Posts Tagged ‘Eternal Life’

Eat to Live!

Sunday, August 19th, 2018

Pentecost 13B
August 19, 2018
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor of
Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street
San Diego, CA 92114

Click here for audio of this message

“Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” [John 6:54]

Have you ever heard the saying “Eat to live, don’t live to eat”?  It’s a common catch phrase that the nutrition industry has come up with in an effort to help us reexamine our diets, and there is good reason for doing that.  Did you know that about 36 % of Americans are classified as obese?  And did you know that if the current trend holds, which experts believe it will, by the year 2030 a whopping 42% of Americans may end up obese?  But wait, it gets worse, of that 42%, experts feel that 11% of them could be severely obese, which is about 100 or more pounds over a healthy weight.

So yes, there is reason to examine just what it is we are eating and why we are eating it.  If we are living to eat, that is living for the enjoyment of eating, the statistics are warning us that we could be in for big trouble.  And that is the message from God for us today.  It’s a message about eating and drinking, but it isn’t talking about our physical diet so much as our spiritual diet!

Our Old Testament lesson (Proverbs 9:1–10)  sets the table so to speak for the spiritual banquet that God has prepared for us this morning, listen: “Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!”  To him who lacks sense she says, “Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed.  Leave your simple ways, and live and walk in the way of insight.”

The Bible seems to always be reminding us that there’s two different kinds of eating, physical and spiritual, and that the spiritual food is a lot more important than the physical food: “Man does not live on bread alone but on every Word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.” [Deuteronomy 8:3]  

This morning, wisdom is inviting us to feast on God’s Word; to continue developing the practice of going to church, attending Bible study, reading and sharing the Word of God at home and with friends and neighbors.  Wisdom of course is present and received through the Word of God.  So really, the invitation to come to the banquet is an invitation to get to know God.  But before we will accept wisdom’s invitation, we have to first admit that we need it; we have to admit that we need God.  We have to admit that we are simple and lost sinners, lost in darkness and lacking judgment.  That is, on our own, we can only think of physical eating and drinking; we live to eat.  This morning, God is asking us to admit that there’s a greater kind of eating and drinking, a spiritual one that we can’t understand or see the need for unless He intervenes!

And right now, in His Word, God is doing just that; He is intervening in your life, in a mysterious and powerful way.  This morning God wants you to see that everything you consume physically is dead.  Your meat is dead, your grain is dead, your fruits are dead, and your vegetables are dead.  Once you start munching them down they are dead.  We are simply dead people munching on dead things, unless… unless God intervenes.

In our gospel reading (John 6:51-69), God does just that.  Today, God comes to you by faith in the real presence of His Son Jesus Christ and says: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” [Vs. 51]  

Does that offend you?  Does it confuse you?  It may, if you simply hear those Words and stop listening.  You may be confused if you are thinking about living to eat and not eating to live!

Standing before our eyes of faith this morning is Jesus Christ, the son of Mary but also the true Son of God.  Like the people in last week’s gospel, we might be tempted to grumble to ourselves and even out loud that this is only Jesus who was born of a woman named Mary.  He was a man like us in every way, wasn’t He?  So how can He say He will give us anything that will make us live forever?  Well the answer is in the origin of Jesus.  As the Living Bread, He is the Living Bread that came down from Heaven.  In other words, Jesus is reminding us that while He was born into our human existence as one of us, His origin is not from among us; He has come from heaven.  Jesus is telling us that before His birth He was with His Father and with us, and after His death, He tells us that He always shall be.

Who is Jesus?  He is the voice of wisdom calling out to the simpletons and sinners; He is calling out to you and me.  He calls us to come, eat of His bread and drink of His wine; a banquet meal that He and He alone has prepared for you.  This morning Jesus tells us that we can’t settle for any other diet.  It must be His bread, His body given for us.

But Jesus, ever the gracious host, offers you more than just food, He offers you a refreshing and life giving drink as well.  ““Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” [Vs. 54-55]  

Now this is the point where the grumblers try to turn Jesus’ Words into something a bit more palatable (pun intended)!  They say, “Ok, surely He doesn’t mean we can eat His body and drink His blood.  That would be cannibalism.  So this must be one of those wise philosophical sayings that says one thing but means another.”  So the grumblers keep on listening and keep on looking for ways to be “comfortable” with His Words.  But Jesus isn’t done; not by a long shot! Listen…

“Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. [Vs. 56, 57]  Now the grumblers are really becoming uncomfortable.  Jesus is still insisting that we eat His flesh and drink His blood, but instead of giving us the meaning of this saying, He makes the assertion that if we want to live forever, we really need to feed on Him, because that’s what God sent Him for!

What is causing the confusion?  What is causing the offense?  Is it Jesus or those who listen to His Words?  It’s those who are listening!  They are still living to eat and do not understand the need to eat to live.  So Jesus will give the grumbling munchers one more bit of wisdom in the form of a question.

“Do you take offense at this? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?” [Vs. 61b]  

Do you take offense at that?  Do you see only the meal that is spread before you and fail to see the host who offers it?  Jesus is the son of Mary, but He is also the Son of God.  His flesh and blood are not simply like any flesh and blood; they are divine.  They have now somehow in a mysterious way become God’s flesh and blood.  The host has become the meal!  He who is Spirit has taken on flesh, and now He has become a new kind of flesh and blood; it is the flesh and blood of the God man Jesus Christ that you are offered to feed upon today.

In His Word He offers you real food; He shows you your sins and if you will see them, if you will eat that bitter herb, He quickly offers you the sweet delicacies of the gospel; He offers you forgiveness of all sins and peace with God your creator.  In your baptism He assigned you a permanent seat at His banquet table.  It is your place that He prepared for you at the beginning of creation.  Only you may sit there… only you!  And at that seat He prepared you for, He also dresses you like a prince, because that is what He has made you to be!  And in His Word, at His heavenly banquet He says, read, listen, and receive my Word, my flesh and blood.  Take and eat, this is MY body, which is given for you.  Here is the cup of thanksgiving; take and drink of it all of you; this cup is the new testament in MY blood, which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. 

Do you hear the Words MY body, MY blood repeated over and over again.  It is truly His flesh and blood that He gives to us in His Word, in His Washing, and in His Holy Meal.  This morning Jesus wants you to see that by receiving His Holy Food, you are receiving Him. You receive His life and His death. 

What the disciples who grumbled and complained could not see, and what many of those who live to eat today can’t see is that unless you eat the flesh and drink the blood of Jesus the son of Mary and the Son of God, you can’t have life.  Instead of eating to live, you will be living to eat.  What many can’t see is that in the heavenly food that Jesus gives is true life that comes from true sacrifice.  Upon the cross, the Son of God allowed men to take His life from Him.  He who is eternal, who can’t die, died; He died because He became one of us, for us.  He died because He gave His body and shed His blood for the sins of the world.  He died for you!  

When Jesus says take and eat, take and drink, He is giving to you real food and real drink.  He is giving to you Himself; His life and death for the forgiveness of sins… your sins!  Will you eat to live, or will you continue to live to eat?  Do you see your great need for this mysterious eating and drinking or will you simply turn away as another grumbling muncher?

As for me, I will answer with St. Peter, “Alleluia, Lord to whom shall we go?  You have the Words of eternal life”.  Alleluia, alleluia!

The King’s Judgment is Final!


Monday, November 21st, 2016

Last Sunday of the Church Year-HL, November 20th, 2016
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor
Trinity Lutheran Church,

http://www.tlcsd.org and
Our Redeemer Lutheran Church
http://orlcsd.org

Click here for audio of this message

” Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. ” [Matthew 25:1-2]

cross theologyThe Last Sunday of the Church year always gives us hope; hope in the eternal life and the Paradise that is prepared and waiting for us. But inevitably some will always focus on the judgment and condemnation rather than the picture of hope. They seem to bypass the message of joy that awaits us when we join Jesus, our Christ and King, and instead they focus on the foolish or condemned, which is personified in verse 12 of our reading: “Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.”

So with this in mind let’s address immediately why Jesus says to one group that waits for His return that He does not know them.

Those who wait for eternal life can be divided into two different groups, the foolish and wise. What separates the two? In Jesus story it is the lack of or the presence of oil for their lamps.

Both groups of virgins wanted to be at the wedding banquet. Both had lamps and the desire to use them, but only the ones with working lit lamps actually made it into the banquet. Friends, the oil in the lamp represents God’s grace; His undeserved forgiveness for our many sins. And this oil or grace must be purchased or received only as God has determined. “But isn’t God’s grace free” you may counter? Well certainly it’s free, but you have to have it working for you in order to benefit from it! How?

Well in Jesus story, you had to by oil for your lamp ahead of time. If the oil represents God’s grace then the money to buy the oil represents God’s Word and Sacraments! Friends, in order to live within and under grace we must be in God’s Word, because it is only through His Word that you will be able to believe and live out the truth that God’s forgiveness and mercy are truly yours; that you are already judged righteous and worthy to enter Paradise. “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing through the Word of (Jesus) Christ!” [Romans 10:17]

The five wise virgins were proven wise because they acquired and used the oil. What would have happened if they bought the oil, but never used it? They too would have remained outside, separated from the wedding banquet. They would have been just as foolish as the other five. So the oil, or faith in Jesus is the evidence that your mansion in paradise is waiting for you. To understand what Paradise will be like let’s allow the Prophet Isaiah to show us.

Through Isaiah, God has given each of us a glimpse at His new heavens and earth; it’s a paradise that is so unique, so beautiful, so wondrous, that the “former things (of this world) shall not be remembered” (Is 65:17).

In this new creation, neither the sound of weeping nor the cries of fear nor pain will be heard (v 19). This glorious new life in Christ will never be cut short by death. Predator and prey will dwell together in harmony: “the wolf and the lamb shall graze together” (v 25). Carnivores would once again be herbivores: “the lion shall eat straw like the ox” (v 25). Once again, animals will live together in peace. People will live in peace. People and animals will once again walk together without fear of each other. Just as God had created the original creation, so there will be no destruction or violence in this new world. There will be no crime or terrorism. “They shall not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain,’ says the Lord” (v 25). In this creation, God will preserve mankind and the angels from falling into sin. Never again will sin, Satan, or death threaten God’s creation.

This new creation isn’t just a future hope, but it’s also a present reality. Christ has completed the work of the new creation upon the cross. Already, right now, you are a new creation. You’re no longer bound by sin and death. With new life created by the Holy Spirit through Word and Sacrament, the old has passed away for you. St Paul says it this way, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” [2 Corinthians 5:17]

We live in the time of “now, but not yet.” God’s new creation is a present reality for us, but the totality of His new creation has not yet been revealed to us. As a result, the old sinful Adam still lives alongside your new baptized nature in a constant daily struggle. We can plainly see that we live in a world ripe with the consequences of sin, a world engulfed with the division and suffering that won’t exist in the new world. And as we experience the consequences of sin—sickness, suffering, pain, and death—all of creation groans right along with us as we await the redemption of our bodies. [Romans 8:22–23]

What the Lord describes through Isaiah is simply the mixing of the New Testament church in this world with the church triumphant in eternity. Old Testament prophets often viewed the future without distinctly specifying the first or second coming of the Messiah. It’s as if Isaiah saw the church as a great mansion with a massive courtyard around it. The mansion itself represents the home of the church triumphant and at rest, the eternal Jerusalem that waits for all believers. The courtyard is gated and walled because the Lord protects all within. Yet those in the courtyard have not yet entered the mansion. They wait because they represent the church in action, believers who still live in this world. God’s prophets see them both at once. But once we leave this broken sinful world where the courtyard exists and enter the King’s mansion in paradise, we won’t remember the former troubles and difficulties that we leave behind. We will be glad and rejoice forever! We know that this new Paradise restored exists and is waiting for us because God has said so. Although we wonder about it and sometimes have doubts while we wait in the courtyard, God has devised a way to help us wait in confidence. We wait by faith, which is always created by God’s Word and Sacraments and sustained in prayer.

We live sustained by the Word of God and prayer. We listen to the Lord as he speaks to us in His Word. When we face trouble, heartache, and danger, we don’t wait alone, but we wait together as the church, as a congregation, and we wait in prayer. Verse 24 provides powerful encouragement to pray; listen: “Before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking I will hear.” As we believers wait in God’s courtyard, we call out to Him in every trouble. And He promises to hear our prayer and respond!

But as we wait we also have one eye always on the judgment of Christ the King. This judgment will always loom with a degree of fear, but God does not desire us to be afraid or uncertain about our own judgment but instead we are to be afraid for those who do not wait in the same faith that sustains us. This is why we gladly give our witness of God’s love to all who are willing to hear. So what does God’s Word say about the final judgment? Well…

The Final Judgment is just that… final!

There will be a day of judgment, “because (God) has fixed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by a Man whom He has appointed.” [Acts 17:31] It will come for all of us, and on that day, Jesus the Son of Man “will sit on His glorious throne. Before Him will be gathered all the nations.” [Matthew 25:31] Before Him will be gathered all peoples and all ethnicities. And all who are in their graves will arise and be gathered before Him.

This will be the final judgment. None beyond this will be held. There is no higher court so to speak, that a person may appeal to. That day “when God has endured with much patience” all the evil of the world will come to an end. There will be a separation forever from God for those who would not come to Christ, and the door to paradise will be closed forever.

And what about the judgment? Well, it will be carried out in accordance with the deeds we have done. “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one (of us) may receive good or evil, according to what (we have done) in the body.” [2 Corinthians 5:10] But scripture also states that this judgment will be given out according to our faith in Jesus. For Jesus clearly says, “… he who believes in (Me) has eternal life.” [John 3:15] Whoever believes in Jesus shall not perish and will not be brought to condemnation.

There is no contradiction in this. Our deeds are the kind of work that we do by faith. Our works reveal whether there is faith or not. And among those things that God seeks of us and expects of us is that we should believe in Him and His Son, Jesus Christ Whom He has sent. When we ask what should we do to do the works of God, Jesus answers, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him Whom He has sent.” [John 6:29] And to love God above all else, which is the chief commandment; this can only be done through Jesus Christ.

But we must remember that neither our love for God nor our love for our neighbor will ever be so strong that we can stand innocent of guilt before the judgment seat of God. This is why in Christ, God has atoned for all of our sins and has made it possible for us by faith in Christ to be partakers both of forgiveness and eternal life. To be found with faith in Christ then is first and foremost.

With Christ, life and good deeds will always follow. The thief on the cross could no longer do good, yet he was saved. But the person who has an opportunity to serve his neighbor for the sake of Christ will always do just that; it will simply be natural. A person of faith doesn’t think highly of his own deeds, and you won’t even bring it up on the day of judgment. You will be surprised and shocked when you hear about all of your good works that God was pleased with. But for now, we simply live life here in the courtyard as poor sinners who hope for mercy for the sake of Christ. And because of this grace centered thinking that is focused “on Christ,” we dear saints remember that in Christ there is no condemnation. [Romans 8:1]

And so we wait with one foot in the courtyard, which we can call the “church in action” and another foot in the King’s mansion, which we can call paradise, or the church triumphant and at rest. And while we wait, we are ever watchful because we do not know the hour that our King and Lord Jesus Christ will call us home and speak the judgment: “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy (and rest) of your Master.” [Matthew 25:21]

Eternal Life: Now/Not Yet

Monday, November 7th, 2016

Twenty Fourth Sunday After Trinity-HL, November 6th, 2016
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor
Trinity Lutheran Church,
http://www.tlcsd.org and
Our Redeemer Lutheran Church

http://orlcsd.org

Click here for audio of this message

eternal-lifeThis morning, St. Paul speaks for all true pastors, “(We have not ceased in) giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints of light.” [Colossians 1:12]

Now that is good news. God the Father has qualified you in Holy Baptism, through the cross of Jesus Christ to share in the inheritance of heaven, as and with the saints in light. So behold a host, arrayed in white; behold the saints with palms; behold the saint gathered also to receive holy communion, yonder there they stand. Can you see them? Sure you can, with eyes of faith, but for right now you cant see them with your physical eyes. But one day, soon and very soon, maybe sooner than you think you will not only actually and visually perceive them, but you will be them. In fact, God’s Word tells us that we the baptized are a part of them right now!

You do believe in eternal life don’t you? I only ask because those eggheads known as the Sadducees during the time of Jesus, didn’t believe.

At one time, they even tried to embarrass Jesus by asking Him a double pronged question about who in heaven would be the husband of a woman who had had several spouses in this world. Their question showed, said Jesus, that they understood neither the Scriptures nor the power of God.

You see, Holy Scripture teaches that after the resurrection we will live in a new age and in a new manner of life, “like angels,” within a new Paradise where heaven and earth have become one. We will still be individuals in that new life, with our being and even with a new body. St. Paul calls it a “spiritual” body as a way to help us keep our new bodies distinct from our present ones. Our new bodies will not know sickness nor disease, fatigue nor temptation. But at the present time, we still must live in and be thankful for our “physical” body, even though we may even right now be experiencing sickness, disease, temptation, and fatigue. Why? Because our bodies right now are being animated by the life which God in creation bound together with the brain, the nerves, and the living substance of our tissue and limbs. So in other words, this life, our lives are gifts from God! But even so, these bodies are destined to die.

But in the resurrection God will give us a new body, like the body of Jesus after His resurrection. Life in that new body is similar to the very life of Christ. So, in regards to this truth, God confronts us this morning, He confronts our fears of death in this physical world with these Words we read in our Old Testament reading (Isaiah 51:9-16), “Who are you that you are afraid of man who dies, of the son of man who is made like grass, and have forgotten the LORD, your Maker? (You) who are bowed down (in old age, in sickness and disease, in temptation and fatigue) shall speedily be released, (you) shall not die and go down to the pit, and neither shall (God’s care for you) be lacking.”

This morning, each of us finds our selves very much in a similar situation as the ruler and the woman who suffered from a discharge of blood for twelve years in our Gospel lesson (Matthew 9:18-26).

We are similar in that all that we have to place our trust in is Jesus. You have not really seen with your own eyes the power that this Son of God has, but you have heard Word of who He is and what power He has. For the ruler who’s daughter had died, this meant having faith in a Messiah who was even Lord over death. For the woman with the blood disease, it meant believing that Jesus is the Great Physician, who can heal disease and sickness.

But you are dissimilar to these two people of faith in that the Word of God, the promises of God are far more numerous and specific than the ones they had to go on. Notice, I did not say more powerful, because where ever the Word of God is, there is all of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in power and in strength. But the specificness and completeness of all of God’s promises have shown you an even greater miracle. Jesus is also the Lord of eternal life.

Because all of God’s Word is yours by faith, you now can put your trust in the truth that through Jesus Christ, His life, death, and resurrection, God has atoned for your sins, removed them from you as far as the east is from the west. Through His life blood, Jesus has ransomed the world out of the prison and punishment of hell, and in your baptism He has done this great work just for you. But that is not all. Because Jesus has risen from the dead, He promises that you too, like those saints that died in their baptismal faith before you, shall also rise from the dead in a new body to live in a new paradise.

So for us, by faith, eternal life is something that has already begun even in this fallen and sinful world.

But our eternal life is hidden in our faith in Jesus Christ. Just as Christ dwells with the saints in heaven with His life-giving spirit, so too, He dwells with us right now in the same manner, in Word and Sacrament. We live by faith and they live by sight.

On the blessed day of our baptism we were clothed in Christ and we have grown together with Him since then, so that one day we might also share with Him a resurrection that is like His. This is why Jesus can promise you that, because you believe in His work and gifts for you, you too shall obtain eternal life. But Jesus can also say, “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” [John 17:3] “…He who hears my Word and believes Him who sent me has eternal life; He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” [John 3:36; John 5:24; Romans 6:13]

This morning in our prayers, we will speak/hear the names of our loved ones, saints who have fallen asleep in Jesus. When we speak of them, we remember God’s grace and mercy that saved them and set them apart as sanctified to do His will during their earthly lives. And when we remember, we give thanks for the life of faith that they lived as an example for us who still walk by faith.

For us this morning, Holy Scripture speaks of eternal life that is hidden with Christ in God by faith. For us, we can compare it to a great treasure hidden within earthen vessels. When the time comes for us to join Jesus and our loved ones who have gone ahead of us, we will, like those who have gone before us, experience eternal life in all of its fullness and glory. But in the meanwhile we walk and live a life of faith that Christ gives us always through His Word and Spirit.

These two forms of life eternal are bound together in this way. One must possess the hidden life of faith if one is to become a partaker in the full revelation of the glory of the resurrection. We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ. But to appear there without a portion in the life of Christ, Jesus says, is to be raised up unto judgment and not unto life. Therefore it is true both here and in eternity: “He who has the Son has life.” [1 John 5:12]

This morning we end our message as we began it, confronted with the Word and promise of God. Hear your God speak and be filled with awe and faith and then simply believe those Words: “I have put my words in your mouth and covered you in the shadow of my hand, establishing the heavens and laying the foundations of the earth, and saying to (you the baptized), ‘You are my people.’ ”

May God continue to give us eyes of faith to believe this truth until we are given eternal eyes to see that all things do indeed work together for our good. In Jesus name… AMEN!

The Lord Will Make You a House!

Sunday, December 21st, 2014

Fourth Sunday in Advent-B, December 21, 2014

Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego, CA 92114
http://www.tlcsd.org

Click here for audio of this message.

The song you just heard is of course the theme song from the T.V. show Cheers, and it is meant to be a mental hook for you to hang our message upon.  We really do want to be where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad we came.  Wouldn’t you like to be in that place where you can see that all of our troubles are really just the same, and that they all find resolution and are replaced with peace through the same means.  Well congratulations, you’ve arrived in that place; a house that the Lord has built for you and me.  Now I admit, that this place here has its issues; it has its problems, but nonetheless it is a place that the Lord has built; it is a place where He truly has called you and knows your name.  And because He knows your name, we all know you too; we know you and each other in the peace and love of Christ.

Now before you let your emotions get the best of you and you begin to feel let down, let me say that this place with all of its flaws, is just temporary, and it will soon be replaced by an eternal place that will renew your mind and free your soul to be all that God has created you to be.  But you’ll have to wait in this place for a while until God calls you to your new home.  So relax, take a load off of both your feet and heart and let me share God’s Word with you this morning.

In our Old Testament lesson this morning (2 Samuel 7:1–16), we see King David also longing for a place of peace; a sanctuary where God’s people would collectively and eternally know God’s house as a special place where God would forever reside with His people.  David wanted to build a temple, a house of God that would glorify God forever.  And God heard the heart of David, and He knew David was a man after His own heart, and He was pleased with David.  So God sent the prophet Nathan to David and said, “Would you build me a house to dwell in? I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent for my dwelling. In all places where I have moved with all the people of Israel, did I speak a word with any of the judges of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?” [2 Samuel 7:4-7]

Here God is reminding David and us, that His name and His eminence are glorified with or without our help, after all He is the creator of us all.  Here God wants us to set our hearts on an important truth: It was and still is His work to teach us Who He is and how His name will be glorified among us.  This is the very reason that God traveled with His people in a tent, moving from place to place.  You see, the tent and the sanctuary that rested within it, were reminders that God is always with His children as their protector and redeemer.

And now God speaks this Word of remembrance to David, to both calm His fears and strengthen His faith: “I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, that you should be prince over my people Israel. And I have been with you wherever you went and have cut off all your enemies from before you.”  Here, God is asking David and us to look back at our lives and see the many twists and turns that have brought us here thus far and proclaim, “If it had not been for the Lord, I would be…!”

Here is one way that we can glorify God’s presence and eminence; by remembering His work and presence in our past.

But God must still speak faith and hope into both David’s heart and ours; He must not only remind  us of His work in the past but the work He promises to do in the future: “And I will make for you (David) a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may dwell in their own place and be disturbed no more. And violent men shall afflict them no more, as formerly, from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel. And I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover, the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house.”

What is this undefined and continuous work that the Lord will perform to make David’s name greater than all other names on earth.  How will God create a place for His children of faith and plant them so securely that nothing may move nor destroy neither them nor their place?  But more than this, where will this place, which is both the house of David and the house of God be located at?

Certainly, we can read in God’s Word that the temple of the Lord would years latter be built by Solomon, the son of David.  Is this the house and the seed of David that God speaks of?  At first sight, yes, God kept His promise through David’s son Solomon.  But verse 16 of our reading warns us that God’s building and providential presence and care did not stop with Solomon nor the great temple that he built.  Listen: “And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.’ ”. In other words, it will be eternal.

If it’s only through Solomon that the promise of God is fulfilled, then in the famous words of the Apollo mission, “Houston, we have a problem.”  And the problem is this, Solomon is dead and the bloodline of David is lost.  Further, the temple of Solomon was destroyed long ago, and the second temple of Herod was also obliterated as well.  Now what?  Now, God shows all of us through Whom and how this promise of providing a place and home for each of us is ultimately fulfilled.

In our gospel reading (Luke 1:26–38)we begin to understand how this prophecy is finally fulfilled: “In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”  And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.”

Make no mistake, the angel Gabriel is speaking to both Mary and all of us this morning; he is explaining in the clearest and most simplest way how God will ultimately fulfill His promise made to both David and us; a promise of providing a home, a place for us where God both knows our name, and cares for us eternally.  God will raise up a physical son of David who is also the eternal Son of God.  All of this prophecy would occur without any help from men, and it will occur whether they wish to receive this mighty champion or not.  The name of this God-child explains both His person and His work.  He is called Jesus, which means, “the One through whom Jehovah brings salvation;” for it is this Jesus who will save His people from their sins. [Matthew 1:22]

This exalted Savior God, born of the virgin Mary, who is of the bloodline of David, is the fulfillment of the promise that God first made long ago to Adam and Eve as they were expelled from the garden of Eden.  The seed of the woman would now complete the promised work of God that would bring God’s children of faith back to the promise land of Eden now restored.  An eternal abode, where men and women may once again walk with God in the cool of the day in peace.

In a few short days we will gather again on Christmas Eve to celebrate and renew our joy centered around the birth of the God-child Jesus the Christ, through Whom alone comes the fulfillment of God’s promise to bring each of us home to a place that guarantees us an eternal peace with Him and each other.  And today, as we prepare and wait for our earthly celebration, we are led by faith to look past the earthly and perishable temple of Solomon and see the remaining and still standing presence of the eternal fulfillment of the promise.  God’s dwelling with men of faith did not cease at the destruction of the earthly temple in Jerusalem, but it has been realized and continues today and forever, in an amazing way through the coming of Jesus Christ, in Whom Jehovah came to be with His people.

He has come to us as our God who is the Logos, the very Word of God, who made our human flesh and our redeemed nature His eternal dwelling place.  God did all of this through the eternal glory of His only begotten Son.  We were reminded of this truth, when Jesus our Champion and Savior proclaimed in truth and in the power of God to those that planned to crucify Him, “Destroy this temple (the temple of His body), and in three days I will build it up again” (John 2:19). It is with this building up of the temple destroyed by the Jews, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, that the complete and essential fulfillment of our promise of eternal life begins. And this promise continues through the temporary earthly body of Christ, which is the Christian church, which will one day soon, in God’s time be transferred into God’s Kingdom of Glory, where each of us will continue dwelling eternally with the Father and Son through the work and power of the Holy Spirit, who for now resides within each of the hearts of you who believe, that is have faith in the promises of God. [John 14:23; 1 Cor. 6:19]

But for now, we wait in these temporary temples made of flesh, as we gather together across the face of the earth in buildings made of wood and stone.  But we gather together always as the church of Jesus Christ, which is first and always, essentially a spiritual house of God, composed of living stones [1 Tim. 3:15, 1 Pet. 2:5; 2 Cor. 6:16, Heb. 3:6] And as we gather around God’s Word and Sacraments, we are reminded that it is the promise of the forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ that gives us the ability to both wait and proclaim to all who will listen, “If it had not been for the Lord, I would be completely cut off from life and left hopeless.”

This morning, after hearing all of this work of God, His Holy Spirit continues to draw us deeper and deeper into a right relationship with Him through faith in His Son Jesus.  And as He leads us to reflect His love and forgiveness to our neighbors, even in times where love and forgiveness are the last thing we feel like offering, we will be moved like Mary to simply say, ““Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”

Can you be this strong?  Will you cooperate with the work of His Spirit?  Yes, you can and you will, if you will but remember the rest of the promise yet to be fulfilled.  The promise of Jesus that speaks these Words of comfort to you: “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. [John 14:1-3] A place of peace, a house prepared just for you by Jesus Himself; a place where God and everyone else knows your name and are glad you came.  AMEN!

Now may the peace of God which surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus… AMEN!

Are You Listening?

Sunday, August 3rd, 2014

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

NOTE: The congregation first watched this very short video before hearing the Message.
We ask that you too watch this video before listening to or reading the message by clicking here.


Click here for audio of this message

“Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David.” [Isaiah 55:3]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)!

Sunday, November 18th, 2012

25th Sunday in Pentecost B, November 18th, 2012
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA

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]

The song we just heard by R.E.M., is also the title of our message.  It’s the end of the world as we know it (and I feel fine)!  Well if the end  of the world were too come say next month, on December 21st as many say the Mayan calendar predicts, would you be fine with that,  or does it cause you to worry?

Or if the end of the world would have happened on May 21st as Harold Camping said in one of his many false predictions, would that  have been alright with you.  Were you ready for it?  Are you still ready?  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?  You can tell that there are many things 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 that something here is broken, just look at all of the wars and threats of wars, the earthquakes and hurricanes, and the deaths.  Nations and alliances are formed and 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.  Isn’t that proof enough that something big, something terrible is getting ready to happen?

I like to go into Wal-Mart with some spare change in my pocket, so I can 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 into a glass box.  I like to drop my change from the top of the bowl and watch it go around and around and around.  And the closer it gets to the hole in the bottom, the faster and faster it goes, 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 was death.  And just like that, our existence has been dropped into the bowl of death and it is going faster, and faster, and before you know it, plop it is all going to drop into the bin of destruction.

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.  You could say that since the fall the death rate has remained the same—one per person.

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 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 out of our graves, no matter where they are or how we have been laid to rest, and each of us will have to face our Creator.  And many of us who are raised from death will be given everlasting life in paradise, but many will also 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 that will consume them like fire, yet they will never know and end to that suffering.  They will suffer in complete awareness and hopelessness.

That idea of hell and suffering doesn’t go well with people today who like to turn God into some lovable, soft-hearted, incompetent old fool.  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 and countless people screaming 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 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 will stand before Him on judgment day and be sentenced to shame and everlasting contempt.  They wont 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 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, and economic despair.  You have 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 have 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.  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 peace on the Lord will live forever in glory, as you shine like the brightness of heaven.  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 in God’s forgiving love you will not only survive God’s inspection of your life, but you will thrive forever after that inspection.  But how?

Because of Christ alone.  It was 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 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 indeed coming.  It is a change that the world may fear, but you need not fear.  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 grab onto His perfect life, the life He lived for you.  By faith, you are able to claim His innocent death as your 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 He will never leave you nor forsake you.  And it is this promise of God that brings peace and joy in knowing for certain that through all the things that will happen around you and even within you, because you are resting in Christ Jesus, you really are fine.

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!

More Than a Feeling!

Sunday, November 4th, 2012

25th Sunday in Pentecost B, November 4th, 2012
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA

Click here for audio of this message

“”And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, He said to him, You are not far from the kingdom of God. [Mark 12:34]

The song I chose as a mental hook, “More Than a Feeling” is meant to communicate an important message.  God’s Word, specifically  His Holy Law, is not supposed to make us feel good about ourselves.  It isn’t meant to congratulate us on how much we love our  Creator and our neighbor; in fact it should produce the opposite effect in us.  God’s Law should first terrify us, because it shows us how  little we love Him and how poorly we love our neighbor, and then it should move us to call out to God for a solution to our lack of love.

And yet, like the Scribe in our gospel reading (Mark 12:28-37), how easy it is for us too, to become comfortable with how we think we  are doing.  Oh how easy it can become for us to turn off our ears and blind our eyes to the truth; we fall far short.

So is this a message about feelings?  Yes and know.  You see, we all have feelings; God created us to have emotion, but our emotions are  defective; they lie.  No, our message this morning is first one of truth; God’s truth, and then God centered emotions, or feelings will  follow.

The young scribe in our gospel lesson, is someone we might call a seeker in today’s lingo.  He is genuine in his desire to live a God pleasing life.  He comes from a confusing culture, where the Law of God exists within the frame work of not just 10 commandments but 613 commandments.  Can you imagine that?!  There were 248 positive commandments, or commandments that told you what you should do, and then there were 365 negative commandments, or commandments that told you what you should not do.  With all of these commandments a person could get lost prioritizing them.  So the young scribe presents a valid question to Jesus, “Which commandment is the most important of all?”

We need to remember that the young scribe, like many young people today, felt that he really did love God; to him, the proof of this was the truth that He wanted to please the Heavenly Father.  And second He had been listening to Jesus for some time now, and He really did respect Jesus and His teaching.  He probably found a great degree of wisdom in the Words of Jesus; he seemed to be comfortable around Him, listening to Him.  So when he asked Jesus, which commandment was the most important, he was really asking for Jesus’ guidance.

And Jesus seeing a desire for truth in the young man looked directly into His eyes and says, “Hear, O Israel”.  (Don’t just listen to the Word of God, but really hear it; let it enter your heart and mind, and let it change you; let it give you wisdom.)  “The Lord your God, the Lord is One.”  (He isn’t like the false god’s of your neighbors; He doesn’t inhabit certain regions or nations.  He is the ONLY real God, the Creator of everything.  He is all powerful, all present, and all knowing.  He can come to you in any way He desires, and His Word and His teaching are the only source of real truth.  So now hear that truth and let it enter you; let it penetrate you.)  You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.  The second (most important commandment) is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  There is no commandment greater than these.” [Mark 12:28-31]

The operative Word there in those two great commandments is Love.  Let’s look at that word.  This kind of love that God demands for Himself isn’t mere affection and it doesn’t mean passion either.  God isn’t telling you to have a warm fuzzy feeling about Him and your neighbor.  He isn’t saying that you should just be passionate about Him and your community either.  He is telling you that the kind of love that you are to have is based on something foreign to you; something that is completely outside the realm of possibility for you.  He is telling you that the kind of love you are to have is more than a feeling; it is more than a decision to be nice.  It is an intellectual assent to something higher and beyond your natural ability.  It is a God given love that will sacrifice everything in order to see this kind of love rule and reign over you and within you; when this God given love is present, it loves all things that God loves and it loves others just as it loves it self.

So we see now, these are tough words, meant to give wisdom.  Is that what the young scribe received?  Well almost; He almost understood.  Listen to His response: “You are right, Teacher.  You have truly said that (God) is one, and there is no other besides Him.  And to love Him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

Well, that sounds pretty good.  He did a fine job of paraphrasing Jesus Words.  He even seemed to be paraphrasing another bit of wisdom that Jesus taught earlier concerning worship, “Go and learn what this means” He said, “‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’  For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”  [Matthew 9:13]  And so Jesus looks Him in the eye once again and says, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” [Mark 12:34]  You are almost there; you almost are wise unto eternal life.”  If only that young man would have asked Jesus to give him that heavenly love!

This morning Jesus is teaching an important lesson.  Knowing God and pleasing God are similar but separate.  Oh they’re close, but they aren’t so close as being the same.  There are two things that separate those who know God from those who please God.  And both of those things come only from God.

The first is the Word of God.  Hear O sinners.  Listen to the Word of God and let it penetrate you.  When you listen to the Word, when you really hear what it is saying you will know God’s truth and you will know His heart.  The truth of God is that you are trapped in your sins.  On your own you can never really love Him or your neighbor.  That kind of love can come only from your Creator.  And how does He give that love?  By allowing us to hear His Word.  And when we let God’s Word do what God intends for it to do, He gives us faith.  “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” [Romans 10:17]

If our gospel lesson ended right there, we along with the young scribe could go home with a lot to think about; a lot to pray about.  But Jesus does not send us home just yet.  He continues teaching.  I would like to think that as He continued teaching, He winked at the young scribe, slapped him on the back and said “Listen to what I say next, young man.”

And this is what He said next: “How can the scribes say that the Christ is the Son of David?  (I mean,) David himself, in the Holy Spirit declared, “The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet.”’  (You see there,) David himself calls Him Lord.  So how is He his Son?’

I can also imagine Jesus returning to the young scribe privately and saying, “Did you wonder why I winked at you?  Or did you see and understand what I just taught?  You know all about your traditions that teach about God’s final and righteous rule right?  You know the time is promised by scripture to come when the Messiah will take power and reign don’t you?  So, you also know that when the kingdom of God comes it will be visible and apparent, and everyone will have to acknowledge who it is that really runs all of creation, right?  Well listen now… it is happening right now.  I am the Messiah.  I am God’s Anointed One, who has come to make it all visible to all who have faith; to all who believe.”

This morning, Jesus has given to each of you the wink so to speak; a wink that unlocks the wisdom of God; the truth of His Word.  This morning you are being shown Jesus in the Word; Jesus in your baptism, and Jesus at the table in the meal.  And in these means of grace, you are being given faith to believe you are forgiven and faith to speak forgiveness.

Through the writings of the apostles and the testimony of all of scripture, you can read all of God’s Word with Jesus as the central figure.  You can go from the commandments of the law to the fulfillment of the Law, which is the gospel, in the person of Jesus, the One true God; God in human flesh.  Because of the love of the Father and the gift of faith through the Holy Spirit, you can hear the Words of the Son of God, Jesus Christ and know that through Him, God alone made all things new and right, including you.  You know that the same love that led Jesus the Messiah to the cross to die for the sins of the world also leads you to love God with your whole being, and to love your neighbor as you love yourself.

What is impossible for you to do, becomes possible when God is the one working in you and through you.  By faith, you know that much more than all of the burnt offerings and whole sacrifices are necessary to please your creator.  True obedience is demanded.  But you also know that this obedience had to come from outside of you; it had to come from God.  In Jesus, you see God Himself coming to you to offer both sacrifice and obedience, and as a result, by faith you receive His forgiving mercy.  And now as our epistle lesson (Hebrews 9:11-22) states, you have “such a high priest, holy, blameless, unstained, separated from sinners, exalted above the heavens.”  This one final act and the faith that comes from the very Word that teaches you about this work of God, is enough to draw you closer to the kingdom; so close that in fact you are now in that kingdom.  And now only two things remain.  You must rest in the kingdom of grace, forever enjoying the forgiving love of the Father, and you are asked invite others into it with you.

The pronouncement of God through Jesus Christ is, “You are forgiven!”  In the message of the gospel you have been given great power, the power of God unto salvation.  That message is for you but it is also for your neighbor.  Your neighbor may not feel obligated to love you, but God sure does, and He loves your mean spirited neighbor too.  The same God who in the beginning looked at His creation and called it good, wants to do the very same thing again with your neighbor who doesn’t know Jesus by faith.

That is the very reason you are still here living in this dark and dying world.  You are to bring light and life to it.  You are to bring the message of forgiveness through Jesus Christ to all who will hear.  When you see your neighbor and see how unlovable they are, God wants you to remember how much He loves you and how much you are to love Him.  He wants you to remember what real love is, not so you can feel guilt and shame, but so He can use you to speak words of faith and love to those who are faithless and unlovable, just as you once were.

In this holy house of worship, Jesus looks upon our neighbors just as He did the young scribe and says to their hard hearts, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”  Come unto me and find rest!

Believe and Become!

Sunday, October 21st, 2012

21st Sunday in Pentecost B, October 21, 2012
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA

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“”Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts. [Hebrews 4:7]

The song I chose as a mental hook, “We Fall Down” is by Pastor Donnie McClurkin.  I want  to take some liberty with the words, and  change them just a little bit.  Listen:  “We fall down, Christ picks us up.  For a saint is just a sinner who fell down, and Christ picked up.   He picks us up again; get back up again; He picks us up again; get back up again.”  Or as they say in the Philippines, in their Tagalog  language, “Na mon, Na mon.”  Again and again.

Today, listen don’t worry about tomorrow or yesterday, but today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts, but grab onto the  promises of His Word and get back up again and again!

Adam and Eve at first didn’t need the promise of forgiveness; they walked and talked with God in paradise.  But something happened;  sin happened and they lost access to both paradise and God.  But God wouldn’t let that separate Him from the people He created in His  image, so He did something to restore that image; He gave them mercy and grace, which in turn brought forgiveness and new life.  God  gave His promise that one day He would come to them and provide a Savior through the bloodline of the woman.  Adam and Eve fell in  sin, and God picked them up by giving them hope; He gave them the promise of a Savior, Jesus Christ, who would  pick them up!

Many years latter, the Hebrew people were in bondage and they cried out to God for help, and He heard them.  He reminded them of the promise He made concerning the coming Savior who would make all things new and right; He reminded them that they were a people of faith who should grab onto that promise.  So God sent them Moses, a type of savior, but not THE Savior.  Moses would lead them out of bondage and into a type of promise land, Canaan, but not THE Promised Land of Paradise.  But they began to grumble and complain.  They began to lose faith, and they sinned against God and their neighbors.  Their sin was serious; they would not repent of it and trust the promises of God.  So God punished them and they died in their sins.  But their children did  repent and believe, and God allowed them to enter Canaan.  They fell down, but the promises of God concerning their Savior lifted them back up.

Their faith in this promised Savior was the only way God would one day give them total rest… Sabbath rest!  And that one day came, and God kept His promise and came to them from their own bloodline.  Born of the Virgin Mary, Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God came to them in human flesh.  He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.  And on the third day He rose from the dead and proclaimed Sabbath rest for all who believe.  Through His death and resurrection He gave complete forgiveness for all sins.  This good news was preached first to the Jews, and then to all who would listen and believe.  Many rejected and fell down, but some believed and Christ picked them up.

And now we read in our Epistle lesson (Hebrews 4:1-16), that some are again in danger of disbelief; of lack of faith in the promises of God.  Some of them then and some of us now were and are in danger, so Christ desires to pick us up; He wants us to grab onto the promise of forgiveness and get back up.

I know that some of you here may feel like it might be too late to get back up; you might think that God is growing tired of you.  Maybe you feel that you are no longer counted among the saints, and instead you’ve become an ain’t!  Well like the song said, a saint is just a sinner who fell down and Christ picked up.  So… get back up again.  Do you need help getting up?  Then let this message from God pick you up again.

What was bad news for the wandering wilderness generation turns out to be good news for us.  You see, we learn that all of those who died in the wilderness, an entire generation of Hebrews, didn’t have to die; they could have repented, and trusted in the promises of God.  God would have lifted them up again, but they would not let Him, so they died in their sins, and the next generation made it to the promise land of Canaan.  But Canaan wasn’t the place where God would give them true Sabbath.  Canaan was just a shadow of the spiritual place and goal that God set before them in the promise of His Word.

Dear friends, that promise is still ours to grab onto, just as it was theirs.  It remains in force as an offer of peace with God; all any have ever needed to do was rest in the offer and receive the Savior who is promised in the Word of God.

Since countless men and women that went before us refused to trust in the promise of the Savior and died in their sins, forever cut off from paradise, then let us approach God and His promises with fear and trembling.  Otherwise we too may fail to reach our goal of paradise and peace with God.

The promises of God are the good news; the gospel about Jesus Christ.  Just as the promise came to those before us, it comes to us now… today!  The message they heard didn’t help them in the least, because they lacked faith in it.  You see, faith is the glue that sticks you to God and the hope of His promises fulfilled for you.  Faith is what gives you Jesus when you fall; the same Jesus who gladly calls you not just friend but brother.  He is the same Jesus who picks you up again and again.

By faith, God promises and gives to you Jesus, your true Sabbath rest.  By faith, we who believe in Jesus enter that Sabbath rest immediately at baptism.  And by faith, we walk in that Sabbath rest until we enter forever into God’s peace in paradise.  Since we have that rest and will forever experience that rest, shouldn’t we do everything to stay in that rest?  Shouldn’t we put all of our attention on protecting our relationship with Jesus?

How?  How do we protect that relationship?  By staying in the Word of God.  A Word that is sharper than a double edged sword.  It is the Word of God and not our money, things, or prestige that offers peace and delivers it.  The Word of God alone looks intently into our souls and shows us the sin that we hide so well from others, and then it offers us forgiveness and new life.  All that God asks of us that we trust Him; He asks that we hear Him speak to our hearts in His Word and simply believe.

It is the Word of God alone that strips you naked and vulnerable before your creator, and then offers to take your shame and cover it with the glory of Jesus Christ; the same glory that our parents, Adam and Eve once had but lost; but then had again when they placed their faith and trust in the promise of a Savior who would make all things new again.

In our gospel lesson, you heard again about the difficulty of a rich man getting into heaven.  In fact it is about as possible for a rich man trusting in his riches to get into heaven as it is for a Camel to pass through the eye of a needle.  In the middle ages a story was told about a gate in Jerusalem called the eye of the needle.  It was so narrow that a man or woman had to enter on foot, without a camel, horse, or weapons.  This design was intentional so that the city would be protected from invading warriors.

Whether that story is true or not is immaterial, but the illustration is perfect.  God wants you to place everything you trust in at the foot of the cross.  He wants you to come empty and naked to the waters of your baptism, where He clothes you with the righteousness of His own Son, Jesus Christ.  He wants you to trust Him with your time, talent, and treasure, so that He can give you the wealth of His kingdom.  In essence, He wants you to enter heaven through the narrow way… Jesus Christ alone.  And to make sure we trust in Christ alone so that a sinner becomes a saint, He speaks these Words of assurance to you.

Today, not tomorrow but today, if you are hearing His voice do not harden your hearts but enter into rest.  Turn to Jesus, the Son of God, your Compassionate High Priest.  Grab onto Him and let Him pick you up again and again.  Hold fast to your confession of faith that in Jesus alone you have peace with God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and Earth.  Because, you don’t have a High Priest in Jesus Christ who is unable to sympathize with your weakness, but instead you have your Savior and God who was born of the Virgin Mary just as you were born.  He suffered, not just in His death but in this life.  He faced all of the same tragedies and heartaches that you face, but He faced them perfectly, without sin, for you!  For you, He suffered, died, and was buried, FOR YOU, FOR YOU.  Let those words ring in your ears; let them soak into your heart and mind.  Jesus fell down; He let them put Him down, but then by His own power, the power of God He got up!  He got up so that you would trust Him and allow Him to pick you up, again and again, until the final day when He takes you up to your promised rest in paradise.

So be bold and grab onto the promises of God that were first given to you within the waters of your baptism.  Be bold and approach His table of grace where you dine on His body and blood, in, with, and under the bread and wine for the forgiveness of all of your sins.

Be bold, believe, and become the saint that Christ picks up.  Boldly believe and become all that God proclaims for you, in Jesus name… AMEN!

Too Much, Too Little, Too Late

Sunday, October 14th, 2012

20th Sunday in Pentecost B, October 14, 2012
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA

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And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to Him, Then who can be saved?”  [Mark 10:17-27]

That’s the million dollar question, pardon the pun.  If that rich dude who did a pretty fair job at keeping the law had the same chance of getting into heaven as a camel walking through the eye of a needle, then who can be saved.

Now, I chose the song “So Close and Yet So Far” as our mental hook to put the message on.  I could have also chose the Johnny Mathis song with the same title as our message, “Too much, too little too late,” but I like the idea that the rich young ruler was so close to heaven and yet so far.  The proof of that is in his question and how he received Jesus answer.  “How do I get to heaven?”  And to that Jesus says, “Sell everything you’ve got, give the money to the poor, and then come on and follow me.”

There’s your answer young man; and if Jesus says it’s the way for you, well then, you can take that to the bank.  Oops, pardon the pun again!

A Sunday school teacher was examining her pupils after a series of lessons on God’s omnipotence.  She asked, “Is there anything God can’t do?”  There was an appropriate silence in the room.  Finally, one young boy raised his hand.  The teacher, disappointed that the young boy still did not learn the lesson’s point, asked somewhat in a disappointed tone, “Well, just what is it that God can’t do?”  “Well,” replied the boy, “He can’t please everybody.”

Maybe a better way of saying that, is that Jesus knows a way that should please everyone, but most folks think they know more than Him, so they strike off to please themselves in a way that seems right to them, but in the end… well it just leads to judgment and death.

Throughout our lives God is consistently calling out to us; He’s asking us to take a truthful look into our hearts and admit that our transgressions are many, and our sins are great. But we don’t want to see those things.  He wants us to see that we live in an evil time, and that there is evil all around us.  He’s telling us to seek good, and not evil so we will live; He’s telling us to hate evil, love good, and then spend our lives not just loving God’s goodness, but also working to spread it throughout our community. [Amos 5:6-15]

Sounds like a plan, doesn’t it?  Yet, while we might agree with the plan, secretly, within our hearts, we can never accept that plan.  We can’t accept it, because it requires a complete surrender of everything that we have come to believe is important and necessary in this life.  The truth is, money, fame, prestige, and possessions are the things that society has taught us to seek and trust in.

Some years ago there appeared in the daily paper an account of two separate women.  One woman was a rich debutant who spent millions of dollars on clothes and possessions, including a bill for a $70,000 dress from Paris; the other woman, a modest Christian woman who once was rich, but now poor, admitted that she had given most of her millions to her church and various charities.  She was asked how she could so easily give away her estate and yet the other woman, could not do the same, and she replied, “Well, I guess it is a matter of taste—Paris gowns or heavenly crowns.”

Was giving her money away the key to pleasing God or was there something more that pleased her all powerful Creator.

Before the rich young ruler asked Jesus the million dollar question, he said something that caused Jesus to begin teaching with His own question.  The young man in complete sincerity ran up to Jesus, knelt down before Him and said, “Hello good teacher.”

Now I want you to understand what the young man means when he calls Jesus good.  It means that he respects Jesus; he admires Him, because He is wiser and better than him; or as my grandson Gabriel says, Jesus was “gooder” than him.  And because of this perception of his, He came to Jesus with a question that he’d been wrestling with for years: “What must I do to be saved?”

And what is Jesus response?  ‘Why are you calling me good?  You know that in our tradition, we never call anyone good but God, right?  So what is the reason you call me good?  You are struggling with a great concern; you want to go to heaven, but you don’t quiet know how to guarantee your place, right?  Now stop right there and remember, you called me good, on your own; that’s a description that you would usually only use for your Creator.  So, if I am truly good, then hear what I am about to say.’

‘You know the commandments that relate to your neighbor; those in your family and community, right?  Just do them.’  And the rich young ruler said to Him, “Teacher, all of those commandments I have kept from my youth.”  And what did Jesus do next?  Did He give Him a theological teaching on the inherit sinfulness of the human heart?  No, instead He looked at the young man and loved him.  He knew that this person was sincere in his belief that he was living a God pleasing life.  The problem wasn’t in His sincerity but in the reality.  While everyone looking at this young man on the outside would agree that he was living an exemplary life, Jesus who is God and looks into the heart, looked and saw judgment and pain.  Jesus knew that this young man had been duped by the world into thinking that doing your best is what pleases God instead of trusting your best with God.

So Jesus helps the young man see who his real God is; the one he really trusts in.  Jesus says, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come follow me.”

What Jesus was trying to get the young man to see, was that the one thing needful that he lacked was a real relationship with His Creator.  He lacked an intimacy with God that can only come through trust; through God’s undeserved love and kindness, which is always a gift on God’s terms.  It’s always a free gift and never earned.

When I was a young man, my grandfather corrected me on a hymn I was singing.  The hymn was “Trust and obey.”  I was singing it like this, “Trust and OK”.  But now that I am older, I still like those words much better.  If I can just keep learning to trust God’s care for me and His plan for my life, then everything will be OK.  There is no other way.  But that kind of trust in the true God is impossible if you are already trusting in something else.

“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”  The truth is friends, the real reason that the rich young ruler, and you and I have such a hard time receiving Jesus Words this morning is because when He speaks He is messing with our value system.  I mean, let’s be honest here; we all like to believe that what we have is ours, because we earned it; we worked hard for it.  We all like to look at our stuff, as proof of our success, and indicators of God’s approval and blessing in our lives.  And now Jesus is telling us that our “stuff” may not be a blessing at all.

What is it that really matters in life?  If it isn’t money and possessions; if it isn’t financial security, then what?  This morning, Jesus wants you to connect with the only One who is Good!  The rich young ruler was speaking to Him, and you do too!  Maybe like that rich young man, you also are asking God what the secret to eternal life is.  How can I know for sure that I am saved?  Well, like that young man, once you hear God speak and you listen, you have what God calls the beginning of wisdom unto salvation.

Then what about our doing good?  Doesn’t that count for something?  Well, the truth is that all of our own righteousness, our good deeds are simply like soiled rags before God, because we still have our sinful nature clinging to us.  And while we continue deceiving ourselves, thinking that we can please God by good behavior, Jesus looks at us and He loves us.  He loves us and dies for us upon the cross.  And from the cross He says follow me.  I have done all things good; all things good for you.  I am your treasure; your true wealth.

So who can be saved if there is nothing we can do to please God?  All can be saved.  All of us have been promised that salvation is ours for the taking, if we will just trust in God’s way; trust then ok.  All things are possible with God.  God alone is greater than our fears and our worries.  In His Word He gives us great treasures that make us rich.  In His Word He gives us Jesus and His righteousness.  By Jesus poverty we are made rich.

In God’s time, at just the right time Jesus died for the world.  He who emptied Himself and gave up His life on the cross, was also raised from the dead.  And in Jesus alone we have life, an abundant life and the promise of eternal peace and happiness.

This morning, Jesus is asking us to be vulnerable before God.  “Come and follow me,” He says.  Amos cries out to us this morning that we should “Seek the Lord and live,” but the truth is, we don’t have to seek Him this morning, because He’s already sought us and found us.  In the cross, God is revealed; more than that, the depth of God’s love is shown to us.  In the cross, God demonstrates the truth that He will never leave you or forsake you.

Jesus who loved the young man loves us as well.  He has declared us forgiven as He splashes water over us.  We are transformed as God’s Word of grace is spoken to us.  We eat the bread of life, we drink the cup of salvation and He tells us again that our sins are forgiven.  Through it all we experience God’s loving purpose for us revealed in the cross of Jesus.

I would like to think that eventually the rich young ruler understood that what he had to offer God on His own, was too much of too little.  I would like to think that he realized this before it was too late.  I trust that each of us has learned to place our own security on Christ, the solid rock.

So too, each of us who have been transformed, have come to discover that the giving of our time, talent, and treasure, isn’t something we must do to receive God’s forgiving love, instead it is something we will do because we already have his forgiving love.  We’ve discovered that “hating evil and loving the good”, as Amos says, is the result of our relationship with God.  Selling possessions and giving up all, even life itself, is possible only in the light of Jesus sacrifice for us upon the cross.

Through Jesus and His cross, through the waters of our own baptism, we discover that a camel really can go through the eye of a needle; we really can be saved, on Christ the solid rock we stand, all other ground is sinking sand!

Eat to Live!

Sunday, August 19th, 2012

12th Sunday in Pentecost B, August 5, 2012
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA

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“Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” [John 6:54]

Have you ever heard the saying “Eat to live, don’t live to eat”?  It’s a common catch phrase that the nutrition industry has come up with in an  effort to help us reexamine our diets, and there is good reason for doing that.  Did you know that about 36 % of Americans are classified as  obese?  And did you know that if the current trend holds, which experts believe it will, by the year 2030 a whopping 42% of Americans may end  up obese?  But wait, it gets worse, of that 42%, experts feel that 11% of them could be severely obese, which is about 100 or more pounds over a  healthy weight.

So yes, there is reason to examine just what it is we are eating and why we are eating it.  If we are living to eat, that is living for the enjoyment of  eating, the statistics are warning us that we could be in for big trouble.  And that is the message from God for us today.  It’s a message about  eating and drinking, but it isn’t talking about our physical diet so much as our spiritual diet!

Our first reading sets the table so to speak for the spiritual banquet that God has prepared for us this morning, listen: “Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!”  To him who lacks sense she says, “Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed.  Leave your simple ways, and live and walk in the way of insight.”

The Bible seems to always be reminding us that there’s two different kinds of eating, physical and spiritual, and that the spiritual food is a lot more important than the physical food: “Man does not live on bread alone but on every Word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.” [Deuteronomy 8:3]

This morning, wisdom is inviting us to feast on God’s Word; to continue developing the practice of going to church, attending Bible study, reading and sharing the Word of God at home and with friends and neighbors.  Wisdom of course is the presence and Word of God.  So really, the invitation to come to the banquet is an invitation to get to know God.  But before we will accept wisdom’s invitation, we have to first admit that we need it; we have to admit that we need God.  We have to admit that we are simple and lost sinners, lost in darkness and lacking judgment.  That is, on our own, we can only think of physical eating and drinking; we live to eat.  We must admit that there’s a greater kind of eating and drinking, a spiritual one that we can’t understand or see the need for unless God intervenes!

This morning, God is doing just that; He is intervening in a mysterious and powerful way.  This morning God wants you to see that everything you consume physically is dead.  Your meat is dead, your grain is dead, your fruits are dead, and your vegetables are dead.  Once you start munching them down they are dead.  We are simply dead people munching on dead things, unless… unless God intervenes.

In our gospel reading (John 6:51-69), God does just that.  This morning God comes to you by faith in the real presence of His Son Jesus Christ and says: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” [Vs. 51]  Does that offend you?  Does it confuse you?  It may, if you simply hear those Words and stop listening.  You may be confused if you are thinking about living to eat and not eating to live!

Standing before our eyes of faith this morning is Jesus Christ, the son of Mary but also the true Son of God.  Like the people in last week’s gospel, we might be tempted to grumble to ourselves and even out loud that this is only Jesus who was born of a woman named Mary.  He was a man like us in every way, wasn’t He?  So how can He say He will give us anything that will make us live forever?  Well the answer is in the origin of Jesus.  As the Living Bread, He is the Living Bread that came down from Heaven.  In other words, Jesus is reminding us that while He was born into our human existence as one of us, His origin is not from among us; He has come from heaven.  Before His birth Jesus would tell you that He was with us, and after His death, He tells us that He always shall be.

Who is Jesus?  He is the voice of wisdom calling out to the simpletons and sinners; He is calling out to you and me.  He calls us to come, eat of His bread and drink of His wine; a banquet meal that He and He alone has prepared for you.  This morning Jesus tells us that we can’t settle for any other diet.  It must be His bread, His body given for us.

But Jesus, ever the gracious host, offers you more than just food, He offers you a refreshing and life giving drink as well.  ““Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” [Vs. 54-55]

Now this is the point where the grumblers try to turn Jesus’ Words into something a bit more palatable (pun intended)!  They say, “Ok, surely He doesn’t mean we can eat His body and drink His blood.  That would be cannibalism.  So this must be one of those wise philosophical sayings that says one thing but means another.”  So the grumblers keep on listening and keep on looking for ways to twist His Words.  But Jesus isn’t done; not by a long shot!

“Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. [Vs. 56, 57]  Now the grumblers are really becoming uncomfortable.  Jesus is still insisting that we eat His flesh and drink His blood, but instead of giving us the meaning of this saying, He makes the assertion that if we want to live forever, we really need to feed on Him, because that’s what God sent Him for!

What is causing the confusion?  What is causing the offense?  Is it Jesus or those that listen to His Words?  It is those who are listening.  They are still living to eat and do not understand the need to eat to live.  So Jesus will give the grumbling munchers one more bit of wisdom in the form of a question.

“Do you take offense at this? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?” [Vs. 61b]  Do you take offense at that?  Do you see only the meal that is spread before you and fail to see the host who offers it?  Jesus is the son of Mary, but He is also the Son of God.  His flesh and blood are not simply like any flesh and blood; they are divine.  They have now somehow in a mysterious way become God’s flesh and blood.  The host has become the meal!  He who is Spirit has taken on flesh, and now He has become a new kind of flesh and blood; it is the flesh and blood of the God man Jesus Christ that you are offered to feed upon today.

In His Word He offers you real food; He shows you your sins and if you will see them, if you will eat that bitter herb, He quickly offers you the sweet delicacies of the gospel; He offers you forgiveness and peace with God your creator.  In your baptism He assigned you a permanent seat at His banquet table.  It is your place that He prepared for you at the beginning of creation.  Only you may sit there… only you!  And at that seat He prepared you for, He also dresses you like a prince, because that is what He has made you to be!  And in His Word, at His heavenly banquet He says, read, listen, and receive my Word, my flesh and blood.  Take and eat, this is MY body, which is given for you.  Here is the cup of thanksgiving; take and drink of it all of you; this cup is the new testament in MY blood, which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.

Do you hear the Words MY body, MY blood repeated over and over again.  It is truly His flesh and blood that He gives to us in His Word, in His Washing, and in His Holy Meal.  This morning Jesus wants you to see that by receiving His Holy Food, you are receiving Him. You receive His life and His death.

What the disciples who grumbled and complained could not see, and what many of those who live to eat today can’t see is that unless you eat the flesh and drink the blood of Jesus the son of Mary and the Son of God, you can’t have life.  Instead of eating to live, you will be living to eat.  What many can’t see is that in the heavenly food that Jesus gives is true life that comes from true sacrifice.  Upon the cross, the Son of God allowed men to take His life from Him.  He who is eternal, who can’t die died; He died because He became one of us for us.  He died because He gave His body and shed His blood for the sins of the world.  He died for you!

When Jesus says take and eat, take and drink, He is giving to you real food and real drink.  He is giving to you Himself; His life and death for the forgiveness of sins… your sins!  Will you eat to live, or will you continue to live to eat?  Do you see your great need for this mysterious eating and drinking or will you simply turn away as another grumbling muncher?

As for me, I will answer with St. Peter, “Alleluia, Lord to whom shall we go?  You have the Words of eternal life”.  Alleluia, alleluia!