Posts Tagged ‘Pentecost B’

It All Comes Down To This

Sunday, May 24th, 2015

Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego 92114
http://www.tlcsd.org
Pentecost B, May 28, 2015

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It all comes down to this!  Down to what?  The coming, presence, and work of the Holy Spirit, of course!  Jesus said, “… I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.  And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.”

Now, I know the presence of the Holy Spirit is nothing new; His Work was essential, “In the beginning.. (when) the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.  And (He empowered the Word of God when) … God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.” [Genesis 1:4]

The Spirit was there with Adam and Eve as they were repelled out of Paradise, and it was the Spirit Who constantly reminded them of the Promise of restoration through the coming Champion who would destroy sin, death, and the devil, and bring humanity back to Paradise.  The Holy Spirit was with Noah and the Animals as the Ark was built and the animals were compelled to enter the Ark in peace.  The Holy Spirit was with Moses as He parted the sea and led God’s people to dry land.  It was the Spirit who filled every one of the prophets of old and the Apostles of Jesus to speak Words of hope and new life, all once again centered around the Champion who has actually fulfilled the promise of Paradise restored.  And that champion is Jesus Christ, crucified, risen, and ascended!

Now this is all “good news” but it is not the only news on this day of Pentecost.  The news of Pentecost is that not only has Christ risen, but also that He has risen for you.  And here’s the best part of that proclamation, it is empowered by the Holy Spirit to actually bring you a new life with God, and take you back to Paradise; back to a right relationship with God!

So, the Good News for each of you today, is that through the fulfilled Word of God, you have been given faith to believe in each and every promise God makes regarding your sin and Christ’s Work upon the cross to take away your sin.  You have been given faith to know this truth as a certainty.  Just as the Spirit at creation hovered over the waters to empower the Word of God to create everything out of nothing, so too He has empowered God’s promise of forgiveness and restoration and the waters of your baptism.

But here’s another truth…

Life without faith is desperate. In our Old Testament lesson, we are given a graphic demonstration of this desperation through the vision God gave to His prophet Ezekiel.  The valley of dry bones is the ultimate expression of life overstepping its limits, which is the abandonment of hope in the Creator God.

Ezekiel’s vision is the reality of our world today.  Certainly the Christian martyrs in the middle east must feel dry, desolate and alone as they die one by one through the demonic power of ISIS.  But we do not have to go that far to know the feeling of emptiness and abandonment; how must the people of Detroit feel as they think back to better days when the economy was booming and neighborhoods and business were flourishing, but now all that stands are the burn out shells of homes and businesses that once were.

The Mexican artist, Jose Guadalupe Posada created a large body of art showing persons engaged in a wide variety of daily activities, but each were depicted as skeletons.  In one drawing he depicted a soldier riding through a valley of bones full of human skulls.  What was he trying to tell us?  Was he trying to say that hope in the government above or in place of our hope in God only leads to death?

Perhaps the most terrifying aspect of Ezekiel’s vision is after the bones became skeletons, and after the skeletons were fleshed, what filled the immense valley floor? Bodies of real people who are simply dead because they lack the touch of the Holy Spirit; they lack the breath of life!  This dear saints is the ultimate tragedy… not that people die, but that they refuse to live.  The flesh without spirit, not the dry bones is the most haunting aspect of Ezekiel’s vision.  A world of zombies, the walking dead if you will who are in that state and don’t know it, or worse yet they know but they do not seem to mind.  But…

Life with faith in Christ overcomes the curse of the walking dead; it overcomes despair! Jesus declared to the world and to you personally on the day of your baptism, “I came that (you) may have life and have it abundantly.” [John 10:10]  He is the only One who can not only speak hope, but deliver it.  He not only promises a restored and renewed hope, but His Word actually gives it.

Every Word that Jesus spoke and taught was to prepare each of you for that one moment in your life when you realize that there is something great and profound missing in life, and then receive it!  When your moment of despair comes, and sometimes they come frequently like the waves on the ocean shore, when it comes it is God’s will that you recall His promises of forgiveness and restoration, which you have heard declared, read, or even sung, and then remember.  Remember what?

Remember that although through His Word you have discovered that your sin is great, deadly, and terrifying, you must also remember that all of Christ’s righteousness has been given to you completely through His Work upon the cross and the declaration of the empty tomb.

But the Easter cry of “He is risen” is like a iPhone without a battery, if you can not or will not reply, “Indeed, He has risen for me!”  And this is now getting at the power of the abundant life that Jesus has promised to the church, and through the church , to the world.  This is where we discover that…

Life with Christ finds empowerment through the Holy Spirit in the church for the work of witness and missions! So it all comes down to this… The day of Pentecost is a demonstration of both the love and power of God, which takes the good news of forgiveness of sins and ensures that it will be declared throughout the world.

As Peter and the disciples gathered in the upper room right after their Lord Jesus ascended into heaven, they must have felt alone and afraid.  But they knew somehow they were not abandoned; they knew that Jesus would make good on His promise to send a helper, a counselor, and protector.  And my, did he ever…

Some may say rightly that until that day when the Spirit showed up in power, Christians were just playing the part of church; they were playing around with the idea of Christ, not yet allowing the resurrected and ascended Christ to come alive in their midst.  Again, they were like an iPhone without a battery, or better yet they were like a bus without an engine.  But then something happened on the Day of Pentecost… Jesus made good on His promise; He sent the Holy Spirit.

The entire account given to us in our second reading (Acts 2:1-21) can not help but excite us and invite us into the story of the church. The imagery of the event comes alive as it glows with tongues of fire and the bewilderment of other languages. People seem to be staggering and stammering like drunken men. But when Peter speaks and the air clears, that which is testified to, is nothing other than the mighty works of God.

Dear friends, the mighty works of the Holy Spirit are still being performed today.  We witness the same power as the dreams of the old and the visions of the young people refuse to play church, but actually become and behave as church through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.  And this mighty work is none other than the work of salvation; the translation of sinners into saints for “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved!”

When ever the Word is proclaimed, whether through the work of the sermon, Bible Study, personal witness, or when it is carried overseas to far way places, it is fulfilling the mission of Christ found in Matthew 28:”Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Vs. 19, 20) So Pentecost is really the birth of Missions or the empowerment of the church to fulfill Christ’s mission.

As you leave this place but not Christ’s presence, you leave reminded that you are on a mission to share the good news that sinners sins have been forgiven through the work of Christ alone. But you do not go alone; you have been empowered and you are protected by the Holy Spirit.  And as you share the good news, what will be the response that you will receive from friends, neighbors, and family?

Now we are at the very heart of sinful mankind’s response to the gospel.

Humanity’s situation without God is so desperate and their opportunities with Him are so big that almost any response seems inadequate and even a little ridiculous.  Do people fall to their knees and cry mercy or rise to their feet and cry glory; once they are converted by the Holy Spirit, do they spend a period of time in study and training or do they rise from the valley of dry bones in service to God and neighbor?

To dwell on questions like those can also be another way we play church and play with the mission of Christ.  Why not face the facts as we know them; anyone who has been struck by the Spirit of Pentecost has received the breath of life; they’ve been recreated through the waters of Holy Baptism.  In other words they have been reanimated.  And what they do next is the very same thing we do every day…

We repent! We believe and we become what God has already declared we are… Redeemed!  Repentance is the heart beat of the church.  It is the radical turning of the whole self from itself, to a right relationship with God through the cross of Jesus Christ.  To be baptized is to enter into the life and mission of the church.  To receive the Holy Spirit is to allow the Sprit to shape your life in obedient witness and service to Him who first loved us!  And yes, it may even mean making amends for past wrongs, selling or giving away what we don’t need and sharing the proceeds or other goods with the needy, sharing a common life with other Christians on days other than Sunday, worshiping daily and breaking bread in homes, the very transformation that marked the Christian community after the great day of Pentecost. [Acts 2:37-47]

SO IT ALL COMES DOWN TO THIS. The Holy Spirit is among us in great power, just as He was in the beginning, just as He was with Adam and Eve, just as He was with Noah, Moses, the prophets and apostles of old, and just as He was that first Pentecost Sunday.  In the past all who have made a difference within the building and growth of God’s Kingdom only did so because they were willingly being led by God’s Word and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.  So it all comes down to this.  Are you willing?  I pray in Jesus name that you are… Amen!

Positions Please!

Sunday, November 1st, 2009

 Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego
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In our gospel reading this morning, we join 6 young men with a vision…a vision of restoration to a community of friends that has been broken by illness.  For reasons unknown, one of their members had been stricken by a paralyzing disease.  They had sought help in many circles, but physicians, rabbis, and priests were unable to restore the health of their fallen comrade.  But they had not given up…they still had a vision of restored health and community. They had faith that God would restore all that had been lost.  But how God would do this they didn’t have a clue, that is until they heard that Jesus of Nazareth had come into their small town of Capernaum.  Jesus was known to be a teacher of God’s Word who also had the ability to heal people from all kinds of diseases.  So off they went carrying their friend on a stretcher.

When they arrived at the home where Jesus was staying, it quickly became obvious by the crowds gathered there that they had arrived at the right home.  There was one problem though, how would they get in?  The door was blocked by the large crowd, and so were the windows.  And yet their vision of restoration would not let them give up.  Well there was only one choice; if they couldn’t pass through the door or the window with their friend then they would have to make a new way, through the roof!  So up they went and down went their friend as they lowered him directly in front of Jesus!

What were these men hoping for as they followed their vision of health and restoration?  Healing for their comrade’s illness certainly, but they received much more than that…they heard the sweet Word of forgiveness and restoration directly from the mouth of God!  “Son, your sins are forgiven!”  Now there are always those in the crowd that will try to destroy the vision that God has given, and this encounter was no different.  For you see, there were some experts of the law inside this home, and their response was, “He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”  But our 6 comrades did not lose hope, and they kept their eyes focused directly on their source of only source of hope—Jesus!  I imagine that Jesus moved closer to the man on the stretcher and said clearly so that all could hear, “Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins-I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” 

And that was it, their comrade was healed.  The very same God who had put this vision of health and restoration into their hearts had now spoken and the vision was a reality!

I. When God’s vision begins to come alive in our hearts we may tend to become impatient and say, “If I’m on the verge of experiencing something divine, then why am I stuck here doing something not even remotely related to what I feel God has put in my heart to do?   The 6 comrades in our gospel reading must have felt this way as they daily saw their once active and supportive friend lying helplessly on his bed.  Certainly Nehemiah must have asked this question every time he thought of Jerusalem and its dilapidated condition, “Lord, what am I doing in Persia?  My vision is to be a builder not a bartender!”

But God knew exactly what He was doing.  He had placed Nehemiah in the right spot from the beginning.  God had spent years preparing and positioning both Nehemiah and the king for everything that was about to unfold.  Think about it.  From the time Nehemiah was a boy God had been arranging all things to work for the good, to enable Nehemiah who was called according to God’s purpose to fulfill God’s will, which was Nehemiah’s vision.  From a boy Nehemiah lived in the royal palace as a servant.  From there God placed him in the ranks of important Persian officials, and within those ranks Nehemiah quickly became known as a man of integrity.  Eventually he was appointed to the position of cup bearer…a position that guarded the very life of the king by preventing him from being poisoned.

Now, if we look at these things from the eyes of the world, it would seem impossible for him to ever realize his dream…after all, a servant to the king was to be seen and not heard, but again, God had Nehemiah just where he wanted him.  Like a master strategist, God had been working behind the scenes putting all the players into position.  And now the curtain is about to go up: And the king said to me (the queen sitting beside him), “How long will you be gone, and when will you return?” So it pleased the king to send me when I had given him a time.

And I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, let letters be given me to the governors of the province Beyond the River, that they may let me pass through until I come to Judah, and a letter to Asaph, the keeper of the king’s forest, that he may give me timber to make beams for the gates of the fortress of the temple, and for the wall of the city, and for the house that I shall occupy.” And the king granted me what I asked, for the good hand of my God was upon me. [2:6-8]  The “good hand” of his God was upon him friends, and God’s good and gracious hand has been upon each and every one of you who have been cleansed and made new in the Holy waters of your baptism.  His hand has ensured that you have been saved through the hearing and preaching of His gospel.  By the gift of faith, you may say along with Nehemiah that “the good hand of my Gracious God has always been upon me!”  What a way to live and spend your life—knowing that whatever may happen around you, God’s good and gracious hand is always guiding your way!

II. You know, from the outset, just about every God ordained vision seems to be impossible.  It can be a real battle not to be intimidated by the apparent impossibility of beginning and completing that vision.  If you want to throw a wet blanket on a new vision, try sharing it with someone who isn’t part of your praying and planning team!  You know what they’ll probably say to you?  “Hmmm…that’s an interesting idea.”  In other words, what they’re really saying is “You’re crazy.  That will never happen!”

Nehemiah, like the 6 comrades did not share his vision or his plan with people outside his inner circle.  For months, Nehemiah kept silent.  After all, who would have taken him seriously?  Think about it, he was a slave who worked for the king.  He couldn’t leave whenever he wanted to and visit Jerusalem.  It was a government like the kings that destroyed the walls of Jerusalem to begin with.  Why would the king want to rebuild the city and create a possible military threat to his kingdom?  But miracles do happen friends when God is the author of the vision; when God is the one who is guiding you.

Nehemiah was allowed to begin work on the vision.  But still he kept silent.  We read: “Then I came to the governors of the province Beyond the River and gave them the king’s letters. Now the king had sent with me officers of the army and horsemen.  But when Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite servant heard this, it displeased them greatly that someone had come to seek the welfare of the people of Israel. So I went to Jerusalem and was there three days. Then I arose in the night, I and a few men with me. And I told no one what my God had put into my heart to do for Jerusalem. There was no animal with me but the one on which I rode. I went out by night by the Valley Gate to the Dragon Spring and to the Dung Gate, and I inspected the walls of Jerusalem that were broken down and its gates that had been destroyed by fire. Then I went on to the Fountain Gate and to the King’s Pool, but there was no room for the animal that was under me to pass.  Then I went up in the night by the valley and inspected the wall, and I turned back and entered by the Valley Gate, and so returned.  And the officials did not know where I had gone or what I was doing, and I had not yet told the Jews, the priests, the nobles, the officials, and the rest who were to do the work.”  [Vs. 8b-16]

Can you relate to some of Nehemiah’s feelings as he considered his vision?  Maybe you have a vision on rebuilding your marriage or family.  Hopefully we are all praying together for a vision to rebuild our church so that it can once again become a thriving, living presence of God’s love and forgiveness within our community.  If we look at the landscape of our circumstances it might seem overwhelming and even impossible…like there’s no way you could ever pull it off.  But what we must remember is that there will always be more questions than answers when God gives a vision.  There will always be obstacles and there will always be a lack of resources. 

Anyone with a vision from God will at first be alone.  Nehemiah must have felt terribly alone as he rode along the perimeter of the city adjusting his plan and formulating the costs.  He must have wanted to recruit the people immediately.  But God tempered that desire with the negative spirit of Sanballat and Tobiah who communicated displeasure that Nehemiah was there checking on the welfare of the people of Israel.  But Nehemiah was not discouraged, because it was God giving him the vision and it was God creating that unquenchable desire to see the vision become a reality.  Like Nehemiah, the thing that will keep our vision alive is the knowledge that it is God Himself who has called us into uncharted territory with a divine purpose in mind…His vision will come true!

III. Dear friends, believe it or not, God wants to do the same work of faith and trust in you that He did through Nehemiah, and the paralytic and his friends.  There is always something in our lives, in our families, at our employment, and in our church that requires following where God is leading in a vision that He has provided.  God’s desire is to work through the circumstances in your life to the point where you are exactly where he needs you.  Now, this is easy to say when you are looking back, but when you are in the here and now, smack dab in the middle of a crisis and looking ahead, it becomes something that we have to undertake by faith.  Many times, when following a God given vision there is no tangible connection between our circumstances and the vision, accept God’s Word, a word that promises you that because of Jesus Christ’s obedience to His Father’s will, you are loved and forgiven; that because of Jesus Christ, God will never leave you or forsake you.  Now doubters may ask if this is enough for you to follow a vision, and faith answers, “Yes, with the help of God!”

CONCLUSION: Friends, we don’t know what God is up to behind the scenes of our lives, but God’s Word gives us faith to trust Him, that indeed “For those who love the Lord, all things work together for good for those who are called according to His purpose.”  Please hear this important truth: It is not a problem that you are not where you think you should be in order to implement God’s vision.  It is not an accident that you are where you are.  God is very much in control of your circumstances and right now He is fulfilling His purpose within you and around you.  God’s vision for your life is your purpose.  God is using your circumstances to prepare you to accomplish His vision for your life.  If you are “seeking first” His kingdom’s purpose, to seek and save the lost and restore their lost relationships with God through the forgiveness of Jesus Christ, then where you are is right where He wants you! 

I pray that you will find comfort, strength and encouragement in these words as you continue to seek out God’s vision and will for you and His church, even our beloved Trinity Lutheran Church.  And I ask this in Jesus name…AMEN!

Reformation: Let’s Do It Again!

Sunday, October 25th, 2009

Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
Reformation Sunday
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 INTRODUCTION:  In 1505, a young but brilliant German law student named Martin Luther found himself caught in the open, on foot during a violent thunder storm.  As lightening struck the ground all around him, Luther in fear for his life threw himself on the ground, and with his face in the mud, he begged God to have mercy on him and spare his life.  He entered into “negotiations” with God by stating that while he knew he was a sinner, if God would spare his life, he would then dedicate his life to Him and become a monk.

 Luther did survive, and true to his word he became an Augustinian monk.  During his time in a monastery, Luther tried to work out his salvation and become closer to God through study of the Psalms, prayer, fasting, meditation and hard work.  But no matter how hard he tried, he could not seem to find peace for his troubled soul.  Nothing seemed to shake his feeling that he was a helpless sinner caught in the grasp of an angry and vengeful God.  We might say that Luther began to feel as if he was a flightless bird trapped in a gilded cage.

 In 1507, Luther was ordained to the priesthood and licensed to preach and study Theology at the University of Wittenberg.  Luther’s superiors soon discovered that God had gifted him with a brilliant mind, but yet he seemed to be held back by his now obvious feeling of guilt.  The solution?  Luther must make the pilgrimage to Rome, where church tradition taught that the journey itself would earn merit with God and bring the pilgrim closer to salvation.  Luther was also told that he could purchase certificates of forgiveness called indulgences, which were published by the Pope himself.  These indulgences guaranteed the purchaser of even more favor and love from God.  Well, Luther, ever the obedient monk did as he was told, but he found no peace in the pilgrimage or the possession of indulgences.

 While the story of Martin Luther is for some ancient history it is nonetheless our history, the history of the church.  Historians tell us that if we are to understand our history correctly, then we must learn to identify with it.  This morning, that will be easy for us.  You don’t have to become a monk, Priest or Pastor to put yourselves in Martin Luther’s shoes because we all have something much deeper than this in common with Brother Martin—we all struggle with sin!  If we think of Martin Luther as a flightless bird being held in a cage, then sin was the cage that held him captive.  Today, on Reformation Sunday, we celebrate the freedom that God gave first to Martin Luther and then to the whole church. 

This morning, we’ll look at how we too have been freed from sin and enabled to live as God intends us to live, by learning two concepts.  First, the cage that holds us captive has been opened; and second, we must be given two strong wings so that we can fly out of it. 

 I. The cage of sin can only be opened when God’s Word provides the gift to believe, that is faith.  All of us, like Martin Luther are born trapped in this cage of sin.  No matter how hard we try to free ourselves from our cage, we fail.  This is the hard lesson Luther learned.  It was not until God, through His Word provided Luther with the faith to trust in Jesus that Luther saw the cage of sin opened.  What does scripture say about faith?  Faith comes from the Word of God.  Martin Luther discovered this one evening while studying God’s Word in the privacy of his own room.  Through his devotional reading of our Epistle this morning, Luther received the gift of faith.  Listen to these words, “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,” [Rom. 3:21-24]

 By those Words, Luther discovered that God is not angrily staying far away from us and we do not have to try hard to reach Him or please Him.  In fact, the opposite is true.  You and I though born sinful and distant from God are not lost at all, for God Himself through Jesus Christ, has come to us so that we who were once lost are now found and released from the bondage of sin.  Through Christ’s work alone upon the cross, and through the gift of new life given to you within the holy waters of your baptism, you are now right with God!  Now while this is certainly Good News, it is not new news, but rather it is the consistent and old gospel of grace, which has been handed down from the very beginning; it had simply been overlaid and hidden by the traditions of men.  But now the cage, which once imprisoned Luther and even us, has been opened and like Luther, we are set free; but free to do what?  Free to follow God’s direction in our lives.   

 II. So Luther, now armed with a vibrant faith through God’s Word was able to rightly understand that Word.  Through God’s love and care, Luther was changed in a way that would impact time and eternity, and God’s desire is that we would also be changed in this way.  Remember that I told you that Luther was like a flightless bird, caught in a cage?  Well, the cage has now been opened, and now Luther and we too, must be provided two strong wings so that we can leave the cage of sin and soar where God wants to lead us.

 A. The first wing for Luther and for us comes from our Lord in these Words: “Come unto me, all you who are tired of carrying heavy burdens and I will give you rest.”  For Luther there could have been no heavier burden than the burden of sin!  And now Jesus had miraculously removed that burden from him and exchanged it for peace with God.  Luther realized that he could quit working to please God and simply rest in God’s forgiving love.  What did Jesus say in our Gospel reading?  “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. (And) if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”  You see friends, not only have we been freed from the bondage of sin, but we have also been invited to rest in God’s love as His adopted sons and daughters.  But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” (John 1:12).  (And) all who are now led by the Spirit of God, are now sons of God.” (Romans 8:14).  What good news!  Rest in this gospel!

What’s preventing you from resting in God’s love?  What’s preventing you from living out this truth?  What is preventing you from becoming all that God has declared for you?  Is it anger, pride, or an unforgiving spirit?  If so, please hear my words, CHRIST HAS SET YOU FREE! 

For some, perhaps what’s holding you back is the very thing that hindered Martin Luther for much of his early life, FEAR!  There is nothing that I can think of that darkens the human heart more than fear in any of its many forms. But those of you who truly trust in Jesus Christ have been saved from all of your fears. You’re delivered from all fear of misfortune; you’re delivered from all fear of other people; you’re delivered from all fear of death; and you’re delivered from perhaps the biggest fear of all, the fear of eternity. Write this question on a card “Where will you spend eternity?” and give it to a person who doesn’t know the Lord, and it will make that person extremely angry; write the same question on a card and hand it to a Christian, and it will make them smile. Why is this? Simply because a person who trust in Christ alone isn’t afraid of eternity, but instead that person delights in the thought of eternity because to that person, eternity means joy, happiness and glory.  

B.  Now let’s look at the second wing that we’ll need in order to soar where God leads.  Jesus said just before He ascended into heaven: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.  And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  You see, the second wing God gives us, is His real presence in our lives, which is critical when we as His church and as individuals are obediently following His great commission.  In essence, God wants us to listen to His call and follow Him.  But follow Him where? Well out of the cage of course; out of our bondage to sin and fear and out into our communities, our schools, our places of work, and even into our families to be His Children, the Ambassadors of Jesus Christ.  Well what are we to do?  Well, we are Ambassadors of Christ aren’t we?  Well then we are to represent Him; we are to do the very thing He did, we must seek out and save the lost with the very same gospel and baptism that saved us.  Who are the lost?  They’re the broken people that live in our community.  They’re the people who still live in bondage to sin and fear.  They’re the people who become angry or afraid when asked where they will spend eternity. 

 Dear friends, we must go out to our neighbors and develop relationships of trust by serving them where they are.  We must be Christ to our neighbors!  Which is easier, to bring the City of San Diego into Trinity or for Trinity to go out into our community?  That’s right, now you see, we are being sent out to them!  We do this as individuals when we just simply live our lives at home, work, school, or where ever we go.  But how will we do this as a congregation?  Honestly, we don’t know yet.  That is why we have entered into our sermon series and it’s why we’re praying for God’s vision. 

 CONCLUSION: While we wait for God’s burden for the lost within our community to become His vision for us, we at least know this much: It is God’s desire that we along with Martin Luther and all other Saints learn to soar where he leads us.  But we must soar on two wings, not one.  To live only in the promise “Come unto me you weary and I will give you rest” is to live only half of the life God has provided for us.  Instead, while retaining the first promise, let’s also embrace the second one, which is that God will be with us as we go out into our community with the Good News in a way that will impact the people in our communities for time and for eternity.  Let’s not let our fear hold us back, because He is with us—we are not alone!  He is always with us, even to the end of time.  If we can live out both of these promises, then along with Martin Luther we will have reformed both our own lives of faith and also the faith life of our church.

 May God grant this to you and to His church, in Jesus name…AMEN!

Prophecy Fulfilled at Pentecost!

Sunday, May 31st, 2009

Pentecost Sunday, May 31, 2009

Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
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INTRODUCTION: “We all need a little good news once in a while,” so goes the old saying.  But if we pay attention to our Bible, and especially to this morning’s scripture readings we would say rather, “We always need good news—all of the time.”  The good news of course is the gospel, and we need to hear the Gospel all of the time because we sin daily.  Without the gospel being central in our lives we are nothing more than a pile of dead—dry bones. Our reading from the book of Acts this morning is the fulfillment of our Gospel reading where Jesus said, “When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, He will bear witness about me.”  [John 15:26]  This is the “Gospel Promise” that Jesus left the Church just before His ascension.  It is His promise that the Holy Spirit will accomplish God’s will in regards to ensuring that the gospel is preached and the gift of faith is given; the promise that a new and blessed life will come forth from dead, dry, bones.  It is His promise he gives to you today.  It is “good news” for you, if you will only believe.

 

I. The first time God shared the gospel with us was immediately after the very first sin when Adam and Eve were encouraged by the devil to do the only thing God said they could not do, eat from the tree of knowledge.  When they did this, they committed the first sin.  In one bite they exchanged God’s truth and love for a lie (You will be like God.  You will become wise).  Instead of finding wisdom they found misery; instead of becoming like God they became separated from Him.  But God in His love would not let mankind suffer in this state; in His love God demonstrated His mercy by immediately proclaiming the Gospel.  Speaking directly to the devil, but for the benefit of mankind, God said: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” [Gen. 3]  In these words, God promised that the savior of mankind would come as a descendant of Adam and Eve, and it was in the work of this Savior that God would restore mankind into a right relationship with Him. 

 

Now, many years after this, God spoke of the hope of the gospel to a prophet named Ezekiel.  In our old testament reading, God showed the prophet the work of the Holy Spirit… He showed Him new life for dry bones.  He showed Him the hope of salvation for those dry and dead in their sins and trespasses, if they would but trust in God’s mercy and receive the gift of faith; faith which comes through the Word of God by the power of the Holy Spirit.

 

II.  In our reading from the book of Acts (Acts 2:1-21), we see how God ensured that His message of grace, the good-news that was first proclaimed in the Garden of Eden, would be proclaimed to all people on the face of the earth, just as Jesus had promised so many times.

 

In our reading, we join the disciples gathered in a large building near the Jerusalem temple.  It was about 9:00 a.m., and they were seated on the floor listening to the Apostles; they were possibly talking about the Great Commission, because those were the last words Jesus spoke to them just before He ascended into heaven.  I would imagine that their discussion probably sounded very similar to the discussions we’ve had here at Trinity; discussions like how can we fulfill Jesus command to “go” into the world and baptize and teach God’s Word.  They must have been asking the apostles questions like, “What did Jesus mean when He said he was with us even until the end of time?  He has left us to be with the Father, so how is He with us?”

 

Peter would not have time to formulate an answer, because out of no where, a very loud noise, like a tornado approached their building, and filled the room.  It was the sound of wind, without the wind itself.  ILLUST: I am a witness to a tornado, and it sounds just like a very loud train is bearing down on you.  IT IS FRIGHTENING!  Now that God had their attention, He was about to remind them, in a miraculous way that Jesus ALWAYS keeps His Word!  The promise of the Holy Spirit was about to be fulfilled!  Somewhere in the center of the room appeared a large flame; I would imagine that it was similar to the burning bush that Moses saw on Mt. Sinai.  That alone must have frightened the group, but then it did something very new, God’s Holy Spirit became very personal; it divided into many parts, and the parts spread out and began to hover over each person’s head.  Now, fear was replaced with awe, as each one led by the Holy Spirit rose and made their way outside of the building, and into the street.

 

They were probably in a public square somewhere near the temple because a huge crowd had gathered outside of their building, most likely because they heard the great sound of a mighty wind gushing into that meeting room.  Now as each disciple, being led by the Spirit of God proceeded outside, they began praising God in a new language that was foreign to them; it was a language that exactly matched the languages of the foreign Jews who were gathered at the temple for Pentecost.  Each one heard something like our liturgical hymn of praise, in their own native language: “Glory to God in the highest, and peace to His people on earth.  Lord God, Heavenly king almighty God and Father.  We worship you.  We give you praise.  We thank you for your glory.”  Now the majority of the people stood in awe, but someone in the crowd must have known that the disciples were “simple” people who had been with Jesus, because the comment was made, “Aren’t all of these people who are speaking Galileans?  So, how is it that we hear them praising God in our own language?”  [Acts 2:7, 8, 11]

 

What a wonderful demonstration of God’s miraculous power!  This was the first recorded miracle God performed after Jesus ascension into heaven, but it certainly would not be the last, in fact, the book of Acts is loaded with miracle after miracle.  God used these miracles starting with this gift of tongues to propel the church throughout the world in such a way as to ensure its growth, very much like how God used the confusion of languages to compel men and woman to spread throughout the earth.  Now God was ensuring that each and every person would hear His praises in their own “heart” language.  Through the gift of tongues the Holy Spirit was leading His church at a time when such a witness was sorely needed.  Because of this, we would call this use of the gift of tongues strategic and temporary, because it’s use diminished once the church grew so large and fast that its very existence and power was proof that the Spirit’s eternal presence was within it. 

 

Back to our story, Peter now takes his place among the disciples, and he hears some from the crowd proclaim that the disciples praising God are probably drunk!  With this word, the devil once again attempted to take the focus of attention off of the Creator and place it instead on the creature.  But God would not be silent; He could not!  Now,  filled with the Spirit, Peter recalled Jesus’ own Words: “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you.  But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, who the Father will send in my name, He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” [John 14:25,26]  And remember he did, and then some!  Praise God, the Helper had come in a mighty way.  And now led by the Holy Spirit, Jesus’ real presence through His Word went out to his people from the mouth of Peter.  Peter continued God’s plan from the beginning, he preached the Gospel.

 

III.  Dear friends, Peter’s sermon makes it clear that God’s Spirit will be poured out on the last days.  When are the last days?  They are now!  The last days are every day after Jesus suffered, died, rose from the dead, ascended into heaven and sent in his place the Comforter, the Helper, the Holy Spirit; it is He who causes our hearts to respond to God’s call of repentance through His Word: “Turn away from your sin and turn towards Jesus Christ.  Confess with your mouth and believe in your heart that Jesus is your Lord and Savior, and you will be saved.”  But what are our sins?  They are anything that places God as second place in our life, and anything which offends or harms our neighbor.   Dear saints, in vs. 8-10 of our Gospel reading Jesus says, “(The Holy Spirit) will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father.”  Dear Friends, Jesus is speaking to us—none of us can believe in Him on our own.  Without the Helper we stand convicted as sinners… convicted of the capital offense of unbelief in Jesus Christ as our Savior.   The last days are today.  Today, Jesus calls out to us through the same Holy Spirit, to believe in Him unto eternal life!  To believe in Jesus is to be saved from sin, to have all of our sins forgiven… and to not believe in Jesus is to remain in sin, to die forever as nothing more than a pile of dead bones!  But praise God, for by His Holy Spirit, our hearts are continually moved to confess our sinfulness to Him and then trust in Jesus Christ as our only source of peace with God.  Friends, it is faith in Jesus Christ alone that will strengthen you with God’s love and power.  Only faith in God’s Word can transform you, renew you, and bring meaning to your life. 

 

CONCLUSION: Dear saints, you are those sons and daughters that will prophesy and see visions.  Young people, God’s Word specifically mentions you.  There are none too young or too old to receive God’s Spirit, because that Spirit was first given to you at your Baptism.  Do you believe it?  Then live this truth and allow God’s Spirit through His Word to keep your heart centered in it.  Call out to Him and trust He has saved you just as His Word promises!  “And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” [vs. 21]  “To call upon the Lord’s name” means to call out to him for the forgiveness of all of your sins.  To call upon the Lord’s name means that you follow the Spirit’s leading and call out to Him for strength so that you will not fall into unbelief.  To call upon His name is to call upon God’s kind heart as proclaimed in His gospel!  It is the same gospel that God first proclaimed to Adam and Eve, and the one you first received at your Baptism.  It is the same gospel that assures us this morning that when we come to His Holy table to eat His body and drink His Blood we receive forgiveness of sins.  And as we are changed by this gospel, the result will be that we will prophesy.  We will share the good news, the saving and blessed will of God to people everywhere.  We can not help but witness to His love and mercy because it is His Spirit acting within us! 

 

But what about the visions we will see?  What is this vision that God gives?  It is the vision of a dying world.  It is God’s vision of seeing this world saved and transformed by the gospel message that says that through faith in Jesus there is new life for dead bones.  Dear friends, the Holy Spirit is present in this dying world through you!  As you go out into the world and live your life you take with you God’s love and grace.  Filled with His Word and empowered by faith, you are His breath of life for dry, dead bones.  Now go in peace and follow the Lord!  In Jesus name…AMEN!