Posts Tagged ‘Love’

Do We All Believe in One True God?

Sunday, May 26th, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It Was Love… A New Kind of Love!

Sunday, April 28th, 2013

Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church-San Diego
Easter 5C, April 27th, 2013

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A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. [John 13:34, 35]

What was it that moved Christ to go from the upper room, to the garden, and then to His suffering and death upon the cross?  It was love; a new kind of love; a type of love that before was impossible for human flesh, sinful human flesh to express!  But Jesus is God—what does that have to do with us?  Simply this, Jesus said we must now have and express this kind of love.  “A new commandment I give to you that you love one another, as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.”

This means, we are to express a type of love that costs, even hurts at times.  We are to love each other with a sacrificial kind of love.

A grumpy old man called a church one-day and explained to the pastor that he was looking for a new church, as his old church no longer met his needs.  He said that he wanted to join a church that didn’t press him to get involved, a place where only the old hymns are sung, a church that didn’t keep calling him at home checking to see if he was alright, simply because he missed a few Sundays.  He wanted to be a member of a church that didn’t issue offering envelopes or keep track of his giving.  He then asked the pastor if his church fit the bill, and if not, could he recommend one.  The pastor was silent for a moment and then responded: “Well yes, I think I know just the place for you.  Do you have a pen and paper?”  The man said yes, and then wrote down the exact address of a local church that the pastor gave him.  The man got in his car and went out immediately, only to find a church that was boarded up, closed down and for sale.

That story is simply an illustration that points out the problem with each of us, if left on our own; we want life and all of it’s circumstances to meet our needs; we want everything to be done in a way that makes us happy.  It’s as if we are saying, “OK, I’ve been baptized and I have Jesus, now leave me alone and let me rest in His glory until He calls me to my mansion.”  Let’s call this way of thinking and living a theology of glory.  But that is not the love, the life that Christ calls us to live out.  He said, “Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.”

This morning in our gospel lesson (John 13:31-35), Jesus teaches us a new theology; a theology of the cross.  His love took Him to the cross; the emblem of suffering and shame; a place where all mankind’s glory is destroyed and made empty and meaningless.  In the cross, God calls a thing what it is; He says that our sin, even our sinful flesh is vile and rotten and it must be destroyed.  But here is the amazing part; He doesn’t want to destroy our sinful flesh, but instead He destroyed the perfect flesh of His only begotten Son.  And even more amazing, the Son agrees that only this self-sacrificing love will save sinners like you and me.  And now from the cross, Christ calls out to each of us… follow Me!

Does this kind of love make you nervous or afraid?  If so, good; you should know what you are getting into.  Or, you should know what you’ve already signed up for.  This is love, not that we love God, but that He first loved us, and proved it upon the cross.

In our first lesson (Acts 11:118), some of the “holiness” brothers that were of the circumcision party, heard that Peter was hanging out with dirty gentiles, and even calling them brothers.  So they conveyed a board of inquiry to get to the bottom of this scandal.  But when Peter spoke of how even the gentiles were repenting and turning to Christ alone for salvation, they were quieted and then let go of their own agenda, and glorified God.

How were these Godless gentiles able to receive the Holy Spirit, the very Spirit of Jesus and be saved?  Well the same way every one does; through the Gospel message that Peter shared with them.  When they heard about their sins, and the penalty of death God imposes because of those sins, they were at first terrified.  But when they heard about the Son of God, Jesus Christ willingly taking upon their sins upon Himself, and suffering and dying for them, they were grieved, but then… once they realized that this meant peace with God, they were over joyed that God truly loved even them so much, that He gave His One and only Son, that if they believed and received Jesus’ gift of the cross, they would be forgiven.  And they were; and there after they too were baptized and renewed by the love of Christ.  They were remade to love as Christ loves.

How did all of this happen?  Through the gift of repentance and the gift of love.  Repentance is simply agreeing with God that He is right and we are wrong.  It is simply turning to the only means that God has made to save us from our own sins and the sins of others.  Contrition and faith, or Law and Gospel, which come through the Word of God, are the only means God chooses to turn our hearts from love of sin (love of self) and then turn them to the cross of Christ where we are all equally given full pardon and love for God and each other.  Where ever, when ever, and to whom ever God’s means speak to the heart of a sinner, new life is given.

Now what we must remember is that while this new life is invisible, because it exists in our soul, it is always expressed in how we live out our physical lives.  For those of us sinners who know how much we have been forgiven, we will certainly be able to demonstrate a love for Jesus that is empowered by this new kind of love.  And that new love will express itself first in our confession of faith, then our consistent worship of Him, next in our prayer life, and finally in our service to His church and each other.

But what about the good life; what about the glory of walking and talking in blessings with Jesus?  Now in that question is exactly where and how the enemy the devil tries to deceive us.  Nowhere did Jesus say that the life of faith is one without suffering and pain.  Nowhere does He say that once you’ve been baptized life will be easy; in fact He said the opposite.  Jesus said that, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” [John 16:33]  But Jesus does promise that there will come a day, perhaps sooner than we know when all of our suffering and pain will cease and then we will forever rest in glory.

Listen to this hope expressed in our Epistle reading (Revelation 21:1-7): “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

Sounds good doesn’t it?  That is your promised inheritance, but for now, we must wait for that glorious day; but we aren’t waiting like a bunch of lost lambs bleating for their shepherd.  No, Jesus has sent us the Helper, the Holy Spirit who since the day of our baptism, continues to dwell richly within each of us.  Through this indwelling of the Spirit, we also have Jesus real presence, and together with the Father, Jesus truly has made all things new, even you.  It is a done deal; complete and finished, lacking nothing but the fulfillment of time.

To the thirsty, those who thirst for true love, Jesus as the Good Shepherd, calls us to drink in His Word and dine at His Holy Table.  We may fill ourselves with as much as we can hold, without cost, because Jesus has paid for it all with His very lifeblood.  And you will need every bit of this spiritual nourishment, because it alone gives you the strength to hold onto Jesus until the last day.

If you will remain in Him, through these God appointed means of grace, Jesus promises not just complete forgiveness, but also the ability to love others as He loves them; a love for even the unlovable; the kind of love that is willing to take risks and even receive injury.  On your own, you could never truly have or demonstrate that kind of love, but with God living and working within you, you will be able to watch in amazement how unexplainably it flows out of you.

How did the church go from a bunch of self-serving cowards to powerful and unafraid conquerors of sin, death, and the devil?  It was love!  It was the radical movement of love envisioned and empowered by our Lord, and today and everyday, it begins with us.  This morning, behind the closed doors of this church, God continues His campaign to save the world with His love through forgiven sinners like us.

Filled with the Holy Spirit of God, our relationship with one another becomes a strong witness to the world of just what true love is.  We are not just to open the church doors and shout out what love is, but we are also to open the doors and let the world look in and see what love is; let them see true love at work in us; changing and rearranging us.  We aren’t just to preach love, but we have been empowered to practice it, and not as the world knows love to be, but a new kind of love born out of Heaven that experiences being loved by the Lord of love.

Dear friends, we can testify about love until we’re hoarse, but until the world can see that love alive and lived out among us, and personally experience that love through us, all of our witnessing about love will be in vain.  As followers of Jesus, we live behind glass doors.  The world constantly looks into see what we are like.  If we show a new kind of love, the world will know it and investigate it.

Isn’t that an exciting challenge the Lord has left us?  Can we actually do it?  Yes, if we continue to follow Jesus and remember that it is He who works within us, forgiving, loving and teaching us how to do the very same thing.

Now, you who have been forgiven so much and loved so greatly go out and allow the Holy Spirit to do the same through you.  And if you should fall short this week, come back next Sunday to be forgiven and renewed for love!  I ask this in Jesus name… AMEN!

All You Need is Love!

Sunday, February 3rd, 2013

Epiphany 4C, February 3, 2013
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA

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“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face.  Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been known.” [1 Corinthians 13:12]

The song you just heard, “All You Need is Love” by the Beatles will serve as our mental hook this morning.  While our baptized nature would give a hearty AMEN to the title of that song, our old nature, that is our sinful, physical nature, would rather agree with Tina Turner and say, “What’s love got to do with it.   What’s love but a second hand emotion?  Who needs a heart, when a heart can be broken?!”

Yes, it is true, there is a battle of perspectives going on within each of us; each of us sees things dimly right now, as if we are looking through a dirty window.  But the time will come one day soon, when Jesus will greet us face to face.  Now we know things only partially, but soon we will know fully, even as we have been known.

Only two people really know you; God and yourself.  You know yourself just as thoroughly as I know myself, and we can agree and thank God that no one else really knows us.  They would be repulsed by our inward secret thoughts and maybe even some of our actions that we think we do in secret.  But as I said, there is another who knows; another who sees all things clearly.  God knows you because He created you.  Listen to Him speak to you this morning in our Old Testament lesson (Jeremiah 1:4–19).  He says, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you”. [Jeremiah 4:5]  Do you hear that?  In your mother’s womb you were not just a lump of unformed flesh or even just a zygote, you were you, and God knew you intimately!

God knew that if He left you alone, that is without His loving care you would be nothing more than a clanging cymbal.  If the natural talents that He programed within you were not sanctified, that is set apart as holy and effective according to His will, you would be nothing.  God knew that on your own, even those gifts that the world calls good and pleasing, would in truth be self-serving.  What things?  Well how about giving away your time, talent, and treasure, to help others.  Remember now, God sees and knows you in a way that no one else but you knows, so you must agree with Him.  Agree with what?  That even if you gave away everything you owned, or even if you sacrificed your life for another person, say by dying in a fire for them, in the end, that is apart from the hand that formed you in the womb, it would be entirely self-serving; it would be about you leaving behind a legacy; your legacy!

This morning, God is asking you to look deeply into the mirror of His Word and find your sinful nature in that Word.  Now I know that it is hard to look at, but that is one of the reasons that this mirror is dim and foggy; God is simply giving you a glimpse at the real you so that He can give you another vision.  And that other vision is someone who is patient and kind; someone who never has an envious or boastful spirit; someone who has never been arrogant or rude.  God wants you to see someone who has never insisted on their own way and would never speak to another person in an irritable or resentful manner.  God wants you to see someone who would consider it unthinkable to celebrate sin or to profit from wrongdoing, and someone who only celebrates with truth.  God wants you to understand that the truth that you must celebrate is love!  Love bears all things, do you?  Love believes all things are possible, even in the darkest moments, do you?  Love always has hope in something perfect and endures all trials and temptations without anger or a grumbling spirit, do you?

Now wait, as I told you do not let this terrifying image of who you are in the flesh leave you hopeless, because there is hope, and our hope comes by looking even more intently into this mirror that is dim and fogged.  Look with me now even deeper into this mirror, this Word of God and let your hope, faith, and yes your love be strengthened.  “This is love, not that we love God, but that He first loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” [1 John 4:10]  And, this is love, the truth that declares that “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” [Romans 5:8]

Do you see a little more clearly now?  Do you see the truth that declares that from outside of you comes your champion; from God Himself comes His Son, who is your Savior.  He who knew no sin became your sin; that is He took on your sins.  Do you see Jesus?  This is love; it is the kind of love that completely fulfills all of God’s description of true love.  It is the kind of love that the world could never attain, because it is completely lost in its self; that is in its sin.  It is a heavenly quality of love that can only come from a God who is love.

Our sinful world would have us believe that love, that is their idea of love is god, but the very Word of God says that “He (alone) is love.” [1 John 4:16] If we want true love, we can only receive it from the source, and that source has come to us.

God loves the world.  It is a vile world that reeks of sin, yet He loves it.  If He left the world as it was, he could never embrace it because of all of its foulness, which permeates it’s very nature.  But God wanted to love the world because that is His nature, so He sacrificed Himself so that He could love the loveless and self-centered sinners; so that He could love you.  How did He sacrifice Himself?  He sent His Son along with a message, the gospel!  It is that message which proclaims that our God of love has made a way for you and all sinful mankind to return to Him.

This message of love proclaims God’s intent for you and all of mankind.  God made a decision that you would be saved.  God chose life and forgiveness at the expense of pain and suffering for His Son.  When I say that God chose and God decided I am saying that all of God who exists in three persons, Father, Son, and Spirit, agreed that this must be done.  The Son of God was obedient to His Father’s will, because it was His will, the will of God.  But it was Jesus, the Son of God, who alone stepped away from the treasures of Heaven and took on human flesh, and delivered up His body to be crucified.  He did this because He is God, and God is love.  He gained nothing by His death and lost so much; He did it for you.

Jesus alone was patient and kind, even when they ridiculed Him, spat upon Him and beat Him.  Even as He was on the cross suffering and dying He was patient and kind, praying that His father would forgive them, because they did not know what they were doing; because they did not yet understand the gospel.  God’s love bears all things and endures all things and it does it for a purpose, for a reason.

That purpose and the reason Christ suffered and died was not to leave a legacy, and it wasn’t to prove a point; that is Jesus did not die upon the cross to make God look great and powerful and leave you feeling guilty, although this maybe what you are feeling right now.   No, Jesus died upon the cross to show you how much God loves you.  He died upon the cross so that you would not have to forfeit your life as payment for your sins.  He died upon the cross so that your true enemies, sin, death, and the devil would once and for all be destroyed.  But He also died upon the cross so that He could take His life back up again and return to His Heavenly Home at the right hand of the Father, so that you would see Him and hear Him call to you, and be assured that where He is, you shall one day join Him.

Where does Jesus call out to us from?  How do we see Him as He truly is?  Well, in the mirror dimly lit of course!  It’s in His Holy Word, the gospel message of love, where we see and hear Him.  In the washing of this Word along with simple water, the Spirit of God gives us eyes of faith; spiritual eyes that hope in nothing else but Jesus and His righteousness.  In His Word, we cling to Jesus as our new baptized nature comes alive and is daily strengthened with something that only God can give us… love.

This love of God is strong and indwelling.  It grows and every day recreates us more and more into the image of Jesus Christ.  Every day, it reminds us of the truth of our gospel lesson (Luke 4:31-44),  that just as Jesus once walked among us in the flesh, driving out demons, curing the sick and raising the dead, He is still with us through the power of the Holy Spirit, casting out demons, healing divisions and bringing peace within His body, the church.  In simple things like human words, water, bread, and wine, His real presence is among us forgiving, imparting life, sanctifying our time, talents, and treasures, and advancing His kingdom of grace.

Can you love with God’s love?  On your own, never, but with Jesus presence always with you, not only can you love, but you will love stronger and better each day as you trust in His real presence.  Each day, God invites you to follow Him, to stay in His Word and allow Him to strengthen your faith, your hope, and your love.  You do this as you trust Him to love the unlovable through you, to teach you to forgive even the unrepentant sinners, and to help you learn to sacrifice yourself as He asks, setting aside all manner of resentment and anger.  It’s this spirit of love that He has given you that teaches you to keep believing in the hope of change for people who seem to be unchangeable.

In this world of imperfection, God’s perfection has come to you and saved you, but more than that it has done the unthinkable; it has declared you… sinful you, holy perfect, and righteous.  You don’t see it now, because you are looking through that dim fogged up mirror, but soon and very soon you will see all things clearly; you will see Jesus face to face as He embraces you and welcomes you home with the words, “Well done good and faithful servant.”  And then only one thing will remain; it will not be hope or faith because the object of your hope and faith will be right in front of you.  No, the one thing that will remain forever is love; God’s love for you and your love for Him and all that He has created.  Then you will be able to answer Tina Turner’s question, “What’s love got to do with it?” with this answer: “Love has everything to do with who we are.  All we truly ever needed was God’s love, and now we have it forever.”

Now may the peace of God and the love of Christ keep our hearts and minds forever… AMEN!

More Than a Feeling!

Sunday, November 4th, 2012

25th Sunday in Pentecost B, November 4th, 2012
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA

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“”And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, He said to him, You are not far from the kingdom of God. [Mark 12:34]

The song I chose as a mental hook, “More Than a Feeling” is meant to communicate an important message.  God’s Word, specifically  His Holy Law, is not supposed to make us feel good about ourselves.  It isn’t meant to congratulate us on how much we love our  Creator and our neighbor; in fact it should produce the opposite effect in us.  God’s Law should first terrify us, because it shows us how  little we love Him and how poorly we love our neighbor, and then it should move us to call out to God for a solution to our lack of love.

And yet, like the Scribe in our gospel reading (Mark 12:28-37), how easy it is for us too, to become comfortable with how we think we  are doing.  Oh how easy it can become for us to turn off our ears and blind our eyes to the truth; we fall far short.

So is this a message about feelings?  Yes and know.  You see, we all have feelings; God created us to have emotion, but our emotions are  defective; they lie.  No, our message this morning is first one of truth; God’s truth, and then God centered emotions, or feelings will  follow.

The young scribe in our gospel lesson, is someone we might call a seeker in today’s lingo.  He is genuine in his desire to live a God pleasing life.  He comes from a confusing culture, where the Law of God exists within the frame work of not just 10 commandments but 613 commandments.  Can you imagine that?!  There were 248 positive commandments, or commandments that told you what you should do, and then there were 365 negative commandments, or commandments that told you what you should not do.  With all of these commandments a person could get lost prioritizing them.  So the young scribe presents a valid question to Jesus, “Which commandment is the most important of all?”

We need to remember that the young scribe, like many young people today, felt that he really did love God; to him, the proof of this was the truth that He wanted to please the Heavenly Father.  And second He had been listening to Jesus for some time now, and He really did respect Jesus and His teaching.  He probably found a great degree of wisdom in the Words of Jesus; he seemed to be comfortable around Him, listening to Him.  So when he asked Jesus, which commandment was the most important, he was really asking for Jesus’ guidance.

And Jesus seeing a desire for truth in the young man looked directly into His eyes and says, “Hear, O Israel”.  (Don’t just listen to the Word of God, but really hear it; let it enter your heart and mind, and let it change you; let it give you wisdom.)  “The Lord your God, the Lord is One.”  (He isn’t like the false god’s of your neighbors; He doesn’t inhabit certain regions or nations.  He is the ONLY real God, the Creator of everything.  He is all powerful, all present, and all knowing.  He can come to you in any way He desires, and His Word and His teaching are the only source of real truth.  So now hear that truth and let it enter you; let it penetrate you.)  You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.  The second (most important commandment) is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  There is no commandment greater than these.” [Mark 12:28-31]

The operative Word there in those two great commandments is Love.  Let’s look at that word.  This kind of love that God demands for Himself isn’t mere affection and it doesn’t mean passion either.  God isn’t telling you to have a warm fuzzy feeling about Him and your neighbor.  He isn’t saying that you should just be passionate about Him and your community either.  He is telling you that the kind of love that you are to have is based on something foreign to you; something that is completely outside the realm of possibility for you.  He is telling you that the kind of love you are to have is more than a feeling; it is more than a decision to be nice.  It is an intellectual assent to something higher and beyond your natural ability.  It is a God given love that will sacrifice everything in order to see this kind of love rule and reign over you and within you; when this God given love is present, it loves all things that God loves and it loves others just as it loves it self.

So we see now, these are tough words, meant to give wisdom.  Is that what the young scribe received?  Well almost; He almost understood.  Listen to His response: “You are right, Teacher.  You have truly said that (God) is one, and there is no other besides Him.  And to love Him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

Well, that sounds pretty good.  He did a fine job of paraphrasing Jesus Words.  He even seemed to be paraphrasing another bit of wisdom that Jesus taught earlier concerning worship, “Go and learn what this means” He said, “‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’  For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”  [Matthew 9:13]  And so Jesus looks Him in the eye once again and says, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” [Mark 12:34]  You are almost there; you almost are wise unto eternal life.”  If only that young man would have asked Jesus to give him that heavenly love!

This morning Jesus is teaching an important lesson.  Knowing God and pleasing God are similar but separate.  Oh they’re close, but they aren’t so close as being the same.  There are two things that separate those who know God from those who please God.  And both of those things come only from God.

The first is the Word of God.  Hear O sinners.  Listen to the Word of God and let it penetrate you.  When you listen to the Word, when you really hear what it is saying you will know God’s truth and you will know His heart.  The truth of God is that you are trapped in your sins.  On your own you can never really love Him or your neighbor.  That kind of love can come only from your Creator.  And how does He give that love?  By allowing us to hear His Word.  And when we let God’s Word do what God intends for it to do, He gives us faith.  “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” [Romans 10:17]

If our gospel lesson ended right there, we along with the young scribe could go home with a lot to think about; a lot to pray about.  But Jesus does not send us home just yet.  He continues teaching.  I would like to think that as He continued teaching, He winked at the young scribe, slapped him on the back and said “Listen to what I say next, young man.”

And this is what He said next: “How can the scribes say that the Christ is the Son of David?  (I mean,) David himself, in the Holy Spirit declared, “The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet.”’  (You see there,) David himself calls Him Lord.  So how is He his Son?’

I can also imagine Jesus returning to the young scribe privately and saying, “Did you wonder why I winked at you?  Or did you see and understand what I just taught?  You know all about your traditions that teach about God’s final and righteous rule right?  You know the time is promised by scripture to come when the Messiah will take power and reign don’t you?  So, you also know that when the kingdom of God comes it will be visible and apparent, and everyone will have to acknowledge who it is that really runs all of creation, right?  Well listen now… it is happening right now.  I am the Messiah.  I am God’s Anointed One, who has come to make it all visible to all who have faith; to all who believe.”

This morning, Jesus has given to each of you the wink so to speak; a wink that unlocks the wisdom of God; the truth of His Word.  This morning you are being shown Jesus in the Word; Jesus in your baptism, and Jesus at the table in the meal.  And in these means of grace, you are being given faith to believe you are forgiven and faith to speak forgiveness.

Through the writings of the apostles and the testimony of all of scripture, you can read all of God’s Word with Jesus as the central figure.  You can go from the commandments of the law to the fulfillment of the Law, which is the gospel, in the person of Jesus, the One true God; God in human flesh.  Because of the love of the Father and the gift of faith through the Holy Spirit, you can hear the Words of the Son of God, Jesus Christ and know that through Him, God alone made all things new and right, including you.  You know that the same love that led Jesus the Messiah to the cross to die for the sins of the world also leads you to love God with your whole being, and to love your neighbor as you love yourself.

What is impossible for you to do, becomes possible when God is the one working in you and through you.  By faith, you know that much more than all of the burnt offerings and whole sacrifices are necessary to please your creator.  True obedience is demanded.  But you also know that this obedience had to come from outside of you; it had to come from God.  In Jesus, you see God Himself coming to you to offer both sacrifice and obedience, and as a result, by faith you receive His forgiving mercy.  And now as our epistle lesson (Hebrews 9:11-22) states, you have “such a high priest, holy, blameless, unstained, separated from sinners, exalted above the heavens.”  This one final act and the faith that comes from the very Word that teaches you about this work of God, is enough to draw you closer to the kingdom; so close that in fact you are now in that kingdom.  And now only two things remain.  You must rest in the kingdom of grace, forever enjoying the forgiving love of the Father, and you are asked invite others into it with you.

The pronouncement of God through Jesus Christ is, “You are forgiven!”  In the message of the gospel you have been given great power, the power of God unto salvation.  That message is for you but it is also for your neighbor.  Your neighbor may not feel obligated to love you, but God sure does, and He loves your mean spirited neighbor too.  The same God who in the beginning looked at His creation and called it good, wants to do the very same thing again with your neighbor who doesn’t know Jesus by faith.

That is the very reason you are still here living in this dark and dying world.  You are to bring light and life to it.  You are to bring the message of forgiveness through Jesus Christ to all who will hear.  When you see your neighbor and see how unlovable they are, God wants you to remember how much He loves you and how much you are to love Him.  He wants you to remember what real love is, not so you can feel guilt and shame, but so He can use you to speak words of faith and love to those who are faithless and unlovable, just as you once were.

In this holy house of worship, Jesus looks upon our neighbors just as He did the young scribe and says to their hard hearts, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”  Come unto me and find rest!

This is Love!

Sunday, May 13th, 2012

Easter Sunday 6B, May 13, 2012
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA

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This is love!  What is?  This!  What… this?  All of this!  The fact that we are actually here on a Sunday morning, gathered around God’s  Word hearing about His love; the love of the Father for the Son, the Son for the Father, and God’s love for us!  What?  I don’t get it!   Exactly, and that’s why we sang the hymn, “My Song is Love Unknown.”

How could we ever truly understand a God who is love, loving each of us who are loveless?  How can we understand a God who comes  to us in our flesh, lives, suffers and dies so that we will not only know love, but be love just as He is love?!  Oh who am I that God should  not just die for me, but invite me into life, His life of love unknown?  Who are you that God should love you that intensely?  And yet He  does!  This morning let’s look into this relationship of love that the Father has invited each of us into.

First there is the model love itself, which is God!  “God is love”—perfect and eternal love.  This is the love the Father has for the Son and  Spirit, and the Son and Spirit have for the Father.  This kind of love isn’t reciprocal or growing, it is real and abiding love that is simply  the nature of God, one God who exist in three persons who are each equally love!  And it is this love of God that sent the Son of the  Father to reclaim sinful man; to bring all of mankind back into God’s relationship of love!

The Son comes to sinful man because of His love for His Father.  He becomes one of us, so that He can teach us love, by demonstrating  love; love that the Son has for the Father!  Love that keeps God’s commandments of love!  There are only two commandments of love,  and Jesus came to teach us that they are not burdensome. [1 John 5:1-8]  He came to demonstrate what love for God and for neighbor is.  The Son loves the Father—and that means that He keeps the commandment that Father gave Him.  He loved His Father by coming to us, and He loves His brothers, you and me by dying for us!

So love is obedience; doing the will of the Father simply because God is love.  “This is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” [1 John 4:10] He came to die for us!

Jesus was obedient to the Father’s will because God is love and God loves those that He has created in His image.  God loves you!  God created you in His image but your sin has destroyed that image.  So God the Father sends His Son to become your brother so that He can save you; redeem you through the suffering and death of His Son.  Only Jesus, God’s own Son could do this great thing for you because only God is love, and Jesus is God!

Jesus comes to us because of His love for us.  Just as Jesus alone chose who would be His apostles, it is Jesus who chooses you, because Jesus is God and God is love!  So Jesus comes to us not as an angry God who will order His servants to serve with fear and trembling, but as a loving God who calls us friend, so that we will trust and obey; so that we will love.

Think of this for a moment.  You did not choose God, but He chose you; while you were a loveless sinner, Christ died for you!  And because your sinful flesh always wants to ask how and why, Jesus lived to die so that you could learn the how and why.

Jesus alone stoops down to us to serve us His slaves.  The Creator of the universe stoops down to wash the feet of His creation.  The Master of all creation becomes a servant by taking on our flesh and dying in our flesh.  In the upper room, on the night of His betrayal, knowing that soon He would be betrayed by those He loves; knowing that He would be attacked and killed by those He loves; “knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, (He) rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.” For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.” [John 13:1-17]

On the cross, Jesus would give one last example of this precept of love.  He would teach that love is demonstrated in obedience; His obedience to the will of the Father; His obedience to suffer and die for the world… for you!

This is love, not that we love God but that He first loved us.  And because He loves us by coming to us we love Him!  We love our Master who became our servant in death, and because we love Him, we remain in His love.  We abide in His will, in His church, in His Word and Holy Sacraments.  We learn simply as we are taught, we learn to abide in God’s love by turning to Jesus and trusting in Him alone.

We abide in His love through Jesus Christ by admitting first that we need His love.  We need His love because we do not deserve His love.  We don’t deserve His love because we are sinners.  That is who you are… that is who we all are!

We abide in His love when we confess our sinfulness and receive His undeserved love and forgiveness.  We abide in His love when we celebrate the fact that He is an on time God, who always meets our needs.  We abide in His love when we rejoice in a love that has found us; a love that is greater than all things, even our sin, our death, and the devil!

We abide in His love but we also keep His commandment to love one another as He has loved us!  Because God’s love through Jesus Christ has overpowered our sin, and because He has recreated us in our baptism back into His image, we celebrate by becoming the servant of all, just as our Master has done.  We go out of our way to meet the needs of others and the needs of God’s church.

I guess, our love is a little like a tennis game.  We give our love to each other, back and forth like the ball is volleyed back in forth during a tennis match.  In tennis, however there is always a winner; so maybe the analogy falls short, but then again maybe not.  I mean, couldn’t we think of our match of love ending with no winners.  In tennis, when you finish with no score, they call that love.  You might hear a report of a tennis match like this: “He won that round, 40/love.”  So we could say that our match of love ends as love/love.  God’s love for us and our love for each other wins the day!

Dear friends, our love for God and each other is unknown to the world.  But we know that it is a love that can only be realized, taught, and learned through Jesus Christ.  And that love  comes to us from heaven to the cross, to the empty tomb, through the Word of the Gospel, the waters of baptism, and then into our hearts.  Yes Lord, our song is love unknown, our Savior’s love to us.  Love to the loveless shown so that we might also love.  Oh who are we that for our sake our Lord should take frail flesh and die for us, for even me?  In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost AMEN!

Love in Action

Saturday, January 28th, 2012

Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church-San Diego
Friday Night Gospel Celebration, January 27, 2012

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“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Cor. 13:4-7)

INTRODUCTION: A woman was injured as a streetcar derailed and veered slightly off the track and onto a portion of the platform where she was standing.  She was caught beneath one of the cars. The police sent for a crane to lift the car off her body. While waiting for the crane, a crowd of people gathered out of  curiosity.

One man pushed through the crowd, crawled beneath the car that had been derailed and was teetering precariously, and said to her, “Take my hand.” As she  took his hand, she felt warmth and courage. This calmed her and prevented her from going into shock.

After the crane arrived and the woman was released, she said, “I never thought an outstretched hand could mean so much.”

We all love to hear heroic, self-sacrificing stories like this one because they communicate some of the best qualities of love that people can display.  We  celebrate this kind of “self-sacrificing” love when we hear about it, and God agrees… we should celebrate!  And yet, God doesn’t want you to just admire and  celebrate this type of love, He insists that it should be alive and central within each of us!  He wants you to be a doer not just an admirer!  Listen to how Jesus  uses love to sum up the all of the 10 Commandments: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.   This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments depend all the Law  and the Prophets.” [Matthew 22:37–40]

Tonight dear friends, God is stretching out His hand to you in this sinful world and He wants you to grab onto Him through His Word.  He wants His Word to change you and rearrange you so that this type of self-giving even self-sacrificing love WILL be natural within you.  He has already begun this great work within your heart through your baptism, and now he wants to continue that work.  Listen to the Words God gave to St. Paul and let His Spirit work within you.

I. Love is patient and kind: A better word I think for patience is “longsuffering”.  Love is longsuffering and kind!  This world we live in is full of evil people; dare I say there are even evil people in Christ’s church.  When evil confronts us, when a Christian brother or sister deliberately sins against us, our society advises, “Pay them back!”  But God’s Word says, “No!  Because you are to love me, you must then let that love step in and take over.  Don’t pay evil for evil, instead love your enemy; pray for them.  Don’t follow your natural instinct because it is sinful, instead suffer long, and be kind to that person.”

I know, already we’ve been confronted with God’s Word in a way that really makes us uncomfortable, and yet that is the true meaning of what God demands from us within His commandments.  But our text tonight takes us even deeper; deeper to the point of despair.  Listen as God explains how we must love each other:

A. Love does not envy!  Another way to say that is, “Love does not speak or do evil out of jealousy!”  That green eyed monster called Jealousy is never happy with what it has, but it’s always eyeballing what someone else has and saying, “That should be mine.  I deserve that too!”  You know, if we let it, that monster would trample over anything and anyone just to get what it wants.  But if you really love as God demands, you won’t let jealousy control you!

B. Love doesn’t boast or brag! We know envy is wrong, and so, to combat it what do we do?  We brag about what we do have, knowing that these very words may lead others to become jealous!  So, love does not envy or boast!  Not in words and not in actions!

C. Love isn’t arrogant! In other words, if you really love, you will not be “full of yourself” but full of God’s love for others; when your ego is bigger than your heart, someone will always get hurt.  Is that what you want?

D. Love is not rude! Another way to say this is, “Love never behaves improperly!”  True love is always concerned for what is right in God’s sight and then it goes out of its way not to offend others.  Paul uses this same word in other places when he talks about how people are shamefully and improperly led by their sexual desires.  If you really have love, then you will act properly!

E. Love doesn’t insist on its own way! What this means friends, is that love is not self pleasing.  If you know others are watching you and will be offended by something you do or don’t do, don’t simply say, “Well I’m saved by grace so I can do or not do whatever I like!”  No friends, true love is always interested in the welfare of others!

F. Love isn’t irritable… it isn’t easily provoked into anger!  Well these words speak for themselves, so we’ll let them stand.

G. Love isn’t resentful! Or another way to say this is that love does not keep a list of wrongs on someone else.

H. Finally, love doesn’t rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth! If we love friends, we will not keep silent when we see something happening that we know is wrong!  If we love, we wont let political correctness or peer pressure keep us from speaking the truth in love!  Wrong doing will hide the truth, but God’s love is displayed in His Word!

God’s Word… so full of love but so full of truth, and truth can be a hard pill to swallow!  God’s truthful Word comes to our sin like a bright search light searching for any threat to God’s perfect righteousness.  It shows us what we must discover…something we would rather not discover.  And when we see it, we try to pretend it isn’t there!

ILLUS: A wealthy old woman was staring at an image she had never seen before in the city’s art museum. She called to an employee and said, “Come here young man! What is the meaning of this awful picture you have displayed here?  I find the image shallow and revolting! What do you call it?” The employee answered without even the slightest expression, “That madam, is a mirror.”

You know friends, God’s Word is also a mirror. We may pick it up and read it simply to evaluate it with a critical eye, but in the end, we always find that we are the ones being evaluated. It shows us how we really look..  But if you are willing to force yourself to look, and if you will fight the urge to turn away, Jesus will show you a more excellent way!  He will step in front of your reflection and cover it with His own and say, “Let my reflection be yours!  Look at my image and then see your new reflection; a reflection that I gave to you within your baptism.  Look now at my love and let it change you!”

II. Well, let’s do just that.  Let’s look at the same list that describes perfect God-given love and see how Jesus did with it.  Let’s see what a marvelous reflection He’s exchanged for ours:

A. Love does not envy! Jesus said, “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.  For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.” [Jn. 6:37-39]

B. Love does not boast or brag! As the all powerful Son of God hung upon the cross, “knowing that all was now finished, (He) said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” [Jn. 19:28]

C. Love is not arrogant! “But (He) made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” [Phil. 2:7]

D. Love is not rude! “When he had said these things, one of the officers standing by struck Jesus with his hand, saying, “Is that how you answer the high priest?” Jesus answered him, “If what I said is wrong, bear witness about the wrong; but if what I said is right, why do you strike me?” [Jn. 18:22-23]

E. Love doesn’t insist on its own way! “For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of Him who sent Me.” [Jn. 6:38]

F. Love isn’t irritable… it isn’t easily provoked into anger! “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem (Jesus said), the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!” [Lk. 13:34]

G. Love isn’t resentful! “And when they came to the place that is called (Golgotha) The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left.  And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” [Lk. 23:33-34]

III. Dear friends, Christ has really replaced your sinful reflection with His own.  He has covered your “unrighteousness” with His righteousness; He did this long ago upon the cross… the tree of love and longsuffering.  He chose to be planted and crucified upon the hard rock called Golgotha so that by His pain, suffering, and death your hard rocky heart of sin might be smashed and rebuilt into a heart of love.  And all of this work was made yours in your baptism.  In your baptism, Jesus promised you that you are not alone!  Like the man in the story who crawled under the street car with the trapped and dying woman to hold her hand and encourage her to hang on, Jesus is with you!  He is reminding you that His love and long suffering are now yours and He is encouraging you to take it.  This love friends, is a spiritual gift which moves your heat and hands to serve and become a Christ-like person for your neighbor.  True God given love dear friends, is the name not for the act of love, but for the heart that feels it!  This sinful world might be able to imitate the actions of love, but without Christ love implanted within their hearts, their work is simply as St. Paul says, “Like a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.”  It is nothing!

CONCLUSION: Tonight, if you find yourself falling short, go to the one who is long-suffering and patient, kind and loving!  Go to the only person who never fell to envy or pride!  Go to your brother who is never arrogant or rude.  Go to Jesus Christ, your brother and your friend, who is also your God and your Savior.  Confess to Him how you’ve fallen short of His love and then hear His Words of forgiveness and restoration new and fresh!

Believe that through His Word first given to you in the waters of your Holy baptism you were born again.  Believe that through His Holy Meal you are allowed to hear, see, smell, touch, and taste forgiveness.  And then leave this place refreshed and forgiven for a purpose… you are to be Christ for your neighbor!  You are to be a person who loves and lives for others!

You will be this person, because He who began this good work in you long ago will complete it!  We pray this truth in Jesus name… AMEN!

The Power of God’s Love!

Saturday, September 17th, 2011

Friday Night Gospel Celebration, September 16, 2011
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
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NOTE: Only the scriptures and some main points are available for this message.  For the entire message please listen, using the audio link above.


Romans 12:
9-21

 (Vs. 9) “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.”    Right from the beginning St. Paul is making it clear to us that everything that follows is centered in love.  But this kind of love is different from the kind that we naturally show others; it’s the kind of love that is the ultimate fruit of God’s love for us.  It is the kind of love that gives you faith to believe that Jesus is your Lord and Savior. 

 (Vs.10-13)Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, and serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.”

  (Vs. 14-16) “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.  Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.  Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.”  Do these words sound familiar?  They should, because they are a paraphrase of Jesus’ own Words: “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” and “bless those who curse you.” [Matt. 5:44; Luke 6:27-28]  Think of Jesus last words upon the cross before he died, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).  I know what you’re thinking: “Well sure, He was the Son of God, of course He could bless and forgive.  No man could do that could they?”  Well what about Stephen, who opened his mouth in a blessing upon those who were stoning him to death?  Do you remember the last words that he uttered? “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (Acts 7:60)

  (Vs. 17-20) “Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.  If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.  Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”  To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.”  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”  There is no question that the man who does us evil ought to be paid back with the exact proportion. This is God’s own principle, and Paul isn’t ignoring that. But if God applied only that principle to us, where would we be?  And that is the point, without God’s grace through Jesus Christ we would be damned along with our worst enemy.  Friends, it is God’s work alone that saved us, and we should do everything to glorify Him and bring honor to His presence in our lives by living a life that demonstrates that same grace.   

CONCLUSION: Dear friends, the summary of all of this can be found in Paul’s last words: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” God demonstrated this principle for us long ago, when He sent His only Son to die for you upon the cross.  While we were still sinners, Christ died for us!  Just as Jesus prayed for us long ago upon the cross, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing” so too, we must pray for those who hurt us.  We need to pray and ask God for love as we try to show kindness to our enemies. Will they take advantage of us? Will they hate us even more? Only the Lord knows. Our task is not to protect ourselves but to obey the Lord and leave the results with Him.  Friends, even if our enemy refuses God’s love, we will still have experienced the love of God in our own hearts and we will grow in His grace.

God So Loved You!

Sunday, March 20th, 2011

The Second Sunday in Lent (A), March 21, 2011
Rev. Brian Henderson—Pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
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In last the last few weeks we’ve learned that the purpose of all of God’s Word is that we would know Jesus as our Lord and Savior.  Last week we learned that this was the case, even in the very first Words of Genesis… in the beginning!  Well, this morning we shall see that God is love; God is love for you!

 Now, don’t tune out this message simply because you can quote John 3:16; everyone who attended Sunday school for more than a year can do that.  No, you need to understand how God so loves you and that is exactly what this message will declare to us this morning.

I. “There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews.” [John 3:1]  Uh, oh!  Another Pharisee out to get Jesus?  No not this one; this Pharisee was known by all to be a good man.  He was on a real journey to live a God-pleasing life.  He’s highly educated and very moral and religious.  He is what others would call an upright man; he is not a hypocrite like many of the other Pharisees; he actually tries to please God!  In verse 10 we are told that he is Israel’s teacher, so we know that he is trying to help others please God as well.  So this man, Nicodemus comes to Jesus at night.  Why?  Well because he doesn’t want the other Pharisees to know that he is seeking out their enemy.  But why is he seeking out Jesus?  Because, he has seen the miracles and he has probably heard some of Jesus’ sermons and the Word of God is beginning to work within his heart.  In essence he wants to know more!

So he approaches Jesus and he starts a conversation in the usual way, he pays Jesus a compliment: “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with Him.” [vs. 2b]  Now if you or I were in Jesus position we would probably repay the compliment; but Jesus is not you or I!  Jesus is instead the Great Physician, and He must get right to work on the soul of Nicodemus.  “Jesus answered him (and said), “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”” [vs. 3] 

 Now that is strange, and Nicodemus thought so too; that’s why he asked, “How can a man be born when he is old (like me)?”  Poor Nicodemus’ mind must have been spinning out of control.  All of his education and religious training had taught him that he was doing everything he could to please God and now Jesus is telling him that he will never get into heaven as he is!  Nicodemus didn’t understand yet, and neither does our world today.  Why?  Because their focus is on what they do and not on what God does!

 So Jesus must adjust the focus of Nicodemus and He must adjust our focus as well!  Listen: “Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.  That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” [Vs. 5-6]  Jesus is actually saying that if we keep our focus on what we can do in our flesh, that is on our own we will never get beyond the flesh; that is we will never enter the kingdom of God; we will never inherit eternal life.  He is saying we need a new focus, a new life; we need to have spiritual eyes if we are to understand the work of God’s Spirit! 

 “But how?”  That’s the question of Nicodemus and the question of this unbelieving world!  They ask how because they still have eyes and a heart of flesh!  “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes.  So it is with everyone who is born of the Sprit.” [vs. 8]  What is this wind?  It is the Holy Spirit!  And what is its sound?  It is the spoken Word of God; it is the Living Word of God, Jesus Christ.  It’s He who was speaking to Nicodemus, and He who is speaking to you this morning!  Listen to the wind.  You believe in the wind because you can feel it and hear it; you can even see the effect it has around you right?  Well the sound of the wind is also heard in the Word of God.  “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”  You hear the Wind of God in these Words as well: “As I live, says the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn back from their ways and live.” [Ezekiel 33:11]  “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not perish but have eternal life.” [Jn. 3:16]

 In His love for the world God provides the sound of His Holy Wind, the public proclamation of His Word so that we can see His Son, Jesus Christ as our only means of salvation.  Through this means, God wants to call all people to eternal life; He wants to draw all of us unto Himself and to give us new birth.  He does this only through His Holy Wind, the Word of God.  “Since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save (through rebirth) those who believe.” [Acts 11:14]  “So faith comes through the proclamation, and proclamation comes through God’s Word.” [Jn. 17:17, 20]  And it is God’s will that all people should hear this proclamation and come to Jesus Christ.  And Jesus will never push anyone away from Himself, just as the Word of God declares: “Anyone who comes to me I will never drive away.” [Jn. 6:37]  So we see that our salvation is entirely a work of God’s Holy Spirit which He uses to cleanse us and blow new life into us.  It is God alone who “saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.” [Titus 3:5]

 II. Jesus told Nicodemus not to marvel at this teaching about this washing of new birth that comes through the Word of God and He is telling you not to be surprised by it as well. Where does this washing and rebirth happen?  Where are we brought to be cleaned from all of our impurities and saved from our sin?  First to the cross and then to the fount; the fountain of Holy Baptism.  Let me show you this in scripture.  Listen to God speak through the prophet Zechariah: “On that day there shall be a fountain opened for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and uncleanness.” [Zechariah 13:1]  Do you hear the wind of God blowing and promising a source of salvation outside of the power of sinful men?  Do you hear how God Himself would provide a fountain of cleansing and do you notice that it would do two very specific things?  What are those things?  It will cleanse from sin and impurity!  What is this fountain?  First it is the cross and second it is the font! 

What did Jesus say to Nicodemus about God’s means of providing eternal life?  He said, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him may have eternal life.” [Jn. 3:14-15]  Now why did Jesus feel the need to bring up Moses?  Because Moses and His Law were the very things that Nicodemus was trusting in to please God.  But Jesus wanted Nicodemus and everyone else to see that everything that Moses said and did was done by God so that we would look to  a prophet much greater than Moses; so that we would look to Jesus alone as our only source of hope.  The people with Moses had sinned greatly against God with their grumbling and lack of faith, so God had to get their focus off of their flesh and back to Him; He had to give them eyes of faith; they needed spiritual eyes.  They were being attacked by snakes and they were dying by the thousands; so God had Moses craft a bronze serpent and lift it on a pole.  It they would look to this bronze snake on a poll and trust in God’s means they would live!

So what does this have to do with anything?  Well let’s allow the prophet Zechariah to speak once again: “Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, against the man who stands next to me,” declares the Lord of hosts. “Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered; I will turn my hand against the little ones.” [Zechariah 13:7]  Now remember, in the earlier reading from Zechariah God promised to open a fountain that would cleanse the people of their sins, right?  Well this is the day that the fountain would be opened; the day that the Shepherd would be struck!  On that day there would be cleansing for all sinners, and it would come from a fountain that God would open!  Jesus Christ dear friends is the Good Shepherd!  He was the Shepherd who was struck down on the cross.  He is the final provision of salvation that the bronze serpent on the poll of Moses represented!  Remember on the day of our Lord’s death a Roman soldier pierced Jesus side with a spear?  What was the result?  A fountain of water and blood; a fountain of cleansing!  Now we must go to the cross and see Jesus dying in our place; we must go to the cross and see God’s means of cleansing us from all of our sin and uncleanness!  This is love!  The Son of God died for the world so that the world would not have to die!  “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.  For (you see) God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.” [Jn. 3:16-17]  But in order for this finished work of Jesus Christ to become yours you must travel by faith to the cross and then to the waters of your own baptism!

 III. It is in baptism, your baptism that God made His love for the world His love for you!  In the waters of your baptism God gave you His gift of forgiveness and cleansed you from all of your sins.  In your baptism God delivered you from death and the devil and gave you eternal life!  In your baptism God made you a disciple and part of the body of Jesus Christ.  Through your baptism you put on Jesus Christ, that is all of His righteousness was made yours through faith in the Gospel that assures you that God so loved YOU that He gave His Son up to death for YOU!  In the waters of your baptism you were buried with Christ into death, so that you would rise with Him into a new and eternal life.  That which IS Spirit has given birth to a new spirit!

 CONCLUSION: How can a person be born again when he is old?  Only by the work of the Spirit, the wind of God which gives eyes of faith and turns simple water in to a spiritual means of rebirth!  Simple water yes, but when it is combined with the powerful Word of God, it becomes God’s means of showing and giving you Jesus Christ.  First that Word shows you Christ high and lifted up upon the cross and then it shows you Christ high and lifted up, ascended and reining with the Father and Spirit in Heaven. 

 Yes friends, that is how God so loves you!  I pray that He continues to give to you eyes of faith that look to Jesus Christ alone as your only means of God’s love and grace… AMEN!

Live Strong and Prosper!

Sunday, February 20th, 2011

Seventh Sunday after the Epiphany (A), February 20, 2011
Rev. Brian Henderson—Pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
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INTRODUCTION:  This morning we continue our message from within Jesus Sermon from the Mount, and we’ll let these words confront us and comfort us: “You therefore must be perfect, as your Heavenly Father is perfect.” [Matt. 5:48]  Here’s a question that I want you to wait until the end of our message to answer: Is this the Law or Gospel?  It’s my prayer that by the end of our message you will be able to answer this question, and that the answer will lead you in how you will live out the rest of your life.

In that question we must remember that  Jesus’ primary goal isn’t to speak the law and condemn us as sinners, which we are, but instead He is leading our hearts to understand the will of God and our new identity as saints; people He is sending out to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. [Vs. 13-16]  Jesus wants us to see our need for living our lives in complete dependence on God’s love and care, which will then compel us to demonstrate or reflect that same love to our neighbors where ever we me meet them.  And all of this is done within the tender balance of living a life of repentance and faith, which Jesus provided for us in the Beatitudes [Vs. 3-12], where He assured us of a life strong blessings.  When the reality of these blessing begin to control our very lives, we will begin to have an effect upon our community as salt and light.  But we must always remember that our quest for completeness has nothing to do with entering or staying in the Kingdom of God, because Jesus has already given that to us!

I. Now resting in this promise of blessing, hear the perfect Law of God: “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’  (Or if someone punches you, punch them back.)  But I say to you, do not resist the one who is evil.”  Lord, are you saying don’t fight back against anyone?  “(Yes”, he says,) If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.”  But Jesus isn’t done yet, He now takes it a step further: “And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.”  In other words, if part of a settlement to a law suit is your jacket, let them have your shirt also!  “And if anyone (say like the government or someone else with power over you) forces you to go one mile (say to carry something), go with him two miles.  Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.” [Vs. 38-41]

“But Lord…. But Lord!  Do you know what that will mean to me?  That’s not only foolish it’s also impossible!”  And dear friends, that is the point.  Living the kind of life that Jesus is leading us to is the foolishness of the cross… the impossibility of fulfilling God’s perfect law.  Your “but Lord” should be enough to turn you away from any foolish ideas you might have that doing God’s law is doable!  It should be enough to not only turn you to God’s mercy and forgiveness, but keep you there as you learn to follow Jesus! 

You see friends, Jesus wants us to understand that it isn’t God’s law that brings about true justice for us but it’s His love and mercy that does that!  Now our Lord knows that this is the complete opposite of what the world calls common sense; it goes directly against our natural inclination.  You know what I am referring to don’t you?  “A tit for a tat!   I’m going to make sure I get justice!”  That’s the natural way of this sinful world!  They think that the law will give them wholeness and security; but we must always remember that the left hand kingdom or the kingdom of God’s law can never bring about any real change; it only demands it.  Instead, it is God’s way to provide justice by inviting His children to trust in His plan for them and then turn to Him in prayer.  And when we rest in God’s plan of justice, He then asks us to absorb the evil attacks of our neighbor and let it die there!  He is asking us not to live a life of tit for tat, but instead live a life of sacrificially turning the other cheek and trusting that God will repay!

What we must remember is that this is ultimately not about you and me, but it is about Jesus Christ!  He is the one who truly did turn the other cheek when He was struck by the Sanhedrin.  He truly did let them take both His tunic and His cloak as they rolled dice deciding who would keep them.  He truly did pick up His cross and walk more than a mile to the ominous poverty of Golgotha; with the sins we placed on Him.  But we must not ever say or even think that because Jesus lived this life perfectly for us, we no longer need to!  No friends, just the opposite is true; what Jesus did for us, demonstrates for us what it means to love!  He demonstrates to us the highest form of love… God’s own love; a love of intellect and choice.  As God has loved us, so we are to love our neighbor.  This kind of love means that we will stand against evil not by taking a physical and reactionary stand against it but by submitting to the one who is evil; by absorbing the evil and not matching it with our own form of pay back.  Why would we do this?  Because of God’s mercy and love that has been given to us through Jesus Christ!

Now I know, when we hear these words, we want to close our ears; we don’t want to do it!  We desperately look for another way to explain this hard teaching of Jesus, but the truth is friends there is no other way to explain it and no other way to follow Jesus; He always leads us to the cross!

ILLUSTRATION: This isn’t a new teaching friends, nor is it without those who truly understood it and lived out its truth.  Martin Luther understood it along with those who went before Him and became martyrs.  Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. also saw and lived out the beauty of this teaching, and they absorbed so much hate and evil that it eventually took their lives.  Martin Luther King Jr. not only walked the way of the cross but He taught others to do the same, and because of that obedience, God brought about great change.  He changed the injustice of hate not with the sword but with mercy and forgiveness, and this change is still in motion today!

Through Jesus we find true power and truth in the cross.  And that truth is that you don’t overcome evil by violently standing against it but by turning the other cheek.  But don’t mistake this turning of the cheek with weakness or tolerance!  Nowhere does Jesus say to turn the other cheek and refuse to speak up for what is right; nowhere does He say not to take on the cause of those who are being overcome by evil!  As salt and light, we are to speak the truth, God’s truth in love; a kind of love that move us to take the evil action of another upon ourselves; the kind of love that moves under the burden of the cross another is bearing and help them shoulder the load.  We are to take all of the evil action upon ourselves and let it die there, never bringing it up again!

ILLUSTRATION: Do you remember the movie that came out 10 years ago called “Pay it Forward”?  The premise was this: An 11 year-old boy named Trevor McKinney was given a class assignment to devise and put into action a plan that would change the world for the better. Trevor’s plan was to create a charitable pyramid scheme, based on good deeds rather than profit. He called his plan “Pay it forward”, which means the recipient of a favor does a favor for a third party instead of paying the favor back.  Well it is Jesus desire that those He brings into the Kingdom of God with Him would do something similar but different.  Jesus is telling us not to pay evil forward but let it end with you!  This is the love He demonstrated upon the cross and it’s the kind of love that He wants us to live in and demonstrate to others.

Do you want to learn to be obedient?  Do you want to become what God has already said that you are… holy?  Then don’t pay it forward; follow Jesus to the cross and agree with this teaching and pursue it!  This is the way of the cross!  So are you looking for a “how to” part of this sermon?  Good, then I have only one step for you to follow: turn to Jesus and His cross!  How?  Well you’ve already been given the heart of Jesus, so follow that heart; follow that love of God that has been put within you.  Love your enemy; pray for him.  You will be surprised just how much change and rearrangement God will do when your heart first agrees that He’s right and you’re wrong.  Once you learn to admit this, then praying for your enemy isn’t really that difficult.

But why must we do this?  Well, Jesus answers this question as well.  Listen: “(You will do this) so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.” [vs. 45]  But that sounds like some kind of works righteousness!  Is it?  Is Jesus saying that I must work at loving my enemies here on earth so that my Heavenly Father can reward me by making me His son or daughter?  No, not at all!  Jesus is saying that when we are loving our enemies we are showing them the love of the Father; we are showing them that we ARE sons and daughters of the Father!  Through our acts of love that find their source in the heart of Jesus we are showing everyone, including our enemies that our God is also their God; a God who “makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”  We are showing them that not only are God and His love real, but also His Law that threatens anyone who refuses to follow that love through Jesus Christ!  We are showing them that the same God who saved and changed us wants to do the very same work within them.

“For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?  Do not even the tax collectors (or open sinners) do the same?  And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others?  Do not even the Gentiles do the same?” [Vs. 46-47]  You see friends, Jesus is telling us that we are not to think that our Christianity is something nice that we share with those who are part of our congregation; He’s not saying that your Christian love is reserved for anyone else who calls themselves Christian; He’s not even saying that our Christian love should be shared with those who do nice things for us!  We are called not to love just those who love us, but to love those who hate us!  This is the way of the cross; this is the path Jesus traveled and invites us to travel with Him.

CONCLUSION: Listen to Jesus final Words upon the cross and let them lead and guide you.  As he was dying upon the cross, Jesus prayed: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do!”  Who did He pray forgiveness for?  Was it only for those who placed Him on the cross?  Yes, He prayed for all those present, He prayed for you, and He prayed for your enemy, because it was all of our sins that placed Him there!  And as He prepared to take His last breath He shouted: “IT IS FINISHED… it is perfect… it is complete!”  What is?  God’s plan to remove the sins of the world, even your sins!

Jesus closes our teaching this morning with these words: “You therefore must be perfect, as your Heavenly Father is perfect.” [Vs. 48]  You must be complete as your Heavenly Father is complete.  You must be finished and you must be complete; this is the true meaning of perfect.  And that is what you are because Jesus has blessed you with His completion!  Through the beatitudes or God’s pronouncement of blessing at the beginning of Jesus Sermon, He gives you the very thing that He now tells you that you must have… completion!  What wonderful news!  Now take this blessing and live strong and prosper… prosper for the Kingdom of Heaven is upon you!  AMEN!

Love in Action

Sunday, January 31st, 2010

Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church-San Diego
Epiphany 4C, January 31, 2010
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“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Cor. 13:4-7) 

INTRODUCTION:  A woman was injured as a streetcar derailed and veered slightly off the track and onto a portion of the platform where she was standing. She was caught beneath one of the cars. The police sent for a crane to lift the car off her body. While waiting for the crane, a crowd of people gathered out of curiosity.
    One man pushed through the crowd, crawled beneath the car that had been derailed and was teetering precariously, and said to her, “Take my hand.” As she took his hand, she felt warmth and courage. This calmed her and prevented her from going into shock.
    After the crane arrived and the woman was released, she said, “I never thought an outstretched hand could mean so much.” 

We all love to hear heroic, self sacrificing stories like this one because they communicate some of the best qualities of love that people can display.  We celebrate this type of “self sacrificing” love when we hear about it, and God agrees… we should celebrate!  And yet, God doesn’t want you to just admire and celebrate this type of love, He insists that it should be alive and central within each of us!  He wants you to be a doer not just an admirer!  Listen to how Jesus uses love to sum up the all of the 10 Commandments: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” [Matthew 22:37–40]

 This morning dear friends, God is stretching out His hand to you in this sinful world and He wants you to grab onto Him through His Word.  He wants His Word to change you and rearrange you so that this type of self giving even self sacrificing love WILL be natural within you.  He has already begun this great work within your heart through your Holy baptism, and now he wants to continue that work.  Listen to the Words God gave to St. Paul and let His Spirit work within you.  

I. Love is patient and kind: A better word I think for patience is “longsuffering”.  Love is longsuffering and kind!  This world we live in is full of evil people; dare I say there are even evil people in Christ’s church.  When evil confronts us, when a Christian brother or sister deliberately sins against us, our society advises, “Pay them back!”  But God’s Word says, “No!  Because you are to love me, you must then let that love step in and take over.  Don’t pay evil for evil, instead love your enemy; pray for them.  Don’t follow your natural instinct because it is sinful, instead suffer long, and be kind to that person.” 

I know, already we’ve been confronted with God’s Word in a way that really makes us uncomfortable, and yet that is the true meaning of what God demands from us within His commandments.  But our text this morning takes us even deeper; deeper to the point of despair.  Listen as God explains how we must love each other: 

A. Love does not envy!  Another way to say that is, “Love does not speak or do evil out of jealousy!”  That green eyed monster called Jealousy is never happy with what it has, but it’s always eyeballing what someone else has and saying, “That should be mine.  I deserve that too!”  Why if we let it, that monster would trample over anything and anyone just to get what it wants.  But if you really love as God demands, you won’t let jealousy control you! 

B. Love doesn’t boast or brag!  We know envy is wrong, and so, to combat it what do we do?  We brag about what we do have, knowing that these very words may lead others to become jealous!  So, love does not envy or boast!  Not in words and not in actions!        

C. Love isn’t arrogant!  In other words, if you really love, you will not be “full of yourself” but full of God’s love for others; when your ego is bigger than your heart, someone will always get hurt.  Is that what you want?

D. Love is not rude!  Another way to say this is, “Love never behaves improperly!”  True love is always concerned for what is right in God’s sight and then it goes out of its way not to offend others.  Paul uses this same word in other places when he talks about how people are shamefully and improperly led by their sexual desires.  If you really have love, then you will act properly!

E. Love doesn’t insist on its own way!  What this means friends, is that love is not self pleasing.  If you know others are watching you and will be offended by something you do or don’t do, don’t simply say, “Well I’m saved by grace so I can do or not do whatever I like!”  No friends, true love is always interested in the welfare of others!

F. Love isn’t irritable… it isn’t easily provoked into anger!  Well these words speak for themselves, so we’ll let them stand. 

G. Love isn’t resentful!  Or another way to say this is that love does not keep a list of wrongs on someone else.

H. Finally, love doesn’t rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth!  If we love friends, we will not keep silent when we see something happening that we know is wrong!  If we love, we will not let political correctness or peer pressure keep us from speaking the truth in love!  Wrong doing will hide the truth, but God’s love is displayed in His Word!

 God’s Word… so full of love but so full of truth, and truth can be a hard pill to swallow!  God’s truthful Word comes to our sin like a bright search light searching for any threat to God’s perfect righteousness.  It shows us what we must discover…something we would rather not discover.  And when we see it, we try to pretend it isn’t there!

ILLUS:
A wealthy old woman was staring at an image she had never seen before in the city’s art museum. She called to an employee and said, “Come here young man! What is the meaning of this awful picture you have displayed here?  I find the image shallow and revolting! What do you call it?” The employee answered without even the slightest expression, “That madam, is a mirror.”

Dear friends, God’s Word is also a mirror. We may pick it up and read it simply to evaluate it with a critical eye, but in the end, we always find that we are the ones being evaluated. It shows us how we really look..  But if you are willing to force yourself to look, and if you will fight the urge to turn away, Jesus will show you a more excellent way!  He will step in front of your reflection and cover it with His own and say, “Let my reflection be yours!  Look at my image and then see your new reflection; a reflection that I gave to you within your baptism.  Look now at my love and let it change you!”

 II. Well, let’s do just that.  Let’s look at the same list that describes perfect God-given love and see how Jesus did with it.  Let’s see what a marvelous reflection He’s exchanged for ours:

 A. Love does not envy! Jesus said, “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.  For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.” [Jn. 6:37-39]

B. Love does not boast or brag! As the all powerful Son of God hung upon the cross, “knowing that all was now finished, (He) said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” [Jn. 19:28]

C. Love is not arrogant! “But (He) made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” [Phil. 2:7]

D. D. Love is not rude!  “When he had said these things, one of the officers standing by struck Jesus with his hand, saying, “Is that how you answer the high priest?” Jesus answered him, “If what I said is wrong, bear witness about the wrong; but if what I said is right, why do you strike me?” [Jn. 18:22-23]

E. Love doesn’t insist on its own way!  “For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of Him who sent Me.” [Jn. 6:38]

F. Love isn’t irritable… it isn’t easily provoked into anger!  “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem (Jesus said), the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!” [Lk. 13:34]                   

G. Love isn’t resentful!  “And when they came to the place that is called (Golgotha) The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left.  And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” [Lk. 23:33-34]

 III. Dear friends, Christ has really replaced your sinful reflection with His own.  He has covered your “unrighteousness” with His righteousness; He did this long ago upon the cross… the tree of love and longsuffering.  He chose to be planted and crucified upon the hard rock called Golgotha so that by His pain, suffering, and death your hard rocky heart of sin might be smashed and rebuilt into a heart of love.  And all of this work was made yours in your baptism.  In your baptism, Jesus promised you that you are not alone!  Like the man in the story who crawled under the street car with the trapped and dying woman to hold her hand and encourage her to hang on, Jesus is with you!  He is reminding you that His love and long suffering are now yours and He is encouraging you to take it.  This love friends, is a spiritual gift which moves your heat and hands to serve and become a Christ-like person for your neighbor.  True God given love dear friends, is the name not for the act of love, but for the heart that feels it!  This sinful world might be able to imitate the actions of love, but without Christ love implanted within their hearts, their work is simply as St. Paul says, “Like a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.”  It is nothing!

 CONCLUSION: This morning friends, if you find yourself falling short, go to the one who is longsuffering and patient, kind and loving!  Go to the only person who never fell to envy or pride!  Go to your brother who is never arrogant or rude.  Go to Jesus Christ, your brother and your friend, who is also your God and your Savior.  Confess to Him how you’ve fallen short of His love and then hear His Words of forgiveness and restoration new and fresh!  

Believe that through His Word first given to you in the waters of your Holy baptism you were born again.  Believe that through His Holy Meal you are allowed to hear, see, smell, touch, and taste forgiveness.  And then leave this place refreshed and forgiven for a purpose… you are to be Christ for your neighbor!  You are to be a person who lives for others! 

 You will be this person, because He who began this good work in you long ago will complete it!  We pray this truth in Jesus name… AMEN!