Posts Tagged ‘Will of God’

A Promise is a Promise!

Sunday, July 29th, 2018

Pentecost 10B
July 29, 2018
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor of
Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street
San Diego, CA 92114

Click here for audio of this message

“Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, to Bethsaida.” [Mark 6:45a]

Another way to say that is, Jesus compelled them; no He insisted that they get into the boat.  He had them get into a boat that He knew would soon be in all kinds of trouble.  He had them get into a boat that He knew was headed into a storm that was about to kick up on the lake.  But He also knew that when the storm was raging in its fierceness, in conditions that would cause grown men to cry out in fear like children, He would walk out on the water to them. Why?

When all three of my boys were younger I had the distinct joy that I sometimes think only a Dad can truly appreciate; I took the training wheels off of their bicycles and made them learn to ride their bikes.  I did it knowing that they would fall, scrape their knees, and maybe even bloody their lips; I did it because I wanted them to experience freedom from fear.  I wanted them to learn that they could trust me and their bike.  I promised each of them that they could learn to ride a bike without the training wheels.  And after a few falls and encouragement from me, they learned that I was right, they could ride a bike!

So why did Jesus compel the disciples to get into that boat.   So that they would learn that God keeps His promises!  They needed to learn that Jesus would never leave nor forsake them; even when it seemed that He wasn’t with them He really was.  He was watching them from a secret location that they were not aware of.  They needed to learn that Jesus is the God-man who even controls the wind and sea; why He even controls sickness and disease.

So what things does God compel us to do today?  

Well certainly as we pray every day in the Lord’s Prayer, we discover that He compels us to pray for His Kingdom and His will to be done every day here on earth as it is done in heaven.  But when we pray those petitions, He is also inviting us to experience His kingdom as He leads and guides us every day of our lives.  As Luther taught long ago, God’s kingdom and His will come and are done whether we pray for them or not, but in the Lord’s Prayer we are invited to ask God that they would first come in us and then be done through us.

Now I believe there is a question that begs to be asked; I really must ask it, even if it causes fear.  Do you really want God’s Kingdom to take over your life?  Do you really want His will to be done in your life?

What if having His kingdom come in your life means that you must admit that He is right and you are wrong?  What if it means that you must agree with God and admit that a certain style of living that our society says is ok, is really a sin? And what if agreeing with God about that sin will upset a whole bunch of people who are close to you?

What if having God’s will being done in your life means that you must leave a place of employment, a good job, because it builds and celebrates a kingdom of darkness instead of God’s kingdom of grace?  What if God’s will being done in and through you means that He may allow you to become sick with an illness or disease?  Do you still have the courage to pray for that will?

You will, if you remember who it is that is with you.  It is Jesus, He who sees all things, even things we cannot see or understand.  It is Jesus who not only walks on water but controls everything that makes you afraid.  And just as Jesus spoke Words of comfort to the apostles in the boat, He speaks Words of comfort to you this morning: “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” [Mark 6:50]  This morning, Jesus would like you to remember that He has always been with you and He always will be.  He promises that He will never leave nor forsake you and no one can snatch you out of His hand.

Dear friends, God’s promises are always powerful and they are always reliable.  

In our Old Testament lesson (Genesis 9:8-17), God promised Noah and His family (and all of us) that He would never again destroy the earth by way of a flood.  And to be sure that they (and we) would remember that promise and count on it, He placed that promise behind a sign in the sky, the rainbow!

Listen don’t worry about things like how the rainbow is naturally made when raindrops act like a prism and reflect sunlight, breaking white sunlight into colors.  That is simply an explanation of how we see a rainbow; we need to concentrate on the why we see it!  We see the rainbow because God knew that we needed to have a sign of life, not death.  We needed to learn that we could count on His blessing and good will.  We need that sign to bring us comfort not fear.  We need to remember that God keeps His promises!

That rainbow like all of the other signs that God gives to us, should remind us to thank God and give Him praise for His goodness and forgiving love.  Every time we see the rainbow we should remember that God’s anger over our sin has been replaced by His forgiving love that is ours through the cross of Jesus.  Through Jesus’s life blood that was poured out for our sins, we no longer have an angry God, but instead we have a loving and forgiving God!  And in your baptism, God gave you another great sign; He gave you the sign of that very cross that sets you free.  

In your baptism the sign of the cross was made upon your heart and your brow to mark you as God’s own child.  You have been sealed with the promise that God through Jesus Christ has won you; He has redeemed you as His very own.  And because you are His own, He promises that He will never leave you nor forsake you!  But the promise is not just for you it is for the entire world; for anyone who will not reject that Holy washing; for anyone who will simply trust and rest in God’s divine power to do exactly as He says He will do… save you from sin, death, and the devil himself!

An elderly Christian was in much distress as she lay dying. “Oh, Pastor,” she said, “for years I have relied upon the promises of God, but now in my time of death I can’t remember a single one to comfort me.” Knowing that Satan was disturbing her, the preacher said, “My Sister, do you think that GOD will forget any of His promises?” A smile came over the old woman’s face as she exclaimed joyfully. “No, no! He won’t! Praise the Lord, now I can fall asleep in Jesus and trust Him to remember them all and bring me safely to Heaven.” Peace flooded her soul, and a short time later she was ushered by the angels into the light of God’s eternal day.

Dear friends, in your baptism God has given you not only His promise that He is with you and that all things will work for your good and your eternal salvation, but He has also given you a sign.  

Whenever you are afraid, whenever you are lonely and unsure of your life, remember God’s promises by remembering your baptism, and then make the sign of the cross and thank and praise God for His goodness!  Remember as St. Paul said in our Epistle reading (Ephesians 3:14-21), He has given you everything you need to be strengthened with His power through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.  And then remember that wherever the Holy Spirit is, there Jesus is as well.  Do you hear that good news?  Jesus is always with you living in your hearts by faith.  And through that wonderful gift of faith, God gives you peace by assuring you that Jesus is always with you, strengthening and protecting you, just as His Word promised long ago in your baptism, when He first washed you clean.  It is that same Word you hear preached to you now, and it is the same Word you will soon receive in our Lord’s meal of forgiveness.  Oh, God is so good!

And just as God was with Noah and His family before, during, and after the flood He is with you now.  Just as the Son of God was with the apostles before, during, and after the storm on the lake, He is with you now and always will be.  He lives in His Word, in the promises it makes about forgiveness of sin and eternal life, and He lives, He dwells within you in power.  

Within each of you is the fullness of God; it fills you and if you will trust it, it will well up within you and come out of you like living water.  No matter the cost to living out God’s will, He provides everything you need to know that He is with you.  As you rest in His kingdom, He is not only protecting you, he is living in you, attracting and inviting others to experience that very same presence of God.  And God’s presence not only lives in you, but it also goes before you as you trust His promises of presence and forgiveness and as you speak those promises to others.

Dear Lord may your kingdom come and your will be done in us and through us in Jesus name… AMEN!

“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] 

Don’t Be A Little Herod

Sunday, January 3rd, 2016

Christmas 2 (HL), January 3rd, 2016
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor
Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego, CA
http://www.tlcsd.org

Click here for audio of this message

Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” [Matthew 2:13]

Perhaps the title of our message, “Don’t Be a Little Herod” has got you wondering what God and your pastor may be up to in this message.  Maybe your even thinking, “How could someone imagine that any of us would be even remotely similar to that vile villain, Herod.”  Well, we will address both the title and those questions in a moment, but first let’s look at the most obvious things the church must address within this historic text.

There are three things that demand our acknowledgment this morning; they are three things that the church has always acknowledged within this text.

First, we must understand that our plans no matter how God-pleasing, how extensive, or how well thought out they are, are not necessarily God’s plans.  You see, there is a way that seems good, right, and salutary to sinful men and women, but in the end; in the end they lead to death. [Proverbs 14:12]  Joseph and Mary had a good plan.  They probably put a lot of thought into where they would raise their son, God’s Son.  And after much prayer and love for the boy, they intended to remain in Bethlehem indefinitely.  But then Herod entered the picture.

Jesus must have been several weeks old buy the time the Magi showed up to worship Him as the King of Israel.  But the Magi didn’t stay long; as soon as the closing benediction was announced, off they went into the night, because they were warned by God not to return to Herod.  But the Magi weren’t the only ones who were warned by God of Herod’s evil intentions.  Joseph, warned by God in a dream woke, roused Mary and off they went to Egypt, a strange land they neither knew nor wished to know.

And so goes the ways and plans of men, even God fearing Christian parents.

Second, we learn that bad things really do happen to good people; even people we call innocent… people like the little children of Bethlehem that had done nothing to deserve death.  This gospel reading has always been reserved for acknowledging the first martyrs of the church.  We call this High Holy Day, “The Slaughter of the Innocents.”  What is interesting to note is that while they died so that Jesus the Messiah could live to begin and complete His ministry, because Jesus lived, He would latter die so that they could be forgiven of their sins (even that great original sin inherited from Adam and Eve), and live for eternity in paradise.

Third and finally, we must acknowledge that if God has determined that a thing will happen, it will.  Even Herod’s evil was no problem to God; God already knew what was in Herod’s heart since the beginning of time; God planned for it.  And to prove this, God had his prophets proclaim three promises long ago so that you could read and hear about them today, and thus be assured that all things really do work for “the good” for those who are called by God and know and love Him by faith. [Romans 8:28]

First, God said long ago through the prophet Hosea, “Out of Egypt I will call my Son.” [Hosea 11:1]  An indeed, God did that very thing when Joseph and Mary were latter directed to take Jesus, the Son of God and return to the Holy Land.

Secondly, the prophecy of Jeremiah stands out for us in these Words, “A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.” [Jeremiah 31:15]  These Words, while they immediately refer to the Israelites going into exile in Assyria and then Babylon, they ultimately find fulfillment in the slaughter of the innocents at the hand of Herod.  But what is interesting are the next two verses proclaimed by Jeremiah; verses which bring the hope of new life, which is intricately connected with both the life and death of this Christ-Child who escaped the evil plan of Herod.  Listen: “Thus says the Lord: “Keep your voice from weeping, and your eyes from tears, for there is a reward for your work, declares the Lord, and they shall come back from the land of the enemy.  There is hope for your future, declares the Lord, and your children shall come back to their own country.””  Here in this ancient prophecy, we already find the proclamation of the gospel; a gospel that promises that God will actually overcome the evil will of devils and men.  Here is the Word of God announcing that through this Child, the very Son of God, our true enemies, which are sin, death, and the devil have been defeated!

And finally, all of scriptures declares that even the place where the boy Jesus would grow to be a man had been determined and announced for a reason.  Listen: “But when (Joseph) heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there, and being warned in a dream he withdrew to the district of Galilee.  And he went and lived in a city called Nazareth, so that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, that he would be called a Nazarene.”  While God left the choice of the town to Joseph, and Joseph alone selected this place, the hand of God was, nevertheless, guiding him. This becomes clear when we read: “in order that what was spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, for he shall be called a Nazarene.”

A Nazarene is one who hails from Nazareth. All of us familiar with the gospels know that the enemies of Jesus branded him the “Nazarene,” as if it was a curse word.  That name would become infamously attached to Jesus and His disciples, and it would loudly proclaim the reason for His rejection among His own people. They put into that title all the hate and derision possible. And this is “what was spoken through the prophets.”  All of the prophets that spoke of the rejection of the Messiah explained that He would be despised by the very people He would come to save. [Psalm 22:6; Isa. 49:7; Isa 53:3; Dan. 9:26; and Deut. 18:18]

If Jesus had been reared in Jerusalem, He could not have been vilified as the Nazarene (Can any thing good come from Nazareth?).  But if Jesus was not vilified by sinners, how could we hold other villains  such as Herod up to Him and contrast true evil to divine goodness?  Which brings us to the warning within the title of our sermon, “Don’t be a little Herod.”

I think that it is true to say, we are comfortable in seeing Herod as the ultimate Gospel villain; the epitome of evil incarnate if you will.  We very quickly see the depths of his sin and treachery and we comfortably think that it is impossible for one of us to stoop or fall so low.  But Herod is in fact every man, woman, and child.

Herod teaches us that it is within our sinful human nature to be openly rebellious to the kingship of Jesus.  You see, if Jesus is Lord, then we are not.

What was the first sin of Adam and Eve?  Wasn’t it to become like God?  And friends, we have been trying to do that very thing ever since the fall.  So what do you think our immediate reaction is, when God through His law exposes our false lordship over our lives as a sinful delusion.  Herod was delusional, and so are all sinners one way or another.  Each of us in our own way tries to play God.  While its true that Herod was an extreme example, he certainly isn’t an isolated case.  Herod is what every man, woman, and child is deep down in our hearts.  Every sinful thought or action that we are confronted with through the law of God is evidence that testifies against us that we are indeed little Herods by nature.  It’s those very sins that tempt us to doubt, hate, plot revenge, and then resist the real King and unseat Him from the throne of our hearts.

Every Sunday we as the church militant, within our prayers and collects pray for God’s help in defeating the little Herods that threaten the security of our salvation.  We are always reminded how God has poured out His love in our hearts through the presence of Jesus Christ His Son, His Word that has become Flesh.  It is this Word of God that creates faith, and it is this faith that creates a desire within us for Jesus to be our Lord, even upon the throne of our own sinful hearts.

The truth is friends, God can and has dealt with the likes of Herod; He has done it once and for all.  And…

God can deal with our little Herods too.

God defeated the plans of the devil and his little puppet Herod by protecting His Son and giving Him His foster father Joseph, who fled with the baby and His mother to Egypt.  Herod in all his authority and might couldn’t overcome one little baby.  God makes him out the fool and then he dies.  And that pretty much sums up the rest of the gospels too.

A poor carpenter turned rabbi begins to preach and teach in a small insignificant part of the world.  The collective powers and authorities there would try to kill Him, and when they finally succeeded in crucifying Him, they thought they had won.  Yet, along comes the third day and it’s proven that God’s power really is glorified in weakness, even the weakness of a cross, and the fruit of Christ’s cross then produces eternal life.  And this is always God’s way; the Kingdom of God starts as the smallest of seeds and then spreads (and is still spreading) to the four corners of the world.

The Herods of this world will all die one way or another, even us.  God deals with them in two ways.  For the unrepentant like Herod, God kills them and destroys their evil plans and still accomplishes His purposes in spite of them.  The other way, the way you dear saints are following much even better.   God still kills you, but then He raises you up again with Jesus.  That’s exactly what He has done and is doing for you.

Every Sunday we witness mass deaths within God’s Divine Service, in fact everyone of us should be dying to ourselves right now; we should come here prepared to die; we come to die to self, die to sin, to have our little Herod crushed by God.  God drowned that little Herod in the waters of your Baptism, like He drowned evil Pharaoh in the Red Sea, but He doesn’t stop there.  You see, He has raised you up again in the forgiveness of your sins to everlasting life.  He pours into your heart the true light of the Incarnate Word so that His light might shine brightly in your life.  He nourishes you with the food that grants eternal life in His body and blood, which you will receive soon in the Sacrament of the Altar.

The world expects a king who wins like other kings; with brute strength. Instead, we have been found by a God who defeats the powers and principalities of this world by falling into their clutches and being crucified.  Your sin must be dealt with from within this sinful world.  If God came from above, with His Divine strength and fury, you and I would be utterly destroyed because we are sinners who only deserve death.  But instead, God in His wisdom came down to the depths of our human need by becoming needy, and He deals with our sin by becoming sin for us and dying the death we deserve.

This morning, we see the holy family suffering just like the rest of this broken world. Herod’s rage was simply a glimpse into what was to come at the cross.  The Christ child in His weakness, was always threatened, but God the Father was always with Him.  The truth is dear friends, while we live within this sinful world there will always be suffering and inequity, and this suffering will always lead towards death.  And because of this reality, we tend to forget that God has already prefigured all of this, and still guarantees that all things will work for the good of His saints.

Here is a truth worth remembering: What the enemy takes, God can give back a hundredfold within His Kingdom.  The eyes of Rachel will be dried and one day her tears will be no more.  This is precisely what will happen when the King comes again, but He does not come in weakness; no He comes in power and strength to open up the very gates of His kingdom to you.  Jesus alone brings each of you back to paradise restored, where you will live in the light of the Incarnate Word Jesus Christ forever and ever.  In Jesus’ name… Amen.

Back to the Future

Sunday, August 9th, 2015

11th Sunday in Pentecost-B, August 9, 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 this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.” (Ephesians 4:17, 18).

The music you just heard is the theme song to the hit three-part movie classic, “Back to the future.”  But before we tie that into our message as a mental hook, I want to ask you a few questions: What does it mean to walk in the futility of our minds?  What does it mean to say, “Brother or Sister So and So, is living a dark life, alienated from God, because they are ignorant of the promises of God?”  Could this really happen to a Christian; could it happen to us?  Could we become so hard in our hearts that we are separated from God, and lost forever?  Well, not if God has anything to say about it, and this morning, He has plenty to say.  And what He says is meant to strengthen your faith so that you will not loose hope; so that you will be strengthened for this journey we call life!

This morning’s Old Testament lesson (1 Kings 19:1-8) is a case study of such a person.  Meet Elijah, perhaps the greatest prophet who ever lived and was called by God.  But Elijah’s greatness was not found within his own merits or personality, but within the almighty God who called him to serve.  And now, Elijah was about to be reminded of the God who takes all His children back to the future.  Let’s look at the ministry and life of Elijah…

Ahab had become the King of Israel.  Scripture says that he sinned “against the Lord more than any of his predecessors.” He married an evil, wicked woman named Jezebel, the daughter of a foreign king, and together they worshiped Baal (a sun god). He also built an image of Asherah, another foreign goddess.  In response to all of the evil Ahab and Jezebel had brought to God’s people, Elijah was moved by the LORD to declare a drought “in the name of the Lord, the living God of Israel – (which meant no dew or rain for 2 to 3 years) or as Elijah would have said it to the diabolical pair,  “Until I say so.”

After the prophecy, God warned Elijah to go and hide, and he did, going first to Cherith Brook near the Jordan where ravens were commanded by God to bring him bread and meat until the brook ran dry.  After that, he stayed with the widow of Zarephath who shared her last handful of flour and bit of olive oil every day “for many days”.  When her son became ill and died, Elijah stretched himself out on the boy and through his prayer, God restored the boy to life.

In the third year of the drought, the Lord told Elijah to return to Ahab.  When they meet Ahab tells Elijah that he is the worst troublemaker in Israel.  Elijah retorts: “You are disobeying the Lord’s commands, and so it is you O King, who is bringing trouble to Israel.”

The two agree to a contest between God and the Baal.  450 prophets of Baal and 400 of Asherah meet little old Elijah on Mt. Carmel.  Elijah tells Israel to make up their minds, which they will serve, God or Baal.  Two altars are built, two bulls are killed and the contest begins.  “Don’t light the fire” Elijah says,  … “let the prophets of Baal pray to their god and I will pray to the Lord, and the one who answers by sending fire — he is God.”  When Elijah’s turn comes after the failure of the false prophets, he pours water on his altar, soaking both wood and sacrifice.  Then God brings fire down and consumes the wood, the sacrifice, the stones of the altar, and scorches the earth.  The people acknowledge the true God, and at Elijah’s command all of the prophets of Baal and Asherah are killed.

When Jezebel learned of the death of the prophets, she sent a message to Elijah:  “May the god’s strike me dead if by this time tomorrow I don’t kill you for what you did to the prophets of Baal.”  Elijah flees … again … and then the account of today’s text occurs.

Elijah, depressed, in hiding after a day of travel, sits under a tree and “wished he would die.”  “It’s too much, Lord.” he prayed.  “Take away my life: I might as well be dead.”  And he sleeps.

The angel of the Lord, who seems to be the pre-incarnate Son of God, Jesus Christ, wakens him and encourages him to eat bread and water, which He provides.  Elijah goes back to sleep, perhaps still to depressed to get up.  The angel of the Lord wakes him a second time and insists that he eat more “or the trip will be too much for you.”  Elijah eats and drinks again and “the food gave him strength to walk 40 days.”  And where is it that he goes?  He goes back to the beginning; back to the birth place of God’s people of faith; he goes back to Horeb, or as you may know it Mount Sinai, the holy mountain of God, the very place where Moses had received the Law from God 600 years earlier.

Have you ever been there; so tired of being beat down by life that you just wanted to lay in bed and never get up?  Maybe some have felt so defeated by life that you actually just wanted to die?  Maybe like Elijah, you said, “Ok Lord, that’s enough.  Just take me home.”  For any of us beaten down by life, by sin, sickness, disease, and the devil, God has His means of strengthening us.  He feeds us His holy bread of heaven, and in the strength of that food, he sends us back out into the wilderness of life, where in the midst of storms and earthquakes we will once again hear him speak; softly and tenderly He speaks to us a message of hope and peace.  So in the strength of that food, the Word of God, we get up and follow where He leads.

In our epistle lesson, we are given a puzzle that only God can solve.  We are told that this is the good news; the gospel that brings us hope, but if we read it on our own, thinking like Elijah that we battle our Ahabs and Jezebels with our own strength, we will find only more despair in those words.  Listen: “Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” [Ephesians 4:25-32]

How can these words be anything but an accusation of our weakness and failures to do the things we are commanded to do?  By hearing them not as a command, but as an invitation to go out into the wilderness facing whatever comes with the strength of the food Jesus gives; by going back to the beginning we go back to the future that God has prepared for us before hand.  The beginning, our beginning is Jesus Himself, so…

Read those words this way and you will understand: “Because Jesus has given you new life, you will put away falsehood.  Because Jesus died for your sins and appeased the anger of God on your behalf, you will be angry but not sin.  Because Jesus defeated the devil upon the cross, you will likewise give the devil no opportunity to accuse you.  Because it is the work of God’s Holy Spirit to ensure that you are fed the very Words of Jesus unto eternal life, you will not grieve the Holy Spirit.  Because the Holy Spirit, within the very waters of your baptism has sealed you for the day of the resurrection and eternal life, you will allow all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander to be put away from you, along with all malice.  Because in Christ you are always shown God’s friendly heart, you too will be kind to others and tenderhearted, forgiving your neighbor as God in Christ forgave you.”

And there my friends is the power of God that assures you that the food he gives is enough for your journey.  The word says, “As God in Christ forgave you.”  Do you hear the good news in those words?  Forgiveness is a done deal; it already has been pronounce.  Now by faith, you must live that out.  When you fail and fall to sin, you must get back up strengthened for the journey of life in the food you are fed.  And what is that food?  It is the very beginning and source of the food; which is both the Giver and the Food…

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” [John 6:35]  For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of Him who sent me.”

“And this is the will of Him who sent Jesus, that He should lose nothing of all that has been given to Him, but raise it up on the last day (on the day that your journey in the wilderness shall come to an end and you arrive at the Mountain of the Lord).  For this is the will of the Father, that everyone who looks to (Jesus) the Son (of God) and believes in (Him) should have eternal life, and He will raise you who believe (to eternal life) on the last day.”

Amen, amen, whoever believes (in Jesus, already) has eternal life.  Jesus IS the bread of life; the bread of life that comes down from heaven, so that anyone who eats of it will not die.  Jesus IS the living bread that came down from heaven.  If anyone eats of Him, they will live forever.  And the bread that Jesus gives for the life of the world is His flesh.  He says, “Take and eat this is my body.”

This Jesus is the very same Son of God who like you walked that 40 days in the wilderness amongst the temptations of the devil, and yet He did not sin.  This Jesus like you was fatigued and beaten down by His journey; He grew hungry and His flesh was refreshed by food supplied by the angels.  This Jesus also walked towards a Mountain that seemed too high to climb, but it was not Mount Horeb, but Calvary.  As Jesus looked upon the mountain of sin that He must climb, he saw the skulls of millions of dead men and women who ever died and would die in the hope that God’s Champion would one day come and deliver them from death unto eternal life.  And so, in the strength of the food that the Father had provided, He climbed that mountain carrying His own cross.  And as he hung there at the top of Calvary, it was really from the top of the world, because as He drew His last breath in our flesh, the voice of God thundered out of His mouth from heaven… “IT IS FINISHED.” Your debt owed to God on account of sin has been paid in full.

This is what it means dear friends to journey to the Mount of God; the place where an eternal new beginning was created.  But there is still one more beginning you must turn your hearts and minds to, before you go back out on this pilgrimage we call life.  You must go back to your personal  beginning; back to the waters of your baptism.  The place where God sealed you with the Holy Spirit; the place where all of the benefits and fruits of the cross were made yours.

Like Elijah we to must daily make our return back to the font, the place of our beginning.  It is there in the waters of our baptism, where our transformation to be holy, perfect and righteous began, and it is there that it will find its completion.  This process of change, of success and failure requires us again and again to look backwards to that glorious day when God began His good work within us, so that we will know that it will be Him and Him alone, through faith in Christ, who will complete that work.  And as we look back, we remember God’s kind heart, and it is from that point in our lives  that God gives us the true bearings to continue our journey.  It is always from that “place of beginnings” that one walks forward to not only our eternal future, but to receive strength to deal with the challenges within the here and now.  May God continue to bless your journey towards the resurrection and eternal life, and I ask this in Jesus name… 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!

Predestined For Glory

Sunday, July 12th, 2015

July 12, 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

“In love (God the Father) predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.” [Ephesians 1:5, 6]

Grace, mercy, and peace to you dear Saints from God our Father, and our Savior, the Son of God Jesus Christ.

Solely by the power and work of the Holy Spirit, you have been sealed as God’s prized possession; called for this moment to give glory to God for the great gifts that are yours only through Jesus Christ.  God calls each of you this morning equally through the atoning sacrifice of Christ.  By Christ’s death upon the cross each of you along with the entire world have had the devil’s ransom price paid.  This is most certainly true.  And now hear the mystery that both puzzles and disturbs so many sinners: Some people simply will not receive this gift.  Some sinners will not allow Christ’s payment of blood to be their payment.  Why?  It is because within our very nature we are sinful and unclean, and on our own we are lost in an eternity of punishment and payment for our sins.

This uncomfortable and even terrifying news must be heard, received, and believed before we can even see a need for a Savior; before we will accept the gift that His payment for our sins gives.

It was a message like this that God commissioned Amos with.  Amos did not ask to carry that message; he wasn’t even a prophet or a prophet’s son.  Why did God choose Amos?  This side of glory, we will never truly know or understand God’s reasoning, other than knowing that God is love.  Amos knew that God is love and that through His love one can always find mercy and forgiveness of sins.  Amos would need to remember this truth as he was commissioned to speak a very unpopular message to the King and people of Israel.

In what is now the third vision that God gave to Amos, the Lord Himself appeared before Him, standing next to a wall.  In order to make sure that Amos would remember the vision, the Lord asked Amos to report what He saw.  And Amos replied that he saw a plumb line in God’s hand.

The meaning of the vision was then explained to Amos.  The Lord is picturing Himself as a mason laying out a brick wall.  The wall represents the nation Israel; people created and called to receive His covenant and then repeat and live out that covenant as a light unto the unbelieving and dying world.  The plumb line is God’s law, the standard laid down at Mt. Sinai which would lead the people’s lives and faith as they continued to be God’s covenant people.  The law reveals Israel’s sins.  God is saying that the nation of Israel is like a sagging and compromised wall, ready to be torn down.  “I will never again pass by them (or perhaps another way to say that is, I will spare them no longer),” says the Lord. [Amos 7:8]

They were obdurate and prideful people who built shrines to worship false gods.  For these reasons, God declared that He would destroyed their nation by the invading Assyrian Empire.  This is why the Lord said “With my sword I will rise against the house of Jeroboam.” [Vs. 9]

Now some may be tempted to take this passage and apply it inappropriately to modern nations like our own home country here.  And they may say, “See USA, wake up; God is not joking. He will take His plumb line and do the same to us, if we as a nation do not repent.”  And to this I must say, “No!”

You see, God is not talking to our nation, He is talking to you! He is talking to you who have been ransomed through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  God is talking to you both Christians and non-Christians alike, and He is saying, “You are mine.  I have bought you with a dear price.  Will you live as my people?  Will you receive the gift of freedom that I have given to you through my Son, Jesus Christ?”

And before we even say a mumbling word, God knows!  God knows your heart and He knows your life.  From eternity He knows how you will respond, and He still loves you… but He will not force His love on you.

In our Epistle reading (Ephesians 1:3-14), St. Paul wants us to know that all of God’s spiritual blessings have not only been showered upon the Ephesian church, but also upon each of us today; Christian and non Christian alike.  Some will receive these blessings and some will do what is only natural to sinners… they will reject those blessings.  And God knows, even if we do not.

For some, this mysterious will of God can cause fear and even anger.  And in response they may begin to use logic as a way to fill in the blanks so that they can comfortably receive God’s Word.  Or some, like the nation Israel will simply cast out this Word and refuse to hear it.

Who are these people?  God knows and He has known them since eternity.  But here is the hard part for us at least, we do not know who these people are, we only know that we are not part of them.  How can we know this?  Because God has left us marvelous gifts to assure us that He is ours and we are His.

In His eternal foreknowledge He not only knows us but He cares for us.  He has predestined us to one day join Him in eternity in our new resurrected bodies in a home that He has prepared just for us.  And to assure that we will continue to receive this gift of eternal life, God has created what we might call both a nursery and a nursing home.  God has given us a place that will comfort, nurture, teach, and care for us until He calls us home.  God has given us His Church.

In His church you have been taught that at Calvary, upon the cross, Christ’s blood paid the ransom price for all sinful people, but you are also being taught, that in the Word of God and His Sacraments, you have personally been given grace, that is God’s love and mercy, and faith to believe and receive these personally, because you believe that God did all of this for you.

So it is safe to say that since your baptism, God has been giving and teaching you about the forgiveness of your sins. And it is also correct to say that He continuously gives forgiveness of sins and new life as you hear His Word proclaimed or read; when you eat or drink His Word of forgiveness at His holy meal within the Sacrament of the Altar.  You can be sure of this because not only did Christ sacrifice His own body and spill His blood for you, but He is also the One, empowered by His Father before time to ensure that you are gathered within His church to be nurtured, taught, and sustained by these very gifts.  Christ is over all!

This morning, each of you the elect, who are resting within Christ’s church are invited to rest within God’s predestinating act of grace and simply be filled with faith to both receive and believe that Christ is “over all things”.  His purpose and will can not fail, because there is nothing that does not work in accordance with the will of God.  Man’s purpose may fail, and it often does, but God’s will never fails.  “(And) we know (through His Word that) all things work together for good, to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” [Romans 8:28]  We know this is so because God has said it, and He is always working to ensure that we trust it.

God does this work through both His Law and His Gospel.  Through the law we become conscious of sin and through the law we are reminded to live our lives in daily repentance.

Through the law we are taught to constantly measure what we think, say, and do by the plumb line of the Lord’s law.

Daily self-evaluation under the law of God prevents us from returning back under the bondage of pride and self-righteousness, because we know that the outcome will always be the same: our lives will be out of plumb with God’s will.

Through the gospel we are shown a better way; the way of faith, faith in Jesus Christ alone.  Jesus alone offers a perfect life to satisfy the perfect justice of God.  The perfect life of Christ measured up to His Father’s Holy Standard, and that life was lived and given for you.

When His Spirit gives us faith through baptism and the Word, God writes down His verdict of innocence next our names, and that verdict is based solely on the holy, loving life of Christ.  Jesus lived and died in our place “so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” [2 Corinthians 5:21]  And now for you dear saints who are predestined for glory, “There is no condemnation for (you) who are in Christ Jesus.” [Romans 8:1]

Dear friends, the Father desires that all people should hear and receive His proclamation of forgiveness of sins through Christ alone, and then come to Him through Christ.  And Jesus Himself said, “anyone who comes to me I will never cast out. [John 6:37]  And so that we may always know that it is never to late to come to Christ, the Holy Spirit creates true faith through the hearing of God’s Word, just as the Word promises: “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing the Word of Christ.

This is the message you have now heard, and it is the message that you are to repeat.  And like Amos, God is asking you to repeat His message to a sinful nation made up of sinful people who may not want to be told that they are dying in their sins.

It is to the stubborn sinners that you are to speak both God’s warning of punishment and His promise of love and forgiveness.  You  are to tell them that if they truly want to be saved, they should not torture themselves about the secret will of God in regards to other peoples salvation.  Instead, you must encourage them to trust in God’s work alone, which was done in their baptism, and then turn both their hearts and lives to Christ Jesus and his on going work of salvation through his means of grace; the very grace that you receive here; and then encourage them to trust in the very same Lord, which you trust in and call out to along with them.  I pray that with the help of the Spirit of God, you will do this very thing…  in Jesus name… AMEN!

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!