Posts Tagged ‘End Times’


Sunday, November 25th, 2018

Last Sunday of the Church Year-B
November 25, 2018
Mr. Rick Stark, Vicar of
Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street
San Diego, CA 92114

Click here for audio of this message

Hi, my name is Rick and I’m a procrastinator… at least that’s what my wife tells me.

However, it’s not really a problem, I can stop procrastinating any time I want to… Maybe I’ll work on that next week. 

You know, sometimes procrastination actually pays off.  If we ignore a problem long enough, sometimes it really does just go away. But that’s only on very rare situations. 

So, what is procrastination? A simple definition, procrastination is “delaying performing a task, or making a decision, until a future time.” In other words, “putting something off until later.”

In a psychological context, the term “procrastination” refers to the act of replacing high-priority tasks with tasks of lower priority, and thus somehow making them less important.  

Procrastination something we all do, such behavior is a natural mechanism for coping with high stressors, such as anxiety associated with starting or completing a task, or making decisions, (especially difficult decisions or life-changing decisions.

Procrastination can create its own set of problems.  Procrastination affects us individually by adding to our stress, by compounding the stress that we’re already dealing with. Procrastination can create a sense of impending crisis. It can cause feelings of guilt for not getting something done in a reasonable time and manor.  And, procrastination can cause loss of productivity at work or at home, and in some cases both work and home.

Procrastination also affects those around us, especially when they become aware of the procrastination.  Procrastination can cause the disapproval of others when you don’t meet your commitments and your responsibilities. 

But like I said before, procrastination is something that everyone does, some more than others, but we all do it in some aspect of our own lives!

We find reasons to put off what we don’t want to deal with right now, what we need to deal with today.  In our fallen state, we procrastinate even when we know what the consequences of our actions could be.

Sometimes, we hope the problems will just go away on their own.

So, here we are preparing for Christmas already.  Talk about a season for procrastination! How many people do you know that wait until the last minute to buy their Christmas presents?

Today is actually the last Sunday of the church year; next week we begin to celebrate Advent, which is the first season of the church year.

The word Advent comes from the Latin word advenio, which means, “To come.”  Simply put, Advent is the season we celebrate of the coming of the Lord.  Which makes since as we head into Christmas. Advent is celebrated the 4 weeks leading into Christmas.

But Advent is not just about the coming of the Lord with birth of the baby Jesus. Even more important then that is how we prepare for the second coming of Christ.

Our Gospel lesson today is a continuation of last weeks Gospel lesson. If you remember, Jesus was on the Mount of Olives. And, He was talking with Peter, James, John, and Andrew. They had asked Him to tell them about the end times and what will be the signs of these things. 

So, Jesus told them of things that are going to happen before the end times, things they/we need to watch for.  Jesus said, “Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray.” And He spoke of wars where “nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.” And He warned against natural disasters, earthquakes and famines. But He said, “…the end is not yet… these are but the beginning of the [end].  And Jesus warned that “brother will [rise up against] brother, and the father [against] his child, and children will rise against [their] parents and have them put to death.  And He said, “And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake.”  Does this sound familiar? Does it sound like things that are going on in the world around us today?  And, Jesus assured them,  “the one who endures to the end will be saved.” (Mark 13:3-13)

Jesus continues in our lesson today, He said,

32 “But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, not even the Son, but only the Father. 33 Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come. 34 It is like a man going on a journey, and, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands – the doorkeeper to stay awake and keep watch. 35 Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning— 36 lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. 37 And what I say to you, I say to all: Stay awake.”

When I was in college, I had to write a paper for an English class.  The focus of the essay was, “What if you know the exact date and time you were going to die?”  I don’t remember, but I probably waited until the night before it was due to write it, after all I am a procrastinator.  

But what if you knew the exact date and time of your death, would you live your life differently from the way you live now?  It was very thought provoking.

Thinking about it now, it makes me think, What if you knew the exact date & time of Christ’s second coming?

What if, say, we knew that 6 months from now, on a Saturday at 8:32 in the evening, Christ will return to judge all men, living & dead?

Would you live your life any differently over the next 6 months? Maybe live a little more like Christ? Live a little more true to His word.

Would you spend a little more time in prayer? 

Maybe make time to finally read His word the way you’ve been meaning to? 

Maybe give a little more to the poor?

Or maybe you’d share with all your family and friends the love of Christ and how He has already paid the price for their sins, share it with people you don’t want to be left out of eternity…

Back at the turn of the century, while everyone was partying “like it was 1999” some people actually believed the world would end with ringing in of the new millennia.

And in 2012, many people believed the world would end as time ran out on the Aztec calendar.

The point is no one knows the day or the hour of Christ’s return. 

Mark 13: 32 tells us, “…no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, not even the Son, but only the Father.”

St. Matthew relates the same lesson in chapter 24, 

42 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. 43 But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.

Jesus may return at any moment; and it seems certain that He will come soon. 

Be alert, don’t be caught asleep or off-guard

I’m not talking about living for today and not worrying about tomorrow, 

I’m not talking about canceling reservations for next year’s summer vacation.

My dear brothers & sisters, what I am asking you is this, “Are you ready?”

What have you left undone in your spiritual life?  What in your spiritual walk with Jesus needs to be addressed today and not put off until tomorrow? Don’t procrastinate; take care of what needs to be taken care of today. I’m talking about staying alert spiritually, be ready, be on watch for the Master to come and take us home.

The signs of the end times are all around us, constant reminders that “heaven and earth will pass away.” But all of these signs are centered in the cross of Jesus Christ, whereby He has conquered sin and death, that we might be raised with Him in righteousness through His Word of the Gospel, which “will not pass away.” (Mark 13:31)

Paul tells us in Romans, Chapter 6,  “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His.”

Jesus is “the firstborn of the dead,” who in His great love “has freed us from our sin by His blood.” (Revelation 1:5)  His salvation, that is salvation through Him, is certain because “His dominion is an everlasting dominion [and His Kingdom] shall not be destroyed.” (Daniel 7:14)

For this very reason Jesus came into the world, to reign in love through His voice of the Gospel, which is the truth. (John 18:37) So this is the righteousness of Christ, “a light to the peoples {which] will never be dismayed” because it is the justice of His cross and His resurrection which saves us. (Isaiah 51:4-6)

Only Jesus “is able to keep you from stumbling and [is able] to present you blameless before the presence of His glory with great joy.”  (Jude 24)

Jesus is coming, we don’t know when, but we know it could be soon!

The last 2 verses in the Bible, in the last chapter of the Revelations, the last thing God’s word leaves us with:

And He who testifies to these things says, “Surely, I am coming soon.” Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

[May] the grace of the Lord Jesus be with [you] all. Amen. (Revelation 22:20-21)

Are You Ready?

Sunday, November 18th, 2018

Pentecost 26
November 18, 2018
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor of
Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street
San Diego, CA 92114

Click here for audio of this message

“And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time.  But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book.” [Daniel 13:1b]

If the end of the world were too come today, would you be fine with that, or does that cause you to worry?

Are you ready for the end of the world?  Can you ever be ready?

The truth is friends, God has been telling us in his Word that there will be an end of all things created and we need to be ready.  You can sense it can’t you?  Isn’t it true to say that there are a lot of things in this world that just aren’t right; things that seem to be so unfair in this life that this can’t be all that there is?  

If you need proof of life’s brokenness, all you have to do is just look at all of the wars and threats of wars, the earthquakes, hurricanes, fires, cancer, and all of the senseless deaths.  Nations and alliances are formed yet peace is always destroyed, no matter how hard we try to keep it.  Children disrespect their parents and parents abuse and abandon their children.  False messiahs and cults seem to pop up everywhere and cancer hits even children.  Isn’t that proof enough that something big, something terrible is getting ready to happen?

I use to like to go into Wal-Mart with some spare change in my pocket, so I could drop it into that charity bin they have.  You know the one I’m talking about don’t you?  It looks like a big concave bowl sitting on top of a giant funnel that drops the change into a glass box.  I liked to drop my change from the top of the bowl and watch it go around and around and around.  And the closer it got to the hole in the bottom, the faster and faster it went, until it plops into the box and disappears.  

That’s how I feel this world is moving.  In the beginning God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. [Genesis 2:7]  But in just the next chapter of Genesis we read how God’s first children, our parents rebelled against their Creator, and one of the terrible consequences of that sin appeared… death.  And just like that, our existence as as a people has been dropped into the bowl of death and it is going faster, and faster, and before you know it, plop each of us will be dropped into the bin of death.  

The truth is, like Adam and Eve, all of us must return to the ground from which we came.  In every generation since Adam and Eve’s fall from paradise, our greatest fear and our greatest enemy has always been death. 

So how should we feel about our death and the end of all things; should we be afraid or should we feel fine?  Well, that all depends on the kind of death you have to look forward to.

In our Old Testament reading from Daniel (Daniel 12:1-3) we are told of two different kinds of deaths; there are those who die with their names written in God’s book of life, and those who aren’t recorded in that book.  

Each of us, after we die will rise again; we will all be called to face and give an account to our Creator.  And many of us who are raised from death will be given everlasting life in paradise, but far too many will be given everlasting life in shame and contempt.

Those who spent their lives avoiding God and running after false gods and false messiahs will experience a dreadful day, even if they don’t believe it now.  They will hear God say, “Very well, you wanted to be without me; now be without me—forever!”  And they will be sentenced to and eternal divorce from God—a never ending existence of shame and emptiness.  It will be a loneliness that will consume them like fire, yet they will never know and end to suffering, helplessness, and hopelessness. 

That idea of hell and suffering doesn’t go well with many people today; they’d prefer to turn God into some lovable, soft-hearted, incompetent old fool who can be appeased with good works.  But God’s Word says different, doesn’t it?  God’s anger and His punishment are evident throughout scripture.  We start with the expulsion from paradise of Adam and Eve, and then we go to the flood where countless people screamed out of the agony of death by drowning.  And then God’s Word takes us to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah in a hurricane of fire.  Yes He is the same God who fed evil Queen Jezebel to the dogs and allowed countless people, including children, to die in wars that He sent Israel to wage against unrepentant sinners.  That same God still reigns in heaven today!  And what’s more, He has told us that He does not change; what He has done before, He will do again; He is doing again.  

And those who’s names are not written in His book of life will stand before Him on judgment day and be sentenced to shame and everlasting contempt.  They won’t simply cease to exist, as if they were cast away into some celestial junk yard to simply rust away into nothing.  No, God would never dishonor His creation like that.  For all eternity those who fall into judgment will retain their personality and the ability to experience God’s eternal rejection and His displeasure.

But for you dear saints, for you who are resting and trusting in the promises of God’s forgiving love, things shall be much different.  

You are those who God told Daniel are wise.  From God’s Word you have learned to recognize your sin and the need for a Savior from that sin.  You have learned to trust God in hard times; times of war, natural and man-made disasters, economic despair and sickness.  You’ve learned through God’s Word to remain hopeful and to show restraint and sound judgment even when your savings are dwindling and there is no food in the cupboard.  You’ve simply learned to wait on the Lord to provide both comfort in times of trouble and a way out of that trouble.  This then, is one of the ways that you shine like a bright star in heaven.  As others are suffering and crying out in fear and desperation you are waiting for your God.  You become one who shows others what the peace of God that surpasses all understanding is by how you live.  You are a light in your community that helps others find the way into God’s family and ultimately into a place at God’s side.

You and the many other saints who wait in the peace of the Lord will live forever in glory, as you shine like the brightness of heaven.  You will shine because you know that on judgment day, the end of the world as we know it, you will stand before God and be inspected, and you will actually survive that inspection because you have the promise of the gospel!  In the Word of God you have learned and you believe by faith, that death in this life is for you simply leads you to eternal life in Paradise.  But how?

Because of Christ alone.  

It is Jesus, God’s own Son who has forever sat down at the right hand of the Father as all of His enemies and your enemies are put at His feet like a foot-stool. [Hebrews 10:11-25] What enemies are those?  Sin of course; your sin and even the sin of our first parents that was committed long ago in the Garden of Eden.  But another enemy, the great serpent, the father of all lies, Satan himself will have to submit to the rule of the Son of God on that great day.  And finally, the enemy that we all fear the most, death, your death itself will be defeated.  All because the Son of God was obedient to the will of His Father; a will that led Him to the cross to suffer and die for the sins of the World, even your sins.

It is the promise of God that tells you to hold on; change is coming.  It is a change that the world may fear, but you need not fear it because each and every promise was given to you as a certainty in the waters of your own baptism when you were sealed in the very essence of God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Even when the great monuments and governments of this world are falling, you need not fear.  Even if your own family is against you because of your strong faith in the promises of God and the real presence of His Son Jesus Christ in your life, you need not fear.  Even if you should be persecuted because of your faith in Jesus by the government itself, you need not fear, because through the gift of faith in Jesus alone, you are able to grab onto His perfect life and wait to be brought into Paradise.  By faith in the cross and the empty tomb of Christ, you are able to claim His innocent death and resurrection as your very own, and find not only pity from God, but His delight; just as a father delights in his own child. [Mark 13:1-13]

To be sure there is trouble ahead, and it will only get worse until the end of the world as we know it arrives, but there is also the promise of God that forgives you and loves you through Jesus Christ. It is that same Word of promise that assures you that God will never leave you nor forsake you.  And it is this promise of God which assures you that you really are fine because you are resting in Christ Jesus.

Now, may the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus until we enter into God’s new world that He has prepared for us since the beginning of time… AMEN! 

The King Will Have His Day!

Sunday, December 13th, 2015

Advent 3-C, December 13, 2015
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor
Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego, CA

Click here for audio of this message

Isn’t it true, that life, our lives seem to be full of what we perceive to be good days and bad days? And if we feel we’re having a bad day, then we just look forward to a day when things will be better. And sometimes, in the middle of a bad day, other folks will try to cheer us up by saying, “Well, tomorrow is another day, and hopefully a better one!”

Of course, how we evaluate our days, whether they’re good or bad, are often affected by our own definitions of what is good or bad, and sometimes what we think is a bad day turns out to be not so bad, or we might even discover latter on down the road, that it was even for our good. And then on the other hand, what we may think is good can many times turn out to be bad.

Kings in the time of our Old Testament lesson (Zephaniah 3:14–20)—and I suppose world leaders today as well, too—can have good days and bad days. They don’t like to talk about the bad days, and they certainly don’t like their fellow citizens—or their enemies either for that matter—to hear about anything bad coming out of their kingdom or government. And it’s also true that as sinful people, we all have a very selfish and self-serving way of measuring things, and we really want things in our lives to be good, and if they turn out not to be good, we at least want things to appear to be good.

Of course, deep down we know the truth; we are not immune to bad days.  How many times have we sensed that others (and yes, also ourselves) are putting up a good front? Maybe it’s also true that we’ve gotten good at hiding our problems or internalizing our sadness, and because of this facade we’ve built, we’d rather talk about good days rather than dealing with the bad ones.

The Old Testament prophets talked about good days and bad days. But they had a better perspective on the realities of life. They measured and evaluated by something higher than human wants and wishes, needs or notions. They understood reality— past, present, and future—from the perspective and vantage point of God Himself, who made all of our days.

One of the biggest problems that these prophets—well, let’s just call them preachers, one of the biggest challenges they encountered was the tendency of the people to get the good days and the bad days mixed up, turned around. Isaiah gets to the heart of this problem when he says “(You call) evil good and good evil, you put darkness for light and light for darkness, (you call) bitter sweet and sweet bitter (Isaiah 5:20). In other words, we pick what looks good, but too often it turns out that is was not so good for us.

Part of the problem was that the people thought that God was obligated to giving them only the good stuff that they wanted. Since they were the people of God, they thought they were privileged to have things their way. And since God was a God of salvation and deliverance, they assumed that he would, well, save and deliver them no matter what the circumstances were.

And there was this phrase that the people kept talking about; about God’s great day—the “day of the Lord”—and their understanding was that it would be a day of salvation; a day that was anticipated as the time when God would finally give them victory over all of their earthly enemies. But the prophets (those faithful “preachers” of the Old Testament) had a way of turning this saying on its head. Amos, for example, preached, “Woe to you who desire the day of the Lord! Why would you have the day of the Lord? It is darkness and not light! It is as if a man fled from a lion, and a bear met him, or he went into the house and leaned with his hand against the wall (safe at home) – and a serpent bit him. Is not the day of the Lord darkness and not light, and gloom with no brightness?” [Amos 5:18]

Last Sunday we had a similar taste of how the truth of God can turn us upside down, when Malachi told the people who were crying out for justice that when the king comes to bring justice, they’ll get justice all right—and none of them would be able to endure the day of his coming.

Today, in our text from Zephaniah (Zephaniah 3:14–20), we hear another prophet who talks about the day of the Lord.

Listen to a portion of Zephaniah’s sermon in chapter 1 (14‒16) before his sermon found in today’s lesson.  He says: “The great day of the LORD is near, near and hastening fast; The sound of the day of the LORD is bitter; the mighty man cries aloud there. A day of wrath is that day, a day of distress and anguish, a day of ruin and devastation, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and think darkness, a day of trumpet blast and battle cry against the fortified cities and against the lofty battlements. I will bring distress on mankind so that they shall walk like the blind, because they have sinned against the LORD.”

Does that sound like a good day to you? But here’s the rub, all of these words that bring fear and trembling had to be spoken so that mercy and grace could follow. It is a serious warning that God had to make clear to His children of faith. God comes as King to get the job done right?  He doesn’t come to acquiesce to our definitions of good and bad, light and darkness. In the end, if we’ve sinned and fallen short of the glory and goodness of God, then every day, and especially our last day, our judgment day, will be a day of darkness and distress unless God can make a way out of no way.

But before God will do this work for us, He wants us to first agree with Him, that all of our days lived apart from His perfection and light—are days of darkness. And, if we can see things God’s way; if we can admit that He’s right and we are wrong, then like the plot twist in a good novel or movie, we will encounter God’s great reversal; we will discover that God has made a way out of no way—his one and only way—of showing us that all those bad days have been made into good days.

This is because of the one great day, a day that according to human standards, should be called the worst day of all, the day on which the innocent Son of God and our Lord and King was put to death, not for anything He had done but for the sins of all the world. A day that seemed to bring out the greatest injustice of all, turned out to be the best day of all, and the King finally brought justice in a very swift and severe manner. And what do we call this “bad day”? We call it GOOD Friday! It’s good, because God has turned the mother of all bad days into the best day of all. And now, the darkness of that day and all days following, we can claim as light, the glorious light of Easter morn: He is risen, and ascended, and lives and reigns to all eternity.

Dear friends in Christ, gathered today on this third Sunday of Advent, we are in the midst of our own good and bad days, busy days preparing for holidays. But every day is lived in the shadow of the darkness and the light of Good Friday and Easter morning.

Here, in the midst of Advent, we are already thinking ahead of our Lord’s passion, death, and resurrection, as we do every Son-day, in the light of God’s son, our Lord, our King. Last Sunday the theme of Advent turned dark. Malachi reminded us that the King Whom we are seeking will come—but with a twist. Though His coming is well announced, He will come suddenly, and with a surprise. Those who were looking for justice will find judgment. Those who were looking for light will find darkness.

Today, the prophet Zephaniah brings us to the end of the story; those having a dark day will see the light. Even in the midst of the dark deeds all around us, in the dark uncertainties of our world and our lives, even in the midst of the dark secrets that we keep hidden, out of sight and out of the light, God has a message of a very, very Good Day: “Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion, . . . Rejoice and exult with all your heart . . . The LORD has taken away the judgments against you. The King of Israel is in your midst—Right here, right now, in His word of grace and forgiveness, in His body and blood, given and shed for the forgiveness of YOUR sin.  ON THAT DAY (like today it’s a good day, hear the Word of God) It shall be said to Jerusalem (that includes you, right here, right now) Fear not, O Zion!  Let not your hands grow weak.  The LORD YOUR God is in YOUR midst— A mighty One who will save.

This morning the prophet Zephaniah has abruptly ended his message of law, and immediately breaks into songs of joy and he calls us to join him in praising God.  Why?  Because the Lord has taken away YOUR punishment, He has turned back YOUR enemies, sin, death, and the devil.  They were YOUR enemies that He defeated.  It was YOUR sins He took away.  He did it for YOU!

YOUR enemies and YOUR sins were removed by YOUR King and Savior, Jesus Christ. Death and hell are no longer a threat to YOU who cling to and trust in Christ your King, only!  This very morning, the Lord promises YOU that while you may not perceive it fully today, He has restored YOU, His faithful people, to a position of honor and praise. No longer are you to be despised and ridiculed by a world of unbelieving and faithless people. The last, great day of the Lord has come in Jesus Christ, and it will come again as a completed day of universal deliverance. You dear saints, will be among the sea of faithful children of God through Christ, who will be the center and joy of His creation, as He always intended the crown of his creation to be. On that final and great day of the advent of our God, our Lord will restore the original beauty of His creation and open up to us once again our heavenly home, Paradise restored!

Yes, the kings of the earth have their days, good days and bad days. So do we. We all may wait to “have our day,” but this day, this very day, is our day indeed. It is the Lord’s Day, it is the Day of the Lord. The king has come and had his day; it was a bad day that turned out to be a Good Day, a Good Friday.  And because of His day, He makes all our days His—His good days, for us!  AMEN!

The King’s Herald and Messenger

Sunday, December 6th, 2015

Advent 2-C, December 6, 2015
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor
Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego, CA


How do you feel about unannounced guests arriving at your home? I think most of us would agree that it usually is not a good thing!  If it’s a good friend or family member, well, ok—come as you are and we’ll take you as we are. But what if someone rather special—say your boss, the media, or maybe your pastor just showed up out of no where with no warning?

Sometimes, in the time of our Old Testament reading, leaders—and kings—would arrived unannounced; they wanted to surprise their subjects so that they could discover the truth. I think we would all agree that announced visits by anyone are always preferred.

Finally, two things are worth noting in relation to our text today. First, we need to understand the important role that messengers or heralds played; they were the individuals who announced the coming of the king.  And then we need to understand what it usually meant for the king himself to come visit his people.

Our Old Testament text this morning [Malachi 3:1-7a] begins like this, “Look, I am about to send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me.” [Mal 3:1]

Messengers were an important part of the way that the ancient world communicated. Long before the Internet and email, long before CNN or telephone and telegraph, even before the pony express, it was the feet of messengers that brought the important news. And the news was generally good. If it was bad, well, it wasn’t worth reporting, and the king usually didn’t want you to know about it any how. Of course, sometimes the news was not what people wanted to hear, and that’s where we get the old saying: “don’t kill the messenger.”

So we can say that the messenger came to “prepare the way” for the king. The Old Testament prophets used this image to prepare the people for the coming – not just of any king, like David or Hezekiah, but for the great and glorious “once and for all” King Who was yet to come.

Today we consider the words of Malachi, whose name itself means “my messenger.” You see, the prophets were also the “messengers of God” who not only prepared the way but also communicated the message from the King of the kingdom of God to His people of faith.

So in a sense Malachi is serving as a herald in announcing that another herald after him, would announce the coming of the king.

So now that we’ve been warned, how do we prepare? Both Isaiah and Malachi use language that describes clearing the road: getting rid of obstacles. Isaiah actually talks about a highway, like a superhighway that would provide smooth travel for the King; no traffic lights, no CalTrans construction, nothing in the way. But it was God who actually did the preparation, through his servants. The people were to simply anticipate the coming of their King.

And that brings us to a question that will lead us to the second important understanding: What did it mean for the king to come? Again, we need to think about this question with an Old Testament mindset. Kings marched home to their capital city in a victory parade; that’s just what kings did. Do you remember from last weeks message the close relation between the king and his city? This morning we think about the king himself coming home to his royal city. The grand processional included a good deal of pomp and circumstance. He was to be recognized and honored for whatever victories, conquests, and spoils of the nations that he was bringing with him. It was all about the king, and he did not come unannounced.

But did you catch the subtle little word in our text, “suddenly.” The whole point of this passage is about the messenger who’s only job was to prepare the way, and about people who were “seeking” their kingly lord. You would think they would be well prepared. Yet when “the Lord” comes, he comes suddenly.

So, dear saints, what are you expecting, now that the herald has announced the coming of the king? Victory? Triumph? The spoils of a conquering king shared with his people—or if not shared, then at least trickled down from rich to poor?

In Malachi’s day the people were expecting God to come and finally fix the problems of an unjust world.

They thought that the kingdom of God should be doing better than it was.  To them, God seemed to have somehow lost His vigor and power over the nations in the last few waning centuries.  So the people were waiting, they were wanting for something greater to happen. They had witnessed a lack of good leadership in their kings, and even the devotion of the people seemed to be dying or dead.   And now the priests were losing their edge, taking any old sacrifice as long as it came with money to fund the temple or grease the palms of the priests. Many people had lost their trust in the way of God, and they were just going through the motions; if the priests simply did the ritual, they thought they’d be fine, no matter how they chose to live their lives, attended to their marriages, families, and vocations. The way they looked at things, was that God was certainly big enough to accept a wide variety of spiritual practices and conduct!

But “suddenly” the whole scene seems to shift from a joyous occasion to pending gloom here in our text. The eager expectation of the coming king is met by the sudden and striking question: “who can endure the day of his coming?” Something seems terribly wrong here. The king was supposed to bring the wealth of the nations, whether gained justly or not, to his kingdom. The enemies were the ones who should be punished for practicing injustice; they knew nothing about good and evil, but these heralds are saying that the punishment would begin right here within the king’s  kingdom! And those who wanted justice – well, they were going to get it. And those who thought God should reward their self-­‐‑asserted goodness in a better way, well, they are going to realize that they’re not as good as they thought they were. And those who thought that God should punish evil, well, they are going to find out that the evil they want punished is a lot closer to them than they thought; it’s within their own hearts!

For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fuller’s soap” (this was long before ivory was 99.44% pure and gentle!). And he will purify the sons of Levi, yes starting first with the corrupt priests and leaders, but then moving on to the common folk and their weak and pathetic sacrifices and offerings.

And you see, this is really a good thing! It might not be what we expected, or even what we wanted, but it is what was truly needed. “Create in me a clean heart, O Lord—purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean!” (Ps 51:10, 7).

What could be worse than thinking you’re doing all the right things, when you’re not? What is worse than telling God how to be King, when he is King, and you are not? Do we want to be clean or just “blessed” in our mess?

Yes, the King is coming, this Lord whom we are seeking. And He has a few surprises for us, and for everyone, when He comes. But he is not coming unannounced. John the Baptist made sure of that (actually it was God working behind the prophet, who was his messenger, remember, to prepare the way). John had some hard and harsh words to say, too, as we heard in this weeks Gospel reading. [Luke 3:1-14]

And just behind John came Jesus Himself, but he didn’t come like other kings; no, He came as the very Lamb of God to take away the sins of the world. And it is this very truth that completely separates Jesus from all other types of kings and leaders. You see, the message that both John and Jesus brings isn’t about conquest and victory; it isn’t about distribution of wealth and physical blessings; it’s a message of repentance and forgiveness of sins. If we are to have justice, then it will come by God’s mercy and through his grace. Our sins will be paid for, but not by you or me.

The Lord, whom we are seeking, came to his people. They wanted justice, and he gave them justice; he exposed their sin, yes, our sin, but then he let our justice be done and paid for by His own suffering and agony, as He, through His life-blood and death paid for our sins himself.

The Lord, whom we are seeking, came to his temple. At one point He even mimicked the king’s triumphant entry, but it was a parody; He came upon a donkey and not a steed; He came in a procession leading sinners and rag-a-muffins rather than the king’s parade accompanied by warriors. A procession that eventually continued down and out of the city He had entered, and then up a steep hill called Golgotha.  Why, you ask?  Because He came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom, for YOU.

And then, but only then, came the victory parade: not into the city, but out of the tomb!  He came to those hiding in an upper room, scared of the world out there! And then, He went out to Galilee, back to Jerusalem, and sent His peculiar people of faith, His redeemed sinners and rag-a-muffins He calls Christians, out with a mission and message to herald his kingdom to the end of the earth.

And then he left, but He WILL come again. Will his return be unannounced? Certainly not!  God used Malachi, and then John, as his messengers, his heralds the first time Christ came. And now, God wants his coming to be announced again. We know he is coming, soon, even though it may well come “suddenly.” But he has announced it. And He asks us announce it, too.

Advent is a time of preparation, for the coming of the King has been announced. “Hark, the herald angels” we will be singing in another great announcement very soon. We are waiting for His arrival. It is the Lord that we are seeking. Our expectant hearts turn to the preparations at hand. Repent, for the kingdom of God is, indeed, at hand! AMEN.

The King’s City: Safe and Secure

Sunday, November 29th, 2015

Advent 1-C, November 29th, 2015
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor
Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego, CA

Click here for audio of this message

Where do you consider home?  Is it where you live now’ or maybe it’s where you grew up? Sometimes that’s not an easy question to answer.  In this ever mobile society we live in, everything seems to be changing; things keep us moving, and that can cause us to feel unstable and even restless. In our virtual world of the Internet, space and time seem to be both expanded and compressed in a confusing and dazzling, and sometimes dizzying, way.

But we all want and need a place we can call home. Here’s a news flash: Sociologists have come to the remarkable conclusion that a safe and stable home has an enormous positive effect on child development—who would have thought! If your like me, you can think back on your childhood memories of home with mixed feelings of comfort and conflict, and maybe even remember that fateful moment when you were determined to run away from home— and only getting a block or two away before the rights and liberties of independence gave way to the certainties and securities of a place called home.

This is a universal truth; it touches all cultures in all time and places. We don’t know a lot about the emotions of home life in Bible times, but we do know that family, land, house and home  were an anchor in life where being “on the road” was no less dangerous than in our day and age.

The “home” that engages us in our Old Testament lesson today is really even greater than our traditional family home—it is the home of a whole country, a nation, a people.

In our Advent lessons this year from the Old Testament prophets, we will listen and learn about God’s kingdom, and God’s king, and what it meant to be the people of God in his kingdom.

In the days of the Old Testament prophets, the kingdom of God on earth was under the human leadership of Davidic Kings; kings that were from the lineage of David. A king had his palace, as well as the temple, in his capital city, which became the focal point and even identity of his rule and reign.

For our spiritual ancestors in the Old Testament, that was, of course, Jerusalem, or, in light of the future home in paradise that it symbolized, Zion. In fact, Zion was the citadel of God’s “palace” or His physical dwelling place in the midst of his people, within the temple.  The kings and the people often had to be reminded of a truth they often conveniently forgot; God’s Temple was right “next door” to the King’s palace, and the palace was to find it’s worth and importance from the Temple, and not the other way around.

In the time of the prophet Jeremiah, the time of our text today (Jeremiah 33:14–16), both the king and the temple were being threatened and under siege by the Babylonians and their king Nebuchadnezzar.

There was a good and godly reason for this, and Jeremiah had made it clear to all: both king and people had forsaken their God; they had forsaken God’s way and were following the ways and the religious practices of the world. They had also assumed that if they did just enough to keep the temple worship going, bringing sacrifices and offerings, then God would be kept happy, even appeased, and then through their service, they assumed that they had earned God’s protection. After all, he was their God, and they were his people.

If there had been an international press corps back then, the siege of Jerusalem would have been reported as just another act of aggression and expansion by the dominant world power at that time. In the eyes of the prophet, priests, and some of the people this was clearly God’s righteous judgment on the sins of his people. But in the eyes of the king and most of the people, this seemed to be an unfair action by a God who should have been saving them, not destroying them.

But Jeremiah stood up to the false prophets, who “prophesied peace when there was no peace,” and he stood up to the king, who refused to believe either that the city would fall or that this was God’s just judgment against him, his leadership, and the sins of all.

Here is something worth noticing for we faithful witnesses living in this contemporary world: Jeremiah’s faithfulness to God earned him only scorn and derision; he was punished and then put in prison. So much for the life of a faithful prophet!  But, Jeremiah through faith, saw the bigger picture. Yes he knew God’s judgment, but he also knew that this was part of a larger plan, not to destroy and kill, but to restore and make alive. And so, as is always the case, a faithful saint must always speak as God speaks.

Right in the middle of this message of judgment came another message that spoke of God’s forgiving love, his everlasting love and His commitment to His people. Yes, God would punish them, with “tough love”. Yes, their sin had to be punished. Yes, Jerusalem, the “home” of king and people, would be lost, and they would be refuges in exile, but that was not the end of the story.

You see, God had a future and a hope for them.

In fact, just as the siege of Jerusalem was underway, Jeremiah even bought a field; at God’s direction, he invested in real estate — just to demonstrate his conviction that God was committed to this land and to bringing the people back to it.

God saw a future for both the king and the city, and he described them both in the same way: In those days (those days to come, when God would fulfill his promises once for all) and at that time (yes, at God’s “right time,” not ours), I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will dwell securely. And this is the name by which it (Jerusalem) will be called: Yahweh (God) is our (only source of) righteousness.

Dear saints, have you been away from home too long? If so, you know the feeling that creeps into your heart, don’t you? It can be rough out there; sometimes it can even be rough at home. But deep inside, we long for a home that is safe and sound, where we are loved, saved, and dwell securely.  Imagine how the folks from Jerusalem felt the first morning they woke up in Babylon! They weren’t on an exotic vacation to see the Hanging Gardens; they were in exile, far from home.

Yet for them, and for us, God has provided a place, right here on earth, in space and time, where He calls us home.

It’s a place much greater than any capital city of the world. It’s even greater than the most loving and safe home we’ve ever lived in or dreamed of living in. It’s a place where true peace and justice, righteousness and salvation are to be found, to be given, to be shared. It is completely dependent on God, not on us, or on our efforts even to make the world a better, a safer, place.

You see, back then in the time of Jeremiah, God promised a King and an eternal city that only He could create. Yes, the king and city that his people had messed up had to be destroyed, but God found a way to punish sin and yet save His people. He promised a new and supremely better King, of the house and lineage of David, but not just another David. He promised a new and better City, which would be called righteous. But note where the righteousness, justice, truth and peace are found: Yahweh (God) is our righteousness.

Back then in the time of Jesus, there was one born of the house and lineage of David, to be a new and greater David, David’s son, yes, but also David’s Lord. And He came also to provide the new and greater temple and city, where God would dwell on earth in the midst of his people.

By now, I hope you see, right now, in these days of Advent preparation, we can celebrate, right here, right now, that we have a home. A city, if you will, a place to call home, where God is with us with an everlasting love. Call it church, call it our faith family, call it the Body of Christ, where both King and city come together in one person and in one place, where His cross, His Word sprinkled with water, His body and blood are here for us to forgive, renew, and empower us to be the place where God dwells in our world, in our time and space, for all who perceive a need to be a part of this King, this city, this house, and this home.

Where do you live? Where do you call home? Where is a place for safety, security, salvation and life for you? Perhaps you’ve found your home right here in this little church we call Trinity; a place where you and your family gather around the message of a true and righteous King who offers a real place to live in comfort, hope and security.  A place where by God’s design, you continually hear the story of how your God through His Son Jesus Christ works through His Word and Sacraments to bring you faith in this home right now and eternal life in your home to come in paradise.

With all we will do in the weeks ahead, with overfilled schedules both at home and running around, today we remember the anchor of our lives, our home with God in Jesus, in this place where he cares for us with forgiveness and life!  May this message continue to bring peace for today and hope for tomorrow.  In Jesus name… Amen.

A Different Kind of Kingdom

Sunday, November 22nd, 2015

Last Sunday of the Church Year (B), November 22nd, 2015
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego, CA

Click here for audio of this message

“”Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world.  If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews.  But my kingdom is not from the world.” [John 18:36]

On December 7, 1941, a quiet naval harbor in Honolulu, Hawaii was attacked by the Japanese military.  After several years of sitting out the war, that was enough to propel our great nation into action.  We were at war, and we would defeat the enemy at all costs!

On September 11, 2001 our nation was attacked on three different fronts, by a loose but large confederation of Islamic terrorist known as Al Qaeda. That was enough to begin a war on all terrorist who pose a threat against our country, and indeed democracy throughout the world.  Our nation, once again has vowed to win that war at all costs, and even now, that war rages on throughout the world against the same enemy, but now preferring to be called ISIS.

And yet, in our gospel reading, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who alone is our true and eternal King, was about to be brutally beaten and crucified at the hands of an occupying terrorist force in Palestine, known as the Roman Empire.  Where was the outrage?  Where was the beating of war drums?  Why would God the Father allow this to happen?  Jesus gives the answer: “My kingdom is not of this world.”

What does that mean?  Well simply put, like our King Jesus we do not find our identity here, but in Him we live, breathe, and find our being.  We know that in this world of sin, we will find suffering just as our King found suffering. We have learned to accept this truth as our reality while we wait patiently for our King to return.  And while we wait, we are not a threat to this physical world.

We live in this world, but we are not of this world.  We obey the law, we pay taxes, we do many works of charity, and we give large sums of money to work towards peace in this world, and yet, we suffer for the good we do.  Why do we accept this as our reality?  Because we know that the time is coming when our true King will come in power for us to make all things new and right, but we also know that He is coming to judge the unfaithful and punish sin.

Until the day of our Lord arrives, we are simply to wait; we are to do nothing disruptive, but simply wait and behave as good citizens under whatever government we find ourselves in.  Are we doing anything to prepare for our King Jesus’ return?  Are we preparing by committing acts of sedition?  No!  Are we working to undermine the authority of our rulers?  NO!  So what are we doing?

We are praying, “Thy Kingdom come and Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

So, is prayer all that we do to prepare for Christ kingdom?  Certainly not; you see we also speak God’s Word, which is God’s power, or God’s means in both opening the gates to Christ Kingdom and closing them to those who rebel against His Kingdom; those who prefer to reject Christ and His Kingdom of grace, will be forever banned from His Kingdom of glory, and instead they will be forever banished into an eternal internment camp, built by the Power of God to forever separate unrepentant rebels from God’s children of faith.

The Kingdom of God is here with us right now; we call it His Kingdom of Grace, but His Kingdom is not yet complete.  On the great and terrible day that it comes in full, it will come with power, great power that will not only topple all earthly kingdoms, but it will also destroy both the earth and heaven together.  And when it comes, it will usher in a new heaven and earth that will be one under the rule of the Son of God, King Jesus Christ.

Now, as Isaiah reported in our Old Testament reading, our King has set His Word as a true source of justice and divine light for all of the people of the world.  It’s righteousness draws nearer every day as His Holy Gospel is proclaimed throughout the world.  He has prepared those who will hear His Word to respond to that Word of forgiveness; that is why Isaiah was compelled to write that “the coastlands hope for (their King). [Isaiah 51:4-5]  And what we hope for is what we wait for; so we can say that the Kingdom of Jesus, that is His Kingdom of Power is not yet.

And this is where people who are not God’s children of faith have a problem.  They have a problem because they will not look up to heaven for answers.

The Kingdom of Power is coming whether you believe in it or not; whether you hope for it or not.  The day is coming when the heavens will vanish like smoke and the earth will wear out like a garment, and all will die and all will come back to life.  The only question really is, after you die and you are returned to life, where will you spend eternity.  And what will answer that question will be the kingdom you are trusting and resting in.

You dear saints, who are resting in the Kingdom of Grace, Christ’s Kingdom are also pursuing righteousness. You are seeking God’s Kingdom and waiting for it to come in power.  But waiting in the Kingdom of grace and pursuing that Kingdom of power isn’t easy; in fact it’s impossible without faith.

As we live here in this world of sin, we soon discover that there is very little grace shown to us, and the power we experience seems to be evil and working against the good we try to do.  At best here in this world, we seem to have fleeting moments of happiness, but they elude us so quickly and then we fall to sin ourselves and collapse again in guilt, fear, and doubt.  We can become frustrated when we discover, that we can’t simply take off our sinful nature and hang it up in the closet or throw it in the trash.

So what are we to do?  Well listen of course.  We are to hear the word of God and pay attention to it.  Listen: “Give attention to me, my people, and give ear to me, my nation (of faith); for a law will go out from me (to you).”  What law?  The law of grace that can come only through your King of Grace, Jesus Christ.

You see, God knows that you are but flesh; He knows that in your sinfulness, you cannot come into His Kingdom of Grace, so in His Word, He brings that Kingdom to you.  What word is that?  The Word about Jesus your King; His suffering, death, resurrection, and ascension.  It is that Word that has been sent out and found you.  It is a Word of forgiveness.

Grace to you… grace for you… grace, which is yours right now, if you see a need for it; if you want to be in God’s Kingdom.

God’s unmerited love is yours right now through Jesus who loves you and has set you free from your sins by His blood shed upon the cross.  He has done all of the work and simply calls you to come and rest in His kingdom of grace and pursue every day His Kingdom of Power.  You pursue His Kingdom of Power as His priests as you do the good He desires and as you go about proclaiming the message of His Kingdom of Grace; the message of your God and Father.  And the life we live here in the kingdom of man we live while waiting for the Kingdom of Christ.  And the life that we live is how we give glory to God the Father of our King Jesus, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. [Revelations 1:4-8]

At least every Sunday we pray, “Thy Kingdom come” in the Lord’s prayer.  What does it mean then to pray those words?

God’s kingdom comes all by itself without our prayer, right?  So why must we pray those words?  So that His kingdom would be so great within us and among us that others would know that there is a God in Heaven.  We pray those words so that we will be the type of child that not only lives in His kingdom but also helps to make that kingdom grow among us!  How does that Kingdom grow among us?  Through the message from and about our King Jesus, and that message, is the good news that God sent his Son, Christ our Lord, into this sinful world to redeem and deliver us from the power of the devil, to bring us to himself, and to rule us as our King of righteousness.  In this kingdom we are given life, and salvation against sin, death, and the devil. It is this message alone that keeps us in His kingdom and delivers His Holy Spirit to us in power, so that we may have faith to continually be saved by his holy Word and Sacraments.  These are the only means God has provided to save us and deliver us safely into His Kingdom.

When we talk about God’s Kingdom, when we pray that God would help us rest in His kingdom, we are really asking God to help us praise His name and live a Christian life. We ask this so that those of us who have already entered into the kingdom of grace may remain faithful and grow daily in it and also so that God may use us to help others enter it, and together we may all remain eternally in His kingdom that He has now begun in us and among us!

“The coming of God’s kingdom to us” then takes place in two ways: first, it comes here, in time, through the Word and faith, and second, it comes in eternity, with the end of days.  It comes in great power and might, and it is the only way that you can enter the kingdom of God.

Christ has done all of the work.  He has given to you His Holy gospel so that you may hear and believe through His gift of faith.  He has washed you clean in the waters of your baptism.  Not only has he stripped you of your sinful and soiled nature, but he has given you a new nature; a robe of righteousness, which is the very nature of your King Jesus.  And what’s more is, He invites you to come to His holy table to have communion with Him and all of the saints that have gone before you.  He asks you to dine on His very body and blood for the continued forgiveness of sins and the strengthening of your faith.  And all that He asks of you is that you continue to use these things every day and trust in them alone.

Oh yes, there is one more thing He asks of you.  He asks that you pray to Him in Heaven that He would continue to keep His name and you holy, and He asks that you pray that His Kingdom would come soon in power and might.

Will you remember to pray that Christ’s Kingdom would come soon?  Will you look forward to that Kingdom and let all that is within you work towards ushering in that Kingdom first in you then around you?

I pray that God would continually move our hearts to always ask for His kingdom to come among us.  I ask this in Jesus name… AMEN!

Pastor Brian on KFUO Radio

Thursday, December 19th, 2013

On Tuesday, December 17, Rev. Brian Henderson appeared on KFUO Radio as the guest preacher.  His sermonette delivered a 5 minuet meditation on Revelations 5:14.  It can be heard here:

After the sermon, Pastor Henderson also led a 45 minute Bible study on the same text.  That Bible study can be heard here:

Revelation 5:1-14 (The Scroll and the Lamb)

Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals.2 And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, “Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?” 3 But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it. 4 I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside. 5 Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.”

6 Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. The Lamb had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits[a] of God sent out into all the earth. 7 He went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne. 8 And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people. 9 And they sang a new song, saying:

“You are worthy to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
because you were slain,
and with your blood you purchased for God
persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.
10 You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God,
and they will reign[b] on the earth.”

11 Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders.12 In a loud voice they were saying:

“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength
and honor and glory and praise!”

13 Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying:

“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be praise and honor and glory and power,
for ever and ever!”

14 The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped.


Sunday, September 29th, 2013

Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church-San Diego
St. Michael and All Angels-Pentecost 19C, September 29th, 2013

Click here for audio of this message

All three of our readings give us a glimpse into the spiritual realm of Heaven and the activity of God’s spiritual messengers, the angels.  Even though this Sunday is known by its festival name, Saint Michael and all Angels, this is not just a day to teach about angels, but to proclaim the message that the church has always been mandated to proclaim: Jesus Christ and the complete forgiveness of sins!

This morning we look at the role angels have always played in proclaiming this message, fulfilling this mission of forgiveness as mandated by God Himself.

Our readings this morning from the Book of Daniel and John’s Revelation from God, are perhaps the greatest accounts of angelic visions.  Through out these accounts, a certain reality seems to be that angels are real; even though we can’t see them, there are angels all around us, and not only can they see us, they are here to continually help us know Jesus.

An old pastor worked late into the night on a sermon for his small congregation. His unsympathetic wife kept asking him when he was coming to bed.  She reminded him that he was old and needed his sleep.  “Besides” she commented, “it just doesn’t make sense that you are spending so much of your energy on a message that only a few will hear and appreciate. To this the pastor replied: “You forget my dear, how large my angelic audience will be!  So you see, if angels are looking, nothing on earth done for Christ is trivial.”

Yes, angels are all around us, they are here to assist us as God directs, but they can never truly understand us as our Savior can.

There is a picture in Milan, which depicts a little angel trying to feel one of the points of the Crown of Thorns that rests on Jesus bloody brow. A look of wonder is on his angelic face; he has been told that it means agony, but he cannot feel it. It is all to him incomprehensible. There is a deep spiritual suggestion here. The angel cannot understand because he belongs to a different world; he was never born into that condition in which sin and suffering and sacrifice become terms of awful importance.  But God can; God has always been with His people, even in the middle of their suffering, and because God is with us through His Son who came to suffer and die in our place, there is always hope.  This was the divine message, the point of the vision that Daniel was given from the angel in our Old Testament lesson. [Daniel 10:1014, 12:13]

God’s people, those faithful saints who were the children of Abraham, were defeated in war by foreign nations, taken captive, and exiled into foreign places, just as the prophets of God had promised.  But through those same prophets, God also promised that their captivity would end and they would return to their own land.  And so it began to happen.  All was going as planned, when something went wrong.  All progress towards repatriation ceased and it appeared that the promise of God would not be fulfilled.  What was happening?

Daniel, a mighty man of faith fell to his knees and entered into the role of intercessor; he became a prayer warrior for his people.  Would God hear?  Would He listen and answer?  YES!  And that was the very message that the angel was sent to deliver to Daniel.  A message of hope and peace: “And behold, a hand touched me and set me trembling on my hands and knees. And he said to me, “O Daniel, man greatly loved, understand the Words that I speak to you, and stand upright, for now I have been sent to you.” And when he had spoken this Word to me, I stood up trembling. [Vs. 10, 11]

Dear friends, this is always how God’s Kingdom breaks into the hearts of sinful men and women… it comes with fear and trembling.  A specific Word of God must first break our hard, sinful hearts so that we can hear God’s entire message.  This is the part of God’s Word we know as His law.  We know that we must hear this message first, so that our hearts will also receive His message of comfort, hope, and peace.  And this is exactly what is given next: “Then he said to me, “Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words. The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days, but Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I was left there with the kings of Persia, and came to make you understand what is to happen to your people in the latter days. For the vision is for days yet to come.” [Vs. 12-14]

So here we are given a glimpse into a real battle that takes place both in heaven and on earth; it is spiritual and unseen by the eye, but that does not make it any less real.  Who is this Michael and who is it that He is fighting?  Michael is the only Ark-Angel named in Holy Scripture.  He is an angel that is always sent by and fighting for the very Son of God.  The forces that He fights are the fallen angels, or demons that are led by the prince of this world, Satan himself.  Because these demons were interfering with the will of God by interfering with the government of Persia, God sent Michael who rebuked and defeated the angels of darkness with the very Word of God.  God’s people of faith would soon taste freedom and breathe the air of their homeland once again just as God had promised.

But that isn’t the end of the message is it?  No, the holy messenger speaks of a time of trouble that is coming that will bring much tribulation to not just God’s children of faith, but indeed to the entire earth.  He says that this time of tribulation will end in a final deliverance of God’s little ones of faith, culminated with a great resurrection of the dead, where we will all be given new and eternal lives of joy and peace!  So when will all of this happen?  Well it has already begun.  The tribulation is upon us.  And in order to understand this, we must turn to our second reading from the book of John’s Revelation and receive the same wisdom that St. John received from God’s angelic messenger.

Once again, God’s spiritual messengers speaks of spiritual things that impact our world of flesh.  He says, “Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven.”  The war was real, but it was not the kind of war that we might imagine.  There were no heavenly weapons of mass destruction; no this was a war of words.  Satan, that great accuser, stood before the throne of God accusing God’s children day and night of sin and unbelief.  He insisted that they be punished as he and his legions of fallen and rebellious angels were.  But God spoke of sending a Savior to His children of faith.  One who would live a sinless life of perfection for them, and in their place suffer and die for their sins, so that the great Accuser and his legions of filthy devils would be powerless against them.

In the six verses of scripture prior to our reading from John’s Revelation this morning (Revelation 12:7-12) we see this heavenly battle in all of it’s glory break out before our very hearts.  Listen: “And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth. And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems. His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it. She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne”.  (Revelation 12:1-6)

That woman was none other than the Virgin Mary,  and the child she bore, was Jesus, the very Son of God, who took on human flesh by the will of the Father and by the power of the Holy Spirit.  The great dragon who along with a third of the stars of heaven that was cast down to earth was Satan himself and his legions of dark devils.  Try as he might to prevent the ministry of the Son of God, in the person of Jesus Christ to begin and finish the will of Heaven, he has been left impotent; powerless against our great and mighty God.  Jesus did come and reconcile us with the Father, His Father who now our Father, through the cross, His cross, which is now our cross that brings forgiveness of sins and a life of eternal peace with God and us sinners.  Jesus did rise from the dead to declare victory over death and the grave; He rose to assure us of an eternal life that waits for us, and He ascended into heaven to assure us that He has gone ahead of us to prepare a place for us.  But while the war is over, the battle continues.  The devil is still among us on earth.

While Michael was once again successful in defending God’s kingdom of heaven as directed by the very Son of God, his work is not over.  You see, heaven’s work is not complete until Christ comes again to judge the living and the dead.  And when that day comes, there will be a new heaven and a new earth that shall become one.  So until that day arrives St. Michael and all of the angels along with the entire church, that means you and me, are still speaking the Word of God; we are still telling the story of redemption; how our Savior Jesus has defeated and silenced the mouth of our accuser and his evil minions.  With the Word of God, the Kingdom of heaven is advanced and the kingdom of evil is defeated.

What Word is that?  It is the name Jesus and the word forgiveness; forgiveness of sins that Jesus brought for us sinful men and for our salvation.  It is the proclamation of victory over sin, death, and the devil, and the release of the captives, the prisoners of war.  But this work is not easy.  It isn’t easy releasing someone who doesn’t even know that they are being held as a prisoner of war.  What must we do to release them?  Again the mightiest weapon that we have is still the same weapon used by the angels… it is God’s Word, both the law and the gospel.

The law comes when we speak a word that shows the nature and work of the devil.  Through the word, we show those held captive who the devil is, that his very name means slanderer or false accuser.  We demonstrate to them that his proper name Satan means “one who lies in ambush.”  When we put the names together we can show those held in captive that the entire mission of the devils, is to deceive the entire earth into thinking that sinful desires are natural and that we are forever bound to our sinful nature.  If we can get them to see the mission of the devil, then we must show them how the devil has very cleverly used them to further this mission.  Again, remember that we are still using the Word of God alone, and for this action that will bring freedom to the prisoner, we will use the law of God in love.  Let me give you an example of what I mean.  In God’s Word, the 8th commandment states that we should not bear false witness against our neighbor.  That is, we should not like Satan and his devils falsely accuse our neighbors before God.  Not only should we not falsely accuse them, but we should also speak well of our neighbor and do all within our power to improve their reputation.  And if we do find that our neighbor has sinned, we should speak to them privately seeking to restore their good reputation before God and man.  In other words, we should approach them in love and encourage them to repent, that is turn to God’s forgiving love, which is theirs just as much as it is ours through Jesus Christ!

How many times have we too by intending to do good, fallen into the trap of the devil by approaching our neighbor from a position of superiority, not seeking to restore them but to teach them a lesson.  So now you see, even the rescue party constantly needs to be rescued.  Another way to say this is that if we do not stick close to Jesus and His Word, if we do not simply receive all that He has to give to us as a gift we too are subject to fall for the deception of the devils.  But if we will like the child in our gospel lesson (Matthew 18:1-11) simply run to Jesus when He calls, allow Him to scoop us up in His arms of love and protection, we rest safe, forgiven, and renewed to continue our search and rescue mission to seek and safe the lost.

How do we stay in this child like condition of simple faith?  By continually running to Jesus in the place that He calls us.  We come to this house of worship where we continually receive His Divine service and hear the message of redemption and forgiveness.

Dear friends, the message you received this morning is not one that ignores the pain and suffering of this world.  We are not to wear rose colored glasses and pretend that all is well here on earth.  All certainly is not well.  The raging maniacal Satan is still persecuting the church.  There is still much suffering and pain in this world, so much so that the very heavens cry out “woe”.  And yet we are still here; God’s children saved by grace through faith in the blood of the Lamb of God, the very Son of God Jesus Christ!  We are the church militant!  We live in this world of sin by faith, as we trust that the kingdom of God has come, and Christ’s rule and authority has been established.  The devils have been defeated, and we prove that each time as we enter into battle by trusting and resting in the promise of God’s Word that proclaims the forgiveness of sins.  All of the devil’s lies and accusations have been silenced through the victory of Christ, which becomes our victory by faith in the blood of the Lamb shed at Calvary.

When the devil accuses us of sin and attempts to recapture us in guilt, we who have been freed and sent to free others will simply reply to that serpent.  “I admit that I am a sinner, but there is one who is greater than my sin and He is Jesus Christ, and where He is I shall one day join Him.  It is Jesus who began the work of salvation in my baptism, and it is Jesus who will complete it on that great day when you and all devils will be silenced forever.”  So you see dear friends, the same Word of God that empowers your testimony to your neighbor is the very same Word that silences your enemies.  May God grant us faith and the strength to continue trusting in His work and the message of St. Michael and all angels… AMEN!

He Has Done Great Things For Me, So…

Sunday, December 9th, 2012

Second Sunday in Advent of the Church Year (B), December 9, 2012
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA

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When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream. Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with  shouts of joy; then they said among the nations, The LORD has done great things for them. The LORD has done great things for us; we are  glad. [Psalm 126:1-3]

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  These are the very Words of God that come to you from the pen of St. Paul  in our Epistle (Philippians 1:2-11), from the mouth of the prophet Malachi, and the proclamation of John the Baptist (Luke 3:1-14), this second  Sunday in Advent.

Grace, the greatest gift you could ever receive.  Peace, the greatest thing that God can give to you.  You have a Savior and King who is closer than  a friend, in fact He is your brother who will never leave your side.  He promises that in all things, even the darkest of times He is with you!  He has  done great things for you, so… does that make a difference in how you are living your life?

ILLUS: One of my favorite movies during the Christmas season is “It’s a Wonderful Life” staring Jimmy Stewart.  The story is set during the time of  the Great Depression.  Jimmy Stewart’s character, George Bailey has found out that the Savings and Loan that he is the president of has pretty  much gone broke.  He is overcome by grief and wanders out of town in a snow storm to a bridge just outside of town; the reason he is there is to do  what many poor souls did during that dark time of our nation’s history… he intends to kill himself.  As he climbs onto the bridge’s railing and looks  down into the dark cold waters below, the camera shifts to two angels in heaven who are also looking down at George.  One of the angels, named Clarence who is George’s guardian angel in training asks the other more senior angel, “Is George sick?”  And the other angel replies, “No worse… he’s discouraged.”

Some of you this morning may be discouraged.  This morning, God’s Word is calling out to you and asking you to let Him take away that spirit of discouragement and replace it with a spirit of joy and thankfulness.

I. In our Old Testament reading this morning (Malachi 3:1-7b), Malachi the last of the Old Testament prophets is writing to the people of Israel; a people who are discouraged.  Some have waited and waited for times to improve only to see them get worse, so they have abandoned the God of their fathers and chased after other God’s.  The faithful people of God haven’t followed, but sometimes they too were tempted to leave their religion is search of greener pastures.  So, they have loyally stayed behind to worship in the old way, but their faith is almost gone; they gather every Sabbath day to hear the Word of God, but they aren’t really listening.  Others, the faithful ones, the ones that are always in God’s house doing all of the work that must be done, well they’re still there, but they are just plain tired.  No worse than tired, they like George Bailey are discouraged.  They can be heard saying things like, “What’s the use of all of this church life?  No matter how much we serve the Lord, the ones that have left Him or refuse Him seem to always have it better than us.”

And to this spirit of discouragement, God replies to them and us, “Behold, your salvation is now at the door and the kingdom of God is upon you.  Very soon, your grumbling spirit will be silenced and the complaints of the priests and prophets will stop.  Those who preach a false message or preach the true message but do not believe in it will be silenced and God’s Word will be fulfilled.  The righteous people who still believe will be separated from the unbelieving wicked people, and those faithless people will no longer enjoy power and security, but you O little lambs of faith will dwell in the house of the Lord forever!

II. This morning, God brings two messages to us.  One is a message of Law and the other is the pure sweet gospel.  God wants both of these messages to play out in our lives so that our neighbors, family, and friends will see the difference that God’s Son, our Savior Jesus makes in the lives of believers and the world we live in.

A. The first message is simply one of repentance.  “Behold I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me.  And the Lord you seek (the God that your soul has always thirsted and hungered for) will come to His temple (that is the gathering of His saints); and the messenger of the (new covenant) that is (Jesus the Judge will come to judge the living and the dead).  But who can endure the day of His coming and who can stand when He appears?”

In other words if you are not living out a life that trusts in a God who will make all things right and new, if you aren’t resting and trusting in His Son Jesus Christ who has come and will come again, you should be afraid, very afraid, because you will be judged and punished for your lack of faith and your lack of righteousness.

For some, resting and trusting in a Savior who came as a baby in swaddling clothes and then died a miserable death upon the cross is just too hard to believe in.  So they are the ones who have completely rejected the call of Malachi and John the Baptist to prepare for His coming.  Not only do they refuse to make His paths straight and the rough places smooth, they are doing all they can to fight the church’s work in doing those very things.  These are the scoffers and the atheists who belittle Christ and His church and work to undermine God’s means of grace that He has instituted to create faith and hope in people who are discouraged.

Then there are those who were once part of the church, part of the group of people who served God in His Kingdom of grace.  They were the ones proclaiming the gospel, living out the gospel of peace, but now because they are discouraged they have checked out.  They may gather with God’s people occasionally, but secretly they have given up hope in the truth of the message.  They have become discouraged.

B. And this is precisely where the second message comes in.  It starts with the first message of repentance, but then it removes all of the fear and hopelessness and replaces those feelings with faith and joy.  Repent!  Who can endure and not lose hope?  Who can endure the day of His coming?  Who can stand in hope when He appears again?  Those who gather around the treasure of our God; those who continually hear the Word of the gospel and place their hope in God’s gifts to His people.  The treasure of the church is Jesus Christ Himself and the gifts are His Word and Sacraments!

These are the very things that refine us and sustain us in difficult times.  They are the difference between faith and faithlessness.  God’s Word when it speaks the law to our sinful flesh burns away anything and everything that we might be tempted to trust in.  In the law of God we discover that there is nothing we can do to make God love us; nothing that we can hold up to Him and say, “See, this is good.”  In the law we discover that all of our righteousness or good works are like filthy rags before our creator.  But in His Word that we call the gospel, God makes some awesome promises to us.  He promises that we as members of His Church, the body of Christ are the new priesthood.  We are the true sons of Levi who God Himself has purified and is still purifying to this day.

In the gospel of Jesus Christ we are told that it is God’s will that no one should die in their sins but that all of us should repent, turn to Jesus and away from our sins and be saved.  We are to trust in the truth that God’s Son did come to us as an infant, conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary.  We are to trust that He did live a perfect life on our behalf and then suffered and died by the hand of Pontius Pilate for the forgiveness of our sins.  But we are also to obediently believe that He in fact rose from the dead, ascended into heaven, and He will come again to judge the living and the dead.  And finally, we are to believe in the resurrection of our own bodies where we shall live with God forever in the new heaven and earth, where His Kingdom shall have no end.

How do we trust this message?  By receiving the gifts of God and by gathering around His means of grace that preserve us in this faith.  We do not neglect the meeting of the saints; that is we do not quit going to church, because it is here in church where God sustains us and protects us.  In holy baptism he took a brood of vipers, filthy in their sins and washed them clean like fullers’ soap.  Through the washing of the water and the word,  He created and sustains the gift of faith within us, the very thing that turns vipers into saints.  In the preaching of the Word, here in this very church, God continues to purify you by declaring His message of truth and hope.  And at His table, He sustains that hope in a meal of forgiveness and peace.

III. These are the gifts that sustain us and help us live a life of purpose; a Christian life of goodness.  We do not become discouraged when others fall away or ridicule us for our faith, because we are living a life that was bought with the very suffering and death, the life blood of our King Jesus; we are not our own, but we were bought with a great price.

So then, how we live our lives, in fact our very lives, becomes an offering acceptable and pleasing to God.  We may become discouraged, but we do not lose hope, because the very Word of God is what produces and sustains hope within us and encourages us to continue waiting for the Advent, the second coming of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  And as God does this mighty work of producing faith, we can say with all of the church, “He has done great things for me, so I will praise the Lord.  I will praise Him with my time, talent, and treasure; I will praise Him with my very life, and I will teach my family to do the very same thing, over and over again, no matter what happens around me; I will praise Him until Christ returns again.”

CONCLUSION: Please rise and join with me in singing, “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” [LSB 657]

What Does This Mean?

Sunday, December 2nd, 2012

First Sunday in Advent of the Church Year (B), December 2, 2012
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA

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“”“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell securely. And this is the name by which it will be called: The Lord is our righteousness.’” [Jeremiah 33:14-16]

Behold the days have come, Jesus Christ fully God and fully man was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered  under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried.  He descended into hell.  The third day He rose again from the dead.  He  ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.  From thence He will come to judge the living and the  dead.  Christ has come and He will come again.  Let the church say AMEN!

That is the whole point of Advent.  We remember how Christ came; we remember the anticipation of the people of faith as they awaited  the coming of the Messiah.  And today, the church celebrates that He has come, and we look forward to His return.  Should any of this  make a difference?  What does advent mean to our community, to our nation, and to this world?  What does this mean to you?  Does it  make a difference in your life?  Can others see that difference in the way you live?

In last week’s news paper, my wife pointed out three stories that represented three related realities about this world we live in.  The first story was national in scope.  It was about that mega shopping day, Black Friday; so mega in fact that it could not be constrained to just Friday.  It seems that shoppers have been duped into using the holiday of Thanksgiving as just another day to acquire more stuff, instead of giving thanks and praise to God, on the one day we as a nation have set aside to acknowledge and thank Him for His many blessings.  How sad!

On another section of the paper, a story was run about the ever increasing pandemic known as hunger and homelessness here in America’s finest city, San Diego, California.  What jumped out at me especially was not the fact that the food bank is running out of food, and that the shelters are quickly filling; no what jumped out at me was the fact that the church no longer plays a lead role in caring for the hungry and homeless.  Now, you see organizations like Jewish Family Services and the Jacobs foundation are leading the way and teaching us as a community to be loving and kind to others.

Then on the international page I read another story about the newly elected president of Egypt seizing complete power, suspending the democratic rights of the people, but promising that if they just trust him, everything will be alright.  And while he is making everything alright, people who are in the streets crying out for help and justice are being terrorized and killed by that same man.

So why am I sharing these three stories with you?  Because as Jesus taught us in our gospel lesson (Luke 21:25-36), His pending return, or His advent will remind us that we are in a season of turmoil and distress, so much so that it will cause people to faint with fear and trembling because of what is coming on the world.  It is a time when the powers of the heavens will be shaken and those living will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.  And Jesus said that when these things happen, the things that cause turmoil and distress, we should straighten up and raise our heads, because our redemption is drawing near.  The righteous branch of David is coming and he will execute justice and righteousness in the land.

Christ has come.  Born as a baby to a virgin girl in Bethlehem, He came to us in our flesh to make all things right; all things new.  This is the truth that the ancients waited for and it is the truth we celebrate today, this first Sunday in Advent.  Christ has come, what does this mean?  It means we must live out His coming; it means we must be His righteousness in this world, until He comes again to make all things new and right.

It means that on a day of Thanksgiving, we as the body of Christ, as His church here in our sin-soaked community must be His light; His source of righteousness.  While others are busy acquiring things, we should be busy demonstrating a spirit of thankfulness; we should be acknowledging and thanking our God and Savior, Jesus Christ.  It means that when there is a Thanksgiving church service, we will go out of our way to attend; after all, this thanksgiving business isn’t about us, it is about God!

Christ has come, what does this mean?  It means that when people are going hungry in this world and have no place to live, we as the church, the body of Christ ought to be making a difference.  We ought to be leading the way in demonstrating acts of love, because Jesus our Master and King, our Redeemer and Savior is the Source of all true love.

Is that what we do?  On the screen, you see some pictures of our pantry. Look at how empty those shelves are.  If we waited for food donations from this community before we were able to help out the hungry and homeless, it would not happen, because those donations are almost nonexistent.  While our cupboards are full at home, we can’t even seem to bring in and drop off a few nonperishable food items, or throw a few extra dollars in the Agape fund.  Instead, where do we get the food for our pantry?  We have to buy it from the food bank, which is run by the Jewish community, who seem to be “out-loving” Christ’s own people.

Christ has come.  Does it seem like He’s coming in places like Egypt, Israel, even here in the United States?  No, and the reason is clear, people have placed their trust in men and the governments of men instead of God’s promise to deliver and provide.  But Jesus warns us not to let these things, these truths demoralize us.  He says, “But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.” [Luke 21:34-36]

How do we stay awake?  How do we make sure that the way we live here in this world is pleasing to God?  We do it by remembering that Christ has come, and is coming again.  We do it by hearing the prophet Jeremiah’s words this morning, not as a threat, but as words of comfort.  We remember that we have an eternal King whose eternal concern and rule has us as His central interest.  It is Jesus who even right now, is watching over us in all our ways to keep us safe for Himself.  We have a High Priest who has a permanent priesthood, sealed by His own blood.  He is God’s permanent presence in our lives; He alone is not only the source of all love and charity, He is OUR source of love and charity.  “He is able to save completely those who come to God through Him, because He always lives to intercede for them”. [Hebrews 7:25]  We have the confidence that “if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.  He is the atoning sacrifice for our sin, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” [1 John 2:1,2]

Christ is the one perfectly righteous King; He alone is able to rule and govern us perfectly.  He will never provide a reason for you to depose Him or impeach Him as earthly rulers deserve.  He reigns with perfect righteousness and delivers perfect justice.  He alone has laid down His life to earn your love and respect, and He alone took back up His life to gain your worship.  He alone can forgive sins, heal the broken hearted, and set the captives free.  It is He alone who can truly care for the poor.

Christ alone cares for you and He wants to care for your neighbors, even the world.   He does it first through His Word and Sacraments.  They are the means of the Father to bring new life and hope into the lives of sinners caught up in the darkness and hopelessness of sin.  He comes through these means with complete forgiveness, but these means come through people; they come through the church, a group of other sinners who were once also trapped in sin and hopelessness, but now have been freed and patiently wait for the return of their King.

How can we live lives of hope and trust when all around us seems to be overwhelming fear and faithlessness?  We do it because we are not alone.  We are together as the body of Christ.  You saints of Trinity are a light in this community we call Encanto, in a city named San Diego.  You are a city on a hill, where God works out his righteousness within you and through you.  You are those who have learned that true religion does not exist to deliver us from suffering and pain, but instead it leads us through those things as we draw others to follow us as we are following our King.  So the season of Advent reminds us that as Christ’s body here on earth, we have been appointed to follow our Savior and experience pain and suffering even as He did.

Before I close, I wanted to share my heart with you as your pastor.  Most of you know that since I arrived here, one of my primary tasks was to be your chief evangelist within our community.  I have done that tirelessly along with my staff, who are here every day of the week.  Together, we represent you and we do it well.  We pour out ourselves for those who come looking for rest, hope, and peace.  But I must confess that we do sometimes feel defeated and alone.

So many times we have reached out to our neighbors with the best of our time, talent, and treasure, and we have seen them flourish in God’s love, forgiveness and healing, only to see them leave without so much as a thank you.  We see them drawn to other churches or fellowships that have not ministered to them, but instead, upon their arrival, they give them more of the very world that destroyed them.  We see our neighbors take advantage of our love and in essence spit in our face.  So what are we to do?

“We are to continue walking the path before us (the same path our Lord walked), as (He alone) makes us increase and abound in love for one another and for all, even as we do for all of you.”  Why do we do these things, even though they bring us pain and suffering?  Because we know that the Holy Spirit will establish our hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” [1 Thessalonians 3:11-13]  Wont you join us in our journey following our King?  Will you support us and come along side of us with your time, talent and treasure, as together we proclaim the powerful Advent message: Christ has come, Christ is coming again… AMEN!