Posts Tagged ‘Epiphany’

God’s Delight is With Us and In Us

Sunday, January 17th, 2016

Epiphany 2-C, January 17th, 2016
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor
Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego, CA
http://www.tlcsd.org

Click here for audio of this message

“You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her, and your land Married; for the LORD delights in you, and your land shall be married.” [Isaiah 62:4]

Indeed, because God’s delight is with us and in us, I cannot keep silent.  For the sake of the church and for the sake of our very salvation I will not be quiet until God’s righteousness goes forth within your life, your family, and Christ’s church, like a burning torch.

Indeed, if ever there was a time for a simple men like myself who have been called to the divine and holy office of ministry to speak out for righteousness it is now; now when both the family and the church are under attack.  This morning, I must remind you that there is a God among you who both created water for a divine purpose and then continuously blesses us by changing that water into the wine of joy.  This morning our message will speak to our lives, our families, our church, and our eternal home.

Each of you were moved from an existence of shame, loneliness, and desolation; you were transferred, married to God through Christ Jesus into a position of honor and community, within a place; a land of plenty. A God who changes water into wine and then wine into water did this for you and to you.  Let me explain what I mean.

On the day you were baptized, God used a simple element like water and attached to it His promise to redeem you from your sins.  With simple water He took the redeeming work of Jesus completed upon the cross for the world’s sins, and He made it a work done specifically for you!  You who were once forsaken and desolate, lost and dying in your sins, He recreated you into His image through the forgiveness of sins.  And now, God the Father looks upon you as cherished and beautiful.   He delights in you because He delights in your Lord, His Son Jesus Christ.  He promises that while you live within this land of darkness and sin you have a place and a Lord waiting for the day He calls you home to Zion, paradise restored!  But for now you live knowing that you wait with a purpose; your purpose is to declare your joy in being loved and redeemed by your God and Lord, Jesus Christ.

Your Lord loves you and desires you to know joy.  This is where we need Jesus to change water into wine for us.  You see our Lord knows who among us do not have the gift of singleness, and so He repeats what He said long ago to Adam in paradise, “It is not good for man or woman to be alone.”  And so He moves our hearts to search for the one who is also alone to be our spouse; that other person who makes us complete; who gives us joy.  Jesus not only blesses us with the wine of joy but He also is at our weddings as the honored guest.  It is Jesus who brings us the gift of spouse and the joy of intimacy with another.  It is a gift that is wrapped with love, the commitment of God, and the promise of faithfulness, husband and wife to each other and together committed to a promise of faithfulness towards God.  God joins these two to become one, so that together they may know the joy of the Lord and together they may stand against anyone who tries to separate them.  And why has God joined them?

To help one another, is the answer of Scripture.  God saw that it was not good for a man to be alone and gave him the kind of helpmeet he needed.  God has given these two people to each other so that they may help each other, depend on each other, rejoice and sorrow with each other, forgive each other, and carry burdens for each other.  They are more closely bound together than any other two people in this world.  In order to cleave to his wife, a man must forsake even his father and his mother.

So it’s the obligation of a man to love his wife.  She really is a part of him.  “He who loves his wife, loves himself,” writes Paul.  And he continues: “For no man ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes it and cherishes it.”  You see, one does not become angry with his own body if it becomes sick or maimed.  Instead one seeks to make the best of it in every condition.  And this is the way married couples should  treat each other.  They do not blame each other.  They try instead to sympathize with the faults of the other, as though they were one’s own.  And together they use these skills to bless and encourage each other.  This is necessary because if God wills it, there will most likely be children, and where there are children there is a family.

The Scriptures teach that when the two who are one become several or many through the birth or adoption of children, these children are a good gift from God. They should be accepted with thanksgiving and nourished with a sense of responsibility.

Parents have the duty to care for these children.  They must have patience with their faults and think more of the children’s welfare than of their own comforts.  They have no right to allow them to do as they please; they must be trained or taught to grow into adulthood.  This is just a matter of stewardship; they are caring for God’s children.  On the day of judgment we should be able to say to the LORD: “Behold, here am I and the children the LORD has given me.” [Isaiah 8:18]

Our homes are the most intimate natural fellowship in this world.  It is there that we see the clearest indications of our inherited selfishness.  In our day-to-day tensions with people who try our patience it is not possible to withdraw like a hermit, and since we can’t hide our real nature, the testing of our character can be very trying.

But it is not intended that we should solve the problems of our home and family by ourselves.  It is as members of the body of Christ, all united in the same common faith in our Lord Jesus, that we find strength and wisdom to serve one another.  It is not a question, then, who is the most important, or who has the greatest success, or who makes the most money, but it is a matter of sharing the joys and burdens we bear with each other.

The church is the place where Jesus first turned water into wine, and where He will also return the wine into water.

When you were baptized it was His church that Christ used to give you this great gift of eternal life; a gift that Christ then used to provide you with joy through the wine of His gladness.  But there is also a time when we think that Christ is not present with us; a time when our joy and gladness has turned to sorrow and dread.  It is in these times we feel like He has abandoned us and taken away our wine of joy.  It is within these times, we must allow the wine to return to water, the water of our baptism so that we will see that Jesus is really with us.

Jesus is there still with us, hiding away in an unseen corner within a divorce court when a judge of the land tears asunder what no man ought.  He’s there with us when one of our cherished children, a gift from God is shipped away to serve our country within the armed forces.  And He is there with us when they come back injured, damaged, or worse yet, they come back lying in a coffin.  He is there when death takes away other loved ones and friends, who’s passing seems to leave such an empty place in our hearts.  He is with us turning wine into water as joy gives way to grief, hope to destruction, and life to death.

When the joy of wine is gone, it is the mission of the church, Christ’s body, to remind you that the baptismal promises and commitments of Christ and His church still remain to sustain and support you and your family.  It is the church that is called through it’s preachers, services, and ministries to remind you that you are never alone.

When the gifts of God that bring temporary joy seem to have been taken away, we can very easily become angry at God and His church for allowing our joy to be taken away.  The spouse we lost to divorce or death, the children who no longer visit or seem to care, the career we lost, the child we never had, the home or reputation or money or friends that are now no more.  When these things disappear, many times we can become bitter or angry, even resentful towards God. But God in His Divine service reminds us that we are not alone in our grief.  He minds us that Jesus is with us.

Jesus knows the joy of a loving mother who stood by him even to the point of death. He also knows the Father who forsook him in His hour of deepest need. He knows what it’s like to be betrayed by those closest to Him and rejected by those He suffered and died for. He knows what it means to have more than enough food, and to have no food for forty days and forty nights. He knows what it is to be at peace and what its like to be attacked; to love and to lose; to live and to die.

He is our God, this man, this Jesus. And when water turns into wine, or wine retreats and takes you to the water, he remains the same—the very incarnation of love and faithfulness of His Father. He is always working toward the same goal: to be our delight and for us to delight in Him, as we live to bear his image.  And it’s that truth that will one day bring us to our native land, a place that He has gone to prepare for us within Paradise restored.  May God continue to do this great work within each of us, and I ask this in Jesus name… AMEN!

The Lord Is In His Holy Temple

Sunday, January 10th, 2016

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

Click here for audio of this message

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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