Posts Tagged ‘Unity’

THE Bread of Heaven

Sunday, August 5th, 2018

Pentecost 11B
August 5, 2018
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor of
Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street
San Diego, CA 92114

Click here for audio of this message

There’s a famous Saturday Night Live segment that was known as “Hans and Franz Pump You Up!”  In this segment, two wannabe, phony body builders named Hans and Franz are speaking in contrived Austrian accents, as they tell the viewing audience that they are there to pump them up.  At the time, everyone knew that they were of course making fun of movie-star, body builder, and future Governator of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger.  In one episode, Arnold even walked out on the stage in the middle of their skit and confronted their phony portrayal of body builders.   

Now as funny as that skit was to me, it also had a degree of truth.  And it was this: If left on our own, we can be a lot like those posers pretending to be body builders; we will pretend to be Christians.  And instead of making Arnold sick, we make ourselves sick; sick with sin!  Now if you are happy with living a life that satisfies only your physical needs you probably won’t be interested in our message this morning.  And if that is the case, then your sin-sickness will lead to death.  But if you’re willing to let God’s Word speak to you this morning, you will begin to understand the need, your need to see all things in a spiritual way.  You will begin to say with the crowd in Capernaum, “Sir, give us this bread always.” [John 6:34]

In the last few weeks, we’ve heard about Jesus feeding well over 5,000 people with a few fish and loaves of bread, we’ve witnessed Him seeing an emergency at sea that no human eyes could have seen, we’ve heard about Him walking on water and then calming the sea, and we also heard about Him healing the sick and even raising the dead!  

That’s a lot to take in; a lot to process.  Imagine how the people who were there were struggling with that information overload.  And instead of processing the information and making a conclusion about who Jesus must be, they asked for more of the experience.  More information to overload their limited minds.  “Sir, give us this bread always!  We want more of your wonder bread.”  They wanted more demonstrations of God’s power through this insignificant son of a carpenter.  They were ready to settle for food that spoils and reject God’s presence and gifts that were within the “wonder bread” given by the God-man Jesus Christ.

In this simple retelling of an actual event that took place in Capernaum, God would have us notice two things about the people then and people today.  We all are very quick to settle for things that spoil, rust, and rot, and we can quickly become bored with who Jesus really is, the Son of God.  And if we aren’t mindful of this, we might find ourselves conveniently placing our relationship with God on a shelf, relegating Jesus and His Words to just another religion, another way to live right.

In our gospel reading the people of Capernaum demonstrated that they were not all that different from their ancestors, the people God led out of bondage in Egypt.  

In our Old Testament reading, we heard how the former Hebrew slaves grumbled when the miracles that provided for their physical needs seemed to dry up.  They began to long for the good old days.  They grumbled just weeks after being freed from their bondage, “(Oh, that we were still by our) meat pots (in Egypt where we) ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.” [Exodus 16:3]  And the people of Capernaum in our Gospel reading, grumbled just a few hours after Jesus fed them bread out of nowhere; wonder bread that satisfied their hunger for an evening, “What (additional) sign do you do” they asked, “that we may see and believe you? What other miracle will you perform to get us to keep following you?  Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” Will you give us this same bread?

And what about us; what do we grumble about?  Perhaps it’s the way God answers our prayers?  Maybe it’s the lack of respect we feel that others give us?  Maybe our economic condition is the thing that seems most unfair?  Or maybe we grumble about the need to go to church and Bible study every week.  For some it might be the type of music we sing during worship or the length of the service!  Or maybe you just don’t like the pastor and his personality?

Like the people then we too can get so hung up on the physical representation of God’s gifts, that we loose sight of the giver.  When that happens, we can get caught up in a grumbling spirit and miss the more important spiritual work He’s doing within us through His Word.  In essence when we physically or mentally check out we have cut off our true spiritual connection with God! 

So how do we restore that right condition, that spiritual condition within us.  How do we reconnect with God?  We do it by receiving Jesus for who He is and then simply listen to His Words!

Who is Jesus and what is it that He wants to give to us?  

Well let’s let Him answer that for Himself: “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” [John 6:32, 33]

Who is Jesus?  He is the bread of heaven; He is the One Who comes down from heaven to give you all good gifts from above.  He is your Creator and God.  What He gives to you in physical gifts are given so that you will hear and receive His Word, and then see the Giver behind the gift with eyes of faith.  And once He has given you faith, you are able to see the true gift that He gives behind the physical gift.  He gives to you Himself!

Jesus says to you this morning, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” [vs. 35]  “Take and eat this is my body, which is given for you.  This do in remembrance of Me.”  (Take and) drink of it all of you; this cup is the new testament in My blood, which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sin.  This do as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” [Matthew 26:26-28; Mark 14:22-24; Luke 22:19-20; 1 Corinthians 11:23-25]

What is it that Jesus gives to you?  He gives you Himself; He gives you His body and blood in with and under the gift of bread and wine, and when He gives you Himself, He gives you life… new life; He gives you forgiveness of sins.

So Why do we grumble and complain?  

Listen, forget the physical reason you might be tempted to gripe, and listen to the truth, the spiritual reason you grumble and fail to see your Savior active in your life.  You grumble because like the Hebrews that God used Moses to save, you are really groaning under bondage; you are in bondage, you are enslaved in your sin.  

Your sin is the reason that you so quickly get caught up in the physical blessings and ignore the eternal spiritual blessings.  Your sin is the reason that you so easily forget about your bondage to it, and then forget about your sinfulness; and when you forget about your sinfulness, you also forget about your need for a Savior.  You forget that yours is not a religion like all of the others, a religion where you must work and work to hopefully please an angry god; no yours is a relationship of love and trust with your Creator who has come to you just as you were and done the only work necessary to save you… He has died to take away your sins and set you free!

In the life, the suffering, and the death of Jesus, the Son of God, you have received The Bread of Life, come down from heaven.  He alone satisfies your hunger and gives life to the world.  By His cross only, God has taken away the sins of the World.  And in your baptism, this great gift of forgiveness has been given to you personally!  In your baptism, Jesus has shared God’s Spirit with you; He alone gives you and always fills you with the power to love and live for others.

And as you live your life loving others, forgiving others, you are also leading them to the same source of strength that has recreated you, the Bread of Heaven, Jesus Christ.  In His Word, Jesus not only washed you clean, but He renews your mind and is constantly recreating you into His image.  He feeds you His very body and blood for the forgiveness of your sins.  He speaks these few precious Words to you over and over again so you will truly receive the Giver behind the gift… “You are forgiven!”

It is my prayer and God’s will that you will keep coming to this place to receive His gifts and hear the Word that is behind each gift.  As He fills you, it isn’t a phony pumping up like Hans and Franz, but it’s an actual re-creation and healing; it’s real change!  It is my prayer and God’s will that you will keep saying along with the people of Capernaum, “Sir, keep giving us this bread always.”  

Heavenly Father, keep filling us with your forgiving love and power, so that we may give these same gifts to our neighbors by bringing them to the same source, the bread of life, Jesus Christ.  I ask this in Jesus name… AMEN!

What Is It?

Sunday, August 2nd, 2015

10th Sunday After Pentecost, August 2, 2015
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego, CA 92114
http://www.tlcsd.org

Click here for audio of this message

“Walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” [Ephesians 4:2, 3]

INTRODUCTION: Unity, what is it?  We have heard a lot about the San Diego Unified School District in the news over the years; because it says “unified” does that mean it has unity?  According to the news reports, no!  When Congress votes on a hot button issue, many times you will hear the politicians say something like, “On this issue, we are a united congress.”  Does saying that they are united make them so?

This morning God’s Word encourages us to demonstrate the oneness that unites us all.  The oneness is our faith in the One True God, and our knowledge of the Son of God Jesus Christ.

At first, faith and knowledge are demonstrated in a very imperfect way.  This imperfect faith and especially knowledge, is to be expected in someone new to correct doctrine, and so the church, the local congregation gives grace to those who need time to mature.  However, if these imperfections are allowed to remain, they can and will damage the inner oneness of saints who are called collectively by faith.  What I mean by that is if these dear imperfect saints are not mentored and taught, they may not be united or welded together with the rest of the church as they should be; they may even become detached and drift away like a babe upon the sea; like an inexperienced sailor abandoned within a vessel he or she does not know how to operate.

This morning, we will look at the number one cause of division within the body of Christ, where there should be unity, and that cause is most always a grumbling spirit.

I. We have a couple examples of a grumbling spirit in our readings this morning.  First, in our Old Testament lesson [Exodus 16:2-15] we read, “And the whole congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness, and the people of Israel said to them, “Would that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.” [V. 2, 3]

What is interesting to note here is that Moses makes it clear to the people of Israel that it was not he nor Aaron who brought them out into the wilderness, it was the same God who brought them out of bondage.  It was God’s responsibility to feed them, not Moses’s.  So in reality, they were grumbling against God.  And grumbling against God can cause some harsh response from God, if the grumbler does not repent.

II. Do we, God’s church still struggle with a grumbling spirit?  Well let me share with you a little of the tension I have experienced here at Trinity, as we attempt to bring in new saints or Christians new to God’s Divine Service within the historical liturgy.  New people are almost always put off by our liturgy, because it repeats the same thing every Sunday.  They say they want something new; new contemporary music and words.  Now, I understand this because they have not yet learned what Divine Service is; they have not discovered that everything in the liturgy is the Word of God speaking and giving forgiveness of sins.  Sometimes, after I teach them they stay and try to embrace our liturgy, and when they do they are welded together with us.  But some times they would rather grumble and reject the gift of forgiveness within the liturgy, and so they fall away. Left on their own to navigate the ecclesiastical waters of junk food Christianity.

But wait, that’s not all…

The other group of grumblers that I must also be patient with are those who simply do not like the fact that I have judiciously added a contemporary worship song before the Service of the Word; before the Processional Hymn.  They grumble by saying, “That isn’t what I grew up with.”  When I ask them what specifically they don’t like about it, they usually say they don’t like the fact that it repeats the same words over and over.  And that it uses a style of music they can’t sing to.  Now I completely understand.  So like the first group, the new comers, I find this to be a teaching moment.  And so my response to them is that we only sing songs that are scriptural, or a contemporary expression of scripture.  And the reason we repeat the same “tag line” so often, is because it is preparing our hearts and minds for the theme of God’s Divine Service within the assigned lessons.

IILUS: Here is a good example of the type of contemporary worship songs we sing at least once a Sunday, in fact we are singing this one as special music this morning during the offering.  It is called, “Bread of Heaven.”  Listen: “Bread of Heaven, sent down from glory.  Many things you were on earth, a holy King a Carpenter; You are the Living Lord.  Awesome Ruler, Gentle Redeemer, God with us, the Living Truth, and what a friend we have in you, you are the Living Word.  Jesus, Jesus, that’s what we call You; manger born put on a tree, You are the Living Word.”

Now when we hear these words sung, we can either shut our ears to the music and miss the message, or we can hear the words and discover that a style of music that we don’t care for is actually being used by God to bring the message of peace and hope to someone else in a meaningful way, simply because it is delivered through a rhythm, tempo, and melody that speaks to their soul.  And when we see God working in His Divine Service in this way, we can’t help but glorify God in our souls by simply saying: “Oh, oh, oh.  YOU ARE THE LIVING WORD!”

III. A helpful way to keep our grumbling spirit in check, is to see that when we grumble, our eyes are no longer on the true gifts that Jesus brings, which is spiritual in nature, and properly called the forgiveness of sins and eternal life.  Rather, we are caught up in temporary things; things that often are self-serving and bring temporary comfort in this world, but no hope for our eternal existence, which is coming sooner that we think.

We read in our gospel lesson (John 6:22-35), “On the next day the crowd that remained on the other side of the sea saw that there had been only one boat there, and that Jesus had not entered the boat with his disciples, but that his disciples had gone away alone. [V. 22] When the crowd saw that Jesus was not there, nor his disciples, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum, seeking Jesus.  When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” [Vs.24-25]

What they were really saying was, “Bless us again Jesus!”  They knew there was something miraculous happening once again with Jesus.  He didn’t take a boat to get there, and he couldn’t have walked around the shore or they would have spotted Him.  “OK you wonderful miracle worker, how’d you get here?  Come on fess up.  You did something fantastic again didn’t you?  You’re the man Jesus!  As long as you keep making that wonder bread and amazing us with these unexplainable happenings, you are our lord and teacher!”

The people wanted things.  They wanted to be amazed.  To all of these people and to us today, Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw the sign, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.  Don’t work for food that perishes (for things), but (work) for the food that endures (and will give you) eternal life, which (I) the Son of Man will give to you. For on Him God the Father has set His seal.”  (There is no other way for you to obtain this true food of God except through me!) [V. 27]

Friends, in Jesus own Words, we hear Him explain exactly why the crowd followed Him; not because of His miracles and His teaching but because they wanted things!  They wanted Him to be a political savior, their messiah who would free them from the tyranny of the Roman Empire.  They wanted Him to provide them with the desires of their hearts and gratify all of their wants.  And when He refused to be their kind of Messiah, they grumbled and demanded new miracles.

Even today, we see these people gathered in churches across our nation eagerly welcoming politicians to speak during worship, so that they can assure them that if they elect or reelect this person, they will have their needs met and they will have a bright future.

And right along with those eager to hear from politicians, are those who are just as eager to hear a gospel of prosperity from their preachers.  They do not want to hear God’s message of Law and Gospel; no these people are flocking to churches wanting to hear a message that will ensure them of an easy life here of earth.

And then there are those who gather where God’s Law and Gospel is correctly and boldly preached, but they find no meaning or comfort in His Word.  And when they leave worship and the company of other Christians they seek out a new message; a different way to satisfy their desires.  They live as if Christ didn’t matter and God doesn’t see.  They long for the experience of another type of teaching.  Just like the Hebrew people that were led out of the Egyptian captivity, they begin to pant after the meat of prosperity.  You see friends, in all three cases each group has turned to God and said, “Don’t give us want you say we need, but instead give us what we want!”

So what’s the solution to all of this disunity and discord?  We must through the power and leading of the Holy Spirit…

IV. Return to the One body, which is built and sustained by the One Spirit where we have been called into the one hope of forgiveness of sins.  We must be united under One Lord Jesus Christ, insist on one faith in Christ alone, and receive one baptism, and never allow someone to cause us to doubt God’s Work within our baptism.  We must return to our one true God and the Father of us all, who is over all and through all and in all.

We must return to the teaching of the apostles and their creed of faith that declares the simple message of God’s forgiving love and mercy.  And it is that gospel Word, which turns our eyes of faith to the cross of Jesus Christ as a sign of God’s understanding and tender heart (for Jesus came into our flesh to suffer as we suffer, but to suffer on our behalf as a payment for our sins).  We must return to the empty tomb where the angel declared, “He is not here, but He has risen.”  And we must know that as He is risen, so too shall we.  These are the gifts that Christ freely gives to you who have been baptized into the one true faith.

We must gather each Lord’s day to hear these truths proclaimed by the teacher, preacher, and shepherd that God has placed through the call and prayers of you his people, and we must receive that teaching, knowing that we the saints of God are being built into one body, which is the body of our Lord Jesus Christ, through the work of holy ministry, until we all attain together the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God.

We always speak the truth to one another, but we do so in love and a desire for unity, so that together we may grow up in every way into Jesus who is our head, who guides the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, so that when each part is working properly the body grows and is built up in the love of God.

CONCLUSION: I want you to look at your hand. What do you like about it? What don’t you like about it? Are there any particular strengths or skills that your hand has? What does it enable you to do? Are there any ways your hand has made life difficult or painful? Now look at your knee. What do you like about it? What don’t you like about it? Are there any particular strengths that your knee has? What does it allow you to do? Are there any particular ways that your knee has betrayed you or caused you pain?

Now, consider both your hand and your knee. How do they benefit you? What would your life be like if you didn’t have your hand or your knee? Both hands? Both knees? Both your hands and your knees are gifts to you, gifts from God. Sometimes they may be painful to you. Sometimes they may not do what you want them to, what you need them to do, but they are yours and you are much better off with them than without them. They are yours; parts of you, unified as one body.

Now, please stand and look around the sanctuary, not at the walls, but at the people, not at their hands or knees, but at them. As you look around, ask yourself what particular strengths you see among the people here? What do you like about them? Consider these people around you. They, like your hands and your knees, are a part of you. You are a part of them. We are all parts of the body of Christ. He is our head. Just as your hands and your knees are gifts to you, gifts from God, so are the people around you gifts from God. They may at times be very pleasant gifts from God. At other times, like your hands or your knees or other body parts, they may be difficult or painful to you. Like your hands or your knees, they may not always do what you want them to. But, you know what? They are still part of you. Just like your hands and your knees, you are much better off with them than without them. They enable Christ to accomplish things that you could not do without them. They are yours, you are theirs, parts unified and growing together as one body, the body of Christ, the church.  AMEN!

A Debt of Praise and Love

Sunday, July 26th, 2015

9th Sunday in Pentecost-B, July 26, 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

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

Last week, you may recall that I said that neither God, the church, nor your brothers and sisters in Christ owe you anything, accept the debt of love.  But love is a debt far greater than anything else we could ever owe; it is great because the kind of love we all owe to God and each other, comes only from God to His children who have been given the gift of faith to receive Jesus Christ as their Savior; as their God.  So we must always remember that this debt of love and the ability to repay it always comes from faith.  It is this kind of divine love, which prevents us from willingly offending God and our neighbor.  Now I say this so that I may qualify what I am about to declare next.

When someone justifies his or her sinful action by saying, “I guess I can’t help my self, that’s just the way I am.”  Or, “I am acting this way because of someone else’s behavior.  Don’t blame me, blame so and so.”  When I hear this kind of talk, I become very concerned about the eternal condition of the person speaking.  I begin to wonder if they still have faith, because they appear to be demonstrating a lack of divine love; love for God and love for their neighbor.  Another way to say this is that they appear to be refusing to repent; turn to Christ alone, who makes all things new.

The solution for this person, if they even care to be restored to God through Christ, is to remember the power, the anger, and the love of their Creator God.

I. The Power of God: How did we start out the Apostles Creed this morning?  Wasn’t it with a statement of God’s almighty power?  Listen: “I believe in God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth.”  And how did God create?  Was it an arduous task that took great effort and strain?  No.  But how did he created?  Simply with His spoken Word.  God said and there was.  Now that is power.  God created everything out of nothing simply because He chose to; simply by speaking and it became!

After God created the world, His Word in Genesis makes it clear that He created it for a purpose; He created it to be a cradle for His greatest creature… man.  Through God’s power, God created man in His own image; that is He created man to be a steward or caretaker of the very world that would be the cradle that God would place man into so that man could learn to relate to God by faith; so that man could know God for who He was… the source of all power and strength.

When Adam and Eve fell to the trick of the Devil, the cradle of life that was to sustain them, became hostile and it had to be worked and mastered by the power and intellect that God gave to man.  With His hand, man was to work the land to produce a livelihood; a means to sustain the very life God gave by His power, in the beginning.

As man began to obediently go forth and multiply upon the face of the earth, they began to collectively grow distant from God.  That is, they forgot who God was in power and strength.  They began to offend God in what they thought, said, and did.  So God decided with His power to respond to the sinfulness of man as…

II. The God of Anger. “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thought of his heart was only evil continually.  And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and it grieved His heart.  So the Lord said, I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.”  But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.” [Genesis 6:5-8]

Today, we love to talk so much about how God is love, and that thank God is true, but we also must remember that God is power, and that God does get angry.  Listen: “And God said to Noah, “I have determined to make and end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them.  Behold, I will destroy them with the earth.”

What God was telling Noah was that the very earth that He created for man as a cradle and as an asset for man to manage, God would now use to destroy man.  How would he do that?  By using His power in response to His anger towards the collective sins of man.  By doing something, creating a phenomenon that up this time had never existed; God cause it both to rain relentlessly and He caused all of the great water stores beneath earth to rise simultaneously and collectively upon the surface of the earth where all of life, including man existed.

But our powerful God, in His anger remembered Noah and His family, eight souls in all; He remembered that they alone feared and honored God, and they found favor in God’s eyes, so God spared them by placing them within the ark before the flood began.  But God also remembered that He had created man with a purpose; in the image of God to be a steward of God’s creation, so God also spared a sample of all creation for man to manage.  God did this for Noah, because God is also…

III. The God of love. God loved Noah and his family because they retained their fear and love for God.  To fear and love God was an ability outside of themselves; it was a gift from God that came by their faith in God.

Noah and his family remembered their debt of love for God because they retained and cherished God’s Word of promise that declared one day through God’s Champion, they would be allowed to return to Paradise; the Word that was the very first covenant that God made with sinful men and women.  Noah remembered that covenant and he had faith in it; it was the very proof that declared God is love.  And by faith He would receive another covenant from God in the form of a visible sign, a rainbow.

Through the rainbow, God assured those eight people of faith who were about to set out on their new lives, that through His covenant promise, they could be assured that He would never destroy the earth by flood again.  But why a rainbow?  So that they would have a physical sign to remember God’s grace.  Martin Luther rightly pointed out in one of his sermons that Noah and his family must have lived in great trembling.  What they had just gone through for such an extended period of time must have terrified them, because they experience God’s great power and anger.  All around them was evidence of fearful destruction.  So out of love, God saw that these frail creatures of dust needed every bit of assurance and love that they could receive.  So God gave them a visible sign as a seal of the truthfulness of His promise.  “I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh.” [Genesis 9:13-15]

Dear friends, our God of love has given us other powerful signs.  Jesus tells us Himself that His death upon the cross is a sign that assures each of you that God’s power and anger has been satisfied with His death upon that cross.  For you it is a sign that God has relented in His anger and desire to punish all of creation for it’s sinfulness.  And Jesus Himself said that the sign of Jonah, three days in the belly of the whale pointed towards His own victory over death itself.  But the good news from our God of love does not stop there; because Jesus desires that you receive that gift of forgiveness of sins and victory over death personally.  And so God comes to sinners like us Himself with another sign and another use of His Word to create another covenant promise.

In Holy Baptism, Jesus Christ, the living Word of God promises that through the washing of the water and God’s Covenant Promise, we are born again.  Listen: “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.”

Dear Christians, what a wonderfully powerful and loving God we have.  He is a God who came to us through His Son in our own flesh to make all things new; all things right.  He comes to us because we can not go to Him.  He is a God who promises that He will never leave us nor forsake us.  Sometimes in life we may feel that He sends us out onto a sea of turmoil, in a flimsy vessel alone, but he is always watching us and ready to sustain us by giving us both great faith and love.  He comes to us, even in the midnight hour He comes.  And when He speaks, His very Word gives what He commands, “Peace be to you.  Take heart; it is I.  Do not be afraid.”

Like the apostles, we will not always understand what we are going through or why, but we will always remember that Christ was ever with us.  And as we remember our God of power who’s anger was appeased by the very life blood of His Son Jesus Christ, we remember that we are a part of a vast host of saints we call the church who owe God and each other an eternal debt of love and praise for the great things He has done.  But we also remember what He is still doing through this vast church that must always be expanding and growing one forgiven sinner at a time.

And so out of our debt of love and praise to God we give that same debt of love to our neighbor as we forgive them and point their hearts and minds to the very same source of new life.

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

Christ Is Our Peace

Sunday, July 19th, 2015

8th Sunday in Pentecost-B, July 19, 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

“For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility” (Ephesians 2:14).

What a peculiar place Christ’s church is, and it must be just that… peculiar.  It is different by nature from anything else on earth, which is created by man.  And that only makes sense; it makes sense because the church is created and sustained by God Himself, according to His good pleasure; according to His will.  How are we peculiar?  Well because we are made up of so many different people, with different races, ethnicities, and economic backgrounds.  What is it that brings us together?  Peace.  When God’s peace comes amongst His children who respond to His call of faith, those children come.  How does peace come?  Through faith.  How does faith come?  Through the gifts of God that build His church.  Faith comes by hearing and receiving God’s Word and Sacraments exactly as God gives them; as means of grace to bring forgiveness of sins and peace to be what God has called you to be and become what He promises you shall always be; holy, perfect, and righteous.

Here at Trinity, we are made one around that peace of God, but we are made up of 3 parts: Life time members; Transfers from other churches; and new additions.  All three have been brought here by God according to His good will and purpose, and all three groups are completely equal before God.  And all three should settle for nothing less than…

The pure gospel of God in Jesus Christ, which brings freedom from guilt, through the forgiveness of sins. This is such a wonderful and essential gift for living a life of freedom, and without it there can be no true peace.  It is the equivalent of breathing in pure oxygen.

If you went to the hospital and you were having trouble breathing, if they gave you a choice between L.A. smog and pure oxygen, which would you choose?  Of course you would choose the pure oxygen, and likewise we should only be willing to receive the pure gospel of God.  And yet in so many churches today, people are willing to be given the smog of other men’s opinions.

Let me share with you briefly, the story of Pastor Falemao Esera and the American Samoan congregation that has merged with us.  Their denomination has a rich and faithful history of people, sinners who through the pure Word of God recognized that only through the gospel-Word of forgiveness can they know peace.  In their seminary, their pastors were taught the very same things our pastors are taught, the pure Word of God.  But something happened over time; both their denominational leadership and the seminary began to embrace new teachings that no longer found their origin in the Word of God, but rather in the hearts and minds of sinful men.  As a result, Pastor Fale left his denomination and the congregation followed.  They became independent.  And after a long season of prayer and patient faithful waiting, God led them here to Trinity and our beloved Missouri Synod.  And in Pastor Fale’s own words, “Here I found freedom and peace like before; through the pure Word of God.”

Now to all of you dear saints who gather at Trinity; to the life time members, the transfers, and the new additions, God is asking each of us to evaluate our reasons for coming to this old faithful church.  Whatever our reason, God is pleased that we are here, but if we are here for any other reason than to receive the pure Word of God, then each of us must reevaluate our motivations, and then allow God to realign our hearts and minds so that both will be pleasing to Him.

In our Old Testament lesson (Jeremiah 23:1-6), we see God’s heart regarding His children of faith.  We see a protective God who promises to punish the government of man when it no longer cares for the needs of its citizens in accordance with the will and law of God.  But we also see God scolding the citizens for accepting anything but His pure Word and promises of deliverance through the long awaited Messiah.

To the government of Israel God says: “You have scattered my flock and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for your evil deeds, declares the Lord.”  And to the people who have been scattered, separated from the pure Word of God, He declares, “I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply.  I will set shepherds over them who will care for them, and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall any be missing, declares the Lord.”

Two things should grab our hearts and minds here.  First, it is God who says that He has scattered His children of faith.  And this is true.  It was God that allowed them to go into exile, because of their many sins and unwilling spirit to turn away from their sins.  But the second truth that grabs our attention is perhaps the most important truth; it will be God Himself who brings every one of His children of faith back to Him.  And how does He do that?  By setting faithful shepherds or pastors over them who will teach them nothing but the pure doctrine of the gospel.  And what is that gospel?  Listen: ““Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.  In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’”

Dear saints the gospel is simply Christ alone, who only is righteous; Christ alone who comes by grace alone, which is God’s unearned and undeserved kindness.  Christ alone who comes by faith alone.  You can’t debate a person into trusting God; you can’t prove the love of God through Christ to someone.  These things can only be received as a gift from God by faith.  And how does faith in Christ come?  Through Scripture alone.

Each of you here today have been drawn by God through the pure teaching of His Word, which alone brings forgiveness of sins and peace with God.  But this teaching also brings another kind of peace; it brings peace within the family of God; within even our own congregation.  And we will need this peace to continue being God’s children of faith within our community, because the very diversity in persons, which marks a healthy and vibrant church, also brings tension; tension which can rebuild the very thing that God through Christ has demolished. Listen…

“For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.” [Ephesians 2:14-16]

By remembering who we were before God’s pure Word brought us peace, we will also remember who we are now because of that peace.  If you are a lifetime member of the Lutheran Church- Missouri Synod , surely you can remember disobedient times in your life when you were not allowing God’s Word and Sacraments to both change and sustain you?  If you are a transferred member who came from another denomination, surely you can think back and remember what it was like living under a teaching that smothered God’s forgiving love under a blanket of legalism and works righteousness; a teaching that always left you wondering if God would really forgive you?  And if you are a recent addition to our church family, and you are still growing in your understanding of the true peace of God that comes through His pure Word, may we all say welcome… you are not alone!

Each of us who are here this morning long for the same thing… peace with God.  And all of us are dealing with all kinds of life issues and current events, which can bring confusion and insecurity.  How we deal with these things; how we deal with each other determines whether we are living in God’s peace where the wall of separation from God and each other is torn down, or if we are rebuilding the wall and thus separating ourselves from God and each other.

We rebuild the wall when we believe that God, His church as a body, and His saints as individuals owe us something.  Here is the hard truth, but I pray that you will hear and receive it.  No one owes you anything, especially God.  The church and its saints are no different than you.  Each saint here is struggling with their own lives and fighting to hold on to the pure Word of God and the faith to persevere, which comes through that Word.  The only debt we owe each other, is a debt of love.  Each of us, through the pure Word of God are moved to fear and love God so that we may continue to grow in faith, and love Him with all of our hearts, minds, bodies, and souls.  Each of us as well are learning every day to fear and love God so that we will love our neighbors as ourselves.

We allow Christ to continue tearing down the walls that divide us when we remember who each of us were without His pure Word and the peace it brings.  Without these things, each of us were dead in our sins, but with God’s pure washing of the water and His Word, we are brought back to life as a new man and woman.  Like the gentiles that made up a large part of the Ephesian church, we too were once foreigners, separated from God without hope.  “But now in Christ Jesus (we) who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility.  (How did He do this?) By abolishing (the law’s accusation against us), (so) that he might create in Himself one new man in place of the two (or three), so making peace, and (through that peace, He) might reconcile us (all) to God in one body, which is the church, through the cross, thereby killing (our) hostility (to God and each other).

There is and will be new growth in this little church we call Trinity, because each of us are trusting in the same pure Word of God that brings peace.  It is the Word that brought us here and it is the Word that both sustains and keeps us here.  Each of us who were once far removed from the love of God have been brought near by the same Son of God, Jesus Christ.  Christ has brought us and He will continue to bring new additions.  He welcomes them, and so do we when we remember that it is the same blood that draws and covers them that brought and covers us.

Through Christ’s death upon the cross and the body and blood that was given and shed for sinners like us, we are reminded that all enmity and strife that comes through race, ethnicity, and economic status are made moot and pointless.  The walls of separation that our society and even our government erect are removed within the Kingdom of God, which for us comes only through Jesus Christ and grace alone, faith alone, and scripture alone.  May these very things sustain you unto eternal life.  In Jesus name… AMEN!

He Prayed For You!

Sunday, May 12th, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Surprise!

Sunday, January 20th, 2013

Epiphany 2(C), January 20, 2013
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA

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There’s a very famous prayer that many if not all Christians throughout the world, in every denomination study; it’s called Jesus’ High Priestly  Prayer.  I wanted to just share just one small portion of it with you, as a way to look at all three of our readings.  Listen: “And I am no longer in the  world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one,  even as we are one. While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has  been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. [John 17:11-12]

So, if the stated will of the Son of God is that we would all be one, that is be in concord with each other, then why is the church so divided?  We are   broken down in groups such as those who claim God’s Word is infallible, those who say it is only inspired, and those who say that history must  decide what parts of the Bible are true or fable.  We are further divided along denominational lines over following a historical liturgy and those who  follow no liturgy.  Some denominations claim that they follow no preconceived confessions of faith, while others, such as our own denomination  have an entire book of written confessions, with the stated purpose of defending the church against error.  We have divisions over the question of  what gifts listed in our epistle lesson are valid and what gifts are no longer needed.  Why we don’t even have to look outside of our own  congregation to find division; we have some people here at Trinity who feel that all forms of music are valid for worship, while some say only the  Organ and classical instruments and music should be used.

So what went wrong?  How did the church get in such a mess?  Is this something new, and particularly an American phenomenon that we are  experiencing? No!

In such a time as ours, when so many are claiming that the church ought to be free to follow the working of the Holy Spirit, we need to know what God has already spoken on the subject, and I can think of no better book in the entire Bible to start with, than the one our Epistle lesson (1 Corinthians 12:1-11) comes from.  When Paul wrote this letter to the Church in Corinth, they were becoming fragmented; divided over doctrine that was not centered in the Word of God, but the will of men.  Things like immorality, stunted spiritual growth, and confusion, were threatening to rip this little church apart at the seams.

Paul discovered that several divisions, or groups had developed that followed its own chosen human leader, exercised their spiritual gifts and time, talent, and treasure selfishly, and cared very little for the health or ministry of the entire body, the church.  The Christians at Corinth had received an abundance of spiritual gifts (1. Cor. 1:4-7), but they were lacking in the higher spiritual graces, that is the kind of Christ centered character the Holy Spirit desired to create and keep in them.

Like the congregation at Corinth, we also suffer from divisions and party spirit, which undermines God’s work among us.  And yet to God’s glory and our shame, He still leads us to a true confession of faith through Jesus Christ, our Savior, and the Spirit’s work among us.  Oh that God would mute our idolatrous pride and curb our party spirit.  So let’s examine our message today, so that the Lord can do just that; let’s allow Him to combine our hearts in works of love and praise to Him, into a true confession that declares “Jesus is Lord among us!”

In both our Old Testament lesson and our gospel lesson, the theme seems to be a wedding.  But we must understand that the wedding motif or theme is always used by God to symbolize unity, and His relationship with His covenant people.  In the old covenant, it was the nation of Israel, the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob who were united to God as a bride to her husband.  Specifically, it was that peculiar group of people who willingly followed, trusted, and obeyed the true God.  To follow Him alone and forsake all other false god’s required faith.  Faith to admit that on their own they could not keep His commandments and laws, and faith to believe that it was God alone who would save them from their sins and create a clean heart within them through the coming of the Messiah, the Savior of God’s people.  When God’s people trusted Him, no matter what, they were called His faithful bride.  By faith, they were to know that they were not forsaken or forgotten; He alone would redeem them and save them from their enemies.  Just as a young man marries a young woman, so shall we be married to our God; just as a bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall God rejoice over His people.

In our Gospel reading (John 2:1-11), we find Jesus, the Son of God in human flesh, a guest at a wedding party.  Wedding parties are to be celebrations; a time to celebrate not just the joining together of man and woman into one heart and mind, but just as much, a celebration that they are not two threads or strands that make a binding, but three.  It is the third strand that gives the cord it’s strength, and the third strand is God Himself.  Jesus was among His people to celebrate the joining together and to bless their marriage with His presence and approval.

Now, in the middle of this celebration of life, a problem arose; they ran out of wine.  If the bride and groom and the honored guests knew who it was that was celebrating with them, they would have no need for worry.  But Mary, Jesus blessed mother knew.  She knew that in her Son, God’s own power was with them.  She didn’t need to send someone to the local liquor store to get more; she knew that if God was pleased with their celebration, Jesus would continue to bless it.  So she came to Jesus and simply stated the facts: “They have no (more) wine.”  And then she did something wonderful; she shared the calming of faith and the power of the Holy Spirit with these simple words: “Do whatever He tells you.”

That profound advice to the party goers from Mother Mary is still great advice for us today; as a church, if we want to see divisions healed and the kingdom expand with power among us, we must also do whatever He tells us to do!

So, let’s go back to our Epistle reading (1 Corinthians 12:1-11), and let the Holy Spirit tell us what the will of Jesus is.

In the first three versus, it becomes clear, God’s will is that we share in the same confession of faith, and that confession is that Jesus is Lord; He is God in human flesh.  He was born, lived among us as one of us, He suffered and died for our sins as a man, but He is also God.  He must be 100% God as well in order to rise from the dead and declare that all things have been made new.  He must be God in order to declare that your sins have been put away and you have been made right with your creator and redeemer.

In the early days of the church, a Roman citizen was required once a year to put a pinch of incense on an altar and say, “Caesar is Lord!”  For you Christians to be united with your brothers and sisters scattered throughout the world, you must agree that the very idea of declaring anyone or anything Lord over you is a cursed thing.  The Holy Spirit leads you to see that it is better to die for your faith than to confess trust and worship in anyone else but Jesus Christ.  And for us to be one in confession of faith, we will also see that it is only the Holy Spirit who can by the Word of God create this kind of faith within the heart of someone who calls themselves Christian.

In Verses 4-6, we see the church is much like the human body.  It has diversity and yet it has unity.  Our human members all differ from each other, they all work together for the health of the body.  In the spiritual body, Christ body on earth, the church, even our little congregation possess gifts which come directly from the Holy Spirit.  These gifts such as our time, talents, and treasures, some of which are listed in our lesson, can be found outside of the church, but here in Christ’s church, these gifts have been gathered and sanctified, that is they’ve been blessed by Jesus to give God glory and help advance His kingdom among us, in the middle of this sinful world, and within our community here in Encanto, within the City of San Diego, CA.

We have been blessed with so many spiritual gifts for two reasons, to serve God by being a blessing to each other and our community.  It is God’s will that each of us use our time, talent, and treasure, in a way that brings for His gift of forgiveness to a dying world.

Finally, in verses 7-13, we see a list of even more gifts that are not to be used to build or further our own reputations as individuals but to build up the church.  That is the gifts are to benefit the whole church.  Now as sinners, this can become problematic if we forget that (1) the Supreme Gift, that is the forgiveness of sins is not only the most important, but it is the very gift that unites us as one.  Each of us received this gift in the waters of our baptism, and each of us has the exact amount of “Holy Spirit” power to accomplish great things within the body of Christ.  It is this power of God that gives us other minor spiritual gifts as well, which are (2) the ministries of the church.  Through these ministries, Jesus blesses us with both natural and supernatural abilities and talents that both bless and change sinners into saints.  And all of these ministries have one thing in common; they are gathered and united around Word and Sacrament. (3) Then there are the spiritual offices, which are positions of trust within each local congregation.  What awful disasters have befallen various churches when their pastor comes among them not to bless God’s people, but to bless their own bank accounts!

(4) And finally, we find another kind of gift that we might call spiritual graces or miraculous gifts of the Spirit. Today, we hear a lot of talk among our brothers and sisters from other denominations, about faith healers and the outpouring of the Spirit that gives the gift of speaking in tongues.  I do not think that the intent of God’s message for us today is to dig to deeply in these minor and miraculous gifts, other than to say that if the minor gift becomes more important that the Supreme gift of forgiveness, then something is terribly wrong in the church.  If Christ’s gifts to His bride, causes division and not unity then we would not be worshiping a God of peace and unity, but a God who brings only division and chaos.  And if that is the kind of god some are worshiping, then we should want no part of that kind of god!

I find it fascinating that Jesus first miracle was at a wedding party.  I also find it fascinating that it was among a bunch of people who most likely had too much to drink already, and Jesus provided even more.  The point is not whether Jesus approves of drinking of wine, but that He is among those sinners who are drinking the wine.  He is a Savior who is interested and engaged in the simple things of life, even the pleasure and thirst of party guests.  Is that the kind of Jesus that most churches are comfortable worshiping?  Are you comfortable worshiping Him?

The point of His first miracle there in Cana was not to bless a party but to manifest His glory; that is Jesus was there to let sinful people know that He cared for and loved them; He wanted them to know that there is a God who is among His people.  And because of that miracle, many became His disciples and believed on Him.  Many were united and would become united in worship around a God who would and did save His people from their sins.

Let us pray… “Dear Jesus, you are no longer in the world as you once were, but you are in the world among us in your Word and Sacraments.  We thank you that even as you left in body to be with the Holy Father, you have kept us in your name, which you have given to us in our baptism, so that we may remain in you and be one with our brothers and sisters, even as you and the Spirit are one with the Father. Keep us we pray, as one, in your name, the name that the Father has given you.  Continue to guard us and keep us in your grace and concord, AMEN!

Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ… AMEN!

Manna That Pumps You Up!

Sunday, August 5th, 2012

Tenth Sunday in Pentecost B, August 5, 2012
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA

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There’s a famous Saturday Night Live segment that was known as “Hans and Franz Pump You Up!”  In this segment, two wannabe,  phony body builders named Hans and Franz are speaking in contrived Austrian accents, as they tell the viewing audience that they are  there to pump them up.  At the time, everyone knew that they were of course making fun of movie-star, body builder, and  future governator of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger.  In one episode, Arnold walked out on the stage in the middle of their skit and  confronted their phony portrayal of body builders.  Well rather than describe it, let’s look at that clip. [YouTube clip:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HHZhw94C5vQ ]

Now as funny as that clip is, it also has a degree of truth.  If left on our own, we can be a lot like those posers pretending to be body  builders; we will pretend to be Christians.  And instead of making Arnold sick, we make ourselves sick; sick with sin!  Now if you are  happy with living a life that satisfies only your physical needs you probably won’t be interested in our message this morning.  And if  that is the case, then your sin-sickness will lead to death.  But if you’re willing to let God’s Word speak to you this morning, you will  begin to understand the need, your need to see all things in a spiritual way.  You will begin to say with the crowd in Capernaum, “Sir, give us this bread always.” [John 6:34]

I. In the last few weeks, we’ve heard about Jesus feeding well over 5,000 people with a few fish and loaves of bread, we’ve witnessed Him seeing an emergency at sea that no human eyes could have seen, we’ve heard about Him walking on water and then calming the sea, and we heard about Him healing the sick and dying!  That’s a lot to take in; a lot to process.  Imagine how the people who were there were struggling with that information overload.  And instead of processing the information and making a conclusion about who Jesus must be, they asked for more of the experience.  More information to overload their limited minds.  “Sir, give us this bread always!  We want more of your wonder bread.”  They wanted more demonstrations of God’s power through this insignificant son of a carpenter.  They were ready to settle for food that spoils and reject God’s presence and gifts that were within the “wonder bread”, given by the God-man Jesus Christ.

In this simple retelling of an actual event that took place in Capernaum, God would have us notice two things about the people then and people today.  We are all very quick to settle for things that spoil, rust, and rot, and we can quickly become bored with who Jesus really is, the Son of God.  And if we aren’t mindful of this, we might find ourselves conveniently placing our relationship with God on a shelf, relegating Jesus and His Words as just another religion, another way to live right.

II. In our gospel reading (John 6:22-35) the people of Capernaum demonstrated that they were not all that different from their ancestors, the people God led out of bondage in Egypt.  In our Old Testament reading (Exodus 16:2-15), we heard how the former Hebrew slaves grumbled when the miracles that provided for their physical needs seemed to dry up.  They began to long for the good old days.  They grumbled just weeks after being freed from their bondage, “(Oh, that we were still by our) meat pots (in Egypt where we) ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.” [Exodus 16:3]  And the people of Capernaum in our Gospel reading, grumbled just a few hours after Jesus fed them bread out of nowhere; wonder bread that satisfied their hunger for an evening, “What (additional) sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform?  Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”

And what about us; what do we grumble about?  Perhaps it’s the way God answers our prayers?  Maybe it’s the lack of respect we feel that others give us?  Maybe our economic condition is the thing that seems most unfair?  Or maybe we grumble about the need to go to church and Bible study every week.  For some it might be the type of music we sing during worship or the length of the service!  Or maybe you just don’t like the pastor and his personality?

Like the people then we too can get so hung up on the physical representation of God’s gifts, that we loose sight of the giver.  When that happens, we can get caught up in a grumbling spirit and miss the more important spiritual work He’s doing within us through His Word.  In essence when we physically or mentally check out we have cut off our true spiritual connection with God!

So how do we restore that right condition, that spiritual condition within us.  How do we reconnect with God?  We do it by receiving Jesus for who He is and then simply listen to His Words!

III. Who is Jesus and what is it that He wants to give to us?  Well let’s let Him answer that for Himself: “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” [John 6:32, 33]

Who is Jesus?  He is the bread of heaven; He is the One Who comes down from heaven to give you all good gifts from above.  He is your Creator and God.  What He gives to you in physical gifts are given so that you will hear and receive His Word, and then see the Giver behind the gift with eyes of faith.  And once He has given you faith, you are able to see the true gift that He gives behind the physical gift.  He gives to you Himself!

Jesus says to you this morning, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” [vs. 35]  “Take and eat this is my body, which is given for you.  This do in remembrance of Me.”  (Take and) drink of it all of you; this cup is the new testament in My blood, which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sin.  This do as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” [Matthew 26:26-28; Mark 14:22-24; Luke 22:19-20; 1 Corinthians 11:23-25]

What is it that Jesus gives to you?  He gives you Himself; He gives you His body and blood in with and under the gift of bread and wine, and when He gives you Himself, He gives you life… new life; He gives you forgiveness of sins.

IV. Why do we grumble and complain?  Listen, forget the physical reason you might be tempted to gripe, and listen to the truth, the spiritual reason you grumble and fail to see your Savior active in your life.  You grumble because like the Hebrews that God used Moses to save, you are really groaning under bondage; you are in bondage, you are enslaved in your sin.

Your sin is the reason that you so quickly get caught up in the physical blessings and ignore the eternal spiritual blessings.  Your sin is the reason that you so easily forget about your bondage to it, and then forget about your sinfulness; and when you forget about your sinfulness, you also forget about your need for a Savior.  You forget that yours is not a religion like all of the others, a religion where you must work and work to hopefully please and angry god; no yours is a relationship of love and trust with your Creator who has come to you just as you were and done the only work necessary to save you… He has died to take away your sins and set you free!

In the life, the suffering, and the death of Jesus, the Son of God, you have received The Bread of Life, come down from heaven.  He alone satisfies your hunger and gives life to the world.  By His cross only, God has taken away the sins of the World.  And in your baptism, this great gift of forgiveness has been given to you!  In your baptism, Jesus has shared God’s Spirit with you; He alone gives you and always fills you with the power to love and live for others.

And as you live your life loving others, forgiving others, you are also leading them to the same source of strength that has recreated you, the Bread of Heaven, Jesus Christ.  In His Word, Jesus not only washed you clean, but He renews your mind and is constantly recreating you into His image.  He feeds you His very body and blood for the forgiveness of your sins.  He speaks these few precious Words to you over and over again so you will truly receive the Giver behind the gift… “You are forgiven!”

CONCLUSION: It is my prayer and God’s will that you will keep coming to this place to receive His gift and hear the Word that is behind each gift.  As He fills you, it isn’t a phony pumping up like Hans and Franz, but it’s an actual recreation and healing; it’s real change!  It is my prayer and God’s will that you will keep saying along with the people of Capernaum, “Sir, give us this bread always.”

Heavenly Father, keep filling us with your forgiving love and power, so that we may give these same gifts to our neighbors by bringing them to the same source, the bread of life, Jesus Christ.  I ask this in Jesus name… AMEN!

Shout Glory in the Night!

Sunday, May 16th, 2010

Seventh Sunday after Easter, May 16, 2010
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church
Click here for audio of this message
 

Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me  because you loved me before the foundation of the world.” [Jn. 17:24]

 Do you want to see Christ’s glory with your physical eyes and not just your eyes of faith?  Are you sure?  Then pray… beg Him to come quickly, even right this second!  Are you praying for Jesus to come soon?  Then you are praying for Him to end your existence in this world so that you can meet Him in His glory in paradise.  Are you ready for that… I mean are you really ready for that?  Are you sure that you will be meet with a Holy kiss and welcomed into paradise or are you afraid that you will be meet with admonishment and cast outside of the City with the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood? [Rev. 22:15]  You know, what determines your eternal destination is what or Whom you place your trust in!

Harry Connick Jr. tells the story about his first real break in show biz that came in front of Frank Sinatra, the man he made a living out of impersonating. The young singer was nervous; what would his idol think of his performance? When Connick began his performance, he immediately forgot the opening words of the first verse, and that mistake was followed by numerous others.  As he ended the song, he knew it was a disaster, but at the final note, the enthusiastic yet ignorant audience rose to its feet and cheered the singer. The cheers echoed down the halls of the casino. Connick looked to the box where Sinatra was seated; he was looking for the approval of only one man, but Sinatra seemed unimpressed. All the excitement of the crowd could not compensate for the lack of Sinatra’s approval.  (As told by Connick in an interview on American Idol Season 2010)

Much is wrong with our society and even in our own lives. We can all make a list; broken homes, the increase in violence and dishonesty, the lack of integrity in public life, the slow slide of the church into adopting the ways of the world, the decay of sexual morality. It is the duty of the church and every saint within the church to be the watchman who sounds the alarm!  And our only tool that God has given us for this task is His Word… the inerrant Words of the Bible.  This is the most important source of approval that we have; at times it will be our only source.

Our gospel reading for this morning is a prayer, Jesus prayer to be exact.  His time to leave this world had come and He desired that His apostles would be encouraged to know that their master was praying for them and would continue to pray for them.  But we also discover that He is praying for us.  Listen: “I do not (pray) for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” [Jn. 17:20, 21]

 Who is Jesus praying for?  Well He is praying for you!  What is He praying for?  That you might have faith; that you might believe in Him unto salvation!  How does He say this faith, this ability to believe will come to us?  He says that it will be through God’s Word, which comes to us through the Words He has given the apostles. What will be the result of this faith that Jesus asks the Father for?  None other than unity and the spread of the gospel!  Just as the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit exist in unity, our Savior desires that we also be one with Him and with each other!  But He also asks that this unity be used for a purpose, and that is so that the sinful dying world might know Him through God’s Word unto salvation as well.

 Now there may be some here this morning that are right now at this very moment wondering, “But what about my salvation?  How can I know for sure that I will be welcomed into paradise and not admonished and thrown into the darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth?”  Friend, the only way you can be certain is as I stated, through His Word.

God is so serious about His Word that He gives us grave warnings to protect it from anyone who would add to it or take away from it.  Each Word is filled with the power of the Holy Spirit; the power to bring faith to sinners who without it are eternally damned to live in darkness.  Listen to the warning He gives us in our epistle lesson: “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.” [Rev. 22:18-19]  Now some may say, “But that refers to the prophecy found in the book of Revelations!”  And I must warn you that scripture must be taken as a whole.  You can’t cherry pick some as true and reject other portions as false or culturally irrelevant. 

 You see, every word of Scripture must be seen as a sanctuary; a sanctuary which is just as infallible and unchangeable as God Himself. [Deut. 4:2; 12:32; Prov. 30:5–6; Rev. 22:18–19]. Every addition is a sacrilege, since it dilutes God’s Word with the word of men. In the book of Proverbs, God provides this warning to those of us who want to tamper with His Word: ‘Do not add to his words, lest he rebuke you and you be found a liar. [Prov. 30:6]  Jesus Himself defends the completed Word of God this way: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” [Matt. 5:17–19].

Dear friends, God does not want you to leave here afraid and worried.  He wants you to leave here assured that He has made a way for you to join Him in paradise, a way back to the tree of eternal life, and He did it through the fruit of another tree, the tree of woe… the blessed cross.  You see, to hang upon that tree is to be accursed, so Jesus hung on that tree for you!  He bore our curse and removed it from us.  That then is the fruit of eternal life that He gives to you, the fruit of His righteousness… righteousness unto eternal life! [Rev. 22:2, 3]  Friends, He’s given you this fruit within the waters of your baptism, where you have been washed by the water and the Word… you have been washed clean in the blood of the lamb!  He promises you that although you may experience periods of night, it is not the darkness that awaits those who die in their sins because of their rejection of both God’s love and His Word that speaks of Christ’s passion.

You dear saints are now the servants of Jesus Christ; you are allowed by faith to see Him in His Word, seated upon the throne.  You bear His name upon your foreheads because in your baptism you were sealed by the Holy Spirit and moved by that same Spirit through the Word to believe in God’s real presence and His love for you!  You know by faith, that God has a plan for you and you trust in that plan.  And the day will come when night for you will be no more; you will enter the Eternal City as a servant of the Most High God Jesus Christ, and you will be infinitely blessed in that service, because you see, as a servant of the Lamb of God you will no longer have to learn the will of God, because it will be part of your very nature.  And the Lord God will be your light, and you will reign with Him forever and ever! [Rev. 22:3-5]

You see, unlike the sinful world that fears their own death, you are assured that the end of this world, is not something to be feared but anxiously awaited and celebrated when that day comes. Sure, Jesus may come at any moment to repay the entire world for what each individual has done, or he may also come at any time when you close your eyes for that last time in a natural death.  In either case, you dear saints have nothing to fear if you are trusting and resting in God’s Word.  Because in that Word you have been shown that through Jesus Christ you do not have an angry God but a God who loves you.  You have a God who has done all of the work Himself to ensure that you will be with Him, even today… this very moment in paradise! 

Is this your desire friends, to be with Jesus in paradise?  Then always remember this: We have no Christ, no God, and no salvation without His perfect and Holy Word.  And we have no unity with God and ourselves without that same Word.  But the more we have His Word ruling in our hearts and lives by faith, the more perfect our unity with Him and each other becomes.  And the deeper we are drawn into that unity the more we’re assured by God that we have nothing to fear!  The truth is friends, we are as close to Christ and each other as we believe, teach, live, and confess all that is contained in God’s Word. Let’s always remember that every deviation in doctrine, life, and practice from God’s Word distorts our unity and hinders the fulfillment of Jesus’ prayer for unity and assurance. Let’s also remember that people who are bent on changing any part of the Word, also those who demand things that aren’t in that Word must be warned that it is their very salvation and the power of the gospel for the entire world that is at stake!

So friends, spend time in that Word.  Let it become for you the living presence of almighty God.  Let it change you and rearrange you.  Let it alone become your moral compass.  Pray over His Word and meditate on God’s will, and then listen to Him speak!  Can you hear Him whispering to you now in the night of this sinful world?  He is saying, “I am coming soon.”  And what does He want our response to be?  You must shout in the night of this sinful world, “Glory!  Amen!  Come, Lord Jesus, come!”  AMEN!