April 20th, 2014

Easter Sunday, April 20, 2014
Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego, CA 92114

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“For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” [Col. 3:3]

Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  What a wonderful announcement for this sinful world to hear!  We know why it is wonderful; we know why it is good news; it is wonderful and good because through the work of Jesus Christ, God has defeated our archenemies, sin, death, and the devil!  But to this unbelieving world what we call good and wonderful, they call foolish and a waste of time!  They dismiss what we hold precious, the death, resurrection, and glorification of our Savior, and in its place they put the Easter bunny and earth day?

Now, it isn’t hard to understand why they would rather have the Easter Bunny than Christ the Savior.  I mean after all, the Easter Bunny is a fictional character from a children’s story; no rational adult ever asked another adult to have faith in the Easter bunny.  And yet, here are we Christians doing that very thing concerning the Son of God, Jesus Christ!  I’ve had atheists and doubters challenge me with this statement: “If Jesus is as real as you say He is, why have I never seen Him or experienced His presence?”  Well the answer is of course, you haven’t died with Him yet, and you haven’t been hidden with Him.  Or another way to say that is, you don’t perceive a need to see Him; that is, you don’t yet see a need for a Savior!

So, instead of simply letting us worship our resurrected Lord in peace, the doubters and the haters want to attack what we hold dearest.  Every Easter season, you will find a plethora of television specials and news reports claiming to present the historical and true Jesus,with one goal in mind… to make you doubt the Person of Jesus Christ, and then doubt His resurrection.

Yes, once again this irreligious world we live in takes what we hold dearest, the very thing we need, and tramples it under their feet, replacing it with things they want!  Why is that?  Because dear friends, to get to Easter, to get to God’s Kingdom, Power, and Glory, you must pass through Good Friday, and all of its pain, suffering, and death!  They can’t understand how God’s kingdom can come in such a low manner as that; they will never accept that idea until they have let go of their own idea of kingdom, power, and glory.  That was the problem with the people of Jesus time and it is still the problem with our world today!  In order to get to God they must first see and address their sins, and that is what Holy week and Easter Sunday are all about!

In Christ’s battle with sin, death, and the devil, Jesus appeared to be a victim.  He was put to death as a criminal.  He ruled as a King from a cross, with a crown of thorns and the broken scepter made from a reed.  “What kind of a king is this” a sinful world asks?

Yes, He was a victim, but He was a victim in our place.  Only by taking on the role of victim could be become the victor!  Yes He was the one who was put to death for sinners, but He is also the one that rose from the dead, in order to give those same sinners, you and me, the righteousness of God!  Yes they mocked him as a king with a crown of thorns, but He was a different kind of king than they were expecting.  His central concern was the truth; a truth that He both proclaimed and fulfilled!  But why?  So that God’s kingdom, power, and glory would come among us sinners and replace our own sinful ideas of kingdom, power, and glory!  Through His death upon the cross, Jesus leads the subjects of His kingdom from the cross through death into the exaltation of the royal triumph of the empty tomb.  But in order to get to the empty tomb; in order to experience the triumph of the resurrection, you must pass through the dark valley of death; death that is always the result of sin, our sins!  This is the truth that the women on Easter morning discovered first, and then the apostles and we disciples after them!

“Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb.” [Matthew 28:1]  Dear friends this was no ordinary morning for the women in Jesus inner circle; no they weren’t on their way to the market to buy what they needed for breakfast; they were on their way to finish burying their King!  Jesus who they were certain was the Messiah; a king who would live forever was now dead!  All of their hopes and dreams seemed to be sealed away in that tomb with the body of Jesus!  He was buried so quickly on Friday evening because the Sabbath was soon to start at sundown; and every good Jew knew that you couldn’t do any work on the Sabbath; not even burying your king!  Well the Sabbath is over; the sun is now rising and it is a new day… Sunday to be exact.  So off they went to finish the work that was started on Friday.  Not only must they enter deeper into the dark valley of death, but they must smell and experience the decay of Him who they thought would not, no could not die!

Now, they arrive at the tomb of their king, “And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it.  His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow.  And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men.” [Matt. 28:2-4]  Dear friends, don’t miss the significance of the earthquake!  It is the same quaking that came after Jesus was put to death!  It’s God’s expression of power after He confronts the evil plans of devils and men; plans that seek to replace His Kingdom, Power, and Glory with their own kingdom, power, and glory!  The guards at the tomb knew that this was the power of God!  Why else would they fall like dead men and shake like frightened children?  What else can you do when you are an unrepentant sinner confronted by an angel of the Lord?

The women, no doubt were afraid as well.  They were well within the deep, dark valley of death, but now they’ve been encountered the unexplainable light of the Living God!  “But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, (just) as he said (He would do). Come, see the place where he lay.  Then go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead!” [Matt. 28:5-7a]  And there you have a perfect picture of God’s Kingdom, Glory, and Power vs. the world’s kingdom, glory, and power!  What the world meant for evil God turned into good!  “They put (Jesus) to death by hanging Him on a tree, but God raised Him on the third day and MADE HIM TO APPEAR! [Acts 10:39b, 40]

“So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.” [Matt. 28:8-10]

He is risen!  Glory be to God on high… Jesus is risen indeed!  And what a greeting He gives to these wonderful Christian women!  It is a shame that our translators chose such a boring word as “Greetings” to put in the mouth of Jesus.  A more accurate translation of Jesus greeting is “Happiness and joy in their fullness are yours!”  Amen and amen Jesus!  You are alive!  You are the living God; even death and the grave have no power over you!  Your kingdom is not only greater than the devil and sinful men, but your power and glory can never be defeated or replaced!  It’s no wonder that the women fell down and worshiped Him!  But Jesus has something to tell them, and through them He also speaks to us.  Listen: “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.” [vs. 10]  Did you hear that good news?  He is telling you, “Do not be afraid!  Behold I have made all things new; I have defeated your enemies and my enemies and I have brought you back into my Father’s Kingdom of power and glory!  Now go and tell my brothers, those who have believed my Word; those who were heavily burdened by sin and fear; those who turned to me for rest.  Tell them I am alive just as I promised, and tell them that I will never leave nor forsake them!”

Dear friends, do not miss that wonderful description that Jesus uses to describe His apostles and disciples.  He calls them brothers!  Those who deserted Him at the cross out of fear; Peter who denied Him three times; also we who have chased after the kingdom, power, and glory of this sinful world, Jesus calls brothers!  With this simple word, Jesus brings all of His disciples, even you and me deep into His heart as His most dearest and closest relatives.  In this one word, Jesus gives us all of His forgiving love and at the same time He also gives us the highest honor we could ever receive.  If Jesus is our brother, what more could we ever need?  Brothers in the flesh possess everything together; they have one Father and one inheritance.  So we have a common possession of everything that belongs to Christ!  And what is that possession?  It is the Kingdom, Power, and Glory of God!  All of this is what Jesus gained on that great resurrection day for you who believe!

You are Christ’s brothers and sisters because He has freed you from your sins and the kingdom of the devil!  In His resurrection, Jesus defeated all of these things and now He invites you to rest in this truth.  Jesus entered into death in order to triumph over it and reclaim you as His brother.  His resurrection causes you who trust in this work to rest in it and remain steadfast, immovable, and always abounding in joy because of the completed work of Jesus Christ!  As He gives you the fruits of His resurrection through your baptism, you are now walking and growing in a new life that He has created for you and in you!  In this new life, He stands alongside of you as you struggle against your enemy the devil, and your old sinful flesh.  But you must never become discouraged, because you have been raised with Christ from the dead in your baptism, but more than that, you have been hidden away with Him.  And because you are hidden, the devil and the sinful world can’t see what you see by faith, so they laugh at you and they attack you trying to move you into fear and doubt!  Oh let them rage on all they like; they can’t harm you because you are not only protected from them, you are hidden away, out of their reach!

Christ, who was their victim is now your Victor, and He has come back from the grave for you.  You are His most prized possession and He delivers you to His Father into a Kingdom of Power and Glory!  So, when your unbelieving friends ask you, Do you really believe Jesus is God?”  All you need to do is look at them and say, “Indeed!”

Yes friends, Christ has risen… He has risen indeed!

What His Passion Means For You

April 18th, 2014

Good Friday, April 25, 2014
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego, CA 92114

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“For if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.” so goes the argument of St. Paul in his letter to the Galatians. [Galatians 2:21]  If we were somehow able to pay for our own sins, or if we could find the wherewithal to repent of them on our own without the leading of the Holy Spirit, then God may have been able to spare His own Son the agony of the cross, thereby removing His need to drink from the bitter cup of our salvation.  But since those things are in fact impossible for sinful men and women like us, God did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, and we can be assured that there was no other way but through the cross to defeat not just our sin, but even death and the devil.

Holy Scripture clearly testifies again and again that Christ Jesus suffered a painful death for us ungodly people, so that God could make righteous people out of unrighteous sinners through faith in the work of His Son Jesus.  And now this evening, we gather as a peculiar people redeemed for God and by God through the death of His Son.  It was His Son’s passion, that is His divine love that turned Him to the cross to suffer and die for you.  It was His love for you that caused Him to be obedient unto death, even death upon a cross so that by His stripes you may be healed; by His atoning death, you may be forgiven.  It was the death of Jesus Christ that disarmed the principalities and powers of sin, death, and the devil and opened wide the very gates of heaven for miserable sinners like as us.

A principal teaching of the Gospel is that Christ died for our sins.  And the scriptures add a very important addendum to this truth: “We have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died.” [2 Corinthians 5:14]  Or as the prophet Isaiah said, “(Christ) died as our substitute.” [Isaiah 53:6]  It was our sins that He carried with Him upon the cross.  That is why you should care very deeply about this evening and our Lord’s passion.  He was wounded for your transgressions.  And with His stripes you have been healed, that is forgiven of all of your sins.  On that cursed, yet for us a blessed tree, Jesus chose to taste death, eternal death, and for we sinners and our salvation, He experienced for the first time what it means to be forsaken of God and cast away from His presence.  As St. Paul said, “Christ became a curse for us.”  And by this, He redeemed us from the curse of the law.  In His kingdom there will forever be no more condemnation for sinners such as us; we who turn to Jesus, His passion, His death, and the gift of new life that He gives through the cross.

The absolute assurance that you have all of this work assuring your salvation is found in your baptism.  There you were baptized into the death of Christ and there you became a partaker of everything that He won through His passion and death.  In other words, baptism is your guarantee that while Christ suffered upon the cross, He had you on His mind and in His heart. Because you have been baptized into both Christ’s passion and death, baptism is not just confined to one act in your life, whether you were baptized as a child or an adult.  No, but rather it is the beginning of a life which is to be lived in fellowship with the crucified Christ and His passion to save sinners.  So, to live as a baptized child of God, that is as a Christian is to live “by faith in the Son of God, who loved (you) and gave Himself (up) for (you).” [Galatians 2:20]

Even though the death of Christ is the most world shaking event in history, it is also a constant source of assurance, joy, and thankfulness.  Because Christ Jesus died forsaken on the cross, any one who trusts in Him needs never be afraid that they will die forsaken and abandoned by God.  Because in His passion on Good Friday, Christ bore the sins of the whole world, we sinners can live our entire lives not as strangers to God, but as His own dear children by faith in Him who first loved us and died for us.  AMEN!

Bread of Heaven

April 17th, 2014

Maundy Thursday, April 17, 2014
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego, CA 92114

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“Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.”  And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”” [Matthew 26:26-29]

What is this meal that we are to receive this evening?  If you ask ten different Christians this question, you are likely to get ten different answers.  Each answer will have some similarities, but each answer will also have some major differences.  Because of that, this evening on Maundy Thursday, I propose that we go directly to scripture for an answer.  Our message this evening, will be brief and very much to the point, and the point is that you will know exactly what is given at our Lord’s Table.

Jesus said, “I am the bread which came down from heaven; if anyone eats this bread, he will live forever.”  [John 6:51] In those simple yet profound Words, Jesus summarized what all of Holy Scripture teaches.  With Jesus, there is true life; the kind of life that even death can’t touch.  There is forgiveness, which covers everyone, and the righteousness of God, that is a righteousness that pleases God, which we can never obtain on our own.  All of this is a gift that Jesus grants to everyone who believes in Him and the Words that He speaks.  When we believe, we have faith, and when we have faith, that faith signifies that we have become so intimately united with Christ that He is actually living within us.  And because He is living within us, He gives us abundantly from all that He possesses.

In the same passage Jesus continues to give us wisdom towards considering our question this evening in these Words: “… and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh.” [John 6:51]  Now hear me church; this doesn’t just mean that Jesus has died for us on the cross, but that now, after His resurrection, He is giving us something of Himself and His eternal life.  When Jesus says, “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:54), He doesn’t mean His earthly body, but the glorified body which is bound together with the new life of the kingdom of God.

So, the Lord’s Supper, which we celebrate tonight and every Sunday, is “food indeed and drink indeed” for the soul.  The cup of blessing that is blessed by the pastor through the Words of institution, grants us a participation in the Lord’s body.  When we have received this gift by faith, then we are abiding in Christ and He is living in us and among us, and we have the promise of eternal life through Him.

In this Holy meal, we are all one with each other and one with Jesus at His table.  All of us, and I do mean all of us who participate in this one bread become members of one and the same body, the body of Jesus Christ.  And as part of His body, we exist and are sent out into our community to bear witness before those who cannot or will not come forward to this altar.  Together as one body, we proclaim Christ’s death to them until He comes again.

We understand also that Jesus was serious when He said: “Do this as often as you meet”.  The earliest Christians celebrated the Lord’s Supper each Sunday, and perhaps even more often than that.  “The breaking of the bread” was counted among the most essential matters that must be observed if a person desired to be preserved in the one true faith.

Because the Lord’s Supper was taken so often, there was a danger that complacency and abuses could slip in, so St. Paul warns sharply against them in this way: “For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself.” [1 Corinthians 11:17-20]

What are the things that might cause us not to discern the real presence of the Lord’s body?  Certainly a lack of repentance and a flippant attitude towards our sins and the gift of forgiveness when approaching the Lord’s table, would be major evidence towards that end.  An example might be those who feel no compelling need to come to His table, or those who only come in order to look religious in the eyes of others, instead of coming as sinners with a need for receiving forgiveness.

What is this judgment that we bring upon ourselves when we eat and drink unworthily?  Well, first let’s be clear that this judgment St. Paul talks about does not mean condemnation, but rather a discipline of God, so that we will recognize the body of Christ the very next time we approach His table.  Listen, as St. Paul goes on to explain this: “When we are judged by the Lord, we are chastened so that we may not be condemned along with the (unbelieving) world.” [1 Corinthians 11:32]

So, Holy Communion was instituted for the disciples of Jesus on the night He was betrayed, the evening before He was beat within an inch of His life and then hung upon a cross to die for the sins of the world; to die for your sins.

Ever since the institution of this great meal, everyone who comes to faith in the Word of Jesus—every day—is a disciple, and encouraged after instruction to receive his body and blood in, with, and under the bread and wine.  It was instituted for you this evening who have been instructed and long to experience the love of God, which is yours in and through Jesus Christ.  Here is an important point for you to remember: There are no worthy guests who come to His table; only sinners.  No one has earned the right to come. What Paul is warning against is an unworthy manner of coming to the Supper.  In order to be true guests of His table we must examine ourselves and judge ourselves to be sinful and in need of His forgiveness.  Then once this is completed, we must not ever stay away from His table, but confess our sins, our trust in Christ, and then eat of the bread and drink of the cup.

So, to the heart of the matter, here is what we Christians of the Evangelical Lutheran Church preach, teach, and confess about what we receive in this meal at our Lord’s Table:  The bread and wine are the Lord’s body and blood given and shed for the forgiveness of sins (SA; the Lord’s body and blood are put into our mouths and on your tongues (FC SD XII.105); and all who receive the consecrated bread and wine actually receive, in a mysterious way, the Lord’s body and blood (FC SD XII.26) for the forgiveness of sins.  AMEN!


April 13th, 2014

Palm Sunday, April 13, 2014
Rev. Brian Henderson
Pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego, CA 92114

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“The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign. So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him. [John 12:18, 19]

If you were in Jerusalem the day Jesus rode into town, humbly seated upon a donkey, do you think you would have gone after Him; made your way out to see him?  I think that you probably would have, after all, the news was spreading everywhere, like a wild fire that Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead, and remember now, he wasn’t just dead, he was dead for four days; that kind of miracle was unheard of.  So, let’s just assume that all of us would have been there, but there is another question worth asking, and it is this: Would you have been there shouting “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!”

Now before you answer that question, let’s consider just a couple of things.  First, we must understand what the word Hosanna means.  It literally means, “Save Us!”  Do you need saving?  Do you see Jesus as someone who can save you?  Now, if you say you see Jesus as someone who could save you, the next question sets the stage for further investigation into who you think Jesus was and is.  Are you ready?  What would you want Jesus to save you from?  I mean the choices are numerous.  Should he save you from a bad marriage, addiction, unemployment, poverty, sickness, or a corrupt government?  Or do you see Him as who He says that He is, very God in human flesh?  Another way to ask this is, do you see Him as your Messiah who will make all things right and good now, in this world now, or is He your Messiah who makes all things well with you and your Creator for all of eternity?

Now this morning we will examine two groups of people who greeted Jesus then, and still greet Him today, and then we will allow God to show us where we fit in.

“Crucify Him!”  Those were the words that a similar crowd shouted just a few days after Palm Sunday.  Instead of  saying “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel,” they said, “We have no king but Caesar!”  They are the ones who complained that the whole world had gone after, and were following Jesus.  They were the ones who were incensed that Jesus had turned over the market tables within the Lord’s Temple and called them a brood of vipers and accused them of turning the House of Prayer into a den of thieves!

They are the ones that continually came to Jesus for the miracles, but then walked away from Him when He demanded that they acknowledge Him as the Son of God.  They are the ones that flocked to see the sight of the blind restored, the lepers cured, the multitude fed, and the dead raised, but when He offered forgiveness of sins, they rightly said that no one could forgive sins but God, and then, they picked up stones to kill Him for being a blasphemer.

To those people then and many today, Jesus was acceptable as a good man, a wise man, a wonderful teacher, but they were certain that He never should He be called God and worshiped in a way that excluded all other ways of being a good and religious person.  People then and today will gladly hear a message preached about the good Samaritan, and then agree with you that we should all demonstrate brotherly love through tolerance, but when you tell them that only Jesus can ever be the “Good Samaritan” and that outside of Jesus’ work for sinners, we can never know peace with God and our neighbor, they will call you intolerant and a zealot.

Now let’s look at the people in the crowd that shouted Hosanna.  Do you think that they really wanted the kind of Savior that Jesus said He was?  Did they even understand who Jesus really was?  Maybe not, but they did know that before Jesus came into their lives, it seemed that if God was not dead, He was at least silent in their lives.  The cruelty of the Roman government was getting more severe everyday; hunger and poverty were rampant to the point that there seemed to be only two groups of people, the very rich and the very poor.  Sickness and death seemed to be the only reward for the average man, and then along comes Jesus.  He was teaching with authority about a God who wasn’t angry with their sins as much as He was saddened by them.  He wasn’t so much a punishing God as He was a forgiving God for those who turned to Him in repentance for mercy.  He no longer was simply the God of their Fathers, but Emmanuel, a God who was with them right now, in what ever they were going through.

While Jesus taught in ways that caused the religious zealots to be angry, those who really listened to Him teach, felt shame over their sins, but then they experienced comfort and hope when Jesus proclaimed God’s forgiveness.  In essence they were changed.  They saw past the miracles and saw the man, who was much more than a man or a teacher.  Could it be that what Jesus said is true?  Is He really the God-man, the Son of God?  While their faith was weak, and they were not quite sure what to make of Jesus, one thing was certain, they knew that He was sent by God; God was no longer silent in their lives, because in Jesus’ Words, God was right there with them.

So where do you stand within these two groups?  Isn’t it true that in each of us, God can find a mindset that on some days may yell both “Crucify Him” and “Hosanna” within the same day?   Now, if you are thinking, “No, I would never be like that.” I have one word for you, “Really?  Really?!”

Don’t we many times, say one thing and then do another?  Don’t we enjoy God’s forgiveness and the forgiveness of our neighbor and then quickly refuse forgiveness to another, or at least withhold it until they feel our pain?  Haven’t each of us been guilty of ignoring our need to worship God at His Church, or perhaps the opposite, when we have put the practice of our religion ahead of the demonstration of our faith?  Does it not become an easy thing for us to justify our own sins, but at the same time amplifying the sins of our neighbor?

So what shall we do?  And to answer that question, we turn to the Words of St. Paul in our Epistle lesson (Philippians 2:5-11), who says…

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus”.  What mind?  Well, the mind of faith; a mind that is first led by faith and then rational thought.  A mind that is part of a life that has been renewed in Holy Baptism and is sanctified every day by the Word of God.  A mind that sees Jesus on the colt of a donkey and remembers that the prophet Zechariah spoke about this moment, long before it occurred through these Words: “(Fear not, that is) rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, Humble, and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”

This is the Word of God that allows you to receive both the truth and the will of God.  It is a mind of faith that is able to see God as both righteous and forgiving; a mind that sees Jesus as both fully God and fully man.  This is the kind of mind that understands that when the Son of God came to us men, He came to provide for our salvation; that is, He knew that He was coming to die for us.  Even as He rode in on Palm Sunday and one group chanted Hosanna, He knew that another group was plotting to kill Him, and very soon would shout, “Crucify Him!”  But here is the wonderful mystery that is hard but essential for us to understand… Jesus came to die for both groups; He came to die for sinners and saints, and He came to die for you!

The mystery of both His birth and His death is 100% a work of God, and it is marvelous and wonderful in our sight.  You see, within this humble savior seated on a donkey rode the God of Creation.  The same mystery of God that confronted sinful men at the birth of Jesus and confounded Herod, rode upon a donkey towards Golgotha.  He was not riding to die only for good men and women, but for the no good sinners as well.

In our processional Psalm we heard that Jesus is the gate of the LORD, and that He is the answer to our prayers for salvation, that is forgiveness for our sins.  But, He is also the capstone of that gate, which the self-righteous and self sufficient people rejected then and reject still today.  But how do they reject Him?  When they refuse to repent of their independent ways and refuse to see Jesus as who He is.  And who is he?  He is God and there is none other.  Outside of Jesus, there is no salvation; He is the only way to eternal life.  He is the one who by taking on our flesh, that is by humbling Himself, became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

These are the people who reject God; they reject Jesus as God who not only died for sinners, but he died for them.  Here then, is the gospel message for this morning; a message for all people, saints and sinners, rich and poor alike:  Jesus died for you!  While He rode in on that donkey, He had both the cross and your salvation on His heart.

This week, we will gather on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday to honor God and highly exalt our Savior, Jesus Christ.  We will look deeply into His passion for sinners such as us, and we will allow both His Word and His real presence to transform our sinful minds.  We will experience real truth, such as we have experience this morning.  Real truth that exposes both our love for Him but also our sin that still clings to us.  He alone will teach us His truth, and He alone will comfort our fears.  And then on Easter morning, we will greet our Savior Jesus Christ, whom God has highly exalted, and we will proclaim the truth of that name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”  AMEN

Let Us Go and Die With Jesus

April 6th, 2014

Lent 5 (A), April 6, 2014
Rev. Brian Henderson
Pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA

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So Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.[John 11:16]

So are the words of Thomas, and so should they be our words as well.  They are the words that the saints are to speak to their sinful flesh that will one day die, once and for all, and will one day in the Lord’s time, rise redeemed and completely sanctified for an eternity with Jesus and their neighbor.  But these aren’t simply words we speak to make it through times of sorrow, suffering, and testing; no these are words that echo the very Word of God.  Listen: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” [Galatians 2:20]  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. [Romans 6:3-4]

These Words of dying are meant to first point our eyes of faith to a spiritual death and then to a physical death.  They are Words that first bring a spiritual renewal and then the long promised physical resurrection, a resurrection from death.  Do you think that Thomas was thinking about any of this when he said, “Let’s also go (with Jesus), (so) that we may die with him”?  No, I think that these were the words of a pessimist; words of frustration that each of us can identify with.  It’s as if they were saying, “Well, all of our hope and dreams have been shattered, so there is nothing else to do but follow Jesus and die.  In those sentiments, I hear a spark of faith that moves their hearts to believe that if Jesus is leading them, some how, some way, everything would turn out alright.

In our Old Testament reading (Ezekiel 37:1–14), we see something similar happening.  The prophet Ezekiel, who is living in exile in Babylon with his fellow Jews, is taken up in the spirit by the very hand of God and shown a vast valley of dead, dry bones.  And (the Lord) asked him, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And (Ezekiel) answered, “O Lord God, you know.”  Mark and remember those Words.  The Lord knows.  He knows what the outcome will be when we follow Jesus to what appears to be certain death, and He knows what the outcome will be in our lives when everything around us is telling us that living the life, or dying the death of a Christian should not have this much trouble, this much fear, this much worry.  He knows, and because He knows, because He loves you and calls you to follow Him, we know that in the end everything will be well for our souls and our eternal life with Jesus.

Have you ever been so depressed that you just didn’t even feel like waking up in the morning?  Some times it may be so bad that you don’t want to see anyone or talk to anyone.  Even the Word of God seems to do you no good; well at least that’s what you tell yourself, when the truth is, the Word of God is the only thing that will do you any good; specifically that part of the Word that promises new life in a situation that seems completely dead.  And that is what God was speaking to Ezekiel and all of his fellow countrymen who were being held captive there in Babylon.  Babylon was a place that seemed hopeless for the nation of Israel; they appeared to be dead as a people.  But then God asked a question that was meant to test faith and cause it to grow.  And where faith is alive and growing there is life and there is hope.  “Son of man, can these bones live?”  And to this the weak voice of faith, like that of Thomas answers perhaps a bit pessimistically, “O Lord GOD, you know.”

Do you hear the weak faith?  Oh yes, it’s small, the size of a mustard seed I’d say, but it’s the kind of faith that let’s go of all hope that may come from itself or this fallen world, and trust only is that which is greater and outside of itself and this world.  It is the kind of faith that will cause our depressed hearts to take notice, and allow our unwilling ears to listen for at least a bit of “good news.”

Then (God) said to (Ezekiel), “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord.  Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the Lord.” [Ezekiel 37:4-6]  What was God showing Ezekiel?  This is an important question, because God is always consistent, so what He is showing Ezekiel, He is showing us.  In other words, He is demonstrating something the church, you and I, should know right now, today!

What He was showing them and us is that the Lord who promised to bring life to dead bones in the vision is simply doing the very same thing He did long ago in the garden of Eden… He is Creating life: “Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. [Genesis 1:26a] The LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostril the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” [Genesis 2:7]

Do you see where the hope of life came from?  It was from the very Word of God and the very breath of God.  But the Word must be spoken; it must be declared with the power of God, that is it must have the breath of life behind it.  “So” Ezekiel in obedience to the Word, speaks the Word “as (he) was commanded.  And as (he) prophesied, there was a sound, and behold, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. And (he) looked, and behold, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them. But there was no breath in them. Then (God) said to (him), “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.”  So (Ezekiel) prophesied as he (was) commanded, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army. [Ezekiel 37:7–10]

At the Lord’s command, Ezekiel prophesied to lifeless bones, and a miracle happened. There was a rattling noise as bone came together with bone. To Ezekiel the valley seemed no longer to be full of disconnected bones but of skeletons. God’s miracle continued, “Tendons and flesh appeared on them.” Now the valley resembled a battlefield littered with corpses. But God’s miracle was still not over. At God’s command Ezekiel continued to prophesy, and breath entered that army of corpses, and they came to life and stood up. Through a vision Ezekiel saw how God would re-create his people now apparently hopelessly lost in Babylon.

Ezekiel carried out his orders and the Lord kept his promise. He did not want to speak, I’m sure, and neither did the Jews want to listen; they were depressed and simply waiting to die.  But, when God speaks His Words carry the mighty life giving power of His Spirit.  When He speaks, even the dead in their graves must listen and respond.  When a corpse, even one with out ears, or one where all of the atoms have been scattered to who knows where is spoken to, they must listen, and they must respond!

This ought to be a description of our lives.  When we are so depressed that even the chirping of the birds and our neighbors laughter and joy cause nothing but irritation and even anger, we have no choice but to listen and respond, as God speaks.  As we are carried away by the power of the Lord’s Spirit, we have no choice but to carry out the Lord’s orders, and then watch as the Lord carries out his promises of life within us.

Dear friends, it is the knowledge that we are doing the Lord’s will in our lives that will take away the boredom, drudgery, and even the depression we find in life; it is what brings life to dead and dry bones. When we realize that since our baptism we have been brought to death with Christ, but then raised to a new and eternal life with Him, we are not just working for a paycheck, but we are serving our risen LORD and God, who through that paycheck is supporting our families. We are not just studying to get a passing grade in school, but we are instead using our minds to the best we can, because our Lord has called us to be good stewards, or managers of our intellects. We are not just taking care of the kids or grandkids, but we are shaping their souls as God’s own children, and teaching them about Jesus by the way we talk and act. We do these things even when we feel depressed and alone, because we know that behind every thing we do is the promise of God, that says “all things work together for good, for those who are called according to God’s purpose.” [Romans 8:28]  And the Lord keeps his promises, just as he did when Ezekiel preached to those dry bones as he was instructed to.

This morning, just as Ezekiel was obedient to the call of God to prophesy, that is to preach the Word of God so that life could come amongst those who felt as good as dead, I too am called to preach the same message of life and renewal.  It has been a long period of Lent, and we are tired, but our travels are not yet complete.  We must continue to follow Jesus and learn to die with Him, so that we will live with Him.  So hear these last words:

“Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are indeed cut off.’ Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel.  And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people.  And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the Lord.” [Ezekiel 37:11-14]

This morning, some of us may be distracted by tragedy or loss in our lives.  Maybe it is the loss of a loved one through death, or the sting of betrayal.  Maybe it is the loss of a job or the lack of one for a long period of time.  And maybe, like Martha we have spoken similar words of pain and disappointment to our Lord: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”  ‘If you had been with me, I would not be suffering this loss in my life.’  And now, the winds from the four corners begin to blow; the power of the spirit of God begins to fan that spark of faith that still lives in you, and along with Martha you are led by faith to proclaim:  “But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.”

To Martha, Jesus said, “Your brother will rise again.”  And to us, He is saying your hope, and indeed your very joy in life has not left you; I am still with you, and I will never leave nor forsake you.”  And as Martha says, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day,” we may say with her, “I know that one day this depression, this sorrow will pass on the last day, when I am in heaven.”  And to Martha and to us, Jesus says, “I AM the resurrection and the (joy of)life.  Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.”

Dear baptized, do you believe this?  Then your Master calls to you along with Lazarus, in the same power that brought life to the dried bones Ezekiel’s vision, and He says: “Come out!”  Come out with a purpose and a mission.  Come out into a world that is dying and share the church’s story of faith; share your story.  Tell others how God has saved you and is saving you.  Tell them that how even in the midst of tragedy and disappointment, He is still with you.

Holy week is fast approaching and what a wonderful opportunity it is for us to invite our neighbors, family, friends, and coworkers to come and experience the wind of God that brings life to dead and dried up bones.  You can start by inviting them to Palm Sunday, where they will experience the pomp and majesty of our Savior as He rides into Jerusalem upon a donkey, surrounded by the chants “Hosanna,” and knowing full well that be was about to die a criminals death for all sinners.  And then, you can invite them to experience the nurturing power of God that was served to the apostles and now you, as we celebrate the last supper of our Lord on Maundy Thursday.  Then as you leave on Thursday night, invite them to come back again on Good Friday and experience the agony of our Lord, as He suffered and died for every person that will ever live, even for them.  And finally, make sure you invite them to experience the resurrection of our Lord.  The assurance that one day soon, Jesus will make good on the vision given to Ezekiel, that all those who have fallen asleep in death will rise again in eternal life.  AMEN!

Eyes Shut Tight

March 30th, 2014

Lent 4 (A), March 23, 2014
Rev. Brian Henderson
Pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA

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“For a long time I have held my peace; I have kept still and restrained myself; now I will cry out like a woman in labor; I will gasp and pant.” [Isaiah 42:14]

The song you just heard, “Slipin’ Into Darkness” by WAR, is meant to act as our mental hook, to hang this very important message from God upon.

Our text this morning leads us to ask ourselves, “Why can God no longer restrain Himself?  Why does He cry out like a woman in labor?”  Well the answer is, because His children, you and me have a tendency to slip into darkness.  We are a lot like the Israelites of old, or if you prefer, like the frog who is slowly being boiled alive.  We see nothing wrong with our warm bath of sin; in fact, it feels very comfortable and soothing.  But as the water slowly becomes hotter, it begins to perform a work of decay called apathy upon our bodies.  Slowly but surely, like the frog in his bath, we are being boiled alive within the acceptance of sin in our lives and Christ’s church.  And God’s message is, if we will not listen to His Word now, today, and every day, before we know it, it will be to late; we will have already slipped into darkness.  So to prevent us from “slipin’ into darkness”…

“The Lord was pleased, for his righteousness’ sake, to magnify his law and make it glorious.” [Isaiah 42:21]

What law is that?  Well it is the law that is presented to us in all of God’s Word.  It is the law of holiness, which demands that we acknowledge our sins, and it is the law of promise, which declares that only God can prevent us from “slipin’ into darkness.”

Is God serious about this law?  Well, listen to Him speak and I will let you be the judge: “I will lay waste mountains and hills, and dry up all their vegetation; I will turn rivers into islands, and dry up the pools.”

These are words of judgment; they represent the finish of all things created in both heaven and earth.  They are words about the end of days.  God was telling the children of Israel that the final day was coming.  They of all people had to know that this was the truth.  They could trace their origins directly back to Father Abraham; the great patriarch of all of God’s children of faith, who heard God speak the impossible and by God’s gift of faith, He was enabled to believe God, and that belief was accredited to him as righteousness.

They knew first hand from their sacred writings, how God used Moses to intervene in their lives, in order to save them from slavery in Egypt.  They knew how their powerful God punished the Egyptians by causing great plagues to strike the land so that Pharaoh would let God’s people go.  And they knew that God had before dried up the water by parting the sea and making a straight path for them to escape and eventually arrive into the Promised Land.  They knew about God’s care for them in the wilderness, and they also knew that after all of this, many grumbled and sinned against the Lord and died, never reaching the promise land.

And now, as God speaks through Isaiah, He is warning them again about their sin, and it’s penalty; they would once again, because of their sinfulness be enslaved in the land of the Babylonians, but God would one moe time bring them back home to their own land.

All of this that God does, demonstrates who God is: He is a jealous God, who loves His children who relate to Him by faith, with an everlasting love.  He is the God who will not give His glory to another, and not allow His children to follow any other god, whether it is man or religion.  In order to be saved from God’s wrath, all they had to do was close their eyes to any other messages, and simply follow God’s promises of deliverance by faith, and they would be spared from His judgment.

But all of their history and their immediate physical reality was meant to act as a way to help them remember and believe in their God who saves; it was meant to prepare them to follow their God who would come among them and “lead the blind in a way that they do not know, in paths that they have not known” before. [Isaiah 42:16]  They were to see their “Savior,” God’s “Suffering Servant” Jesus Christ, as God’s only solution to defeating their persistent sins and hard hearts.

Jesus is our only God given resource to ensure that you do not slip into darkness.  He has come to save those of us who know that we are indeed blind to God’s will and deaf to His warnings.  So He has come to guide us out of that sin in paths that we do not know; paths that we could never find on our own.  He has come to turn our darkness into light, the rough places into level ground.  These are the things that He does and He will never quit trying to call you who are baptized into His name, to follow Him.

We who make up the church, that is those of us who call ourselves Christian can hear these Words of promise and begin to think that there is nothing that could ever cause us to “slip into darkness.”  Why do I say that?  Because the same danger that enslaved the children of Israel also threatens all of Abraham’s children of faith; that is, it is still a very real threat to the church; to you and me.  What danger is that?  The danger of being a privileged child of faith but rejecting the very means that makes us privileged; the means that saves us.  What means is that?  It is all of God’s Word; both the promises and the threats of judgment and punishment.  The real danger that confronts us is that we would become so comfortable in our salvation that we are no longer uncomfortable in our sins!

Do you know what a besetting sin is?  Listen to how the book of Proverbs describes it: “A prudent man foresees evil and hides himself; the simple pass on and are punished.” [Proverbs 27:12]  So, a besetting sin is a sin that no longer bothers you; something you either no longer fight or are no longer bothered by.  It is something that God’s Word makes clear as sinful, but the society we live in does not have a problem with.

Besetting sins are those things that you know right a way are wrong, because God in His Word has made that truth clear to you, but over time, like the frog slowly boiling towards its demise, you no longer care; you are comfortable in a sin that will eventually if not repented of, cause you to slip into eternal death.

Besetting sins then may have this type of effect on you: You may no longer believe that marriage as God has described it in His Word is the truth for society today, in fact you may believe that marriage really isn’t necessary at all.  You may no longer care that God’s Word declares that life begins at conception.  You no longer care that gossip and slander are evil and contrary to everything that God declares good.  You may no longer hear God’s warning that you must not neglect the meeting of the saints, that is you must do everything you possibly can, to ensure that you do not miss coming to church, where you receive His Word and sacraments.  You may no longer seem to care that God’s Word challenges you to give the complete tithe, that is 10% of your income to His church, all so that He can prove to you how much He loves you as He blesses you.  You may no longer extend the invitation to your neighbors to come to church with you and hear God speak His truth and love.

By embracing your besetting sins, you have become like those who see many things but do not observe them; whose ears are opened, but do not hear. [Isaiah 42:20]  And this morning, God is warning you that you are “slipin’ into darkness.”

So what are we to do?  Nothing.  Instead, you are to trust in what God has done and what He is still doing within you and around you.  You are to simply continue dying to your old sinful nature and the lure of our sinful society, and follow Jesus and live.

Jesus alone has come to save you.  Jesus alone is the embodiment of all of God’s Word and will for you, both the threats and the promises.  Jesus is the “Suffering Servant” who took your sins upon Himself and allowed this World and the devil to strip Him of His dignity.  He allowed this for you; He chose to suffer and die in your place; on your behalf.   He was smitten, stricken, and cut down, so that by His stripes you would be healed.  Upon the cross, as the life of the Son of God slipped into the darkness of death, the Son of God cried out to His Father,  “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

Do you want to know why the Son was forsaken by the Father?  So that you would not be!  Do you want to know why Jesus allowed His life to slip into darkness?  So your’s would not!  As Jesus died upon the cross, He became the very embodiment of all of God’s Word, both the threats and the promises.  As you read God’s Word, this is the message that God so desperately wants you to receive… GOD LOVES YOU… He loves you enough to send His Son to die for you.  Isn’t this enough to take your eyes off of the false gods that promise you nothing lasting and eternal, and then fight to rest in the God who promises you everything, if you will but believe and follow His Son Jesus Christ?

Dear friends, for a long time, God seemed to be silent; that is He allowed men to go their own way.  And what was the result?  We began to think that God was not serious about sin.  But this morning, God has spoken; you’ve heard that He is deadly serious about sin, especially those who are so comfortable in their salvation that they are no longer uncomfortable in their sin.

And now you have heard God shout out: I WILL NOT LET YOU SLIP INTO DARKNESS!  I will not allow the one l love to simply turn his back on Me and be overtaken by Satan and his devils.  You are mine; I have purchased you with a great price and washed you clean in the waters of your baptism.  You are mine and I will be relentless in my pursuit for your eternal soul.  I will hound you with my Word of threats until your soul once again longs to hear My promises of forgiveness.  I will do this, until you are no longer comfortable in your sin; until you learn to close your eyes tight to the lure of this sinful world, and place your hand of faith upon my Son’s shoulder as He leads you with eyes of faith through these many dangers and snares, to the place I have prepared for you in paradise.  I will not let you go “slipin’ into darkness”…  AMEN!

A Bath for Sinners, and a Drink for the Thirsty

March 23rd, 2014

Lent 3 (A), March 23, 2014
On the occasion of Holy Baptism for many children of God from within San Diego’s American Samoan community.

Rev. Brian Henderson
Pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA

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“Is the Lord among us or not?” is perhaps the most common question both sinners and saints ask the church.  Maybe you’ve asked that question before as well?  Is He with us or are we, as we just heard Paul Simon sing, just slip sliding away?  Is God truly with us or are we left on our own to work our jobs, collect our pay, raise our children and just slip slide away?

“Is the Lord among us or not?” is the very question the Israelites asked Moses as they grew thirsty in a land of rocks and sand.  Did the Lord really lead us out here or was it you, Moses?  Did you bring us out here to die of thirst?

Oh how quickly they have forgotten how miraculously powerful the Lord had freed them from slavery in Egypt land!  Oh how conveniently they have dismissed the Lord’s ever-present cloud by day and pillar by night.  Oh how easily they have dismissed the Lord’s continuous care, through the mysterious feeding of the manna and quail.

Who here this morning can blame Moses one bit for crying out to the Lord, “What shall I do with this people?” as they had stones at the ready, just waiting to stone him to death!  But the Lord was listening; He was in control; He was not just letting them slip slide away.

Oh how quickly we seem to have forgotten our Lord and His presence with us all of these years.  Think back, for many not so long ago, where you can truly say that “If it had not been for the Lord, I would have…” well, you can fill in the blank.

The people back then forgot that they were following a God that not only makes the water, but He actually is in, with, and under the water. And so do we.  They actually grumbled against their God who provided for their needs through the mask of Moses, and so do we. When we forget our many blessings that we have received regularly here in this house of worship and outside of this place, we too are forgetting the God who is behind those wonderful gifts.

God was not absent then and He is not absent now; He would not allow His people under the leadership of Moses to slip slide away and He won’t allow us to slip away either.  God had a plan then and He still has a plan today.  God’s children of faith are to be a light in a world dark with sin.  Through the promised Savior God’s plan is to bless the entire world.  But nowhere did God ever promise that our trek out of bondage would be painless and easy.  Nowhere did God promise His children glory during the voyage out of sin, accept the privilege of experiencing His glory.

In our Old Testament lesson, we read that God had Moses and some of the elders pass before the vast company of the grumbling Israelites, displaying the staff that parted the water, and there in front of those stiff necked people, He directed Moses to strike a certain Rock.  Moses did as he was told, and out from the cleft rock came a gush of living and refreshing water!

What kind of rock was this, and just what kind of water was it?  If we will for but a moment, simply dismiss any scientific explanation about the origin of the water, and instead allow God’s Word to explain it’s source, we can then wonderfully see the God who is not only in, with, and under the water, but also the God who is the source of it.

But the source came from the rock, didn’t it?!  Yes, that’s right, but again, let’s not put to much effort into understanding the how of the water, but instead let Holy Scripture tell us the Who and the why of it.  What scripture is that?  How about this information from St. Paul: “I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. [1 Corinthians 10:1–4]

The Savior-God showered His grace on his people Israel by means of this rock in the desert, just as God has blessed us in Christ beyond all that we sinful creatures deserve. “Nevertheless,” Paul continues, “God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered over the desert. These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come. So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall (be careful that you are not by choice, slip sliding away)! No temptation has seized you except what is common to all people. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear (that is He will not allow you to slip slide away). But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it” (verses 5, 11–13).

That way out is the Son of God, Jesus Christ who has found you in your sins, while you were still an unredeemed condemned enemy of God, and He suffered and died for you!  Make no mistake, God found you and not the other way around.

In your baptism, He came to you through simple water.  But how?  Again, like the water from the rock, do not be concerned with the how, but the Who and why of it.  Jesus, all of Jesus was and is in the water of your baptism.  When I say all of Jesus, I truly mean all of Him.  Jesus who was fully man and fully God was there this morning in the waters that washed clean and recreated all of his children this morning, He was within their baptism.  All of “Jesus the man” had to be there, because only real blood can pay for real sins.  Only real suffering and finally death can free a sinner from the price of sin.  But then again, only all of God can have complete victory over sin, death, and the devil.  Only all of God can raise a dead sinner into a living saint.

Ok, to satisfy those of you who still want to know the how behind the water, here it is.  God does it through the rock of ages, Jesus Christ, who by the power of the Spirit of God is in, with, and under the water of your Holy Baptism by the power of His Holy Word; a Word that promises salvation; a Word that promises that you will not one day slip slide away!  And all of this He does through a living water that is a bath for sinners and a cool and refreshing drink for saints who are struggling to pass through this wilderness of sin.

The bath is needed if we want to be regarded as one of God’s children of faith.  It is the only means that He has provided that will truly wash us clean and remove our sins.  But it is also the very source of refreshment that will forever quench our thirst for God’s righteous presence and protection in our lives.  (Holy Water). It is the very resource that will turn us again and again to our Savior, who declared to the sinful woman at the well, “Whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst.  Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” [John 4:14]

And yet, how often do we who have been washed clean by this holy bath grumble and complain about God’s way of dealing with us.  Oh how easy we forget the God who is in, with, and under the water, and how easy we forget that through Christ, He never lets us slip slide away!  How easy we forget His plan for us to be His light of forgiving love in a world darkened with sin, so that the world will know that there is a God among them!

“Sir,” we must say every day to our Lord, as the Samaritan woman did, “give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty.” [John 4:15]  We must say everyday, “Lord, help me live in, with, and under this spiritual water, and protect me when I thirst for other sources of refreshment offered by the devil and this sin-darkened world.”

Dear friends, like the Israelites following God through the leadership of Moses, we too are traveling through the desert of sin.  We to will know pain and suffering along our journey.  It will be tempting to grumble against God and those who lead us through the proclamation of His Word, but God is not absent in these times of testing; He is not hiding some master plan from you that you know nothing about!  The master plan is first and foremost your salvation through the cross of Jesus and the washing of His water and Word.  And next, that plan is for you to listen and follow Him out into our community that is dying of thirst.  They need to know about the God-man Jesus Christ who knows everything about them, and yet still loves them!

This morning we have seen the holy washing of many children, and we have once again had our hearts turned towards God’s refreshing drink.  Let’s learn from the mistakes of the people of Israel and not allow Satan to draw us into a spirit of grumbling and complaining, which is really a sign of unbelief.  Instead, let’s keep our eyes on the Author and Perfecter of our faith Jesus Christ.  He is the God who is among us as our Rock and our Living Water; He is the One who promises that He will never allow us to slip slide away.  AMEN!

Go, Blessed to be a Blessing!

March 16th, 2014

Lent 2 (A), March 16, 2014
Rev. Brian Henderson
Pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA

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“In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” [Genesis 12:3b]

In God’s promise to Abram, you, your children, your grandchildren, your neighbor, our community, our nation, and indeed the entire world IS blessed!  What promise is that?  Well, it is the very first promise made by God to sinful man way back in Genesis 3.  You remember that promise from last weeks Old Testament lesson, don’t you?   God promised Adam and Eve that through one of their descendants would come a Champion, a Savior who would crush the head of Satan, thus defeating sin, death, and the devil, but that old crafty serpent would also bruise the heal of man; that is there would be a great degree of suffering that would come through the victory of the Savior.

Who is this Savior?  Well Jesus made it obvious to Nicodemus in our Gospel reading that He was the Savior of the world.  [John 3:1-17]  Listen:  “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.  “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” [John 3:14-17]

It is Jesus alone that the world is to look upon as He is lifted up before our eyes of faith; lifted up hanging between two thieves.  Why?  Because God loves the world, He loves you that much, so much so that He sent His very Son to be your Savior!  This is the same Champion that God guaranteed to Adam and Eve would come and save them and their descendants, and it is the same champion that God promised Abram would come through his lineage to be a blessing to the world.

Today, I declare to you that God has fulfilled His promise through His Son Jesus Christ.  The devil has been defeated, his lies have been exposed, and sin and death, that is even your own sin and death have been undone.  Now some of you may be thinking, “Then why is this life I live and this world I live in so messed up?”  Because the heal of the Servant Savior is still being bruised!  That is there must be suffering.  Why?  Because some still lack faith in the promise of God.

Let’s look at faith during the time of Abram and faith during our time and perhaps, just maybe we will understand how God’s plan of salvation for the world is unfolding, that is how everything is moving along just as it should.

During the time of Abram, whom God latter renames to Abraham, the descendants of Noah who were the descendants of Adam and Eve, had only been out of the Ark after the flood about 500 years.  The children of Noah were now very old, but still very much alive.  They had seen first hand God’s anger towards sin, specifically the sin of idolatry, which is the worship of false God’s.  The penalty of course was death, and in regards to all but Noah’s family, that death came in the form of a flood, which wiped out the entire world, with exception to the animals that God placed into Noah’s ark.  Wouldn’t you think that a global catastrophe of that kind would be sufficient to warn mankind that God is serious about sin?  But here we have Abram, living in an age where people once again worshiped all kinds of false gods, or no God at all, and they saw no problem with that, including Abram.

Now don’t get me wrong, Abram was a good man in the eyes of the world.  He was wealthy but he was also kind and generous with his wealth.  He came from a good family; in fact many believe that his grandfather Shem, the son of Noah was still living.  Yes, Abram and his family seemed to have it all, all but one thing… they no longer remembered God’s promise that He would one day send a Savior who would bring sinful mankind back to paradise; maybe they didn’t even believe that the promise was ever made.  So while Abram was a good man in the eyes of other men, in God’s eyes Abram was like all other men, sinful and unclean!  He was an idolater.

So what does that have to do with faith?  Well simply this, when God called Abram to leave his home, the land of his father and take everything with him, never to return, Abram listened and was obedient.  In God’s call through His powerful Word, Abram was once again given the promise that God Himself would send a Savior.  Abram’s heart was reminded of the promise made in the Garden of Eden and his eyes of faith were directed to trust both the promise and the Creator God who made the promise.  This is a wonderful example of how God’s Spirit works faith within the sinful heart of a sinner; working faith where and when the Spirit chooses, through the Word of God. In Abram, we see saving faith that believes in a God who will do what He says He will do.  God promised Abram that He alone would make Abram into a great nation, blessing all the world through the Son of God who would come through both Abram’s lineage and his faith in that One who was to come.

Now you are the children of Father Abraham; you are those who by faith are to be a blessing to a dying and sinful world.  You are the church, the body of the promised Savior who has come, Jesus Christ.  You too are told to go, that is go out where ever God leads you and be a blessing to those you meet.  Let’s see how we are doing; let’s see how faith in the Savior who has come is faring today.

You dear Christians today are blessed beyond expression.  You know that the Savior of the world has come and defeated your sin and undone your certain death, and He has even crushed our mortal enemy the devil!  You know the Easter story of the empty tomb, the ascension of the Son of God at the right hand of the Father, and the promise that through the Holy Spirit, God our champion is still right here with us.  You have this wonderful house of worship that you may come to and receive God’s mercy and forgiving love, through His means of grace, which are abundantly showered upon you in the preaching of the Word, the washing of Holy Baptism, and the Holy meal of forgiveness at our Lord’s Table.  Abram saw none of these things and yet he had great faith.  In fact, he had many reasons why he should doubt God’s promise and follow the promises of the devil and sinful society.  His marriage up to that point was childless.  Where was this great nation God was speaking about?  And then there was the fact that no one but him even knew about this God who was still jealous and angry over the sin of idolatry.  So we can see that the faith of this holy man of God was great, because he believed those promises as if they had already taken place before his eyes.  So with Abram’s great faith before us, let’s compare it to our own little faith.

We know that Jesus Christ will come again on the Last Day and He will destroy all of His enemies.  We know that until then, we are to wait here in the land of those enemies, even if those ungodly idolaters persecute us and make our lives unbearable.  We also know that while we wait, Christ is here with us through grace, and He is strengthening us so that we can wait in faith, while He preserves both His church and it’s great and sound doctrine, along with real God-pleasing worship.  And yet, all to often we live our lives as if God is only secondary to our needs and concerns with this life.  We live a life that is many times wrapped in fear and worry.  We allow our schedules and the demands of society to pull us away from God’s promises of grace, and many times we act as those who have no hope at all!

If we really believed what we declare in our Creeds of faith, do you thing that it would be possible for any of life’s circumstances to take our eyes off of our Savior and His cross?  So, if we do have faith, I think that we must all admit that our faith is very small, very weak.  We really are people of little faith and in no way could we begin to compare ourselves to father Abraham, who receives the invisible things with a strong faith, and lives a life as though he were already holding the promises in his hand.

Oh we of little faith.  Why do we doubt so?  Because we need strong faith, and we forget that God alone gives faith only through His chosen means.  Through His means of grace, God fulfills His promise both to Abram and us, “I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing (to the world).”

Our great blessing is the Son of God, who has come to us to make us sons as well.  By Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection, we have been set free from the demands of a Law that offers us no help in doing the things that please God, thus leaving us in the penalty and bondage of sin, death, and the devil.  But thanks be to God, through the promises of the gospel, that is through Christ alone, we have been given a new heart, a heart that desires to not only see the things of God, but do them ourselves.  And in our doing, that is in our proclaiming and living out the gospel message, which boldly declares that God loves the world enough to send His Son as it’s champion, we become a blessing to the world.

In our doing we gather together often, at least weekly around God’s chosen means of grace as we allow Jesus to continually fill us with His presence and clothe us in His righteousness.  In our doing, like Abram, we establish new places of worship, places pleasing to God so that others within our own community and other places outside of our community are blessed.  They are blessed because through God’s gifts, our feeble little faith grows and trusts His gospel promises and desires to share them with others.

Like Abram, we simply go as God directs and trust that it is He who began the good work in us who will complete it through our Savior, Jesus Christ!

This morning dear friends, God’s Word has filled you with faith.  As Martin Luther said long ago, “Faith is a vigorous and powerful thing; it is not idle speculation, nor does it float like a (duck) on water.  But just as water that has been heated, even though it remains water, is no longer cold but is hot and altogether different water, so faith, the work of the Holy Spirit, fashions a different mind and different attitude, and makes an altogether new (person out of us).”

Now you have been filled with the same faith that filled Abram.  It is an active and powerful force of God.  It is something that has been done to you, not something that you do or have earned.  It is the kind of faith that changes your heart and mind.  It alone is able to comprehend the will of God and stand in awe of things that are against reason and seem to not yet be present.

So once again, I declare to you that God has fulfilled His promise through His Son Jesus Christ.  The devil has been defeated, his lies have been exposed, and sin and death; that is even your own sin and death have been undone. May this fulfilled promise of God keep your hearts and minds in the one true, active, and transforming faith, as you go out into our community blessed and in the name of Jesus to be a blessing to those you encounter… AMEN!

The Fortress Awaits!

March 9th, 2014

Lent 1 (A), March 9, 2014
Rev. Brian Henderson
Pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA

Click here for audio of this message

“These things are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.” [John 20:31]

I chose our text this morning as a guide for examining the message that’s communicated in all three of our readings.  What is that message?  God wants good for His children; He wants you to have a “good” and eternal life in and with Him!

How could God who alone is good, desire any thing but good for us?  In the first two chapters of Genesis we learn all about God’s goodness.  Each time He completed a stage of creation we hear… and it was good!  Like the comforting purr of a kitten the word good is repeated over and over.  But on the sixth day, the last day of creation, God created something good that would reflect His goodness and love to the rest of creation, but it also would give the devil an opportunity to strike out at God.  “God said, “Let us make man in our own image, after our likeness.  And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” [Genesis 1:26]

“And God said (to Adam and Eve), “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit.  You shall have them for food.  And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of lie, I have given every green plant for food.” [Genesis 1:29, 30]

“The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden to work it and keep it.  And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” [Genesis 2:15-17]

The Garden of Eden, Paradise, eternal life with God the creator, the land of milk and honey, was a perfect place for perfect people.  All of God’s good creation existed within His perfection; it was the perfect picture of peace.  When God created man is His image, in essence He was creating a people who also had the power to create; that is man was created as a rational being who could conceive an idea and then work towards its conception and completion.  Man alone was the one creature that God gave full charge over the rest of creation.  In essence, God was telling Adam and Eve that they would be His ambassadors to the rest of creation. All of creation was their’s to manage and put to use; all except one tree, “the tree of Knowledge of good and evil.”  That tree was to represent God’s presence or authority over man and the creation that He had given them to be stewards over.

Now we must not misunderstand the significance of this one tree.  It was not as if God created man and then said, “I’m leaving, but that tree will remind you of my love and the good times we had together.”  No, God was no absentee father and man was not a latch key kid!  After all, scripture clearly says that man and God walked together in the garden in the coolness of the day, and man was not afraid.  Man knew God and loved Him.  The tree instead represented the otherness of God.  It reminded man that while they were as god to creation, they were not God!

Martin Luther called the tree of the knowledge of good and evil “Adam’s Altar”.  I like that idea.  There at the tree Adam and Eve could return to God the true worship He was due as an act of obedience.  But this was just the opportunity that the devil would exploit.  You see, Satan was craftier than all of creation, including man!  The devil, disguised as a serpent began to craft innocent questions in order to create thoughts that then caused doubts in the minds of Adam and Eve, doubts in regards to the truthfulness of God’s Word.  “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?’”

How Eve should have answered the devil was, “No, God never said that.  Why do you question His Word?”  But instead, Eve replied the truth of God’s command, but then she added a little something to it.  “God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the garden.’” But now listen to what she added, ‘neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’”  Now, Eve has demonstrated her weak spot so to speak, the kink in her full armor of God.  I believe that she was attracted by the beauty and splendor of the fruit.  And the rest as they say is history, the history of the fall of all of creation.  But where pray tell was her husband?  He, who was her spiritual head, was right there with her and never once did he intervene by rebuking the attack of the devil.

So there you have it, the loss of paradise.  A perfect home for perfect people, enjoying the love of a perfect Father, undone by a carefully crafted lie, “You will not surely die.”  Now Adam and Eve knew shame.  Their shame was not their nakedness but the nakedness of their sin before their perfect Father.  They no longer went out to meet their Creator God joyfully, but hid as he approached.  They knew that their loving Creator-Father had now become their judge!  And once found out, neither of them accepted responsibility for their sin, but instead they began making excuses and shifted blame to each other and even onto God Himself!

But Satan’s trick and our sin would not win the day.  God’s love would not let them go; He would not give them up.  God would not abandon them in their guilt.  He would send a Savior who would come and crush the power of sin and the devil forever.

“You ask who this may be?  The Lord of hosts is He, Christ Jesus mighty Lord, God’s only Son adored.  He holds the field victorious.”  [LSB 657 vs. 2b]

In our Gospel reading, Jesus the Son of God and the Son of man performs perfectly the task that Adam could not accomplish; He defeats the devil.  Armed with only the Word of God, Jesus led by the Spirit of God entered the wilderness to right the wrong of Adam and undo the sin of our first parents.  His victory over the devil using only the true Word of God is also our victory, as He sends the devil running.  His righteousness becomes our righteousness by faith.  Just as in the garden, the battle being fought is really over obedience to God’s will, which is communicated in His Word.

As Satan addressed Jesus, he used the same tricks that Eve fell to.  Through deception, He attempted to plant doubts and half-truths, and then finally blatant lies in order to attack and already weakened Jesus.  But this was Jesus, the Christ, and the Son of God who enters the fray as your Champion.  Notice the decisive and bold stand that Jesus takes in our place: “Be gone, Satan!”  For it is written, “You shall worship the Lord your God and Him only shall you serve.’”

Dear friends, the truth is that all of Satan’s attacks were meant to deter Jesus from His Divine appointment to become our Savior.  The devil tried every trick in the book to prevent Jesus from doing what Adam could not.  And now, the devil tries the same thing against us.  Think of how most temptations still come to us today: “If you are really God’s forgiven child then why do you still struggle with guilt and sin?  If you are truly a Christian, blessed by God, why are you experiencing all of this trouble, pain, and loss?”

Dear friends, Jesus knows what it is like to fight off questions about God’s truthfulness, which undermine the message about His forgiving love.  He knows how the devil tempts us to take short cuts as a way of getting to our treasured goal.  He knows what we all go through in those tough times of life when our baptism seems so long ago and far away.  He knows what is like to doubt the trustworthiness of our Heavenly Father.  And that is why Jesus wielded the sword of God’s Word against the devil.  He did it to crush him and send him running in defeat, a defeat for you!

“Though hordes of devils fill the land all threatening to devour us, we tremble not, unmoved we stand; they cannot over power us.  Let this world’s tyrant rage; in battle we’ll engage.  His might is doomed to fail; God’s judgment must prevail!  One little word subdues him.” [LSB 657 Vs. 3]

What is that little Word?  Jesus!  God Saves!  It is the name of Jesus that is your fortress.  Blessed is the name of the Lord.  The name of the Lord is a strong tower.  The righteous run into it, (that is they cling to their Savior Jesus by faith), and are safe. [Proverbs 18:10]

Through Jesus alone, the pattern of death begun by Adam is over. [Romans 5:12–19] Jesus is that seed of the woman who would smash the head of our enemies: sin, death, and the devil.  Upon the cross, that ancient serpent shrieked when he heard the last Words of our Savior: “It is finished.  Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”  For Jesus, these are Words of victory, but for us, they are words that bring faith.  Words that assure us the battle is over and won!

Just as Adam’s one sin led to death for all of mankind, so also Christ’s obedient death and then resurrection, brought justification and new life to all who are baptized in His name and continually flee to the fortress of His Word and His cross in repentance and receive God’s forgiving love.

What an unspeakable gift God has given us through Jesus Christ!  It is literally paradise restored.  As God’s new people sealed by baptism into Christ, we can once again walk with God without fear.  We can look forward to the day when we die in faith and are welcomed back to Eden restored, where our Savior has gone to prepare a place just for us.

But for now we live and walk by faith.  And as we live, it’s God’s will that we would drink up every one of His promises that declare, “He who began the good work in us” will complete it through the new and greater Adam, Jesus Christ.  We declare boldly by faith to our enemies, that no one, not even the devils can snatch us out of the Father’s hand or the Son’s abundant gift of grace.

“God’s Word forever shall abide.  No thanks to foes, who fear it; for God Himself fights by our side with weapons of the Spirit.  Were they to take our house, goods, honor, child, or spouse, though life be wrenched away, they cannot win the day.  The Kingdom’s ours forever!” [LSB 657 vs.4]

So follow Jesus. The fortress awaits and paradise is restored!  AMEN!

The Blood of the New Covenant

March 5th, 2014

Ash Wednesday, March 5, 2014
Rev. Brian Henderson—Pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA

Click here for audio of this message

Ash Wednesday is a first night of 40 nights that we seriously reflect on three things.  First we consider our frailty.  We are but flesh.  We come from the earth and to the earth we shall return; Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.  Second we consider our sinfulness; our complete lack of excuse before God for the sinful things we have done and the good and holy things we fail to do.  And finally, we consider God’s righteousness and His gifts to us and for us, which are ours through Christ Jesus.

Tonight we will look at two covenants or promises that God has provided to save His people.  Both involve the shedding of blood.  One was temporary and the other eternal.

Modern men and women within our society are repulsed by the Old Testament sacrifice of animals, so much so, that many people want to close their eyes to the truths in those portions of Scripture which demand a sacrifice.  They want to close their eyes because it shows how horrid our sins are.  Oh they’ll gladly agree that the Old Testament points to the promised Savior of the New Testament, but the bloody stories of a God who punishes seems to have no place in a civilized society.

But the old covenant demonstrates unashamedly our God who is holy, disciplined, exacting, loving and trustworthy.   In fact, the entire Old Testament reveals the depth of humankind’s depravity, the seriousness of our sin, the extent of God’s anger, the depth of His love, and the need for a redeeming Savior.

Moses understood these issues. Speaking for God, he told the Israelites that to cover human sin, blood must be shed. The power of the blood must accompany any approach to the Father. And as the blood of the old covenant was spilled onto the altar and was sprinkled on the people, God revealed His redeeming grace and the forgiving power of His mercy.

Why blood? Well, as Moses explained, again speaking for God, “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life” (Leviticus 17:11). All of the Old Testament rituals involving the spilling of blood made it clear that God takes sin seriously. Lifeblood must be shed to pay for sin. Someone, or something, must give its life. God’s wrath needed satisfaction. So, instead of requiring the death of the sinner, God offered grace by allowing the sacrifice of animals in their place.

But within God’s heart, His delight was not in blood sacrifice but in the yielding and surrendering of His people’s lives in dedication to Him. God desired a new relationship of faith with His children.  As Samuel said to Saul, “Has the Lord as great a delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams” (1 Samuel 15:22). David also said, “For You will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; You will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise” (Ps 51:16–17).

Tonight, we approach God with broken spirits and contrite hearts.  And we know, He will not despise those things.  Why?  Because of the blood!

The blood in the Old Covenant, was used to foreshadow the sacrifice of Christ, and it pointed to something far deeper. Remember, God desires a right relationship of faith with His children.  He yearns for reconciliation and fellowship—something blood sacrifices could only point to. He knew the blood spilled on the altar and sprinkled on the people was temporary. What was needed was a blood sacrifice greater than the blood of rams and goats.  He needed to take His children’s eyes and hearts off of the Law and instead place their hope in His incomprehensible mercy. But to accomplish this God must provide One final blood sacrifice upon an altar made of wood.

Moses built an altar as his first sign of the covenant relationship to consecrate the people to God (Ex 24:4–5). To the Israelites and other ancient peoples, an altar meant a place for putting something to death, not only physically but also in their hearts. For the people of God, the altar also represented God’s real presence in their lives.

The blood sprinkled on the altar represented a life offered, or poured out, to the One true God in sacrifice. Sacrifices were not wasteful or extravagant acts of worship, in fact after the sacrifice, most of them required that the meat be eaten. So, the altar of God was the place where the people, the priests, and God held a meal together to show that they were in a relationship of peace and fellowship with each other.

As a place of fellowship, consecration, and sacrifice, the altar had to be made holy through the shedding and application of blood. The sanctified altar, then, became holy ground on which to lay the sin offerings of the people. The throwing of blood on the altar signified access to God; the blood of a chosen substitute replaced their lives, lives now committed and dedicated to Him.

Jesus’ disciples understood the blood of the old covenant, but how could they possibly comprehend the depth of Christ’s words on Maundy Thursday when He lifted a cup and spoke of the blood of the new covenant (Mt 26:27–28)? Christ often foretold His suffering and death, yet no words could prepare the disciples for the events that followed.

On Good Friday, another altar rose above the earth towering far above all other altars, and it was wooden and roughly cut. It would hold the Sacrifice, the One whose blood would redeem all people for all eternity. And From heaven, the Father observed His Son Jesus’ obedient death upon the cross and accepted His sacrifice on our behalf. From that time forward, in the heavenly tabernacle, an everlasting covenant—a new covenant—was made (Hebrews 9:11–14). By the cross, Jesus’ disciples, you and me, became partakers in His life and possessors of the heavenly inheritance (Hebrews 9:16–22).

This evening, we have witnessed a baptism.  We have seen two young children snatched from the kingdom of the devil and transferred into the Kingdom of Heaven.  It was the blood of the very King of Heaven that was sprinkled upon them in the washing of the water and the Word.  A blood far superior to that of animals, for it’s washing is eternal.

You dear parents are now called to model a life of repentance and faith.  You must agree with God that He is right and you are wrong.  You must turn to the Author and Perfecter of your faith every day for forgiveness and then you must teach your children to do the same.  You must instruct them of the importance of hearing and studying the Word of God, and when they are older, you must ensure that they and you approach the table of the Lord together for His Holy meal of forgiveness.

Just as a meal followed the sacrifices of the old covenant, so God’s people commune with Him today at the Lord’s Table. When you receive the body and blood of Christ, His fullness fills you. His mercy forgives you. His grace redeems you. You rest assured in the blotting out of all your sins (1John 1:7). With immediate deliverance and total justification, you know that God’s wrath has been removed, and that He no longer sees your sins but the covering of Christ’s blood sprinkled upon you and your children on your behalf.

In this new life of faith, I pray that each of you will dedicate yourselves in service to Jesus.  I also pray that as we pass through these 40 days of Lent, you will prepare yourself to be engulfed by all that is Holy Week.  Allow God to create a great hunger within you to dine at the Lord’s table on Maundy Thursday.  Ask Him to prepare your entire soul to enter into the grief of sins, even your own sins on Good Friday, and then prepare your self for the wonderful resurrection joy, which is the experience of Easter morning.  And through it all, I pray for you that God will continue to reveal His redeeming grace, His unlimited love, and the forgiving power of His mercy by the blood of the new covenant. The blood of Jesus Christ spilled on the altar of the cross, which now saves you.  I ask this in Jesus name… AMEN!