Posts Tagged ‘Prayer’

The Cross!

Sunday, June 29th, 2014

Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego 92114
Pentecost 3A, June 29, 2014

Click here for audio of this message

“And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” [Matthew 10:38]

What does it mean to pick up your cross and follow Jesus?  This morning we will explore that very question by looking at both our Old Testament lesson (Jeremiah 28:5-9) and our Gospel lesson (Matthew 10:34-42).  But before we get started let me share a more contemporary example of a man that both identified his cross and even bore it with great strength and dignity.

On May 13, 1940, Winston Churchill addressed the British parliament as he was about to become prime minister. Hitler’s troops had already invaded Poland, and they had just begun their Blitzkrieg advance into France, Belgium, and the Netherlands. War was crashing upon the world as Churchill stepped into leadership. And unlike so many politicians, Churchill did not promise a bright, optimistic future; he held out no hope of speedy victory or early peace. Instead, he electrified the parliament and unified his country with these famous but difficult words: “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat.” No politician today would campaign on a slogan like that.  But Churchill was a truth teller.  He called a thing what it was.

In our Old Testament lesson, we see that very same honesty and sincerity from the prophet Jeremiah.  If you remember last weeks lesson, Jeremiah had confronted the leaders of Israel with a very sobering message: God was angry with the sin of the nation; they had embraced false worship practices and even foreign gods, and as a result God would soon punish the entire nation, by allowing it to be defeated in war and exiled into Babylon.

This was a hard message for Jeremiah to declare, and yet it was the very message of God.  What else can a true prophet of God do but declare the very Word that God has given?  So a true prophet, like a true Christian always speaks only as God has spoken; he calls out something for what it is; he calls a thing what it is, just as God does.

This truth telling was an unthinkable dilemma for the Israelites; could it be true?  Is God really against His own people?  Was He now taking the side of the godless Babylonians?  “Yes” declared the prophet Jeremiah, “on account of your unrepentant sin, you will pay the consequence of that sin.  But God will not abandon you; you will never be alone.  God desired that the leaders and all of the people repent, and turn to his mercy, and His forgiving love.”

But, hard messages from true men of God always leave room for false messages from false prophets.  In essence, it pays to tell the leaders and people of a nation what they want to hear.  The people name their desire and the prophet claims it.  And not only that, he assures the people that they too, may claim the promise of glory and comfort for themselves, all in the name of God!  And that is exactly what the false prophet Hananiah did.

When Jeremiah smashed the clay jar demonstrating how God would destroy the nation of Israel, Hananiah, the leaders of the nation, and the people were incensed.  But when Jeremiah next came among the people and the leaders wearing a wooden yoke, and declaring that just as the yoke was upon him, God would allow the Babylonians to place the yoke of slavery upon His people, Hananiah sensed his opportunity to ingratiate himself to the populace, and he sprung into action.  He snatched the yoke off of Jeremiah’s shoulders, smashing it to pieces, and declared, “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: I have broken the yoke of the king of Babylon. Within two years I will bring back to this place all the vessels of the Lord’s house, which Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon took away from this place and carried to Babylon.” [Jeremiah 28:2, 3]

So Jeremiah prophesied times of pain and suffering, but God promised that in the midst of it, the people of faith still could find joy and assurance, because God was still with them; He promised current comfort and future blessing, in the midst of hard times.  But the false prophet Hananiah promised that not only was God with them now, but He would also give them blessing and glory in the near future, by defeating their enemies.

So which prophet do you think the people chose to follow?  Now, I know myself, and you know yourselves and the way all of our sinful neighbors are as well, right?  Had we been there, we would also have chosen the message of Hananiah.  We would have turned away from the path of pain and embraced the promised path of peace and glory.  To borrow the tone and expression of a certain law firm’s television commercial regarding structured settlements, “It’s our glory and we want it now!”

And to all of this confusion, Jesus speaks very clearly to us with these words from our gospel reading: ““Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.”  A sword?  Isn’t that a bit violent coming from Jesus?  Isn’t He the Son of God, the Prince of Peace who brings peace to all He greets?

Yes, all of that is true, indeed. But “upon the earth” takes in the world of sinful men, and the effect of Christ’s coming. That is to say that His mission among sinful men and women, is the opposite of “peace,” namely, He comes to make war; spiritual war against sinful flesh, which is exactly what the “sword” symbolizes.  So in this great contrast Jesus is saying that peace in the sense of harmony, which we hunger for is not what His presence brings to this sinful world, rather it brings a sword, or division among sinful men and women and those who repent by turning to Christ and those who refuse.  In other words, if Christ didn’t come to save the world from its sins, the earth would remain undisturbed and ignorant of its sins and guilt, until that is, the day of its doom; the day of judgment. But Christ did come to take away the immense sin and that guilt; He came to die upon a cross and make atonement, payment in full for all sin.

So, at once a real war results with the coming of this Prince of Peace, because perverted men and women still want to cling to their sins, that is they want peace and comfort, wealth and blessings now, without the cross, and without the pain and suffering.  So they fight Christ and His gospel.  They desire the resurrection without the cross.  They desire commitment and personal decision instead of the blessed promises and work of God that is given at the font in our individual baptisms.  And hear now a great truth, Christ foresaw this effect, even in us today, and He even willed it to be so.

This morning, Jesus says to us, “I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

What is your cross that you must bear?  It is the same cross that Jeremiah bore; it is confessing the very Word of God just as He gives it to us in Holy Scripture, without change.  It is calling a thing what it is; knowing and speaking to those things that are sinful and those things that are God pleasing and glorifying.  It is living for God’s glory and not for your own peace and comfort in this world, because you know that while the physical world of pain and sorrow is but for a moment, the joy and wealth of heaven that you will one day receive is eternal.

Jesus once said that “In the world you will have tribulation.” But then He also said, “take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)  The tribulation that we face in this world when we cling to Christ alone will be conflict.  Conflict with our own sinful flesh, conflict with our neighbor, and even conflict with our own families.  When we stand for Christ we also stand against sin, and when we stand against sin we are by nature standing against those who cling to it rather than Christ.  If we shrink from our stand in Christ, that is if we reject the cross of confessing Him alone as Lord, we have then conversely taken the side of the false prophets and their theology that says we can have the glory that is reserved only for God and the saints in heaven, right now!  And if we do this, Jesus clearly says that we are not worthy of Him.

Dear friends, Christ is to be so precious to us that not even those we love will be able to draw us away from Him and His church.  No suffering or shame should ever be able to repel us from Him.

If this message has made you uncomfortable then allow it also to bring you peace and comfort with the promise of future and eternal glory.  This morning, Jesus says, “Take heart; I have overcome the world.”  Jesus has paid for your sins upon the cross with His own life-blood.  He has defeated the devil, undone his deceptions, by unveiling his lies of promised glory in this world.  He has shown you the truth, and more than that He has given you His peace.  He has turned your eyes off of the promises of the world and demonstrated to you the certainty of the promises of your baptism; complete forgiveness of sins is yours forever, if you will but trust in Him alone.

Now while it is true that you receive all of this with a degree of tension, it is not so great a tension that God’s peace cannot overcome it.  The kingdom of God, the promises of His gospel, and the promise of his glory are yours right now, but they have not yet been revealed.  For now, for a little while you must hold on by faith, and trust that all things, even divisions between those closest to you will in the end, work together for your good.  And as we wait, we humbly follow our Lord and His wonderful cross, as we carry our own.  Like the people who Jeremiah preached to, we too must wait in exile, in a foreign land of sin, but we can take heart, because our Savior and His cross have overcome the world, and He promises to never leave us nor forsake us as we carry our own.  AMEN!

A Love Without End… AMEN!

Sunday, June 22nd, 2014

Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego 92114
Pentecost 2A, June 22, 2014

Click here for audio of this message

I want to start off our message with a quick question: “What is there in your life that you can show to others, which proves that God loves you?”  Many of us may be tempted to point others to blessings in our lives, such as the love of family, health, a good job, money in the bank, or something else that is good, which gives us comfort and peace.  But if that is how you measure God’s love for you, doesn’t that mean that Christians who do not have the love of family, good health, a good job, or money in the bank can not be certain of God’s love?  What about when the things you call blessings vanish and life is hard, does God still love you?

In our Old Testament lesson this morning, the prophet Jeremiah continually wrestled with thoughts like these.  He was a prophet not unlike the other prophets who went before him, in that he was called to declare a message from God that was not popular with the people of God; it was a message that spoke of God’s displeasure with His people’s sin.  It was a message that foretold of God’s discipline that was coming soon; a discipline that was meant to move sinners back to their forgiving God.

Like the other prophets, Jeremiah was directed to use symbolic acts, which accented both the message and the work that God was preparing to perform among and to His people.  Our text this morning (Jeremiah 20:7-13) follows on the heals of one of those symbolic acts.  Jeremiah had just smashed a clay jar in front of the leaders of Israel with the message that proclaimed that as he had smashed the clay jar, so too, would God smash the nation of Israel on account of their sins and their falling from faith.  How did they fall from their faith?  By allowing and following foreign worship practices among them, and even by embracing foreign gods.  Seven chapters later, Jeremiah would confront the civil and religious leaders by wearing a wooden yoke on his shoulders.  This act symbolized Israel’s political submission to the Babylonians; it foretold that just as Jeremiah was yoked like a beast of burden, so too would the Israelites be taken into Babylon in captivity, as slaves.  And when it happened, all of God’s people were to know that God alone, both allowed it and caused it to happen as His way to turn His people’s hearts back to His love and care.

But God’s message to His people is not just a message for the future, but also a message for the present; that is, it is a message for the here and now.  Through the prophet Jeremiah, God is telling all of His people to turn away from any hope that they have placed in their sinful leaders and foreign gods, which is both the reason and the source of “terror on every side.” Instead, they were to turn to Him alone as their source of comfort and assurance.

Now some may wonder, what kind of comfort and assurance can be found in a message that foretells of punishment?  And the answer is that even in the middle of hard times, God is promising His children that He is there with them; you are not alone nor abandoned!  But how are we similar to Jeremiah?  How can his lessoned learned help us?  Well let’s examine that question next.

We can imagine that Jeremiah’s message was a difficult one for him to share, right?  His message to those who continually reject God’s presence in their lives had to be one of bitterness and grief, bordering on despair.  Jeremiah had to be looking at his fellow countrymen and even family, and he had to be grieving.  Why?  Well, God’s forgiving love for him had changed him and filled him with a love for other sinners; a God given love.  In the end, Jeremiah’s grief was too much for him to carry.  Does this sound familiar?  Don’t we too have that same grief for children, parents, friends and neighbors who constantly seem to reject Jesus sacrifice upon the cross and the gift of grace that is given in Holy Baptism?

Like Jeremiah, we whose love is deep grieve deeply.  Because of the work of the Holy Spirit, we too grieve like Samuel, who mourned for King Saul who fell in death, separated from God’s love (1 Samuel 15:35).  Like Jeremiah, we too are prone to grieve like St. Paul, who would have wished himself cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of his fellow Jews (Romans 9:2,3).  But I think that the best example that demonstrated and surpasses Jeremiah’s grief, is the grief of our Lord.  Jesus, the Son of God grieved when approaching Jerusalem, just before His death upon the cross, as He looked at it and wept, because it did not, and for many would not recognize Him as the only means of eternal happiness; the only way to approach a righteous God. [Luke 19:40-44]

Like Jesus, Jeremiah grieved because all of his preaching seemed to have failed to produce repentance or any kind of faith into the hearts of those he loved.  Try as he might, none of them seemed willing to receive the message of God’s punishment, but also a message of mercy and grace.  As he experienced the people’s growing and bitter opposition of the message God had tasked him to proclaim, he learned with great sorrow, that God’s law does not bring peace, but more wrath and punishment. [Romans 4:15]  He learned that the law of God drives unrepentant sinners deeper into sin and creates a  ferocious hatred for God.  Jeremiah learned to his sorrow, that for some people, even family members, the promise of God’s mercy, that is His forgiving love through the gospel, becomes the smell of death. [2 Corinthians 2:16]

In his struggle with grief, the prophet Jeremiah became angry with God, and accused God of tricking him.  Perhaps you too, have had that same experience with God; and experience that seems to befall you just because you love Jesus and His gift of grace, and feel compelled to share it with those you love, only to have them reject both the message and your love for them.  It hurts, right?  Maybe, you too like Jeremiah have complained to God that despite all of your witnessing and mentoring of Christ’s love, not one of your invitations to help others know Jesus like you do, has seemed to produce any results?  Maybe you have already experienced the reality that Jesus had predicted in our gospel lesson: “Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise agains parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my names sake.” [Matthew 10:21, 22a]

Now, while we may not be delivered over to death, to have a family member or loved one avoid you simply because you are a Christian, who can’t help but witness to Christ’s forgiving and life giving love, can be a pain that feels like death.  Jesus promises us that if we endure this pain and do not give up our hope in Him, we will be saved.  But how do we endure through what seems to be unendurable?  We pray and claim God’s promises of life and eternal hope!

Like Jeremiah, we too might be tempted to abandon our hope in God’s promises fulfilled in Christ, or we may be tempted to become a “closet Christian” and just keep our faith to ourselves.  But Jeremiah tells us that if we do that, we will just experience what he experienced when he tried to stop preaching.  He could not do it, because the Living Word of God within him overpowered him and compelled him to speak.  But that Living Word within him also compelled him to do something else; he was compelled to speak to God in prayer; to call out to God for help and strength.

You see, deep down Jeremiah knew that he was not alone.  The Living Word of God, who is the very Son of God attends and helps us just as He attended to and helped Jeremiah; He keeps His promise that He will never leave nor forsake us.  Just as the Lord was Jeremiah’s ever-present help in times of trouble, so too He is yours.  Our Lord would not allow Jeremiah to be overcome with evil or grief, and He will not allow you to slip away either.

Just as our Lord came quickly to help Jeremiah, He promises to respond to your cries for help as well.  Like Jeremiah, we not only may call out for help from God Himself, but He also promises to respond just as He did with Jeremiah.  And when God works within our spirits and we discover that we are not alone, we too will be moved to praise God through the work of the Gospel, that is the forgiveness of sins and the presence of God and declare: “Praise The Lord!  For He has delivered the life of the needy from the hand of the evildoers.”

Dear friends, how do we know that God loves us?  Because His Word tells us so.  No matter what life circumstances may communicate, God’s message in His Word is always one of love; a message that says you are not alone!

When you feel like giving up or taking a break from your faith, take a moment in prayer and ask God the Father to help you through His Word, to remember the depths of His love, not just for you, but for your family members, closest friends and neighbors.  Ask Him to help you remember His passion for sinners; a passion that is so deep that He sent His only Son to die for each and everyone of them.  And then continue to pray to the Heavenly Father who loves you for the ones you love; continue to point them to the cross of Jesus and the waters of Holy baptism, where they like you, may also experience the divine love without end… AMEN!

He Prayed For You!

Sunday, May 12th, 2013

Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church-San Diego
Easter 7C, May 12h, 2013

Click here for audio of this message

“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word.”  [John 17:20]

This morning Jesus shows you that He has prayed for you.  In the prayer which is brought to us in our gospel reading (John 17:20–26), He makes some pretty exciting promises. Do you trust His  Word?  Do you really believe that when He says something, it is in fact God Himself speaking to your heart, and when He says something it is not only going to happen, in fact, in God’s  perspective,  it has already happened!  If you answered yes, well then, this message will be both exciting and challenging for you.  If you answered, no or you aren’t sure, well then, it is God’s desire  that this morning’s message would be one of faith; a message that will both create faith within you and sustain it.  Would you like that?  Good!  Let’s get right into it.

This morning Jesus prays for two things: Unity and Glory.  He prays that we would be one in thought, word, and deed, just as He and the Father and the Spirit are one, and He also prays that just  as He is now in glory, seated at the right hand of the Father, we too would join Him there in glory.

This last Thursday was a day to celebrate, but because it did not fall on a Sunday, it probably passed you by.  On Thursday, the church celebrated the ascension of our Lord.  The day Jesus ascended  into Heaven and into His glory.  But when He left, He gave us this commission, backed by a powerful promise.  Listen: “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and  make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” [Matthew 28:18-20]

So when Jesus prayed for you in our gospel reading, He backed up that prayer in Matthew 28, when He ascended into Heaven. He’s letting you know that what He is praying for is powered by His real presence with us.  He is ever interceding for His church as it fulfills its mission to bring God’s love to the world.  And, He prays for you who are here this morning to be an active part of that mission.

He prays for you who believe that when Jesus says something it is fact; He knows that you will believe because you have been given faith through the word of the apostles, which is the very Word of God. (v. 20) Through the Word of God you have been brought into the body of Christ.  So as part of Jesus body, the church, you are also one with the Triune personhood of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

And now as part of the church, you have been given the glory of God.  What is this glory that God gives you?  Is it a glory that makes you better than your neighbor?  Is it a glory that makes you the head and not the tail?  No, not at all; instead it is a gift that not only invites us into unity as one body, but in fact it gives us the unity. (v. 22)

But how can we be one?  Well to answer that question, we will need to jump ahead to verse 26, where we hear Jesus declare this wonderful promise: “I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” (v. 26) So here is the very thing that empowers our mission into a world that is lost to sin; it is the love of God.  (Talk about a Mother’s love) It’s a love that was and always shall be communicated through the Father’s giving of His Son unto death so that a world lost and dead in its sins may live.  This is the great purpose or mission of the church: To be filled with the love of God and to share that love with the world.  This is now both the mission of the church, and its gift to the world:  A love from God that fills us and fulfills us.

It’s the love of God that not only gives us our mission but our unity.  Jesus prayed that as He and the Father were one, that we would be one with Him and each other. (vv. 21, 22b)  He prayed that the glory of God would be within us and fulfill us in unity so that…

The world might believe.  But believe what?  That Jesus, is the Son of God, and in a gift of love that God the Father has given so that we would believe that God is still with us and that He still loves us!  Another way to say this is, through our unity with God and each other the world will see God’s forgiving love and believe that both Jesus and His gift of eternal life are real!

So how do you think we are doing with that mission?  In our community alone we have hundreds of churches of various denominations and creeds.  It is not uncommon for these churches to compete for a finite number of believers.  This competition is always centered on truth, but not necessarily God’s truth.  So many churches seem to have become its own living definition of what truth is, thus separating itself further and further from their brothers and sisters in other denominations and churches.  And the unbelieving world sees this and shakes their head at us.  A world that we are suppose to be reaching with the truth is laughing at some church’s made up truth and never really getting to see the power of God’s own truth in action.

And what is the source of unity, love, and truth?  Nothing but the pure Word of God; not opinions, not theories, but only the pure Word of God, which is both truthful and mysterious.  Where the Word declares bold truths concerning sin and salvation, punishment and forgiveness, we are suppose to also as one voice declare the very same message.  Where the Word is silent or mysterious, we are never allowed to “fill in the blanks” so to speak but simply remain silent and trust even more in God’s mercy and grace.  While it is true that even when God’s Word is declared in purity and unity many may still reject His call to repentance, that is not suppose to trouble us.  We are simply asked to speak Words that give faith and then turn them to the object of their faith, Jesus Christ, crucified, resurrected, and ascended; Jesus the Son of God who alone is able to intercede for them and grant them eternal life and peace with God.

So, is the mission of the church hurt by defective Christians?  Yes, but it is never destroyed.  Each one of us must remember this one great truth… Jesus is praying for us!

As he prays, He prays for his church’s glory.  He knows that there is a great division between His church and those lost in this world of darkness.  Listen: “O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. (v. 25)

In these Words Jesus not only assures you that you belong to Him but also, ultimately it is His burden to bring faith to those who are lost in sin.  We are simply to look out upon this world and see the difference between faith and faithlessness.  We are to see the difference in the lives of those who live under the Father’s judgment and those who live out His gift of grace. Our mission this morning is to not only see the difference but live out that difference so that others will see the presence of God among us, through His gifts of love, forgiveness, and unity, and then desire to be a part of our community that gathers around those gifts.

So you see, it is for you that Jesus prays.  He prays that you will trust Him and rest in His love for you.  He prays that in His Word you will see Him always with you, always interceding for you who have been given to him by the Father.  But He also prays that you will let Him lead you out into our community seeking peace first with each other, then with your brothers and sisters of different denominations, and finally with the lost and unbelieving world.  And finally, He prays to remind you, that the kind of peace He invites you to share with others can only be found in the pure Word of God.

This morning, Jesus’ desire is that one day soon you will come to His side to a place where there will be no more sorrow, suffering, sickness, or disease; a place where all divisions will cease.  “No longer will there be anything accursed (among us), but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and we His servants will worship Him.” [Revelations 22:3]

Will you trust His Word; will you rest in a reality that declares, Jesus prays for you?  If you will, you won’t be disappointed; you will see His glory and you will forever know the Father’s love.  AMEN!

Who is this Suffering Servant?

Sunday, September 16th, 2012

16th Sunday in Pentecost B, September 16, 2012
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA

Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, I believe; help my unbelief!””[Mark 9:24]

For a Christian, these are perhaps the most emotional words we could ever speak.  They are emotional because they are words of truth.  We believe, yet we know that on our own we cannot believe.  We are found yet we are lost.  We see, yet we are blind!  These words are truth and they are words of both hope and desperation.

Each one of you here this morning are here by faith; you believe that God loves you and cares for you, yet you also know that you are completely  dependent on God to sustain your faith; you know that if left on your own for even a moment, you would abandon your hope of God’s love and be  completely consumed by the hopelessness that defines this generation that we live in!

In our Gospel reading Jesus speaks this very truth when He is confronted by a mob led by some of His enemies, the scribes, who are the  professional interpreters of the law.  They are delighted that Jesus apostles cannot drive out the demon that possesses a little boy.  But Jesus is  also met by a father; a father who feels desperate, afraid, and alone, but yet he is not hopeless.  This father could care a less about the animosity  between the scribes and the disciples of Jesus; He wants only two things… he wants to get to Jesus and he wants to ask for mercy and deliverance  for his son.

“Jesus please hear my request I beg you!  I brought my son to you because he is possessed by an evil spirit.  When I arrived here to meet you they  said you weren’t here but away with some of your disciples.  Your other disciples heard my plea for mercy and deliverance for my boy and they  tried to help him, but they could not; it seemed that they just weren’t strong enough to defeat the demon.”

And to this report, Jesus looks out at the crowd, first to the scribes then to His disciples and He says in complete honesty with pain and disappointment soaked into every Word, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me.” [Mark 9:19]

So what went wrong?  Why weren’t the apostles able to cast out the demon?  They believed yet they did not!  They had faith in Jesus; they still recalled the time when they returned from a missionary trip and were able to cast out many demons in Jesus name, and yet this time they could not.  They could not because they believed not!  They believed not because they asked not, but now Jesus would teach them the one thing missing; the one thing needful that they neglected to include was prayer.  And now Jesus will illustrate that one thing needful as it is found in the plea of a desperate and loving father!

Jesus looked at the father and asked him, “How long has this been happening to your son?” Now let me point out, that Jesus asked this not because he was gathering information like a physician who seeks a diagnosis so that he can prescribe treatment, but rather he asked so the father would realize along with the disciples how desperate the situation really was; he asks so that all of us will understand that only God could free this young boy; so that you will understand that only God can save you.

The father answered Jesus and said, “He’s been like this since childhood. Since he has been a small boy, the demon has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” And Jesus said to him, “ ‘If you can’!   Listen to your own words and think about them.  All things are possible for one who believes.  For a person who calls out to God in prayer and believes that the same God who created this boy can deliver this boy!”

“Immediately, the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe (Lord); help my unbelief!”  And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.” And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, “He is dead.” But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose.”

Why couldn’t the disciples drive out that filthy demon?  Because they lacked faith; they could not because they asked not.  They had no faith because they did not call out to the author and perfecter of their faith.  Jesus latter told apostles in private that the specific demon that possessed the boy could only be driven out by prayer; in other words it could only be driven out by directly asking God in prayer to remove it.  The father of the boy did that very thing when He came to Jesus; he simply made his request and waited for Jesus to help.

You see, the father knew that he was one of those that Jesus called the unbelieving generation, but he saw what the scribes, the sinful crowd, and the disciples would not see; he saw that without Jesus and his mercy he was lost and without hope.  But he also knew because of the small faith that he had, that if he could get to Jesus, all would be well.  So he made his petition and he rested in that hope alone.

Do you see yourself as part of this unbelieving generation?  Do you see how fragile and dangerous the condition of your faith is?  If so, then what are you to do?  You are to call out to Jesus so that God can fight for you.

In our Old Testament reading, the prophet Isaiah writes, “The Lord God has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary.  Morning by morning he awakes me; he awakens my ear to hear as those who are taught.”

Do you also have the tongue of someone who is intimate with God?  Do you study His Word and allow it to change and sustain you?  And are you able to lead others to this same source of hope and salvation?  You can if you call out to God as the father of the demon possessed boy did; “I believe Lord; help me with my unbelief.”  I know that your Word alone is truth; I know that in it is my only hope, but I also know that on my own I can never desire it or trust it.  On my own I am truly part of this faithless generation.”

And how does God answer your confession of faithless sin and your plea for faith?  He speaks to you the Words of His suffering Servant.  Listen: “The Lord God opened my ear, and I was not rebellious; I turned not backward.  I gave my back to those who strike, and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard; I hid not my face from disgrace and spitting. But the Lord God helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame.” [Isaiah 35:4]

God answers your prayer by showing you His Suffering Servant; He shows you His Son, Jesus Christ!  God shows you His Son who is the author and perfecter of your faith.  He shows you His Son’s passion; His suffering and death for you, for your sins, and as the only solution to your faithlessness.

In the cross God shows you just how much He loves you.  The Father loves you enough to allow His Son to be beaten, humiliated, and executed so that you would know that you will never suffer the same punishment from Him on account of your sins.  At the cross you see God’s love, you see Jesus suffering and death for you, and you call out, “I believe Lord; help me with my unbelief.”  At the cross, God opens your ears and your heart so that you will see Jesus and know that He loves you; so that you will see Jesus and you will be given faith; faith that opens your ears and your hearts to hear and believe!

But something else happens at the cross; something wonderful and mysterious.  At the cross, God also shows you that you too have been called to be a suffering servant.  As you look to the cross you see Jesus and you hear Him calling you to follow Him.  He calls you to follow Him into the middle of enemy territory; you follow into the valley of the shadow of death.  And there in that dark valley Jesus calls you to speak; to pray and rebuke the darkness around you.  He has empowered you to speak Words of hope in a valley of fear.  And when we are afraid or begin to think we have lost our way, He reminds us to call out to Him, “I believe Lord; help my unbelief!”

And how does He help your unbelief?  In the promise of His Word and in the hope of His presence within the sacraments.  Jesus has been with you since your baptism and His Word promises that He will never leave you.  He is with you in His Supper where He sustains you with His body and blood which are the very essence of His promise.

Jesus your Savior, God’s Suffering Servant has found you and restored you, but He found you on His terms, according to His means.  Through others who once were part of the unbelieving generation He has brought you out of the darkness of unbelief and into His glorious light of faith.  Just as it took the small faith of a worried father to bring his possessed son to Jesus and call out for faith, Jesus now asks you to do the same.  Just as the boy could not come to or call out to Jesus alone, there are many today in our community, even in our own families that are just as lost.  They are in the valley of death, the darkness of unbelief.  What can you do?  Rebuke the darkness; call out to Jesus in prayer and ask Him to drive away the evil from your neighbors and friends.  If you won’t do this who then will?  You can do it, because morning by morning He awakens your ear to hear His Word.  Each day he lives in you and works in you.

So speak to your neighbors.  Tell them about the Suffering Servant who alone can give faith and hope and sustain it!  Invite them to come with you to God’s house and experience His Divine Service within them and among them, and then watch as those who walk in darkness also trust in the name of the LORD and rely on their true God, Jesus Christ!  Amen!

The Lord’s Prayer-Part 6

Friday, April 15th, 2011

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Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
Midweek Lent Message
April 6, 2011

“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you,” (Matthew 6:7-14, ESV)

The Lord’s Prayer-Part 5

Thursday, April 7th, 2011

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Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
Midweek Lent Message
April 6, 2011

“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you,” (Matthew 6:7-14, ESV)

The Lord’s Prayer-Part 4

Friday, April 1st, 2011

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Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
Midweek Lent Message
March 30, 2011

“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you,” (Matthew 6:7-14, ESV)

“The Lord’s Prayer” Part 3

Thursday, March 24th, 2011

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Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
Midweek Lent Message
March 23, 2011

““And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you,” (Matthew 6:7-14, ESV)

The Lord’s Prayer-Part 1

Thursday, March 10th, 2011

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Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
Ash Wednesday Message
March 9, 2011

” “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you,” (Matthew 6:1-14, ESV)

[1] The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

“We Who Are Evil”

Sunday, July 25th, 2010

Ninth Sunday after Pentecost, July 25, 2010 “Service in the Park”
Rev. Brian Henderson—Pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
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On the day of Martin Luther’s death, February 18, 1546, his friends found a scrap of paper on which he wrote his last thought.  “We are beggars; this is true.”  What did he mean?  Now while some of us may have been homeless before and had to beg others for gifts of love, to say that all of us are beggars seems to be a stretch.  So what did he mean? 

To understand Luther’s point we must turn to our gospel reading for an explanation.  Jesus ends His teaching this morning with these Words, “If you then who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” [Lk. 11:13] For some here this morning, these are hard words to hear; Jesus is calling His disciples evil… He is calling you and me evil… and this is true.  We have sinned against heaven and God Himself… this is true!  But it is also true as our Old Testament reading promises to Abraham that we have been called by God.  It is God who is calling you right now, and if you will hear His voice in these Words and respond as He requests, you are also like Abraham in that you have been chosen!  But chosen for what?  Chosen to receive His forgiveness, mercy, and love!  Chosen to teach your children and your neighbor about God’s righteousness and justice; chosen to speak both His frightening Law and His comforting Gospel.  Chosen to keep the way of the Lord! [Genesis 18:18] But friends, we have a problem, we are evil and because we are evil we must depend solely of the mercy and love of God.  If you don’t believe that we are evil, let me prove it to you.

I. How does God’s love and forgiveness come to us?  Through His Word: Holy Scripture asks, “Who has believed our message?” Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.”  So I ask you: Haven’t you been hearing the Word of God? Of course you have! [Rom 10:16b-17]  God’s Word is all around you.  It was first with you in your baptism.  You hear it often in the absolution and the comforting Words of the Gospel that is preached every week to you.  It is there in the Lord’s Supper.  But who is listening and who is in amazed at this truth?  Each of us are either moved to little or not moved at all by God’s great threats or His loving promises of comfort, forgiveness and peace which He gives to us through His blessed Word and Sacraments.  Who is to be blamed?  Certainly not God because He is always calling out to you!  Who then?  We are to be blamed… we deserve all of the blame because we won’t allow ourselves to be concerned with things that that the angels stand in awe of.  Even if we suddenly were visited by a band of angels preaching in all of their heavenly glory, we would not be any more affected than we are now when we hear the pastor or ministers of God’s grace preaching to us.

Dear friends, if we could believe the amazing truth that right now we are hearing the very Word of God speak to us, we wouldn’t become bored and sleepy.  But because we think that it is only a man speaking to us and that it is only the word of men that tickles our ears we treat the holy things of God as if we are a herd of pigs tramping priceless pearls and diamonds.  So what are we to do?  We are to cry out to God with cries of grief and anguish that our sin is so great that we on our own are helpless to do anything else!  What are we to cry out for?  Forgiveness and a new heart and mind; the heart and mind of Jesus Christ!  We are beggars… we are evil; this is true.  But this morning Jesus comforts us and reminds us that because of His love for the Father and God’s love for you, you are now so much more.  Hear the gospel of our Lord.  You who are evil have a Father who doesn’t want to leave you in that evil condition.  You have a Father who can give so much more than you can give.  And He desires to give it all to you!  How does He give?  Through the Word!  And how do we receive?  By asking through prayer!

Jesus said, and when you pray, pray like this: “Father, hallowed be your name, Your kingdom come.” [vs. 2] Who is this that teaches you to pray?  It is God Himself in our own flesh; it is Jesus your Savior, your brother and friend!  If you will not hear the Word of God which brings you faith, then you will care a less if God’s kingdom comes or His name is kept holy.  But because you have been hearing His Word, and because you have been called you will pray that His name is first kept holy in your own heart and that His kingdom would come first to you and then through you to others!  You will know that you are helpless to accomplish these things on your own so you pray and ask God to do them through you and He does!

Again Jesus says, “Give us each day our daily bread”. [vs. 3]  If you are shutting out the Word of God you will care a less how you get not just your food but your nice home, car and all of your bling.  An evil person simply keeps on taking because they believe they have a right to anything their heart desires.  But if God’s Word is indeed working within you, you know that all good things come from God above, so you pray that He will continue to provide you with all that you need in this life.  And whatever He provides you are content with.

But Jesus also adds this teaching, “Forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.” [vs. 4a]     If the Word of God is being shut out by your hard heart you will care a less whether you are forgiven, let alone forgiving others.  After all, you follow the thinking of this sinful world: “Do unto others before they do unto you!”   But when God’s Word is changing you, you will not just see the need to be forgiven by God but also the need to forgive others.  Because after all we are all just beggars, and you know that this is true!

And finally Jesus says that we must pray: “Lead us not into temptation.” [vs. 4b]  An evil heart that will not hear the Word of God could care a less about this last portion of our prayer.  Why?  Because this kind of heart sees nothing wrong with what God calls sin, as long as it isn’t illegal or if it is, as long as he doesn’t get caught.  But a heart that is being changed by the Word of God sees the evil that is within itself so it prays that God would continue to destroy its evil desires and protect it from both the presence and the temptation of the evil within it and around it!

II. Do you see friends why your Savior asks you to pray?  Prayer is simply and extension of the power and the work of His Word.  The same Holy Spirit that empowers the Word of God which speaks of God’s love and forgiveness empowers your prayers.  The same Holy Spirit of God who hears your words of prayer also molds your words of prayer so that they are requests for the very things that are guaranteed to be approved and answered by God.  This same Holy Spirit reassures your heart to be bold in prayer; to have no fear in the fact that through Jesus Christ, your heavenly Father not only hears you but always wants to hear from you.  And to illustrate this, Jesus in a series of contrasts compares you who are evil in need of rescue to a righteous and holy God who doesn’t need a thing.

“What father among you, if his son asks for a fish will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?  If you then who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” [vs. 11-13]    Dear friends, Jesus is asking you to consider this heavenly truth: As earthly fathers prove themselves fathers by giving “good gifts” to their children, so your heavenly Father proves to you that He is, indeed, your Father, and you are indeed, His children by giving to you, in answer to your asking in your need, all things that are a benefit to you!  And what is the one thing that you are most in need of?  Forgiveness!  And what is the only way that you can receive this forgiveness?  By asking; by being bold in your asking.  By admitting to God that it is you who are in need of His care and His provisions.

III. Dear friends, Jesus’ illustration of the person who pounds on the door of his neighbor in the middle of the night isn’t telling us to be simply persistent in our begging to God; no instead He is telling us to be bold!  Ask, seek, and knock.  He is saying don’t be ashamed to ask for forgiveness because you have asked so many times.  Don’t be afraid that God has given up on you because you feel you have let Him down so many times!  Be bold and believe that you have a God who is for you and not against you.  Be bold to speak to Him as a son or daughter!  But we ask, “How can a miserable sinner like me be so bold and expectant with such a holy and righteous God?”  And to this Jesus answers because I have called you my brother and friend.  Because through my blood and righteousness, through my suffering and death you have been bought with a great price!  You are no longer the swine that tramples the pearl of great price beneath its feet; you are that pearl of great price! 

Dear friends, you are the Father’s and He is yours!  If a weary and stubborn neighbor will finally get up and help, how much more will your loving Heavenly Father (who never sleeps) meet the needs of His own child!  So keep on “asking, seeking, and knocking,” not to break down God’s door but to reveal to Him your great concern that His will be done, first in your own heart and then in the world.  And remember, the purpose of prayer is not to get man’s will done in heaven but to get God’s will done on earth.  And what is that will?  First he forgiveness of your own sins and then the sins of the world.

Yes, we are all beggars and that is true, but we are beggars with a need and a vision.  The need is forgiveness which God assure us is ours through Jesus Christ, and the vision is the restoration of relationships.  First our relationship with God and second the restoration of our families and community with the same forgiveness, so be bold dear friends and continue to live out the life of a beggar.  I pray this for you in Jesus name…. AMEN!