Posts Tagged ‘Holy Trinity’

The Mystery of the Holy Trinity

Sunday, June 11th, 2017

Holy Trinity Sunday, June 11, 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

“Whoever desires to be saved must above all, hold the “universal” Christian faith.  And the “universal” Christian faith is this, that we worship one God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity, neither confusing the persons nor dividing the substance.” [vs. 1-3 of the Athanasian Creed]

God is one.  There is only one God.  The one God has always existed from eternity as one God—and He always will!  God alone is eternal.  And to this, your Muslim, Mormon, and Jehovah Witness neighbors would say a loud AMEN!

Does it surprise you to know that the folks from these other religions will appeal to this very truth and then attempt to draw you away from your Christian faith? 

You see, in addition to confessing that God is one, our neighbors from these other religions also know that we Christians similarly confess something that they can’t agree with; we confess that God is love, in fact we say that love is the very essence of God.  Now your neighbors from these other religions will never deny that God loves but they will deny that this love is the essence of God.  Why is that?

Because, they will claim that if God can’t be God unless He loves someone, then God can’t be God without someone to love.  So how can an eternal-almighty God be dependent upon His creation in order for Him to be God?  They will tell you that although God does love, love can’t be God’s essence, because He is dependent on no one.  But this kind of faulty thinking about the One True God isn’t any better than the beliefs that come from people who worship many gods.  You see, there’s no difference between having one idol and half a dozen idols.  Idols are idols.  The god of these other religions is an idol.  The true God is one, but the mere acknowledgement of this fact doesn’t mean a person is worshiping the One true God.  You see, the One true God is also united within Trinity.  The only God who exists is the Triune God.  And any god who isn’t triune is not God because a god who is not triune cannot be love, and God is love.

Dear friends, please do not ever let any devil lead you away from this truth because it is crucial to your very salvation.  If God wasn’t love then he would not have suffered and died upon the cross for you!

The love of God is not an attribute that makes Him dependent on us. 

It is the eternally defining attribute of God that defines His very essence as God in regards to His relationship shared between the three persons within the One Godhead.  When we say God is love we are also saying that God could not be love unless He was Triune.  You see, there’s an eternal unity of love between the Father who begets and sends His unique Son who is begotten.  This eternal unity of divine love exists as well between the Father and the Son, and the Holy Spirit who is sent from both of them. But as I said in the children’s message, this is far too high for us to grasp.  You see, how God relates within Himself is far too much for us to comprehend.  After all, He is the Creator and we are the creature!

While completely understanding God is far above us, we can know about Him by paying attention to what He has already revealed about Himself.  We know from scripture that the Father has begotten His unique Son on many occasions.  It was the Son and two angels who visited Abraham outside of Sodom and Gomorra to warn Abraham of the pending destruction of the two cities, so that His nephew Lot might be saved.  It was the God the Son begotten by the Father who took on the form of a burning bush so that Moses might behold some of the Lord’s glory and receive God’s Law that would teach Israel and the people of faith how to relate rightly to a Holy and loving God.  There are many more instances throughout scripture that demonstrate that God the Father begets or sends the One of a kind Son in order to accomplish the purpose of God, but for us, the best example is found in the Gospel of John: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” [John 1:14]

Do you hear in those words how the Son is now forever begotten in human flesh yet He still possesses eternal glory, grace and truth.  Do you understand how together the Father and the Son send the Holy Spirit?  It was God the Spirit who was hovering over the face of the waters in the very beginning of creation. He was sent by the Father and the Son, and together they created the heavens and the earth; He was sent by these Words: “”Let there be light,” and there was light.  And God saw that the light was good. [Genesis 1:1-4]  Like a marvelous symphony God’s Word’s of Love spoke forth creation and goodness.  It was an eternal love generated and sent from the heart of the One true God who has always revealed Himself in three persons.

But we must always remember that we can’t divide the person’s from the One True God or else we will lose His essence, which is love.  What do I mean by this? Well you see…

While it is the Father who begets His unique Son on Mission, and it is the unique Son who is begotten but not created, and it is the Holy Spirit who is sent together by the Father and the Son, there are not three God’s but One.

As One, the three persons in the God-head created everything together; together with one mind and one heart of love.  The divine mystery of God’s triune nature is this: As One they have always existed and since God does not change they will always be One in glory and majesty.  There is only One Uncreated, Eternal, and Almighty God.  When we pray to our Lord in heaven we don’t pray to three Lords, but rather we pray to one Lord because the Father is Lord, the Son is Lord, and the Holy Spirit is Lord.  Three persons united eternally in One essence of love, which is God!

After all of this, I think that we all now agree that God’s ways are far above our ability to understand, so why am I talking about an eternal relationship of love into which you and I could never find our way?  Because…

God has created a way; He has brought His love to us!  In so doing He has established fellowship with us.  But in order to enjoy all of the benefits of this relationship (eternal grace, mercy, and peace with God and each other), we must also faithfully believe that God the Son was begotten, that is He alone, took on our human flesh.  He did this not because He needed to, but rather He did it because He is God, a God Who loves.  We will understand this truth if we can see how badly we need God’s love. You see…

We are the ones in need! 

We need God to come to us.  Although God’s voice declared all that He had made was good, it was our own sinfulness that has forever turned good into evil.  Think now, in the privacy of your own hearts, who among us has not thought or done evil already this morning?!  Isn’t it true that without help we could never stand before a perfect and righteous God!  There is not a single thing that we can do to save ourselves…we need God’s mercy, pardon, and forgiveness.  And yet the punishment for sin is death, and that is precisely what it will take to pay for our sinfulness.  But as a true champion, our Redeemer God came to us begotten in our own flesh, and He paid for our sins Himself.  The entire God came to us.  Our creator wrapped Himself in creation, because only He could change our hopeless situation.

Listen to how God’s Word proclaims this mystery of His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ: “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.” [Colossians 1:15-20]

So why do I say that in Christ all of God came to us?  Because if you remember, we can never divide the essence of God; God always acts as one because He is one!  Now I know that once again, this is far above any of us to understand, but we must believe this truth because it is how God has revealed Himself.  Let me offer a crude representation that Martin Luther once referenced, and see if it might make this a bit easier to receive:
Before a wedding, there were three women in the dressing room putting a dress on the bride, who was one of the three and she participated as well with putting on the dress. We could say that all three were dressing her; and yet only one is being put in the dress. In a similar way, we see that all three Persons, as one God, created the one humanity, clothed the Son in this unique, one of a kind existence, and united it with His person, so that only the Son became man, and not the Father or the Holy Spirit, yet because God is One and not three, the Son who from the time of His birth as Jesus would now eternally be fully God and fully man.

Friends, it was this same Jesus who lived the sinless life on our behalf.  It was this same Jesus who allowed Himself to be put to death by sinful men.  He did not have to do this but rather He chose to suffer and die for us, because God is love.  Please hear me, “This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men,(because it was your sins that compelled God out of love to suffer and die for you.  But be of good cheer), God (has) raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.” [Acts 2:23-24]  By His stripes you have been healed.  By His suffering and death you have been released from the eternal punishment for your many sins!  By God’s love you have been saved!

At your baptism God’s work of re-creation was activated for you. 

There at the font, all of the benefits of Christ’s suffering and death were given to you.  The old sinful man or woman that was your identity at birth has now been put to death through His same Word of creation that was spoken “In The Beginning”.

This re-creation of life from death is now yours because of God’s own suffering and death through Christ Jesus!  Dear friends, do you see what a wonderful gift of love is now yours?  You have been freed from your former body of death and you have been given a new life.  Embrace and cherish this gift.  Live out this new life with certainty that it is yours!

As wonderful as this new life is and as sinful and undeserving as we may be, we must not doubt that this gift is ours, because it was given out of God’s love.  And yet when the troubles of life creep in, we do doubt, we can lose hope, and that is why Jesus hasn’t left us alone in life as orphans.  He promises that He and the Father are still with us in love, because He has sent us the gift of the Holy Spirit, and where the Holy Spirit is, there also are the Father and the Son, because God is One!

It is the Holy Spirit who moves our hearts to hunger for hearing and studying God’s Word.  It is the Holy Spirit that causes us to remember God’s saving love when we remember our own baptism.  It is the Holy Spirit that creates a hunger within us to gather at the Lord’s Table where we receive His very body and blood when we eat and drink for the forgiveness of sins.  It is the Holy Spirit that creates in us a clean heart, which in turn moves us to come to God in prayer, asking first for forgiveness and then for all the desires of our heart, with the assurance that God hears us and answers us according to His will.

Dear friends, the Holy Spirit is united for eternity with the Father and the Son, and together they lead us by faith so that they may strengthen and grow God’s Church.  The Holy Spirit, sent by the Father and the Son propels all believers out into our community, armed with His Word and Sacraments, personal witness and Christian living in order “to convince the world concerning sin and righteousness.”
So Jesus says to yo this morning…

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I Jesus your Lord have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” [Matthew 28:19, 20]

Next Sunday we will look at this Great Commission of Jesus a little closer, and the why and how behind it, as He sends each of us out into the mission field. But until then, let us pray to the Lord of the harvest for love, peace, and wisdom.

Let us pray: “O Lord, teach us to love our neighbor as you love us, and lead on O Lord; make us one in missionary zeal as you are One—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”  In Jesus name…AMEN!

God’s Gifts That Keep on Giving

Sunday, January 5th, 2014

Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church-San Diego
Christmas 2A, January 5th, 2013

Click here for audio of this message

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the  heavenly places, even as He chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before  him.”  Those are the Words St. Paul used to begin his pastoral letter to the church at Ephesus so that they would have certainty  and peace with God, knowing that He had done all things necessary to assure them that God would not abandon them.  And  now, for the very same reason I your pastor, declare these same words of comfort and peace to you.

Four phrases jump out at us and demand our attention through out our epistle reading (Ephesians 1:3-14).  They demand to be  considered and applied to our lives, as the precious gifts that keep on giving.  Precious indeed, and they are these: In Christ God  chose us; In Christ God loved us; In Christ God saved us from our sins; In Christ God adopted us as His Sons, that is as His  children.  So the theme and the very source of comfort for us this morning can be summed up in this way, “In Christ, all of God has chosen, loved, forgiven and saved, and adopted us as His very own child!  All of this He has done for His glory and praise!”

This morning God is speaking to you.  Don’t worry about what He is saying to anyone else, because this message is for you; it is between you and God.  So get rid of any and all distractions that are clouding your mind and hear Him speak.  God has saved the world, but more importantly, He has saved you.  By His death upon the cross He paid the ransom price for the sins of the world.  But by the power of His Word, through the washing of the water and the Word, He has saved you by giving you pardon for your many sins.  In your baptism, God has placed the seal of the Holy Spirit upon you and claimed you as His own child.  All that is left for you is to live out and trust this truth.  But this is a spiritual and eternal reality, one that is hard for our sinful flesh to actually receive.  So let me use an analogy that will illustrate your relationship with God.

Since the fall of Adam and Eve, mankind, that is you and I and all who have gone before us and will come after us have been born in bondage, that is we are condemned prisoners, even worse, we are slaves.  We are slaves to our sinful nature; that is, sin is our cage.  Our true enemy the devil, has installed himself as our master, and our punishment for our sin is life without the possibility of parole, ending in a death sentence.  There is nothing we can do to secure our release; it is eternal.  Locked away hopelessly lost from God our Creator is our eternal reality.  We are constantly being reprogrammed to believe that there is no God or that Satan himself is our master.  We cannot get to God, but He being God, He can come to us.  And come to us He has.  In the fullness of time, that is at just the right moment, God’s own Son came to us as a child, and He was named Jesus the Christ.  He came to be our Savior, Emmanuel.  This child Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God the Father; that is, in His humanity as the boy Jesus, God the Son grew as all humans do.  He grew mentally in the same way and attained more and more strength of mind, understanding, and reason.

At just the right time, this child became a man and announced to the world, first to His own people, the physical children of Abraham, and then to the gentiles, that He had come for them, to set them free.  And then at just the right time, this God-man fulfilled the mission that His Father sent Him on; He allowed sinful men to crucify Him upon a cross, so that His death would be a ransom payment for the sins of the world.  This ransoming work for the world includes all people from all times and generations; it includes you and your sins.

Now, the door to your cage has been torn open.  You are free from the bondage of your sin.  Death no longer has a claim over you, and the devil’s lie has been revealed.  He is not your master; your Master is Jesus Christ, the very Son of God.  Now ever so softly, the voice of the Holy Spirit speaks to you and says, “My Child, you are free.  Come out and enter the Kingdom of grace, which the Father has prepared for you.”

Most of us, when we first begin to really consider the gospel, the message of forgiveness of sins, have two main thoughts going on in our heads. Is this really true, and can it really be for me?! And to those questions, the Holy Spirit takes your empty hand of faith and fills it with the promises of the Word of God, and then points you to the waters of your baptism.  There in the washing of the water and the Word of God, He assures you that Jesus has taken you by the hand, sealed you with the Holy Spirit, and claimed you as His own dear child and His brother and friend.

The door of your cage is open.  The invitation to leave your bondage is real.  Will you allow Him to take you by the hand and lead you out or will you pull away?  God’s Word this morning makes it clear that it is His desire that you do not pull away.  He desires that for your entire life here on earth, you will allow His gift of faith to lead you away from sin and the devil, and then finally discover that your death is simply a departure from one place (here ), to another, in paradise.

This morning, God the Father wants you to know that He has loved you with an everlasting love and chosen you from the beginning of time, before the world was ever created.  He chose you to love you and for you to love Him.  In the Father’s love, that is, through His Word, He points your eyes and heart to the cross of Jesus Christ; through that cross He made you holy and blameless even though, as we know all to well we are neither!  But you must keep reminding yourself that it is only through the work of Christ upon the cross that God makes it possible for you to become adopted as His child.

So we can say that God chose us at the beginning of time; He saved us at just the right time; and He adopted us throughout time with an eye not on time but on eternity.  Everything that you have heard this morning is meant to open your eyes of faith so that you will see that it is God who does everything to save you and claim you as His own.  He isn’t bound to time or space, to influence or laws; He is the creator of all things.  Even if there are things that we can’t understand or figure out in our minds, our gift of faith can simply learn to trust God in all things, and believe that He has come to us.  He is the One who sees all things at all times as one fluid thought; from the beginning to the end He sees and knows, and He sees you and your life and what goes on as you live it.  And what He sees shouldn’t alarm you, but bring you comfort.  He has saved you and is saving you, because He has chosen you.  But He has not chosen you because of something He found in you; no, He has chosen you through Christ Jesus, His own dear Son.

God the Son has come to you to be your champion to set you free; every day, He continues to come to you.  Everyday, He reminds you that it was and is His sacrifice that does the choosing, the loving, the saving, and the adopting that the Father desires.  Through Jesus Christ, the Son of God, all of God has come to free us from our pain and suffering; to tree us from our struggles; to free us from all fear and worry, and to free us from our sins and death itself.  I say that in God the Son all of God comes to us because He is our triune God in human flesh.  Wherever the work of the Son is, there also is the sending heart of the Father and the power of the Holy Spirit.

Through Jesus Christ, God shows Himself to be our only provision and our only source of hope and security in a hopeless and insecure world.  Through Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit has sealed us with His sign in the waters of our baptism, and marked us as God’s own by taking residence within us.  Now think about that for a moment… God lives within you.  You can’t get much more secure than that!  And as the Holy Spirit lives within us, He assures us that God will never leave nor forsake us; He comforts, guides, teaches, builds up, and equips us with gifts that give real strength and power.  But strength and power for what?  To trust the presence of God that comes to the door of your cage and says come out.  Allow me to take you by the hand of faith and lead you upon life’s way.

Dear friends, the door is open.  Your bondage to sin, death, and the devil is over.  As Jesus once called Lazarus who had been dead for four days to come out from the tomb with the Words, “Lazarus, come out,” He now calls you as well.  Would it not have been ridiculous if once made alive, Lazarus chose to remain in the tomb as a dead man?  Is it not as ridiculous for us to live as if we are still in bondage?  So let’s rise upon our feet together, as God continues to lead us and sing the first verse of LSB Hymn 722, “Lord, Take My Hand and Lead Me.”

“Lord take my hand and lead me upon life’s way.  Direct, protect, and feed me from day to day.  Without Your grace and favor I go astray.  So take my hand, O Savior, and lead the way.  AMEN!”

Do We All Believe in One True God?

Sunday, May 26th, 2013

Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church-San Diego
Holy Trinity Sunday C, May 26h, 2013

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Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death. [John 14:26]

After hearing those words of Jesus, most people who call themselves Christian, would respond with a hearty AMEN! And if this world were not controlled by our enemies, sin, death, and the crafty devil, we could  let it go at that; we could shake their hand, pat them on the back, and call them brother and sister. But this world is controlled by our enemies, and all that glitters… is not gold! So what can we do to protect  ourselves from the threats of our enemies and the false teachings that they have tried to sneak into the church since the very beginning of creation? We must keep God’s Word and accept the truth, that we don’t  all believe in One true God!

This morning, we have done something we only do once a year; we have read together the Athanasian Creed. Why did we do that? So that we can keep God’s Word; so that we can abide in it, be protected by it,  and so that we can protect it from the attacks of the enemy. That is also why every Sunday we recite either the Apostles Creed or the Nicene Creed. If we do not know the truth, then unfortunately we will fall for  anything new, but as Solomon has said, “There is nothing new under the sun” and that includes the various forms of false teaching that bombard us today. Long before there were Jehovah Witnesses, Oneness  Pentecostals, Mormons, and Newagers, the church had to defend itself against Satan’s attack.

It started in the garden, when he used the serpent to cause doubt, with the words, “Did God really say you shall die if you eat of the fruit. You shall not die!” Once that crafty devil was given an inch by our first  parents, he has been taking mile after mile ever since. And his attack has been relentless, with false teaching after false teaching. What the cults and phony preachers are spewing out today is no different than the  lies that were proclaimed thousands of years earlier. And at the heart of all of their blasphemy, is the regurgitation of the same lie… God may express love, but God is not in His essence love! So let’s allow God to  shine His light on this lie so that we can continue to keep, teach, and confess His pure Word.

First, God’s own Word declares that He is love. Throughout Holy Scripture we see a compassionate and forgiving God; slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. We discover that God is not slow to punish  sinners, but He is patient, and He doesn’t wish that any should perish, but that all would return to Him and have eternal life. [2 Peter 3:9] And “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”  [1 John 4:10]

Do you hear that? You can know that God is love by remembering that God has a Son, and that He sent His Son to die for you; to atone for, or pay for your sins. Remember those words always, because without them, the enemy can once again take an inch in your life, with the sole aim of taking away your eternal life.

The first attack of the devil is always to cause doubt; in this case, he wants you to doubt that God has a Son and His name is forever Jesus Christ. The devil doesn’t care if you believe in the Holy Spirit nearly as much as he cares about your belief in God the Father’s only begotten Son. He does not want you to believe that Jesus is God’s Son who is forever begotten and not made, because if you loose this faith, you will no longer see God as love, and if you no longer see Him as love, you will no longer see His desire to give a Savior who is sent to you in love.

In all three of the Creeds, we confess that the Son of God is begotten of the Father. Now this doesn’t mean that God some how reproduced Himself and created a Son in the same biological way that we reproduce. No the Son of God was not reproduced; He has always been God. You see, the First Person of the Trinity has always been the Father, and He has always been in a relationship with the Second Person of the Trinity, the Son. Their relationship has always been one of perfect love and it always shall be that way. Why? Because “God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind.” [Numbers 23:19] In Him, “there is no variation or shadow due to change.” [James 1:17]

The Creeds, which God has given as wonderful gifts of security to the church, also express this relationship between the Father and Son together, with the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is always proceeding from, or is sent out by the Father and Son together. Many have tried to explain with illustrations what this relationship is like, but ultimately all illustrations fall short and really do an injustice to our Triune God and once again invite the enemy to take another inch. What we do know is that the Holy Spirit, being sent by the Father and the Son uses the means that together they have chosen to bring faith and eternal life to sinful men and women. The Father and Son together send the Spirit on a mission to save a fallen creation, simply because…

GOD IS LOVE. In Scripture, whenever it is referring to the “inner relationship” of the Trinity, we are given a glimpse into the relationship that is also at the very heart of the God head… love!  This love that they share is more than mere affection and it is more than just an ideal; it is at the very heart of who God is.  You see, in order to say that you have love, you really must have someone to love, right?  Listen to how St. Paul describes love, and see if you don’t see this is exactly what he is saying: “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful”. [1 Corinthians 13:4-5]

Another way we could say this is that love is always… and I mean always directed at another person, correct? Isn’t true love always a denial of your own comfort over another’s? This is why I always cringe when modern psychology says, “If you don’t love yourself, how can you love someone else?” Of course we should love our self; but that is not the kind of love that IS GOD! Self-love is really kind of a oxymoron, isn’t it? It’s like saying someone is a “married bachelor”. The point is, we cannot love ourselves if we truly understand what love is. Love is always about another.

So if God is love, the epitome of love, then God must have another person to love, correct? It just can’t be enough to say that He loves us, His creation, because then whom did He love before the creation? No, if God is love in its perfect and scriptural definition of love, then love must also describe who He was before creation. In other words, God has always had another to love; He has had Himself in the person’s of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Father loves the Son and the Spirit. The Son loves the Father and the Spirit. The Spirit loves the Father and the Son. In other words, God is One, but since God is love, He loves within Himself, in the way of the Holy Trinity!

So when we confessed the Athanasian Creed this morning, we see that not only is God love, but He is never alone. God Himself is a community of love; He is a relationship in and of Himself. He is One God but also Three Persons. God is love and…

THIS LOVE IS PASSED ONTO US. Through the Word of God we know that not only is God love, but that He loves us.  He has sent His Only Begotten Son to live and die for us.  In the cross, we see the extent of God’s sacrificial love for the world, and in our baptism we have been assured that His love is specifically now and forever given to each of us as individuals.  In baptism, we have been recreated into the very image of God… into the image of love.  God’s means of simple water and His powerful Word have recreated us to express our love not by ourselves, not by looking into a mirror, but in community.

This community is first expressed in family as husband and wife, parents and children, and then it widens into our church family, then our community, and finally out into the world, a world that God loves so much that He sent His only begotten Son to die for. When tragedy strikes in any of our circles of love, God’s Holy Spirit moves us in this true love to gather around those we love who are hurting, and we support them and uphold them with God’s gift of love.

Today, we celebrate Memorial Day; a day that we remember the great sacrifice so many in our armed forces has given. In their sacrifices, we see pain and suffering; we see the cost of love. But we also see the greatest of all sacrifices in the giving of a Heavenly Son by a Heavenly Father so that we may be One with our Triune God; so that by keeping Jesus Word, a Word that proceeds from the Father and the Son, through the blessed power of the Holy Spirit, we might have eternal life… abundant life, and never ever fear death.

As we prepare to leave this place but not God’s loving presence let us also remember our brothers and sisters in Oklahoma, who have been hit so hard by another tornado. Let us keep them in our prayers, and where God provides let us find ways to come along side of them in love. When we do this small thing for them and any who are hurting within our family circles, we are really celebrating our relationship of love with one God in Three Persons, each relating to and loving one another and each other… and loving us. In Jesus name… AMEN!

The Holy Trinity is a Mystery… Get Over It!

Sunday, June 3rd, 2012

Holy Trinity Sunday-B, June 3, 2012
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
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Someone once told me that they thought the church ought to stop trying to teach the doctrine of the Holy Trinity for a little while, and just  stand in awe of God and worship Him for Who He Is.  And you know, there is a lot to be said for backing off from our western approach of  conceptualizing the Trinity, because it really can be an injustice to God. Isn’t it enough to simply say that God exists in three persons, Father,  Son, and Holy Spirit, and then just leave it at that? Well, yes and no.  While it is sheer folly to try to confine the reality of God into an airtight  doctrinal box it is also dangerous when we, the church, that means you and me, remain silent when we should be repeating who God says He  is in scripture. What kind of danger?  Well how about this.  I received this email from someone who said that the church and myself  specifically, must repent of what we teach about Jesus and God.  Listen:“(Pastor), Jesus did not intend to be worshiped; He wanted to be  followed. It is certainly easier to worship Him than to follow His teachings. He taught that we could become one with God and all his creation  (everything and everybody). That means that we should deny the world and focus primarily on God and forgiveness. It means letting go of  the ego’s need to be separate and right. It means loving everyone unconditionally. It means giving up judgment, righteousness, resentments,  greed, competition, envy, and hatred. It means joining with your fellow man and making his interest your own. It means setting aside the carnal pleasures of this world for something better. It means taking the log out of your own eye instead of the speck out of your brother’s. It means being generous with your time, talents, and energy (including money). Jesus summed it up by saying, Love God, yourself and everyone with all your heart, with all your mind, and with all your soul. He taught to live life with an open and pure heart as He did.”

What you just heard read is a concise description of perfection, the kind of perfection that God demands both in His 10 commandments and throughout scripture.  The only problem with this ideal is that none of us can meet it, and no one ever will.  If this one dimensional understanding of who God is, was all that we knew about Him, then life would be pretty dark and hopeless, wouldn’t it?  But God has another message for us; a message of hope and security, and that message was communicated to Isaiah in our Old Testament Lesson. [Isaiah 6:1-8]

Isaiah was taken to the very throne of Heaven, the temple of God and He saw something that no sinful man or woman could have or should have seen.  He saw the perfect and all powerful God seated on the throne.  He saw an all present God who filled everything, and He was not struck down dead; he was allowed to live!  Now that’s amazing because even the chief angels called seraphim wouldn’t look upon God.  They covered their eyes with their wings and simply cried out to each other, “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord!”

So why was Isaiah allowed to see God and still live?  Was it because he was able to please God with his righteous living?  Well let’s allow Isaiah to answer that himself.  Listen: “And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” [Isaiah 6:4-5]  Now Isaiah does not sound like a man who is content with the way he’s lived his life to me; in fact he even describes why he feels he is doomed; he is a man of unclean lips living with people who are unclean.  In other words, brother Isaiah is saying flat out, ‘I’m a dirty no good sinner and I live with a bunch of other dirty no good sinners.  I am doomed!”

And yet Isaiah was allowed to see God and live; why?  Because God Himself intervened, and saved him!  In the vision, it was a hot coal that touched Isaiah’s lips that saved him.  In the wilderness, when the sinful Jews were wandering, they were attacked by poisonous snakes; it was a bronze sculpture of a serpent that God had made, which saved every sinful Jew who looked to it, and today God still saves dirty no good sinners; sinners like Isaiah, and sinners like you and me!  How?  Well let’s go to our gospel lesson [John 3:1-17] and let Jesus explain it Himself.

Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews goes out to find Jesus by night.  Why night?  Well, he was trying to protect his reputation as a leader.  He who was supposed to be able to provide all of the answers had many questions about life and God that were just eating away at him. Society thinks that doubts and questions in a leader are a sign of weakness, so Nicodemus had to make sure that neither his peers nor the people knew that he was going to Jesus for answers.  They must not find out that his entire life had been consumed by these doubts and questions.  He wanted to know why he woke up in the middle of the night feeling empty and afraid.  The meaning of life itself had eluded him.  “There must be more to it” he thought, and it’s this questioning of things that caused him to seek out Jesus for answers!

When he found Jesus he started out the introduction with a compliment, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” [John 3:2]  And in effect, Jesus answered him like this, “Oh come off of your high and mighty view of yourself and your ignorant view of God Nicodemus.  You just want me to jump into the comfortable little box you’ve made so that you can make sense of life and God according to your terms.  What you really want to do is go back to your cushy mansion and get a good night’s sleep by placing your religion on the shelf like one of your trophies.  But it doesn’t work like that!  “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”  You can’t fit God’s kingdom into your life, your life and all of your misconceptions has to fit into it!  You gotta be born again!

Nicodemus didn’t understand.  He didn’t understand and neither does the world today.  They don’t understand because Jesus is speaking spiritual, and they are thinking physical.  So Jesus restates his teaching in another way: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” [John 3:5,6]  In other words, quit trying to put my teaching into your sinful box.  You cannot understand, because you have not been begotten by the Father.  But there is a way for you to be begotten… reborn, and it is by the water and the Holy Spirit!  Repent and be baptized.  Repent of your sinful physical way of seeing the world and receive new life and new sight in the water and the Word!

Today, we poor sinners don’t find Jesus’ Words any easier to understand or accept.  We are caught up in the material world, but there is a spiritual wind that is blowing through our lives; it is the presence and work of the Holy Spirit.  It is impossible for us to keep it out.  It blows and blows until it either knocks down our house of self-righteousness or until we leave this temporary material existence and enter into our eternal reality; a reality that will either be eternal judgment or eternal peace with the source of the Holy Wind, the Holy one of Israel; the same Holy One Who caused Isaiah to say that he was doomed because he saw God!

The only hope for Isaiah, Nicodemus, or any of us, is if we can see the Son of God, Jesus Christ as the only way to enter into God’s eternal heavenly kingdom.  Jesus alone is the red hot coal that touches our lips.  Jesus alone is the serpent lifted on the pole in the wilderness of our sin.  And Jesus Himself makes that clear with these words: “No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, (I who speak to you) the Son of Man. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. [John 3:13-15]

But is it really that simple?  Can an angry and perfect God really be approached simply by being baptized and believing in Jesus as the Son of God who came down to us in our flesh, to save us?  Yes, it is that simple, but people find it hard to believe because this is a spiritual truth that is breaking into our physical reality.  It is a work entirely of God; a work that we play no part in fulfilling.  But why; why would a holy, holy, holy God do that for no good sinners like us?  Well, again let’s let Jesus answer that: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” [John 3:16-17]. And there it is… God is not angry with us at all; in fact He loves us, but He is also holy and righteous.  He created us to be holy and righteous as well, but sin, death, and the devil entered into our physical reality and ruined that.  And now, the only way He can save us is by coming to us and removing our sin Himself!

What we’ve learned this morning is that God is far too holy and mighty for us to ever understand; after all He is the Creator and we are just the creatures.  But what we’ve also learned are four truths.  First, we know that God does love us.  He loves us just as we are, but He loves us to much to leave us that way.  Second, we’ve learned that our One God exists in three persons, and He has broken into our sinful reality and saved us by the Father’s sending of His Son to die for us.  And He continues to save us and keep us holy through the power of His Holy Spirit.  Third, the Holy Lord invites us all into a relationship of stewardship with Him; He wants to send us, whom He has saved to speak for Him.  Isaiah writes: “Then I heard the voice of the LORD saying, “Whom shall I send?  And who will go for us?”  The fourth truth we discover is that once God intervenes by taking our sins away, by recreating us through the power of the gospel, we are able to respond to any request of God with the words, “Here am I send me!”  Like Isaiah, we once were no good sinners separated from God by sin and living in fear, but in our baptism, God has spoken new life and new obedience into us, so that we can exhibit courage and embrace His call to go out into a sinful world for the Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord!

What causes this transformation in us is the very thing that changed Isaiah and eventually Nicodemus too; It is the realization that we have been saved and forgiven by the Holy and One true God who exists in three persons.  How that can be we may never understand completely, but it is enough to know that He is our God.  And once we have surrendered to the mysterious presence and work of our God, He wants to use us to bring this same message of forgiveness to no good sinners.  Yes, most of this message depends on the mystery that is God, get over it and simply live for Him who has saved you!  May God the Father who created you, may God the Son who has redeemed you, and may God the Holy Spirit who sanctifies you, empower you to live a life of wonder and worship until He calls you home!  In Jesus name… AMEN!

We are one as He is One!

Sunday, May 30th, 2010

Sunday, May 30, 2010
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
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“Whoever desires to be saved must above all, hold the “universal” Christian faith.  And the “universal” Christian faith is this, that we worship one God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity, neither confusing the persons nor dividing the substance.” [vs. 1-3 of the Athanasian Creed]

God is one.  There is only one God.  The one God has always existed from eternity as one God—and He always will!  God alone is eternal.  And to this, your Muslim neighbors would say a loud AMEN!  Does it surprise you to know that they will appeal to this very truth in an attempt to draw you away from your Christian faith?  You see, in addition to confessing that God is one, we Christians also confess that God is love, in fact we say that Love is the very essence of God.  Now your Muslim friends will never deny that God loves but they will deny that this love is the essence of God.  You see, they will claim that if God can’t be God unless He loves someone, then God can’t be God without someone to love.  So how can an eternal God be dependent upon His creation in order for Him to be God?  Muslims will tell you that although God does love, love can’t be God’s essence, because He is dependent on no one.  But this kind of thinking about God is a lie and it isn’t any better than the lies that come from people who worship many gods.  There’s no difference between having one idol and a half dozen.  Idols are idols.  The Moslem god is an idol.  The true God is one, but the mere acknowledgement of this fact doesn’t mean a person is worshiping the true God.  The one true God is also united within Trinity.  The only God who exists is the Triune God.  Any god who isn’t triune is not God because a god who is not triune cannot be love, and God is love.  Dear friends, please do not ever let any devil lead you away from this truth because it is crucial to your very salvation.  If God wasn’t love then he would not have suffered and died upon the cross for you!

The love of God is not an attribute that makes Him dependent on us.  It is the eternally defining attribute of God that defines His very essence as God in regards to His relationship shared between the three persons within the One Godhead.  When we say God is love we are also saying that God could not be love unless He was Triune.  You see, there’s an eternal unity of love between the Father who begets and generates the Son who is begotten.  This eternal unity of divine love exists as well between the Father and the Son, and the Holy Spirit who is sent from both of them.  But as I told the children, this is far too high for us to grasp.  You see, how God relates within Himself is far too much for us to comprehend.  After all, He is the Creator and we are the creature!

While completely understanding God is far above us, we can know about Him by paying attention to what He has already revealed about Himself.  We know from scripture that the Father has generated or begotten the Son on many occasions.  It was the Son and two angels who visited Abraham outside of Sodom and Gomorra to warn Abraham of the pending destruction of the two cities, so that His nephew Lot might be saved.  It was the God the Son generated by the Father who took on the form of a burning bush so that Moses might behold some of the Lord’s glory and receive God’s Law that would teach Israel and the people of faith how to relate rightly to a Holy and loving God.  There are many more instances throughout scripture that demonstrate that God the Father generates or begets the Son in order to accomplish the purpose of God, but for us, the best example is found in John 1:  “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” [John 1:14]

Do you hear in those words how the Son is now forever generated or begotten in human flesh yet He still possesses eternal glory, grace and truth.  Do you understand how together the Father and the Son send the Holy Spirit?  It was God the Spirit who was hovering over the face of the waters in the very beginning of creation. He was sent by the Father and the Son, and together they created the heavens and the earth-He was sent by these Words: “”Let there be light,” and there was light.  And God saw that the light was good. [Genesis 1:1-4]  Like a marvelous symphony God’s Word’s of Love spoke forth creation and goodness.  It was an eternal love generated and sent from the heart of the One true God who has always revealed Himself in three persons.  But we must always remember that we can’t divide the person’s from the One True God or else we will lose His essence, which is love.  What do I mean by this?

Well you see, while it is the Father who generates or begets, and it is the Son who is begotten but not made, and it is the Holy Spirit who is sent together by the Father and the Son, there are not three God’s but One. As One, the three persons created everything that is together.  The divine mystery of God’s triune nature is this: As One they have always existed and since God does not change they will always be One in glory and majesty.  There is only One Uncreated, Eternal, and Almighty God.  When we pray to our Lord in heaven we do not pray to three Lords, but rather we pray to one Lord because the Father is Lord, the Son is Lord, and the Holy Spirit is Lord.  Three persons united eternally in One essence of love, which is God! 

After all of this, I think that we all now agree that God’s ways are far above our ability to understand, so why am I talking about an eternal relationship of love into which you and I could never find our way?  

Because God has created a way-He has brought His love to us!  In so doing He has established fellowship with us.  But in order to enjoy all of the benefits of this relationship (eternal grace, mercy, and peace with God and each other), we must also faithfully believe that God the Son took on human flesh.  God did this not because He needed to, but rather He did it because He is love.  We are the ones in need!  We need God to come to us.  Although God’s voice declared all that He had made good, it was our own sinfulness that has forever turned good into evil.  Think now, in the privacy of your own hearts, who among us has not thought or done evil already this morning?!  Isn’t it true that without help we could never stand before a perfect and righteous God!  There is not a single thing that we can do to save ourselves…we need God’s mercy, pardon, and forgiveness.  And yet the punishment for sin is death, and that is precisely what it will take to pay for our sinfulness.  But as a true champion, our Redeemer God came to us in our own flesh and paid for our sins himself.  The entire God came to us.  Our creator wrapped Himself in creation, because only He could change our hopeless situation.  Why do I say the entire God came to us?  Because if you remember, we can never divide the essence of God; God always acts as one because He is one!  Now I know that once again, this is far above any of us to understand, but we must believe this truth because it is how God has revealed Himself.  Let me offer a crude representation that might make this a bit more intelligible:

Before a wedding, there were three women in the dressing room putting a dress on the bride, who was one of the three and she participated as well with putting on of the dress. We could say that all three were dressing her; and yet only one is being put in the dress. In a similar way, we see that all three Persons, as one God, created the one humanity, clothed the Son in this, and united it with His person, so that only the Son became man, and not the Father or the Holy Spirit, yet because God is One and not three, the Son who from the time of His birth as Jesus would now eternally be fully God and fully man. 

Friends, it was this same Jesus who lived the sinless life on our behalf.  It was this same Jesus who allowed Himself to be put to death by sinful men.  He did not have to do this but rather He chose to suffer and die for us, because God is love.  Please hear me, “This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men,(because it was your sins that compelled God out of love to suffer and die for you.  But be of good cheer), God (has) raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.” [Acts 2:23-24]  By His stripes you have been healed.  By His suffering and death you have been released from the eternal punishment for your many sins!  By God’s love you have been saved! 

At your baptism God’s work of re-creation was activated for you.  All of the benefits of His suffering and death were given to you.  The old sinful man and woman that was your identify at birth has now been put to death through His same Word of creation that was spoken “In The Beginning”. This re-creation of life from death is now yours because of God’s own suffering and death through Christ Jesus!  Dear friends, do you see what a wonderful gift of love is now yours?  You have been freed from your former body of death and you have been given a new life.  Embrace and cherish this gift.  Live out this new life with certainty that it is yours!  As wonderful as this new life is and as sinful and undeserving as we may be, we must not doubt that this gift is ours, because it was given out of God’s love.  And yet when the troubles of life creep in, we do doubt, we can lose hope, and that is why Jesus hasn’t left us alone in life as orphans.  He promises that He and the Father are still with us in love, because He has sent us the gift of the Holy Spirit, and where the Holy Spirit is, there also are the Father and the Son, because God is One! 

It is the Holy Spirit who moves our hearts to hunger for hearing and studying God’s Word.  It is the Holy Spirit that causes us to remember God’s saving love when we remember our own baptism.  It is the Holy Sprit that creates a hunger within us to gather at the Lord’s Table where we receive His very body and blood when we eat and drink for the forgiveness of sins.  It is the Holy Spirit that creates in us a clean heart, which in turn moves us to come to God in prayer, asking first for forgiveness and then for all the desires of our heart, with the assurance that God hears us and answers us according to His will.

Dear friends, because God is One and God is love, and because we are called into fellowship with Him by love, then we are also called into the fellowship of His Mission to seek and save those that are lost and dying, separated from His love because of sin.  This mission is from the Father, and the Son who is the very message of the mission. This message, which you have been given is nothing less than the good news about the incarnation, suffering and death of Jesus Christ for all sinful men, women, and children.  The message is that “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”  Since the source of mission is God the Father and the message of the mission is God the Son, then what of God the Holy Spirit?  Dear friends, the Holy Spirit is the very power of God’s mission.  MISSION IS HOLY SPIRIT POWERED!  What this means is that God’s mission can’t fail because He is the very source, message and power of that mission, but God always uses means to accomplish His mission.  He uses simple things to confound the supposed wisdom of the devil and sinful men.  God chooses to use you and me!

We are all called to be ambassadors of God’s love and we are to declare His message in our own words, but they are words that are centered in God’s love for us; they are centered in His Word, which is the very Word that has given us new life and sustained us while living out our lives in a sinful world!  And as we live out our lives gathered around God’s Word, the Holy Spirit is ever active within and around us, leading us out into our communities with the message of Jesus Christ.   

Dear friends, the Holy Spirit is united for eternity with the Father and the Son, and together They lead us by faith so that they may strengthen and grow God’s Church.  The Holy Spirit, sent by the Father and the Son propels all believers out into the mission field, our community, armed with His Word and Sacraments, personal witness and Christian living in order “to convince the world concerning sin and righteousness.”  And to this truth we answer, “Teach us to love our neighbor as you love us, and lead on O Lord, and let us be one in missionary zeal as you are One—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  In Jesus name…AMEN!