Posts Tagged ‘Judgment’

Are You Listening?

Sunday, August 3rd, 2014

Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego 92114
http://www.tlcsd.org
Pentecost 8A, August 3, 2014

NOTE: The congregation first watched this very short video before hearing the Message.
We ask that you too watch this video before listening to or reading the message by clicking here.


Click here for audio of this message

“Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David.” [Isaiah 55:3]

This morning, God’s Word has invited you to come to His house and listen to His Word, and here you are!  Yes you’re here, but have you been listening?  Are you listening?   I hope you are, because our message is one that brings and sustains life; real life.  That is something only God can give, and He gives it in only one way.  Death on the other hand is something that you do not need to look for; you don’t need to ask for it, because it has already found you, and now it is just biding it’s time, waiting for the moment that has already been determined as your time.

One thing that is common with most PowerPoint presentations shown at many problem solving think tanks is the way they start out.  The lead slide will usually start out with stating “The Problem” to be overcome, and then the next slide will ask, “How Did We Get Here?” and then somewhere in the presentation will be a slide that initiates the presenters proposal, under the heading, “The Solution”.  And then finally, the presentation also includes “Words of Encouragement,” meant to move us to embrace the Solution.  So, why don’t we follow that format and see where it takes us.

I. The Problem: It is self evident, isn’t it?  The problem is we are all going to die!  Death literally is all around us, hounding every moment of our lives.  It has been that way ever since Adam and Eve’s expulsion from Eden.  Eden, a perfect place created for perfect people.  A place where there was no sickness or disease; no turmoil, suffering, and of course no death.  But something happened, didn’t it?  God’s people exchanged God’s truth for the devils lie.  So in came sin and death.  “Like taxes” we say, “death is unavoidable.”  It calls out to all of creation like a vendor at an open-air market saying, “Come here and sample my wares.  Don’t walk away from me; you know eventually I will claim you as a consumer, so why not enjoy your wait?”  All of us hear the siren call of death; people young and old, rich and poor, from celebrity to the homeless, from the president to the average Joe, we all must respond to death’s call; give him his due so to speak.

God’s people of faith are no different, are they?  We too hear that siren call, don’t we?  In our Old Testament lesson, Isaiah also comments on deaths call when he asks, “Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?”   And that’s a good question isn’t it?  Why do we do things that are not God pleasing; why do we do them so easily?  And that takes us to our next question…

II. How Did We Get Here? Well, the answer to that was the same reason given in our explanation of the problem.  The same problem that Adam and Eve created is still our problem today.  We still have a desire to exchange God’s truth for the devil’s lies.  We still want to live in paradise, but under our own terms and rules.  Why is that?  Because we still live under the stain of original sin; it is in our very DNA so to speak.  We still hear the call of the devil inviting us to buy those things that are not life giving or sustaining; we still seek to satisfy our body but not our soul.  “Come and buy,” says the devil.  “But why” we ask?  And his answer is, “To make life a little more enjoyable with the little bit of time and life you have.”  And to our sinful minds, that sounds reasonable.  And to justify our purchase of those things, ideas, and life-styles that are not God pleasing, we tell ourselves “After all, nothing lasts forever.  You only live once, so I might as well enjoy it.”  And the devil laughs quietly and says, “Come, my child.  Come and live life according to your own terms, and you will experience life like you’ve never known it.”

But one day, perhaps sooner than you think, you will hear another call; the call of death.  When his whispered invitation of “Come” is heard, you will not be able to resist, and then all that you labored for, all that you valued as important will be in vain.  But this morning, we hear another call; a better call, and that call is the solution to the problem of sin, death, and the devil.

III. The Solution: God’s voice calls out to us throughout scripture and here in the voice of the prophet Isaiah, “Come everyone who thirsts (for peace and righteousness; for an assurance of an existence without fear or worry; for an eternity where there will be no more sin, death, nor the devil), come to the waters (the holy washing of God’s Word, where all of your sins and the devils traps are removed); and he (even you right now) who has no money, come buy and eat!  Come buy wine and milk (and all of the best things in life) without money and without price.”

This morning dear friends, God issues His invitation to everyone, not just to his Old Testament people, but to all people who desperately need His blessings; all who want to get back to Eden, to paradise lost. Just as Jesus invited “all you who are weary and burdened” (Matthew 11:28), so the Lord God invites “all you who are thirsty.” Sin and death make us tired of the rat race we call life here, but they also make us thirsty for God’s blessings.

Because of the work of the devil, God’s voice, His invitation to come can get lost in this open air market we call life.  If we are not listening, it can be drowned out by all those other messages that are hawking the devil’s products. If we are not careful, we might begin to think that Christ and His church are just another vendor in life, offering one of many opportunities to be happy.  But unlike the world’s version of milk and wine, God’s version will never spoil or run out. He has spiritual blessings to dispense to everyone who comes, and he has a fervent desire to share them with everyone. And here’s the best part, not only are God’s products different, but they are also free. This wonderful invitation clearly speaks of God’s grace. No human can offer God anything for his blessings.

In our gospel lesson (Matthew 14:13–21), Jesus offered an inexhaustible supply of earthly food to a hungry mass of people so that they would listen to the spiritual message behind the miracle; a message that would save their souls.  Sadly, many people today, like the crowds then, can not see God’s solution to their sin problem, because they have set their eyes on those things that only satisfy the body and not the soul.  And the result is that they still hunger and thirst; they still have no assurance that the whisper of death can bring them no harm.

IV. A Word of Encouragement: This morning, God calls us out of this illusion of the devil, and He tells us to come and buy eternal life, without money.  How do you buy without money?  Well, we dare not think that we can purchase the gifts of God by our own effort. We all know that God’s gifts cannot be earned; they are gifts “without cost.” God calls us away from every effort to earn what only He can give. St. Paul said it best: “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8, 9). There isn’t a thing of value that we could place on the scales of God that would weigh enough to buy forgiveness and eternal life! Only the work of the Servant of the Lord, who “was crushed for our iniquities” (Isaiah 53:5), could earn the gifts of God, which are the forgiveness of sins, freedom from the power of the devil, and eternal life. These are the gifts that God only offers by grace. It is our own sin and the tricks of the devil that cause us to think we can earn these priceless gifts through something we do.

This morning, God tells us that the solution to our problem can only be realized if we embrace His solution: “Listen to me” He says. Now keeping with the comparison of this sinful world with an open-air market, the idea of listening suggests that we would have to pay attention in order to hear what we must do. But here God tells us to listen to what He has done. Listen to what God has said and done in His everlasting covenant and His steadfast love for David. Here, God tells us that this covenant flows from His faithful love promised to David, which originated in the promise long ago to Adam and Eve, and was repeated to everyone who followed and would listen.

Throughout our Bibles, God promises that the Messiah would come.  And then finally God promises that our Savior would come from David’s line (2 Samuel 7:11–16). God was not under any obligation to make such a promise, but he did it out of His pure undeserved love. And once God promises something, He is always faithful and does what He said.

This Son of David, the Christ is none other than Jesus, the Son of God, born of Mary from within the lineage of David.  He brings completion to God’s promise to King David that He would be an eternal leader and witness of God’s steadfast love and mercy. Jesus is David’s greater Son, and He is The Witness to the nations declaring God’s undeserved love.

Our Savior came from heaven to earth to dwell with sinful men.  But He did more than just dwell with us; He came to set us free.  He came to be lifted high upon the cross so that “everyone who believes in him may have eternal life” (John 3:15). And He has come to save more than just a small Jewish remnant returning from captivity in Babylon. He came to call people back to the paradise that was lost, but now restored.  He calls all nations to come to him—even strangers who did not know Him as the One true God. The words of the gospel now draw all sinners in, and those same Words give them the ability to listen to Jesus their Savior and receive all of the promises of God.

This morning all of us have been gathered by God’s Spirit to hear the only message that will destroy the power of the devil, remove our sins, and silence the song of death.  This morning this message is meant to give you peace where others experience worry and fear.  This morning, you are invited to listen to the very same message that God first spoke to your soul within the waters of Holy Baptism: Through faith in what Christ has done for you upon the cross, you are saved!  Through faith, you still hear the Words of eternal life and you find assurance and purpose.  Through faith you are invited to approach the Lord’s Table, and receive His very body and blood in, with, and under the bread and wine, and then experience spiritual nourishment, the likes of which the world could never give.

My prayer for each of you is that you would continue to come to this place often; continue to listen diligently and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in God’s rich spiritual food.  And I pray that you would allow your ear to really listen to the voice of God declared in His Word here in this place, and then continuously come to Jesus so that your soul may live.  And I ask this in Jesus name… AMEN!

Hidden Treasure, Indeed!



Sunday, July 27th, 2014

Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego 92114
http://www.tlcsd.org
Pentecost 7A, July 27, 2014

Click here for audio of this message

“And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house, who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”” [Matthew 13:52]

The central theme in all of our reading is found in Jesus’s statement in our Gospel lesson (Matthew 13:44-52), “The Kingdom of Heaven is like…”  So, this morning’s message will explore that statement by answering three questions, which I believe are central for living the life of a Christian in the kingdom of Heaven, here and now.  But to answer these questions, you will need to be equipped and well trained by the Word of God.  So without further discussion, here are the questions: 1. How should every Christian treat the Word of God?  2. How does God really feel about Christians who struggle with faith and sin every day?  3. Should a Christian be afraid of the final judgment?

Are we ready to get into God’s message for us this morning?  Good, let’s go…

How should the every Christian treat the Word of God? Well, I tipped my hand a bit when I showed that video clip ( Click here to watch the video ) during the Children’s Chat.  The caption under the video asks, “Do you feel this way about your Bible and the Word of God?”  And I think that if we average Christians were to answer that question truthfully, the answer is “No!”  But why is that?

I believe that I can speak for not just myself, but also for many of you when I say that we truly do love Jesus and His Word.  Ok, so then why don’t we also have that kind of excitement when we open His book?  The answer is of course, because we do not understand just how extraordinary that Word truly is.  Isn’t it true that most of you have at least two or three Bibles in your home?  Isn’t it also true that most of you grew up in a home that had that many, if not more Bibles in your home?  Didn’t most of you grow up going to church and Sunday School, and didn’t you spend your formative years handling that Word?  So is it possible that both time and commonality have diminished your estimation of that Word?

This morning, Jesus tells us two stories or metaphors that are meant to correct our misconception of both God’s Word and His Kingdom; He speaks about a hidden treasure and a chance encounter with a “pearl of great price (or value).”  When we hear these stories, we think about incidents where people have accidentally found large sums of money, and after waiting for the owner to come forward, they are told by the authorities that because no one came forward to claim the money, it is theirs to keep.  Or maybe we think of those lucky ones who struck it big by winning millions of dollars after playing the lottery.  But this story is different, isn’t it?  The men in both stories had to spend everything they had just to get their hands on the treasure, and once they did, their lives were forever changed for the good.  I don’t know of too many incidences where lottery winners were impacted for the good; usually their money created a whole bunch of problems they never had before.  But Jesus’ story about the man who bought the field to get at the hidden treasure is different.  Why?  Well to answer that, we must understand the metaphor; the field represents one thing, and the treasure represents another.

In order to improve our estimation of God’s Word, let’s consider the field as a representation of our Bibles.  And within those Bibles, this field that most people take for granted is the greatest treasure you could ever receive, it is knowing intimately the very Son of God, Jesus Christ.  You see your Bibles are not given to you by God as some instruction manual that helps you live your life, but instead every page of your Bibles shows you two things, your need for a Savior and who that Savior is.

God’s treasure, which is the message of His Son Jesus the Christ, is indeed hidden, but it is intended to be found by you dear Christians.  Others hunt for this treasure everywhere, but you have found it; you found it with very little effort.  You see, God didn’t hide His treasure in a far off place in some philosophical realm where no one could even come near it, but instead he hid it in a common, lowly place, where it could be found by anyone who did not feel that the location of the treasure was beneath them because of their personal wisdom, pride, or self-sufficient attitude.

Now, let’s talk about this wonderful treasure that’s hidden within the field; within our Bibles.  The treasure is so great that the men in Jesus’s stories sold everything just to obtain it.  But they did not just sell all that they have, they sold it joyfully!  And when they finally obtain the treasure they rejoice, but not in their poverty but in their new found wealth!

The point of Jesus story is this: The Kingdom of Heaven has come to sinful men, and it comes in the Son of God who is also the son of man.  If there is anything at all that is standing in the way of you being drawn deeper and closer to Jesus, then that thing must be done away with so that you will be sure to obtain this great treasure, which is Jesus Himself.  If you truly understand this message, then Jesus says that you are like a “scribe (or a teacher of God’s Word), who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven, and you will bring out of (your) treasure (things that are) new and (things that are) old.”  In other words, through your discovery of the hidden treasure, the pearl of great price Jesus Christ, you have gotten your heart filled with all kinds of spiritual knowledge from the kingdom and the King, and you will be equipped to use it when it is needed.

Now, let’s add another dimension to Jesus metaphor, by allowing our Old Testament lesson (Deuteronomy 7:6–9) to guide us into our next question.

How does God really feel about Christians who struggle with faith and sin every day? Well, let’s allow God to answer Himself, listen: “For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.”  Friends, do you hear that?  You did not choose God, He chose you!  You did not find Jesus and the forgiveness of sins that is yours through Jesus on your own; no, Jesus found you!

Do you understand what this does to Jesus’s stories; to His metaphors?  It turns them upside down.  If you can accept this understanding, then the field is this sinful world, and the man who sells all that He has, is none other than Jesus Christ.  And you know what that makes you, don’t you?  You are the treasure!  Upon the cross, all of God gave great wealth to obtain you as His very own, but only the Son of God, Jesus Christ who is the son of Mary, gave all of His life to redeem you from sin, death, and the devil.

God the Father redeemed you through the life blood of His Son; He redeemed you from the curse of sin.  But the reason He did this for you has nothing to do with anything that is unique or good about you, but instead it was through His love, with His Son’s blood as the very ransom that freed you!

God is so serious about this truth, that He has swore it in an oath that He made to our spiritual fathers long ago.  He swore to Abraham to bless his seed and to bring blessing to the nations through his seed. [Genesis 22:16-18]  But that oath includes blessings for us as well.  It was kept, and still is being kept, through Christ’s work upon the cross.  So, know this today, that it is those of (us by) faith who are the (true) sons of Abraham.  And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you (that is in your faith), shall all the nations be blessed.” So then, those who are of faith, (that is those of us who have been found by Jesus and are resting and trusting in Him), are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.” [Galatians 3:7]

Now, doesn’t that make you want to rest in God’s calling of faith?  Doesn’t that allow you to realize that it is He who began the good work in you that will complete it?  But you may ask, “How do I know that God has really began that good work of salvation within me?  Where can I turn for assurance that I am really His great treasure, and He is mine?  Well, why not turn to the very place that He began that good work in you… return to your baptism where He marked you and sealed you as His very own!  And that takes us to our final question to be answered.

Should a Christian be afraid of the final judgment? Jesus answers that question in one last metaphor, when He says, “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind. When it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and sorted the good into containers but threw away the bad.  So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” [Matthew 13:47-50]

Friends, let me ask you a question, that if answered by faith, will also tell you whether you should be afraid of the final judgment.  Are you a good fish or a bad one?  Now before you answer, remember that you are Jesus’s own pearl of great price, and you are His valued hidden treasure.  He bought you with His own life-blood.  Do you believe that?  If you say yes, then why in the world would He ever allow you to be called bad?

But don’t just stop acquiring the wealth of God’s Word there, let St. Paul in our Epistle lesson (Romans 8:28-39) give you a little more data to base your answer on, listen: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” [v.28]  “If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?  Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect?” [vs.31-34]  Friends, that’s called a hypothetical question, and you are to enthusiastically answer it like this, “No one!”  No one can accuse you of being damned and lost to judgment, because, “Christ died for you!  But more than that, He also rose from the dead for you.”  In His dying and rising, He shows you what is a done deal; a deal that was accomplished for you within the waters of your baptism.  Your old sinful nature was put to death, and your new baptismal nature that will one day rise up with a new resurrected body is not only how God sees you but, it is also how you are to view yourself!

You are a good fish, who has been caught in the gospel net of the church.  In all aspects of that net, you receive the hidden treasure of God, the message of Jesus Christ.  And within that message, which comes to you in both Word and Sacrament, you have discovered that you are God’s valuable and hidden treasure.  But, you are not hidden from God, you are waiting and resting within the gospel net, which is the church, along with many other fish; some are good and some are bad, but this morning Jesus says that is not your concern to worry over, you are simply to rest in the most blessed Word and will of God.

While it is tempting to worry about many things as we wait here for Christ’s return, we have been assured that God’s day of reckoning , that is the time of making all things right has not yet come.  As we wait, we also trust and follow Jesus as His very own disciples.  We wait both as people who have found a great treasure and, we wait for Jesus who will come to this world, and claim and acquire us has His own treasured possession.  Even though our life in Jesus and His life with us remains hidden now within His Word and Sacraments, we can trust in the great and final work that Christ has done for us.

When we trust in this work, and in this Word, we are indeed like disciples who are able to not only draw out wisdom from a great treasure store, but we become wisdom in action.  And that wisdom sees the wonderful faith, faith giving Word of God as great treasure indeed, and then it learns to trust and rest as part of that treasure.  AMEN!

I See Dead People!



Sunday, July 20th, 2014

Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego 92114
http://www.tlcsd.org
Pentecost 6A, July 20, 2014

Click here for audio of this message

“So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them.  Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’ ” [Matthew 13:28b-30]

The video clip that you’ve just watched is from the movie, “The Sixth Sense” starring Bruce Willis.  And the dialogue that specifically illustrates our message today, are these words: “I want to tell you my secret now.  I see dead people” says the boy to Malcolm, Bruce Willis’s character.  And Malcolm asks, “In your dreams?”  No the boy answers.  “While your awake” Malcolm asks?  “Yes” says the boy.  “Dead people, like in graves; in coffins” asks Malcolm?  “No” says the boy.  “Walking around like regular people.  They don’t see each other; they only see what they want to see.  They don’t know they’re dead.”  Malcolm asks, “How often do you see them?”  And the boy answers, “All the time.  They’re every where.”

In deed, there are walking dead all around us, and they do not know that they are dead; dead in their sins.  They think that they are alive and well; some will even tell you that they are blessed and hoping that they are living a God pleasing life.  They are so consumed with living their life style that not only do they not see each other, they can’t see God for who He really is.

In our gospel reading (Matthew 13: 24–30, 36–43) this is the situation that Jesus faces as He teaches the crowds; His listeners are dead in their sins and they don’t even know it; they don’t want to know.

Now it’s true that within the crowds of people, there were also true disciples of Jesus; they knew that through Him the Kingdom of God had broken out in their midst, so they clung to every Word that came out of Jesus mouth, but sadly, they were the small minority.

Most of the folks had come to see a miracle; just like people are drawn to the Side shows at carnivals today, they too were drawn to Jesus out of curiosity and the desire to see something mind blowing.  And among them were also the Pharisees.  They were the teachers who were suppose to help the folks know God, but most of them were just as dead in their sins as the people they were called to teach.  They could not see Jesus for who He really was, because they would not see that they were dead in their sins.  And because they could not admit this and find new and eternal life, they could not help turn the people’s eyes to God’s only source of salvation.  In essence most of the folks remained tightly trapped with in the bondage of death.

And yet, Jesus still teaches them; He still speaks Words that offer and give eternal life.  He says, “He who has ears, let him hear.” [v. 43b]  But hear what?  Hear that through Jesus the Christ, God is acting and reigning in the midst of men and women who are dead in their trespasses, in such a way that He is bringing them new and eternal life.  But, God’s way of breaking in and reigning as Lord and Savior comes in a way that most people will not expect, in fact many even find it unsatisfying and unfulfilling.  So the message of “The Parable of the Weeds of the Field” that Jesus taught to the curious, was a message that said the Kingdom of God was with them right that moment, but not yet in the way that they might expect, or desire it.  But the message also communicated that very soon, in God’s time, things would be much different, but for right now, this humble teacher who is the Son of God in human flesh, is all that you get.

There are many people today who, like the folks in Jesus’s audience then, just don’t want to hear this message.  Why?  Because they don’t want to wait!  And the sad truth is, they are being led by teachers and preachers who don’t wont to wait either.  They are the ones who teach that you don’t have to wait; you can have the glory, power, and good times right now, if you just have faith; faith in what they are teaching that is.  This message is in complete opposition to Jesus message that guaranteed us that, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart” Jesus said, “I have overcome the world.” [John 16:33]  So our hope is right now, yet it has been deferred for a little while until God acts.  Those of us who rest in this hope by faith, are the ones that Jesus calls “good seed!”  We are the wheat.  But planted right beside us are a whole different kind of plant; a weed called a “darnel”.  This kind of weed looks like wheat, but it is only a weed and not fit for anything but burning.  So here is the question that Jesus’ audience was to ask themselves and allow God to answer: “Am I good seed or bad seed?” If they had ears to hear and were listening, God’s law was meant to break down their pride and realize that apart from a miracle from God, they were bad seed.  Then and only then, would they be enabled to come to Jesus hungering for the gospel, the forgiveness of sins.

But I trust you saints who are gathered here this morning have already answered that question.  You have already received the painful blow of the law and have been restored by the healing balm of the gospel.  You know who Jesus is and you have become accustomed to waiting on God’s time.  You dear saints know all to well that the devil is alive and active in our midst; you too have even met some people that you would swear are “bad seed” or dead men walking.  And you may be tempted to root them out, but Jesus who is our Good Master within the parable says to us… “No, not yet!”  He tells you not only that you might inadvertently up root good wheat along with the weeds, but He says that the time to act is at harvest… that is the time of the final judgment.  That is the time when “the Son of Man will send His angels and they will gather out of His kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace.  In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”  But what are we to do until then?  We are to wait for our faithful and gracious God and His time.  We are to wait by faith, and it is in that faithful and grace-filled waiting that we “shine like the sun in the kingdom of (our) Father.”

And while we wait, God’s means of grace continues to strengthen both our faith and our resolve to agree with St. Paul in our epistle lesson (Roman 8:18-27) that our present suffering of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us (at the resurrection of all God’s saints who rest and trust in Christ alone).  But we do not wait alone, do we?  No, Saint Paul tells us that all of creation waits along with the church “with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God,” which is the time of final judgment and then reward for all who are the true “good seed.”

“For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.  And not only the creation, but we ourselves (who have seen both the agony and the beauty of the cross; the place where God dealt with the sins of the world once and for all through the blood and sacrifice of His Son who is also the Son of man, Jesus Christ).  And through the Word of God, our eyes of faith have been turned from a life destined to be bad seed, and instead through the washing of the water and the powerful Word of God, we have been declared good seed!

So while we wait, we who have the first fruits of the Spirit (that is the gospel promises of God’s Word), we wait eagerly for the promised reward of our adoption as God’s sons; that is we wait for the redemption of our bodies, the resurrection of the dead and eternal life.  It is in this hope that we are saved!

And as we wait, God invites us to see just who we are resting and trusting in.

In our Old Testament lesson (Isaiah 44:6-8), we hear these Words, “Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: “I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god. Who is like me? Let him proclaim it. Let him declare and set it before me, since I appointed an ancient people. Let them declare what is to come, and what will happen. Fear not, nor be afraid; have I not told you from of old and declared it? And you are my witnesses! Is there a God besides me? There is no Rock; I know not any.”

Dear friends, there is no God like the God of Scriptures.  He says that so wonderfully in these Words, “Apart from me there is no God.”  God does not desire that any of you should have any doubt of that truth; it was so important that God the Son Jesus Christ came to us Himself to make this truth undeniable.  And yet, sinful hearts still resist that truth.

So to quell all doubts, God has issued a challenge to those who trust in other gods and other messages that claim to be the gospel.  He challenges both the devil and those who teach and believe in a false gospel to match His abilities, specifically His power to care for His people who existed in the past and present, and to predict what will happen to His people in the future.  The God of Scriptures is a God of action.  He does all things for the benefit and the strengthening of faith for His people.  This morning God says, “If you are so wise and powerful you supposed lords and teachers, then do what I do; foretell your actions before they take place, and then allow each prediction that you claim has been fulfilled, to be verified!  Can any god created by sinful human imaginations, or can any false teacher of those gods do that?  No, dear friends, they all remain silent.

And yet your God dear church, is till acting on your behalf.  He is still creating and sustaining faith, which waits and trusts in Christ alone.  He alone assures you dear children that He can continue to care for you and sustain you as you wait for Him.  He assures you that He alone is your Rock; He alone has brought you out of the miry clay of your sins, and He alone will one day restore you in full glory.

This morning God’s mighty Word assures you not to be afraid or tremble.  In Jesus parable, you see that God agrees with our assessment that there are indeed dead people all around us, but it is not His will that they would remain dead in their sins, but that they would repent and like you, become good seed as they along with the church wait for the return of Jesus Christ and the resurrection of the dead.

Yes, we are to wait a little while longer, but we are to focus our eyes not on the dead but on the Word of Life, Jesus Christ.  Alleluia, alleluia, Lord to whom else would we go?  You alone have the Words of eternal life.  Help us we pray with a strong faith that gives bold confidence and hope built alone on our King, the Lord Almighty, our Redeemer, the First and the Last.  He alone is our Rock, Jesus Christ… AMEN!

Who Is Welcome Here?

Sunday, September 9th, 2012

15th Sunday in Pentecost B, September 9, 2012
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
Click here for audio of this message

“”Say to those who have an anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.”” [Isaiah 35:4]

Can you remember a time in your life when you had an anxious heart; when you were separated from God and you knew it?  What is it  that separated you from God’s love; wasn’t it your sin?  Didn’t that make you afraid of thinking about eternal things; about judgment?    And yet here you are this morning; listening to God’s Word and experiencing a new and abundant life!  True, it isn’t always and easy  life, but it is a lot better than the other option of living a life of fear and worry.

So how did you get here, living this life of faith?  How did you become a Christian?  Was it your decision to simply turn away from a life  of sin, or was there more to it?  What I mean is, if you simply decided to turn to faith and away from sin, then why are you still sinning;  why are you still struggling with living a life that is pleasing to God?

Ok, I know that is making you a little uncomfortable, so I’ll try another approach; perhaps you are here living this Christian life of faith  because someone invited you at just the right time to come to church, and your life has not been the same since?  Well then, if that’s  the truth, I would say that you owe that person who invited you to church your very life.  I would say that there is no limit to how much you can and should do to repay that person for the kindness they’ve shown you!

I know, I know… that reason doesn’t seem practical either, so let me try something else; something different and outside of you.  Perhaps, just maybe you are here because Jesus saw inside of you, knew the real you and still saw someone worth saving; worth touching and worth speaking to!  Maybe in a way that only God could touch or speak, He simply said, “Ephphatha!  Be opened” and it was at that point your ears were opened to hear the truth; God’s truth.”

In our gospel reading we see two examples of healing and both were done to people you and I would probably have over looked.  One, was a strange foreign woman and the other was a deaf and babbling foreigner who could only mumble and point.

The foreign woman was the insistent type; she insisted on having a one on one talk with Jesus!  She wouldn’t settle for His helpers or friends; it had to be with Jesus alone!  Now she was a strange one; she was different.  Today, you might call her needy and clingy; you might even say she was downright rude.  You know the type I’m talking about; the type that won’t take no for an answer.  Now the apostles I am sure tried to send her away, after all she was a dirty, no good gentile woman, but she refused to leave.  Finally, when Jesus came out of the home he was in, she pushed her way past the crowd and through the apostles, fell down at Jesus feet and worshiped Him.  She worshiped Him and called out for mercy; she called out for the one thing only Jesus could do… drive a demon out of her daughter.

Now, I am going to ask you a tricky question; the answer isn’t what you think it should be, so take your time before you answer.  Did Jesus heal her daughter right away?  Wait, don’t answer yet… really meditate on the question.  Here let me help you.  After Jesus received her worship and heard her speak out loud her question, he immediately responded with a statement of facts, He said,  “Let the children be fed first, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”  Now that is a strange thing for Jesus to say; why would he call that desperate woman a dog?  Does that sound like the Jesus you have come to know?  Did he really call her a dog… someone less than human?  No!  He called her something more than a dirty wild dog and something less than a Jew; He called her what she was, a gentile sinner, in need of a Savior.

You see, Jesus spoke correctly when He said that it wasn’t right to take the food out of the mouths of His children.  What parent here would feed anyone or anything before their children were fed?  No one would, and that is Jesus point.  You see, the Jews were the children of God by default, because they were the children of Abraham; descendants of that man of great faith.  It was to Abraham who God promised that one of His descendants would be the promised Messiah, who would come to save the Jews first and then the gentiles from their sins.  And now before the very eyes of this woman stands that Messiah; Jesus, the Son of God and the son of Mary.  And He is telling her that His first mission to the Jews is not yet complete; her time, the time of the gentiles has not yet come.  But that doesn’t explain why Jesus called her a dog.  Well, let’s see if we can shed a little light onto that one.

The Jews, who were supposed to be a light to the gentiles, a light that showed them the way to God’s forgiving love, instead mostly drove the gentiles away; they acted hatefully and superior.  They looked down on the gentiles and even called them dogs; the kind of dogs that were homeless and unclean; they called then “ka-leeb”.  Ka-leeb was the Hebrew word used to describe the dogs found in the junkyards or roaming the streets at night.  But Jesus did not use that word, instead he used a Greek word that referred to the woman and other gentiles as Kynariois, or family house doges.  That kind of canine was the beloved and cherished family pet.  But as much as you love your pets, you certainly would not feed them first and then feed your children.

Now the gentile woman picked up on that word that Jesus used to describe her, and she spoke it right back to Him; “Yes, Lord; yet even the kynariois (pet dogs) under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”  And to this Jesus smiles and sends the woman home; home to a daughter who is already healed.  So the answer to the question is yes, Jesus did heal her daughter immediately, perhaps even before they spoke.  He healed her because the request that came from her mother was completely covered and surrounded in faith.

So my next question is this: Why did this woman have faith in Jesus?  Why did she trust Jesus?  She trusted Him because Jesus opened her heart to trust Him.  Like the man who had been deaf and unable to speak for such a long time, she was helpless to hear about and believe in Jesus unless God opened her ears and her heart to hear and believe.  Just as Jesus spoke the Word “Ephphatha” to the deaf mute, He spoke the same Word of opening and believing to the woman.  The Word of God speaks the will of God.  And what is God’s will?  That none should perish but have everlasting life!

Eternal life is a gift; it is never earned nor a birth right.  You are not a Christian because your parents were Christians; you are a Christian because God has spoken the Word Ephphatha to you.  He spoke it to you in your baptism and he speaks it to you when you gather around His Word and at His table to receive His Supper.  We believe because He has spoken, and when He speaks to us Ephphatha He speaks new life.  It is a Word that is spoken to dirty no good sinners and holy and righteous saints alike.  It is a Word full of power and it both kills and brings back to life.

Are you listening?  Do you hear Jesus speaking Words of death and life?  He is asking you to be open and listen; perhaps He is even asking you to speak Words of life to someone you would not usually speak to?  Maybe He is asking you to step outside of your comfort zone and associate with people who are not like you; people you would normally not give a second thought to.  If you are rich or at least well off, maybe He is asking you to share the gospel, or invite someone who is poor to church.  Or if you are poor, maybe He is asking you to speak openly and sincerely with someone who appears rich or above your economic status; you know rich people need Jesus too!  Or maybe He is asking you to speak to someone who is obviously living a life far removed from God and the church; maybe it is someone or a group of someones who intimidate you or even infuriates you?

Will you speak; do you dare go that far outside of your comfort zone?  Yes, and you will do it if you allow God to open your heart along with your ears.  You will do it because you know that God is no respecter of persons or status.  If He was, He never would have chosen you.  And yet, He did!  Jesus died for you.  On the cross He had you on His heart and His mind, and in your baptism He called you God’s own child!  You are God’s own child because the Word of the cross opened your heart and your ears.  You are God’s own child because the waters of your baptism washed you clean and recreated you.  You have been transformed from a sinner to a saint.  From a dog to a child of God, and now God asks you to watch Him do the same thing again and again through His Word that you carry in your heart.  “Say to those who have an anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.”  Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.”

So sing for joy.  Tell everyone who will listen, because everyone really is welcome in God’s house.  Tell whoever God puts in your path, about what Jesus has done for you.  Invite them here to this place to hear the very words that save you… Ephphatha… be opened!

Wait!

Sunday, November 27th, 2011

1st Sunday in Advent B, November 27th, 2011
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
Click here for audio of this message

We spend our whole lives waiting.  We learn to wait for Mom or Dad to hold us when we cry.  We waited for Christmas and Easter with great anticipation.  We waited to be old enough to go to school.  We waited anxiously to start high school and then we waited to graduate.  We wait for our first kiss and then we wait for our first love.  We wait to find our spouse and then we wait for our first child.  We wait for the perfect calling or occupation and then we wait for retirement.  We wait for grandchildren, and then we wait and wonder whether it will be our spouse or ourselves who will die first.  How sad it is for those who wait without hope!

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!  These are more than just words of greeting and introduction from our epistle lesson, (1 Corinthians 1:3-9) they are the gospel itself. Within these words are the very truth that “God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” [John 3:16]  This is a statement of fact.  God loves the entire world; He sent His Son Jesus Christ to die for everyone including you!  There is no room for discussion within these words, because it is a certainty.  If you will receive this truth you will have peace; not a feeling of peace that the world tries to sell as peace, but real God given peace; assurance that even if everything is going to hell around you, for you it is well with your soul because God loves you and Jesus died for you.

How do you know that this peace is real?  You just do; you see, it’s more than just a feeling it is a certainty, and this certainty is the result of God’s gift of faith; faith to believe that in spite of everything that is going on around you, God is still with you and will never leave you.  By faith His Word promises that one day soon, He will come among us again and He will take you home to be with Him.  You know this is true because His Word, like the Word in our gospel lesson this morning (Mark 13:24-37) promises you this very thing.  And so you wait.

But there are some who hear this truth and they are not moved in the least.  Even though they have waited their entire lives for everything else, for this one thing that is the greatest of all other things, they refuse to believe and wait for it!  They refuse to put their name in the statement of fact that God so loved them, that He gave His only Son Jesus, so that they can receive Him, love Him, and believe in Him as their savior and God!

Then there are those who believe that God’s grace through Jesus Christ is theirs; they believe that Jesus died for them but their lives don’t demonstrate the love and loyalty of someone who is waiting for Jesus to return.  They have in fact received God’s gift of grace that was given to them in Jesus Christ, and in every way they have been enriched by God’s Word, which has come to them in all manner of speech and knowledge, yet they are living a life that in no way demonstrates that they are waiting for Jesus to come again.  Why?  I mean, they’ve had His message of grace confirmed among them in all manner of ways; they lack nothing in terms of God’s mighty gifts that reveal Jesus presence among them, and it does not seem to make the least bit of difference in their lives.

Theirs is the washing and regeneration of the water and the Word in their baptism!  Theirs is the sweet Word of forgiveness and the leading of the Holy Spirit into repentance!  Theirs is God’s own meal of forgiveness through the body and blood of Jesus!  All of these things continually provide grace and peace, yet they still live a life that reflects nothing of that grace and peace given by God Himself.  They live like someone who has nothing to wait for!  Why?

With both of these different yet similar groups of people, God’s Word still calls out to them to repent; turn to His forgiving heart that comes only through the life, death, resurrection, ascension, and return of Jesus!

I am praying for these people with anguish in my heart that they would see the season of Advent as more than just a time of waiting for Christmas and baby Jesus.  Oh how I have cried my heart out to God for so many of them; so many who seemed to have deliberately chosen His coming judgment over salvation.  I have tried to convince, implore, and even to my shame out of desperation, I have tried to manipulate these people into God’s Kingdom of grace, but still they will not turn in repentance to God’s grace and peace.

But you dear Christians have.  You have heard the advent Word of repentance and you have taken your sins to the cross of your Savior.  Through God’s gift of faith, you have not rejected Jesus, and because of that faith, you know that you are not lacking in any gift of God.  By faith you rest in God’s grace, peacefully waiting until Jesus returns.

In grace, you wait peacefully and you watch for the revealing of your Lord Jesus Christ.  It is God’s gift of grace and peace that sustains you to the very end, and as you wait you continue to feed your soul with the gospel Word that assures you that when Jesus returns, He will present you as His gift to the Heavenly father; a gift that is guiltless.  You know this because your God is faithful.  By faith, you know that it was He who called you into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord and it is He alone who will sustain that same faith through His

In our gospel reading this morning, Jesus gives us some interesting words to close with.  He says that “this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.  Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”

What is the generation that Jesus speaks about?  It is the generation of those who wait, and those who refuse to wait!  They were there when He was born in a manger, they were there when He was crucified upon the cross, and they are still here today.  Some will wait expecting to be greeted by God’s loving heart and they will not be disappointed.  Others refuse to wait and will dismiss our Lord’s coming as  pure rubbish.  Will they one day repent before it is too late?  I hope so; I pray so.  But as we pray and wait to see the outcome, for us, the church of Jesus Christ, our waiting is really a time of peace, because it is well with our souls.  So we wait and during this season of advent we sing: “Savior of the nations, come, Virgin’s Son, make here Your home!  Marvel now, O heav’n and earth, that the Lord chose such a birth.” [LSB 332 vs. 1]

Faithful is Our God!

Sunday, November 20th, 2011

23rd Sunday after Pentecost A, November 20th, 2011
(Last Sunday of the Church Year)
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA

INTRODUCTION: “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne.  Before Him will be gathered all the nations, and He will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. [Matthew 25:31-33]

In the time of Jesus, it wasn’t uncommon for shepherds to allow the goats and sheep to graze or pasture together.  But at the end of the day, the shepherd would separate them according to their kind.  And that is a picture of the Day of the Lord, judgment day.  Some will be considered sheep; they are the apple of our Lord’s eye.  On judgment day they will hear Jesus say, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”  But others, others who are goats, will hear something completely different; they will hear Jesus say, “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”

So what is it that determines whether we are sheep or goats?  Is it something we can get my hands on and protect; something we can have as our most cherished possession.  Is there a ticket to heaven?  Well… yes and no!  If we were to look at our gospel lesson this morning, we might be tempted to think that our ticket to heaven or our identity as a sheep or goat is based on good works, or something we do to inherit God’s love and forgiveness.  But you’re all much to informed about what your Bibles say to believe that.  So what then; what is this blessed assurance that promises us that we will be citizens of heaven in a place that has been prepared and waiting for us since the foundation of the world?  Well, It is nothing less than faith… faith in the atoning death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  When the Son of Man comes in His glory, will He find faith; will He find faith in you?  Are you a sheep or a goat?

I. If this question is making you a bit uncomfortable, then may I be the first to say congratulations; congratulations for not being happy at the prospect of being a goat!  You see there’s one thing I know about goats and it’s this, they’re just fine with being a goat.  In fact, for the most part they’re stronger, faster, and more clever than sheep.  They don’t have a problem with being a goat.  But not so with you; you want to be a sheep; you want to know that there is a place for you in heaven, just waiting for you to move in.  And because this is true, then you won’t have a problem with admitting something about yourself and something about God.

You are faithless!  That’s right, I said it; on your own you are completely powerless and useless for assuring that your eternal abode will be something other than weeping and gnashing of teeth.  Now don’t feel too bad about this, because you see it’s something you were born into!  St. Paul in our epistle reading (1 Corinthians 15:20-28) explains it like this, he says that death came by a man, the first man Adam to be exact.  In Adam all of us are guaranteed nothing more than an eternal death; a separation from God and His kingdom.  Instead of inheriting a mansion, well we’re cast out into the outer darkness; a place where there will be eternal longing and desire.

What was it that Adam did that was so bad that it condemned all of his ancestors?  He doubted God’s goodness and love; He doubted that God would provide everything that was good and withhold nothing helpful, while He protected him from everything that was harmful.  So from the doubt of Adam and Eve has proceeded every sin that each of us has committed.  From the doubt of Adam each of us has been judged guilty.  From the doubt of Adam our relationship with God has been lost.  The church has always called this doubt the original sin.

Now most goats don’t like this doctrine.  They don’t like the fact that they’re being punished for something someone else did long ago!  They get angry with God and they say, “I didn’t ask to be born this way!  This isn’t fair; since my birth, you’ve put me on a road that goes only to hell!”  Yes, the goats are so upset with this idea of original sin that not only do they protest against God, but they get angry with anyone who will repeat the doctrine.  Why is that?  Simply put, if this doctrine is true, then that means that their salvation, their ability to inherit the Father’s Kingdom is entirely outside of their control.  It means they have to have faith, and remember, that is the one thing goats do not have; goats are faithless.

II. So what is the solution?  Well, goats must be saved by someone who can give them faith.  They must be saved by someone who is faithful.  They must be saved by someone who can fill them with this faith; someone who can make them faith-filled!

Jesus is that someone and His Word is the means that God uses to fill goats with His gift of faith; it’s how he turns goats into sheep.  But faith in what?  Faith to believe that Jesus, God’s own Son came to this earth, lived a perfect life for you, suffered and died for you in order to remove the curse of sin, Adam’s and your sin from you.  Now, if you are agreeing with this premise, that’s all well and good, but some goats believe this too.  No, I’m afraid that you must hear the rest of the premise before you celebrate.  You see, Jesus also rose from the dead in His body, and promises that you will do the very same thing because you’ve received His gift of faith.

Now this is where many of the learned people discover that they aren’t sheep at all and they don’t care.  They can receive the idea that sin has to be paid for, even original sin.  And the fact that God paid for it Himself, makes perfect sense to them, because well, He was the One who allowed everything to break-down in the first place.  But raising a body from the dead, a body that’s been dead and decomposed for hundreds, maybe thousands of years, well that’s just foolishness to them.  What about people blown into thousands of little bits in explosions during war or a tragic accident, how in the name of science, will they be raised?!  Or what about people who die at sea and are eaten by a million little fish who then scatter what’s left of their bodies all over the ocean floor?!  No, I’m afraid that to the goats this is just too big of a leap of faith!  They believe in Jesus, a spiritual Jesus; a Jesus who inhabits the best of man’s philosophies and religions, but not a physical Jesus.  They believe in a spiritual resurrection but they can never accept a physical one!  That goes against everything that is sensible to them.  It goes against the very laws of physics!

But if this is how you feel, then you are condemning God’s entire Word as fantasy.  You have recreated God’s plan into a plan of your own making.  You do this because you are a goat; you are a goat because you are faithless.  But if the goats are right and we sheep are wrong, then we are to be pitied ahead of all others; because that means we sheep have staked our very lives and eternity on a lie!  Poor sheep; poor lost sheep, who will save us!  Jesus Christ the true shepherd will!  He will smash the head of king of the goats, the devil himself and speak words of faith that turn goats into sheep!  Listen: “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.  For as by a man came death, by (the God) man (Jesus Christ) has come also the resurrection of the dead.  For as in Adam all died, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.  But each in His own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at His coming those who belong to Christ.” [1 Corinthians 15:20-23]  Those who are called sheep!

III. This is the gospel!  This is your hope!  By His death upon the cross and the empty tomb on Easter morning Jesus has declared and demonstrated His victory over your enemies, sin, death, and the devil.  When you hear that Jesus suffered and died for you, you are given faith… you are filled with faith to believe that He also rose from the dead for you!  And you also know by faith, that as the head of the church, which is His body, which you are a part of, you must follow your Lord and Savior; for where the head goes so must also follow His body!

This is the truth, God’s own truth.  It is what sheep believe because they are faith filled by a Savior God who is faithful.  It is the truth that goats can never believe because they are faithless.  This is the truth that has sent untold numbers of sheep peacefully into the arms of their Savior at the time of death, and it is the truth that will lead you home as well!  But I must warn you, that the devils don’t want you to lie down on your last day with this truth.  They look at you as another victim.  Another morsel that they can eat.  They’ll do everything they can to get you to doubt God’s own truth.  If they can get you to live in doubt then I’m afraid that they’ve trapped you again in the same old sin of Adam.

Remember, to them, you are nothing more than a tasty morsel that they plan to devour.  You are a sausage sandwich waiting to be gulped down.  But if you’ll simply rest in God’s Word and the work He did for you on the cross and in your baptism you will see that Jesus is the one who does the devouring.  And He’s not only devoured the devil, but your own sin and death.  If you will continue feasting upon the Lord’s Table where He offers you His body and blood, then by faith you will not only be eating and drinking forgiveness for your doubts, but the very gift that makes you a sheep; you will be feed faith!

So at your time of death when the devil goes to bite into you, all he’s going to get is a mouthful of the poison that He gave to you.  We might say he only has a mustard and ketchup sandwich to look forward too, because you will not be there; you will be with your Lord, in a new body; a body that will never know sickness and death, sorrow or sin.  This is how Jesus puts all things under God.  He does it so that God may be all in all and sin, death, and the devil will be no more, ever again!

CONCLUSION: But now let me close with the proclamation of a mystery.  This process has already begun and it is already completed.  All that is left is for you to experience it outside of this world of sin and death.  Indeed the day has already come when you can say, “I will praise you, O Lord.  Although you were angry with me (because I behaved as a goat), your anger has turned away and you have comforted me.  Surely God is my salvation (and His resurrection is the source of my joy); I will trust and not be afraid.  For the Lord, the Lord, is my strength and my song; He has become my salvation.”  With joy (I can draw from my baptismal water) that is the well of your salvation, and give thanks to the Lord.  So let us call upon the Lord (who is faithful); let us call upon His name.  And let us make known His saving work of the cross and the empty tomb throughout our community, and let us proclaim the exalted name of Jesus!  Let us shout and sing for joy because the Lord who has done wondrous things is with us (Isaiah 12:1-6) and promising to take us with Him in paradise.

May God’s Word continue to make each of us faith-filled sheep, as He continues to be our God, in this life that began with our baptismal death as sinners and in our baptismal resurrection to new life in Jesus Christ.  AMEN!

The Good Seed and the Solid Rock

Sunday, July 17th, 2011

Fifth Sunday in Pentecost, July 17th, 2011
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
Click here for audio of this message

Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.” [Matt. 13:30]

Let’s start our message this morning with a question!  If Casey Anthony were to walk through our doors next Sunday looking for a new church home, how would that make you feel?  Who is Casey Anthony?  Well she’s been almost the only name in the news for the last several months!  She is the young mother who was accused of killing her 3 year old daughter several years ago, and then trying to hide the body with one lie after another.  After a lengthy and very public trial, she was found not guilty by a jury of her peers.  In our judicial system that means that she is an innocent woman and she is to be afforded all of the rights that you enjoy!  So, I’ll ask you again, if she showed up here at Trinity next week how would you feel?  Would you accept and welcome her or would you judge her guilty and a threat to the rest of us here at Trinity?

 This morning we will be talking about bad seed, judgment, and the Kingdom of Heaven!  By the end of our message, it is God desire that you will let go of your fears about the evil that seems to threaten not just His Kingdom but our very salvation, and by faith trust in the completed work of Jesus Christ your solid rock of salvation!

In vs. 27 of our gospel reading, Jesus portrays a common emotion that each of us feels when we encounter evil; surprise!  Listen: “And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, (didn’t you) sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?”  With the explanation that Jesus latter gives, we know that the Master is Jesus, the field is the world, and the seed that grows wheat and weeds are both good and bad people, we might say along with the servants, “Hey, aren’t you all powerful Lord?  Doesn’t Your Word always accomplish your will?  Wasn’t it your intent that there be nothing but “good people” in your kingdom of sowing and reaping?  Then what’s up?!  What are these weeds doing flourishing among the wheat?  Why are there so many evil people around and why are they so hard sometimes to distinguish from people of faith?

And Jesus answers this question with a statement of fact: “An enemy has done this.” [vs. 28]  In other words, He’s saying, “Your assumption is right; I did plant good seed, I do desire that all would be children of my Heavenly Kingdom, but we have an enemy who has been working from the beginning to turn a plentiful harvest into a disaster!”  So here is a biblical truth for us to remember, “Whenever Christ “plants” true believers to bear fruit for His glory, Satan the enemy of the Church is always planting others who will oppose His work and prevent His harvest.

The first mention of these two seeds in the Bible can be found in the book of Genesis when God made a promise to man and the devil that the struggle of good and evil would continue for a long time until God would put a stop to it!  Listen: “he (the Savior of mankind) shall bruise your head, and you (Satan) shall bruise his heel.” [Gen. 3:15]  And soon after in Genesis we are told that when Cain murdered his brother Abel, he started this struggle between good and evil within the heart of all mankind!  In the book of John, Jesus tells us that Cain was of the wicked one, a child of the devil!

 So Cain represents “children of the devil and Abel was the first saint to die in faith.  This struggle still rages on today.  We see it come alive for us in the New Testament and in our daily news!  Satan’s seed opposed John the Baptist and did nothing when he was killed by Herod.  They opposed the entire ministry of Jesus and asked to have Him crucified.  At the cross, Satan bruised Christ’s heel, but Jesus the promised Savior of mankind bruised Satan’s head and defeated Him forever.  But the battle rages on!

 In the news we see, read, and hear about all kinds of evil around us.  So we gather around God’s Word and Sacraments for comfort; we gather together as His good seed and comfort each other through prayer and the practice of forgiveness, but then we discover that the evil seed has somehow made it inside the church and we are shocked!  But why are we shocked?  Isn’t the common theme throughout scripture that those of us who relate to God by faith must live in this world but not be part of it?  We are continually reminded that our true home that awaits us is the Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!  So then, when evil enters even into the church we shouldn’t be surprised; we must remember that there are really two churches, one that we can see and one that only God can see.  We must trust that as the Master of His church, He WILL deal with the bad seed in His time and in His way!  This is the answer that He gave to His servants in verse 28 when they asked, “Then do you want us to go and gather them?”  In other words, do you want us to pluck them out?  And what was Jesus answer?  “No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up wheat along with them.”  What Jesus is telling us is that only He knows who ultimately will be judged evil and a seed of Satan, not us!  Now this doesn’t mean that when evil and sin pops up in the church we can’t deal with it!  Certainly God has given us complete instructions in Matthew 18 how we are to deal with evil and sin in our congregations, but the steps that we are to take aren’t meant to punish the offender, but rather to lead sinful members into repentance; that is to turn them to the cross of Jesus for forgiveness and restoration to God and us, and regenerate them back as good seed!

What we learned last week should still be fresh in our minds; the devil is always working to lead us away from Jesus.  If He can do this, then He is confident that He will turn us into bad seed.  He snatches the Word of God from our hearts, tries to smother our faith in the gospel with worldliness, or choke off our faith with persecution.  Sometimes, maybe many times he is successful in turning good seed into bad, and when he does this he is able to plant false Christians wherever our Lord plants true children on faith.

 I am sure that no one knew the secrets that Dennis Raider hid in his heart as they sat next to him every Sunday at Divine Service!  Who is Dennis Raider?  He was the president of a Lutheran Church in Wichita Kansas, and he is now a convicted serial killer!  He was charged and found guilty of killing 10 people!  Ok, Lord, at least we can cross his name off of the heavenly roll call and judge him guilty of eternal punishment like the court has, right?  And to this, Jesus says, “No!  Let him grow until the harvest.”  But why?  Well because only God knows the heart of a person, even sinful people like you and me and only He is capable of pronouncing the final judgment of eternal separation from His love and His kingdom.  So what in the meantime,  we are to do the only thing we can do; continue to be good seed!

As we gather around God’s Word and Sacrament we are to allow Him to care for us and protect us from others who might see hints of evil seed in us and want to pull us up!  We do this when we recognize our sin, confess it before God and each other and turn to the Cross of Jesus Christ and be saved.  As I said last week, this is the rhythm of a Kingdom lifestyle.  It’s the heartbeat of the body of Christ made of good seed; not good seed by nature but good seed through the work of Jesus Christ!  And as we are being daily recreated, protected, and nurtured we are called to stay awake!  We must stay awake and protect our doctrine and watch how we live.  We are called to live a life of faith that demonstrates God’s presence in a sinful world.  And when we sleep and fail to pay attention as the church has done many times in the past, Satan works.  He plants false teaching, false Christians, and false preachers, all so he can destroy the church from within!  But ultimately thank God, we must remember and trust that it is God’s Church, and He alone is able to protect it!  It is His Kingdom, and He alone builds it and preserves it.

So what is the Kingdom of God?  Well, in Mark chapter 1, John the Baptist told us that the kingdom of God had come near; he announced that God was, through Jesus the Messiah, laying the foundation for His rule of grace within the hearts of sinful men and women.  He does this through repentance and forgiveness of sins by faith in the completed work of Jesus and the gift of baptism.  When what we would judge as bad seed accepts this work of God, then God declares them fit for His Kingdom.  So the work of the kingdom of God takes place in others in the same place it takes place for us; it happens in the heart.  And since we cannot see into another person’s heart we trust in the only one who can; we trust in God the Father who created our bodies, God the Son who redeemed our bodies and God the Holy Spirit who sanctifies our bodies.

 So will Casey, Dennis, and countless others who appeared evil really be in heaven?  Ultimately, we don’t know, only God does, but we do know that if they do enter the kingdom of heaven it will be through the same way that we do; it will be through confession, repentance, and forgiveness that can only come through Jesus Christ!  Let’s remember that while the kingdom of Heaven is a place where we are promised to spend our eternity it is not the center of God’s message to us, He is!  On every page of our Bibles we are encouraged to center every aspect of our lives around God and His real presence with us and within us!

 Now, as each of us thinks about death, it is natural that we will also think about judgment, and this can cause fear in us sometimes, because it is God alone who knows our hearts.  But we must always remind ourselves and our brothers and sisters that we are now truly the good seed, that will be put into our Masters barn, that is into the Kingdom of Heaven only because Jesus was and is, and always shall be the Good Seed for us!

And when our struggle against evil and sin is over, “Then (we) the righteous will shine like the sun in the Kingdom of (our) Father.  He who has ears (and eyes of faith), let him hear.” [Vs. 43]  Let them hear that they are now the good seed, built on the Solid Rock, Jesus Christ!  “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’s blood and righteousness; no merit of my own I claim but wholly lean on Jesus name.  When darkness veils His lovely face, I rest on His unchanging grace; in every high and stormy gale my anchor holds within the veil.  His oath, His covenant and blood support me in the raging flood; when every earthly prop gives way, He then is all my hope and stay.  When He shall come with trumpet sound, oh, may I then in Him be found, clothed in His righteousness alone, redeemed to stand before His throne!  On Christ, the solid rock, I stand; all other ground is sinking sand!”  [LSB Hymn 575]  In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit… AMEN!