Posts Tagged ‘Kingdom of God’

Is It Well With Your Soul?

Sunday, September 17th, 2017

Fifteenth Sunday After Pentecost-A, September 17, 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 her for audio of this message

“Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” [Genesis 50:19, 20]]

These words from our Old Testament reading are the words of a Kingdom builder; they’re the Words of the Lord of the Kingdom of God, which are simply being spoken by a subject of the King. They are Words of restoration and peace; they are Words of forgiveness. They are Words that make all things well with our souls! With all of this being true, then why do we find it so hard to speak them? Why is it such a battle to say, “I forgive you”?

Surely we have reasons, good reasons not to trust some people; not to forgive them. I would not put a convicted embezzler in charge of our church bank account, would you? Would you want a convicted child molester teaching your kids at Sunday school? Of course not, but does that also mean that we should withhold forgiveness, love, and restoration from them?

In our Old Testament lesson (Genesis 50:15-21) we encounter Joseph, a man who had every reason to be bitter, hold a grudge and get revenge.

His own brothers threw him in a well in the middle of the desert and then sold him to slave dealers. But Joseph experienced something that changed him forever; he experienced God’s presence and God’s protection. In the home where he served as a slave, he eventually became the head slave and had complete freedom to run the entire home and its business. But trouble always seems to follow people who know they worship and are led by a merciful and loving God, and Joseph was no exception. Very soon he was falsely accused by the wife of the lord of the very home he was serving in. Bam! Joseph’s life was turned upside down again. Once again he was falsely imprisoned, but this time it wasn’t in a well but in a real prison! But Joseph knew that he wasn’t in that prison alone; he knew that the God of mercy was with Him and where ever God is, all is well with the soul of a child of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Once more God would prove to Joseph that He was a God who makes a way out of no way; He would prove that He was a God who never leaves or forsakes His little ones who serve in His Kingdom; Joseph was given the keys to the prison and allowed to run it! But that’s not all is it? No, eventually it became known to the Pharaoh that Joseph was a man of God who could interpret dreams. So as a result of one meeting with Joseph who spoke the Word of God truthfully, Joseph was made second in command in all of Egypt.

And now before him stands his brothers who did unthinkable evil against him; they were standing before the second most powerful person in the world. So this was Joseph’s chance to make things right; to right the wrongs that were done to him. And what does he do? He makes things right; right in the Kingdom of God! He offers forgiveness and restoration. But why… how? Because that is how the Kingdom of God operates! You see, the Kingdom of God makes a way out of no way. In a earthly kingdom where only death and punishment reign supreme, God’s Kingdom brings life and forgiveness. Out of fear and danger God assures His child that all is indeed well with his soul!

Do you think that Joseph had questions about the sincerity of his brother’s confession of sin? Sure, but having questions, having doubts isn’t what is important here, it’s where you take those questions and doubts. As a citizen of the Kingdom of God, Joseph immediately gave these things to God and He forgave all of them. It’s as if he was saying to them, “If God’s forgiven you, who am I to do anything differently? Don’t you see that what you meant for evil against me, God in His wonderful counsel has turned into something marvelous in our sight. He’s not only frustrated your evil plan, but He’s used it to bring abundant life and blessing for both me and you!” And that is always how things work in the Kingdom of God. You see, as citizens of God’s Kingdom of grace, “We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” [Romans 8:28]

So we see, in this way God causes good to result from evil, not that He wants us to do evil, but in His goodness He can take even our great wickedness and turn it into good. It’s God’s nature to forgive a fearful and sobbing sinner who is begging Him for mercy. And this is the very lesson that Jesus was trying to get Peter to understand; it’s the lesson He wants each of us to go home with this morning.

In our gospel lesson (Matthew 18:21-35) Peter asked Jesus how many times he should keep forgiving someone for something they do against him over and over.

Now, the Jewish teachers said that three times is enough to satisfy the mercy of God, so that the justice of God could take over. So Peter took that number and multiplied it by 2 and threw in one more for good measure and answered his own question with a question: “Seven times?” Now don’t be too hard on Peter, because from a human standpoint, a flawed and sinful standpoint Peter did pretty well. Even our own society today would call that excessive and a bit naïve. You know the old saying, “Fool me once shame on you; fool me twice shame on me!”

So now learn the lesson about how things work in God’s Kingdom. “Jesus said to (Peter), “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.” Now that’s excessive! But the number isn’t the point of Jesus teaching, it’s the attitude or the spirit. Jesus is teaching us that the new nature of a baptized child of God is the type of nature that doesn’t keep count. Even if you did count how many times someone kept sinning against you, isn’t it true that you would lose count long before you got to 490?

So the nature of a citizen in God’s Kingdom simply does as Joseph did, He gives it to God and trusts that all things will work together for the good that God has determined.

Joseph learned to trust God and so did Peter.

They learned that even when it seems that things are at their worse, God is still present and in control! Each of us must learn this as well, and God has made sure that we can do this very thing. He did it by breaking into our existence, into our history through one event that has rendered everyone subject to One Judge… Jesus Christ Himself! The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ has led not only the past, but it has shaped the present and it will determine the future. Joseph trusted in the coming Savior along with every other citizen of Heaven that came before and after Him. And when the Son of God took on our flesh and broke into our present and our future, the words of Joseph become the Words of Jesus: “As for you and your sinful ways, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. (Through my suffering and death your sins have been wiped clean. My death brought you life! Will you rest in this gift or reject it?)”

Today friends, we who are baptized into Christ Jesus can confidently say “I am a citizen of heaven. I was saved by Christ’s death on the cross, and through that work of the cross, forgiveness of sins was given to me in my baptism! I haven’t refused that forgiveness and I still pray for it every day. Daily through the power of God’s Word, I continue to see the sin that is still within me, but through that same Word I am given the promise of forgiveness and the ability to fight and destroy that sin, as I turn to Jesus and His cross for forgiveness! Every day I see the unthankful forgiven sinner within me holding grudges and planning revenge against my brother who sins against me, but I take this nature and I drown it in the waters of my baptism; I crucify it upon the cross of Jesus! Every day I fight to allow God to love my brothers and sisters through me even when they sin against me. I do this not because they deserve it but because God has done and always will do this very thing for me!” This dear friends is the life of a child who lives in the Kingdom of God.

Now I could end here and we would have a wonderful message about forgiving our brothers and sisters, but then you wouldn’t have God’s entire message. In order to complete our message, we must import one more bit of scripture. In Matthew, chapter 5, Jesus has one more group of people that we must learn to love and forgive… our enemies! “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” [Matthew 5:43-45]

Now this can be a hard lesson for all of us to accept, especially on the heels of the sixteenth year anniversary of the September 11 attack against our nation by Muslim terrorists, and yet God is asking us to not only accept His will but to fulfill it! Here the Living Word of God, Jesus Christ gives us a command; we must love those who hate us and attack us. We must pray for the ability to forgive them and also pray that they would turn to Jesus for forgiveness and restoration. This kind of love can exist only in the Kingdom of God; indeed it is the very thing that separates it from all other kingdoms. Now don’t misunderstand, God isn’t asking you to put your arm around your enemy; He knows that we have reason not to trust them or like them. But He is asking you to be filled with the love of Jesus and let Him do this work within you! This is a higher form of love that can only come from God. It’s the kind of love that says “I know that I will never like a murderous terrorist, or a criminal who may have robbed me or threatened my life; I can’t like a false and lying, slanderous person who has attacked my character over and over again; but I can by the grace of Jesus Christ love them all; I can see what’s wrong with them and follow God’s Spirit within me and work to do them good. I can pray that God will free them from their vicious ways just as He has done and is doing for me!”

Is living in the Kingdom of God easy? No, of course not! It requires the same things that Joseph had and that Peter received. It requires faith and trust in a God who promises that all things will work together for the good for those who love Him and trust in His calling and purpose! Will you struggle with this command to forgive? Yes! Will you fail sometimes and fall back into a spirit and mindset of the world, probably so! You will also be tempted in times of tragedy to think that God has abandoned you, but you must remember, its God’s presence and mercy; it’s His forgiveness for you that will carry you through until the end and deliver you safely into His Kingdom!
Let me tell you the story of Horatio G. Spafford. He was a successful lawyer and businessman in Chicago with a lovely family — a wife, Anna, and five children. However, they were not strangers to tears and tragedy. Their young son died with pneumonia in 1871, and in that same year, much of their business was lost in the great Chicago fire. Yet, God in His mercy and kindness allowed the business to flourish once more.

On Nov. 21, 1873, the French ocean liner, Ville du Havre was crossing the Atlantic from the U.S. to Europe with 313 passengers on board. Among the passengers were Mrs. Spafford and their four daughters. Although Mr. Spafford had planned to go with his family, he found it necessary to stay in Chicago to help solve an unexpected business problem. He told his wife he would join her and their children in Europe a few days later. His plan was to take another ship.

About four days into the crossing of the Atlantic, the Ville du Harve collided with a powerful, iron-hulled Scottish ship, the Loch Earn. Suddenly, all of those on board were in grave danger. Anna hurriedly brought her four children to the deck. She knelt there with Annie, Margaret Lee, Bessie and Tanetta and prayed that God would spare them if that could be His will, or to make them willing to endure whatever awaited them.

Within approximately 12 minutes, the ship slipped beneath the dark waters of the Atlantic, carrying with it 226 of the passengers including the four Spafford children.
A sailor, rowing a small boat over the spot where the ship went down, spotted a woman floating on a piece of the wreckage. It was Anna, still alive. He pulled her into the boat and they were picked up by another large vessel which, nine days later, landed them in Cardiff, Wales. From there she wired her husband a message which began, “Saved alone, what shall I do?”

Mr. Spafford booked passage on the next available ship and left to join his grieving wife. With the ship about four days out, the captain called Spafford to his cabin and told him they were over the place where his children went down.

According to Bertha Spafford Vester, a daughter born after the tragedy, Spafford wrote “It Is Well With My Soul” while on this journey.

Life is full of tragedy and betrayal. It is easy to give up hope, thinking that God has abandoned you in those times, or we can choose to believe by faith the promise of Jesus, that He will never leave nor forsake us; that all things do indeed work together for good for those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose. Will we give up or will we let God’s grace, forgiveness and restoration change us?

When peace like a river attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll,
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.
Chorus:
It is well with my soul,
It is well, it is well with my soul

Don’t Cross-out the Cross!

Sunday, September 3rd, 2017

Thirteenth Sunday After Pentecost-A, September 3, 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 her for audio of this message

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” [Matthew 16:24]

One of my favorite shows on TV is the “Myth Busters”. So following that shows premiss that some things that we accept as true are simply false, We are going to debunk a couple of myths in Christianity. What is a myth? Well, it’s a little bit like an Old Wives’ Tale. A wives’ tale is s traditional belief or a societal myth that’s often founded in superstition. Here are a few to try on for size: If you swallow your gum it will sit in your stomach and turn into a hair ball! No not true. Gum passes out the digestive track like everything else! How about this one: If you eat water melon and drink milk you will get a poison in your system and it could kill you! Sorry, you might get a belly ache but it won’t kill you! Here’s one more myth that you mothers won’t like me debunking: If you go outside in the cold with a wet head, you will catch a terrible cold! Sorry Moms, that isn’t true either. No matter how much you protest, science has known for some time that colds are caused by germs that enter our bodies through our mouths!

This morning we are going to debunk a couple more myths about our Christian faith. These are myths that were created in a sinful world by sinful people. The first myth says that your Christian faith will protect you from harm, misfortune, poverty, and even sickness! Now this sounds good; we might even get in line to learn about this kind of Christianity, but if we did, we’d be falling into a trap!

Now the second myth about our faith says that what Christ did on the cross was a good start for us, but we have to reinforce that work of His with our own suffering and sacrifice; No pain, no gain! The folks that follow this myth really set aside Jesus suffering as perfect, and they believe they’ve got to add to it in order to please and angry God! But now Jesus takes this “no pain, no gain” mentality and He turns it on its head! Jesus says, without MY pain you can have no gain. Follow me to have eternal life, but as you follow me, you too will know pain!

So where did we receive our call to follow Jesus and live under His cross?

Well through His Word of course! It was His Word that spoke to many of our parents long ago, teaching them the need to bring us to the life giving waters of baptism. And it was that same Word that latter grabbed a hold of each of us and convicted us of our sin and our need for our Savior, Jesus Christ. It is the Word of God that mysteriously and lovingly speaks to our hearts after we confess our sins and convinces us that we are forgiven. And it is the same Word that somehow creates the real presence of Jesus’ body and blood along with the bread and wine at our Lord’s Table, all so that we can know and experience forgiveness of sins!

It is this same Word that speaks to us now and says: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” [Matthew 16:24] Now why did Jesus speak this word about following Him and the need to pick up our cross? Because He knows that we like Peter want to follow the easy way; the myths of this world. But these myths were created first by the prince of this world the devil and they’re spread by the sinful people who have been trapped by his lies and myths.

In our gospel reading this morning Jesus began to teach his disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer and die for each of them, even for you and me! And what was Peter’s reaction to this discovery? Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him with these words, “Far be it from you Lord!” That’s just not going to happen (and I’ll make sure of it)! And how did the Son of God, the Savior of the world respond? He rebuked Peter, or maybe a better way to put this is that He rebuked the sin in Peter and the cause of that sin; He rebuked the father of all lies, Satan Himself! [Matthew 16:21-23]

Jesus knew that voice and the temptations that it brings; He recognized the devil and his ministry of lies which promises glory without sacrifice! He encountered that same voice out in the wilderness on a forty day fast. That voice tempted Jesus with food, power, and glory! And how did Jesus defeat the devil? With the same Word he now speaks to Peter: “Get behind me Satan!” And after Jesus rebukes the devil, He speaks and teaches both Peter and us with these Words of life, He says: “You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

Now what did Jesus mean by that? He meant that Peter wanted to follow the way of the devil and not the way of God!

Friends, the truth is that each of us are a lot more like Peter than we care to admit. Let me show you what I mean.

The word that Jesus used, which our Bible translates as hindrance is really the Greek word skandalon. It’s where we get our English word scandal. A skandalon is the little stick that holds the mouth of a trap open. Trappers will use some kind of bait that is irresistible to the prey they’re hunting and place it at the skandalon. And when the prey goes for the bait, they trip the skandalon and… SMACK! The trap springs shut trapping and killing the prey. So Jesus is telling Peter that his plan and idea to cross out the cross is actually that kind of trap! First it was a trap for Jesus; but Jesus is God, and far too wise to be tempted away from the cross. But it is also a trap for Peter and it is a trap for us.

Peter like us, wanted things the easy way. He wanted a life of ease and a cushy ministry. He wanted a Savior that would be a champion who would defeat the devil and create a Christian government here on earth! He wanted fame, fortune, and glory now, not later! How would he follow a dead Savior?

So what are some of the scandalons in our lives? Well let’s be honest, each of us wants the same thing! We want a great high paying job, a beautiful or handsome spouse, obedient children, a nice home and car, lots of bling, and we want it now! We might even reason that because we are children of the Living God, called out of darkness into light, forgiven of all of our sins, we deserve a prosperous life, free of pain, suffering, sorrow and poverty! So when God’s Word talks about suffering, we might not say it out loud but we think it, “Far be it Lord!” So what are we tempted to do? We’re tempted to go off in search for a different message; a message about prosperity and glory! We look for a message with less cross and suffering and more prosperity and glory; a message that tells us that we can have heaven here on earth! But if we follow this way of thinking, we are following the way of the devil. If we follow this way of thinking we are crossing out the cross and Jesus saving work upon it; we are following the way of glory or the scandalon of the devil!

So what does Jesus want for us? Well, He wants the same things for us that we want, He just wants them in a different way; He wants them through the way of the cross! You see, Jesus was committed to the cross, because it was the only way that salvation could be won for Peter and for us. Jesus committed Himself to the cross because He knew the will of His Father; a Heavenly Father who sent Him to suffer and die as the Savior of the world. He knew the reason for His gruesome death… “All have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory;” a glory that was first with us in the beginning. He knew that the only way that this glory could be recovered for us was if He was willing to pay for our salvation with His very life. So, He came to do that very thing. He came to give His life as a ransom for us (Matthew 2:28) and as a sacrifice for our sins! He was wounded for our transgressions, and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquities of us all. [Isaiah 53:5-6] This was and is God’s love for us in action!

Jesus didn’t cross out the cross and neither will we when we see our lost sinful condition and by faith turn to that cross for forgiveness!

As we follow Jesus we must take up our own cross!

Again Jesus says, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me!” Now don’t confuse Jesus cross with our cross. The truth is that only Jesus’ cross, His suffering and death can and does save sinners like us. So then what is this cross that Jesus wants us to take up? Well, it is a pattern for our whole lives! Our cross is all of the suffering, trouble, and hardships that will come to us because we are His followers. Whoever would follow Jesus Christ must follow His example. They must live to please God and give all that they have to bring His kingdom to every sinner. Whoever follows Jesus must be willing to deny themselves and live to please God. To deny, simply means to turn away from someone or something. In this case, God wants us to turn away from our old sinful nature and turn to Him. Every day He wants us to refuse to be associated in anyway with our old sinful nature and desires that were drowned in our baptisms. He wants us to live a life that disowns our old sinful identity and lives to only please our Savior Jesus!

The cross meant suffering for Jesus and it means suffering for us, but it is suffering for a purpose; suffering for a hope! We lose our lives so that we can gain them. If we refuse to die to our old sinful desires and embrace the ways of glory we are turning away from our only source of help and hope, the cross of Jesus! But if we receive and live out our new nature of sacrifice for God and our neighbor we are gaining not just the promise of a new and glorious eternal life, but the ability, the faith to live out this temporary life of suffering.

Young people, if you are ridiculed and unpopular because of your Christian faith you have God’s promise that you are blessed in God’s heavenly kingdom. Older people, if your Christian convictions cost you money and promotion at work, your cross is to keep on following Jesus, keep on fighting until you get the victory… eternal rest and joy in God’s Heavenly Kingdom. Parents and grandparents, God knows your pain for a child that seems to have walked away from their faith in Jesus and His cross! Through His Word He gives you faith to hold on and know that a change is coming; He gives you faith to keep praying for them. Dear saints, if there is a certain sin that seems to keep tempting you and it is a sin that you keep falling to, do not give up your fight to defeat it under the cross of Jesus. Struggle to remember that even that sin has been forgiven at Jesus cross.

The truth is for all of us, whatever crosses we have, we have them only because we are followers of Jesus and His cross! And as we follow Jesus and live out our cross, we are also exalting His name with the sweet song of alleluia!

Dear friends, as we fight the temptation to cross-out the cross of Jesus, God is strengthening our faith. We fight the temptation to cross out the cross by looking to Jesus alone who suffered and died for us in order to show God’s deep love for us! As we follow Him He is always urging us to continue taking up our cross and follow Him until the day He calls us home to a place that He has prepared for us in heaven!

I would like to close our message with a story: There was once a monastery that raised monarch butterflies. One day a young monk watched a butterfly struggle for hours to free its self from its cocoon. Finally, the sympathetic monk could take no more. He began to help the butterfly be free by peeling away the cocoon. Once the butterfly was free, the monk expected it to spread its wings and fly away; instead it only clung to the stick that it was perched on and finally toppled over and died. An older monk watched with great interest, and approached the sad young monk and offered this wisdom. “Brother you tried to help the butterfly by removing its burden, but what you didn’t realize was that it is the struggle under the burden that brings strength and vitality to not just its wings, but to its entire existence. So by providing and easy way out you removed the very thing that would bring it life!”

Brothers and sisters, we have been given the gift of eternal life with God. It is ours now, but not yet. Until our time in this sinful world is through, God calls us to struggle in our faith. He asks us to follow the way of Jesus’ cross knowing that at the end of our earthly lives of struggle, there is an eternity of living in God’s glory waiting for us. He asks you to struggle, putting to death your sinful nature with the sure and certain hope that one day you will enter heaven! This is faith in action; it’s a faith that doesn’t cross out Jesus’s cross or our own. It’s a faith that comes along side of others who are struggling with their own cross and helps them shoulder the burden. It’s a faith that knows and declares that we are not alone in our struggle; we are in this struggle together, and Jesus is here with us promising that soon and very soon we will be going to see our King; our King who comes in glory to pour out the fullness of His gift of eternal life. It is a Kingdom that will richly compensate each of us for all of our own suffering and loss for His sake.

May God help each of us to continue having faith in this promise… in Jesus name… AMEN!

 

Living Beyond the Mountain Top

Monday, February 27th, 2017

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

Click here for audio of this message

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aren’t we a lot like those apostles too?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How does our worship go wrong?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh Death

Sunday, September 11th, 2016

Sixteenth Sunday After Trinity-HL, September 11th, 2016
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor
Trinity Lutheran Church,
http://www.tlcsd.org and
Our Redeemer Lutheran Church
http://orlcsd.org

Click here for audio of this message

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t Be Anxious

Sunday, September 4th, 2016

Fifteenth Sunday After Trinity-HL, September 4th, 2016
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor
Trinity Lutheran Church,
http://www.tlcsd.org and
Our Redeemer Lutheran Church
http://orlcsd.org

Click here for audio of this message

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Listen to Jesus speak to you now…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Listen, God is Calling!

Sunday, June 5th, 2016

Second Sunday After Trinity-HL, June 5th, 2016
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor
Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego, CA
http://www.tlcsd.org

Click here for audio of this message

“And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled.  For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.’ ” [Luke 14:23, 24]

Listen.  Stop all that you are doing, rid your self of all those things that are vying for your attention right now, and just listen.  Listen, because God is calling out to you!  He’s been calling you for a long time, but we wont worry about those other times, let’s just concentrate on Jesus call right now.  Any time Jesus invites sinners to gather around Him and receive His gift of forgiveness, of salvation through His means of grace, God is calling out to you.

In our gospel reading, God was calling out to a bunch of Pharisees who were sinners; He was calling out for them to repent, that is turn to the guest of honor, Jesus the Christ, the very Son of God and be saved from their sins.

If they would only stop, turn their attention to His Word and listen to the call of grace, they would be saved.  Would they stop and listen?  Did they see a need to turn away from their hollow religion and find salvation in the One who was speaking to them; teaching them with Words of eternal life?

Jesus let them know that there were three major reasons why they may not stop, turn, and listen.  The reasons were simply excuses that were seeds of dissent, which were planted by the enemy, the devil.  Let’s look at those “reasons”:

“I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.”  Here, within this excuse, many young families of Jesus’ time, and perhaps even our time can be seen.  “I just bought a house, and I have to get settled in first.  I agree that being right with God, of knowing Him intimately and personally is important, but I have to get my personal life in order first and then there will be time, real quality time available for me to dedicate myself to God.”  And then there is this “reason”…

“I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them.”  Oh the demands of employment, who could not understand this reason?  “I just started a new job, and if I go insisting on having Sunday’s off for worship, I probably won’t keep my job very long, or I will at least be destroying any hopes I have for promotion and advancement in the future.”

What is interesting to note here is that in both of these reasons given, the person responding to God’s call is not saying that they don’t need to respond to God’s invitation, they are simply saying that now is not the right time.  In other words, “At this time I must respectfully decline your invitation, but please keep me in mind the next time the invitation goes out.”

And finally the third response or excuse…

“I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.”  In other words, “No thank you.  I have a spouse who is not a religious person and has no desire to become one.  I will adopt their attitude towards religion.  Please take my name off of your list!”

And what happens to all three of these sample groups of people in Jesus story?  He tells the servant who is sending out the invitations to take them off of the list; to bar them from the privilege of attending the banquet.  There will be no further offers of salvation; they’re done.  But then He does something amazing; He orders that others be brought in to take their place.  And still there’s room after the new group is brought in.  So…

So bring in the low life; go out everywhere and anywhere and “compel people to come in, that my house may be filled.”  Bring in the beggars who never would have thought that they would be invited and let them know that they are not only invited but they are valued by God.

And that dear friends is where you and I enter the story.  We are the beggars who never thought that God would call or even desire to call us, and yet… He has and He is!  Listen, God is calling.  Do you hear Him?

When someone asks you to respond to God’s call, they are really asking you to accept His invitation to live within His Kingdom.

The Gospel message or God’s invitation to be forgiven, is one that makes it clear to you, that He is inviting and welcoming you to come and rest within His kingdom of grace, which is a kingdom of forgiveness.  Jesus compares this to an invitation to attend a great feast or a royal wedding as a welcomed and honored guest.  But Jesus also reminds us that the strange and remarkable thing is that there are many who are invited who just don’t desire to respond at all.

So how is the invitation sent out?  Well, an invitation could come either by a messenger or by a letter.  And both of these methods are used with God’s gospel invitation; that is Christ’s invitation for you to come unto Him and rest in His kingdom of forgiveness.

Our Lord has sent out His apostles first and then His disciples, and He sends all of them out with an invitation, which comes to you within His Word.  The invitation to come into His kingdom comes when we both hear the Word preached and when we read it in the Bible.

But Baptism also implies an invitation.

It is through baptism that we have been received into the kingdom of God.  To a Christian, baptism is meant to be what the celebration of the Passover was to the Jews, Listen: “And it shall be to you a sign on your hand and as a memorial between your eyes, that the law of the Lord may be in your mouth.” [Exodus 13:9]

It is God’s will that each and every Christian look back upon their baptism as God’s final word or judgment which makes it clear to the one baptized, that He accepts and receives you just as you were found by Him.  But we must also remember that He loves us far too much to leave us in that “first found” condition.  The point is however, that no one who is baptized should ever doubt whether God wants to have a long lasting relationship of love with them.  You see, it’s when people forget God that His holy Word convicts us of our sinfulness and invites us to renew our relationship of grace with Him, by returning to Christ’s invitation, that is He invites us to return to our baptismal grace, which is still ours if we will but return to it.

This fresh call of God comes to us through the Word of God.  Personal sorrows over our sins, a fresh encounter with other Christians, and an inner emptiness, or a vague unrest in the conscience are all circumstances God may use to prepare the soil of our hearts to receive a fresh gospel seed of forgiveness and renewal.  But the invitation itself always implies that God in some manner is saying to us again: “Listen.  Jesus is calling.  Come; for all is now ready.”

The time may come when you hear God’s Word in a new way, and you try to rationalize that hearing and that moment as simply a coincidence.  But that coincidental hearing of God’s Word, perhaps your hearing of that Word right now, is really a part of God’s plan.

This is His moment; that’s why we call this time Divine Service.  He has had it planned since the beginning of time.  The Bible describes God as One who is “seeking” His people, not like a shepherd who goes out searching for new sheep to shepherd, but as a shepherd searching for His sheep who are lost; sheep that He often finds caught in the bramble and thorny vines.  And when He reaches his hand to free the lost creature, and then reassures it that it has been found and is safe, that lost sheep, you and me, may be saved immediately, if that is what we desire.

Today, as with all invitations received in God’s Divine Service, we are experiencing a moment of destiny-filled seriousness.  For sinners like us there is always the possibility of wriggling loose from the grip of God.  But then there is also the possibility, which is even greater than before, of our coming home to God and staying there; staying in Christ’s church.  Listen.  God is calling.  So…“Today, when you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion,” and “seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near.” [Isaiah 55:6]

When God seeks us, when we hear God calling us, that is the time when we should seriously seek Him, it’s a time that we should seriously begin to seek Him through His means of grace that He has made readily available to us.  Through His Word always, but also in the waters of our baptism and at His altar where He offers to feed our baptized  spirits with real food and drink that both strengthens our faith and assures us of our forgiven state.  These means of grace are the very sacraments that God uses to both create in us a desire to hear Him speak and then also  ability to understand Him.  Through these things God invites us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, but also to rest in that salvation with great faith and confidence in all that Jesus has done for us, “holding fast the word of life,” [Luke 11:28] and to be concerned with hearing, learning, understanding, and applying the Word of God in our lives.

When we do this, then God has promised to continue the good work in our hearts and to bring it to completion.

May God continue to do this very thing within each of you as you listen to God call out to you, in Jesus name… AMEN!

Know Your Enemy

Sunday, February 28th, 2016

3rdSunday in Lent-HL, February 28th , 2016
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor
Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego, CA
http://www.tlcsd.org

Click here for audio of this message

The song you just heard, “Sympathy For the Devil” by the Rolling Stones will be our mental and audio hook to hang our message on.  Contrary to what Mick Jagger just sang, not only does the Devil not want you to identify him, he doesn’t even want you to believe that he’s real.  But Scripture makes it clear that Satan and the devils do exist.  However shocking that may be to some people, we have to get this settled as a fact; you see without this truth being known and believed, we will easily fall for any and all of Satan’s dark traps and illusions. The Devil is mentioned in the Bible’s most important sections, in the Gospels, and in the very words of Jesus; his existence is an entirely unavoidable reality of life.  So, let’s look at first what Jesus says about the Devil, and then will discuss why he isn’t a threat to we who are baptized and trusting in Christ for our complete redemption and salvation.

Jesus often calls the devil Satan.  This is a Hebrew word which means enemy or adversary. Satan really is the enemy of God, and at every turn he fights God and tries to prevent His good purposes, and those purposes of God are to save sinful humankind.

Satan is the source of all evil in the world.  From Him come all of our evil purposes and sinful decisions.  From him came all things that create pain and tragedy; all things that break down bodies and souls, families and whole communities.  It was Satan who put it into the mind of Peter to attempt to persuade Jesus to avoid His trip to Jerusalem where He was to be crucified upon a cross that would ultimately defeat Satan and destroy his claim over you.  It was Satan who put it into the mind of Judas to betray Jesus.  It is he who sows the tares among the good seed of God’s Word.

Satan is also called the devil.  This is a Greek word, which means “the Condemner.”  This name reminds us of another side of his nature.  He accuses us before God.  But the devil doesn’t just accuse us for sport; he accuses us because he is trying to trick us into falling away from God.  He wants us to think that we have disqualified ourselves from God’s mercy because we have sinned beyond God’s grace.  When Satan accuses us in this way, he is showing his evil lust for our souls, in that he is trying to make us turn from God’s Kingdom of grace and power, and then embrace his own kingdom of evil and death, which only is an illusion of power.  He is trying to trick us into thinking that we belong in his kingdom, not God’s.  And if we believe Satan’s lies, that is if we reject God’s truth, we can sadly become what Jesus called “children of the devil” or children of evil who do what their father, the devil, desires.  Therefore Jesus calls him a “murderer from the beginning,” that is, a destroyer of souls that rejoices to bring humankind to destruction.

Here is a truth worth remembering: All of humankind are separated from God at birth, and we are naturally under the dominion of the murderer of souls, Satan.

Jesus called him “the ruler of this world.”  He speaks of the devil’s kingdom and compares Satan to a strong man who guards his household, armed to the teeth, watching over his treasures.  But note the stronger One, Jesus Christ has come and has conquered him and taken from him all his weapons.  That means that Christ has redeemed us from our sins.  The devil has to shut his stinking and accusing mouth around our King Jesus, and he has no claim over we whom Christ has redeemed and claimed as His own.

As the tempter, the Devil can continue trying to entrap and snare us.  But he knows that his days are numbered.  We who believe in Jesus are safe and secure.  But we are not safe and secure because of anything we have done or think we can do, but instead all of our salvation rests solely on what God has done both upon the cross of Christ, and within the waters of our own baptism.

Upon the cross of Christ, God has freed the entire world from the penalty of sin by placing that chastisement upon His Son.  This is a gift that is completely free and universal for all sinful mankind.  But this general gift must become personal for each and every sinner.  And in Holy Baptism God does this very thing; He saves YOU from YOUR sins.

In our Old Testament lesson we see a glimpse of this strategy, when God spares the Israelites who were living in the land of Goshen from the swarms of flies.  He would use this same strategy another time after He sent the angel of death into the land of Egypt to strike down the first born of both humankind and animal kind; all first born accept the homes of the Israelites that applied the blood of a lamb to the door posts of their homes.

In Holy Baptism, in your baptism the blood of The Lamb of God, Jesus Christ was applied to the door post of your very heart and being.  It is a hedge of protection that God has emplaced both around and within you, which tells the devils very clearly, “Hands off; this one is mine!  I have bought this sinner by paying a dear price.”

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” [Ephesians 5:1]

Do you understand that through Christ and your baptism, you are actually a child of the Living God?  And what child who is loved and cared for by their parents, would not want to imitate and learn how to live from them?  So too, we as legitimate sons and daughters of God have both reason and motivation to imitate Him.  We are His beloved children.

How do we imitate God?

We imitate God in love.  As God loves us, so too, we learn to love Him; not with our own natural love but with the superior heavenly born love that He gives to us.  There is a very special model of love we are to mimic and follow and it was spoken of in verse two of our Epistle lesson (Ephesians 5:1-9), listen: “And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

How did Christ show His love for us?  He gave Himself for us.  The Holy Spirit is ever working to cause us to remember this, even in the midst of the terrible attacks of the enemy, He reminds us that God loves us and hasn’t abandoned us.  The Father proves His love for us by sending His only begotten Son to die for us, in our place, so that we too, may each become sons and give ourselves to Him.  The Son of God, Jesus Christ proves His love for us by not only coming to us as one of us, but also dying for us, in our place.  But then He does something marvelous, He takes His life back up again from the dead and ascends back to His Father.  And then He does something wonderful; He promises us that where He goes so too, we shall follow Him and be with Him.

So, “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things (these empty and meaningless words) the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.  Therefore do not become partners with them (don’t mimic them or want to be like them, because that would be going backwards into enslavement); for at one time you were darkness (like them), but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.”  [vs. 6, 7]

You dear saints have been covered in your baptism with Christ’s very own robe of righteousness. To our Heavenly Father, you are that same fragrant offering and sacrifice of Christ that pleases Him so.  That being said…

Why would you want to go back to the stench of sulfur, the smell of the lord of this dark world?  Why would any of us want to turn our backs on the Kingdom of Light only to re-embrace the kingdom of darkness?  In this world, the lord of flies, Beelzebul reigns but only for a time.  His kingdom only exists of death; rotting flesh and flies.

The Kingdom of God is for us the Kingdom of Grace.  It is the rule of God’s grace here on earth, and of power and glory to come for us when we are called to our place of glory in heaven.  It passes far beyond our temporary existence of flesh where sickness and disease exist and it passes into eternity where our inheritance and glory in God’s Kingdom of Glory is waiting.

Unlike kingdoms here in this sinful world, where the kingdom makes the king, in heaven, the King, our King Jesus makes the Kingdom.  We haven’t been invited and accepted into His Kingdom as subjects, but rather we will be welcomed as heirs, joint heirs with Jesus; that means that we have an inheritance waiting for us in Christ’s Kingdom. [Romans 8:17]

Dear friends, don’t let the devils deceive you. Don’t think for one moment that the devils may not be watching you.  “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” [1 Peter 5:8]  But don’t look for a scary red skinned demon with horns.  That is simply a fairytale depiction for weak minds.  Instead, be on the lookout for regular folks that are either flirting with the kingdom of darkness or may even have both feet firmly planted there.  They are the tools that Satan will use to entice you to first doubt His existence, and ultimately the very person of Jesus Christ, your Champion who freed you from that world.

May this knowledge of the enemy and the greater knowledge of your Lord Jesus keep your hearts and minds in the peace and power of God until the day He calls you home to receive the inheritance He has prepared for you.  I ask this, in the name of Jesus… AMEN!

The Lord Is In His Holy Temple

Sunday, January 10th, 2016

Epiphany 1 (HL), January 10th, 2016
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor
Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego, CA
http://www.tlcsd.org

Click here for audio of this message

The Lord is in his holy temple; the Lord’s throne is in heaven; his eyes see, his eyelids test the children of man.” [Psalm 11:4]

Each Sunday we hear a similar call and a declared need to both worship our God and be surrounded with His glory.  But do these words still apply to our churches today?  In Israel the temple was considered to be the dwelling place of the Lord, the place where His glory resided.  Is this true for us today, or is the time past when the worship of God is confined to a special place?

We can answer both yes and no to that question.  Without a doubt the time of the Old Covenant temple, with its sacrifices and ordinances is long past.  All that the Old Testament commands about the offerings, the service of the temple, and the festivals doesn’t concern us.  But on the other hand, the time isn’t past when God reveals Himself to us through distinctly tangible and physical means.  The God who surrounds us on all sides and fills the whole universe, Him we cannot meet or truly know as our dear Heavenly Father except through Jesus Christ.  It is in the Gospel, in the Word and the Sacraments, that we possess God as our God.

In every place where GOD’S Word is preached and the Sacraments are administered God comes near to us, in the same way that He drew near to His people Israel within the temple.

When a church building is set aside for worship, it is properly consecrated by the Word of God and by the prayers of God’s people who gather there to be both surrounded and filled with His glory.  This is why we call our church a holy place, because it is set apart for God, to be the meeting place where He comes to meet us within His means of grace.

Jesus Himself modeled for us a life that honored both the temple and the local synagogue.  As we heard in our gospel lesson this morning (Luke 2:41-52), at the age of twelve Jesus already spoke of the temple as “my Father’s house.”  As a mature man He drove the traders out of the temple and wouldn’t even allow them to carry anything through the sanctuary.  It was meant to be a house of prayer for all people.  It is stated that it was His custom to go to the synagogue.  Evidently this means that He attended the local houses of worship.  And following that same pattern of living, the apostles as well were loyal to both temple and synagogue as long as they were able.  And then when they were no longer welcomed, they found other rooms for worship, which in time became the forerunners to our Christian churches.

You see dear friends, we have both the right and the obligation to foster the same love toward our own churches, which the godly Israelites had with regard to the temple.  The truth is, our baptized souls and minds long for the house of the Lord; it is there where our hearts, whether we admit it or not, seek rest, as rain rests upon a lake, at the altars of the Lord of hosts.

We peculiar people who are called “Christian” in our spirits, are glad when they say: “Let us go to the house of the Lord!”  When we arrive at his house we truly can “enter His gates with thanksgiving and praise” and we can go forward “to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple.” [Psalm 27:4]  We are aware that in the house of God that “Splendor and majesty are before Him; (and) strength and beauty are in His sanctuary.” [Psalm 96:6] Word for word a Christian can say: “Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you.  So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands.”  [Psalm 63:3, 4]

And we will need this work of God, because this entire world and really our own sinful nature both implore and even demand that we give up our faith and style of worship, which is considered by many, to be antiquated and a relic of the past.  To these voices from within the darkness of sin we respond, “The LORD has said that He would dwell in thick darkness.” [1 Kings 8:12] So “In the LORD I take refuge.  How can you say to my soul, ‘Flee like a bird to our places of safety.  All is lost within your religion, and we non-Christians surround and out number you.  Can’t you see that your foundations are destroyed?  So why do you cling to a faith and religion that can’t protect you?”  “Ha” we respond confidently…

“Our help is found by resting in the Lord; by allowing our faith to be strengthened through the means of grace that God Himself has determined to work through for our good.” You see, when we do this, we become part of the “foundations” of the very society God has instituted.

So what are these foundations that the darkness of sin threatens to destroy?  They are very simply the church, government, and family.  Luther called these institutions the stations of life, and he said, “Where such stations operate as they should, there things go well in the world, and there is the very righteousness of God.  But where such stations are not maintained, it makes for unrighteousness.  Now God declares (that) these stations must remain if the world is to stand, even though many may oppose and rage against them.” [AE 13:58 cf AE 54:446]

Now, while it is true that if we judge this world by what we see, all seems to be lost and enveloped by the darkness of sin, but remember God and His glory dwell within the darkness; even from within that darkness God declares, “I AM.”

The Lord is in His holy temple in heaven, but His glory fills all of creation; His eyes see and He guides you, and even if the world only see’s Him as if His eyes are closed, and even if they think He does not see or know, HE IS.

But the truth is friends, this darkness isn’t just something that surrounds us, but in fact it resides even within our own sinful flesh.  And because of this darkness we can begin to be flooded with doubts and fears.  Although it might sometimes seem that the wicked are prospering in their wickedness, God is still ruling in the heavens. Nothing escapes his detection. He sees the deeds of the ungodly, and he will punish them fully in His time. The Lord hates evil and He loves righteousness. When He comes in judgment, he will punish every sin of the unbeliever. But those who are righteous through Christ, you who trust in Christ alone, will dwell with God in eternal happiness.

Even when the very foundations of society seem to be undermined, this assurance of Isaiah remains true: [The Lord] “will be the sure foundation for your times” (Isaiah 33:6). Even when wickedness and lies flourish, “God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: ‘The Lord knows those who are his,’ and, ‘Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.” [2 Timothy 2:19]

Dear saints, we must be filled with all these promises, comfort, and strength regularly, and God does this very thing within His Divine Service here within our church home, which is His church.

The truth is, we who are God’s saints are being built up as His very foundation for maintaining His glory within this sin-darkened world.

We are drawn by the work of the Holy Spirit to this place; we come to be filled with light so that the world in darkness may know the source of our light.  We come as sinners forgiven through the Holy cross of Jesus, washed clean in the waters of our baptism, so that others will be drawn for the same reason and to the same source of new life and cleansing… Jesus Christ!

When the world looks for you to throw in with them, to be like them, and to act with them; when they look for you to follow them, and in surprise comment how strange it is that you will not; that you still find it necessary to “go to church,” you can then, through the work of the Holy Spirit respond as Jesus responded to Mary and Joseph, “Why do you wonder where I’ll be on Sunday?” “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”

You see, through Christ, God is not just the Father of His Son Jesus, but He is also your Father as long as you see your need to take His Son as your Savior from your many sins.  And because God is your Father, you will also have the same regard as Jesus did for His and your Father’s house.  You will not neglect the meeting of the saints nor the up-keeping of the church and its ministry, because it is within that place of meeting and within those means of grace, that God freely gives you both forgiveness and new life.

Dear friends, our faith is often tested and its often found wanting. God’s faithfulness and mercy toward us, however, never weakens or fails. Despite our lack of faith and even our wicked deeds, He extends His grace as a refuge from our sinful nature and the sinful works of others. He does this so that we can both see and hear Him work through His Word and Sacraments, in order that we will have access to His undying testament, which guarantees His great and unending love for us.  Let us pray…

In You, O Lord, we take refuge. Though we are found lacking righteousness, save us by the righteousness of Christ. We ask this in Jesus name… Amen!

Don’t Be A Little Herod

Sunday, January 3rd, 2016

Christmas 2 (HL), January 3rd, 2016
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor
Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego, CA
http://www.tlcsd.org

Click here for audio of this message

Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” [Matthew 2:13]

Perhaps the title of our message, “Don’t Be a Little Herod” has got you wondering what God and your pastor may be up to in this message.  Maybe your even thinking, “How could someone imagine that any of us would be even remotely similar to that vile villain, Herod.”  Well, we will address both the title and those questions in a moment, but first let’s look at the most obvious things the church must address within this historic text.

There are three things that demand our acknowledgment this morning; they are three things that the church has always acknowledged within this text.

First, we must understand that our plans no matter how God-pleasing, how extensive, or how well thought out they are, are not necessarily God’s plans.  You see, there is a way that seems good, right, and salutary to sinful men and women, but in the end; in the end they lead to death. [Proverbs 14:12]  Joseph and Mary had a good plan.  They probably put a lot of thought into where they would raise their son, God’s Son.  And after much prayer and love for the boy, they intended to remain in Bethlehem indefinitely.  But then Herod entered the picture.

Jesus must have been several weeks old buy the time the Magi showed up to worship Him as the King of Israel.  But the Magi didn’t stay long; as soon as the closing benediction was announced, off they went into the night, because they were warned by God not to return to Herod.  But the Magi weren’t the only ones who were warned by God of Herod’s evil intentions.  Joseph, warned by God in a dream woke, roused Mary and off they went to Egypt, a strange land they neither knew nor wished to know.

And so goes the ways and plans of men, even God fearing Christian parents.

Second, we learn that bad things really do happen to good people; even people we call innocent… people like the little children of Bethlehem that had done nothing to deserve death.  This gospel reading has always been reserved for acknowledging the first martyrs of the church.  We call this High Holy Day, “The Slaughter of the Innocents.”  What is interesting to note is that while they died so that Jesus the Messiah could live to begin and complete His ministry, because Jesus lived, He would latter die so that they could be forgiven of their sins (even that great original sin inherited from Adam and Eve), and live for eternity in paradise.

Third and finally, we must acknowledge that if God has determined that a thing will happen, it will.  Even Herod’s evil was no problem to God; God already knew what was in Herod’s heart since the beginning of time; God planned for it.  And to prove this, God had his prophets proclaim three promises long ago so that you could read and hear about them today, and thus be assured that all things really do work for “the good” for those who are called by God and know and love Him by faith. [Romans 8:28]

First, God said long ago through the prophet Hosea, “Out of Egypt I will call my Son.” [Hosea 11:1]  An indeed, God did that very thing when Joseph and Mary were latter directed to take Jesus, the Son of God and return to the Holy Land.

Secondly, the prophecy of Jeremiah stands out for us in these Words, “A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.” [Jeremiah 31:15]  These Words, while they immediately refer to the Israelites going into exile in Assyria and then Babylon, they ultimately find fulfillment in the slaughter of the innocents at the hand of Herod.  But what is interesting are the next two verses proclaimed by Jeremiah; verses which bring the hope of new life, which is intricately connected with both the life and death of this Christ-Child who escaped the evil plan of Herod.  Listen: “Thus says the Lord: “Keep your voice from weeping, and your eyes from tears, for there is a reward for your work, declares the Lord, and they shall come back from the land of the enemy.  There is hope for your future, declares the Lord, and your children shall come back to their own country.””  Here in this ancient prophecy, we already find the proclamation of the gospel; a gospel that promises that God will actually overcome the evil will of devils and men.  Here is the Word of God announcing that through this Child, the very Son of God, our true enemies, which are sin, death, and the devil have been defeated!

And finally, all of scriptures declares that even the place where the boy Jesus would grow to be a man had been determined and announced for a reason.  Listen: “But when (Joseph) heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there, and being warned in a dream he withdrew to the district of Galilee.  And he went and lived in a city called Nazareth, so that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, that he would be called a Nazarene.”  While God left the choice of the town to Joseph, and Joseph alone selected this place, the hand of God was, nevertheless, guiding him. This becomes clear when we read: “in order that what was spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, for he shall be called a Nazarene.”

A Nazarene is one who hails from Nazareth. All of us familiar with the gospels know that the enemies of Jesus branded him the “Nazarene,” as if it was a curse word.  That name would become infamously attached to Jesus and His disciples, and it would loudly proclaim the reason for His rejection among His own people. They put into that title all the hate and derision possible. And this is “what was spoken through the prophets.”  All of the prophets that spoke of the rejection of the Messiah explained that He would be despised by the very people He would come to save. [Psalm 22:6; Isa. 49:7; Isa 53:3; Dan. 9:26; and Deut. 18:18]

If Jesus had been reared in Jerusalem, He could not have been vilified as the Nazarene (Can any thing good come from Nazareth?).  But if Jesus was not vilified by sinners, how could we hold other villains  such as Herod up to Him and contrast true evil to divine goodness?  Which brings us to the warning within the title of our sermon, “Don’t be a little Herod.”

I think that it is true to say, we are comfortable in seeing Herod as the ultimate Gospel villain; the epitome of evil incarnate if you will.  We very quickly see the depths of his sin and treachery and we comfortably think that it is impossible for one of us to stoop or fall so low.  But Herod is in fact every man, woman, and child.

Herod teaches us that it is within our sinful human nature to be openly rebellious to the kingship of Jesus.  You see, if Jesus is Lord, then we are not.

What was the first sin of Adam and Eve?  Wasn’t it to become like God?  And friends, we have been trying to do that very thing ever since the fall.  So what do you think our immediate reaction is, when God through His law exposes our false lordship over our lives as a sinful delusion.  Herod was delusional, and so are all sinners one way or another.  Each of us in our own way tries to play God.  While its true that Herod was an extreme example, he certainly isn’t an isolated case.  Herod is what every man, woman, and child is deep down in our hearts.  Every sinful thought or action that we are confronted with through the law of God is evidence that testifies against us that we are indeed little Herods by nature.  It’s those very sins that tempt us to doubt, hate, plot revenge, and then resist the real King and unseat Him from the throne of our hearts.

Every Sunday we as the church militant, within our prayers and collects pray for God’s help in defeating the little Herods that threaten the security of our salvation.  We are always reminded how God has poured out His love in our hearts through the presence of Jesus Christ His Son, His Word that has become Flesh.  It is this Word of God that creates faith, and it is this faith that creates a desire within us for Jesus to be our Lord, even upon the throne of our own sinful hearts.

The truth is friends, God can and has dealt with the likes of Herod; He has done it once and for all.  And…

God can deal with our little Herods too.

God defeated the plans of the devil and his little puppet Herod by protecting His Son and giving Him His foster father Joseph, who fled with the baby and His mother to Egypt.  Herod in all his authority and might couldn’t overcome one little baby.  God makes him out the fool and then he dies.  And that pretty much sums up the rest of the gospels too.

A poor carpenter turned rabbi begins to preach and teach in a small insignificant part of the world.  The collective powers and authorities there would try to kill Him, and when they finally succeeded in crucifying Him, they thought they had won.  Yet, along comes the third day and it’s proven that God’s power really is glorified in weakness, even the weakness of a cross, and the fruit of Christ’s cross then produces eternal life.  And this is always God’s way; the Kingdom of God starts as the smallest of seeds and then spreads (and is still spreading) to the four corners of the world.

The Herods of this world will all die one way or another, even us.  God deals with them in two ways.  For the unrepentant like Herod, God kills them and destroys their evil plans and still accomplishes His purposes in spite of them.  The other way, the way you dear saints are following much even better.   God still kills you, but then He raises you up again with Jesus.  That’s exactly what He has done and is doing for you.

Every Sunday we witness mass deaths within God’s Divine Service, in fact everyone of us should be dying to ourselves right now; we should come here prepared to die; we come to die to self, die to sin, to have our little Herod crushed by God.  God drowned that little Herod in the waters of your Baptism, like He drowned evil Pharaoh in the Red Sea, but He doesn’t stop there.  You see, He has raised you up again in the forgiveness of your sins to everlasting life.  He pours into your heart the true light of the Incarnate Word so that His light might shine brightly in your life.  He nourishes you with the food that grants eternal life in His body and blood, which you will receive soon in the Sacrament of the Altar.

The world expects a king who wins like other kings; with brute strength. Instead, we have been found by a God who defeats the powers and principalities of this world by falling into their clutches and being crucified.  Your sin must be dealt with from within this sinful world.  If God came from above, with His Divine strength and fury, you and I would be utterly destroyed because we are sinners who only deserve death.  But instead, God in His wisdom came down to the depths of our human need by becoming needy, and He deals with our sin by becoming sin for us and dying the death we deserve.

This morning, we see the holy family suffering just like the rest of this broken world. Herod’s rage was simply a glimpse into what was to come at the cross.  The Christ child in His weakness, was always threatened, but God the Father was always with Him.  The truth is dear friends, while we live within this sinful world there will always be suffering and inequity, and this suffering will always lead towards death.  And because of this reality, we tend to forget that God has already prefigured all of this, and still guarantees that all things will work for the good of His saints.

Here is a truth worth remembering: What the enemy takes, God can give back a hundredfold within His Kingdom.  The eyes of Rachel will be dried and one day her tears will be no more.  This is precisely what will happen when the King comes again, but He does not come in weakness; no He comes in power and strength to open up the very gates of His kingdom to you.  Jesus alone brings each of you back to paradise restored, where you will live in the light of the Incarnate Word Jesus Christ forever and ever.  In Jesus’ name… Amen.

There’s Something About the Name Jesus


Sunday, December 27th, 2015

Christmas 1 (HL), December 27, 2015
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor
Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego, CA
http://www.tlcsd.org

Click here for audio of this message

“And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.” [Luke 2:21

Just like every other Jewish baby-boy, Jesus was circumcised a week after His birth.  Maybe that’s the reason why this gospel lesson always falls so close to New Years Day; so we can begin our New year with the name of Jesus on our lips and in our hearts.  You see…

It was at God’s command that Jesus’ name was given.

The name Jesus means “God Saves” or, as we simply say in English, Savior.  That’s why the Angel said to Joseph: “You shall call His name Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.”

So, the name Jesus is given to God the Son by God the Father Himself, and because of this, all of God’s power is contained within that name.  Within the name of Jesus is everything that all of creation needs to be saved from the sins of the world.  That’s why the name Jesus is to be used and spoken only with the highest reverence and respect.  When we speak and use this name, we are in fact dealing with God Himself.

Within the name Jesus, is contained all that Christ possesses and is. When that name is mentioned, He is present Himself with all of His power, but here is something you must always remember when you speak or call upon His name; He is Jesus for you!

You know, we’re living in a time, within a society, that not only celebrates political correctness, it demands it.

This is an age where everyone is free to speak the name of their “god” but no one wants us to speak the name Jesus; and because we don’t want to offend the Muslims, the Jews, the Buddhist, nor the atheists, and because of our desire to get along with everyone, we end up avoiding the sweet name of our Lord, thus providing a witness to no one.

Once perhaps, when we were young and new to our love for Jesus, we spoke His name freely and with joy, but now, maybe thinking that we have matured and become respectful of others, we have possibly regressed into an immature state, and within this regressed state, we’ve left the very foundation of our faith and life, which is Christ crucified and resurrected.

This morning, the Holy Spirit calls out to us in love, and He warns us; He testifies to us concerning the name of Jesus; if we choose to shy away from our Savior and the blessed name of Jesus, it will at one point become near  impossible to be renewed again to repentance, since as deniers of His name we will be crucifying the Son of God all over again to our own harm as we allow Jesus to be held up to contempt. [Hebrews 6:1-5]

Jesus said that whoever is ashamed of Him (His name) and His Words (His gospel message), (He) the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person when He comes in His glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. [Luke 9:26]

So I want you to know, that there will come a time, that at the name of Jesus every knee (will) bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth.”  [Philippians 2:10]  That means that the day is coming (whether they acknowledge it or not) when every Muslim, Buddhist, Jew, and atheist that you are afraid of offending, will have to get down on their knees in judgment before God, and confess before they depart to the place where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth, that Jesus is Lord!

Listen friends, Jesus knew that His name would bring division and trouble to this world; that is why He declared, ““Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.”  As Simeon said in our Gospel lesson (Luke 2:22-35), Jesus has been appointed for the fall and rising of many, and for a sign that is opposed and a sword that will pierce not only through Mary’s soul, but the souls of all, so that they may receive the recreating work of the gospel.

Do we really want to be shy, ashamed, and muzzled while so many who persist in unbelief will only know the edge of God’s sword, which is His law?  Is that what you want?  Do you want them to be lost without knowing what you know about the wonderful name of Jesus?  You see, Jesus doesn’t want them to wait for that last day; He wants them to avoid the eternal darkness; He want us to speak His name; the sweetest name they’ll ever know.

His name is Jesus; Wonderful Counselor, mighty God, and Prince of Peace.

By faith in His name, the saving name of Jesus, His work of salvation is for you and for all that still can not nor will not allow that name to be spoken!

It was because of the mighty name of Jesus that the apostles performed their great miracles.  To preach in the name of Jesus then, to speak, to teach, and to witness to that name, means not just speaking His name, but to speak in a very personal way through Scripture, which He has promised will be filled with His Spirit and power first for you and then for those who will listen to you.

To believe in Jesus, can therefore be said to have faith in His name and only His name.  To believe in and speak the name Jesus, is to proclaim to all who will listen, that there really is forgiveness of sins for those who will receive Him!  To believe and speak His name, is to proclaim to all those who do not yet know Him, that there really is a way back to God’s love.  This is why the name Jesus really is the sweetest name you will ever know.  To speak His name freely then, is simply to be a Christian, that is a child of God through Christ, who through Jesus, has life in His name; life He brings for you!

Jesus!  It’s a name that shoots out from not just the dead stump of Jesse, but from every stump that once represented the best intentions of men and women, from within a culture that once was great, but now is dying or completely dead.  It’s a shoot of new life that promises that there is a way that most certainly leads to an eternity of joy and happiness.

Through the name of Jesus, we are taught by God Himself that the Holy Scriptures are to be taken literally, because they are the very things that teach you both of Jesus and the power of His name.  And through these same scriptures, we are to have no doubts in our minds or our hearts when we hear that: “there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”  “… at the name of Jesus every knee should bow… and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.” [Acts 4:12 & Phil 2:10]. And when we hear His name spoken, our hearts and our lips are compelled to proclaim, “He is my Lord; He is my God!”

To pray in the name of Jesus, then, means to pray by faith in Jesus, under the protection of Jesus, with all of our sins forgiven that would otherwise prevent us from being heard by God, and with Jesus as our helper and our intercessor, we may always know that not only are we heard, but we are in fact forgiven.

And finally, to do something in the name of Jesus, whether we go to His table for His Holy meal, or rest quietly at home preparing for the New Year, by faith, we take Jesus with us, to stand under His forgiveness and His protection, and to know that He is with us always and everywhere, all of our days, and in everything we do.

Dear friends, can you see that you are in the very same place as Simeon?  You too may now behold the anointed one of God, Jesus Christ, and you may depart in both faith and peace.  For your ears have heard the good news of salvation and forgiveness of sins; your eyes too, have seen His salvation, in the breaking of the bread and the lifting up of the cup for the forgiveness of sin.  You are partakers of the very salvation that God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have prepared in eternity in the presence of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to God’s people who both speak and rest in the blessed name of Jesus.  Oh, there is indeed something about the name of Jesus; it is the sweetest name I know!

In the name of Jesus then, let all God’s people say… AMEN.