Posts Tagged ‘witness’

Be Ye Holy!


Sunday, May 14th, 2017

Easter 5A, May 14, 2017
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor of
Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA

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

Click here for audio of this message

This morning our message comes to us from our Epistle lesson (1 Peter 2:2-10), but before we can understand what God is saying to us through St. Peter we have to go back to the first chapter of the same epistle; specifically we want to go back and start with these words found in verses 15 and 16 in the first chapter. Listen: “As He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “(Be ye) holy, for I am holy.” Now is this law or gospel? Well the answer depends on who you are, or rather where you are with God. And just like our message this morning, we have to go backwards into our lives to get the answer.

In the beginning portion of our lesson, St. Peter says that we are like new born babies, longing for the pure spiritual milk that matures or grows us up into salvation. What is this milk?
Well, it is nothing other than the pure Word of God! The same Word that was given to you, perhaps long ago, within your baptism, and it is still given to you every day in your Bibles; that is God’s spiritual milk! In these things you have already experienced the Lord’s presence in your life; you have tasted the Lord!

So here is another question: Is He good? Do you like the flavor and the strength that He gives you in His Word? If you do, then St. Peter would tell you that you are Holy, so keep on being holy! How? By continually tasting the Lord and seeing that He is good through the studying of and resting in His Word and Sacraments! Keep hearing and reading that God so loved you that He sent His Son Jesus Christ into the world to suffer and die upon the cross for you! Why did He do this? So that you might be able to not only taste and see that the Lord is good, but so that you might have an abundant, full, and meaningful life!

As an infant hungers for the milk of its mother, so too do we need our Lord’s Word! And because of this spiritual milk, you are holy!

You are holy!

Listen, don’t worry about your past or even your future. Don’t worry about what you may have done or failed to do before, but concentrate on who you are today… you are holy! This isn’t something you need to do; if it was, you already know that you would be anything but holy; no this is entirely the work of God, and that is good, because in that way none of us can brag about what we did or do, instead we can give God all of the glory! And how do we give Him glory? Well Peter answers that question for us in verse 4, we keep coming to Him, a living stone rejected by men in the sight of God chosen and precious!

Who is this living stone? It is the living Word of God, Jesus Christ, and we keep coming to Him when we read His Word, gather to hear it preached, remember our baptism, and when we come to His Holy table to be served a meal of forgiveness! When we do these things we ourselves as St. Peter says in verse 5 are “like living stones being built up as a spiritual house.” Dear friends, this spiritual house is nothing less than the body of Christ, His holy gathered saints who are being preserved in a sinful time, in a sinful world as His own children!

You know one of the most interesting questions that Christians ask a pastor is this: “What are we going to be doing in heaven?” I smile at this question because in it I see the old sinful nature of this person fighting viciously to survive. The clue comes in one word that is contained in that question, “DO!” Do, do, do; that is always the desire of the old sinful nature that has been crucified with Christ, and drowned in the holy waters of baptism! No free lunches for that dead flesh; it wants to earn everything and be catered to as its reward! But dear saints, that is the wrong question to ask; instead we should learn to ask, “Who will I be in heaven?” And the answer is that you will be the same person in heaven that you are on earth; you will be Holy! Or as Peter continues to explain in verse 5, you will be what you are now, part of “a holy priesthood, offering up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ!”

What are those spiritual sacrifices?

Well, in Hebrews 13 we are told that through Christ we will, “keep offering up sacrifices of praise constantly to God, that is, the fruit of our lips confessing His name.” [Heb. 13:15] Then in Romans 12 we are invited to “present our bodies as a living sacrifice, which is well pleasing to God.” [Rom 12:1] Then in the fourth chapter of Philippians we are told that our prayers and praise are a “sweet fragrance, a sacrifice acceptable and well pleasing to God.” And in the eighth chapter of Revelations we are told that the prayers of all of the saints, the holy children of God are already upon the golden altar before His throne! These sacrifices are acceptable to God through Jesus Christ because they are given in His name, for His honor and glory!

So you see, the very same things that you are empowered to do here in this sinful world are the things you will do there, accept here and now we do them imperfectly because we still live in a sinful world and struggle every day to put to death our sinful nature. Here we remember that everything we have is really God’s, even our money! So we give it eagerly and liberally along with our time and talent as a sacrifice of praise unto our God!

But why do we give ourselves to God? Because we are His holy ones who live in His kingdom, and everything we do is for Him! So we see, even now as we struggle against our old sinful nature we are holy, but not yet perfect; soon in heaven, when we finally are free of our sinful flesh we will experience what God has declared us to be; holy, perfect, and righteous! This is the work of God alone and it is marvelous in our sight! But for now, we simply continue becoming what He has said we are; we continue being holy! And how do we do that? By resting upon Jesus Christ, the author and perfecter of our faith! Or as St. Peter says, we as living stones learn to rest upon our Cornerstone.

A long time ago, there was a stone offered up by God and all men were asked to build upon this great stone as their cornerstone. God assured them that if they built upon this stone, they would have a house of worship that could never be moved. But the builders examined that stone, and collectively and continually rejected it as inferior! They had other stones that could better serve “their” purposes for building.
So the stone of God sat discarded for centuries, rejected and even afflicted by the sinful builders. Their great building was complete; it was a giant temple that was said to be the very inhabitation of God! Many people gathered to admire the temple and worship a god that they had created in their own image. But one day, God caused that rejected stone that should have been the corner stone, to come alive among them! The Living Stone warned the builders that their house was not pleasing to God and it would not stand the test that God was bringing. He implored them to abandon their house of worship and build a new one upon Him! He explained to them that only by aligning all of the other stones upon Himself and using the mortar of faith would they be able to find a structure pleasing enough to God so that He would allow His Spirit to live among them!

Dear friends, Jesus is the Cornerstone that was rejected by a people who were once God’s people but no longer! Not only did God reject them as a people, but He destroyed their temple of worship; He destroyed it because it was built on a stone called pride. But in its place, He raised up a new temple, a temple of living stones held together by faith in the true Cornerstone, Jesus Christ! We are His building, a holy temple, called out of darkness to light; we are His people, holy nation of holy people! We are living by faith and not by sight. We are holy because we are resting upon the Holy Living Stone, Jesus Christ!

We are holy!

And as Peter says in verse 9, we are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession! We, His holy ones are like Him our Prophet, Priest, and King! We are prophets, each of us because we are to speak His Word; we are priests because each of us are called to offer our entire selves as a living sacrifice unto God. And we are kings because we are children of our Holy King, the living God!
Now it would be a terrible mistake if we were to think that after being given so much as holy children of the living God we could just sit back and take it all in; just contemplate our honor and our excellence! No, it would be more than a mistake it would be a sin if we did that! We were not created to be still and be served; we were created to be ever active and becoming what God created us to be. And what is that? We are to be His ambassadors, his witnesses sent into the darkness of sin to speak light and salvation! We are to announce the fame of the One who called us out of darkness into His wonderful light! We are to offer up our spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ! As living stones, we are to be used to ever build and expand the Kingdom of God! We are kingdom builders!

True believers, true holy ones of God can’t keep still; they simply must speak out with their mouths, time, talent, and treasure, because that is what we were created for! This is our calling as holy members of God’s royal priesthood. We are here and not in heaven right now because God has invited us to accompany Jesus on His mission!

We are to go out into the darkness and bring light! We are to go out to people who are trapped in the darkness of sin, and bring salvation to them. Who are these people? They are the very ones who rejected the great Cornerstone, Jesus Christ! God sends us who once were not a people, stones, which were once cold and dead but now alive, sheep once without a shepherd but now sheep in His pasture to seek, find, and bring salvation to others who are far from God’s love and forgiveness through Jesus Christ. Right now, in their current condition, they are non-people in God’s eyes, but our great Cornerstone is still calling out to them; there is still time if they will turn to Him! If they will turn to Christ they are promised that they will be a real people, part of God’s holy people, and He will be their King, Savior, Protector, Provider, and God!

So, be ye holy!

Be all that God has called you to be! Rest upon your Cornerstone, Jesus the Christ, the living Word of God, but then be living and always serving Him by proclaiming the wonderful works of God. Tell those lost what He has done for you; tell them how He alone saved you from sin, death, and the devil! And then gather again in this house of worship to celebrate and receive every gift that our Living Cornerstone has to give to us! May God continue to strengthen us for this wonderful mission that He has set before us as we go forth proclaiming, Christ has risen, He has risen indeed.” I ask this in Jesus name… AMEN!

Trust The Lord Of The Harvest

Sunday, October 25th, 2015

Reformation and LWML Sunday in Pentecost B, October 25, 2015
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego, CA 92114
http://www.tlcsd.org

Click here for audio of this message

The song that we just heard, “Don’t Worry; Be Happy” by Bobby McFerrin, will be our mental hook this morning, which we will hang our message on.

As you come to worship today, on this joint Reformation and LWML Sunday, what is it that you are worried about? Now, I know that it’s common for folks to do their best to convince us that there’s nothing to worry about, and in fact, one of my jobs as a pastor is to convince you to cast your worries upon the Lord, because He cares for you.  But we do worry and we don’t like others to tell us not to.

So the truth is no matter how many times we’re told not to worry, we do worry. And then naturally, we are drawn to environments and events that seem to limit the drama or worry that we might be exposed to.

Speaking of drama or worry free zones, from what I heard, that is exactly what thousands of saints during the LWML 36th Biennial Convention held in June this year at Des Moines, Iowa. That convention was based around the theme “Bountiful! Sow ∙ Nourish ∙ Reap.” I have been told that at the Convention, the ladies were blessed to be able to sow the seeds of faith in the lives of those God placed in their path.

Those in attendance were reminded of their Baptism where the seed of faith was sown into their hearts. They were nourished through God’s Word and the Sacrament of Holy Communion as they spent much time gathered around that very Word of God in worship in different settings like, Bible studies, devotions, and time together with roommates in the hotels. The convention body put this nourishment to good use in God’s Kingdom as new LWML Mission Grant recipients were selected for the 2015-2017 biennium. In selecting these grants, the LWML commits to support them with prayers and offerings. Those in attendance also celebrated the success God gave to His saints in the mission field through the last biennium.

Everything was wonderful. For many there was not a care in the world as they spent time on that mountaintop of worship. Then in the closing service, the proclaiming pastor shared God’s Word and the urgency to go back into their communities and sow and nourish the seeds of faith, and reap the harvest by the power of the Holy Spirit working in each of them and in those with whom they would share the Good News of our crucified and risen Savior, Jesus Christ.

And at the conclusion of the Divine Service, just like it is here every Sunday when the Divine Service is over, it was time to leave the mountaintop. It was time to go in peace and serve the Lord.

So how do we, the redeemed, the bought and many times brought back, sons and daughters of the King respond to this awesome mission challenge that our Father places before us; how do we go in peace and serve the Lord?

Perhaps we worry as He calls us off the mountain and back into the sin darkened world in which we live to share with our neighbors, the Good News of Christmas and Easter – the Good News of the Savior, born at Christmas, crucified, died, and buried on Good Friday, resurrected Easter morning, ascended back to heaven forty days later; sitting at the right hand of God until He returns to judge the living and the dead. We worry whether or not we “shared it right” and how people will receive this Good News.

Interestingly, even though this Good News is our blessed assurance, for many reasons, it causes us to tremble, tremble, tremble (“Were You There,” LSB 456) every time we hear the call to share it with others.

Now at this point, you might want to say to me, “Pastor, every time you talk about the opportunities God gives us to be “witnesses,” to be sowers and nourishers of those seeds of faith; or every time I hear my Savior say to me, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19), or “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8), my worry level rises and I tremble.”

And when we get caught up in worry, it can become a burden of fear that actually binds the Word of God within us, preventing it from going out into our families, community, and parts beyond.  So what should we do with this worry?  Well how about this, “Cast your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.” (Psalm 55:2). And to that promise from the Lord you might counter, “Ok Lord, what do You have that helps me with my case of worry?”

As we ask that question of our heavenly Father, He responds by reminding us to look at how we are already incredibly blessed. In fact the over-abundance is what can lead to worry as we stand looking into our closets trying to pick out an outfit from the abundance of clothes we have, or when we have to throw out food that has been in the refrigerator or cupboard too long and is no longer fit for consumption by man or beast, or when we have to buy another freezer because the other one is full to the brim.

And so we continue our conversation with God and say: “What really causes me to worry, besides health issues for some of those I love, and problems I have with members of my family, or issues I am having in a relationship, or my congregation here that seems to be dying, is when I seem to hear You calling to me and saying, ‘The time is now to come off the mountain, back to the plain, out of the worship service and into a dark and sin-sickened world with the only answer and solution to all of our and society’s ills.’”

Without a doubt, the time is now for each and every one of us, to use our God-given gifts and abilities to meet the challenge of sharing the Gospel message of Jesus Christ with those around us, and into all the world.

To be perfectly honest that is a huge responsibility and it causes us concern, worry, and moments of trembling. This is true as we look at the billions of people who need to hear of God’s love poured out to them through faith in Jesus Christ. This is true as we consider where some of our friends or some of our family members are in their walk with the Lord. We make excuses to our God: “Lord, You know that those conversations are very difficult to have for many reasons and on many levels. It is hard to confront those with whom I am very close in a way that will be perceived as loving.”

On this reformation Sunday, we remember almost 500 years ago how God used a terrified and trembling monk named Martin Luther.

Luther would have been satisfied and happy if God would have simply allowed him to remain shut away behind the walls of the monastery, oblivious to his sin and God’s solution to all sin, through Christ alone.

It was in God’s Word, where Luther began to understand that unless in love, God chose to have mercy on him, he was doomed to eternal damnation.  Listen to the wonderful news that not only set Luther free from his guilt, but also from his worries; it comes from our Epistle lesson, listen: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.  It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:23-26)

God wants each of us this morning to first be assured that through Christ, by grace alone and faith alone, we really are forgiven, and all of this is a work of God that comes to you by scripture alone.

Through this very same Word of God, God not only performs His work of salvation, but He also creates an equipping and support system that uses little old you, as a witness to others through your redeemed life, through which, He demonstrates to others, through His means of grace, that in Christ, He really has forgiven them and loves them too.

But perhaps this is where the worry comes; how do we show others the error of their ways without sounding “holier than thou,” or preachy, as we strive through the power of the Holy Spirit, to use God’s Word as the instrument that brings repentance, forgiveness, and new life?  And it is as we are dealing with these worries and countless others, that our Abba Father assures us that He knows what we need and has promised that as we seek first His kingdom and His righteousness first, all these things will be given to us as well (Matthew 6:33).

And still we continue to question God: “But I still have to ask Lord, what do You have to help me with my case of worry?”

Now, first let’s be honest with each other, shall we?  We really don’t want God to take away our worry, because if He does, well that will mean we really will begin to share our faith and His love with others.  But God does answer us in His Word.

Within all of Holy Scripture, God has placed our hearts and feet of faith upon the very foundation of Christ.

In Christ alone, we have been given the very source of our security and the power to come off the worry free mountain of worship, and then cling to Christ alone and His promises of new and eternal life, through faith in the perfect life He lived.  But Christ perfect life will not help you in the least, if you do not claim it as the perfect sacrifice for your sins.  So God asks you to continue to believe by faith, that Jesus suffering and death upon the cross was for your sins, and that His glorious resurrection three days later, is proof that the end of your mortal flesh is not the end of you; God desires that you believe that you too, shall rise to eternal life with Him in Paradise.  He wants you to agree with St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:20, that “your brother Jesus Christ is the One who has been raised from the dead, and is the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.”

And to this, we might yet again respond to God: “OK, that all sounds wonderful in theory, and I know that this is where my strength and assurance should be, but when and where the rubber meets the road, how can my focus change from fear to faithfulness, from worry to faith, so that I don’t have to be anxious about anything from food, drink and clothes, to working for the Lord in His harvest field ever again?”

Allow me to share with you some of the main thoughts from our Reformation Scriptures.

First of all, hear, believe and find comfort in Jesus’ Words this morning where He moves our hearts to both the source of our mission and the One who completes it.

Listen: “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” (Matthew 9:37) Now why do you suppose Jesus wants us to pray?  I mean, He’s God right; He could do it without us, right?  Yes that’s right, but He has graciously invited us into His mission and into the salvation story of others.  But how do you suppose He’ll do that?  Well by sharing His compassion for those who are dead in their sins.

Listen: “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matt. 9:36). Jesus saw people, His people who were dead in their sins and He wanted to bring them eternal life; He wanted to be their Shepherd and Savior just as He is for you.  And when He invites you into prayer He also asks that you allow His heart and compassion to become yours.  In other words, Jesus not only invites you into His mission to seek and save the lost, He makes you part of that mission.

Let me share with you another well-known passage you can apply to your worries. Hear the inspired words of Philippians 4:13, where our Father in heaven assures us that as His forgiven, redeemed, restored children we can boldly profess with St. Paul, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”

And, if I may share one more passage with you, especially when it comes to God’s call to you to be out in the harvest field doing the works of Him who sent us while it is day, since night is coming, when no one can work (John 9:4), it would be the promise from the very lips of your Savior as He said in Luke 12:11-12, “And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.”

And finally, consider our first reading from Revelation 14:6, 7, listen: “Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people.  And he said with a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come, and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.”

The truth is dear saints, within those very Words, God not only promises success in the mission your on, He also promises to give His Word protection from devils and sinners.  The Word comes from above us and never finds its strength in us, and neither can it be defeated by devils.  When you live out the scriptural promises of forgiveness, you do so by God’s gift of faith which allows you to receive that forgiveness as an unearned gift, that is by grace alone, all because of Christ alone!

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, all of these promises are ours even when we speak to the neighbor across the street, our friend at work, or our son or daughter who has grown away from the Lord and for whom our heart aches.

You and I have a heavenly Father who does not just talk a good game. “Don’t worry, be happy” is not His mantra. He backs up and follows through on the promises He makes 100% of the time. He acts on that admonition to seek first what is of utmost importance, promising that all of these other things we have been talking about will be given to us as well. (Matthew 6:33)

God’s promise throughout the ages is the same, “seek first the kingdom of God (“desire above all to live under the rule of the one true God” [Lutheran Study Bible Notes, Matthew 6:33]) and His righteousness (the salvation which Christ Jesus has won for us and all people on the cross of Calvary, [John 3:16]), and all these things will be added to you.”

That my friends is providing and coming through on a promise. And since you and I are united with His Son in Baptism, in hearing the Word, in receiving His very body and blood, in His very death, being “buried therefore with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life,” (Romans 6:3-4), we have nothing to worry about as we seek first His kingdom, serving Him as we serve those He places in our lives (Matthew 25:40) wherever and whenever He has need of us, carrying out the great task He gives to us of bringing the lost and the erring into eternal fellowship with Him. Amen!

On Walking In The Light

Sunday, August 16th, 2015

12th Sunday in Pentecost-B, August 16, 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

“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.  Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” [Ephesians 5:15, 16]

What does it mean to walk in the light?  Well, the audio clip from our Service of Light liturgy that we just heard answers that question: “Jesus Christ is the Light of the World.”  So to walk in the light is to walk with Jesus and to be led by the wisdom of the Holy Spirit.

In or Old Testament lesson (Proverbs 9:1–10), the Light of Christ is personified as lady Wisdom, who has built her house with seven pillars.  The pillars represent the support of a structure, in this case the church, and the number seven signifies the completeness or sufficiency of God.

Wouldn’t you agree that one of life’s more enjoyable moments is when we get together with friends and family for a dinner? The Bible reminds us that there is a more important spiritual feast more needful than any physical food we can eat here on earth: “Man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord” (Deuteronomy 8:3). Wisdom invites us to feast on God’s Word—by going to church, attending Bible classes, reading and sharing the Word at home and with friends.

This morning, Wisdom is announcing that Her house of prayer and Worship is ready; God’s Divine Service is for all who respond.  She calls out from the highest point in the city, because God is not trying to hide His invitation. Wisdom also sends out her maids. These Words can’t help but remind us of Jesus’ parable of the king’s invitation to the wedding banquet for his son (Matthew 22:1–14). He sent out servants to invite people in. Both the maids and the servants might represent God’s ambassadors, both pastors and laypeople who go out with the glorious gospel invitation to anyone and everyone.

But to accept wisdom’s invitation, we must first admit that we need it, that we are among the “simple” and “those who lack judgment” (verse 4). Then we also need to follow through and taste of the banquet—“eat my food and drink the wine” (verse 5). “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves,” writes James. “Do what it says” (James 1:22). All this begins to take place in our lives when the Holy Spirit through the gift of faith shows us that we are sinners in need of Divine forgiveness through Jesus Christ.  But what of those who are invited, but refuse to attend?

The Mockers are also invited. Wisdom has called out and made appeals, prepared her house, and shown to all who come in what she has to offer. Now we see the two possible responses to that appeal—wisdom is either accepted or ignored.

The mocker rejects God’s wisdom. He belittles it and insults it. He calls it a crutch for the weak or foolishness or a waste of time. Jesus used a striking picture to illustrate this: “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces” (Matthew 7:6). In ancient Israel the unclean street dogs were nothing but scavengers. Pigs were unclean animals. Some wicked people simply will not listen to God’s Word. They despise it, mock it, trample all over it.

Moreover, a mocker will hate you for offering him constructive criticism. Don’t even bother trying, says Solomon.  Of course, we can’t prejudge anyone to be a mocker. Let’s not excuse ourselves from witnessing to others simply because some will reject it.  Sad to say, most people do reject wisdom’s invitation. Returning to Jesus’ parable of the wedding feast, the Lord ended the parable on this note: “For many are invited, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14).

Who are the mockers of the faith?  I offer simply three examples, but wisdom tells us that there are many more that could be used as an illustration.

Think of the married man who begins to look at internet pornography, and sees nothing wrong with it.  Society and science claim that it is normal and natural for a man to have an active libido.  But Proverbs 5:18-23 in very intimate detail, encourages a man to remember the bride of his youth and not to chase after other beauty.  But this man, this married man is intent on getting what he wants, so he ignores God, embraces the world, and so becomes a mocker of God.

Think about the homeless man on the street that is of sound mind and was raised within a loving Christian family.  How did he get to such a low place?  Because he listened to the voice of folly and not of wisdom.  It started out with what society would call harmless recreational use of drugs.  But then one day he was introduced to Methamphetamine (Chrystal, Ice).  One hit was all it took, and from that point on he began his relentless race down into the rabbit hole chasing the dragon; longing to recreate the original high, that will never be.  He exchanged the truth for a lie; the Holy Spirit for and evil spirit.  Countless family and friends find him and plead with him to come off the streets and get help, but he refuses.  Why?  Because he has become a mocker of God.  He will not listen to the mighty voice of Wisdom, which pleads, “Do not get intoxicated with anything, for that is wickedness, but be filled with the Holy Spirit.”

And now finally think of the social butterfly, whose life is all about enjoying ever minute of that life.  They may even agree that it was God who gave them the gift of life, but they are so busy pursuing happiness that they very seldom take time out to thank Him for that gift.  Attending Sunday’s Divine Service or Bible Study is simply an inconvenience and a wasted opportunity to enjoy even more of what life has to offer.  These lost souls also are mockers of God.

But a wise man or woman isn’t like that. They gladly receive Wisdom’s invitation; they see a need for forgiveness, and they are open to the correction of God’s Word. By God’s grace, they have not been overcome by pride, and they still are not “above” rebuke, because they know that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”  It is the key to Walking as a Child of the Light, Jesus Christ the light of the world which no darkness can overcome.

Children of The Light are you who will not allow the world to deceive you with empty words; words that are empty because they contradict the Word of God.  You will not follow the folly of the world because you know that it is the path of disobedience, which leads only to the wrath of God.  You too at one time, walked the path of disobedience, of darkness and folly.

But for you, Jesus Christ has overcome that darkness and placed you on the path of light and righteousness. In holy baptism, you were born into that light, the Light of the Lord, which no darkness can overcome.  It is this light alone that holds you secure within the kingdom of grace.  This light is all of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, through the work of Jesus Christ.  It is a powerful light; a light that gives eternal life. As children of light you walk with your path illuminated by the Wisdom of God.  Being children of The Light, you cannot help but let your light shine in good works for the glory of God.  You were created in rebirth through the washing of the water and the word for this very purpose.  These good works are the very rays of light that shine forth and demonstrate to others just whose child you are.

Because you belong to the Light of the world, you walk within the wisdom of God.  You do not follow the opinion of the majority simply because they disagree with God.  In matters of eternal life and how you live your life, the majority does not rule, God does!

For we Christians who struggle to be Children of the Light, perhaps our greatest temptation is to revert back to the way of darkness.

We live in the midst of people who seem to make it their life’s ambition to cut themselves and others off from the light of God. Try telling them that darkness cannot produce fruit, and they will tell you metaphorically that they’ve developed an appetite for mushrooms, and hang around them long enough and you too will begin to desire that dark fruit!

As we interact and witness to these children of darkness we must remind them and ourselves that those who cut themselves off from Christ can never produce good works that will please God. Even the best works, which the world would call “good,” are sin. Association with darkness is clearly harmful, even detrimental to the Christian. How often do we take part in the unfruitful deeds of darkness? How often do we find ourselves doing shameful things when we cut ourselves off from the light, Jesus Christ, and from our fellow believers? In his first epistle, John says, “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin” (1:7). Our fellowship with the Lord Jesus, and our fellowship with one another, is clearly important in our walk as children of the light.

Walking together as children of light is a critical witness to the light, Jesus Christ, in this world of darkness. Together we are strong, not easily tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine, not easily pulled back into the darkness. First and foremost, in Christian love, our duty is to expose the deeds of darkness done by our own brothers and sisters in the faith. We confront one another in our sin, always with the goal of winning our brother or sister over and proclaiming Christ’s forgiveness.

Secondly, walking as children of light, we expose the deeds of darkness in the world. As the light of Christ shines upon the ungodly, we see the true nature of their deeds—death. It is our prayer that as the light of Christ shines on them, their eyes may be opened to this as well.

This morning, Wisdom calls.  The Light of the World has been revealed and it invites you to step into the path that it has shown, the path of wisdom unto eternal life. To enter into that wisdom, to have that insight, can make all the difference in the world concerning our attitudes and actions. Life depends not on our own wise or foolish efforts, but on the eternal wisdom of God who directs all things toward himself through his Son, Jesus Christ.  Wisdom said, “Come eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed.” And in that eating, she promised life, if we will leave simple-ness and walk in the way of Christ.

Our Lord is more specific in our Gospel lesson (John 6:51–69), when he speaks of real life bound up with eating the flesh of the Son of man and drinking his blood.  Without it, there is no real life, only the illusion of life.

The very life of Christ in us depends on our taking Christ into ourselves…not just mentally, not just “turning our heart and life over to him,” but eating and drinking that which he offers — Himself.

Wisdom said, “Turn in here.” To make the change from simple-ness to wisdom, people have to change the direction they’re going. Well, in Christ Jesus, our God changed the direction in which humanity was going. The cross and empty tomb were the simple foolishness with which God has confounded the wise. God is so down to earth in his Son, that many could neither see nor believe that God would act in such a way.  Insight comes when we take the simple action of God and take the simple words of Jesus in faith: ‘This is my Body. This is my Blood. Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.” In those words, in this action, is bound up all that God did for us ragamuffins and scoffers in sending the Christ, in having Him teach us, in having Him die, in raising Him on the third day, in receiving Him into the heavenly realms to rule and reign over us. But it happens here…when we turn in and sit at the table.  AMEN!

Justified and Faith-filled

Sunday, March 1st, 2015

Lent 2 B, March 1, 2015
Rev. Brian Henderson
Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church,
San Diego, CA
http://www.tlcsd.org

Romans 5:1-11

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In our Old Testament lesson, Abraham is told by God to walk before Him “and be blameless, (so) that (God) may make (His) covenant between He, Abraham, and we this morning who make up the multitude of nations that have come from Abraham. [Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16]  How are we to feel about this seemingly impossible task of being blameless?  How was Abraham able to walk before God and be blameless?  Can we do that?  How is one even suppose to initiate that process?  This morning our message will answer those very questions through the teaching of our Epistle lesson (Romans 5:1-11).

Well right off the bat, let me tell you what this message should do for you this morning; you should leave here with hope and joy, and the reason is because this message declares that you have been made right with God, that is you have been justified and, you are filled with faith.  How?  Because God says so, and what God declares, simply is our reality.  You have been declared righteous.  That is how Abraham was able to walk before God and it is how you do the very same thing today.  But what is of interest to us this morning is how, or why you have been declared righteous.

You have been declared righteous by faith, and through faith in Jesus Christ, the very Son of God, you have, not “will have” but you have, peace with God right now!  Isn’t that what we all want deep down inside, peace?  We desire first, peace within ourselves, peace with each other, and then peace throughout the world.  Wait, what about peace with God?  And there is the rub; the very source of peace is excluded from our wrong desires of peace.  And what happens without peace with God?  We see everything fall apart.

I’m reminded of that old Three Stooges routine that spoofs World War II.  “The unruly crowds are outside of the government building chanting, “Peace, peace, we want peace.”  And then the evil Axis leaders chime in, “Yes, a piece of this and a piece of that!”  Isn’t that the real reason we don’t experience peace today?  Whether it is within our hearts, our homes, our church, our community, our nation, or throughout the world, everyone has their own self-serving idea about peace.

What is peace?  Well if you were to ask the people of the Middle East or many parts of Africa that question, they would tell you that peace is the absence of war or conflict.  To those in conflict, peace is a very emotional, or subjective term.  But once again, that leaves us with a problem, because that idea of peace excludes the Creator and is instead, focused on the creation.  But God wants us to remember what we stated in the beginning of this message; true peace can only come from God and His declaration of our new identity, which becomes our reality.

Every Sunday, we close God’s Divine Service with what is called the Aaronic benediction.  God instituted that blessing to give His children peace.  Listen: “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.” [Numbers 6:24-26]  Now did you hear anything about what you need to do?  All of our blessings are simply a result of God’s actions of being gracious and having favor towards us!

Here is God’s simple truth for each of us this morning, “Through His Son Jesus Christ, He has imposed His saving covenant promise upon you who are redeemed and baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  In that name is included the name of Jesus Christ, the name above all names who alone, by His cross makes you right with God.  In that name is given to you what only God can give… peace and righteousness.  Another way to say that is, we have peace with God because God made us right with Him through His Son Jesus Christ.”

So peace is a relationship that we have with God, and that relationship can only come from God and according to His means.  Even Abraham was not made right with God because of any goodness that came from within Him, but instead it came through his trusting in God’s faithfulness to send a Messiah through Abraham’s bloodline.

Through Jesus Christ, we have obtained and retain access to God’s kind and loving heart by faith.  Do not underestimate this little word access.  To have access with God should be understood within the context of a common servant having complete access to a king, as a close friend yet still a servant.  What this means is you have nothing whatsoever to fear of the King of all creation!  The reason again is because of grace, which you have heard me teach before means “God’s riches at Christ’s expense!”  Through Christ you have the undeserved kindness and favor of the Creator of the universe.

Since this is who you are now through Jesus Christ, I would say you have something to celebrate; you have something to rejoice over.  Another way to say this is, you have something to boast about!

So let’s boast… let’s rejoice!  “We rejoice (or we boast) in hope of the glory of God.”  What else could we boast about?  Our righteous living?  Our great faith?  Our wonderful stewardship or care of our families and church?

Here is a truth worth remembering.  Any boasting or rejoicing outside of God’s glory is always self-serving and sinful; it is a violation of the First Commandment.  So our hope, our rejoicing and boasting is always based in the glory of God and who we are because of Jesus Christ.

But why rejoice or boast over God’s glory in our lives?  So that others will know!  But know what?  Well actually it is to know the Who and then the what.  We boast, that is we testify to God, and then His goodness that has unconditionally been given to us through Jesus Christ, so that others may know that they too can have this same faith that has been given to us.

Faith is certainly the substance of things hope for but not seen, but it is also completely foreign to us; it must be given to us.  Why?  So that the promise of God will be certain to us.  The promise says we shall not only receive righteousness but actually hold onto it forever.  St. Paul says that faith not only gets us into God’s grace but it also maintains that condition until the day we actually join Jesus Christ in paradise sharing the glory of God.  In other words, faith alone is both the beginning of our peace with God, the middle, and the end of everything. (FC SD KV 34)

At this point of our message, even seasoned and mature Christian’s maybe wondering, “Since I have so much favor with God, then why is my life so miserable.  Why do I seem to simply be moving from one period of suffering to another?  And the answer is…

We all have our cross to bear.  In our gospel lesson (Mark 8:27), Jesus asked the disciples, “But who do you say that I am?”  And to that, Peter speaking for them all answered Him, “You are the Christ.”  Peter speaks for us today as well, so what Jesus says next is important, it is crucial for understanding the times of suffering in our lives.  Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.”

St. Paul puts it this way in verses three and four of our Epistle reading: “We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.”  Another way to explain the sufferings in life is to look at them as pressure that tempts you to take your eyes off of God’s glory and the peace you have as you rejoice in that glory.  But instead of choosing to focus on the temporary suffering that you are going through, you choose to receive it and pass through it as another opportunity to praise God, Who was with you through it all.

Did you know that no where in scripture does God say that our suffering is good; scripture simply acknowledges that it is a present reality of this sinful world.  So in our message today, please do not misunderstand St. Paul and think that he is saying that your suffering is something to look for or chase after, as if it gives you bragging rights.  But instead, St. Paul is saying that the basis of boasting or being joyful is that even in the midst of your suffering God and His glory will not abandon you.

Your hope dear saints is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness.  All other ground is simply sinking sand.  Your hope allows you to continue boasting and being joyful in the middle of those hard times.  Why is that?  Because hope looks ahead to the ultimate enjoyment of God’s glory.  We are able to stand up under those sufferings because we know that within it we are being given the gift of patient endurance.

A way to look at patient endurance is to see yourself standing in the intersection of where several rapidly moving streams meet; streams that are pushing in different directions trying to knock you down, but you have found your solid ground, which is Jesus Christ, and you are able to stand firm until the flow dies down and you may be safely moved to the shore line.  So a way to sum this idea up is to say, “While God sustains our faith, tribulations and suffering produce endurance.”

Another way to speak of endurance is to speak about testings.  When we pass through the troubles of life still faithful, we have been proven, or tested to be genuine, and afterward our tested character produces what we started out with, hope!  Hope in what?  Jesus Christ and His righteousness.

If we begin with hope and we end with hope, then it only makes sense that God must give us something to hold onto; something that was done for us that is completely outside of us, which gives us hope.  And that something is…

Holy Baptism.  Within our baptism, St. Paul points out in verse 5 that “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

Why are we hopeful?  Because God’s love has been poured into and remains within our hearts.  This is a kind of love that only God can give and it is the kind of love we can only give back after He gives it.  This love has been poured out upon you and it remains within you as long as you cling to Christ alone and live out this hope of sure and certain salvation that was given to you on that day when you were saved by the washing of the water  and the Word.  (Life Preserver and Anchor)

Within your baptism, God has given you the greatest gift you could ever receive… He has given you the indwelling Holy Spirit.  Together with the Holy Spirit, you receive the uncountable and incomparable blessings of God’s love poured out upon your dry and dead heart, and now it is alive and full of the vitality and new life of God.

So now that you are justified and faith-filled, you go out into this broken world hopeful and joyful.  You have been entrusted with a message of hope and promise.  And that message is something to boast about and not keep to yourself, because it is a message of forgiveness and new life.  And the message goes like this: “While we were weak and unable to help ourselves, at just the right moment, Christ died on behalf of all sinners; on behalf of the world.  “Since, therefore, we have now been justified (made right with God) by his blood (the blood of Jesus), (so) much more shall we be saved by him from the (anger) of God.  For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.  More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation (or received through Christ a loving and gentle God).  May God empower you to both boast and live out this message of hope and reconciliation, and I ask this in Jesus name… AMEN!

Test, Testimony, and Faith

Sunday, February 22nd, 2015

Lent 1 B, February 22, 2015

Rev. Brian Henderson-
Pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
http://www.tlcsd.org

Genesis 22:1-8

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In our Old Testament lesson, we discover exactly why Abraham is the father of all who have ever been given and struggled to hold onto faith in the God of grace and mercy, and His beloved Son, our Savior Jesus Christ.  Or as we sang in the Children’s message, “Father Abraham has many sons.  I am one of them, and so are you” by and through that same faith that propelled and sustained Father Abraham.

Our message this morning will address the things that test our trust in God, the testimony that our test supplies after the test over, and the faith that grows throughout the process.

Can we all agree from the out set that tests of our trust in God are seldom enjoyable? I know that if Abraham could speak to us this morning, he would tell you that at the time, his test seemed like a living hell; that is the love and mercy of God seemed completely absent within the command of God.

What we must remember is that Abraham had recently went through and passed a test that almost broke his trust in God. What was that test?  God asked Abraham to send away his first-born son Ishamel, who was born through his wife’s servant Hagar.  He had to send the mother and son away because they were not part of God’s plan, or if you will, they were a product of no faith in God.  God had already promised both Abraham and Sarah that the coming Savior of the world would come through Sarah’s son and no other.  But Sarah, through a fearful spirit that lacked trust in God convinced her husband Abraham to lie down with and conceive a child with Hagar; this was a relationship that lacked trust in God and sought to bring a solution, a savior by the will of man and not in accordance to the will of God.

Sending Ishmael away had been difficult for Abraham, but now God is asking him to do what seems impossible; he must sacrifice the son of the promise. In this testing of Abraham’s faith, God was not out to discover the truth; He knew in advance that Abraham feared and loved God, but rather the test was for Abraham’s spiritual benefit. Abraham’s love for Isaac, as right and good as it was, had the potential in time, to crowd out or surpass his love for God. Jesus once said that, “Anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:37).

In God’s view, Abraham needed an opportunity to consciously put God first, above all things, even above his dear son Isaac. With this test God brought Abraham’s training in faith to a climax. The particular sacrifice God asked Abraham to bring is called a burnt offering, a blood sacrifice that in the Old Testament symbolized a person’s complete dedication to God.

What we must remember is that Abraham did not know that this was just a test of his love and trust in God’s promise until later. God did not say: “Abraham, don’t worry; this is only a test.” But God did tell Abraham that Isaac was to be the bearer of the messianic promise, and now he told him to kill that son. God’s words had been very clear: “My covenant I will establish with Isaac” (17:21). To Abraham it must have seemed that God’s command was now destroying God’s promise.

What test of your faith have you gone through or maybe are going through today? Maybe you too are struggling with establishing boundaries in your relationships, which ensure that God is not replaced by our love for others, not even with a spouse or children.  Have you failed to say no when you should have, in order to protect your relationship with God?  Or maybe you have turned a blind eye to inappropriate behavior of a loved one, so that you could continue to have them present in your life?  Or maybe your fear is centered in death?  Are you afraid of your death or the death of a loved one more than your fear and trust in God?

Can you imagine what went through Abraham’s mind all that night as he prepared to make the trip to the mountain of the Lord?  (Talk about your sleepless nights.)  And then the next morning, Abrham had to make a day long trip to the mountain.  Time can be the greatest asset of the devil as he continually attempts to whittle away at our trust in God’s Word.  He is an expert at it.  He used that tactic against Adam and Eve when he asked, “Did God really say if you eat the fruit of the tree you will die?  You will not die, but you will be and know as God knows.” In other words, God is holding out on you!

Let me put this test into a scenario that you might understand a little more clearly.  Suppose that there is a specific sin that you have been struggling with, and each time you have fallen to this sin you have repented and received the absolution and the resolve to master it once and for all, only to fall to it again.  You know that you have been baptized and salvation has been given to you; you have the promise of God through Christ that He will never forsake you or send you away.  But the devil and your own guilty conscience keeps throwing both your sin and your struggle in your face with these words: “You and your faith are a joke.  If you were a real Christian you wouldn’t keep falling into this sin.  Yes you are baptized.  Yes you say that you have faith in Christ, but maybe this time you have fallen into sin one too many times.  Maybe God no longer desires to save you?”  When these attacks and thoughts assail you dear Christian, you must turn to the same source that Abraham turned to, the promises of God.

When Abraham reached the mountain of the Lord, He ordered the servants to stay while he and Isaac went on ahead. What Abraham told his servants are words that are important for both His trust in God and ours.  Listen: “I and the boy will worship. Abraham was obediently following the will of God and he rightly describes that act of obedience as worship. In essence he was saying: “Lord, you have my heart.”  But it is what he says next that demonstrates God’s mighty presence in his life; he says, “And then we (that is I and the boy) will come back to you.” In this statement, we see that Abraham had resolved and answered an awful question that had been torturing him: “How can a merciful God cut off the messianic line?” Abraham’s faith answered, “He won’t!  If God commands me to kill Isaac and I obey him, then God is simply going to have to bring Isaac’s ashes back to life, and the two of us are going to come back down this mountain.  Amen!”

“Father, where is the lamb for the sacrifice? That was Isaac’s question, and it should be the question of every sinner who is caught within the terror of their sins.  And the answer of faith that Abraham gave is the very same answer we sinners are given today.  “God Himself will provide the lamb.”

The Testimony. “Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son.  But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham!  Abraham!”  “Here I am,” he replied.  “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” He said.  “Do not do anything to him.  Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son.”  Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns.  He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son.  So Abraham called that place Jehovah Jirah, The Lord Will Provide.”  And so it is true for all of us today who trust in the Lord’s promise to save us from our sins.

Here is Abraham’s testimony to us this morning.  He was called to obey God’s command; he was asked to disregard everything his heart and reason told him was good and right, and he was told to concentrate completely on God’s promise: “My covenant I will establish with Isaac.”  The author of the epistle to the Hebrews says it this way: “By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death. (Hebrews 11:17–19)

This morning God is asking you to go against your reason and put to death your fears and your worries that can interfere with His promise to you that through His work within your baptism, you have been saved.  He wants you to see that the Lord does provide even now.  Hear him call your name dear Christian, as He says, “Do not think that you have sinned beyond my ability to save.  I see your struggle and fears and I know that you fear me, because you do not hide your sin from me, even that powerful sin that you fight so intensely.”

And now dear saint, look up from within your grief and shame and see the substitute who will atone for your great sin.  See Him trapped within the thicket of your sins, dying upon a cross, and atoning for the sins of the world; even your sins.  See Him dying alone on the mountain of the Lord, on Calvary and know that God does still provide; He provides His one and only Son Jesus Christ.  He does that one thing that only He can do.  He gives and He dies.

Isaac was never to die as atonement for sin, and it is God’s will that none of us will die for ours either.  God does not wish that any should perish, but that all should repent, that is turn to Jesus Christ and be saved.  Repent then.  Turn to the final sacrifice and trust in the promises of God; refresh your spirit again.  How, by…

Faith, (which) is a gift of God that is tested and witnessed to by those God calls and equips to testify of His forgiving love for sinners. Father Abraham indeed has many sons.  We are all sons of the promise of forgiveness of sins, which is fulfilled through His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ.  You can believe in this promise, because the Lord has sworn to Himself, the highest source of verity, that through the example of faith that Abraham displayed, faith that is always the work and gift of God,  not just Abraham, but all who repent, will be blessed with this same gift of faith; faith in the substitute of God that atones for the sins of the world.

Therefore we sinners should hold fast to this comfort, that what God has once declared, this He does not change. You were baptized, and in Baptism the kingdom of God was promised to you. You should know that this is His unchangeable Word, and you should not permit yourself to be drawn away from it.

Dear friends, these stories of the testing of Abraham’s faith have been passed onto us so that we may be encouraged in our own trials and say with Abraham: “Though I struggle so deeply with my sin, because God has given me faith to trust in His promised forgiveness through Jesus Christ, my own grave where I will one day be laid in dust and ashes will simply be a place of rest. The fact that your flesh will die has absolutely no implications on the promises of forgiveness and resurrection that have been given to you in your baptism through the Word of God.

During this Lenten season we are sustained by both God’s Law and His Gospel with these two statements which God made first to Adam and then to us—“You are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Gen. 3:19) and “The Seed (of the woman) shall crush the head of the serpent” (Gen. 3:15)  That is, God’s substitute who dies our death shall as promised to Abraham, destroy, conquer, and possess the gate of his enemies, which are sin, death, and the devil.

Finally, let me share these closing words of Luther who desired that the church would know the great blessing it has by this example of Abraham and the promise that was given to him and to each of us this morning: “We, too, who believe that this Seed (of the woman who is the Son of God) is our blessing, have good reason to glory and act proudly over against all the gates of hell and (even) against Satan himself. To be sure, we are compelled to bear the hate and cruelty of our enemies; but “in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Rom. 8:37).

Since we are Christians and believe in the Seed who blesses us, why should we care if the devil or the world is angry? For all we care, let them take away what we have, and let them kill the body. They will not for this reason keep us in death, will they? Not at all, for we are blessed and are sure of life over against death and of the grace and favor of God over against the hatred of the world.”  AMEN!

You Lack Nothing!

Sunday, January 19th, 2014

Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church-San Diego
Epiphany 2A, January 19th, 2014

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“I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in Him in all speech and all knowledge—even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you—so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” [1 Corinthians 1:4-8]

I too, give thanks to our God for all of you.  Not because of you, but because of His grace which He has poured out upon each of you through Jesus Christ, His Son, our Savior!  Does that sound harsh?  It should not; after all, without Jesus Christ, the true servant of God, where would any of us be?  I’ll tell you where we would be, on the express road to judgment and damnation.

You see, we have a big problem that keeps getting in our way… sin!  Because of our sin, we do not love as we should, and we do not fear God as we must.  You could say that as well intentioned as we may be, by nature we are sinful and unclean; we are disobedient to the core!  So what is the solution?

We must be overtaken by the true obedient servant of God; that is the Son of God must come to us, redeem us and teach us every day what it means to be redeemed, that is saved from our sins.

In our Old Testament reading (Isaiah 49:1-7), we are allowed to enter into a conversation between God the Father and the Son of God, who for us men and for our salvation, came to us as Jesus Christ, to be one of us in order to save us from our sins, and teach us what obedience to the will of God is.

So many people will willingly confess Jesus Christ as their Savior and God, but moments latter, they’ll go about living their lives as they see fit, and not how God demands.  They will jump on board of whatever social idea is popular, just to avoid being singled out and being forced to defend their faith and the truth of God’s Word.

Today is national Right to Life Sunday.  You have a wonderful hand-out for you to take home and read, and perhaps consider getting involved with your time, talent, or treasure.  It is a cause that is Biblical and clear.  Life begins at conception.  But that is not what society says.  And what do they say?  Well, the truth is they can’t agree when life begins.  So instead of having a real discussion on the matter, a discussion that we Christians want to be part of, they simply cite a Supreme Court ruling (Roe v. Wade), and they claim that the unborn child is part of the pregnant woman’s body, just as her breasts are part of her body.  And just as we’ve see recently in the news, that there are woman of high profile and great wealth who are having their breasts surgically removed because of a high propensity to acquire breast cancer, so we too, see women aborting their pregnancy because there is an even higher propensity that these children if born, will change their lives forever.  We all know the arguments for having an abortion, so there is no need to bring them up this morning.  No, what we need to hear is what God thinks about these unborn children.  So what does He say?

In our lesson this morning, we see a couple of things right off the bat: God calls children from the womb and God knows them by name; they are His servants.

Now, some may be thinking, “Hold on just a minute there pastor; that Old Testament lesson is talking about Jesus, the Son of God.”  And to that, I will say, “Congratulations, you are one step closer to seeing things God’s way.”  Yes, that scripture is about the Servant of God, the Son of God, but it is also about Jesus, the Son of Mary.  Born of a woman and suffered on this earth as all of us know suffering and pain.  Why is that important?  Remember that I told you that because of our sin, one of our biggest problems is disobedience?  Well, Jesus did not have that problem; He was obedient even at the expense of His life.

“Listen” is the first word Jesus, the Obedient Servant of the Lord speaks in our Old Testament lesson.  “Pay attention” are the next words spoken.  Who is the Son of God talking to?  He is talking to everyone who is far away from God.  Because of our sins, we could never be any farther away, so He is speaking to you!  Aside from the call He received within the womb of His mother, He tells you how His flesh was created; it was created to give witness to God through the words of His mouth.  Words that were like sharpened swords.  Have you ever heard the saying, “The truth hurts”?  Here is something to think about, when it is God’s truth, when it is His law meant to show us our sins, it is suppose to hurt!  In fact, it is suppose to kill.  You are suppose to hear what God says about your sin, other peoples sin, and the sin of the world, so that you will then do two things: First you will agree with God; agree that He is right and you and society are wrong, and second, you must then hear and receive His solutions to your sin problem; that is your incessant disobedience problem.

The solution of course is His obedient servant who exchanges His obedience for your disobedience.  To the world, this Servant of God was on a fool’s errand.  And as proof they will point you to the servants own words in verse 4: “I have labored in vain (that is for no purpose); I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity”.  That is what the world believes, and for a moment that is how Jesus felt as He hung upon the cross between to criminals and experienced for the first time in eternity His separation from the Father and the Spirit.  So painful was the separation that He cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.”  But Jesus knew why He was forsaken; He was forsaken for you.  His cry should rightly be your cry, because of your great sins and your continued disobedience.  But shortly after His cry of fear and pain, we hear Him speak the gospel, the hope of sinners and gentiles.  “Father, into your hands I commit my Spirit.”

Here, in this moment of death, Jesus the Christ, points your eyes of faith to God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth.  And then He calls for you to look upon His agony and death and see Him as the Father’s only Son, your Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.”  But why?  So that you would understand these next words from our Old Testament reading: “What is due me is in the Lord’s hand, and my reward is with my God.  And now the Lord says—He who formed me in the womb to be His servant to bring Jacob back to Him and gather Israel to Himself, for I am honored in the eyes of the Lord and my God has been my strength—He says, “It is too small a thing for you to be my servant (and only) restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles (that is all disobedient sinners) that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.”

So Jesus “descended into hell.  The third day He rose again from the dead.  He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.  From thence He will come to judge the living and the dead.”

Now, hear a Word that is simultaneously both Law and Gospel.  You will be judged!  If you find your peace and happiness in this willfully sinful world, which is outside of the Obedient Servant’s grace, you will know only eternal damnation, that is separation from God forever.  But because your eyes of faith are continually fixed upon the cross of Jesus, the Servant who alone is obedient, even unto death, you are saved.  You are judged one with Jesus.

Jesus is your light, your source of hope and peace with God because He alone has taken away your sins, and in your baptism He has washed you clean and made you right with God the Father, His Father and now yours.  Jesus is your Redeemer.  You who were once sold into sin as it’s slave are free.  You, who once knew only eternal misery because of your bondage, now know by faith that the sinless Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, has even taken away your sin.  Because of the Lamb of God, the Obedient Servant, you now have peace with God.  You lack nothing!

You have been called out of darkness into the wonderful gospel light of grace.  As God ensured that you would hear and keep on hearing the message of the Gospel, which alone is the light for all gentiles, He now asks you to throw in with that work.  He has called you to be a witness.  A witness is nothing more that one who reports what He has experience.  He speaks the truth, even if the truth hurts, but He speaks the truth in love.  Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a no good, lost sinner like me.  I once was lost but now I’m found; was blind but now I see.

Yes, we are all witnesses, but we are also ambassadors.  We are to speak the message that God declares to the gentiles who are lost in sin.  What is that message?  Repent, that is turn back to God and know His forgiving love.  Know that there is no sin so great that God can not nor will not forgive through His grace, which is yours through Jesus Christ, if you will not reject it.

This grace, this fullness of life is for all people, even the unborn; and mystery of mysteries, even for the unborn who have been aborted.  God knows each of us, even in our mother’s womb.  He knows and He loves us all with an abundant love through Jesus Christ.  None of us deserve this love, and none of us will ever be able to live up to the standard of this love, but it does not mean we won’t try.  When we look at the birth, life, and death of Jesus, the Son of God, we can also see our lives knitted right into His.  We remember that the Lord looks beyond appearances, and He asks us to do the same.  As we listen to or read His Word, He tells us always about His Obedient Servant who was despised and abhorred by society.  And He tells us that His servant was also our Servant, and His service has become ours.  He reminds us that things are not what they seem to be.

Today Christ’s church faces frustration and what appears to be failure.  Our membership declines and society is more hostile than ever to those who speak God’s truth.  All of our witnessing and effort seems to be done in vain.  We know that we are not innocent in regards to blame; things we have done and even the many things we have left undone have contributed greatly to the apparent failure of the church.  We have not been that city on a hill, that bright light unto the gentiles.  Yet, we are reminded that just as we are, we lack nothing in regards to God’s gifts of grace, which are ours through God’s Obedient Servant, because we are the body of Christ!

Together, we testify to God’s salvation as His wounded and scarred body, which is often rejected and scorned.  But we know that our labor, the giving of our time, talent, and treasure is not in vain.  We know that just as God the Father was faithful to His servant Jesus and raised Him from the dead, so too we live and bear witness to this gospel hope in Christ alone.

May God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit keep us in this great epiphany hope, the mystery hidden for ages but now revealed through Christ Jesus our Lord… AMEN!

You Are My Witnesses!

Sunday, November 10th, 2013

Proclaimer: Mark Kunkee—Deacon, Trinity Lutheran Church
San Diego, CA, November 10, 2013
Sorry, no audio for this message.

In the Name of Jesus

INTRODUCTION: You are my witnesses, Jesus says. Christ is the faithful witness as His life is a confession of the true faith that reveals our compassionate Father’s ever-giving heart. A witness to Christ confesses the true faith. By the power and grace of the Holy Spirit, our Lord has called us His witnesses as people who share what He has given to us so that all would know the Father’s saving love. You are my witnesses, then, is Christ’s call to our real identity for the true confession of the faith in words and actions that inspire works of mercy in our life together.
I. Christ Jesus our Lord speaks to us so that we are His witnesses.

He sends His Holy Spirit so that His people may be witnesses as repentance and forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all nations. You are my witnesses. When Christ speaks to us today. He speaks to us through  pastors, deacons/deaconesses and anyone who believes in the word no matter what the season is to preach the Word. How are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent?

Pastors are sent by God to preach and teach the Law, proclaiming what God expects of His people according to His divine goodness. That Word of Law shows us our sin, our blatant and rebellious disregard for Christ’s life and teaching and our ego-driven rejection of His promises. It shows how deaf we are to Christ’s  compassionate voice of forgiveness, life and salvation as we reject our identity as His witnesses. The Good News that Christ came into the world as the great witness to the Father’s abounding love to suffer and die for our sin and rise again so that we may live releases us from the bondage of suffering and death. As repentance and forgiveness of sins is proclaimed in His Name, the promised Holy Spirit continues to call, gather, enlighten and sanctify people in the one true faith. Commissioned servants also work in our church body as teachers, deacons /deaconesses, directors of  education, parish music, nurses and others witnessing the living Christ.

You are my witnesses, Christ says to us today. Christ Jesus has spoken to the women of the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League so that they may be His Lutheran Women in Mission. Throughout the ages, the Lutheran Woman’s Quarterly has included Bible studies that have been used by people all over the world. Through the Word, our Lord engages people for lives of witnessing. Stories of faith in those pages of the Lutheran Woman’s Quarterly exhibit the mutual conversation and consolation of the saints that we believe, teach, and confess in the Smalcald Articles of our Lutheran Confessions. Mustard Seed devotions from the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League left in hotel rooms, restaurants and greeting cards show how the witness of Christ continues to permeate the world. You are my witnesses, Christ says through His servants in the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League.


II. Christ not only speaks to us so that we are His witnesses; Christ leads us out so that we are His witnesses.

How does he do this?  He does this when He brings us to the waters of Holy Baptism where we die to our sin and rise to newness of life. Buried with Him in our baptism, we are united with Him in His resurrection witness. As He gathers His people at His altar to receive His precious Body and Blood, Christ leads His people out from the altar into the world. As the Divine Service concludes inside the church building, divine service continues in the world as the people of God are sent forth as witnesses. There is no need to fear; the resurrected Christ has gone before us to prepare the way for us. Christ has led the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League out to be Lutheran Women in Mission. The pledge of the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League is centered in Christ’s initiative. We consecrate to our Savior our hands to work for Him, our feet to go on His errands, our voice to sing His praises, our lips to proclaim His redeeming love, our silver and our gold to extend His Kingdom, our will to do His will, and every power of our life to the great task of bringing the lost and the erring into eternal fellowship with Him. Amen.” By the power of the Holy Spirit given in the Means of the Spirit, Christ has led Lutheran Women in Mission out from their individual homes and local congregations to cities and countries far away. With money collected in mites, the women of the Lutheran Women Missionary League have been led out by Christ to every continent on earth sharing His redeeming love as they have heard the voice of Christ saying, You are my witnesses.


III. Christ speaks to us and leads us as His witnesses and Christ blesses us to be His witnesses.

Even today, Christ opens His nail-pierced hands in love to satisfy the desire of every living thing as He blesses us for His service in the world through our various vocations. Today, we especially celebrate how Christ blesses the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League to be Lutheran Women in Mission. We celebrate God’s goodness shown to us in Jesus Christ by celebrating witness, mercy, and life together in the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League.

The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod and many others have been blessed through the hands of women who have shared the gifts that God has given for the extension of His Kingdom as congregations have been founded, schools have been supported, outreach centers have been funded, and lives have been transformed as Lutheran Women in Mission have confessed the truth of the Gospel by bearing witness to Christ It continues in worship as Christ speaks through us, leads through us, and blesses others through us. And it will culminate in endless worship as we look to the Day of His return when we who have been spoken to by Christ and who have been led out by Him are blessed to be raised from the dead and in our flesh to live in the joy of being His people forever. You are my witnesses, Christ our Lord says. Confessing the truth in love and serving the Lord with gladness, we rejoice that Christ speaks to us, leads us out and blesses us as He graciously entrusts us with the Gospel in our ears, eyes, hands, and mouths saying, You are my witnesses.

CONCLUSION: And as we today hear God’s word we also recognize the birth of our founding father Martin Luther.  It was Luther who God chose to use as a tool to free His Word so that it could empower His people to once again be His witnesses.  He empowers us with this brief slogan that Luther lived and died by; a slogan we too should embrace and celebrate as we live to give witness to God’s presence and forgiving love in our lives, and in our community.  The slogan is simply this: We live by faith alone, grace alone, and scripture alone.  I pray that this word you have received will help you to do just that, and I ask this in Jesus name… AMEN!

Baptized to be a blessing!

Sunday, May 6th, 2012

Easter Sunday 5B, May 6, 2012
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA

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The movie clip we just watched was from the animated Christmas movie, The Polar Express. In that scene, the train had just jumped off the tracks and ended up sliding across a frozen lake. With no track to guide it, the challenge for Tom Hanks’ character was to work with the engineer and get the engine and cars lined up at the point where the tracks reemerge from under the frozen lake on the other side.

As Christians, we have been put on God’s track; we call it our walk of faith.  We were first put on that track in our baptism, but our challenge is to stay on that track, as God guides us on our journey of faith. As we stay on that track, God promises to use us as a blessing to others; He does this as He gets them back on track just as He did for us.

In the beginning, each of us needed someone to guide us, and help us stay on track. In other words, we needed someone to help us understand God’s will as declared in Holy Scripture.  So, the very first thing God helped us with was our confession to Him that on our own, as little sinners, we were completely helpless unless God intervened.  As we matured in our faith, God continually enlightened our minds to receive and understand His Word, all so we could continually appreciate that we are forgiven; we are on the right track!  This principle becomes clear in our first reading this morning (Acts 8:26-40).

In verses 30-31, the Ethiopian is struggling to understand what He is reading in the book of Isaiah.  Now I think each of us can put ourselves in the Ethiopian’s shoes; who of us has not felt confused at times while reading our Bibles?  So it’s quite understandable that the Ethiopian could not understand what he was reading; no one can unless God allows it.  The Spirit must enlighten us through the Gospel; that is, we must be given faith!  You see, concerning salvation, the prophets who foretold the coming of God’s work of grace that was to be yours, searched and inquired carefully, wondering when Christ would come and suffer as God had predicted, and then be glorified as a result of that suffering. And they were shown by God that they weren’t just serving their own generation, but also every generation that came after them, including you!  They did this by proclaiming the gospel; a message of forgiveness, empowered by the Holy Spirit, as sent from heaven.  They knew that the things they wrote, which you hear proclaimed, were things that even the angels couldn’t truly understand. [1 Peter 1:10–12]  Why even the apostles didn’t understand until Jesus opened their minds (Luke 24:45).  The truth is, the natural mind, our sinful minds can never understand the things of God until He allows us to understand (1 Corinthians 2:14).

And that is precisely why the Holy Spirit sent Philip to the Ethiopian.  It was God’s desire that his mind would be opened through Philip’s preaching.  And how did God do this?  He gave the Ethiopian a new way to read scripture; He put Jesus Christ in the center of all of God’s Word (vv 31–33)!

This morning, we discover along with the Ethiopian that what Isaiah and all of the other prophets are writing, is a witness to us, about Jesus!  They are predicting the birth, life, death, and resurrection of our God who is with us, as one of us! Yet even the clearest truths about Jesus Christ in the Scriptures can only become evident through the work and guidance of the Holy Spirit.  This was true for the Ethiopian then and it is still true for us today!

The Spirit is still guiding the true Church’s proclamation about Jesus, Him crucified and resurrected; Him alone who has fulfilled each of the Old Testament Scriptures for us (vv 34–35)!

It was Jesus who must come to be the Suffering Servant in Isaiah’s prophecy who, even though He was deprived of justice, He was vindicated by God.  Listen: “Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter and like a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he opens not his mouth.   In his humiliation justice was denied him.

Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth.” What a vivid picture of the atoning work of Christ Jesus on the cross!  And  yet, as clear as this message about salvation through the work of Christ alone is, we ignorant sinners still fight to make salvation something we obtain through our own wisdom and effort!

But Isaiah’s own words declared long ago, make it clear to everyone, that salvation can come only through Jesus Christ, who willingly laid down his life for our salvation!  Without the work of God’s Spirit, we pitiful sinners could never receive this message!  And yet, you are here and you have heard!  You have heard and believed the message in the same way countless sinners have for thousands of years.  How?  By the same work the Spirit did long ago for the Ethiopian; God has sent you preachers, faithful pastors who have declared His Word in the power of the Holy Spirit!

And that same Spirit continues to send missionaries, evangelists, and pastors to bring light into hearts that have been held captive in the darkness of sin.  And when the message of forgiveness through Jesus Christ is not rejected, those same sinners discover God’s forgiving love; they discover that it’s true, God does not desire the death of the wicked, but instead, He desires that all of us who have gone astray would repent, turn to Jesus and have everlasting life!  He did this great work for you, by giving you the gift of faith, which in turn has brought you back on track.  Your life on track with God began the same way it did for the Ethiopian; you were baptized and filled with God’s message of forgiveness through Jesus Christ!  And like the Ethiopian, God saw to it that you heard and believed in his Son, so that your sins would be forgiven.

Because God loves you, he sent the Spirit of his Son into your heart, and He is determined to keep you firm in the only faith that saves. Because God has made you his child, his Spirit continues to equip you as you live out your calling as a Christian.  And what is that calling?  Simply this, God wants you to remember that you have been baptized to be a blessing to others; you are a blessing to others when you share your faith with your neighbors.  You are blessing when you demonstrate the same love and forgiveness that you received from God!

Now, I know, this is where many of us can get a little nervous.  You might be thinking that it all sounds so good now, in church while pastor is explaining it, but when you’re on your own, who’s gonna guide you and help you give a good witness about Jesus!

Well who guided Philip?  He was in the middle of the desert, and no help within miles; he was all alone, …but not really!  If it had not been for God’s Spirit, Philip wouldn’t have even found the Ethiopian, let alone been able to witness.  No, here God is reassuring each of us that all things, even distance, time, and fear, are under His control!  What we must remember is that God chooses who He will use to witness and He equips those He chooses.  We simply are to observe and respond when those “God” moments happen in our lives.  All we are asked to do is to honor Jesus as our Lord and Savior within our hearts, and always be prepared to give an explanation to anyone who asks us for the reason we have hope.  And when we give our witness to Jesus, through the work of the Spirit, we will do it with gentleness and respect.

Oh, and here’s another thing that we’ve learned about witnessing this morning; as Philip was led away from the safety of people that he knew and was comfortable with, in order to witness to a foreigner (v 27), so too God may be asking you to willingly step out of your comfort zone and get to know people you wouldn’t normally associate with.  But why?  So that you can be blessed with the knowledge that God really can use you; knowing that others are blessed as God uses you!

What is important for us to remember is this.  God doesn’t need us to help Him reach people lost in sin any more than He needed Philip to help!  If God wanted to, He could have used the same angel that spoke to Philip to bring the gospel to the Ethiopian.  But God chose to bless Philip by speaking through Philip, so that both Philip and the Ethiopian would be blessed together!

So remember, whether you are at work, at school, in the market, away on a trip, or at home in your community, God choses to bless you by using you.  Whether you respond or not has no bearing on the good news; it doesn’t change the fact that Jesus died for you and washed you clean by giving you new life in your baptism!  No, instead, God’s invitation to be His witness is an invitation to receive His blessings by being a blessing to others!

The Ethiopian may have thought at first that it was pure coincidence that Philip was traveling the same road that he was on.  But God wanted him to know the truth about Jesus, and so He brought the two of them together to achieve his glorious purpose. That same Spirit is working in you and among us; He is working through your life’s events to keep you on track and to help others get on the same track; the way to eternal life, through Jesus Christ! As he has guided you so far, let him continue to guide you to grow in faith and use the opportunities He creates to witness about Jesus.  I pray that we will do this as one in Jesus Christ… AMEN!

The Power of God’s Love!

Saturday, September 17th, 2011

Friday Night Gospel Celebration, September 16, 2011
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
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NOTE: Only the scriptures and some main points are available for this message.  For the entire message please listen, using the audio link above.


Romans 12:
9-21

 (Vs. 9) “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.”    Right from the beginning St. Paul is making it clear to us that everything that follows is centered in love.  But this kind of love is different from the kind that we naturally show others; it’s the kind of love that is the ultimate fruit of God’s love for us.  It is the kind of love that gives you faith to believe that Jesus is your Lord and Savior. 

 (Vs.10-13)Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, and serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.”

  (Vs. 14-16) “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.  Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.  Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.”  Do these words sound familiar?  They should, because they are a paraphrase of Jesus’ own Words: “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” and “bless those who curse you.” [Matt. 5:44; Luke 6:27-28]  Think of Jesus last words upon the cross before he died, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).  I know what you’re thinking: “Well sure, He was the Son of God, of course He could bless and forgive.  No man could do that could they?”  Well what about Stephen, who opened his mouth in a blessing upon those who were stoning him to death?  Do you remember the last words that he uttered? “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (Acts 7:60)

  (Vs. 17-20) “Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.  If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.  Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”  To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.”  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”  There is no question that the man who does us evil ought to be paid back with the exact proportion. This is God’s own principle, and Paul isn’t ignoring that. But if God applied only that principle to us, where would we be?  And that is the point, without God’s grace through Jesus Christ we would be damned along with our worst enemy.  Friends, it is God’s work alone that saved us, and we should do everything to glorify Him and bring honor to His presence in our lives by living a life that demonstrates that same grace.   

CONCLUSION: Dear friends, the summary of all of this can be found in Paul’s last words: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” God demonstrated this principle for us long ago, when He sent His only Son to die for you upon the cross.  While we were still sinners, Christ died for us!  Just as Jesus prayed for us long ago upon the cross, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing” so too, we must pray for those who hurt us.  We need to pray and ask God for love as we try to show kindness to our enemies. Will they take advantage of us? Will they hate us even more? Only the Lord knows. Our task is not to protect ourselves but to obey the Lord and leave the results with Him.  Friends, even if our enemy refuses God’s love, we will still have experienced the love of God in our own hearts and we will grow in His grace.

I Will Not Keep Silent!

Sunday, January 17th, 2010

Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church-San Diego
Sanctity of Life Sunday, January 17, 2010
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Grace, Mercy and Peace are yours, from God our Father and for the sake of our Savior Jesus Christ!  AMEN

“For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not be quiet, until her righteousness goes forth as brightness and her salvation as a burning torch.” [Isaiah 62:1]

INTRODUCTION:  A professor in a medical school once posed this medical situation — an ethical problem — to his students: “Here’s the family history: The father has syphilis. The mother has TB. They already have had four children. The first is blind. The second had died. The third is deaf. The fourth has TB. Now the mother is pregnant again.  So the parents have come to you for advice. They are willing to have an abortion, if you decide they should. What do you say?”

The students broke into small groups for “consultation.” All of the groups came back to report that they would recommend abortion.

“Congratulations,” the professor said, “You just took the life of Beethoven!”

Well that’s just a story pastor.  We live in the real world.  Ok, here’s a “real world” poll taken in New England, which revealed that, if parents were able to know these things in advance, 1 percent of them would abort a child on the basis of sex, 6 percent would abort a child likely to get Alzheimer’s disease, and an incredible 11 percent would abort a child predisposed to obesity.  In essence, they would abort many of us!

I.  Sin is sin.  God’s Word clearly identifies what is sinful and what is pleasing to Him.  There are no gray areas in God’s eyes, and yet we like to create these gray areas, don’t we?  We make the gray areas because we don’t like facing our own sinfulness.  Oh, and in case you think that claiming ignorance of God’s will might offer you some protection, listen to God answer you from the book of Proverbs: “If you say, “Surely we did not know this, “Does not He who weighs the heart consider it?  He who keeps your soul, does He not know it?  And will He not render to each man according to his deeds? [Proverbs 24:11-12]

Friends, we’ve been called by Jesus Christ, the living Word of God to be both His church and His voice of truth in this world of sin.  We are His prophets.  But before we can fulfill this role, we need to agree that God is right and we are wrong!  Now as your pastor, you have called me to speak and teach you that Word, so together we will hear His Word, be changed and strengthened by it, and then go out into our communities where we can be God’s salt and light.  Now here’s the fascinating part of this calling; if we are faithful, God assures us that to the world, we will be like a crown of beauty, a royal diadem in His hand.  In other words, we’ll bring Him glory here on earth!

Friends, if we are faithful in speaking for God to those we encounter, He promises that we will experience his blessings in a way that will change the very way we think and live.  In other words, God promises that through our obedience we will discover that we are not only precious in His sight, but we are in fact His delight.

II. But we have a slight problem; the enemy doesn’t want us to live out this new identity, so he’s set some traps in order to deceive us.  These traps come to us through the use of science and the sinful society we live in; a society that loves to call evil good and good evil.  But even if we successfully avoid these traps, the enemy still has one more trick up his sleeve; he intends to stop us by overwhelming us with so much opposition and anger that we’ll no longer see the good of speaking God’s truth to such an evil society.  In other words, he wants to demoralize us to the point where we just simply give up.  Now, this same tactic has been used by the enemy in the past with great success.  It’s called institutionalized sin—sins that have been accepted by our society as normal.  If you don’t believe this truth, just look back no farther than 150 years ago when the institution of slavery—the trafficking of human beings was considered normal.  And even after a bloody civil war that nearly destroyed our nation, that sin still remains and it is still trying to capture the hearts and minds of our children.  This hatred of others is a sin that places “self” as the ultimate authority, which in turn allows us to see some people as less than human.

Today we celebrate “Sanctity of Life” Sunday.  This is the day that we as a church have set aside to remind us that God has declared all human life precious in His sight; the unborn, born, and even those who are frail and near death.  But science and our society tell us something very different—they say that the unborn are merely potential life, and the old and frail are just a life that’s already been lived.  They would have us believe that neither can really be counted important.  But listen to God speak through the voice of the Psalmist and let the voice of our enemy the devil and this sinful society be silenced: “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” [Psalm 139:13-18]   And if that’s not enough for you, listen to the living Word of God drive home the message through the Apostle Paul: “(Don’t) you know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” [1 Corinthians 6:19-20] 

 Friends, you have heard God’s Word… you know that there are no gray areas.  Right is right and wrong is wrong.  Now God wants to send you out into this world as His burning torch of truth and salvation.  But you say, “Pastor what can I do?  It’s the law of the land; abortion is legal, right?”  Well do you have a mouth?  Then for the sake of the unborn and for the credibility of the church, speak out.  Use your mouth to change hearts and minds, and use your vote to change the law.  And all the while, God wants you to pray!  Pray for your leaders and pray for your neighbors, and then work against the enemies of God who joyfully lead others astray by convincing them to take a life through abortion.  Pray that God will change both their hearts and minds so that this evil will be erased from our society.  Listen to St. Paul’s advice; he says, ” First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” [1 Timothy 2:1-4]  Pray dear friends, pray and don’t grow weary of prayer.  Don’t give up in speaking the truth; don’t surrender in the fight.  Keep on doing what you know is right.  Listen to God’s Living Word, and then be decided in your heart that you will do what Jesus tells you!

 III. In our gospel reading this morning, Mary, the mother of God the Son, Jesus Christ had a dilemma.  She was one of the matrons, or sponsors responsible for the smooth operation of a wedding party.  But the wine was running low, and the party was still jumping!  Now granted, when compared to other real life issues, running out of wine means very little in the large scheme of things, but at the time it was important to Mary.  She had doubts and fears; so where did she go?  She went to Jesus!  Now the fact that she went to Jesus isn’t that fascinating, after all, Jesus is her son, but what happened next would change everything.  It would change the way faithful people live and it would change the way faithful people think!

 Have you ever wondered why Jesus called His own mother “woman” instead of “mother”?  “Jesus?  Son?”  Mary called.  “They are almost out of wine,” she says.  And to this Jesus answers, “Woman, what does this have to do with (you and) me?  My hour (or my time) has not yet come.”  Here friends, Jesus mother turns to her son as she undoubtedly did so many times before, but this time it is different…it’s a critical moment where ordinary help won’t suffice.  She knew that Jesus had no money and as a stranger in this town he had no connections.  Yet they needed wine.  So why turn to Jesus?  Because friends, she never forgot that her son was also the Son of God, the Messiah… her Savior.  You see, in this small dilemma, ordinary help would fail; they had neither the time nor the means to get more wine, so Mary knew she must look for extraordinary help.  Mary didn’t need familial help, she needed divine hope.  And to give this hope, Jesus must first eternally change her relationship with Him. 

 Friends, when Jesus called His mother woman, He was declaring to her that His position as a dutiful son was eternally ended.  He was telling her that from that moment on He would be assuming a much higher position; one as Savior and Redeemer.  And this divine work can only be done on God’s terms and in God’s time, not hers and not ours.  Like Mary, we too must learn that if we really want divine hope and help, we must first recognize who Jesus really is.  It is Jesus, the Son of God, together with the Father, and the Holy Spirit alone who determine when and how God will miraculously intervene—even in hopeless situations!

 Friends, it was this first miraculous sign from Jesus—turning water into wine—that would forever direct both Mary and the entire church to ask and receive all things through Jesus Christ alone, and then simply and trust that He would act according to His time!  It is in Him alone that we are to place our trust.  And with this new truth, Mary has a new teaching to share with her assistants at the party and with us…

 “Do whatever He tells you.” [John 2:5b]  Do you understand what this means friends?  It means that we must do whatever God’s Word says.  What God’s Word calls good, we are to call good.  What He calls sinful and evil we are to say also.  In His Word alone, we are to live, breath, and find our existence and fulfillment.  Yet we still sin daily.  We sin against God and we sin against each other.  Since this is most certainly true, it is critical that we hear what comes next.  It there is anyone here this morning who has in the past had an abortion, assisted with or counseled for an abortion, performed an abortion, or has simply been indifferent to abortion, let God speak to your heart.  Let His Spirit convince you that abortion is a sin?  Has He shown you that it is your sin?  Are you sorry for this sin and all others that you have committed and do you sincerely repent of them?  Is it your intention to agree with God that this is an evil that must be defeated… that was defeated upon the cross of Jesus Christ?  Do you desire to be free of this evil now and for all eternity? 

Dear friends, because Jesus has defeated both the devil and all evil through His death upon the cross, and because He has given this victory to you through the washing of the water and the Word in your own baptism, hear the sweet words of the gospel, the forgiveness of your many sins.  You are forgiven!  You no longer need to live in shame and reproach.  Through God’s Holy work alone He has taken away your sorrow and shame and He has given you a new name…. you are called Christian.  You are a child of faith!  As a member of the Holy Christian Church you are now the beloved bride of Jesus Christ Himself!

Now dear saints, as the beloved bride of Christ, hear the words of mother Mary fresh and new… “Go, and do whatever our Lord tells you.”  What is He telling us?  Speak up for those who have no voice!  Call evil what it is!  Don’t be afraid of the ungodly, because they will soon have their punishment handed down to them.  Instead, speak up and speak out to those who will hear the Word of God and repent, just as you have.  Join your pastors and the whole church and preach Christ Himself and His Holy Word until He comes again to judge the living and the dead.  Do whatever God’s Word tells you because He is your salvation, and let politics and this sinful society be damned!

Let this world and our sinful society see our Holy God’s righteousness shine through each of us as individuals and as His church so that all may see us as justified and equipped by God for this battle—not with the laws of man but with the highest law there is… the Living Word of God!

CONCLUSION: Dear friends, do whatever Jesus tells you.  Repent and be baptized.  Repent and believe you’ve been forgiven and changed.  This is the message we are to speak to our neighbors and even to our elected leaders.  Let’s speak this message in our conversation and let’s speak it through the ballot box.  We will not be silent… because we cannot be silent.  Yes we’ll be ridiculed and marginalized, but as I said in the beginning of this message, we must speak out, because we are God’s crown of beauty and we are a holy and royal diadem in His hand.  We alone can bring Him glory, because we alone are called by a new name…. Christian!  Jesus we are yours… save us!  AMEN!