Posts Tagged ‘Resurrection’

Recreated to Praise God

Sunday, April 30th, 2017

Easter 3A, April 30, 2017
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor of
Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
http://www.tlcsd.org and
Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
Http://www.ORLCSD.org

Click here for audio of this message

Christ is risen, He’s risen indeed. And because He lives, so too, the world may have rebirth and eternal life as well. But for you the baptized your hope is already made certain by faith in your resurrected Savior, Jesus Christ. Your faith is made living through the Word of God, the Gospel of Jesus. It is the Gospel that not only brings you a new and eternal life, but it brings you a life of purpose, right here and right now. Your purpose is to praise and glorify your saving God in all that you think, say, and do. And your service becomes pure and holy as you continue to read and learn from holy scripture. This learning is a life long process that begins in baptism, is continued as we grow, and it shall not end until the day we die. This is a process that became clear on that first Easter Day.

In our gospel reading, it’s once again the first day of the week, Easter Sunday.

Some of the women who were disciples of Jesus went to the tomb and found that Jesus wasn’t there; instead they found angels who declared that He had risen from the dead! They went back to where they were staying and found the 11 apostles and a vast number of disciples hiding behind locked doors, because they were afraid that the authorities would punish them as well! So when the women reported what they discovered and what the angels told them, the disciples were astounded, but soon their excitement wore off, and they all began the long trek back to normal living. In other words, they decided to ignore the reports of the resurrection!

That same day, two of those disciples were on their way to a town named Emmaus, about 7 miles from Jerusalem; they were trying to make sense of everything that had happened. They must have been discussing the last three years they spent with Jesus; how they were appointed witnesses and given authority to drive out demons and heal disease. They must have recounted how they followed this man they thought was the Messiah; the one who would anoint Israel to rule and bless the entire world. They must have recalled how on Palm Sunday He made His triumphant entry into the city and then into the temple to purify it from evil, which would then restore God’s rule on earth. But now, their hopes had been dashed by Judas’ betrayal of Jesus, who handed Him over to be killed by crucifixion and then sealed away in a tomb along with all of their hopes and dreams!

Now while they’re talking about these things and sharing their disappointment and shattered dreams, who is it that comes along side of them? None other than Jesus Himself that’s who!

But their eyes were kept from knowing who He is?

Now that’s strange! How did He do that? Well first, let’s remember who Jesus is, shall we?! He’s God, and He can do whatever He likes! But we also need to remember our message last week about Thomas; he refused to believe until he could actually see and touch Jesus, right? And what did Jesus have to say about that? He said that Thomas believed because he saw Him, but more blessed are those who believe without seeing; those who see not with physical eyes, but eyes of faith! Remember, Jesus is talking about you and me; we who believe because of the work of God’s Spirit that comes to us in His Word and Sacrament. Remember this, because it will be an important truth at the end of our message.

So back to our gospel reading and the two disciples who are kept from recognizing or seeing Jesus for whom He is. So Jesus asks them, “What is this conversation that you’re holding with each other as you’re walking along?” And they stood still, looking sad. That means that they were actually frozen by grief; they were so sad and depressed they couldn’t even find the strength or motivation to walk any further because of what they felt they lost; the one they thought was the Messiah is dead! “Then one of them named Cleopas, answered Him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened (in Jerusalem) these days?” (Dude have you been locked away in a tomb?!) And He said to them, “What things?”

Now that’s strange; I mean, why did Jesus ask “What things”; He’s God right? He knew, didn’t He? Sure He did! May I suggest that Jesus was testing their faith? In other words, He was taking their weak faith and making it stronger through proper instruction and understanding of the Word of God. You dear saints have experienced this method of instruction in your catechism study when the Pastor tests your knowledge of a topic with this question: “What does this mean?” And then you faithfully answer, “We should fear and love God so that…”

You see, Jesus had to completely destroy their hope in what they saw and perceived so that He could give them faith in what they could not perceive or understand! How? By opening up the scriptures and explaining God’s Word! What part of the Word? All of the Word; He did this by showing them that every page of scripture was about Him! He showed them that He was the key for not just unlocking scripture, but understanding it. How? By knowing that the gospel, the forgiveness of sins is exactly the very thing that God has always been up to throughout the history of man, and then by seeing that every word in scripture is recorded for that very reason! By showing them that Jesus, the Lamb of God, was the only sacrifice that could be made that would take away the sins of the world; even their sins!

So, what we learn this morning is that Jesus wants to remove our fears and disappointment and put Himself in their place! Listen to their confession after Jesus asked, “What things?” and see if you don’t hear fear and disappointment in their words. They answered, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people” (oops they forgot the part that He was begotten by the Holy Spirit; they forgot the part that says He’s the Son of God), but at least they got the last part of the creed right. Listen, “and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up (to Pontius Pilate), to be condemned to death, and crucified Him. But “WE” had hoped that He was the one (who would) redeem Israel.”

Then they continued their testimony about how some of their women amazed them by declaring that when they went to the tomb of their former Messiah the body wasn’t there, but instead they were greeted by angels who said that Jesus wasn’t dead but alive!

And this is where Jesus begins to speak faith into their hearts and even into ours this morning, and He does it first with a scolding:

“O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into His glory?”

And that is the fatal flaw of their false faith. In their faith, their freedom, their new world order, and their grief, their feelings were central to everything they believed. Their lack of glory, or their desire for glory was the central reason for their unbelief in Jesus! But Jesus reverses their thinking, their glory seeking, by showing them that His glory should be the center of their faith; He shows them that without His suffering and death, there could be no hope for them or the world; it was necessary for Jesus to suffer and die! Now Jesus brings faith and salvation into their hearts by preaching about Himself! Now the living Word of God begins to open their eyes of faith and our own so that we too might believe unto salvation. But then He stopped the sermon as they were drawing close to the village, and He acted as if He was going on farther.

“But they urged Him strongly (they insisted), saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So He went inside the home with them. “(And) when He was at table with them, He took bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them.” Now doesn’t that sound familiar? Listen to a similar statement found in Luke 22:19, “saying “(Take and eat,)This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” Yes, this appears to be a repeat of His actions when He instituted the sacrament of Holy Communion! “And (once he broke the bread and gave thanks), their eyes were opened and they recognized Him.” Where and how did they recognize Jesus? In His Word and in His sacrament!

Here dear friends is the great transition from becoming a disciple through the act of being an eye witness to becoming a disciple by being a witness through the power of God’s Holy Word and Sacraments. Once they were given faith through the Word and the breaking of the bread, their eyes were opened and they saw, they knew Jesus for Who He truly is, the eternal Son of God! “They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while He talked to us on the road, while He opened to us the Scriptures?” And that has been God’s means of bringing sinful people like us to faith ever since. It is His means and not ours. It is so He is glorified and not us!

Now, as I move towards closing our message, I would like to speak to you Christian parents and Grand Parents.

I can think of no greater honor that you could give to God than to lovingly direct your children’s hearts to burn in love for God, His Word and Sacraments, and your Christian family. Wouldn’t you agree with me that children seem to have a natural burning love, or at least a burning desire for the love of their parents and grand parents? So, your task dear Christian parents is to take that love and direct it first and foremost to God the Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

You have the challenge of teaching your children that if they value and respect your love, they must first value and respect the love of God the Father “who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds.” In other words, they are to develop both a love and fear for God! Or as our epistle lesson states, they are to learn to conduct themselves “with fear throughout (their)time in exile.” What does that mean, their time in exile? It means the time that they are living and waiting in this sinful world for Jesus to come back, until the time that God has determined will be their last moment here on earth! How will you accomplish this task? By reminding them that they were purchased or ransomed out of this sinful world with the precious blood and sacrifice of God the Son, Jesus Christ! In other words, you must help them see that their future does not depend on you or them, but upon Jesus Christ Crucified and Resurrected for them and the world! Or as Martin Luther wrote, we must teach them to believe that Christ has “purchased and won (them)… not with silver or gold but with His holy, precious blood, and with His innocent suffering and death, that (they) may be His own, and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him!”

Now dear Christian parents is the time to begin directing the hearts and minds of our children towards God, no matter their age! Do not stop to think about lost time; do not even wonder if it is too late! Remember, their salvation is not up to you, it’s up to God and His work through His means. It’s not what you have done or failed to do, it’s about what God has done through Jesus Christ and what He is continuing to do! Our only job is to always point them to Jesus Christ, crucified and resurrected for them and for us! That is the beautiful thing about grace… it’s never too late for faith in Jesus Christ! So for now on, let us resolve ourselves to giving our children, regardless of their age, the life changing exposure to God’s means of grace, His Word and Sacrament! Today dear friends is the first day of the rest of their lives. Let’s make it a blessed day by keeping Jesus Christ in the center of it! He has risen, He has risen indeed! AMEN!

The Resurrection is the Gospel

Sunday, April 23rd, 2017

Easter 2A, April 23, 2017
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor of
Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
http://www.tlcsd.org and
Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
Http://www.ORLCSD.org

Click here for audio of this message

“Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory” [1 Peter 1:8]

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! When those words of joy were first spoken, they declared a truth; it was a truth that took all of Christ’s disciples, including the apostles by complete surprise. Jesus had warned them; He prepared them over and over again that He would come back. He had made it clear that it was His life to lay down into death and it was His to raise back up again, but all of them missed the meaning of His promise. But who would have understood? The truth is, in this life people just don’t come back from the dead. Isn’t it true, that there seems to be nothing as permanent as death?

I believe that our common experience tells us that…

Death is simply inescapable.

But Jesus Christ did rise from the dead. His power over death was declared over and over again throughout the Old Testament, and His resurrection is the very reason we have the New Testament; it’s the reason we have the Christian Church, and presumably, it’s the reason you are here this morning.

The day Jesus rose from the dead, He proved that He had power over sin, death, and the devil.

Easter Day took all of Jesus’ disciples by surprise, and it became the focus of their lives and the center of their thinking; it defined how they lived, and how they died. It became the very center of their beings. Christ had escaped death and brought new hope for the world and new life for those who would trust His cross and the message of the empty tomb.

To St. Peter, Jesus’ resurrection was life changing. You can hear his joyful exclamation of it’s effect on him in the opening words of our Epistle lesson [1 Peter 1:3-9]: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead”.

Imagine with me, that Jesus has allowed St. Peter to return from the dead for just an hour simply to tell his story one more time, in the flesh. Now imagine that we’ve been allowed to ask him any thing. Maybe we might ask him why the resurrection was so central in all of his writings. Now let’s allow him to answer that question and tell his story.

“Well, to understand why the resurrection is so important to me, you’d have to remember just who I was before Jesus rose from the dead; you’d have to remember the terrible things that I did.”

“I guess you could say that I was the spokesman for the other disciples. I was with Jesus from the beginning when He called me away from the family fishing business. I dropped everything and followed Him. Oh, how I loved the fact that the Holy Spirit first spoke through me, in order to declare that Jesus was the Christ, the very Son of God. Later, I even bragged that if all of the others left Him, I never would. Then when Jesus really needed me, I the great Peter let Him down! On the night when Jesus was betrayed and arrested, I the strong and dependable Peter denied Jesus three times, and I ran away and hid for fear of loosing my own life, just as Jesus warned I would.”

“Three times—I still feel sick to my stomach when I think about it—three times I the great Peter denied my Lord. I denied Him while He was getting ready to die for my sins. And while he hung there dying, John and the women were there with Him, but I did not have the stomach or the faith to watch it. You see, I had pinned all of my hopes on Jesus, and now He was dead. But even worse, instead of being thankful to God for being a part of Jesus’ life, I felt nothing but bitter shame and a sense that my entire life had been a complete waste of time and an utter failure.”

“But you can imagine how my life changed when the women came back from the tomb with the unbelievable news. Jesus was alive. He’s risen! At first I did not dare believe it, but then they spoke a message from the angels, and it changed everything. They said that Jesus told them to tell the disciples and Peter to meet Him in Galilee. Think about what those Words meant to me—and Peter! At that very moment, every doubt was erased from my worried mind and I not only believed that Jesus had defeated death, but that He truly was my God and my Savior! From that point on I was a changed man, I was forgiven, and the entire world had changed, and for the first time I knew that my eternal future was set and certain.”

At this point we might be tempted to ask Peter what he means, when he says that the entire world had changed, and that he knew that his eternal future was set and certain. Well, let’s let Peter answer us in his own words from verse 4 of our epistle reading: “(Friends, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we have been born again to a living hope) to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for us.” This is a strong declaration of faith; it’s a God given faith that learns to acknowledge our sins of the past, but then by grace, that same gift of faith teaches us to let go of the past and then simply trust in the completed work of Jesus Christ; a completed work that has given us a new identity as one who is “born again” for an eternal life in heaven.

Our sinful flesh fights this truth, as it attempts to set our eyes on anything else other than Christ’s cross and empty tomb.

Isn’t it true that we would rather think about how Peter let Jesus down instead of how we ourselves have abandoned Him time and time again? Isn’t it easier to see the darkness of Peter’s regrets rather than looking at our own darkness? Just as Peter was tempted to go back into his old life of fishing rather than waiting on Jesus, haven’t we also been tempted to go back to our old sinful ways, in fact haven’t we actually done that many times?

And when we go back to our sinful ways, isn’t it true that like Peter, we too have felt that we were letting the best of who we were, that is our relationship with Jesus just slip away through our fingers? Doesn’t it become easier to feed on our failures, that is our sinful weakness rather than repent; turn to Jesus in confession of those failures? Don’t we too, at times feel like Jesus has abandoned us?

When our marriage fails, when our family ties are falling apart, when our financial base has seemingly been destroyed, when addiction rears it’s ugly ahead once again, or when death takes the very one we love the most, aren’t we too tempted to run from God and His Church, or lash out at Him in anger? But then like Peter, we too receive the call to come to the empty tomb, and then everything is changed. Jesus is alive, not dead. Jesus is with us in His Word and Sacraments, He has not left us as orphans. Mankind’s greatest enemies, your greatest enemies, sin, death, and the devil have been defeated and destroyed.

On the cross we see how our enemies were defeated. Jesus died to save sinners, all sinners. He died to take away Peter’s sins, and He died to take away your sins. Upon the cross, the Son of God Himself made full payment for our sins. But in the empty tomb, we see how the power of our enemies has forever been removed from our lives. The empty tomb proves to us who have been saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, that when we were washed clean in the waters of our baptism, the empty tomb is also our reality. In our baptism Jesus resurrection becomes our resurrection. Death has been defeated and the dark wall that divides this life from our eternal life has been penetrated. Or, as St. Peter puts it in verses 4 and 5…

Our eternal destiny has been assured (as) “an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for (us who have been baptized), (and) by God’s power (we) are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” What these Words declare to us is simply this, no lie of the devil and no attacks from this sinful world can jeopardize our salvation and our eternal home with Jesus, because nothing can put Jesus back into the grave and nothing can undo what God has done for you upon the cross and within the waters of your baptism. No enemy can cheat you out of your inheritance; it can’t be stolen or destroyed. It is being kept for you by the fact that Christ has risen!

Now we could end our message right here and most of us would go home happy and at peace, but some of us would not. Some of us still have questions. And I believe that the primary question that holds us back in sorrow and prevents us to leave in joy is this: “If Christ’s resurrection makes such a difference in our lives, and since the future holds such glory, and since Christ has overcome all of His enemies, then why is there so much suffering in this world? Why is there so much suffering in “MY” world?” Now to this question, let’s let St. Peter answer once again in verse 6 from our Epistle lesson…

“Yes it is true, we still experience pain and sorrow just as every other person does in this world, but for we Christians, these experiences are only temporary.”

“And while we go through these things, we keep rejoicing in the hope of our inheritance because the Holy Spirit reminds us that “though now for a little while we may have to suffer various trials, (this is necessary so) that the genuineness of our faith, which is more precious than gold (may become evident to all), a faith, which though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

You see friends, Jesus is not only with you, through the Holy Spirit He is working in you. He is working to transform you everyday into what you will be for eternity, holy, perfect, and righteous. He is transforming your character. And like old Job, we may at times be asked to go through some times of testing so that others can see our faith in Jesus and the transforming power of the cross and the empty tomb. As Jesus allows us to enter into these times of testing He is also calling the attention of others to notice how we handle these times, but also how God brings us through them. And as we pass through these times, we prove to others that our love for God is not fleeting and we are not fair weathered friends of Jesus Christ, but we have been transformed forever unto eternal life.

The resurrection tells us that suffering, our suffering is only temporary. We can make it through those periods, because we are not alone. We can pass through it and not let it destroy us or take away our faith in Jesus Christ. Even if the suffering drives us to the very door of death, we know for certain that beyond that door our risen Lord Jesus Christ is waiting to receive us. We who have been baptized into the cross and empty tomb of Jesus, have been baptized into His death and into His resurrection. We who trust Him may loose a skirmish sometimes, that is we may fall into temptation and sin, but we are not defeated, because Jesus has won the war. Jesus’ resurrection tells us that suffering can never have the last word for those of us who belong to Him.

As we close our message this morning, I think that we should address one more challenge to living out our lives as baptized Christians, and it is this. We can read our Bibles, especially the stories about St. Peter and the others that were in Jesus’ inner circle and think, “I wish that I could have known Jesus and learned to love Him like they did.” And to that, I believe that St. Peter would say… “What do you mean youmwish?! You can. That’s the point of the resurrection. He lives now as certainly and as personally as He did then. You see Him by faith, which is the most precious gift of God that you could ever receive. Through the Word of God, all of it “has been written so that you would believe that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God” by faith. Listen friend, your vision of Jesus is more precious than mine. I believed in Him because He allowed me to be with Him for three years; He allowed me to touch, handle and eat with Him after His resurrection. But you believe because of the awesome power of God that has filled you through His supernatural gift of faith. “Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”

Dear friends, the resurrection of Jesus is the gospel.

It’s the gospel because He assures you that soon enough you to will follow Him and rise from the dead. Your own resurrection will be like Jesus resurrection in that it will be the final act of God upon your old flesh which proves, that God loves you so much that He has done everything that needs to be done to save you. It’s no wonder that Peter declared, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The resurrection meant to him that we had a sure inheritance, encouragement in suffering, and the joy of constant friendship with our Savior, Jesus Christ.

For Peter the resurrection was an historical fact. He was there when it happened and it changed the history of sinful men and women. Christ is risen… that is history. Christ is risen for you… that is your part in history in the making that only you can witness to. Now go out and tell anyone who will listen this gospel message that includes them too… AMEN!

Kingdom, Power, and Glory!

Sunday, April 16th, 2017

Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor of
Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA

http://www.tlcsd.org and
Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
Http://www.ORLCSD.org

Click here for audio of the message

For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” [Col. 3:3]

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! What a wonderful announcement for this sinful world to hear! We know why it is wonderful; we know why
it is good news; it is wonderful and good because through the work of Jesus Christ, God has defeated our archenemies, sin, death, and the devil! But to this unbelieving world what we call good and wonderful, they call foolish and a waste of time! They dismiss what we hold precious, the death, resurrection, and glorification of our Savior, and in its place they put the easter bunny and earth day?

We started what we call Holy Week with Palm Sunday.

On that day we recall the cheers of the jubilant crowd welcoming their King, our King with Hosannas and blessings to the one who comes in the name of our God! I wonder what our society would chant if Jesus came in our midst today? Maybe His handlers would have Him coming in waving to the crowd, kissing babies and pressing the flesh to that Frank Sinatra song, “The Best is Yet to Come.”

Yes, once again this consumer driven world we live in takes what we hold dearest, the very thing we need, and tramples it under their feet, replacing it with things we want! Why is that? Because dear friends, to get to Easter, to get to God’s Kingdom, Power, and Glory, you must pass through Good Friday, pain, suffering, and death! They can’t understand how God’s kingdom can come in such a low manner as that; they will never accept that idea until they have let go of their own idea of kingdom, power, and glory. That was the problem with the people of Jesus time and it is still the problem with our world today! In order to get to God they must first see and address their sins, and that is what Holy week and Easter Sunday are all about!

In Christ battle with sin, death, and the devil, Jesus appeared to be a victim. He was put to death as a criminal. He ruled as a King from a cross, with a crown of thorns and the broken scepter of a reed. “What kind of a king is this” a sinful world asks? Yes, He was a victim, but He was a victim in our place. Only by taking on the role of victim could be become the victor! Yes He was the one who was put to death for sinners, but He is also the one Who was raised to give those same sinners, you and me the righteousness of God! Yes they mocked him as a king with a crown of thorns, but He was a different kind of king than they were expecting. His central concern was the truth; a truth that He both proclaimed and fulfilled! But why? So that God’s kingdom, power, and glory would come among us and replace our own sinful ideas of kingdom, power, and glory! Through death upon the cross, Jesus leads His subjects of His kingdom from the cross through death into the exaltation of the royal triumph of the empty tomb.

But in order to get to the empty tomb; in order to experience the triumph of the resurrection, you must pass through the dark valley of death; death that is always the result of sin, our sins! This is the truth that the women on Easter morning discovered first, and then the apostles and disciples after them!

“Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb.” [Matthew 28:1]

Dear friends this was no ordinary morning for the women in Jesus inner circle; no they weren’t on their way to the market to buy what they needed for breakfast; they were on their way to finish burying their King! Jesus who they were certain was the Messiah; a king who would live forever was now dead! All of their hopes and dreams seemed to be sealed away in that tomb with the body of Jesus! He was buried so quickly on Friday evening because the Sabbath was soon to start at sundown; and every good Jew knew that you couldn’t do any work on the Sabbath; not even burying your king! Well the Sabbath is over; the sun is now rising and it is a new day… Sunday to be exact. So off they went to finish the work that was started on Friday. Not only must they enter deeper into the dark valley of death, but they must smell and experience the decay of Him who they thought would not, no could not die!

Now, they arrive at the tomb of their king, “And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men.” [Matt. 28:2-4] Dear friends, don’t miss the significance of the earthquake! It is the same quaking that came after Jesus was put to death! It’s God’s expression of power after He confronts the evil plans of devils and men; plans that seek to replace His Kingdom, Power, and Glory with their own kingdom, power, and glory! The guards at the tomb knew that this was the power of God! Why else would they fall like dead men and shake like frightened children? What else can you do when you are an unrepentant sinner confronted by an angel of the Lord?

The women, no doubt were afraid as well. They were well within the deep, dark valley of death, but now they’ve encountered the unexplainable light of the Living God! “But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, (just) as he said (He would do). Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead!” [Matt. 28:5-7a] And there you have a perfect picture of God’s kingdom, glory, and power vs. the world’s kingdom, glory, and power! What the world meant for evil God turned into good! “They put (Jesus) to death by hanging Him on a tree, but God raised Him on the third day and MADE HIM TO APPEAR! [Acts 10:39b, 40]

“So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.” [Matt. 28:8-10]

 

He is risen!  Glory be to God on high… Jesus is risen indeed!

And what a greeting He gives to these wonderful Christian women! It is a shame that our translators chose such a boring word as “Greetings” to put in the mouth of Jesus. A more accurate translation of Jesus greeting is “Happiness and joy in their fullness are yours!” Amen and amen Jesus! You are alive! You are the living God; even death and the grave have no power over you! Your kingdom is not only greater than the devil and sinful men, but your power and glory can never be defeated or replaced! It’s no wonder that the women fell down and worshiped Him! But Jesus has something to tell them, and through them He also speaks to us. Listen: “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.” [vs. 10]

Do not be afraid! Behold I have made all things new; I have defeated my enemies and I have brought you back into my Father’s Kingdom of power and glory! Now go and tell my brothers, those who have believed my Word; those who were heavily burdened by sin and fear; those who turned to me for rest. Tell them I am alive and just as I promised I will never leave nor forsake them!

Dear friends, do not miss that wonderful description that Jesus uses to describe His apostles and disciples. He calls them brothers! Those who deserted Him at the cross out of fear; Peter who denied Him three times; we who have chased after the kingdom, power, and glory of this sinful world, Jesus calls brothers! With this simple word, Jesus brings all of His disciples, even you and me deep into His heart as His most dearest and closest relatives. In this one word, Jesus gives us all of His forgiving love and at the same time He also gives us the highest honor we could ever receive. If Jesus is our brother, what more could we ever need? Brothers in the flesh possess everything together; they have one Father and one inheritance. So we have a common possession of everything that belongs to Christ! And what is that possession? It is the Kingdom, Power, and Glory of God! All of this is what Jesus gained on that great resurrection day for Himself, but He has also given it to you!

You are Christ’s brothers and sisters because He has freed you from your sins and the kingdom of the devil! In His resurrection, Jesus defeated all of these things and now He invites you to rest in this truth. Jesus entered into death in order to triumph over it and reclaim you as His brother. His resurrection causes you who trust in this work to rest in it and remain steadfast, immovable, and always abounding in joy because of the completed work of Jesus Christ! As He gives you the fruits of His resurrection through your baptism, you are now walking and growing in a new life that He has created for you! In this new life, He stands alongside of you as you struggle against your enemy the devil, and your old sinful flesh. But you must never become discouraged, because you have been raised with Christ from the dead in your baptism, but more than that, you have been hidden away with Him. And because you are hidden, the devil and the sinful world can’t see what you see by faith, so they laugh at you and they attack you trying to move you into the same place they exist… fear and doubt! Oh let them rage on all they like; they can’t harm you because you are not only protected from them, you are hidden away, out of their reach!

Christ, who was their victim is now your Victor, and He has come back from the grave for you. You are His most prized possession and He delivers you to His Father into a Kingdom of Power and Glory! Yes friends, Christ has risen… He has risen indeed!

Witnessing Jesus

Sunday, May 8th, 2016

Easter 7-HL, May 8th, 2016
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor
Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego, CA
http://www.tlcsd.org

Click here for audio of this message

Here’s a truth that each of us must understand this morning before a single word of gospel hope is declared: Living out our Christian faith, let alone witnessing to it, would be impossible unless God the Holy Spirit was powerfully working within us and among us through His chosen means of grace.  But once the Holy Spirit enters our lives and our hearts, living out our lives becomes a whole different experience.  With the Holy Spirit, the church armed with the Word of God and Christ’s Sacraments (Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper), is equipped as a body and as individuals who are part of that body are sent forth to witness to God’s presence in both our lives and indeed the entire world.

This last Wednesday the universal church celebrated the high and holy day of Christ’s Ascension. As we think about that day this Sunday, we also can’t help but put our selves in the shoes of the disciples.

In addition to awe and wonder as the they witnessed their Lord ascend into heaven from the Mt. of Olives, they also must have been dealing with a sense of fear and worry: “Now what are we suppose to do?”

When the disciples went back to the upper room, back to their normal lives, they perhaps knew more about Jesus than any other people in the whole world would ever know.  So it is fair to say that if Christianity had simply been a matter of knowing Jesus and His teachings and then living by that knowledge, then they could have started to preach and witness about His Kingdom of Grace immediately.  But instead, they were instructed by Jesus to wait patiently in an attitude of prayer and supplication until the gift of the Holy Spirit was given.

So what was it they were lacking?

The disciples lacked the very thing that Jesus promised to give them… the power and comfort of the Holy Spirit.

Let’s think about that for a moment; think about the work that God had prepared for them to accomplish.  They had been given the responsibility to witness about Jesus.  They’d been with Him from the beginning.  They had seen it all and had been taught by the Lord Himself.  Above all, they were witnesses to both His resurrection and His ascension.  But the truth they were to proclaim was also an insurmountable challenge for mere followers of Jesus.  You see…

The man they were to bear witness to had been executed as a blasphemer and a troublemaker.  And what’s more, they too, were promised by Jesus Himself that they could expect to be met with the same violent resistance.  Hadn’t Jesus told them many times that they would be persecuted; that the disciple was not above his teacher? Jesus even said that if they had called the master Beelzebub, what would they do to the servants?  But along with these truths of coming trial and tribulation, Jesus also implied that when the time of testing arrived they were to confidently stand their ground and not fear those who can destroy the body but not their souls.  By now, they must have been thinking, “Easier said than done!”

So now safe and secure in the upper room, their task must have seemed to be impossible.  They were to go out amongst the same people who crucified Jesus and preach and witness that the Man they killed was not only the Messiah but in fact, He was their only hope for eternal life.  And so we can see why the disciples must have felt alone and afraid; their task was to break through the wall of impenitence and hatred that even the Lord’s own words would not shatter.

But there’s still more they had to consider.  Through out all of their living out and proclaiming Christ, they were also called to preserve the purity of the message.  They had to preserve the unity of the church, stick together even when there was no Master among them, and they must preach the gospel even though there was no one with them physically to counsel with.  All of this demanded more than mere human powers could supply.  But Jesus had never expected them to fulfill their responsibilities alone.  God Himself would fulfill the task with them.  He would clothe them with power from on high.  He would open the way for the Word by convicting men of sin and of righteousness.  He would give His messengers a power and a wisdom, which would overcome their enemies.  He would lead them in all of God’s own truth.  He would preserve the vision of Christ living and untarnished.  He would Himself speak through their tongues and words.  And …

To accomplish this miraculous task, Christ would gather is little lambs into one body, His body the church, and He would do it all through the work of the Holy Spirit.

Through the church, God would gather His eternal and spiritual Israel, His faithful saints.  He would gather them from all the nations and ethnicities throughout the world and bring each of them into their own country the church, which would be for them a foretaste of their eternal Home in Paradise, a place that had been prepared for them by Jesus Himself.

Through the preaching of the Gospel of hope, the washing of Holy Baptism, and the sustenance of  spiritual food and drink received at the Lord’s Holy Table, Christ through the work and power of the Holy Spirit would create and sustain His dear saints.  That is by the grace of God and the gift of the Holy Spirit that comes from God through the Word of God Jesus Christ, God the Father would created, gather and send out His children of faith through the power and direction of God the Holy Spirit to speak to and gather even more redeemed sinners into the Christian faith.

All of this is taking place even today by God through you and me, by the power and work of the Holy Spirit.  You see…

Christianity is not simply knowing about Jesus and following Him.

Our Christian faith, and indeed our entire lives is something that can only be experienced where God is at work in the presence and person of the Holy Spirit.  For the disciples this was a daily experience.  That’s why they spoke of witnessing together with one heart and mind through the Holy Spirit; that’s why they could insist that they and the Holy Spirit acted together, as they walked in the Spirit and by the Spirit.

God the Holy Spirit promises us today just as He promised the disciples who witnessed Jesus ascension long ago, that as He has changed our hard and unbelieving hearts and sustains new life and faith within us, He desires to do the very same thing with those we come in contact with as we share with them the story of Jesus and His victory over sin, death, and the devil.  A victory that was accomplished through His passion and death upon the cross, the empty tomb of His resurrection, and His return to the right hand of the Father through His ascension.

Dear friends, Christ did not want you to be trapped by ignorance of the hard times that lay ahead for the church, His church.  He clearly described the resistance that we would face as together we witness to the “one thing needful” for salvation… faith in the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ.  If we try to go about the calling of Jesus to seek and save the lost on our own with a different message, we will only discover failure and misery.  But if we go out living our lives within the various vocations we find ourselves in, we will find both success and joy in our calling to be witnesses to the love of God, which is ours through Christ Jesus.

Our task and calling today as both individuals and members of the universal body of Christ is to spread the knowledge of Jesus.  Not to declare a message that makes us comfortable or will make our neighbors comfortable, but the truth that Christ died for sinners of which you and I are the chiefs of, and so are they that we witness Christ to.  Not only does God want to be a part of our sometimes-mundane lives, but He wants to be a part of our neighbors’ lives too.  He wants to offer His gift of salvation to others through us.

No wonder we talk about joy in the Holy Spirit.  What a tremendous reason to be alive in this world today.  What a tremendous reason to look forward to what every tomorrow holds.  God wants to use you… He wants to work through you… He wants to show Himself to other people both here in this place of worship and in your life as you lead them only and always to Christ alone; as you declare the Easter message: “Christ has risen, indeed!  AMEN!”

All Dressed Up and…

Sunday, April 17th, 2016

Easter 4-HL, April 17th, 2016
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor
Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego, CA
http://www.tlcsd.org

Click here for audio of this message

Would you agree with me, that it is never easy waiting for something you really desire?  Here’s a truth that we should really think about this morning: We all desire an end to sickness, disease, violence, hatred and prejudice.  And we all know that as long as we live in this sin-soaked world, these things will never end.  Further, we all know that the only way to be free of those things is to leave this world; we have to die.

By now some of you are saying, “No thanks, I’ll wait.”  But some of you are thinking, “Yes, that would be fine by me; the sooner the better.  I just want the Lord to take me home.”

A Christian may have many reasons for wanting to leave this world.

Scripture and our own life experiences seem to bear witness to this truth.  St. Paul perhaps put it best, when he said that he would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord Jesus.  [2 Corinthians 5:8]   But where would our understanding of God’s grace and the beautiful gift of faith be if God had taken Paul home too early?

Every day through our understanding brought through God’s Word, we are made more and more aware of a sinful reality that is at work in our bodies; a law that convicts us of the sin that lies within our flesh.  Isn’t it true that the more we understand our sinful tendency to do things we know are wrong, the more we wish to be free from this reality?  Do you understand that your baptized, born again nature is at war with the desires of your sinful flesh?  Isn’t it true that you have one nature that urges you to serve the Lord and another that urges you to serve your own wants and desires.  The truth is, we have the desire to do what is right, but when it comes to fulfilling that desire, we sometimes seem to be in a sort of holding pattern.

None of us is ever exempt from this daily struggle between the spirit and the flesh.  And it is not simply an internal struggle of weakness versus strength, or cowardice versus bravery, no, we are also dealing with this sinful world and all the spiritual powers and principalities that seek to destroy both our own souls and the work of God for us and among us; in other words, these forces are dead set on attacking us in such a way that even our faith and hope in God will be crushed and destroyed.

We are reminded in our Old Testament lesson (Lamentations 3:22-33) that all trials and tribulations are allowed to come to us in accordance with God’s will; in other words, their final purpose is meant to strengthen our faith in Him, and so we must bear them with patient submission.

We are to see all things that seek to separate us from the love of God through the lens of Christ’s own suffering upon the cross.  In other words, we are to see them as mere inconveniences, because nothing can diminish the saving power of Christ’s cross for you.

Even when those things or people seem to be an enemy much stronger than us, we must remember that our Lord has already defeated them through His life given upon the cross.  So, although our enemies, whether they be spiritual powers and principalities, or physical people who are simply being used as tools of the devil may seem more powerful that us, we must remember that God has allowed these attacks to come our way, and since they are ultimately under the control of Jesus and His cross, we must look at them as simply annoyances and futile, evil persecution that in the end will amount to nothing.

We are called by St. Peter in our Epistle lesson (1 Peter 2:11-20) to remember that we are simply sojourners and exiles in this world.  Our job then is not to win battles but we’re called to trust God and resist the enemy.  Our task then is to remain faithful to our Lord’s call of repentance and to daily receive His forgiveness of sins through His Son Jesus Christ, as citizens of His kingdom of grace.

In His Word, God continually promises us, His children of faith, both forgiveness and new life.  He promises us that His same divine love that saved us from our sins will also keep us and protect us from the evil that surrounds us, even if that evil may be within our own flesh.  As members of God’s kingdom and joint heirs with the Son of God, we saints are called to simply and quietly wait for the Lord; to wait for Him to decide when our day will be when we will depart this place where we are foreigners and move to our new home where are true citizenship lies; a place where we will inherit the riches of Christ’s kingdom; riches that we’re told we already possess here in this place but are not yet utilizing in their fullest sense.  And so we do that very thing, but as we wait, we do so with a holy purpose.

So now, let’s talk about why it is not the right time for you “to go home and be with the Lord.”

You see, it is God who has determined that we should still be living here in this world.  He has a purpose for our being here.  Before us there are “good works which God has prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” [Ephesians 2:10]  In other words, God knows something of your purpose in life that you do not.  God has already both equipped and prepared you to accomplish things that must take place in accordance with His will; things that perhaps He will use to help someone understand Christ’s passion upon the cross and the truth and implication of His resurrection for them.

As the Lord gives us life, we are helped to believe that He wants us here for His purpose.  Even when all of our physical powers fail us, we are still able to contribute in a God pleasing way; we’re able to pray for others, prayer that God both commands and blesses, so that others may be blessed and strengthened in response to our prayers.

So it isn’t a bad thing when a mother wishes to live long enough among her children so that she may help them to grow in their Christian faith.  And likewise, it isn’t wrong for a man to pray for longer life because he feels he still hasn’t fulfilled his life’s work that God has called him to perform.

You see, it is these very works, which God has both clothed and equipped you to do long ago within in the waters of your baptism.  In your baptism, God called you to be a witness of His grace and mercy to others so that they too might experience that same thing.  Even if others mistreat you and speak badly of you, your life and how you live it will be a testimony to them of God’s work and presence in their lives.  And when God moves them to see this truth, He will also move them to see the ultimate truth:  They are sinful and lost for eternity unless they seek the same God of mercy who has saved you!

We Christians are called to remain faithful and serve God and our neighbor at the very place where God has placed us.  As we serve, God is ever working to ensure that we are able to withstand all kinds of mistreatment and neglect from those who live among us, simply because we find our value and worth not in them but solely in the Word and promises of God.

When the day comes when God will finally call us home, we will go thankfully through the gates of eternal life and into the joy of the Lord that is waiting for us in paradise.  But until that time, God’s time, we know that we haven’t been  dressed up with out a purpose and with no where to go.  Our purpose is to serve our resurrected Savior Jesus Christ, and we go where ever He has determined.  And as we go, we also wait.  We wait for the Lord’s will and we live equipped by Him to carry out what ever His purpose is for us in this foreign land.

St. Paul writes: “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith.”  [Philippians 1:21-25]  May God move our hearts to live each moment of our lives with this very mindset as we testify to all who will receive our message, that “Christ has risen, indeed!”  In Jesus name… AMEN!

Behold, Your GOOD Shepherd!

Sunday, April 10th, 2016

Easter 3-HL, April 10th, 2016
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor
Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego, CA
http://www.tlcsd.org

Click here for audio of this message
NOTE: This is the recorder message as delivered at Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA

I am not your Good Shepherd, and neither are Pastors Shamburger nor Falemao Esera!  This may seem a lot like stating the obvious, but nevertheless, it must be stated, for you see, all we (including pastors) are like sheep who are prone to wander, but thanks be to God Who does not punish us for our tendency to wander off into the wilderness, but rather He has laid the iniquity of all of our sins upon this Supreme Shepherd, Jesus Christ!

The truth is, our little word “good” does not do justice to what Jesus refers to Himself as this morning in our gospel reading. In the Greek, that little word we call good in English, is actually to be taken more as the source of all goodness.  In other words, Christ is saying that He is the Supreme Shepherd.

Christ proves His supremacy as the Ultimate Good Shepherd through the Easter truth that we still celebrate and proclaim this morning, “Christ has risen!”  You see, it is Christ resurrection that declares that His goodness as the Shepherd of our souls, of our eternal lives, is above all other shepherds. Because God has “brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep,” He has become the Shepherd of us all.

God the Father has raised His Son and Servant from the dead, and He has sent Him to bless all of us who have been drawn by the Holy Spirit to relate to God by faith.  And now this Good Shepherd is everywhere, throughout our world, and He is seeking His lost sheep.  He has compassion upon the crowds in the streets, the people in the business world, the crowds that flock to some churches seeking entertainment and amusement instead of forgiveness; He is even with the broken hearted and discouraged who sit with us in the pews here at this church.

Why?  Because He cares for you; because He sees us as “harassed and helpless like sheep without a shepherd.”  He seeks to gather us all together that there may be one fold and only One Supreme Shepherd.

The Good Shepherd has given His life for the sheep, and therefore He is still our shepherd today, and He does this very thing “by the blood of the eternal covenant,” a covenant of redemption and forgiveness, which promises that all of us can be whole again.

Do all of us today who are being saved by God’s means and gifts of grace still need that work of the Good Shepherd?  Yes, absolutely, because “All we like sheep have gone and are still going astray,” but remember, like I stated earlier, God has laid the iniquity of us all upon the Supreme Good Shepherd.  He alone bore our sins upon the tree.  It is for this reason that we can confidently look to Him and trust in Him to be “the Shepherd and Guardian of our souls,” and this is true even for the most pitiful, ragged, and lost of us.

But how does all of this happen?  How can it even be possible?  For many people, all of the statements and promises of forgiveness and redemption found in Holy Scripture seem to good to be true.  Does this seem strange to you, that some refuse to believe, that they see no need for a Supreme Good Shepherd in their lives?  It shouldn’t.  You see, a lot of folks have experienced a lot of hurt and disappointment  at the hands of people who proclaim Christ as their Good Shepherd.  And because of this hurt, they keep themselves just out of reach of both “church people” and their Good Shepherd, simply because they don’t want to be hurt again.

Because of this hurt and disappointment, they can’t see how what they perceive to be an invisible Savior can help them.  They call Him invisible because they reject the means of grace that God has given to sinners to see with eyes of faith, and then they judge the “invisible” Shepherd by His very visible sheep, or even by His under shepherds.  They don’t understand that the sheep and the under shepherds are just like them, so very prone to wander off… lost and afraid, seeking direction and shelter from the evils without and within.

But Jesus’ Word is spoken today and always, so that we can all see Him as a very visible Shepherd who created each of us, even you, for Himself, to be a very visible church, a church with all of its issues that seem to define wandering sheep, yet together we are still called to be and to become His Church.  This church, this place you call “Trinity” is really Christ’s church, His voice, and His hands His feet that are used to seek out and save those who appear to us to not yet be part of His flock.  So, I hope that by now you can see that there is a very necessary relationship between the Great Shepherd, His under shepherds, and His sheep.

When Christ returned to heaven He had installed the apostles as His messengers and ambassadors. They were to continue His work, speak in His name, and forgive sins on His behalf.  And today, the Good Shepherd continues His work through the many shepherds; men whom He has called and commissioned, not only the apostles but also the countless number of men who have followed them as called and ordained pastors.

St. Paul speaks of how Christ has given us shepherds and teachers for the building up of His church, until we all attain the unity of the faith. [Ephesians 4:11]  He says to the “elders” or pastors at Ephesus, “Take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you guardians, to feed the church of the Lord which He obtained with His own blood.” [Acts 20:28]  Peter likewise admonishes the pastors to be shepherds for the flock of God which is under their care in such a manner that they may have their reward from the Chief Shepherd. [1 Peter 5:2]

So it is not a little thing if a called pastor seeks to get along through life as a Lone Ranger-sheep who does not need the help of his brother pastors.  And it is also not a small matter if the entire flock begins to wander from each other and the very means of grace that the Supreme Shepherd has put in place to hold them together as one, and protect them from the attacks of that wolf, the devil.

So it is also, a very important thing, that we constantly pray that the Supreme Shepherd would send us laborers into the harvest field, properly trained and called pastors, and that He would create in us both clean hearts and a desire to help our pastors go out into the mission field, seeking the very large abundance of wandering sheep, who are also frightened and lost.

These lost and wandering sheep are part of us too, whether they see that truth or not.  We know that our God does not wish that any should perish, but that all should repent and have eternal life.  It is not an easy mission that our Good Shepherd has asked us to join Him on.  You see, there are false teachers, hirelings popping up every where, and they are spreading their false teachings, teachings which simply confuse and scatter the wandering sheep even further; further from their Good Shepherd and His church.

So this morning, Christ is renewing His call to you the gathered sheep to be strengthened by His means of Grace, called and equipped in His Word, washed clean in the waters of Holy Baptism, and fed abundantly at His very table of mercy, to go out and gather.  Go out and invite any and all who are lost, found, or somewhere in between to come just as they are and be recreated, renewed, and restored.  We do this because Christ came for them too, and so shall we!

Indeed!

Sunday, March 27th, 2016

Easter Sunday, March 27h , 2016
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor
Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego, CA
http://www.tlcsd.org

Click here for audio of this message

Here is a truth that you will hear proclaimed over and over again for at least the next six weeks: “Christ is risen.  He is risen indeed!”  Indeed, that is the whole point of not just the season of Easter, but also the reason why both the church and you and I are still here.   We exist today to both live out and proclaim the truth that Christ has risen.  Here’s another truth that you won’t hear many people proclaim: The resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ came as a complete surprise to not only his disciples, but even to His most blessed apostles.  Even though He had told them in many different ways that it would happen, they were not only “not prepared” for it, they didn’t believe it or couldn’t believe it when it happened.

The gospels witness this truth of surprise and disbelief for us; even our reading this morning in Mark 16:1-7.

The disciples and the apostles were confronted with the truth of the resurrection, and they were left in total confusion.  In the gospels we are not shown a group of Christians who jubilantly rushed to the tomb to confirm and celebrate, but instead we see a group of disturbed people confused and bewildered by what they thought were only rumors and misleading testimonies.  It was anything and every thing except what it should have been… Good News!

The women came to the tomb at dawn and found the tomb empty.  Mary Magdalene rushed away in confusion and brought Peter and John.  Meanwhile, the others met angels and heard the heavenly report, and then in their state of surprise, they went back into the city so excited and disturbed that they scarcely dared to tell the unbelievable news.

John and Peter came to the tomb and found the grave clothes and an empty tomb.  Only John had the feeling that something significant had happened.  Mary stood outside the tomb weeping, wondering who took the body of her Lord.  And there she met the resurrected Lord Himself, and with the help of the Lord she finally recognized Him.

Soon after this Jesus showed Himself also to the women who were on their way into the city.  And at last the whole group of disciples had heard the truth that Jesus had predicted many times before His death had finally come to fruition.

But even as they heard the proclamation they did not believe because they would not believe, and so they dismissed the report as simply idle talk.

Throughout the day Jesus sought out one after the other of His doubting disciples.

First it was Peter, then Cleopas and his friend on the way to Emmaus, and at last in the evening He greeted the whole group of disciples who were nervously locked together behind closed doors.

Now together with Jesus, their doubts are overtaken with amazement and a thousand questions at least.  The incredible had become a reality and their sadness was turned to joy.  Jesus had made good on His promise.  The impossible would now become their eternal reality… and our reality… Jesus overcame sin, death, and the devil!

This is the way it always happens when a group of eyewitnesses tell about some amazing and unexpected occurrence.

It is exactly the discernible surprise, the amazement, the confusion, and the many unexplained connections among the various gospel accounts to the truth and reality of it all, that we would expect to be reported.  If the story was made up, we would never find all of these strange and even embarrassing accounts, but as the reality of a historic event, this is exactly what we find!

The resurrection witnesses knew what they had to share… the whole truth and nothing but the truth, because it wasn’t their truth you see, it was the truth of God.  They were prepared to endure the scorn and ridicule that would come from the accusation that they had made the whole thing up.  They knew that they would have to face persecution.  In fact, the persecution they faced would come quickly in the form of beatings, crucifixions, stonings, and other barbaric forms of death, all because they refused to recant.

And what was the reason for their refusal to recant their witness to the resurrection of Jesus Christ?  “For we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” Acts 4:20

We all know, truthfully, just how small and insignificant we are without Jesus; without the Easter truth. We know how faithless we can be without God’s work in our lives.

For those of us who are still being moved to walk with and trust in Jesus real presence in our lives, we can truly say that we find our strength and our meaning in Him and His Word.  It’s His Word that’s our shield and our strength.  It’s His Word that gives our lives purpose and meaning.  As we live our lives here among people who we love but who are dying without faith in Jesus, we can only wait and trust that God will do the same work within them that He is doing within us.  And as we wait, we remember that we are the Lord’s little lambs and His servants.

We hear Him call out to us and we follow.  He faithfully leads us and feeds us with His Word as we repeat only what He speaks to us.  We hear His voice and we trust in none other.  And that voice faithfully gathers us to this place so that we can come to be faith-filled.  Thanks be to God!  Christ is risen, He is risen INDEED… Alleluia!!

Things Are Not Always What They Appear

Sunday, June 14th, 2015

June 14, 2015
Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego, CA 92114
http://www.tlcsd.org

Click here for audio of this message

Things are not always what they appear to be, are they?  I am thankful for the warning in the side mirror on my vehicle that states: “Warning, objects in the mirror are closer than they appear to be.”  I tend to forget that, I need that reminder.

I also need to be reminded that the Kingdom of God in eternity is not what it appears to be in our time; it is not what the world supposes it to be.  They see the Kingdom of God as a bunch of superstitious people gathered around and antiquated Bible, a little water, a scrap of bread, and a sip of wine.  And as they scoff, we gather and find forgiveness, peace, and the promise of eternal happiness and joy, within those very things.  Why the disparity?

Faith. Faith is the one thing needful. Lack of faith is what causes a mighty nation, full of life and vigor to decay from within, dry up, and die.  That was the cause of the nation of Israel’s demise, it was the cause of the death of all of the empires that have ever existed, and it will be the demise of our country if its citizens continuously reject faith.

It was the demise of the way of worship for the Jews, which we can call the old church.

Where is their temple worship?  It is gone!  Where is their temple? Destroyed!  Jesus said as much when He said, “The time will come when not one stone will be left on another; every one of them will be thrown down.” [Luke 21:6]  WHY?  Again they had lost their faith in the promise of God and the mercy and forgiveness He would bring to all through the Savior who was to come.  And when He did come, they rejected the very means of Salvation that God had promised since the fall of creation.

But you have not lost that faith, have you?  You are still here, so out of love, out of charity I will gladly assume that you still trust God to make all things new; to make all things right.  I trust that you have faith in the Savior who has now come and will come again.  You have faith in Jesus Christ, the very Son of God!

You have Faith in a Who and a Promise! Unlike what the world thinks, things are not as they seem.  Your faith is not simply in some printed words found in a book, but in the living Word of God that both spoke and ensured by the power of His Spirit that His Word would be preserved for you, so that you would have faith.  What kind of faith?  Faith to believe that simple water when combined with the promises of the Word of God would bring both forgiveness and peace with God.  Faith to believe that a scrap of bread and a sip of wine are also, mysteriously the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, broken and shed, eaten and drank for the forgiveness of sins.

You are that sprig that God says in our Old Testament reading (Ezekiel 17:22-24) was removed from the lofty top of the great cedar that was Israel, which is now withered and abandoned.  You are the church, the very mystical body of Christ that has been planted by God Himself upon the high and lofty mountain, which is the long awaited Paradise restored.  You are part of something inconceivably vast and powerful; you are even now part of the Kingdom of God; a Kingdom, which throughout the eons has not only promised but given rest to the weary and joy to the broken hearted.  You are part of the Kingdom of God fulfilled.

The Kingdom of God is the Promise Fulfilled! Yes the promise fulfilled, but also the promise not yet seen.  To be sure, those who have died in the faith, are now absent from the body and present with the Lord; that is they see with their own eyes both the glory of the Lord and the beauty of their eternal home in paradise.  But we are still here; we must still walk by faith and not by sight.  Faith assures us that the promise is fulfilled and there is a place reserved for us too; a body and home, tailor made for us by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.

We are holy by faith, because He is holy.  We are holy simply because we are forgiven and loved, so we forgive and love as well.  We are holy because we are sustained by the power of God’s Spirit and the means of grace, which He gives to both create and sustain our ability to see by faith.

And we need that faith to live within God’s promise fulfilled, because things are not always as they seem, and this truth creates tension.

The tension of living by faith and not by sight. In our gospel lesson this morning (Mark 4:26-34), Jesus taught that the Kingdom of God can be compared to a mustard seed, the smallest of seeds commonly known at the time, “yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.” And here is precisely where the tension is experienced; there are birds nesting in our branches that bring all kinds of strange and peculiar things with them; things like poverty, sickness and disease, rude behavior and domineering spirits.  Many times they don’t come simply to rest in our gospel tree, but to take it over.

Perhaps the best way to illustrate what I mean is to change Jesus illustration of birds resting in the Mustard tree to one of the Phasmida, or as they are more commonly know as, the “Walking Stick.”  The walking stick insect looks just like a twig of the tree, and it blends in perfectly with the tree.  The camouflage is needed because other animals that live outside of the tree fly around looking to eat the little walking stick.  But when they are within the canopy of the tree, they may rest safe and free from harm, because they look like they are part of the tree.  But they’re not, are they?  And while they rest within the safety of the tree, they begin to eat the leaves and find sustenance from the tree itself.

Are you a part of the tree, or are you like the walking stick simply finding sustenance and safety.  Only you and God know the answer to that, not me.  But I will tell you what I do know; God does not want you to be a walking stick; He wants to graft you within the tree itself.  God wants you to simply quit hiding and surrender to His wonderful grace; his forgiving love and mercy.  And here is the wonderful news, you do not need to do a thing, simply surrender to the same means of grace and mercy that brought the rest of us into the body of Christ.

You may become a branch of this tree, by simply seeing that the safety and security that you have enjoyed for a time, can be yours for eternity by simply surrendering to God and believing that He gives precisely what He promises through His powerful Word, a splash of water, a scrap of bread, and a sip of wine.

What are you waiting for, or better yet, what are you hiding from?  He has already found you; you are here in the gospel tree, the church.  Why not truly belong and become that which the world thinks is both foolish and pathetic?  Why not belong and become what the cross of Jesus Christ has already provided and announced for all sinners throughout the world… you are forgiven and loved by God. [John 3:16]

Look around you; things are not what they appear to be.  You see first with eyes of flesh, and you see sinners.  But now look with eyes of faith at those sinners who have gathered around God’s means of grace and promise, and by faith, you see instead sinners who have become and our becoming saints by faith.  If you can rest in this truth, then you along with all of us struggle together as saints for eternity and sinners only for as long as we live in these tents; these temporary bodies of sin.

We all struggle together with putting to death the sin that is within us, and during this struggle we groan in anticipation for the day that we will be free of that struggle and then rest securely in our new resurrected bodies within our new home.  Each of us together are becoming by grace what God has declared we are through Christ; holy, perfect, and righteous.  And for each of us, the battle to belong and become will not be complete until God calls us to our new home… Paradise.  [2 Corinthians 5:1–10] AMEN!

The Key to Fellowship… FAITH!

Sunday, April 12th, 2015

Easter 2B, April 12, 2015
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA

Click here for audio of this message

“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” [1 John 1:7]

The audio clip that you just heard is a snippet of the song “Break It Down” by Chris Warren.  Wrestling fans know it as the Degeneration X theme song.  I chose it as the audio and mental hook to hang our message upon, because the words pretty well describe the response of most doubters and deniers of what they perceive to be the Christian faith.  Listen to the opening lines: “You think you (can) tell us what to do?  You think you (can) tell us what to wear?  You think that your better?”

Is that how we present our Christian faith; as a simply a set of rules that are expected to be followed in order to fit into His church?  Or do we believe and model something more; something much deeper?  In reality, that is what this younger generation is looking for.  Like Thomas in our Gospel reading (John 20:19–31), young people today are looking for something that in their minds is real and life changing; something they can not only hear, but touch and be a part of.  This morning, our message will declare that as the very essence of what we preach, teach, and confess; but even more than that, it is something that we live out!

Why didn’t Thomas believe?  May I suggest that He simply chose not to rely on the simple testimony of his friends.  He didn’t want to just believe, but he also wanted the experience of belief; he wanted to encounter the same source of faith that they had encountered.  What experience?  Well, this one: “On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.” [Jn. 20:19, 20]

In my mind, I can hear the excited testimony of the apostles and disciples who testified to Thomas.  “Thomas, we have seen the Lord.  There is no doubt it was Him, because He showed us the nail scars in his hands and the wound in His side!”  Thomas wanted to experience the same encounter.  He needed that same experience because the last few days of living had beat him down; demoralized him!  Remember, he was the same disciple who said to the others, “Let us go, that we may die with him”, after Jesus announced that it was time for Him to go to Jerusalem to suffer and die. [Jn. 11:16]

Now here is where we see the loving desire of our Savior. Jesus Christ the Son of God, knew that Thomas had been separated from Him by lack of faith, and that just would not do.  You see Thomas had been set aside with the other apostles to not only believe in the Son of God Jesus Christ, but to also testify and proclaim the gospel which heralded the good news that Christ is risen!  So, if experience is what Thomas required in order to feel equal to the others, in order to have faith and believe, then that is precisely what Jesus would give to him.

“Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.”  Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”  Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” [Jn. 20:26-29]

Thomas’ faith was restored and he was returned to the fellowship of disciples who just eight days earlier also had faith, which seemed to be destroyed and lost.  All of them at first, seemed to have had lost their faith but not there fellowship.  What I mean by that, is that they still gathered together in that upper room, but not in a fellowship of faith, but a fellowship of fear of the Jews and disappointment in their Savior.  They were beaten down by life and disappointed by what appeared to be failure, just as people still are today.

What is the thing lacking in most people, which is preventing them from receiving Jesus as their Savior and then living out their new identity as a new person in Christ?  I submit that it is faith.  Without faith, there can be no real fellowship with God.  Faith is the only way to truly see and know Jesus; to know that He is the propitiation (or payment) for our sins, and not (just) for our sins only but also for the sins of the whole world.” [1 John 2:2]

When Thomas had earlier said “Let us go also so that we may die with (Jesus)”, I am sure he meant every word.  When he said it, he and all of the other disciples were confused and bewildered.  They could not have understood why the Messiah would willingly allow Himself to be humiliated and killed.  That simply was not how a champion behaved.  But they also did not understand what kind of Messiah Jesus was.  People still don’t understand.

People today just like the disciples before us can not receive faith in Jesus unless they perceive a need for Him.  In other words, they must first see a need for the kind of Savior Jesus is.

Jesus is the Son of God who comes to save us from our sins.  He comes to remove our sins; to pay for them with the only payment that can be made; a payment of blood and life.  Again, “If we (desire to be saved and) walk in the light, as (Jesus) is in the light, (then) we have fellowship with (the Father and the Son of God, and) one another, and the blood of Jesus (the Son of God) cleanses us from all sin.”

And it is that little Word sin, which keeps getting in the way; it keeps blocking folks from receiving the very thing they long for… faith.  You see, “if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.”

So what is the answer to this dilemma?  How can we even begin to reach people outside of Christ, especially young people with the very gift of life that they seem to so militantly reject?  We must make it real to them, by allowing it to be real to us.  We must allow the gift of Christ to change us so that the change is apparent to even the worst skeptics!

Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” And when he had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”

You know, in this world people say a lot of things; things they don’t really mean.  Another way to say this is that their talk and their walk don’t match.  But Jesus, speaks truth.  When He says “Peace” the very Word gives it.  The word gives peace and the faith of the believer receives it.

If a blind doctor offered you a liquid that would save your life, and then he told you that all you needed to do was hold out your cup and then drink what he pours into it, would you think that it was such a bad thing?  And if you told the doctor “I’m ready, poor away; my cup is waiting”, but you had no cup and simply let the medicine pour out on the ground, would that be the doctor’s fault, or yours?  Fool, why not just tell the doctor you have no cup, and he will gladly give you one!

And that is precisely the way of faith.  God’s Word is the medicine that will save you from your sins.  And the great physician of your soul is Jesus Christ.  If you have no cup, it is because you have either neglected to ask Him or you have refused to admit that you have a need for the medicine.  The cup is your agreement with God that you are indeed dying from your sins, and it is your confession, which proclaims that only He can save you.  The medicine is His very Word, which gives both forgiveness and eternal life; it gives you peace with God and each other.

When we have peace with God through faith in both the work of the cross and the promise of the empty tomb, we live out that peace with the authority that Christ’s Word gives us.  We are not only forgiven, but we are sent out to both speak words of forgiveness and to model them.  We hold no grudges, and simply allow God to work within the lives of the people we meet through the power of the Word he tells us to speak.

“I forgive you” is perhaps the easiest set of words to speak and the hardest to live out.  It is hard to live out because it involves complete faith that God will do what He says He will do.  He will bring peace.  Peace; first to we who speak the words of peace, and then peace to those who will hear and receive those words.

Thomas was restored to the fellowship of believers the same way the rest of them, including Peter were restored, through the person and work of the Living Word of God, Jesus Christ.  Jesus spoke and gave peace to them and their little fellowship of faith began to grow.  It grew so large that they began to attract the attention of the government of Rome, which eventually became terrified that they might represent a new threat against Cesar.  They tried to destroy the church by killing the Christians, but instead of wiping out Christianity, their attacks only served to cause the church to grow much faster.  Why?  Because “great grace was upon them all.  The full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul.”  With great power, the testimony of the apostles, which is the gospel or good news of Jesus Christ, spread and brought forgiveness of sins and peace with God to many people.

That same peace of God, which comes through the same Word and means of grace of God, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are still proclaimed and given freely today.  It is the Word declared and the power of the Word lived out that will save this generation today, if we will simply trust God and live out this faith with an invitation to all we meet to simply come and see.  Come and believe that in our Bibles, “these (things) are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”  AMEN!

Can You Believe It?!

Sunday, April 27th, 2014

Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego 92114
http://www.tlcsd.org
Easter 2A, April 27, 2014

Click here for audio of this message

“Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory” [1 Peter 1:8]

Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed! When those words of joy were first spoken, they declared a truth; it was a truth that took all of Christ’s disciples, including the apostles by complete surprise.  Jesus had warned them; He prepared them over and over again that He would come back.  He had made it clear that it was His life to lay down into death and it was His to raise back up again, but all of them missed the meaning of His promise.  But who would have understood?  The truth is, in this life people just don’t come back from the dead.  Isn’t it true, that there seems to be nothing as permanent as death?

Even Harry Houdini, the great escape artist could not escape the confines of death.  Oh he promised that he would; he promised that he would send a message back from the shadows and spirits, but it never happened.

I believe that our common experience tells us that death is simply inescapable.  But Jesus Christ did rise from the dead.  His omnipotence, that is His power as the Messiah over all things including death was declared over and over again throughout the Old Testament, and His resurrection is the very reason that we have the New Testament; it’s the reason we have the Christian Church, and presumably, it’s the reason you are here this morning.

The day Jesus rose from the dead, He proved that He had power over sin, death, and the devil.  That first Easter day that took all of Jesus’ disciples by surprise, became the focus of their lives and the center of their thinking, the way they lived, and the way they died.  It became the very center of their beings.  Christ had escaped death and brought new hope for the world and new life for those who would trust His cross and the message of the empty tomb.

To St. Peter, Jesus’ resurrection was life changing.  You can here his joyful exclamation in the opening words of our Epistle lesson [1 Peter 1:3-9]: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead”.

Have you ever wished that you could talk to someone from the past and just pick their minds for a few minutes; get some insight into just who they really were?  I have, and one of those persons I’d like to talk to is St. Peter.  I imagine, that if we were to ask him why the resurrection was so central in his writings, he might answer us this way: “Well, to understand why the resurrection is so important to me” he’d say, “you’d have to remember just who I was before Jesus rose from the dead; you’d have to remember the terrible things that I did.”

“I guess you could say that I was the spokesman for the other disciples.  I was with Jesus from the beginning when He called me away from the family fishing business.  I dropped everything and followed Him.  Oh, how I loved the fact that the Holy Spirit first spoke through me, in order to declare that Jesus was the Christ, the very Son of God.  Later, I evened bragged that if all of the others left Him, I never would.  Then when Jesus really needed me, I the great Peter let Him down!  On the night when Jesus was betrayed and arrested, I the strong and dependable Peter denied Jesus three times, and I ran away and hid for fear of loosing my own life.”

Now, in my mind’s eye I can see the shame coming back from the memory of Peter and changing the expression of his face.  With his now furrowed forehead and tearful eyes, I can hear him say, “Three times—I still feel sick to my stomach when I think about it—three times I the great Peter denied my Lord.  I denied Him while He was getting ready to die for my sins.  And while he hung there dying, John and the women were there with Him, but I did not have the stomach or the faith to watch it.  You see, I had pinned all of my hopes on Jesus, and now He was dead.  But even worse, instead of being thankful to God for being a part of Jesus’ life, I felt nothing but bitter shame and a sense that my entire life had been a complete waste of time and an utter failure.”

But now, I can see Peter’s countenance changing, as He looks me in the eye and says, “But you can imagine how my life changed when the women came back from the tomb with unbelievable news.  Jesus was alive.  He’s risen!  At first I did not dare believe it, but then they spoke a message from the angels, and it changed everything.  They said that Jesus told them to tell the disciples and Peter to meet Him in Galilee.  Think about what those Words meant to me—and Peter!  At that very moment, every doubt was erased from my worried mind and I not only believed that Jesus had defeated death, but that He truly was my God and my Savior!  From that point on I was a changed man, I was forgiven, and the entire world had changed, and for the first time I knew that my eternal future was set and certain.”

At this point we might be tempted to ask Peter what he means, when he says that the entire world had changed, and that he knew that his eternal future was set and certain.  Well, let’s let Peter answer us in his own words from verse 4 of our epistle reading:

“(Through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we have been born again to a living hope) to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.”  This is a strong declaration of faith; it’s a God given faith that learns to acknowledge our sins of the past, but then by grace, that same gift of faith teaches us to let go of the past and then simply trust in the completed work of Jesus Christ; a completed work that has given us a new identity as one who is “born again” for an eternal life in heaven.  But our sinful flesh fights this truth, as it attempts to set our eyes on anything else other than Christ’s cross and empty tomb.  Isn’t it true that we would rather think about how Peter let Jesus down instead of how we have abandoned Him ourselves time and time again?  Isn’t it easier to see the darkness of Peter’s regrets rather than looking at our own darkness?  Just as Peter was tempted to go back into his old life of fishing rather than waiting on Jesus, haven’t we also been tempted to go back to our old sinful ways, in fact haven’t we actually done that many times?

And when we go back to our sinful ways, isn’t it true that like Peter, we too have felt that we were letting the best of who we were, that is our relationship with Jesus just slip away through our fingers?  Doesn’t it become easier to feed on our failures, that is our sinful weakness rather than repent; turn to Jesus in confession of those failures?  Don’t we too, at times feel like Jesus has abandoned us?

When our marriage fails, when our family ties are falling apart, when our financial base has seemingly been destroyed, when addiction rears it’s ugly ahead  once again, or when death takes the very one we love the most, aren’t we too tempted to run from God and His Church, or lash out at Him in anger?  But then like Peter, we too receive the call to come to the empty tomb, and then everything is changed.  Jesus is alive, not dead.  Jesus is with us in His Word and Sacraments, He has not left us as orphans.  Mankind’s greatest enemies, your greatest enemies, sin, death, and the devil have been defeated and destroyed.

On the cross we see how our enemies were defeated.  Jesus died to save sinners, all sinners.  He died to take away Peter’s sins, and He died to take away your sins.  Upon the cross, the Son of God Himself made full payment for our sins.  But in the empty tomb, we see how the power of our enemies has forever been removed from our lives.  The empty tomb proves to us who have been saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, that when we were washed clean in the waters of our baptism, the empty tomb is also our reality.  In our baptism Jesus resurrection becomes our resurrection.  Death has been defeated and the dark wall that divides this life from our eternal life has been penetrated.  Or, as St. Peter puts it in verses 4 and 5…

Our eternal destiny has been assured (as) “an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for (us who have been baptized), (and) by God’s power (we) are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”  What these Words declare to us is simply this, no lie of the devil and no attacks from this sinful world can jeopardize our salvation and our eternal home with Jesus, because nothing can put Jesus back into the grave and nothing can undo what God has done for you upon the cross and within the waters of your baptism.  No enemy can cheat you out of your inheritance; it can’t be stolen or destroyed.  It is being kept for you by the fact that Christ has risen!

Now we could end our message right here and the Word of God would be declared and most of us would go home happy and at peace, but some of us would not.  Some of us still have questions.  And I believe that the primary question that holds us back in sorrow and prevents us to leave in joy is this: “If Christ’s resurrection makes such a difference in our lives, and since the future holds such glory, and since Christ has overcome all of His enemies, then why is there so much suffering in this world?  Why is there so much suffering in “MY” world?”  Now to this question, let’s let St. Peter answer once again in verse 6 from our Epistle lesson…

Yes it is true, we still experience pain and sorrow just as every other person does in this world, but for us,these experiences are only temporary.  And while we go through them, we are to keep rejoicing in the hope of our inheritance, “though now for a little while we may have to suffer various trials, that the genuineness of our faith, which is more precious than gold, which though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

You see friends, Jesus is not only with you, through the Holy Spirit He is working in you.  He is working to transform you everyday into what you will be for eternity, holy, perfect, and righteous.  He is transforming your character.  And like old Job, we may at times be asked to go through some times of testing so that others can see our faith in Jesus and the transforming power of the cross and the empty tomb.  As Jesus allows us to enter into these times of testing He is also calling the attention of others to notice how we handle these times of testing, but also how God brings us through them.  And as we pass through these times, we prove to others that our love for God is not fleeting and we are not fair weathered friends of Jesus Christ, but we have been transformed forever unto eternal life.

The resurrection tells us that suffering, our suffering is only temporary.  We can make it through those periods, because we are not alone.  We can pass through it and not let it destroy us or take away our faith in Jesus Christ.  Even if the suffering drives us to the very door of death, we know for certain that beyond that door our risen Lord Jesus Christ is waiting to receive us.  We who have been baptized into the cross and empty tomb of Jesus, have been baptized into His death and into His resurrection.  We who trust Him may loose a skirmish sometimes, that is we may fall into temptation and sin, but we are not defeated, because Jesus has won the war.  Jesus’ resurrection tells us that suffering can never have the last word for those of us who belong to Him.

As we close our message this morning, I think that we should address one more challenge to living out our lives as baptized Christians, and it is this.  We can read our Bibles, especially the stories about St. Peter and the others that were in Jesus’ inner circle and think, “I wish that I could have known Jesus and learned to love Him like they did.”  And to that, I believe that St. Peter would say… “What do you mean wish?!  You can.  That’s the point of the resurrection.  He lives now as certainly and as personally as He did then.  You see Him by faith, which is the most precious gift of God that you could ever receive.  Through the Word of God, all of it “has been written so that you would believe that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God” by faith. “Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”

Dear friends, can you believe it?!  God loves us so much that He has done everything that needs to be done to save us.  It’s no wonder that Peter declared, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  The resurrection meant to him that we had a sure inheritance, encouragement in suffering, and the joy of constant friendship with his Savior, Jesus Christ.  For Peter the resurrection was an historical fact.  He was there when it happened and it changed the history of sinful men and women.  Christ is risen… that is history.  Christ is risen for you… that is history in the making… AMEN!