Posts Tagged ‘Fear’

Are You Ready?

Sunday, November 18th, 2018

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

Click here for audio of this message

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Because of Christ alone.  

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

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

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

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

Oh Death

Sunday, September 11th, 2016

Sixteenth Sunday After Trinity-HL, September 11th, 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

The song you just heard, “O, Death” was from the movie entitled, “O Brother, Where Art Thou.”  It is a mournful and honest look at death in a unique way that only our brothers and sisters from the south can proclaim.  We are afraid of death, because it is not natural according to God’s original created order.  We were not created to die.  But we do die, don’t we?  So how much longer do you have to live?

If you were to have posed that question early in the morning to any of the 2,969 people who died as a result of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, they probably would have replied that they had much longer to live.  But instead, on that day, death entered into their lives, the lives of their families and into our lives as a nation in a very violent way.  What impacted us as a nation the most on that fateful day I think, was the fact that we were forced to realize that the threat of war, violent attacks, suffering and death are certainly a part of our reality as Americans; even if we are simply minding our own business and just trying to live our lives the best we can.

In or Old Testament reading [1 Kings 17:17–24], a widow woman who was chosen by God to care for the great prophet Elijah discovered the truth about death also.

There she was, minding her own business when God broke into her life.  She must care for this stranger and trust him and the God who sent him.  And now, her son is dead?  Was it because of her sins that she was being punished?  Does God punish us with sickness, suffering, and death simply because we are sinners?

The Bible assures us that God never punishes His people whom He has called through His Word for the sins they have committed.  Listen to what Paul declares in the book of Romans: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. [Romans 8:1]

But the truth is, there is a direct correlation between sin and death; not your specific sins but sin in general that shattered our reality when Adam and Eve first rejected the truth of God’s Word for the lie of the devil.  And since that first sin, we like all those who came before us are trapped within a sinful world.  Sickness, violence, disease, and death are constant reminders that we live in a broken sinful world; the perfection of Eden is gone!  But God is not; He has not abandon us.  He is with us in the person of Jesus Christ, the Son of God!  Suffering is the reality of life; the gospel and the presence of Jesus Christ does not deny it nor negate it, but instead through the Gospel, Jesus passes with us through these things.

In our Gospel reading (Luke 7:11-17), Jesus, the Prince of Life, meets and confronts death as it is carrying away yet another helpless prey that it has successfully stalked and conquered.

But Jesus confronts death in a very dramatic and supreme way; He declares to sin, death, and the devil that He has come as the champion of those who would otherwise simply be prey and victims. The city of Nain was walled in, and the closest way out of the city on the way to the cemetery was this one large gate in the wall. As Jesus was about to enter this gate with his large number of disciples, the dead man, his mother and the large funeral procession were about to leave the city.  Jesus and his great following stopped, as the large funeral procession came toward him and then they also stopped.

Let’s put ourselves in the shoes of the dead man’s mother.  This was not the first time that she made this trip to the cemetery, because our reading says that she was a widow.  That means that she and her son who is now dead at one time, made this very same trip with husband and father.  But this time it is different.  This time she is truly alone, or is she?

In the middle of her great sorrow, Jesus the Prince of life enters into her grief and says, “Do not weep.”  And almost at the same time He reaches His hand out, touches the dead man’s funeral bier and says, “Young man, I say to you arise.”  And this grieving mother is given back her only begotten son by the only begotten Son of the Heavenly Father.

In this brief moment of time, death, which is the destroyer of dreams and a usurper of hope, is confronted and defeated by Jesus.  And with this act of compassion, Jesus proves that He is God, because only God has mastery over death.

That people must die is a misfortune.  It was not meant to be.  God did not create us to die.

God did not bring death, sin did, and our sin still does.  Sin is intrinsically bound together with the fact that we have fallen from God and that human life is not what God would wish it to be; it’s not what He created it to be.  Death has come upon us all, for we all have sinned.

Because of sin we experience death as an enemy and a misfortune.  We dwell in a land of deep darkness and in the shadow of death.  We are those “who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage.” [Hebrews 2:15]  When young people die we feel especially the shattering and crushing power of the dominion of death.  Even Jesus felt this when He was confronted with the death of His friend Lazarus.  Lazarus, along with the other two people He raised from the dead were all young people.  We are told that “He was deeply move in the spirit and troubled at the graves of these young people and that He had compassion when He saw the widow of Nain.  Even Jesus knew the taste and pain of death.

That Jesus raised the dead is proof that He is the Son of God.  God alone grants life, and it is He who determines all of life.  And as the Father can raise the dead, so to the Son of God has the power to give life to whomever He wills.  By raising people from the dead Jesus has proven two things: First, who He is.  “These very works” He says, “which I am doing bear witness that the Father has sent me.” [John 5:36]  But beyond this He has revealed that death is something that must be overcome, and that it does not belong in the kingdom of God.  Here, as always, the deeds of Christ bear witness to the kingdom that is to come.  And there, even death will be conquered.  There in paradise restored, there is no more death.

There is a decisive difference between these miracles of raising the dead and the resurrection of Jesus.  When the widow received her son back again alive, he was the same person as before; that is he would die again.  Yes life had returned, but the body was just as mortal as before.  However, when Jesus arose from His death upon the cross, He could no longer die, and death had no more dominion over Him.  Jesus rose with a “glorious-glorified body.”  He was the first fruits of a new recreated humanity and the new world to come.  He was the first to rise from the dead, but not the last.  One day the whole world will be born anew, when God creates a new heaven and a new earth, it will be for you and your new glorified body.  Then there will be no more death. [2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:1, 4]

Since it is Christ who has destroyed the power of death, it is through Christ that we can become partakers of the life over which death has no dominion.  Eternal life is the gift that Christ grants to His own, you who are baptized and believe that Jesus is the Christ.  This morning, Jesus assures you His little ones that “Whoever lives and believes in me shall never die.” [John 11:26]  And “If the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Jesus from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit which dwells in you.” [Romans 8:10]

This is our Christian hope in the presence of death.  It isn’t a hope based on human speculation.  It is based on the acts that God Himself has done and has allowed us to know and see.  “In fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first-fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when (the Son of God) delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For He must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.  “Death is swallowed up in victory.”

O death, where is your victory?  O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. [1 Corinthians 15:20-56]

Let Us Pray: O God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, may the richness of your Word which has now been declared through the power of Your Holy Spirit strengthen each of us with faith and hope, so that we may know for certain that death no longer is our master, nor need bring us fear.  May each of us forever be rooted and grounded in Your divine love, so that we may have the strength to comprehend with all of the saints what is truly the breadth and length and height and depth of your real presence in our lives, and may we come to truly know the love of Christ that surpasses all knowledge, so that we may be filled with all of Your fullness.  AMEN.

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Let the church say… Amen.

Don’t Be Anxious

Sunday, September 4th, 2016

Fifteenth Sunday After Trinity-HL, September 4th, 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

“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” [Matthew 6:34]

Our Gospel lesson today picks up directly after Jesus was teaching about the danger of replacing the worship of God with the pursuit and accumulation of material things.  From the warning against this lure of false worship Jesus now transitions his disciples into embracing a life that can and should be lived “worry free.”  But we do worry don’t we?

We worry about our health, we worry about out family and even the wealth that we hope to pass along to them; we worry about employment, and yes we worry about our church and it’s future.

There has always been anxiety and worry, ever since sin came into the world.  “In toil you shall eat of it, all the days of your Life” (Genesis 3:17)  God said that to Adam, after he and Eve were tempted and fell.  The Book of Job warns of the same thing with these words, “Has not man a hard service upon earth?” [Job 7:1]  The entire Old Testament seems to describe our life as that of a hired-hand, and that life, even at its best, will be full of toil and trouble.   And alongside of this view we need only look at two verses from this morning’s New Testament readings to clarify and direct or thoughts this morning: “Sufficient for the day is its own troubles.” [Matthew 6:34b] And, “For each will have to bear his own load.” [Galatians 6:5]

No one can avoid the load of anxieties that life brings.  But we should know how to manage them.

Managing them is just like being able to control our daily speech or having the capacity to be thankful.  It reveals what we think about God.  If we try to have God alongside of everything else in our lives, then we will certainly be held captive to our anxieties.

We can’t have God simply as some helper who sometimes breaks in and puts our lives back in order.  For instance, when our health fails or our marriage or family begins to fall apart, then and only then do we think of giving God priority and first place in our lives.  We can’t serve God and the things of this world.  If God is not our God alone, all of the time, then we will find ourselves being held hostage by our pursuit of money, possessions, work, or by the conflicts with the many people who are in our lives.  Not to mention, the thousands of duties and responsibilities that harass us from the time we wake up to the time we drift off to sleep for the night.

There are at least two valid ways of dealing with our tendency to worry. First, we must be warned that our worry is a symptom of a dangerous lack of faith, and then we simply confess it as the sin that it is. When we do this, we are then turning from our worry, confessing our sin, and turning to God’s forgiveness and strength so that we can begin anew.  But another way to be free of your anxiety is to follow the course that Jesus teaches today in our gospel lesson.  Through a series of gentle, rhetorical questions, Jesus invites us to remember that we are living our lives under our Heavenly Father’s care.

Listen to Jesus speak to you now…

“Life is something more than food and the body is something more than clothing, aren’t they?” And to this we answer, “Of course!” “You are worth much more than the birds and other animals that God takes care of, aren’t you?” Now perhaps reluctantly, and somewhat embarrassed we answer, “Well, yes, now that you put it that way, Lord.” And now concerning our health and how much longer we will live, Jesus asks you, “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” Again the slow response: “Well, Master, I guess that no one can do such a thing after all.” And now, so that He can address our fear that we will lack proper clothing Jesus asks, “Why are you worrying about what you will wear? After decking out the lilies of the field in a manner greater than Solomon’s splendor, God the Father will certainly clothe you His children of little-faith, won’t He?” And now, how can any of us respond other than saying, “Yes. Yes, He will do that.” And finally Jesus says to us, “So… don’t worry.” And how shall we answer Him this morning.  Maybe like this: “I’m sorry Lord.  I lost my bearings; I have been someone of little faith. I forgot that God was my heavenly Father and that He knows that I have these needs and that He will indeed provide for them.”

To say that God the Heavenly Father is your Father through Jesus Christ is to also agree that you live in His Kingdom and you are under His sovereign protection.  This is why Jesus so emphatically says, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” [Matthew 6:33]

You see, Jesus won’t let anyone be in His kingdom half way; He won’t permit anyone to say that He must first say good-bye to someone, or arrange a funeral, or look after his property, or think about his honeymoon before they can accept a call to be a Christian. [Luke 9:57-62]  Jesus didn’t even accept Martha’s eagerness to get the household chores done before she was willing to listen and learn from Him. [Luke 10:40]  If God is to be our God, the one we rest in and find strength for today, then He must always be first in our lives; we must always make it a priority to find time for Him.  So as Christians, we should find ourselves struggling to make the right choices in those decisive moments of life.  We can do this when we simply take time to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to His saving Word.  This morning, you are doing that very thing, and through His Divine service, God is now equipping you with the proper faith to be and remain His children, and afterward when you leave this place but not His presence, He will teach you how to clear up your anxieties.

Now, what does it mean to “seek” this kingdom of God? What is the method of reaching it, and what way or path leads us to it? Well it is simply believing in Christ and practicing and applying the Gospel, to which your faith clings. This involves living out your new baptismal life that you were given long ago, and growing and being strengthened at heart through preaching, listening, reading, singing, meditating, and every other possible way that includes the Word of God in your life. And through the power of the Holy Spirit, you will discover both an ability and desire to do good works that come out of your new life, and then through these good works, together with other saints, you will work to advance God’s kingdom, and lead many other people to it.

Dear friends, as children of the Heavenly Father who already live in and serve within His kingdom of grace, you no longer need to worry about your future.

Your baptismal life, lived under the cross of Jesus will daily make it clear to you that God surrounds you always with His almighty presence.  He feeds the birds of the heavens and clothes the grass of the field.  He thinks of us more highly than the rest of creation, so why worry if He will supply for your needs?  He has said that tomorrow must bear its own load.   When the time comes He will bear both our burdens and us. [Psalm 68:20]

Now all of this being said and true, it does not mean that we can just fold our hands and lay down in ease and do nothing.  We have been called to carry the burdens of others.  No one can do this without work and without knowing that there is a burden to be carried.  We must not become weary in doing good.  And if we do become weary we must pray for renewed strength from God the Father for the sake of Jesus Christ His Son, our Savior.  All of our worries and concerns over the fear that we might not be able to do our part, must simply be placed in the capable hands of our Lord who says: “Cast your burdens upon the Lord, and He will sustain you.” [Psalm 55:22]

Dear friends, God has your tomorrows covered, so walk with Him today.   “Tomorrow will worry for itself” is simply Christ’s invitation to you His little lambs to throw all your worries onto His shoulders; or into the lap of tomorrow and then live your life without worry day after day. If tomorrow is to do the worrying, then today we are free; and since tomorrow is always in the future and just beyond us, our worries are also always to be just beyond our reach. The idea is not, “Let God worry!” because He never worries. And we are not to say, “Wait until tomorrow comes and then I’ll worry!” No you see, tomorrow always moves on, and it will never be today; it does not exist today. If, then, tomorrow is to do the worrying, no worrying will ever be done. And that is what Jesus desires.

Why not be satisfied with today as though it has plenty of concerns without having to go into the future and borrow more? May God give us faith to believe this and live it out, in Jesus name… AMEN!

Counsel Without Knowledge is Dark, Indeed!

Sunday, June 21st, 2015

June 21, 2015
Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego, CA 92114
http://www.tlcsd.org

Click here for audio of this message

We’ve all been in that dark place of fear, worry, doubt, and anxiety, and we all have fallen back on the old tried and true method of dealing with these things… panic!  It is in the time of panic that we try everything imaginable to bring courage, stability, certainty, and peace.  Advice from those older and more experienced than ourselves sometimes helps; but advice from our father or father figures is meant to teach more than reassure.  You see, in order for the teaching to help it has to make sense, and in the middle of tragedy, who really wants to listen and learn.  So if our fathers or father figures are wise in regards to God and His ways, they will encourage us to slow down, and then with a humble heart and mind, direct us to take it all to the Lord and call out to Him for help.

But what happens when we feel we’ve done that and have been doing that very thing, and nothing seems to be changing; nothing seems to be bringing us relief?  Then we may be tempted to grow angry and bitter with God, or worse yet, we may doubt that He even cares.  This is precisely where Job was within our Old Testament lesson.  But God does see, and God does care, and to assume that He is clueless and distant is to follow a dark counsel without the wisdom of the Spirit.

This is precisely the message that God gave to Job when He declared these Words to Job, in the form of a question: “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge.”  When God addresses Job, He does so using His exact and personal name, Yahweh, or Jehovah.  When God speaks to Job, His name tells all of us that “I Am” IS the God who knows all things and allows all things, so that in the end they will work together for the good of those He loves, for those who love Him.  This all knowing, all seeing, and all powerful God then addresses Job and us, with these words of challenge. “Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me.”  In other words, this will be a contest; competition to see who it is that knows all; to see who it is alone that can declare in the end that it will be well with your soul.

Within His Words that follows, God desires to do a great work of faith, both within Job’s heart and our hearts.  God desires to purge all of us of pride, and then force us to see our own sinfulness and helplessness, and then lead us to trust in God and His saving love; the love of our Eternal Father, strong to save

In our Gospel lesson (Mark 4:35–41), the disciples are being taught that exact lesson by the very Son of God, Jesus Christ.  Every time I read this portion of scripture I can hear the underlying question beneath the disciples’ words recorded, and it is, “Jesus, don’t you care that we are about to die?”  I think that is also our underlying question when we are going through the storms of life.

Dear saints, our central problem is not the storms of life, but instead it’s our sinful tendency to focus only on the storms.  I think you will agree with me that it is hard to remember that Jesus is in the boat with us when our attention is consumed by the life threatening waves outside the boat that are now spilling into the boat and threatening to capsize us and pull us deeply down into the sea of despair.

Why do we so easily loose sight of Jesus in times of trouble and focus so heavily on the storms of life.  Why do so many of our storms, life problems at the time seem so unsurvivable, but afterwards we can look back and see that we made it through, with even stronger faith?  Because dear friends, one day, maybe sooner than we know it will be one of those storms that does end our earthly existence.  Within this perspective of fear and worry, it’s hard to remember that Jesus is in the boat with us; it’s not easy to remember that God is on the job when the waves are in your face, and your boat is quickly filling with unwanted water!

Sometimes when we encounter these life storms, we can become like Job and his friends; we want to understand the storms.  And so we ask, “What have I done to offend you Lord.”  Or we may ask, “O Lord, don’t you care that I’m in trouble?”

We so desperately want to know the answer to things like” “Why did I lose my job, or why can’t I find a job?  Why did the one I love and need so badly have to die?  Why am I so sick?  Will I ever get better?”  Or perhaps even today we may be asking, “Oh Lord, why did you allow the evil to control that young man who killed nine of our brothers and sisters while they were praying to you at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC?  We ask why because we hope that by knowing the answer to the unknown we will find a way to bring calm to our minds and peace to our souls.  But the truth is that even through our best efforts of gaining knowledge we will always fall short of understanding the mysterious infinity of God’s mind and will; we will always be frustrated by the feeble limits of our own human intellect.

And to our insatiable desire to have God explain Himself, God asks us His own question: “How can you the creature ever understand I your Creator outside of what I have told you; outside of what I have decided is enough knowledge?”  But this isn’t the answer we want, is it?  No, secretly within our hearts we want God to explain Himself.  So, our sinful nature loses sight of God’s love for us and instead of faithfully trusting in His presence and care, we begin to focus our worried minds on the unknown instead of the known.

The truth is friends, God’s love and grace sound good to us when things are going well.  We will easily trust in His love, but sadly, when the storms of life come, and they will come, then the littleness of our faith appears.  And when this weak faith becomes evident, Jesus speaks from within our boat and says, “Why are you being so cowardly?  Don’t you have faith?”

Dear friends, the solution to our fears is to remember where Jesus is and who He is.  We are reminded where He is, within His question of why we are afraid, and why we lack faith, we may be tempted to hear a scolding within the Words; that is we may receive the Words as just another accusation of God’s Law demonstrating how helpless and faithless we are.  But if you hear Jesus Words that way, you have forgotten Who Jesus is.  He is not speaking as a Judge, but as a Savior and a Comforter.

The Son of God is with you in the boat, traveling with you through the storm upon the sea of despair.  After all, it was this Christ who told you to get into the boat with Him in the first place.  He is the One Who died for all so that you would know that just as death had no power over Him, it likewise has no power over you.  It’s not just the wind and sea that must listen to Him, but also sin, death, and the devil must obey Him.

Through His completed work upon the cross we are a new creation; through His Word and sacraments we are able to trust in His real presence with us, even when our own storms over power us.  Through His presence, our little faith becomes strong faith, as we rest with the other disciples within this gospel ship we call the church.  Because of Jesus, we don’t ever have to fear the storms of life again, because we know that through Him, God the Father is always for us and never against us.  Within the waters of our own baptism we have been splashed with a power greater than all of the angry seas combined.  Because the love of Christ controls us, we can trust in God’s kind heart, and through His love for us, all of our fears can be calmed and replaced with certainty.

Dear friends, in response to our cry, “Don’t you care that I am in trouble?”  God doesn’t offer us understanding, but instead He offers us His presence within His precious promises.  He Who said to the waves, “Thus far and no farther,” says to us, “Fear not, for I am with you always.”  He assures us the He knows what we can never understand, and He is able to handle what ever we can’t.

Today dear friends Jesus tells us to stay within the Gospel Ship, even this little boat we call Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church.  He wants us to look around and see this truth: There is still room and time to bring more fearful and frightened sinners aboard, so that they too, along with us, can find salvation and peace.  There will be storms, but Jesus will always be with us in the boat as we pass through the storms.  And while He is with us, He is teaching each of us to trust Him and have faith—faith in the Fathers love for each of us.  Oh sure, there will be times when it will seem as if God is silent; as if Jesus is asleep, but fear not little ones, even though He appears to sleep, He is with you in the boat.  So take comfort, because the one who sleeps is also the one who never sleeps.  He is the your Savior and Champion who promises to never leave nor forsake you.

He has permitted the storm to come your way so that you may know and trust Him deeper than you could ever imagine.  But one day, your very last life storm will come, and that will be the perfect storm, because that will be the one that will take you to your perfect home in Paradise.  Let us pray…

“O God our Defender, there are right now storms raging around us and within us, and they are causing us to be afraid. Rescue your people from despair, deliver your sons and daughters from fear, and preserve us all from unbelief, unbelief that tries so hard to separate us from your eternal love.  We 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!