Posts Tagged ‘LWML Sunday’

You Are My Witnesses!

Sunday, November 10th, 2013

Proclaimer: Mark Kunkee—Deacon, Trinity Lutheran Church
San Diego, CA, November 10, 2013
Sorry, no audio for this message.

In the Name of Jesus

INTRODUCTION: You are my witnesses, Jesus says. Christ is the faithful witness as His life is a confession of the true faith that reveals our compassionate Father’s ever-giving heart. A witness to Christ confesses the true faith. By the power and grace of the Holy Spirit, our Lord has called us His witnesses as people who share what He has given to us so that all would know the Father’s saving love. You are my witnesses, then, is Christ’s call to our real identity for the true confession of the faith in words and actions that inspire works of mercy in our life together.
I. Christ Jesus our Lord speaks to us so that we are His witnesses.

He sends His Holy Spirit so that His people may be witnesses as repentance and forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all nations. You are my witnesses. When Christ speaks to us today. He speaks to us through  pastors, deacons/deaconesses and anyone who believes in the word no matter what the season is to preach the Word. How are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent?

Pastors are sent by God to preach and teach the Law, proclaiming what God expects of His people according to His divine goodness. That Word of Law shows us our sin, our blatant and rebellious disregard for Christ’s life and teaching and our ego-driven rejection of His promises. It shows how deaf we are to Christ’s  compassionate voice of forgiveness, life and salvation as we reject our identity as His witnesses. The Good News that Christ came into the world as the great witness to the Father’s abounding love to suffer and die for our sin and rise again so that we may live releases us from the bondage of suffering and death. As repentance and forgiveness of sins is proclaimed in His Name, the promised Holy Spirit continues to call, gather, enlighten and sanctify people in the one true faith. Commissioned servants also work in our church body as teachers, deacons /deaconesses, directors of  education, parish music, nurses and others witnessing the living Christ.

You are my witnesses, Christ says to us today. Christ Jesus has spoken to the women of the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League so that they may be His Lutheran Women in Mission. Throughout the ages, the Lutheran Woman’s Quarterly has included Bible studies that have been used by people all over the world. Through the Word, our Lord engages people for lives of witnessing. Stories of faith in those pages of the Lutheran Woman’s Quarterly exhibit the mutual conversation and consolation of the saints that we believe, teach, and confess in the Smalcald Articles of our Lutheran Confessions. Mustard Seed devotions from the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League left in hotel rooms, restaurants and greeting cards show how the witness of Christ continues to permeate the world. You are my witnesses, Christ says through His servants in the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League.


II. Christ not only speaks to us so that we are His witnesses; Christ leads us out so that we are His witnesses.

How does he do this?  He does this when He brings us to the waters of Holy Baptism where we die to our sin and rise to newness of life. Buried with Him in our baptism, we are united with Him in His resurrection witness. As He gathers His people at His altar to receive His precious Body and Blood, Christ leads His people out from the altar into the world. As the Divine Service concludes inside the church building, divine service continues in the world as the people of God are sent forth as witnesses. There is no need to fear; the resurrected Christ has gone before us to prepare the way for us. Christ has led the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League out to be Lutheran Women in Mission. The pledge of the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League is centered in Christ’s initiative. We consecrate to our Savior our hands to work for Him, our feet to go on His errands, our voice to sing His praises, our lips to proclaim His redeeming love, our silver and our gold to extend His Kingdom, our will to do His will, and every power of our life to the great task of bringing the lost and the erring into eternal fellowship with Him. Amen.” By the power of the Holy Spirit given in the Means of the Spirit, Christ has led Lutheran Women in Mission out from their individual homes and local congregations to cities and countries far away. With money collected in mites, the women of the Lutheran Women Missionary League have been led out by Christ to every continent on earth sharing His redeeming love as they have heard the voice of Christ saying, You are my witnesses.


III. Christ speaks to us and leads us as His witnesses and Christ blesses us to be His witnesses.

Even today, Christ opens His nail-pierced hands in love to satisfy the desire of every living thing as He blesses us for His service in the world through our various vocations. Today, we especially celebrate how Christ blesses the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League to be Lutheran Women in Mission. We celebrate God’s goodness shown to us in Jesus Christ by celebrating witness, mercy, and life together in the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League.

The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod and many others have been blessed through the hands of women who have shared the gifts that God has given for the extension of His Kingdom as congregations have been founded, schools have been supported, outreach centers have been funded, and lives have been transformed as Lutheran Women in Mission have confessed the truth of the Gospel by bearing witness to Christ It continues in worship as Christ speaks through us, leads through us, and blesses others through us. And it will culminate in endless worship as we look to the Day of His return when we who have been spoken to by Christ and who have been led out by Him are blessed to be raised from the dead and in our flesh to live in the joy of being His people forever. You are my witnesses, Christ our Lord says. Confessing the truth in love and serving the Lord with gladness, we rejoice that Christ speaks to us, leads us out and blesses us as He graciously entrusts us with the Gospel in our ears, eyes, hands, and mouths saying, You are my witnesses.

CONCLUSION: And as we today hear God’s word we also recognize the birth of our founding father Martin Luther.  It was Luther who God chose to use as a tool to free His Word so that it could empower His people to once again be His witnesses.  He empowers us with this brief slogan that Luther lived and died by; a slogan we too should embrace and celebrate as we live to give witness to God’s presence and forgiving love in our lives, and in our community.  The slogan is simply this: We live by faith alone, grace alone, and scripture alone.  I pray that this word you have received will help you to do just that, and I ask this in Jesus name… AMEN!

“Salted for Service”

Sunday, October 28th, 2012

A Sermon for LWML Sunday, October 28, 2012 – based on Mark 9:38-50
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA

Adapted from the sermon of Pastor Matthew C. Harrison.
President, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod

Click here for audio of this message

Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another (Mark 9:50).

The president of our denomination, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod likes to tell this humorous story: “Not long ago, my wife and I returned to her hometown. We were stopped at a gas station. As I filled the tank, I noticed she spent a long time speaking to the attendant.  When she finally returned to the car, I asked her, ‘Who was that you were talking to?’ She replied that it was an old flame.  ‘Oh really?’ I exclaimed with a smirk. ‘He’s a gas station attendant? Ha! I bet I know what you’re thinking!’ My wife responded, ‘Yeah. If I’d married him, he’d be the president of the Missouri Synod!’“

This joke has a profound point. The women in our lives, especially our wives, mothers, and grandmothers, make us men a lot better than we would be without them. “Salted for Service,” the LWML has been a similar blessing for the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod.

The mission of the LWML gets at the very heart of who we are as Christians and what we are as the Church. Though not all of you are members of the LWML, every one of you needs to know and believe what I am going to preach to you today. Otherwise you’ll just be stumbling through life pointlessly. And worse yet, you might just miss God’s call to enter His Sabbath rest in heaven altogether.

You dear Christians are called to be salty; Jesus makes us Christians “salty.” And He’s salted us to season everything that’s around us. When Jesus says, “If salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again?” He’s simply saying that salt can’t help but be salty.  You see, there’s no such thing as “unsalty” salt!” Christians are “salty,” and we’re salted for service!

Jesus died to put your sins to death on a cross 8,000 miles away, and He did it more than 2,000 years ago. It’s a done deal. “It is finished.”  There is nothing you or anyone on earth can or need do to gain God’s favor. “…God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself…” (2 Cor. 5:19). What He won so long ago, He’s handing out now, free of charge. In a sense, He grabbed you by your neck in Holy Baptism and made His cross, death and resurrection completely yours! Your sins are washed away! And why did He do that for you? Luther’s Catechism says that He did all of this “so that (you) may be His own, live under Him in His kingdom, and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence and blessedness.”

And what does the Bible say about salt? Well, it adds flavor of course (Luke 14:34); it seasons our food (Col. 4:6; Job 6:6), but salt also heals (2 Kings 2:21), and it preserves. Salt purified the sacrifices of the Old Testament and indicated peace with God (Lev. 2:13). It indicated kinship and peace between parties (Ezra 4:14), and so Jesus adds in today’s text, “Be at peace with one another.”

Today we aren’t forgiven, not “salted,” to live in sin and long for it, although sometimes it seems that we do that very thing, and indeed we all deserve the fate of Lot’s wife. No, we’re salted to look forward. We’re salted to serve. At the time of Luther, it was thought that church was all about giving to God the best of our works, praise, and service in order to earn a place in heaven. That’s what the Law demands! In those days, it was believed that the greatest Christians were those who were separated from the rest of the world in monasteries, separated from people and devoted to God. Church was all about doing; performing the sacrifice of the Mass in order to gain points in heaven.

But Luther turned the whole thing on its head. Through scripture, Luther demonstrated that the Church is first and foremost the place where we find God serving us! We are the tax collector standing afar off, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” God is the One doing something for us! Jesus said, “I came not to be served but to serve and give My life as a ransom for many.” So the Church, you and I have learned by scripture to agree with Luther, “And put aside the work (we) do, So that God may work in you!” (LSB 581:4)

The truth is friends, “God doesn’t need your good works. Your neighbor does!” That is one of the reasons that we are all still here; so that we can allow God to work through us serving our neighbors.  So served by God in His blessed Word and Sacrament, we are salted to turn to our neighbor in love and serve him or her. We are salted for service! And this is precisely what we learn from women of the Bible and the LWML.

The LWML is “salted for the service” of bearing witness to Christ. The LWML is precisely Lutheran Women in Mission! The LWML exists to give their witness to Christ. Remember the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4? “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” “Give me this water,” she responded to Jesus (John 4:10, 17). But Christ then confronted her about her numerous husbands and her current live-in boyfriend. Jesus called her to repentance and faith. And she, in fact, believed. After Jesus “salted” her for life eternal, what did she do? John 4:28 says, “So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, ‘Come see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?’” And in verse 39, we read, “Many Samaritans from that town believed in Him because of the woman’s witness.”

The Church bears witness to Jesus! The real art of reading the Bible is seeing ourselves in all of its characters—sinners, saints, the good, the bad and the ugly. And many times, all of these terms apply to one and the same person, just like us. You are the woman at the well! You are the one whose life does not square up with the demands of the Law. You deserve hell! You are the one whom Jesus calls to repentance! You are the one forgiven! You are the one who now bears witness to Jesus!  You are salted to serve no matter who you are! You are a “spiritual priest,” says the Bible, “that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).

But where is that service to take place? The work of the LWML shows us exactly where. Your witness takes place where God has put you—first and foremost in your family. You are to bloom where you are planted.  If you are a parent or a grandparent, you are the witness to your children. You are the witness to your grandchildren. You are the witness to your siblings. That’s why the LWML provides so many resources and Bible studies to strengthen women and families in their faith! And from there, your witness is your circle of friends, this congregation, this community—just like the woman at the well.

Through the mites—the offerings of the women of the LWML—hundreds and hundreds of projects in our districts, the Synod, in our partner churches and all around the globe have been funded so that the Gospel of free forgiveness in Jesus is shared everywhere. This has amounted to millions of dollars. In fact, the worldwide witness of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod would be severely hindered without the LWML. That’s a fact. Countless thousands know Jesus because of the work of the LWML. Now that’s salty service, indeed!

The women of the LWML are also “salted for the service“ of being missionaries of mercy! I’m reminded of the Canaanite women. She cried to Jesus, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon” (Matt. 15:22 ff.). Surprisingly, Jesus put her off. “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs … I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” She responded, “Yes, Lord. But even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Luther says, “She had Him by the neck here.” Jesus came to have mercy, and to have mercy on both body and soul. Jesus cared for people in need, over and over again. The New Testament teaches repeatedly that the Church is to care for the needy in its midst and also to reach out to others in physical need.  This is St. Paul’s teaching (1 Corinthians 8–9). This is St. John’s teaching (1 John 3:15 ff.) This is the teaching of the Book of Acts (Acts 6). This is Luther’s teaching! This is the teaching of Dr. Walther, founder of the Missouri Synod.  And this is the marvelous “salty” practice of the LWML!

President Harrison tells about seeing this all over the world. “Over the past decade” he said, “I’ve visited dozens and dozens of places in the world and had a recurring experience—like I did, for example, in Ambur, India. There I was touring a large and bustling Lutheran hospital compound. Hundreds of people are treated there daily—babies are born and people are cared for by pastors and deaconesses and doctors. As I rounded a corner on the walk, I came face-to-face with something profound. A plaque on the hospital building stated, ‘Built with assistance of funds from the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League.’ Every time this occurs I think of all the women I’ve met over the years. I think of all those faithfully-filled Mite Boxes. I think especially of the women now with the Lord. And I’m profoundly thankful.”

It would literally take all day to tell you about current LWML projects around the district, the United States, and the world that are caring for the poorest women and children, fighting malaria and other diseases, assisting the addicted, providing care for unwed mothers and their children, and supporting crisis pregnancy centers. The list could be multiplied on and on, and in all these instances, Jesus is being shared with those in need.

The LWML is “salted for service“ in our life together in the Church. Don’t you find it interesting that Jesus says in our text, “Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another”? Being “salt” brings with it a “life together” in the church. St. John wrote: “… that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete” (1 John 1:3–4). John’s witness to Jesus created faith and fellowship and joy. As the LWML bears witness to Jesus, precisely the same thing happens. Our life together is deepened. The LWML helps us share each other’s burdens. It strengthens our fellowship, our life together in Jesus. That fellowship, where we share faith and hope and love, continues to grow. And finally, there is joy—and joy especially in service.

Finally, the LWML is an example for all of us. We are all “salted to serve.” And how do we serve? Forgiven by Jesus we bear witness to Him in our daily lives. We care for those in need, just like He did. And we live a life together of love and forgiveness. And in all this service, through every joy and sorrow shared, there is joy. It’s no wonder the LWML’s motto is Psalm 100:2, “Serve the Lord with gladness!”

May God bless all the women of the LWML and the entire Church on earth with such salty service!

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen!

Kingdom Building Through God’s Word

Sunday, October 3rd, 2010

Lutheran Women’s Missionary League Sunday, October 3, 2010
Rev. Brian Henderson—Pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
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“Your Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light to my path.” [Psalm 119:105]  There are many ways to get lost.  People get lost driving from point A to point B all the time on our local roads and freeways.  But contrary to what my wife may tell you, I am never lost while driving, just a little confused.  “Honey” she says, “why don’t you stop and ask for directions?”  “What for” is always my response, “I’m not lost; I know where we are!  I’ll get us there; don’t worry!”  She was greatly relieved when I finally broke down and bought at Garmin Street Navigator. 

But we can also become lost in a world that hates our faith in Jesus Christ and our love for God’s World.  I want to tell you a wonderful story about a man who found himself lost in just this type of situation.  He didn’t need a Garmin or a Tom-Tom to find his way; instead it was God’s Holy Word that ended his confusion.

Shortly after Vietnam fell to the Communists, Hien Pham, a committed Christian and translator for American missionaries was arrested. He was accused of aiding and abetting the Americans; he was in and out of prison for several years. During one long jail term, the sole purpose of his jailers was to indoctrinate him against the West – and especially against the Christian faith. He was cut off from reading anything in English… especially his Bible! After months of brain-washing, Hien began to buckle under the pressure. MAYBE, he thought, God doesn’t exist. Finally, he made up his mind; he would no longer pray or ever think of his Christian faith again.

The next morning, he was assigned to clean the latrines of the prison. It was the most dreaded chore, shunned by everyone, and so with much distress he began the awful task. As he cleaned out a 50 gallon cans filled with waste and toilet paper, his eye caught what he thought was English printed on a piece of paper. He quickly grabbed it, washed it off and slipped it into his pocket, planning to read that night.  Later, after his roommates had fallen asleep, he pulled out a small flashlight and began to read the top corner of the paper, “Romans, Chapter 8.” Literally trembling with shock, he began to read: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? … No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” [Rom. 8:28, 31, 32, 35, 37-39]

Hien wept. He knew there was not a more relevant passage of conviction and strength for one on the verge of surrendering to the threat of evil. He cried out to Jesus, asking for forgiveness, because that next morning would have been the day that he had determined not to pray or recall scripture. Evidently the Lord had other plans.
The day came when Hien was released. He promptly began to make plans to escape from the country. After several unsuccessful attempts he began to build a boat in secret. About fifty-three other people planned to escape with him, and Hien was taking the lead. All was going according to plan until a short while before the date of their departure four Vietcong soldiers knocked on Hien’s door. When he opened it, they accosted him and said they had heard he was trying to escape. “Is it true?” they demanded.  With great fear but greater faith, Hien resignedly gave his answer, “Yes, I am, with fifty-three others. Are you going to imprison me again?” There was a pronounced pause. And then they leaned forward and whispered, “No. We want to escape with you!”  And they did!  Eventually Hien arrived on American soil where today he is a businessman – forever grateful to God and His saving Word!  Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path!

Does God still miraculously intervene in our lives today?  According to our Lord’s promise in our gospel lesson, the answer is a resounding YES…ABSOLUTELY!  Listen to His prayer for His apostles and His prayer for you: “(Father) I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves.  I have given them Your Word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.  I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.  They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.  Sanctify them in the truth; Your Word is truth.  As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world… I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their Word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” [John 17:13-16, 18-21]

What is it that Jesus prays that we will have?  His joy!  Not just any joy, but His joy!  When you are confused and afraid, and think that you’ve lost your way in this dark world, remember that Jesus has prayed for you and He is right there beside you, praying for you; He’s praying that you would not loose His joy.  And what are we to have as the source of our joy?  His Word!  Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path!

The next thing that we learn from Jesus prayer is that we are not of this world!  We’ll what’s so bad about this world?  Well for starters it is ruled by Satan and his devils.  They are the princes of this world.  Second this world is so dark and lost in sin that people hate God’s light; they hate his only means of salvation… His Word!  Now this is where things get a little dicey for us.  We are each called to be a light, God’s light in this world of dark sin.  Remember you are not above your master Jesus.  The world hated and crucified Him, and they still hate Him because He is the living Word of God; He is the only light in this dark evil world that can’t be extinguished.  So if they hate Him they will also hate you!   The prophet Isaiah proclaimed this long ago when he wrote: “Lord who has believed what he has heard from us?”  As I said, this can be a little dicey, in fact this hatred of the world and the devils is the very thing that causes some Christians to be silent and avoid speaking about repentance and turning to Jesus for forgiveness.  Some have even abandoned their faith completely and become eternally lost in the darkness and confusion of sin.  For this reason Jesus prays something incredible for us and in this prayer we have a promise. 

What is it that Jesus prays and promises?  Jesus prays that the Father will protect us from the evil one and the sin of this world; He prays that the Father will continually set us apart as His holy ones!  And what does He promise?  He promises that He, God the Father, God the Son Jesus, and God the Holy Spirit who began the good work of salvation in us will continue this work and keep it safe until it is complete.  He is telling you that He promises that He will complete this work if… oh yes there’s always an if; if we stay in His Word.  Why His Word?  Because His Word is truth!  It is the very thing that has saved you, is saving you, and will save you, so we must not leave the Word.  Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path!

Think of the Word this way.  In a world pitch dark with sin, you can’t count on your eyes you need a source of light.  Have you ever been in a dark place with very little or no light?  Isn’t it true that your eyes can play tricks on you?  Well that is the way it is in this sinful world.  We need to quit trusting in experience, that is in sight and we must learn to walk by faith; we need to learn to trust Jesus and be led by God’s Word alone.  God wants us to use His Word as a lamp for our feet and a light for our path.  He wants us to let the Word alone guide our way; it alone must lead not just our feet but also our hearts.  Jesus is asking us to remember that it is the lamp of God’s Word that creates faith, but not necessarily understanding.  We don’t always need to understand, but we do always need to have faith and trust in Jesus prayer for us and God’s will.  Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path!

With God’s Word as our lamp and light, Jesus prays that we will have faith to do what we do not know how to do, go where we do not know the way, perform what we don’t understand, and follow the Word even when it seems we risk becoming stupid and foolish in the eyes of our community.  When we follow the light and path of the Word we will by faith also follow the path of obedience.  And what is that path of obedience?  Well let’s get back to Jesus prayer and let Him answer that: “As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world… I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their Word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” [Vs. 20, 21]

Dear friends you have been saved by the Word because God is love… because through Jesus Christ, God has not only shown you His love like a bright light, but He has also made that love yours.  In His Word He promises you that no one and nothing can ever separate you from His love which is your through Christ Jesus!  But He has saved you for a purpose.  He has given you the light of His Word so that you can remain in this dark and sinful world for a reason.  What is that purpose and what is the reason?  The purpose is so that in the darkness you can seek and save other who are lost in sin.  The reason you are to seek and save the lost is because “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son Jesus Christ, so that whosoever believes in Him through the illumination of the Word of God shall not perish in darkness but have everlasting life!  God’s Word is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our paths.  God’s Word alone keeps us on the path of salvation while it also acts as a search light to find lost sinners.  God’s Word alone is how God builds His kingdom.  Kingdom building then is living in God’s Word and reflecting the light of that Word into the darkness of this sinful world.  You reflect that gospel when you share God’s Word and love with whoever you meet on the gospel path.  The kingdom of God is built one heart at a time. 

What is the kingdom of God?  It is God’s Word which teaches us that God sent His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, into the world to redeem and deliver all sinners out of the power and kingdom of sin, death, and the devil, and to bring us to Himself so that He may rule us as a King of righteousness, delivering us into a new world of righteousness, eternal joy, and peace.  On this path, many are led by the Holy Spirit through the Word into the Father’s kingdom of grace so that together with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit we will each become joint heirs with Jesus and eternally remain in God’s kingdom of grace and light, a kingdom that has already begun and was given to you through His Word!  Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path!

May we forever stay in that light, God’s Holy Word and we ask this in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost… AMEN!

Our God Reigns!

Sunday, October 4th, 2009

18th Sunday after Pentecost, October 3, 2009

A prepared sermon adapted and proclaimed by

Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
Click here for audio of this message

 

Today we celebrate Lutheran Women’s Missionary League Sunday using the theme from their convention earlier this year in Portland, Oregon: “Look to the Hills…God Reigns!”  Our Scripture texts – 2 of them – move our eyes and lift our senses to undefined hills and mountains. Now let’s put some definition to those hills and mountains by turning our mind’s eye to the Word of the Lord: Psalm 121:1-2 (NIV) I lift my eyes to the hills—where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. Isaiah 52:7 (NIV) How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God Reigns.”  So let’s look to the Hills.  Why?  Because God Reigns!

 

Here in Southern California, we seem to always be suffering from what we feel is a lack of rain… a lack of water.  It’s easy to forget that technically we live in the “high desert” where water is always a short commodity.  But even here, God also blesses us with life-giving water-rain. As we receive the blessing of rain, we “praise God from whom all blessings flow,” in creative ways. In the Oregon Convention Center where the LWML met in June, there is a nine-acre roof. Those nine acres of rainfall that fall on that roof don’t go into the storm drains, instead they’ve created a Rain Garden that captures all the rain, which in turn is used to water the landscape surrounding the Convention Center.

 

At the Lady’s convention, it was suggested that everyone turn their umbrella upside down and catch the blessings while they were in Portland. And if they didn’t have an umbrella, they were told to simply open their hands to catch the blessings that flow down from their gracious creator!  Our God Reigns – He Reigns on us abundantly!  With upturned faces and upturned, expectant hands we receive the bountiful blessings which flow from the King of Kings, the Lord of Lord, Your God Reigns!

That majestic word “REIGN” doesn’t comes up in your day-to-day conversation very much—except for some teenagers who say things like “Hannah Montana reigns” or “the Jonas Brothers reign!” We just don’t use that word much anymore. Reign is the period of time during which kings and queens exercise their term of office. If someone is reigning then someone else is being led. Reign means someone else in charge. But what does it mean, when we say that “God Reigns?”  What do you think the original audience that heard about Isaiah’s vision thought when they heard “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news …GOD REIGNS”? It sure didn’t look like it! “God Reigns?—whatever!”  You see, they were captives – in Babylon – which is modern day Baghdad, Iraq. There were no hills or mountains in sight! They were there against their own will. They were hostages; captives who were forcefully exiled and deported to Babylon. They were trapped in virtually the hottest and flattest city in the Middle East.  But they could remember what the hills in their native land looked like before they were deported.  It would be wonderful news to know that someone else would soon reign over them! For Israel this was awesome news. They were in exile, and it seemed that their God had lost his power. Around them they saw only the temples and adornments of the false gods of the Babylonians.

Do you ever get that helpless feeling? There is so much that happens around us – there are other powers which look much greater and more powerful than we do as the church of Christ.  Christians are in the minority. Christians seem to be losing influence and often are publically ridiculed.  In the Pacific Northwest where the ladies’ convention was held, participants were told they were visiting the “None Zone.” What’s the “None Zone?” It’s the most popular religious preference checked off in a survey.  What is your religious preference? Catholic, Methodist, Presbyterian, Baptist, Lutheran, Other?  Religious preference? NONE!   NONE – the most popular choice there– hence it is called the “none zone.” The powerful, false gods, of our time and our society are worshipped there, but not in churches.  Groups gather in large buildings, but those buildings or stadiums or malls are not churches. Like Babylon, they live in a place where they seemingly are held captive. They need GOOD NEWS.  Well, we’ve got some good news for them…as impossible as it might seem, OUR GOD REIGNS!

 

The holy writer says, “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news…” The captives couldn’t see the mountains that were over 100 miles away … Yet their faith’s eye could see them! They couldn’t see those blessed hills, but they could hear the message “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, ‘God Reigns.’” (Isaiah 52) What a promise, even in the midst of despair. Their hope was refreshed in a desert of desertion and despair and so is our faith and the faith of our neighbors. We get to go home! Our God Reigns! That kind of good news comes from the hills all around us.

 

In Paul’s letter to the Romans – Paul was talking to people who knew something about politics, power, and reigning monarchs and Caesars. Using the power-words “God Reigns,” Paul speaks right to the heart, where God wishes to reign as your only Lord. The word “reign” is used four (4) times in the following bible passage – listen for reigning… Rom 5:17-21 17 For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.

 

Dear friends do you hear that good news?  You Reign…you reign with your conquering Savior, Jesus. …so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 5: 17-21 NIV) Grace reigns! The Risen Jesus is now our reigning Lord and Savior.  If trespasses have been reigning in your life, Your God Reigns!  If debts have reigning in your life, Your God Reigns!  If sin has been reigning in your life, Your God Reigns!

 

In one of the more contemporary translations of the Lord’s Prayer, archaic language gives way to English the way we speak it today in America. Gone are the words “trespasses” and “debts.”  Instead, you find the real day to day word: SINS. “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” Those words speak of the free gift of victory and good news. “Forgive us our sins….”  “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us…” The good news is yours. Shout it from the hill tops, how beautiful on the mountains are the feet that bring you that good news. Forgiveness is ours!

 

Friends, would you please take out your bulletin and look at the Logo on it.  See those hills, all decked out in Purple? I lift my eyes to the hills…My help comes from the Lord…Our Golden Creator;…Our Royal Purple Redeemer;…Our Green Growth Sanctifier.  Our awesome and reigning God dresses His creation in golden waves of grain, purple mountain majesty, and the green, green grass of home and growing faith. Gold, Purple, and Green – Look to the Hills friends, God Reigns.

 

Did you know that purple and gold are the official colors of the LWML?  Would you like to know why?  Well, according to the Southern Illinois Lutheran Woman’s Quarterly Supplement, October 1948, the Southern Illinois district was the first to adopt the colors, purple symbolizing royalty, and gold, symbolizing value and integrity. Shortly thereafter, the LWML Executive Board adopted purple and gold as their colors.  Here is the wording of actual motion: “Motion was made by Mrs. Emil Frank to recommend that the colors Purple and Gold as suggested in the Handbook, be adopted as the official League colors.  Action – Adopted.” That was 1951.  Those LWML ladies who dress in purple are following Him who was dressed in purple for us!

 

Jesus was mocked in purple, and crowned with thorns, mocked as royalty.  Mark 15:16-20 16 The soldiers led Jesus away into the palace (that is, the Praetorium) and called together the whole company of soldiers. 17 They put a purple robe on him, then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on him. 18 And they began to call out to him, “Hail, king of the Jews!” 19 Again and again they struck him on the head with a staff and spit on him. Falling on their knees, they paid homage to him. 20 And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him. (NIV)  Jesus decided to reign in love and sacrifice and not with might and power. It is your Jesus, who was mocked in purple and crowned with thorns that reigns for you today! Jesus, mocked in purple and crowned with thorns, gave Himself so that each of us can have the courage to wear purple for the rest of eternity, sons and daughters of the King!  Isaiah 52:7 says it with joy to captives and homesick people: “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God Reigns.”

 

Whose beautiful feet bring this message? Who brings good news? Who proclaims peace? Who brings good tidings? Who proclaims salvation? Who says, “God Reigns!”? It’s Jesus! How does Jesus do this?  By rising from the dead!  When Jesus Christ rose, he reigned! He reigned over sin, death, and the devil, and became our champion. Ever since, the church has been going to the ends of the earth, baptizing and making disciples.

 

The LWML mission is to help proclaim the saving message of the one with beautiful feet who washes away the sin of the whole world. With Word and Sacrament, with preaching and baptizing, believers have been his hands and feet, proclaiming his unconditional love by word and deed.  Acts 1:8 “…you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  From Jerusalem to Antioch to Rome, to Wittenberg, to Portland, to the Pacific Rim, to San Diego….even to Babylon’s Baghdad… all around the world, witnesses of the mighty acts of God, believe it themselves…and can’t help but be a league of missionaries.  Good news bubbles up and gets shared. In the book of Acts, in 30 short years, we find recorded 95 people by name in 54 cities, in 32 countries, and 9 Mediterranean Islands. It is said that they turned the world upside down, proclaiming the gift of Jesus.  All this from a Savior in a purple robe, a crown of thorns, seven words from the cross, and an empty tomb, an empty shelf, and an empty table that today holds the very body and blood of the resurrected one, Jesus.

 

The closest you’ll ever get to Jesus, this side of heaven, is in the miracle of the Word and the Sacrament. In Holy Communion we share the reality of Jesus Christ who proclaims the good news, peace, good tidings, and salvation. He reigns and His royal decree is that we share this feast of the Lord’s Supper when we are together in His Name. We can have the courage to wear His purple robe, now a robe of righteousness that he freely grants us in His love.

Our God is an awesome God…he reigns from heaven above… In every age, God performs the mighty acts of faith in life and action among us. We are built up, refreshed, and renewed with a sense of awe because our God reigns! The problem is, how do you teach old Christians new “awe?” Jesus knew then, and He knows now; He did it in the Sacrament of the Altar.  Luke 21:30 When he was at the table with them, he took break, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him.”

 

May God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit work this miracle or awe and wonder in each of our hearts as we gather at His Holy table, eagerly expecting Jesus miraculous presence and power in our lives.  In Jesus name we ask this… AMEN!