Posts Tagged ‘Easter 3B’

Were You There?

Sunday, April 15th, 2018

Easter 3B, April 15, 2018
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor of
Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street
San Diego, CA 92114

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“…and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead.” [Acts 3:15b]

We are all called to be witnesses to God’s forgiving love in our own lives.  Each one of us is to always be prepared to give our own testimony to why and how Jesus saved us from sin and delivered us into heaven.  We are His ambassadors.  But before we can give a witness we must have a testimony—that then will be the focus of our message this morning…honing our testimony, and we will begin and end our message with this question: Were you there when they crucified your Lord?

In our reading from Acts, Peter confronts a crowd of people in Jerusalem who have gathered in amazement because of a crippled man who is healed.  

They try to acknowledge Peter and John as the source of healing, but Peter will have none of that.  He immediately gives all glory to God and begins one of the most convicting sermons ever preached.  The most intense portion of his message was this: “The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. You denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead.” [Acts 3:13-15]  

In essence, Peter was saying that they denied Jesus by delivering Him to be crucified, but Barabbas the murderer they chose to give life to instead of the author of life!

Now it is doubtful that there were many people present, if any, listening to Peter’s sermon who were actually there when Jesus was sentenced to death.  Most likely, many of those people knew nothing about Barabbas being granted clemency in exchange for the death of Jesus, and yet Peter insists that they were the ones who delivered Him over to Pilate and asked for the death of the Author of life!  How can this be?  Because it was their sins that Jesus took upon Himself that compelled Him to go to the cross.  While they may not have been physically present the day Jesus was sentenced and executed they knew that the man they once called Messiah was about to be put to death, and they said nothing.  They knew that an innocent man was about to die, and they offered no testimony on His behalf.    They killed the Author of life!

How many times have you turned away from doing what you know is right because it was inconvenient to be a person of faith?  For some here this morning, it may be easier to be politically correct than being faithful to God’s will.  Go along to get along!  Maybe you‘ve learned to follow society’s moral idea of right and wrong rather than what God’s Word says is good and evil?  Or perhaps you’ve chosen a political party or leader over God’s clear will as communicated in His Word? If so, you killed the Author of life!  For others, maybe you know that Jesus suffered, died, and rose for you, but you have never really taken the time to know Him.  You know that His entire gift of grace is for you, but you have never really found the time to live in it!  If so, you killed the author of life!  Maybe you are one of the many that finds yourself vacillating between claiming Him and forgetting Him.  Some days you are thankful for all that He has done for you and on other days, well…you live as if He never did a thing for you.  If so, you killed the author of life!  Or maybe you are one who has truly discovered what it means to be saved by grace, through faith in Christ alone just as the Bible says, but you are terrified to tell others how your relationship with Jesus has saved you.  If so, then you also must realize that you too killed the Author of life!

Dear friends, Peter was painting a bleak picture to the people around him that day and he paints a bleak one for each of us as well—bleak, but not hopeless!  Listen to what he says next: “And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled. Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.” [vs. 17-20a].

Dear friends, if you have been convicted by God’s Word this morning then listen to what Peter says… “I know that you acted in ignorance.”  

Confess your sin and turn to Him who was crucified for you, so that all of your sins may be wiped clean!  Instead of carrying your guilt with you, come to your Savior, the author of life so that times of refreshing, goodness and peace with God can be yours!

It was not by accident that Jesus suffered and died.  We may be ignorant that our sins took Jesus to the cross, but God knew what He was doing.  God knew that He must give Jesus as a lamb for the slaughter, as the sacrifice for the sins of the world.  We act out of ignorance, but God acts in full knowledge with an intent centered in nothing but love for us.  We may be ignorant, lost in our own sins, but thank God that His wisdom and undeserved love for us makes us wise through faith and brings us to salvation.  Through our own wicked sinfulness God brought us His salvation; He gave His Son Jesus to you who took away your own guilt as He took away the sins of the world!  

Is this good news?  If so, then repent!  Turn away from your sinfulness so that “times of refreshing may come from God!  The suffering, worry, and fear are over the battle is won!  Alleluia!  Turn from sins that so easily trap you and turn to your redeemer, your savior, the Author of life, Jesus Christ.  This is what St. John meant when he wrote in our Epistle lesson that, “No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him.” [1 Jn. 3:6]  How do you keep from falling into sin?  Only by turning away from a sinful life and turning to Jesus!  How do you know that you are walking with Jesus and not following the ways of the devil and the world?  Because you practice what is right.  You look to Jesus alone as your way to please God and you hold on to the very things He’s given to you so that you will not lose hope!  You claim your baptism as His promise that He will never leave you or forsake you, and when you do sin, His Holy Spirit pains your heart to confess your sin to Him and then by the very same Spirit He gives you faith to know that you are forgiven.  How long will God put up with your sinfulness?  As long as you continue to turn to Him and be saved and recreated into His image and will for you. 

This dear friends is exactly the relationship that God desires and it is exactly the relationship He creates and sustains within us as we abide in Him.  It is the relationship of a Father and His children.  Now there are other types of relationships that this world likes to show off.  They are relationships where one gives as much as another; relationships like husband and wife, friend and friend.  But in our relationship with God it is entirely one sided…He gives and we only receive in gratitude.  And what does He give?  He gives forgiveness, He gives new life… new birth from the darkest death!  And what is our response?  Gratitude!  How do we show our gratitude?  

We show our gratitude by witnessing. 

A. In our gospel lesson, Jesus teaches His disciples and He teaches us how we are to live our lives because of what He has done for us and because of who we now are.  Listen: “Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.  You are witnesses of these things.” [Luke 24:45-48]  Friends, Jesus has opened your mind through the gift of faith.  You too can understand scripture.  You too now understand that Christ suffered, died, and rose for you.  If you are living out this truth then you are a good witness.  You too have a testimony to give.

There’s a Christian guy who prayed every morning: “Lord, if you want me to witness to someone today, please give me a sign to show me who it is.” One day he found himself on a bus when a big, burly man sat next to him. The bus was nearly empty but this guy sat next to our praying friend. The timid Christian anxiously waited for his stop so he could get off the bus. But before he could get very nervous about the man next to him, the big guy burst into tears and started weeping. He sobbed with a loud voice, “I need to be saved. I’m a lost sinner and I need the Lord. Can’t somebody tell me how to be saved?” He turned to the Christian and pleaded, “Can you tell me how to be saved?” The believer immediately bowed his head and prayed, “Lord, is this a sign?” 

Are you looking for a “sign” to start witnessing?  Well you have one…the sign of the cross; the cross that saved you and the world.  Who should you tell?  Whoever you know needs to hear the good news.  How should you tell them?  By demonstrating love for God in your own life, and then by explaining why you love Him.  Have you experienced repentance and forgiveness of sins in Jesus name?  Remember, you can’t witness to something you haven’t experienced!  Were you there when they crucified your Lord?  If you can answer yes, then tell your story!

Repentance and… Heaven!

Sunday, April 19th, 2015

Easter 3B, April 19, 2015
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA

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“While he clung to Peter and John, all the people, utterly astounded, ran together to them”. [Acts 3:11]

What should we make of that sick man in our First Reading (Acts 3:11-21) who clung to Peter and John?  Sure he was grateful to have his health back, but to cling to them; to follow them every where; to say good bye to your entire life prior to that moment of healing and be willing to start over clinging to these two men, doesn’t that seem a little extreme, almost cultish?  Well sure, if it was in fact Peter and John this man was devoted to, but it wasn’t, was it?  No!

Peter addresses the large crowd that thought that way, and he corrects them by saying, “Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we have made him walk?”  Then he says, it wasn’t us, it was Jesus, who you killed, that healed this man; Jesus the Author of Life, and the Forgiver of sins!

The healed man knew this and he believed it; he received it all in the name of Jesus and the witness that John and Peter gave to him about that name.  Sure he was healed, but where the real miracle took place wasn’t in his body, or even in the Temple, but instead, it was in an existence so far from their physical reality that normal folks would never believe it.  What was that miracle and what was that existence.  The miracle was repentance, forgiveness of sins, and the existence was eternal resurrected life in heaven!

Last week we heard that the key to Christian fellowship, that is fellowship and harmony with each other is in that little word faith.  This week, we will build on that and discover that the key to fellowship with God is also faith, but then something else is added, REPENTANCE!

What is repentance?  Some will say that it simply means turning around, or turning away from something, and I would agree with that, but there is something much deeper than that, something which makes repentance a part of your eternal life.  You see, what is important is Who you are turning around to.  You notice I did not say what you are turning to or what you are turning away from.

To be sure, those things are within repentance, but it all starts with Who you are turning to.  The sick man knew Whom he was turning to; he was turning to Jesus the Author of Life who alone can take away the sins of the world.  The Lamb of God who not only dies for the sins of the world, but comes back to life to prove that He has defeated sin, death, and the devil for you, so that you too will be assured of the eternal resurrected life in glory just as Jesus lives it out now.

Like the sick man, you too have been healed, forgiven of your many sins and promised a new and eternal-resurrected life, where you too will never again know sickness nor disease, nor temptation to sin.  And all you must do is cling to Jesus!  Turn to Him and receive forgiveness.  When you turn to Him, you turn to the cross and the empty tomb, and all that He has accomplished is yours.  When you turn to Him, you are also turning away from your sin and the ways of the devil and this fallen world; that is, your trust is no longer in sinful things and sinful ways, because Jesus in His Word has taught you a better way.

“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.”  Those first words of our epistle lesson (1 John 3:1-7) state a reality to all who have turned to and cling to Jesus Christ; you are children of God!  No ifs, ands, or buts about it, it’s a done deal.  People without faith can never understand this because without faith they see no need to turn away from their sinful lives and sinful choices.  So, this whole repentance thing sounds strange and impossible to them.  It is as if they want to ask us, “So let me get this straight, you want me to turn to an invisible man who you say is also God, and then you want me to ask to be forgiven for life choices and a life style that society and I see no problem with.  In fact, isn’t it true that it is only you Christians who find my choices offensive?  No thanks, you can keep your Jesus!”

Why do people without Jesus find you and your clinging to Him so offensive?  Because they don’t know Him!  But you do, don’t you?

Now I can see the wheels turning in your heads and almost hear your thoughts right now.  You may be thinking, “I hope I do; I sure hope so.  I want to believe and I want to know Him, but sometimes I truly just don’t know.”

Repent!  Turn to Jesus and cling to Him.

You are doing that right now.  Just as the sick man seemed to be clinging to Peter and John, so you right this moment are here in church, but your not clinging to this place nor the pastor, you are clinging to Jesus.  This church, and I your pastor are simply the instrument that Jesus uses to speak faith into your hearts so that you will continue to turn away from doubt and keep clinging to Him.

You see you need faith to keep clinging to Jesus, to keep repenting because while it is true that “we ARE children of God now, (it is also true that) what we will be has not yet appeared (that is to this world of flesh that lacks faith); but we know that when Christ appears (that is when He returns in glory) we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is.”

And now a fruit of faith that reveals the result of repentance… “everyone who thus hopes (in Jesus; who clings to Him and His Word of forgiveness) purifies himself as (Jesus) is pure.

You see, “everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness.  You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin.  No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him.  Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous.”

What does it mean to purify yourself?  Don’t be deceived, you can’t just simply say, “I am baptized!” and then do what ever you wish.  You can’t cling to the world and Jesus at the same time.  Another way to say you are purifying yourself is to say that you are repenting; you have learned to agree with God that He and His Word are right and this sinful society is wrong.  To purify your self is to cling to Jesus, to be filled with His presence within His Word and Sacraments, which are the very means that not only give you faith, but also the strength to fight the sin that is in you.  You see, while it is a truth to declare that I am saved by faith in the name of Jesus, and in that name and person of Jesus I cling, it is also a truth to declare that sin still clings to you; it is within your very flesh.  So what are we to do?

Return to the Lord your God for He is gracious and merciful; slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love!  Return to the promises of Jesus, which were first given to you in your baptism; promises that declare that He will never leave you nor forsake you; promises, which declare that “He who began the good work in you will complete it!”   Claim these promises as your very own and everyday put to death the sin that clings to your flesh.  Fight the good fight of faith and do not loose hope, because…

“Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as (Jesus) is righteous.”  We practice righteousness when by faith, we not only see things as God sees them, but we also fight to do that good thing.  And when we fail, when we fall to sin the answer is the same as before…

Repent! See Jesus correctly and cling to Him alone.  In our gospel reading (Luke 24:36-49), we are once again in the upper room on Easter evening, with the disciples, who are afraid and amazed.  I can almost hear their discussion now: “It must be true, too many people we trust have independently reported the same thing to us.  Jesus is not dead, but He is risen, indeed!”

They must have been filled with faith to know that their hope and dreams had not come to a violent end like the ocean waves which crash upon the rocky shore.  So, why were they afraid when Jesus appeared in their midst?

They were afraid because sinful flesh always demands to interpret circumstances according to the understanding of this sinful world.  “Eek!  It’s a ghost!”  And to that Jesus says.. ‘Knock it off, dummies!’  No not really, you see Jesus is the Author of life, the giver of faith, so He speaks in a way that will turn them away from their fears, doubts, and failures, and then back to the promise of forgiveness of sins and eternal life. “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”  And by the way, “Do you have any thing to eat?”

Do you understand what Jesus had done for them?  It is the same thing He does for you.  He comes to you in the middle of your sins, in the midst of your sinful thinking and He says, “Peace to you!  (I know your struggle and your fears.  Do not be afraid, because I am always with you, even until the end of time when I will come again to take you home).”  See I am with you; I who was crucified upon the cross for you.  By faith see my pierced hands and feet; see the gash in my side.

All these things my Word assures you of.  See I have washed you clean; recreated you into my image before my Father and your Father, and now come to my banquet table.  I myself have something for you to eat and drink.  Take and eat, this is my body.  Take and drink, this is my blood of the new covenant, poured out for the forgiveness of all of your sins.

Repent dear saints, even as this world sees you as no better than them.  Turn to Jesus and cling to Him.  Turn to the place that gives to you His Living Word and His very body and blood, and cling to the gifts that this place so freely gives to you.  It is His will that you believe.  And it is His work alone that opens your minds and hearts so that you will not only believe but continuously turn to Him and receive the promise of eternal life and glory, within the heaven that He has gone to prepare for you.  I ask this in Jesus name… AMEN and Amen!

Crazy Love!

Sunday, April 22nd, 2012

Easter Sunday 3B, April 22, 2012
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA

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OUR TEXT: 1 John 3:1–7Luke 24:36–49

Just think about this, God loves you so much that He actually became your Father.  “See what kind of love the Father has given to us  that we should be called children of God; and so we are!” [1 John 3:1b]  Paul doesn’t say that God is like a Father to us, He says that He  IS our Father because we ARE His children!  God actually made us His children.  But why?   Because of His love!  Isn’t that something?!    That’s what I call crazy love!

Think about that for a moment.  Even though you sin a lot, every day; even though you don’t love Him like you should, He loves you  more than you can ever imagine.  I mean, just take a look at His love for you: While you were still a sinner, He gave His one and only  Son to die for you, so that you could be His son or daughter.  Jesus Christ paid for your sins with His very life so that you could know  His Father’s love!  But that’s not all, you see God made all things work together perfectly so that you could either come or be brought to  the waters of baptism where He washed you clean and recreated you into the image of His Son; so that you could also be His sons and  daughters.  Now that’s crazy love!

So what should our response be?  We should be willing to give up everything and do anything to show our own love and appreciation to our Heavenly Father!  We should be moved to fall on our knees in worship and adoration to our Savior Jesus who made us right with His Father.  We should be willing to give all that we have to Him who saved us, and shout Alleluia to our King!  And is that what we do?  Is that how we live our lives?  You and I both know we fall far short!  The truth is that most of the time we live our lives in a way that pleases ourselves.  We usually live our lives in such a way that no one would ever know that we are children of the Heavenly Father unless we tell them.  And then, we’re afraid to tell them about God’s love because our walk and our talk don’t match; we’re afraid that we’ll be called a hypocrite.   And because of that fear, we usually avoid giving any kind of public proclamation of faith.  So why is living as a child of God so difficult at times?

Because we haven’t yet become fully, all that God has declared us to be!  We aren’t yet fully like the Son of God, Jesus Christ.  You see, we still live in our sinful bodies in a sinful world that is ruled by the father of sin, the devil.  We still live among our other enemies sin and death; we’re afraid of them, and it’s that fear that can cause us to fight becoming who God says that we are.

A. In our gospel lesson, the disciples were huddled together in fear.  They were hiding behind locked doors because the enemy was out to destroy them.  And as they gathered together in fear, BAM! Jesus appeared in the middle of them and said, “Peace to you” He said.  ‘Don’t be afraid.  Why are you troubled?  Didn’t I tell you that I would always be with you?  Look, here I am.  I’m skin and bones just like you.  Touch me and see.  You can’t touch a ghost, right?  “And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, He said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?”  They gave Him a piece of broiled fish, and He took it and at it before them.”

OK, now that you aren’t afraid any more, will you listen to Jesus?  Why are you finding it so hard to believe that He’s come back from the dead?  Isn’t that the very thing He said He would do?  Doesn’t God’s Word tell you that Jesus had to die and on the third day be raised in order to fulfill all of the promises of scripture?  Maybe if we see how Jesus helped the apostles believe we can be helped in the same way.  So how did Jesus help them and the disciples understand and believe?  He opened their minds.  But how?  Well the same way He does it today, He speaks and we listen! “Then (Jesus) said to them, “These are my Words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about Me in the Law of Moses and the prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled,”  Then He opened their minds to understand the scriptures.” (Luke 24:44-45)  It’s through His Word that God opens our minds and gives us the gift of faith.  It’s through the preaching of the gospel that faith and understanding comes.

Did you know that there’s a right way and a wrong way to hear and read the Bible.  The wrong way is thinking that we can make sense of His Word on our own.  The right way to read God’s Word is by faith, knowing that every word is written to show us Jesus; to show us God’s crazy love.  Listen to Jesus explain it:  “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.

Now this is huge; its critical and it is unique.  Jesus is telling all of his disciples, He’s telling you and me that the only way to understand the Bible is through His life, death, and resurrection.  He is telling us that the only way to be right with God, to have forgiveness of sins, all sins is in His name.  No other way or method is available to become God’s own child outside of Good Friday and Easter!

Do you want to live a life of meaning and purpose; a life full of God’s love?  Good, then read God’s Word with the expectation of seeing both the cross and the empty tomb of Jesus and you will find both of those things.  Now that doesn’t mean that every Word in the Bible or every page of the Old Testament is about Jesus life and death; clearly that isn’t true.  But what it does mean is that only the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus can bring meaning and purpose to every word that God has preserved in scripture. It means that God has preserved His Word in such a way that when you read it, you can know for sure that not only does He love and forgive you as a Father, but He does it unconditionally!

But why is it so important to know that God loves us as a Father?  So that you will believe and receive His Son, Jesus Christ as your Lord and God.  But why must we believe Jesus is our Lord and God?  Because if you will not receive Him as who His Word says He is, you will never know forgiveness of sins and the love of your Heavenly Father!  Unless Jesus is your Lord and God, you will never know true peace; you will never experience real victory!

Several years ago, a barbers’ supply company held a large convention in a metropolitan city.  To show the world how good their products were they organized a publicity stunt. They went to the worst section of town and brought back the dirtiest and most helpless drunk they could find. They presented him on the stage. Everyone saw how dirty and unkempt his hair and beard were. Then they took him out and cleaned him up. They shaved him. They shampooed and styled his hair. They sprayed him with cologne. They washed him with a new kind of soap they were trying to sell. They bought him a new suit, a new shirt, new tie, and shoes. He looked great. He looked and felt like a new man. They brought him back to the stage to show him off, saying to all the world, “This is what our barber supplies can do for you.” The audience could hardly believe that this was the same man they had seen earlier that day. Looking at the man on stage no one would ever have guessed that he was living in the streets just a few hours before. He was completely changed.

The very next day the organizers of the convention went looking for this man again. Would you like to guess where they found him? That’s right — lying in some gutter, filthy and drunk! They changed him on the outside, but who he was as a person was left unchanged.

Friends that is not how God works.  When God’s Word is received by sinners it doesn’t just clean them up, it converts and changes them.  When God’s Word is active in our lives it reminds us each day that we have His crazy love; a love the world will never understand.  It reminds us that through the cross our sins have actually been paid for.  And in the waters of our baptisms we really have been recreated and each day we are being renewed in that recreation!  When we confess our sins to God each day, His Word reminds us that we are His actual children and that it is His joy to forgive us.  When we come to His table for His Holy Meal, He tells us that the bread and wine are in fact His body and blood, and that when we eat and drink of it, not only are we remembering His sacrifice for us, we are truly eating and drinking God’s crazy love, His forgiveness of all our sins!

This morning, God is declaring to each of us that we are His children.  Through His Son, Jesus Christ we have all of His gifts; gifts that are guaranteed to change us and sustain us through all trials and temptations.  This morning God is assuring us that if we will continue to use His gifts of love, then on the day when Jesus returns, we will all become like Him!  When Jesus calls our name as a true child of His Father, each of us will see God as He actually is!  And it is this promise of God’s forgiving love and grace that sustains and purifies us each day as we wait on our Savior’s call!

Let me close our message this morning with a bit of a challenge.  You know, during each Easter season, we love to say, “He is risen!  He is risen indeed!”  But this year I want to ask you to really  think about what that means.  Does the resurrection make a difference in your life or are you still living in fear?  Are you willing to stand up against the sin that is within you and around you?!  If you do that, God promises you that your unbelieving neighbors, family, and friends will take notice and be forced to give Him glory!

This morning, God’s crazy love is calling us to stand up and fight the enemy within us an around us as long as we still have breath in us. God does not want us to hide behind closed doors while the war against sin, death, and the devil is raging around us.  This morning, God wants you to know that to give in to sin is to turn away from His love, His crazy love for you!  In your baptism, God not only recreated you but He also clothed you with His power from on high, power that enables you to not just fight against sin, but eventually enjoy complete victory over it.   And as you fight the good fight of faith, others will notice and ask you why you do what you do.  And when they ask, you can tell them that it’s all done because of God’s crazy love for you and for them.  What’s His crazy love?  Simply this, while we were still no good sinners, Christ died for us… He saved us, and now invites us into His love. AMEN!