Posts Tagged ‘Promises of God’

A Promise is a Promise!

Sunday, July 29th, 2018

Pentecost 10B
July 29, 2018
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor of
Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street
San Diego, CA 92114

Click here for audio of this message

“Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, to Bethsaida.” [Mark 6:45a]

Another way to say that is, Jesus compelled them; no He insisted that they get into the boat.  He had them get into a boat that He knew would soon be in all kinds of trouble.  He had them get into a boat that He knew was headed into a storm that was about to kick up on the lake.  But He also knew that when the storm was raging in its fierceness, in conditions that would cause grown men to cry out in fear like children, He would walk out on the water to them. Why?

When all three of my boys were younger I had the distinct joy that I sometimes think only a Dad can truly appreciate; I took the training wheels off of their bicycles and made them learn to ride their bikes.  I did it knowing that they would fall, scrape their knees, and maybe even bloody their lips; I did it because I wanted them to experience freedom from fear.  I wanted them to learn that they could trust me and their bike.  I promised each of them that they could learn to ride a bike without the training wheels.  And after a few falls and encouragement from me, they learned that I was right, they could ride a bike!

So why did Jesus compel the disciples to get into that boat.   So that they would learn that God keeps His promises!  They needed to learn that Jesus would never leave nor forsake them; even when it seemed that He wasn’t with them He really was.  He was watching them from a secret location that they were not aware of.  They needed to learn that Jesus is the God-man who even controls the wind and sea; why He even controls sickness and disease.

So what things does God compel us to do today?  

Well certainly as we pray every day in the Lord’s Prayer, we discover that He compels us to pray for His Kingdom and His will to be done every day here on earth as it is done in heaven.  But when we pray those petitions, He is also inviting us to experience His kingdom as He leads and guides us every day of our lives.  As Luther taught long ago, God’s kingdom and His will come and are done whether we pray for them or not, but in the Lord’s Prayer we are invited to ask God that they would first come in us and then be done through us.

Now I believe there is a question that begs to be asked; I really must ask it, even if it causes fear.  Do you really want God’s Kingdom to take over your life?  Do you really want His will to be done in your life?

What if having His kingdom come in your life means that you must admit that He is right and you are wrong?  What if it means that you must agree with God and admit that a certain style of living that our society says is ok, is really a sin? And what if agreeing with God about that sin will upset a whole bunch of people who are close to you?

What if having God’s will being done in your life means that you must leave a place of employment, a good job, because it builds and celebrates a kingdom of darkness instead of God’s kingdom of grace?  What if God’s will being done in and through you means that He may allow you to become sick with an illness or disease?  Do you still have the courage to pray for that will?

You will, if you remember who it is that is with you.  It is Jesus, He who sees all things, even things we cannot see or understand.  It is Jesus who not only walks on water but controls everything that makes you afraid.  And just as Jesus spoke Words of comfort to the apostles in the boat, He speaks Words of comfort to you this morning: “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” [Mark 6:50]  This morning, Jesus would like you to remember that He has always been with you and He always will be.  He promises that He will never leave nor forsake you and no one can snatch you out of His hand.

Dear friends, God’s promises are always powerful and they are always reliable.  

In our Old Testament lesson (Genesis 9:8-17), God promised Noah and His family (and all of us) that He would never again destroy the earth by way of a flood.  And to be sure that they (and we) would remember that promise and count on it, He placed that promise behind a sign in the sky, the rainbow!

Listen don’t worry about things like how the rainbow is naturally made when raindrops act like a prism and reflect sunlight, breaking white sunlight into colors.  That is simply an explanation of how we see a rainbow; we need to concentrate on the why we see it!  We see the rainbow because God knew that we needed to have a sign of life, not death.  We needed to learn that we could count on His blessing and good will.  We need that sign to bring us comfort not fear.  We need to remember that God keeps His promises!

That rainbow like all of the other signs that God gives to us, should remind us to thank God and give Him praise for His goodness and forgiving love.  Every time we see the rainbow we should remember that God’s anger over our sin has been replaced by His forgiving love that is ours through the cross of Jesus.  Through Jesus’s life blood that was poured out for our sins, we no longer have an angry God, but instead we have a loving and forgiving God!  And in your baptism, God gave you another great sign; He gave you the sign of that very cross that sets you free.  

In your baptism the sign of the cross was made upon your heart and your brow to mark you as God’s own child.  You have been sealed with the promise that God through Jesus Christ has won you; He has redeemed you as His very own.  And because you are His own, He promises that He will never leave you nor forsake you!  But the promise is not just for you it is for the entire world; for anyone who will not reject that Holy washing; for anyone who will simply trust and rest in God’s divine power to do exactly as He says He will do… save you from sin, death, and the devil himself!

An elderly Christian was in much distress as she lay dying. “Oh, Pastor,” she said, “for years I have relied upon the promises of God, but now in my time of death I can’t remember a single one to comfort me.” Knowing that Satan was disturbing her, the preacher said, “My Sister, do you think that GOD will forget any of His promises?” A smile came over the old woman’s face as she exclaimed joyfully. “No, no! He won’t! Praise the Lord, now I can fall asleep in Jesus and trust Him to remember them all and bring me safely to Heaven.” Peace flooded her soul, and a short time later she was ushered by the angels into the light of God’s eternal day.

Dear friends, in your baptism God has given you not only His promise that He is with you and that all things will work for your good and your eternal salvation, but He has also given you a sign.  

Whenever you are afraid, whenever you are lonely and unsure of your life, remember God’s promises by remembering your baptism, and then make the sign of the cross and thank and praise God for His goodness!  Remember as St. Paul said in our Epistle reading (Ephesians 3:14-21), He has given you everything you need to be strengthened with His power through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.  And then remember that wherever the Holy Spirit is, there Jesus is as well.  Do you hear that good news?  Jesus is always with you living in your hearts by faith.  And through that wonderful gift of faith, God gives you peace by assuring you that Jesus is always with you, strengthening and protecting you, just as His Word promised long ago in your baptism, when He first washed you clean.  It is that same Word you hear preached to you now, and it is the same Word you will soon receive in our Lord’s meal of forgiveness.  Oh, God is so good!

And just as God was with Noah and His family before, during, and after the flood He is with you now.  Just as the Son of God was with the apostles before, during, and after the storm on the lake, He is with you now and always will be.  He lives in His Word, in the promises it makes about forgiveness of sin and eternal life, and He lives, He dwells within you in power.  

Within each of you is the fullness of God; it fills you and if you will trust it, it will well up within you and come out of you like living water.  No matter the cost to living out God’s will, He provides everything you need to know that He is with you.  As you rest in His kingdom, He is not only protecting you, he is living in you, attracting and inviting others to experience that very same presence of God.  And God’s presence not only lives in you, but it also goes before you as you trust His promises of presence and forgiveness and as you speak those promises to others.

Dear Lord may your kingdom come and your will be done in us and through us in Jesus name… AMEN!

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” [Ephesians 3:20-21] 

Let Me See Your Peace!

Sunday, February 25th, 2018

Lent 2 B, February 25, 2018
Rev. Brian Henderson-pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA 
On the occasion of the closure of the Interim Pastoral Ministry 
At
Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, San Diego, California

Click here for audio of this message

Romans 5:1-11

Reformational Scripture for Tim Botts 2017 Reformation Calendar

Do you have peace? If you do, may I see it? Show me your peace!

This is really the silent, yet always present demand of our unbelieving community that surrounds us everywhere we go. They will quickly tell you that they aren’t really interested in hearing about your Savior Jesus Christ, but if believing in Him works for you, well then, they’re happy for you. Now, while they may not care to hear about what you believe, let me assure you that they are watching you; watching to see if what you believe makes a difference in how you live! They want to see how you’ll stand up under the pressures of life as compared to them and their circle of friends. In other words, does what you believe make a difference in who you are? And in order to evaluate your belief system they want to see your peace.

Now, whether we want to admit it or not, we Christians are prone to demand this same thing from God whenever troubles and tragedies strike our faith-filled and grace centered lives. It’s really a little rude and inconsiderate when we consider all that God has done to provide us with His peace throughout our lives!

Did you notice that I said His peace and not yours? That’s the way that it should be. The objective is first and then the subjective. That is always God’s way. In other words, you can’t know real peace without first having God’s peace!

The world teaches that peace is first personal and then corporate.

Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me! The problem with this kind of peace is that it is very self-centered and dependent on however you feel at any given moment. This is a strange idea, because it assumes that you live for yourself. Not that this is anything new, William Shakespeare said long ago, “To thine own self be true!” The problem with this kind of thinking is that it leads to a personal peace at the cost of other peoples’ peace.

In the 1940’s Three Stooges skit called “I’ll Never Heil Again” the boys dressed up as Axis leaders. As they started their war council meeting they chanted, “Peace, peace, we want peace.” And to this Moe who was dressed up as Hitler stood up and said, “Yes we want a piece of this, and a piece of that.” And that, I am afraid is always the cost of our individual peace… it comes at the expense of others. Like money, we can never have enough peace. So, our natural tendency is to surround ourselves with as much of whatever we think will bring that peace, at the exclusion many times of other people’s peace.

Since I first came to Our Redeemer Lutheran Church I’ve had two rules that have guided me: First, like a physician, I desired to do no harm; Second, I wanted to create an atmosphere through the proper preaching and teaching of God’s Word, both Law and Gospel, which would flood your lives and this parish with God’s peace.

God’s peace is Christ’s own peace. Listen to the Son of God offer and describe this peace: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” [John 14:27] So what is this peace that Jesus says He has given to us? Well we know it ISN’T the kind of selfish, self serving peace that the world wants, and we also know that it IS the kind of peace that brings comfort and security in times of trouble, division, and fear.

In verse 1 of our epistle reading, Paul shares these words: “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” So the kind of peace that Jesus gives, which Paul is telling us we already have, begins first and always with faith that justifies or makes us right with God. Now knowing this, there are a couple of questions we must ask to completely understand this peace that comes from God By faith. The first question is, “Faith in Who?” The Who is Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God who is the Savior of the world. The second question is “Faith in what?” The what, is the completed work of Jesus Christ; His birth, His life, His suffering, and His death, His resurrection and ascension. In these things, which are recorded for us in Holy Scripture we are shown God’s work for us; a work that has taken away our sins, atoned for our evil and made us right with God! Or as Paul says it, “Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”

Through Jesus we have been reconciled; made right with God. Through this work, God addresses the one great obstacle that separates us from His love, and that is our sin. He alone does what we could not do, and He does it through the atoning death of His Son.

In Jesus, God put forward His love for you by putting Jesus in your place; by having Him suffer and die for you, because of your sins. In God’s self-sacrifice He points your divided, troubled and sinful hearts to His solution for your sins, and His Word tells you to be reconciled; that is to be made right with Him and each other! In Jesus God assures us that we are reconciled; we are at peace with Him!

This proclamation of peace with God through Jesus Christ is the gospel!

If you will receive this truth by faith, then you will see God’s justice performed on the cross for you, and you will know peace! This is the blessed assurance that saves the worst of sinners and then recreates them and gives them not just peace, but the ability to live out that peace, and even experience it.

What is assurance? Well here’s the concise theological definition: It is the firm persuasion of faith that you are in a state of grace. In other words, by faith you know that no matter what may happen around you, it is well with your soul, because God is with you and for you. It’s the God-given ability to move from the cross of Jesus to the waters of your baptism and say with all certainty that “Jesus died for me!” It’s hearing the promises of God to the world, and knowing that all of those promises were given to you personally when you were washed clean with the water and the Word in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. In other words, as St. Paul says in the fifth verse of our epistle lesson, “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

Why has God’s love been poured into your heart? So that you would know and experience His peace! But aren’t we now talking about feelings? Isn’t our salvation independent of feelings? Yes, that is the objective work of God’s gift, a gift to the world. But in your baptism it became very personal, very subjective. You see, your salvation is something that is done and complete, but it’s also something you experience as you live it out! Every day, come what may, Jesus is with you! He is with you in trials, trouble, and tribulation. Every day God asks you to experience His presence and then learn to rest in His comfort, care, and love for you and for HIS Church.
Many years ago one of the astronauts who walked on the moon was interviewed and asked, “What did you think about as you stood on the moon and looked back at the earth?” The astronaut replied, “I remembered how the spacecraft (that I had to go back home in) was built by the lowest bidder.”
We as Christians can rejoice that the work of our salvation didn’t go to the “lowest bidder” but was provided by an eternal and infallible God. There will never be any problems with His gift of salvation. Your salvation is as sure as the Creator of that salvation, Almighty God! And because it is sure, we can learn to trust in Him and not our current experiences or feelings. We know by faith, that not only do we have peace with God, but we’re gonna keep on having that peace. This peace, which now becomes very personal, becomes an experience that God delights in giving to us. An experience that reminds us that no matter what may or may not be happening in our lives, ultimately it is well and it will be well with our souls!
What does this experience of peace mean to you and me?
Well, if you remember earlier, I mentioned the challenge from our unbelieving neighbors who want to see our peace, which now we know is really God’s peace in action. This peace of God, which surpasses all of our understanding, not only keeps our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, but it also directs our hearts and minds outward to the people who live in our community; people who are dying without knowing the peace of God, which comes only through the cross of Jesus Christ. As they see us weather the same storms of life they go through, and still be both able and ready to rejoice and praise God in the middle of those storms, they will begin to notice that we are neither giving up our hope nor our peace. They will discover what you already know; your suffering produces endurance and endurance produces a Christian character of faith and peace in the presence and work of God on earth and hope in the promise of an eternity in heaven.
All that’s left, is for you to give an answer to anyone who asks for the reason you have this great hope and peace. The reason is of course God’s own Son, Jesus Christ, who takes your faith and hope, and then assures you that no matter what you may be going through, no matter what you may be feeling, in the end it will be well with your souls; you will never be put to shame! This is your blessed assurance of peace with God and peace with each other!
Dear saints of Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, no matter what circumstances overtake you, and no matter what fleeting emotions and feelings may come and go within your lives, you can know for certain that God’s love, which He has poured out within this parish and within your hearts, will enable you to not only sing but live out the truth that says, whatever is your lot, it is well with your souls!
Indeed, it IS well with YOUR soul. In Jesus name… Amen!

A Promise is a Promise!

Sunday, July 29th, 2012

Ninth Sunday in Pentecost B, July 29, 2012
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA

Click here for audio of this message

Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, to Bethsaida [Mark 6:45a].

Another way to say that is, Jesus compelled them; no He insisted that they get into the boat.  He had them get into a boat that He knew  would soon be in all kinds of trouble.  He had them get into a boat that He knew would soon face trouble as they headed into a storm that  He knew was about to kick up on the lake.  He had them get into a boat that He knew would soon face trouble as they headed into a storm,  and then He planned to walk out to them on the water, knowing it would cause grown men to cry out in fear like children.  Why?

When all three of my boys were younger I had the distinct joy that I sometimes think only a Dad can truly appreciate; I took the training  wheels off of their bicycles and made them learn to ride their bikes.  I did it knowing that they would fall, scrape their knees, and maybe  even bloody their lips; I did it because I wanted them to experience freedom from fear.  I wanted them to learn that they could trust me  and their bike.  I promised each of them that they could learn to ride a bike without the training wheels.  And after a few falls and  encouragement from me, they learned that I was right, they could ride a bike!

So why did Jesus compel the disciples to get into that boat.   So that they would learn that God keeps His promises!  They needed to learn  that Jesus would never leave nor forsake them; even when it seemed that He wasn’t with them He really was.  He was watching them from  a secret location that they were not aware of.  They needed to learn that Jesus is the God-man who even controls the wind and sea; why  He even controls sickness and disease.

So what things does God compel us to do today?  Well certainly as we pray every day in the Lord’s Prayer, we discover that He compels us to pray for His Kingdom and His will to be done every day here on earth as it is done in heaven.  But when we pray those petitions, He is also inviting us to experience God’s kingdom and invite His will to lead and guide us every day as we live our lives.  As Luther taught long ago, God’s kingdom and His will come and are done whether we pray for them or not, but in the Lord’s Prayer we are invited to ask God that they would first come in us and then be done through us.

Now I believe there is a question that begs to be asked; I really must ask it, even if it causes fear.  Do you really want God’s Kingdom to take over your life?  Do you really want His will to be done in your life?

What if having His kingdom come in your life means that you must admit that He is right and you are wrong?  What if it means that you must agree with God and admit that a certain style of living that our society says is ok, is really a sin? And what if agreeing with God about that sin will upset a whole bunch of people who are close to you?

What if having God’s will being done in your life means that you must leave a place of employment, a good job, because it builds and celebrates a kingdom of darkness instead of God’s kingdom of grace?  What if God’s will being done in and through you means that He may allow you to become sick with an illness or disease?  Do you still have the courage to pray for that will?

You will, if you remember who it is that is with you.  It is Jesus, He who sees all things, even things we cannot see or understand.  It is Jesus who not only walks on water but controls everything that makes you afraid.  And just as Jesus spoke Words of comfort to the apostles in the boat, He speaks Words of comfort to you this morning: “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” [Mark 6:50]  This morning, Jesus would like you to remember that He has always been with you and He always will be.  He promises that He will never leave nor forsake you and no one can snatch you out of His hand.

Dear friends, God’s promises are always powerful and they are always reliable.  In our Old Testament lesson, He promised Noah and His family that He would never again destroy the earth by way of a flood.  And to be sure that they would remember that promise and count on it, He placed a sign in the sky, the rainbow!

Listen don’t worry about silly things like how the rainbow is naturally made when raindrops act like a prism and reflect sunlight, breaking white sunlight into colors.  That is simply an explanation of how we see a rainbow; we need to concentrate on the why we see it!  We see the rainbow because God knew that we needed to have a sign of life, not death.  We needed to learn that we could count on His blessing and good will.  We need that sign to bring us comfort not fear.  We need to remember that God keeps His promises!

That rainbow like all of the other signs that God gives to us, should remind us to thank God and give Him praise for His goodness and forgiving love.  Every time we see the rainbow we should remember that God’s anger over our sin has been replace by His forgiving love that is ours through the cross.  Through Jesus’s life blood that was spilled for our sins, we no longer have an angry God, but instead we have a loving and forgiving God!  And in your baptism, God gave you another great sign; He gave you the sign of that very cross that set you free.

In your baptism the sign of the cross was made upon your heart and your brow to mark you as God’s own child.  You have been sealed with the promise that God through Jesus Christ has won you; He has redeemed you as His very own.  And because you are His own, He promises that He will never leave you nor forsake you!  But the promise is not just for you it is for the entire world; for anyone who will not reject that Holy washing; for anyone who will simply trust and rest in God’s divine power to do exactly as God says He will do… save you from sin, death, and the devil himself!

An elderly Christian was in much distress as he lay dying. “Oh, Pastor,” he said, “for years I have relied upon the promises of God, but now in my time of death I can’t remember a single one to comfort me.” Knowing that Satan was disturbing him, the preacher said, “My brother, do you think that GOD will forget any of His promises?” A smile came over the old man’s face as he exclaimed joyfully. “No, no! He won’t! Praise the Lord, now I can fall asleep in Jesus and trust Him to remember them all and bring me safely to Heaven.” Peace flooded his soul, and a short time later he was ushered by the angels into the light of God’s eternal day.

Dear friends, in your baptism God has given you not only His promise that He is with you and that all things will work for your good and your eternal salvation, but He has also given you a sign.  Whenever you are afraid, whenever you are lonely and unsure of your life, remember God’s promises by remembering your baptism, and then make the sign of the cross and thank and praise God for His goodness!  Remember as St. Paul said in our Epistle reading (Ephesians 3:14-21), He has given you everything you need to be strengthened with His power through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.  And then remember that wherever the Holy Spirit is, there Jesus is as well.  Do you hear that good news?  Jesus is always with you living in your hearts by faith.  And through that wonderful gift of faith, God gives you peace by assuring you that Jesus is always with you, strengthening and protecting you, just as His Word promised long ago in your baptism, when He first washed you clean.  It is that same Word you hear preached to you now, and it is the same Word you will soon receive in our Lord’s meal of forgiveness.  God is good!

Just as God was with Noah and His family before, during, and after the flood He is with you now.  Just as the Son of God was with the apostles before, during, and after the storm on the lake, He is with you now and always will be.  He lives in His Word, in the promises it makes about forgiveness of sin and eternal life, and He lives, He dwells within you in power.

Within each of you is the fullness of God; it fills you and if you will trust it, it will well up within you and come out of you like living water.  No matter the cost to living out God’s will, He provides everything you need to know that He is with you.  As you rest in His kingdom, He is not only protecting you, he is living in you, attracting and inviting others to experience that very same presence of God.  It goes before you as you trust His promises of presence and forgiveness and as you speak those promises to others.

Dear Lord may your kingdom come and your will be done in us and through us in Jesus name… AMEN!

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” [Ephesians 3:20-21]

Let Me See Your Peace!

Sunday, March 4th, 2012

Lent 2 B, March 4, 2012
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA

Click here for audio of this message

Romans 5:1-5

Do you have peace?  If you do, may I see it?  Show me your peace!  This is really the silent, yet always present demand of our unbelieving community that  surrounds us everywhere we go.  They will quickly tell you that they aren’t really interested in hearing about your Savior Jesus Christ, but if believing in  Him works for you, then they’re happy for you.  While they don’t care to hear about what you believe, they are watching to see if what you believe makes a  difference in how you live!  They want to see how you’ll stand up under the pressures of life as compared to them and their circle of friends.  In other  words, does what you believe make a difference in who you are?  And in order to evaluate your belief system they want to see your peace.

Now, whether we want to admit it or not, we Christians are prone to demand this same thing from God whenever troubles and tragedies strike our faith-  filled and grace centered lives.  It’s really a little rude and inconsiderate when we consider all that God has done to provide us with His peace throughout  our lives!  Did you notice that I said His peace and not yours?  That’s the way that it should be.  The objective is first and then the subjective.  That is  always God’s way.  In other words, you can’t know real peace without first having God’s peace!

The world teaches that peace is first personal and then corporate.  Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me!  The problem with this kind of  peace is that it is very self-centered and dependent on however you feel at any given moment.  This is a strange idea, because it assumes that you live for  yourself.  Not that this is anything new, William Shakespeare said long ago, “To thine own self be true!”  The problem with this kind of thinking is that it  leads to a personal peace at the cost of other peoples’ peace.

In the 1940’s Three Stooges skit called “I’ll Never Heil Again” the boys start their war council meeting with the chant, “Peace, peace, we want peace.”  And to this Moe rises and says, “Yes we want a piece of this, and a piece of that.”  And that, I am afraid is always the cost of our individual peace… it comes at the expense of others.  Like money, we can never have enough peace.  So, our natural tendency is to surround ourselves with as much of whatever we think will bring that peace, at the exclusion of other people’s peace.

But there’s another kind of peace, God’s peace.  Listen to the Son of God offer and describe this peace:  “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” [John 14:27]  So what is this peace that Jesus says that He has given to us?  Well we know it isn’t the kind of peace that the world wants, and we also know that it’s the kind of peace that brings comfort and security in times of trouble and fear.

In verse 1 of our epistle reading, Paul shares these words: “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  So the kind of peace that Jesus gives, which Paul is telling us we already have, begins first and always with faith that justifies or makes us right with God.  Now knowing this, there are a couple of questions we must ask to completely understand this peace that comes from God.  The first question is, “Faith in Who?”  The Who is Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God who is the Savior of the world.  The second question is “Faith in what?”  The what, is the completed work of Jesus Christ; His birth, His life, His suffering, and His death, His resurrection and ascension.  In these things, which are recorded for us in Holy Scripture we are shown God’s work for us; a work that has taken away our sins, atoned for our evil and made us right with God!  Or as Paul says it, “Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” Through Jesus we have been reconciled; made right with God.  Through this work, God addresses the one great obstacle that separates us from His love, and that is our sin.  He alone does what we could not do, and He does it through the atoning death of His Son.  In Jesus, God put forward His love for us by putting Jesus in our place; by having Him suffer and die for us, because of our sins.  In God’s self-sacrifice He points our troubled and sinful hearts to His solution for our sins, and His Word tells us to be reconciled; made right with Him!  In Jesus God assures us that we are reconciled; we are at peace with Him!

This proclamation of peace with God through Jesus Christ is the gospel!  If you will receive this truth by faith, then you will see God’s justice performed on the cross for you, and you will know peace!  This is the blessed assurance that saves the worst of sinners and then recreates them and gives them not just peace, but the ability to live out that peace, and even experience it.

What is assurance?  Well here’s the concise theological definition: It is the firm persuasion of faith that you are in a state of grace.  In other words, by faith you know that no matter what may happen around you, it is well with your soul, because God is with you and for you.  It’s the God-given ability to move from the cross of Jesus to the waters of your baptism and say with all certainty that “Jesus died for me!”  It’s hearing the promises of God to the world, and knowing that all of those promises were given to you when you were washed clean with the water and the Word in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.  In other words, as St. Paul says in the fifth verse of our epistle lesson, “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”  Why has God’s love been poured into your heart?  So that you would know and experience His peace!  But aren’t we now talking about feelings?  Isn’t our salvation independent of feelings?  Yes, that is the objective work of God’s gift, a gift to the world.  But in your baptism it became very personal, very subjective.  You see, your salvation is something that is done and complete, but it’s also something you experience as you live it out!  Every day, come what may, Jesus is with you!  He is with you in trials, trouble, and tribulation.  Every day God asks you to experience His presence and then learn to rest in His comfort, care, and love for you.

Several years ago one of the astronauts who walked on the moon was interviewed and asked, “What did you think about as you stood on the moon and looked back at the earth?” The astronaut replied, “I remembered how the spacecraft (that I had to go back home in) was built by the lowest bidder.”

We as Christians can rejoice that the work of our salvation didn’t  go to the “lowest bidder” but was provided by an eternal and infallible God. There will never be any problems with His gift of salvation. Your salvation is as sure as the Creator of that salvation, Almighty God!  And because it is sure, we can learn to trust in Him and not our current experience or feelings.  We know by faith, that not only do we have peace with God, but we’re gonna keep on having that peace.  This peace, which now becomes very personal, becomes an experience that God gives to us.  An experience that reminds us that no matter what may or may not be happening in our lives, ultimately it is well and will be well with our souls!

What does this experience of peace mean to you and me?  Well, if you remember earlier, I mentioned the challenge from our unbelieving neighbors who want to see our peace, which now we know is really God’s peace in action.  This peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, not only keeps our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, but it also directs our hearts and minds outward to the people who live in our community; people who are dying without knowing the peace of God, which comes through the cross of Jesus Christ.  As they see us weather the same storms of life we all go through, and still able to rejoice and praise God in the middle of those storms, they will begin to notice that we are not giving up hope.  They will discover what you already know; your suffering produces endurance and endurance produces a Christian character of faith in the presence and work of God on earth and hope in the promise of an eternity in heaven.  All that’s left, is for you to give an answer to anyone who asks for the reason you have this great hope.  The reason is of course God’s own Son, Jesus Christ, who takes our faith and hope, and then assures us that no matter what we may be going through, no matter what we may be feeling, in the end it will be well with our souls; we will never be put to shame!  And because it will be well with our souls it is well with them right now!  This is our blessed assurance!

I’d like to close with a final thought that is based on the background of our sermon hymn.  It was written by Horatio Spafford.  In 1870 Spafford, a Christian attorney from Chicago, suffered a great financial loss.  Shortly afterwards, his only son died of scarlet fever.  A year later, the great Chicago fire destroyed his family home and all of the family’s investments.  In 1873, after seeing his family at the verge of a breakdown, Spafford used what little money he had left to pay for a family vacation and a missionary tour to Europe in order to help his family refocus on God’s peace.

As he was preparing to board the ship with his family, some last minute business came up, so he was forced to stay behind while his family headed to Europe.  He promised them that He would be on the next ship and would join them there.  So Mrs. Spafford and their four daughters sailed east to Europe, while Mr. Spafford returned to Chicago.  Just nine days later, Spafford received a telegram from his wife that informed him that the ship his family was on sank and everyone in his family, accept his wife had died.

Upon hearing the terrible news, Horatio Spafford boarded the next ship out of New York to join his bereaved wife. As he was traveling near the area where his children died, the captain called Mr. Spafford to the wheel house and said, “A careful reckoning has been made, and I believe we are now passing the place where the ship your family was on sank.” Mr. Spafford then returned to his cabin and penned the lyrics of our hymn, “It is well with my soul”.

It would be very difficult for any of us to predict how we would react under similar circumstances, but we do know that the same faith in the grace of the same Savior who sustained Mr. and Mrs. Spafford would also be with us.  No matter what circumstances overtake us, and no matter what fleeting emotions and feelings may come and go within our lives,  we can know for certain that God’s love, which He has poured out within our hearts will enable us to say along with Horatio Spafford… it is well with our souls!  In Jesus name… Amen!

Let’s sing that first verse one more time together:
It is well … with my soul! It is well, it is well, with my soul.
When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,

It is well, it is well with my soul.

It is well … with my soul!

It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Where’s the Lamb?!

Sunday, February 26th, 2012

Lent 1 B, February 26, 2012
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA

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“And Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My Father!”  And he said, “Here I am, my son.”  He said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?”  Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” [Genesis 22:7,8]

In 1984, Wendy’s Restaurant entered the hamburger wars with one purpose, to demonstrate their superiority over McDonalds and Burger King.  They did it with one question: “Where’s the Beef?!”  In commercial after commercial they hammered home the idea that while their competitor’s buns looked nice, there was very little substance between them.

Today, like Wendy’s,  the church has many competitors also; places of supposed worship and spiritual renewal that promise a way to give your life meaning and purpose.  They have strategies and techniques all designed to help you make sense of this world.  But each of them, have very little or nothing at all to say about Jesus’ sacrificial death.  So we need to ask, “Where’s the Lamb!?”  You’ve got to have real sacrifice in order to pay for real sin.  Techniques and strategies won’t do it, and neither will good intentions.  There must be life, death, sacrifice, and atonement.  That is God’s only way.

Sacrifice for sins, our sins has been God’s way since the very first sin was committed in the Garden of Eden.    When our first parents sinned,  God Himself killed an animal to provide clothing for Adam and Eve.  An animal had to die so that they could cover their shame.  From that first sacrifice, God regularly commanded His people to choose a spotless lamb and sacrifice it as a sin offering; a way to cover their sins.

In a way to teach Abraham about the quality of His faith, God moved him to offer a sacrifice.  I’m sure that Abraham had done this many times.  He knew the proper way to choose the spotless lamb, he knew how to bind the lamb so that it wouldn’t be able to run, and he knew how to cut its throat so that the blood would be shed for the sins that must be atoned for.  So when God told Abraham that it was time for a sacrifice, this did not come as a surprise, but what did come as a surprise, no a shock, was the fact that his son, his only son Isaac was to be the lamb; the sacrifice pleasing to the Lord.

As a Father, I can’t even imagine being asked to do this, let alone actually performing it.  I am afraid, I would have refused, and because of that truth, I would have failed the test, God’s test.  So does that mean I would have been punished for my disobedience?  No because God Himself has provided the lamb!

Recall from our Old Testament reading, Abraham and Isaac, and two of Abraham’s servants made their way to a mountain in the land of Moriah.  When they arrived at the base of the mountain, Abraham instructed his servants to wait at the base while he and his son went up to worship.  And what did he say to them?  “I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.”  He said that both of them would come back, and yet he knew that his son was to be the sacrifice!

And then as father and son were walking up the mountain, the son carrying the wood and the father carrying the fire and knife, the son looks into His father’s eyes and asks a very good question: “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burn offering?”  (And Father) “Abraham said, “God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burn offering my son.””  But as far as Abraham knew, God had already provided the sacrifice; it would be Isaac himself, or would it?

So why didn’t Abraham respond as I truthfully told you I would; why didn’t He refuse?  Because He had God’s Word, God’s promise that through Isaac and no one else, the promised Savior, the once and for all Spotless Lamb of God would come to give up His life, spill His blood for the sins of all mankind!  Abraham reasoned with Himself that because God can not lie, and because God is the giver of all good things, even if He were to actually have the father take the life of his son, God Himself would raise him up from the ashes of the burnt offering because it is through Isaac alone, that the Savior would come.  Without Isaac there is no Savior and without a Savior there can be no Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  So, God will provide because He always does!

There on the top of Mt. Moriah, bound in death, are both the father and son.  The son is bound with physical ropes, but both of them are bound just as tight, both emotionally and spiritually.  Have you ever felt so oppressed by an experience that physical death seemed insignificant?  That is certainly how this father and son must have felt; they both felt as good as dead.  That is always the result of God’s command, which demands, YOU MUST DO THIS, BUT I OFFER YOU NO HELP OR HOPE.  JUST DO AS YOU’RE TOLD!  But then, they both remember the promise….  “Through isaac shall come the Savior.”  Their fear has now been replaced by their trust in God’s faithfulness to provide, even in death.  In this moment, all of their pride and self reliance is taken away.  They are standing helpless in front of an almighty God!  The fathers’s hand grasps the knife, finds its mark on the throat of his son and begins to come down when God Himself calls out with the gospel: “Stop!  Don’t lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for (now you know what I know) that you fear God, seeing that you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.”. Now instead of death, God’s Word speaks life!

And Abraham looked up, and there caught in the bushes by it’s horn was a ram.  And Abraham took the ram, bound it and sacrificed it as a burn offering instead of his son.  Where’s the lamb?  God will provide it.  Where’s the way to cover up our sins, to make all things right with God?  God will provide the way!  Abraham knew that God was faithful; He knew that He alone would provide a way out of what seemed to be a hopeless and helpless situation.  He knew that God would make all things new and right because somehow his son Isaac played a part in God’s ultimate way of making things right; through Isaac would come God’s own Son from heaven to be God’s ultimate spotless Lamb who would take away our sin.

Thousands of years latter Jesus Christ, true Son of God and Son of man would walk to the same mountain in the land called Moriah, a land that was now called Jerusalem.  As Isaac carried the wood intended to burn his own body as a sacrifice, Jesus also carried His own wood, the tree of woe that He would also obediently lay down upon.  But their would be no voice from heaven staying the execution; no, this execution must go on.  This son of man and Son of God must suffer and die.  He must spill his blood as a sacrifice for all sin.

Jesus is the spotless lamb that God has provided once and for all.  He is both the ultimate sacrificial lamb and the scape goat.  He is the fulfillment of God’s promise that was first given in Genesis, repeated in Exodus and every other book of the Bible.  At the cross of Jesus, God has provided the Lamb for the entire world.  At the cross of Jesus the fruit of redemption and forgiveness are yours.  But what good is the fruit if you do not receive it?

In your baptism God gives you the fruit of the cross.  From the fruit of one tree we received sin and the punishment, but in the fruit of the cross God gives us forgiveness and peace.  In your baptism, God washed away your identity as a sinner and he gave you the identity of His Son, His only begotten Son.  God did what you and I could never do, He sacrificed His Son.  On the cross Jesus fulfilled what Isaac could not; He laid down His life in obedience to the will and plan of the Father.  This atonement for sin, along with Christ’s obedience is what you have been washed with in your baptism.  It is Christ’s identity; it is your new identity!  Every day God’s Word of law speaks fear and death to your sinful flesh; putting it to death so that your new baptismal identity is strengthened in the proclamation of the gospel!

Each of us should forever rejoice that God called out of heaven to stop the hand of the father from taking the life of his son.  He did it so that His hand could give the life of His Son to save us.  But there was another call from heaven that day that we must also hear.  It is the call of promise; a promise to Christ’s church and a promise to you!  Listen: And the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven and said, “By myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore.  And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.

Friends, you are all brothers and sisters because you have one Creator Father, God Himself, but you also have one father of faith and that is Abraham, just  as the children sing, “Father Abraham has many sons, many sons has father Abraham; I am one of them and so are you!”  You are his children because you relate to God by grace, through faith, just as Abraham did!  Abraham believed the Savior would come through his son and you believe that He already has; you believe that Jesus is the Lamb of God who has taken away the sin of the world, even your sin!

Because we believe, because we are Christians, the world is watching how we live our lives.  They’re not so much worried about how good we are as how good our God and Savior is.  They want to see what forgiveness looks like, because if they can see you living out forgiveness, they’ll know that they can have it too!  Do you want to be a good witness for the gospel?  Good, then demonstrate what it’s like living as a sinner who’s been washed clean by the blood of the lamb!

Where’s the beef?  Where’s the meat of our Christian life?  It’s in the forgiveness of sins; our sins and the sins of our neighbor.  Everyone wants forgiveness, but we can’t receive it without the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!