Posts Tagged ‘Healing’

Sunday, July 1st, 2018

Pentecost 6B
July 1, 2018
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor of
Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street
San Diego, CA 92114

Click here for audio of this message

“The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him.” [Lamentations 3:25]

Waiting is always difficult.  We always want to find a way to eliminate it, or at least speed it up.  This is especially true when we’re waiting on God to act, speak, or intervene.  May I be so bold as to say that “we” all can become impatient with God?  Could it be true, that in the middle of our waiting we may even feel like God has abandoned us, and forced us to fend for ourselves?

The Apostle Paul knew that temptation to grumble about God’s perceived tardiness, which is why he wrote these Words to encourage the church in Corinth: “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8, 9).

People in general hate to wait, but in their waiting, God’s children find His love.

This was also God’s Word to His people of faith that were conquered and uprooted from their homeland.  They were stripped of every material possession they had.  They lost their homes, possessions, and for some even their families.  To these poor souls, it seemed that they couldn’t fall any lower.  They had nothing left but ruin.  The whole world had written them off.  But the unbelieving world did not know that they had one last and best resource left, and in truth it was their first and only true resource… they had the LORD!

Because of God’s great love for His children of faith, because of His great faithfulness, God’s people would survive; God would protect them and restore them.  His love for His children of faith always wins out.  Even when His children lose faith while they’re waiting, God is faithful and His love never fails!

God can’t help Himself; He always helps His children who He has loved with an everlasting love.  It was His love that moved His compassion to help his children back then, and it is His love that moves His compassion to help us and His church today.  And when we remember God’s love for us, our faith and resolve as individuals and as a congregation are strengthened.  

It is this remembering of His love and faithfulness that moves us to seek out Jesus and rest in His Word and promises.  

In or gospel reading both Jairus and the woman with the issue of blood would have quickly testified that they too felt hard pressed, crushed, and perplexed!  

They must have both been wondering, “Why is this happening to me?”  Why is God allowing my little daughter to die so young?  Why has God allowed me to have this bleeding disease for so long and even blinded the eyes of the doctors so that they can’t cure me?

Jairus must have felt that all of his waiting for his daughter to be healed was for nothing.  Maybe he even felt betrayed by God.  After all he was the faithful leader of God’s people who gathered at the synagogue to hear God’s Word.  Jairus loved God’s children of faith with the love that the Father gave him to love with, so why wasn’t God responding with help for his daughter?

The woman with the issue of blood also must have felt abandoned in her long wait for God’s cure.  Can you imagine, she waited twelve long years and went to doctor after doctor and no comfort or help was found in any of them?  She was now most likely at the point of poverty, and still no cure or even a Word of promise and hope from God! 

Maybe you know exactly how they were feeling.  Maybe you are going through that waiting period right now?  I know that we are as a congregation; we’ve been waiting for so many years for God to send help to we His children of faith who gather here at Trinity Lutheran Church in San Diego.  Like the leader Jairus, we too have been faithful in our ministry of God’s Word and Sacraments.  We have been around since 1894, faithfully dispensing God’s law and gospel, baptizing and feeding His saints.  Why we can even look back into the history of our congregation and see that at one time we were even directly responsible for planting several church’s here in San Diego.  We’ve been intentional in making our congregation multi-cultural and inclusive.  And here we sit; the pews seem empty, our finances are nearly exhausted, and our hope for a future sometimes seems lost.  It seems we’ve tried everything reasonable that should bring growth, but still we struggle.  What more can we do?

Well I’ll tell you what more we can do, both for our own lives and for the life of this congregation; we can find Jesus and go directly to Him!

Finding Jesus was  what both Jairus and the woman did in our gospel lesson.  

Jairus, a man of prestige, a leader of God’s people threw himself down in the dirt at Jesus feet, and simply worshiped Him and called out for help.  “Kyrie!  Lord have mercy!”  The woman with the issue of blood didn’t think she was even worthy of speaking to Jesus.  She felt that her bleeding made her an unclean sinner who shouldn’t even be out in public, yet she went out didn’t she?  She went out and found Jesus, and using the crowd of people to hide in, she got down on her hands and knees and simply reached out with her hand of faith to just touch the corner of Jesus garment.

And what was Jesus response to both of them.  “Do not fear, only believe. Your faith has made you well, made you whole.”  So what can we learn from all of this?  First, Jesus sees and knows all that is happening to you and to our congregation.  He hasn’t turned a blind eye to you or our problems.  Just as he knew how Jairus felt when they told him that his daughter was dead, He knows how we are feeling.  He knows our fears and our feelings of abandonment.  And so Jesus speaks the gospel, words of faith to Jairus and to us.  “Don’t be afraid.  Keep on believing.” 

And to the woman with the issue of blood, Jesus called her out of hiding and insisted that she reveal herself in public.  When He did this, He was also revealing Himself to her; Jesus said,  “Your faith has made you well.  You are no longer a despised unclean sinner.  You are forgiven.  Your faith in me is what has saved you.  You reached out that empty hand of faith and I filled it with even more gifts.  

This morning Jesus is telling us to keep on believing and reaching out and I will keep on filling you!

This was Paul’s message to the church in Corinth as well.  

They too, like Trinity were struggling within their poverty.  Their offerings had all but dried up so that to some it may have appeared that the work of God through the proclaimed Word of God might be dying along with their unpaid bills and salaries.  But Paul wanted to remind them that their true debt was a spiritual one, and that debt had been paid in full by their Savior, the Son of God Jesus Christ.

Paul then directed their minds to a sister congregation in Macedonia.  They too had been stripped of most of their material wealth.  They too saw the tithes and offerings fall to almost useless proportions.  But still they gave.  They gave and gave to the point that Paul thought that it may be unhealthy for them to give anymore, so he asked them to stop.  But they begged Paul to let them keep giving.  Why?  Because they saw the truth in their giving; they were giving out of grace.  They were giving because it was the love of the Father, the gift of grace through faith in His Son Jesus Christ, and the power of the Holy Spirit that was working in them to give.  They knew by faith that they could not out give God, so in essence they were afraid that if they quit giving God would no longer shower them with blessings.  What blessings?  Well I’m sure they were reaping all kinds of physical blessings; how else could they keep on giving?  But the true blessing to them was first the blessing of being forgiven and then the blessing of being part of the believing body of Jesus Christ; the blessings of being Christ’s church, with Jesus as both their head and heart.  And so they gave out of their poverty so that others could be helped and the preaching of the gospel maintained.

And that dear friends was Paul’s solution to the Corinthians lack of charity.  It wasn’t a command to give more or to even give at all; Paul didn’t say give until it hurts so that God will love you more and bless you.  No, Paul simply showed the Corinthians what happens when one heart and many hearts remember and celebrate the faithfulness of God as demonstrated by the coming and giving of His Son.  

Turn your eyes to Jesus, the author and perfecter of your faith.  Remember His suffering and death for you.  Please say it in your heart now, “Jesus gave His life for me, for me, for me.” … let those words echo in your ears.  He became poor so that you could become rich.  He became weak so that you could become strong; strong in faith and strong in service.

How do we celebrate God’s faithfulness?  By turning our eyes of faith to Jesus.  We celebrate by opening our hands and hearts like Jairus and the woman with the issue of blood.  We wait on the LORD quietly to give and take as He sees fit.  We remember that God cannot fill a closed fist, but He can fill hands that are open and lifted high in prayer, giving freely and waiting to receive the abundant blessings from above.

As I walk now to the altar of God to lead us in prayer, please bow your heads open your hands and heart and pray with me…


On Light and Darkness

Monday, March 27th, 2017

The Fourth Sunday in Lent (A), March 26, 2017
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor of
Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA and
Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA

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“Awake, O sleeper and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” So says the final words of our epistle lesson this morning (Ephesians 5:8-14). But what do these words really mean? Are we to think of our faith, our very salvation as nothing more than an alarm clock that rudely awakens us from a pleasant dream, leaving us the choice to either get up and walk the rest of our lives by faith with Christ, or simply hit the snooze button and drift off back to pleasant dreams? Well, yes; that is if you feel separated from God because of the shameful things you’re doing and never repented of, or if you’ve always felt that being baptized or living out your baptism is either a childhood fantasy or a complete waste of your time, then yes quite frankly, this alarm is for you. “Awake, O sleeper and (get up) from the dead, and (then) Christ will shine on you!”

In our gospel lesson this morning Jesus leaves us with some ominous words. Listen: “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” [John 9:39]

Now some of you may be confused; you may see Jesus only as the great Savior of the world. You may want to quote our gospel from two weeks ago and remind me that God loves the world so much that He gave His only Son Jesus so that who so ever believes in Him won’t perish, but have everlasting life. You’ll also no doubt, remind me that God didn’t come into this world to condemn it but to save it. [Jn. 3:16] Now if you told me all of this, I would agree with you, but I would also add that Jesus came to save a sinful world! So, what difference does that make? Well, you have to first admit that you are part of that “sinful” world that Jesus came to save! In other words, you have to first admit that you need saving; that you have sin that you can’t deal with on your own and you need a Savior; you need God’s help… you need His means of salvation! And this was exactly what we learned in our gospel reading this morning.

Consider this, a man blind from birth. He is a Jew and he has probably followed the true religion of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob all of his life. He comes from a good Jewish family with a mother and father who love him, pity him, because of his blindness, and they care for him as best that they can. If you were this blind man you would have long ago accepted that this was your eternal lot in life. Are you angry with people who treat you as less than a man? Maybe! Do you get angry with your parents because they still at times treat you like a child? Perhaps. Are you angry with God for allowing you to be born like this… probably so. And what do you do with all of this disappointment and anger? Well you do what everyone else does, you go to temple and you pay the prescribed sin offerings and then just hope that God will somehow find room for you in His heaven.

But one day you meet a man who speaks truthfully to you; he doesn’t talk down to you, but with you. He tells you that God is real and He knows precisely why you are blind. And then He lays hands on you, he comforts you, sends you to a pool in the temple to wash something off of your eyes that He just applied and… praise God from whom all blessings flow, you can see for the first time in your life! What would you do then? Well again, the rules of worship say you should go show yourself to the religious officials so that God can be praised. Well, you do that and they just belittle you just as they did when you were blind. Even your parents refuse to offer comfort and support; they tell you that you’re and adult and you should work it out on your own with the temple officials. So much for life being better if you could see! Now what? Are you angry with the people in the temple? Probably. Are you angry with your parents? Most likely. Are you still angry with God? Yes, maybe more so than when you were blind! Now what do you do? Well…. Nothing!

You see, this has never been about what you do, instead it is about what God does; it always has been. In our gospel lesson what did Jesus do after restoring the man’s vision? He went to the man who was blind. Because, you see there was still more to the work that God was doing for the man. Restoring his physical vision was just a way to wake him up from his sleep. Now Jesus must do the true work of God; He must speak the gospel to him.

“Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man (that is the Messiah)?” (And the man who was blind at birth but now sees) answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe?”

Even though this man was confused about a lot of things and disappointed by a lot of people, He knew for certain that this man Jesus, who spoke truthfully and lovingly to him, who gave him something he thought he would never have this side of heaven was one man that he trusted. So he was willing to go and believe in anyone that Jesus pointed out as being His Savior. And Jesus said to him, “You have seen Him, and it is he who is speaking to you.” Now it all made sense; now he understood why this man’s voice was so comforting and yet so authoritative. So he said, “LORD! I believe,” and he worshiped him.” [Jn. 9:35-38]

He worshiped Him! That means that He saw first who Jesus was and second, he saw the gospel truth in Jesus Words; he was saved! “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you!” Did you know that those words written by St. Paul were actually taken from an early church hymn. I suppose it’s possible that they could even have even been written by this man or someone from his time. They explain a lot about the gospel call that Jesus gave not just to that man born blind but to everyone who witnessed it and who reads about it today. If that hymn describes the call of God before the man received Jesus as his savior, then this hymn describes the song of his life afterwards and even our lives now. Listen: “I want to walk as a child of the light. I want to follow Jesus. God set the stars to give light to the world. The star of my life is Jesus! In Him there is no darkness at all. The night and the day are both alike. The Lamb is the light of the city of God. Shine in my heart, Lord Jesus!” [LSB 411 vs. 1]

The story’s told about a man who became blind at the age of ten. He came from a wealthy family, and they spared no expense in finding a medical way to restore their son’s eyesight, but nothing worked. The boy grew to be a man, and he was resolved to the fact that he would always be blind, so life went on for the blind man. He did as all men do, seeing or blind, he worked and provided for a future. One day part of his future began to take shape. He met the love of his life. The two were engaged to be wed and they set the date. Several months before the wedding, the man was called into his doctor’s office and told that there was now a surgical procedure that could restore his eyesight. The man was excited but also nervous; you see it had been 20 years since he saw nothing but darkness. Well after a moment of prayer, he of course agreed to have the surgery. The man informed his doctor that he would be married in 6 weeks, so he asked if he would be able to see his wife on his wedding day. The doctor assured him that the healing process would be complete by then and the bandages could be removed. On the day before the wedding, the doctor called the man into his office to remove the bandages, but the man refused instead, he asked the doctor to come to his wedding and take off the bandages at the altar. He said that the first image he wanted to see was that of his lovely bride standing before the altar of the Lord, so that he could marvel at her beauty and praise God at the same time.

Dear friends, if you see and know Jesus as your Lord and Savior; if you see Him as both God and man; if you see him as your only means of pleasing God; and if you see all of this because God’s Word has both healed you and saved you then you are like the blind man in our gospel reading and like the blind man in my story.

By God’s grace and through the eyes of faith that He has opened with His Word, you see the brightness of God in Jesus Christ; you are drawn to this light and you follow it. Jesus is your light that allows you to see not just your sin, but God’s forgiving love that shines from the cross.

You follow this light from the cross to the baptismal font, where you were bathed and washed clean in God’s own light; you were recreated! And from the font it is your desire to follow that light where ever it leads you. And where does it lead you? It leads you out into our community where sin, death, and darkness blind our neighbors. And what are you to do as you follow the light of Jesus? You let it shine! But make no mistake; this light is not your light, not even a little bit! No, it is all God’s light reflecting off of you. As Jesus is your Sun, you are His moon. Your little gospel light is simply a reflection of Jesus wonderful light that is eternal in the city of God. And your prayer as you follow Him is simply this, “Shine in my heart, Lord Jesus. Bring your light into the darkness as I follow you.”

So dear friends, God is calling those of us who once were in darkness, but now have been given eternal life through His gift of spiritual sight to walk as children of light.

What are we to do? We are to gather around His Word and Sacraments and try to discern through the leading of His light what is pleasing to the Lord. We are to be in the world, but not of it; we are to take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose the darkness by our lives that trust and follow Christ’s light. Through the Word of God, our lives are shaped and through that same Word we are shaping our community by exposing the darkness of sin with Christ’s own light. We are to be a reminder, an alarm that shouts into the darkness and this sinful world, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you (too)!” In Jesus name… AMEN!

Signs From Heaven

Sunday, October 16th, 2016

Twenty First Sunday After Trinity-HL, October 16th, 2016
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor
Trinity Lutheran Church, and
Our Redeemer Lutheran Church

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“Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” [John 4:48]

Well, people haven’t changed much since the day Jesus said these Words.  They were spoken in response to a desperate father’s cry for healing on behalf of his dying son.  People still beg for miracles from a God they hardly know and seldom acknowledge.  People still today, imagine that if they could only see some kind of miracle from God, it would make it so much easier for them to believe.  Maybe it’s true, that most people normally don’t think very much about God.  But when they are in trouble, well you know the saying; “There’s no atheists in a fox hole.”  Most people, when they become desperate, will pray for a miracle from God.  It’s as if they are putting God on trial and demanding that He prove He exists.

Even Jesus enemies accepted the fact that He could probably do wondrous and miraculous things, so the signs He performed became His reputation and not the proof that the Messiah had come to save His people.   But search the gospels, and you will see that Jesus never worked miracles to impress people or to make Himself more popular or to gain true believers.  Even the devil with all of his temptations thrown at Christ, could not move Him to do that.  Jesus used His power to help others, but He never used it to help Himself or to make His life more prosperous or comfortable.  He always used His divine powers to reveal the mystery and mercy of God and God’s loving presence in the midst of a sinful generation.  For those who had eyes to see, His miracles revealed that the Kingdom of God was now with sinful men and women and that the Messiah had indeed come!

But why didn’t Jesus perform such signs as would convince others of who He really was?  Why doesn’t God allow such signs to be given to us today?  For the answers to these questions let’s look at our gospel lesson. [John 4:46-54]

The healing of the royal official’s son shows us both the expectations of sinful people when dealing with their perfect Creator, and the perfect Creator’s response when dealing with sinful men and women.

“And at Capernaum there was an official whose son was ill. When this man heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went to him and asked him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death.  So Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.””  Now here’s a question that begs to be asked, “If the man knew of Jesus and His miracles, why did he wait so long for an opportunity to know Jesus; why did he wait for this desperate hour, literally the last hour of his son’s life before he sought out Jesus?”  The answer that was true then is the same answer that’s true today:  Knowing God and serving him is never a priority until it’s an emergency.  This is why Jesus said that unless we sinful people see signs and wonders we wont believe.  We wont believe because we don’t see a need to believe.  And when the need like an emergency arises, we have faith alright, but it is a general faith, a desperate faith.  But Jesus refuses to be known in this way, like some kind of magic genie who only lives to fulfill our wishes.

Somehow this desperate father perceived this rebuke in Jesus statement.  So his guilt and his desperation produced repentance and he was some how filled with the audacity and persistency to ask Jesus again, but this time with a heart that was beginning to understand something about how God works.  So the desperate father said to Jesus again, “Sir, come down before my child dies.”  This father, broken of pride and humbled by the impossibility of the request refuses to leave because it has nowhere else to go but to Jesus.  But most importantly it now knows that only Jesus can do the impossible.  The audacity of this hope is that it believes that Jesus really wants to help!

Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way.”  Now this man’s faith has moved from a general faith to a specific faith in Jesus alone and it is well on its way to a saving faith.  Listen: “As he was going down, his servants met him and told him that his son was recovering.  So he asked them the hour when he began to get better, and they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.”  The father knew that was the hour when Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” And he himself believed, and all his household.”

He believed!  But what does He believe?  He believes that the Word of Jesus is true.  He believes that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, the Savior who has come to save sinful mankind.  He does not understand this nearly as intricately as you do today, because he did not have all of the facts that you have, but nonetheless, he believed!  And what’s more, he shared his newfound faith in Jesus with his family and now they believe; they too are saved from their sins through faith in the Word of Christ alone!

So which is the greater miracle, the healing of the boy or the salvation that came to the family by faith?  Is this gospel lesson today about healing or about salvation?  How you answer that question will reveal what kind of God you think you serve and trust in.

Some people search for promises of healing and prosperity when they read their Bibles and others search for promises of forgiveness and restoration.

People who search for prosperity and healing will always find disappointment, because Jesus did not come into this world to make us rich and healthy but to save us from our sins.  When people asked Jesus for a sign or miracle, He told them that just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up (upon the cross).  He said that they would receive no other sign than the sign of Jonah.  Jesus means two things by this.  In the first place He declares the need for seeing and confessing our sins.  This was the message at Nineveh when Jonah declared that the sinful proud Ninevites were damned to eternal punishment; this is the message that brought them to their knees in repentance.

But this is also a message of Gospel hope, which Jesus proclaims in His own death and resurrection.  Just as the sinful Israelites were to look upon the serpent on the pole as their only means of salvation and forgiveness, so too sinful men and women must look only to Jesus, lifted upon the cross, as their only means of forgiveness and salvation.  Just as Jonah stayed three days in the belly of the whale but was brought back among the living after the third day, so too, Jesus would rest within the tomb and on the third day rise to life and declare victory over sin, death and the devil.  This is why Christ has provided preachers for His church, so that we too can be confronted with the fact that Jesus died and rose again for grievous sinners like us.

And this kind of faith, according to Jesus, is the kind that saves.  In Jesus Words, the same Word that was spoken to the desperate father, is the power of God unto salvation; a power that touches our consciences and appeals to our sinful souls, and then confirms that because of the work of God alone, we “are of the truth.” [John 18:37]

In Jesus’ Word, we sense the accusations, we hear the promises, and we know what God has done not just for the world, but for us!  But if we do not have a conscience that is open to the voice of God, that is if we refuse to allow our faith to move from a simple general kind of faith to a saving kind, well then, no sign or miracle will help us.

Even King Herod wished to see a sign from Jesus, but he never received it.  He already received his sign when John the Baptist stood before him and preached directly about his sin; a sin that was separating Herod from the forgiving love of God.  When Herod silenced that voice of conscience, he had no other hope.  Jesus answered him not a word.  And if we silence the voice of the Holy Spirit, which seeks to bring us saving faith, neither do we have any other hope. [Matthew 14:9-12; Luke 23:9]

For each of us today, it is critical that we do not become a “faithless and unbelieving generation” who demand signs because we will not repent until we first have been thoroughly convinced.  [Matthew 16:4; Luke 11:16]  If today you hear His voice in Scripture and know that Jesus is your God and you are His, give glory to God alone.  And know that the only person who will come to God is the person who loves Him and seeks to do His good and gracious will, whether it is profitable or not.

When it comes to answered prayer, know that in Jesus in regards to the promises of God the answer is always yes.  Yes, you are forgiven through Christ because God has said so.  Yes, you will return one day to live eternally within the new Paradise of God restored to perfection.  Yes, you can have peace with God and joy right now, simply because God promises that it is so.  But in regards to asking for something that God has not promised is yours, something like a healing or a blessing of prosperity here in this sinful world, you must not be ashamed to ask, but you should also remember that their is no promise of God attached to your request.  So, keep on asking.  Keep on praying in faith, and then simply trust that God will give to you always and only what is best for you.

So where God speaks a promise we must believe by faith that it is so, and where God is silent we must trust and rest in His perfect love.  May God continue to make this so for each of us, and I ask this in Jesus name… AMEN!

Our Balm in Gilead

Sunday, June 2nd, 2013

Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church-San Diego
Pentecost 2C, June 2nd, 2013

Click here for audio of this message

Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then has the health of the daughter of my people not been restored? [Jeremiah 8:22]

So speaks God through the prophet Jeremiah. Why don’t my people come to me when they are in need; why do they trust in other things, things of man but not the God who creates and sustains all things  created? Why can they not see that I, the God who creates them am the same God who sustains them?

Instead of trust in God, as our money says, we as Americans seem to trust in our own resourcefulness. We want to pick ourselves up by our own bootstraps, so to speak. We hear people say things like good  people practice religion, but they don’t take it too seriously. Welcome to Hypocrite Township, where science and positive thoughts sustain life and happiness!

But there isn’t a chance that we good Christians will go down that road, is there? I mean, Hypocrite Township is the home of those who look to all other forms of health and happiness but Jesus and His  means of grace. They don’t need, nor do they want handouts and giveaways. They work for what they need and want. They are proud that they earn their way in life; why they deserve what they have!

We Christians know that as a false gospel of prosperity; it’s a perversion of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We all know that the gospel is a free gift of Christ sacrificially giving Himself to rescue and deliver  sinners like us from sin, death, and the devil, even this sinful age we live in. No sir, we’re going to steer clear of Hypocrite Township, because we know that the devil runs that territory.

Yes sir, we Christians follow Christ, because we love Him. We worship Him and we read and hear His Word. We don’t look for people’s approval but instead we are servants of Christ. You see, we Christians are a praying people. And we pray, “Lord, I thank you that I’m not like those other people who keep on moving to and living in Hypocrite Township. I thank you that you bless me, because I’ve got a strong faith; faith that you said can move mountains.”

Well, neighbor… welcome to Hypocrite Township. You’ll fit right in! Isn’t it amazing how easily we get there with all of the other hypocrites? Even when that is precisely where we don’t want to go. Who is responsible for our continued detour to Hypocrite Township? Is it the devil? Well sure, but that is just a tad to easy to blame it all on him; after all, you have a Savior who has promised you that He has defeated that ancient foe. So is it society, with its promises of health and happiness outside of what they say is an antiquated religion, that only divides people? Or maybe it is the phony word of faith and name it and claim it preachers that mix religion with the occult? Well sure they can preach a powerful message of false hope, but in the end, you’re the one who stopped to listen and then buy into what they were peddling. No, I’m afraid that you’re at fault; you’re the one who forgot about your true Balm in Gilead!

In the end, we Christians are the ones who convince ourselves that it is logical and obvious, that we don’t get something for nothing. Since we received something from God, namely forgiveness of sins and a relationship of love with Him through Christ, we think that it must be because we deserve it. Good is for the good and bad is for bad. That’s the white wash that we paint over our dark dirty grey casket, which contains the dead bones of our own righteousness. But what happens when God’s own righteousness rains down? What happens when our clean white illusion is washed away by God’s Word, and our own evil is revealed? We and the message of false prosperity and health we’ve been following are shown for what it is… and evil illusion! Our entire hypocritical motto is uncovered… “Look out for number one, and do unto others before they do unto you.”

Once God moves you to see this truth about who you really are without Him, you will then and only then turn to Him alone as not only your source of salvation, but also as your only source of happiness and health, peace and prosperity. Then and only then will you learn to be happy with what ever He gives to you, or allows to come your way.

It’s a matter of having spiritual eyes to recognize Christ’s authority and a trust or faith in His tender care.

The Centurion in our gospel lesson (Luke 7:1–10) was given both of these things from God. Somehow, we are told that He heard of Jesus; he heard the Word of God about the Son of God and He recognized Jesus for who He was; He was Lord! And that Centurion, a foreigner to God’s presence and providence desired to reach out to Jesus as God’s authority, as God’s means of salvation and health. So He sent a delegation of Jewish elders to plead with Jesus to heal His servant. And what happened next? Did the elders dismiss that request? No! God in His special providence moved the heart of these men to approach Jesus with the request of healing. And what of Jesus? Did Jesus tell them to let the Centurion know that He did not come to save gentiles but only the good “God fearing” Jews of the Land? No! In fact Jesus had them take Him directly to the home of the gentile, the unclean gentile’s home.

Amazing isn’t it? God’s love really is for all! But the most amazing part is what comes next. We learned that Jesus never made it to the home of the Centurion, instead the Centurion had another delegation meet Jesus before he arrived to his home, and they related this message: “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof. Therefore I did not presume to come to you. But say the word, and let my servant be healed. For I too am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me: and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

Now that dear friends is faith. A kind of trust in Jesus authority that is real and alive. It cannot be bought and it cannot be obtained outside of the Word of God. It is solely a work of grace and it comes alive as God determines through the work of His Spirit. It is a kind of faith that simply lays down its request at the feet of Jesus and believes that the God of Creation and Salvation is also the God that determines ones fate. It is the kind of faith that accepts what ever Word Jesus gives. I am convinced that even if Jesus had not healed the servant’s body but healed the servant’s soul as He had obviously done for the Centurion, both would have rested peacefully in God’s gracious love and presence.

A poor middle-aged woman with poor health, a broken spirit, and a criminal record responds to an invitation to attend church with the comment, “Church is for good people, not people like me.” A young man, who many would call a hoodlum asks, “I’ve done some bad things. Can I still join your church?” A couple living together, but not married ask the pastor, “Can we get our child baptized even if we are not married?” All of these questions and many more are simply opportunities for us to step outside of the city limits of Hypocrite Township and begin a relationship of sharing God’s Word, Law and Gospel with strangers, people who are foreigners to God’s grace. Questions like these present opportunities for us to present Christ’s church not as a white washed mausoleum of saints, but as a hospital for sinners; a place where the very worst of us have found the balm of Gilead, and where they too can find forgiveness and healing.

Forgiveness is an unbelievable gift. “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof. Therefore I did not presume to come to you. But say the Word, and let my servant be healed.” But the Lord did, and does put Himself to trouble, a whole lot of trouble. And He comes to live a long side of us, He says the Word and we are forgiven… we are healed of a sin sick soul. He initiates the new relationship of love and forgiveness by coming to us in His Word of Law which shows us our terrible sin of pride and self sufficiency, and when we have been destroyed by His displeasure, by His righteous anger, He speaks the Gospel Word of forgiveness and, by His stripes, we are healed; we are created into the very image of Christ!

The gospel of Christ is the message of His cross. It is a message about His sacrificial giving of Himself to rescue and deliver us from the power of this sinful and evil age. The gospel is the gift of a new relationship of love and forgiveness with God and each other. It is the entire message that is spoken to us in our worship: Jesus accepts foreigners. Jesus hears the prayers of sinners that seek His forgiving love. And Jesus desires to hear our prayers about others who need His intervening presence in their lives as well.

Jesus offers grace, powerful and wonderworking grace to all who see a need. For whom shall we pray for this week? For whom shall you intercede for and say, “He or she is worthy to have you come to them. They need your forgiving touch and then your touch of healing strength.” Who has God put in your life so that you can tell them about a Balm in Gilead? If you can not preach like Peter, if you cannot pray like Paul, you can tell the love of Jesus and say He died for all” even a hypocrite like them and like you! AMEN!

There is a Prophet Among Us!

Sunday, February 12th, 2012

6th Sunday in Epiphany B, February 12, 2012
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
2 Kings 5:1-14, Mark 1:40-45

Click here for audio of this message

“Why have you torn your clothes?  Let him come now to me, that he may know that there is a prophet in Israel.” [2 Kings 5:8b]

What if we were to advertise throughout our community that next week, Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church was having a healing service?   What if we told people that all that was required of them was that they come with great faith to believe that God was going to heal them of  any and all illnesses and diseases?  What do you think would happen?  I think we’d have a packed house!  Why?  Because people are  desperate for healing and wholeness in their lives, but not necessarily the kind they really need!  But if they weren’t healed, who’s fault  would that be; theirs or ours?

In or readings today we are given two examples of healing.  One happened to a mighty man of war named Naaman, and the other was given  to a simple leper who remains nameless to this day.  Each was healed.  One lacked faith and the other had great faith, but both were obedient  to the Word and command of God.

Consider Naaman.  Not only was he a great military man, but he was admired and respected by his king, the King of Syria.  At the height of  his military career, he was diagnosed with an always deadly disease, leprosy.  It is a slow and painful death.  The symptoms start with specks  on the eyelids and then onto the palms of the hands as the flesh eating disease slowly spreads throughout the body.  The hair of the sufferer  turns white wherever the leprosy pops up next, and then crusty and foul smelling sores appear.  At first the sores are only on the surface of  the skin, but then they begin to penetrate deep into the muscles and tendons, then into the bone, which causes the diseased part of the body to fall away at the joints.  Ultimately, the disease ends up in the heart, and death is always the final outcome.

Such was the bleak future that Naaman was guaranteed.  That is, until a faithful Jewish girl who was his servant shared the news about the true and living God and His prophet, who still worked miracles in Israel!  So off went Naaman into a foreign land, the land of his enemy in search of a cure.  And when he arrived at the house of Elisha, the prophet of God, he’s told to go to the Jordan river and bathe.  And what was Naaman’s response?  He was infuriated, and he stormed away screaming: “(Can you believe it!) I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call upon the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the (disease) and cure (me). Aren’t (our) rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?”

Now here is a case of a man expecting a healing according to his desire, and never once pausing to consider what God wants.  “Why couldn’t he just wave his hand over my sores and speak some mumbo-jumbo like the other faith healers?  Why does he tell me to jump into this little river in the middle of my enemies land?  I’m out of here!”  But God wasn’t not done with Naaman; you see, He didn’t just want to just heal him of leprosy, he wanted to give Him faith to believe that God knows him and loves him; He wanted Naaman to know that there really is only one God who controls not just sickness and disease but even men and their sinful hearts!

So Naaman allowed cooler heads to prevail, and he listened to the Words of faith repeated again by his servants.  Naaman was obedient to the will of God, and through the Word of God He was healed immediately and given faith!

Now let’s consider the leper in our gospel reading (Mark 1:40-45).  Somehow, he has heard about Jesus.  Yes, he knows about the rumored healing miracles, but he also knows who Jesus is, the holy one of God… the Messiah!

The other gospel accounts of this incident make it clear that there were great crowds surrounding Jesus, and crowds are the last place you would ever find a Jewish leper, because God’s Word in Leviticus made it clear that all lepers were to steer clear of crowds.  They were told that wherever they went, they had to declare that they were unclean, so that no one would have contact with them.  And now this leper pushes his way through the crowd with only one desire, to get to Jesus.  Why?  To be healed?  Well yes, but only if it is Jesus will; only if it is God’s will!  So kneeling at the feet of Jesus in an act of worship, he calls out: “If you will, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, (Jesus) stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean.”  Make note of that; Jesus had pity for this lowly leper.

The leper believed that Jesus had the ability to heal his leprosy with a single word: “You can make me clean” but then he added “if it’s your will.” In those words, there’s no attempt to manipulate Jesus’ will, but only his humble acceptance to whatever Jesus’s will is! He leaves everything up to Jesus.  He knows that if Jesus wants Him to be healed, then he’ll be healed.  He left it all in the loving counsel and will of God!

You see, the leper knew that all he was asked to do was give his request to God and then trust that all things would work together for his good, because he obediently followed God’s call to turn to Jesus for help. This is the kind of faith that expects God to do great things; greater than it can imagine!  This poor leper demonstrated the kind faith that is willing to completely trust Jesus, even if it means death.  The Leper trusted that God would do what is best for him!

Do we still see examples of these two people today?  Yes!  In regards to Naaman, consider modern day cancer patients who have been told that their cancer is terminal.  They will travel to the ends of the earth for a cure.  They pack the sanctuaries of self-proclaimed faith healers, with the promise of a healing, if only they can find enough faith!  And when their healing doesn’t come they are told that the fault lies within them, because they lacked faith.  The result is always the same… anger.  Anger with God and anger against the church, because it couldn’t provide the hoped for result!

A boy once asked, “Dad, how do wars begin?”  The father thought for a moment and said, “Well, take the Korean War, for example.” said his father. “That got started when North Korea invaded South Korea.”  Immediately his wife interrupted him: “Tell the boy the truth. It began because somebody was murdered.” The husband drew himself up with an air of superiority and snapped back, “Are you answering the question, or am I?” Turning her back to her husband, she took off in a huff, and stormed out of the room slamming the door behind her as hard as she could.  After an uneasy silence followed, the son said, “Never mind Daddy, you don’t have to tell me anymore; I know now how wars start!”

Anger not only starts wars, but it can also prevent us from hearing God’s Word of peace; a Word that can bring not just temporary healing, but eternal healing.  In the case of Naaman, there was a clear Word from God that promised healing from his disease.  Is there such a Word for those who are sick today?  Yes, but to hear that Word we have to turn to our second case study, that of the leper in our gospel reading!

Like the leper, we are told to take our cares and our concerns to God’s loving heart, His Son, Jesus Christ!  “Cast your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.” [Psalm 55:22]  “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” [1 Peter 5:7]  “Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act.” [Psalm 37:5]  And to keep all of this in the correct context Jesus adds, (When you pray) “Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name… Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

Like the leper, we are given faith to obediently make our way to Jesus, to lay our petitions down at His feet, and trust that what is best for us has already been decided and is already being done!  This heart of faith makes no demands of God, but simply cries out to Him for help and then it worships Him, regardless of what He decides.

But what about the scripture that speaks of healing?  You know, by His wounds (or stripes) you are healed!  Surely that is God’s declaration concerning His desire to heal us, isn’t it?  Yes, but like the leper, we must place our request at the feet of Jesus and receive God’s will according to His desire and time.  Let’s look at that piece of scripture in its correct context, and then let God speak: “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” [1 Peter 2:24, 25]  Remember the pity or compassion that Jesus had when the leper approached Him?  Well it was that same compassion for us that led Him to the cross to die for your sin!

Healing, true healing always comes according to God’s compassion, means, and will.  In our old testament reading Naaman wanted to know why he couldn’t have just bathed in the rivers in his own country, and why the prophet didn’t just wave his hand over the disease.  The answer is because those things did not have God’s Word of command attached to them.  While the leprosy that Naaman wanted taken away, was in fact cured, there was something else God, according to His compassion, wanted to take away; He wanted to take Naaman’s sin away from Him.  Sin was and still is a disease that is always terminal and can only be remedied by a God who chooses to take it from us, and in it’s place, give us faith to believe He’s done it!

God’s Word gave Naaman that gift of faith; He gave it to Him so that He would know Him and have a blessed life on earth and also in heaven.  After Naaman was healed, he returned to Elisha and proclaimed his faith with these words: “Behold, I know that there is no God in all the earth but in Israel”!  And so Naaman was cured of his sin by trusting in God’s Word!  The same is true of the leper in our gospel reading.  Both men’s stories are recorded for us, so that we will know the true meaning of “by His wounds you are healed.”

Jesus bore our sins in His body upon the cross, so that we would die to sin and live a life that God calls righteous.  By Jesus’ suffering and death upon the cross God provides a cure for our spiritual leprosy, and in your baptism He applies that cure to you.   In your baptism you are washed clean of death and you are healed and returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your soul; you are returned holy, perfect, and righteous!  And because of God’s work within you, you are now able to testify like Naaman, that you know that there is no other God in all the earth!

Through the cross, God defeated sin, death, and devil.  He made all things new.  In your baptism, God gave you this gift of forgiveness.  It is what He did that saves us and it is how He gives it to us, which is the only way we can receive it.  Through His Word He gives you faith to trust Him and place all of your worries and concerns into His loving will.  God always works according to His means!  His primary work is always to take away our sins.  His secondary work is to bless us in this life as a foretaste of the blessing in the life to come.

What is God up to this morning?  He is speaking faith, even now into our heats.  He doesn’t want us to “Tear our clothes” or tear out our hair in worry.  He wants you to trust Him and obediently follow Him through whatever circumstance you find yourself in.

Does God still hear and answer our prayers for healing today?  Yes!  Will he heal you today or tomorrow of whatever sickness or disease you may have, because you have asked in faith?  Maybe, but then again maybe not.  You see all of us will one day die of some disease or another; that is just the reality of living in this sinful world.  But because we have been saved, healed by the suffering and death of Jesus, because we have been washed clean in the waters of our baptism; because we are daily given the gift of faith through His Word and the care and power of the Holy Spirit, we shall one day, soon enough be eternally cured from all suffering and death.  Then on that great day we will know, not by faith but experience, that there is a Prophet who is great among us!  We shall call Him Jesus; not just our Prophet, but our Priest, and King; our brother and friend; our Lord and our God!