Posts Tagged ‘Glory’

King Jesus Is All!

Sunday, December 2nd, 2018

Advent 1-C
December 2, 2018
Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor of
Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street
San Diego, CA 92114

Click here for audio of this message

Our text this morning is from our Gospel lesson: “As [Jesus] was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!  Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” [Luke 19:37, 38]

One Sunday morning after a worship service a woman came up to her pastor and thanked him for the encouraging sermon he had preached. In response he said, “Well, don’t thank me, give God the glory and praise the Lord.”  She said, “Well, I thought about that, but it wasn’t quite that good.”

Glory, honor, and praise…these are words we use so easily on Sunday mornings when we are around other Christians.  The words seem to flow so naturally from our lips, don’t they?  It is good, right, and salutary (that means beneficial), that we should at all times and in all places give thanks to our Lord, our heavenly king!  But what does it really mean when we say that Jesus is our King?  This morning, our message will answer that very question.

In our gospel lesson this morning we see the people proclaiming Jesus as their king, and surprisingly, this time He accepts their praise.  

In the past, the people tried to force their idea of a king on Jesus.  For example, remember after the feeding of the 5,000 how they wanted to grab Him and make Him their king.  Did Jesus allow them to do this?  No, but what did He do?  Why He disappeared; He quickly left them because their idea of a king was limited to earthly reasons and it lacked the Heavenly will of God.  They wanted Jesus to smash the government of Rome, destroy the oppressive system of taxation, conquer Cesar, and rule as their sovereign king…a Jewish king for Jewish people!

Could Jesus have done these things?  Sure… but that would not have been in keeping with God’s will.  

Now think about this, in just a few short days after the occurrences of our gospel reading, Jesus would be standing in front of Pontius Pilate explaining the truth about the Kingdom of God.  As He was standing before Pilate, the very man that could set Him free, Pilate asked our Lord,  “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”  Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth.  Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.”

So what is the truth?  What kind of king is Jesus?  

A. Since it is good, right, and salutary that we should praise Him as our king, then we want to praise Him according to His will.  Well for the answer to this question let’s turn once again to His disciples.  On the day He entered Jerusalem for the last time until His return to make all things new, the crowd of His followers with the leading of the Holy Spirit got it right.  Let me combine all of the accounts of the Gospels, and so we can listen to the cries of the disciples as their Lord triumphantly enters the Holy City: “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!”[Mk. 11:10] “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” [Lk. 19:38] “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” [Jn. 12:13]  

In these words friends, Jesus’ disciples were essentially asking for God’s idea of a king.  They were in essence praying the Lord’s prayer…they were saying, “Thy kingdom come… Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  They knew that they needed a savior, one who could restore God’s heavenly kingdom on earth—they needed a Messiah!  Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord… Blessed is He who comes to bring heaven’s peace to sinful men…together they were giving glory to God for this type of king!

They didn’t need a kingdom of earthly power; they needed one of Heavenly power…they needed a Messiah… a Savior.  Only this kind of king could bring them and us what we really need, peace with our Creator.  Jesus isn’t a worldly king; He isn’t a rival to Caesar or Herod.  Jesus kingdom is not like that of David or Solomon.  His is a kingdom of heavenly power.  His kingship and kingdom are far greater than anything we could ever imagine; because you see, His kingdom isn’t limited to any country or region on earth, but it includes the entire universe, and it extends to all of creation… visible and invisible.  Jesus says Himself, “All power is given to me in heaven and in earth.” [Matt. 28:18]  Scripture in other places describes His kingdom like this: “There is nothing that is not under Him” [Heb. 2:8] “All things have been put under his feet.”[Eph. 1:22; 1 Cor. 15:25] and He upholds all things by Word of His power.” [Heb. 1:3]

But Jesus brings us much more than heavenly power; He also brings us God’s own love… He brings us grace.  This kingdom of grace is God’s undeserved and unearned love for you.  It is so sure, so strong, and so powerful that nothing can separate you from the love of God through Christ Jesus.  The mighty and oppressive government of the Roman empire has passed away, but the kingdom of He who was crucified for you has continued and flourished in spite of bloody persecution, bitter ridicule, terrible heresy, and the foolish teachings of academia.  Why?  Because it is a kingdom that rests on God’s Word and work within you.  

It is God’s promise of love and forgiveness that wins sinners for the kingdom of heaven; it is the receiving of God’s pardon that turns them into saints…people who are willingly obedient to their new king.  The real essence of this kingdom isn’t like a congregation or even a denomination, but the “kingdom of God is within you” [Lk. 17:20-21]; it is the rule of Jesus Christ within the hearts of His believers.  It is a kingdom that finds its origins in the Word of God which teaches of divine love and forgiveness.  It is a kingdom that gives wholly as a gift the work of faith which leads a heart to believe that God is for them and not against them.  It is a kingdom that is governed by a King who desires that each of His subjects who He calls friend and brother, value a personal relationship with Him higher than anything else.  And when you are a subject of this kingdom of grace, the king promises you that He will live and work through you in such a way that you will never be the same.  How can all of this be true?  Because God’s kingdom is also a kingdom of glory and it is our changed lives that give Him that glory!

This kingdom of glory did not originate on earth, but it was truly expressed to sinful man here… here at the cross.  It was a kingdom that through the power of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, God’s love was shown to us in this, “that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” and He rose for us! [Rom. 5:8]  Because of this one act of love, God has assured that those who have been faithful unto death shall follow Him into His kingdom and be crowned with glory and honor [Phil. 3:21; Rom. 8:18]  

But for now, we wait for this kingdom in a sinful world.

Our’s is a world where greed, pride, lust, envy and other selfish desires seem to rule.  It is a world which taxes its people with sickness, death, and heartbreak.  But even in the middle of these sinful things, through the presence and power of God, we can wait with expectant joy, because we know that we are just strangers here, and heaven is our true home.  We know this is true for us because we have been baptized, recreated in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and we bear the seal of our King Jesus upon our brow and upon our heart. As we live out our identity as subjects of our King Jesus, we wait with excitement because we know our king is coming soon to take us home.  And when He comes to us He will come as our conquering Hero; a king who has destroyed sin and death, and smashed the head of the tyrant prince, the devil.

Let me close with the story of a determined rooster.  He lived on a farm in Oklahoma.  One day a terrible storm and tornado hit that farm and destroyed the entire chicken coop.  There were dead chickens, destruction and devastation scattered everywhere.  While standing dazed, evaluating the mess and wondering about the future, the farmer and his wife heard a stirring in the lumber pile that was the remains of the henhouse. The rooster had survived and he was climbing up through the debris, and he didn’t stop climbing until he had mounted the highest board in the pile. That old rooster was dripping wet, and most of his feathers were blown away. But as the sun came over the eastern horizon, he flapped his bony wings and proudly crowed.

Friends, that old, wet, bare rooster could still crow when he saw the morning sun. And like that rooster, our world may be falling apart, we may feel like we’ve lost everything, but if we trust in our Messiah-King, our Prince of Peace, we’ll be able to see the light of God’s goodness and by faith in He who is faithful, we to will rise out of the rubble of this world, and shout Hosanna!  Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!  Blessed is Jesus our King and our Savior!

Jesus is coming….He is coming indeed!  Maranatha…come Lord come!  AMEN!!

It Is Good To Be Here!

Sunday, February 11th, 2018

Transfiguration of our Lord Sunday B, February 11, 2018
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
http://www.tlcsd.org
Mark 9:2-9


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“And Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here.” [Mark 9:5a]

Have you ever had something happen to you, which was so profound that it seemed to change how you look at everything in your life? Peter, James, and John did, but to understand their experience correctly, we need to look at their recent experiences with Jesus.

In the last couple of years, the apostles experienced one miracle after another; they must have felt like they were on top of the world.

And then, out of nowhere, Jesus started talking about denying themselves, taking up their cross and following Him into suffering and death! Why, He even said that if they wanted to save their lives they must first lose them. Then He said that even He would need to suffer and die at the hands of sinful men in order to fulfill the will of the Father.

Now to Peter, that was crazy talk, and he didn’t want to listen to anymore of that doom and gloom, so he took Jesus aside and tried to enlighten Him on how He thought a Messiah should speak. But Jesus wouldn’t have any of that; that was the devil speaking not Peter, so Jesus rebuked Peter with the often-quoted words, “Get behind me Satan.” He said that Peter was seeking the way of the world, and not the way of God!

Peter and the other apostles must have been thinking, “What’s going on here? This isn’t what I signed up for! What happened to all of the happy-clappy times that come with “walking and talking with our minds stayed on Jesus” the Messiah?” You see, they wanted more of the glory, fame, and high life, but Jesus was telling them that instead of living large and in-charge, they would need to experience suffering, shame, and death.

And then out of nowhere, Jesus gave them this little bit of information to think about: “Some of you will not taste death until you see the kingdom of God come in power.” [Mark 9:1]

So now, six days later there is Peter along with James, and John, up on a mountaintop, watching Jesus pray.

Little did they know that they were about to experience the kingdom of God in all of its glory and power! It was getting late and they were tired; their eyes got heavy when all of a sudden, boom! It was as if all of the light in the world was pouring out of Jesus and the two visitors that suddenly appeared. And they weren’t just any visitors either; they were Moses and Elijah!
The three earth bound apostles were overwhelmed with the experience. The other gospels tell us that Jesus, Moses and Elijah were speaking about Jesus death, resurrection, and the day He would leave this sinful world, but Peter skipped right over those Words. All he seemed to care about was the glory! He must have thought, “Now this is the kind of Messiah I signed up to follow!” So with a mixture of fear and excitement (after all he was standing in the presence of God and the two greatest heroes of faith that ever lived), Peter interrupts Jesus’ discussion with these deep and insightful words: “(Hey, a) Rabbi, it is (a)good (thing) that we’re here (with you).” Do you want me to pitch a few tents for you and your guests?

I call that a Homer Simpson moment: “Dolp!”
With all of the responses someone should or could have had, maybe something like Alleluia, why in the world did Peter ruin that divine moment with such a stupid statement and question? And after Peter’s Homer Simpson moment, what happened next? A thick cloud suddenly appeared and Moses and Elijah were gone.

The experience was over. Or as B.B. King would say, the thrill is gone. But why? Well simply put, Peter’s attention was centered on what He was experiencing and not the Words He was hearing. He completely missed the conversation about Jesus leaving this world; he missed it because it was another message about suffering and death.

Aren’t we a lot like Peter too?

We love it when we come to church and we get to sing our favorite hymn or spiritual. We love it when the preacher is talking about heaven and what a time will have there with no more suffering, pain, sickness, and death, but as soon as the message starts showing us where we fall short or what God expects from us, we tune it out.

We love to be entertained for about an hour, but as soon as the service starts cutting into our Sunday afternoon plans we get fidgety, and then irritated! We love the fellowship and coffee but get bored with the liturgy and ritual! You see, like Peter we say that it’s good to be here in church, but only if it meets our desires; as soon as worship time gets personal we become nervous and hope that it ends soon.

Now you might not interrupt the sermon or the readings with a foolish statement like Peter’s, but you too have your Homer Simpson moments. For you, it happens the minute you tune out to what’s happening in Divine Service and tune into what you wish was happening. Peter wanted to silence the conversation and stay in the glory moment, and we aren’t any better. We love those mountaintop highs of worship, and if we could make it happen, that’s all we would ever experience.

Does that mean that emotion during worship is bad? No, not at all, but the good times aren’t suppose to be the center of why we worship. So what’s the solution?

Well, we just need to let Jesus be Jesus and then let Him do what He does.

Do you see what I just did? I took the emphasis off of you and me and put it on Jesus. That’s always the solution to most every thing, isn’t it? Yes church, we must remember that worship, our worship of God is simply our response to what He has done and is doing right now for us! This is what we call Divine Service; God’s service amongst and within us; His work of dealing with our sins. If we really stoped to think about what’s really going on around us and within us each time we attend Divine Service (the devil being defeated, our sin being removed, and our eternal death being trounced, all as our faith to believe all of this is strengthened exponentially) we would not let anything get in the way of our attending Divine Service.

In our Epistle lesson, St. Paul talked about a veil that remains over the eyes of the unbelieving Jews. For us, that veil represents our flesh or physical desires; its our natural way of trying to get what we want, but Jesus always gives us what we need. When we listen to Jesus, the Word of God, God Himself removes the veil of this world off of our spiritual eyes and He allows us to see an entirely different reality… a spiritual one. Only through (Jesus) Christ can this veil be taken away.

You see, when we turn to Jesus and what He is doing or saying and receive that Word and that Word only, the veil is removed; we are freed from our own expectations of what our Christian faith and worship is, and then we can truly hear what Jesus is really saying. And when we hear what Jesus is saying, then and only then can we be transformed slowly but surely, into the same image and glory of our Lord.

Peter and the boys missed the obvious. They were awed by Jesus’ glory, because He was their man, the Messiah who would be their champion by righting all wrongs. They were so excited about what they thought Jesus would do that they missed what God had already done. There standing with Jesus, were Moses and Elijah shining in the same glory as Jesus. Moses the great teacher who brought us God’s law, was listening to Jesus. Elijah, the great prophet who was taken up to heaven in bodily form, was listening too.

What did it all mean? Only Jesus could explain it; and to make sure that they would one day understand, God’s Divine Service kicked into action again. Moses and Elijah disappeared within a dense cloud of God’s glory and the voice of the Father announced: “This is my beloved Son; listen to Him.”

How does our worship go wrong?

It happens when we shut down our hearts and minds to the message in exchange for the experience. How does God make things right? By taking our focus off of the experience and putting it back onto the Word, this Word: “Jesus is My beloved Son, my elected One; LISTEN TO HIM!”

The truth is, without the Word of God speaking to us, there can be no experience. What is the experience? Dying and living and Living and dying. In the Word you hear God’s law make demands that you can never meet; this is a Word that terrifies you, because you are a sinner standing in the middle of God’s perfect and blinding glory, and the result is your death, the death of your glory.

In the gospel of Jesus Christ, the good news about His life, death, resurrection, and ascension, you hear about a loving God who came to you, to take away your sins; the result is new life, a life free of condemnation and full of God’s love. In this good news you are taught that Jesus walked the painful way to the cross for you; He suffered and died to pay for your sins. In His death He conquered not just your sin and the devil, but also your own death. In His death and resurrection, all things can be new again, even you!

In your baptism, Jesus brought you into His glory by drowning and destroying your old sinful nature and by bringing you into the cloud of His divine presence. In your baptism He chose you and He cleansed you. And what He cleanses, He also molds and changes. What He molds, He fills. And what He fills, He uses. So now, you live! Every day you choose to live for God as you put to death your old sinful and self-serving nature; you live for God and you live for others!

Dear friends, God is leading us out into the real world; a place where there is real suffering and pain. But He is leading us out with our hearts and minds focused on His Word and the real change He’s made and is making within each of us. When you get afraid or tired, and just feel like quitting, think of this place and all of the wonderful gifts that God has given to you here, all so that you would be His witness of love and life in a dying world. Think of His glory that He has placed within you; a glory that can’t be seen with physical eyes but will one day shine as bright as the glory of our Lord’s own Transfiguration. And when you remember these things, it’s alright to feel excited but just remember emotions will eventually die off, and then it’s just you and Jesus.

So, until we meet again next Sunday for our next encounter with God’s divine service and our next foretaste of the glory to come, may He forever lead and guide you by the Word of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior… AMEN!

Sunday, December 24th, 2017

Christmas Eve Sunday, December 24, 2017
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor of
Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
http://www.tlcsd.org and
Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
Http://www.orlcsd.org

Click here for audio of this message

Based upon Martin Luther’s Sermon for Christmas Vespers, Luke 2:8–14
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

Today, in all of our readings and hymns, we’ve been given every reason to make this a time to celebrate; if we really are Christians then we have a lot to rejoice over, because God has sent His Son into our flesh. No one can ever really understand all that this truth means, not even when we will see Him face to face in heaven. Because you see, even the angels do not completely understand His taking on our flesh, but they know it’s something to rejoice about, even though it has nothing to do with them, but instead it’s only for us sinners. The angels are blessed spirits, because they were not conceived and born in sin like us. They have absolutely no need for a Savior. And yet, as we heard read today, they sing with great joy because a Savior has been born for sinners like us.

Look there in your mind’s eye and see that great band of angels standing and praising God. It’s as if they can barely contain themselves, waiting for the one angel to finish proclaiming:

“Behold, I bring you glad tidings of great joy!” [Luke 2:10]

No sooner than the last word is spoken do they break out with such a shout and song of praise that fills the heavens with great joy: “Glory to God in the highest!” [Luke 2:14]. Friends, this is a song that we can never truly understand or appreciate the power of its meaning; we can only try to sing along with them with as much power and joy that our sinful flesh can muster.

You know dear friends, even if this very great act of praise had nothing to do with us, but in reality it has everything to do with us, but even if it didn’t, we still would be obligated to rejoice along with the angels. But it does have to do with us; it has everything to do with us. You see, the eternal Son of God has taken on our flesh; He has become one with us. Even though we are poor and sinful human beings, He still chose to come to us, as one of us. If someone comes from a privileged background or they are simply related to some famous celebrity, they love to brag: “Oh, this is my brother, my brother-in-law, or my uncle the famous…,” and with that, they feel like they are someone special. So if the world knows how to rejoice in their relationships, why shouldn’t we do the same about our God; about our Savior?

Think about this for a moment, no matter how poor you may be, or how sick or unloved you are, that is only temporary, because God Himself has taken on your human nature in both body and soul for the purpose of elevating you beyond what you are now.

If only we, too, could praise Him as the angels!

If the president were to come here today and ask us to take his daughter in as a member of our church, a member who would bless us with great offerings of wealth that would assure us of a long and fruitful fully financed ministry, we would celebrate like there is no tomorrow. But what is that in comparison with the truth that the One who is God with the Father and Spirit has come down and become one of us?

Now I know that this is a different way to present the Christmas truth to you, but we need to understand what a great honor it is that the Son of God has become one of us. It is an honor that is greater than any of God’s angels have experienced. If God did nothing else for us but this great honor, we would have plenty to brag about and celebrate.   The angels can’t brag and say, “God became an angel like us.” No, but instead, He became a human being. Don’t you think that that just might be the reason the devil and his legions fell from God’s grace; could they have been jealous that God became one with us and not them?!

Why give glory to God in the highest? Because He has become your brother; that is a reason to give Him greater glory that any president, politician, celebrity, or family member. I believe that the devil saw what would happen if the Son of the Triune God came to live among us, as one of us. Isn’t it true that He is still trying to stop God’s children, the Son of God’s brothers and sisters from giving Him glory; from recognizing Him for who he is, our King? And if we are honest with ourselves, the devil is doing a pretty good job directing us away from our chief work of giving God glory. Be honest now, even without the work of the devil, how often do we really admire the beauty of the world without glorifying its creator? Oh Lord, forgive us for the lack of glory we give to you, and may you continue to beat back the devil and our own sinful pride.

Today, let’s see if we can’t let God’s light enter our hearts and help us see the need to give Him more honor and glory. Not only has God’s Son come down to be our brother, he has come down “for us men and for our salvation.” That is why the angel said:

“Unto you is born Christ the Lord (that is your Savior).” [Luke 2:11]

Listen, the fact that the Son of God became like us would be more than enough reason to give Him praise and glory, but that is not all He has done, you see, He has also become your Savior. You were born under the power of sin, death, and the devil, but it is His desire to free you from these things.

Now the devil and our sinful society laughs at this and calls it foolishness. We’re told that only simpletons believe in that kind of fairytale. They’ll say, “Now think about it for a moment. You believe that the Heavenly Father, put His Son in a young woman’s womb, then He was born and she nursed Him, only to let Him die a criminal’s death upon the cross—and all this took place for our sakes?” And to that we answer, “Yes that is the truth!” “Well” interjects the devil, “if you really believe that, then why don’t you live like you believe it? Why aren’t you praising your Savior so much that it tires you out?” And this dear saints is the predicament we find ourselves in today. For many of us, it is a source of misery and sadness, the fact that we read this scripture and hear it preached and it doesn’t seem to change us. We know that it’s the same truth that the prophets proclaimed and the angels sang about; it is the very same message that the shepherds reported and that which the apostles proclaimed and died for. It is one in the same message that the Church still sings about every Lord’s day, but it seems to have very little power over our daily lives. Why do we seem more like a lifeless stump than the brother or sister of our Savior God?

And yet, we still hear that the holy angels sang not only, “Glory to God in the highest,” but also “on earth peace among those with whom He is well pleased!” [Luke 2:14] So now, hold on just a minute; let’s not give up either our hope nor our joy just yet. Did you hear what the angel said? He said, “those with who God is well pleased.” Friends, that means that this little baby brings more than just a need to praise God, but the reality that through Him God is now pleased with us sinners. Now, I think that we are on to something. You see, God didn’t send His Son into the world to bring us fear or worry, but instead, we are to receive God’s goodwill; His desire to bring us peace. Understand now, this isn’t goodwill that you’ve earned; it’s simply a gift, or as God calls it, “grace”! This is why He encourages us to sing “Glory!”—even if we don’t seem to understand this; even if we seem to sometimes be unchanged by it, glory in your God and His Son any how; give Him the praise! Praise Him for all the works He does, but especially for this one, He gives you goodwill, peace with God! That is He gives you grace, love, and mercy even though you have given Him no reason to be so generous. Here is the reason even your sinful flesh must agree He deserves praise, not only in heaven among His angels, but even here, even from you.

Now I’m sure you can see, especially in these sinful times, we have a need for God’s goodwill; for His peace and righteousness. But won’t you agree that the fact that God has sent His Son as your brother and Savior is far greater than just saying God gives you goodwill? Isn’t that enough to move your heart to praise His name? But if you do not praise him and give him glory, won’t the devil accuse you of being separated from God? Yes he will, but that is not God’s judgment, nor His heart! God desires that you Christians should rejoice, delight, and be comforted in the truth that God has come to you, because… you… could not… come to Him!

Yes you will glory in God and give Him the praise, but not because you must, but because you can. You see, this is a different kind of glory and praise; it is the kind that does not need effort but only truth. What is that truth? Simply this: the Savior was born for you, so that you can acknowledge not what you have done, but what the merciful Father has done, so that we can boast and say, “I will praise the Lord because He has given His Son to me.” That is the praise, which God desires, “Glory to God in the highest.” So, we do not boast of the work that we do, but the work that placed the Son of God on Mary’s lap and then upon the cross.

Again, in my mind’s eye, by faith I see in this Child, this Son of God, not only a reason to glory, but I also find salvation.

Here, we see the God child nursing at Mary’s breast, and we rejoice with joy and give thanks so much that our hearts are changed and we see all things and all people in a different light. That is truly what singing with the angels, “Goodwill to men” means. Our hearts are now flooded with a joy that is not dependent upon circumstances but the simple truth that declares that through this Child, God is well pleased to dwell with you!

God came to you when there was no reason that He should come. You haven’t earned His coming but still He comes. This is the gospel that the angel was to announce, “I bring you glad tidings;” your sins are removed on account of the coming, and the full ministry of this God-child. So what is our response? Naturally, we give Him thanks and praise; we become peaceable, and have goodwill towards others.

This Child Jesus was born and given to you for this reason: that you would know that you have been honored and redeemed by God Himself. Embrace the Child and kiss Him, and say that He is your Jesus, your Lord and Savior; He is your God. He cannot just be Mary’s child, He must be yours even more than He is Mary’s Son. If He is yours, then you will be able to face anything that comes your way in this sinful world. With Jesus, you can stand firm against the devil and even your own death. Wherever He is, there you also will be, in death and in life. [John 14:3]

Today dear friends, I hope you will take this time to examine your life; let the truth of God lead you to see whether you have received this Child as your own, and whether you are glad in it. Test your life to see whether you believe in this truth, and if you do, then allow it to change your ways. If you find no improvement, no goodwill towards God and others, then you must conclude that it is not well with your soul. Christ is doing you no good. Do not think: “It is enough that I go to Church.” No it isn’t, because you haven’t yet begun to believe. But the fault for your lack of faith lies only with you and not God. He still calls out to you to believe and declare with the angels, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth (FOR ME) peace is (mine if I will not reject it).

I close with this final thought for your consideration. God has honored you above all angels and creatures, you have been blessed so highly that presidents and royalty are nothing in comparison to you; and more than that, you have been saved from your sins, and now, even death, sin, and the fires of hell can do nothing to you.

So now depart in God’s peace, and allow His Spirit to teach you to sing: “Peace to all sinful men and women, even for me.” In Him alone, may you find heavenly joy, so that nothing is so reassuring and sweet to you as Christ your Lord. If you find all that to be true, then by the power of God, may this day be a new beginning as you begin again your life in Christ. And in this new life, by God’s work, may you find peace and joy alone in Christ, His Holy Word, and the work He does for you in His blessed Holy Sacraments, as He keeps you blameless at the coming again of our Lord Jesus Christ. AMEN!

Living Beyond the Mountain Top

Monday, February 27th, 2017

Transfiguration of our Lord Sunday A, February 26, 2017
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor of
Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
http://www.tlcsd.org and
Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
Http://www.ORLCSD.org

Click here for audio of this message

“And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here.”” [Matthew 17:1]

Transfiguration-Cal-34-Mar1Have you ever had something happen to you, which was so profound that it seemed to change how you look at everything in your life? Peter, James, and John did, but to understand their experience correctly, we need to look at their recent experiences with Jesus.

In the last couple of years, they experienced one miracle after another.

They must have felt like they were on top of the world. And then, out of nowhere, Jesus started talking about denying themselves, taking up their cross and following Him into suffering and death! Why, He even said that if they wanted to save their lives they must first lose them. Then He said that even He would need to suffer and die at the hands of sinful men in order to fulfill the will of the Father.

Now to Peter, that sounded like crazy talk, and he didn’t want to listen to anymore of that doom and gloom, so he took Jesus aside and tried to enlighten Him on how he thought a Messiah should speak. But Jesus wouldn’t have any of that; that was the devil speaking not Peter, so Jesus rebuked Peter with the often-quoted words, “Get behind me Satan.” He said that Peter was seeking the way of the world, and not the way of God!

Peter and the other apostles must have been thinking, “What’s going on here? This isn’t what I signed up for! What happened to all of our visions of glory that come with ‘walking and talking with our minds stayed on Jesus’ the Messiah?” You see, they wanted more of the glory, fame, and high life, but Jesus was telling them that instead of living large and in-charge, they would need to experience shame, suffering, and death. And then out of nowhere, Jesus gave them this little bit of information to think about: “Some of you will not taste death until you see the kingdom of God come in power.” [Mark 9:1]

So now, six days later there is Peter along with James, and John, up on a mountaintop, watching Jesus pray and seeing the kingdom of God enveloping them in power.

God’s power and glory always comes through His Living Word and many times Jesus, the Living Word, comes when we least expect Him.

It was getting late and they were tired; their eyes got heavy when all of a sudden, boom! It was as if all of the light in the world was pouring out of Jesus and the two visitors that suddenly appeared. And they weren’t just any visitors either; they were Moses and Elijah!

The three earth bound apostles were overwhelmed with the experience. The other gospels tell us that Jesus, Moses and Elijah were speaking about Jesus death, resurrection, and the day He would leave this sinful world, but Peter skipped right over those Words. All he seemed to care about was the glory! He must have thought, “Now this is the kind of Messiah I signed up to follow!” So with a mixture of fear and excitement (after all he was standing in the presence of God and the two greatest heroes of faith that ever lived), Peter interrupts Jesus’ discussion with these deep and insightful words: “(Hey, a) Lord, it is (a)good (thing) that we’re here (with you).” Do you want me to pitch a few tents for you and your guests?

I call that a Cool Hand Luke moment; you know… “What we have here, is a failure to communicate.”

With all of the responses someone should or could have had, maybe something like Alleluia, why in the world did Peter ruin that divine moment with such a stupid statement and question? Because many times when it comes to listening to God, we have a listening problem.

KGO talk radio in San Francisco once conducted a call-in poll. Ron Owens invited listeners to express their opinion. Thirty-five percent said yes, 33 percent said no and 32 percent were undecided. One listener, aghast at the large number of undecideds, protested, “It’s this sort of apathy that’s ruining America.”

The only problem with all these responses was that the radio station had never posed a question. It’s not apathy that is getting most of us in trouble – it is shooting our mouths off and shouting our lungs out over things that we know nothing about.
After Peter’s “Cool-Hand Luke” moment, God allowed a thick cloud to appear, and it suddenly swept Moses and Elijah away. Why? Because God was making sure that they both heard Him speak, and that they also understood why He spoke.

Aren’t we a lot like those apostles too?

We love it when we come to church and we get to sing our favorite hymn or spiritual. We love it when the preacher is talking about heaven and what a time will have there with no more suffering, pain, sickness, and death, but as soon as the message starts showing us where we fall short or what God expects from us, we tune it out.

We love to be entertained for about an hour, but as soon as the service starts cutting into our Sunday afternoon plans we get fidgety, and then irritated! Or maybe, we love the fellowship and coffee but get bored with the liturgy and ritual! You see, like Peter we say that it’s good to be here in church, but only if it meets our desires; as soon as worship time gets personal we become nervous and hope that it ends soon.

Now you might not interrupt the sermon or the readings with a foolish statement like Peter’s, but you too have your “Cool-Hand Luke” moments. For you, it happens the minute you tune out to what’s happening in Divine Service and tune into what you wish was happening. Peter wanted to silence the conversation and stay in the glory moment, and we aren’t any better. We love those mountaintop highs of worship, and if we could make it happen, that’s all we would ever experience.

Does that mean that emotion during worship is bad? No, not at all, but the good times aren’t suppose to be the center of why we worship. So what’s the solution?

Well, we just need to let Jesus be Jesus and then let Him do what He does. Do you see what I just did there? I took the emphasis off of you and me and put it on Jesus. That’s always the solution to most every thing, isn’t it? Yes church, we must remember that worship, our worship of God is simply our response to what He has done and is doing right now for us! This is what we call Divine Service; God’s service amongst and within us; His work of dealing with our sins as individuals and as a congregation.

In our Epistle lesson, St. Peter used his mountaintop experience and the Word of God he heard that day, as a way to guide both his life and ours’ every day as we live not on the mountain top but in the valleys.

The greatest growth in the apostle’s lives did not take place on the mountaintop, but instead it took place on the way to a garden and a rocky hill. The vision of Moses and Elijah is not what shaped the three, but instead it was the three years they spent with Jesus listening to His Word; the very Word that would predict His own betrayal and death; it would lead them to the Garden of Gethsemane where He was arrested and then to Golgotha where they witnessed their Savior’s death upon a cross. It was not Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration that impacted them eternally but instead, it was His death, resurrection and ascension into heaven, which confirmed that “truly He was the Son of God” for them and for the world.

The day Jesus was crucified, that hill where they planted His cross became the highest mountain in the world, because it reached heaven for us. Jesus did not go up that hill to pray, but he did pray, he prayed for you: “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” You see friends; the experience at the Mt. of Transfiguration is inferior to the experience at Calvary’s holy hill, because it is only at Calvary where you receive forgiveness of sins.

Peter and the boys missed the obvious. They were awed by Jesus’ glory, because He was their man, the Messiah who would be their champion by righting all wrongs. They were so excited about what they thought Jesus would do that they missed what God had already done. There standing with Jesus, were Moses and Elijah shining in the same glory as Jesus. Moses the great teacher who brought us God’s law, was listening to Jesus. Elijah, the great prophet who was taken up to heaven in bodily form, was listening too. What did it all mean? Only Jesus could explain it; and to make sure that they would one day understand, God’s Divine Service kicked into action again. Moses and Elijah disappeared within a dense cloud of God’s glory and the voice of the Father announced: “This is my beloved Son; listen to Him.”

How does our worship go wrong?

It happens when we shut down our hearts and minds to the message in exchange for the experience; when we allow Jesus Word to become secondary to the experience. How does God make things right? By taking our focus off of the experience and putting it back onto the Word, this Word: “Jesus is My beloved Son, my elected One; LISTEN TO HIM!”
The truth is, without the Word of God speaking to us, there can be no experience. What is the experience? Dying and living and living and dying. In the Word you hear God’s law make demands that you can never meet; this is a Word that terrifies you, because you are a sinner standing in the middle of God’s perfect and blinding glory, and the result is your death, the death of your glory.

In the gospel of Jesus Christ, the good news about His life, death, resurrection, and ascension, you hear about a loving God who came to you, to take away your sins; the result is new life, a life free of condemnation and full of God’s love. In this good news you are taught that Jesus walked the painful way to the cross for you; He suffered and died to pay for your sins. In His death He conquered not just your sin and the devil, but also your own death. In His death and resurrection, all things can be made new again, even you!

In your baptism, Jesus brought you into His glory by drowning and destroying your old sinful nature and by bringing you into the cloud of His divine presence. In your baptism He chose you and He cleansed you. And what He cleanses, He also molds and changes. What He molds, He fills. And what He fills, He uses. So now, you live! Every day you choose to live for God as you put to death your old sinful and self-serving nature; you live for God and you live for others!

When the light show is over and the glory cloud vanishes, there is no one but you and Jesus, but not the bright as the sun Jesus, but the flesh and blood Jesus. He’s the one who moves around in this world of sin, loving, suffering and dying for sinners. He’s the One who speaks to them and through His Word makes them saints. How does He do that? Through the proclamation of His church… through you and me!

Remember in our gospel reading when He told the three not to say a word to anyone about what they had seen until He had risen from the dead? Well that time has come and gone. In case you haven’t noticed, everyone who knows is telling anyone who doesn’t what Jesus life, death, resurrection and ascension means… it means the forgiveness of all sins and eternal life! But you can only share that message if you are willing to come down off of the mountain top of worship and go out into the real world where there are real sinful and hurting people, dying without knowing Jesus. The exciting part about all of this is the fact that God wants to reach them through you!

So, until we meet again next Sunday for our next encounter with God’s divine service and our next foretaste of the glory to come, may He forever lead and guide you by the Word of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior… AMEN!

It Is Good To Be Here!

Sunday, February 15th, 2015

Transfiguration of our Lord Sunday B, February 15, 2015

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

Mark 9:2-9

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“And Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here.” [Mark 9:5a]

Have you ever had something happen to you, which was so profound that it seemed to change how you look at everything in your life?  Peter, James, and John did, but to understand their experience correctly, we need to look at their recent experiences with Jesus.  In the last couple of years, they experienced one miracle after another; they must have felt like they were on top of the world.  And then, out of nowhere, Jesus started talking about denying themselves, taking up their cross and following Him into suffering and death!  Why, He even said that if they wanted to save their lives they must first lose them.  Then He said that even He would need to suffer and die at the hands of sinful men in order to fulfill the will of the Father.

Now to Peter, that was crazy talk, and he didn’t want to listen to anymore of that doom and gloom, so he took Jesus aside and tried to enlighten Him on how He thought a Messiah should speak.  But Jesus wouldn’t have any of that; that was the devil speaking not Peter, so Jesus rebuked Peter with the often-quoted words, “Get behind me Satan.”  He said that Peter was seeking the way of the world, and not the way of God!

Peter and the other apostles must have been thinking, “What’s going on here?  This isn’t what I signed up for!  What happened to all of the happy-clappy times that come with “walking and talking with our minds stayed of Jesus” the Messiah?”  You see, they wanted more of the glory, fame, and high life, but Jesus was telling them that instead of living large and in-charge, they would need to experience suffering, shame, and death.  And then out of nowhere, Jesus gave them this little bit of information to think about: “Some of you will not taste death until you see the kingdom of God come in power.” [Mark 9:1]

So now, six days later there is Peter along with James, and John, up on a mountaintop, watching Jesus pray.  Little did they know that they were about to experience the kingdom of God in all of its glory and power!  It was getting late and they were tired; their eyes got heavy when all of a sudden, boom!  It was as if all of the light in the world was pouring out of Jesus and the two visitors that suddenly appeared.  And they weren’t just any visitors either; they were Moses and Elijah!

The three earth bound apostles were overwhelmed with the experience.  The other gospels tell us that Jesus, Moses and Elijah were speaking about Jesus death, resurrection, and the day He would leave this sinful world, but Peter skipped right over those Words.  All he seemed to care about was the glory!  He must have thought, “Now this is the kind of Messiah I signed up to follow!”  So with a mixture of fear and excitement (after all he was standing in the presence of God and the two greatest heroes of faith that ever lived), Peter interrupts Jesus’ discussion with these deep and insightful words: “(Hey, a) Rabbi, it is (a)good (thing) that we’re here (with you).”  Do you want me to pitch a few tents for you and your guests?

I call that a Homer Simpson moment: “Dolp!”

With all of the responses someone should or could have had, maybe something like Alleluia, why in the world did Peter ruin that divine moment with such a stupid statement and question?  And after Peter’s Homer Simpson moment, what happened next?  A thick cloud suddenly appeared and Moses and Elijah were gone.

The experience was over.  Or as B.B. King would say, the thrill is gone.  But why?  Well simply put, Peter’s attention was centered on what He was experiencing and not the Words He was hearing.  He completely missed the conversation about Jesus leaving this world; he missed it because it was another message about suffering and death.

Aren’t we a lot like Peter too? We love it when we come to church and we get to sing our favorite hymn or spiritual.  We love it when the preacher is talking about heaven and what a time will have there with no more suffering, pain, sickness, and death, but as soon as the message starts showing us where we fall short or what God expects from us, we tune it out.

We love to be entertained for about an hour, but as soon as the service starts cutting into our Sunday afternoon plans we get fidgety, and then irritated!  We love the fellowship and coffee but get bored with the liturgy and ritual!  You see, like Peter we say that it’s good to be here in church, but only if it meets our desires; as soon as worship time gets personal we become nervous and hope that it ends soon.

Now you might not interrupt the sermon or the readings with a foolish statement like Peter’s, but you too have your Homer Simpson moments.  For you, it happens the minute you tune out to what’s happening in Divine Service and tune into what you wish was happening.  Peter wanted to silence the conversation and stay in the glory moment, and we aren’t any better.  We love those mountaintop highs of worship, and if we could make it happen, that’s all we would ever experience.

Does that mean that emotion during worship is bad?  No, not at all, but the good times aren’t suppose to be the center of why we worship.  So what’s the solution?

Well, we just need to let Jesus be Jesus and then let Him do what He does. Do you see what I just did?  I took the emphasis off of you and me and put it on Jesus.  That’s always the solution to most every thing, isn’t it?  Yes church, we must remember that worship, our worship of God is simply our response to what He has done and is doing right now for us!  This is what we call Divine Service; God’s service amongst and within us; His work of dealing with our sins.

In our Epistle lesson, St. Paul talked about a veil that remains over the eyes of the unbelieving Jews.  For us, that veil represents our flesh or physical desires; its our natural way of trying to get what we want, but Jesus always gives us what we need.  When we listen to Jesus, the Word of God, God Himself removes the veil of this world off of our spiritual eyes and He allows us to see an entirely different reality… a spiritual one.  Only through (Jesus) Christ can this veil be taken away.

You see, when we turn to Jesus and what He is doing or saying and receive that Word and that Word only, the veil is removed; we are freed from our own expectations of what our Christian faith and worship is, and then we can truly hear what Jesus is really saying.  And when we hear what Jesus is saying, then and only then can we be transformed slowly but surely, into the same image and glory of our Lord.

Peter and the boys missed the obvious.  They were awed by Jesus’ glory, because He was their man, the Messiah who would be their champion by righting all wrongs.  They were so excited about what they thought Jesus would do that they missed what God had already done.  There standing with Jesus, were Moses and Elijah shining in the same glory as Jesus.  Moses the great teacher who brought us God’s law, was listening to Jesus.  Elijah, the great prophet who was taken up to heaven in bodily form, was listening too.  What did it all mean?  Only Jesus could explain it; and to make sure that they would one day understand, God’s Divine Service kicked into action again.  Moses and Elijah disappeared within a dense cloud of God’s glory and the voice of the Father announced: “This is my beloved Son; listen to Him.”

How does our worship go wrong? It happens when we shut down our hearts and minds to the message in exchange for the experience.  How does God make things right?  By taking our focus off of the experience and putting it back onto the Word, this Word:  “Jesus is My beloved Son, my elected One; LISTEN TO HIM!”

The truth is, without the Word of God speaking to us, there can be no experience.  What is the experience?  Dying and living and Living and dying.  In the Word you hear God’s law make demands that you can never meet; this is a Word that terrifies you, because you are a sinner standing in the middle of God’s perfect and blinding glory, and the result is your death, the death of your glory.

In the gospel of Jesus Christ, the good news about His life, death, resurrection, and ascension, you hear about a loving God who came to you, to take away your sins; the result is new life, a life free of condemnation and full of God’s love.  In this good news you are taught that Jesus walked the painful way to the cross for you; He suffered and died to pay for your sins.  In His death He conquered not just your sin and the devil, but also your own death.  In His death and resurrection, all things can be new again, even you!

In your baptism, Jesus brought you into His glory by drowning and destroying your old sinful nature and by bringing you into the cloud of His divine presence.  In your baptism He chose you and He cleansed you.  And what He cleanses, He also molds and changes.  What He molds, He fills.  And what He fills, He uses.  So now, you live!  Every day you choose to live for God as you put to death your old sinful and self-serving nature; you live for God and you live for others!

This is the true nature of our hidden life in Jesus. When the light show is over and the glory cloud vanishes, there is no one but you and Jesus, but not the bright as the sun Jesus, but the flesh and blood Jesus.  He’s the one who moves around in this world of sin, suffering and dying for sinners.  He’s the One who speaks to them and through His Word makes them saints.  How does He do that?  Through the proclamation of His church… through you and me!

Remember in our gospel reading when He told the three not to say a word to anyone about what they had seen until He had risen from the dead?  Well that time has come and gone.  In case you haven’t noticed, everyone who knows is telling anyone who doesn’t what Jesus life, death, resurrection and ascension means!  They are telling them that they are free of shame, worry, and fear.  So now, guess what?  It’s your turn to share the good news.  But you can only do that if you come down off of the mountain top of worship and go out into the real world where there are real sinful and hurting people, dying without knowing Jesus.  The exciting part about all of this is the fact that God wants to reach them through you!

Are you a little afraid to share this good news?  That’s alright; Peter and the others were afraid too.  They didn’t want to leave the safety and awesomeness of their worship experience, but they had to, because Jesus led them out, and He’ll lead you too!  Dear friends, God is leading us out into the real world; a place where there is real suffering and pain.  But He is leading us out with our hearts and minds focused on His Word and the real change He’s made and is making within each of us.  When you get afraid or tired, and just feel like quitting, think of this place and all of the wonderful gifts that God has given to you here, all so that you would be His witness of love and life in a dying world.  Think of His glory that He has placed within you; a glory that can’t be seen with physical eyes but will one day shine as bright as the glory of our Lord’s own Transfiguration.  And when you remember these things, it’s alright to feel excited but just remember emotions will eventually die off, and then it’s just you and Jesus.

So, until we meet again next Sunday for our next encounter with God’s divine service and our next foretaste of the glory to come, may He forever lead and guide you by the Word of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior… AMEN!

Glory to God in the Highest!

Wednesday, December 25th, 2013

Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church-San Diego

Christmas Eve A, December 24th, 2013
Based upon Martin Luther’s Sermon for Christmas Vespers, Luke 2 [:8–14]

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“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

This evening, in all of our readings and hymns, we’ve been given every reason to make this night a time to celebrate; if we really  are Christians, then we have a lot to rejoice over, because God has sent His Son into our flesh. No one can ever really understand  all that this truth means, not even when we will see Him face to face in heaven. Because you see, even the angels do not  completely understand His taking on our flesh, but they know it is something to rejoice in, even though it has nothing to do with  them but only for us sinners. The angels are blessed spirits, because they were not conceived and born in sin like us. They have  absolutely no need for a Savior. And yet, as we heard read tonight, they sing with great joy because a Savior has been born for  sinners like us.

Look there in your mind’s eye and see that great band of angels standing and praising God.  It’s as if they can barely contain  themselves, waiting for the one angel to finish proclaiming: “Behold, I bring you glad tidings of great joy!” [Luke 2:10]  No sooner than the last word is proclaimed do they break out with such a shout and song of praise that fills the heavens with exuberant joy: “Glory to God in the highest!” [Luke 2:14]. Friends, this is a song that we can never truly understand or appreciate the power of its meaning; we can only try to sing along with them with as much power and joy that our sinful flesh can find.

You know dear friends, even if this very great act of praise had nothing to do with us, but in reality it has everything to do with us, but even if it didn’t, we still would be obligated to rejoice along with the angels. But it does have to do with us; it has everything to do with us. You see, the eternal Son of God has taken on our flesh; He has become one with us.  Even though we are poor and sinful human beings, He still chose to come to us, as one of us. If someone comes from a privileged background or they are simply related to some famous celebrity, they love to brag: “Oh, this is my brother, my brother-in-law, my uncle the famous…,” and with that, they think they are someone special. So if the world knows how to rejoice in their relationships, why shouldn’t we do the same about our God; about our Savior? Think about this for a moment, no matter how poor I may be, or how sick or unloved I am, that is only temporary, because God Himself has taken on my human nature in both body and soul for the purpose of elevating me beyond what I am now.

If only we, too, could praise Him as the angels! If the president were to come here this evening and ask us to take his daughter in as a member of our church, a member who would bless us with great offerings of wealth that would assure us of a long and fruitful fully financed ministry, we would celebrate like there is no tomorrow.  But what is that in comparison with the truth that the One who is God with the Father has come down and become one of us?

Now I know that this is a different way to present the Christmas truth to you, but we must understand the great honor it is that the Son of God has become one of us.  It is an honor that is greater than any of God’s angels have experienced.  If God did nothing else for us but this great honor, we would have plenty to brag about and celebrate.   It is a great thing that even the angels can’t brag about, saying, “God was made an angel.”  No, but instead, He became a human being. Don’t you think that that just might be the reason the devil and his legions fell from God’s grace; could they have been jealous that God became one with us an not them?!

Why give glory to God in the highest?  Because He has become your brother; that is a reason to give Him greater glory that any president, politician, celebrity, or family member.   I believe that the devil saw what would happen if the Son of the Triune God came to live among us, as one of us. Isn’t it true that He is still trying to stop God’s children, the Son of God’s brothers and sisters from giving Him glory; from recognizing Him for who he is, our King?  And if we are honest with ourselves, the devil is doing a pretty good job directing us away from our chief work of giving God glory.  Be honest now, even without the work of the devil, how often do we truly admire the beauty of the world without glorifying its creator?  Oh Lord, forgive us for the lack of glory we your church give to you, and may you continue to beat back the devil and our own sinful pride.

Tonight, let’s see if we can’t let God’s light enter our hearts and help us see the need to give Him more honor and glory.  Not only has God’s Son come down to be our brother, he has come down “for us men and for our salvation.”  That is why the angel said: “Unto you is born Christ the Lord (that is your Savior).” [Luke 2:11]  You see, the fact that the Son of God became like us would be more than enough reason to give Him praise and glory, but that is not all He has done, you see, He has also become your Savior. You were born under the power of sin, death, and the devil, but it is His desire to free you from these things.

Now the devil and our sinful society laughs at this and calls it foolishness.  We are told that only simpletons believe in that kind of nonsense.  They’ll say, “Now think about it for a moment.  You believe that the Heavenly Father, put His Son in a young woman’s womb, then He was born and she nursed Him, only to let Him die a criminal’s death  upon the cross—and all this took place for our sakes?”  And to that we answer, “Yes that is the truth!”  “Well” says the devil, “if you really believe that, then why don’t you live like you believe it? Why aren’t you praising your Savior so much that it tires you out?”  And this dear saints is the predicament we find ourselves in this evening.  For many of us, it is a source of misery and sadness, the fact that we read this scripture and hear it preached and it does not seem to change us.  We know that it is the same truth that the prophets proclaimed and the angels sang about; it is the very same message that the shepherds reported and that which the apostles proclaimed and died for.  It is one in the same message that the Church still sings about every Lord’s day, but it seems to have very little power over our daily lives. Why do we seem more like a lifeless stump than the brother or sister of our Savior God?

And yet, we still hear that the holy angels sang not only, “Glory to God in the highest,” but also “on earth peace among those with who He is well pleased!” [Luke 2:14]  Now hold on just a minute; let’s not give up either our hope nor our joy just yet.  Did you hear what the angel said?  He said, “those with who God is well pleased.” Friends, that means that this little baby brings more than just a need to praise God, but the reality that through Him God is now pleased with us sinners. Now, I think that we are on to something.  You see, God didn’t send His Son into the world to bring us fear or worry, but instead, we are to receive God’s goodwill; His desire to bring us peace.  Understand now, this isn’t goodwill that you’ve earned; it’s simply at gift, or as God calls it, “grace”!  This is why He encourages us to sing “Glory!”—even if we do not seem to understand this; even if we seem to sometimes be unchanged by it, glory in your God and His Son any how; give Him the praise!  Praise Him for all the works He does, but especially for this one, He gives you goodwill, peace with God! That is He gives you grace, love, and mercy even though you have given Him no reason to be so generous. Here is the reason even your sinful flesh must agree He deserves praise, not only in heaven among His angels, but even here, even from you.

Now I’m sure you can see, especially in these sinful times, we have a need for God’s goodwill; for His peace and righteousness. But won’t you agree that the fact that God has sent His Son as your brother and Savior is far greater than just saying God gives you goodwill?  Isn’t that enough to move your heart to praise His name?  But if you do not praise him and give him glory, won’t the devil accuse you of being separated from God? Yes he will, but that is not God’s judgment, nor His heart!  God desires that you Christians should rejoice, delight, and be comforted in the truth that God has come to you, because you could not come to Him!

Yes you will glory in God and give Him the praise, but not because you must, but because you can.  You see, this is a different kind of glory and praise; it is the kind that does not need effort but only truth.  What is that truth?  Simply this: the Savior was born for you, so that you can acknowledge not what you have done, but what the merciful Father has done, so that we can boast and say, “I will praise the Lord because He has given His Son to me.” That is the praise, which God desires, “Glory to God in the highest.” So, we do not boast of the work that we do, but the work that placed the Son of God on Mary’s lap and then upon the cross.

So in this Child, this Son of God, I not only find glory, but I also find salvation. Here, I see the God child nursing at Mary’s breast, and I rejoice with joy and give thanks so much that my heart is changed and I see all things and all people in a different light. That is truly what singing with the angels, “Goodwill to men” means.  Your heart now is flooded with a joy that is not dependent upon circumstances but the simple truth that declares that through this Child, God is well pleased to dwell with you!  God came to you when there was no reason that He should come.  You haven’t earned His coming but still He comes.  This is the gospel that the angel was to announce, “I bring you glad tidings;” your sins are removed on account of the coming, and the full ministry of this God-child.  So what is our response? Naturally, we give Him thanks and praise; we become peaceable, and have goodwill towards others.

This Child Jesus was born and given to you for this reason: that you would know that you have been honored and redeemed by God Himself. Embrace the Child and kiss Him, and say that He is your Jesus, your Lord and Savior; He is your God.  He cannot just be Mary’s child, He must be yours even more than He is Mary’s Son. If He is yours, then you will be able to face anything that comes your way in this sinful world. With Jesus, you can stand firm against the devil and even your own death. Wherever He is, there you also will be, in death and in life. [John 14:3]

Tonight dear friends, I hope you will take this time to examine your life; let the truth of God lead you to see whether you have received this Child as your own, and whether you are glad in it. Test your life to see whether you believe in this truth, and if you do, then allow it to change your ways. If you find no improvement, no goodwill towards God and others, then you must conclude that it is not well with your soul. Christ is doing you no good. Do not think: “It is enough that I go to Church.”  No it is not, because you have not yet begun to believe.  But the fault for your lack of faith lies only with you and not God.  He still calls out to you to believe and declare with the angels, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth (FOR ME) peace is (mine if I will not reject it).

I close with this final thought for your consideration.  God has honored you above all angels and creatures, you have been blessed so highly that presidents and kings are nothing in comparison to you; and more than that, you have been saved from your sins, and now, even death, sin, and the fires of hell can do nothing to you.

So now depart in God’s peace, and allow His Spirit to teach you to sing: “Peace to all sinful men and women, even for me.”  In Him alone, may you find heavenly joy, so that nothing is so soothing and sweet to you as Christ your Lord.  If you find all that to be true, then by the power of God, may this night be a new beginning as you begin again your life in Christ. And in this new life, by God’s work, may you find peace and joy alone in Christ, His Holy Word, and the work He does for you in His blessed Holy Sacraments, as He keeps you blameless at the coming again of our Lord Jesus Christ.  AMEN!

For The Glory of the Lord!

Sunday, September 1st, 2013

Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church-San Diego
Pentecost 13C, August 18th, 2013

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“Do not put yourself forward in the king’s presence or stand in the place of the great.” [Proverbs 25:6]

One of my favorite sayings I speak to remind myself to choose the good over the indifferent or self-serving path is to say “I’m doing this for the glory of God.”  Now, this little statement has gotten me through a lot of tough times, but I’ve also found that it can also become a dangerous way of drawing glory away from God and to myself.  Let me show you what I mean.

You say to me, “Pastor, that was a good message.”  And I say with great joy in my voice, “Thanks be to God, all glory goes to Him!”  Or, your spouse may say, “I really appreciate the way you’ve been helping out around here.”  And you say, “Yes, if it had not been for the Lord, I certainly would not have been able to do the things that I did.”  Or how about this one; A pro athlete scores on the field, and drops to one knee and points up to the sky.

Now in and of themselves, all of those examples are really harmless.  But, if the reason each responded the way they did, was to create a false sense of humility in order to look better or be perceived in a way that earned favor and respect from others, well, to that, God’s Word says, “Do not put yourself forward in the king’s presence or stand in the place of the great.”

Humility is a slippery thing to display before others.  When it is generous, every one knows it, and they will at least silently confess that it is a trait that must be acknowledged and admired.  But it isn’t a trait that can be faked in a consistent fashion.  If it isn’t real, people will know!

I’d like to tell you a story about two brothers who grew up on a farm in Wisconsin. One went away to college, earned a law degree, and became a famous lawyer in a very successful law firm. The other brother stayed on the family farm. One day the brother who was a lawyer came and visited his brother, the farmer. He asked, “Hey bro, why don’t you leave this place and make a name for yourself like I did?  Then you can go anywhere and hold your head up high like me?” The farmer brother pointed out at the wheat fields and said, “Do you see all of that wheat out there? Look at it closely and you will notice that only the stalks that are empty of kernels stand up tall. But the ones that are full always bow low.”

Said differently, “The branch that bears the most fruit is bent the lowest to the ground.”  But for what are we bearing fruit?  Is it for God’s glory or for our own?  Why do we really do the things we do?  Is it for God’s glory, to draw others to His kingdom, or is it for our own reputation and comfort?

When we analyze all of our actions, we must be honest and admit that humility, true humility, is like a slippery watermelon seed. Once you get it under your finger and you think you have it, “plop,” it shoots out of your grasp!

So what is the answer?  How can we be humble in a way that is genuine and pleasing to God?  And the answer is, “You cannot!”  Martin Luther confessed this same thing in his catechism when he taught, “I cannot by my own understanding or effort believe in Jesus Christ my Lord, or come to Him.  But the Holy Spirit has called me through the Gospel…”  So you see, it is only when the Spirit of Christ has come into our hearts that we can begin to turn away from our self-serving, false humility and show true concern for others.

In our gospel lesson Jesus tells two stories, both of them based on what He is seeing at a dinner party.  Both stories are means to get at the motivation behind the actions of those present. Jesus knows the hearts of every one there in a way that no one else could ever know.  So armed with this knowledge He points out how each person is trying to elbow out the other for the best seat at the party.  He says, that instead of fighting over the best seats, simply take the lowest seat and wait to be called up by the host.  We can be certain that each of them knew that Jesus was talking about them.  Jesus sees and He calls a thing what it is… and their thing was pride and a haughty, self-serving spirit.

Now, we might not be able to relate to a scene like this in a way that the guests at the dinner party could, but what if Jesus said, “When you go to Costco and the vendor puts out free samples, don’t elbow your way to the front of the line to get your sample, instead let everyone else go first, so the vendor can say, friend come here; I have saved the best sample for you!”

Remember, Jesus is watching.  “Do not put yourself forward in the king’s presence or stand in the place of the great.”

But Jesus is not done teaching about humility.  He has one more story.  He says that “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not (keep) invit(ing) (only) your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid.  But when you give a feast, (also) invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”  [Luke 14:12-13]

Now once again, most of us may not be able to identify with this life style of the rich and famous.  So I want you to let go of the illustration that Jesus used for that specific person and apply the lesson to where you are right now.  Who are your friends and what activities are you involved in?  The point is that if you help or invite only those who will probably help and invite you in return at a latter date, then your gracious spirit is nothing more than a self-serving one.  You will have been paid in full; there is nothing there that God will admire.  So, do the opposite.  Help the poor and needy in a way that no one sees.  You can do things like giving liberally and often to our community pantry here at Trinity, so that your neighbor receives food anonymously.  Give generously with your time, talent, and treasure, in a way that makes a difference for others and not for yourself.  In other words, God knows why you do what you do.  If it is to be noticed and admired by others, to get something out of what may appear to be a selfless act; well then God says you are paid in full.

So how can we ever have true humility?  What is true humility?  Well St. Paul gives us a pretty good list of selfless acts in our Epistle reading (Hebrews 13:1-17).  Let’s look at those: Be kind to strangers, visit or care for those in prison, honor your marriage and the marriage of others, keep your life free of loving money and be happy with what you have.  But again, how can we do that in a way that is God pleasing?  And again, on our own we cannot, but through God’s work we can! “Do not put yourself forward in the king’s presence or stand in the place of the great.”  Instead, remember that it is the Lord who is your helper, so don’t be afraid.

This is true humility.  Admitting that on your own you are helpless to please God.   Admitting that without His help you deserve judgment and punishment.  But true humility always bows low and accepts whatever truth God has declared.  And this is the truth you must hear.  It is not about you, but it is about Jesus, God’s Son and your Savior.  Jesus is the one who came and took the lowest position.  Though He is our Creator and God, he became our servant and friend.  He chose to be born a man, he ate with sinners, he stooped down to wash feet, and He bore the scandal and humility of the cross for you!

He brings the proud low, He speaks a Word of judgment to humble those who think they are something for a reason.  So that they and we might see who we really are.  So that we might see ourselves as God sees us.  So that when we see the truth about our sin we might also see God’s only solution to that sin… Jesus Christ!

True humility looks to Jesus alone, but not as some kind of example.  We are not to approach life’s dilemmas by asking “What would Jesus do in this predicament?” but instead we are to ask, “What has Jesus done?”

You see the humble life and struggle of Jesus is not an example but a substitute.  His struggle becomes our struggle, His death our death, His resurrection our resurrection.  He is our Master, our Redeemer, and Savior.  In our baptism He not only called us His own but He in fact gave us His humility.  So we can say you will be humble because you are humble.  And you will know that you are humble when you experience the hardship, suffering, and pain of the many crosses that come in this life, without being overcome with worry, fear, or anger.

“Do not put yourself forward in the king’s presence or stand in the place of the great.”  That is a work and an assignment only God can perform, and He has done that very thing for you, through His Son, Jesus Christ.  This morning, before we leave this place, Jesus would have you remember that through your baptism He has called to you with these words, “Friend move up higher.”  When you leave this world of struggle, and you enter into the resurrection of the justified, you will have left the cross behind and entered into Jesus’ kingdom of glory.  And there, you will be welcomed with a holy kiss and asked to take your place of honor at Christ’s banquet table.  How good it is to be called forward in the King’s presence and stand in the place of the great, and it is all through Christ alone!  AMEN!

What Makes You Come Alive?

Sunday, May 19th, 2013

Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church-San Diego
Pentecost C, May 19th, 2013

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“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”  [John 14:26]

This is the answer to the how questions that we Christians so often ask of God, and it is the answer to the questions our unbelieving friends ask of us.  “How can I make it through this?”  “How can I find the strength to get up, and to go on?”  “How can you believe in an invisible God?”  The answer, of course, is that on our own, that is with out the help of God we can not, but because of the work of the Holy Spirit, we not only will make it through what ever this world and the devil throw at us, we will in fact thrive after we pass through it.  Not only do we find strength to get up and go, but we get up and go with a purpose.  Not only do we believe in what the sinful world calls an invisible God, but we also hear and follow Him everywhere He leads.

Now to this response, some may ask, “How can that be?”  And our answer is that we abide in Christ.  That is that through the work and gift of the Holy Spirit, who uses God’s Word and Sacraments to give faith, we not only believe that Jesus is with us, we abide in that truth!  This is what Jesus means in verse 23 of our Gospel reading (John 14:23–31) when He says, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.”

Do you remember when Jesus used a vine as an illustration to describe what it means to love Him and trust Him?  He said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” [John 15:5]  On the screen is a picture of a grape vine my wife has been tending to for almost 20 years.  Do you see how thick and sturdy it is?  Its roots go down deep and wide.  But that is nothing compare to its many branches that grow and thrive above the ground.  Look at this other picture now; can you see how it’s branches are growing and thriving up above?

In our children’s message, I held up a branch of that vine and asked the children if they could guess how many grapes I would get off of that branch if I took care of it.  Of course they eventually understood that I wouldn’t get anything off of it, because apart from the vine, it was dead.  They understood that eventually that branch would dry up and be thrown away.  It was hopeless… without being part of the vine.  The branch lives because it is part of the vine.  When it abides in the vine, it is as if its life song is “Glory to the vine in the highest, and peace to the branches who abide!”

In our Old Testament lesson (Genesis 11:1–9), this is the very thing that God wanted the people to understand.  After the world was destroyed by the flood, God kept for Himself faithful Noah and his family as a way to restart fallen creation.  He wanted them to continue to be faithful and go throughout the earth and multiply.  He wanted their ancestors to remember that apart from living a life centered in Him, in His glorious presence with them, they would not have life.  He wanted them by faith to be obedient to His call to repopulate the earth with a people who knew Him and loved Him.  But something terrible happened… the subsequent generations began to forget about their God.  They became full of pride and no longer wished to venture out populating the earth, so they attempted to detach themselves from God’s presence.  They no longer gathered around His Word, which told them to go.  They thought that like the branch I showed the children, they could sprout roots and live; thrive with out the God who created them.  “Glory to man in the highest, and peace to their children who build!”

But what should we expect from a branch?  Not only can they not live outside of the vine, they can’t even no what’s best for them.  And this is the very message that God communicated to them when He came down and confused their language.  Now, instead of acting as one sinful heart and mind, they would be force into an obedience that God wanted to come out of them willingly, by faith.  When God confused their language He was punishing them for acting as if they were the vine; as if they were God!  “I am the LORD,” He has told us.  “I will not give my glory to another (Isaiah 42:8).”  It is as if He is saying, “In Me only do you have life and move and have your being.” [Acts 17:28]

Has anything really changed today?  Yes, I know, man did go forth and multiply; the earth is full of people, but what kind of people?  Don’t we still, each of us deep down inside, like to have things are own way?  Don’t nations still go to war against each other because we do not abide in the God who created us?  Isn’t there an abundance of resources available controlled by a few; enough to feed, clothe, and house the worlds poorest and yet we do not share?  So what’s the answer?  Is it politics?  Is it war?  Civil unrest? Communism or socialism?  No, it is none of those things.  The answer to these problems is you… or rather you who are abiding in Christ… you who love Him because He first loved you… you who keep His Word and are loved by the Heavenly Father.

It is you and the rest of us who make up the church, who are fed and nourished by God’s own Word and Sacraments; you who have heard the message of the cross, the emblem of not just suffering and shame, but God’s love for the entire world.  It is you who are a product of God’s mighty work of rebirth through the water and His life giving and life sustaining Word, who are then equipped to allow God to do even more mighty deeds through you.  You love Jesus, because you know that through His atoning suffering and death you have been forgiven of so much.  It is you alone who can love Jesus and please God by singing “Glory to God in the highest, and peace to His people on earth.”

But what about those who don’t love Jesus; those who won’t abide in Him by keeping His Word?  Well that is where the mighty work of God is continued through those of us who do!  We are a branch of the vine for a reason.  We abide in Him and He has made His home in us as individuals and as a church for a purpose.  We are to share His Word with those who still want to make a name for themselves, apart from resting in God’s glory.

In our epistle reading (Acts 2:1-21), we see God’s solution to both our problem of wandering and the problems of those who will not abide, or receive and rest in His real presence in their lives; it is the Word of God and the Spirit of God that is received in that Word.

Prior to that first day of Pentecost, God’s Spirit was thought to be almost the exclusive possession of the Jews.  Through their own selfish sin of pride, they forgot once again that they were to go forth and multiply; that is they were to share God’s desire of restoration with all humankind.  But just as God acted in a mighty way at the tower of Babel, so He acted on Pentecost.  In St. Peter’s sermon, His text came from the prophet of Joel, listen: “And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh.”  Who does God want to save?  All sinful human flesh!  “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” [John 3:16]

And now, witness dynamic proof, once and for all that God is serious about not sharing His glory with anyone or anything.  Witness the explanation mark upon Jesus declaration of “It is finished” before He gave His last life breath upon the cross for all sinful creation.  The Holy Spirit was in the house; like tongues of fire He appeared and He was saying that He is getting ready to make all things right.  He is going to make sure that all of those sinful branches that are disconnected from the vine understand that apart from Jesus there is no hope of life.

But the Holy Spirit is not just in the house, He’s out in the streets like a locomotive; like a tornado, tearing down strongholds, powers, and principalities, all so that God’s people can speak the gospel to their neighbors, just as Peter did!  Wouldn’t it have been a shame if the disciples never left the upper-room of that building?  Over 3000 people would not have heard the gospel Word, and would not have been returned to the vine that gives them life.

Isn’t it a shame if we refuse to go out into our community and speak gospel words of life to our neighbors who are also dying?

This morning God wants you to know that He still pours out His Spirit on all flesh; He wants His people who are separated from Him by sin to know that He still is coming to them.  We who believe in Jesus—are those whom the Spirit has called and gathered.  We are being enlightened and sanctified by God’s means for a purpose.  We are to prove to our neighbors that there is a God who loves them.  When we meet them, we are to invite them to come to the same vine that nourishes and strengthens us.  We are to invite them to come to church, even our little church and simply abide; to love Jesus who first loved them.  This morning Jesus wants us to know that through the Holy Spirit, He and the Father are targeting everyone with the same message of forgiveness.  While it is true that we may encounter closed doors, or broken branches that refuse to abide, who refuse to hear our testimony about God’s forgiving love, the Spirit of the Lord, the Holy Spirit, is still going about His work and will continue to do so without pause, until the very last day.

What makes you come alive?  Abiding in the vine; being obedient to go forth and multiply.  I pray that you will remember that without being a part of Christ’s church, that is apart from His Word and Sacraments, you can do nothing, but wither and die.  But by resting in Christ, receiving His means of grace, through the mighty power of the Holy Spirit, you will not only abide, you will thrive.  I ask you then to both abide and thrive, and I ask this in Jesus name… AMEN!

He Prayed For You!

Sunday, May 12th, 2013

Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church-San Diego
Easter 7C, May 12h, 2013

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“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word.”  [John 17:20]

This morning Jesus shows you that He has prayed for you.  In the prayer which is brought to us in our gospel reading (John 17:20–26), He makes some pretty exciting promises. Do you trust His  Word?  Do you really believe that when He says something, it is in fact God Himself speaking to your heart, and when He says something it is not only going to happen, in fact, in God’s  perspective,  it has already happened!  If you answered yes, well then, this message will be both exciting and challenging for you.  If you answered, no or you aren’t sure, well then, it is God’s desire  that this morning’s message would be one of faith; a message that will both create faith within you and sustain it.  Would you like that?  Good!  Let’s get right into it.

This morning Jesus prays for two things: Unity and Glory.  He prays that we would be one in thought, word, and deed, just as He and the Father and the Spirit are one, and He also prays that just  as He is now in glory, seated at the right hand of the Father, we too would join Him there in glory.

This last Thursday was a day to celebrate, but because it did not fall on a Sunday, it probably passed you by.  On Thursday, the church celebrated the ascension of our Lord.  The day Jesus ascended  into Heaven and into His glory.  But when He left, He gave us this commission, backed by a powerful promise.  Listen: “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and  make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” [Matthew 28:18-20]

So when Jesus prayed for you in our gospel reading, He backed up that prayer in Matthew 28, when He ascended into Heaven. He’s letting you know that what He is praying for is powered by His real presence with us.  He is ever interceding for His church as it fulfills its mission to bring God’s love to the world.  And, He prays for you who are here this morning to be an active part of that mission.

He prays for you who believe that when Jesus says something it is fact; He knows that you will believe because you have been given faith through the word of the apostles, which is the very Word of God. (v. 20) Through the Word of God you have been brought into the body of Christ.  So as part of Jesus body, the church, you are also one with the Triune personhood of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

And now as part of the church, you have been given the glory of God.  What is this glory that God gives you?  Is it a glory that makes you better than your neighbor?  Is it a glory that makes you the head and not the tail?  No, not at all; instead it is a gift that not only invites us into unity as one body, but in fact it gives us the unity. (v. 22)

But how can we be one?  Well to answer that question, we will need to jump ahead to verse 26, where we hear Jesus declare this wonderful promise: “I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” (v. 26) So here is the very thing that empowers our mission into a world that is lost to sin; it is the love of God.  (Talk about a Mother’s love) It’s a love that was and always shall be communicated through the Father’s giving of His Son unto death so that a world lost and dead in its sins may live.  This is the great purpose or mission of the church: To be filled with the love of God and to share that love with the world.  This is now both the mission of the church, and its gift to the world:  A love from God that fills us and fulfills us.

It’s the love of God that not only gives us our mission but our unity.  Jesus prayed that as He and the Father were one, that we would be one with Him and each other. (vv. 21, 22b)  He prayed that the glory of God would be within us and fulfill us in unity so that…

The world might believe.  But believe what?  That Jesus, is the Son of God, and in a gift of love that God the Father has given so that we would believe that God is still with us and that He still loves us!  Another way to say this is, through our unity with God and each other the world will see God’s forgiving love and believe that both Jesus and His gift of eternal life are real!

So how do you think we are doing with that mission?  In our community alone we have hundreds of churches of various denominations and creeds.  It is not uncommon for these churches to compete for a finite number of believers.  This competition is always centered on truth, but not necessarily God’s truth.  So many churches seem to have become its own living definition of what truth is, thus separating itself further and further from their brothers and sisters in other denominations and churches.  And the unbelieving world sees this and shakes their head at us.  A world that we are suppose to be reaching with the truth is laughing at some church’s made up truth and never really getting to see the power of God’s own truth in action.

And what is the source of unity, love, and truth?  Nothing but the pure Word of God; not opinions, not theories, but only the pure Word of God, which is both truthful and mysterious.  Where the Word declares bold truths concerning sin and salvation, punishment and forgiveness, we are suppose to also as one voice declare the very same message.  Where the Word is silent or mysterious, we are never allowed to “fill in the blanks” so to speak but simply remain silent and trust even more in God’s mercy and grace.  While it is true that even when God’s Word is declared in purity and unity many may still reject His call to repentance, that is not suppose to trouble us.  We are simply asked to speak Words that give faith and then turn them to the object of their faith, Jesus Christ, crucified, resurrected, and ascended; Jesus the Son of God who alone is able to intercede for them and grant them eternal life and peace with God.

So, is the mission of the church hurt by defective Christians?  Yes, but it is never destroyed.  Each one of us must remember this one great truth… Jesus is praying for us!

As he prays, He prays for his church’s glory.  He knows that there is a great division between His church and those lost in this world of darkness.  Listen: “O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. (v. 25)

In these Words Jesus not only assures you that you belong to Him but also, ultimately it is His burden to bring faith to those who are lost in sin.  We are simply to look out upon this world and see the difference between faith and faithlessness.  We are to see the difference in the lives of those who live under the Father’s judgment and those who live out His gift of grace. Our mission this morning is to not only see the difference but live out that difference so that others will see the presence of God among us, through His gifts of love, forgiveness, and unity, and then desire to be a part of our community that gathers around those gifts.

So you see, it is for you that Jesus prays.  He prays that you will trust Him and rest in His love for you.  He prays that in His Word you will see Him always with you, always interceding for you who have been given to him by the Father.  But He also prays that you will let Him lead you out into our community seeking peace first with each other, then with your brothers and sisters of different denominations, and finally with the lost and unbelieving world.  And finally, He prays to remind you, that the kind of peace He invites you to share with others can only be found in the pure Word of God.

This morning, Jesus’ desire is that one day soon you will come to His side to a place where there will be no more sorrow, suffering, sickness, or disease; a place where all divisions will cease.  “No longer will there be anything accursed (among us), but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and we His servants will worship Him.” [Revelations 22:3]

Will you trust His Word; will you rest in a reality that declares, Jesus prays for you?  If you will, you won’t be disappointed; you will see His glory and you will forever know the Father’s love.  AMEN!

It Is Good To Be Here!

Sunday, February 19th, 2012

Transfiguration of our Lord Sunday B, February 19, 2012
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA

Mark 9:2-9

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“And Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here.” [Mark 9:5a]

Have you ever had an experience so profound that it seemed to reshape your entire outlook on life?  Peter, James, and John did, but to understand  it more deeply, we have to rewind their recent experiences with Jesus.  In the last couple of years, they experienced one miracle after another, and  they must have felt like they were on top of the world, when out of nowhere, Jesus started talking about denying themselves, taking up their cross  and following Him.  Follow him to where?  To suffering and death!  Why He even said that if they wanted to save their lives they must first lose  them.  Then He said that even He would suffer and die at the hands of sinful men in order to fulfill the will of the Father.

Wait… What?!  To Peter, that was crazy talk, and he didn’t want to listen to anymore of that doom and gloom, so he took Jesus aside and tried to  enlighten Him on how He thought a Messiah should speak.  But Jesus wouldn’t have any of that; that was the devil speaking not Peter, so Jesus  rebuked Peter with the often quoted words, “Get behind me Satan.”  He said that Peter was seeking the way of the world, and not the way of God!

Peter and the other apostles must have been thinking, “What’s going on here?  This isn’t what I signed up for!  Where’s all the happy-clappy  moments that come with walking and learning from the Messiah?”  They wanted glory, fame, and the high life, but instead Jesus told them that  suffering, shame, and death were right around the corner.  And then out of nowhere, Jesus gave them this little bit of information to think about:  “Some of you will not taste death until you see the kingdom of God come in power.” [Mark 9:1]

I. So now, six days later there is Peter along with James, and John, up on a mountain top, watching Jesus pray.  Little did they know that they were  about to experience that kingdom of God in all of its glory!  It was getting late and they were tired; their eyes got heavy when all of a sudden, boom!  It was as if all of the light in the world was pouring out of Jesus and the two visitors that suddenly appeared.  And they weren’t just any visitors either; they were Moses and Elijah!

The three earth bound apostles were overwhelmed with the experience.  The other gospels tell us that Jesus, Moses and Elijah were speaking about Jesus death, resurrection, and the day He would leave this sinful world, but Peter skipped right over those Words.  All he noticed was the glory of Jesus… the glory of God!  He must have thought, “Now this is the kind of Messiah I signed up to follow!”  So with a mixture of fear and excitement (after all he was standing in the presence of God and the two greatest heroes of faith that ever lived), and filled with excitement, Peter interrupts Jesus’ discussion with these deep and insightful words: “(Hey, a) Rabbi, it is (a)good (thing) that we’re here (with you).”  Do you want me to pitch a few tents for you and your guests?

I call that a Homer Simpson moment: “Dolp!”. With all of the responses someone should or could have, maybe something like Alleluia, why in the world did he ruin that divine moment with such a stupid statement and question?  And after Peter’s Homer Simpson moment, what happened next?  A thick cloud suddenly appeared and Moses and Elijah were gone.

The experience was over.  Or as B.B. King would say, the thrill is gone.  But why?  Well simply put, Peter’s attention was centered on what He was experiencing and not the Words He was hearing.  He completely missed the conversation about Jesus leaving this world; he missed it because it was another message about suffering and death.

B. Aren’t we a lot like Peter too?  We love it when we come to church and we get to sing our favorite hymn.  We love it when the preacher is talking about heaven and a time where there will be no more suffering, pain, sickness, and death, but as soon as the message starts showing us where we fall short or what God expects from us, we tune it out.

We love to be entertained for about an hour, but as soon as the service starts cutting into our Sunday afternoon plans we get fidgety, and then irritated!  We love the fellowship and coffee but get bored with the liturgy and ritual!  You see, like Peter we say that it’s good to be here in church, but only if it meets our desires; as soon as worship time gets personal we become nervous and hope that it ends soon.

Now you might not interrupt the sermon or the readings with a foolish statement like Peter’s, but you too have your Homer Simpson moments.  For you, it happens the minute you tune out what’s happening in the Word and tune into what you wish was happening.  Peter wanted to silence the conversation and stay in the glory moment, and we aren’t any better.  We love those mountaintop highs of worship, and if we could make it happen, that’s all we would ever experience.

Does that mean that emotion during worship is bad?  No, not at all, but the good times aren’t to be the center of why we worship.  So what’s the solution?

II. Well, we just need to let Jesus be Jesus and then let Him do what He does.  Do you see what I just did?  I took the emphasis off of you and me and put it on Jesus.  That’s always the solution to most every thing, isn’t it?  Yes church, we must remember that worship, our worship of God is simply our response to what He has done and is doing right now for us!  This is what we call Divine Service; God’s service amongst and within us; His work of dealing with our sins.

In our Epistle lesson, St. Paul talked about a veil that remains over the eyes of the unbelieving Jews.  For us, that veil represents our flesh or physical desires; its our natural way of trying to get what we want, but Jesus always gives us what we need.  When we listen to Jesus Word, the Word of God, God Himself removes the veil of this world off of our spiritual eyes and He allows us to see an entirely different reality… a spiritual one.  Only through (Jesus) Christ can this veil be taken away.

You see, when we turn to Jesus and what He is doing or saying and receive that Word and that Word only, the veil is removed; we are freed from our own expectations of what our Christian faith and worship is and we can hear what Jesus is really saying.  When we hear what Jesus is saying, then and only then can we be transformed slowly but surely into the same image and glory of our Lord.

Peter and the boys missed the obvious.  They were awed by Jesus’ glory, because He was their man, the Messiah who would be their champion by righting all wrongs.  They were so excited about what they thought Jesus would do that they missed what God had already done.  There standing with Jesus were Moses and Elijah shining in the same glory as Jesus.  Moses the great teacher who brought us God’s law was listening to Jesus.  Elijah, the great prophet who was taken up to heaven in bodily form, was listening too.  What did it all mean?  Only Jesus could explain it; and to make sure that they would one day understand, God’s Divine Service kicked into action again.  Moses and Elijah disappeared within a dense cloud of God’s glory and the voice of the Father announced: “This is my beloved Son; listen to Him.”

III. How does our worship go wrong?  It happens when we shut down our hearts and minds to the message in exchange for the experience.  How does God make things right?  By taking our focus off of the experience and putting it back onto the Word, this Word:  “Jesus is My beloved Son; LISTEN TO HIM!”

The truth is, without the Word of God speaking to us, there can be no experience.  What is the experience?  Dying and living and Living and dying.  In the Word you hear God’s law make demands that you can never meet; this is a Word that terrifies you,  because you are a sinner standing in the middle of God’s perfect and blinding glory, and the result is your death, the death of your glory.  In the gospel of Jesus Christ, the good news about His life, death, resurrection, and ascension, you hear about a loving God who came to you, to take away your sins; the result is new life, a life free of condemnation and full of God’s love.  In this good news you are taught that Jesus walked the painful way to the cross for you; He suffered and died to pay for your sins.  In His death He conquered not just your sin and the devil, but also your own death.  In His death and resurrection, all things can be new again, even you!

In your baptism, Jesus brought you into His glory by drowning and destroying your old sinful nature and by bringing you into the cloud of His divine presence.  In your baptism He chose you and He cleansed you.  And what He cleanses, He also molds and changes.  What He molds, He fills.  And what He fills, He uses.  So now, you live!  Every day you choose to live for God as you put to death your old sinful and self-serving nature; you live for God and you live for others!

IV. This is the true nature of our hidden life in Jesus.  When the light show is over and the glory cloud vanishes, there is no one but you and Jesus.  But not the bright as the sun Jesus, but the flesh and blood Jesus.  He’s the one who moves around in this world of sin and suffering, dying for sinners.  He’s the One who speaks to them and through His Word makes them saints.  How does He do that?  Through His church… through you!

Remember in our gospel reading when He told the three not to say a word to anyone about what they had seen until He had risen from the dead?  Well that time has come and gone.  In case you haven’t noticed, everyone who knows is telling anyone who doesn’t what Jesus life, death, resurrection and ascension means!  They are telling them that they are free of shame, worry, and fear.  So now, guess what?  It’s our turn to share the good news.  But we can only do that if we come down off of the mountain top of worship and go out into the real world where there are real sinful and hurting people, dying without knowing Jesus.  The exciting part about all of this is the fact that God wants to reach them through you!

CONCLUSION: Are you a little afraid?  That’s alright; so were Peter and the others.  They didn’t want to leave the safety and awesomeness of their worship experience, but Jesus led them out, and He’ll lead you too!

I’d like to close with a little story that will help us remember that we aren’t alone as we go out into the mission field.  “One evening while flying on an airline, a passenger asked a sailor sitting next to him what time it was. The sailor pulled out a huge watch and replied, “It’s 7:20.” “Your watch must’ve stopped,” replied the passenger, “because I know it’s latter than that!”

“No,” he said, “I’m still on Mountain Standard Time. I am from southern Utah. When I joined the navy, my Dad gave me this watch. He said it’d help me remember home.  You see, when my watch says 5 a.m., I know Dad is rollin’ out to milk the cows. And when it says 7:30 I know my whole family’s gathered around the dinner table with some great food, and Dad’s thankin’ God for what’s on it and askin’ Him to watch over me. I can almost smell the hot biscuits and gravy.  You see, I can find out what time it is where I am easy enough. What I want to know is what time it is in Utah.  It’s thinking about mountain time that keeps me goin’ even during war!”

Dear friends, God is sending us out into the real world; a place where it can be tough.  But He is sending us out with our hearts and minds focused on His Word and the real change He’s made and is making within each of us.  When you get afraid or tired, and just feel like quitting, think of this place and all of the wonderful gifts that God has given to you here, all so that you would be His witness of love and life in a dying world.  Think of His glory that He has placed within you; a glory that can’t be seen with physical eyes but will one day shine as bright as the glory of our Lord’s own Transfiguration.  And when you remember these things, it’s alright to feel excited but just remember emotions will eventually die off, and then it’s just you and Jesus.

So, until we meet again next Sunday for our next encounter with God’s divine service and our next foretaste of the glory to come, may He forever lead and guide you in the Word of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior… AMEN!