Arthur’s Dash

January 16th, 2019

A Christian Funeral/Memorial Sermon for Arthur Lozier
January 16, 2019
Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor of
Trinity Lutheran Church
San Diego, CA 92114

Click here for audio of this message

“And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” [Philippians 1:6]  

Grace mercy and peace to you dear family and friends of Arthur James Lozier, from God our Father and our Savior Jesus Christ.

When I was a boy my brothers and I liked to walk around in the old cemetery near our home. We were fascinated by the old head stones dating back to the mid 1800’s.  They were for the most part simple and old granite head stones, which said something like, “John Doe 1804-1880.” As we walked around the head stones we wondered and talked about what kind of life they must have lived. Without more information, their entire lives seemed to be summed up with a dash that fell between their date of birth and their date of death. The dash simply acknowledged their life. 

Arthur Lozier’s dash, his life was rich and full. It was rich and full because the Lord Jesus Christ had claimed Art and had never left him!

Arthur’s life in Jesus began when as a small baby, he was baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit at Zion Lutheran Church, in Oakland, California.

It was there in the waters of Holy baptism where God promised to complete the good work of salvation that He began in both Art and you dear baptized Christians. Listen to a few more of those promises contained in your Bibles: 

1. “The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever. [Psalm 138:8]
2. “(God) will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” [1 Cor. 1:8]
3. “This is the work of God, that you believe in (Jesus Christ) Whom He has sent.” [John 6:29]

Throughout Art’s life, God continued to complete His good work of forgiveness of sins and eternal life. As a boy, Art was instructed in the Word of God by Christian parents and the pastor at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Berkley, CA. There at Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Arthur was confirmed in His Christian faith and equipped by God to be able to approve what is excellent. Through this work of God, Art was promised that on the day of judgment he would be pronounced pure and blameless not because of the life he lived but because he trusted in Christ alone. 

It was then after the confirmation of His faith that Arthur as a young teen was invited to the Lord’s Table, and was offered and received Christ’s body and blood in with and under the bread and wine for the forgiveness of sins, the strengthening of faith, and the remembrance of the good work Christ both began and promised to complete throughout Art’s life.

Arthur’s dash of earthly life also included the blessing of marriage and the birth of two sons, Karl and Kurt.

During this time, Art would move his family to Australia. But as is true for all of God’s baptized saints, trouble and sin were always near Art. Art found Christ’s promise of forgiveness and comfort to be personal and true after his marriage ended in divorce. It was then and there that this promise of Christ found Art: “I have told you these things, so that you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart, I have overcome the world.” [John 16:33]

Out of the tragedy of sin and divorce, Art was retaught a truth that all of us Christians learn over and over again; we live out our dash of life simultaneously as a baptized saint and a earth bound sinner. In the Word of God, the law of God forces us to look within our own hearts and discover sin and condemnation. But in that same Word of God we are daily taught that God’s Son Jesus Christ has overcome the world and our own sin; He has set us free from that sin with Words of forgiveness, redemption and new life. This Good News of forgiveness is what turned Art’s heart back to Christ’s cross and the waters of baptism. It is this very thing that continues to draw each of us back to God seeking a renewed life in Christ.

When Art left Australia and returned to the U.S., he felt the calling of God to reconnect to Christ’s Church, and he did that very thing right here at Trinity Lutheran Church in San Diego, and we his church family are glad he did!

Art’s dash, his earthly life here among us at Trinity was always centered around the promises of God through Jesus Christ. 

In God’s Word, Arthur found forgiveness for his many sins, and comfort and strength to live out his redeemed life in a broken world. He found comfort because God’s Word had convinced him that He was never outside of Jesus ability to save him. He found the strength to continue living in dark and sometimes lonely times, because he knew by faith that through Christ Jesus, God would never leave him nor forsake him.

Art was active in both growing and expressing his Christian faith here at Trinity. He was a regular member of both our Sunday and Wednesday morning Bible Studies where he dug deeper into God’s Word. He asked honest questions about the Christian faith and celebrated both the revealed will of God and the unrevealed will of God. For instance, Art celebrated the truth that through Christ’s death upon the cross and the life giving waters of baptism all are offered forgiveness, yet this truth some times irritated and saddened him, because he could not understand why so many baptized Christians seemed to happily reject God’s gift of forgiveness and eternal life. As with most of us, Art found that he had no choice but to trust the same God who began the work of salvation to complete that good work as well. Art had faith that one day the people he knew and loved who rejected God’s gift of forgiveness and salvation through Jesus Christ would finally surrender to Christ and find salvation.  

Art was active in the Men’s Club and served on the Board of Elders up until his death. Art also loved to read the Word of God publicly at Divine Service. All of you who are members here a Trinity can easily close your eyes and hear in your mind his strong base tone enunciating each syllable that made up the readings for the day!

Dear friends, Arthur James Lozier’s life must not be defined simply by a date of birth and a date of death but by the redeemed life that is represented in the dash. I end this message as we began this service with this proclamation of God’s own truth: In Holy Baptism Brother Arthur James Lozier was clothed with the robe of Christ’s righteousness that covered all his sin.  St. Paul says, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?” Each of us then along with Art were buried therefore with Jesus by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.  For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His. 

Art has found redemption and peace with God in a place not made with hands, but in a paradise prepared by Jesus Himself.  May God By faith confirm this promise in each of our hearts in Jesus name… Amen!

Gladly Say It!

January 13th, 2019

Baptism of the Lord-C
January 13, 2019
Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor of
Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street
San Diego, CA 92114

Click here for audio of this message.

 

“Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”” [Luke 3:21, 22]

This morning we will explore two questions by looking at our two natures.  The two questions are: 1. Why was Jesus baptized?  2. (And) Why is your baptism such a big deal?

First, Jesus was baptized because it was necessary to fulfill all righteousness.  What I mean by that is, when He entered into the Jordan that day to be baptized by John, He was announcing to this sinful world that His ministry to redeem and save it had begun; He was announcing to all sinful people and all the devils that the promise of the Savior was being fulfilled and would be accomplished once and for all by Him and Him alone.  When Jesus fulfilled all righteousness, He was declaring judgment upon the devil.  On that day He was declaring to you that He would be your righteousness; you would be spared the final judgment for your sins because He would take the punishment that you and your sins deserved.   

Now this is both good news and bad news.  It is good news for you, that is for your new baptismal nature that God has given to you in your baptism.  That new nature, the nature we identify with as a saint, rejoices in this proclamation of righteousness.  Our call to Worship hymn, “God’s Own Child, I Gladly Say It” is in modern terms, the theme song of our baptismal life.  That new nature celebrates that Jesus has now sanctified the waters of baptism, through the power of the Holy Spirit.  No one has to convince it that God is love and has saved it; it’s very existence makes this self-evident.   But you have another nature; your old sinful nature that does not see this as good news, because it means that it must die.  This old nature will do everything it can to live.  That nature has many “theme songs”, but perhaps the song by Luther Ingram, “If Loving You is Wrong, I Don’t want to be Right” is the best.

Our old Nature says, “If loving you is wrong, then I just don’t care about being in the right.”  

The “you” in the song refers to a mistress who is in an adulterous relationship.  But in our lives, the mistress is anything that we might be tempted to call right, which God says is wrong.  God says that intimacy without marriage is wrong, and marriage is between a man and a woman; wrong says the sinful nature, if it feels good and makes me feel fulfilled, then it can’t be wrong.  In regards to our own bodies, God’s Word says, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?  You are not your own, for you were bought with a (great) price.  So glorify God in your body.” [1 Corinthians 6:19, 20]  “Wrong” says the sinful flesh of today’s modern woman, “A woman’s body is hers alone and the life within her womb is hers to decide whether it will be born or not.”

God’s Word says, “Thou shalt not have any other god’s before or beside Me” and our sinful flesh shakes it’s fist at the law of God and follows the law of society which says, “If it feels good, just do it!”  So we as a people, as a nation pursue happiness at all costs because that is our right as one who is simply doing what feels good and seems right.  We pursue and procure all things that promise happiness and a better life.  “I have a right to this and a need for that.”  So we set out on the pursuit of things that this sinful world and our own sinful desires say are necessary.  And this pursuit that seems good right and salutary makes itself central to all things; and when our sinful nature becomes central to our existence, we become the god of our lives.  We can easily justify lying, stealing, coveting, and even murder, because after all, it makes us feel good.  So, “If loving (this or that) is wrong, then I don’t want to be right.”  

And God sees all of this and warns that there is a way that seems right to you but in the end, it really does lead to death.  You can’t agree that I am right and you are wrong, so I will come to you myself and not only show you the truth, but I will pay for your sins.  I will send my Son to you who will teach you and allow you to see all things clearly.  Through His Word, through His cross, through His empty tomb, you will know the truth and that truth will set you free.  I will cleanse you with the same water and Word that He Himself sanctified before He set His face to the cross in order to procure your salvation.  

Now since you are hearing His truth, hear this truth also.  “Baptism, which corresponds to (the ark, which saved Noah and his family from the flood) now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” [1 Peter 3:21] “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” [Romans 6:4] 

This is God’s promise to those of you who are worried about your sin; those things which cause you to fear that God no longer cares or loves you.  When you are cut to the heart and don’t know how you will ever know peace with God, listen to St. Peter, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” [Acts 2:37-39]

For you who long to hear words of comfort, hear the gospel in our call to worship hymn, and let it be your new natures theme song.  Let these Words speak to your heart.  Agree with God and shake your fist at the devil and your own old, sinful nature.


God’s own child, I gladly say it: I am baptized into Christ!  He, because I could not pay it, Gave my full redemption price.  Do I need earth’s treasures many?  I have one worth more than any, that brought me salvation free; lasting to eternity!  

Listen, I know my own self, and you know yourselves; we shouldn’t be God’s own child.  We know that in our old sinful nature, that is on our own, there is nothing worth loving or saving within us, and yet, God’s Word declares that He does love us and He has saved us through the life, death, and resurrection of His Son our Savior Jesus Christ.  That one gift is greater than anything the world has to offer.  Claim that gift that was first given to you in your baptism and rest in it forever!

Sin, disturb my soul no longer:  I am baptized into Christ!  I have comfort even stronger: Jesus’ cleansing sacrifice.  Should a guilty conscience seize me since my Baptism did release me in a dear forgiving flood, sprinkling me with Jesus’ blood?

We do have guilty consciences don’t we?  Well, let the Word of God, the gospel of Jesus Christ give you peace.  Jesus died to bring forgiveness to the world, and in your baptism, He came to give it to you personally.  You are forgiven!  Let that truth soak in and live out it’s truth.  Fight the sin that is within your old nature.  And when you fall into sin, don’t let that old you trick you into thinking you have sinned beyond God’s ability to save.  Shut its mouth with the Word of God and continue to remind it that “you have been baptized into Christ Jesus and into His death.  The old nature was buried with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, you too might walk in newness of life.” [Romans 6:1-11]

Satan, hear this proclamation: I am baptized into Christ!  Drop your ugly accusation, I am not so soon enticed.  Now that to the font I’ve traveled, all your might has come unraveled, and, against your tyranny, God, my Lord, unites with me!  

So when the devil begins to throw your sins into your face, and taunts you with a future of doubt and even fear of hell, simply tell him, “Devil you go to hell because that is what you desire; as for me, I admit that I am a sinner, what of it?  You see I know of One who is greater than my sin and He has conquered all of my fears and tormenters, even you!  His name is Jesus Christ, and where He is, there I will be one day with Him as well!”

Death, you cannot end my gladness: I am baptized into Christ!  When I die, I leave all sadness to inherit paradise!  Though I lie in dust and ashes faith’s assurance brightly flashes: Baptism has the strength divine, to make life immortal mine.  

We’ve talked about the fear of death quite a bit this last season of Advent, but it bears repeating.  A Christian who fears their own death because they are uncertain about what or where their life will be after they leave this sinful earth, is a Christian who has small faith and lacks the joy of their salvation.  But small faith, the size of a mustard seed is better than no faith.  God shall one day take that small faith and show you what miracles He can and will do with it.  You will behold your God one day with your own eyes; you and not another for you, and He will say, “Welcome baptized Christian, come and enter your Fathers heaven, and rest in a place that He has prepared for you.”

There is nothing worth comparing to this lifelong comfort sure!  Open-eyed my grave is staring:     Even there I’ll sleep secure.  Though my flesh awaits its raising, still my soul continues praising: I am baptized into Christ; I’m a child of paradise!  

Do you hear that dear friends? You are a baptized saint.  Your old sinful nature will never gladly celebrate this truth, in fact it will fight it until your last breath.  It knows that it has lost, and it knows that it must die, but like the devil it will not go quietly.  Together, your old sinful nature and the devil want only to cheat you out of your inheritance, but if you will simply hold onto the promises of God, rest in the cross of Christ and your own baptism, you will be clothed with divine strength, which in the end will provide to you eternal life and everlasting peace with God.  It is that nature which now and forever, with God’s means of grace protecting and providing for it declares now and forever: “By baptism, I am God’s own child, and I will gladly say it!  AMEN!”

THE EPIPHANY OF OUR LORD

January 6th, 2019

Epiphany-C
January 6, 2018
Mr. Rick Stark, Vicar of
Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street
San Diego, CA 92114

Click here for audio of this message.

“And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.”

By fortunate circumstance due to the recurring and predictable nature of the calendar, the Epiphany of Our Lord falls on a Sunday this year. That Sunday is today. And by even greater circumstance, but by no means a random one, you get to be in the house of our Lord, listening to the Lord’s Word, on the day we celebrate the Epiphany of Our Lord.

Whether you’re our congregation’s youngest believer, or whether you’re pushing your way into your ninth or tenth decade of faith, you are not here on account of your own goodness. You are here because by God’s grace and by His election, you have received your own “epiphany of our Lord and Savior” somewhere along your life’s path

But just what is “Epiphany”?  Many in the secular world think that Epiphany, which always occurs 12 days after Christmas, is the standard allotted time to take down your Christmas decorations.  In some cultures of the world, Epiphany is a grander, larger scale, celebration than Christmas itself. And just to the south of us in Mexico, Epiphany is commonly celebrated with such things as cutting the “King cake” and gifts left in shoes for the children.

The word ‘Epiphany’ comes from Greek and literally means ‘a manifestation’. In other words, it has to do with something being revealed that has previously been hidden, or at least obscured for some time. Certainly the people of the old world, even the people of Israel, didn’t have a full understanding of just who God really is and how He was going to bring about their eternal salvation prior to the birth of Jesus.

There were plenty of prophecies of how all this would happen. This morning, our Old Testament lesson from Isaiah, foretold what would happen when God revealed His glory to the world: “Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn. “Lift up your eyes and look about you: All assemble and come to you…”All people will be drawn into that glory, and all people will be drawn into God’s family.  And, from our Gospel lesson, we heard the quotation from Micah that was used by Herod’s advisors to direct the wise men to Bethlehem: “And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.”

 These clues gave the people of ancient times a bit of a puzzle to consider. Each little revelation, each answer to a prophecy, put more and more information at their disposal. And, using that information, some eager souls attempted to predict the when, the where, and the how of the coming of the Messiah.

It’s kind of like our own day and age, where people attempt to use the far fuller content of the Scriptures to predict the end of times, or the time, the place, and the circumstances of the Savior’s Second Coming. Of course, to do this, they have to set aside Jesus’ own words, they have to disregard what Jesus Himself told us, that no one can predict it, “… for no one knows these things… only the Father.” Too often, though, in ancient times and now, all the speculation on the when, and the where, and the how of the coming of the Messiah misses the what — and, more importantly, it misses the whyof the Messiah’s coming.

Speculation like this will always happen. It is part of our sinful human nature to want to calculate, to speculate, or just plain guess about things which God, in His wisdom, has chosen to keep hidden from us for the time being. The ironic flip-side of that is, of course, that too many times we ignore that which God has already revealed to us.

Consider, for example, what we already know and what we don’t know about the wise men, or the “magi,” who came to worship the one born King of the Jews. We know that they came from the east, but what we don’t know is how far from the east, or that it was necessarily due east from Bethlehem. We can speculate, as others have, that they might have learned the teachings about the Messiah of Israel from Jewish exiles who lived in Babylon or more likely Persia. Or, they could’ve been from Arabia, or even from as far away as modern day India or China; we just don’t know. And, we need to be humble enough before God and with one another to admit that.

My apologies to Christmas card writers and the hymn writers, but we don’t know if these wise men were the “Three Kings of Orient Are.” Nowhere in the Bible does it say they were kings, nor does it say that there were three. (Most people assume there were three wise men because of the three gifts presented, the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, which are mentioned in the Bible.) Isaiah does prophesy that kings will come to the brightness of the Messiah’s rising, but we can’t, with any certainty, connect that verse directly to this particular visit.

And what about the legend that the three wise men were named Gaspar, Melchior, and Balthasar, or any names similar to that? There’s no biblical mention of names. They are probably something that cropped up in the Middle Ages in misguided attempts to answer people’s curious questions, instead of redirecting them to what really is important in this story.

Also of legend, rather than biblical accuracy, is the idea that the wise men rode in on camels. Again, Isaiah mentions that camels of Midian and Ephah and Sheba shall come. But Matthew’s account doesn’t document the wise men’s mode of transportation. There’s nothing wrong with picturing the wise men coming on camels, but there’s nothing to make it a point of certainty, either.

So, about now you’re probably thinking, “What’s your point Vicar? Are purposely trying to ruin our sentimental impressions of Christmas and the manger scene? Are you trying to upset our childhood memories? Or, confuse us with lots of details?”

No, not really. My hope in pointing out such details is that you’ll be encouraged to read the Scriptures, not just more often, but with a greater eye for what they contain and what they do not contain. And I would pray that you will know the difference when you hear people talk. Quite often we hear people say (or we might even say ourselves), “Well, I think the Bible says such-and-such…” But unless we know actually what it does say, offering our opinion can be dangerous, both to them and to us.

Now in these things I brought up here today, it’s really like what Pastor Brian would say, “It’s adiaphora!” It really doesn’t matter because it doesn’t change the important aspects of the Biblical account. It doesn’t change what really matters!

When we actually turn to the Scriptures, we may find that what God’s Word has revealed to us is significantly different, or sometimes even silent on the topic. And, it is sinful for us to quote God’s Word inaccurately for the purpose of convincing people of our own ideas, rather than what God’s Word tells us. We have likely all fallen victim to it at sometime or another.

Another hope I have in suggesting that you consider the content of Scripture more discerningly is that you’ll begin to see the connections God has put there for us much more clearly. Yes, the Bible is a difficult and mysterious book in many ways. But sometimes we make it much more difficult than it needs to be, because we want to carve it up into isolated snippets rather than trying to see the rich, broad minutiae of its tapestry. Sometimes the temptation is to use a particular verse, maybe out of context, to win ego-building arguments, rather than to convey the wholeness of God’s Law and Gospel message to a fallen, lost, and dying world. And in doing so the true message of God’s Word get’s lost.

Again, we should repent of our failings, for the power of God’s Word is not to be used for our own purposes, but for the His glory, and for the benefit of sharing His grace with others. We should pray for the motivation to more diligently and deeply read and study Scripture, pray for the Holy Spirit’s guidance for better clarity and understanding of it, and finally, pray for the courage and opportunities to share that understanding with others, so that they might have their own “epiphanies” with the Lord.

If we allow ourselves to be led by the Holy Spirit, to seek a greater understanding, God will not disappoint us. He will overcome that sinful desire to shape or twist His Word for our own purposes, so that He might accomplish His greater good. He will help us to see how Matthew’s account of the wise men’s visit truly does connect with Isaiah’s prophecy, with Micah’s prophecy, and with the entirety of all the other Bible books, as well. After all, the Bible itself is ultimately the inspired work of God, and not the work of the individual writers.

The wise men’s visit shows us several things. First, it illuminates how the message of God’s salvation through the Messiah had reached out into the world even before Christ’s coming in the flesh. The wise men were not just sitting around one night, observing the sky, and suddenly came to the conclusion on their own that this new star indicated the birth of a king to the Jews. This idea had to have been planted in their minds from some source with an understanding that the coming of the Messiah would be accompanied by great signs, including a great light from the heavens.

Among these revelations, recorded in book of Numbers, chapter 24 Balaam prophesied, “…a star shall come out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel.” A special star or other astronomical events such as comets or meteors was taken to symbolize divine validation of a king’s right to rule.

Balaam went on, “Edom shall be dispossessed.” Now it’s no coincidence that Herod, the king who ruled at the time of Jesus’ birth, was not an Israelite king at all, but an Edomite who had been installed by the Romans as their puppet ruler.

When the wise men appeared, telling Herod that a star had arisen in Israel to indicate the birth of a Jewish king, he had good reason to fear for his rule. The Scriptures said that Edom would be dispossessed. You see, Herod was not an Israelite king at all, but an Edomite who had been installed by the Romans as their puppet ruler. Herod knew enough of Israel’s history and of the Jewish religion to realize that God often worked on behalf of Israel through supernatural means. However, the deception and violence Herod used in response, were manifestations of the same evil inclinations that we exhibit whenever we seek to shape things to our own desires, apart from the revealed will of God.

The second important point of this lesson is that prophecies in the Scriptures are fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Even though Herod used Micah’s prophecy about the birth of the Messiah in Bethlehem for despicable purposes, that was to kill innocent children, it nevertheless shows that Jesus’ miraculous birth took place exactly where God had revealed it would, the way God had said it would. For nearly 700 years, since the time of Micah, that information might have seemed of little importance. But in the prophecy’s fulfillment, those few verses take on immeasurable significance.

Thirdly, when the star finally stopped where Jesus was, and the wise men reached the end of their journey, they were pleased beyond measure. The text says, “they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.” They were beside themselves with joy! (similar to the joy we heard bout with Simeon last week.) They may not have realized just what sort of king they were about to encounter, and even though he was merely a child at this point, they knew that something great and miraculous had come into their lives.

If only we could experience such joy when we come into contact with our heavenly King who came from God the Father, was born as an infant to suffer and die on that old rugged cross for our sins! And our life of faith is more than just an emotional experience!

How often do we allow our faith to be lived out in cold drudgery or in a bland routine? The Creator, the Redeemer, and the Sanctifier of the world has revealed Himself to you! He has chosen you to be His own, to receive the full favor of His grace, to receive forgiveness and to give you eternal life with Him in heaven! You should not just be excited about that, you should be joyful, thrilled, energized, and motivated to seek and follow His will!

A final key point of this lesson is that God continued to reveal Himself to the wise men even after they had followed the star and met the miracle of God in the flesh. He used another miraculous means—a dream—to show them His will. And, He prevented them from going back to Jerusalem, and protected the Holy family and the young Baby Jesus, so that His plan and timetable of salvation would not be interrupted or short-circuited by Herod.

You know, God does this for you, too, even today. He continues to reveal Himself to you in miraculous ways: The spoken word brings God’s power into your lives, each and every time you hear the declaration of absolution and the proclamation of the Gospel for the forgiveness of your sins. He doesn’t bring you gold, frankincense, or myrrh, but far more precious gifts of His own body and blood in the Sacrament of the Altar, satisfying your spiritual hunger and quenching your soul’s thirst, even as it burns away your sins with a power brighter and hotter than that of any star.

Maybe faith came to you as an infant or young child as you were baptized by loving, believing parents and given the Holy Spirit’s gifts by water and Word. Maybe, like others, you were reached later in life through the proclamation of that same Living Word, and the Spirit chose to enlighten your heart with the wisdom of the Gospel and then you received the gifts of the Holy Spirit through your baptism.

Either way is fine, really. God has chosen those means—Sacrament and Word, Word and Sacrament—to reveal Himself to us and to draw us near to Him. Through them, He grants us our own epiphanies. They may be personal ones, but they are by no means “little ones”, for the granting of faith is like a tectonic plate shifting in our lives and in our standing in God’s eyes. No longer are you aliens, strangers, and enemies to God. Instead, you are family, made His very own children—reborn, not as kings or queens of the Jews, but as princes and princess of heaven and earth – children of God, redeemed by Christ the Crucified, and royal citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Rejoice that the Lord’s Epiphany has come to you, revealing who He is and re-creating who you are, so that you may join the wise men in “rejoicing with exceedingly great joy” at His coming to the world for your salvation.

In the holy name of our God, who has been made flesh and was revealed to the nations, for all to see, and for all to believe, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

The Song of Simeon

December 30th, 2018

Christmas 1-C
December 30, 2018
Mr. Rick Stark, Vicar of
Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street
San Diego, CA 92114

Click here for audio of this message.

…and when [Mary and Joseph] brought in the child Jesus [into the temple], to do for Him according to the custom of the Law, [Simeon] took Him up in his arms and blessed God and said, “Lord, now let your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.”

Are you ready to go?

What I mean is, are you ready to leave? No, I don’t mean right now, right at this very moment; it would be nice if you would stick around till the end of the service.

But, at the end of the service, will you be ready to leave? And by that, I mean, will you be ready to leave in peace — satisfied and content — ready for whatever comes next?

What makes us ready to leave — to leave any situation?

For example, this year is coming to a close. Are you ready to put 2018 behind you and move on to whatever 2019 may bring? (That sounds so weird…2019)

But what makes us ready to leave, even to the point of leaving this life? That day could happen any time, you know, any day, any hour. And if that were to happen, would you be ready? If the Lord were to decide to call you home today, are you ready to go? And if not, why not? And if you’re not sure, what would make the difference? What would change your mind?

Today in our Gospel reading, we meet a man who was ready to go. He was ready for whatever might happen next. And we find out in this text why he was ready, what made that difference. The man’s name was Simeon, and I think we can learn something from him today about what it means to “Depart in Peace.”

Let me set the scene for you. It’s eight days after the birth of Jesus. We’re in Jerusalem. We’re going to the temple. Why? Because eight days after the birth of a firstborn son, the father and mother were supposed to go to the temple and offer up a sacrifice to the Lord. It’s in the Law of Moses.

God commands the Israelites: The firstborn of your sons you shall give to me. You shall do the same with your oxen and with your sheep: seven days it shall be with its mother; on the eighth day you shall give it to me. (Exodus 22:29b-30)

 

Because, in the Passover, the firstborn sons of Israel were spared from death in Egypt, those boys were to be dedicated to the Lord and his service. Theoretically, they were supposed to serve in the temple. But the Lord God set apart the whole tribe of Levi to take the place of the boys from the other tribes.

Back to the temple. there are several families bringing young boys into the temple. Only, today, on this occasion, there is a firstborn son from the tribe of Judah, the tribe of kings, coming into the temple, this Son will also go on to be the Priest Supreme and the Lamb of God, making the ultimate sacrifice for all people. Can you picture it?

Over there. Mary and Joseph are carrying Jesus into the temple now. Do you see him? No? Again, there are many families bringing young boys into the temple today. How can we tell which couple carrying a baby into the temple is the one I’m talking about? There was nothing special, no special effects, no angels singing, no halos, and no beams of light to distinguish this Holy Family of Joseph, Mary, and the baby Jesus from all the other families there that day. That’s the point. And that’s how it would have appeared to Simeon, too, had the Lord not made it known to him through special revelation by the Holy Spirit.

Our Gospel lesson tells us, “Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And [that day] he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for Him according to the custom of the Law, he took Him up in his arms and blessed God.”

It says Simeon was waiting for “the consolation of Israel”. He was waiting for the comfort the Lord had promised to his people. “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.”the prophet Isaiah had spoken centuries before, and Simeon was waiting and wanting to see the fulfillment of thatpromise. Now, here it comes. The consolation, the comfort, the Christ child, is being carried in right before his very eyes.

The consolation comes in the person of this little baby. The Holy Spirit reveals to Simeon that he is seeing the Lord’s Christ. This is the Messiah — the Christ –the promised deliverer-king, who will bring God’s kingdom of comfort and consolation. God’s Promise fulfilled. The Lord had told Simeon he would not die before the arrival of the Messiah. Now the Christ has come. And Simeon thanks God for fulfilling this special promise to him, and so now Simeon –presumably an old man — now Simeon is ready to die, if that is what God has in store for him.

Simeon takes the baby Jesus in his arms and utters this beautiful song of praise:

“Lord, now let your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.”

Now here’s what it means to be ready to “Depart in Peace.” It’s to know and to experience the salvation that the Lord has prepared and promised — that same salvation that the Lord has prepared and promised for you and me in the waters of Holy Baptism.

That’s what Simeon experienced when he saw the baby Jesus with his own eyes and held Him in his own arms. Because of his hope in God’s promise, the hope of salvation come in the person of Baby Jesus, now Simeon knew that he was at peace and ready for whatever might come next, even his own death. Now he could “Depart in Peace.” Those same promises wee given to us in Baptism.

How would that consolation, that salvation, that peace, come about? That’s where our text goes next.

We read that Mary and Joseph marveled at what Simeon said about their baby. And Simeon blesses them and says to Mary his mother: “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”

 

This is the first time in the short life of the Baby Jesus that the Cross is referenced. The consolation will come through conflict. The salvation will come through suffering and sorrow. And peace will come through a Cross. And Simeon tells the mother, Mary that she will experience sorrow, like a sword piercing her soul, when one day she will see her son suffering shame and humiliation and death on a cross. But that is how the salvation will come. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and the son of Mary, true God and true man, He will suffer and die for the sins of all men, winning our forgiveness for eternity.  And with His sacrificial death on the Cross comes the consolation, and the salvation, and the peace we all need so very much.

St Paul tells us in Romans, chapter 3: Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with Him in a death like his [then] we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like his. (Romans 6:3-5)

So how is it with you, dear brothers and sisters? Are you ready to depart in peace? Can you say with Simeon, “Yes, Lord, I’m ready to go, I’m ready for whatever comes next”?

Now you may not have laid your eyes on the Baby Jesus, being carried into the temple. You have not held that little baby in your arms. But here’s what you do have. You have the same Word of God given to Simeon. Your ears have heard the Word of the Lord. Your eyes have seen, with the eyes of faith, what God has laid before you: the consolation, the salvation, and the path of peace, leading all the way to heaven, through faith in our Lord, Jesus Christ. And you have received, and you will receive once again today, the very body and blood of your Savior in His Holy Sacrament. Dear Christian brothers and sisters, Simeon has nothing on you. You are just as blessed. You are just as comforted. And you are just as ready to go.

You know, that is why the church sings Simeon’s song right after receiving the Lord’s body and blood in the Sacrament and right before the end of our service. It’s because we can identify with what Simeon experienced that day. We have received the same Comforter, the same Savior, and the same Lord as Simeon. And so we sing Simeon’s song, the Nunc Dimittis. “Nunc Dimittis” is simply the Latin words for, “Now depart.”  We sing: “O Lord, now let Your servant depart in heavenly peace, for I have seen the glory of Your redeeming grace: A light to lead the Gentiles unto Your holy hill, the glory of Your people, Your chosen Israel.”

Yes, we too can sing out like Simeon! And we do! With joy and gladness we praise God for the salvation that comes to us, freely and fully, in the person of Christ Jesus our Lord.

Now we can face whatever comes at us this week, or in this new year to come. Whether it means, health issues, financial issues, broken relationships, struggles with depression or loneliness — whatever comes our way, we are ready. And even death, if the Lord should decide it’s our time to go; we are ready. Not because of our merits or anything we have done. But because of the Lord’s Christ, our Jesus Christ, the infant Messiah, the man who died on the cross, and the God who rose as our Redeemer and Savior. This is the one who speaks to us His words of peace. This is the one who has the words of eternal life. And this is God’s promise to you, that you have forgiveness and peace –and with them, everlasting life — because of this Baby Jesus.

 

What great hope for the new year! What peace we have that surpasses all human understanding! What a joy it is to know this Savior! What a blessing it brings to you and your family and to this congregation! There is nothing else like it. Nothing else can fill the void and vacuum that we would have apart from Christ.But with Christ, we are ready to face whatever comes our way. For Christ has come into this temple, and the Holy Spirit has revealed Him to us here also. And we are ready to “Depart in Peace.”

And now may that same peace, the peace the surpasses all human understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

The Word Became Flesh!


December 23rd, 2018

Advent 4-C
December 23, 2018
Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor of
Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street
San Diego, CA 92114

Click here for audio of this message.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.” [John 1:1-3]

Just when we think we have God all figured out, He comes out of left field and does something we never even considered. How many times have you encountered what you thought was a hopeless situation, only to have the whole thing turned around?  Oh we of little faith!

The Jews knew that biting accusation all too well!  They were anxiously waiting for a warrior-king, a descendant of King David to come, who would make them a worldwide super power once again.  Oh their king came, a descendant of David certainly, but He didn’t come in a way they expected.  You see, there was no army carrying their king into battle; instead He was carried by a pregnant teenager who was about to give birth to their true king, God in human flesh.  Instead of defeating Rome and the Emperor, this King came to defeat sin, death, and the devil!

How did the Jews get so confused? 

Maybe they missed what God was doing because they concentrated on temporal things instead of eternal things.  Maybe they decided on concentrating on snippets of prophecy instead on the whole prophecy.  Maybe they used only portions of God’s Word, like those found in Micah, our Old Testament lesson this morning: “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.”  So far, that sounds like help is on the way.  Let’s see what else they may have read that gave them hope that their warrior-king was coming to fight for them.  How about this: “And He shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth.”  Well that sounds like a super power God for a super power nation, doesn’t it?

The problem was, they were only paying attention to the parts of God’s Word that they liked, and they were ignoring the parts of His Word that continuously reminded them that they were not living as God desired… they were not living as people of faith who trusted in, and patiently waited on their God to provide for them.  Listen to just a few of the many reminders God gave them: “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the heart. To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice.” [Proverbs 21:2,3]

What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the LORD; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of well-fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats. [Isaiah 1:11]

“But this command I gave them: ‘Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people. And walk in all the way that I command you, that it may be well with you.’ But they did not obey or incline their ear, but walked in their own counsels and the stubbornness of their evil hearts, and went backward and not forward.” [Jeremiah 7:23-25]

Israel thought that by observing a few religious rules God would wink at their sin.  They thought they could hide the evil in their hearts by appeasing God with a few sacrifices.  But do you know what God calls someone who only listens to parts of His Word, while comfortably ignoring the other parts?  Lost and damned in their sins!

Friends, God’s Word always comes to us in two parts, the Law and the Gospel.  

When we only pick out the good news, the Word that speaks of God’s forgiving love, then we are sure to miss the way that He wants to bring us that good news… through our confession to Him that we are sinful.  We must be told by His Word that our hearts are sinful and we must admit it to Him before He will forgive.  His Word must show us that we are self-serving and prideful.  And by that same Word we must be convinced that the only way to know and experience God’s love is by confessing this truth.  If we do this as He asks, He in turn promises to make us self-giving and humble.  We must obey His call to confession and then admit our need for Him to change us before He will allow us to hear His Gospel Word of love and forgiveness.  

If we will not approach Him just as He desires, with a broken spirit and a contrite heart, then we, like the Jews will miss the true Gospel found in our reading from Micah: “Therefore He shall give them up until the time when she who is in labor has given birth; then the rest of His brothers shall return to the people of Israel. And He shall stand and shepherd His flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD His God. And they shall dwell secure, for now He shall be great to the ends of the earth. And He shall be their peace.” [Micah 5:3-5]  

Like the Jews, all of mankind is lost unless we receive our Savior as He comes, as a baby; lowly and humble, through the womb of a teenaged virgin. 

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” [John 1:14]  

Dear friends, the warrior king that the Jews waited so long for did come, but He didn’t come as they expected; that is He wasn’t the kind of king they looked for.  If they had only drawn more deeply into God’s whole Word, it would have been so clear.  Their great King David, a man after God’s own heart spoke to them clearly in Psalm 40 about what this greater king and Messiah would do, listen: “In sacrifice and offering you have not delighted, but a body you have prepared for me.  Burnt offering and sin offering you have not required. Then I said, “Behold, I have come; in the scroll of the book it is written of me: I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.” I have told the glad news of deliverance in the great congregation; behold, I have not restrained my lips, as you know, O LORD. I have not hidden your deliverance within my heart; I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation; I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness from the great congregation.” [Psalm 40:6-10 LXX]

In these very Words friends, God was telling Israel and the world today, that He is saving sinful man in a way that we would never expect.  He comes to us in our own flesh; because we could never on our own delight to do God’s will, so God sends His Living Word to us to do it for us.  Listen now to that same Psalm as explained by the writer of our Epistle lesson: “Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but you have now prepared a body for me; (hear the truth sinful children, God does) not delight in (your religious sacrifices)—in your burnt offerings and sin offerings (He takes) no pleasure. (But now Jesus says), ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in (their prophecies).”

 

Dear friends, when Jesus Christ, the Word which became flesh said that God neither desires nor takes pleasure in the sacrifices and offerings of the Jews, He is speaking to us as well.  He is saying that our attempts to please Him by being good, by doing our best are not what He is looking for in us.  If these were good enough, then what need would any of us have for a Savior? Why must God the Father prepare a body for God the Son?  My friends, so that He could do what we cannot; so that in our flesh He can obey God in our place! But friends, obedience wasn’t the only reason that Christ was given a body!  No, you see because of our many sins, something much costlier is required in order to make things right with God.  Willful sin has been committed on our part, and an acceptable sacrifice must be given… a life must be taken and blood must be spilled.  You see friends, Christ’s obedience is much greater than simply living a life that pleases God; His obedience also includes a sin offering, the offering of the very blood and life of God the Son.  This is the true and final sacrifice for sin, because it is the ultimate sacrifice, which according to prophecy, God desired to be made, and friends He made it for you!

Just think about the grandness of God’s love friends.  

Hear the words of our Savior as He speaks them for you… as He speaks them to you in a way to make it clear that He alone can save you from the sin that has entrapped you.  With you on His heart He loudly speaks: “No, he will not die.  No she will not pay.  Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll—I have come to do your will, O God.  Send me in their place!”  In that spirit, the spirit of love for the Father and love for you, Jesus offered his life to the Father. It was that very same love that motivated him (John 4:34) and guided Him all the way to Calvary. What a great cost He has bought you with!  Think of Him wrestling in prayer in the garden of Gethsemane and you will begin to understand the cost.  Think of Him calling out alone upon the cross as the last of His life giving blood and the love of the Father left Him: “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”  

This Christmas friends, it is good to remember the manger and the infant lowly, but do not lose sight of the cross!  Remember the cross, because to remember it is to remember a truth that will change the way you worship and the way you live your life in service to God: Jesus was born to die for you!  

Friends, do you want to live a life that pleases God?  Well the first step in doing that is by remembering the gifts of forgiveness and new life, which He gave you within the waters of your baptism, and then confess to Him that you can’t live the life of perfection His law demands.  Confess your sinfulness to Him and then put His Law that terrifies you aside and hear the Gospel.  Hear the Good News that assures you that God does love you and He forgives you of all of your sins because of what Jesus has done for you.  Hear this good news often.  Come every week to this place of worship and let Him strengthen your faith and nourish your spirit.  Let Him change you from the inside out.  And as you do that, something new and different will happen, you will begin to find yourself becoming more and more like your Savior-King who died for you.  

And then friends, when God begins to look for your obedience in small things you will begin to find yourself saying: Here I am—Lord—I have come to do your will, O God.  Send me… use me!”  May the love of God through Christ Jesus move our hearts and minds to do this very thing…. I ask this in Jesus name…. AMEN!

King Jesus Is All!

December 2nd, 2018

Advent 1-C
December 2, 2018
Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor of
Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street
San Diego, CA 92114

Click here for audio of this message

Our text this morning is from our Gospel lesson: “As [Jesus] was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!  Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” [Luke 19:37, 38]

One Sunday morning after a worship service a woman came up to her pastor and thanked him for the encouraging sermon he had preached. In response he said, “Well, don’t thank me, give God the glory and praise the Lord.”  She said, “Well, I thought about that, but it wasn’t quite that good.”

Glory, honor, and praise…these are words we use so easily on Sunday mornings when we are around other Christians.  The words seem to flow so naturally from our lips, don’t they?  It is good, right, and salutary (that means beneficial), that we should at all times and in all places give thanks to our Lord, our heavenly king!  But what does it really mean when we say that Jesus is our King?  This morning, our message will answer that very question.

In our gospel lesson this morning we see the people proclaiming Jesus as their king, and surprisingly, this time He accepts their praise.  

In the past, the people tried to force their idea of a king on Jesus.  For example, remember after the feeding of the 5,000 how they wanted to grab Him and make Him their king.  Did Jesus allow them to do this?  No, but what did He do?  Why He disappeared; He quickly left them because their idea of a king was limited to earthly reasons and it lacked the Heavenly will of God.  They wanted Jesus to smash the government of Rome, destroy the oppressive system of taxation, conquer Cesar, and rule as their sovereign king…a Jewish king for Jewish people!

Could Jesus have done these things?  Sure… but that would not have been in keeping with God’s will.  

Now think about this, in just a few short days after the occurrences of our gospel reading, Jesus would be standing in front of Pontius Pilate explaining the truth about the Kingdom of God.  As He was standing before Pilate, the very man that could set Him free, Pilate asked our Lord,  “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”  Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth.  Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.”

So what is the truth?  What kind of king is Jesus?  

A. Since it is good, right, and salutary that we should praise Him as our king, then we want to praise Him according to His will.  Well for the answer to this question let’s turn once again to His disciples.  On the day He entered Jerusalem for the last time until His return to make all things new, the crowd of His followers with the leading of the Holy Spirit got it right.  Let me combine all of the accounts of the Gospels, and so we can listen to the cries of the disciples as their Lord triumphantly enters the Holy City: “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!”[Mk. 11:10] “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” [Lk. 19:38] “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” [Jn. 12:13]  

In these words friends, Jesus’ disciples were essentially asking for God’s idea of a king.  They were in essence praying the Lord’s prayer…they were saying, “Thy kingdom come… Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  They knew that they needed a savior, one who could restore God’s heavenly kingdom on earth—they needed a Messiah!  Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord… Blessed is He who comes to bring heaven’s peace to sinful men…together they were giving glory to God for this type of king!

They didn’t need a kingdom of earthly power; they needed one of Heavenly power…they needed a Messiah… a Savior.  Only this kind of king could bring them and us what we really need, peace with our Creator.  Jesus isn’t a worldly king; He isn’t a rival to Caesar or Herod.  Jesus kingdom is not like that of David or Solomon.  His is a kingdom of heavenly power.  His kingship and kingdom are far greater than anything we could ever imagine; because you see, His kingdom isn’t limited to any country or region on earth, but it includes the entire universe, and it extends to all of creation… visible and invisible.  Jesus says Himself, “All power is given to me in heaven and in earth.” [Matt. 28:18]  Scripture in other places describes His kingdom like this: “There is nothing that is not under Him” [Heb. 2:8] “All things have been put under his feet.”[Eph. 1:22; 1 Cor. 15:25] and He upholds all things by Word of His power.” [Heb. 1:3]

But Jesus brings us much more than heavenly power; He also brings us God’s own love… He brings us grace.  This kingdom of grace is God’s undeserved and unearned love for you.  It is so sure, so strong, and so powerful that nothing can separate you from the love of God through Christ Jesus.  The mighty and oppressive government of the Roman empire has passed away, but the kingdom of He who was crucified for you has continued and flourished in spite of bloody persecution, bitter ridicule, terrible heresy, and the foolish teachings of academia.  Why?  Because it is a kingdom that rests on God’s Word and work within you.  

It is God’s promise of love and forgiveness that wins sinners for the kingdom of heaven; it is the receiving of God’s pardon that turns them into saints…people who are willingly obedient to their new king.  The real essence of this kingdom isn’t like a congregation or even a denomination, but the “kingdom of God is within you” [Lk. 17:20-21]; it is the rule of Jesus Christ within the hearts of His believers.  It is a kingdom that finds its origins in the Word of God which teaches of divine love and forgiveness.  It is a kingdom that gives wholly as a gift the work of faith which leads a heart to believe that God is for them and not against them.  It is a kingdom that is governed by a King who desires that each of His subjects who He calls friend and brother, value a personal relationship with Him higher than anything else.  And when you are a subject of this kingdom of grace, the king promises you that He will live and work through you in such a way that you will never be the same.  How can all of this be true?  Because God’s kingdom is also a kingdom of glory and it is our changed lives that give Him that glory!

This kingdom of glory did not originate on earth, but it was truly expressed to sinful man here… here at the cross.  It was a kingdom that through the power of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, God’s love was shown to us in this, “that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” and He rose for us! [Rom. 5:8]  Because of this one act of love, God has assured that those who have been faithful unto death shall follow Him into His kingdom and be crowned with glory and honor [Phil. 3:21; Rom. 8:18]  

But for now, we wait for this kingdom in a sinful world.

Our’s is a world where greed, pride, lust, envy and other selfish desires seem to rule.  It is a world which taxes its people with sickness, death, and heartbreak.  But even in the middle of these sinful things, through the presence and power of God, we can wait with expectant joy, because we know that we are just strangers here, and heaven is our true home.  We know this is true for us because we have been baptized, recreated in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and we bear the seal of our King Jesus upon our brow and upon our heart. As we live out our identity as subjects of our King Jesus, we wait with excitement because we know our king is coming soon to take us home.  And when He comes to us He will come as our conquering Hero; a king who has destroyed sin and death, and smashed the head of the tyrant prince, the devil.

Let me close with the story of a determined rooster.  He lived on a farm in Oklahoma.  One day a terrible storm and tornado hit that farm and destroyed the entire chicken coop.  There were dead chickens, destruction and devastation scattered everywhere.  While standing dazed, evaluating the mess and wondering about the future, the farmer and his wife heard a stirring in the lumber pile that was the remains of the henhouse. The rooster had survived and he was climbing up through the debris, and he didn’t stop climbing until he had mounted the highest board in the pile. That old rooster was dripping wet, and most of his feathers were blown away. But as the sun came over the eastern horizon, he flapped his bony wings and proudly crowed.

Friends, that old, wet, bare rooster could still crow when he saw the morning sun. And like that rooster, our world may be falling apart, we may feel like we’ve lost everything, but if we trust in our Messiah-King, our Prince of Peace, we’ll be able to see the light of God’s goodness and by faith in He who is faithful, we to will rise out of the rubble of this world, and shout Hosanna!  Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!  Blessed is Jesus our King and our Savior!

Jesus is coming….He is coming indeed!  Maranatha…come Lord come!  AMEN!!

PROCRASTINATION

November 25th, 2018

Last Sunday of the Church Year-B
November 25, 2018
Mr. Rick Stark, Vicar of
Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street
San Diego, CA 92114

Click here for audio of this message

Hi, my name is Rick and I’m a procrastinator… at least that’s what my wife tells me.

However, it’s not really a problem, I can stop procrastinating any time I want to… Maybe I’ll work on that next week. 

You know, sometimes procrastination actually pays off.  If we ignore a problem long enough, sometimes it really does just go away. But that’s only on very rare situations. 

So, what is procrastination? A simple definition, procrastination is “delaying performing a task, or making a decision, until a future time.” In other words, “putting something off until later.”

In a psychological context, the term “procrastination” refers to the act of replacing high-priority tasks with tasks of lower priority, and thus somehow making them less important.  

Procrastination something we all do, such behavior is a natural mechanism for coping with high stressors, such as anxiety associated with starting or completing a task, or making decisions, (especially difficult decisions or life-changing decisions.

Procrastination can create its own set of problems.  Procrastination affects us individually by adding to our stress, by compounding the stress that we’re already dealing with. Procrastination can create a sense of impending crisis. It can cause feelings of guilt for not getting something done in a reasonable time and manor.  And, procrastination can cause loss of productivity at work or at home, and in some cases both work and home.

Procrastination also affects those around us, especially when they become aware of the procrastination.  Procrastination can cause the disapproval of others when you don’t meet your commitments and your responsibilities. 

But like I said before, procrastination is something that everyone does, some more than others, but we all do it in some aspect of our own lives!

We find reasons to put off what we don’t want to deal with right now, what we need to deal with today.  In our fallen state, we procrastinate even when we know what the consequences of our actions could be.

Sometimes, we hope the problems will just go away on their own.

So, here we are preparing for Christmas already.  Talk about a season for procrastination! How many people do you know that wait until the last minute to buy their Christmas presents?

Today is actually the last Sunday of the church year; next week we begin to celebrate Advent, which is the first season of the church year.

The word Advent comes from the Latin word advenio, which means, “To come.”  Simply put, Advent is the season we celebrate of the coming of the Lord.  Which makes since as we head into Christmas. Advent is celebrated the 4 weeks leading into Christmas.

But Advent is not just about the coming of the Lord with birth of the baby Jesus. Even more important then that is how we prepare for the second coming of Christ.

Our Gospel lesson today is a continuation of last weeks Gospel lesson. If you remember, Jesus was on the Mount of Olives. And, He was talking with Peter, James, John, and Andrew. They had asked Him to tell them about the end times and what will be the signs of these things. 

So, Jesus told them of things that are going to happen before the end times, things they/we need to watch for.  Jesus said, “Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray.” And He spoke of wars where “nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.” And He warned against natural disasters, earthquakes and famines. But He said, “…the end is not yet… these are but the beginning of the [end].  And Jesus warned that “brother will [rise up against] brother, and the father [against] his child, and children will rise against [their] parents and have them put to death.  And He said, “And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake.”  Does this sound familiar? Does it sound like things that are going on in the world around us today?  And, Jesus assured them,  “the one who endures to the end will be saved.” (Mark 13:3-13)

Jesus continues in our lesson today, He said,

32 “But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, not even the Son, but only the Father. 33 Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come. 34 It is like a man going on a journey, and, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands – the doorkeeper to stay awake and keep watch. 35 Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning— 36 lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. 37 And what I say to you, I say to all: Stay awake.”

When I was in college, I had to write a paper for an English class.  The focus of the essay was, “What if you know the exact date and time you were going to die?”  I don’t remember, but I probably waited until the night before it was due to write it, after all I am a procrastinator.  

But what if you knew the exact date and time of your death, would you live your life differently from the way you live now?  It was very thought provoking.

Thinking about it now, it makes me think, What if you knew the exact date & time of Christ’s second coming?

What if, say, we knew that 6 months from now, on a Saturday at 8:32 in the evening, Christ will return to judge all men, living & dead?

Would you live your life any differently over the next 6 months? Maybe live a little more like Christ? Live a little more true to His word.

Would you spend a little more time in prayer? 

Maybe make time to finally read His word the way you’ve been meaning to? 

Maybe give a little more to the poor?

Or maybe you’d share with all your family and friends the love of Christ and how He has already paid the price for their sins, share it with people you don’t want to be left out of eternity…

Back at the turn of the century, while everyone was partying “like it was 1999” some people actually believed the world would end with ringing in of the new millennia.

And in 2012, many people believed the world would end as time ran out on the Aztec calendar.

The point is no one knows the day or the hour of Christ’s return. 

Mark 13: 32 tells us, “…no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, not even the Son, but only the Father.”

St. Matthew relates the same lesson in chapter 24, 

42 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. 43 But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.

Jesus may return at any moment; and it seems certain that He will come soon. 

Be alert, don’t be caught asleep or off-guard

I’m not talking about living for today and not worrying about tomorrow, 

I’m not talking about canceling reservations for next year’s summer vacation.

My dear brothers & sisters, what I am asking you is this, “Are you ready?”

What have you left undone in your spiritual life?  What in your spiritual walk with Jesus needs to be addressed today and not put off until tomorrow? Don’t procrastinate; take care of what needs to be taken care of today. I’m talking about staying alert spiritually, be ready, be on watch for the Master to come and take us home.

The signs of the end times are all around us, constant reminders that “heaven and earth will pass away.” But all of these signs are centered in the cross of Jesus Christ, whereby He has conquered sin and death, that we might be raised with Him in righteousness through His Word of the Gospel, which “will not pass away.” (Mark 13:31)

Paul tells us in Romans, Chapter 6,  “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His.”

Jesus is “the firstborn of the dead,” who in His great love “has freed us from our sin by His blood.” (Revelation 1:5)  His salvation, that is salvation through Him, is certain because “His dominion is an everlasting dominion [and His Kingdom] shall not be destroyed.” (Daniel 7:14)

For this very reason Jesus came into the world, to reign in love through His voice of the Gospel, which is the truth. (John 18:37) So this is the righteousness of Christ, “a light to the peoples {which] will never be dismayed” because it is the justice of His cross and His resurrection which saves us. (Isaiah 51:4-6)

Only Jesus “is able to keep you from stumbling and [is able] to present you blameless before the presence of His glory with great joy.”  (Jude 24)

Jesus is coming, we don’t know when, but we know it could be soon!

The last 2 verses in the Bible, in the last chapter of the Revelations, the last thing God’s word leaves us with:

And He who testifies to these things says, “Surely, I am coming soon.” Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

[May] the grace of the Lord Jesus be with [you] all. Amen. (Revelation 22:20-21)

Are You Ready?

November 18th, 2018

Pentecost 26
November 18, 2018
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor of
Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street
San Diego, CA 92114

Click here for audio of this message

“And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time.  But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book.” [Daniel 13:1b]

If the end of the world were too come today, would you be fine with that, or does that cause you to worry?

Are you ready for the end of the world?  Can you ever be ready?

The truth is friends, God has been telling us in his Word that there will be an end of all things created and we need to be ready.  You can sense it can’t you?  Isn’t it true to say that there are a lot of things in this world that just aren’t right; things that seem to be so unfair in this life that this can’t be all that there is?  

If you need proof of life’s brokenness, all you have to do is just look at all of the wars and threats of wars, the earthquakes, hurricanes, fires, cancer, and all of the senseless deaths.  Nations and alliances are formed yet peace is always destroyed, no matter how hard we try to keep it.  Children disrespect their parents and parents abuse and abandon their children.  False messiahs and cults seem to pop up everywhere and cancer hits even children.  Isn’t that proof enough that something big, something terrible is getting ready to happen?

I use to like to go into Wal-Mart with some spare change in my pocket, so I could drop it into that charity bin they have.  You know the one I’m talking about don’t you?  It looks like a big concave bowl sitting on top of a giant funnel that drops the change into a glass box.  I liked to drop my change from the top of the bowl and watch it go around and around and around.  And the closer it got to the hole in the bottom, the faster and faster it went, until it plops into the box and disappears.  

That’s how I feel this world is moving.  In the beginning God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. [Genesis 2:7]  But in just the next chapter of Genesis we read how God’s first children, our parents rebelled against their Creator, and one of the terrible consequences of that sin appeared… death.  And just like that, our existence as as a people has been dropped into the bowl of death and it is going faster, and faster, and before you know it, plop each of us will be dropped into the bin of death.  

The truth is, like Adam and Eve, all of us must return to the ground from which we came.  In every generation since Adam and Eve’s fall from paradise, our greatest fear and our greatest enemy has always been death. 

So how should we feel about our death and the end of all things; should we be afraid or should we feel fine?  Well, that all depends on the kind of death you have to look forward to.

In our Old Testament reading from Daniel (Daniel 12:1-3) we are told of two different kinds of deaths; there are those who die with their names written in God’s book of life, and those who aren’t recorded in that book.  

Each of us, after we die will rise again; we will all be called to face and give an account to our Creator.  And many of us who are raised from death will be given everlasting life in paradise, but far too many will be given everlasting life in shame and contempt.

Those who spent their lives avoiding God and running after false gods and false messiahs will experience a dreadful day, even if they don’t believe it now.  They will hear God say, “Very well, you wanted to be without me; now be without me—forever!”  And they will be sentenced to and eternal divorce from God—a never ending existence of shame and emptiness.  It will be a loneliness that will consume them like fire, yet they will never know and end to suffering, helplessness, and hopelessness. 

That idea of hell and suffering doesn’t go well with many people today; they’d prefer to turn God into some lovable, soft-hearted, incompetent old fool who can be appeased with good works.  But God’s Word says different, doesn’t it?  God’s anger and His punishment are evident throughout scripture.  We start with the expulsion from paradise of Adam and Eve, and then we go to the flood where countless people screamed out of the agony of death by drowning.  And then God’s Word takes us to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah in a hurricane of fire.  Yes He is the same God who fed evil Queen Jezebel to the dogs and allowed countless people, including children, to die in wars that He sent Israel to wage against unrepentant sinners.  That same God still reigns in heaven today!  And what’s more, He has told us that He does not change; what He has done before, He will do again; He is doing again.  

And those who’s names are not written in His book of life will stand before Him on judgment day and be sentenced to shame and everlasting contempt.  They won’t simply cease to exist, as if they were cast away into some celestial junk yard to simply rust away into nothing.  No, God would never dishonor His creation like that.  For all eternity those who fall into judgment will retain their personality and the ability to experience God’s eternal rejection and His displeasure.

But for you dear saints, for you who are resting and trusting in the promises of God’s forgiving love, things shall be much different.  

You are those who God told Daniel are wise.  From God’s Word you have learned to recognize your sin and the need for a Savior from that sin.  You have learned to trust God in hard times; times of war, natural and man-made disasters, economic despair and sickness.  You’ve learned through God’s Word to remain hopeful and to show restraint and sound judgment even when your savings are dwindling and there is no food in the cupboard.  You’ve simply learned to wait on the Lord to provide both comfort in times of trouble and a way out of that trouble.  This then, is one of the ways that you shine like a bright star in heaven.  As others are suffering and crying out in fear and desperation you are waiting for your God.  You become one who shows others what the peace of God that surpasses all understanding is by how you live.  You are a light in your community that helps others find the way into God’s family and ultimately into a place at God’s side.

You and the many other saints who wait in the peace of the Lord will live forever in glory, as you shine like the brightness of heaven.  You will shine because you know that on judgment day, the end of the world as we know it, you will stand before God and be inspected, and you will actually survive that inspection because you have the promise of the gospel!  In the Word of God you have learned and you believe by faith, that death in this life is for you simply leads you to eternal life in Paradise.  But how?

Because of Christ alone.  

It is Jesus, God’s own Son who has forever sat down at the right hand of the Father as all of His enemies and your enemies are put at His feet like a foot-stool. [Hebrews 10:11-25] What enemies are those?  Sin of course; your sin and even the sin of our first parents that was committed long ago in the Garden of Eden.  But another enemy, the great serpent, the father of all lies, Satan himself will have to submit to the rule of the Son of God on that great day.  And finally, the enemy that we all fear the most, death, your death itself will be defeated.  All because the Son of God was obedient to the will of His Father; a will that led Him to the cross to suffer and die for the sins of the World, even your sins.

It is the promise of God that tells you to hold on; change is coming.  It is a change that the world may fear, but you need not fear it because each and every promise was given to you as a certainty in the waters of your own baptism when you were sealed in the very essence of God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Even when the great monuments and governments of this world are falling, you need not fear.  Even if your own family is against you because of your strong faith in the promises of God and the real presence of His Son Jesus Christ in your life, you need not fear.  Even if you should be persecuted because of your faith in Jesus by the government itself, you need not fear, because through the gift of faith in Jesus alone, you are able to grab onto His perfect life and wait to be brought into Paradise.  By faith in the cross and the empty tomb of Christ, you are able to claim His innocent death and resurrection as your very own, and find not only pity from God, but His delight; just as a father delights in his own child. [Mark 13:1-13]

To be sure there is trouble ahead, and it will only get worse until the end of the world as we know it arrives, but there is also the promise of God that forgives you and loves you through Jesus Christ. It is that same Word of promise that assures you that God will never leave you nor forsake you.  And it is this promise of God which assures you that you really are fine because you are resting in Christ Jesus.

Now, may the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus until we enter into God’s new world that He has prepared for us since the beginning of time… AMEN! 

Claim it and Claim it!

November 11th, 2018

Pentecost 25
November 11, 2018
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor of
Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street
San Diego, CA 92114

Click here for audio of this message

“And she went and did as Elijah said.  And she and her household ate for many days.” [1 Kings 17:15]  “For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.” [Mark 12:34]

This morning, our message is one of stewardship; not the way some might define it, with the words “Name it and claim” it behind their message; no our message comes directly from the heart of God.  It’s He alone who speaks to our hearts, not sinful men, and He alone gives us faith and courage to follow and believe what He says in His Word.

In our Old Testament reading (1 Kings 17:8-16), Elijah the prophet is given a test from God meant to help him trust in His Word and then take action that is born out of that trust, or faith.  The test from God isn’t meant to trap Elijah, but to prove to Him that God loves him and will always provide.  But God’s testing of faith, or His creating of faith, didn’t stop there.  God also spoke to a poor widow woman who had a home and family, and no more resources to provide for it.  The world was in the middle of a famine and this poor woman only had enough flour to make one last meal for herself and her child.  She must have been wondering, “Is there a god, and if there is does that god really care?”

And this is exactly the place where the living God desires to prove that He is real and He does provide for those who trust in Him.  God provided for Elijah and through His Word of promise and the faith that comes with it, He would provide for the widow as well. God’s promise to her was simple: the bowl of flour and the jar of oil will not be exhausted until the famine is over.  

When Elijah spoke the promise of God to the widow, she heard and believed.  She passed God’s test of new found faith by preparing the bread for Elijah.  The widow acted as though the flour and oil would last forever.  And that is the very essence of faith; the widow trusted God’s Word.  “Faith is being certain of what we do not see”. [Hebrews 11:1]

Does God still look for examples of that faith today?  

Yes!  But how, how is that kind of faith even possible?  Only by the Word, the promises of God; only when the one being blessed by the promise of God is trusting in the promise.  What promise?  Well there are many great promises that God makes in His Word, but the greatest of them all for sinners like us, is the promise of complete and total forgiveness of sins.  Have you claimed that promise?  Are you truly trusting that God has done that for you?  If you have then it should completely redefine your life.  It should change you in the very core of who you are and why you are living in this sinful world.  Has it; has it really changed you?  Well, let’s put it to the test.

One of my favorite hymns is “We Give Thee But Thine Own”. I like it because the lyrics challenge my faith; it even forces me to measure it.  Listen to this verse: “We give Thee but Thine own, whate’er the gift may be; all that we have is Thine alone, a trust, O Lord, from Thee.”   If God were to ask you right now if the amount that is in your giving envelope is a good example of how much you trust Him and love Him, would you be embarrassed?  If you’re honest with yourself, I think you already know the answer.  

If you are a member here at Trinity, you are provided giving envelopes every year.  Do you ever read the different messages on each envelope?  Each message is designed to focus our hearts and minds on God’s forgiving love and then speak to our hearts as God helps us determine what to give.  This morning’s message on my envelope gets to the very heart of the question, “Why should I give more than a little to the church?”  Listen: “Wherever your treasure is there your heart [and thoughts will also be.” [Matthew 6:21]  So how much is in your envelope this morning?  How much have you decided to praise Him with?

Ok, I know the message is getting a little uncomfortable for us this morning; that always happens when the Law of God begins poking and probing into those secret and protected places.  

And what does God want us to see in all of this poking and probing?  The quality of our faith.  He is always looking to test our faith, so that He can strengthen it.  And how does He do that?  Well, let me first tell you how He doesn’t do it; He surely doesn’t do it through worldly teachings and opinions.

When Elijah was sent to the widow to be cared for, God was already preparing the widows heart to be used by Him.  When the man of God came and spoke the words, “Do not fear” God was already giving faith and courage to the woman so she could hear what came next: “make for me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterward make something for yourself and your son.”  Now, those are challenging words, in fact they are impossible words for anyone on the brink of starvation.  It is an all or nothing proposition.  You would have to be a fool to believe those words, unless they were God’s Words.  You see God’s Word always provides faith to believe the promise within the Word.  What was the promise?  That she would never lack!  It was not Elijah saying that but God speaking through a true prophet.  She knew who Elijah was; she knew he was the real deal.  So the question that God was asking her was not if she trusted Elijah, but if she trusted Him.  God’s Word provides faith and it provides courage; God’s Word and not the word of men.  

Earlier I referred to the phony evangelists and preachers who are known as the word of faith preachers.  Some of them use the slogan, “Name it and claim it!”  Or as I like to say, “Blab it and grab it!”  When they speak about seed money and sowing for blessings of wealth and prosperity, they really mean it; the only problem is that they’re talking about their own wealth and prosperity and not yours!  They aren’t preaching the gospel of forgiveness but the gospel of redistribution of wealth, from your hand to theirs.  These are the type of phonies that Jesus was talking about in our gospel reading this morning (Mark 12:38-44), listen: “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes and like greetings in the marketplaces and have the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, who devour widows houses and for a pretense make long prayers.”  

Today, we might say beware of the prosperity preachers, who like to walk around in Armani suits wearing Rolex watches, expensive jewelry, living in lush million dollar homes, and driving around in a new Mercedes Benz.  You know who they are don’t you?  Where ever they go they want everyone in the community to notice them.  They are the ones who will use wonderful sounding prayers intended to manipulate you and take your last penny, with the promise that God will bless you.  Baloney!  Jesus says that those kind of phony preachers will receive great condemnation!  He tells you that for a reason; He wants you to take your heart and eyes off of the promises of men and instead focus on the promises of God.

After Jesus condemned the scribes He called His disciples to His side, and He asked them to look at a poor widow who was putting a penny in the offering.  

After the widow deposited her offering, Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box.  For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

Like the widow in our Old Testament reading, God worked within the heart of the widow with the penny to give everything and then trust in His care and blessing.  It was God who did that and not sinful man.  Why did God ask them to give everything?  So that He could be praised, not so the preacher or even the giver could be admired.  What was the reward for the widows in their giving?  Stronger faith; faith to know and experience God’s care and love, even in hard times.  

Now, we’ve arrived at the conclusion of our message and many of us are asking ourselves this question, “Could I do that; could I give everything if God asked me to?”  The answer is simple; yes you could if God willed it!  

But the truth is friends; the kingdom of God does not rest upon your obedience or lack of it.  God doesn’t need your time, talent, or treasure to build His kingdom, but He does invite you to use those things and be a partner in seeing that kingdom grow.  Why?  “Because all that you have is from God; it’s a trust from Him, a tool that God wants to use to test and strengthen your faith.  But faith in what?  Faith in God’s faithfulness; faith in His forgiving heart, which speaks to you forgiveness of sins… the gospel of Jesus Christ!

It was Jesus, the Son of God who “appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin (your sin), by the sacrifice of His own life.  And just as it is appointed for (each of us) to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sin of many (yes, even your sins dear baptized, He) will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those (you and I), who are eagerly waiting for Him.” [Hebrews 9:26b-28]

How much does God ask us to give to Him?  All of it, everything we have, but when we realize this truth He also takes the fear of giving away.  You see, He gives it back to us and asks us to hold onto it as a trust from Him.  He asks us to hold onto it with an open hand so that He can take of our time, talent, and treasure as He sees fit.

How much should you give?  I do not know; that is between you and God, but I do know this, you don’t decide to become a steward of God’s gifts after your saved, and you don’t decide to become a steward after you have a good job.  No Christian stewardship demands that we take good care of our time talent and treasure because we have been commissioned by Jesus to manage those things for God’s glory and the spreading of His kingdom of grace one forgiven sinner at a time.  You see, we are all stewards, the only question is whether we are good stewards or bad ones.  I know that God is always testing our faith so that we will get better and better at trusting Him and believing that all we have is His alone, a trust from God to us.  May He continue to give us faith to believe this… in Jesus name… AMEN!

More Than a Feeling!

November 4th, 2018

All Saints Sunday
November 4, 2018
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor of
Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street
San Diego, CA 92114

Click here for audio of this message

And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, He said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” [Mark 12:34]

In 1976, the Rock band Boston released the hit song “More Than a Feeling.” This morning let’s use that title to keep us centered in an important truth:  God’s Word, specifically His Holy Law, is not supposed to make us feel good about ourselves.  It isn’t meant to congratulate us on how much we love our Creator and our neighbor; in fact it should produce the opposite effect in us.  God’s Law should first terrify us, because it shows us how little we love Him and how poorly we love our neighbor, and then it should move us to call out to God for a solution to our lack of love.

And yet, like the Scribe in our gospel reading (Mark 12:28-37), we can become comfortable with how we think we are keeping God’s law.  Oh how easy it can become for us to turn off our ears and blind our eyes to the truth; we fall far short.

So is this a message about feelings?  Yes and know.  You see, we all have feelings; God created us to have emotion, but our emotions are defective; they lie.  No, our message this morning is first one of truth; God’s truth, and then God centered emotions, or feelings will follow.

The young scribe in our gospel lesson, is someone we might call a seeker in today’s lingo.  

He is genuine in his desire to live a God pleasing life.  What we must understand is that he comes from a confusing culture, where the Law of God exists within the frame work of not just 10 commandments but 613 commandments.  Can you imagine that?!  There were 248 positive commandments, or commandments that told you what you should do, and then there were 365 negative commandments, or commandments that told you what you should not do.  With all of these commandments a person could get lost trying to prioritize them.  So the young scribe presents a valid question to Jesus, “Which commandment is the most important of all?”

The young scribe, like many people today, felt that he really did love God; He really wanted to please the Heavenly Father, and he thought trying hard to do that would please Him.  And second He had been listening to Jesus for some time now, and he really did respect Jesus and His teaching.  He probably found a great degree of wisdom in the Words of Jesus; he seemed to be comfortable around Him, listening to Him.  So when he asked Jesus, which commandment was the most important, he was really asking for Jesus’ guidance.

And Jesus seeing a desire for truth in the young man looked directly into His eyes and says, “Hear, O Israel”.  (Don’t just listen to the Word of God, but really hear it; let it enter your heart and mind, and let it change you; let it give you wisdom.)  “The Lord your God, the Lord is One.”  (He isn’t like the false god’s of your neighbors; He doesn’t inhabit certain regions or nations.  He is the ONLY real God, the Creator of everything.  He is all powerful, all present, and all knowing.  He can come to you in any way He desires, and His Word and His teaching are the only source of real truth.  So now hear that truth and let it enter you; let it penetrate you.)  You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.  The second (most important commandment) is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  There is no commandment greater than these.” [Mark 12:28-31]

The operative Word there in those two great commandments is Love.  Let’s look at that word.  This kind of love that God demands for Himself isn’t mere affection and it doesn’t mean passion either.  God isn’t telling you to have a warm fuzzy feeling about Him and your neighbor.  He isn’t saying that you should just be passionate about Him and your community either.  He is telling you that the kind of love that you are to have is based on something foreign to you; something that is completely outside the realm of possibility for you.  He is telling you that the kind of love you are to have is more than a feeling; it is more than a decision to be nice.  It is an intellectual assent to something higher and beyond your natural ability.  It is a God given love that will sacrifice everything in order to see this kind of love rule and reign over you and within you; when this God given love is present, it loves all things that God loves and it loves others just as it loves it self.

So we see now, these are tough words, meant to give wisdom.  Is that what the young scribe received?  Well almost; He almost understood.  Listen to His response: “You are right, Teacher.  You have truly said that (God) is one, and there is no other besides Him.  And to love Him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

Well, that sounds pretty good.  He did a fine job of paraphrasing Jesus Words.  He even seemed to be paraphrasing another bit of wisdom that Jesus taught earlier concerning worship, “Go and learn what this means” He said, “‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’  For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”  [Matthew 9:13]  And so Jesus looks Him in the eye once again and says, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” [Mark 12:34]  You are almost there; you almost are wise unto eternal life.”  If only that young man would have asked Jesus to give him that heavenly love!

This morning Jesus is teaching an important lesson.  Knowing God and pleasing God are similar but separate.  Oh they’re close, but they aren’t so close as being the same.  There are two things that separate those who know God from those who please God.  And both of those things come only from God. They are the Word of God and the love of God, as given through the Son of God, Jesus Christ.

This morning, the Word of God calls out:  Hear O sinners.  Listen to the Word of God and let it penetrate you.  When you listen to the Word, when you really hear what it is saying you will know God’s truth and you will know His heart.  The truth of God is that you are trapped in your sins.  On your own you can never really love Him or your neighbor.  That kind of love can come only from your Creator.  And how does He give that love?  By allowing us to hear His Word.  And when we let God’s Word do what God intends for it to do, He gives us faith.  “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” [Romans 10:17]

If our gospel lesson ended right there, we along with the young scribe could go home with a lot to think about; a lot to pray about.  But Jesus does not send us home just yet.  He continues teaching.  I would like to think that as He continued teaching, He winked at the young scribe, slapped him on the back and said “Listen to what I say next, young man.”  

 And this is what He said next: “How can the scribes say that the Christ is the Son of David?  (I mean,) David himself, in the Holy Spirit declared, “The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet.”’  (You see there,) David himself calls Him Lord.  So how is He his Son?’

I can also imagine Jesus returning to the young scribe privately and saying, “Did you wonder why I winked at you?  Or did you see and understand what I just taught?  You know all about your traditions that teach about God’s final and righteous rule right?  You know the time is promised by scripture to come when the Messiah will take power and reign don’t you?  So, you also know that when the kingdom of God comes it will be visible and apparent, and everyone will have to acknowledge who it is that really runs all of creation, right?  Well listen now… it is happening right now.  I am the Messiah.  I am God’s Anointed One, who has come to make it all visible to all who have faith; to all who believe.”

This morning, Jesus has given to each of you the wink so to speak; a wink that unlocks the wisdom of God; the truth of His Word.  This morning you are being shown Jesus in the Word; Jesus in your baptism, and Jesus at the table in the meal.  And in these means of grace, you are being given faith to believe you are forgiven and faith to speak forgiveness. 

Through the writings of the apostles and the testimony of all of scripture, you along with the saints throughout time, read God’s Word with Jesus as the central figure and find Divine love, forgiveness, and faith.  

You can go from the commandments of the law to the fulfillment of the Law, which is the gospel, in the person of Jesus, the One true God; God in human flesh.  Because of the love of the Father and the gift of faith through the Holy Spirit, you can hear the Words of the Son of God, Jesus Christ and know that through Him, God alone has made all things new and right, including you.  You learn that the same love that led Jesus the Messiah to the cross to die for the sins of the world also leads you to love God with your whole being, and to love your neighbor as you love yourself.  

What is impossible for you to do, becomes possible when God is the one working in you and through you.  By faith, you know that in Jesus Christ, much more than all of the burnt offerings and whole sacrifices have been provided to make you right with your Creator.  Through Jesus, you see God Himself coming to you offering both sacrifice and obedience, and as a result, by faith you receive His forgiving mercy.  And now as our epistle lesson (Hebrews 9:11-22) states, you have received a Savior Who is your “high priest, holy, blameless, unstained, separated from sinners, exalted above the heavens.”  Through Jesus life and death and the faith that comes from the very Word of God, you have been brought into the Kingdom of God just as was done for the saints before you.  

On this All Saints Sunday, let’s look back in our minds and remember those dear saints who died in Jesus and then, let’s remember the examples of faith, love, and service that they left behind for us to admire and follow. Let’s give thanks to God for the lives they lived and the impact they made on us and Christ’s church. And like those dear saints who have gone before us, let’s also be moved to give thanks to God Our Father In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Yes, let’s remember what real love as given from God is not meant to bring guilt and shame because we fall short, but rather it brings God’s forgiving love that desires to use us to speak words of faith, forgiveness, and love to those who do not yet know the grace and love of Jesus Christ.