Posts Tagged ‘obedience’

Sunday, January 7th, 2018

Baptism of Our Lord B, January 7, 2017
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego, CA 92114

Romans 6:1-11 and Mark 1:4-11

Click here for audio of this message

“In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.” [Mark 1:9]

Every year the church celebrates the baptism of our Lord, and every year we answer a simple question: “Why was Jesus baptized?”  This year we will rephrase the question a little differently, “Why was Jesus baptized for you?”

Jesus entered the waters of the Jordan River to be washed.

That is what the word baptize literally means; it is a washing.  Whether you splash, sprinkle, or immerse, you are washing or baptizing.  So what kind of washing is baptism?  Well for each of us, baptism is a spiritual washing, where the old creature within us is drowned every day.  We learn from personal experience that we need to drown that old sinful nature every day, because, well it sins every day.  But there’s another part of living out our baptism, and that is turning to Jesus every day for forgiveness and renewal.  In this way of God, every day our new identity, a new person rises up to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.  Or as St. Paul puts it in our Epistle reading, “We were buried with Christ through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we, too, are to walk in a new life.” [Romans 6:4]

But what sins did Jesus need washed away?  None, He was, is, and always will be Holy, perfect, and righteous.  But in His baptism, He announced publicly, for the first time, that He who knew no sin, had come to become sin for us… for you!  So, in a sense, when He entered the waters of the Jordan he was clean, but when He left, He was drenched and soaked with not just your sins, but indeed the sins of the world. 

In exchange for your sins, Jesus would spend the next three years of His life obediently walking to the cross, where He would suffer and die.  On Good Friday, every one of your sins that He took upon Himself would be paid for with His very life.  Think about that, all of your sins have been locked within the only place that God refuses to see, the tomb of His beloved Son, Jesus Christ! 

But the tomb isn’t where Jesus work for you ends, no it ends in His resurrection!  In His resurrection, His rising from the dead, Jesus won eternal life for all sinners; He created a way back to paradise!  This is what we might call a happy exchange.

Now I know that for many of you this is the very best news you could hear, but for others this is just foolishness! 

For some they would call this exchange a ridiculous exchange, because to them, it’s just foolish!  And that’s always the way it is for those who are just fine with their sin or struggling to make up for their sinfulness in their own way.  They refuse to acknowledge that God’s ways are right and their ways are not just wrong, they’re evil! 

They can’t understand that when God chooses to use the simple things that are foolish and weak in the world’s eyes, He does it to shame sinners (1 Corinthians 1:18-30); He chooses to shame them so that they might see their sin-filled and lost condition, and then receive God’s gift of life as a happy exchange.  He wants everyone to see that the life and death of Jesus reveals both the ultimate love of God for sinners and His eternal punishment for those who will not turn to Jesus as the only cure for their sin.  It’s God’s will that each and every sinner would see that while foolish men did their best to put Christ away in the tomb, He came back to life so that He could free even them from their existence as a sinner.  He came back to give them and us new life!

So what is it that prevents so many people from embracing this happy exchange?  Well, certainly it’s their sin, but it’s also our sinful society.  If there’s one thing that this old world teaches us, it’s that there are always strings attached; nothing is as good as it sounds; there is always a catch!

That’s what a young wife and mother thought back in 1997, when a woman called her home and said that she had won a brand new Ford, Mustang convertible.  Upon hearing the good news, the lucky winner answered, “I didn’t enter any contest and I’m not interested!”   She hung up the phone and told her husband that it was a salesperson with another come-on trying to sell a car.  Well a few seconds later, the phone rang again and this time the husband answered.  The woman on the other end said quickly and nervously, “Sir, please don’t hang up; I know you didn’t enter a contest but you really won a car.”  The husband asked, “And just how did we win?”  She began to explain that several months ago, his wife applied for a Von’s shopping card, and every time she used it to get the “Von’s discount” she was entered into the contest to win a car.  She also explained that there was nothing they needed to do, but simply show up at the nearest Von’s store to get their certificate and instructions on how to redeem it for a new Mustang.  Wow!  The family became loyal Von’s shoppers after that.

In a way, that is what this happy exchange is like.  You didn’t do anything to enter and win eternal life, God just put your name in those waters at the Jordan; God had you soaked into Jesus’ very flesh.  On Good Friday, Jesus had your name on His mind and in his heart as he suffered and died upon the cross, and on Easter Sunday He proclaimed you and the whole world as the winners!  But announcing this gift to the whole world and assuring you of this gift personally are two different things, aren’t they?  If you don’t hear about the victory, how can you claim it?  So God has to notify you personally, and He does this very thing through the preaching and sharing of His Word! 

In His Law, God shows each of us clearly that we are sinful and in need of His work of recreation, and in His gospel He assures you that your sins really have been paid for through Jesus death.  And through this same gospel Word He promises that in your baptism you’ve received a new identity; you are a saint!  This morning God is reminding you that He has chosen you!  In your baptism, He took that very Word of salvation and applied it to you in the washing of the water and the Word!  Jesus died for you, have you received it?  Even now, God is equipping you to open your heart and receive His gift; to receive His promise that through Christ Jesus you are saved!

Now some people will think that this offer from God is just foolish, and they’ll want to hang up on God’s offer, and that will be the end of it.  And others, well they’ll be wondering how it can be that simple.  They will doubt and want to hang onto their old life, but that’s only because they can’t see the beauty and the love in God’s offer. 

Listen friends, God wants you to give to Him all of your sins, the things your ashamed of; He wants your hurts and disappointments too.

He wants all of the pain that people in your life have caused you.  He wants the bitterness from your broken marriage and the misery of your past and present addictions.  He wants to take away the emptiness you feel from the loss of a loved one. He wants the fear and worry that consumes you as you struggle to find a way to feed your family and pay your bills.  How does He do all of this?  By teaching you to rest in your relationship of love with Him that comes through the washing of the water and His Word.

In Jesus baptism, He points us to our own baptism.  In Jesus, all wrongs are made right, and death is left behind for life.  Through the cross and the waters of our own baptism, Jesus is asking each of us to follow Him.  He’s asking us to follow Him in faith and trust that all things will work for our good, simply because we’re resting in His work and trusting in God’s love for us!  In this happy exchange, Jesus takes our old sinful nature and He crucifies it on the cross; He drowns it in the waters of our own baptism and He seals it away in the tomb.  And all that He asks of us is that we rest in and trust this work that was done for us!

Last week, I asked a very simple question several times throughout our message, and it was this: “Who are you?”  Well this morning, I would like to answer that question again, so that you will see the need to receive and rest in this happy exchange.  You are God’s own child through the work of Jesus Christ alone, and that identity was given to you in your baptism.  In baptism you were joined in Christ’s death, where He buried your old sinful nature once and for all.  So quit digging up the bones of that old no good sinner!  Instead of digging him up and letting him take the joy out of your salvation, spit on his grave and remind him that he’s dead.  And then remind yourself that not only were you joined in death with Jesus you were also joined with Him in life.  In your baptism Jesus raised you to a new life, a new identity.  Christ victory over sin, death, and the devil is your victory!  Your old sinful nature, your old life and sins were crucified with Jesus once and for all in your Baptism.  So because that old nature is dead, it’s no longer that nature living but Jesus nature; your new nature.  And that new nature by faith simply rests in Jesus and follows His nature, as God’s Word reshapes you into the very image of His Son!

Dear friends, in Christ you are all winners if you will but receive the gifts Jesus gives to you.  What gifts does Jesus give?  Well first and foremost He gives you forgiveness of all your sins, past, present, and future.  But He also gives you faith to receive this gift everyday as you fight to put to death your old sinful nature.  Every day, God’s Word reminds us that not only did our sinful nature die on the day of our baptism, but with God’s Spirit we are taught to put it to death every day for the rest of our lives as we follow Jesus in the crucified life, where we live out our baptism.  This is the result of Jesus living in us and among us. 

Listen friends, when the world, the devil, and our own conscience accuse us of being weak, inconsistent and ineffective; when we begin to doubt God’s gift of forgiveness and peace, let’s allow His Word and the family of God to pick us back up in forgiveness, and together let’s loudly proclaim to the devil and this sinful world, “I am baptized into Christ!”  So you see, it’s not about you, it’s about the finished work of Jesus on the cross for you.  To God be the glory for the great things He has done for us and in us through Jesus Christ… AMEN!

We Need The Ten Commandments

Sunday, July 3rd, 2016

Seventh Sunday After Trinity-HL, July 3rd, 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

Isn’t it true to say that one of the characteristics of a baptized born-again Christian is that we desperately want to please our Creator?  Don’t we struggle to keep the Law of God, the Ten Commandments?  Sometimes we do well at this and other times we fail.  But through it all, we know we have grace, the unmerited love and kindness of God, which was won for us by Jesus Christ.

But sometimes we may misuse this wonderful gift of grace by mistreating God’s Law in two ways.  First, we can develop a spiritually unhealthy pride in how well we keep the Law of God, and second we may become flippant with the law of God and our own sinful choices, simply because we are covered and protected by God’s grace.

The Pharisees were certainly not flippant with the law of God.

The Pharisees had made a profession out of keeping the outward appearance of complete obedience to the Law of God.  They radiated an aura of holiness and superiority.  The entire religious system of the Jews had gone from being a nation of people waiting for and proclaiming the coming of the Savior of Israel to a system of laws, rules, and regulations which were tightly controlled, taught, and enforced by the religious elite, the Pharisees.

Now don’t get me wrong, love for God was present in their teachings, but it was a love that was tightly regulated and compelled by a fear of God and His religious leaders.  Fear of the Creator is a healthy thing for creatures like us to have, but only when it is properly balanced with a natural and strong love for the Creator; a love that can only come from and be given from the Creator Himself.  This type of love is what Jesus taught as Agape or heavenly born love.  Where there is Agape love, love from the Creator, then creatures like ourselves thrive, because faith and trust in the love of God abounds.

But when the fear of God begins to disappear, the result is the opposite of the Pharisees false sense of pride; opposite yes, but just as deadly.

The second way we can choose to mishandle the Law of God then, is with a flippant or nonchalant attitude.

It goes like this: “Yes, I know that the Ten Commandments are important, but I am not a Jew, I am a Christian who is covered by grace.  My sins are taken care of, so I just live my life one day at a time without getting all hung up on the Law of God.”

And to this flippant attitude, St. Paul says, “(Oh) What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?  By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?”

Do you understand where Paul is leading you?  He is trying to get you back to a right relationship with God by restoring a proper attitude of respect that all redeemed creatures must have towards their Creator and His law.  Respect is simply a divinely instilled balance of both fear and love for God.  We should fear and love God so that we understand what it means to be baptized into Christ Jesus, baptized into His death upon the cross.  St. Paul is teaching us that we need to understand that through the power of God our sinful natures not only died with Christ upon the cross but we were also laid dead with Him within the tomb.  Why?  So that Just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too, in our new redeemed, baptized, and obedient nature might rise as well.  And so by faith, we understand that one day, we too will be raised into a new life perfected by God, as we live out our lives with Jesus for eternity within God’s Paradise, which Jesus restored.

You see, because you are baptized, you are not your own; you have been purchased with a great price, which is the life blood of Jesus Christ.  You have been redeemed from the power of sin, death, and the devil, and filled with the Spirit of God.

Today, Jesus speaks a truth that only his true disciples will understand; it is a truth that allows us to correctly understand the Law of God, and through that understanding we are completely emptied of our pride and made ready to receive the life changing Gospel, which fills us with the love of God and a certainty that our sins really are forgiven through the work of Jesus upon the cross; a work which alone restores us and brings us back to a right relationship of fear, love and trust with our Creator.

Today Jesus proclaims this very important truth: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.  For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.”

What does Jesus mean when He says that He has come to fulfill the Law?  Is He simply saying that because of Him the Law can’t hurt us anymore because He satisfied its demands for us?  Well yes, that’s part of it, but there is so much more for us within the work of Jesus.

Think of the Law of God and all of the Old Testament as a serving cup.  It was all that was written concerning the life, work, and ministry of the Messiah who would come and restore God’s people of faith.  And now, He has come, and He has done all that was declared He would do; but never forget who He did it for; He did it for sinners, He did it for you!  So again, think of the Law of God as a serving cup, or a chalice that is filled with all of Jesus’ work and promises which are recorded and given to sinners within the gospels and the entire New Testament.

These are the things that bring and give Jesus to you.  So do you see, you can’t have one without the other; you can’t have the contents without the cup!  And what good is the cup if it is empty?  As we drink the gospel, we also drink from the cup of the Old Testament.  It is the gospel that gives us a new obedience to not only want to keep the Law of God, but it also gives us the ability to keep it.  And when we fail, and we do and we will, we are given the grace of God, the forgiveness of sins, which is ours through Jesus Christ.

Now here is where you will see how Jesus fulfillment of the Law and Prophets not only sets you free from the bondage and condemnation of the Law, but it also invites you into that fulfillment of the Law as a participant.

The Bible teaches us that all men have sinned, “None is righteous, no, not one; … all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  And this is because our very nature, our inner self contains something that naturally rises up against God.  The Bible calls it “the flesh” and says that it can never be subject to the law of God. [Romans 8:7]

And still God’s law remains.  It does not care that our sin prevents us from keeping it, but rather it just insists that you do it.  Another way to say this is that the Law of God tells us who we must be if we want to stand in the presence of our perfect Creator.  The law demands that we be perfect because God is perfect.

So you see, Jesus is very serious when He insists that no one can get around the demands of the law of God.  Jesus’ Gospel doesn’t get rid of the law but rather He teaches that He was the only one who could perfectly fulfill it, and that He did that very thing for you!  When Jesus rebuked the additions that the Pharisees had made to God’s law, He did that because even those additions fell short of God’s perfection, which the Law demanded.  Jesus said that His disciples would not enter the kingdom of God unless their righteousness exceeded the righteousness of the scribes and the Pharisees.  No, Jesus had not come to get rid of the law.  Not even a jot or tittle of it.  All of the law is good; it comes from God.  And because all of the Law is good, we should never think that we can pick and choose which laws we think are most important.  “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of it all.” [James 2:10]

So who can be saved?  The disciples asked that question in their day.  And Jesus answered: “With men it is impossible, but not with God.  For all things are possible with God.” [Mark 10:26]  Paul puts it this way: “For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: (By) sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh.” [Romans 8:3]  Once again, we are face to face with the fact that redemption, our salvation is completely beyond us and wholly a work of Christ.  You see, in our baptism, Jesus has solved our lack of righteousness, by covering us with His own.  This is the basis on which our entire Christian faith stands and rests upon.

Whoever believes in Jesus is free from the condemnation of the law.  In spite of your many sins you can be a child of God.  But you aren’t free from what the Bible speaks of as your service of righteousness to God and your neighbor, or your obligation to keep God’s law.

You were once a servant of sin, before you were baptized, but now you have become a “servant of righteousness.” [Romans 6:18]   By the Spirit of God, you are now enabled to use God’s law as a sort of policeman over your soul and a judge over your flesh, but not your spirit, because that is new and free since your baptism.  Everyday your baptized nature is reminded in various ways of the same challenge that God first spoke to Cain: “If you do well, will you not be accepted?  But if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it.”  [Genesis 4:7]  For you dear Christian, the commandments have become a useful aid to help you remember the difference between right and wrong, and then by God’s Spirit, to overcome evil with Christ’s goodness.

So remember this, you who have been baptized and believe in the work of Jesus; you are not alone, for you see, you possess the Spirit of God who lives within you.  And when you “walk by the Spirit” so that it is Jesus who is at work within you, then the demands of the law have been fulfilled. [Galatians 5:16, 17]

But also remember dear baptized ones, you have both the Spirit and your own flesh to deal with, so in this life, there will always be a clash and constant battle between the two.  So we must remember that the fulfillment of the law will never be complete in this life, and that it can never be through the keeping of the law that we are made right and acceptable to God.  But rather it is entirely because God came to you through His Son Jesus Christ and did for us what we could not do ourselves.  And where we have Jesus, we will always have faith, forgiveness and love.  Oh yes, and we are also guaranteed eternal life.  In Jesus name… AMEN!

Where Is Your Home?

Sunday, June 26th, 2016

Fifth Sunday After Trinity-HL, June 26th, 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

Lord Jesus, You have said, “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.” [Luke 16:10] In these Words you teach us that you desire that our conduct within our earthly lives should reflect our higher and greater heavenly calling that you have given to us within the holy waters of our baptism. Help us O Lord, so that we will not turn away from the truth that the mirror of your Word shows us, which we will now hear.  If we discover Your word condemns us, save us and prevent us from trying to save ourselves! Help us to remember that we should judge ourselves now in your Word, so that You will not have to condemn us later. By Your Holy Spirit teach us to regret the misery of our sinfulness now so that we may rejoice in the blessed gift of a new and forgiven life in eternity.  Help us to humble ourselves here so we might be exalted there. Help us to weep here so that we may laugh there. So now we ask O Lord that You make Your word a taste of life for each of us. Make it medicine for the sick, strength for the weak, and a cover for the strong. Hear us, O Jesus, for the sake of Your holy, saving name. Amen.

Here’s a question that you may have been asked by someone before, “Are you born again?”

How did you answer?  If you’ve been baptized, the answer is of course a resounding “Yes!”  But how can you answer so confidently?  Now before you give an answer, let’s all of us remember that being “Born” or being “Born-Again,” is something that we played no part in.  Life is always God’s to give and to take away.  So keeping this in mind, I believe the question and the answer should point our hearts and minds towards the source of our “rebirth” and the instrument that was used.

The source of rebirth is God and the instrument or means of that rebirth is the Word of God, which is normally first given to a person through the sacrament of Holy Baptism; that is the place where you were washed and recreated through the Word of God, a place where you were made right with God through the cross and life blood of Jesus Christ; in short that is the place where God changed your home address from sinful earth to paradise restored, a place where you will eternally belong in a condition of peace with God and each other.

So that being said, where is your home?

In our gospel lesson this morning (Luke 5:1–11), we are dropped into the second calling of Peter, or the calling of his vocation. The first time Jesus called Peter was through the invitation of Peter’s brother Andrew (John 1:25-42).  It was within this first calling that Peter already baptized by John the Baptist would have begun the life of a disciple; would have begun a journey in which the Master was daily teaching him that his true home was not to be found on earth but in heaven with Jesus simply because he continued to follow and trust Jesus.

When Jesus issued a call of discipleship, He simply said, “Follow me.”  And from that point on, it was understood that if a person responded to the call of discipleship, they were required to follow Jesus who would be their Master and teach them in both Word and example.

The most important thing for a disciple of Jesus to do then was to follow Him and willfully come under His influence.  So a disciple of Jesus then and now must learn from Him, and through this learning process, they would see and hear such amazing things that they otherwise would never have experienced.  Today, Jesus Himself says to all of His disciples who have responded to His call, “If you continue in my Word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Something happens to a person once they become a disciple of Jesus; they are set free from the bondage of sin; or simply put, they are born again!  This new birth, this transformation from being a citizen of the world to being a citizen of heaven happens because the Word of God brings the power of God, which is the only way to experience new birth and a change of mind.  The disciples of Jesus who are willing to listen to Him and follow Him are continually welcomed to be His disciples.  And while they follow and listen, they begin to understand the truth… God’s own truth.  They listen because they have been born again… because they have a heavenly mind.  So now, let’s discover…

How the Heavenly Minded Christian Fulfills his Earthly Calling.

Let’s look at Simon Peter and the excellence he demonstrates in living out his earthly calling.  At the time of his calling he had been a Christian for almost a year, but since Christ hadn’t yet called him into the office of preaching, he not only remained in his calling as a fisherman, but he did it with a greater degree of excellence after he was “born again.” According to our gospel lesson, Jesus not only found Simon Peter working, washing his nets, but he was the kind of worker who could honestly say to Jesus: “Master, we have toiled all the night.” And now, when Christ asks him after a long night of work to sail out again, after the nets have been cleaned, he does not complain and try to make Jesus understand how tired he is, no instead, he obeys God’s call to work.

Here’s another thing we learn from the life of Simon Peter; we can learn that a born-again Christian displays a heavenly mind, not by despising and neglecting his earthly calling so that he has more time to concentrate on prayer and Bible study, but by embracing his earthly calling as the very thing that pleases God.  Oh there are certainly many times that a “born again” Christian will and should seek times of relaxation and recreation, but not because they’re lazy or because they’re a lover of pleasure, but because they know that they’ll be more efficient and productive in their work if they are rested. For a born again Christian, every moment of life whether at work or play, is a gift from God and another opportunity to praise Him.

Here is another truth about heavenly-minded Christians: When others employ them, they can rely on them. Not only is there no better churchgoer than a heavenly minded Christian, but there is also no better employee or manager than a born-again Christian.  In other words, this world will never find a more diligent, conscientious and faithful worker than a born-again Christian. The more heavenly minded a Christian is, the less ashamed they are of even the humblest dirty jobs, right down to the washing of filthy fishing nets or even the cleaning of toilets.  A heavenly-minded Christian then works at whatever task is before them because God has said, “By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread,”  (Genesis 3:19) and “You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be blessed, and it shall be well with you.” [Psalm 128:2]  Now don’t get me wrong, a born-again Christian should seek to find pleasure in their work, but it isn’t the reason they work; they work because they wish to please God.

And may I point out another important characteristic of a born-again Christian?  No matter how faithful they are in their earthly vocation, they will never neglect their heavenly calling to gather around God’s Word and Sacraments.  Simon-Peter worked all night, he was tired, but when Jesus asked to use his boat to preach the gospel, he dropped everything that distracted him and rowed out with Jesus so that Jesus could use his boat as a pulpit; so that he could hear the Word of God.  How unfortunate today that so many use their employment as a reason to excuse themselves from gathering at church to hear their Lord speak words of forgiveness and strength.  A born again Christian will never accept an earthly calling that would force them to give up attending God’s Divine service, even if it meant becoming wealthy.

The truth is, Christians with a heavenly mindset begin to think in a new way; they’ve discovered that even though their work in this world is necessary, work and care for their souls is even more important.  They have discovered that there must be time for hearing and meditating upon God’s Word and receiving His Holy meal.  They have also discovered that if God would allow them to become sick they would not be able to work, and then they would be forced to trust in His care for both their body and their soul.  This is why the heavenly minded, born-again Christian is willing to suffer the threat of harm and loss in the things of this world so that they can hear and meditate on God’s powerful and transforming Word.

Now, let’s allow God to teach us…

How He has determined that we will become and remain born again, heavenly-minded Christians.

It’s God’s will that we discover and remain at both the cross of our Savior Jesus Christ and the most blessed font of salvation where we were baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  This is the only place that a sinful person of the world can become born again and remain a heavenly minded Christian.  While there are many who claim the name of Christian, there are really only a blessed few who are truly born-again.

So how can we know that we really are born-again?  By staying close to Jesus.

Let’s look again at Simon Peter in our Gospel reading.  Peter became the heavenly-minded Christian that he was because he followed his master Jesus and allowed His Word to transform both his sinful heart and mind.  We have heard that after Simon Peter brought in the great catch of fish with the help of his coworkers, he realized that He was in the presence of the almighty power of God as Jesus sat in his boat.  When he properly understood who Jesus was, he trembled with fear, and “fell down at Jesus knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”

These words of Simon Peter give us the key to understanding the mystery of a truly born-again, heavenly minded Christian.  Peter’s new born again nature like ours, is founded upon a living and deep knowledge of our natural sinfulness and worthlessness before God.  But it is also founded upon the great grace and mercy of Jesus Christ.  Peter’s great fears were not found in loss of employment, physical illness nor disease, but in the spiritual sickness of his sinfulness and the eternal death it brings.  But Peter knew where to bring his fear of sin; he threw himself at the feet of Jesus and begged for forgiveness and salvation.

Jesus would have us do the very same thing today.  He would have us see the nature of our spiritual illness that is sin, and then accept by faith His sweet absolution; the truth that He desires that each of us would turn to His cross and receive forgiveness.  You see, the cross of Jesus is the only place that God has promised and provided salvation for the world.  And this work of salvation for the world is given to you personally in the water’s of your own baptism.  There at the font, God has indeed promised you that you have been born again and given a heavenly mind.

Dear friends, it is only through the call of discipleship that we can receive the gift of salvation.  It is only through the life, death, and the resurrection of Jesus that this sinful world can be made right with God.  And in the waters of your own baptism, God has given you both a new life and a new home.  Every day for you dear baptized and born-again Christians is a new day with Jesus as His disciple; another day to both follow and learn from the Master.

To follow Jesus doesn’t mean that you must give up a normal occupation, but it does mean that we should seriously begin seeking Jesus where He can be found, in His church, His Word, and His sacraments and even with us as we work and witness to both His presence and saving love for sinners.  Therefore it is written concerning the first disciples at Jerusalem, that “they devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and prayers.”

May God continue to move our hearts to do this very thing, in Jesus name… AMEN!

On Obeying the Word of God

Sunday, June 19th, 2016

Fourth Sunday After Trinity-HL, June 19th, 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

If you remember, last week we talked about becoming a Christian.  Today, I would like to talk about what it means to live out that Christian faith, specifically we will look at our new obedience to God’s Word and what effect that should have in our lives and what dangers we face when we are not properly living out our Christian faith.

When the Word of God first comes to us, it comes and floods our hearts with mercy and forgiveness, which then moves us to demonstrate those same things within our own lives.

In our Old Testament lesson (Genesis 50:15-21) we see this demonstrated beautifully.  If ever there was a man who seemed to be given a reason to judge others and even hold onto a grudge, it was Joseph.  Bullied as a child, sold to slave traders as an adolescent, Joseph had many reasons to remember and to pay back his brothers for all of their evil.  But God was with Joseph.

Sold into slavery yes, but God provided in the midst of his servitude, and so Joseph became the head servant of a very rich household.  But then it all fell apart and Joseph was imprisoned for a crime he did not commit.  Imprisoned yes, but then God made a way for Joseph to become the warden of the very prison he was confined to.  But then it seemed that all of that fell apart too, as Joseph was once again falsely accused and facing hard time.  But God made a way out of that tight spot, and Joseph was given the ear of Pharaoh, and Pharaoh eventually made Joseph second in command, answering only to Pharaoh.

And now standing before Joseph were the brothers that bullied and banished him.  Now was the time for judgment and pay back, or was it?  Standing before his brothers and in the stead of a merciful God, Joseph knew what God would have him do; it was the very thing God had done for Joseph; Joseph would show mercy.  “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God?  As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.”

In these Words, Joseph was demonstrating a man controlled by the Spirit of God and so He was compelled to act for God.  In these Words, Joseph was pointing towards the coming Savior, Jesus Christ, the very Son of God who would take the evil intentions of men and their cross and turn it around as God’s way to “bring it about that many people should be kept alive,” and spared the death penalty for their sin.

This is then not only the effect that God’s Word had in Joseph, but it is also the effect that God wants to have in our lives now in this age, as Ambassadors for Christ.  But be forewarned, even as the Holy Spirit of God is providing us with a new spirit of obedience to the Word of God, we also face the danger of falling to a spirit of pride and judgment.  You see…

When people begin to take the Word of God seriously, they also learn to love their success in keeping the commandments of God.

As the saints of God, isn’t it true to say that we struggle to live out our new baptized natures; we struggle to live a life that is pleasing to God.  We want God to know that we take His call of faith seriously, and because of that, we want to be doers of His Word and not just hearers.

This isn’t a bad thing; it’s not a bad way to begin our walk with Jesus.  What was it that Jesus said to the rich young ruler who asked Him what he must do to gain eternal life, “Keep the commandments!”  And isn’t that precisely what we are trying to do as we live out our Christian faith?

But as so often happens, people who begin to walk by faith in the new life of baptism, begin to believe that they are becoming much better at being good, and then they think it is becoming easier for them to “live a good Christian life.”  Some people may even think as St. Paul formerly thought, that in “regards (to) righteousness under the law—(they are) blameless.”

So where did they go wrong; where do we go wrong?  Well the mistake we sinners inevitably seem to make is that we feel we have a license to compare ourselves to others.  Don’t we find ourselves being thankful that we are not like old “so and so.”  Maybe we’ve even caught our selves thinking that if “old sinner so and so” really wanted to change, then they could, just as we have.  But it is precisely because we judge others that we find ourselves being judged by God.

When we find ourselves judging others, we should also discover that we have not really been taking the law of God seriously, because we have arbitrarily chosen who we will judge and what we will use as our standard to judge.  And because we’ve done this, we have lost the most important standard of all… justice and mercy and faithfulness.  Therefore Jesus reminds us that he who judges others will himself be judged.  So…

If we really want to take the commandments of God seriously we will stop comparing ourselves with others.

This is because God’s law demands that instead of comparing ourselves to others, we must compare ourselves only with God, because only He is perfect.  In other words, we ought to be perfect as God is perfect, merciful as He is merciful, holy as He is holy.  You see, the law does not give us any possibility to be satisfied with ourselves; you can never say I’ve arrived.  This is because the knowledge of sin, our sin, comes to us through the law.

Our mouths are shut as every one of us stands guilty before God.  The rich young ruler who approached Jesus knew that something was missing in him, even though he did everything he could think of to be a good man.  And when the crowd brought the woman caught in adultery before Jesus to be stoned, it was the elders in the group who dropped their stones first and slithered away out of shame, when Jesus said that he who was without sin among them should be the one to cast the first stone.

So now hear this good news and have faith in it.  It is God’s will that just as His Law has shown us that we can never live up to His holy standards, and that we have no right to judge other people’s salvation, it is also His desire that through the same Law, each of us would be forced to see our great need for a Savior who alone can make us right with God.  It is God’s will then that His law would point your guilty conscience towards the cross of Jesus where every sin, even our sinful desire to judge others was put to death.  If we will begin to listen to this message of the Gospel in a fresh new way, we will then begin to truly know a Savior who does not judge us in the midst of our sins here in this sinful world.  And remember this—Jesus refrains from judging us not because He can not judge, but because He has taken that judgment upon Himself as our brother and LORD; because He has died in the place of sinners; He has died for you.

And now that we have received this strong love of Jesus, what shall we do with it?

Shall we keep it to our selves?  No, but we are told to go and share what we have received from our Lord with other sinners. What this means for us today is that we are being compelled by the Holy Spirit to show both kindness and mercy towards others who appear to be trapped in sin; others who think or act differently than us – even those caught in adultery, cohabiting men and woman, or the homosexual couple. We are to care about their needs and also their eternity because Jesus cares for them.  We are to speak God’s mercy and love to them, and we do this when we speak God’s truth.

Listen, it is not our job to go around finding the specks in our neighbors eyes, because we are still working on the log that lies within our own eyes.  It is not the job of one blind man to lead another blind man upon a dangerous path.  But rather when asked for the reason of the hope we have in Christ, we are always prepared by God to speak God’s own truth, not in judgment but in love; we are always prepared to point them to the Great Physician Jesus Christ who also desires to heal them of spiritual blindness just as He heals us.

So we speak God’s truth … not in anger or spite, but in mercy and forgiveness. By speaking this way, we pray that God would do the same work of repentance and hope in them that He is doing in us.  So remember, “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” [Luke 6:37, 38]. May this strong Word forever lead our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus… AMEN.

Faithfully Obedient in Christ’s Word!


Sunday, January 4th, 2015

2nd Sunday after Christmas B, January 4, 2015
Rev. Brian Henderson—Pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
http://www.TLCSD.org

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“And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom.  And the favor of God was upon him.” (Vs. 40)

A fable A man was sleeping one night in his cabin in the mountains, when suddenly his room filled with light and an angel of the Lord appeared. The angel told the man that the Lord had work for him to do, and He showed him a large rock in front of his cabin. The angel explained to the man that his job was to push against that rock everyday with all of his strength. So the man was obedient, and every day he worked at the task; his shoulders became strong as he daily pushed against the massive surface of the unmoving rock, pushing with all his might.  Each night the man returned to his cabin sore, and tired.  Eventually he began feeling like his whole day had been spent in vain.

Seeing that the man was showing signs of discouragement, the devil decided to pay him a visit and place negative thoughts into the man’s weary mind: “You’ve been pushing against that rock for a long time, and it hasn’t budged. Why kill yourself over this? You are never going to move it.”  After a while, these suggestive thoughts started giving the man the feeling that not only was his task impossible but also that he was a failure.  Eventually the man became depressed and he thought, “Yes, why kill myself over this?  I’ll just put in my time, giving just the minimum effort and that will be good enough.”

And that’s exactly what he planned to do, but that night, he decided to take his troubled thoughts to the Lord in prayer.

“Lord” he said, “I have worked long and hard, putting all my strength into what you’ve asked me to do.  And after all this time, I haven’t even budged that rock by a millimeter.  What is wrong? Why am I failing?”

And to this the Lord lovingly responded, “My friend, when I asked you to serve me and you accepted, I told you that your task was to push against the rock with all your strength, which you have done faithfully.  Never once did I mention to you that I expected you to move it.  Your task was simply to push.  And now look at yourself.  Your arms and back are strong and muscled, your shoulders are square, your hands are calloused from constant pressure, and your legs have become massive and hard.  Through opposition you have grown strong and your abilities now far surpass what you used to have.  And it’s true, you haven’t moved the rock.  But your calling was to be obedient and to push and to exercise your faith and trust in My wisdom.  This you have done.  And now friend, I WILL move the rock.”

Obedience and faith; these are two things which always seem to go together.  We need faith to believe that God will do what He said He would do, and we need obedience to follow the path that God has put us on!  Mary and Joseph were obedient, but for the ultimate example of faithfulness and obedience we must turn to and trust Jesus!

(Luke 2:40-52) Every year, Joseph and Mary obediently did the right thing; they took their son Jesus and made the long journey from Nazareth to Jerusalem to celebrate the eight day long pass-over festival.  This year was a little different, because Jesus had now turned 12 years old.  This was the age when a Jewish boy became “a son of the law” and was expected  to obediently learn and observe all that the law demanded.  Well the festival is over, and now it’s time to head back to Nazareth.  Joseph, Mary, and Jesus would return home along with of the other families from Nazareth and near by villages and towns.

Well after the first day of travel, as everyone in the caravan was pitching their tents for the evening, Joseph and Mary realized any parent’s worst nightmare, Jesus was missing!  They quickly turned around and went back up the hill making the long trek back to Jerusalem to search for Jesus.  Once back in the city, the couple began to search for their boy.  They retraced their steps and went to every place they thought that Jesus might be.  Finally, towards evening, they found Him, sitting on the steps of the temple as a student, engaged in a learning discussion about God’s Word with Rabbi’s who were also gathered there.

They were relieved of course but they also must have been worn-out and a little irritated as well, but they held their temper and didn’t interrupt the discussion that was taking place between Jesus and all of those teachers.  It amazed them to hear Jesus asking and answering such deep spiritual questions.  The teachers were amazed at the boy’s wisdom too.  But now, Jesus seeing His parents suddenly rose, and He obediently walked over to them.  And His mother said to him, Son, why have you treated us so? See, your father and I have been searching everywhere for you; (we were worried sick over you!)” And Jesus who was honestly surprised by this said to them, “You were looking for me? Didn’t you know that I had to be doing my Father’s work?  Didn’t you know that I would be here in my Father’s house?” And that was it, the dilemma was over!  Jesus and His family began the long trip back to Nazareth.

Mary and Joseph didn’t understand, but they knew that Jesus was a special boy, but someday they would understand that He was also the “God-man”.  So Jesus grew as any child, and he became wise and strong, and he continued to find favor in the eyes of God and man! Why didn’t Mary and Joseph know where to find Jesus?  Why didn’t they remember what the angels, the Magi, and the prophets told them about their child 12 years ago?  Why didn’t they remember that Jesus was really God the Father’s Son?  Well, because Jesus was also a very real person.

As a boy, and latter as a man Jesus was under God’s authority and dependent upon him for all things just like we are.  As a boy, Jesus was expected to be obedient to His earthly parents and keep the 4th Commandment perfectly, just as you and I must do, but the difference between Jesus and us is He was able to do it and we can’t!  But then why did Jesus become separated from Joseph and Mary if he wasn’t at fault?  Well the error was His parents.  When Jesus asked them how it was that they didn’t know where he would be, he wasn’t being sarcastic, but truthful.  “Why didn’t you look for me before you left?  I would have left with you, you know!  Have you forgotten who I really am?  Have you forgotten all that the angel told you about me?  Why would you need to wonder where I would be or where you must find me?  I must be in my Father’s house!”  Here in our gospel lesson, at the age of twelve we see that Jesus clearly knew most certainly that God was his Father in a way in which he was not Father to anyone else!

Dear friends, do you understand the wonderful mystery here?   This boy Jesus is speaking as God the Son; even before He took on our flesh He was always eternally the Son of God! Can you surrender to the mystery that declares that Jesus is true God and true man without trying to explain how this can be?  Yes you can if by faith you obediently surrender this mystery into God’s capable hands!  And it is by this same faith that we believe, teach, and confess that the divine and human natures of Jesus are now and forever inseparable; not pasted together like two boards, nor one transformed or absorbed into the other, but instead, each essence of God and man simply exist together in an unchangeable way that truly makes Jesus the God-Man!

According to this personal union this God-boy in our gospel lesson already and always possessed His majesty as God, and yet He allowed it to be hidden just as great clouds in the sky can hide the sun. This is how Jesus could grow in stature, wisdom, and grace before God and other people [Luke 2:52]. This is why Jesus, knowing that He was the true Son of God, continued being obedient to His earthly parents.

Make no mistake friends, Jesus knew that He was the Son of the Father, and He knew that He was divine, and yet, he continued as a child who was obedient to Joseph and Mary because by doing so He was being obedient to His Heavenly Father’s will.

There’s a famous picture that depicts the boy Jesus running with outstretched arms to his mother, with the shadow of the cross being cast on the ground by his form as he runs. The picture’s underlying message is true. Jesus obedience is an example not just for children growing and preparing for adulthood, but for all of us!  He was obedient to His parents and He was obedient to God’s will; but His obedience is also so much more than just an example, because without it He could not have been our Redeemer, the Savior who came to free us from sin and death by His own death upon the cross.

Dear friends, when Jesus declared His relationship with the Heavenly Father and demonstrated His obedience to His earthly parents, He was also declaring His purpose for coming to this world; to be doing His Father’s work, that is to fulfill his Father’s will, which was to seek and save all people who are lost to sin. By perfectly living His life, that same life became a perfect act of worship.  By being obedient to the will of God His Father in all things, He was obedient, even “unto death, even death on a cross” for us.  Through the obedient life of this God-boy, Jesus’ role as Savior was proclaimed every day until he obediently walked to His own death upon the cross.

As the God-Man Jesus lived and died to bring us back to God in an eternal way that would give us peace with God, Jesus,  obedient to His Father’s will  brought all people back to a right relationship with His father, and He did that work finally just outside the very walls of the Jerusalem temple where His parents found Him—He did it on Calvary.  It was there upon that cruel cross that God the Father would forsake His obedient Son and lay upon Him the punishment for all of our sins.  But after three days, God resurrected His Son from death to life in order to ensure us of our own personal victory over sin and death.  Jesus was obedient, and because of His obedience we have been given the ability to call God our “Father,” not in the same way as Jesus can mind you, but in a very real way that eternally ensures you of a loving relationship between God and you.”

Can you accept this as truth?  Can you be like Mother Mary and simply treasure these truths in your heart?  Can you obediently accept that God’s mysteries are beyond your comprehension and simply believe and by faith allow the living Word of God to remain steadfast within your heart allowing Jesus Christ to strengthen your faith unto eternal life?  I pray that you will.  I also pray that in those dark times of life, you will remember that even Mother Mary became afraid and and overcome by worry, but then she allowed God’s Word of assurance to give her peace.  That was enough for Mary, and I pray that will be enough for you too.  I ask this in Jesus name…AMEN!

Take the Child!

Sunday, December 29th, 2013

Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church-San Diego
Christmas 1A, December 29th, 2013

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This morning, two parts of our readings take precedent over all others; they demand our attention and even our obedience.  The first is  the theme of our message.  It is repeated four times in our gospel reading (Matthew 2:13-23), and it is this: “Rise, take the child and His  mother.”  The second portion of God’s Word that demands recognition comes from our Epistle reading (Galatians 4:4-7): “But when the  fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so  that we might receive adoption as sons.”

If we put these two portions of scripture together we seem to get a clear message, a theme if you will to apply to our worship this  morning: God helps us in times of uncertainty because we take hold of the mystery that is Jesus, the eternal Son of God who is also man;  born of a woman at just the right time.  In other words, we can not and must not separate Jesus humanity from His divinity.  If we will  take this God-child as He is given to us, we will also receive redemption, that is we will be not only saved from our sin, but we will also  become God’s own child!

In the little Child Jesus, we see God’s care for His Son wrapped in swaddling clothes, but we are also given assurance that He will care for  us also, His adopted children of faith.  So…

We are called to take the Child in times of danger.  Unlike Joseph, most of us will not have an angel appear to us in order to warn us about  impending danger or threats to our Christian of faith.  But we know by experience that there are many frightening things that wait for us  in the coming year, even physical dangers.  But rest assured, God knows about each of them; He is already there in that moment of time preparing a way for you.  He has already planed the way of escape for you.  As Joseph was directed to run to Egypt for his escape, God as well has a way out for you.  Now, while it may not be as drastic as running to another country, it is a way out that God has planned.

What will the danger for you look like?  Only God knows, but think about this: Not all dangers are physical.  In fact most of them are spiritual.  For the young people, God wants you to know that He has watched over you this last year, and He is still protecting you.  To you, through the Apostle Paul, God says, “Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.” [1 Corinthians 6:18]  And for all of us who are prone to trust in things created over the Creator, God tells us, “Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.” [1 Corinthians 10:14]

How we flee from these temptations in the year to come is the way Joseph was to flee to Egypt; we take the Child and His mother and we run away from temptation.  Please hear me; if anyone comes to you preaching and teaching a different Jesus, or a different kind of gospel, you must flee.  Take this Jesus, this Child and His mother and run!  You dear Christians are adopted children of God and you have been given the ability to flee from these things.  So pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, and gentleness.  Fight the good fight of faith and take hold of the gift of faith and live out the eternal life you were called to live.  Let your Christian walk be a confession about God’s faithfulness to those who do not yet know Him as their Heavenly Father. [1 Timothy 6:11, 12]

We are also called to take the young child in times of catastrophe.  When I say catastrophe, what comes to mind… terrorist attack, hurricane, tornado, or earthquake?  Ok, but what about cancer or some other life threatening disease?  It’s during times like these that the inevitable question arises: “Why me?”  Well why not you?  You have the assurance that you are eternally saved, so what is one fleeting physical attack in comparison to the faithful promise of God, which assures you that because you have taken the Child to be your Savior and God, you will live with Him forever in paradise?  Maybe the best witness we will ever give to our God is the way we grab onto His Son in times of tragedy and trust in His promise of eternal life no matter what our life circumstances may say.

Friends if we try to find answers to life’s catastrophes where God does not speak, all we will do is watch the joy of knowing we are His children slip away from us.  In our gospel reading we are shown an example of this.  The Magi escaped and Jesus and the Holy Family successfully fled to Egypt, but left behind were the young children who were slaughtered.  The church now calls them the Holy Innocents.  If you were to tell those mothers as their children lay dead that they were blessed, do you think they would hear you?  There is no point in telling those young mothers to “Take the young children and flee… for they are no more.”

In the middle of catastrophe, when we want to call out to God, “Why me?” He points to the Child, His Son and answers, “Because, even He!”  In His flight to Egypt God the Son was already redeeming the world from their sins.  God was in Christ reconciling the world, that is bringing us back to Himself.  Did the world understand at the time?  No, they did not, and neither do we most of the time.  Would the world have been better served if Jesus remained in Bethlehem and died with the other children?  Is it favoritism on the part of God the Father to provide for His Son’s escape while the others died?  No, because we know that ultimately God did not allow His Son to escape.  We know why this God-child had to become the God-man.  He was born so that He could die upon the cross, and not at the edge of a government sword.  God did not spare His only Son but delivered Him up as a ransom for us all.  For “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” [Isaiah 53:6]

So take the Child, and trust that God the Father through the Son, has given you all things!

Take the child in times of prosperity as well.  Joseph did that very thing when the angel reported that “those who sought the Child’s life are dead.” [Vs. 20]  He returned and made a life for His family in Nazareth.  Yes, we too need to take the Child even when things are going well, because you will need Him.

One sad truth that I have discovered in my time as your pastor, is that there is a certain group that comes to God’s house to receive His Divine Service only during the hard times.  They will gladly hear our message this morning and shout a hearty “AMEN, brother!” to the first two points I’ve made.  They know that when times are tough and catastrophe strikes, Christ and His church are right there waiting.  But when things are going well, not only are they not in church, but neither is their time, talent, and treasure.  The church as a whole suffers because of this, but they suffer more.  Their faith is not being strengthened by God’s means of grace and they begin to falter and fall.  “But” they may counter, “I have fallen before, but God rescued me.  So I am sure when I need my faith it will be given again.”

O foolish Christians, who has tricked you with that lie from hell.  It can only be the devil himself and this sinful generation that has enslaved you.  Have you not read the story about the five foolish virgins?  They too saw no need to keep their supply of faith full.  And when their Lord came their lamps were not lit.  They begged the others to share or sell their faith, but they could not.  And when their Lord arrived for judgment He proclaimed to them, “I DO NOT KNOW YOU!  Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.” [Matthew 25:1-13]

Take the Child dear friends and take Him as often as you can.  As His mother and Joseph took Him and protected Him, so each of us must take Him not only as our Savior and God, but also as a dear family member.  Do you remember the Bible story about the time Jesus was teaching a large crowd and someone told Him that His mother and brothers were waiting to speak to Him?  If so, then you also remember what He said in answer to that news.  With His arm outstretched, He waved at the great crowd of people and said, “Here are My mother and My brothers!  For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.” (Matthew 12:48-50)

And what is the will of our Father in Heaven?  That we would take His Son.  Together we take the child as we run from temptation and stand up with courage, so that equipped by God we may face the catastrophes of life and celebrate with joy, the truth that gladly proclaims, “God has and always will deliver us.”

And together, we now move as one body to take the Child in the bread and the wine.  The mystery that somehow God was born a child is enough to comfort our fearful hearts, but just as incredible is the truth that the body and blood of Jesus now comes to us in simple bread and wine for the forgiveness of sins past, and the assurance of faith in the future, all so that we may keep taking the child in the years to come for the assurance of eternal life and salvation.  Dear friends, take the child … AMEN!

You Can Hear Him!

Sunday, April 21st, 2013

Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church-San Diego
Easter 4C, April 20th, 2013

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My Sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. [John 10:27]

As our nation gathers together to morn and sort out the events surrounding the terrorist attack against those gathered at the Boston Marathon, as our fellow country men, there and across this  great  nation gather for moments of silence and combined “all-faith” worship services, you have instead come here; to God’s house.  For most of you, this is not unusual, because you do the very  same thing most every Sunday.  For some who are visitors this morning at Trinity, or visitors to my website, you may be listening to or reading this sermon with the intent of trying to find some  comfort or perhaps find a higher purpose to all of the fear and suffering, let me repeat the Words of Jesus again: “My Sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”

Can you hear Jesus speaking to you in those Words?  If so, good!  Continue hearing; listen to His Words and you will find strength and comfort.  To those of you who may answer, “No” or  “I’m  not sure,” that is alright; you should continue to listen as well, because you see, it is only by listening to the Word of God that you will find faith and be able to hear the voice of Jesus’ speaking to  you.

A truth that is even sadder than the Boston carnage is the fact that there are many people in this world who will not not hear Jesus speaking to them.  They demand new proofs and evidence all  while dismissing the great proofs that have already been recorded for them.  It is as if they are calling out with unbelievers in our gospel lesson (John 10:22-30): “If you are the Christ, tell us  plainly.”  And as Jesus answered the unbelievers then, so He answers them today: “I (have) told you, and you do not believe.  The works I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep.” [John 10:25, 26]

Why don’t they believe?  Because they are not among Jesus sheep, so they don’t hear His voice.  But their lack of hearing; their lack of believing isn’t Jesus’ fault, it is their own.  Jesus speaks to them; He desires them to hear, but they will not.  They choose instead to hear many other voices that call out to us through out the world.  For instance…

They will hear the voice of Hedonism.  A voice that discourages higher learning and critical thinking, and instead encourages a generation of Reality T.V. to “Party on… eat, drink, and be merry!”  Or…

Then there is the voice of Materialism, which constantly pressures us to buy things.  “Buy, buy, buy” it says, “until you find contentment.  You deserve to be happy and experience the good life.”  And as we follow that voice, we become so caught up in acquiring more possessions, that those left in need, suffering in poverty go without, and finally die because we would not help.  And …

Then there is the voice of Narcissism—Self-centeredness that constantly encourages us to join in singing the hymn of all fallen and sinful creation: “It’s all about me; it’s all about I; it’s all about me oh my, oh my!”  Within this voice, are the various word of faith leaders and “possibility thinking” hucksters and philosophers who want us to “Tap into the great potential that is you!”  This voice really makes the voice of Christ unneeded, because if you believe their message, you can be your own savior!

And finally, there are the voices of the religious fanatics.  Their voice is perhaps the most dangerous, as they teach that change, their kind of change, must come from outside of a society, and it must come by force, fear, intimidation, and death if necessary.

So what voice are you really hearing?  Which voice has won your attention; has peeked your interest?  If it isn’t Jesus’ voice, then again I repeat, it is not Jesus’ fault.  He has spoken to you repeatedly, but you will not hear; you will not believe.  His works, His suffering and death upon the cross and His resurrection from the dead verify that He is the very Son of God.  The lives of Christians living in peace and seeking peace from others, with no fear of death is also proof that this Jesus is the risen Son of God.  He truly is the Good Shepherd who can provide mysterious gifts of comfort and security in times of turmoil.  The lives of Jesus’ little lambs proves that He really does care for His sheep.  All of this proves that…

His sheep really do hear His voice.  Jesus tells you this morning that: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” [Vs. 27]  Jesus sheep always hear Him speak.  While it is true that they don’t always listen, or follow, they do always hear.  And when they wander, for we sheep of Jesus are prone to wander, He leaves the secure and safe 99 sheep to bring His lost little lamb back into the fold, which is His church.  He brings us back in the same means that He first saved us, with His voice.  And within that voice, we sheep hear the content of that voice, we hear the gospel Word, you are forgiven; come home.

To those this morning, who are not His sheep, either because they never have been or have chosen to wander away, Jesus speaks the gospel call this morning to become one of His little lambs.  This morning Jesus tells them who and what they really are without Him, “You are not my sheep.  You have not been saved from the coming judgment.”  But He also tells them who they will become if they listen; if they allow the Words and the voice to give them faith.  To those sheep who are caught up in the sound of another voice, Jesus promises that if they will hear Him speak forgiveness of sins and new life, “I (will) give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.  My Father who has given them to me, is greater than all (other teachings and voices), and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” [Vs. 28, 29]

“But how can this be true,” some may ask?  And to this Jesus speaks Words of mystery, but Word’s that also give faith: “I and the Father are one.” [Vs. 30]

Do you hear the mystery that is God?  God exist as One, yet in a very intimate and close relationship of persons—Father, Jesus the Son of God, and Spirit, and you have been or are invited to be brought into that relationship through baptism.  If you have wandered away, you are invited back into the church.

Through Jesus Christ, the Son of God you are guaranteed that not only does God the Father know you but He loves you; He becomes your Father.  You are recognized and you will always recognize Him because you will know the voice of your Good shepherd when He calls.  You need never be alone or afraid in this world, because God is with you.  And with the rod and staff of His Word, He leads and protects you.  With that same Word He gives you cool drink and green secure pasture.

In His Word He invites you to His banquet table, where you feast on His very body and blood in, with, and under the bread and wine, where he satisfies a hunger and thirst that can only be satiated at His table; it is a feast of complete forgiveness and strong faith in your God Who alone is your Good Shepherd.

Imagine that you are walking on a street within our community and there in the driveway of a home are three little children getting ready to climb inside the family’s mini-van.  The van is packed with luggage and coolers.  The father is just about to close the rear door for departure and the mother is locking the front door of the home.  Obviously, they are going on a trip.

You walk up to the little children and you ask: “Where are you going?”  Wide eyed they stare back at you, silent.  They don’t know.  “What highway will you take?”  Again, no answer.  Where are you going to have dinner tonight?”  No response.  Then you ask what in their minds is the only question that matters: “Who are you going with?”  Now there eyes light up, their faces break into smiles.  “With Mommy and Daddy!” they exclaim.

Dear friends, your life lies ahead of you.  There are many unknowns, even many dangers that are ahead of you.  For many of the questions you have in life, like the whys and how comes, you for now, will get no answers.  But you do have “The Answer” with you always.  Jesus is with you and He has already called out to you with the Words “Follow Me!”  He has promised to be by your side every step of the way.  And because of this truth, for you His little lambs, eternal life isn’t something you enter when you die; no, you are in it right now!  And His means of grace, His Word and Sacraments are what sustain you every day in this world of uncertainty.

The sign of the cross at the beginning of our service helped us recall our baptism, which is a “spring of living water” for us.  Therefore we “hunger and thirst no more.” [Revelation 7:16]  And at His Holy Supper you again will receive life giving food, which for us, is a foretaste of the feast to come.  Therefore, we join in with all of the company in heaven robed in white praising our God around His throne.

You are forgiven.  God has raised Jesus from the dead and your redemption is assured.  Now Christ calls you—His sheep and His witnesses—to follow Him.  You do hear Him!  Now, what shall you do?  AMEN!

How Should We Worship the Lamb Who Sits Upon the Throne?

Sunday, April 14th, 2013

Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church-San Diego
Easter 3C, April 13, 2013

Click here for audio of this message

In our Gospel reading (John 21:1-19), we meet Jesus and some of His closest disciples after a long night of fishing.  Jesus appears out of no where and says in essence, “Have you boys caught  anything to eat yet?”  To which, they reply “No!” “Well” He says, “cast your net on the right side of the boat and you will get some whoppers!”  And they did!

So what does all of this mean?  Well St. John, the disciple that Jesus loved knew the answer: “It’s the Lord!” And how does a person respond when they realize that the Lord is with them?  Plunk,  into the water; that’s how spontaneous St. Peter responded.  Impetuous Peter; if ever there was a disciple who needed to experience the love of Jesus it was Peter; he wanted so badly to be loved by  God and to love him in return, but it seems that he just kept messing things up.  Well, Jesus was about to change all of that for Peter.  He was about to change Peter’s heart so that he could both  experience God’s love and love God in return.  Peter, like every disciple before and after Him needed to learn to see God perfectly in Jesus; to see Jesus as the glorified Son of God, the very Lamb of  God who now forever sits upon the throne of God, and to worship Him.  How do we worship Him?

Well, this morning we will explore this life of worship in three things, three gifts given from God, which are common to all baptized Christians, both the oldest of us and the youngest.  They are,  faith, obedience, and success or living out our Christian vocation.

In regards to faith, I am sometimes grieved over how difficult some people make our understanding of faith to be.  So many bad explanations of what it is have completely taken away the beauty of what God says that it is.  Faith is nothing more than a gift from God.  It is a gift that He keeps on giving and we are simply asked to keep on receiving it.  It isn’t hard to receive, because it comes simply by gathering around and receiving His Word.  We do this very thing every Sunday here at Trinity.   You are receiving the Word right now in this message, but before I stepped into this pulpit, before we declared God’s Word in the words of the Introit, we received the gift of faith in the words of absolution, which came after our public confession of sins.  And then we along with baby Sarai received God’s gift of faith as we witnessed and participated in her Holy Baptism.  There at the font, God not only called her by name and washed her clean, he recreated her into a new sanctified person of faith, who must be continually nourished and strengthened every day with the same Word of God.  In other words God’s Word must constantly feed her so that the gift of faith will continue to save her.  As she grows, her parents, God-parents, and all of us here at Trinity must speak the Word of God to her, teach her, and encourage her to grow in her faith, and one day she will be confirmed “ready” to receive the very body and blood of the Lamb of God, who continually takes away the sin of the world.

This is the rhythm of life for a Christian; God speaks and we respond; we grow and we experience more of Him.  For some of you, this rhythm has led you consistently; you never really over thought it, you just lived it out.  While it’s true, you have experienced good days and bad days, you never really dwelled on either; you simply lived out a life of faith.  You are much like John, with your spirit declaring, “It’s the Lord!”

For others, their journey of faith started at an older age, and perhaps after living a rough life.  For them, maybe they can relate more closely to St. Paul, who was blinded by the Lord on the road to Damascus as he heard, “Why are you persecuting me?”

Yes it is true that some of us lived lives that were not only faithless, but also extremely opposed to Jesus and His invitation of faith.  But, here you are too, by the grace of God, being fed faith by the same means of grace.

So we have established that faith is the mark of one who worships the Lamb of God who sits upon the throne.  But how is that gift of faith expressed in the life of a Christian who worships the Lamb?

Simply put, it is expressed in obedience.  In our first lesson (Acts 9:1-22) we see obedience played out in two different people, in two very different ways.  With Saul, who would become St. Paul, it was very dramatic and physical.  Not many saints have ever been confronted with a light straight out of  heaven, and not many have heard the very voice of Jesus say, “(Hey you), why are you persecuting me?”  Not many of us have been blinded as a way to get our attention, so that we could hear God speak faith into us, but Saul was.  Why?  So that He would hear what was spoken next: “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.  But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.”  Did you hear it?  Jesus gave a command, but it wasn’t an order that is given just so one person can bully another.  No, Jesus is no bully; that was Saul’s identity; Saul was the one that practically begged for the authority to hunt down and persecute Jesus’ little lambs, the Christians.  Our Lord Jesus, was simply giving a command of love that would allow Saul to see that He was his Lord too; He wanted Saul to become Paul, who would be one of Jesus little lambs.

But there is still another example of obedience in our first reading that must be brought out into the light for us, and it is with a simple man named Ananias.  The Lord said to him in a vision, ““Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.””

For both Saul and Ananias Jesus told them what they must do.  For Saul, it was go and be baptized into the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  To Ananias it was to baptize all people who the Lord brought to him, even evil Saul, all so sinners can be filled with faith, saved, recreated, and given a new life of obedience.  Obedience to become all that the Lord Jesus has declared them to be; in Saul’s case, he was to become Paul, an apostle of the very Lord He was persecuting.

So far, we have talked about God’s gift of faith and His gift of obedience.  Now let’s add the third heavenly gift common to all baptized Christians… success.

What is success? Well simply put, it is the realization of an objective, or a goal.  In the life of a Christian there are two goals that we wait to realize: personal salvation and the spread of the gospel.  The good news is, that in both, Jesus promises to do all of the work.  He doesn’t need us for either, but instead invites us to participate and follow Him; He asks us to trust in His will and rest in the promises of His Word; promises like “He who began the good work in us and within this sinful world will complete it.” [Philippians 1:6]

Now, this is where the other two gifts from God become a big help.  It is the Lord who gives us the ability to trust Him, it is the Lord who gives us a new spirit of obedience to learn and grow in our faith, and it is the Lord who promises that because we trust in these other two gifts the third gift of success is guaranteed.  You will be saved from your sins and the gospel will advance, and the church will grow one forgiven sinner at a time!

Because Ananias was obedient, Saul was saved. Because Saul was obedient, he became Paul, followed the call of Jesus into the gospel ministry, and wrote the saving Words of a good portion of our New Testament, all so that faith would continue to be planted in the hearts of sinners and countless people be saved.

What is success?  It is following the call of the gospel and repenting from a life apart from God, and then receiving a new command to live a life following Jesus under the cross and inviting others to do the same.

Towards the end of our gospel lesson, we see this all come out in a way that was both painful and beneficial to Peter.  “(Peter, you who once said that even if all of my other disciples were to abandon me, you would never leave.  You who thought you loved me more than all of the others, but abandoned me, left me alone on the cross to die) do you love me more than these?”

Now this is a portion of scripture that we need to bring a little meaning to.  This is where our English language falls short.  So bear with me, just a few more minutes, and let me clear something important up so that God’s marvelous love is not lost to you.

When Jesus asked Peter if He loved Him more than the others loved Him, He is speaking directly to Peter’s guilt over His sin of denying Jesus on three separate occasions.  Jesus asks this same question three different times in slightly different ways, so that Peter will understand that not only is He forgiven fore each time He denied His Lord, but He can also, through this complete forgiveness finally receive the ability to love God as He has always desired.

The first two times when Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him, He used the Greek Word agape, which is a higher form of love; it is the love of intellect, reason, and understanding; it is a love that has a higher purpose or goal as it’s source of being.  In other words, it is a love that can only be given to us from God.  Did Peter love Jesus with this God-given love?  Obviously, Peter couldn’t say yes; he had abandoned Jesus!  So, Peter answers Jesus with another Greek word for love which means “affection”.  “Yes Lord; you know that I have great affection for you.”  Now Peter is being honest; he understands that he does not love Jesus, His Lord and God as he should.  He finally sees that the kind of love that one should have for God, is completely outside of him.  Now, here is the most beautiful part of this teaching:  Jesus did not disqualify Peter from His church for his lack of agape love.  Rather than send Peter away broken and sinful, He shows Peter what real forgiveness is by inviting him deeper into ministry; “Go and feed My little lambs” He says.  He tells him to use His means of grace to strengthen his own faith and then in that grace, go and build Christ church my speaking the same forgiveness to Jesus’ other lambs.  In this way, Jesus is empowering Peter and the rest of the church with God’s gifts that will provide faith, obedience, and success.

This morning, Jesus speaks to us, His church and He says, “Baptize and reach, nourish and teach them with my Word and water, and with my very body and blood; be and become like Peter, men and women of faith; filled with love and wisdom as you teach others to do the same.

Did Peter understand?  Yes, Jesus made sure he would, so that he would receive not only forgiveness of sins, but the ability to love with the agape love that led Christ to die upon the cross for all of the worlds sins.  You see, the third and final time Jesus asked the same question to Peter, He did it with a little twist; instead of asking Peter if he (agape) loved Him, He asked, “Peter, do you have affection for me?”  Peter finally gave in, he let go of his pride and his guilt and he simply answered, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I (have affection) for you.” Now that Peter has confessed his sins, Jesus gives him the absolution again… “Feed my sheep and follow me.”

Peter needed to hear those comforting words of forgiveness; he needed to know that Jesus still wanted him as part of the church.  He needed to experience complete forgiveness so that he could receive and give complete agape, self-sacrificing love.  Peter would discover what many of us have also discovered, that loving God and following God is never easy and sometimes painful; following God means being committed to His church where Christ freely gives His gifts to all who come.

Here at Trinity, as one of our Lord’s faithful churches, we are called to receive Christ’s gifts and we are called to invite others to receive them also.  That means, that we must learn to love people who are sometimes unlovable, just as we once were and sometimes still are.  Following Jesus means that we must let go of the old sinful ways and learn a new way to be happy; we must learn the way of the cross.

Like Saul, Ananias, Simon Peter, and all of the other saints, every day as we gather around the throne of grace, which belongs to the Lamb of God, we see behind it His cross.  Everyday that cross reminds us of God’s love for us, and we receive faith.  And along with faith, we also experience sacrifice and suffering, but right along with those things, we also receive obedience, and promised success.  All of these wonderful gifts come from the very same source, the Word of God.  Do you want to experience God’s agape love, and do you want to be able to love Him back with that same love?  Then hear the very Words that provide those wonderful gifts… you are forgiven… HE IS RISEN… indeed!  AMEN.

The Happy Exchange

Sunday, January 8th, 2012

Baptism of Our Lord B, January 8, 2012
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
Romans 6:1-11 and Mark 1:4-11

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“In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.” [Mark 1:9]

Every year the church celebrates the baptism of our Lord, and every year we try to answer a simple question: “Why was Jesus  baptized?”  Last year, the answer was, so that He could fulfill all righteousness.  In other words He did what was necessary to complete  our salvation.  This year, we will answer that question with the same answer but from a different perspective… our perspective.  So let  me rephrase the question a little differently, “Why was Jesus baptized for you?”

Jesus entered the waters of the Jordan River to be washed.  That is what the word baptize literally means; it is a washing.  Whether you  splash, sprinkle, or immerse, you are washing or baptizing.  So what kind of washing is baptism?  Well for each of us, baptism is a  spiritual washing, where the old creature within us is drowned every day.  We learn from personal experience that we need to drown  that old sinful nature every day, because, well it sins every day.  But there’s another part of living out our baptism, and that is turning  to Jesus every day for forgiveness and renewal.  In this way of God, every day our new identity, a new person rises up to live before  God in righteousness and purity forever.  Or as St. Paul puts it in our Epistle reading, “We were buried with Christ through baptism into  death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we, too, are to walk in a new life.” [Romans 6:4]

But what sins did Jesus need washed away?  None, He was, is, and always will be Holy, perfect, and righteous.  But in His baptism, He announced for the first time publicly that He who knew no sin, had come to become sin for us… for you!  So, in a sense, when He entered the waters of the Jordan he was clean, but when He left, He was drenched and soaked with not just your sins, but indeed the sins of the world.

In exchange for your sins, Jesus would spend the next three years of His life obediently walking to the cross, where He would suffer and die.  On Good Friday, every one of your sins that He took upon Himself would be paid for with His very life.  Think about that, all of your sins were locked within the only place that God refuses to see, the tomb of His beloved Son, Jesus Christ!  But the tomb isn’t where Jesus work for you ends, no it ends in His resurrection!  In His resurrection, His rising from the dead, Jesus won eternal life for all sinners; He created a way back to paradise!  This is what we might call a happy exchange.

Now I know that for many of you this is the very best news you could hear, but for others this is just foolishness!  For some they would call this exchange a hilarious exchange, because to them, it’s just foolish!  And that’s always the way it is for those who are just fine with their sin or struggling to make up for their sinfulness in their own way.  They refuse to acknowledge that God’s ways are right and their ways are not just wrong, they’re evil!

They can’t understand that when God chooses to use the simple things that are foolish and weak in the world’s eyes, He does it to shame the sinners (1 Corinthians 1:18-30); He chooses to shame them so that they might see their sin-filled and lost condition, and then receive God’s gift of life as a happy exchange.  He wants everyone to see that the life and death of Jesus reveals both the ultimate love of God for sinners and His eternal punishment for those who will not turn to Jesus as the only cure for their sin.  It’s God’s will that each and every sinner would see that while foolish men did their best to put Christ away in the tomb, He came back to life so that He could free even them from their existence as a sinner.  He came back to give them and us new life!

So what is it that prevents so many people from embracing this happy exchange?  Well, certainly it’s their sin, but it’s also our sinful society.  If there’s one thing that this old world teaches us, it’s that there are always strings attached; nothing is as good as it sounds; there is always a catch!

That’s what my wife and I thought back in 1997, when a young lady called our home and said that my wife won a brand new Ford, Mustang convertible.  After she told my wife she won, my wife promptly answered, “I didn’t enter any contest and I’m not interested!”   She hung up the phone and told me it was a salesperson with another come-on trying to sell a car.  Well a few seconds later, the phone rang again and this time I answered.  The young lady on the other end said quickly and nervously, “Sir, please don’t hang up; I know you didn’t enter a contest but you really won a car.”  I asked, “And just how did we win?”  She began to explain that several months ago, my wife applied for a Von’s shopping card, and every time she used it to get the “Von’s discount” she was entered into the contest to win a car.  She also explained that there was nothing we needed to do, but simply show up at the nearest Von’s store to get our certificate and instructions on how to redeem it for our new Mustang.  Wow!  We became loyal Von’s shoppers after that.

In a way, that is what this happy exchange is like.  You didn’t do anything to enter and win eternal life, God just put your name in those waters at the Jordan; God had you soaked into Jesus’ very flesh.  On Good Friday, Jesus had your name on His mind and in his heart as he suffered and died upon the cross, and on Easter Sunday He announced you and the whole world as the winner!  But announcing this gift to the whole world and assuring you of this gift personally are two different things, aren’t they?  If you don’t hear about the victory, how can you claim it?  So God has to notify you personally, and He does this very thing through the preaching and sharing of His Word!

In His Law, He shows each of us clearly that we are sinful and in need of His work of recreation, and in His gospel He assures you that your sins really have been paid for through Jesus death.  And through this same gospel Word He promises that in your baptism you’ve received a new identity; you are a saint!  This morning God is reminding you that He has chosen you!  In your baptism, He took that very Word of salvation and applied it to you in the washing of the water and the Word!  Jesus died for you, have you received it?  Even now, God is equipping you to open your heart and receive His gift; to receive His promise that through Christ Jesus you are saved!

Now some people will think that this offer from God is just foolish, and they’ll want to hang up on God’s offer, and that will be the end of it.  And others, well they’ll be wondering how it can be that simple.  They will doubt and want to hang onto their old life, but that’s only because they can’t see the beauty and the love in God’s offer.

Listen friends, God wants you to give to Him all of your sins, the things your ashamed of; He wants your hurts and disappointments.  He wants all of the pain that people in your life have caused you.  He wants the bitterness from your broken marriage and the misery of your past and present addictions.  He wants to take away the emptiness you feel from the loss of a loved one. He wants the fear and worry that consumes you as you struggle to find a way to feed your family and pay your bills.  How does He do all of this?  By teaching you to rest in your relationship of love with Him that comes through the washing of the water and His Word.

In Jesus baptism, He points us to our own baptism.  In Jesus, all wrongs are made right, and death is left behind for life.  Through the cross and the waters of our own baptism, Jesus is asking each of us to follow Him.  He’s asking us to follow Him in faith and trust that all things will work for our good, simply because we’re resting in His work and trusting in God’s love for us!  In this happy exchange, Jesus takes our old sinful nature and He crucifies it on the cross; He drowns it in the waters of our own baptism and He seals it away in the tomb.  And all that He asks of us is that we rest in and trust this work that was done for us!

Last week, I asked a very simple question several times throughout our message, and it was this: “Who are you?”  Well this morning, I would like to answer that question again, so that you will see the need to receive and rest in this happy exchange.  You are God’s own child through the work of Jesus Christ alone, and that identity was given to you in your baptism.  In baptism you were joined in Christ’s death, where He buried your old sinful nature once and for all.  So quit digging up that old no good sinner!  Instead of digging him up and letting him take the joy out of your salvation, spit on his grave and remind him that he’s dead.  And then remind yourself that not only were you joined in death with Jesus you were also joined with Him in life.  In your baptism Jesus raised you to a new life, a new identity.  Christ victory over sin, death, and the devil is your victory!  Your old sinful nature, your old life and sins were crucified with Jesus once and for all in your Baptism.  So because that old nature is dead, it’s no longer that nature living but Jesus nature; your new nature.  And that new nature by faith simply rests in Jesus and follows His nature, as God’s Word reshapes you into the very image of His Son!

Dear friends, let’s allow God’s Word to remind us every day that this happy exchange isn’t just a one-time gift; it’s an eternal one that keeps on giving.  What does it give?  Well first and foremost it gives you forgiveness of all your sins, past, present, and future.  But it also gives you faith to receive this gift everyday as you fight to put to death your old sinful nature.  Every day, God’s Word reminds us that not only did our sinful nature die on the day of our baptism, but with God’s Spirit we are taught to put it to death every day for the rest of our lives as we follow Jesus in the crucified life, where we live out our baptism.  This is the result of Jesus living in us and among us.

Listen friends, when the world, the devil, and our own conscience accuse us of being weak, inconsistent and ineffective; when we begin to doubt God’s gift of forgiveness and peace, let’s allow His Word and the family of God to pick us back up in forgiveness, and together let’s loudly proclaim to the devil and this sinful world, “I am baptized into Christ!  I am baptized into Christ!”  So you see, it’s not about you, it’s about the finished work of Jesus on the cross for you.”  To God be the glory for the great things He has done for us and in us through Jesus Christ… AMEN!

We Need Jesus to Survive!

Sunday, September 25th, 2011

Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost A, September 25, 2011
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
Click here for audio of this message

Philippians 2:1-18

Do you know the music that’s playing?  Yes it’s the theme song to the reality T.V. show, “Survivor.”  it’s playing because I want to start off our message this morning with an analogy to that show.  On Survivor, the premise is this: If you want to survive, you need to outlast, out smart, and out play your opponents who are isolated with you on the island.  Well our message this morning calls us to do the opposite.  Like the reality show, we too are gathered together, not on an isolated island, but here in Christ’s church.  We are gathered together with a bunch of people who are completely different than us, yet we are all exactly the same.  Each of us has different life time experiences, but each of us are fighting against the same opponents, sin, death, and the devil!  Instead of playing to eliminate your fellow islanders by out-playing them, you’re living to see that they make it all the way to the end!

On the tv show, each player tries to obtain what’s called an immunity idol.  This “idol” protects the players from the strategy and attack of their opponents.  In our walk of Christian faith, we have our baptism.  It also makes us immune, immune from the attacks of sin, death, and the devil; as long as we are resting in our baptism, these evil forces can’t eliminate us from winning eternal life.  Now here is where the greatest difference is; in our walk of faith our goal isn’t to eliminate others but to include them by helping them reach the same goal… eternal life with Jesus.  How can this be done?  Only by having, and then helping others have the heart and mind of Jesus Christ; a heart and mind that can only be obtained through God’s Word!  Through the Word, we’re given Jesus and a new faith and obedience to trust and obey God!  When we have Jesus, we will naturally live to “Out Love, Out Sacrifice, and Out Serve” each other.  We will come to see the truth in the saying, “I need you, you need me, and we all need Jesus to survive!

In our epistle lesson this morning (Philippians 2:1-18), St. Paul is asking us to live a life of humility.  He’s asking us to put the needs of others above our own by out loving them, out serving them, and out sacrificing for them.  He is asking us to be a source of encouragement and comfort by participating in the ministry of the church.  He’s asking us to utilize our time, talent, and treasure to help further and build the Kingdom of God.  He says in verse 3 that we are to “do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than (ourselves).”  He says that we are to look not only to (our) own interests, but also to the interests of others. [vs. 4]

But how?  How can broken sinners like us fill such a tall and perfect order?  How can we sacrifice our time, talent, and treasure to spread God’s Kingdom of grace when everything in us and around us is convincing us to do the very opposite?  By being obedient to God’s will!  Here’s a truth that you might want to write down and remember: “Selected obedience isn’t obedience at all; it is merely convenience.”  Saints of God, we haven’t been called to do what is convenient, but what is inconvenient.  When we give of our time, talent, and treasure when it isn’t convenient, God calls that sacrifice.  And when God sees sacrifice, He sees love!

A husband and wife were discussing the possibility of taking a trip to the Holy Land.  The husband said, “Wouldn’t it be great to stand on Mount Sinai and shout out the Ten Commandments?”  To that the wife said, “Wouldn’t it be even greater if we stayed home and kept them?”  Men of God please hear me; our families and our community are waiting for us to be the spiritual leaders that God has created us to be!  They are waiting for us to lead them through love, sacrifice, and service!  The question is will we respond?  How do any of us respond?  How do we begin?

And to this Paul says: “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”  And there you have it… we must have the heart and mind of Jesus.  We must live in the same frame of mind that He had; what is even more interesting is the fact hat he says we already have Jesus’ heart and mind! And what is the heart and mind of Jesus?  Well it’s the heart and mind of a slave and of a servant!  Do you see yourself as God’s slave and as the servant of your brothers and sisters in the church?  Do you see Jesus example and desire to make it your own?  If you’re anything like me, you are probably getting a little uncomfortable and feeling a little inadequate.  If you are, good!  That’s the work of God’s Law reminding you that on your own you can do nothing!  If you are listening right now, if you are really paying attention then you are also feeling helpless.  And that’s good, because you see, after God shows you your sin and you confess it, it’s no longer about you… it’s all about God and what He did for you through Jesus Christ!

Who is Jesus Christ to you? Is he really the Son of God who came to us in our flesh to set us free from our sins or is He only partly God’s Son or only a man and not even partly God’s Son? This isn’t some theological issue that only scholars argue about, this is an issue involving the life or the death of every Christian, including each of us.  How we believe will determine whether we’re obedient or disobedient; it will determine where we will spend our eternity! How we answer this question and what we believe about Jesus involves the whole saving work of Jesus for sinners like you and me!  The key that unlocks God’s Kingdom for us and allows us to be and remain in it rests entirely on who Jesus is, what He did, and whether or not He is our source of sincerity, obedience, and true sacrifice.  In Jesus we must see that the only sacrifice pleasing to God, could only be made by Jesus the Christ, Son of God and son of man!  If He was not truly man, then He could not have suffered and died for the world… for only man can pay for the sins of men.  Jesus suffered and died for you!

On Good Friday, Jesus the Christ suffered and died to pay for what we cannot pay for!  On that day Jesus defeated our chief enemy,which is sin!  But if His work stopped there, if His work in our flesh was all that He gave to us, then we would still have no hope, because our other enemies death and the devil would still be our master.  But His work didn’t stop there, because on Good Friday not only did Jesus the man die for us but Jesus the Son of God died as well!  On Good Friday, that which can’t happen happened… God died for us!  God had to do this, because only God has the power over life and death.  In the person of Jesus, the Son of God emptied Himself for us when He became our Christ… our Savior.  He became our brother by emptying Himself, becoming a slave and dying a slave’s death upon a tree!  But He also proved that He was our God by taking His life back up again.  God did all of this to save us; so that we could return to Him!  He did this so that you could enter and remain in His Kingdom of forgiveness and love.

This death and resurrection was something only the Son of God could and did do, and He did it for us!  And when it was finished this act gave Jesus the Christ the Name, which is above all names, so that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord!  [vs. 10, 11]

But you already know this don’t you?  You are already struggling to live out this truth.  Or as Paul says, we are “(working) out (our) own salvation with fear and trembling.”  Why fear and trembling?  Because we know that our God not only suffered and died for us, but He also lives and works within us!  He not only wills that we live a life of love, service, and sacrifice, but He is accomplishing that very thing within us through the heart and mind of Jesus!  And because we know this is true, we find comfort knowing that the same God who has ignited a spark of true godliness in our hearts will keep right on working until it becomes a blazing bonfire!  We know that in our weakness and failures, we have a God who comes to us and strengthens us with divine help!

And how does He help us?  Only through His Word!  It is His Word alone that tells us that we have been saved by grace alone through baptism and new life!  It is His Word alone that not only encourages us but enables us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling.  It is the gospel that tells us that we have a God who is for us and not against; a God who is willing and working in us and among us to bring and sustain His Kingdom of peace and forgiveness.  And as we remain centered in His Word in our worship, prayers, and service we begin to sense His presence as we witness ourselves “(doing these) things without grumbling or questioning”. And this is God’s work within us, the real change He brings so that we may know that in His Kingdom, we are blameless and innocent children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom (we) shine as (bright) lights in the world.”  And all of this is done only because we are “holding fast to the Word of life, the Word of God, Jesus Christ!

I’d like to close with this story.  A missionary translator worked hard to find a word for “obedience” in the native language. This was a virtue that seemed to be lacking among the people into whose language he wanted to translate the New Testament. As he returned home from the village one day, he whistled for his dog and it came running at full speed. An old native, seeing this, said admiringly in the native tongue, “Your dog is all ear.” Immediately the missionary knew he had his word for obedience.

Dear friends, God wants us to be all ear; He wants us to hear His Word and allow Him to transform us.  We need the new obedience, the heart and mind of Jesus, which God’ Word provides. Yes, we need God and we need each other.  I need you and you need me, because together we are all part of God’s Kingdom.  I need you through the presence and power of God to out love, out serve, and out sacrifice me, and you need me and each other to do the very same thing.  I need you and you need me, but each of us needs Jesus to survive!  May God continue to do this great work of providing for our needs through Jesus Christ… AMEN!