Posts Tagged ‘worry’

Don’t Be Anxious

Sunday, September 4th, 2016

Fifteenth Sunday After Trinity-HL, September 4th, 2016
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor
Trinity Lutheran Church,
http://www.tlcsd.org and
Our Redeemer Lutheran Church
http://orlcsd.org

Click here for audio of this message

“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” [Matthew 6:34]

Our Gospel lesson today picks up directly after Jesus was teaching about the danger of replacing the worship of God with the pursuit and accumulation of material things.  From the warning against this lure of false worship Jesus now transitions his disciples into embracing a life that can and should be lived “worry free.”  But we do worry don’t we?

We worry about our health, we worry about out family and even the wealth that we hope to pass along to them; we worry about employment, and yes we worry about our church and it’s future.

There has always been anxiety and worry, ever since sin came into the world.  “In toil you shall eat of it, all the days of your Life” (Genesis 3:17)  God said that to Adam, after he and Eve were tempted and fell.  The Book of Job warns of the same thing with these words, “Has not man a hard service upon earth?” [Job 7:1]  The entire Old Testament seems to describe our life as that of a hired-hand, and that life, even at its best, will be full of toil and trouble.   And alongside of this view we need only look at two verses from this morning’s New Testament readings to clarify and direct or thoughts this morning: “Sufficient for the day is its own troubles.” [Matthew 6:34b] And, “For each will have to bear his own load.” [Galatians 6:5]

No one can avoid the load of anxieties that life brings.  But we should know how to manage them.

Managing them is just like being able to control our daily speech or having the capacity to be thankful.  It reveals what we think about God.  If we try to have God alongside of everything else in our lives, then we will certainly be held captive to our anxieties.

We can’t have God simply as some helper who sometimes breaks in and puts our lives back in order.  For instance, when our health fails or our marriage or family begins to fall apart, then and only then do we think of giving God priority and first place in our lives.  We can’t serve God and the things of this world.  If God is not our God alone, all of the time, then we will find ourselves being held hostage by our pursuit of money, possessions, work, or by the conflicts with the many people who are in our lives.  Not to mention, the thousands of duties and responsibilities that harass us from the time we wake up to the time we drift off to sleep for the night.

There are at least two valid ways of dealing with our tendency to worry. First, we must be warned that our worry is a symptom of a dangerous lack of faith, and then we simply confess it as the sin that it is. When we do this, we are then turning from our worry, confessing our sin, and turning to God’s forgiveness and strength so that we can begin anew.  But another way to be free of your anxiety is to follow the course that Jesus teaches today in our gospel lesson.  Through a series of gentle, rhetorical questions, Jesus invites us to remember that we are living our lives under our Heavenly Father’s care.

Listen to Jesus speak to you now…

“Life is something more than food and the body is something more than clothing, aren’t they?” And to this we answer, “Of course!” “You are worth much more than the birds and other animals that God takes care of, aren’t you?” Now perhaps reluctantly, and somewhat embarrassed we answer, “Well, yes, now that you put it that way, Lord.” And now concerning our health and how much longer we will live, Jesus asks you, “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” Again the slow response: “Well, Master, I guess that no one can do such a thing after all.” And now, so that He can address our fear that we will lack proper clothing Jesus asks, “Why are you worrying about what you will wear? After decking out the lilies of the field in a manner greater than Solomon’s splendor, God the Father will certainly clothe you His children of little-faith, won’t He?” And now, how can any of us respond other than saying, “Yes. Yes, He will do that.” And finally Jesus says to us, “So… don’t worry.” And how shall we answer Him this morning.  Maybe like this: “I’m sorry Lord.  I lost my bearings; I have been someone of little faith. I forgot that God was my heavenly Father and that He knows that I have these needs and that He will indeed provide for them.”

To say that God the Heavenly Father is your Father through Jesus Christ is to also agree that you live in His Kingdom and you are under His sovereign protection.  This is why Jesus so emphatically says, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” [Matthew 6:33]

You see, Jesus won’t let anyone be in His kingdom half way; He won’t permit anyone to say that He must first say good-bye to someone, or arrange a funeral, or look after his property, or think about his honeymoon before they can accept a call to be a Christian. [Luke 9:57-62]  Jesus didn’t even accept Martha’s eagerness to get the household chores done before she was willing to listen and learn from Him. [Luke 10:40]  If God is to be our God, the one we rest in and find strength for today, then He must always be first in our lives; we must always make it a priority to find time for Him.  So as Christians, we should find ourselves struggling to make the right choices in those decisive moments of life.  We can do this when we simply take time to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to His saving Word.  This morning, you are doing that very thing, and through His Divine service, God is now equipping you with the proper faith to be and remain His children, and afterward when you leave this place but not His presence, He will teach you how to clear up your anxieties.

Now, what does it mean to “seek” this kingdom of God? What is the method of reaching it, and what way or path leads us to it? Well it is simply believing in Christ and practicing and applying the Gospel, to which your faith clings. This involves living out your new baptismal life that you were given long ago, and growing and being strengthened at heart through preaching, listening, reading, singing, meditating, and every other possible way that includes the Word of God in your life. And through the power of the Holy Spirit, you will discover both an ability and desire to do good works that come out of your new life, and then through these good works, together with other saints, you will work to advance God’s kingdom, and lead many other people to it.

Dear friends, as children of the Heavenly Father who already live in and serve within His kingdom of grace, you no longer need to worry about your future.

Your baptismal life, lived under the cross of Jesus will daily make it clear to you that God surrounds you always with His almighty presence.  He feeds the birds of the heavens and clothes the grass of the field.  He thinks of us more highly than the rest of creation, so why worry if He will supply for your needs?  He has said that tomorrow must bear its own load.   When the time comes He will bear both our burdens and us. [Psalm 68:20]

Now all of this being said and true, it does not mean that we can just fold our hands and lay down in ease and do nothing.  We have been called to carry the burdens of others.  No one can do this without work and without knowing that there is a burden to be carried.  We must not become weary in doing good.  And if we do become weary we must pray for renewed strength from God the Father for the sake of Jesus Christ His Son, our Savior.  All of our worries and concerns over the fear that we might not be able to do our part, must simply be placed in the capable hands of our Lord who says: “Cast your burdens upon the Lord, and He will sustain you.” [Psalm 55:22]

Dear friends, God has your tomorrows covered, so walk with Him today.   “Tomorrow will worry for itself” is simply Christ’s invitation to you His little lambs to throw all your worries onto His shoulders; or into the lap of tomorrow and then live your life without worry day after day. If tomorrow is to do the worrying, then today we are free; and since tomorrow is always in the future and just beyond us, our worries are also always to be just beyond our reach. The idea is not, “Let God worry!” because He never worries. And we are not to say, “Wait until tomorrow comes and then I’ll worry!” No you see, tomorrow always moves on, and it will never be today; it does not exist today. If, then, tomorrow is to do the worrying, no worrying will ever be done. And that is what Jesus desires.

Why not be satisfied with today as though it has plenty of concerns without having to go into the future and borrow more? May God give us faith to believe this and live it out, in Jesus name… AMEN!

Counsel Without Knowledge is Dark, Indeed!

Sunday, June 21st, 2015

June 21, 2015
Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego, CA 92114
http://www.tlcsd.org

Click here for audio of this message

We’ve all been in that dark place of fear, worry, doubt, and anxiety, and we all have fallen back on the old tried and true method of dealing with these things… panic!  It is in the time of panic that we try everything imaginable to bring courage, stability, certainty, and peace.  Advice from those older and more experienced than ourselves sometimes helps; but advice from our father or father figures is meant to teach more than reassure.  You see, in order for the teaching to help it has to make sense, and in the middle of tragedy, who really wants to listen and learn.  So if our fathers or father figures are wise in regards to God and His ways, they will encourage us to slow down, and then with a humble heart and mind, direct us to take it all to the Lord and call out to Him for help.

But what happens when we feel we’ve done that and have been doing that very thing, and nothing seems to be changing; nothing seems to be bringing us relief?  Then we may be tempted to grow angry and bitter with God, or worse yet, we may doubt that He even cares.  This is precisely where Job was within our Old Testament lesson.  But God does see, and God does care, and to assume that He is clueless and distant is to follow a dark counsel without the wisdom of the Spirit.

This is precisely the message that God gave to Job when He declared these Words to Job, in the form of a question: “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge.”  When God addresses Job, He does so using His exact and personal name, Yahweh, or Jehovah.  When God speaks to Job, His name tells all of us that “I Am” IS the God who knows all things and allows all things, so that in the end they will work together for the good of those He loves, for those who love Him.  This all knowing, all seeing, and all powerful God then addresses Job and us, with these words of challenge. “Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me.”  In other words, this will be a contest; competition to see who it is that knows all; to see who it is alone that can declare in the end that it will be well with your soul.

Within His Words that follows, God desires to do a great work of faith, both within Job’s heart and our hearts.  God desires to purge all of us of pride, and then force us to see our own sinfulness and helplessness, and then lead us to trust in God and His saving love; the love of our Eternal Father, strong to save

In our Gospel lesson (Mark 4:35–41), the disciples are being taught that exact lesson by the very Son of God, Jesus Christ.  Every time I read this portion of scripture I can hear the underlying question beneath the disciples’ words recorded, and it is, “Jesus, don’t you care that we are about to die?”  I think that is also our underlying question when we are going through the storms of life.

Dear saints, our central problem is not the storms of life, but instead it’s our sinful tendency to focus only on the storms.  I think you will agree with me that it is hard to remember that Jesus is in the boat with us when our attention is consumed by the life threatening waves outside the boat that are now spilling into the boat and threatening to capsize us and pull us deeply down into the sea of despair.

Why do we so easily loose sight of Jesus in times of trouble and focus so heavily on the storms of life.  Why do so many of our storms, life problems at the time seem so unsurvivable, but afterwards we can look back and see that we made it through, with even stronger faith?  Because dear friends, one day, maybe sooner than we know it will be one of those storms that does end our earthly existence.  Within this perspective of fear and worry, it’s hard to remember that Jesus is in the boat with us; it’s not easy to remember that God is on the job when the waves are in your face, and your boat is quickly filling with unwanted water!

Sometimes when we encounter these life storms, we can become like Job and his friends; we want to understand the storms.  And so we ask, “What have I done to offend you Lord.”  Or we may ask, “O Lord, don’t you care that I’m in trouble?”

We so desperately want to know the answer to things like” “Why did I lose my job, or why can’t I find a job?  Why did the one I love and need so badly have to die?  Why am I so sick?  Will I ever get better?”  Or perhaps even today we may be asking, “Oh Lord, why did you allow the evil to control that young man who killed nine of our brothers and sisters while they were praying to you at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC?  We ask why because we hope that by knowing the answer to the unknown we will find a way to bring calm to our minds and peace to our souls.  But the truth is that even through our best efforts of gaining knowledge we will always fall short of understanding the mysterious infinity of God’s mind and will; we will always be frustrated by the feeble limits of our own human intellect.

And to our insatiable desire to have God explain Himself, God asks us His own question: “How can you the creature ever understand I your Creator outside of what I have told you; outside of what I have decided is enough knowledge?”  But this isn’t the answer we want, is it?  No, secretly within our hearts we want God to explain Himself.  So, our sinful nature loses sight of God’s love for us and instead of faithfully trusting in His presence and care, we begin to focus our worried minds on the unknown instead of the known.

The truth is friends, God’s love and grace sound good to us when things are going well.  We will easily trust in His love, but sadly, when the storms of life come, and they will come, then the littleness of our faith appears.  And when this weak faith becomes evident, Jesus speaks from within our boat and says, “Why are you being so cowardly?  Don’t you have faith?”

Dear friends, the solution to our fears is to remember where Jesus is and who He is.  We are reminded where He is, within His question of why we are afraid, and why we lack faith, we may be tempted to hear a scolding within the Words; that is we may receive the Words as just another accusation of God’s Law demonstrating how helpless and faithless we are.  But if you hear Jesus Words that way, you have forgotten Who Jesus is.  He is not speaking as a Judge, but as a Savior and a Comforter.

The Son of God is with you in the boat, traveling with you through the storm upon the sea of despair.  After all, it was this Christ who told you to get into the boat with Him in the first place.  He is the One Who died for all so that you would know that just as death had no power over Him, it likewise has no power over you.  It’s not just the wind and sea that must listen to Him, but also sin, death, and the devil must obey Him.

Through His completed work upon the cross we are a new creation; through His Word and sacraments we are able to trust in His real presence with us, even when our own storms over power us.  Through His presence, our little faith becomes strong faith, as we rest with the other disciples within this gospel ship we call the church.  Because of Jesus, we don’t ever have to fear the storms of life again, because we know that through Him, God the Father is always for us and never against us.  Within the waters of our own baptism we have been splashed with a power greater than all of the angry seas combined.  Because the love of Christ controls us, we can trust in God’s kind heart, and through His love for us, all of our fears can be calmed and replaced with certainty.

Dear friends, in response to our cry, “Don’t you care that I am in trouble?”  God doesn’t offer us understanding, but instead He offers us His presence within His precious promises.  He Who said to the waves, “Thus far and no farther,” says to us, “Fear not, for I am with you always.”  He assures us the He knows what we can never understand, and He is able to handle what ever we can’t.

Today dear friends Jesus tells us to stay within the Gospel Ship, even this little boat we call Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church.  He wants us to look around and see this truth: There is still room and time to bring more fearful and frightened sinners aboard, so that they too, along with us, can find salvation and peace.  There will be storms, but Jesus will always be with us in the boat as we pass through the storms.  And while He is with us, He is teaching each of us to trust Him and have faith—faith in the Fathers love for each of us.  Oh sure, there will be times when it will seem as if God is silent; as if Jesus is asleep, but fear not little ones, even though He appears to sleep, He is with you in the boat.  So take comfort, because the one who sleeps is also the one who never sleeps.  He is the your Savior and Champion who promises to never leave nor forsake you.

He has permitted the storm to come your way so that you may know and trust Him deeper than you could ever imagine.  But one day, your very last life storm will come, and that will be the perfect storm, because that will be the one that will take you to your perfect home in Paradise.  Let us pray…

“O God our Defender, there are right now storms raging around us and within us, and they are causing us to be afraid. Rescue your people from despair, deliver your sons and daughters from fear, and preserve us all from unbelief, unbelief that tries so hard to separate us from your eternal love.  We ask this in Jesus name… AMEN!

One Thing Needful

Sunday, July 21st, 2013

Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church-San Diego
Pentecost 9C, July 21st, 2013

Click here for audio of this message

“But one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”” [Luke 10:41]

Martha, Martha, why do you worry so much?  Have you never heard the saying that worrying is like a rocking chair; it will give you something to do, but it won’t get you anywhere.  You know, if  you keep stressing over the little things in life, your liable to get an ulcer.  Someone has also said that ulcers aren’t necessarily caused by what we eat, but often times they’re caused by what’s  eating us!

All of us can be Martha(s); we know what needs to be done to achieve our goals, and if we don’t do it, well… experience has taught us that it just won’t get done!  And to those of us that can  become overwhelmed with all that needs to be done, Jesus reminds us that without the one thing needful, the one thing that is necessary, all of our planning and all of our work is like trying to  shovel smoke!

So what is that one thing needful; is it something we can develop by following a strategy of easy steps towards a goal?   In our epistle reading, Paul calls it a mystery, but it is only a mystery to  those outside of the church.  Please get out your Bibles or your bulletins, and let’s look at our Epistle reading this morning (Colossians 1:21-29).

How many here this morning love reading mysteries or watching a good “Who done it” on television?  Well I don’t!  When I am reading a mystery, I’ve been know to skip right to the end after the  first two or three chapters, just to find out who did it!  And that is what Paul does for us who call ourselves Christians; He tells us who did it.  Turn with me to vs. 26, where we read: “the mystery  hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in  you, the hope of glory.” [vs. 26, 27]

So there’s the answer to who done it, but the answer to why is still unanswered to you unless you go back and read, as Paul Harvey says, “the rest of the story.”

The reason God the Father sent His Son Jesus Christ is because you needed Him.  Or as Paul says in vs. 21, “You were alienated and hostile towards Him in your mind, doing all kinds of evil deeds.”  In other words, you were lost in sin and helpless, doomed for destruction.

Ok, that explains why you needed God, but it certainly does not explain why God decided to help you.  So why did God send His Son to die for a world full of sinners?  Because God is love.  God does not want anyone to die in their sins, to be separated from Him, but instead, He desires that all of us should repent, that is turn to Him for forgiveness and have eternal life.  [1 Peter 3:9]

But some may ask, “How can it be that simple?  How can God just erase all of my past, all of my sins and say I am forgiven?  I mean, what about my next great fall from grace?  Who am I kidding?  There may be some “good” church people who can walk that narrow path to heaven, but I know me like no one else and I can tell you, I am going to screw it up again!”  And to this, Paul in vs. 22 gives us an answer: “Christ has now reconciled (us, or made us right with God), in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before Him.”

Do you hear that good news?  Christ has reconciled you forever, through His suffering and death upon the cross.  His death is your death; the death that you should have died but now you don’t need to, because God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son to die for the worlds sinfulness.

Sing with me the first two verses of that wonderful hymn, “In the Cross of Christ I Glory” (LSB 427) and let the words minister to you:

  1. In the cross of Christ I glory, Tow’ring o’er the wrecks of time.  All the light of sacred story Gathers round its head sublime.
  2. When the woes of life o’er take me, Hopes deceive, and fears annoy, Never shall the cross forsake me; Lo, it glows with peace and joy.

So there is the answer to the “Who done it”, the “why He done it”, and the “how He done it.”  But the lesson is not over; no Paul still has more to say, and it comes to us by way of warning.  Let’s turn to vs. 23, where Paul says this salvation is completely yours, “if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.”

Now I know that some of you are thinking, “Yes there’s the rub.  That is exactly what I was talking about before.  You see, there is a way for me to screw it up, and where there is a way, trust me, I will find it!”  And to this, Jesus in our gospel reading (Luke 10:38-42) speaks to Martha and Mary, and He speaks to us.  He tells us that we must look for and hold onto the one thing needful; the one thing necessary, that absolutely guarantees our salvation… Himself!  He is always there ahead of you, all you need to do is turn to Him and trust Him.  It is Jesus upon the cross suffering and dying.  It is Jesus body not dead in the tomb, but alive and reclining at the table eating and drinking with you; you who are no longer alienated from God’s love as an enemy, but reconciled as His own dear child.

And the good news is, Jesus has done all of the work for you.  He began it in your baptism when He gave you Himself; the one thing needful.  He gave you the fruit of the cross; the forgiveness of sins so you never need worry about whether His Father’s love and mercy are truly yours.  And to make sure that you never loose this wonderful gift, He promises that He will never leave you nor forsake you, nor take away all that He has done for you!

Now, I don’t want you to get the impression that St. Paul thought that life is just one good time after another.  He wasn’t ignorant of life’s challenges and heartaches.  Let’s start reading again in vs. 24 and let Paul speak for himself: “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known.” [Vs. 24, 25]

What Paul is telling us is that in this life we will have troubles; he had plenty of them!  In fact, he is saying he had more than most of us, because he was a minister of the gospel; an apostle who was constantly under the attack of Satan himself.  But through out all of those hardships and heartaches, he (Paul) never lost sight of Christ’s suffering and death for the entire world.  He never forgot the empty tomb or the waters of his own baptism.  He never forgot that he was called to continue following Jesus and then allow others to see through his own life, that no matter how many times he fell down under the burden of life, Christ always picked Him up.

That same Jesus Christ who was given to you as a gift from the Father in your baptism is still with you.  In a few minutes you will feast at His table of forgiveness and receive His body and blood which will reassure you that no one can take you away from Him, not even your own sin.  All you need do is receive Him and seek after Him where ever and when ever you need Him!

Our life in Christ can be compared to an aqueduct, the stone waterways that brought water from nearby mountains into parched cities in Italy and Spain, and that are still used in some countries today.  The objective foundation of our spiritual lives, Jesus Christ, the living Word of God, is like the huge stone aqueduct itself. The subjective elements, our daily experience with Christ, are like the fresh water flowing through it.

Some Christians neglect the Word and seek only the subjective experience. But without the solid Word of God to contain and channel that experience, the experience itself drains away into error and is lost.  Other Christians boast about well-engineered aqueducts based on extensive knowledge of the Bible, but they are bone dry, lacking no experience, which brings help and refreshment. Strong spiritual lives require both a strong knowledge of the Word of God and an intimate daily experience with Christ.  And that dear friends is precisely what Jesus offers you here in this house of worship, and anywhere else you need Him, if you will simply turn to Him and allow Him to speak through His Word.

May we with Paul continue to trust in Christ and His cross, proclaiming the mystery of the one thing needful, which is Christ in us, the hope of glory!  Please stand and sing verses 3 and 4 of the hymn “In the cross of Christ I Glory.”

  1. When the sun of bliss is beaming Light and love upon my way, From the cross the radiance streaming Adds more luster to the day.
  2. Bane and blessing, pain and pleasure By the cross are sanctified; Peace is there that knows no measure, Joys that through all time abide.  AMEN!