Posts Tagged ‘Reformation Sunday’

Trust The Lord Of The Harvest

Sunday, October 25th, 2015

Reformation and LWML Sunday in Pentecost B, October 25, 2015
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego, CA 92114
http://www.tlcsd.org

Click here for audio of this message

The song that we just heard, “Don’t Worry; Be Happy” by Bobby McFerrin, will be our mental hook this morning, which we will hang our message on.

As you come to worship today, on this joint Reformation and LWML Sunday, what is it that you are worried about? Now, I know that it’s common for folks to do their best to convince us that there’s nothing to worry about, and in fact, one of my jobs as a pastor is to convince you to cast your worries upon the Lord, because He cares for you.  But we do worry and we don’t like others to tell us not to.

So the truth is no matter how many times we’re told not to worry, we do worry. And then naturally, we are drawn to environments and events that seem to limit the drama or worry that we might be exposed to.

Speaking of drama or worry free zones, from what I heard, that is exactly what thousands of saints during the LWML 36th Biennial Convention held in June this year at Des Moines, Iowa. That convention was based around the theme “Bountiful! Sow ∙ Nourish ∙ Reap.” I have been told that at the Convention, the ladies were blessed to be able to sow the seeds of faith in the lives of those God placed in their path.

Those in attendance were reminded of their Baptism where the seed of faith was sown into their hearts. They were nourished through God’s Word and the Sacrament of Holy Communion as they spent much time gathered around that very Word of God in worship in different settings like, Bible studies, devotions, and time together with roommates in the hotels. The convention body put this nourishment to good use in God’s Kingdom as new LWML Mission Grant recipients were selected for the 2015-2017 biennium. In selecting these grants, the LWML commits to support them with prayers and offerings. Those in attendance also celebrated the success God gave to His saints in the mission field through the last biennium.

Everything was wonderful. For many there was not a care in the world as they spent time on that mountaintop of worship. Then in the closing service, the proclaiming pastor shared God’s Word and the urgency to go back into their communities and sow and nourish the seeds of faith, and reap the harvest by the power of the Holy Spirit working in each of them and in those with whom they would share the Good News of our crucified and risen Savior, Jesus Christ.

And at the conclusion of the Divine Service, just like it is here every Sunday when the Divine Service is over, it was time to leave the mountaintop. It was time to go in peace and serve the Lord.

So how do we, the redeemed, the bought and many times brought back, sons and daughters of the King respond to this awesome mission challenge that our Father places before us; how do we go in peace and serve the Lord?

Perhaps we worry as He calls us off the mountain and back into the sin darkened world in which we live to share with our neighbors, the Good News of Christmas and Easter – the Good News of the Savior, born at Christmas, crucified, died, and buried on Good Friday, resurrected Easter morning, ascended back to heaven forty days later; sitting at the right hand of God until He returns to judge the living and the dead. We worry whether or not we “shared it right” and how people will receive this Good News.

Interestingly, even though this Good News is our blessed assurance, for many reasons, it causes us to tremble, tremble, tremble (“Were You There,” LSB 456) every time we hear the call to share it with others.

Now at this point, you might want to say to me, “Pastor, every time you talk about the opportunities God gives us to be “witnesses,” to be sowers and nourishers of those seeds of faith; or every time I hear my Savior say to me, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19), or “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8), my worry level rises and I tremble.”

And when we get caught up in worry, it can become a burden of fear that actually binds the Word of God within us, preventing it from going out into our families, community, and parts beyond.  So what should we do with this worry?  Well how about this, “Cast your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.” (Psalm 55:2). And to that promise from the Lord you might counter, “Ok Lord, what do You have that helps me with my case of worry?”

As we ask that question of our heavenly Father, He responds by reminding us to look at how we are already incredibly blessed. In fact the over-abundance is what can lead to worry as we stand looking into our closets trying to pick out an outfit from the abundance of clothes we have, or when we have to throw out food that has been in the refrigerator or cupboard too long and is no longer fit for consumption by man or beast, or when we have to buy another freezer because the other one is full to the brim.

And so we continue our conversation with God and say: “What really causes me to worry, besides health issues for some of those I love, and problems I have with members of my family, or issues I am having in a relationship, or my congregation here that seems to be dying, is when I seem to hear You calling to me and saying, ‘The time is now to come off the mountain, back to the plain, out of the worship service and into a dark and sin-sickened world with the only answer and solution to all of our and society’s ills.’”

Without a doubt, the time is now for each and every one of us, to use our God-given gifts and abilities to meet the challenge of sharing the Gospel message of Jesus Christ with those around us, and into all the world.

To be perfectly honest that is a huge responsibility and it causes us concern, worry, and moments of trembling. This is true as we look at the billions of people who need to hear of God’s love poured out to them through faith in Jesus Christ. This is true as we consider where some of our friends or some of our family members are in their walk with the Lord. We make excuses to our God: “Lord, You know that those conversations are very difficult to have for many reasons and on many levels. It is hard to confront those with whom I am very close in a way that will be perceived as loving.”

On this reformation Sunday, we remember almost 500 years ago how God used a terrified and trembling monk named Martin Luther.

Luther would have been satisfied and happy if God would have simply allowed him to remain shut away behind the walls of the monastery, oblivious to his sin and God’s solution to all sin, through Christ alone.

It was in God’s Word, where Luther began to understand that unless in love, God chose to have mercy on him, he was doomed to eternal damnation.  Listen to the wonderful news that not only set Luther free from his guilt, but also from his worries; it comes from our Epistle lesson, listen: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.  It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:23-26)

God wants each of us this morning to first be assured that through Christ, by grace alone and faith alone, we really are forgiven, and all of this is a work of God that comes to you by scripture alone.

Through this very same Word of God, God not only performs His work of salvation, but He also creates an equipping and support system that uses little old you, as a witness to others through your redeemed life, through which, He demonstrates to others, through His means of grace, that in Christ, He really has forgiven them and loves them too.

But perhaps this is where the worry comes; how do we show others the error of their ways without sounding “holier than thou,” or preachy, as we strive through the power of the Holy Spirit, to use God’s Word as the instrument that brings repentance, forgiveness, and new life?  And it is as we are dealing with these worries and countless others, that our Abba Father assures us that He knows what we need and has promised that as we seek first His kingdom and His righteousness first, all these things will be given to us as well (Matthew 6:33).

And still we continue to question God: “But I still have to ask Lord, what do You have to help me with my case of worry?”

Now, first let’s be honest with each other, shall we?  We really don’t want God to take away our worry, because if He does, well that will mean we really will begin to share our faith and His love with others.  But God does answer us in His Word.

Within all of Holy Scripture, God has placed our hearts and feet of faith upon the very foundation of Christ.

In Christ alone, we have been given the very source of our security and the power to come off the worry free mountain of worship, and then cling to Christ alone and His promises of new and eternal life, through faith in the perfect life He lived.  But Christ perfect life will not help you in the least, if you do not claim it as the perfect sacrifice for your sins.  So God asks you to continue to believe by faith, that Jesus suffering and death upon the cross was for your sins, and that His glorious resurrection three days later, is proof that the end of your mortal flesh is not the end of you; God desires that you believe that you too, shall rise to eternal life with Him in Paradise.  He wants you to agree with St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:20, that “your brother Jesus Christ is the One who has been raised from the dead, and is the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.”

And to this, we might yet again respond to God: “OK, that all sounds wonderful in theory, and I know that this is where my strength and assurance should be, but when and where the rubber meets the road, how can my focus change from fear to faithfulness, from worry to faith, so that I don’t have to be anxious about anything from food, drink and clothes, to working for the Lord in His harvest field ever again?”

Allow me to share with you some of the main thoughts from our Reformation Scriptures.

First of all, hear, believe and find comfort in Jesus’ Words this morning where He moves our hearts to both the source of our mission and the One who completes it.

Listen: “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” (Matthew 9:37) Now why do you suppose Jesus wants us to pray?  I mean, He’s God right; He could do it without us, right?  Yes that’s right, but He has graciously invited us into His mission and into the salvation story of others.  But how do you suppose He’ll do that?  Well by sharing His compassion for those who are dead in their sins.

Listen: “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matt. 9:36). Jesus saw people, His people who were dead in their sins and He wanted to bring them eternal life; He wanted to be their Shepherd and Savior just as He is for you.  And when He invites you into prayer He also asks that you allow His heart and compassion to become yours.  In other words, Jesus not only invites you into His mission to seek and save the lost, He makes you part of that mission.

Let me share with you another well-known passage you can apply to your worries. Hear the inspired words of Philippians 4:13, where our Father in heaven assures us that as His forgiven, redeemed, restored children we can boldly profess with St. Paul, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”

And, if I may share one more passage with you, especially when it comes to God’s call to you to be out in the harvest field doing the works of Him who sent us while it is day, since night is coming, when no one can work (John 9:4), it would be the promise from the very lips of your Savior as He said in Luke 12:11-12, “And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.”

And finally, consider our first reading from Revelation 14:6, 7, listen: “Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people.  And he said with a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come, and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.”

The truth is dear saints, within those very Words, God not only promises success in the mission your on, He also promises to give His Word protection from devils and sinners.  The Word comes from above us and never finds its strength in us, and neither can it be defeated by devils.  When you live out the scriptural promises of forgiveness, you do so by God’s gift of faith which allows you to receive that forgiveness as an unearned gift, that is by grace alone, all because of Christ alone!

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, all of these promises are ours even when we speak to the neighbor across the street, our friend at work, or our son or daughter who has grown away from the Lord and for whom our heart aches.

You and I have a heavenly Father who does not just talk a good game. “Don’t worry, be happy” is not His mantra. He backs up and follows through on the promises He makes 100% of the time. He acts on that admonition to seek first what is of utmost importance, promising that all of these other things we have been talking about will be given to us as well. (Matthew 6:33)

God’s promise throughout the ages is the same, “seek first the kingdom of God (“desire above all to live under the rule of the one true God” [Lutheran Study Bible Notes, Matthew 6:33]) and His righteousness (the salvation which Christ Jesus has won for us and all people on the cross of Calvary, [John 3:16]), and all these things will be added to you.”

That my friends is providing and coming through on a promise. And since you and I are united with His Son in Baptism, in hearing the Word, in receiving His very body and blood, in His very death, being “buried therefore with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life,” (Romans 6:3-4), we have nothing to worry about as we seek first His kingdom, serving Him as we serve those He places in our lives (Matthew 25:40) wherever and whenever He has need of us, carrying out the great task He gives to us of bringing the lost and the erring into eternal fellowship with Him. Amen!

Reformation: Let’s Do It Again!

Sunday, October 25th, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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