Posts Tagged ‘missions’

The Mystery of the Holy Trinity

Sunday, June 11th, 2017

Holy Trinity Sunday, June 11, 2017
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor of
Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA

http://www.tlcsd.org and
Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
http://www.ORLCSD.org


Click here for audio of this message

“Whoever desires to be saved must above all, hold the “universal” Christian faith.  And the “universal” Christian faith is this, that we worship one God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity, neither confusing the persons nor dividing the substance.” [vs. 1-3 of the Athanasian Creed]

God is one.  There is only one God.  The one God has always existed from eternity as one God—and He always will!  God alone is eternal.  And to this, your Muslim, Mormon, and Jehovah Witness neighbors would say a loud AMEN!

Does it surprise you to know that the folks from these other religions will appeal to this very truth and then attempt to draw you away from your Christian faith? 

You see, in addition to confessing that God is one, our neighbors from these other religions also know that we Christians similarly confess something that they can’t agree with; we confess that God is love, in fact we say that love is the very essence of God.  Now your neighbors from these other religions will never deny that God loves but they will deny that this love is the essence of God.  Why is that?

Because, they will claim that if God can’t be God unless He loves someone, then God can’t be God without someone to love.  So how can an eternal-almighty God be dependent upon His creation in order for Him to be God?  They will tell you that although God does love, love can’t be God’s essence, because He is dependent on no one.  But this kind of faulty thinking about the One True God isn’t any better than the beliefs that come from people who worship many gods.  You see, there’s no difference between having one idol and half a dozen idols.  Idols are idols.  The god of these other religions is an idol.  The true God is one, but the mere acknowledgement of this fact doesn’t mean a person is worshiping the One true God.  You see, the One true God is also united within Trinity.  The only God who exists is the Triune God.  And any god who isn’t triune is not God because a god who is not triune cannot be love, and God is love.

Dear friends, please do not ever let any devil lead you away from this truth because it is crucial to your very salvation.  If God wasn’t love then he would not have suffered and died upon the cross for you!

The love of God is not an attribute that makes Him dependent on us. 

It is the eternally defining attribute of God that defines His very essence as God in regards to His relationship shared between the three persons within the One Godhead.  When we say God is love we are also saying that God could not be love unless He was Triune.  You see, there’s an eternal unity of love between the Father who begets and sends His unique Son who is begotten.  This eternal unity of divine love exists as well between the Father and the Son, and the Holy Spirit who is sent from both of them. But as I said in the children’s message, this is far too high for us to grasp.  You see, how God relates within Himself is far too much for us to comprehend.  After all, He is the Creator and we are the creature!

While completely understanding God is far above us, we can know about Him by paying attention to what He has already revealed about Himself.  We know from scripture that the Father has begotten His unique Son on many occasions.  It was the Son and two angels who visited Abraham outside of Sodom and Gomorra to warn Abraham of the pending destruction of the two cities, so that His nephew Lot might be saved.  It was the God the Son begotten by the Father who took on the form of a burning bush so that Moses might behold some of the Lord’s glory and receive God’s Law that would teach Israel and the people of faith how to relate rightly to a Holy and loving God.  There are many more instances throughout scripture that demonstrate that God the Father begets or sends the One of a kind Son in order to accomplish the purpose of God, but for us, the best example is found in the Gospel of John: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” [John 1:14]

Do you hear in those words how the Son is now forever begotten in human flesh yet He still possesses eternal glory, grace and truth.  Do you understand how together the Father and the Son send the Holy Spirit?  It was God the Spirit who was hovering over the face of the waters in the very beginning of creation. He was sent by the Father and the Son, and together they created the heavens and the earth; He was sent by these Words: “”Let there be light,” and there was light.  And God saw that the light was good. [Genesis 1:1-4]  Like a marvelous symphony God’s Word’s of Love spoke forth creation and goodness.  It was an eternal love generated and sent from the heart of the One true God who has always revealed Himself in three persons.

But we must always remember that we can’t divide the person’s from the One True God or else we will lose His essence, which is love.  What do I mean by this? Well you see…

While it is the Father who begets His unique Son on Mission, and it is the unique Son who is begotten but not created, and it is the Holy Spirit who is sent together by the Father and the Son, there are not three God’s but One.

As One, the three persons in the God-head created everything together; together with one mind and one heart of love.  The divine mystery of God’s triune nature is this: As One they have always existed and since God does not change they will always be One in glory and majesty.  There is only One Uncreated, Eternal, and Almighty God.  When we pray to our Lord in heaven we don’t pray to three Lords, but rather we pray to one Lord because the Father is Lord, the Son is Lord, and the Holy Spirit is Lord.  Three persons united eternally in One essence of love, which is God!

After all of this, I think that we all now agree that God’s ways are far above our ability to understand, so why am I talking about an eternal relationship of love into which you and I could never find our way?  Because…

God has created a way; He has brought His love to us!  In so doing He has established fellowship with us.  But in order to enjoy all of the benefits of this relationship (eternal grace, mercy, and peace with God and each other), we must also faithfully believe that God the Son was begotten, that is He alone, took on our human flesh.  He did this not because He needed to, but rather He did it because He is God, a God Who loves.  We will understand this truth if we can see how badly we need God’s love. You see…

We are the ones in need! 

We need God to come to us.  Although God’s voice declared all that He had made was good, it was our own sinfulness that has forever turned good into evil.  Think now, in the privacy of your own hearts, who among us has not thought or done evil already this morning?!  Isn’t it true that without help we could never stand before a perfect and righteous God!  There is not a single thing that we can do to save ourselves…we need God’s mercy, pardon, and forgiveness.  And yet the punishment for sin is death, and that is precisely what it will take to pay for our sinfulness.  But as a true champion, our Redeemer God came to us begotten in our own flesh, and He paid for our sins Himself.  The entire God came to us.  Our creator wrapped Himself in creation, because only He could change our hopeless situation.

Listen to how God’s Word proclaims this mystery of His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ: “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.” [Colossians 1:15-20]

So why do I say that in Christ all of God came to us?  Because if you remember, we can never divide the essence of God; God always acts as one because He is one!  Now I know that once again, this is far above any of us to understand, but we must believe this truth because it is how God has revealed Himself.  Let me offer a crude representation that Martin Luther once referenced, and see if it might make this a bit easier to receive:
Before a wedding, there were three women in the dressing room putting a dress on the bride, who was one of the three and she participated as well with putting on the dress. We could say that all three were dressing her; and yet only one is being put in the dress. In a similar way, we see that all three Persons, as one God, created the one humanity, clothed the Son in this unique, one of a kind existence, and united it with His person, so that only the Son became man, and not the Father or the Holy Spirit, yet because God is One and not three, the Son who from the time of His birth as Jesus would now eternally be fully God and fully man.

Friends, it was this same Jesus who lived the sinless life on our behalf.  It was this same Jesus who allowed Himself to be put to death by sinful men.  He did not have to do this but rather He chose to suffer and die for us, because God is love.  Please hear me, “This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men,(because it was your sins that compelled God out of love to suffer and die for you.  But be of good cheer), God (has) raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.” [Acts 2:23-24]  By His stripes you have been healed.  By His suffering and death you have been released from the eternal punishment for your many sins!  By God’s love you have been saved!

At your baptism God’s work of re-creation was activated for you. 

There at the font, all of the benefits of Christ’s suffering and death were given to you.  The old sinful man or woman that was your identity at birth has now been put to death through His same Word of creation that was spoken “In The Beginning”.

This re-creation of life from death is now yours because of God’s own suffering and death through Christ Jesus!  Dear friends, do you see what a wonderful gift of love is now yours?  You have been freed from your former body of death and you have been given a new life.  Embrace and cherish this gift.  Live out this new life with certainty that it is yours!

As wonderful as this new life is and as sinful and undeserving as we may be, we must not doubt that this gift is ours, because it was given out of God’s love.  And yet when the troubles of life creep in, we do doubt, we can lose hope, and that is why Jesus hasn’t left us alone in life as orphans.  He promises that He and the Father are still with us in love, because He has sent us the gift of the Holy Spirit, and where the Holy Spirit is, there also are the Father and the Son, because God is One!

It is the Holy Spirit who moves our hearts to hunger for hearing and studying God’s Word.  It is the Holy Spirit that causes us to remember God’s saving love when we remember our own baptism.  It is the Holy Spirit that creates a hunger within us to gather at the Lord’s Table where we receive His very body and blood when we eat and drink for the forgiveness of sins.  It is the Holy Spirit that creates in us a clean heart, which in turn moves us to come to God in prayer, asking first for forgiveness and then for all the desires of our heart, with the assurance that God hears us and answers us according to His will.

Dear friends, the Holy Spirit is united for eternity with the Father and the Son, and together they lead us by faith so that they may strengthen and grow God’s Church.  The Holy Spirit, sent by the Father and the Son propels all believers out into our community, armed with His Word and Sacraments, personal witness and Christian living in order “to convince the world concerning sin and righteousness.”
So Jesus says to yo this morning…

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I Jesus your Lord have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” [Matthew 28:19, 20]

Next Sunday we will look at this Great Commission of Jesus a little closer, and the why and how behind it, as He sends each of us out into the mission field. But until then, let us pray to the Lord of the harvest for love, peace, and wisdom.

Let us pray: “O Lord, teach us to love our neighbor as you love us, and lead on O Lord; make us one in missionary zeal as you are One—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”  In Jesus name…AMEN!

With Jesus, A Little Is a Lot!

Sunday, July 10th, 2016

Eighth Sunday After Trinity-HL, July 10th, 2016
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor
Trinity Lutheran Church, and
Our Redeemer Lutheran Church
http://www.tlcsd.org
http://orlcsd.org

Click here for audio of this message

Our Gospel lesson this morning joins Jesus and His disciples after a successful missionary outing.  Each group was returning to Jesus with reports about how God had proven His faithfulness by providing for all of their needs, and even validating their message of forgiveness 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 they 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 was making its way towards their now, not so secret location; the crowd had found them again!

So for the rest of the day, Jesus stayed with the people teaching them and curing their illnesses.  As their true “Good Shepherd” Jesus was tending to their spiritual and physical needs.  And 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 huge amount of money, where would we find a place so close that could even provide that much food?’  Where indeed!  There were about 5,000 in that group, and that estimate included only the men in the crowd; when you include women and children, 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.  This is the picture of a congregation of Christians that’s tired, hungry and frustrated by a lack of members and 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 truth 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!

Like the apostle’s, we all must discover what the quality of our own faith is-and Jesus used just one challenge to help the apostles discover the quality of theirs.

A challenge is like a riddle; you know there’s 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 commanded them to do it by saying, “You give them something to eat.” A  response to this type of teaching requires a lot of thought and even discussion on the part of the students, and in regards to the teacher, He better know the correct answer to the riddle before he issues the challenge!

Now it’s 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 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 the biggest problem, our own test that’s facing our congregation today?”  (Pause) Many might quickly answer that it is a lack of resources or a lack of members that’s holding us back.  But I submit to you, that the biggest problem facing the church today is not a lack of resources or church members, but rather it’s the same problem that the apostles had, a lack of faith.  And…

To our lack of faith Jesus asks us to report what little we have on hand.

To the 12 apostles 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 and 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 in 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 or disease?  Do you trust Him to replace your depression with passion and joy?  Do you believe that He will bless and strengthen our church, which is His church? You see, 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 hear similar words that Jesus spoke to address His disciples concerns, “Have the people sit down.”   I wonder what the disciples were thinking after he said that!  I can hear it in my mind: “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 simply learn to be willing to set aside our worries and concerns and simply wait for Jesus.

And so they did just that, they waited, they listened, they watched and then they learned and remembered that…

God wants to bless us by allowing us to experience 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 Jesus’ 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.  The apostles 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 yet 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!

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 for 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, that Jesus will provide all that we need as we follow Him.

And finally, I promised you a second truth, and it’s 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, and this is only a guess, that it was 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 own personal service to our congregation and the community we are located in.  May God help us to remember these lessons and believe in the miraculous real presence of Jesus that is still with us and teaching us today!  I ask this in Jesus name, AMEN!

On Cleaving and Clinging

Sunday, November 15th, 2015

Pentecost 25B, November 15, 2015
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego, CA 92114
http://www.tlcsd.org

Click here for audio of this message

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” [Hebrews 10:24, 25]

Growing up as a Christian I heard a lot of talk and teaching about cleaving and clinging.  I was taught in Sunday school that I must cleave, or split away from the naughty way and always search out the good way.  I was taught that I must “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” [Matthew 7:13, 14]

Now, I was taught that this meant that I must leave my sinful life and cling to Jesus and the road to salvation.  The only problem with this teaching is that no one ever told me how to do this, and no one bothered to tell me that in Holy Baptism, I was already on the narrow road of salvation; Jesus had already found me and given me the new, forgiven life.

This morning, we will look at what means God uses to both keep us on that narrow way and help others to find it also, and then, we’ll learn to trust in Jesus alone.  And to do this, we will simply allow God’s Word to speak to us and teach us how He draws us to Himself, and then secures us in His love.  And then we will learn how God uses we, who are clinging to Jesus, to draw others who are still trapped within a life of guilt and separated from God’s love.

First, as a way of refreshing our memories, let’s define God’s love, or Agápē love. It is God’s own love for creation, for you and me; a love that is intelligent (He knows all of the facts about you and still loves you) and works to bring about new purpose and new life for you and within you.  It is God’s Agápē love that saw the world and all of mankind from the very beginning as sinful, defiled, and lost in darkness, and yet it was this Agápē love that moved God to act in such a way that His act of love would save every last sinful person who was willing to be saved.  To accomplish this mission of salvation centered in Agápē love, God the Father called upon His Son to make a way, a path, or a road back to Paradise.

God sent His Son Jesus to us as one of us, so that He could be our true High Priest. There were priests before Christ came to us, very many of them who were called upon to serve under the old covenant of the law; they were called to do a monotonous service, “offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.” [Hebrews 10:11] But God sent His Son and named Him Jesus (God saves).  The very name was to indicate the mission that this God-child, born of the Virgin Mary was sent on.  He would grow to become the God-man, the only One who could live a perfect life, and then out of love for sinners, by way of Pontius Pilate offer His life upon the cross in exchange, or as payment for our imperfections… for our hideous sins.

Prior to Christ our Great High Priest, the high priest of the old covenant was the only one who could pass through the curtain that separated sinners, all sinners, from the holy of holies, the Ark of the Covenant, and the Mercy Seat.  All of these were physical representations of a spiritual reality, and a real place and position, which was simply beyond the reach and beyond the comprehension of sinful mankind.

“But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God.” [Hebrews 10:12]  This single sacrifice is both the very definition of Agápē love and the source of our salvation and our own expression of God’s Agápē love.  Through the sacrifice of His body and the spilling of His blood, Christ has brought into completion both our rebirth and our perfection.  Through God’s Agápē love, Christ has paid for the sins of the world, but more importantly, His passion, His payment, included your sins.

“By a single offering He has perfected for (eternity) those (of us) who are being sanctified (that is perfected in His holiness.  And so that you will be convinced of this truth), the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us.” [Hebrews 10:14, 15]  Within His Word and throughout your life, as you cling to Jesus, the Living Word, God demonstrates that He has put His law on your heart and He has written His Word in your mind.  And then He says, through Christ your High Priest, “I will remember your sins and your lawless deeds no more.” [Hebrews 10:17]

Here is a truth worth remembering: God draws all sinners to Himself only through the Cross of Christ and His chosen means of grace.

It is through God’s means of grace where all of the Agápē love of the Father becomes yours personally, through the work and sacrifice of your Great High Priest Jesus Christ.  Through the blood of Christ, the entrance into the true Holy of Holies is open for you in connection with that blood, and it shall never be closed to you.  Jesus made a way, a very narrow way back to Paradise for all sinners.  It is narrow because it excludes all other ways.  It is a way, because you follow it every day; it is a living way, because the very veil that you must pass through is through Christ’s flesh.  The Son of God, Jesus Christ Himself is the living way, the truth, and the only source of eternal life.  In the old covenant or the old way, only the high priest himself could enter the holy of holies by way of the great veil or curtain, but this new way is for all of us; each of us are to use Jesus’ flesh as the great means of entry.

The crucified Christ is our entrance into both the holy of holies and the very mercy seat of God.  Jesus reminds us of this truth with these words, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” [John 14:6]  This morning Jesus holds out His hand to each of you and makes sure you understand all of this as He says, “My blood.  My body.  No other means.  I am the veil that separates sinful men from God the Father.  To get to the Father you must pass through me.”

So how may one enter through Christ our great veil and curtain?  We must continue to draw near to God “with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” [Hebrews 10:22]  Dear friends, we are drawn by God, that is we are pulled away from our sinful lives and into God’s Agápē love through the cross of Jesus Christ.  Through the suffering, death, and resurrection of our Great High Priest, His very body and blood are the only method of payment the Father will accept as atonement for our sins.  So, “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” (James 4:8)  But how are we to draw near to God?

We draw near to God with a clean heart; with a pure conscience.  How?  With our hearts sprinkled clean by the blood of Christ and our bodies washed clean with the pure water of Holy Baptism.  And what is it that makes the water pure?  Nothing but the life giving, life changing, Agápē making Word of God.  Through His means of grace, God gives us both rebirth and continual forgiveness of all sins.  And through these gifts we are given a new way to love God and each other; we are given Agápē love; the love of intellect and purpose.  A love that finds it’s definition in the cross of Christ; a love that compels us to bear our own cross of sacrifice and the giving of our selves to our neighbor.

“(So) Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” [Hebrews 10:23-25]

How do we continually leave our sinful past and cling to Christ? How can we receive the strength and ability to continually love God with all of our heart and mind, and love our neighbor as ourselves?

By holding fast to our confession of faith. By hearing the Word of God often and receiving the blessed assurance of complete forgiveness and the promise of eternal life.  By remembering our baptism and all that it represents.  By gathering each week to confess our sins together before God, and then quickly being assured that through Christ we are forgiven and loved.  By allowing God’s Word read, declared, and preached to sustain our faith and to increase within our hearts a hunger for a deeper relationship of Agápē love with our Heavenly Father.

And then, as faith and love lead us, we are to approach the mercy seat of God, take our place around this altar and receive the very body and blood that continues the Father’s work of Agápē love within us.

And now we must follow this work of Christ that God does within us to a new place.  There is no longer a need to continually focus on only our hearts when God has promised to do such a great work within them.  But now, God asks us to be concerned out of Agápē love, for the countless hearts around us; people lost in darkness and sin that God wants us to focus on.  But how?

By being a living representation of the very Agápē love that saved us; by encouraging “one another, and all the more as we see the Day (of judgment) drawing near.”

In these words, God is telling us that our time is both short and precious; He is inciting us, by the leading of His Spirit and the gift of Agápē love to cling to Christ alone, to come alive, and to help bring new birth and forgiveness to others.

Dear friends, our faith and God’s Agápē love that comes out of us are living, busy, active, and powerful things.  Martin Luther once said that faith and love do not ask “whether good works are to be done; but before the question is even asked, it has (already done) them and is always engaged in doing (those good works).” [C. Tr 941, 10]

Brothers and sisters, we need to meet weekly within this communion of saints,  because from within this very place, out of God’s Divine Service for us, we are continually filled with both faith and God’s Agápē Love, which then sends us out offering and performing good works for Christ’s church and our neighbor.

But because our human nature is constituted in such a way that we would rather be around and deal with those who are only good and perfect, and then neglect and ignore those who are imperfect and hard to love—because of this sinful tendency within us, we notice that those who are weaker cause those who are more perfect to be haughty, spiteful, judging, selfish and unloving while, on the other hand, those who are more perfect, more mature in their faith, cause those who are weaker to envy and be disrespectful.  This is why not only this epistle focuses in on our relationship with other saints, but indeed all of the epistles do the same as a way of warning and countering this evil, so that divisions and false teaching can not arise in Christ’s church.

So how can we avoid these terrible things and live our lives in a way that pleases our Great High Priest and Savior, Jesus Christ?  By leaving these things, confessing these things, and then by clinging to Christ alone; by turning to His cross and seeing atonement, and then turning to the Font and seeing new life.

When these things are active in our lives, it will be God’s Agápē love within us and around us that will bring peace and a strong witness to our community, the very people that need to know Jesus Christ unto eternal life.

This, therefore, is the Christian love that we cling to; it is the Agápē love that is shown to those who are contemptible and unworthy of love; this, Christian love that dwells within each of you, is the kindness that is given to those who are evil and ungrateful. For this is what God did for us; and we, too, are commanded to love as He loves.

Dear friends, broken people are messy, time consuming, and very hard to love; love them anyhow because God chose to love you!  AMEN!

This is Love!

Sunday, May 13th, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Baptized to be a blessing!

Sunday, May 6th, 2012

Easter Sunday 5B, May 6, 2012
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA

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The movie clip we just watched was from the animated Christmas movie, The Polar Express. In that scene, the train had just jumped off the tracks and ended up sliding across a frozen lake. With no track to guide it, the challenge for Tom Hanks’ character was to work with the engineer and get the engine and cars lined up at the point where the tracks reemerge from under the frozen lake on the other side.

As Christians, we have been put on God’s track; we call it our walk of faith.  We were first put on that track in our baptism, but our challenge is to stay on that track, as God guides us on our journey of faith. As we stay on that track, God promises to use us as a blessing to others; He does this as He gets them back on track just as He did for us.

In the beginning, each of us needed someone to guide us, and help us stay on track. In other words, we needed someone to help us understand God’s will as declared in Holy Scripture.  So, the very first thing God helped us with was our confession to Him that on our own, as little sinners, we were completely helpless unless God intervened.  As we matured in our faith, God continually enlightened our minds to receive and understand His Word, all so we could continually appreciate that we are forgiven; we are on the right track!  This principle becomes clear in our first reading this morning (Acts 8:26-40).

In verses 30-31, the Ethiopian is struggling to understand what He is reading in the book of Isaiah.  Now I think each of us can put ourselves in the Ethiopian’s shoes; who of us has not felt confused at times while reading our Bibles?  So it’s quite understandable that the Ethiopian could not understand what he was reading; no one can unless God allows it.  The Spirit must enlighten us through the Gospel; that is, we must be given faith!  You see, concerning salvation, the prophets who foretold the coming of God’s work of grace that was to be yours, searched and inquired carefully, wondering when Christ would come and suffer as God had predicted, and then be glorified as a result of that suffering. And they were shown by God that they weren’t just serving their own generation, but also every generation that came after them, including you!  They did this by proclaiming the gospel; a message of forgiveness, empowered by the Holy Spirit, as sent from heaven.  They knew that the things they wrote, which you hear proclaimed, were things that even the angels couldn’t truly understand. [1 Peter 1:10–12]  Why even the apostles didn’t understand until Jesus opened their minds (Luke 24:45).  The truth is, the natural mind, our sinful minds can never understand the things of God until He allows us to understand (1 Corinthians 2:14).

And that is precisely why the Holy Spirit sent Philip to the Ethiopian.  It was God’s desire that his mind would be opened through Philip’s preaching.  And how did God do this?  He gave the Ethiopian a new way to read scripture; He put Jesus Christ in the center of all of God’s Word (vv 31–33)!

This morning, we discover along with the Ethiopian that what Isaiah and all of the other prophets are writing, is a witness to us, about Jesus!  They are predicting the birth, life, death, and resurrection of our God who is with us, as one of us! Yet even the clearest truths about Jesus Christ in the Scriptures can only become evident through the work and guidance of the Holy Spirit.  This was true for the Ethiopian then and it is still true for us today!

The Spirit is still guiding the true Church’s proclamation about Jesus, Him crucified and resurrected; Him alone who has fulfilled each of the Old Testament Scriptures for us (vv 34–35)!

It was Jesus who must come to be the Suffering Servant in Isaiah’s prophecy who, even though He was deprived of justice, He was vindicated by God.  Listen: “Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter and like a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he opens not his mouth.   In his humiliation justice was denied him.

Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth.” What a vivid picture of the atoning work of Christ Jesus on the cross!  And  yet, as clear as this message about salvation through the work of Christ alone is, we ignorant sinners still fight to make salvation something we obtain through our own wisdom and effort!

But Isaiah’s own words declared long ago, make it clear to everyone, that salvation can come only through Jesus Christ, who willingly laid down his life for our salvation!  Without the work of God’s Spirit, we pitiful sinners could never receive this message!  And yet, you are here and you have heard!  You have heard and believed the message in the same way countless sinners have for thousands of years.  How?  By the same work the Spirit did long ago for the Ethiopian; God has sent you preachers, faithful pastors who have declared His Word in the power of the Holy Spirit!

And that same Spirit continues to send missionaries, evangelists, and pastors to bring light into hearts that have been held captive in the darkness of sin.  And when the message of forgiveness through Jesus Christ is not rejected, those same sinners discover God’s forgiving love; they discover that it’s true, God does not desire the death of the wicked, but instead, He desires that all of us who have gone astray would repent, turn to Jesus and have everlasting life!  He did this great work for you, by giving you the gift of faith, which in turn has brought you back on track.  Your life on track with God began the same way it did for the Ethiopian; you were baptized and filled with God’s message of forgiveness through Jesus Christ!  And like the Ethiopian, God saw to it that you heard and believed in his Son, so that your sins would be forgiven.

Because God loves you, he sent the Spirit of his Son into your heart, and He is determined to keep you firm in the only faith that saves. Because God has made you his child, his Spirit continues to equip you as you live out your calling as a Christian.  And what is that calling?  Simply this, God wants you to remember that you have been baptized to be a blessing to others; you are a blessing to others when you share your faith with your neighbors.  You are blessing when you demonstrate the same love and forgiveness that you received from God!

Now, I know, this is where many of us can get a little nervous.  You might be thinking that it all sounds so good now, in church while pastor is explaining it, but when you’re on your own, who’s gonna guide you and help you give a good witness about Jesus!

Well who guided Philip?  He was in the middle of the desert, and no help within miles; he was all alone, …but not really!  If it had not been for God’s Spirit, Philip wouldn’t have even found the Ethiopian, let alone been able to witness.  No, here God is reassuring each of us that all things, even distance, time, and fear, are under His control!  What we must remember is that God chooses who He will use to witness and He equips those He chooses.  We simply are to observe and respond when those “God” moments happen in our lives.  All we are asked to do is to honor Jesus as our Lord and Savior within our hearts, and always be prepared to give an explanation to anyone who asks us for the reason we have hope.  And when we give our witness to Jesus, through the work of the Spirit, we will do it with gentleness and respect.

Oh, and here’s another thing that we’ve learned about witnessing this morning; as Philip was led away from the safety of people that he knew and was comfortable with, in order to witness to a foreigner (v 27), so too God may be asking you to willingly step out of your comfort zone and get to know people you wouldn’t normally associate with.  But why?  So that you can be blessed with the knowledge that God really can use you; knowing that others are blessed as God uses you!

What is important for us to remember is this.  God doesn’t need us to help Him reach people lost in sin any more than He needed Philip to help!  If God wanted to, He could have used the same angel that spoke to Philip to bring the gospel to the Ethiopian.  But God chose to bless Philip by speaking through Philip, so that both Philip and the Ethiopian would be blessed together!

So remember, whether you are at work, at school, in the market, away on a trip, or at home in your community, God choses to bless you by using you.  Whether you respond or not has no bearing on the good news; it doesn’t change the fact that Jesus died for you and washed you clean by giving you new life in your baptism!  No, instead, God’s invitation to be His witness is an invitation to receive His blessings by being a blessing to others!

The Ethiopian may have thought at first that it was pure coincidence that Philip was traveling the same road that he was on.  But God wanted him to know the truth about Jesus, and so He brought the two of them together to achieve his glorious purpose. That same Spirit is working in you and among us; He is working through your life’s events to keep you on track and to help others get on the same track; the way to eternal life, through Jesus Christ! As he has guided you so far, let him continue to guide you to grow in faith and use the opportunities He creates to witness about Jesus.  I pray that we will do this as one in Jesus Christ… AMEN!

Kingdom Building Through God’s Word!

Saturday, October 1st, 2011

Friday Night Gospel Celebration, September 30, 2011
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 exactly where we are!  I’ll get us there; don’t worry!”  She was greatly relieved when I finally broke down and bought a Garmin Street Navigator.  The truth is, each of us can and do become lost.  We can get lost in a world that hates our faith in Jesus Christ and our love for God’s Word.

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 destroy his 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 a chore that everyone hated and avoided; so with much distress he began the awful task. As he cleaned out the 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 work 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!  So 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 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 others 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 of forgiveness and love with whoever you meet on the gospel path.  The kingdom of God is built one forgiven 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!

What Our Soul Sings

Sunday, June 19th, 2011

Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church-San Diego
Pentecost A, June 19, 2011
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Let us begin this and all things, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit!  “Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee, how great Thou art!  How great Thou art!”  What wonderful words we just finished singing!  It is the very song of our souls, but not because we chose to sing these words, but because we must.  It’s the song that our new “baptismal nature” was created to sing; it’s a song that only a Christian can sing.  It’s the song of our soul!  But it wasn’t always that way.  You see, there’s another song we can easily get caught up in; it’s a song of a sinful nature that sings about itself; “Then sings my soul, I live to satisfy me; how great I am!  How great I am!”

Without the work of God we would be lost in that sinful song that celebrates the desires and accomplishments of self; we would be caught up in the pursuit of knowledge and accomplishments simply to satisfy our own pride and desire to grow greater and stronger!  So, you could say that there is a battle going on within our own souls over which song will be sung loudest and longest.  But that’s why you are here today; you’ve come here to feed your new nature; a nature that was raised in baptism after your old nature was put to death.  It’s why you gather to hear God’s Word proclaimed, remember the gift He gave you in your baptism, and be feed His Holy Supper of forgiveness.  We need these gifts of God because they are the very things that protect and strengthen our new nature.  But this struggle of putting to death one nature and raising up and strengthening another was not always our condition.

In our Old Testament lesson we are reminded that there was a time that we were created in the image of God; after His own likeness.  What must that have been like?  Well let’s look at those Words and see!  “Then God said, “Let “US” make man in OUR image, after OUR likeness.””

What we learn from those Words is that God speaks to Himself; not in the way you and I might do, as we are trying to think through a problem; and He isn’t speaking to an audience, because remember as of yet, there was no human kind to speak to.  No God is speaking in a plural tense because God is one being, One God, but three persons.  And here is something else to remember, the very fact that He speaks to Himself amongst the three persons proves that these persons are real within the being of the One True God, and that they are relational.  They relate to one another in truth, power, and love, equally and without division!  They rule all of creation as one God, with one heart and one mind!  But there’s more to learn, because God continues speaking in our Old Testament Lesson; He speaks His intention.  Listen: “And let (the men) have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” [Gen. 1:26]

After God created all things and saw that they were good, He blessed man and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion!”  And for a short while, God our creator walked with man in the cool of the day.  We spoke with our creator as a friend, no more than that, we spoke with Him in love, because we were created to be in a relationship of love and truth with Him, just as His one being of Almighty God relates within the Godhead of three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit!  But something happened; something that certainly was not a shock or surprise to God, but it was to the first men, Adam and Eve; sin happened and it happened quickly with immediate and devastating consequences.  Adam and Eve chose knowledge that God forbid them.  They chose knowledge over an eternal relationship of love and trust with their creator.  And because of that decision, gone forever was the image of God within the only creature that was created to be like God!  And now, forever the song of the souls of all sinful men and women would be about regaining that lost image of God; we can’t help but sing about our former greatness because it exists within our hearts like a giant whole; it’s a void and a vacuum that was once filled by God Himself!

So we try to fill that whole with everything within this created world.  We try to recreate our relationship of intimacy, love and truth with other people, and they fail us.  We try use mind altering substances that lie to our psyches, but those leave us worse than we were without them.  We search and search for meaning within us and our sinful world, but nothing fills the void!  But then we hear the powerful Words of Peter’s sermon in our second reading (Acts 2:14a-22-36) and we see that God has created a way back to a relationship of love and trust with Him; a way that is outside of ourselves.  Listen: “I saw the Lord always before me, for He is at my right hand that I may not be shaken; therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; my flesh also will dwell in hope.  For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One see corruption.  You have made known to me the paths of life; your will make me full of gladness with your presence.” [vs. 25-28]

In these blessed Words of scripture, we discover that God has not left us alone; He still wants to relate to us as He relates within Himself.  He still desires a relationship of love and trust with us.  He has never left us and He will not abandon us; even the death of our sinful flesh can’t separate us from His love.  But how; how is this to be?  Well, in order to answer this question, we must first understand that while this prophecy speaks to sinful men it is ultimately about God Himself; specifically it is about the Son of God, Jesus Christ who took on our own flesh to be our champion, redeemer and savior.  It is about a God who came to us and took our sins upon Himself so that He could pay the penalty for our sins; so that we will no longer be separated from a God of love and truth; so that the giant whole in our souls can be filled with what they were created to filled with, the presence of God!

This then is God’s way of recovering a relationship of love and trust that both of us lost.  Through His Son, Jesus Christ God entered into our reality and made all things new for all who will receive and believe in His Work.  But believing is impossible for a soul that simply wants to sing about its own greatness.  It’s impossible to believe in a God who we cannot see or walk with in the cool of the day.  It’s impossible unless God makes a way to believe.  And make a way He does.  How does He make this believing possible?  He does it by the power of the Holy Spirit and the means that the Father of all creation choses.  He does it with His Word and Sacraments!

In these means of Word and Sacrament, God the Father brings to us a message from His very heart, the heart of one God in three persons.  The message is the gospel; a gospel that promises you that “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.”  This message is given by the Father and it is about what His Son did to save you and the world, and it is empowered by His Holy Spirit who opens the eyes of your heart with faith so that you will believe that through His Son He has won you back and brought you once again into a relationship of love and trust.  Through His means of grace, God is daily proving to you the truthfulness of this message, as you continue to hear it, trust it, and seek to know His will!

And now, because you are using these means that God chooses, He is beginning to change you.  Your old identity that seeks to find its own satisfaction and fulfillment is being put to death just as God the Son died for you.  And in its place, God has raised up and is growing your new nature, your baptismal nature that seeks to know more love and truth from its creator; a nature that seeks to gain honor for God and not for itself.  It is this nature alone that believes that all truth originates from God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; one being, One God but three persons!  And as this new nature grows stronger you begin to become humble like the Son of God.  You begin to live to do the will of the Father.  As your new nature grows, you begin to become more like the Holy Spirit, working to honor the Father by pointing to the work and presence of God the Son, Jesus Christ!  But to whom are you pointing out Christ to?  To those who have not yet returned to their Creator God!  You are pointing to those who still have not been recreated!

In our gospel lesson (Matt. 28:16-20) Jesus gave a mandate and the means for each of us to be missionaries.  Each of us are simply to go out into our lives to whoever we encounter and share God’s desire to have them return to Him by faith, through the completed work of Jesus Christ!  Someone once asked me if Jesus is my personal Savior, and the answer I gave him confused him.  I said, “No, I like to share Him!”  You see, God didn’t recreate us in baptism to be a private Christian.  We were created to have a relationship of love and truth with Him and to share that relationship with others.  “We are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, god’s own people, that we may declare the wonderful deeds of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light.” [1 Pet. 2:9]  In other words, we are members of the body of Jesus Christ, a body that is living, growing, fruitful and always following the model of the Holy Spirit, by pointing to Jesus Christ and proclaiming His work for us and for our neighbors.

Dear friends, as the body of the Son of God, Jesus Christ our blessed heart and head, we are sent out to be His witnesses throughout the world to all people, all ethnic groups, and in all times until He comes again!  We are to simply do what we have been created to do… we are to sing His praises to all who will hear.  And as we sing to Him in our own witness, the Holy Spirit uses God’s means of Word and Sacrament to convert them as well and turn their hearts and minds toward a Triune God who enables them and us together to do good works of love and continue to turn even more people lost in sin towards their loving God!  In this way, God puts us back on track; He returns us to our original mandate to be fruitful and have dominion over the earth.  What is that dominion?  Building the kingdom of God by letting God work through us!  Eden is restored; or relationship of trust and love with our creator is returned to us and we are asked to spread this very thing throughout the face of the earth!  “Then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee, how great Thou art!  How great Thou art!”   In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit… AMEN!

We are one as He is One!

Sunday, May 30th, 2010

Sunday, May 30, 2010
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
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“Whoever desires to be saved must above all, hold the “universal” Christian faith.  And the “universal” Christian faith is this, that we worship one God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity, neither confusing the persons nor dividing the substance.” [vs. 1-3 of the Athanasian Creed]

God is one.  There is only one God.  The one God has always existed from eternity as one God—and He always will!  God alone is eternal.  And to this, your Muslim neighbors would say a loud AMEN!  Does it surprise you to know that they will appeal to this very truth in an attempt to draw you away from your Christian faith?  You see, in addition to confessing that God is one, we Christians also confess that God is love, in fact we say that Love is the very essence of God.  Now your Muslim friends will never deny that God loves but they will deny that this love is the essence of God.  You see, they will claim that if God can’t be God unless He loves someone, then God can’t be God without someone to love.  So how can an eternal God be dependent upon His creation in order for Him to be God?  Muslims will tell you that although God does love, love can’t be God’s essence, because He is dependent on no one.  But this kind of thinking about God is a lie and it isn’t any better than the lies that come from people who worship many gods.  There’s no difference between having one idol and a half dozen.  Idols are idols.  The Moslem god is an idol.  The true God is one, but the mere acknowledgement of this fact doesn’t mean a person is worshiping the true God.  The one true God is also united within Trinity.  The only God who exists is the Triune God.  Any god who isn’t triune is not God because a god who is not triune cannot be love, and God is love.  Dear friends, please do not ever let any devil lead you away from this truth because it is crucial to your very salvation.  If God wasn’t love then he would not have suffered and died upon the cross for you!

The love of God is not an attribute that makes Him dependent on us.  It is the eternally defining attribute of God that defines His very essence as God in regards to His relationship shared between the three persons within the One Godhead.  When we say God is love we are also saying that God could not be love unless He was Triune.  You see, there’s an eternal unity of love between the Father who begets and generates the Son who is begotten.  This eternal unity of divine love exists as well between the Father and the Son, and the Holy Spirit who is sent from both of them.  But as I told the children, this is far too high for us to grasp.  You see, how God relates within Himself is far too much for us to comprehend.  After all, He is the Creator and we are the creature!

While completely understanding God is far above us, we can know about Him by paying attention to what He has already revealed about Himself.  We know from scripture that the Father has generated or begotten the Son on many occasions.  It was the Son and two angels who visited Abraham outside of Sodom and Gomorra to warn Abraham of the pending destruction of the two cities, so that His nephew Lot might be saved.  It was the God the Son generated by the Father who took on the form of a burning bush so that Moses might behold some of the Lord’s glory and receive God’s Law that would teach Israel and the people of faith how to relate rightly to a Holy and loving God.  There are many more instances throughout scripture that demonstrate that God the Father generates or begets the Son in order to accomplish the purpose of God, but for us, the best example is found in John 1:  “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” [John 1:14]

Do you hear in those words how the Son is now forever generated or begotten in human flesh yet He still possesses eternal glory, grace and truth.  Do you understand how together the Father and the Son send the Holy Spirit?  It was God the Spirit who was hovering over the face of the waters in the very beginning of creation. He was sent by the Father and the Son, and together they created the heavens and the earth-He was sent by these Words: “”Let there be light,” and there was light.  And God saw that the light was good. [Genesis 1:1-4]  Like a marvelous symphony God’s Word’s of Love spoke forth creation and goodness.  It was an eternal love generated and sent from the heart of the One true God who has always revealed Himself in three persons.  But we must always remember that we can’t divide the person’s from the One True God or else we will lose His essence, which is love.  What do I mean by this?

Well you see, while it is the Father who generates or begets, and it is the Son who is begotten but not made, and it is the Holy Spirit who is sent together by the Father and the Son, there are not three God’s but One. As One, the three persons created everything that is together.  The divine mystery of God’s triune nature is this: As One they have always existed and since God does not change they will always be One in glory and majesty.  There is only One Uncreated, Eternal, and Almighty God.  When we pray to our Lord in heaven we do not pray to three Lords, but rather we pray to one Lord because the Father is Lord, the Son is Lord, and the Holy Spirit is Lord.  Three persons united eternally in One essence of love, which is God! 

After all of this, I think that we all now agree that God’s ways are far above our ability to understand, so why am I talking about an eternal relationship of love into which you and I could never find our way?  

Because God has created a way-He has brought His love to us!  In so doing He has established fellowship with us.  But in order to enjoy all of the benefits of this relationship (eternal grace, mercy, and peace with God and each other), we must also faithfully believe that God the Son took on human flesh.  God did this not because He needed to, but rather He did it because He is love.  We are the ones in need!  We need God to come to us.  Although God’s voice declared all that He had made good, it was our own sinfulness that has forever turned good into evil.  Think now, in the privacy of your own hearts, who among us has not thought or done evil already this morning?!  Isn’t it true that without help we could never stand before a perfect and righteous God!  There is not a single thing that we can do to save ourselves…we need God’s mercy, pardon, and forgiveness.  And yet the punishment for sin is death, and that is precisely what it will take to pay for our sinfulness.  But as a true champion, our Redeemer God came to us in our own flesh and paid for our sins himself.  The entire God came to us.  Our creator wrapped Himself in creation, because only He could change our hopeless situation.  Why do I say the entire God came to us?  Because if you remember, we can never divide the essence of God; God always acts as one because He is one!  Now I know that once again, this is far above any of us to understand, but we must believe this truth because it is how God has revealed Himself.  Let me offer a crude representation that might make this a bit more intelligible:

Before a wedding, there were three women in the dressing room putting a dress on the bride, who was one of the three and she participated as well with putting on of the dress. We could say that all three were dressing her; and yet only one is being put in the dress. In a similar way, we see that all three Persons, as one God, created the one humanity, clothed the Son in this, and united it with His person, so that only the Son became man, and not the Father or the Holy Spirit, yet because God is One and not three, the Son who from the time of His birth as Jesus would now eternally be fully God and fully man. 

Friends, it was this same Jesus who lived the sinless life on our behalf.  It was this same Jesus who allowed Himself to be put to death by sinful men.  He did not have to do this but rather He chose to suffer and die for us, because God is love.  Please hear me, “This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men,(because it was your sins that compelled God out of love to suffer and die for you.  But be of good cheer), God (has) raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.” [Acts 2:23-24]  By His stripes you have been healed.  By His suffering and death you have been released from the eternal punishment for your many sins!  By God’s love you have been saved! 

At your baptism God’s work of re-creation was activated for you.  All of the benefits of His suffering and death were given to you.  The old sinful man and woman that was your identify at birth has now been put to death through His same Word of creation that was spoken “In The Beginning”. This re-creation of life from death is now yours because of God’s own suffering and death through Christ Jesus!  Dear friends, do you see what a wonderful gift of love is now yours?  You have been freed from your former body of death and you have been given a new life.  Embrace and cherish this gift.  Live out this new life with certainty that it is yours!  As wonderful as this new life is and as sinful and undeserving as we may be, we must not doubt that this gift is ours, because it was given out of God’s love.  And yet when the troubles of life creep in, we do doubt, we can lose hope, and that is why Jesus hasn’t left us alone in life as orphans.  He promises that He and the Father are still with us in love, because He has sent us the gift of the Holy Spirit, and where the Holy Spirit is, there also are the Father and the Son, because God is One! 

It is the Holy Spirit who moves our hearts to hunger for hearing and studying God’s Word.  It is the Holy Spirit that causes us to remember God’s saving love when we remember our own baptism.  It is the Holy Sprit that creates a hunger within us to gather at the Lord’s Table where we receive His very body and blood when we eat and drink for the forgiveness of sins.  It is the Holy Spirit that creates in us a clean heart, which in turn moves us to come to God in prayer, asking first for forgiveness and then for all the desires of our heart, with the assurance that God hears us and answers us according to His will.

Dear friends, because God is One and God is love, and because we are called into fellowship with Him by love, then we are also called into the fellowship of His Mission to seek and save those that are lost and dying, separated from His love because of sin.  This mission is from the Father, and the Son who is the very message of the mission. This message, which you have been given is nothing less than the good news about the incarnation, suffering and death of Jesus Christ for all sinful men, women, and children.  The message is that “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”  Since the source of mission is God the Father and the message of the mission is God the Son, then what of God the Holy Spirit?  Dear friends, the Holy Spirit is the very power of God’s mission.  MISSION IS HOLY SPIRIT POWERED!  What this means is that God’s mission can’t fail because He is the very source, message and power of that mission, but God always uses means to accomplish His mission.  He uses simple things to confound the supposed wisdom of the devil and sinful men.  God chooses to use you and me!

We are all called to be ambassadors of God’s love and we are to declare His message in our own words, but they are words that are centered in God’s love for us; they are centered in His Word, which is the very Word that has given us new life and sustained us while living out our lives in a sinful world!  And as we live out our lives gathered around God’s Word, the Holy Spirit is ever active within and around us, leading us out into our communities with the message of Jesus Christ.   

Dear friends, the Holy Spirit is united for eternity with the Father and the Son, and together They lead us by faith so that they may strengthen and grow God’s Church.  The Holy Spirit, sent by the Father and the Son propels all believers out into the mission field, our community, armed with His Word and Sacraments, personal witness and Christian living in order “to convince the world concerning sin and righteousness.”  And to this truth we answer, “Teach us to love our neighbor as you love us, and lead on O Lord, and let us be one in missionary zeal as you are One—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  In Jesus name…AMEN!

Ok… If you say so!

Sunday, February 7th, 2010

Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church-San Diego
Epiphany 5C, February 7, 2010
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Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” (Luke 5:10b) 

It’s been a long morning of hard work for Simon-Peter.  Fishing, fishing, and more fishing and not a single fish to show for his labor.  Peter is tired and he is discouraged!  He’s sitting at the edge of the lake cleaning his nets, hearing Jesus speak… hearing Him teach, but not really listening to the words.  He’s more concerned about how he’s going to care for his family.  Have you been there?  Do you know how Peter feels? 

The crowds are pressing in on Jesus to hear the word of God. They seem hungry to hear it, and all Peter can think of is how hungry his family will be if he can’t put food on the table!  As the crowd presses in on Jesus, they’re also moving Him to the water’s edge. What’s Jesus answer to this dilemma?  He calls for a pulpit and they bring him a boat, Simon Peter’s boat to be exact.  Peter must have thought, “Well at least it’s good for something!  It sure didn’t do me any good!”   Jesus climbs into the boat and begins to teach the people about God and His kingdom of grace. They are hanging on His every Word, because they are like sheep without a shepherd.  Within the voice of this shepherd, unlike false ones, they find an unexplainable sense of comfort and assurance within His words.

We don’t know what exactly what Jesus preached that day because it isn’t recorded for us.  Peter probably didn’t know either, because He was more interested in cleaning his nets and providing for his family.  But we do know that He was most certainly preaching faith into the hearts of those who were listening!  “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing the Word of God,” which is always centered in the message of Christ Jesus!   What is that message?  Repent!  Turn away from your sinful notions about God and His Kingdom of righteousness; hear the truth about your sinful nature, and then hear how the Father of mercy and love has solved that fatal problem, and hear how He gives you new life through the forgiveness of your many sins!

Now when Jesus had finished His sermon, knowing that those Word’s were bringing new life into the hearts of the people, He turned to the one man who needed to be listening, but wasn’t.  He turned to Simon-Peter and said, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”  And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” [Luke. 5:4-5]

Could you hear the frustration in Peter’s words?  “Put out?!  What do you think we’ve been doing all morning?  But, ok Lord… if you say so!  But I’m not happy with this!”  Some of us might find fault with Peter for throwing his little fit… I mean after all, this is the same Jesus who recently healed his mother-in-law from a life threatening illness!  “Come on man!” we might be thinking, “Where’s your appreciation?  Where’s your faith?”  But the proof of faith is in the fruit of service! Peter did as the living Word of God instructed, all be it reluctantly.  And in the end, he was blessed because of his obedience. 

Friends, attitude and obedience are not the same thing!  Attitudes change like the winds, or like the waves upon the waters that are being fished!  But obedience and trust in God’s Word are the very thing that controls the winds and the waters, even the fish beneath them.  

While Peter was busy tending to the worries of life, hundreds of people were blessed with faith unto salvation, which came to them through the living Word of God.  This was a Word that Peter had probably heard many times.  Maybe he felt that he could afford to do something else with his time… this time, but Jesus had other ideas.  Jesus wanted Peter to be blessed also.  So He calls and Peter responds!  Reluctant but obedient!  

Peter needed to hear the Word… we need to hear it!  But what is that word? 

It is the same message that the people on shore needed to hear… forgiveness!  What was Peter’s reaction to the miraculous catch of fish that he, John and James took in?  He was ashamed!  Ashamed that he neglected the Words of His Master!  Ashamed that His heart was not centered on the miraculous Words of Jesus.  And so we hear his confession, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” [vs.8]   

Dear friends, in this simple story we see the loving care that Jesus demonstrates for all God’s children, even the ones who aren’t listening or won’t listen!  Peter’s ears had checked out because his heart was consumed by other things.  But He needed to hear the Word; he needed to hear about God’s love, so Jesus engaged his eyes in order to open his heart!  And so it is with us! 

So many times we let the worries and cares, or maybe the fun and distractions of our lives drowned out God’s Word… His living presence in our lives.  And when we do this, we begin to lose perspective, God’s perspective; so He intervenes.  What is He trying to tell us?  That we need Him… we need His forgiveness… we need His Words of eternal life!  For in Him we live and breathe, and find our existence!  And when He gets our attention, like Peter, we are ashamed and full of remorse!  We confess to Him that we have lived our lives as if He did not matter.  And praise God for this confession friends, because it is the very thing that moves His to quickly speak His Words of love and forgiveness to us.  “Do not be afraid!  I have overcome sin, death and the devil!  You are saved from these things… you are forgiven.  But you are saved with a purpose!” 

And what’s that purpose?  To be obedient!  Jesus wants you to follow Him where ever He leads!  He wants you to take His Word with you in your heart wherever you go!  What Word is that?  The same Word you received in your baptism… the same Word you hear preached and read for yourself… the same Word you eat and drink; the Word of repentance and forgiveness!  Jesus wants you to bring Him and His message of eternal life to your neighbor… He wants you to be a fisher of men!  And unlike the fishing that takes place in rivers, lakes, and oceans, where being caught means death, He wants to help you catch your neighbor so that He can bring them life!  He wants you to catch people unto eternal life! 

Jesus asked Peter to leave everything and follow Him.  And for some, for pastors, chaplains, deaconesses and missionaries, that is still His call!  While that certain call is admirable, it is not the only call!  Jesus calls each of us in whatever position of life we find ourselves to be fishers of men!  You don’t need to take a course of evangelism or persuasive speech to fish these waters!  All you need is a call!  All you need is a Word from God!  And my friends, each of us has this call, and each of us has the message.  We are to speak the Words of life… we are to speak of repentance and forgiveness.  The same message that saved us is the very message that will save our neighbors! 

Dear friends, this story about Peter’s experience is recorded here for us, so that his experience will become ours; so that the same faith and energy that was created in Peter will be created in us.  God wants us like Peter to have a strong faith that will overcome the doubts of this world, and then He wants us to have the obedience to follow Jesus and see others caught by the very same message.  

As you live your life friends, be ready to allow God to speak to you and through you… be ready to let Him call you and lead you.  And when you have an opportunity to speak for Him, share His message with your neighbors.  The ones that God has prepared friends will listen and they will follow you, just as the crowds on the lake shore hung on every Word that Jesus spoke.  And where will you lead them?  To the very same place that God dutifully ministers to you… right here in this very church!  Here where the baptism font waits to destroy the power of sin, death, and the devil!  Here to hear the Words of eternal life proclaimed!  Here to feast at His table where forgiveness is served through His body and blood in, with, and under the bread and wine! 

Well, let me close with the remainder of our lesson this morning, and then offer a final thought:  After Jesus gave Peter his direction, and after Peter responded in obedience, the result was a catch of fish that was miraculous.  Seeing that this catch was far more than he could have imagined or handled alone, “(He) signaled to (his) partners in the other boat to come and help (him). And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink.” [vs. 7]  Dear friends, fishing for men is a team endeavor.  We need you if we are to fill this boat, Christ’s church, even this little boat we call Trinity.  That’s your calling; it’s the calling of each and every one of us!  And why should we fill this church?  So that the Word that is proclaimed may draw other “fishers of men” into the service of Christ, and so that the Kingdom may be expanded one forgiven sinner at a time! 

I pray for a blessed and fruitful catch, in Jesus name…. AMEN!