Posts Tagged ‘Evangelism’

How to Live Under the Cross!

Sunday, January 30th, 2011

Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany (A), January 30, 2011
Rev. Brian Henderson—Pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
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These last few Sundays God’s Word has invited us to live a life under the cross of Jesus in these Words, “Repent because the Kingdom of God is at hand!  We discovered that while the world looks at this kind of life as foolishness God assures us that this is really the only way to experience His power of grace, which brings eternal life.

This morning, we’ll continue this teaching by looking at what this power of grace gives to us; namely it gives us the truth and experience of being blessed!  Now again, let me remind you that to the sinful world this is all just a bunch of nonsense!  They can’t hear Words of blessing in Jesus message because they don’t think that they are sinners who need to turn to God; in fact they think that God is right there with them in their sins!  What if we considered our gospel lesson this morning as Jesus state of the union message?  Well if that were the case, then His opponents should have equal time.  Maybe their response or rebuttal might sound something like this: “Dear friends, our simple little preacher would have you think that you are blessed or happy if you rest in weakness and poverty.  He sees the world as a place where we simply prepare to die in whatever state we find ourselves.  But we of the prosperity party say no… this isn’t what you need to hear and it is not what you should expect from your leaders.

 We say rather, happy are the aggressive people, those who know what they want and do anything to make that dream a reality.  They will be the successful ones of this world.  We say happy are those who are tough and hard-skinned, for they will never let this life hurt them or prevent them from knowing prosperity.  Happy are they who complain unceasingly.  We know that the squeaky wheel gets the oil and the ear-marks, so we will not be happy until we get our own way!  Happy are they who give very little thought to a Creator-God, because they are happy in their own skin and never worry about such a small thing as sin!  Happy are the demanding and self-serving business owners and managers, because they know how to get results!  Happy are the educated and knowledgeable men and women of this world because they can teach others how to be productive and serve the greater good, which we all know is seeing the rich get richer!  Happy are the troublemakers, because they really know how to make people take notice of them!”

And to this rebuttal, we hear the Church speak yet another message; we say: “Our Lord’s opponents once more prove that they do not understand the Kingdom of God.  They are talking about a material world which soon enough will vanish and no longer matter.  They don’t understand that the reality that Jesus speaks about is an eternal reality; a reality where there is a different kind of world, one where heaven and earth are combined into something real and something perfect.  They will not acknowledge this eternal reality because they will not repent of their sins.  They will not repent because they do not believe that the Kingdom of God has come!  But the time will come when they will believe in this reality because they will see it with their own eyes, but then it will be to late for them to enter.  They will experience it outside of God’s grace where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth!  There in that place, there will be eternal mourning and persecution that will never be relieved.  But you dear Christians are of another reality.  You by faith know that you are blessed and protected by God!”

This word “blessed” is repeated over and over like the sound of steeple bells from heaven.  Their ringing goes out to everyone in this sinful world inviting them to enter into peace with God through Jesus Christ.  Its God’s invitation assuring everyone that they can know peace with God right now, and soon enough never again experience sin, pain, suffering, or death!  This Word of blessedness is for everyone if they will just hear it and believe.  For those of us who believe, we are assured that we already have this rich possession of Heaven right now, but we have an even greater promise that guarantees that riches far greater than these will soon be ours!

Jesus says to us who place our hope in this Kingdom of Heaven, “Blessed are you who are poor in spirit, for yours is the kingdom of heaven.”  What does it mean to be poor in spirit?  Well, it means that God’s Word has convinced you that on your own you’re lost in your own sins.  It means that you know that unless you receive help from Him you can never know peace with God.  It means that you know that without Jesus Christ and His cross you have no hope.  It means that in your spiritual poverty you are moved to follow Jesus’ call to turn to Him.  And when by faith you turn to Him you also learn to rest and trust in Him, because in Jesus you have found the Kingdom of heaven!

It’s within this eternal reality that Jesus also says, “You are also blessed if you are mourning, because you shall be comforted!”  Don’t we all mourn and don’t we all have a great need to be comforted?  We mourn when a loved one dies or when we experience a great tragedy.  But don’t we also mourn intensely over our own sins?  Yes, when we sin, we feel deep pain and lose, we feel separated from God.  But God’s Word comes to us in the absolution and assures us that even in these times of great mourning over our sins, we are forgiven; that Christ died even for those sins.  We are assured that because we turn to the cross of Jesus and cling to what He has done for us He will never leave or forsake us!  What greater comfort could you receive?  Only this, one day you will see Him face to face and you will no longer need faith because you will live in His eternal presence and love.  But doesn’t the sinful world mourn and receive comfort too?  Yes friends, but their mourning shall never end and the little comfort they get here in this sinful world will soon end.  All because they would not believe that the Kingdom of heaven had come to them through Jesus Christ!

But Jesus also says, “Blessed are you who are meek, for you shall inherit the earth.”  Oops!  We might have a problem.  We aren’t always meek, in fact we can be outright aggressive and mean!  And to this fear, Jesus says, “But I am meek.  I was meek for you!  I let them lead me to the cross like a lamb going to slaughter; I let them kill me for you.  By my stripes, blood, and death, you’ve been healed.  You’ve been forgiven.  And because you believe that I did this for you, I have come and made my home within your heart.  I am in you and you are in me.  And because I am in you, I’m changing you… I’m making you meek!  All that I ask of you is that you rest in this truth, cling to it and allow me to transform you.  And because you rest in my truth I have declared you righteous!”

But now, our sinful minds remind us that we are not righteous and we never will be!  We are reminded that we may look righteous and clean on the outside but inside we are like the Pharisees and Scribes, we are full of deceit.  We are like freshly painted white tombs that on the outside are pleasing to the eye but on the inside we are full of dead men’s decay and bones!  And to this Jesus says, “Blessed are you because you see this; because you hunger and thirst for righteousness, you will be satisfied.  You know that you can never be righteous on your own, but you also know that I was righteous for you.  You know that I gave you this righteousness in your baptism, and you know that I continue to fill you with my righteous Word.  So listen to and read my Word.  Step up to my table and be nourished by my very body and blood that is yours in with and under the bread and wine!  Eat and drink, and be satisfied knowing what I have given to you through my means!

Well, now that we are beginning to understand just what the mercy of God means and how it has saved us, Jesus asks us to go demonstrate this mercy to our neighbors.  And He does it with these Words: “Now blessed are you who are merciful to others as I have been merciful to you!  I guarantee that you shall receive mercy!  You shall receive mercy because in me, you see the very Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world… even your own sin!  And because you see this in my Word, because you see my cross as a means of peace with your Heavenly Father, you are judged to be pure in heart.  Blessed are you friend because of this pure heart, for you shall see God.  You see Him even now in me.  In my Word you see me, in your baptism you see and hear me through the Word of forgiveness, and in my Holy Supper you see, smell, touch, and even taste my very body and blood which gives you a pure heart.

Dear friends, the Kingdom of God, the reign of heaven in Jesus already belongs to those of us who are poor in spirit, even to those of us who are persecuted because of our faith in Him.  But the promise of final comfort, our final inheritance, our final righteousness and experience of final peace with God will not come until we receive the final vision of God on the Last Day.  In the meantime, we who are the disciples of Jesus Christ must expect that our lives will be experienced through the lens of mourning, thirst, and hungering.  But our eternal reality is that we are saved in hope… “But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait eagerly for it through endurance.” [Rom. 8:24-25]  This present tension of blessing and joy, suffering and mourning until the Last Day of comfort is central to our lives as we live under the cross of Jesus, as we follow Jesus on this narrow path.  But we follow Him as His peacemakers, as His ambassadors of the cross, and as we follow Him we know that as His peacemakers, we should expect some persecution because we speak His Word to our neighbors.  In our witness, we bring the very peace of God and that peace is breaking violently into a sinful world that will have none of it!  So Jesus leaves us with this last truth; a truth that will only become clear under the cross: “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.  Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven!” 

I pray that this reward and joy of the Kingdom of heaven will become powerful and transforming in your lives as you learn to rest and live out the cross of Jesus Christ.  I ask this in Jesus name… AMEN!

Power in Folly!

Sunday, January 23rd, 2011

Third Sunday after the Epiphany (A), January 23, 2011
Rev. Brian Henderson—Pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
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INTRODUCTION: This morning, we’re allowed to briefly look into the heart of an apostle who is also a pastor.  This pastor, the apostle Paul is troubled by some news he’s received.  It seems there’s controversy brewing back in the parish over who is the best teacher, or preacher.  Some say its Paul himself, others say that it is Paul’s assistant pastor, Pastor Apollos, and others say that it’s Peter.  Then there’s another group who is trying to stay out of the whole argument, and they simply say, “I don’t know and I don’t care, I just follow Christ!”  Paul now wants them to examine themselves and their faith and see the error in what they have started.  He wants them to be of one confession of faith, and he wants them to be of one heart and mind, the heart and mind of Jesus Christ! 

Now before we begin to click our collective tongues at this whole mess, let’s see if we too have a need to repent and refocus our lives. If you call yourself a Democrat or Republican Christian, you may have to repent.  If you call yourself a poor, middle class, or wealthy Christian you may need to repent!  If you only call yourself a Christian around other Christians then friend, you really do need to repent!  Now why do you think that any of this really matters?  Friends, it matters because the world is watching us; your neighbor is watching you!  They want to see if you’re the real thing; they want to know if you’re any better off than they are; they want to know if you really have the power of God unto salvation!

I. [1 Cor. 1:10-18] Was Paul angry when he wrote this letter to the church at Corinth?  No, I doubt it, but he was concerned.  There have always been disagreements among people of faith and there always will be.  Paul simply wanted to get everyone back to common ground… he wanted them to go back to the very foundation of their faith, Jesus Christ.  If he could get each person’s heart back to what Jesus did equally for each of them, then these other matters, like who is the best preacher, or what political party you vote in become secondary, and may I even say unimportant?

Divisions weren’t anything new in Martin Luther’s day either.  Listen to what he said regarding divisions that were created because of his preaching of the gospel: “For the operations of God are not childish or bourgeois or human, but divine and (they exceed) human (understanding).  But you do not seem to see that these tumults and divisions are marching through the world by the counsel and operation of God, and you are afraid lest the heavens should fall.  But I, by the grace of God, see this clearly, because I see other greater troubles in time to come, by comparison with which these present seem no more that the whisper of a breeze or the murmur of a gentle stream.”  What is Luther teaching?  He’s teaching the same thing that Paul is teaching and it’s this: Each one of you is saying something different, and that is what will cause divisions.  Instead of being different for your own purpose be different for God’s purpose.  Instead of preaching opinion to your neighbor, and causing division, preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ and let the divisions be between light and dark, good and evil!  Speak of Christ crucified!

Now there’s a danger when we share our faith with our neighbor, and Paul wants to be sure that we don’t fall prey to this threat.  What is that threat?  Friends, it’s the temptation of proclaiming a bloodless gospel, or if you will a cross without a the body of Jesus!  Why would we do that?  Because many people today don’t like to hear about a Savior who died a criminal’s death.  They don’t want to hear about a savior who was beaten near death, and executed on a cross.  So instead of simply sharing the gospel as it’s found in the pages of the Bible, the temptation is to explain these things with modern ideas, or to just share the moral ideals of our Christian faith.

Then there are those that we will encounter who don’t mind hearing the mysteries about a dying God, who came to us in our flesh and lived the perfect life on our behalf; they enjoy hearing how this God paid the penalty for our sins,  but to just leave it there, doesn’t seem fair.  This group of people insists that they need to add something to Jesus work upon the cross!  So for these challenged individuals, the church has, in error I will add, come up with little rules and regulations to help sell the message of the cross.  These false teachings say things like, “Jesus starts us on the right path with His cross and with our own baptism by giving us His grace, but after that” they say “it’s our responsibility to finish what He started by living a good life!”  With this sleight of hand, they turn God’s work into the work of sinful men and women!

To both of these groups, Paul is almost shouting at us in vs. 17 and saying, “No!  Christ didn’t send me or you to proclaim a gospel that’s centered on eloquent wisdom, the work of sinful man, or in a way that will be more accepting to sinful people!  If we do that then the cross that’s saved us will be emptied of its power!”

II. [Matt. 4:12-25] Do you want God’s power in your life?  Then look to the cross!  What kind of power am I talking about?  Well how about this… it’s a power greater than the power that God used to create the entire universe!  It’s the power of God unto salvation and we call that power grace!  Grace is the undeserved kindness of God; it’s God making you right with Him and not the other way around.  Its new birth through the washing of the water and the Word!  It’s the power of grace that gives you faith to believe in God’s Word and follow it where ever He leads!  It’s the power of the Word which moves you to trust God even when you doubt Him.

In our gospel reading this morning, Jesus demonstrates that power for us when He calls Simon-Peter and his brother Andrew out into the mission field.  If you remember in last week’s gospel reading, Jesus had already spoken the Word of eternal life to them.  They were given God’s power of grace and faith unto everlasting life, and now Jesus calls them to learn to use that power to build the Kingdom of God.  What was this Word that Jesus spoke to them that was so full of the power of God?  It was “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.  Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” [Matt. 4:17-19]

Dear friends, in these Words of Jesus we see two things.  First we hear that we must repent.  “That seems easy enough” many think, “I must simply quit doing bad things and try my hardest to do good!”  But friends, this is a grave and mistaken way of looking at repentance.  This type of repentance becomes your work and not the work of Jesus!  Do you want to see the work of Jesus?  Look to the cross!  That is His Work, His work for you!  To repent does not mean turning away from your sin to be saved it means turning to the cross and seeing Jesus suffering and dying for you.  It means clinging to a Savior, to a God who died in your place so that you will be saved!  Now some might say, “Oh that’s just semantics preacher.  They both accomplish the same thing!”  And to that I say, “NO!”  Not at all; you see one way of repenting gives you glory for having the wisdom to know that you are a sinner.  It gives you glory for taking the initiative to turn away from your sin.  But the other way, the Biblical way to repent is to simply turn to God’s mercy and forgiving love and see Him dying in your place.  To turn to Jesus is to know that only through Him can we find life, abundant life!  And when we turn to Jesus we also hear Him say, “Follow me!” 

Why do we follow Jesus?  Because we have heard Him call and invite us through the mighty power of His Word.  Why do we follow Jesus?  Because His Word has moved us to turn to Him and trust Him.  Can you see friends that it is God alone who has done this great work of repentance within you and it is God alone who should get the glory!  Through the Word of God and His invitation to follow Him we begin to hate our sin, and we are given the power to live a new life—the life of holiness.  Through the power of God unto salvation we are not only forgiven but we are changed.

The story is told of a former alcoholic who met up with a bunch of his former friends.  They were shocked that he became a “goodie two shoes” Christian, so they began belittling him. “Man, you use to be so sensible!  How can you believe in miracles like Jesus turning water into wine?”  The man responded by showing the evidence of his own changed life: “Whether you believe that Jesus turned water into wine I’ll leave up to you, but I know that in my home He’s turned whiskey into furniture and food and clothes for my wife and kids!”

CONCLUSION: Yes, the Word of God often does seem like folly to our unsaved neighbors, family, and friends, but to us who have been saved by seeing Jesus’ cross as our only means of salvation, it is God’s mighty power!  It is a mighty power that is always changing us and demonstrating His saving love and just how real He is!  Through the Christian artist the world is shown that Jesus and His cross are the source of all beauty.  Through the Christian musician they discover melodies that even the angels can’t sing.  Through the Christian builder, the world is shown that Jesus is the sure foundation.  In the service of the Christian baker, the world is shown that the church, which is Christ’s body is the one true loaf.  Through the Christian doctor, the world learns that Jesus is the great physician.  Because of the Christian geologist, the world learns that Jesus is the Rock of Ages.  In the love and care of a Christian parent, Jesus is pointed to as the way for the world to know the true Father.  And when each of us is living our calling through Jesus Christ, the sinner learns that Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  And for we who make up the Christian church, together we declare that Jesus is the Son of the Living God, our great savior who calls each of us to follow Him to His cross by living out our own cross of service and suffering for our neighbor and together building the Kingdom of God.  I pray that you will continue to follow this call and find your vocation as a means to be fisher of men.  I ask this in Jesus name… AMEN!

Is Your Vocation Clear?

Sunday, January 16th, 2011

Second Sunday after the Epiphany (A), January 16, 2011
Rev. Brian Henderson—Pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
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INTRODUCTION: The title of our sermon comes to us in the form of a question: “Is your vocation clear?”  Another way to ask this is: “What are you going to do with your life?” 

When I was 9 years old, my grandfather said to me “Brian, one day you are going to serve the Lord!”  “Huh?”  What did that mean?  I never gave his words much thought; after all I was just a kid!  But, by the age of 14, I thought I knew the answer to our question this morning… I was going to be a Jazz musician, a trumpet player to be exact!  I worked hard at my craft, and studied everything I could get my hands on.  I excelled in all types of music and received some of the best training.  At 18 years of age, I was a music major at the University of Wisconsin.  My professor said I showed promise as a young jazz musician, but He said my music lacked drive and purpose.  “Whatever!”  I didn’t have a clue what he meant by that; all I knew was that I was having fun; I was playing every weekend in two different bands and getting paid enough money to pay for my tuition.  And then one day two things happened to me that changed my life.  First, a fairly accomplished and somewhat famous jazz trumpet player told me to get out of the music business.  He said in a very colorful way that I won’t repeat, that I didn’t have the heart or the talent to be a real jazz musician.  He said I should find a vocation that’s more suited to my calling!  And to this I thought, “What does he know, he’s just an old guy!”

Well right after that, I was in a club trying to book a gig for my band when someone broke into my car and stole not just my trumpet, but my guitar, amplifier and microphone.  In a moment, all of the tools of my trade and schooling were taken from me!  I was heartbroken.  Now what would I do?  I thought about this question and talked to many people I loved and respected, and each of them told me the same thing: Find a job that will make a difference in people’s lives.  Find a calling!  And what did I become?  A cop!  I spent nearly 30 years in that profession, and it wasn’t until I reached the half way mark that I remembered my grandfather’s words, “One day, you are going to serve the Lord!”  What did that mean?  Wasn’t I serving Him as a law enforcement officer?  Yes, I was supposed to be doing that very thing, but was I?  This is the question that caused me to begin to dig deeper and deeper into God’s Word and the meaning of vocation and what I discovered is explained in a wonderful way in all three of our readings this morning!  

I. [Isaiah 49:1-7] In our Old Testament lesson this morning the question, “What is our calling?” is explained quite nicely.  First and foremost, we discover that our calling comes directly from God.  This becomes clear in the very first verse, and it continues throughout: “Listen to me, you coastlands, and give attention, you peoples from afar.  The Lord called me from the womb, from the body of my mother He had (already) named (me).” [Vs.1]  “And He said to me, “You are my servant”. [Vs. 3]  “And now the Lord says, He who formed me from the womb to be His servant” (Vs. 5a), “I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”

Friends, God calls each of us to be a light for the nations through His Word!  And it’s that same Word that is always leading us to Jesus Christ, who not only puts our names in the book of life, but in fact, He is the book of life! [Phil. 4:3; Rev. 3:5]  That same word assures us that “God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world.” [Eph. 1:4]  Before the foundation of the world, God chose to set you apart as His own child.  At that time it was God’s desire to speak to your heart through His Word and create faith.  And by faith your heat has been moved to look to the cross of our Lord and see the place where He suffered and died for the entire world; even for you.  In your baptism, Christ has assured you that He chose to die upon the cross for you!  It was there in your baptism where Jesus offered himself to you in a very personal way.  He confirmed to you that He really does want you to hear His Word and let it save you, change you and lead you.  In His Word, Jesus gives you what He has promised, namely the power and presence of the Holy Spirit.  He gives you divine assistance to remain faithful; He gives to you the assurance that through this washing of the water and the Word you will attain salvation.

But like Isaiah, we might say, “But (I feel like) I have labored in vain; (Like) I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity!”  And to this statement of doubt, God’s Holy Spirit speaks to us through the Word.  He takes us back to the day we were washed clean and He gives us faith to remember and proclaim, “Yet surely my right is with the Lord, and my recompense, (that is my promised reward) is with my God and what He has done for me, is doing for me, and will do for me through Jesus Christ!”  In essence, the Holy Spirit takes our doubts back to the source of our call and our salvation, God’s Word, and through the Word, He holds Christ in front of our eyes and says, “Behold the Book of Life!”  He then opens the book of life and reveals that through our baptism and our reliance on the promises that come from the living Word of God, our names are there recorded.  How does God reveal these promises to us?  Through the preaching of the holy gospel, which gives us Christ crucified and resurrected for us.  It is the gospel alone that gives our lives true meaning, direction and purpose!

II. [1 Cor. 1:1-9] By now I trust you see how important and certain your calling from God is?  And at this point, many will ask, “But what if I made a mess of my life?  Won’t I just keep screwing things up?”  Yes, but that’s why you need to always go back to the Word of God, which promises that it is He who began the good work or calling in you Who will complete it! [Phil. 1:6]

You know friends, no one more desperately needed to hear and believe these Words more that St. Paul.  Remember, this was the man who was known as Saul; a man who helped persecute, punish, and even kill Christians.  But one day, on the way to Damascus, He encountered the Living Word of God, Jesus Christ.  There Paul was called to repent of His sins and then be baptized and receive salvation.  Latter, Paul would even be called to be an apostle.  That is why Paul begins our epistle lesson this morning with these words, “Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God…” [Vs. 1]  But Paul has more to say about this call from God; he isn’t content to just speak about his call, he also wants to speak to the whole church, first to a local congregation, and then to each and every person who has been called and set apart as holy, and invited to walk with and serve God.  He says, and to “the church of God that is in Corinth, those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours”.  [Vs. 1-2] 

Friends, can you hear in these Words that our calling isn’t just a personal calling, but it is also a collective calling?  We’ve been called “together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours!”  Do you hear the inclusiveness of those words “together with all” and “who in every place”?  This togetherness is also known as fellowship.  It is a fellowship around a common calling.  Each of us has been called into a fellowship with God the Son, Jesus Christ.  We have been called to rest in His Kingdom of Grace but we’ve also been called to help build that kingdom.  We’ve been called to take God’s Word outside of our little congregation and follow our Lord where ever He leads and live out our lives in a way that gives Him glory.

You see friends, it isn’t enough to say “Jesus is my personal Lord and Savior,” because your calling through Jesus Christ isn’t just the call of any single person; instead, it is the call of the entire Church.  We are called and we follow by faith together.  Think of how our Lord taught us to pray: “OUR Father,” “Give US this day” and “Forgive US our trespasses!”  In spite of all the things that divide us these days, we still have a very common ground that we stand upon.  Each of us has been saved from our sins, sanctified in Jesus Christ, and set apart to serve God together with all those in every place who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours!”

III. [John 1:29-42a] So what will this calling look like first in our individual lives and then as the body of Christ? Our gospel lesson this morning answers that very question for us.  Immediately we are allowed to see John the baptizer sharing His faith in Jesus the Messiah, and he does it with these words, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” [Vs.29] And very soon after he says: “And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.” [Vs.34] Dear friends, these are the words of a Kingdom builder.  A kingdom builder always takes the attention of his neighbor off of the one who is proclaiming God’s love, and then he directs them to the true source of forgiveness and peace with God.  A kingdom builder always leads others to the Lamb of God Jesus Christ!

What is it that this Lamb of God takes away?  It is the entire sins of the World.  As many people who have lived, are now living, and will live in the world are included in this statement.  Each and every life stained with sin, all sin, even your sins are included.  So many individual masses of sins are gathered, and all of these individual masses are gathered into one super mass, so that you have the “sins of the world.”  In Jesus, “God laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” [Is. 53]  Remember that just one sin in God’s eyes is enough to separate your from His love and presence, and Jesus takes upon Himself all of this super-mass.  Through Jesus Christ, the lamb of God, your sins, your guilt has really been taken away.  He burdened Himself with your sins.  These sins that He takes upon Himself are what moved Him to suffer and die so that all of our sins would be removed and so that we would know that we really may have an eternal life of peace and joy.  Do you want to know peace with God?  Then you must look to the Lamb of God crucified and risen above.  Do you want to build the Kingdom of God?  Then you must encourage your neighbors to look to this Lamb of God and see by faith that their sins have also been placed upon the back of this Lamb!  That’s why John the baptizer points to the Lamb of God and that’s why we should do the same thing as we share our faith.   

This was the message that Andrew heard from John and this is the message that He heard from Jesus Himself.  We see first that Andrew heard the testimony of a Christian, and then he was encouraged to go directly to Jesus, the living Word of God.  How do we follow our calling?  By resting in the Kingdom of God and then by introducing people to our Savior; we assure them that He is their Savior and then we leave the whole matter with Jesus.  And how will Jesus speak to those you lead?  Why the same way He spoke to Andrew.  Listen:  Jesus asked Andrew, “What are you seeking?” And then He said, “Come and see!” [Vs.38-39]

Friends, Jesus could have easily said, “Come back tomorrow” or “make an appointment for latter and I’ll get back with you.”  Important people in our day do that, don’t they?  They don’t want to be bothered by daily distractions, so they protect themselves with secretaries, unlisted phone numbers, and even personal security, but Jesus isn’t like those people.  Nothing could be easier than having time with Jesus.  All we need to do to speak with and know the King of Kings is to call out to Him in repentance and prayer and open His Word, and He will be their immediately to speak and to listen!

CONCLUSION: Dear friends, Jesus said to Andrew, and He says to us this morning, “Come and See!”  These Words are meant to bring an invitation and they’re mean to bring comfort.  They’re meant to encourage us to seek the deeper things of life that can only come from Jesus, the Son of God, who is the Living Word of God.  These Words say to us, “Come with me to a secret place where you can speak to me and learn from me and about me everything that your heart desires to ask.  All this is yours if you will just follow me!  And Andrew did follow Jesus, and where did Jesus lead Him?  To His brother Simon!  And Simon believed because of the same living Word of God, which spoke to Him in a way that no one else ever could!  But Simon didn’t just believe, He also followed and became a Kingdom builder by repeating the same scenario over and over.  This dear friends is how God has always built His kingdom; He builds it through His means of grace and simple little redeemed sinners like you and me.  He builds it with three simple words, “Come and see!”

Is your calling clear?  Yes it is!  What does God want you do with your life?  He wants you to live out your faith in Him and share that same faith wherever you are and with whomever He puts in your path.  So the next time someone asks you if you go to church, don’t just be satisfied with the simple answer “Yes,” instead follow up with a question of your own, “Do you want to come?!”  I pray that you continue to follow this high calling that God has given to you and I ask this in Jesus name… AMEN!

Ok… If you say so!

Sunday, February 7th, 2010

Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church-San Diego
Epiphany 5C, February 7, 2010
Click here for audio of this message

Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” (Luke 5:10b) 

It’s been a long morning of hard work for Simon-Peter.  Fishing, fishing, and more fishing and not a single fish to show for his labor.  Peter is tired and he is discouraged!  He’s sitting at the edge of the lake cleaning his nets, hearing Jesus speak… hearing Him teach, but not really listening to the words.  He’s more concerned about how he’s going to care for his family.  Have you been there?  Do you know how Peter feels? 

The crowds are pressing in on Jesus to hear the word of God. They seem hungry to hear it, and all Peter can think of is how hungry his family will be if he can’t put food on the table!  As the crowd presses in on Jesus, they’re also moving Him to the water’s edge. What’s Jesus answer to this dilemma?  He calls for a pulpit and they bring him a boat, Simon Peter’s boat to be exact.  Peter must have thought, “Well at least it’s good for something!  It sure didn’t do me any good!”   Jesus climbs into the boat and begins to teach the people about God and His kingdom of grace. They are hanging on His every Word, because they are like sheep without a shepherd.  Within the voice of this shepherd, unlike false ones, they find an unexplainable sense of comfort and assurance within His words.

We don’t know what exactly what Jesus preached that day because it isn’t recorded for us.  Peter probably didn’t know either, because He was more interested in cleaning his nets and providing for his family.  But we do know that He was most certainly preaching faith into the hearts of those who were listening!  “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing the Word of God,” which is always centered in the message of Christ Jesus!   What is that message?  Repent!  Turn away from your sinful notions about God and His Kingdom of righteousness; hear the truth about your sinful nature, and then hear how the Father of mercy and love has solved that fatal problem, and hear how He gives you new life through the forgiveness of your many sins!

Now when Jesus had finished His sermon, knowing that those Word’s were bringing new life into the hearts of the people, He turned to the one man who needed to be listening, but wasn’t.  He turned to Simon-Peter and said, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”  And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” [Luke. 5:4-5]

Could you hear the frustration in Peter’s words?  “Put out?!  What do you think we’ve been doing all morning?  But, ok Lord… if you say so!  But I’m not happy with this!”  Some of us might find fault with Peter for throwing his little fit… I mean after all, this is the same Jesus who recently healed his mother-in-law from a life threatening illness!  “Come on man!” we might be thinking, “Where’s your appreciation?  Where’s your faith?”  But the proof of faith is in the fruit of service! Peter did as the living Word of God instructed, all be it reluctantly.  And in the end, he was blessed because of his obedience. 

Friends, attitude and obedience are not the same thing!  Attitudes change like the winds, or like the waves upon the waters that are being fished!  But obedience and trust in God’s Word are the very thing that controls the winds and the waters, even the fish beneath them.  

While Peter was busy tending to the worries of life, hundreds of people were blessed with faith unto salvation, which came to them through the living Word of God.  This was a Word that Peter had probably heard many times.  Maybe he felt that he could afford to do something else with his time… this time, but Jesus had other ideas.  Jesus wanted Peter to be blessed also.  So He calls and Peter responds!  Reluctant but obedient!  

Peter needed to hear the Word… we need to hear it!  But what is that word? 

It is the same message that the people on shore needed to hear… forgiveness!  What was Peter’s reaction to the miraculous catch of fish that he, John and James took in?  He was ashamed!  Ashamed that he neglected the Words of His Master!  Ashamed that His heart was not centered on the miraculous Words of Jesus.  And so we hear his confession, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” [vs.8]   

Dear friends, in this simple story we see the loving care that Jesus demonstrates for all God’s children, even the ones who aren’t listening or won’t listen!  Peter’s ears had checked out because his heart was consumed by other things.  But He needed to hear the Word; he needed to hear about God’s love, so Jesus engaged his eyes in order to open his heart!  And so it is with us! 

So many times we let the worries and cares, or maybe the fun and distractions of our lives drowned out God’s Word… His living presence in our lives.  And when we do this, we begin to lose perspective, God’s perspective; so He intervenes.  What is He trying to tell us?  That we need Him… we need His forgiveness… we need His Words of eternal life!  For in Him we live and breathe, and find our existence!  And when He gets our attention, like Peter, we are ashamed and full of remorse!  We confess to Him that we have lived our lives as if He did not matter.  And praise God for this confession friends, because it is the very thing that moves His to quickly speak His Words of love and forgiveness to us.  “Do not be afraid!  I have overcome sin, death and the devil!  You are saved from these things… you are forgiven.  But you are saved with a purpose!” 

And what’s that purpose?  To be obedient!  Jesus wants you to follow Him where ever He leads!  He wants you to take His Word with you in your heart wherever you go!  What Word is that?  The same Word you received in your baptism… the same Word you hear preached and read for yourself… the same Word you eat and drink; the Word of repentance and forgiveness!  Jesus wants you to bring Him and His message of eternal life to your neighbor… He wants you to be a fisher of men!  And unlike the fishing that takes place in rivers, lakes, and oceans, where being caught means death, He wants to help you catch your neighbor so that He can bring them life!  He wants you to catch people unto eternal life! 

Jesus asked Peter to leave everything and follow Him.  And for some, for pastors, chaplains, deaconesses and missionaries, that is still His call!  While that certain call is admirable, it is not the only call!  Jesus calls each of us in whatever position of life we find ourselves to be fishers of men!  You don’t need to take a course of evangelism or persuasive speech to fish these waters!  All you need is a call!  All you need is a Word from God!  And my friends, each of us has this call, and each of us has the message.  We are to speak the Words of life… we are to speak of repentance and forgiveness.  The same message that saved us is the very message that will save our neighbors! 

Dear friends, this story about Peter’s experience is recorded here for us, so that his experience will become ours; so that the same faith and energy that was created in Peter will be created in us.  God wants us like Peter to have a strong faith that will overcome the doubts of this world, and then He wants us to have the obedience to follow Jesus and see others caught by the very same message.  

As you live your life friends, be ready to allow God to speak to you and through you… be ready to let Him call you and lead you.  And when you have an opportunity to speak for Him, share His message with your neighbors.  The ones that God has prepared friends will listen and they will follow you, just as the crowds on the lake shore hung on every Word that Jesus spoke.  And where will you lead them?  To the very same place that God dutifully ministers to you… right here in this very church!  Here where the baptism font waits to destroy the power of sin, death, and the devil!  Here to hear the Words of eternal life proclaimed!  Here to feast at His table where forgiveness is served through His body and blood in, with, and under the bread and wine! 

Well, let me close with the remainder of our lesson this morning, and then offer a final thought:  After Jesus gave Peter his direction, and after Peter responded in obedience, the result was a catch of fish that was miraculous.  Seeing that this catch was far more than he could have imagined or handled alone, “(He) signaled to (his) partners in the other boat to come and help (him). And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink.” [vs. 7]  Dear friends, fishing for men is a team endeavor.  We need you if we are to fill this boat, Christ’s church, even this little boat we call Trinity.  That’s your calling; it’s the calling of each and every one of us!  And why should we fill this church?  So that the Word that is proclaimed may draw other “fishers of men” into the service of Christ, and so that the Kingdom may be expanded one forgiven sinner at a time! 

I pray for a blessed and fruitful catch, in Jesus name…. AMEN!