Posts Tagged ‘Word of God’

It All Comes Down To This

Sunday, May 24th, 2015

Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego 92114
http://www.tlcsd.org
Pentecost B, May 28, 2015

Click here for audio of this message

It all comes down to this!  Down to what?  The coming, presence, and work of the Holy Spirit, of course!  Jesus said, “… I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.  And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.”

Now, I know the presence of the Holy Spirit is nothing new; His Work was essential, “In the beginning.. (when) the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.  And (He empowered the Word of God when) … God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.” [Genesis 1:4]

The Spirit was there with Adam and Eve as they were repelled out of Paradise, and it was the Spirit Who constantly reminded them of the Promise of restoration through the coming Champion who would destroy sin, death, and the devil, and bring humanity back to Paradise.  The Holy Spirit was with Noah and the Animals as the Ark was built and the animals were compelled to enter the Ark in peace.  The Holy Spirit was with Moses as He parted the sea and led God’s people to dry land.  It was the Spirit who filled every one of the prophets of old and the Apostles of Jesus to speak Words of hope and new life, all once again centered around the Champion who has actually fulfilled the promise of Paradise restored.  And that champion is Jesus Christ, crucified, risen, and ascended!

Now this is all “good news” but it is not the only news on this day of Pentecost.  The news of Pentecost is that not only has Christ risen, but also that He has risen for you.  And here’s the best part of that proclamation, it is empowered by the Holy Spirit to actually bring you a new life with God, and take you back to Paradise; back to a right relationship with God!

So, the Good News for each of you today, is that through the fulfilled Word of God, you have been given faith to believe in each and every promise God makes regarding your sin and Christ’s Work upon the cross to take away your sin.  You have been given faith to know this truth as a certainty.  Just as the Spirit at creation hovered over the waters to empower the Word of God to create everything out of nothing, so too He has empowered God’s promise of forgiveness and restoration and the waters of your baptism.

But here’s another truth…

Life without faith is desperate. In our Old Testament lesson, we are given a graphic demonstration of this desperation through the vision God gave to His prophet Ezekiel.  The valley of dry bones is the ultimate expression of life overstepping its limits, which is the abandonment of hope in the Creator God.

Ezekiel’s vision is the reality of our world today.  Certainly the Christian martyrs in the middle east must feel dry, desolate and alone as they die one by one through the demonic power of ISIS.  But we do not have to go that far to know the feeling of emptiness and abandonment; how must the people of Detroit feel as they think back to better days when the economy was booming and neighborhoods and business were flourishing, but now all that stands are the burn out shells of homes and businesses that once were.

The Mexican artist, Jose Guadalupe Posada created a large body of art showing persons engaged in a wide variety of daily activities, but each were depicted as skeletons.  In one drawing he depicted a soldier riding through a valley of bones full of human skulls.  What was he trying to tell us?  Was he trying to say that hope in the government above or in place of our hope in God only leads to death?

Perhaps the most terrifying aspect of Ezekiel’s vision is after the bones became skeletons, and after the skeletons were fleshed, what filled the immense valley floor? Bodies of real people who are simply dead because they lack the touch of the Holy Spirit; they lack the breath of life!  This dear saints is the ultimate tragedy… not that people die, but that they refuse to live.  The flesh without spirit, not the dry bones is the most haunting aspect of Ezekiel’s vision.  A world of zombies, the walking dead if you will who are in that state and don’t know it, or worse yet they know but they do not seem to mind.  But…

Life with faith in Christ overcomes the curse of the walking dead; it overcomes despair! Jesus declared to the world and to you personally on the day of your baptism, “I came that (you) may have life and have it abundantly.” [John 10:10]  He is the only One who can not only speak hope, but deliver it.  He not only promises a restored and renewed hope, but His Word actually gives it.

Every Word that Jesus spoke and taught was to prepare each of you for that one moment in your life when you realize that there is something great and profound missing in life, and then receive it!  When your moment of despair comes, and sometimes they come frequently like the waves on the ocean shore, when it comes it is God’s will that you recall His promises of forgiveness and restoration, which you have heard declared, read, or even sung, and then remember.  Remember what?

Remember that although through His Word you have discovered that your sin is great, deadly, and terrifying, you must also remember that all of Christ’s righteousness has been given to you completely through His Work upon the cross and the declaration of the empty tomb.

But the Easter cry of “He is risen” is like a iPhone without a battery, if you can not or will not reply, “Indeed, He has risen for me!”  And this is now getting at the power of the abundant life that Jesus has promised to the church, and through the church , to the world.  This is where we discover that…

Life with Christ finds empowerment through the Holy Spirit in the church for the work of witness and missions! So it all comes down to this… The day of Pentecost is a demonstration of both the love and power of God, which takes the good news of forgiveness of sins and ensures that it will be declared throughout the world.

As Peter and the disciples gathered in the upper room right after their Lord Jesus ascended into heaven, they must have felt alone and afraid.  But they knew somehow they were not abandoned; they knew that Jesus would make good on His promise to send a helper, a counselor, and protector.  And my, did he ever…

Some may say rightly that until that day when the Spirit showed up in power, Christians were just playing the part of church; they were playing around with the idea of Christ, not yet allowing the resurrected and ascended Christ to come alive in their midst.  Again, they were like an iPhone without a battery, or better yet they were like a bus without an engine.  But then something happened on the Day of Pentecost… Jesus made good on His promise; He sent the Holy Spirit.

The entire account given to us in our second reading (Acts 2:1-21) can not help but excite us and invite us into the story of the church. The imagery of the event comes alive as it glows with tongues of fire and the bewilderment of other languages. People seem to be staggering and stammering like drunken men. But when Peter speaks and the air clears, that which is testified to, is nothing other than the mighty works of God.

Dear friends, the mighty works of the Holy Spirit are still being performed today.  We witness the same power as the dreams of the old and the visions of the young people refuse to play church, but actually become and behave as church through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.  And this mighty work is none other than the work of salvation; the translation of sinners into saints for “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved!”

When ever the Word is proclaimed, whether through the work of the sermon, Bible Study, personal witness, or when it is carried overseas to far way places, it is fulfilling the mission of Christ found in Matthew 28:”Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Vs. 19, 20) So Pentecost is really the birth of Missions or the empowerment of the church to fulfill Christ’s mission.

As you leave this place but not Christ’s presence, you leave reminded that you are on a mission to share the good news that sinners sins have been forgiven through the work of Christ alone. But you do not go alone; you have been empowered and you are protected by the Holy Spirit.  And as you share the good news, what will be the response that you will receive from friends, neighbors, and family?

Now we are at the very heart of sinful mankind’s response to the gospel.

Humanity’s situation without God is so desperate and their opportunities with Him are so big that almost any response seems inadequate and even a little ridiculous.  Do people fall to their knees and cry mercy or rise to their feet and cry glory; once they are converted by the Holy Spirit, do they spend a period of time in study and training or do they rise from the valley of dry bones in service to God and neighbor?

To dwell on questions like those can also be another way we play church and play with the mission of Christ.  Why not face the facts as we know them; anyone who has been struck by the Spirit of Pentecost has received the breath of life; they’ve been recreated through the waters of Holy Baptism.  In other words they have been reanimated.  And what they do next is the very same thing we do every day…

We repent! We believe and we become what God has already declared we are… Redeemed!  Repentance is the heart beat of the church.  It is the radical turning of the whole self from itself, to a right relationship with God through the cross of Jesus Christ.  To be baptized is to enter into the life and mission of the church.  To receive the Holy Spirit is to allow the Sprit to shape your life in obedient witness and service to Him who first loved us!  And yes, it may even mean making amends for past wrongs, selling or giving away what we don’t need and sharing the proceeds or other goods with the needy, sharing a common life with other Christians on days other than Sunday, worshiping daily and breaking bread in homes, the very transformation that marked the Christian community after the great day of Pentecost. [Acts 2:37-47]

SO IT ALL COMES DOWN TO THIS. The Holy Spirit is among us in great power, just as He was in the beginning, just as He was with Adam and Eve, just as He was with Noah, Moses, the prophets and apostles of old, and just as He was that first Pentecost Sunday.  In the past all who have made a difference within the building and growth of God’s Kingdom only did so because they were willingly being led by God’s Word and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.  So it all comes down to this.  Are you willing?  I pray in Jesus name that you are… Amen!

These Things Are Written That…

Sunday, May 17th, 2015

Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego 92114
http://www.tlcsd.org
Easter 7B, May 21, 2015

Click here for audio of this message

May the words of this message and the meditations of our hearts be both directed by you, and pleasing unto you O Lord.  In the name of the Father Son and Holy Spirit, AMEN!

Let’s immediately address the title of our message this morning.  Can you finish it?  I hope that you can because we just sang those words in our Alleluia and Verse, before the reading of the Gospel lesson.  “These things are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.”  [John 20:31] The apostle who wrote those words is the same St. John who wrote these Words from our Epistle lesson (1 John 5:9-15), “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.” [V.13]

Notice, that the Word says “that you know that you may have eternal life”,  and it does not say “that you can have eternal life.” God desires that all men, women, and children, know that eternal life is already there’s through His Son Jesus Christ; through His life, death, and resurrection, and then know that all of it was done for you.  He came so that you could have a new and forgiven life, without fear or doubt.  He came that you might have an abundant life once again with your Creator.
His coming to sinful men and women was promised in His Word since the first sin of Adam and Eve; a sin that seemed to forever bar all mankind from returning to Paradise.  But the promised solution, the hope for both them and all mankind was the “Seed of the woman,” who would latter be known as the Messiah; the One who would make all things new and right with our Heavenly Father.  This Seed we know by faith, as a gift from God, is the Son of God, Jesus Christ.  He is the Messiah who was promised, that would restore mankind’s lost relationship with God, and thus bring us back to Paradise lost.  It is God Who makes all things new, and it has absolutely nothing to do with you and your efforts or lack of them.  He does it entirely through His Son Jesus Christ alone and through…

Scripture alone, grace alone, and faith alone. It is scripture, grace, and faith alone that recreates our hearts and minds so that we will believe that Jesus is the Christ and then receive His saving name, which alone ensures our hearts that we have eternal life. Again Jesus the Christ saves us, but saves from what?  Well, from the condemnation of our sins of course!  But how do we know this is true?  Through…

Scripture Alone: In the message of the inspired writers of Holy Scripture comes the re-creative Word of God; the Logos, who in the beginning said, “Let there be…” and there was!

John admitted that he could have written much more about the physical life of the Logos who came to us, but what he did write was enough to bring us eternal life.  St. Paul put it this way: “You have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” [2 Tim. 3:15]  Scripture does this by introducing us to Christ Jesus. So, we can say that as God’s Word introduces us to Jesus, it is also bringing the power of God into the lives of we who believe. [Rom 1:16]  God’s Word, every bit of it, found within your Bibles is powerful, because it teaches you about Jesus Christ.

The word of the prophets, which promised the coming of the Messiah, can be compared to a fire, because it purges the hearts of sinners of anything that does not come from God’s Word.  And it can be compared to a hammer, because it shatters our hearts that can become hard as rock when we place our hope in anything accept Christ alone! [Jeremiah 23:29]  The words of Scripture rise from the pages of our Bible with only two purposes, to pierce our hearts in regards to sin, and to heal our hearts in regards to the work of our Savior. [Heb. 4:12] John’s words about the Word made Flesh were written to bring life to each of us who hear or read those Words.  “These things are written that you may believe  that Jesus is the Christ!”

Now with all of this being true, we must always remember that when we are reading God’s Word, it must be handled with both respect and a sense of awe.  We must never try to impose our own cultural ideas upon that Word, nor use it to justify our sinful actions.  Scripture interprets Scripture. The Word of the Lord alone can govern how his Word is to be understood. The one who listens to God’s Word is to be “trapped” within that Word. It remains an authoritative voice from outside of our control. Therefore, the words of Scripture must be understood within the context of God’s revelation of Himself within the biblical text, and not according to what contemporary society says is truth.  We as the readers or hearers of God’s Word stand under that Word and never over it.

In our first reading this morning (Acts 1:12-26), we join the eleven apostles and many disciples of Jesus as they are leaving the mount called Olivet, where for the last time, they physically saw Jesus as He ascended into Heaven to be seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.  After they witnessed Jesus going up into heaven, they returned and stayed in Jerusalem, just as Jesus had commanded them.  But it was the way that they were waiting, which has significance to our message this morning; they were waiting “with one accord, devoting themselves to prayer.”  That is, they were devoted to worship and the one correct understanding of God’s Word!

What was it that united them?  Scripture alone!  It was through scripture that the work of the Holy Spirit moved Peter to fill the place that Judas, by his death vacated.  Judas Iscariot, the one who scripture prophesied would not only betrayed Jesus Christ and the Christian faith, but take his own life to boot!

Peter, filled with the Spirit of God, and moved by the Spirit, stood before the congregation, and began to apply scripture to their situation.  As he spoke, the Holy Spirit reminded of the two portions of Scripture from the Psalms of David, which prophesied both the betrayal of the Messiah, and the punishment and replacement of the betrayer. First, he read Psalm 69, which proclaims, “May his camp become desolate, and let there be no one to dwell in it.”  In other words, the betrayer will be punished, and his betrayal of the faith will not be repeated again by those who replace him.  The next Psalm brought before the heart of Peter was Psalm 109, which declares, “Let another take his office.”  That its let another apostle be called.

So what we learn from this is that it is Christ alone who chooses, and it is Christ who still speaks to His Church through Holy Scripture and prayer.  It is by grace alone that any are chosen, and it is by faith alone that they will continue stead fast in this high call of God.  And we will need this faith that comes through the Word of God every day, because like Judas we too can only be saved by…

Grace Alone: And like Judas, we too are subject to fall from our call as Christians and betray our Lord, choosing the rewards of this sinful world over the grace of God.  In fact, it has already begun in your life, hasn’t it?  Wasn’t it your sins, like the sins of Judas that caused Jesus to set His heart on that painful walk to the cross?  Quickly, don’t deny it; simply say “Yes, Christ died for my sins.”  Because if you cannot say that Jesus died for your sins, that it was your sins that led Him to the cross, then you cannot receive the forgiveness of sins that His death brings.  That is, you cannot receive His grace, which is the undeserved gift of God’s forgiving love.

Dear saints, when you are in Christ’s church, when you are gathered around the Word and Sacraments, you are receiving Jesus gifts without merit, which come through Scripture alone, by grace alone, and which save you by both creating and sustaining faith alone.

Faith Alone-is that very thing, which allows us to receive and believe that not only has Christ died to save the World, but He also died to save you!  By faith alone, you are able to say along with the entire church, “He is risen, indeed, but more importantly, He has risen for me.”

Because he died to save sinners, He died to save you, and in your baptism, He has given all of this to you.  In the washing of the water and the Word of God, you may stand with confidence upon the work of Jesus Christ and the teaching of the twelve apostles, which alone not only promises, but also gives eternal life.

So faith is simply the empty hand of a beggar, which has nothing on its own, but simply waits to be filled with belief in Christ by God Almighty.

Now let’s look at a case study of a real man whom God says was a type of Judas; a type, which all of us may become if we do not cling to Jesus alone, through Scripture alone, by grace alone, and by faith alone. It is the story of Ahitophel, who was counselor of King David.  The Bible mentions this man only in three places, yet his life is intertwined with King David from the time that David became king in Hebron until the time of the death of David’s son, Absalom.  In 2 Samuel 16:23 we are told that the counsel of Ahitophel “was as if a man had inquired at the oracle of God: so was all the counsel of Ahitophel both with David and with Absalom.”  So where did this man of God, Ahitophel come from?    Well, the Bible says he was from the town of Giloh, a town near Hebron (Joshua 15:51-55). Hebron was the area where young David, before he was king, sent his young men to a man called Nabal, asking for some thing in return for having protected Nabal’s shepherds and flocks from marauders in the area of Carmel.  David was ridiculed by Nabal, and it was Nabal’s wife Abigail who saved the lives of all of them from the wrath of David, by her quick thinking and action. After Nabal died, David married Abigail, and if you read 1 Samuel 25 you will see that she admits that the meaning of her husband’s name Nabal, is “Fool”. This is the only man in the Bible who has this name.

So what is the meaning of Ahitophel’s name?  It is “the brother of a fool.”  But unlike his brother Nabal, he was renowned for his wisdom and understanding. You’ll find him mentioned as King David’s counselor in 1 Chron. 27:33. And it appears, that he held this position up until the time of the rebellion of David’s son Absalom.

So why did Ahitophel commit suicide?  Well, Ahitophel had served David closely and obediently for years, yet out of no where he seems to have turned on his King, and joined the conspiracy of David’s son Absalom to over throw David, but when the advice he gave Absalom in regards to defeating David was not followed, out of shame and fear, he committed suicide by hanging himself.  But Why; why did he turn traitor, and why the permanent solution to what seems to be a temporary problem?  And herein lies an interesting tale.

You see, Ahitophel was the one person who was in the know when David committed adultery with Bathsheba. He was in the Palace, in the confidence of the King and he was Bathsheba’s Grandfather! Yes, you can look it up yourself in 2 Sam.11:3 and 2 Samuel 23:34. Bathsheba was the daughter of Eliam whose father was Ahitophel. So here along with the death of his brother, is the seed of betrayal that years later became the motivation for Ahithophel to turn on David and join David’s son, Absalom.

Remember, Bathsheba had been happily married to Uriah, and it was Bathsheba whom David seduced and then had her husband Uriah killed in battle.  Ahitophel knew all of this, and carried that grudge for years.  In Psalm 41:9,  David laments, “Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me.” This is the very verse that Jesus quoted about Judas at the last supper, as the betrayer, who like Ahitophel turned against the one who entrusted him with responsibility.

When both Ahitophel and Judas saw that their advice to their kings was rejected, they both saw that there was no future for them, so they both chose the same end… betrayal and then suicide!

CONCLUSION: Dear friends, we must all consider Ahitophel and Judas when we are tempted to hold a grudge against someone who may have hurt us or let us down.  And then by faith, we must see how God has so lavishly blessed us with His grace, and then ask the Lord to take that root of bitterness out of our hearts, because if it remains, it will ruin us and rob us of the faith that is needed to be led by His Word.

Friends, if you have a grudge against someone, allow God’s Word to have control over your lives.  By faith, go and make peace with the one you are at odds with, and then with the same grace you have been given, go and offer forgiveness to the one that has hurt you.  And remember, forgiveness is a verb, not a feeling. It is something you do through the help of God, and it’s not something you feel. Peace comes after you have gone and forgiven the one you were in conflict with. Whether they accept your forgiveness or not, once you have forgiven, you will by faith, through grace, experience the peace of God in your soul, because the Word of God promises that it is so.  AMEN!

Life On the Edge!

Sunday, October 12th, 2014

Eighteenth Sunday in Pentecost A, October 12, 2011

Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego, CA 92114
http://www.tlcsd.org

Click here for audio of this message.

Matthew 22:1-14

Following Jesus is, well it’s… wonderful, amazing, fulfilling, exciting, and peaceful, but it isn’t easy.  It isn’t easy because it requires faith, and faith requires you to release control of your life and your decisions to God’s direction.  Faith is the substance of things that we hope for, but as of yet unseen!  To live a life following Jesus requires living by faith and not by sight!

This is the message that our gospel reading leads us to this morning; it was the message that Jesus was speaking to the Jewish leaders and others that were listening to Him teach, and it is the message that He is giving to us this morning.  This morning, Jesus speaks this message to all of us who are baptized: live a life of faith by living on the edge!  But as I said, this kind of life isn’t easy; it never has been.

Throughout the history of the Kingdom of God here on earth, we have seen a picture of disappointment, fear, doubt; we see sin becoming stronger, while the joy, courage, and faith of those who live in and proclaim the kingdom seems to be getting progressively weaker.  Jesus story about a King who invited many to his son’s wedding banquet is told to illustrate this very point.  Like His story, the history of the Jews and even our history displays sinful people refusing God’s offer of grace.  Within the ranks of these sinful men are a mixture of open and defiant sinners and those who seem like real believers, but secretly they’re posers, unbelievers; Jesus says that the time is coming when they’ll be unmasked!  Within His story, Jesus has wonderfully compressed all of the New Testament time and even our time, into one story.

What we need to remember throughout the story is that the wedding and the invitations to attend it pictures God’s grace; His undeserved mercy, forgiveness, and love for all of sinful mankind.  But this grace can only come through Jesus Christ, the living Son of God!  The banquet table and the feast that’s being served on it represents the feast of victory for our God; a victory that celebrates first the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus, and then the very same thing that’s promised to each and every person who is seated at the feast of victory.  Well almost every person.  You see in Jesus’ story, there is one person who doesn’t belong there.  There’s one person who isn’t wearing the robe provided by God!  That one person represents a vast number of people who refuse to turn to Jesus as their Savior, Lord, and King.  And the change of clothes they refuse to be fitted with represents the new identity that each of us is offered and given in our baptisms.

Throughout the life of every person ever created, there are God-created opportunities to receive this new identity, to put it on if you will, to walk around in it and become comfortable in it.  But God in His wisdom allows each of us to reject this new identity and that is what causes tension; it’s what makes us feel like we’re living on the edge of joy and disappointment; the edge of courage and fear; and the edge between faith and doubt!

Living on the edge means living between joy and disappointment.  Have you heard about the family that moved into the neighborhood of a local congregation?  Well the good saints of that church decided to reach out to that family when they heard that they had 12 kids and were for the most part poor. They invited the family to divine service and even brought a package of wonderful suits and dresses to them and said, “We want you to know” they said, “that you and your entire family are welcome at our church anytime. We have bought you these gifts and we want you to feel comfortable and at ease in our congregation. We hope you can use them” and they left. Well Sunday came and the congregation waited for the family, but they never showed. Wondering what could have possibly happened, some members of the board of elders returned to the home and found the family just getting back, all dressed in their new clothes.  “We don’t mean to be nosey but we would like to know what happened. We had hoped to see you this morning in church,” the head elder said.  The father answered, “Well, we got up this morning intending to come. And we sure do appreciate your invitation. But after we showered, shaved, and dressed, why we looked so good we wanted to show off our new look to the folks of my wife’s old church.”

Now that’s a funny way of talking about a serious problem. Invitations are sent to many to come to church but so few people respond. It’s frustrating. Many of you have reached out to neighbors or friends and asked them to come to church and you know all too well the disappointment, how few respond.

Maybe that is why we find this morning’s parable so familiar. But we must remember that Jesus has told us that the Kingdom of God has always been like this; it’s like a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son and many would not come. They are just too busy to respond.  But not you… here you sit at the table!  You got in, so put aside your disappointment and receive the joy of the Lord.

Living on the edge means living between courage and fear.  In Jesus story the royalty, which represented the Jewish nation were the first ones invited to the feast!  As a group, they would not come, so they were destroyed.  In the year 70 AD the nation of Israel, the city of Jerusalem and more importantly their temple, their way of life and worship was destroyed, all because they would not come to a new Holy City, the Kingdom of God which can only be entered through the Son of God, Jesus Christ.  But their empty seats will not even be noticed because God is no longer inviting a nation of people, but all people from every nation, tribe, and tongue; that means He is inviting you!

Now for some people this can cause fear; even fear that can paralyze them.  They see how God punished the nation of Israel for the way they mistreated their invitation, and so they see God as an angry and punishing God.  But if they see Him in this way, as if He has dark storm clouds draped across His face, they aren’t seeing Him correctly!  The very fact that He has invited you first in the waters of your baptism, and the fact that you are seated here right now hearing about His mercy and forgiveness proves that He is a God of love!  And because He loves you, He says to you this morning, “Take courage, put on your new baptismal identity and rest at my table of peace!”

Well finally, living on the edge means living between faith and doubt.  In Jesus’ story, the king invited everyone to the feast. Many have responded, and the dining hall is filled with guests, but there’s a problem. The king sees a man who isn’t wearing the appropriate wedding attire. He is wearing an old, perhaps tattered robe, obviously the garb that he wore in everyday life, his street clothes. “Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe,” the king asks. The man was speechless, so the king had him bound and tossed into a place called outer darkness. Jesus concludes the parable with these solemn words: “Many are called, but few are chosen.”

What we learn from Jesus story is that everyone is invited into the Kingdom of God, but not everyone will respond to that invitation.  But we also discover that even if you get in you’re not really in unless the King chooses you to stay!  And here is where doubt can creep in; here is where we begin to ask what does it take to really get in?

Well it all depends on what you are wearing!  In your baptism you have been clothed with Christ’s righteousness; in essence, you’ve put on Jesus’ robe of righteousness.  No work or accomplishment of your own can be included.  Naked you came into this world and naked you must leave, accept for the righteous robe of Christ.  Remember, when we’ve done all that we can we are still worthless servants, because we’ve only done that which was our duty to do. [Luke 17:10]

If our garment isn’t the good life we live on this earth for Jesus, then what is it?  It’s faith in what Jesus has done for us!  Theologians call this the imputed righteousness of Jesus which becomes our hope and the object of our faith.  Because faith is the garment that is put on us, all we can do then is rest in it or wear it.  Another way to think of this is to say that our faith is like a cup, it simply holds God’s free gift of righteousness.  In your baptism you can say that, “God has clothed me with His garments of salvation, and He has covered me with the robes of righteousness.”

And here you have the close of Jesus parable.  Oh wait, there is another little matter to address isn’t there?  If the banquet table represents the Kingdom of God, then how did that unbeliever get in there?  Isn’t there a great divided between heaven and hell so that none may cross?  Yes there is, so that means that the banquet table isn’t necessarily the Kingdom of Heaven, but it is the Kingdom of God!  Is there a difference?  Yes and no!  What we need to remember is that the Kingdom of God is where God’s people gather around His gifts.  What are His gifts?  Well they are His means of grace, or His means of faith!  Chief of all of these gifts is His Word, Holy Scripture, which is not just your invitation to the banquet but the very Son of the living God, Jesus Christ.  Within God’s Word you are given the gift of faith to believe that you really belong in God’s Kingdom, both here on earth and in heaven.  So what is the Kingdom of God here on earth?  It is the church, the very bride of Jesus Christ, which receives not just His Word but His Sacraments.  In your baptism, you have been ushered into the Kingdom and at His Table, the Holy Communion, you feast as royalty!  As each of us receive these gifts, we are reminded that we are living a life of dependence on God, a life of faith that’s filled with tension between heaven and hell.  But Jesus assures us that because we are resting in Him and receiving His gifts we will one day join Him at His eternal table of feasting where there will be no more suffering, pain, disappointment, fear, or doubt, and this is the gospel, the good news that gives us peace and joy.  But there are some here, in Christ’s church who will not put on this new baptismal identity.  There are some who are simply posers, mere impostors.  They refuse to be changed and they will not respond!  They already have the reward of living in God’s Kingdom, His Church, but they will not be allowed to enter the Kingdom of Heaven and eternally find their seat at His banquet table.

For these poor souls, there is only weeping and gnashing of teeth in a dark place where they will be forever bound and kept.  All because they would not receive the Word of God; all because they would not keep fighting to retain their baptismal identity; all because they would not confess their sinfulness and be fed their Lord’s meal of forgiveness!

Yes, living the life of faith is living on the edge, but if you are resting in the gifts of God through Jesus Christ you have been assured that even if you experience disappointment, fear, and doubt, one day very soon you will only know joy, love, and peace, all because you walked by faith and not by sight!

Now may the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen!

Are You Listening?

Sunday, August 3rd, 2014

Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego 92114
http://www.tlcsd.org
Pentecost 8A, August 3, 2014

NOTE: The congregation first watched this very short video before hearing the Message.
We ask that you too watch this video before listening to or reading the message by clicking here.


Click here for audio of this message

“Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David.” [Isaiah 55:3]

This morning, God’s Word has invited you to come to His house and listen to His Word, and here you are!  Yes you’re here, but have you been listening?  Are you listening?   I hope you are, because our message is one that brings and sustains life; real life.  That is something only God can give, and He gives it in only one way.  Death on the other hand is something that you do not need to look for; you don’t need to ask for it, because it has already found you, and now it is just biding it’s time, waiting for the moment that has already been determined as your time.

One thing that is common with most PowerPoint presentations shown at many problem solving think tanks is the way they start out.  The lead slide will usually start out with stating “The Problem” to be overcome, and then the next slide will ask, “How Did We Get Here?” and then somewhere in the presentation will be a slide that initiates the presenters proposal, under the heading, “The Solution”.  And then finally, the presentation also includes “Words of Encouragement,” meant to move us to embrace the Solution.  So, why don’t we follow that format and see where it takes us.

I. The Problem: It is self evident, isn’t it?  The problem is we are all going to die!  Death literally is all around us, hounding every moment of our lives.  It has been that way ever since Adam and Eve’s expulsion from Eden.  Eden, a perfect place created for perfect people.  A place where there was no sickness or disease; no turmoil, suffering, and of course no death.  But something happened, didn’t it?  God’s people exchanged God’s truth for the devils lie.  So in came sin and death.  “Like taxes” we say, “death is unavoidable.”  It calls out to all of creation like a vendor at an open-air market saying, “Come here and sample my wares.  Don’t walk away from me; you know eventually I will claim you as a consumer, so why not enjoy your wait?”  All of us hear the siren call of death; people young and old, rich and poor, from celebrity to the homeless, from the president to the average Joe, we all must respond to death’s call; give him his due so to speak.

God’s people of faith are no different, are they?  We too hear that siren call, don’t we?  In our Old Testament lesson, Isaiah also comments on deaths call when he asks, “Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?”   And that’s a good question isn’t it?  Why do we do things that are not God pleasing; why do we do them so easily?  And that takes us to our next question…

II. How Did We Get Here? Well, the answer to that was the same reason given in our explanation of the problem.  The same problem that Adam and Eve created is still our problem today.  We still have a desire to exchange God’s truth for the devil’s lies.  We still want to live in paradise, but under our own terms and rules.  Why is that?  Because we still live under the stain of original sin; it is in our very DNA so to speak.  We still hear the call of the devil inviting us to buy those things that are not life giving or sustaining; we still seek to satisfy our body but not our soul.  “Come and buy,” says the devil.  “But why” we ask?  And his answer is, “To make life a little more enjoyable with the little bit of time and life you have.”  And to our sinful minds, that sounds reasonable.  And to justify our purchase of those things, ideas, and life-styles that are not God pleasing, we tell ourselves “After all, nothing lasts forever.  You only live once, so I might as well enjoy it.”  And the devil laughs quietly and says, “Come, my child.  Come and live life according to your own terms, and you will experience life like you’ve never known it.”

But one day, perhaps sooner than you think, you will hear another call; the call of death.  When his whispered invitation of “Come” is heard, you will not be able to resist, and then all that you labored for, all that you valued as important will be in vain.  But this morning, we hear another call; a better call, and that call is the solution to the problem of sin, death, and the devil.

III. The Solution: God’s voice calls out to us throughout scripture and here in the voice of the prophet Isaiah, “Come everyone who thirsts (for peace and righteousness; for an assurance of an existence without fear or worry; for an eternity where there will be no more sin, death, nor the devil), come to the waters (the holy washing of God’s Word, where all of your sins and the devils traps are removed); and he (even you right now) who has no money, come buy and eat!  Come buy wine and milk (and all of the best things in life) without money and without price.”

This morning dear friends, God issues His invitation to everyone, not just to his Old Testament people, but to all people who desperately need His blessings; all who want to get back to Eden, to paradise lost. Just as Jesus invited “all you who are weary and burdened” (Matthew 11:28), so the Lord God invites “all you who are thirsty.” Sin and death make us tired of the rat race we call life here, but they also make us thirsty for God’s blessings.

Because of the work of the devil, God’s voice, His invitation to come can get lost in this open air market we call life.  If we are not listening, it can be drowned out by all those other messages that are hawking the devil’s products. If we are not careful, we might begin to think that Christ and His church are just another vendor in life, offering one of many opportunities to be happy.  But unlike the world’s version of milk and wine, God’s version will never spoil or run out. He has spiritual blessings to dispense to everyone who comes, and he has a fervent desire to share them with everyone. And here’s the best part, not only are God’s products different, but they are also free. This wonderful invitation clearly speaks of God’s grace. No human can offer God anything for his blessings.

In our gospel lesson (Matthew 14:13–21), Jesus offered an inexhaustible supply of earthly food to a hungry mass of people so that they would listen to the spiritual message behind the miracle; a message that would save their souls.  Sadly, many people today, like the crowds then, can not see God’s solution to their sin problem, because they have set their eyes on those things that only satisfy the body and not the soul.  And the result is that they still hunger and thirst; they still have no assurance that the whisper of death can bring them no harm.

IV. A Word of Encouragement: This morning, God calls us out of this illusion of the devil, and He tells us to come and buy eternal life, without money.  How do you buy without money?  Well, we dare not think that we can purchase the gifts of God by our own effort. We all know that God’s gifts cannot be earned; they are gifts “without cost.” God calls us away from every effort to earn what only He can give. St. Paul said it best: “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8, 9). There isn’t a thing of value that we could place on the scales of God that would weigh enough to buy forgiveness and eternal life! Only the work of the Servant of the Lord, who “was crushed for our iniquities” (Isaiah 53:5), could earn the gifts of God, which are the forgiveness of sins, freedom from the power of the devil, and eternal life. These are the gifts that God only offers by grace. It is our own sin and the tricks of the devil that cause us to think we can earn these priceless gifts through something we do.

This morning, God tells us that the solution to our problem can only be realized if we embrace His solution: “Listen to me” He says. Now keeping with the comparison of this sinful world with an open-air market, the idea of listening suggests that we would have to pay attention in order to hear what we must do. But here God tells us to listen to what He has done. Listen to what God has said and done in His everlasting covenant and His steadfast love for David. Here, God tells us that this covenant flows from His faithful love promised to David, which originated in the promise long ago to Adam and Eve, and was repeated to everyone who followed and would listen.

Throughout our Bibles, God promises that the Messiah would come.  And then finally God promises that our Savior would come from David’s line (2 Samuel 7:11–16). God was not under any obligation to make such a promise, but he did it out of His pure undeserved love. And once God promises something, He is always faithful and does what He said.

This Son of David, the Christ is none other than Jesus, the Son of God, born of Mary from within the lineage of David.  He brings completion to God’s promise to King David that He would be an eternal leader and witness of God’s steadfast love and mercy. Jesus is David’s greater Son, and He is The Witness to the nations declaring God’s undeserved love.

Our Savior came from heaven to earth to dwell with sinful men.  But He did more than just dwell with us; He came to set us free.  He came to be lifted high upon the cross so that “everyone who believes in him may have eternal life” (John 3:15). And He has come to save more than just a small Jewish remnant returning from captivity in Babylon. He came to call people back to the paradise that was lost, but now restored.  He calls all nations to come to him—even strangers who did not know Him as the One true God. The words of the gospel now draw all sinners in, and those same Words give them the ability to listen to Jesus their Savior and receive all of the promises of God.

This morning all of us have been gathered by God’s Spirit to hear the only message that will destroy the power of the devil, remove our sins, and silence the song of death.  This morning this message is meant to give you peace where others experience worry and fear.  This morning, you are invited to listen to the very same message that God first spoke to your soul within the waters of Holy Baptism: Through faith in what Christ has done for you upon the cross, you are saved!  Through faith, you still hear the Words of eternal life and you find assurance and purpose.  Through faith you are invited to approach the Lord’s Table, and receive His very body and blood in, with, and under the bread and wine, and then experience spiritual nourishment, the likes of which the world could never give.

My prayer for each of you is that you would continue to come to this place often; continue to listen diligently and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in God’s rich spiritual food.  And I pray that you would allow your ear to really listen to the voice of God declared in His Word here in this place, and then continuously come to Jesus so that your soul may live.  And I ask this in Jesus name… AMEN!

Hidden Treasure, Indeed!



Sunday, July 27th, 2014

Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego 92114
http://www.tlcsd.org
Pentecost 7A, July 27, 2014

Click here for audio of this message

“And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house, who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”” [Matthew 13:52]

The central theme in all of our reading is found in Jesus’s statement in our Gospel lesson (Matthew 13:44-52), “The Kingdom of Heaven is like…”  So, this morning’s message will explore that statement by answering three questions, which I believe are central for living the life of a Christian in the kingdom of Heaven, here and now.  But to answer these questions, you will need to be equipped and well trained by the Word of God.  So without further discussion, here are the questions: 1. How should every Christian treat the Word of God?  2. How does God really feel about Christians who struggle with faith and sin every day?  3. Should a Christian be afraid of the final judgment?

Are we ready to get into God’s message for us this morning?  Good, let’s go…

How should the every Christian treat the Word of God? Well, I tipped my hand a bit when I showed that video clip ( Click here to watch the video ) during the Children’s Chat.  The caption under the video asks, “Do you feel this way about your Bible and the Word of God?”  And I think that if we average Christians were to answer that question truthfully, the answer is “No!”  But why is that?

I believe that I can speak for not just myself, but also for many of you when I say that we truly do love Jesus and His Word.  Ok, so then why don’t we also have that kind of excitement when we open His book?  The answer is of course, because we do not understand just how extraordinary that Word truly is.  Isn’t it true that most of you have at least two or three Bibles in your home?  Isn’t it also true that most of you grew up in a home that had that many, if not more Bibles in your home?  Didn’t most of you grow up going to church and Sunday School, and didn’t you spend your formative years handling that Word?  So is it possible that both time and commonality have diminished your estimation of that Word?

This morning, Jesus tells us two stories or metaphors that are meant to correct our misconception of both God’s Word and His Kingdom; He speaks about a hidden treasure and a chance encounter with a “pearl of great price (or value).”  When we hear these stories, we think about incidents where people have accidentally found large sums of money, and after waiting for the owner to come forward, they are told by the authorities that because no one came forward to claim the money, it is theirs to keep.  Or maybe we think of those lucky ones who struck it big by winning millions of dollars after playing the lottery.  But this story is different, isn’t it?  The men in both stories had to spend everything they had just to get their hands on the treasure, and once they did, their lives were forever changed for the good.  I don’t know of too many incidences where lottery winners were impacted for the good; usually their money created a whole bunch of problems they never had before.  But Jesus’ story about the man who bought the field to get at the hidden treasure is different.  Why?  Well to answer that, we must understand the metaphor; the field represents one thing, and the treasure represents another.

In order to improve our estimation of God’s Word, let’s consider the field as a representation of our Bibles.  And within those Bibles, this field that most people take for granted is the greatest treasure you could ever receive, it is knowing intimately the very Son of God, Jesus Christ.  You see your Bibles are not given to you by God as some instruction manual that helps you live your life, but instead every page of your Bibles shows you two things, your need for a Savior and who that Savior is.

God’s treasure, which is the message of His Son Jesus the Christ, is indeed hidden, but it is intended to be found by you dear Christians.  Others hunt for this treasure everywhere, but you have found it; you found it with very little effort.  You see, God didn’t hide His treasure in a far off place in some philosophical realm where no one could even come near it, but instead he hid it in a common, lowly place, where it could be found by anyone who did not feel that the location of the treasure was beneath them because of their personal wisdom, pride, or self-sufficient attitude.

Now, let’s talk about this wonderful treasure that’s hidden within the field; within our Bibles.  The treasure is so great that the men in Jesus’s stories sold everything just to obtain it.  But they did not just sell all that they have, they sold it joyfully!  And when they finally obtain the treasure they rejoice, but not in their poverty but in their new found wealth!

The point of Jesus story is this: The Kingdom of Heaven has come to sinful men, and it comes in the Son of God who is also the son of man.  If there is anything at all that is standing in the way of you being drawn deeper and closer to Jesus, then that thing must be done away with so that you will be sure to obtain this great treasure, which is Jesus Himself.  If you truly understand this message, then Jesus says that you are like a “scribe (or a teacher of God’s Word), who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven, and you will bring out of (your) treasure (things that are) new and (things that are) old.”  In other words, through your discovery of the hidden treasure, the pearl of great price Jesus Christ, you have gotten your heart filled with all kinds of spiritual knowledge from the kingdom and the King, and you will be equipped to use it when it is needed.

Now, let’s add another dimension to Jesus metaphor, by allowing our Old Testament lesson (Deuteronomy 7:6–9) to guide us into our next question.

How does God really feel about Christians who struggle with faith and sin every day? Well, let’s allow God to answer Himself, listen: “For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.”  Friends, do you hear that?  You did not choose God, He chose you!  You did not find Jesus and the forgiveness of sins that is yours through Jesus on your own; no, Jesus found you!

Do you understand what this does to Jesus’s stories; to His metaphors?  It turns them upside down.  If you can accept this understanding, then the field is this sinful world, and the man who sells all that He has, is none other than Jesus Christ.  And you know what that makes you, don’t you?  You are the treasure!  Upon the cross, all of God gave great wealth to obtain you as His very own, but only the Son of God, Jesus Christ who is the son of Mary, gave all of His life to redeem you from sin, death, and the devil.

God the Father redeemed you through the life blood of His Son; He redeemed you from the curse of sin.  But the reason He did this for you has nothing to do with anything that is unique or good about you, but instead it was through His love, with His Son’s blood as the very ransom that freed you!

God is so serious about this truth, that He has swore it in an oath that He made to our spiritual fathers long ago.  He swore to Abraham to bless his seed and to bring blessing to the nations through his seed. [Genesis 22:16-18]  But that oath includes blessings for us as well.  It was kept, and still is being kept, through Christ’s work upon the cross.  So, know this today, that it is those of (us by) faith who are the (true) sons of Abraham.  And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you (that is in your faith), shall all the nations be blessed.” So then, those who are of faith, (that is those of us who have been found by Jesus and are resting and trusting in Him), are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.” [Galatians 3:7]

Now, doesn’t that make you want to rest in God’s calling of faith?  Doesn’t that allow you to realize that it is He who began the good work in you that will complete it?  But you may ask, “How do I know that God has really began that good work of salvation within me?  Where can I turn for assurance that I am really His great treasure, and He is mine?  Well, why not turn to the very place that He began that good work in you… return to your baptism where He marked you and sealed you as His very own!  And that takes us to our final question to be answered.

Should a Christian be afraid of the final judgment? Jesus answers that question in one last metaphor, when He says, “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind. When it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and sorted the good into containers but threw away the bad.  So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” [Matthew 13:47-50]

Friends, let me ask you a question, that if answered by faith, will also tell you whether you should be afraid of the final judgment.  Are you a good fish or a bad one?  Now before you answer, remember that you are Jesus’s own pearl of great price, and you are His valued hidden treasure.  He bought you with His own life-blood.  Do you believe that?  If you say yes, then why in the world would He ever allow you to be called bad?

But don’t just stop acquiring the wealth of God’s Word there, let St. Paul in our Epistle lesson (Romans 8:28-39) give you a little more data to base your answer on, listen: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” [v.28]  “If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?  Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect?” [vs.31-34]  Friends, that’s called a hypothetical question, and you are to enthusiastically answer it like this, “No one!”  No one can accuse you of being damned and lost to judgment, because, “Christ died for you!  But more than that, He also rose from the dead for you.”  In His dying and rising, He shows you what is a done deal; a deal that was accomplished for you within the waters of your baptism.  Your old sinful nature was put to death, and your new baptismal nature that will one day rise up with a new resurrected body is not only how God sees you but, it is also how you are to view yourself!

You are a good fish, who has been caught in the gospel net of the church.  In all aspects of that net, you receive the hidden treasure of God, the message of Jesus Christ.  And within that message, which comes to you in both Word and Sacrament, you have discovered that you are God’s valuable and hidden treasure.  But, you are not hidden from God, you are waiting and resting within the gospel net, which is the church, along with many other fish; some are good and some are bad, but this morning Jesus says that is not your concern to worry over, you are simply to rest in the most blessed Word and will of God.

While it is tempting to worry about many things as we wait here for Christ’s return, we have been assured that God’s day of reckoning , that is the time of making all things right has not yet come.  As we wait, we also trust and follow Jesus as His very own disciples.  We wait both as people who have found a great treasure and, we wait for Jesus who will come to this world, and claim and acquire us has His own treasured possession.  Even though our life in Jesus and His life with us remains hidden now within His Word and Sacraments, we can trust in the great and final work that Christ has done for us.

When we trust in this work, and in this Word, we are indeed like disciples who are able to not only draw out wisdom from a great treasure store, but we become wisdom in action.  And that wisdom sees the wonderful faith, faith giving Word of God as great treasure indeed, and then it learns to trust and rest as part of that treasure.  AMEN!

I See Dead People!



Sunday, July 20th, 2014

Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego 92114
http://www.tlcsd.org
Pentecost 6A, July 20, 2014

Click here for audio of this message

“So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them.  Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’ ” [Matthew 13:28b-30]

The video clip that you’ve just watched is from the movie, “The Sixth Sense” starring Bruce Willis.  And the dialogue that specifically illustrates our message today, are these words: “I want to tell you my secret now.  I see dead people” says the boy to Malcolm, Bruce Willis’s character.  And Malcolm asks, “In your dreams?”  No the boy answers.  “While your awake” Malcolm asks?  “Yes” says the boy.  “Dead people, like in graves; in coffins” asks Malcolm?  “No” says the boy.  “Walking around like regular people.  They don’t see each other; they only see what they want to see.  They don’t know they’re dead.”  Malcolm asks, “How often do you see them?”  And the boy answers, “All the time.  They’re every where.”

In deed, there are walking dead all around us, and they do not know that they are dead; dead in their sins.  They think that they are alive and well; some will even tell you that they are blessed and hoping that they are living a God pleasing life.  They are so consumed with living their life style that not only do they not see each other, they can’t see God for who He really is.

In our gospel reading (Matthew 13: 24–30, 36–43) this is the situation that Jesus faces as He teaches the crowds; His listeners are dead in their sins and they don’t even know it; they don’t want to know.

Now it’s true that within the crowds of people, there were also true disciples of Jesus; they knew that through Him the Kingdom of God had broken out in their midst, so they clung to every Word that came out of Jesus mouth, but sadly, they were the small minority.

Most of the folks had come to see a miracle; just like people are drawn to the Side shows at carnivals today, they too were drawn to Jesus out of curiosity and the desire to see something mind blowing.  And among them were also the Pharisees.  They were the teachers who were suppose to help the folks know God, but most of them were just as dead in their sins as the people they were called to teach.  They could not see Jesus for who He really was, because they would not see that they were dead in their sins.  And because they could not admit this and find new and eternal life, they could not help turn the people’s eyes to God’s only source of salvation.  In essence most of the folks remained tightly trapped with in the bondage of death.

And yet, Jesus still teaches them; He still speaks Words that offer and give eternal life.  He says, “He who has ears, let him hear.” [v. 43b]  But hear what?  Hear that through Jesus the Christ, God is acting and reigning in the midst of men and women who are dead in their trespasses, in such a way that He is bringing them new and eternal life.  But, God’s way of breaking in and reigning as Lord and Savior comes in a way that most people will not expect, in fact many even find it unsatisfying and unfulfilling.  So the message of “The Parable of the Weeds of the Field” that Jesus taught to the curious, was a message that said the Kingdom of God was with them right that moment, but not yet in the way that they might expect, or desire it.  But the message also communicated that very soon, in God’s time, things would be much different, but for right now, this humble teacher who is the Son of God in human flesh, is all that you get.

There are many people today who, like the folks in Jesus’s audience then, just don’t want to hear this message.  Why?  Because they don’t want to wait!  And the sad truth is, they are being led by teachers and preachers who don’t wont to wait either.  They are the ones who teach that you don’t have to wait; you can have the glory, power, and good times right now, if you just have faith; faith in what they are teaching that is.  This message is in complete opposition to Jesus message that guaranteed us that, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart” Jesus said, “I have overcome the world.” [John 16:33]  So our hope is right now, yet it has been deferred for a little while until God acts.  Those of us who rest in this hope by faith, are the ones that Jesus calls “good seed!”  We are the wheat.  But planted right beside us are a whole different kind of plant; a weed called a “darnel”.  This kind of weed looks like wheat, but it is only a weed and not fit for anything but burning.  So here is the question that Jesus’ audience was to ask themselves and allow God to answer: “Am I good seed or bad seed?” If they had ears to hear and were listening, God’s law was meant to break down their pride and realize that apart from a miracle from God, they were bad seed.  Then and only then, would they be enabled to come to Jesus hungering for the gospel, the forgiveness of sins.

But I trust you saints who are gathered here this morning have already answered that question.  You have already received the painful blow of the law and have been restored by the healing balm of the gospel.  You know who Jesus is and you have become accustomed to waiting on God’s time.  You dear saints know all to well that the devil is alive and active in our midst; you too have even met some people that you would swear are “bad seed” or dead men walking.  And you may be tempted to root them out, but Jesus who is our Good Master within the parable says to us… “No, not yet!”  He tells you not only that you might inadvertently up root good wheat along with the weeds, but He says that the time to act is at harvest… that is the time of the final judgment.  That is the time when “the Son of Man will send His angels and they will gather out of His kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace.  In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”  But what are we to do until then?  We are to wait for our faithful and gracious God and His time.  We are to wait by faith, and it is in that faithful and grace-filled waiting that we “shine like the sun in the kingdom of (our) Father.”

And while we wait, God’s means of grace continues to strengthen both our faith and our resolve to agree with St. Paul in our epistle lesson (Roman 8:18-27) that our present suffering of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us (at the resurrection of all God’s saints who rest and trust in Christ alone).  But we do not wait alone, do we?  No, Saint Paul tells us that all of creation waits along with the church “with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God,” which is the time of final judgment and then reward for all who are the true “good seed.”

“For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.  And not only the creation, but we ourselves (who have seen both the agony and the beauty of the cross; the place where God dealt with the sins of the world once and for all through the blood and sacrifice of His Son who is also the Son of man, Jesus Christ).  And through the Word of God, our eyes of faith have been turned from a life destined to be bad seed, and instead through the washing of the water and the powerful Word of God, we have been declared good seed!

So while we wait, we who have the first fruits of the Spirit (that is the gospel promises of God’s Word), we wait eagerly for the promised reward of our adoption as God’s sons; that is we wait for the redemption of our bodies, the resurrection of the dead and eternal life.  It is in this hope that we are saved!

And as we wait, God invites us to see just who we are resting and trusting in.

In our Old Testament lesson (Isaiah 44:6-8), we hear these Words, “Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: “I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god. Who is like me? Let him proclaim it. Let him declare and set it before me, since I appointed an ancient people. Let them declare what is to come, and what will happen. Fear not, nor be afraid; have I not told you from of old and declared it? And you are my witnesses! Is there a God besides me? There is no Rock; I know not any.”

Dear friends, there is no God like the God of Scriptures.  He says that so wonderfully in these Words, “Apart from me there is no God.”  God does not desire that any of you should have any doubt of that truth; it was so important that God the Son Jesus Christ came to us Himself to make this truth undeniable.  And yet, sinful hearts still resist that truth.

So to quell all doubts, God has issued a challenge to those who trust in other gods and other messages that claim to be the gospel.  He challenges both the devil and those who teach and believe in a false gospel to match His abilities, specifically His power to care for His people who existed in the past and present, and to predict what will happen to His people in the future.  The God of Scriptures is a God of action.  He does all things for the benefit and the strengthening of faith for His people.  This morning God says, “If you are so wise and powerful you supposed lords and teachers, then do what I do; foretell your actions before they take place, and then allow each prediction that you claim has been fulfilled, to be verified!  Can any god created by sinful human imaginations, or can any false teacher of those gods do that?  No, dear friends, they all remain silent.

And yet your God dear church, is till acting on your behalf.  He is still creating and sustaining faith, which waits and trusts in Christ alone.  He alone assures you dear children that He can continue to care for you and sustain you as you wait for Him.  He assures you that He alone is your Rock; He alone has brought you out of the miry clay of your sins, and He alone will one day restore you in full glory.

This morning God’s mighty Word assures you not to be afraid or tremble.  In Jesus parable, you see that God agrees with our assessment that there are indeed dead people all around us, but it is not His will that they would remain dead in their sins, but that they would repent and like you, become good seed as they along with the church wait for the return of Jesus Christ and the resurrection of the dead.

Yes, we are to wait a little while longer, but we are to focus our eyes not on the dead but on the Word of Life, Jesus Christ.  Alleluia, alleluia, Lord to whom else would we go?  You alone have the Words of eternal life.  Help us we pray with a strong faith that gives bold confidence and hope built alone on our King, the Lord Almighty, our Redeemer, the First and the Last.  He alone is our Rock, Jesus Christ… AMEN!

Mmm, Mmm, Good Word!



Sunday, July 13th, 2014

Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego 92114
http://www.tlcsd.org
Pentecost 5A, July 13, 2014

Click here for audio of this message

“So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” [Isaiah 55:10, 11]

Those Words of our text this morning are meant to be a comfort for you faithful saints, but it is also meant to be a slap in the face, a wake-up call so to speak for those who are stubborn, lazy, or full of pride.  If you are resting in Jesus this morning, then thank God for His Word.  But if you are indifferent or hostile to Jesus, it is a fearful Word of God; this Word that you hear this morning will one day, both accuse you, convict you, and sentence you to an existence of eternal suffering and pain, out side of the very Word that sought to give you new life and eternal joy.

But for us who are trusting in Jesus Christ because of God’s Word, and in light of that old Ritz Cracker commercial, and in honor of Andy Griffith, God rest his soul, we can say that the Word of God is a, “Mmm, mmm, good Word!”

But in the eyes of an unbelieving world, the Word seems so weak and foolish; it appears that it has no strength in it.  The enemies of Christ’s Church point out that the Word of God stands powerless before the sacred halls of science.  And what’s more, the competing religions in our world will confront our dear church with a most disturbing question: “Why is it that you Christians insist that only your way is right and all others are wrong and will lead only to hell?  Do you really think that you are better than the rest of the world?’  And to that we reply, “Certainly not.  On our own, without the Word of God, we are no better or worse than the rest.  But with the powerful Word of God working within and through us, we are redeemed and sanctified; set apart for God’s purpose, which is to call the entire world into repentance and eternal life through the message about Jesus, the Son of God.  This is all on account of the Word of God alone and not because of anything we contribute.  But our opponents, those who wish to destroy God’s pure church do not exist only outside of us, but indeed they exist even within our very ranks as well.

There are those who call themselves Christians, who have even been baptized, who have become the very tools of the devil, and they too will attack our reliance on God’s Word alone.  They will confront us by asking, “Do you really think that everything regarding our eternal salvation depends entirely upon God’s Word?”  And then they will say, “That is ridiculous!  Don’t you realize that we also need to act upon the Word?  In our lives we must always think, decide, and work!”

But here, in our text this morning all of God’s enemies are answered.  They must either receive the truth of His Word, or they can go there own way, which is also the way of the devil.  In our text this morning, God does not say that “our works and our thoughts” do a mighty work, no, but what does He say?  He says that it is His Word that goes out from His mouth that accomplishes His will.

Just before the words of our text this morning are also words that act as a beautiful illustration of just how necessary the Word of God alone is to bring new life to sinful and condemned hearts.  Through the prophet Isaiah, God compares the work of His Word to the work of the rain and snow, which He sends upon the earth.  Without God’s watering, the earth cannot produce a single thing.

But reason says that life comes from the soil; good crops come from fertile land.  So reason will tell you, the power to produce an abundant crop lies in the earth, not in the rain and snow.  But let’s look at a comparison between southern California and my motherland, the state of Wisconsin.  I just returned from a visit there, and believe me when I tell you that everything is lush, green, and flourishing.  The farmers are having a record season, and the harvest is predicted to be one of the best on record.  And yes, the soil is dark and rich, but it is dark and rich for a reason; it rains or snows for a little while, almost everyday of the year.

Now compare the lush conditions of Wisconsin to our own conditions here.  You do not need to go far to see what I am talking about. Look at the front lawn here at our own church.  We no longer water it because water is so expensive, and as a result the grass is completely dead.  If you desire, you can dig up a little ground beneath the grass, and you will discover that it is grey, sandy, and dead.  Why?  Because it lacks life giving water!

So what does this mean for our church, indeed for all churches?  Simply this, the advancement and growth of the church, of the kingdom of God is not dependent on programs and campaigns, or any work of men, but instead it is dependent entirely upon the Word of God and it’s proclamation of truth.  The Word of God is declared with a promise that cannot be undone.  In it, God promises to do what He desires; the very thing that He sent it to do.  It won’t do what sinful men and women desire it to do, but it will do what God wants it to do, even if sinful men and women resist that Word; a Word that proceeds from the very mouth of God.

What is the mouth of God?  It is the very instrument that God speaks through.  Jesus of course is, was, and ever will be the living Word of God, but then God also speaks through other visible mouths.  This morning He has spoken to you through the recorded Words of the Prophet Isaiah and the Apostle Paul, just as He speaks through all mouths that belonged to other prophets and apostles.  But He is also speaking to you from the mouths of faithful preachers; preachers who do not mix the Word of God with their own sinful desires.  This morning, God is even speaking to you from the mouth of this redeemed sinner who you call pastor, who is called to bring to you His Word that both brings and sustains new life!

Dear friends, God has only promised to work through His spoken and recorded Word. He has chosen the Word as the means by which we can trust that through that Word He brings us good things. Of course, He could work through other means, but nowhere does God instruct us to look to other means, nor to trust in them. Throughout scripture, God invites sinners to listen to His Word and find wisdom and new life.  Just as the rain brings new life to dead soil, so the Word of God can change the heart of a sinner.

Whenever anyone thinks that he or she can do a good thing without hearing and receiving the Word of God that person has been deceived by the devil and the truth is not in him.

But the mystery of God’s Word cannot just be compared to the rain, but to a seed, which brings new life.

II. In our Gospel reading (Matthew 13:1-23), Jesus compares the Word of God to the seed that a farmer sows.  He says that some seeds fall by the path and are immediately devoured by birds.

Dear saints, I hope that you realize, there is a real spiritual battle going on around us; it is a battle for the eternal lives of men, women, and children; a battle for their very souls.   Sometimes, the best attack that Satan can employ is to simply prevent sinful men and women from hearing the message about God’s Son and His cross.  If you do not hear the message about God’s extravagant grace and mercy through Jesus Christ, then in the devil’s mind, you will never experience God’s forgiving love.  And do you know what?  The devil is right.  Do you see that even Satan has a high regard for the power of God’s Word?

But then Jesus also says that some of the seed fell on rocky ground and after springing up it soon withered and died. This is a picture of someone who hears God’s Word and at first they believe and follow Jesus—but for some reason, they do not put down roots deeply into Jesus and his truth, and when they experience personal difficulty or opposition that comes because they are a Christian, they turn away and no longer live as his disciples.

And then, Jesus describes how some seeds fall into and area of soil where thorns are also growing. Now allow me to declare a truth that you no doubt have seen proven in your own experience.  There are some people who initially hear, receive, and believe the Word of God and the message of the cross of Jesus, and they gladly become Christians, but when the distractions of wealth, that is the excitement of “chasing the cheese” comes along, they get distracted and choked off with not just the allure of wealth, but also all of the general worries of life that are sure to come to all people who live in this fallen age.  And when those problems come, they slowly put to death the hope and joy that exists in their lives, which exists by the power of the Good News of the reign of God through Jesus Christ.

So we see a sad truth in Jesus story; most of the seed that is sown never produces fruit. In that sense, the seed by the path, the seed in the rocky soil, and the seed among thorns all belong together as “seed that is sown that ultimately proves to be unfruitful.” This is a very hard concept for us to receive, let alone understand; when God at last comes to the world through His Son, Jesus Christ, as the promised and long awaited Savior, He comes in ways that are mysterious, humble, and by the world’s estimation, weak and resistible. And wile it is true that we may refuse to listen to the Word of God, or listen and then reject it or resist it, at the end of His parable of the Sower, Jesus speaks the same urgent invitation to the crowds, who ever they may be, just as all of scripture speaks: “He who has ears, let him hear.” (13:9).

And some do hear, as I trust you are hearing the gospel truth today.  Those who hear are those who are compared to the good soil on which some of the seeds fell, and they produce great results. Jesus was speaking the truth of His ministry then, which is also the truth of His ministry and ours today.  Some people will hear the Good News of how God the King is coming to reclaim and forgive His people and ultimately His creation. Some will hear and understand, and in their understanding, which is a result of faith, they become faithful and fruitful for God; that is, they become good soil through the work of God, and they are active in His Kingdom of Grace. They are those who are truly saved, who are rightly called saints, who believe and cling to the Word of God and the message of the cross of Jesus Christ. (Talk about good works of faith)

Dear friends, those of us who have been saved by grace, through faith in the message of Jesus Christ can look within our own hearts and marvel at the fact that God has indeed saved a wretch like ourselves.  In essence, we marvel at the generosity of God.  But Jesus spoke of this didn’t He?  When the farmer was described as scattering the seeds everywhere, anyone with any experience in gardening knows that you never do that.  You must plant meticulously and choose what ground will be prepared for the harvest.  And yet here we have an extravagant God who scatters the seed everywhere; why?  Because “God is patient toward all of us, and He does not desire that any should perish, but that all should repent and receive eternal life.” [2 Peter 3:9]

So we who rest and work within the body of Christ, even here at little Trinity, rejoice in God’s liberal application of gospel seeds, because it is within that liberal net that we too were caught up by a church that by command are fishers for men.  We too responded to the call to “come if we are laboring and find rest.”  God’s willingness to cast seed everywhere shows His wide-open invitation to all men, women, and children, who are red, yellow, black and white.  And so some will come while others will refuse.  And it is within this mystery of salvation that we continue to follow Jesus as we bear our cross of His making and choosing.  And as we follow we allow the Word alone to quell all doubts and fears, and we leave the unanswered questions such as “why do some not receive Jesus” unanswered for a while, until the day at Christ return when we will not only see all things clearly but understand them as well.

Until that day, may you along with the rest of Christ’s church continue to say along with the sainted Andy Griffith, “Mmm, mmm, good Word!”  Amen!

Jesus Comes to Us!

Sunday, June 23rd, 2013

Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church-San Diego
Pentecost 5C, June 23rd, 2013

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I was ready to be sought by those who did not ask for me; I was ready to be found by those who did not seek me.  I said, “Here I am, here I am,” to a nation that was not called by my name. [Isaiah 65:1]


This, my friends is good news; it is good news because God is telling us that even when we weren’t looking for Him, He came to look for us!
While you were in a state of confusion, not even knowing that you  were lost in your sins, God knew and He came to you… to save you!

God comes to those who are helpless and alone. In our Gospel reading (8:26–39), Jesus shows us the extremes He is ready to go to in order to seek us out and bring us into His loving care. Think of this for  a moment… Jesus goes by boat across a lake, into unclean gentile territory, a place that Jews avoided at all times, immediately heads into a cluster of tombs, a territory that was unclean to the Jews because of the  dead, in the middle of a herd of pigs, an animal that was also unclean and to be avoided by God fearing Jews, just to finds a gentile sinner possessed by a legion of devils. How many are in a legion? At least a  thousand!

As Jesus approached this man the demons screeched out at Jesus in fear; they knew who He was. The devils spoke, but the man was silent. But while this man was silent he was aware. Do you think that he was  happy to see Jesus and to experience the truth that all of these demons that were possessing him were now terrified of this God-man who had come to him? I can’t help but wonder how long this man was silently  calling out to God for help and rescue. And now, there in front of him was his champion; not just a man, but the demons called Him the Son of the most High God!

Did you notice that Jesus did not speak a Word to the possessed man? He did not confront Him with his many sins, sins that probably opened the door for the demons to move in. No, I am sure that man had  been confessing those sins silently to God for some time, as he called out for help in prayer. Instead of lecturing the man, Jesus brought him immediate relief; he cast out the demons and freed the man from the  bondage of not just the devils, but even his own sin.

And this is precisely how Jesus comes to us. He comes to us just as we are! Jesus came to you just as you were and He saved you from your bondage; He saved you from your sins. In your baptism Jesus cast out  the devil and put a hedge of protection around you. And what is that barrier, that great wall that protects you from the devils? It is the indwelling of God’s own Spirit. Instead of being possessed by devils, the Spirit of Christ dwells richly within you. By faith, you are now a child of God.

Now if I stopped here, this would be a wonderful message of hope. And there are some here that may be “hoping” that I stop here, as they look at their watches and run through their minds the many things they have to do today. Or maybe, some of you were just beginning to nod off in your weekly ritual of catnapping during the sermon, only to be seemingly robbed of that opportunity by what appears to be a short sermon.

As I said, if I ended the message now, the gospel would have been declared, but some of you, perhaps all of us would be harmed if we did not hear about the dangers of living a life trusting in Jesus; waiting for Him to come to us again, and again!

The danger of living this life as one found by Jesus is this: We find it so easy to forget that being lost and separated from God, was not a one time thing, but in fact, it is our natural condition! And, we will easily find ourselves lost again if we waiver from God’s means of grace in even the smallest fashion.

Let me take you back to our Old Testament lesson and ask you to consider the rest of the verses (Isaiah 65:1-9). In the first verse, God is talking to the gentiles, people like you and me who are not Jews; people who did not have the law of God to direct their everyday lives. But in verses 2 through 9, God is talking to His own people, the Jews. He is talking to His peculiar people who were suppose to be relating to Him by faith; trusting that everything that He asks them to do is for their own good, but also for the good of the gentiles, who were to learn of Him through His special set apart people.

They were to be separated from the gentiles in how they lived and how they behaved. Their worship practices, their diets, and their clothing were different for God’s purpose. Their life styles were different so that through their lives God would draw the gentiles, people who did not know Him, to Himself so they would know Him. But that didn’t happen. Instead, these peculiar people of faith had become no different than the gentile people around them. They were abandoning the life style God had called and equipped them to live, and by abandoning their calling they were also abandoning the God who had called them. Their calling was to be salt and light in a gentile nation that was dark in sin and separated from the God who created them. They abandoned that calling and therefor could no longer be used as God’s special people; His tool to reach those lost in sin with His Word of mercy, so that they to could be saved from their sin.

And what was God’s solution? Well let’s turn to our Epistle reading (Galatians 3:23–4:7) and find out! “God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we (gentiles) might receive adoption as sons.” [Galatians 4:4b]

Once again, Jesus our Savior comes to us! There was no reason that He should seek us out, other than because He Who made us also loves us. Through the life and death of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, we too have become sons of the most High God!

And now, released from the bondage of sin, cleansed of the devils that control this very world, we are called to be God’s light in darkness. And how will you do this? Will you trust in your own resourcefulness; live a life of discipline and rules that promises meaning and success? If so, what benchmarks have you set up to measure your success? Is it what kind of employment you have or the amount of money you make and save? Is it the kind of people your children become and how successful they are? If those are the things that motivate you and guide you, I am afraid you have become no better off than the foolish people that God was chastising in our Old Testament lesson. You are trusting in everything that God has called you out of. And to you, God speaks this word of warning: “I will not keep silent, but I will repay; I will indeed repay into (your) lap both your iniquities and your fathers’ iniquities together, says the

Now, I trust God’s Word has your attention; I trust that He has shaken you out of your slumber of complacency? So what shall we do to please our God? What shall we do in order to be reassured once again that God is pleased with us?

You must go back to the beginning. You must return to that day when God intervened to save you; the day that Jesus came to you just as you were and freed you from the grip of sin, death, and the many devils that surrounded and even possessed you. You must go back to your baptism; the place where the fruit of the cross was wrapped around you as Christ’s own robe of righteousness. In your baptism, God released you from the elementary principles of this world and in its place, He has surrounded you with grace and mercy; He gave you His forgiving love simply because Jesus died for you! What shall you do to stay there? Grab onto Jesus Christ; in Jesus, turn to God’s mercy that comes through the cross and remember that through your baptism, all of God’s love is yours!

Like the demon-possessed man in our gospel reading, we must stay at the feet of Jesus; which is the church. We must stay at the foot of the cross, which is always where God’s Word takes us. We must stay centered in our baptism, the font of God’s grace, where we are daily given complete forgiveness for all of our sins. But then we must also hear and understand what Jesus means when He says we can not stay here in this place; we must return to our homes and back into our communities and “declare how much God has done for us.”

How do we declare this good news? We declare it by living it out. We do the very thing that God has always asked His people to do; live a life that reflects His presence within us and among us. God’s presence is with you by grace; in the forgiveness of sins. So go out and live that life. Let people see that as a Christian you are by nature, no different than them. You too sin; you sin daily. You too struggle with disappointments and fears. The only thing different; the only thing new, is now you know where to take these things; you know who it is that not only came to you long ago in your baptism, but Who comes to you every day, every hour, every minute, and every second. Jesus, we are yours, save us! AMEN

God’s True Curse and Blessing

Sunday, June 16th, 2013

Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church-San Diego
Pentecost 4C, June 16th, 2013

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Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for usfor it is written, Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith. [Galatians 3:13-14]

What is a curse, really? Is it something real, that we should take serious, or is it something that only superstitious people believe in? Well it depends on what you consider a curse. For instance, if you are talking about  Hollywood type curses; curses that are based in folklore and superstition, say like a Voodoo or Hoodoo curse, well, I wouldn’t worry to much about that. But if you are talking about the things, the curses that God has spoken  of, well then, in the words of Hollywood, you should be afraid… very afraid.

We should always take anything that God says very seriously, for it is true, and it will come to pass; every word of if. This is what St. Paul is telling us in verse 10 thru 12 of our Epistle lesson. Listen: “For all who rely on  works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for  “The righteous shall live by faith.” But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” [Gal 3:10-12]

Make no mistake; Paul is not talking about a trivial curse, as if there were such a thing. He’s not saying there’s a curse only upon you and your entire family; and he’s not even saying that this is a generational curse that  pertains to this fallen and sinful generation; no this curse that Paul is talking about is much larger in scope than that. It is a curse that covers all of creation; everyone and everything that has ever been, or ever shall be. It is  God’s great curse that is over all.

Listen to how this great curse came to be and just how inclusive it really is: But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was  afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she   gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

The Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” (v. 15) To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” [Genesis 3:9-19]

And so entered sin, death and the devil; this is precisely where our first parents exchanged God’s blessing for God’s curse.  But within in the curse of God, there are also Words of hope; the promise of a blessing to come when God says to the devil: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”  In those Words alone there is the hope of a coming Savior who shall snatch all of mankind out of the grasp of our true enemies, which are sin, death, and the devil.

But many will not hear this promise; they will think that they can earn God’s love, by doing their best, by being a good person. So, like the serpent, they are forever separated from God’s goodness.  For those who will not hear the good news, they are cursed to repeat the very sin that has always separated creation from its Creator.  Oh, what wretched sinners we are! Who will deliver us from this curse of death?  Thanks be to God for faithfully completing His promise of a coming Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord! [Romans 7:24-25]

In God’s mercy, the only curse that matters has been placed upon someone besides you; it’s been placed upon God’s own Son, Jesus Christ. Listen to how St. Paul explains this: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree” (Gal 3:13). Please hear those words clearly. Christ has purchased your freedom; He alone has redeemed you from the curse of sin, death, and the devil, by becoming a curse and taking on your sin; by taking your place upon the cross. This isn’t a limited atonement for only select few; it is for the world; for all who will believe in this completed promise of God and receive it as a gift.

In essence, you were being held hostage by your sin and death, through the management of the devil, and God the Father paid your ransom Himself, through the lifeblood of His Son, Jesus Christ.  You are free!  The curse is removed!  But how can this be?  Jesus did it and none other.  He became the curse, or He took on your curse by dying on the cross.  But why?  Because, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; (so to save us) the Lord has laid on (His Son) the (sin) of us all.” [Isaiah 53:6]

You are forgiven; in the work of Christ upon the cross, the world has been freed from the curse. In Christ alone the curse has been removed and a great blessing is being offered to you instead. But, how can we obtain this great blessing and live within it? By looking to Abraham; we must believe in God’s fulfillment of His promise long ago, and live out that blessing by faith—

So that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we (too) might receive the promised Spirit through faith. [Galatians 3:14]

The promise God gave to Abraham and his descendants was not centered around Abraham’s righteousness, but around his faith in God’s faithfulness to fulfill his promise of redemption and restoration of fallen mankind. And like Abraham, we too, through faith in Jesus Christ, receive this promised blessing; or as Paul calls it, the blessed indwelling of God’s own Holy Spirit.

The church has always only known of only one way to receive this personal blessing… through Holy Baptism. In Baptism, you have been called God’s own child. In baptism you have been infused, covered up, or re-identified with the Son of God’s own righteousness. It is a righteousness that is provided solely by Jesus Christ, and given to you as a gift, as a blessing of baptism.

In this world, people use the word blessing in such a cheap way. “I sure am blessed.” “I was blessed to be chosen for that new job.” “I was blessed with healthy children.” Or, (Ha-chew) God bless you!” We say the word blessing so easily, but seldom is the God who alone gives the blessing behind the word.

But God has blessed us first with the promise of a Savior, and then from the very mouth of the Savior as He died upon the cross. “It is finished!” Their debt has been paid in full and the curse as it has fallen upon me is paid in full!

God has blessed us within the waters of our own baptism, where everyone of the merits of Christ have been poured out upon us. And what is that great blessing? It is complete forgiveness of all of our sins! It is having a new heart that is led by the law of God, like King David’s in our Old Testament reading (2 Samuel 11:26-12:14). Like David, we too, are shown our sin in God’s law, and by the Holy Spirit, we are led to confess it so that the Holy One can remove the curse of sin, which is death, and exchange it for a blessing, which is forgiveness and eternal life!

What does this blessing of forgiveness look like? For the answer to that question, we need look no further than the sinful woman who was forgiven by Jesus in our Gospel reading (Luke 7:36-8:3). Once she heard the proclamation of the gospel, the forgiveness of sins, she was changed and compelled to serve Jesus and His church through acts of love and kindness. Through faith, she was saved and because of faith she was compelled to be with Jesus and serve Him always.

Today, we celebrate Father’s Day, and we look to our Great Father who has undone the curse given upon our first earthly father, Adam.  He was absent from the struggle, which Eve, his wife blindly entered into.  Sadly, today, there still are many men who are absent as well.  They have either abandoned their baptismal call to embrace the great blessing Jesus has provided, or they have never received that call.  Today, God calls out to each of us to live under that great blessing, and to look forward to that great eternal day to come when all of sinful creation will be restored to it’s original splendor.  A day when there will be no more sorrow or pain; when every tear shall be dried and the sounds of joyful celebration will fill the new heaven and earth and surround God’s own banquet table.  “And (on that day) there shall be no more curse.” [Revelations 22:3]  AMEN!

Where Did You Hear That From?

Sunday, June 9th, 2013

Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church-San Diego
Pentecost 3C, June 9th, 2013

Click here for audio of this message

For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. [Galatians 1:11]

And neither is what I am about to preach; so you know what that means, don’t you?  We all better pay attention; we all need to hear God’s voice.  But hearing God’s voice, hearing the clear call of the  gospel can be hard sometimes, especially in our society today when there are so many other voices, messages vying for our attention.

Ask a young person a question today, and you’re likely to hear this as a response: “I don’t know.  Let me “Google” it!”  Some of you might be asking, “What’s a Google?”  Well it is a search engine, one of  many available on the Internet, which promises to find an answer to almost any question.  In this information age, that can be a good thing, but it can also be a bad thing.  You see there is no quality  control on the Internet.  Not in Google, or anywhere else for that matter.  Anyone, and I mean anyone can put anything out there and claim it as the gospel truth.  Did you know that on the Internet, you  will learn that former Pres. George W. Bush was responsible for the 9-11 tragedy?  Yep, according to the Internet it was our own president who ordered the attacks and not Al Qaida.  Oh, and did you  also know that President Obama is secretly a Muslim and that he is preparing to replace our constitution with Sharia Law.  Yep, it’s all right there on the Internet.

So, again, in this day and age when someone says something and swears that it is the truth, we need to look into it a little deeper and ask, “Where did you hear that from?”

In our Epistle lesson (Galatians 1:11-24) St. Paul answers that question from the very beginning; before he shares the Good News about salvation, grace, and the forgiveness of sins.  He says, “For I  would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel.  For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus  Christ.” [Vs. 11-12]

Then, in an attempt to keep you from looking to him as the source of the “good news” and keep your eyes on Christ, he completely disqualifies himself as being worthy of the title “Apostle” by giving you  a look into his background.  Listen: “For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it.  And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many  of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers.” [Vs. 13-14]

In those words, Paul is telling us that as a Pharisee, that as a teacher of Judaism, he was also a defender of it; his call was to hunt down any voices that taught against the traditions of Judaism.  Mind you, he wasn’t defending the Word of God, but the accepted rules of practicing the worship and interpretation of God’s Word.  And the chief target of were those who called themselves Christians.  Why?  Because of what they preached, taught, and confessed as the truth.  And the dangerous message that they proclaimed as good news was this: God was not impressed or moved to show mercy by what we do, which is called active, or civil righteousness, but instead, God’s mercy is given to us by a righteousness completely foreign to us; a righteousness that comes to sinners solely by believing in Jesus Christ, the very Son of God, who suffered and died upon the cross, to forgive the sins of the world!

But then after a successful career of hunting down the Christian troublemakers, Paul, who was then called Saul, met Jesus!  By the way, did you know that Paul was not only present when the first Christian martyr Stephen was stoned and killed, but that he actually supervised it? (Acts 7:58)

So why did Jesus choose Paul?  Was it because of his great training in the traditions of Judaism?  Was it because of his intimate knowledge with the languages of the day?  Was it because he was zealous for the things he thought came from God?  No, it was none of those things.  It was because everything that Paul was not, Jesus was.  It was because in weakness and sin, God could come to Paul in power and grace.  Listen to how Paul puts it: “But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone”. [Vs. 15, 16]  Did you hear those wonderful words of grace.  God set Paul apart, before he was born; He called Paul by grace, not by anything Paul did or did not do, but by the undeserved love and mercy of God.  By grace, Paul was introduced to the Son of God Jesus Christ.  Why?  So that he could preach Jesus crucified and resurrected to the world!  Paul was given the complete gospel of Christ, by Jesus Himself.  The message that he was to preach was identical to the message of the other apostles; it was given by the same Holy Spirit, but it was given independently.  Why?  So that we today, would hear this gospel Word and believe that it comes directly from the mouth of God!  So that we will hear about the forgiveness of sins and hold onto that message above all other messages.

Today, as I said earlier there are a lot of messages out there, and unfortunately there are also a lot of false gospels as well.

Some teach a universal gospel, or in other words they say that there are many paths to heaven, not just the Christian way.

Others think that they must defend God, or explain every mystery in life.  The widow in our Old Testament lesson (1 Kings 17:17-24) tried to do that.  She spoke for God by making the assumption that her son was taken from her at such a young age, because of her sins.  Many false preachers of God do the same thing today.  We ask, “Why did God let this happen to me?” And they are quick with an answer.  Sometimes they blame our lack of faith, sometimes they blame our nation, and sometimes, like the widow speaking to Elijah, they blame our sins.   The truth is, like Paul’s call to faith and like our own call, we do not know why God does what He does, but we do know what motivates His action; it is His great love for us.  In love God speaks His Word and then leads us to the waters of baptism, and then every day thereafter, that same Word shows us again and again, the cross of Jesus Christ and continually encourages us to receive the undeserved gift of forgiveness of sins, and then simply trust that God loves us and is ultimately in control of all things.

But it is in our sinful human nature not to trust; not to rest in anything so easy and free, so sinful preachers and teachers attempt to tweak the Word of God so that it gives us credit for earning some of God’s free gift of grace.  This kind of false gospel is probably the most dangerous for us who call ourselves Christian, because it takes our eyes off of what Christ has done, and instead encourages us to look at what we are doing.

Usually, this false gospel is based in a human-tradition and it has been handed down throughout many generations.  In time, after the false message has been repeated so many times, it becomes the truth and replaces the pure Word of God, and those who continue to teach this false gospel, along with those who blindly follow it, eventually break away from Christ’s true church, and condemn everyone else who won’t follow them.

Scripture teaches that by their fruit you will know them, and their fruit usually calls for the true Christian to “do the right thing” rather than trusting in Jesus’s righteousness.  It presumes that doing a good thing makes us better (more righteous) than those who fail to do the good thing.  Thus God’s law, written in the human heart, is at work but it becomes twisted into a game of pilling up of good deeds, in order to impress not a God of love, but an angry God who is chomping at the bit to punish all sinners.  In the process, real sins, which sometimes only God sees and knows about are ignored as though they never happened, and the sinner feels safe and secure, while in reality, they are going straight to hell.  Where did this version of religious life come from?  People made it up!  Why?  Because it feels and tastes good.

Mixing and confusing Law and Gospel always makes for a very poisonous and deadly mixture.  It’s kind of like ethylene glycol, or anti-freeze to a dog.  It tastes sweet but it will kill him.

But the gospel is the true sweetness of God.  It is given to you through no merit of your own; you did not earn it nor did you deserve it.  But instead, while you were still a sinner, a dog who will stupidly lap up anything that tastes sweet but in truth is deadly, Christ died for you! [Acts 5:8]  He died for you so that you need never wonder if you are forgiven.  He led you to the waters of baptism, so that you need never wonder whether you are truly saved.  He surrounds you with His Word and His Holy Supper so that as often as you have the opportunity, you can take and eat and take and drink of His body and blood, and know for certain that you are loved and never abandoned!  That is the gospel of Jesus Christ, and none other should ever take its place in your heart.

In the call of St. Paul and in your own call, Jesus gives us the Way of God’s mercy, He shows us His cross and His empty tomb; He gives us forgiveness for all of our sins; He gives us a new beginning.  Each morning this beginning is fresh and vibrant.  In this new beginning, we are constantly shown a new way to live; a way that agrees with the Word of God, which declares that doing something right is not enough because, “all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law.  (Instead, we have learned that) God judges the secrets of men by Jesus Christ.” (Romans 2:12, 16)  But this is the true gospel, the good news, “The righteousness of God comes “through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.”

This is the message that brings new life.  It is the message that touched the dead sons of the widows in both our old testament and gospel readings, and it is the message that touches ourselves and our children and brings life where before only death ruled.  I pray that you will forever cling to this message and no other, and I ask this in Jesus name… AMEN!