Posts Tagged ‘Miracles’

Sunday, July 1st, 2018

Pentecost 6B
July 1, 2018
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor of
Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street
San Diego, CA 92114

Click here for audio of this message

“The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him.” [Lamentations 3:25]

Waiting is always difficult.  We always want to find a way to eliminate it, or at least speed it up.  This is especially true when we’re waiting on God to act, speak, or intervene.  May I be so bold as to say that “we” all can become impatient with God?  Could it be true, that in the middle of our waiting we may even feel like God has abandoned us, and forced us to fend for ourselves?

The Apostle Paul knew that temptation to grumble about God’s perceived tardiness, which is why he wrote these Words to encourage the church in Corinth: “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8, 9).

People in general hate to wait, but in their waiting, God’s children find His love.

This was also God’s Word to His people of faith that were conquered and uprooted from their homeland.  They were stripped of every material possession they had.  They lost their homes, possessions, and for some even their families.  To these poor souls, it seemed that they couldn’t fall any lower.  They had nothing left but ruin.  The whole world had written them off.  But the unbelieving world did not know that they had one last and best resource left, and in truth it was their first and only true resource… they had the LORD!

Because of God’s great love for His children of faith, because of His great faithfulness, God’s people would survive; God would protect them and restore them.  His love for His children of faith always wins out.  Even when His children lose faith while they’re waiting, God is faithful and His love never fails!

God can’t help Himself; He always helps His children who He has loved with an everlasting love.  It was His love that moved His compassion to help his children back then, and it is His love that moves His compassion to help us and His church today.  And when we remember God’s love for us, our faith and resolve as individuals and as a congregation are strengthened.  

It is this remembering of His love and faithfulness that moves us to seek out Jesus and rest in His Word and promises.  

In or gospel reading both Jairus and the woman with the issue of blood would have quickly testified that they too felt hard pressed, crushed, and perplexed!  

They must have both been wondering, “Why is this happening to me?”  Why is God allowing my little daughter to die so young?  Why has God allowed me to have this bleeding disease for so long and even blinded the eyes of the doctors so that they can’t cure me?

Jairus must have felt that all of his waiting for his daughter to be healed was for nothing.  Maybe he even felt betrayed by God.  After all he was the faithful leader of God’s people who gathered at the synagogue to hear God’s Word.  Jairus loved God’s children of faith with the love that the Father gave him to love with, so why wasn’t God responding with help for his daughter?

The woman with the issue of blood also must have felt abandoned in her long wait for God’s cure.  Can you imagine, she waited twelve long years and went to doctor after doctor and no comfort or help was found in any of them?  She was now most likely at the point of poverty, and still no cure or even a Word of promise and hope from God! 

Maybe you know exactly how they were feeling.  Maybe you are going through that waiting period right now?  I know that we are as a congregation; we’ve been waiting for so many years for God to send help to we His children of faith who gather here at Trinity Lutheran Church in San Diego.  Like the leader Jairus, we too have been faithful in our ministry of God’s Word and Sacraments.  We have been around since 1894, faithfully dispensing God’s law and gospel, baptizing and feeding His saints.  Why we can even look back into the history of our congregation and see that at one time we were even directly responsible for planting several church’s here in San Diego.  We’ve been intentional in making our congregation multi-cultural and inclusive.  And here we sit; the pews seem empty, our finances are nearly exhausted, and our hope for a future sometimes seems lost.  It seems we’ve tried everything reasonable that should bring growth, but still we struggle.  What more can we do?

Well I’ll tell you what more we can do, both for our own lives and for the life of this congregation; we can find Jesus and go directly to Him!

Finding Jesus was  what both Jairus and the woman did in our gospel lesson.  

Jairus, a man of prestige, a leader of God’s people threw himself down in the dirt at Jesus feet, and simply worshiped Him and called out for help.  “Kyrie!  Lord have mercy!”  The woman with the issue of blood didn’t think she was even worthy of speaking to Jesus.  She felt that her bleeding made her an unclean sinner who shouldn’t even be out in public, yet she went out didn’t she?  She went out and found Jesus, and using the crowd of people to hide in, she got down on her hands and knees and simply reached out with her hand of faith to just touch the corner of Jesus garment.

And what was Jesus response to both of them.  “Do not fear, only believe. Your faith has made you well, made you whole.”  So what can we learn from all of this?  First, Jesus sees and knows all that is happening to you and to our congregation.  He hasn’t turned a blind eye to you or our problems.  Just as he knew how Jairus felt when they told him that his daughter was dead, He knows how we are feeling.  He knows our fears and our feelings of abandonment.  And so Jesus speaks the gospel, words of faith to Jairus and to us.  “Don’t be afraid.  Keep on believing.” 

And to the woman with the issue of blood, Jesus called her out of hiding and insisted that she reveal herself in public.  When He did this, He was also revealing Himself to her; Jesus said,  “Your faith has made you well.  You are no longer a despised unclean sinner.  You are forgiven.  Your faith in me is what has saved you.  You reached out that empty hand of faith and I filled it with even more gifts.  

This morning Jesus is telling us to keep on believing and reaching out and I will keep on filling you!

This was Paul’s message to the church in Corinth as well.  

They too, like Trinity were struggling within their poverty.  Their offerings had all but dried up so that to some it may have appeared that the work of God through the proclaimed Word of God might be dying along with their unpaid bills and salaries.  But Paul wanted to remind them that their true debt was a spiritual one, and that debt had been paid in full by their Savior, the Son of God Jesus Christ.

Paul then directed their minds to a sister congregation in Macedonia.  They too had been stripped of most of their material wealth.  They too saw the tithes and offerings fall to almost useless proportions.  But still they gave.  They gave and gave to the point that Paul thought that it may be unhealthy for them to give anymore, so he asked them to stop.  But they begged Paul to let them keep giving.  Why?  Because they saw the truth in their giving; they were giving out of grace.  They were giving because it was the love of the Father, the gift of grace through faith in His Son Jesus Christ, and the power of the Holy Spirit that was working in them to give.  They knew by faith that they could not out give God, so in essence they were afraid that if they quit giving God would no longer shower them with blessings.  What blessings?  Well I’m sure they were reaping all kinds of physical blessings; how else could they keep on giving?  But the true blessing to them was first the blessing of being forgiven and then the blessing of being part of the believing body of Jesus Christ; the blessings of being Christ’s church, with Jesus as both their head and heart.  And so they gave out of their poverty so that others could be helped and the preaching of the gospel maintained.

And that dear friends was Paul’s solution to the Corinthians lack of charity.  It wasn’t a command to give more or to even give at all; Paul didn’t say give until it hurts so that God will love you more and bless you.  No, Paul simply showed the Corinthians what happens when one heart and many hearts remember and celebrate the faithfulness of God as demonstrated by the coming and giving of His Son.  

Turn your eyes to Jesus, the author and perfecter of your faith.  Remember His suffering and death for you.  Please say it in your heart now, “Jesus gave His life for me, for me, for me.” … let those words echo in your ears.  He became poor so that you could become rich.  He became weak so that you could become strong; strong in faith and strong in service.

How do we celebrate God’s faithfulness?  By turning our eyes of faith to Jesus.  We celebrate by opening our hands and hearts like Jairus and the woman with the issue of blood.  We wait on the LORD quietly to give and take as He sees fit.  We remember that God cannot fill a closed fist, but He can fill hands that are open and lifted high in prayer, giving freely and waiting to receive the abundant blessings from above.

As I walk now to the altar of God to lead us in prayer, please bow your heads open your hands and heart and pray with me…

 

Do You Need a Miracle?

Sunday, March 6th, 2016

4th Sunday in Lent-HL, March 6th , 2016
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor
Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego, CA
http://www.tlcsd.org

Click here for audio of this message

So do you need a miracle? Do you even believe in miracles? We’ve all considered these questions, maybe during those times when we’ve had grieving hearts. People sincerely wrestle with this question, and inevitably they’re led to ask, “Why don’t we see miracles today like Jesus use to do in our Gospel lesson?” Why don’t we see miracles performed like the ones the Apostles did, which left the unbelievers in awe because of the “wonders and signs” that were done through them?  The short answer is because, “You and I aren’t Jesus, and, we’re not the apostles.”

The problem with miracles is that we want to control them.  We demand miracles from God at a time when we think is right.  And that time is always when we want them; not when we need them.  When we think like this and act like this, we are simply being true to our nature, our sinful nature, just like the Israelites in our Old Testament lesson. [Exodus 16:2-21]

Here is a truth worth remembering.  All of our wants and desires are tragically wrapped in sin.

All illness, sickness, disease, crime, and heartless behavior has at its very root, sin; Original Sin. Whether it’s the common cold, cancer, crime, heartless behavior, or oppressive governments, they all have at their root a spiritual cause, which is sin.

While we call out to God for a miracle and grow impatient when one doesn’t come as we request, we also ignore the work that God IS doing, and we fail to thank Jesus for the miracles that we already have received through the advances in modern medicine which brings cures, and active and benevolent governments and leaders, which bring peace to our families, communities, and nation.

So, why don’t we see miracles today like we see Jesus performing in our gospel lesson, and those that flowed from the apostles’ hands (Acts 2:43)?

Simply put, Jesus knows our sinful hearts.  We see this truth demonstrated for us through His actions in today’s gospel reading (John 6:1-15), when after He miraculously fed the five thousand, with a few loaves of bread and two fish, He withdrew from the mass of humanity that began flocking towards Him.  “Why” you may ask? Because Jesus knew that their sinful hearts could not see past the miracles.  He knew that they wanted to forcefully take Him and make Him their King so that through Him they might overthrow the Roman government.

We must pause at this point and realize how much we sinners today are so similar to sinners then.  Don’t we still see people using their religion, using their faith as a tool get what they want out of others?  But Jesus is not that kind of King and His miracles are not meant to bring us heaven on earth.  Instead, they are meant to move our hearts by faith to see the promise of heaven beyond earth in the Word of God, even in the midst of pain and suffering.  So we could say that Jesus’ miracles aren’t meant to satisfy our temporary desires, but rather they are meant to open our eyes of faith so that we can see Jesus as the provider of our eternal security. In other words friends, Jesus is the miracle!

Because of His unique nature of being fully man and God, Mary, the most blessed Virgin, didn’t just give birth to an ordinary human being, but instead to a human being who is truly the Son of God the Most High.

Jesus revealed His divine nature when it pleased Him and not when sinful men and women demanded it.  He revealed His true nature not just after his resurrection and ascension, but also many times in the state of his humiliation. Think of all of the miracles He performed.  Water becomes wine, the blind see, the deaf hear, the lame walk, the dead come back to life, He walks on water, calms an angry sea, and in the Garden, with only a Word He struck the guards who came to arrest Him, down to the ground.

Scripture testifies that Jesus is fully man and fully God even in His death.  You see, Jesus didn’t simply die like all other people, but He died in a way that by and in His death He overcame sin, death, the devil, hell, and eternal damnation, which His human nature alone could not have been able to do, had it not been united with His divine nature.

And the miracles of Jesus did not just stop after His resurrection from the dead.  No, again Scripture testifies that after His resurrection, He ascended into Heaven, and He returned to His eternal position where He is forever exalted over all creatures in heaven and on earth. This means that He has laid aside the form of a servant completely (without discarding his human nature, which he retains forever by the way) and He’s been installed into the full possession and use of His divine majesty according to His assumed human nature.  And because He has ascended far above all the heavens, He truly fills all things, and now rules everywhere, not only as God but also as a human being, as your Brother, just as the prophets prophesied and the apostles testified. [Psalm 8:2, 7; 93:1; Zechariah 9:19; Mark 16:19–20]

And now, on the basis of His new nature, Jesus can truly be both God and our Brother who fights for us; He can be truly present with His body and blood in the Holy Supper according to His own words of institution, which He has directed us to repeat as often as we gather in remembrance of Him.

In Jesus the divine and human natures are personally united with each other and in such a way, so that in Him “all the fullness of the deity dwells bodily” (Colossians 2:9).  In this personal union the two natures have such a divine and indescribable communion with each other that even the angels marvel over it and desire and rejoice to look upon it. [1 Peter 1:12]

Dear friends, Jesus was sent to this broken world, He was sent to you, to preach the good news.  And for you, this is the One miracle you truly need, even if you don’t want it.  Do you understand, because Jesus, your sins have been forgiven?

It is through Christ alone, through His innocent bitter suffering and death that He has defeated sin, death, and the devil for you.

As our substitute Jesus suffered the punishment meant for us because of all of the sins we have, are, or ever will commit in our lives. Jesus did this because of His love for sinners; He did it because of His love for you, because He doesn’t want anyone to die in their sins.. Through Jesus’ work on the cross for you, death no longer can hold you down; sin has lost its power to create guilt that can’t be forgiven; and the devil is now a toothless lion who can only roar, because has no teeth to devour you with.  No force in all of creation, not even your grave can hold your body down.

Jesus mission was to preach the good news; good news, which proclaimed that through his suffering and death upon the cross we have complete healing of mind, body, and spirit. And so Jesus also performed miracles, because He is merciful, but also to demonstrate His credentials as the Savior of the world.

Credentials?  Why does the almighty need to show His credentials?  So that when He comes as one of us we would know that He is oh so much more than one of us!  So that you would know that He truly is God in human flesh and that you may believe His Words so that your soul will live and receive complete healing from His greatest act of mercy and healing; His death on the cross in our place for the forgiveness of our sins.

Christ’s Credentials displayed in His mighty work, were also proclaimed by St. Peter in his Pentecost sermon. Listen: “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves know, this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.  God raised Him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for Him to be held by it.” [Acts 2:22-24]

Credentials were also built up and demonstrated by the apostles when they performed miracles as well. Their miracles were centered in God’s mercy as well, but the miracles they performed weren’t meant to bring them glory, but instead they were to glorify God by turning the hearts of sinful men and women towards Christ and His supreme act of mercy upon the cross.   Yes, the miracles were building their credentials, but only so people would listen to them as they spoke by the Holy Spirit the words that Jesus gave them to speak. [John 14:23] St. Paul says: “The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with utmost patience, with signs and wonders and mighty works” (2 Corinthians 12:12).

Now before we close, let’s turn our attention to our Old Testament lesson for today. [Exodus 16:2-21] Let’s think about who Moses was before God called Him.  Moses though born a Hebrew, was raised by the family of Pharaoh, as an enemy of God and His people.  He was disgraced and fled from Pharaoh and God’s people, but he could not flee from God.  God chose lowly and disgraced Moses as the one who would listen to God speak and then repeat His Words to sinful Israel.  Sinful Moses was empowered by God to speak to other sinners and then perform miracles from God, so that the people would be impressed and listen to the Word of God that Moses spoke.  The miracle of manna and quail was done through Moses so that the people would listen to the Word of the Lord he spoke.

You and I have diplomas and certificates that perhaps we frame and hang on our walls. Jesus, as well as His apostles, Moses and the prophets had living breathing credentials for the sole purpose of pointing people to the Word they spoke, because faith only comes by hearing the Word of God, which is the message about the Messiah, Jesus Christ.  [Romans 10:17]

Dear friends, Jesus is both the Bread of Heaven and the Living Word of God.  In Deuteronomy 18:15, Moses speaks about a prophet like himself coming to deliver Israel. In Jesus, One like Moses yet superior to Moses has come.  If we were to judge Moses’ credentials by the miracles he performed, certainly he by far surpasses all other Old Testament prophets. So to fulfill the words of Moses, Jesus performed an even greater abundance of miracles, so that we would know that He is the greater Moses who has redeemed us from our sins.

Yes, dear friends, you do need a miracle; you need this miracle.  You need the greater Moses who has come, born of Mary, suffered under Pontus Pilate, and through the greatest act of mercy ever performed, He died and was buried, but on the third day He rose from the dead, and He was lifted up from the earth that he might draw all men unto himself (John 13:31), to be with Him in Paradise restored, where there will be no need for credentials, miracles, or prayer; only songs of praise and thanksgiving. For there in Paradise restored, Jesus 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 (will) have passed away” (Revelation  21:4).  I pray that you will trust in this miracle that is yours now by faith and yours to come by power in Paradise, and I ask this in Jesus name… AMEN!

What Is It?

Sunday, August 2nd, 2015

10th Sunday After Pentecost, August 2, 2015
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego, CA 92114
http://www.tlcsd.org

Click here for audio of this message

“Walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” [Ephesians 4:2, 3]

INTRODUCTION: Unity, what is it?  We have heard a lot about the San Diego Unified School District in the news over the years; because it says “unified” does that mean it has unity?  According to the news reports, no!  When Congress votes on a hot button issue, many times you will hear the politicians say something like, “On this issue, we are a united congress.”  Does saying that they are united make them so?

This morning God’s Word encourages us to demonstrate the oneness that unites us all.  The oneness is our faith in the One True God, and our knowledge of the Son of God Jesus Christ.

At first, faith and knowledge are demonstrated in a very imperfect way.  This imperfect faith and especially knowledge, is to be expected in someone new to correct doctrine, and so the church, the local congregation gives grace to those who need time to mature.  However, if these imperfections are allowed to remain, they can and will damage the inner oneness of saints who are called collectively by faith.  What I mean by that is if these dear imperfect saints are not mentored and taught, they may not be united or welded together with the rest of the church as they should be; they may even become detached and drift away like a babe upon the sea; like an inexperienced sailor abandoned within a vessel he or she does not know how to operate.

This morning, we will look at the number one cause of division within the body of Christ, where there should be unity, and that cause is most always a grumbling spirit.

I. We have a couple examples of a grumbling spirit in our readings this morning.  First, in our Old Testament lesson [Exodus 16:2-15] we read, “And the whole congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness, and the people of Israel said to them, “Would that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.” [V. 2, 3]

What is interesting to note here is that Moses makes it clear to the people of Israel that it was not he nor Aaron who brought them out into the wilderness, it was the same God who brought them out of bondage.  It was God’s responsibility to feed them, not Moses’s.  So in reality, they were grumbling against God.  And grumbling against God can cause some harsh response from God, if the grumbler does not repent.

II. Do we, God’s church still struggle with a grumbling spirit?  Well let me share with you a little of the tension I have experienced here at Trinity, as we attempt to bring in new saints or Christians new to God’s Divine Service within the historical liturgy.  New people are almost always put off by our liturgy, because it repeats the same thing every Sunday.  They say they want something new; new contemporary music and words.  Now, I understand this because they have not yet learned what Divine Service is; they have not discovered that everything in the liturgy is the Word of God speaking and giving forgiveness of sins.  Sometimes, after I teach them they stay and try to embrace our liturgy, and when they do they are welded together with us.  But some times they would rather grumble and reject the gift of forgiveness within the liturgy, and so they fall away. Left on their own to navigate the ecclesiastical waters of junk food Christianity.

But wait, that’s not all…

The other group of grumblers that I must also be patient with are those who simply do not like the fact that I have judiciously added a contemporary worship song before the Service of the Word; before the Processional Hymn.  They grumble by saying, “That isn’t what I grew up with.”  When I ask them what specifically they don’t like about it, they usually say they don’t like the fact that it repeats the same words over and over.  And that it uses a style of music they can’t sing to.  Now I completely understand.  So like the first group, the new comers, I find this to be a teaching moment.  And so my response to them is that we only sing songs that are scriptural, or a contemporary expression of scripture.  And the reason we repeat the same “tag line” so often, is because it is preparing our hearts and minds for the theme of God’s Divine Service within the assigned lessons.

IILUS: Here is a good example of the type of contemporary worship songs we sing at least once a Sunday, in fact we are singing this one as special music this morning during the offering.  It is called, “Bread of Heaven.”  Listen: “Bread of Heaven, sent down from glory.  Many things you were on earth, a holy King a Carpenter; You are the Living Lord.  Awesome Ruler, Gentle Redeemer, God with us, the Living Truth, and what a friend we have in you, you are the Living Word.  Jesus, Jesus, that’s what we call You; manger born put on a tree, You are the Living Word.”

Now when we hear these words sung, we can either shut our ears to the music and miss the message, or we can hear the words and discover that a style of music that we don’t care for is actually being used by God to bring the message of peace and hope to someone else in a meaningful way, simply because it is delivered through a rhythm, tempo, and melody that speaks to their soul.  And when we see God working in His Divine Service in this way, we can’t help but glorify God in our souls by simply saying: “Oh, oh, oh.  YOU ARE THE LIVING WORD!”

III. A helpful way to keep our grumbling spirit in check, is to see that when we grumble, our eyes are no longer on the true gifts that Jesus brings, which is spiritual in nature, and properly called the forgiveness of sins and eternal life.  Rather, we are caught up in temporary things; things that often are self-serving and bring temporary comfort in this world, but no hope for our eternal existence, which is coming sooner that we think.

We read in our gospel lesson (John 6:22-35), “On the next day the crowd that remained on the other side of the sea saw that there had been only one boat there, and that Jesus had not entered the boat with his disciples, but that his disciples had gone away alone. [V. 22] When the crowd saw that Jesus was not there, nor his disciples, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum, seeking Jesus.  When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” [Vs.24-25]

What they were really saying was, “Bless us again Jesus!”  They knew there was something miraculous happening once again with Jesus.  He didn’t take a boat to get there, and he couldn’t have walked around the shore or they would have spotted Him.  “OK you wonderful miracle worker, how’d you get here?  Come on fess up.  You did something fantastic again didn’t you?  You’re the man Jesus!  As long as you keep making that wonder bread and amazing us with these unexplainable happenings, you are our lord and teacher!”

The people wanted things.  They wanted to be amazed.  To all of these people and to us today, Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw the sign, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.  Don’t work for food that perishes (for things), but (work) for the food that endures (and will give you) eternal life, which (I) the Son of Man will give to you. For on Him God the Father has set His seal.”  (There is no other way for you to obtain this true food of God except through me!) [V. 27]

Friends, in Jesus own Words, we hear Him explain exactly why the crowd followed Him; not because of His miracles and His teaching but because they wanted things!  They wanted Him to be a political savior, their messiah who would free them from the tyranny of the Roman Empire.  They wanted Him to provide them with the desires of their hearts and gratify all of their wants.  And when He refused to be their kind of Messiah, they grumbled and demanded new miracles.

Even today, we see these people gathered in churches across our nation eagerly welcoming politicians to speak during worship, so that they can assure them that if they elect or reelect this person, they will have their needs met and they will have a bright future.

And right along with those eager to hear from politicians, are those who are just as eager to hear a gospel of prosperity from their preachers.  They do not want to hear God’s message of Law and Gospel; no these people are flocking to churches wanting to hear a message that will ensure them of an easy life here of earth.

And then there are those who gather where God’s Law and Gospel is correctly and boldly preached, but they find no meaning or comfort in His Word.  And when they leave worship and the company of other Christians they seek out a new message; a different way to satisfy their desires.  They live as if Christ didn’t matter and God doesn’t see.  They long for the experience of another type of teaching.  Just like the Hebrew people that were led out of the Egyptian captivity, they begin to pant after the meat of prosperity.  You see friends, in all three cases each group has turned to God and said, “Don’t give us want you say we need, but instead give us what we want!”

So what’s the solution to all of this disunity and discord?  We must through the power and leading of the Holy Spirit…

IV. Return to the One body, which is built and sustained by the One Spirit where we have been called into the one hope of forgiveness of sins.  We must be united under One Lord Jesus Christ, insist on one faith in Christ alone, and receive one baptism, and never allow someone to cause us to doubt God’s Work within our baptism.  We must return to our one true God and the Father of us all, who is over all and through all and in all.

We must return to the teaching of the apostles and their creed of faith that declares the simple message of God’s forgiving love and mercy.  And it is that gospel Word, which turns our eyes of faith to the cross of Jesus Christ as a sign of God’s understanding and tender heart (for Jesus came into our flesh to suffer as we suffer, but to suffer on our behalf as a payment for our sins).  We must return to the empty tomb where the angel declared, “He is not here, but He has risen.”  And we must know that as He is risen, so too shall we.  These are the gifts that Christ freely gives to you who have been baptized into the one true faith.

We must gather each Lord’s day to hear these truths proclaimed by the teacher, preacher, and shepherd that God has placed through the call and prayers of you his people, and we must receive that teaching, knowing that we the saints of God are being built into one body, which is the body of our Lord Jesus Christ, through the work of holy ministry, until we all attain together the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God.

We always speak the truth to one another, but we do so in love and a desire for unity, so that together we may grow up in every way into Jesus who is our head, who guides the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, so that when each part is working properly the body grows and is built up in the love of God.

CONCLUSION: I want you to look at your hand. What do you like about it? What don’t you like about it? Are there any particular strengths or skills that your hand has? What does it enable you to do? Are there any ways your hand has made life difficult or painful? Now look at your knee. What do you like about it? What don’t you like about it? Are there any particular strengths that your knee has? What does it allow you to do? Are there any particular ways that your knee has betrayed you or caused you pain?

Now, consider both your hand and your knee. How do they benefit you? What would your life be like if you didn’t have your hand or your knee? Both hands? Both knees? Both your hands and your knees are gifts to you, gifts from God. Sometimes they may be painful to you. Sometimes they may not do what you want them to, what you need them to do, but they are yours and you are much better off with them than without them. They are yours; parts of you, unified as one body.

Now, please stand and look around the sanctuary, not at the walls, but at the people, not at their hands or knees, but at them. As you look around, ask yourself what particular strengths you see among the people here? What do you like about them? Consider these people around you. They, like your hands and your knees, are a part of you. You are a part of them. We are all parts of the body of Christ. He is our head. Just as your hands and your knees are gifts to you, gifts from God, so are the people around you gifts from God. They may at times be very pleasant gifts from God. At other times, like your hands or your knees or other body parts, they may be difficult or painful to you. Like your hands or your knees, they may not always do what you want them to. But, you know what? They are still part of you. Just like your hands and your knees, you are much better off with them than without them. They enable Christ to accomplish things that you could not do without them. They are yours, you are theirs, parts unified and growing together as one body, the body of Christ, the church.  AMEN!

Wonder Bread!

Saturday, July 9th, 2011

Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA 
Friday Night Gospel Celebration, July 8, 2011
Click here for audio of this message
 

Introduction: Everyone is impressed by miracles.  We love to hear about mysterious, unexplainable events that others have experience.  When we hear the stories, we wish that something like that would happen to us too!  And when we do experience something great and unexplainable in our lives we inevitably want more and we long to repeat the original experience.  This is how the crowd that followed Jesus from the other side of the Sea of Galilee must have felt.  They wanted more…more of His wonder bread! 

I. We read in our gospel, “On the next day the crowd that remained on the other side of the sea saw that there had been only one boat there, and that Jesus had not entered the boat with his disciples, but that his disciples had gone away alone. (Jn.:22)  When the crowd saw that Jesus was not there, nor his disciples, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum, seeking Jesus.  When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” (24-25) Oh they were saying, “Bless us again Jesus!”  They knew there was something miraculous happening once again with Jesus.  “He didn’t take a boat to get here, and he couldn’t have walked around the shore or we would have spotted Him.  OK you wonderful miracle worker, how’d you get here?  Come on fess up.  You did something fantastic again didn’t you?  You’re the man Jesus!  As long as you keep making that wonder bread and amazing us with these unexplainable happenings, you are our lord and teacher!” 

The people wanted things.  They wanted to be amazed.  They didn’t really need more bread; they simply wanted the experience of the bread.  Now anyone who’s heard me preach God’s Word knows that one of my common themes is that we shouldn’t look to politicians for a plan for a better future or to a preacher for simple steps that we can follow so God will bless our lives make life more pleasant.  Today, we’ll expound on this. 

In our Old Testament reading (Exodus 16) we see the very same kind of attitude from people who lived long before Israel was even a nation.  They too had an insatiable appetite for miracles.  God had brought them out of slavery in Egypt with one miracle after another.  He even parted the Red Sea so that they could escape the Egyptian Army.  God had proven time and time again that He would care for His children whom He had called out of darkness and into His light.  Did they trust Him?  Well only so long as the miracles continued.  When the daily supply of food was running low, instead of waiting on the Lord to provide, or even asking Him to provide, they began to grumble: “Oh that we would have died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate our fill of bread, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill us with hunger.” 

To all of these people and to us today, Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw the sign, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.  Don’t work for food that perishes (for things), but (work) for the food that endures (and will give you) eternal life, which (I) the Son of Man will give to you. For on Him God the Father has set His seal.”  (There is no other way for you to obtain this true food of God except through me!) (Jn. 6:27)  Friends, in Jesus own Words, we hear Him explain exactly why the crowd followed Him; not because of His miracles and His teaching but because they wanted “things”!  They wanted Him to be a political savior, their messiah who would free them from the tyranny of the Roman Empire.  They wanted Him to provide them with the desires of their hearts and gratify all of their wants.  Even today, we see these people gathered in churches across our nation eagerly welcoming politicians to speak during worship, so that they can assure them that if they elect or reelect this person, they will have their needs met and they will have a bright future.  And right along with those eager to hear from politicians, are those who are just as eager to hear a gospel message of prosperity from their preachers.  They don’t want to hear God’s message of Law and Gospel; no these people are flocking to churches wanting to hear a message that will ensure them of an easy life here of earth.  And then there are those who gather where God’s Law and Gospel is correctly and boldly preached, but they find no meaning or comfort in His Word.  And when they leave worship and the company of other Christians they seek out a new message; a different way to satisfy their desires.  They live as if Christ didn’t matter and God doesn’t see.  They long for the experience of another type of teaching.  Just like the Hebrew people that were led out of the Egyptian captivity, they begin to pant after the meat of prosperity.  You see friends, in all three cases each group has turned to God and said, “Don’t give us want you say we need, but instead give us what we want!” 

II. And there is yet another type of person that listens to Jesus but doesn’t hear the message; it is the kind of person that looks to replace His ministry of grace and faith with a ministry of self righteousness.  These people actually think that they can earn God’s love and forgiveness, and a place in heaven.  Listen to their words in our gospel reading: “They said to (Jesus), “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” (vs. 28)  It’s as if they’re saying, “OK teacher, tells us what you say is the bottom line of your teaching.  What do we have to do to make God happy?  Tell us and we’ll do it!”  Do you know how St. Paul answered these holy rollers?  He said something like this: “OK let’s look at how God wants us to love Him and our neighbor, and treat each other.  Aside from living out your calling to love God with all of your heart and soul, He’s also called you to live a life of humility and gentleness, with patience, putting up with one another in love, and being eager to maintain the unity of peace with Him and each other.” (Paraphrase of Eph. 4:1-3).  So how do you think the people Jesus was addressing were doing in their attempts to fulfill God’s demand for perfection and holiness in their lives?  Well, never mind them, how are you doing with it?  Not too well huh?  But Jesus spoke the gospel to them then, and He speaks the good news also to us here tonight.  He says that there aren’t many works that “we” must do, but only one work that God must do so that we can please Him.  “This is the work of God” Jesus said, “that you believe in him whom He has sent.”  (vs. 29) 

Friends, the only work that is sure to please God the Father is to believe in and not reject the person and teaching of His Son.  You see, the Son is the only way that the Father has provided salvation for us.  He’s the only one who has come with the Father’s seal.  Believing in Jesus is the only work that assures you of eternal life … we must have faith in Him!  Now Jesus did call faith a work, but He doesn’t call it our work; you see, it is a work of God.  Sure, we are the ones doing the believing, but we believe because God is working within our hearts.  Yes, we are the ones who must trust Jesus, but it is God’s Spirit who first moves us to trust Him through the hearing of His Word.  So you see, faith is the opposite of all of the other works we can think of.  Faith receives from God and the other works only return to God what He first gives to us.   Friends, the truth is that if we don’t know and trust the Son we can never truly know and please the Father.  And a heart that is not trusting in Jesus is always saying… 

III. Prove it to me!  “What sign do you do, that we may see and believe you?  What work do you perform?  Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.” Oh how quickly they forget!  They forgot the miracle of the wonder bread because they wouldn’t receive the teaching that went with it.  You see, once their appetites were satisfied by the teacher, they no longer were impressed by His teaching.  But to these selfish hearts Jesus still reaches out with His grace; with His message of forgiveness and says: “Truly, truly I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread of heaven.  For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” (vs. 32-33)   Oh friends, do you understand the wonderful meaning of these words?  God isn’t giving us worldly bread that will only satisfy our hunger for a few hours, or for just a select group of people.  No He is giving you bread that will last forever and satisfy the whole world.  He is giving you Himself.  Then “Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”” (Vs. 35) 

CONCLUSION: Friends, do you want to prosper and experience God’s blessings?  Then come to the bread of life!  Do you want to know that you are accepted and loved by God?  Then come to Jesus!  Come to church each Sunday expecting to hear Jesus speak to you; come here on Friday nights expecting Him to teach you and change you.  Hear His message and hunger for the bread that He is giving to you.  It’s bread that you neither earned nor deserved.  It’s the gift of His Spirit, real food and real life.  It is His Word!  A Word that you get in every aspect of your worship here in His house! 

Dear friends, by faith we trust that the supply of His bread of life will continue to nourish and strengthen us.  And by faith we will continue to receive it and give Him thanks and praise.  Every time we gather dear friends, may we come hungry, with a holy appetite!  We ask this in Jesus name… AMEN!

Which Bread Do You Want?

Sunday, August 2nd, 2009

9th Sunday of Pentecost, August 2, 2009

Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA

Click here for audio of this message

 

Introduction: Everyone is impressed by miracles.  We love to hear about mysterious, unexplainable events that others have experience.  When we hear the stories, we wish that something like that would happen to us too!  And when we do experience something great and unexplainable in our lives we inevitably want more and we long to repeat the original experience.  This is how the crowd that followed Jesus from the other side of the Sea of Galilee must have felt.  They wanted more…more of His wonder bread!

 

I. We read in our gospel, “On the next day the crowd that remained on the other side of the sea saw that there had been only one boat there, and that Jesus had not entered the boat with his disciples, but that his disciples had gone away alone. (Jn.:22)  When the crowd saw that Jesus was not there, nor his disciples, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum, seeking Jesus.  When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” (24-25) Oh they were saying, “Bless us again Jesus!”  They knew there was something miraculous happening once again with Jesus.  “He didn’t take a boat to get here, and he couldn’t have walked around the shore or we would have spotted Him.  OK you wonderful miracle worker, how’d you get here?  Come on fess up.  You did something fantastic again didn’t you?  You’re the man Jesus!  As long as you keep making that wonder bread and amazing us with these unexplainable happenings, you are our lord and teacher!”

 

The people wanted things.  They wanted to be amazed.  They didn’t really need more bread; they simply wanted the experience of the bread.  Now last week you heard me declare to you that we should not look to politicians for a plan towards a better future or to a preacher for simple steps that we can follow so God will bless our lives make life more pleasant.  Today, we’ll expound on this.

 

In our Old Testament reading (Exodus 16) we see the very same kind of attitude from people who lived long before Israel was even a nation.  They too had an insatiable appetite for miracles.  God had brought them out of slavery in Egypt with one miracle after another.  He even parted the Red Sea so that they could escape the Egyptian Army.  God had proven time and time again that He would care for His children whom He had called out of darkness and into His light.  Did they trust Him?  Well only so long as the miracles continued.  When the daily supply of food was running low, instead of waiting on the Lord to provide, or even asking Him to provide, they began to grumble: “Oh that we would have died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate our fill of bread, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill us with hunger.”

 

To all of these people and to us today, Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw the sign, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.  Don’t work for food that perishes (for things), but (work) for the food that endures (and will give you) eternal life, which (I) the Son of Man will give to you. For on Him God the Father has set His seal.”  (There is no other way for you to obtain this true food of God except through me!) (Jn. 6:27)  Friends, in Jesus own Words, we hear Him explain exactly why the crowd followed Him; not because of His miracles and His teaching but because they wanted “things”!  They wanted Him to be a political savior, their messiah who would free them from the tyranny of the Roman Empire.  They wanted Him to provide them with the desires of their hearts and gratify all of their wants.  Even today, we see these people gathered in churches across our nation eagerly welcoming politicians to speak during worship, so that they can assure them that if they elect or reelect this person, they will have their needs met and they will have a bright future.  And right along with those eager to hear from politicians, are those who are just as eager to hear a gospel of prosperity from their preachers.  They do not want to hear God’s message of Law and Gospel; no these people are flocking to churches wanting to hear a message that will ensure them of an easy life here of earth.  And then there are those who gather where God’s Law and Gospel is correctly and boldly preached, but they find no meaning or comfort in His Word.  And when they leave worship and the company of other Christians they seek out a new message; a different way to satisfy their desires.  They live as if Christ didn’t matter and God doesn’t see.  They long for the experience of another type of teaching.  Just like the Hebrew people that were led out of the Egyptian captivity, they begin to pant after the meat of prosperity.  You see friends, in all three cases each group has turned to God and said, “Don’t give us want you say we need, but instead give us what we want!”

 

II. And there is yet another type of person that listens to Jesus but doesn’t hear the message; it is the kind of person that looks to replace His ministry of grace and faith with a ministry of self righteousness.  These people actually think that they can earn God’s love and forgiveness, and a place in heaven.  Listen to their words in our gospel reading: “They said to (Jesus), “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” (vs. 28)  It’s as if they’re saying, “OK teacher, tells us what you say is the bottom line of your teaching.  What do we have to do to make God happy?  Tell us and we’ll do it!”  In our Epistle lesson, St. Paul gives a pretty good list; as if he’s saying, “OK let’s look at how God wants us to love Him and our neighbor, and treat each other.  Aside from living out your calling to love God with all of your heart and soul, He’s also called you to live a life of humility and gentleness, with patience, putting up with one another in love, and being eager to maintain the unity of peace with Him and each other.” (Paraphrase of Eph. 4:1-3).  So how do you think the people Jesus was addressing were doing in their attempts to fulfill God’s demand for perfection and holiness in their lives?  Not too well huh?  But Jesus spoke the gospel to them then, and He speaks the good news also to us here this morning.  And it is this—there aren’t many works that “we” must do, but only one work that God must do so that we can please Him.  “This is the work of God” Jesus said, “that you believe in him whom He has sent.”  (vs. 29)

 

Friends, the only work that is sure to please God the Father is to believe in and not reject the person and teaching of His Son.  You see, the Son is the only way that the Father has provided salvation for us.  He’s the only one who has come with the Father’s seal.  Believing in Jesus is the only work that assures you of eternal life … we must have faith in Him!  Now Jesus did call faith a work, but He doesn’t call it our work; you see, it is a work of God.  Sure, we are the ones doing the believing, but we believe because God is working within our hearts.  Yes, we are the ones who must trust Jesus, but it is God’s Spirit who first moves us to trust Him through the hearing of His Word.  So you see, faith is the opposite of all of the other works we can think of.  Faith receives from God and the other works only return to God what He first gives to us.   Friends, the truth is that if we don’t know and trust the Son we can never truly know and please the Father.  And a heart that is not trusting in Jesus is always saying…

 

III. Prove it to me!  “What sign do you do, that we may see and believe you?  What work do you perform?  Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.” Oh how quickly they forget!  They forgot the miracle of the wonder bread because they wouldn’t receive the teaching that went with it.  You see, once their appetites were satisfied by the teacher, they no longer were impressed by His teaching.  But to these selfish hearts Jesus still reaches out with His grace; with His message of forgiveness and says: “Truly, truly I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread of heaven.  For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” (vs. 32-33)   Oh friends, do you understand the wonderful meaning of these words?  God isn’t giving us worldly bread that will only satisfy our hunger for a few hours, or for just a select group of people.  No He is giving you bread that will last forever and satisfy the whole world.  He is giving you Himself.  Then “Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”” (Vs. 35)

 

CONCLUSION: Friends, do you want to prosper and experience God’s blessings?  Then come to the bread of life!  Do you want to know that you are accepted and loved by God?  Then come to Jesus!  Come to church each Sunday expecting to hear Jesus speak to you, teach you and change you.  Hear His message and hunger for the bread that He is giving to you.  It’s bread that you neither earned nor deserved.  It’s the gift of His Spirit, real food and real life.  It is His Word!  A Word that you get in every aspect of your worship here in His house!

 

Next week we will hear more about this bread of life.  And will learn more about the faith that it creates and sustains within us.  But for today, we’re happy to just rejoice in the truth that Jesus has been feeding us since we began our worship.  In just a few short minutes we’ll move from the pulpit to His Holy Table where our feeding continues.  And there we’ll receive His body and blood in His holy meal.  And by faith we’ll be reassured that all of our sins have been forgiven.  By faith we trust that the supply of His bread of life will continue to nourish and strengthen us.  And by faith we receive and give Him thanks and praise.  Come to His table hungry dear friends, come hungry!  AMEN!

Don’t Be Afraid!

Sunday, July 26th, 2009

8th Sunday of Pentecost, July 26, 2009

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

 

INTRODUCTION: Do you ever feel like life is one big test, and you keep failing?  That must have been how the apostles felt after a couple of years with Jesus.  No matter how hard they tried to anticipate the right response to Jesus questions, statements, and actions, it must have seemed to them that they were continually missing the mark!  Why they simply had to remember back a couple weeks and they were confronted with memories and experiences that proved that true.  There was the time on the Sea of Galilee when Jesus was asleep on the boat.  When that terrible storm came upon them they panicked and woke up Jesus asking Him if He even cared that they were all about to die.  And what did Jesus do?  He stretched and commanded the sea to be still, and it did.  Oh yes, and He scolded them for their lack of faith!

 

Then there was the preaching tour that Jesus sent them out on.  “O.K.  This will be pretty simple” they must have thought.  “All we have to do is preach that people should turn from their sinful lives and we’re done!  We don’t know why He wants us to do that without Him, but will do it to please Him.  After all, He’s the Master!”  And what happened while they were out?  Was it that simple?  No. In fact, God moved in a mighty way.  They were amazed, even dumfounded when people were healed by the droves and multiple demons were cast back into the pits of hell!  Who could have figured that one out?!

 

Oh yes, then there was their logical demand that Jesus send the thousands of people away from the deserted place so they could buy food.  No, that was wrong too!  He fed the masses Himself with just a few loaves and a couple of fish.  And now, in our gospel reading this morning we read of yet one more failure on the part of the apostles.

 

Jesus had sent them out onto the Sea of Galilee once again, but this time without Him.  Back to the same body of water that almost claimed their lives.  “Why?” they must have thought, “Doesn’t He know this is storm season?”  But off they went, and sure enough, just as they got about midway across the sea (about three miles), another nasty storm broke out.  They fought the waves for hours and they seemed to be frozen in the same spot; not able to go forward or even back to Jesus.  Here we go again!  Why does He keep letting us get into these situations?

 

Does any of this sound familiar?  Have you been there before?  If you have lived any amount of time then you know exactly how the apostles felt.  We’ve got trouble all around us, and the cause of all these troubles is sin!

 

I. Sin?  Yes friends, one way or another all of our troubles are related to our sin or someone else’s!  Illness, disease, premature death, and the weakness and chronic pain of old age are all signs that God’s perfect creation is broken because of sin.  Broken relationships, hunger, crime, tragic accidents, and heart aches of every kind are here slapping us in the face each day because of our own sinful choices or someone else’s.  Oh we try to protect ourselves the best we can, but no matter how hard we try avoid pain and tragedy, it seems to find us!

 

Friends, no matter what a politician or preacher tells you, life won’t get any better by following their plan for the future or a few simple biblical rules…it won’t!  Why?  Because this is a broken and sinful world.  Jesus Himself said that “In (this) world you will have troubles.”  But He also said that we should “take heart” because He has overcome the world. [Jn. 16:33]  He said that He came so that you may have life and have it abundantly! [Jn. 10:10]  But how?  How can this be true when we are smack dab in the middle of a crisis?  How can we feel God’s goodness and love when we are out in the middle of an angry sea amidst a storm?

 

Friends, this is the question of a hard heart; this is the question of a sinful heart;  this is the question of our hearts.  Our hearts forget that the one we call master and Savior is also the creator of the world.  He is the one who see’s all things.  Remember the 12 apostles out on the boat on that stormy sea?  It was 3:00 in the morning and its pitch black out.  The winds are howling, the rain is coming down in sheets, and Jesus sees their trouble.  He sees that they’re trapped and in danger so He goes out to them.  Jesus saw what was impossible to see because He’s God!  Jesus did what no one else could do, He not only calmed the sea, but He walked on water to get to them.  And when He got to them, He didn’t jump right in and make everything better; no, but what did He do?  He veered slightly away from them.  Why?  Doesn’t He care?  Sure He does, but may I suggest to you that He wanted them to call out to Him; He wanted them to invite Him into the boat, into their dilemma.  And did they do that?  No, instead they let their sinful superstitions grounded in fear take over.  “Ahhh!  It’s a ghost!”  Did Jesus walk away from them in disgust for their lack of faith?  No.  Instead He said, “Take heart; it’s me.  Don’t be afraid.”  In the boat He goes and before they can even ask Him about the walking on water thing, the storm died down, the sea became peaceful and as John’s gospel tells of the same account, they were immediately docked on shore!

 

II. Friends, many times we find the truth hiding in plain sight.  God’s grace and His comforting presence in our lives are always there but we find ourselves living as if it isn’t.  Like the apostles we too can think back on the many hard and even tragic times in our lives and see that somehow things turned out O.K.  We made it through even stronger perhaps then when we went in.  We chalk it up to luck, the help of a friend or family or even our own resourcefulness, completely dismissing the presence of Jesus.  We do this because of our sin; we do this because of our hard hearts.  But God will not let this type of hard heart remain with us; He can’t because you see, He has claimed you as His own just as He claimed His disciples of old.  In your baptism, you’ve been allowed to see that which is hiding in plain sight.  Through your baptism, God has shown you what the 12 apostles in the boat would have to wait and see…Jesus Christ the Savior of the world who was crucified and resurrected for you!  Through your baptism God has put to death the old sinful you; you know that person don’t you?  It’s the one who has a hard heart and can’t seem to accept the truth of God’s divine presence for every moment of your life.  It’s the old you that tries to rationally explain away every mystery and miracle that is God.  But that isn’t the real you.  You see, that old person that you were has been put to death, drowned in the holy waters of your baptism.  Through simple water and God’s creative Word, you have been reborn in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  You have been born again as a person of faith…faith in the miraculous presence of Jesus Christ in every aspect of your life.

 

Through the Holy Spirit God is leading you to look back in your life and see that it was always Him protecting and guiding you.  It wasn’t the ghost of blind luck, rational thinking, government intervention, or your own resourcefulness; it was He who knew you in your mother’s womb.

ILLUS: There was once a boy who rode in an elevator for the first time with his father.  When he got home he was dying to tell his mother about the experience.  “Mom” he said excitedly.  “You should have seen it!  Dad took me into this little room and when he shut the door, he made the upstairs come down to me!”  Friends, God wants us to be that little boy.  He wants us to be amazed at His miraculous presence in our lives.  He wants us to know for certain that He has made the upstairs come down to us.  He has brought heaven and His love to us through His Son Jesus Christ.  He wants us to know that because He loves us and we love Him, all things, even the darkest storms of life will work together for our own good because He has called us according to His purpose!

 

Friends, life isn’t a test.  We don’t have to be afraid of getting it wrong, for you see through the presence of the Holy Spirit, Jesus is always right there beside you.  Through your baptism God has given you all that you need to experience His real presence in your lives.  Through your baptism you have been given His Holy Spirit to guide you through His Word.  Through the Holy Spirit you have been given the eyes of faith to see that which to others remains hidden in plain sight.  Through the gift of grace you have been brought into the body of Christ, His holy Church as a true son and daughter of God the Father.   

 

CONCLUSION: Dear friends, it is my practice each day, before I begin my work here at church, I come into this sanctuary and like St. Paul, I pray for you.  I pray that Christ’s presence in your life will grow stronger each day so that you too maybe rooted and grounded so firmly in His love that you will always know the immensity of that love; a love so vast that even the world’s most sophisticated computers can not measure it.  I also ask God to allow you to know even greater, the love of Christ and that you would hear His voice speaking to you in whatever life storms might come your way.  Listen friends, He is speaking to you and saying, “Take heart; it is I.  I am with you.  Do not be afraid.”

 

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within you, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever.  AMEN! [Eph. 3:20-21]

A Little Is a Lot!

Sunday, July 19th, 2009

7th Sunday of Pentecost, July 19, 2009

Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
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Today, our message comes to us from our Gospel lesson, with special attention on verse 34.  “When He went ashore He saw a great crowd, and He had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd.  And He began to teach them many things. (Mk. 6:34)

 

Introduction:  Our Gospel lesson this morning is an account of the only miracle that made it into all four of the gospels.  In Matthew, you will find it in the 14th chapter.  In John, it is located in the 6th Chapter, and in Luke it is in the 9th Chapter.  It was a time marked by great success; Jesus had just completed several days of teaching and healing and many of his disciple had just returned from their “two by two” evangelism mission, which Jesus had sent them on with instructions to preach repentance.  They were reporting to Jesus how God proved His faithfulness, by providing for all of their needs and even validating their message by healing the sick and casting out demons.  It was a wonderful time!  But it was also a time of emotional pain and disappointment; the kind that comes from devastating news.  Just as they were finishing up their reports, they were told that not far from them, King Herod had beheaded John the Baptist, a man that all of them including Jesus had grown to love and admire.  Now, as Jesus looked around at each face of his friends and students, he came to the conclusion that He and the twelve apostles needed time alone; they needed to get away from the crowds, in order to rest, reflect and learn.

 

So they left the crowds and headed to the opposite shore of Lake Galilee. St. John tells us that they had a little bit of  “alone time” with Jesus on the grassy slope of a large hillside, until Jesus looked off into the distance and pointed out a very large mass of people that were making their way towards their now, not so secret location; the crowd had found them again!  All day long Jesus stayed with the masses teaching them and curing their illnesses.  As their true “Good Shepherd” Jesus was tending to their spiritual and physical needs.  As the day was drawing to a close, and the disciples own stomachs began to grumble and growl with hunger they reminded Jesus of the hour (the dinner hour), and they began to plead with Him to send the people away, because they were hungry!  But Jesus answered them and said, “You give them something to eat.”  ‘What?  How!?  Even if we had that great amount of money, where would we find a place nearby that could even provide that amount of food?’  Where indeed!  There were about 5,000 men in that group, and that’s not even including the women and children that must have been with them.  The true size of the crowd was probably closer to about 11,000 people!  That’s enough to fill the San Diego Sports Arena!!  In my mind’s eye, I can see Jesus smiling and slowly looking around at the twelve stern and concerned faces, amazed at their lack of faith.

 

What a sad vignette.  It is the picture of a congregation of Christians that is tired, hungry and frustrated by a lack of resources.  But we can learn something from this story; something eternal and life changing; something that just might reinvigorate life in our own ministries here and within our communities.

 

In our Gospel reading, Jesus has just administered a “Pop Quiz” designed to help the apostles along with us learn two things:

1.      What the true quality of our faith in God is.  And…

2.      The fact that God wants us to experience His faithfulness.

Once we have learned these two lessons, we will then also discover these two truths:

1.      With God, a little is a lot.

2.      To Jesus, there’s no such thing as leftovers!

 

I. Like the apostle’s, we all have to discover what the quality of our own faith is-And Jesus used just one challenge to help the apostles discover the quality of theirs. Challenges are like riddles.  You know there is a way to solve it, you just have to figure out how!  Notice that Jesus didn’t ask, “Can you give them something to eat?” but instead he said, “You give them something to eat?” A response to this type of teaching requires a good deal of thought and even discussion on the students part and in regards to the teacher, He better know the correct answer to the riddle before he issues the challenge!

 Now it is easy for us modern day Christians to be judgmental of the apostles.  After all, we have the luxury of looking backwards into time.  It’s easy for us to wonder why they so quickly forgot the Canaan wedding miracle where Jesus turned water into wine.  We could remind them of Jairus’ daughter and even the widow of Nain’s son who both were raised from the dead.  Certainly we would have faired better than they, with our advantageous perspective of time, or would we?

 

Well this morning, I would like to ask you a question, and I want you to think for a moment before answering it–What is our biggest problem, our own test facing the church today?  (Pause) Many might quickly answer that it is a lack of resources that is holding us back.  But I submit to you, that the biggest problem facing the church today is not a lack of resources, but rather it’s the same problem that the apostles had, a lack of faith.  To this lack of faith Jesus asks us to report what little we have on hand.  To the 12 Jesus asked, “How many loaves do you have?  Go and see.”  What did the apostles report to Jesus?  “We have 5 loaves and two fish.”  St. John’s gospel records that they finished their report with these words, “But what are they for so many?”   What’s the first question someone will ask when a necessary expense request is brought into almost any church council, “Where’s the money coming from?” But I submit to you that that’s the wrong question. The only question we should ask is: Is this God’s will for our church? And if it is His will, shouldn’t we trust Him to provide what is needed?  Like the apostles, our faith many times, even with the advantage of the perspective of time is still very small.  But what is it that Christ said? “…if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” And we would add, (if it is keeping with God’s will) [Matthew 17:20-21]  

 

What we must remember is that just as Jesus tested the faith of the apostles, He also tests our faith as well, by putting us in difficult situations with no easy answers. Why?  So that we can learn what the quality of our own faith is.  After asking and waiting so long, do you still trust Him to find you a job?  Do you trust Him to help repair a broken relationship?  Do you trust him to overcome your illness?  Do you trust Him to replace your depression with passion and joy?  Do you believe that He will bless and strengthen our church? It’s during times like these, when prayers seem to go unanswered, that we may become frustrated, just as the apostles were. However, frustration is never what God wants us to feel! The faithful disciple will trust that God has answered their prayer, but it can only be experienced in His time.  The apostles fell short because they allowed their faith to be weakened by their own limited resources instead of seeking God’s limitless resources. 

Both the apostles and even us today, seem to want God to work according to what we want instead of what God wants.  But in the midst of our worry and concern we sometimes hear the same words Jesus spoke to address His disciples concerns, “Have the people sit down.”   I wonder what the disciples were thinking after he said that!  “What is he doing?  Why is He having all these people sit down as if their going to dine on this little bit of food?  Is he going to make them watch us eat our dinner? The truth is, sometimes we need to just sit down, relax, pray and wait on the Lord.  Sometimes we must just learn to be willing to set aside our worries and concerns and simply wait for the Lord.  And so they waited, they listened, they watched and then they learned and remembered that…

 

II. God wants to bless us by experiencing His faithfulness! Our Lord once said that “What is impossible with people is in fact possible with God.”  (Luke 18:27)  And now the God-man Jesus Christ demonstrates that truth by taking a few loaves and 2 fish and miraculously making it fill the bellies of over 11,000 people!  Only one person could do that … the sinless Son of God; the one who also followed His humiliating suffering and death with His exalting and miraculous resurrection from the dead to gain forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life for all of us; even for you!  Those who witnessed and personally benefited from Immanuel’s feeding miracle, and we along with them who have believed by faith and benefited from His miraculous resurrection, joyfully realize and gratefully admit that all things do in deed work together for the good of God’s children and His church, only because we are called according to His purpose! (Romans 8:28)  And what is that purpose?  Well, the other three Gospels augment verse 11 by stating that Jesus had the apostles acting as waiters, by bringing food out to the people in baskets, all 11,000 of them.  They were tired and they were hungry, but here they were in total amazement and invigorated with a new vitality as they partook in a miracle and served Jesus by serving the people who didn’t know Jesus!  Dear friends, God’s desire, His central concern after our own salvation is that as Christ’s disciples, you and me, should be continually working with Jesus to seek out and save the lost! 

 

CONCLUSION:  As I stated earlier, this message now leaves us with two eternal truths and they are: First, with Jesus, a little is a lot.  The disciples’ reluctance to wait on Jesus to attend to the crowds was not really based on their concern for the people, but rather on their own tired bodies and empty stomachs.  While they knew the people must be fed, they could not see how what little they had could be used for that.  So they quit; they gave up and asked the Lord to bless their failure.  But Jesus wanted to do so much more with them, and He wants to do so much more with us!  If we will only trust in His promise to provide for our every need, then we will discover as the apostles did that day Jesus will provide all that we need as we follow Him.  And finally, I promised you a second truth, and it is this, there are no leftovers with Jesus!  Have you ever wondered why Jesus had the disciples gather up all of the remaining loaves and fish with 12 baskets?    May I suggest that it’s because those little baskets were intended by Jesus to be their lunch boxes, which Jesus Himself ensured were filled so that they could in-turn, each eat and be filled.  Friends, Jesus was faithful to provide for them, but He did it after they served their community; but what about Jesus?  Wasn’t He hungry as well?  Well sure He was, but may I also suggest that Jesus expected the Twelve to share their abundance with him?  Maybe 10% from each apostle?  Wow what a concept!  Friends, Jesus still pours his abundance out to us today, and He expects us to remember him in our giving to the needy, to the support of the church and with our service to our community.  May God help us to remember these lessons and believe in His miraculous real presence that is with us today!  In Jesus name….AMEN!