Posts Tagged ‘Shalom’

The Cross We Bear!

Sunday, July 2nd, 2017

Fourth Sunday After Pentecost, July 2, 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


“And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” [Matt. 10:38-39]

You know throughout our Bible there is one message that God continually offers to His people who relate to Him by faith, and that is peace. In Hebrew, the word for peace is Shalom! What that word actually means is wholeness. If you are whole, that is if you are all that God originally created you to be, you will have peace. And that is the one thing that all people of every race, ethnicity, and religion have in common; we are all searching for wholeness; for peace! That was really the message that our great Declaration of Independence was declaring long ago in 1776. So then why did Jesus, the Prince of Peace say, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” [Matt. 10:34] Why did he say that in order to find our life we must lose our life? Well, the answer of course can only be found in the cross; it can only be found in the death of Jesus Christ and the example of living to die that He gave to us.

The cross of Jesus Christ does bring wholeness and life, but it also brings conflict, turmoil and death; it brings independence from the condemnation of sin and dependence on the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The cross of Jesus brings these things first within us and then around us. So this morning we will be learning how to die and how to live. We will learn how death brings life to ourselves first and then we will learn how dying brings death and life to those around us!

In our Epistle lesson (Rom. 7:1-13) St. Paul confronts us with these words of life and death.

“Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.” [vs. 4-6]

What Paul is talking about is how we become whole, or how we are recreated to have peace within ourselves; God’s peace that not only gives us peace with Him, but peace with our neighbor. He wants us to first understand that we were set free from the Law; a law that demands that we do this or that to please God, but then offers us no way to actually do what it demands be done! He does this by pointing us to the death of Jesus upon the cross. When Christ died upon the cross He set us free to be people of God; free to know peace and wholeness. But in order to receive this peace we need to see the need to die alongside of Jesus Christ; only those of us who are connected with Jesus in His death, can experience the peace and wholeness that His resurrection brings. The death of Jesus Christ can only free those who are willing to put all of their hopes of peace and wholeness in that death of Jesus. There is no room for any other method or technique. Doing your best to please God and find happiness won’t work; there is simply nothing you can do but surrender to your complete helplessness and trust instead in what Jesus’ death provides for you. This is what dying to yourself means.

Paul illustrates this in a wonderful way by comparing us to a married woman. He says that “a married woman is bound by the law (that is the 6th commandment that calls adultery a sin, as long as that married woman’s husband still lives), but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage (and is free to marry again without fear of sin). (So), she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress.” [vs. 1-3]

Through the death and resurrection of Jesus, we have been freed from our oppressive dependence on the law; we no longer need to try to be something we never could be. What is it that we were trying to be? We were trying to be whole; we were trying on our own to have peace with God through the Law we can never keep. So Jesus solves that dilemma for us by His death. He died the death that we should die to satisfy our inability to fulfill the law; this is a death that frees us from the law so that we may seek a new means to find wholeness and peace with God. His death frees us from our dependence on fulfilling the law perfectly so that we might belong to Him! In keeping with Paul’s illustration of marriage, Jesus frees us from the tyranny of our first marriage so that we can be remarried to Him; then and only then can we truly be whole and know peace. But our old sinful nature does not want to go away that easily. It fights to live; not only that, it fights to destroy our faith and satisfaction in the cross of Jesus, which is God’s means of wholeness and peace. When faith comes alive within our hearts through the means of God’s Word, our sinful nature continually seeks to find ways to defeat it and turn us back to the law, or our own ability to live a good life, as an alternative way of earning God’s love and wholeness. What is the solution? We must put to death, every day our old sinful nature. We must learn to die so that we can live! This is our internal cross that we must die upon every day. But if we’re left to do this on our own, we’ll be in no better condition than we were when we were under the law. On our own, we can never have faith to trust in Jesus and His cross. That is why God provides this faith for us. How does He do this? By living within us!

In our baptism we were sealed as God’s own possession through His means, the water and His Word. In our baptism, the Holy Spirit actually took up residence within us. Daily, we are asked to embrace God’s Spirit within us by turning to His leading presence and dying to our own sinful desires. So the Holy Spirit is our actual teacher, who teaches us to die every day, and God’s Word is the text book that He teaches through! But this is more than just a teaching; it’s a relationship of love, trust, wholeness, and peace with God that continues everyday of our lives until we leave this sinful world and our own sinful flesh behind. But this dying to self doesn’t just happen internally; you see we must also learn to die to the things and concerns that are around us.

In our Old Testament lesson (Jeremiah 28:5-9), we are introduced to the prophet Jeremiah.

He was a man familiar with sorrows and woes. In fact, he is often called the “weeping” prophet, because so many of the messages that the Lord asked him to declare caused him to weep for his fellow Jews. He was hated by most of them, because many of his messages from God were unpopular. In fact, on several occasions he was thrown into prison and threatened with death if he returned. What was the message that Jeremiah brought from the Lord? Repent! Don’t trust in a worldly way of finding wholeness and peace with God, but instead turn to and trust in the Lord’s Means of wholeness. Turn away from a mindset that says happiness can be found in the comfort of wealth and the security of earthly friends, and instead trust in the Lord’s plan. That was the last message that the Jews wanted to hear; they wanted Jeremiah to sit down and shut up! So poor Jeremiah spent most of his time away from his people, and he only returned when he had another painful message from God. We might say that Jeremiah would be completely at home singing that old African American spiritual, “Sometimes I feel like a motherless child, a long, long ways from home.” What Jeremiah discovered is what we need to learn too: Each of us must take up our cross and follow Jesus.
For Jeremiah, the cross that he was to take up was simply to declare God’s Word and place all of his faith in that Word, and that is the cross that we must take up as well. Like Jeremiah, we too live in dangerous times. There is terror all around. In a time of extreme tolerance, where all life styles and philosophies are said to be equal, we Christians are the only ones being told to sit down and shut up! But like Jeremiah, God says we can’t do that! “For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” [Mark 8:38]

No dear friends, you cannot ignore God’s Word! He makes it clear, that there is no other way to please Him accept through His Son, Christ Jesus! There is a way that seems right to a society but in the end it only leads to death. Thus says the Lord, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” [John 14:6] “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”” [Matt. 10:37]

The truth is friends, in a society that continuously teaches personal gain and material riches, we are to proclaim another message, “Jesus is the only way to wholeness!”

In a society that advances the message, “If it makes you feel good, just do it!” we proclaim instead, “Seek the Lord while He may be found!” Even in many churches today, a message of extreme tolerance and acceptance like in the day of Jeremiah has replaced the Law and Gospel message of God. Itchy ears long to hear that their walk with God will be an easy and happy road; they don’t want to hear about sacrifice and pain; they don’t want to hear that they must die to live. When things go wrong they blame God, and then quickly begin shopping for a new message that will satisfy their greedy hearts and bring them peace. But what kind of peace do they really want? Do they want worldly peace or heavenly peace? Concerning peace here, again Jesus says, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household.” [Matt. 10:34-36]
Dear friends, these Words of Jesus are Words of peace. Jesus gives them to us so that we will have peace, but to hear them we must receive them by faith. We must by faith die to what we want and receive what God desires to give to us. And what is He giving? Peace! It’s a wholeness that is always centered in Christ’s faithfulness to provide for everything we need, therefore it is a spiritual peace. The peace He gives is completely opposite of the kind of peace the world wants from Him and you. Listen to His voice speaking to your heart: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” [John 14:27]

Friends let’s not walk in worry and fear. Let’s not worry about lost relationships if we don’t endorse someone’s behavior. Instead let’s declare our independence from the ways of this sinful world, and then declare our dependence on Jesus and His cross. Let’s simply follow our Lord wherever He leads. Sometimes the road will be easy and sometimes it will be hard, but always Jesus will be walking right beside us. And now, may that true peace of God, a wholeness which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, and may that wholeness enable you to bear the cross joyfully, following Him where ever He leads you… In Jesus name… AMEN!

The Cross We Bear!

Sunday, June 26th, 2011

Second Sunday in Pentecost, June 26, 2011
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
Click here for audio of this message

“And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.  Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” [Matt. 10:38-39]

INTRODUCTION: You know throughout our Bible there is one message that God continually offers to His people who relate to Him by faith, and that is peace.  In Hebrew, the word for peace is Shalom!  What that word actually means is wholeness.  If you are whole, that is if you are all that God originally created you to be, you will have peace.  And that is the one thing that all people of every race, ethnicity, and religion have in common; we are all searching for wholeness; for peace!  So then why did the Prince of Peace, the Savior of the world say, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth.  I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” [Matt. 10:34]  Why did he say that in order to find our life we must lose our life?  The answer of course can only be found in the cross; it can only be found in the death of Jesus Christ and the example of living to die that He gave to us.

 The cross of Jesus Christ does bring wholeness and life, but it also brings conflict, turmoil and death; it brings these things first within us and then around us.  So this morning we will be learning how do die to live.  We will learn how death brings life to ourselves first and then we will learn how dying brings death and life to those around us!

In our Epistle lesson (Rom. 7:1-13) St. Paul confronts us with these words of life and death: “Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God.  For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death.  But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.” [vs. 4-6]

 What Paul is talking about is how we become whole, or how we are recreated to have peace within ourselves; God’s peace that not only gives us peace with Him, but peace with our neighbor.  He wants us to first understand that we were set free from the Law; a law that demands that we do this or that to please God, but then offers us no way to actually do what it demands be done!  He does this by pointing us to the death of Jesus upon the cross.  When Christ died upon the cross He set us free to be people of God; free to know peace and wholeness.  But in order to receive this peace we need to see the need to die alongside of Jesus Christ; only those of us who are connected with Jesus in His death, can experience the peace and wholeness that His resurrection brings.  The death of Jesus Christ can only free those are willing to put all of their hopes of peace and wholeness in that death of Jesus.  There is no room for any other method or technique.  Doing your best to please God and find happiness won’t work; there is simply nothing you can do but surrender to your complete helplessness and trust instead in what Jesus’ death provides for you.  This is what dying to yourself means.

Paul illustrates this in a wonderful way by comparing us to a married woman.  He says that “a married woman is bound by the law (that is the 6th commandment that calls adultery a sin, as long as that married woman’s husband still lives), but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage (and is free to marry again without fear of sin).  (So), she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive.  But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress.” [vs. 1-3]

Through the death and resurrection of Jesus, we have been freed from our oppressive dependence on the law; we no longer need to try to be something we never could be.  What is it that we were trying to be?  We were trying to be whole; we were trying on our own to have peace with God.  But as long as we are counting on the efforts of our sinful flesh that could never happen.  So Jesus solves that dilemma for us by His death.  He died the death that we should die to satisfy our inability to fulfill the law; this is a death that frees us from the law so that we may seek a new means to find wholeness and peace with God.  His death frees us from our dependence on fulfilling the law perfectly so that we might belong to Him!  In keeping with Paul’s illustration of marriage, Jesus frees us from the tyranny of our first marriage so that we can be remarried to Him; then and only then can we truly be whole and know peace.  But our old sinful nature does not want to go away that easily.  It fights to live; not only that, it fights to destroy our faith and satisfaction in God’s means of wholeness and peace.  When faith comes alive within our hearts through the means of God’s Word, our sinful nature continually seeks to find ways to defeat it and turn us back to the law, or our own ability to live a good life, as an alternative way of earning God’s love and wholeness.  What is the solution?  We must put to death, every day our old sinful nature.  We must learn to die so that we can live!  This is our internal cross that we must die upon every day.  But if we’re left to do this on our own, we’ll be in no better condition than we were when we were under the law.  On our own, we can never have faith to trust in Jesus and His cross.  That is why God provides this faith for us.  How does He do this?  By living within us! 

In our baptism we were sealed as God’s own possession through His means, the water and His Word.  In our baptism, the Holy Spirit actually took up residence within us.  Daily, we are asked to embrace God’s Spirit within us by turning to His leading presence and dying to our own sinful desires.  So the Holy Spirit is our actual teacher, who teaches us to die every day, and God’s Word is the text book that He teaches through!  But this is more than just a teaching; it’s a relationship of love, trust, wholeness, and peace with God that continues everyday of our lives until we leave this sinful world and our own sinful flesh behind.  But this dying to self doesn’t just happen internally; you see we must also learn to die to the things and concerns that are around us.

In our Old Testament lesson, we are introduced to the prophet Jeremiah.  He was a man familiar with sorrows and woes.  In fact, he is often called the “weeping” prophet, because so many of the messages that the Lord asked him to declare caused him to weep for his fellow Jews.  He was hated by most of them, because many of his messages from God were unpopular.  In fact, on several occasions he was thrown into prison and threatened with death if he returned.  What was the message that Jeremiah brought from the Lord?  Repent!  Don’t trust in a worldly way of finding wholeness and peace with God, but trust in the Lord’s Means of wholeness.  Turn away from a mindset that says happiness can be found in the comfort of wealth and the security of earthly friends, and instead trust in the Lord’s plan.  That was the last message that the Jews wanted to hear; they wanted Jeremiah to sit down and shut up!  So poor Jeremiah spent most of his time away from his people, and he only returned when he had another painful message from God.  We might say that Jeremiah would be completely at home singing that old African American spiritual, “Sometimes I feel like a motherless child, a long, long ways from home.”  What Jeremiah discovered is what we need to learn too: Each of us must take up our cross and follow Jesus. 

For Jeremiah, the cross that he was to take up was simply to declare God’s Word and place all of his faith in that Word, and that is the cross that we must take up as well.  Like Jeremiah, we too live in dangerous times.  There is terror all around.  In a time of extreme tolerance, where all life styles and philosophies are said to be equal, we Christians are the only ones being told to sit down and shut up!  But like Jeremiah, God says we can’t do that!  “For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”  No dear friends, you cannot ignore God’s Word!  He makes it clear, that there is no other way to please God accept through Christ Jesus!  There is a way that seems right to a society but in the end it only leads to death.  Thus says the Lord, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” [John 14:6]  “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”” [Matt. 10:37] 

The truth is friends, in a society that continuously teaches personal gain and material riches, we are to proclaim another message, “Jesus is the only way to wholeness!”  In a society that advances the message, “If it makes you feel good, just do it!” we proclaim instead, “Seek the Lord while He may be found!”  Even in many churches today, this message of extreme tolerance and acceptance like in the day of Jeremiah has replaced the Law and Gospel message of God.  Itchy ears long to hear that their walk with God will be an easy and happy road; they don’t want to hear about sacrifice and pain; they don’t want to hear that they must die to live.  When things go wrong they blame God, and then quickly begin shopping for a new message that will satisfy their greedy hearts and bring them peace.  But what kind of peace do they really want?  Do they want worldly peace or heavenly peace?  Concerning peace here, Jesus says, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.  For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.  And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household.” [Matt. 10:34-36] 

Dear friends, these Words of Jesus are Words of peace.  Jesus gives them to us so that we will have peace, but to hear them we must receive them by faith.  We must by faith die to what we want and receive what God desires to give to us.  And what is He giving?  Peace!  It’s a wholeness that is always centered in Christ’s faithfulness to provide for everything we need, therefore it is a spiritual peace.  The peace He gives is completely opposite of the kind of peace the world wants from Him and you.  Listen to His voice speaking to your heart: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

CONCLUSION:  Friends let’s not walk in worry and fear.  Let’s not worry about lost relationships if we don’t endorse someone’s behavior.  Instead let’s simply follow our Lord wherever He leads.  Sometimes the road will be easy and sometimes it will be hard, but always Jesus will be walking right beside us.  And now, may that true peace of God, a wholeness which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, and may that wholeness enable you to bear the cross joyfully, following Him where ever He leads you… In Jesus name… AMEN!