Posts Tagged ‘Praise’

Hosanna! Great is the Lord!

Sunday, April 14th, 2019

Palm Sunday
April 14, 2019
Rev. Brian T. Henderson, Senior Pastor of
Trinity Lutheran Church
San Diego, CA 92114

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“And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?”
And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”” [Matt. 21:10,11]

This morning, as we begin Holy Week, God wants us to ask this question about Jesus: “who is this Jesus? Who is He to me?”  Prophet yes, but also so much more!  In His flesh a man, but not just a man; no, because you see He is also God… the living Word of God to be exact!  This is Jesus, our Prophet, our Priest and our King!  This is the One who has come and is coming again; He is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!  He is the one who comes with all of God’s power and authority.  Why?  Because He is God!  He is the one who comes to us humbly, mounted upon a donkey.  He comes with compassion and mercy, but He also comes to judge and punish.  He is a God of contrasts, a God who comes to kill and make alive; to wound and to heal.  And when He acts, none can deliver out of His hand! [Deut. 32:39b]

In our Old Testament reading (Deuteronomy 32:36-39), Moses reminded the Jews about God’s anger for their past sins and He warned them about His coming anger for their future sins.  

But why was God angry?  What was this sin that angered Him so strongly that He would judge, punish, wound and kill? 

It was the sin of worshiping false Gods!  They did it in the past when they longed to return to Egypt as slaves, just so they could get their fill of the food they were accustomed to eating.  They did it when they tried to replace Moses as their leader, because they didn’t like the message.  And of course they did it when they created the golden calf to worship.  And now, God is telling His people that He will judge them.  He challenges them to turn to their false gods, their false means of hope for protection from His anger.  Listen to how God mocks their false gods: “Then (God) will say, ‘Where are their gods, the rock in which they took refuge”. [vs. 37] 

Through Moses, God reminded the Jews then and He reminds us today of our sinful tendency to set up false gods to worship and follow.  He reminds us in order to warn us.  “Return to the Lord your God, for He is faithful in steadfast love!”  What false gods do we set up in our lives?  Before you answer, remember that we are all by nature sinful and unclean. We are just like the Jews in Moses time, prone to wander.  One of the ways we wander from God is when we place our hope and trust in human authority and government.  When we listen to and trust the word of man more than the living Word of God.

Another false god in our lives can be found in our own self sufficiency.  Maybe you’ve experienced this sin as I have.  It happens when we trust ourselves and our own resourcefulness instead of having complete trust and confidence in God.

Another false god that we must consider is our family.  While it’s true that love for family is important, sometimes we can love them more than the God who gives us our family.  Sometimes our love for our children or other family members can lead us to do things that we know are wrong.

Finally, another false god can be the very comfort that God’s blessings bring to those of us who are part of Christ’s church.  We who are Christ’s body have been blessed with eternal life, washed clean in the waters of our baptism; forgiven of all our sins.  We enjoy a certain peace of mind and soul that no other person outside of grace can ever experience.  We are daily protected from the attacks of the devil and we have prospered.  We love our comfort and long for more of God’s blessings yet we ignore the leading of the very God who provides all of this for us.  How do we ignore Him?  By forgetting that we too need to cry out to Him like the crowds on the first Palm Sunday, Hosanna!  We need to live a life that demonstrates praise to our Savior God and to Him alone!

How do we do this?  By knowing God as He really is.  How do we know God?  

We know God by knowing Jesus!  

By knowing who Jesus is for us and who He is for our neighbor our lives will be transformed! God wants us to know that Jesus is more than just His Son; He wants us to know that He is also our brother.  He wants us to know that Jesus is at all times both God and man.  He is eternal; He is the Son of God, who together with the Father and the Holy Spirit are eternally worshiped and glorified, yet… Jesus was also born of the Virgin Mary.  What a mystery… God was born!  But even more mysterious, Jesus died… the God who is eternal and cannot die did in fact die—but not just any death… He died upon the cross.  He died the death of a slave, the death of a condemned criminal.  

And to all of this truth, our sinful minds question, “But how can any of this be?”  But asking how is the wrong question friends.  It is wrong because God’s ways are not our ways; His ways are far above ours.  The right question to ask is why?  If we understand the why, then the how becomes unimportant.  Hosanna!  Hosanna to the Savior God!

When the Son of God took on our flesh to save us, He chose to make Himself nothing by becoming our servant, so that as our servant, He could suffer and die in our place.  The God-man Jesus Christ humbled Himself for us, by dying for us!  From the moment He was conceived by the Holy Spirit He chose to be born in order to die.  Now here is where God’s ways become very mysterious to us; at no time did Jesus cease being God.  Not in the womb and not upon the cross.  Out of love for you, Christ put aside His deity and chose to live out your humanity.  At any time He could have walked away from our flesh, but if He would have done that, then He could not have paid the penalty for your sins.  If He would have allowed His angels to save Him from your death, the death that you should die, then He could not have won salvation for you!  

Dear friends, by taking on your flesh and dying your death for your sins, Jesus became your Warrior King.  When He rode into Jerusalem that first Palm Sunday, He indeed rode in as a warrior king.  But not the type of warrior king the people expected.  Warrior kings ride in on strong stallions, suited with armor and with sword and shield in hand.  But Jesus rode in on a donkey armed with only our flesh, our mind, and covered with our sin.  

He who is Spirit and truth, and without sin took on our flesh and our sins so that He could fight and win for us!  

But these strange weapons were exactly what He needed to defeat sin, death, and the devil.  They were in keeping with the work that He came to do.  He didn’t come to conquer nations or empires; He came to conquer your sin.  This was God’s means of waging war against our enemies.  Jesus had to be our substitute, and He could only do this by being obedient to the Father’s will; by suffering and dying to pay for our sins.  And make no mistake friends; He could not have done this without His full deity.  He had to attach the full weight of His deity to His human flesh in order to be obedient unto death, even death upon the cross.  And as we will proudly proclaim and celebrate next week on Easter morning, He must have all of His deity in order to rise from the dead.  Even in death, Jesus was mighty God so that by His death and resurrection we could be assured of the very same thing happening for us..  Hosanna!  Hosanna to our Savior King!

Dear friends, by knowing and believing in this truth our hearts can’t help but cry out Hosanna!  We will naturally cry out Hosanna when we know who our true Savior King is and how and for whom He came to save.  He came to save you dear friends, but not just you… He came to save your neighbor.  You have a message to declare… you have a story to tell.  It’s a story that God wants you to share with as many people as possible.  But what shall you tell them?  Tell them that they have a God who comes to them as a Savior; a Savior who put Himself to death so that they could live.  Tell them that by putting Himself to death for them God was able to heal the sins of the entire world… even their sins.  He is our true God and all that He asks from us in return is that we would worship Him and Him alone.  He asks us to trust only in His love for us and then rest in His presence and protection.

Friends, it’s no wonder that the crowds came out on that first Palm Sunday shouting “Hosanna in the highest!”  I pray that each of us will be moved to praise Him as well and share that message with whoever God puts in our path.  Let’s try to remember each day that it is the Lord alone who delivers us from all of our enemies, even sin, death, and the devil.  Let’s try to thank Him each day that He has not only given us grace, but the faith to believe that Jesus died for each of us.     

May we always say hosanna to our Savior God, because it’s He alone who saves us; He saves us from all harm.  He has defeated all of our enemies.  His name is great, and His name is Jesus, the most beautiful name that has ever been spoken.  And at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.  AMEN

King Jesus Is All!

Sunday, December 2nd, 2018

Advent 1-C
December 2, 2018
Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor of
Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street
San Diego, CA 92114

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Our text this morning is from our Gospel lesson: “As [Jesus] was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!  Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” [Luke 19:37, 38]

One Sunday morning after a worship service a woman came up to her pastor and thanked him for the encouraging sermon he had preached. In response he said, “Well, don’t thank me, give God the glory and praise the Lord.”  She said, “Well, I thought about that, but it wasn’t quite that good.”

Glory, honor, and praise…these are words we use so easily on Sunday mornings when we are around other Christians.  The words seem to flow so naturally from our lips, don’t they?  It is good, right, and salutary (that means beneficial), that we should at all times and in all places give thanks to our Lord, our heavenly king!  But what does it really mean when we say that Jesus is our King?  This morning, our message will answer that very question.

In our gospel lesson this morning we see the people proclaiming Jesus as their king, and surprisingly, this time He accepts their praise.  

In the past, the people tried to force their idea of a king on Jesus.  For example, remember after the feeding of the 5,000 how they wanted to grab Him and make Him their king.  Did Jesus allow them to do this?  No, but what did He do?  Why He disappeared; He quickly left them because their idea of a king was limited to earthly reasons and it lacked the Heavenly will of God.  They wanted Jesus to smash the government of Rome, destroy the oppressive system of taxation, conquer Cesar, and rule as their sovereign king…a Jewish king for Jewish people!

Could Jesus have done these things?  Sure… but that would not have been in keeping with God’s will.  

Now think about this, in just a few short days after the occurrences of our gospel reading, Jesus would be standing in front of Pontius Pilate explaining the truth about the Kingdom of God.  As He was standing before Pilate, the very man that could set Him free, Pilate asked our Lord,  “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”  Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth.  Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.”

So what is the truth?  What kind of king is Jesus?  

A. Since it is good, right, and salutary that we should praise Him as our king, then we want to praise Him according to His will.  Well for the answer to this question let’s turn once again to His disciples.  On the day He entered Jerusalem for the last time until His return to make all things new, the crowd of His followers with the leading of the Holy Spirit got it right.  Let me combine all of the accounts of the Gospels, and so we can listen to the cries of the disciples as their Lord triumphantly enters the Holy City: “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!”[Mk. 11:10] “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” [Lk. 19:38] “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” [Jn. 12:13]  

In these words friends, Jesus’ disciples were essentially asking for God’s idea of a king.  They were in essence praying the Lord’s prayer…they were saying, “Thy kingdom come… Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  They knew that they needed a savior, one who could restore God’s heavenly kingdom on earth—they needed a Messiah!  Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord… Blessed is He who comes to bring heaven’s peace to sinful men…together they were giving glory to God for this type of king!

They didn’t need a kingdom of earthly power; they needed one of Heavenly power…they needed a Messiah… a Savior.  Only this kind of king could bring them and us what we really need, peace with our Creator.  Jesus isn’t a worldly king; He isn’t a rival to Caesar or Herod.  Jesus kingdom is not like that of David or Solomon.  His is a kingdom of heavenly power.  His kingship and kingdom are far greater than anything we could ever imagine; because you see, His kingdom isn’t limited to any country or region on earth, but it includes the entire universe, and it extends to all of creation… visible and invisible.  Jesus says Himself, “All power is given to me in heaven and in earth.” [Matt. 28:18]  Scripture in other places describes His kingdom like this: “There is nothing that is not under Him” [Heb. 2:8] “All things have been put under his feet.”[Eph. 1:22; 1 Cor. 15:25] and He upholds all things by Word of His power.” [Heb. 1:3]

But Jesus brings us much more than heavenly power; He also brings us God’s own love… He brings us grace.  This kingdom of grace is God’s undeserved and unearned love for you.  It is so sure, so strong, and so powerful that nothing can separate you from the love of God through Christ Jesus.  The mighty and oppressive government of the Roman empire has passed away, but the kingdom of He who was crucified for you has continued and flourished in spite of bloody persecution, bitter ridicule, terrible heresy, and the foolish teachings of academia.  Why?  Because it is a kingdom that rests on God’s Word and work within you.  

It is God’s promise of love and forgiveness that wins sinners for the kingdom of heaven; it is the receiving of God’s pardon that turns them into saints…people who are willingly obedient to their new king.  The real essence of this kingdom isn’t like a congregation or even a denomination, but the “kingdom of God is within you” [Lk. 17:20-21]; it is the rule of Jesus Christ within the hearts of His believers.  It is a kingdom that finds its origins in the Word of God which teaches of divine love and forgiveness.  It is a kingdom that gives wholly as a gift the work of faith which leads a heart to believe that God is for them and not against them.  It is a kingdom that is governed by a King who desires that each of His subjects who He calls friend and brother, value a personal relationship with Him higher than anything else.  And when you are a subject of this kingdom of grace, the king promises you that He will live and work through you in such a way that you will never be the same.  How can all of this be true?  Because God’s kingdom is also a kingdom of glory and it is our changed lives that give Him that glory!

This kingdom of glory did not originate on earth, but it was truly expressed to sinful man here… here at the cross.  It was a kingdom that through the power of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, God’s love was shown to us in this, “that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” and He rose for us! [Rom. 5:8]  Because of this one act of love, God has assured that those who have been faithful unto death shall follow Him into His kingdom and be crowned with glory and honor [Phil. 3:21; Rom. 8:18]  

But for now, we wait for this kingdom in a sinful world.

Our’s is a world where greed, pride, lust, envy and other selfish desires seem to rule.  It is a world which taxes its people with sickness, death, and heartbreak.  But even in the middle of these sinful things, through the presence and power of God, we can wait with expectant joy, because we know that we are just strangers here, and heaven is our true home.  We know this is true for us because we have been baptized, recreated in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and we bear the seal of our King Jesus upon our brow and upon our heart. As we live out our identity as subjects of our King Jesus, we wait with excitement because we know our king is coming soon to take us home.  And when He comes to us He will come as our conquering Hero; a king who has destroyed sin and death, and smashed the head of the tyrant prince, the devil.

Let me close with the story of a determined rooster.  He lived on a farm in Oklahoma.  One day a terrible storm and tornado hit that farm and destroyed the entire chicken coop.  There were dead chickens, destruction and devastation scattered everywhere.  While standing dazed, evaluating the mess and wondering about the future, the farmer and his wife heard a stirring in the lumber pile that was the remains of the henhouse. The rooster had survived and he was climbing up through the debris, and he didn’t stop climbing until he had mounted the highest board in the pile. That old rooster was dripping wet, and most of his feathers were blown away. But as the sun came over the eastern horizon, he flapped his bony wings and proudly crowed.

Friends, that old, wet, bare rooster could still crow when he saw the morning sun. And like that rooster, our world may be falling apart, we may feel like we’ve lost everything, but if we trust in our Messiah-King, our Prince of Peace, we’ll be able to see the light of God’s goodness and by faith in He who is faithful, we to will rise out of the rubble of this world, and shout Hosanna!  Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!  Blessed is Jesus our King and our Savior!

Jesus is coming….He is coming indeed!  Maranatha…come Lord come!  AMEN!!

Again I Say Rejoice!

Sunday, December 15th, 2013

Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church-San Diego
Advent 3A, December 15th, 2013

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Psalm 146

This morning, God invites us to rejoice, that is to praise Him while we still have life and soul within our bodies.  But is it really possible to praise Him all of the time?  Yes it is.  So let’s get started: Rejoice. Celebrate your awesome God.  When you are happy… rejoice.  When you are sad… rejoice.  When you are rich… rejoice.  When you are poor… rejoice.  If you are sick or healthy, able or disabled… rejoice!  Your God is with you.

Easier said then done, eh?  Well let’s look at our Psalm (Psalm 146) and see if there is a way to rejoice that comes with God’s work, because I think that you will agree with me, if it is up to our own strength we will fail.

“Praise the Lord, O my Soul!  I will praise the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.” [Vs. 1, 2]  First let’s get something settled right off the bat; you are no better or worse off than the author of this psalm.  You struggle with the results of sin and the weakness of flesh just as he did.  The psalmist knows this truth, so he calls out to each of us this morning, even though we are saturated with all of our sin, he calls us to praise the Lord.  He wants you to declare this mandate just as he has, so that it is no longer he speaking to you, but you speaking.  But who are you speaking to?    You are speaking to yourself.  But how can you speak to yourself without seeming a little strange?  Because you are not just flesh, you are also composed of a soul.

“Praise the Lord O my soul!”  Your soul needs reassurance; it needs hope because it is constantly under attack by the evil that surrounds it.  So we must speak truth, God’s truth to our souls so that they will not grow weak and discouraged.  We must speak words like, “Hope in God; confess to Him your sin, because He promises to forgive.”  And when we receive His forgiveness, our soul turns our hearts outward to others in need of forgiveness.  And with them, we share these encouraging Words:  “Return to your Creator God and be assured that He is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.”

So speak to your soul and say, “Praise the Lord, O my soul.”  Your soul is given truth and light from the Word of God.  Through the Word of God you are given reason to see beyond the created and observe the hand of the Creator.  Where others see darkness, you see the glorious light of God Himself!  Where others see despair and hopelessness you see good and hope.  And so through the Work of God’s Word and His constant presence you can encourage your soul when it is fearful and answer: “I will praise the Lord as long as I live!”

Now this is where the light of God makes things interesting for us creatures.  God is calling us to everlasting praise, but how can that be when we are simply flesh that is here today and gone tomorrow?  Because you are more than flesh, you are also a soul, and your soul is everlasting.

So you see your soul was created to praise the Lord in what ever station or calling of life you are in, and your flesh, well it doesn’t like that, so it answers, “But I am sinful and I will not praise Him!”  So what are we to do about this battle that goes on within us?

Verses 3 and 4 give us our answer: “Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation. When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish.”  Will your sinful flesh even hear these Words?  Yes, but it will not rejoice in them.  You see, these Words are not the advice of man, but the very voice of God speaking to you from Heaven.  They are meant to turn your eyes away from that which is created, even your own flesh, and look to the One who has created all things.

So, don’t trust people, not even yourself.  And if you can’t even count on yourself, then doesn’t it make sense that you shouldn’t put your hope in politicians, preachers, doctors, family, or friends, but trust only in The Lord?  Now you may counter this and say, “I try, but life is hard.  I have certain needs.  If I only had a more loving family, a better job, more government aid, or better health, then I could really praise the Lord.”  And to that, I must declare that God’s Word still stands and your sinful flesh must be silenced.

The truth is, you would be happy if some politician gave you more money or more stuff.  You would certainly be happy if your disease was cured by a doctor or your heart cheered by the love of church and family, but when it is your very Creator who speaks encouraging Words of truth and promises of healing and prosperity you doubt and reject that truth; you try to turn the soul towards the created and away from the Creator.

So hear this loud and clear:  When that man or woman that you trust is popped like a bubble and they go back to being dust and ashes where will your hope be then?  When you O sinful body, cease to have the breath of life, what will your outcome be?  Where O flesh is your pride now?  Where is your boasting?

So what are we to do if we can’t put our hope in men, in governments, family, and friends?

“Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, who keeps faith forever; who executes justice for the oppressed, who gives food to the hungry.” [Vs. 5-7]  Who is this God of Jacob; the Lord of your soul?

Well for us who have confessed our sins and by faith received forgiveness of those sins, there is only One true God, the Father, maker of heaven and earth, and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom all things are made.  Let this God and this God alone be our source of hope and trust.  Let the ungodly trust in their gods.  Their gods are things that are created; things that satisfy the hungers of this world; our God is He who created this world and everything that this world considers food.

Dear friends, we have a great God, so let us bless His name.  He alone has done great things for us; He has made us His great possession and He has bought us with a great price.

Sometimes, blessing Him in the flesh can be a challenge, because for now He is simply Spirit and we must worship Him by faith.  But look around at all that you see… our God made it all!  Does your flesh value this created world and all that it provides?  Fine, then remind it that the One true God created it all!  If what is here on earth isn’t enough to silence your flesh, then look up into the heavens and see the other wonders of God’s hand and tremble in awe.  Put your hope in that great God and no other.

Since our God made all of this, then let us rest in His power and presence, because He made us too!  Isn’t it true that He cares for all of His creation?  The birds eat at their appointed time and all living things find their sustenance from within the creation itself.  How much more will He care for you O sinful man, you who were created in His image?  Why do we say that we were created in His image?  Because we have a soul and only a soul can praise it’s Creator with intent.  What intent is that?  The intent of turning by faith to the only true God, who alone is faithful forever!

God sees and He knows the injustices of the world; He see’s the wrongs that you have suffered on account of your faith.  God not only sees, but He promises that He will avenge.  You who are hard pressed by your sin and the devil, God promises relief and justice.  He promises to give food for the hungry.  But what food?

Certainly, as we have already heard, He gives physical food for the body, food that feeds physical hunger.  But for you His children of faith He gives a special food, because you have another hunger.  You hunger for righteousness, that is, you hunger to be free of sin so that you may praise God with an upright spirit.  Jesus has also called you blessed because you hunger.  “Blessed are those that hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.”  For this one thing we must also praise God; we praise Him because He has given us a hunger and thirst for His presence and care for our souls.  How does He do this great thing?  Through His Word!  LISTEN:

“The Lord sets the prisoners free; the Lord opens the eyes of the blind.  The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the righteous.  The Lord watches over the sojourners; He upholds the widow and the fatherless, but the way of the wicked He brings to ruin.” [Vs. 8, 9]

In our gospel reading (Matthew 11:2-15), Jesus gives St. John the Baptizer and our eyes of faith great things to consider and declare.  Listen: “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”  [Vs. 4-6]

At the time Jesus spoke these Words, He meant to have John and us encouraged by the miracles that He was physically performing.  The blind saw, the lame walked, lepers were healed and the deaf could hear.  John and we, are to know that in Christ Jesus, God’s long awaited Messiah had finally come; God had truly come to be with and save His people!  Strangers, widows, orphans and misfits all, could then and can now, find a place, a home in the company of Jesus Christ the Son of God!  And if that was not enough, the dead were brought back to life!  But the physical miracles were nothing in comparison to what would take place after… after the cross… after the empty tomb… after His ascension and return to the right hand of God the Father, and after the Son of God’s second advent.

Once these things have all taken place, sinful flesh will bow as the redeemed souls of the baptized declare with the Centurion at the foot of the cross, “Surely He IS the Son of the Living God!”  Surely He has come to set us free from our sins; the captivity of the devil.  Surely through His Word, He has opened the eyes and ears of those who were once deaf and blind to their sin and allowed them to see their new spiritual reality: They are forgiven!  Freed from their prison of sin.  Surely, His saints can see that it is true, “By His stripes, we are healed” and cleansed from our spiritual leprosy.”

Surely, our flesh must now see and tremble over what our souls now know as truth; in our baptisms we have been saved, reborn… recreated unto eternal life; recreated to praise the Lord!

Be still O soul; the Lord is on your side.  “The Lord your God shall reign forever, your God, O Zion, to all generations. Praise the Lord!” [Vs. 10]  Rejoice in the Lord always and again, I say REJOICE!

But For the Grace of God…

Sunday, April 1st, 2012

Palm Sunday B, April 1, 2012
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA

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If you were in Jerusalem on the day Jesus made His triumphant entry, would you have been part of the crowd that gathered to greet  Him with loud Hosannas?  Probably so; you see it was the simple everyday people like you and me that were attracted to Him.  They  liked the idea of Jesus being the Messiah, the son of David, because He was a simple man; one of them.  He was the underdog, and you  know how we all like to support our underdogs!  But they also were attracted to the mysterious side of this son of David; they were  attracted to the miracles He performed, and the fact that the Sanhedrin, the ruling religious party couldn’t explain or refute the  miracles.  Yes, I think we would have been there that day.  I believe that God’s Spirit would have drawn each of us out to shout loud  hosannas!

But there was another group that went out to see Jesus.  They weren’t there to cheer for Him and admire Him; no they were there to  plan His death.  You see, they had a man on the inside so to speak; Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve that made up Jesus inner-circle.  He  would be the tool they would use to trap Jesus and arrest Him in the dead of night, when all of these crowds weren’t around.

So that we can understand all that was getting ready to happen in that first holy week, we have to go back a few days in time; back before Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem.

Lazarus has already been raised from the dead in the little town of Bethany, just outside of Jerusalem.  The entire town is alive with the exciting news that Jesus raised one of their favorite son’s from the grave.  So they wanted to have some kind of recognition for this great day; there must be a formal celebration.  A man named Simon, who Jesus cured of leprosy offered his spacious home as party central.  There must have been a lot of people at this party, and while we don’t know everyone who was there, we do know through all of the gospel accounts, especially John chapter 12, who some of them were.  There gathered around the dinner table with Jesus, was of course the host Simon the Leper, Lazarus who was raised from the dead, Martha and Mary his sisters, and of course the twelve apostles, including Judas Iscariot, the mole, the Sanhedrin spy!  I think that we can easily identify with each of these people.  Let’s see if I’m right.

You are like Simon because as He was healed of his physical leprosy, you too have been healed of your spiritual leprosy, your sins.  You are no longer an outcast, separated from God’s love for His people; you are one of His people, one of His children who are invited to the Lord’s Table..  Because of all of this, you gladly open your heart and home to Jesus!

You are like Lazarus, because you too were once dead in your sins; lost forever to the living, but by the grace of God you are now alive and no longer lost but found, and because of that you are eternally grateful!

You are like Martha and Mary too, because you can celebrate new life for someone you love.  We all have someone we love who has been saved in baptism!  Because God is faithful in providing, you too have resolved to be faithful in your service towards Him with your time, talent, and treasure!

And you are also like the apostles.  Sometimes you feel so blessed to be a part of Jesus inner circle.  You see God working so mightily among us and within you that you just want shout glory!  You want to praise Him and get lost in worship.  But other times, in the dark times you can get confused and discouraged.  Like the apostles, when Jesus talks about suffering and death, carrying the cross and humbling yourself as a servant of all, you can begin to feel lost and frustrated; maybe even terrified. And when these moments come, all we can do is gather around God’s gifts, His Word and Sacraments and let go of everything else, all of the distractions, fears, and worries, and just worship Jesus.

Mary, the sister of Lazarus knew how to worship Jesus.  She opened a very expensive bottle of ointment and poured it over Jesus body.  This anointing she performed wasn’t some empty ritual performed to impress  others.  No, it was an act of the heart; an act of worship and adoration.  But Jesus tells us that it was also much more than this; He tells us that it was also an act of prophecy, because Mary was anointing His body for burial.  Mary alone recalled the many times Jesus said He was going to Jerusalem to die; that He was going to be lifted up high on the cross so that by His stripes, by His death we may all be healed.

What a beautiful act of worship; it was an act that was not understood by the others at that party.  And if it were not for the grace of God, Mary would not have understood either, but God made sure that she did; He made sure of this understanding because Jesus proclaimed that from that point on her story would be told wherever the gospel is proclaimed, and so now you too understand the significance of her act of worship!

The others at the party must have been confused  by what Mary did, but because Jesus allowed this act of adoration to proceed they were silent, everyone that is but Judas!

And now I must point out that we are all a little like Judas as well.  I know you would rather see yourself in Mary’s place, because she is the picture of pure worship.  But the truth is we can be a lot more like Judas.

When Leonardo da Vinci was painting his masterpiece The Last Supper, he looked long and hard for someone to model for his Christ. At last he located a man from one of the local churches in Rome who was very handsome, a young man named Pietro Bandinelli.  Well years passed, and the painting sat unfinished. All the disciples had been painted except one—Judas Iscariot. Da Vinci looked many years for a man whose face was hardened and distorted by sin—and at last he found a beggar on the streets of Rome with a face so villainous, da Vinci himself shuddered when he looked at him. He hired the man to sit for him as he painted the face of Judas on his canvas. When he was about to dismiss the man, he said, “Can you tell me your name.” “I am Pietro Bandinelli,” he replied, “I also sat for you as your model of Christ.”

Yes each of us still carries around with us our sinful nature just as Judas did.  We love it when the crowds run to our church on Easter Sunday and pack the pews.  We love to see the potential of a large and successful congregation.  We love to see money coming in during the offerings, because not only will we be able to pay the bills but we can do oh so much for God with it.  We can help Jesus build His church!  But when the crowd is small, or the offerings on Sunday seem insufficient, we can become discouraged.  When the worship time doesn’t meet our expectations, when the experience doesn’t meet our needs we will either run away or manipulate events so that we can make Jesus church serve our needs and desires.  And when we go down this road of self-service, we are doing the very thing Judas did.  We are ignoring the example of our Savior Jesus Christ who being God took on the form of a servant, and humbled Himself by putting others first, even sinners.  And He was obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  Mary I think had a glimpse of this, but Judas could not understand because he would not!

Instead, Judas saw this simple act of worship from Mary as a lavish waste; he saw it as an unnecessary ritual.  As the sweet smell of the perfumed ointment filled the room, there was another odor that overwhelmed it; it was the vile odor of Judas’ poison.  “Why was the ointment wasted like that?  For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denari and given to the poor.”  And as Judas’ poison filled the room, the sweet aroma of worship for the great “I AM” was replaced by the stench of “I want!”  One by one, the other apostles began to be overcome by this poison as they agreed with Judas.  The hour of worship was over for them; it was disrupted by the demon of greed!

Then Judas Iscariot got up and went and found the chief priests in order to betray Jesus.  Judas would latter, because of his betrayal take his own life.  He would die in his sins and pay the eternal penalty for them.

Now, if you are feeling guilty at the truthfulness of these words, please take time to thank God right now.  You see, your guilt is the very proof that you are not like Judas at all; you are not a child of sin but a child of grace, forgiven and loved by God because of your faith in Jesus.  Guilt is the one thing that Judas did not feel, because He would not allow God’s Word and the Holy Spirit to bring him new life.  He had no remorse because he had no faith, and because he had no faith, he would never know the forgiving love of God!  And because Judas could not experience God’s forgiving love through Jesus Christ, he would never understand why Mary worshiped Jesus the way she did!

But you know God’s love because like Mary, you can see the need for Jesus to go to the cross for you.  You know that while Jesus was riding into Jerusalem on a donkey’s colt, in His heart He was already experiencing the agony of the cross, and you know that He does it all for you!  You know and have tasted His forgiving grace.  And because of this grace, you know what Good Friday and Easter mean.  They mean that on God Friday when Jesus died, He died for you and your sins.  And on Easter morning, when He rose from the dead, He rose for you… He rose so that you would know that one day you too will rise from the dead.  He rose so that you would know and trust in Him alone.  And that is why you will never be a Judas!

A man once asked a pastor, “Why did Jesus choose Judas Iscariot to be his disciple if He knew he would betray Him?” Rather than explaining all of the theological significance of the act, the pastor simply replied, “I do not know, but I have an even harder question: Why did Jesus choose you and me?”  But for the amazing grace of God, when we see Judas we can say that could have been me!  I could have been the one to betray my savior.  Forbid it Lord and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil… in Jesus name… AMEN!

Sing Praise to God!

Sunday, November 29th, 2009

First Sunday of Advent, November 29, 2009
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
Click here for audio of this message

 Our text this morning is verses 37-38 from our Gospel lesson: “As He was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!  Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” [Luke 19:28-40]

One Sunday morning after a worship service a woman came up to her pastor and thanked him for the encouraging sermon he had preached. In response he said, “Well, don’t thank me, give God the glory and praise the Lord.”  She said, “Well, I thought about that, but it wasn’t quite that good.”

Glory, honor, and praise…these are words we use so easily on Sunday mornings when we are around other Christians.  The words seem to flow so naturally from our lips, don’t they?  It is good, right, and salutary (that means beneficial), that we should at all times and in all places give thanks to our Lord, our heavenly king!  But what does it mean when we say that Jesus is our King?  This morning, our message will answer that very question.

I. In our gospel lesson this morning we see the people proclaiming Jesus as their king, and surprisingly Jesus this time accepts their praise.  In the past, the people tried to force their idea of a king on Jesus.  For example, remember after the feeding of the 5,000 how they wanted to grab Him and make Him their king.  Did Jesus allow them to do this?  No, but what did He do?  Why He disappeared; He quickly left them because their idea of a king was limited to earthly reasons and it lacked the Heavenly will of God.  They wanted Jesus to smash the government of Rome, destroy the oppressive system of taxation, conquer Cesar, and rule as their sovereign king…a Jewish king for Jewish people!

Could Jesus have done these things?  Sure… but that would not have been in keeping with God’s will.  In just a few short days after the occurrences of our gospel reading, Jesus would be standing in front of Pontius Pilate explaining this same truth.  As He was standing before Pilate, the very man that could free Him, Pilate asked our Lord,  “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”  Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth.  Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.”

II. So what is the truth?  What kind of king is Jesus?  Since it is good, right, and salutary that we should praise Him as our king, then we want to praise Him according to His will.  Well for the answer to this question let’s turn once again to His disciples.  On the day He entered Jerusalem for the last time until His return to make all things new, the crowd of His followers got it right.  Listen to their cries as their Lord triumphantly enters the Holy City: “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!”[Mk. 11] “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” [Lk. 19] “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” [Jn. 12]  In these words friends, Jesus’ disciples were essentially asking for God’s idea of a king.  They were in essence praying the Lord’s prayer…they were saying, “Thy kingdom come… Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  They knew that they needed a savior, one who could restore God’s heavenly kingdom on earth—they needed a Messiah!  Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord… Blessed is He who comes to bring heaven’s peace to men…together they were giving glory to God for this type of king!

They didn’t need a kingdom of earthly power; they needed one of Heavenly power…they needed a Messiah… a Savior.  Only this kind of king could bring them and us what we really need, peace with our creator.  Jesus isn’t a worldly king; He isn’t a rival to Caesar or Herod.  Jesus kingdom is not like David or Solomon.  His is a kingdom of heavenly power.  His kingship and kingdom are far greater than anything we could ever imagine; because you see, His kingdom isn’t limited to any country or region on earth, but it includes the entire universe, and it extends to all of creation… visible and invisible.  Jesus says Himself, “All power is given to me in heaven and in earth.” [Matt. 28:18]  Scripture in other places describes His kingdom like this: “There is nothing that is not under Him” [Heb. 2:8] “All things have been put under his feet.”[Eph. 1:22; 1 Cor. 15:25] and He upholds all things by Word of His power.” [Heb. 1:3]

But Jesus brings us much more than heavenly power; He also brings us God’s own love… He brings us grace.  This kingdom of grace is God’s undeserved and unearned love for you.  It is so sure, so strong, and so powerful that nothing can separate you from the love of God through Christ Jesus.  The mighty and oppressive government of the Roman empire has passed away, but the kingdom of He who was crucified for you has continued and flourished in spite of bloody persecution, bitter ridicule, terrible heresy, and the foolish teachings of academia.  Why?  Because it is a kingdom that rests on God’s Word and work within you. 

 It is God’s promise of love and forgiveness that wins sinners for the kingdom of heaven; it is the receiving of God’s pardon that turns them into saints…people who are willingly obedient to their new king.  The real essence of this kingdom isn’t like a congregation or even a denomination, but the “kingdom of God is within you” [Lk. 17:20-21]; it is the rule of Jesus Christ within the hearts of His believers.  It is a kingdom that finds its origins in the Word of God which teaches of divine love and forgiveness.  It is a kingdom that gives wholly as a gift the work of faith which leads a heart to believe that God is for them and not against them.  It is a kingdom that is governed by a King who desires that each of His subjects who He calls friend and child value a personal relationship with Him higher than anything else.  And when you are a subject of this kingdom of grace, the king promises you that He will live and work through you in such a way that you will never be the same.  How can all of this be true?  Because God’s kingdom is also a kingdom of glory and it is our changed lives that give Him that glory!

This kingdom of glory did not originate on earth, but it was truly expressed to sinful man here… here at the cross.  It was a kingdom that through the power of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, that God’s love was shown to us in this, “that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” and He rose for us! [Rom. 5:8]  Because of this one act of love, God has assured that those who have been faithful unto death shall follow Him into His kingdom and be crowned with glory and honor [Phil. 3:21; Rom. 8:18] 

III. But for now, we wait for this kingdom in a sinful world… a world where greed, pride, lust, envy and the like seem to rule.  It is a world which taxes its people with sickness, death, and heartbreak.  But we can wait still with expectant joy, because we know that we are just strangers here, and heaven is our true home.  And as we live out our lives here in this place as His ambassadors, we wait with excitement because we know our king is coming soon to take us home.  And when He comes to us He will come as our conquering Hero; a king who has destroyed sin and death, and smashed the head of the tyrant prince, the devil.

Let me close with the story of a determined rooster.  He lived on a farm in Oklahoma.  One day a terrible storm and tornado hit that farm and destroyed the entire chicken coop.  There were dead chickens, destruction and devastation scattered everywhere.  While standing dazed, evaluating the mess and wondering about the future, the farmer and his wife heard a stirring in the lumber pile that was the remains of the henhouse. The rooster had survived and he was climbing up through the debris, and he didn’t stop climbing until he had mounted the highest board in the pile. That old rooster was dripping wet, and most of his feathers were blown away. But as the sun came over the eastern horizon, he flapped his bony wings and proudly crowed.

 Friends, that old, wet, bare rooster could still crow when he saw the morning sun. And like that rooster, our world may be falling apart, we may feel like we’ve lost everything, but if we trust in our Messiah, our Prince of Peace, we’ll be able to see the light of God’s goodness and by faith in He who is faithful, we to will rise out of the rubble of this world, and shout Hosanna!  Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!  Blessed is Jesus our King and our Savior!

 Jesus is coming….He is coming indeed!  Maranatha…come Lord come!  AMEN!!