONCLUSION: Are you a little afraid?  That’s alright; so were Peter and the others.  They didn’t want to leave the safety and awesomeness of their worship experience, but Jesus led them out, and He’ll lead you too!

I’d like to close with a little story that will help us remember that we aren’t alone as we go out into the mission field.  “One evening while flying on an airline, a passenger asked a sailor sitting next to him what time it was. The sailor pulled out a huge watch and replied, “It’s 7:20.” “Your watch must’ve stopped,” replied the passenger, “because I know it’s latter than that!”

“No,” he said, “I’m still on Mountain Standard Time. I am from southern Utah. When I joined the navy, my Dad gave me this watch. He said it’d help me remember home.  You see, when my watch says 5 a.m., I know Dad is rollin’ out to milk the cows. And when it says 7:30 I know my whole family’s gathered around the dinner table with some great food, and Dad’s thankin’ God for what’s on it and askin’ Him to watch over me. I can almost smell the hot biscuits and gravy.  You see, I can find out what time it is where I am easy enough. What I want to know is what time it is in Utah.  It’s thinking about mountain time that keeps me goin’ even during war!”

Dear friends, God is sending us out into the real world; a place where it can be tough.  But He is sending us out with our hearts and minds focused on His Word and the real change He’s made and is making within each of us.  When you get afraid or tired, and just feel like quitting, think of this place and all of the wonderful gifts that God has given to you here, all so that you would be His witness of love and life in a dying world.  Think of His glory that He has placed within you; a glory that can’t be seen with physical eyes but will one day shine as bright as the glory of our Lord’s own Transfiguration.  And when you remember these things, it’s alright to feel excited but just remember emotions will eventually die off, and then it’s just you and Jesus.

So, until we meet again next Sunday for our next encounter with God’s divine service and our next foretaste of the glory to come, may He forever lead and guide you in the Word of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior… AMEN!

Martha, Martha…

Saturday, August 6th, 2011

Friday Night Gospel Celebration, August 5, 2011
Rev. Brian HendersonPastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
Click here for audio of this message
  

Tonight God’s Word is teaching us something both about both worship and service.  What is worship?  I’m fairly certain that if I ask 7 people to define worship I will get 7 different answers.  So to avoid any confusion, I’m going to give you the Lutheran definition of Worship, which by the end of the message, I hope you will see is the Biblical model of worship. Our definition of worship is based entirely on service.  “OK”… many of you are saying, “I can see that.”  But here comes the portion of our definition that often times can lead to disagreement:  It’s not you and me serving the Lord, but instead it’s God almighty serving us!  You see friends, when you decide to go to church on Sunday morning, you won’t be doing God any favors, and your attendance won’t earn you any brownie points with God either.  No, I’m afraid that coming to church isn’t a good work that serves God and wins His favor. 

Then what is worship?  Well, true Christian worship is simply sitting at the feet of Jesus… hearing His Word and letting Him serve us!  That’s why we call our worship a Divine Service; it is God serving us!  We go to church out of need.  We go to receive the precious gifts that Christ has to give to us.  What are those gifts?  Well, nothing but forgiveness of sins and God’s love and real presence in our lives won for us by Christ’s suffering, death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven.  These wonderful things friends are given to us through His precious Word and Sacraments—the very things we come to receive at Divine Service! 

I. Scripture talks about a lawyer who approached Jesus wanting to know what He could do in order to serve God and receive His approval.  Jesus tried to show him through the Law, that it wasn’t what he did that would save Him but the gift that God had to give… and that gift was Jesus Himself!  Tonight, in our gospel reading we are introduced to two sisters.  Both knew that they needed Jesus… both knew that through Jesus God was with them.  But one sister insisted that her service to Jesus should come before Jesus could serve her.  You see, she knew that she needed Jesus, but she wanted Him on her terms.  Listen to the first portion of our gospel reading and see if this isn’t true: “But Martha was distracted with much (service).  And she went up to (Jesus) and said, “Lord, (don’t you) care that my sister (Mary) has left me to serve alone?  Tell her then to help me.” [Luke 10:40]  And what was Jesus answer?  Listen: “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary.  Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” [vs. 41,42] 

So what’s the point?  Well, our Lord was implying that by Mary’s desire to hear His Word, the very place where He was seated had become a pulpit, and Mary’s own humble seat at the feet of Jesus became a pew.  In fact the entire home had become a sanctuary filled with God’s mercy and love!  It was a place where God had drawn close to sinners so that He could change their hearts and fill them with grace and forgiveness!

Friends, Mary’s natural devotion to Jesus’ Words will forever stand as a witness to the church as the true mark of worship and discipleship.  Here we learn that if the Words of Jesus are received by a humble and empty heart wanting to be filled and changed, then God is more than ready to do this good work or service within us!  And here we learn that whenever God’s holy Word is offered to us, we should be willing to drop everything else just to hear it.

The problem Martha had friends is the same problem many of us have… we’ve lost sight of God’s priority!  You see, Martha forgot who came to serve whom.  She thought that it was better for her to do a good work than for God to serve her.  This type of thinking goes like this: “There’s something important that needs to be done today at home or even at church, so I’ll skip worship and work on that!”  The truth is, each of us can come up with some pretty good excuses to justify not coming to worship on Sunday or during the week; each of us has a little bit of Martha in us!  Think about that for a moment; while Jesus was teaching she was preparing Him a meal.  She thought that the God who fed over 5,000 people with just a few loaves and fish “needed” her service!  Friends, Jesus didn’t need any food from her she needed food from Him!  And He doesn’t need any service from us either; he wants to serve us!   “Wait a minute pastor… are you saying that my service to God isn’t important?”  No, of course not!  But my point is that before we offer service to God we must first seek to be served by Him!  That is His will and that is His priority.

II. St. Paul inn his letter to the Colossians helps us keep our priorities straight.  He says that we must first become reconciled to God.  Listen to his inspired Words: “And you who were once alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, (God) has now reconciled (you) in His body of flesh (Jesus body) by His death.”  And to this we ask, “But why?”  And Paul answers: “In order to present you (as) holy and blameless and above reproach before (God).” [Colossians 1: 21, 22]

“Ok pastor.  I see that I must be born again… I must be given a new heart and mind.  I know that I must be given the heart and mind of Jesus.  But wasn’t all of that given to me in my baptism?”  Yes it was friends, but this is a gift that is continuously given and it must be continuously received.  Listen once again to Paul.  He says that all of these gifts of grace, love, and forgiveness are ours, “if indeed (we) continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that (we) heard. [vs. 23a]  Do you hear in those Words the need to continue… to be steadfast and stable… not shifting from the hope of the gospel?  The only way this can be done is if Jesus is serving us with His life giving Word!

You see friends, unlike Martha, we have the ability to look backwards into time.  We can see that it was Jesus who first served us at the cross, and from there we can follow Him to His resurrection and ascension.  We can hear and read that His Word is real food and that He is really with us in a mysterious way through our baptism, the absolution ( forgiveness of our sins), and His Holy Supper.  In all of these things friends, Jesus is inviting us to regularly sit at His feet and be nourished and strengthened in our faith.  It’s His desire that we faithfully gather each Sunday and hear that we are forgiven… but He also wants us to remember that we are forgiven with a purpose.  And that purpose is where “our” service becomes part of our worship. 

Each one of us has been called to receive the forgiveness for our many sins and then we are called to praise God and share that forgiveness with our Christian brothers and sisters and even our unbelieving neighbors.  This is what is called our service to God.  It is first demonstrated during our divine worship as we offer up and sing praises to our God for His faithfulness.  And that spirit of praise and thanksgiving first shown in worship then leads us out into our families and our community, demonstrating a life which is centered around God’s grace.  And as this reality about God reconciling us becomes clearer, we will not only want to attend Christ’s Divine Service, but will also see the need to be reconciled with each other and to see others reconciled to God as well!

III. Martha lost her focus; she lost sight of God’s priority.  She forgot that the one thing most needful was the Word of God.  Jesus wasn’t telling her that her service was unimportant; no, He was telling her that it was not the most important thing.  Her sister Mary knew that her service was important, but she also knew that it would come after the Word of God had done its work within her heart. 

Dear friends, we should never lose sight of the need to show Christ’s love to others.  But we must always remember that the gospel… God’s forgiveness through Word and Sacrament are the reason we can love them; it is the one thing most needful.  We must remember that we are simply a glove that Jesus uses.  If we remember this we will also remember that it isn’t the glove that does the work but the hand that’s in it… the hand that was stretched out upon the suspended portion of the cross and nailed in place for our sins.  This is the hand that was stretched out in agony to a Heavenly Father who would not answer the plea, “My God, My God… why have You forsaken Me?”  Friends, Jesus asked this question for our benefit; He knew why His Father had forsaken Him… and it is my prayer that you do too!  He was forsaken so that you would not be!  He was pierced for your transgressions so that you would know God’s love for you.

CONCLUSION: Dear friends, there will always be a time to give thanks and service to our God, because it is always good, right, and admirable to do these things.  But these things must always be done as a result of God’s service that is first done within us.  I am sure that Jesus taught Martha this truth and I believe that she did take her place at Jesus’ feet along with her sister Mary.  I believe that Jesus not only changed Martha’s priorities, but He also blessed her service towards Him.  I pray that you will believe this also and be content to regularly allow God to be of Divine Service to you so that He can use you as a glove for His had that will serve His church and your neighbor.  I ask this in Jesus name…. AMEN!

“Martha, Martha… (insert your name here)!”

Sunday, July 18th, 2010

Eighth Sunday after Pentecost, July 18, 2010
Rev. Brian Henderson—Pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
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This morning God’s Word desires to teach us something both about worship and service.  What is worship?  I’m fairly certain that if I ask 7 people to define worship I will get 7 different answers… especially if I ask our brothers and sisters from different Christian denominations.  So to avoid any confusion, let’s talk about Lutheran Worship, which by the end of the message, you will see is the Biblical model of worship. 

Lutheran Worship is based entirely on the model of service.  “OK”… many of you are saying, “I can see that.”  But here comes the portion of our definition that often times can lead to disagreement:  It’s not you and me serving the Lord, but instead it’s God almighty serving us!  You see friends, when you decided to go to church this morning, you weren’t doing God any favors, and the fact that you are here doesn’t earn you anything.  No, I’m afraid that coming to church isn’t a good work that serves God and wins His favor.  Then what is worship?  True Christian worship is simply sitting at the feet of Jesus… hearing God’s Word and letting Him serve us!  This is why we call our worship a Divine Service; it is God serving us!  We go to church out of need.  We go to receive the precious gifts that Christ has to give to us.  What are these gifts?  Forgiveness of sins and God’s love and real presence in our lives won for us by His suffering, death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven.  These wonderful things friends are given to us through His precious Word and Sacraments—the very things that we gather around during our Divine Service! 

I. Last Sunday, we discovered in our gospel lesson a lawyer that wanted to do something in order to receive God’s approval.  Jesus tried to show him through the Law, that it wasn’t what he did that would save Him but the gift that God had to give… and that gift was Jesus Christ!  This morning, in our gospel reading we are introduced to two sisters.  Both knew that they needed Jesus… both knew that through Jesus God was with them.  But one sister insisted that her service to Jesus should come before Jesus could serve her.  You see, she knew that she needed Jesus, but she wanted Him on her terms.  Listen to the first portion of our gospel reading and see if this isn’t true: “But Martha was distracted with much (service).  And she went up to (Jesus) and said, “Lord, (don’t you) care that my sister (Mary) has left me to serve alone?  Tell her then to help me.” [Luke 10:40]  And what was Jesus answer?  Listen: “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary.  Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” [vs. 41,42]

So what’s the point?  Well, our Lord was implying that by Mary’s attentive hearing of His Word, the very place where He was seated had become a pulpit, and Mary’s own humble seat at the feet of Jesus became a pew.  In fact the entire home had become a sanctuary filled with the very mercy of God!  It was a place where God had drawn close to sinners so that He could change their hearts and fill them with grace and forgiveness!

Friends, Mary’s natural devotion to Jesus’ Words will forever stand as a witness to the church as the true mark of worship and discipleship.  Here we learn that if the Words of Jesus are received by a humble and empty heart wanting to be filled and changed, then God is more than ready to do this good work or service within us!  And here we learn that whenever God’s holy Word is offered to us, we should be willing to drop everything else just to hear it.

The problem Martha had friends is the same problem many of us have… we’ve lost sight of God’s priority!  You see, Martha forgot who came to serve whom.  She thought that it was better for her to do a good work than for God to serve God her.  This way of thinking goes like this: “There’s something important that needs to be done today at home or even at church, so I’ll skip worship and work on that!”  The truth is, each of us come up with some pretty good excuses to justify not coming to worship on Sunday or during the week; each of us has a little bit of Martha in us!  Think about that for a moment; while Jesus was teaching she was preparing Him a meal.  She thought that the God who fed over 5,000 people with just a few loaves and fish “needed” her service!  Friends, Jesus didn’t need any food from her she needed food from Him!  And He doesn’t need any service from us either; he wants to serve us!   “Wait a minute pastor… are you saying that my service to God isn’t important?”  No, of course not!  But my point is that before we offer service to God we must first seek to be served by Him!  That is His will and that is His priority.

II. In our epistle lesson (Co. 1:21-29), St. Paul helps us keep our priorities straight.  He says that we must first become reconciled to God.  Listen to his inspired Words: “And you who were once alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, (God) has now reconciled (you) in His body of flesh (Jesus body) by His death.”  And to this we ask, “But why?”  And Paul answers: “In order to present you (as) holy and blameless and above reproach before (God).” [vs. 21, 22]

“Ok pastor.  I see that I must be born again… I must be given a new heart and mind.  I know that I must be given the heart and mind of Jesus.  But wasn’t all of that given to me in my baptism?”  Yes it was friends, but this is a gift that is continuously given and it must be continuously received.  Listen once again to Paul.  He says that all of these gifts of grace, love, and forgiveness are ours, “if indeed (we) continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that (we) heard. [vs. 23a]  Do you hear in those Words the need to continue… to be steadfast and stable… not shifting from the hope of the gospel?  The only way this can be done is if Jesus is serving us with His life giving Word!

You see friends, unlike Martha, we have the ability to look backwards into time.  We can see that it was Jesus who first served us at the cross, and from there we can follow Him to His resurrection and ascension.  We can hear and read that His Word is real food and that He is really with us in a mysterious way through our baptism, the absolution ( forgiveness of our sins), and His Holy Supper.  In all of these things friends, Jesus is inviting us to regularly sit at His feet and be nourished and strengthened in our faith.  It’s His desire that we faithfully gather each Sunday and hear that we are forgiven… but He also wants us to remember that we are forgiven with a purpose.  And that purpose is where “our” service becomes part of our worship. 

Each one of us has been called to receive the forgiveness of our many sins and then we are called to praise God and share that forgiveness with our Christian brothers and sisters and even our neighbors.  This is what is called our service to God.  It is first demonstrated during our divine worship as we offer up and sing praises to our God for His faithfulness.  And that spirit of praise and thanksgiving first shown here then leads us out into our families and our community, demonstrating a life which is centered in God’s grace.  As this reality that God has reconciled us becomes clearer, and the truth that every day He is transforming us into the very image of Christ’s, we will not only desire to always take advantage of Christ’s Divine Service, be will also see the need to be reconciled with each other and to see others reconciled to God as well!

III. Martha lost her focus; she lost sight of God’s priority.  She forgot that the one thing most needful was the Word of God.  Jesus wasn’t telling her that her service was unimportant; no, He was telling her that it was not the most important thing.  Her sister Mary knew that her service was important, but she also knew that it would come after the Word of God was had done its work within her heart. 

Dear friends, we should never lose sight of the need to show Christ’s love to others.  But we must always remember that the gospel… God’s forgiveness through Word and Sacrament are the reason we can love them; it is the one thing most needful.  We must remember that we are simply a glove that Jesus uses.  If we remember this we will also remember that it isn’t the glove that does the work but the hand that is in it… the hand that was stretched out upon the suspended portion of the cross and nailed in place for our sins.  This is the hand that stretched out in agony to a Heavenly Father who would not answer the plea, “My God, My God… why have You forsaken Me?”  Friends, Jesus asked this question for our benefit; He knew why His Father had forsaken Him… and it is my prayer that you do too!  He was forsaken so that you would not be!  He was pierced for your transgressions so that you would know God’s love for you.

Dear friends, there will always be a time to give thanks and service to our God, because it is always good, right, and admirable to do these things.  But these things must always be done as a result of God’s service that is first done within us.  I am sure that Jesus taught Martha this truth and I believe that she did take her place at Jesus’ feet along with her sister Mary.  I believe that Jesus not only changed Martha’s priorities, but He also blessed her service towards Him.  I pray that you will believe this also and be content to regularly allow God to be of Divine Service to you so that He can use you as a glove for His had that will serve His church and your neighbor.  I ask this in Jesus name…. AMEN!