Posts Tagged ‘Waiting’

Behold the Kingdom of God!

Sunday, December 18th, 2011

4th Sunday in Advent B, December 18th, 2011
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16

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As 2011 is coming to a close, there’s a lot to be thankful for, but there were also a lot of things that we might like to forget, and think of as a bad nightmare.  For instance, we are told that the peak in the foreclosures has not yet been experienced.  There are a lot of good people out there who will continue to lose their homes in 2012.

What started out as the American dream, has turned into an American nightmare.  I have personally met a lot of those good people who’ve lost their homes.  They’ve showed up in record numbers here at our church seeking help in our food pantry and our free community breakfast.  Each one, to the person tells the same story.  Their dream turned to a nightmare when they or someone in their household lost their job in the recession, and then were unable to find a new one.  As time went by, they were forced to choose between eating or paying the mortgage, they chose to eat, and so began the slow and steady decline to foreclosure!

Who’s to blame?  Is it the fault of the homeowner for buying more home than they could afford?  Perhaps.  Is it the fault of the mortgage broker and the banks, writing loans that they knew the perspective buyer couldn’t afford?  Maybe.  Or is it God’s fault?  God’s fault, why would I say that?  Well because more than a few of the people I’ve met have wondered out loud to me, why God allowed this to happen.  They wonder if God was trying to teach them something.

So is it God’s fault?  No, it was their decision to borrow or to give.  They were the ones taking the chance, hoping that God would bless their decision after-the-fact.  This is somewhat similar to the decision King David made, when he decided to build a house, a temple for God.

Since the time of Moses, the Hebrew people toted around the tabernacle of the Lord.  Although vast amounts of earthly wealth were used to create the tabernacle, it was still nothing more than a series of tents.  And now King David had just finished building his palace in Jerusalem, when he realized that the Lord’s Ark of the Covenant was still living in a tent.  So David gets an idea that he’s sure will please God: “I will build the Lord a beautiful temple!”  Now that he had the idea, David wanted to make sure that it would be blessed by God, so he found the Lord’s prophet Nathan and told him about his plan.  And what did the prophet say?  “Go (and) do all that is in your heart, for the Lord is with you.”  The only problem with this is, no one bothered to ask God what He wanted done!

So what did God want?  Well he wanted a home, but not one that David would build; He wanted a home that He would build Himself and establish by His own strength.  And this is where we discover that God’s no isn’t a bad thing, but a blessed thing.  It is the promise that something greater than we could ever imagine or think would be given in its place!

Now eventually, God did allow a house or temple to be built in order to worship Him, but it would not be a temple that could hold Him.  After all, He is God and He is present everywhere.  So while David’s son Solomon would be allowed to build, it would not be the building that would fulfill the Words of promise that came from God Himself.  Listen: “Say to my servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, In all of the places where I have moved with all the people of Israel, did I (ever) speak a Word with (anyone), saying, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?”  (Now) the Lord declares to you that the LORD will make you a house.  And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me.  Your throne shall be established forever.’”

Do you hear God’s “no” in those Words?  But do you also hear His “just wait” in those Words as well?  So what happened?  Well David’s son, King Solomon was allowed to build a house for the Lord, and after Solomon there were a few more from David’s family who sat upon David’s throne, but like all earthly reigns, it came to an end.  And yet God said that David’s house and kingdom would remain forever.  Did God foreclose on the mortgage to David’s reign and throne?  No!  God is not a man that He should change His mind, and He’s not like a bank that He should foreclose.  Behold the Kingdom of God.  A kingdom that comes after God’s no and in the middle of His just wait!

“And the angel said to (Mary), “Do not be afraid for you have found favor with God.  And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call His name Jesus.  He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.  And the Lord God will give to Him the throne of His father David, and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.” [Luke 1:30-32]

Behold the mystery of God’s Kingdom.  Sinful man thinks that he can take a dream and build something that will cause God to bless him; something that will contain the good pleasure of the Creator of the universe.  And God takes that desire and turns it on its head and makes something that will save sinful mankind from their bondage of thinking, living, and dreaming independent, apart from Him!

God used the temple in Jerusalem, a temple that expressed the dream of all people that one day their God and Creator would be pleased with them and live with them.  And through that earthly temple He pointed to an even greater temple;  a temple of human flesh, created by God and occupied by God.  He used our flesh, created in the womb of a virgin through the work of His Holy Spirit.  And then He sent His Son to forever live in that flesh so that God could live among His people.  Behold the mystery of God’s Kingdom!  That Creator moved into and lived among the created forever!  That which is all powerful took on the form of a humble servant.  That which can not contain God does in fact contain God; all of God!  The God Who is the creator of all, took on the form of man so that He could save sinful man!  The flesh of sinful men and women would forever be redeemed and inhabited by God!

Are there any dreams in your life that you’ve been holding onto, waiting  so long for God to respond to?  Have there been dreams that seem to have been lost or foreclosed by God?  Maybe what you thought was God’s final no was really His wait and see.  Maybe, you’ve been walking by faith for so long that you’ve lost track of where you came from and where you’re going?  Maybe you’ve lost sight of your final destination!

So where are you right now?  You are in His Kingdom of Grace!  A Kingdom you neither built nor established.  A Kingdom where your God comes to you embodied in His Living Word and Sacraments.  You can see and hear these things, and you receive them but you can’t explain them.  They are a mystery to you, and yet within the mystery you know by faith that your God is really with you.  In these things you’re shown a crucifix like this one and told that our God who came to us in our flesh died for you, for your sins, and by faith you believe this.  In the waters of your baptism, you are told that you were given a life giving bath of simple water empowered by His Word and Spirit.  By faith you believe that not only is your Savior Jesus Christ really with you, but He will never leave or forsake you!  In the Lord’s Supper, you are given simple bread and wine and through His Living Word you are told and you believe that within those simple elements are Christ’s very body and blood; given for you and shed for you… for the forgiveness of all of your sins.  And within this meal God proves that it was He who began the good work of faith by coming to us in our flesh, dying for our sins, and inhabiting our souls through our baptism, who will complete that work, all while He and He alone is nourishing and strengthening your faith so that you can wait patiently to see God’s wait and see turn into an “I told you so!”

In our Old Testament lesson this morning there’s one important part left out of our reading, and it is David’s response by faith to God’s promise of building a house that will last forever.  Listen, because his response is amazing: “Who am I, O Sovereign Lord, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far?  And as if this were not enough in your sight, O Sovereign Lord, you have also spoken about the future of the house of your servant.  Is this your usual way of dealing with men?” [2 Samuel 7:18-19] The answer to David’s question is a resounding, yes!  This is always how God responds to His children whom He has called into His grace through Jesus Christ, by faith, through the power of His life giving Word!  God’s promise to build your house, to build your future is set on the solid foundation of His Holy Word.  You can’t afford this gift and you can’t earn it; but you can relax and celebrate it because God doesn’t foreclose.  While it’s true that He will allow you to walk away from this gift, He will never ever leave you nor forsake you!

So what is our response to all of this?  We simply cry out with the blessed virgin Mary and say, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your Word.”  AMEN!

Behold Your God!

Sunday, December 4th, 2011

2nd Sunday in Advent B, December 4th, 2011
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
Isaiah 40:1-11

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What kind of God do we serve?  When we give a testimony about Him to our neighbors, what should we say?  Well listen to His own  Words and then behold your God: “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.  Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her  warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.

Not just once, “Comfort”, but twice, “Comfort, comfort.” So the Lord begins with a single repeated command; it’s a command to the  preacher of God’s Word, that would be me, and it’s a command to God’s ambassadors, that would be you. This command flows from the  mind of God, and God himself directed it to his messengers, messengers who will announce the good news of his love. God wants  everyone to hear this message. He claims all people as His own when He calls them, “my people.”  Think about that for a moment; after  all of our unfaithfulness, all our rebellion, all our sins, we are still his people. God remains our God; for us He is still faithful and  gracious, just as he promised to be: “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and  faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin” (Exodus 34:6, 7).

What is our warfare?  It is our struggle to fulfill God’s Law.  It is realizing that because of our sin we can’t make things right with God.  But in order for our warfare to be over, in order to receive a double portion of God’s own comfort we will need to see our sin and want it removed; we need to hunger for His forgiveness; we need to receive it according to His terms and not ours.  Each of us must admit that we alone bear the responsibility for our hard life, the hard service that our life represents.  It was our own sin that separated us from God’s love and it is our insistence on atoning for that sin our own way that causes such warfare.

This morning God’s is asking each of us to agree with Him that all of our accomplishments, the things that we count as good are like grass and the beauty of wild flowers in a field.  The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the Lord blows on it, when He calls us home.  Then all of our goodness vanishes as we stand before a perfect and holy God.

This was the message of John the Baptist as he lived his life proclaiming the way of the Lord; preparing the way of the Lord!

This morning, that same Word, that same message is crying out to us from the wilderness of our hearts: “Prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.  Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. 5 And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

Prepare the way of the Lord. To our sinful ears, this is a hard word to understand, because it sounds like God is asking us to do even more to earn His love; but that is exactly what He isn’t saying.  No, instead, He’s telling us that He will no longer let us do things our way.   To prepare the way of the Lord means to prepare ourselves for the Lord’s activity in us, so that He alone may be our source of help and pride; so that our lives and eternities will be one with His Son Jesus Christ. But how is this way prepared? What are the obstacles and obstructions we are to remove?  Nothing other than our own arrogance and pride. Those are the very things that prevent people from receiving the grace of Christ.

So how hard can it be?  Well to walk this way, you have to get onto God’s royal highway naked as a Jay bird!  You can’t travel with any merits of your own; you have to receive only the clothing that God provides!  You must be clothed only with His double gifts of grace and faith!  Your heart must agree with the psalmist and say: “If You, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand,” (who could walk on your royal road to your royal kingdom)? “But with you there is forgiveness (there is grace and faith)” [Psalm 130:3]

Now, this is where all sinners equally stand at the edge of a cliff; they will either allow God to turn them away from certain death and see the beauty of God’s way, or they will ignore the way of the Lord all together and jump head-long into pride and an eternity of death.  Those who chose death hear the command to prepare the way of the Lord and say, “What more do you want me to do? I go to church every Sunday and I try to be good. What do you want from me now?” But what they fail to see is that if there is any doing to be done, it must be done by God.  They fail to see that the mountains and valleys that God wants leveled are in our own hearts.  Martin Luther said that the Mountains are saints, and valleys are sinners. As we stand before God all of us are the same without distinction, whether we are saints or sinners. In fact, you who are baptized are both at the same time!  This is the way of God; He levels the playing field.  But why? So that the gospel can be receive by everyone with the exact same assurance; God’s Word gives exactly what it promises… an eternal life of peace with God.  Before God all things must be leveled.

In God’s declaration of double comfort is the assurance that the Law has been fulfilled for us.  Our sin has been removed from us.  He is telling us that we have been set free from our sins, not by working and struggling but by the forgiveness that the Son of God, Jesus Christ provided for us through His suffering and death upon the cross. This is the continual message of God’s Word, which teaches deliverance from sins by forgiveness and grace; grace completely removed from anything we do or fail to do.  This is not the way of the world, but it is God’s way!  God’s way is the gospel, and the gospel doesn’t look backwards at the life we led, but it looks to Jesus Christ upon the cross Who and says, “Believe God, trust in God. For your faith receives forgiveness for sins.”

Faith is completely a gift from God.  It allows you to hear His Word and believe it.  It is a Word, which declares that you are no longer a slave to sin; you are no longer locked in the dungeon of fear and pain! Your hard service is over, not because you’ve earned it or because you’ve done your time and satisfied the law. No, your bondage is over because God has provided your release through his Son, Jesus Christ!

Jesus alone paid the debt, a debt caused by every twisted and perverted sin ever committed, even your sins!  Your debt has been paid off. Your sins are forgiven; they  were paid for by the suffering and death of Jesus Christ. “The Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6).

So as our reading says this morning, we have been paid double.  Not only have we been forgiven and promised to receive the blessing of an eternal life of peace with God, but we may also enjoy that blessing in the here and now, in this sinful world.  But you have been blessed to be a blessing to others.  How?  By speaking the gospel.  The gospel alone saves people from all sin.  It alone is what saved you, correct?  So the voice of God speaks to us this morning and says, Cry out!  You who have heard the good news and been freed from the bondage of your own sins, “lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, and do not be afraid; say to the people in your community, “Here is your God!”  See the Sovereign Lord born in a manger; see Him high and lifted up, crucified for you… for your sins.  He is the Sovereign Lord who is coming again with power and His arm rules for Him.  His arm is His Holy Word, and His reward and recompense is in the gospel for you.  Jesus died to save you!

Speak the gospel, and do not be afraid to give your witness, because that witness and the Word of God are the very power of God!  No one can become a Christian, no one can be saved unless they hear the Word of God and receive the gift of faith from God which comes through the hearing of His Word.

I’d like to close with a Christmas story that explains very nicely how God prepares us and puts us on His road of salvation.  It was Christmas almost Fifty years ago when a man named Rex was stationed in Korea as a young Marine lieutenant. His wife and new born daughter were home in the United States.

On Christmas morning the thermometer hovered around zero with several inches of snow covering the ground. Outdoor worship services were planned and Rex decided to attend out of respect and “to set a good example for the other men.” Nearly two hundred Marines turned out for the service. They sat on their helmets in the snow. They faced a small portable altar. The chaplains had no microphones, and the portable organ suffered from the extreme cold.

Something happened to Rex in that worship service. God broke into his life. He thought of all that was precious to him: home, his wife, his unseen infant child. In that moment as they tried to sing Christmas carols in the cold air he realized that knowing God does not depend on anything he has done or will do; it doesn’t depend on a building or nice clothes, instead knowing God is an act that God does in our hearts so that it can be celebrated and shared with others.” Far from home and loved ones, Rex realized that Christmas Day — in itself — is not important, but the faith it represents is.”

The truth is, God often breaks into our lives in unexpected ways and at unexpected times. He always does it through His Word and He does it through people speaking and sharing that Word.

Behold the mystery of your God; He comes to you in your own language!  Born as a baby in a manger; beaten and bloodied by the government and mocked with the words, “Behold your king!”  Crucified to silence Him, and now reigning with power and might!  Behold your God!  Behold the Lord God comes as your Savior who will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms, (even you); he will carry (you) in his bosom, and gently lead to your eternal heavenly home.  Come Lord Jesus, come!  AMEN!

Wait!

Sunday, November 27th, 2011

1st Sunday in Advent B, November 27th, 2011
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
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We spend our whole lives waiting.  We learn to wait for Mom or Dad to hold us when we cry.  We waited for Christmas and Easter with great anticipation.  We waited to be old enough to go to school.  We waited anxiously to start high school and then we waited to graduate.  We wait for our first kiss and then we wait for our first love.  We wait to find our spouse and then we wait for our first child.  We wait for the perfect calling or occupation and then we wait for retirement.  We wait for grandchildren, and then we wait and wonder whether it will be our spouse or ourselves who will die first.  How sad it is for those who wait without hope!

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!  These are more than just words of greeting and introduction from our epistle lesson, (1 Corinthians 1:3-9) they are the gospel itself. Within these words are the very truth that “God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” [John 3:16]  This is a statement of fact.  God loves the entire world; He sent His Son Jesus Christ to die for everyone including you!  There is no room for discussion within these words, because it is a certainty.  If you will receive this truth you will have peace; not a feeling of peace that the world tries to sell as peace, but real God given peace; assurance that even if everything is going to hell around you, for you it is well with your soul because God loves you and Jesus died for you.

How do you know that this peace is real?  You just do; you see, it’s more than just a feeling it is a certainty, and this certainty is the result of God’s gift of faith; faith to believe that in spite of everything that is going on around you, God is still with you and will never leave you.  By faith His Word promises that one day soon, He will come among us again and He will take you home to be with Him.  You know this is true because His Word, like the Word in our gospel lesson this morning (Mark 13:24-37) promises you this very thing.  And so you wait.

But there are some who hear this truth and they are not moved in the least.  Even though they have waited their entire lives for everything else, for this one thing that is the greatest of all other things, they refuse to believe and wait for it!  They refuse to put their name in the statement of fact that God so loved them, that He gave His only Son Jesus, so that they can receive Him, love Him, and believe in Him as their savior and God!

Then there are those who believe that God’s grace through Jesus Christ is theirs; they believe that Jesus died for them but their lives don’t demonstrate the love and loyalty of someone who is waiting for Jesus to return.  They have in fact received God’s gift of grace that was given to them in Jesus Christ, and in every way they have been enriched by God’s Word, which has come to them in all manner of speech and knowledge, yet they are living a life that in no way demonstrates that they are waiting for Jesus to come again.  Why?  I mean, they’ve had His message of grace confirmed among them in all manner of ways; they lack nothing in terms of God’s mighty gifts that reveal Jesus presence among them, and it does not seem to make the least bit of difference in their lives.

Theirs is the washing and regeneration of the water and the Word in their baptism!  Theirs is the sweet Word of forgiveness and the leading of the Holy Spirit into repentance!  Theirs is God’s own meal of forgiveness through the body and blood of Jesus!  All of these things continually provide grace and peace, yet they still live a life that reflects nothing of that grace and peace given by God Himself.  They live like someone who has nothing to wait for!  Why?

With both of these different yet similar groups of people, God’s Word still calls out to them to repent; turn to His forgiving heart that comes only through the life, death, resurrection, ascension, and return of Jesus!

I am praying for these people with anguish in my heart that they would see the season of Advent as more than just a time of waiting for Christmas and baby Jesus.  Oh how I have cried my heart out to God for so many of them; so many who seemed to have deliberately chosen His coming judgment over salvation.  I have tried to convince, implore, and even to my shame out of desperation, I have tried to manipulate these people into God’s Kingdom of grace, but still they will not turn in repentance to God’s grace and peace.

But you dear Christians have.  You have heard the advent Word of repentance and you have taken your sins to the cross of your Savior.  Through God’s gift of faith, you have not rejected Jesus, and because of that faith, you know that you are not lacking in any gift of God.  By faith you rest in God’s grace, peacefully waiting until Jesus returns.

In grace, you wait peacefully and you watch for the revealing of your Lord Jesus Christ.  It is God’s gift of grace and peace that sustains you to the very end, and as you wait you continue to feed your soul with the gospel Word that assures you that when Jesus returns, He will present you as His gift to the Heavenly father; a gift that is guiltless.  You know this because your God is faithful.  By faith, you know that it was He who called you into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord and it is He alone who will sustain that same faith through His

In our gospel reading this morning, Jesus gives us some interesting words to close with.  He says that “this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.  Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”

What is the generation that Jesus speaks about?  It is the generation of those who wait, and those who refuse to wait!  They were there when He was born in a manger, they were there when He was crucified upon the cross, and they are still here today.  Some will wait expecting to be greeted by God’s loving heart and they will not be disappointed.  Others refuse to wait and will dismiss our Lord’s coming as  pure rubbish.  Will they one day repent before it is too late?  I hope so; I pray so.  But as we pray and wait to see the outcome, for us, the church of Jesus Christ, our waiting is really a time of peace, because it is well with our souls.  So we wait and during this season of advent we sing: “Savior of the nations, come, Virgin’s Son, make here Your home!  Marvel now, O heav’n and earth, that the Lord chose such a birth.” [LSB 332 vs. 1]