All Dressed Up and…

April 17th, 2016

Easter 4-HL, April 17th, 2016
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor
Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego, CA

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Would you agree with me, that it is never easy waiting for something you really desire?  Here’s a truth that we should really think about this morning: We all desire an end to sickness, disease, violence, hatred and prejudice.  And we all know that as long as we live in this sin-soaked world, these things will never end.  Further, we all know that the only way to be free of those things is to leave this world; we have to die.

By now some of you are saying, “No thanks, I’ll wait.”  But some of you are thinking, “Yes, that would be fine by me; the sooner the better.  I just want the Lord to take me home.”

A Christian may have many reasons for wanting to leave this world.

Scripture and our own life experiences seem to bear witness to this truth.  St. Paul perhaps put it best, when he said that he would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord Jesus.  [2 Corinthians 5:8]   But where would our understanding of God’s grace and the beautiful gift of faith be if God had taken Paul home too early?

Every day through our understanding brought through God’s Word, we are made more and more aware of a sinful reality that is at work in our bodies; a law that convicts us of the sin that lies within our flesh.  Isn’t it true that the more we understand our sinful tendency to do things we know are wrong, the more we wish to be free from this reality?  Do you understand that your baptized, born again nature is at war with the desires of your sinful flesh?  Isn’t it true that you have one nature that urges you to serve the Lord and another that urges you to serve your own wants and desires.  The truth is, we have the desire to do what is right, but when it comes to fulfilling that desire, we sometimes seem to be in a sort of holding pattern.

None of us is ever exempt from this daily struggle between the spirit and the flesh.  And it is not simply an internal struggle of weakness versus strength, or cowardice versus bravery, no, we are also dealing with this sinful world and all the spiritual powers and principalities that seek to destroy both our own souls and the work of God for us and among us; in other words, these forces are dead set on attacking us in such a way that even our faith and hope in God will be crushed and destroyed.

We are reminded in our Old Testament lesson (Lamentations 3:22-33) that all trials and tribulations are allowed to come to us in accordance with God’s will; in other words, their final purpose is meant to strengthen our faith in Him, and so we must bear them with patient submission.

We are to see all things that seek to separate us from the love of God through the lens of Christ’s own suffering upon the cross.  In other words, we are to see them as mere inconveniences, because nothing can diminish the saving power of Christ’s cross for you.

Even when those things or people seem to be an enemy much stronger than us, we must remember that our Lord has already defeated them through His life given upon the cross.  So, although our enemies, whether they be spiritual powers and principalities, or physical people who are simply being used as tools of the devil may seem more powerful that us, we must remember that God has allowed these attacks to come our way, and since they are ultimately under the control of Jesus and His cross, we must look at them as simply annoyances and futile, evil persecution that in the end will amount to nothing.

We are called by St. Peter in our Epistle lesson (1 Peter 2:11-20) to remember that we are simply sojourners and exiles in this world.  Our job then is not to win battles but we’re called to trust God and resist the enemy.  Our task then is to remain faithful to our Lord’s call of repentance and to daily receive His forgiveness of sins through His Son Jesus Christ, as citizens of His kingdom of grace.

In His Word, God continually promises us, His children of faith, both forgiveness and new life.  He promises us that His same divine love that saved us from our sins will also keep us and protect us from the evil that surrounds us, even if that evil may be within our own flesh.  As members of God’s kingdom and joint heirs with the Son of God, we saints are called to simply and quietly wait for the Lord; to wait for Him to decide when our day will be when we will depart this place where we are foreigners and move to our new home where are true citizenship lies; a place where we will inherit the riches of Christ’s kingdom; riches that we’re told we already possess here in this place but are not yet utilizing in their fullest sense.  And so we do that very thing, but as we wait, we do so with a holy purpose.

So now, let’s talk about why it is not the right time for you “to go home and be with the Lord.”

You see, it is God who has determined that we should still be living here in this world.  He has a purpose for our being here.  Before us there are “good works which God has prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” [Ephesians 2:10]  In other words, God knows something of your purpose in life that you do not.  God has already both equipped and prepared you to accomplish things that must take place in accordance with His will; things that perhaps He will use to help someone understand Christ’s passion upon the cross and the truth and implication of His resurrection for them.

As the Lord gives us life, we are helped to believe that He wants us here for His purpose.  Even when all of our physical powers fail us, we are still able to contribute in a God pleasing way; we’re able to pray for others, prayer that God both commands and blesses, so that others may be blessed and strengthened in response to our prayers.

So it isn’t a bad thing when a mother wishes to live long enough among her children so that she may help them to grow in their Christian faith.  And likewise, it isn’t wrong for a man to pray for longer life because he feels he still hasn’t fulfilled his life’s work that God has called him to perform.

You see, it is these very works, which God has both clothed and equipped you to do long ago within in the waters of your baptism.  In your baptism, God called you to be a witness of His grace and mercy to others so that they too might experience that same thing.  Even if others mistreat you and speak badly of you, your life and how you live it will be a testimony to them of God’s work and presence in their lives.  And when God moves them to see this truth, He will also move them to see the ultimate truth:  They are sinful and lost for eternity unless they seek the same God of mercy who has saved you!

We Christians are called to remain faithful and serve God and our neighbor at the very place where God has placed us.  As we serve, God is ever working to ensure that we are able to withstand all kinds of mistreatment and neglect from those who live among us, simply because we find our value and worth not in them but solely in the Word and promises of God.

When the day comes when God will finally call us home, we will go thankfully through the gates of eternal life and into the joy of the Lord that is waiting for us in paradise.  But until that time, God’s time, we know that we haven’t been  dressed up with out a purpose and with no where to go.  Our purpose is to serve our resurrected Savior Jesus Christ, and we go where ever He has determined.  And as we go, we also wait.  We wait for the Lord’s will and we live equipped by Him to carry out what ever His purpose is for us in this foreign land.

St. Paul writes: “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith.”  [Philippians 1:21-25]  May God move our hearts to live each moment of our lives with this very mindset as we testify to all who will receive our message, that “Christ has risen, indeed!”  In Jesus name… AMEN!

Behold, Your GOOD Shepherd!

April 10th, 2016

Easter 3-HL, April 10th, 2016
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor
Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego, CA

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NOTE: This is the recorder message as delivered at Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA

I am not your Good Shepherd, and neither are Pastors Shamburger nor Falemao Esera!  This may seem a lot like stating the obvious, but nevertheless, it must be stated, for you see, all we (including pastors) are like sheep who are prone to wander, but thanks be to God Who does not punish us for our tendency to wander off into the wilderness, but rather He has laid the iniquity of all of our sins upon this Supreme Shepherd, Jesus Christ!

The truth is, our little word “good” does not do justice to what Jesus refers to Himself as this morning in our gospel reading. In the Greek, that little word we call good in English, is actually to be taken more as the source of all goodness.  In other words, Christ is saying that He is the Supreme Shepherd.

Christ proves His supremacy as the Ultimate Good Shepherd through the Easter truth that we still celebrate and proclaim this morning, “Christ has risen!”  You see, it is Christ resurrection that declares that His goodness as the Shepherd of our souls, of our eternal lives, is above all other shepherds. Because God has “brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep,” He has become the Shepherd of us all.

God the Father has raised His Son and Servant from the dead, and He has sent Him to bless all of us who have been drawn by the Holy Spirit to relate to God by faith.  And now this Good Shepherd is everywhere, throughout our world, and He is seeking His lost sheep.  He has compassion upon the crowds in the streets, the people in the business world, the crowds that flock to some churches seeking entertainment and amusement instead of forgiveness; He is even with the broken hearted and discouraged who sit with us in the pews here at this church.

Why?  Because He cares for you; because He sees us as “harassed and helpless like sheep without a shepherd.”  He seeks to gather us all together that there may be one fold and only One Supreme Shepherd.

The Good Shepherd has given His life for the sheep, and therefore He is still our shepherd today, and He does this very thing “by the blood of the eternal covenant,” a covenant of redemption and forgiveness, which promises that all of us can be whole again.

Do all of us today who are being saved by God’s means and gifts of grace still need that work of the Good Shepherd?  Yes, absolutely, because “All we like sheep have gone and are still going astray,” but remember, like I stated earlier, God has laid the iniquity of us all upon the Supreme Good Shepherd.  He alone bore our sins upon the tree.  It is for this reason that we can confidently look to Him and trust in Him to be “the Shepherd and Guardian of our souls,” and this is true even for the most pitiful, ragged, and lost of us.

But how does all of this happen?  How can it even be possible?  For many people, all of the statements and promises of forgiveness and redemption found in Holy Scripture seem to good to be true.  Does this seem strange to you, that some refuse to believe, that they see no need for a Supreme Good Shepherd in their lives?  It shouldn’t.  You see, a lot of folks have experienced a lot of hurt and disappointment  at the hands of people who proclaim Christ as their Good Shepherd.  And because of this hurt, they keep themselves just out of reach of both “church people” and their Good Shepherd, simply because they don’t want to be hurt again.

Because of this hurt and disappointment, they can’t see how what they perceive to be an invisible Savior can help them.  They call Him invisible because they reject the means of grace that God has given to sinners to see with eyes of faith, and then they judge the “invisible” Shepherd by His very visible sheep, or even by His under shepherds.  They don’t understand that the sheep and the under shepherds are just like them, so very prone to wander off… lost and afraid, seeking direction and shelter from the evils without and within.

But Jesus’ Word is spoken today and always, so that we can all see Him as a very visible Shepherd who created each of us, even you, for Himself, to be a very visible church, a church with all of its issues that seem to define wandering sheep, yet together we are still called to be and to become His Church.  This church, this place you call “Trinity” is really Christ’s church, His voice, and His hands His feet that are used to seek out and save those who appear to us to not yet be part of His flock.  So, I hope that by now you can see that there is a very necessary relationship between the Great Shepherd, His under shepherds, and His sheep.

When Christ returned to heaven He had installed the apostles as His messengers and ambassadors. They were to continue His work, speak in His name, and forgive sins on His behalf.  And today, the Good Shepherd continues His work through the many shepherds; men whom He has called and commissioned, not only the apostles but also the countless number of men who have followed them as called and ordained pastors.

St. Paul speaks of how Christ has given us shepherds and teachers for the building up of His church, until we all attain the unity of the faith. [Ephesians 4:11]  He says to the “elders” or pastors at Ephesus, “Take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you guardians, to feed the church of the Lord which He obtained with His own blood.” [Acts 20:28]  Peter likewise admonishes the pastors to be shepherds for the flock of God which is under their care in such a manner that they may have their reward from the Chief Shepherd. [1 Peter 5:2]

So it is not a little thing if a called pastor seeks to get along through life as a Lone Ranger-sheep who does not need the help of his brother pastors.  And it is also not a small matter if the entire flock begins to wander from each other and the very means of grace that the Supreme Shepherd has put in place to hold them together as one, and protect them from the attacks of that wolf, the devil.

So it is also, a very important thing, that we constantly pray that the Supreme Shepherd would send us laborers into the harvest field, properly trained and called pastors, and that He would create in us both clean hearts and a desire to help our pastors go out into the mission field, seeking the very large abundance of wandering sheep, who are also frightened and lost.

These lost and wandering sheep are part of us too, whether they see that truth or not.  We know that our God does not wish that any should perish, but that all should repent and have eternal life.  It is not an easy mission that our Good Shepherd has asked us to join Him on.  You see, there are false teachers, hirelings popping up every where, and they are spreading their false teachings, teachings which simply confuse and scatter the wandering sheep even further; further from their Good Shepherd and His church.

So this morning, Christ is renewing His call to you the gathered sheep to be strengthened by His means of Grace, called and equipped in His Word, washed clean in the waters of Holy Baptism, and fed abundantly at His very table of mercy, to go out and gather.  Go out and invite any and all who are lost, found, or somewhere in between to come just as they are and be recreated, renewed, and restored.  We do this because Christ came for them too, and so shall we!

What We Believe About the Resurrection of the Dead

April 3rd, 2016

Easter 2-HL, April 3rd, 2016
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor
Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego, CA

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How are the dead raised?  And what kind of bodies do you think they’ll have when they’re resurrected up to eternal life? These are questions that are asked in the New Testament, and indeed they are questions that folks still ask today.  Listen to the answer that St. John gives in his first epistle: “Beloved, we are God’s children; it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when He appears we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” [1 John 3:2]

“It does not yet appear.”

No one’s ever met a resurrected person, and you won’t until our earthly bodies that we currently live in are completely transformed at the resurrection of the dead.  The perishable must put on the imperishable and the mortal must put on the immortal.

There is only One who has done this.  At only one moment in history has this transformation been seen as a visible and tangible reality.  And this was the resurrection of Christ.  During the forty days after Easter the disciples met Him again and again in His resurrected form.

And “we know that we shall be like Him.”

Christ is “the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep,” the beginning of His church and His people.  Already we are members of His body.  We live by the bread which comes down from heaven, and one day we shall be partakers of His new, immortal life.

What kind of body did the Savior have after the resurrection?

Well, He wasn’t a spirit.  He had a real body that could be touched and seen.  Thomas was permitted to reach out his hand and touch the wounds that had been left by the nails.  He spoke with them as He had done before.  He ate in their presence.

But even though His presence was real, it was still not just an earthly body.  He could walk through closed doors.  He could vanish from their sight.  He could come to them when and how He wished.

The most important thing the Bible says about His resurrected body is this: “We know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.”  You see, He had clothed Himself with a body that belongs to the kingdom of God and to eternity.

There are “spiritual” bodies and “heavenly bodies,” just as real as ours, but they are free from our diseases, our pain, and our mortality.  Therefore that body is called a “glorified body.”  And to partake of Christ is to possess a “glorified body,” that is, to have His promise is to have a part in His life and to become like Him.  “For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep.”  Christ, “will change our lowly body to be like His glorious body, by the power which enables Him even to subject all things to Himself.”

But how can we know that we are part of the lowly bodies that will be changed by Christ and subjected to His Kingdom of love?  Well what does our Epistle lesson say?

“For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world.”

Wasn’t it in your baptism where you were assured that you were born of God?  Weren’t you baptized into His name, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?  Was it not first there in those holy waters where the water, the blood, and God’s own Spirit testified to you that you were now His child through Christ with whom He was well pleased?

And what were you given there in those holy waters?  You were given two things; first you were given a new name and identity and second you were given the gift of faith; faith to believe that all that God speaks to you is true.  This faith is what overcomes the condemnation of the world.  Faith grabs hold of God’s own pronouncement of forgiveness of sins through Christ and it teaches you to see that this forgiveness even applies to your most grievous sins.  Who is it that overcomes the world?  It is you who believe that Jesus is the Son of God, crucified, resurrected, and ascended for you!

On the evening of the resurrection of our Lord, the apostles and disciples were hiding behind locked doors, because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders.  The fear was this, as Christ died so surely must the disciples follow in kind.  Wouldn’t you be afraid?  And to this fear, Jesus appeared in their midst out of no where.  And what did He say to them?  Did He say, “Oh you miserable cowards.  Why did you abandon me at the cross?  Why are you hiding from mere men?  Shouldn’t it be God the Son that you should be afraid of?” No, that is not what He said.  But what did He say?  He said, “Peace be with you.”

Jesus is the only one who can both speak peace and give it.  His peace is perfect and it surpasses all of our understanding.  As He speaks, so He acts, and act He did.  What He did next is what He still does today.  “Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”  And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.” [John 20:21-23]

In your baptism, you were given both the desire and the ability to forgive others just as you have been forgiven.

Jesus has given all of His disciples what the church has historically called “the Power of the Keys.” While it is true that only God can forgive sins (Mark 2:7), you can rest easy knowing that God hasn’t given away that authority to us His disciples who make up the church. It is still Jesus who dismisses and who holds sins, yet by this act of His, He empowered His disciples, He empowered you as His agents—He speaks and acts through us. So we are by this very commission bound to forgive or not forgive sins completely in accordance with the will of Jesus. We can forgive, even better, we must forgive the sins of any and all persons who repent and believe, even if we don’t want to.  And conversely, we must hold the forgiveness of sins of all those who will not confess their sinful thoughts, words, and deeds by faith in the forgiving name of Jesus Christ.

Why do you suppose Jesus gave us this authority?  Did He also give us the ability to look into a person’s heart with direct and infallible vision so we could expose all of the hypocrites?  No, remember, His is a Kingdom of love and mercy.  He gave us this commission, so that we would live a life worthy of our calling as redeemed and forgiven sinners in both our confession of faith through words and our confession of faith in action, that is how we live our lives. And He gave us this commission so that we could be empowered to live lives that declare as a witness to all…

Christ has risen!  And as He has risen so shall I, and as I shall be raised to eternal life so can you, if you see a need and desire to believe in such a Savior as Jesus Christ the Son of God.  Repent then and be baptized, believe and become, persist and be resurrected unto eternal life in paradise.  Christ is risen… AMEN!


March 27th, 2016

Easter Sunday, March 27h , 2016
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor
Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego, CA

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Here is a truth that you will hear proclaimed over and over again for at least the next six weeks: “Christ is risen.  He is risen indeed!”  Indeed, that is the whole point of not just the season of Easter, but also the reason why both the church and you and I are still here.   We exist today to both live out and proclaim the truth that Christ has risen.  Here’s another truth that you won’t hear many people proclaim: The resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ came as a complete surprise to not only his disciples, but even to His most blessed apostles.  Even though He had told them in many different ways that it would happen, they were not only “not prepared” for it, they didn’t believe it or couldn’t believe it when it happened.

The gospels witness this truth of surprise and disbelief for us; even our reading this morning in Mark 16:1-7.

The disciples and the apostles were confronted with the truth of the resurrection, and they were left in total confusion.  In the gospels we are not shown a group of Christians who jubilantly rushed to the tomb to confirm and celebrate, but instead we see a group of disturbed people confused and bewildered by what they thought were only rumors and misleading testimonies.  It was anything and every thing except what it should have been… Good News!

The women came to the tomb at dawn and found the tomb empty.  Mary Magdalene rushed away in confusion and brought Peter and John.  Meanwhile, the others met angels and heard the heavenly report, and then in their state of surprise, they went back into the city so excited and disturbed that they scarcely dared to tell the unbelievable news.

John and Peter came to the tomb and found the grave clothes and an empty tomb.  Only John had the feeling that something significant had happened.  Mary stood outside the tomb weeping, wondering who took the body of her Lord.  And there she met the resurrected Lord Himself, and with the help of the Lord she finally recognized Him.

Soon after this Jesus showed Himself also to the women who were on their way into the city.  And at last the whole group of disciples had heard the truth that Jesus had predicted many times before His death had finally come to fruition.

But even as they heard the proclamation they did not believe because they would not believe, and so they dismissed the report as simply idle talk.

Throughout the day Jesus sought out one after the other of His doubting disciples.

First it was Peter, then Cleopas and his friend on the way to Emmaus, and at last in the evening He greeted the whole group of disciples who were nervously locked together behind closed doors.

Now together with Jesus, their doubts are overtaken with amazement and a thousand questions at least.  The incredible had become a reality and their sadness was turned to joy.  Jesus had made good on His promise.  The impossible would now become their eternal reality… and our reality… Jesus overcame sin, death, and the devil!

This is the way it always happens when a group of eyewitnesses tell about some amazing and unexpected occurrence.

It is exactly the discernible surprise, the amazement, the confusion, and the many unexplained connections among the various gospel accounts to the truth and reality of it all, that we would expect to be reported.  If the story was made up, we would never find all of these strange and even embarrassing accounts, but as the reality of a historic event, this is exactly what we find!

The resurrection witnesses knew what they had to share… the whole truth and nothing but the truth, because it wasn’t their truth you see, it was the truth of God.  They were prepared to endure the scorn and ridicule that would come from the accusation that they had made the whole thing up.  They knew that they would have to face persecution.  In fact, the persecution they faced would come quickly in the form of beatings, crucifixions, stonings, and other barbaric forms of death, all because they refused to recant.

And what was the reason for their refusal to recant their witness to the resurrection of Jesus Christ?  “For we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” Acts 4:20

We all know, truthfully, just how small and insignificant we are without Jesus; without the Easter truth. We know how faithless we can be without God’s work in our lives.

For those of us who are still being moved to walk with and trust in Jesus real presence in our lives, we can truly say that we find our strength and our meaning in Him and His Word.  It’s His Word that’s our shield and our strength.  It’s His Word that gives our lives purpose and meaning.  As we live our lives here among people who we love but who are dying without faith in Jesus, we can only wait and trust that God will do the same work within them that He is doing within us.  And as we wait, we remember that we are the Lord’s little lambs and His servants.

We hear Him call out to us and we follow.  He faithfully leads us and feeds us with His Word as we repeat only what He speaks to us.  We hear His voice and we trust in none other.  And that voice faithfully gathers us to this place so that we can come to be faith-filled.  Thanks be to God!  Christ is risen, He is risen INDEED… Alleluia!!

What Is So Good About Good Friday?

March 25th, 2016

Good Friday, March 25th , 2016
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor
Trinity Lutheran Church,|
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego, CA

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“For if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.” [Galatians 2:21]

INTRODUCTION: Through the words of our text, St. Paul argues that being right with God can not come through what we think, say, and do at all, but instead, this status can only come through Christ’s passion.  For you see, if we ourselves could have atoned for our own sins or if we could have repented by ourselves so that we might somehow become worthy to enter the kingdom of God, then God could have spared His own Son and spared Him from having to drink the bitter cup of our salvation.

I. But since God did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, we can, each of us, be assured that there was no other way for Him to win us for Himself.

A. Holy Scripture testifies over and over again that Christ suffered and died that horrible death for us ungodly, sinful, and filthy creatures.  Why?  So that God could make us godly, righteous, and cleansed creatures through Jesus!  And so, we have been redeemed, brought back to God and made right with Him by the suffering, passion, and death of His Son.

B. Through His death on the cross, Jesus made a way out of no way for us, back to His Father.  By His death upon the cross, Christ disarmed the powers and principalities that once held us in the bondage of sin, death, and the devil, which without Christ’s death would hold us helpless and hopeless for eternity.

II. The atonement and passion of Christ as we stated two weeks ago in our Sunday message, is the most important teaching of the Gospel. And because of its importance we must repeat it often, even tonight: Christ died for our sins!

A. Holy Scripture also adds a very important addendum to this declaration: “We are convinced (that is we have been convinced and are still being convinced by the Word of God) that One has died for all; therefore all have died (in Christ).” [2 Corinthians 5:14]

B. Christ has died as our substitute; He died as your substitute.  It was your sins that He bore upon the cross.  That’s why His death is of vital concern to you.  He was wounded for your transgressions.  And by His stripes you are healed.  On the cross He tasted death, eternal death, and upon that tree of woe He had to experience for the first time what it means to be forsaken by God; what it feels like to be cast away from His presence and have both the Father and the Spirit ripped away from Him.

C. As St. Paul says in Romans 8, “Christ became a curse for us.”  And by this, He redeemed us from the curse of the law.  So in Christ’s Kingdom there is no more condemnation, because Christ took that also upon Himself for you.

III. The assurance that this passion of Christ really is for your salvation is given to you in the waters of your own baptism.

A. There you were baptized into the death of Christ and there you became a partaker of all that He has won for you through His suffering, death, and resurrection.  So, for this reason you must remember that your baptism isn’t just something nice that was done for you long ago, but rather it was the beginning of a life that is still being lived today, and it’s being lived out in fellowship with the crucified Christ.

B. To live as a baptized Christian then is to live by faith as one who has died with Christ; that is, your sinful nature has been destroyed, but then as we will celebrate in two more days on Easter Sunday, you have also been raised with Christ, that is your redeemed nature is now your eternal nature if you will but continue to receive this truth, this work of Christ by faith.

So, to live as a baptized Christian is to live “by faith in the Son of God, who loved you and gave Himself for you!”

CONCLUSION: Even though the death of Christ is the most earthshaking event in history, it is also a constant source of assurance, joy, and thanksgiving.  Why?  Because Christ died forsaken on the cross.  And because of His death, no one who trusts in Him and His cross need ever fear that He will die forsaken by God.

Because on Good Friday Christ bore the sins of the world, He bore your sins so that you can live however many days God has granted to you as His child of faith, by faith in Him who died for you!

What Is This Meal?

March 24th, 2016

Maundy Thursday, March 24th , 2016
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor
Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego, CA

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[John 6:35-51] Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe.  All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.  For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.  And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of hall that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.  For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.”  They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?”  Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves.  No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.  It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me—not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father.  Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life.  Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die.  I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

Listen again to these Words…

“I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever.” [John 6:51a]

Those words declare a bold truth; one which summarizes all that Holy Scripture teaches: In Christ is true life that even death can’t touch; there is forgiveness in plenty which forgives everyone who sees a need for and desires this forgiveness. In Christ is the very righteousness God demands we have as His children, and it is a righteousness that Christ freely gives to us, and we should want it, because it covers all of our sins.  All of this Christ protects and gives to everyone who is moved by the Spirit of God through the Word of God to believe in this exclusive means of grace.  It is this gift of faith that signifies that we have become so intimately united with Christ in Baptism that He now lives within us and gives us a portion of all that He possesses as the very Son of God.

Tonight, Jesus declares to us, that “the bread that He gives, He gives for the life of the world in His flesh.”

This doesn’t simply mean that Christ has died and given His body upon the cross, but that He now after His blessed resurrection grants to each of us something of Himself and His eternal life.  When Jesus says that “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise Him up at the last day,” He doesn’t mean His earthly body, but His “glorified body” which to us, is a mystery.  This is one reason we call this meal a sacrament, because it is a mystery to us how His body and blood can be together, in, with, and under the bread and wine.  Somehow, in a way that is outside of our ability to understand, Christ’s glorified body is bound together with the new life that only the Kingdom of God can give.

So the Lord’s Supper is “food indeed and drink indeed” for our souls. [1 Corinthians 10:16]  The cup of blessing that is blessed by your pastor gives to each of us a participation in the Lord’s body and blood.  When we have received this gift in faith, then we are one with Christ and each other; He’s in us and we’re in Him, and together we have the promise of eternal life through Him.  And in this meal we are one with all of the others who also eat and drink this real food at the Lord’s table.

All of us participate in this one bread, which makes us members of one and the same body.

We also together as one, bear witness before those who do not come forward to the altar.  We bear witness to Christ’s death for them also.   We also understand that Christ was very serious when He said: “Do this.”  The earliest Christians celebrated the Lord’s Supper every Sunday, and maybe even more than that.  “The breaking of the bread” was valued as one of the most essential doctrines that must be observed and defended if a Christian wanted to be kept safe in the Christian faith.

As always is the case in this sinful world of sinful men and women, at various times, abuses and carelessness were found in the way the meal was celebrated.  St. Paul warns those who do this that “Any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon themselves.” [1 Corinthians 11:29]  Within this warning, we must be moved to protect ourselves from all things that may lead to a lack of repentance or a lackadaisical manner in which we might approach the Lord’s table; in other words, we must never approach our Lord’s table as we would the drive up window at a fast-food restaurant.

We must also understand that this judgment that Paul refers to does not mean condemnation and damnation, but the punishment of God, which is suppose to lead us to repentance.  For “when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.” [1 Corinthians 11:32]

Finally, Holy Communion is instituted for the disciples of Jesus.

Notice I did not say that it was instituted only for worthy guests.  No one who comes to His table is worthy, but everyone who comes to believe in the Word of Jesus is His disciple, and this is a status that the Holy Spirit Himself renews constantly through the Word of God, which gives and strengthens faith.

When you approach our Lord’s Table this evening, take note who also approaches and kneels with you… other unworthy disciples, saved the very same way you are being saved: Through grace alone, by faith alone, through Scripture alone, and all of this through Christ alone.  Like Peter, we too have proven our unworthiness by at times and perhaps many times, denying our Lord in thought, word, and deed.

None of us deserves to come to His table… no not one.  But what we must guard ourselves from is a spirit or a manner of coming that does not allow Christ to be Lord of His own meal and His own sacrament, and instead places us as the interpreter of what this meal is.

In order to be proper guests then, we must examine ourselves and judge ourselves properly… we all are unworthy!  When we have done this, then we must not stay away, but confess our sins, trust in Christ alone, and then eat of the bread and drink of the cup for forgiveness of sins, strengthening of faith, and as a memorial to our Lord Jesus Christ until He comes again.

Let Our Hosannas Ring!

March 20th, 2016

Palm Sunday, March 20th , 2016
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor
Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego, CA

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“As for you also, because of the blood of my covenant with you, I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit. Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope; today I declare that I will restore to you double. ” [Zechariah 9:11, 12]

This morning, as we begin Holy Week, God wants us to ask this question about Jesus: “Who is He to me?”  Prophet yes, but also so much more!  In His  flesh a man, but not just a man; no, because you see He is also God… the living Word of God to be exact!  This is Jesus, our Prophet, our Priest and our  King!  This is the One who has come and is coming; He is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!  He is the one who comes with all of God’s power  and authority.  Why?  Because He is God!  He is the one who comes to us humbly, mounted upon a donkey.  He comes with compassion and mercy, but  He also comes to judge and punish.  He is a God of contrasts, a God who comes to kill and make alive; to wound and to heal.  And when He acts, none  can deliver out of His hands!” Deuteronomy 32:39]

Throughout the Old Testament, we seem to be reminded of one thing over and over again: God hates sins; big sins and little sins, all sin makes God angry with humankind. But why was God always so angry with His chosen people, the Israelites?

Again it was their sinfulness.  What was their sin that angered Him so strongly that He would judge, punish, wound and kill?  It was the sin of worshiping false Gods!  They did it in the past when they longed to return to Egypt as slaves, just so they could get their fill of the food they were accustomed to eating.  They did it when they tried to replace Moses as their leader, because they didn’t like the message He declared.  And of course they did it when they created the golden calf to worship.  For these sins and many others, God seems to fill the pages of our Old Testament with warnings that He is going to judge His people.  In Deuteronomy 32, God challenges the Israelites to turn to their false gods, their false means of hope for protection from His anger.  Listen to how God mocks their false gods: “Then (God) will say, ‘Where are their gods, the rock in which they took refuge”. [vs. 37]

Throughout the Old Testament, God reminded the Jews then and He reminds us today of our sinful tendency to set up false gods to worship and follow.  He reminds us in order to warn us.  “Return to the Lord your God, for He is faithful in steadfast love!”

What false gods do we set up in our lives?  Before you answer, remember that we are all by nature sinful and unclean. We are just like the Israelites in the Old Testament, prone to wander.  One of the ways we wander from God is when we place our hope and trust in human authority and government.  When we listen to and trust the word of man more than the living Word of God.

Another false god in our lives can be found in our own self-sufficiency.  Maybe you’ve experienced this sin as I have?  It happens when we find ourselves trusting our own resourcefulness instead of having complete trust and confidence in God.

Another false god that we must consider is our family.  While it’s true that love for family is important, sometimes we can love them more than the God who gives us our family.  Sometimes our love for our children or other family members can lead us to do things that we know are wrong.

Finally, another false god can be the very comfort that God’s blessings bring to those of us who are part of Christ’s church.  We who are Christ’s body have been blessed with eternal life, washed clean in the waters of our baptism.  We enjoy a certain peace of mind and soul that no other person outside of grace can ever experience.  We are daily protected from the attacks of the devil and we have prospered.  We love our comfort and long for more of God’s blessings yet we ignore the leading of the very God who provides all of this for us.  How do we ignore Him?  By forgetting that we too need to cry out to Him like the crowds on the first Palm Sunday, Hosanna!  We need to live a life that demonstrates praise to our Savior God and to Him alone!

All of these sins and many more are precisely what our text in Zechariah calls the waterless pit; a pit that holds us in bondage.  God has set you free from this pit of sins, and within our readings He tells you precisely how He has done this; He has allowed you to know Him in love and mercy.  And when you know Him this way, you become overtaken by His power, which transforms you from the inside out.

But how do we know God as He truly is?  We know God by knowing Jesus!

By knowing who Jesus is for us and who He is for our neighbor our lives will be transformed!

God wants us to know that Jesus is more than just His Son; He wants us to know that He is also our brother.  He wants us to know that Jesus is at all times both God and man.  He is eternal; He is the Son of God, who together with the Father and the Holy Spirit are eternally worshiped and glorified, yet… Jesus was also born of the Virgin Mary.  What a mystery… God was born!  But even more mysterious, Jesus died… the God who is eternal and cannot die did in fact die—but not just any death… He died upon the cross.  He died the death of a slave, the death of a condemned criminal.

And to all of this truth, our sinful minds cry out, “But how can any of this be?”  But asking how is the wrong question friends.  It is wrong because God’s ways are not our ways; His ways are far above ours.  The right question to ask is why?  If we understand the why, then the how becomes unimportant.  Hosanna!  Hosanna to the Savior God!

When the Son of God took on our flesh to save us, He chose to make Himself nothing by becoming our servant, so that as our servant, He could suffer and die in our place.  The God-man Jesus Christ humbled Himself for you, by dying for you!  From the moment He was conceived by the Holy Spirit He chose to be born in order to die.  Now here is where God’s ways become very mysterious to us; at no time did Jesus cease being God.  Not in the womb and not upon the cross on His way to the tomb.

Out of love for you, Christ put aside His deity and chose to live out your humanity.  At any time He could have walked away from our flesh, but if He would have done that, then He could not have paid the penalty for your sins.  If He would have allowed His angels to save Him from your death, the death that you should die, then He could not have won salvation for you!

Dear friends, by taking on your flesh and dying your death for your sins, Jesus became your Warrior King.

When He rode into Jerusalem that first Palm Sunday, He indeed rode in as a warrior king.  But not the type of warrior king the people expected.  Warrior kings ride in on strong stallions, suited with armor and with sword and shield in hand.  But Jesus rode in on a donkey armed with only our flesh, our mind, and our sin.

He who is Spirit and truth, and without sin took on our flesh and our sins so that He could fight and win for us!  But these strange weapons were exactly what He needed to defeat sin, death, and the devil.  They were in keeping with the work that He came to do.  He didn’t come to conquer nations or empires; He came to conquer your sin.  This was God’s means of waging war against our enemies.

Jesus had to be our substitute, and He could only do this by being obedient to the Father’s will; by suffering and dying to pay for our sins.  And make no mistake friends; He could not have done this without His full deity.  He had to attach the full weight of God to His human flesh in order to be obedient unto death, even death upon the cross.  And as we will proudly proclaim and celebrate next week on Easter morning, He must have all of His deity in order to rise from the dead.  Even in death, Jesus was mighty God so that by His death and resurrection we could be assured of the very same thing happening for us.  Hosanna!  Hosanna to our Savior King!

Dear friends, by knowing and believing in this truth our hearts can’t help but cry out Hosanna!  We will naturally cry out Hosanna when we know who our true Savior King is and how and for whom He came to save.  He came to save you dear friends, but not just you… He came to save your neighbor.

And so now, you have a message to declare… you have a story to tell.  It’s a story that God wants you to share with as many people as possible.  But what shall you tell them?  Tell them that they have a God who comes to them as a Savior; a Savior who put Himself to death so that they could live.  Tell them that by putting Himself to death for them God was able to heal the sins of the entire world… even their sins.  He is our true God and all that He asks from us in return is that we would worship Him and Him alone.  He asks us to trust only in His love for us and then rest in His presence and protection.

Friends, it’s no wonder that the crowds came out on that first Palm Sunday shouting “Hosanna in the highest!  I pray that each of us will be moved to praise Him as well and share that message with whoever God puts in our path.  Let’s try to remember each day that it is the Lord alone who delivers us from all of our enemies, even sin, death, and the devil.  Let’s try to thank Him each day that He has not only given us grace, but also the faith to believe that Jesus died for each of us.

So it’s true, by the blood of a new and superior covenant, Christ has set each of you free.  By grace, which is yours only through His blood shed for you He shows you how your freedom was purchased.  By the washing of the water and His Word in your own baptism He shows you that you have been personally delivered from this bondage.

And to this good news, we can’t help but say hosanna to our Savior God because it is He alone who saves us; He saves us from all harm.  He has defeated all of our enemies.  His name is great, and His name is Jesus, the most beautiful name that has ever been spoken.  And at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.  AMEN!

On Christ’s Atonement

March 13th, 2016

5th Sunday in Lent-HL, March 13th , 2016
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor
Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego, CA

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“Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me.  Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word.” [John 8:42, 43]

Indeed, why are there still so many people today, who can not bear to hear Christ’s Word?  Even those who claim to be Christian reject large portions of His Word, which they claim are cultural and do not apply to today’s “progressive” society.  Why is this?  Could it be that they have rejected God’s demand that they allow the Word of God to have mastery over them?  Could it be that they do not wish to have complete dependency on Christ and His complete payment for our sins?  Or maybe they find the doctrine of Christ’s atonement for sin to be far too bloody and messy for their neat and ordered lives.  Or perhaps they resent the atonement because it completely negates their best efforts at living a successful life and instead insists that all of their self-worth must rest instead, entirely upon Jesus Christ and Him crucified?

In our world today we can draw a simple line of demarcation, which divides all of the worlds population into only two groups: Those who trust and live out Christ’s atonement for their sins, and those who reject it.

Looking at the large number of the religions in the world helps us understand this truth a little bit better.  There is of course Christ’s church and we who are called Christian, but right alongside of us we see and live with folks who are Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, and members of various other pagan religions.  What we must never forget as we are living our lives in this virtual sea of religions, is that there really are only two religions.  There are religions of the Law, that is, people who try to appease and angry God by doing and living the best they can, and the religion of the Gospel, that is the belief, that God’s anger and hatred over sin has been appeased by the vicarious atonement/sacrificial death of His Son, Jesus Christ.  Sadly, even in Christ’s church today, God’s solution to our sins, that is the message of the gospel, is not accepted as readily and easily as we would think.

Today, within the body of Christ we see divisions everywhere we look.  These divisions can be attributed to either a complete rejection of the atonement of Christ, or a surrender of any part of that doctrine, which only in it’s entirety can bring peace to sinners through God’s chosen means of grace.  So how did this happen in Christ’s church?  Well, it happened through false doctrine.

Through false prophets and apostles, our enemy the devil has been able to infiltrate the body of Christ and lead many astray with a false gospel of works righteousness.  You can identify this false gospel whenever you hear folks preach or teach anything that they claim to be essential, which consists of Jesus and this way of living or that way of worshiping.  They are the Jesus plus this or that crowd.  These false teachers have been unfaithful to the pure Word of God, and in the name of the Christian religion they have spread their false teachings, and they have grown like a cancer throughout the body of Christ.  Through the teachings of these children of the devil, the word of men has been elevated over the pure and simple Word of God, which is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Now this truth defines both the challenge of the church today and the intent of our message this morning.  Through the preaching and teaching of the Word of God, and through your faithful witnessing to this simple gospel, which is the complete dependency on the teaching of Christ’s atonement for all sins, we’ve been called to help people think theologically, or think as God speaks so that others can find freedom in the atonement of Christ too.

This morning, Jesus says to us, “Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” [John 8:51]  Now, what is that Word that Jesus asks us to guard?  It is all that the doctrine of Atonement presents through out Holy Scripture.

Jesus Word teaches us to cling to His life giving, sin forgiving Word so that we will avoid eternal judgment and receive eternal life.  It is that Word, which teaches that sin must be paid for or atoned for, and it has—through the life and death of our Great High Priest, Jesus Himself.  It was Jesus alone who entered into the heavenly and Most Holy Place and with His own blood and bought for us everlasting redemption. [Hebrews 9:11-15]  Jesus is the One who was before Abraham was, and yet He was also Abraham’s true descendant.  Jesus alone is the promised Son who carries the wood up the mountain for the sacrifice, who is bound and laid upon the altar of the cross.  Jesus is the fulfillment for you of the true ram who is willingly caught within the thicket of your sins and slaughtered in your place.  He alone is the One who wears the crown of thorns upon His head. [Genesis 22:1-14]  Even though the sons of the devil dishonor Jesus, He is vindicated by the Father through the cross as being the only true remedy or atonement for your sins.

This is the message that we must continually read, mark, and inwardly digest as the saving message of the gospel.  It is this message alone that can be brought by Christ alone, which promises that He has already given to you a gift that you can rest all of your hopes and dreams upon; it is a gift that assures you by faith that you will receive the promised eternal inheritance, simply because His death has set you free from the bondage of sin, death, and the devil. [Hebrews 9:15]

The doctrine of Christ’s atonement then forces us to see that our good works, or our attempts to live a good life can never merit what Christ has completely provided for us, which is the forgiveness of sins, all of our sins.  He alone has been appointed as our mediator and willing atoning sacrifice.  This is the simple truth of God, which you are asked to receive and believe by faith.  In your baptism you were washed with this very Word and promise of God; you were sealed within God’s courts above to live a life below that reflects this “justifying faith.”

And this is the faith that saves you; faith, which makes you right with God.  First, you must receive God’s promise and believe that all of the sins of the world were forgiven upon Christ’s cross, and that this promise of forgiveness was given to you personally within the waters of your own baptism.  Second, you must admit that this is a free gift, which you play no part in.  And third, this gift is based solely on Christ’s merits, as the payment for your sins.  In other words, Christ alone is now and always shall be the atoning sacrifice for your sins.

Christ as the atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world has been made once and for all and it never needs to be repeated.  We who were once far away from God are now brought near to Him through the blood of Christ.  He has brought us atonement with God.  Sin has been covered for all who desire to be covered by this sacrifice; for all of us who trust in this sacrifice alone.  So this morning, I declare to you…

This work of Christ must not remain simply a historical fact within your mind. It must become your heart felt truth.  The one in whom God dwells bodily has made peace by the blood of the cross so that all hostility between God and mankind might cease. [Ephesians 2:11-18; Colossians 1:15:22]

This morning, through the Word of God and the faith giving work of the Holy Spirit, God is inviting each of you to embrace the truth that Jesus came to rescue you from your sins so that you might live out your life in peace, the same peace that was the possession of Adam and Eve within the first Paradise before the fall.

Your entire past, present, and future now rests solely by faith upon Christ’s death at Calvary; it rests upon the Lamb who was slain from the foundation of the world. [Revelation 13:8]  The Messiah who died is for you, an absolute necessity and sufficiency no matter what direction in your life you look.  Without Christ’s atonement for our sins, and without Him as our intercessor and provider of a new testament with God, all that was promised to Adam, Abraham, Moses, and the prophets within the Old Testament would be for nothing and a complete mockery.  Without Jesus and His atonement there would be no eternal inheritance, no people of faith called to receive that inheritance, and no hope for a Paradise restored for sinful mankind.  Absolutely everything hinges upon the doctrine of atonement and this Mediator of the New Covenant, Jesus Christ.  It is on His bloody atonement that we must meditate day and night and hang all of our hopes on.

Our message this morning is one that reassures us that our Lord not only defeated our enemies outside of our bodies, but He has also defeated the enemies within us; He has defeated all of our doubts, guilt, and shame.  He has taken our guilt and shame into Himself and buried them in His own tomb, the one place that God the Father will not look, so that we can stand innocent and righteous before God’s throne of grace.  By taking our place, or by taking our sins into another place, His own body, Jesus has established Himself as Lord over our sins.  He alone has the ability to eliminate our past faults and sins.  By absorbing them into Himself, He has consumed them in the fire of His own passion.

You know, we sinners like to think that we can control our present and our future, but one thing we can never think to be able to change is our past.  Our past is set isn’t it?  It is done as we have lived it, good or bad.  But God… God can even change our past.  Jesus alone is Lord of our past.  I pray that you will continue to allow Him to be your Lord of your past, present, and future.  I ask this in Jesus name… AMEN!

Do You Need a Miracle?

March 6th, 2016

4th Sunday in Lent-HL, March 6th , 2016
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor
Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego, CA

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So do you need a miracle? Do you even believe in miracles? We’ve all considered these questions, maybe during those times when we’ve had grieving hearts. People sincerely wrestle with this question, and inevitably they’re led to ask, “Why don’t we see miracles today like Jesus use to do in our Gospel lesson?” Why don’t we see miracles performed like the ones the Apostles did, which left the unbelievers in awe because of the “wonders and signs” that were done through them?  The short answer is because, “You and I aren’t Jesus, and, we’re not the apostles.”

The problem with miracles is that we want to control them.  We demand miracles from God at a time when we think is right.  And that time is always when we want them; not when we need them.  When we think like this and act like this, we are simply being true to our nature, our sinful nature, just like the Israelites in our Old Testament lesson. [Exodus 16:2-21]

Here is a truth worth remembering.  All of our wants and desires are tragically wrapped in sin.

All illness, sickness, disease, crime, and heartless behavior has at its very root, sin; Original Sin. Whether it’s the common cold, cancer, crime, heartless behavior, or oppressive governments, they all have at their root a spiritual cause, which is sin.

While we call out to God for a miracle and grow impatient when one doesn’t come as we request, we also ignore the work that God IS doing, and we fail to thank Jesus for the miracles that we already have received through the advances in modern medicine which brings cures, and active and benevolent governments and leaders, which bring peace to our families, communities, and nation.

So, why don’t we see miracles today like we see Jesus performing in our gospel lesson, and those that flowed from the apostles’ hands (Acts 2:43)?

Simply put, Jesus knows our sinful hearts.  We see this truth demonstrated for us through His actions in today’s gospel reading (John 6:1-15), when after He miraculously fed the five thousand, with a few loaves of bread and two fish, He withdrew from the mass of humanity that began flocking towards Him.  “Why” you may ask? Because Jesus knew that their sinful hearts could not see past the miracles.  He knew that they wanted to forcefully take Him and make Him their King so that through Him they might overthrow the Roman government.

We must pause at this point and realize how much we sinners today are so similar to sinners then.  Don’t we still see people using their religion, using their faith as a tool get what they want out of others?  But Jesus is not that kind of King and His miracles are not meant to bring us heaven on earth.  Instead, they are meant to move our hearts by faith to see the promise of heaven beyond earth in the Word of God, even in the midst of pain and suffering.  So we could say that Jesus’ miracles aren’t meant to satisfy our temporary desires, but rather they are meant to open our eyes of faith so that we can see Jesus as the provider of our eternal security. In other words friends, Jesus is the miracle!

Because of His unique nature of being fully man and God, Mary, the most blessed Virgin, didn’t just give birth to an ordinary human being, but instead to a human being who is truly the Son of God the Most High.

Jesus revealed His divine nature when it pleased Him and not when sinful men and women demanded it.  He revealed His true nature not just after his resurrection and ascension, but also many times in the state of his humiliation. Think of all of the miracles He performed.  Water becomes wine, the blind see, the deaf hear, the lame walk, the dead come back to life, He walks on water, calms an angry sea, and in the Garden, with only a Word He struck the guards who came to arrest Him, down to the ground.

Scripture testifies that Jesus is fully man and fully God even in His death.  You see, Jesus didn’t simply die like all other people, but He died in a way that by and in His death He overcame sin, death, the devil, hell, and eternal damnation, which His human nature alone could not have been able to do, had it not been united with His divine nature.

And the miracles of Jesus did not just stop after His resurrection from the dead.  No, again Scripture testifies that after His resurrection, He ascended into Heaven, and He returned to His eternal position where He is forever exalted over all creatures in heaven and on earth. This means that He has laid aside the form of a servant completely (without discarding his human nature, which he retains forever by the way) and He’s been installed into the full possession and use of His divine majesty according to His assumed human nature.  And because He has ascended far above all the heavens, He truly fills all things, and now rules everywhere, not only as God but also as a human being, as your Brother, just as the prophets prophesied and the apostles testified. [Psalm 8:2, 7; 93:1; Zechariah 9:19; Mark 16:19–20]

And now, on the basis of His new nature, Jesus can truly be both God and our Brother who fights for us; He can be truly present with His body and blood in the Holy Supper according to His own words of institution, which He has directed us to repeat as often as we gather in remembrance of Him.

In Jesus the divine and human natures are personally united with each other and in such a way, so that in Him “all the fullness of the deity dwells bodily” (Colossians 2:9).  In this personal union the two natures have such a divine and indescribable communion with each other that even the angels marvel over it and desire and rejoice to look upon it. [1 Peter 1:12]

Dear friends, Jesus was sent to this broken world, He was sent to you, to preach the good news.  And for you, this is the One miracle you truly need, even if you don’t want it.  Do you understand, because Jesus, your sins have been forgiven?

It is through Christ alone, through His innocent bitter suffering and death that He has defeated sin, death, and the devil for you.

As our substitute Jesus suffered the punishment meant for us because of all of the sins we have, are, or ever will commit in our lives. Jesus did this because of His love for sinners; He did it because of His love for you, because He doesn’t want anyone to die in their sins.. Through Jesus’ work on the cross for you, death no longer can hold you down; sin has lost its power to create guilt that can’t be forgiven; and the devil is now a toothless lion who can only roar, because has no teeth to devour you with.  No force in all of creation, not even your grave can hold your body down.

Jesus mission was to preach the good news; good news, which proclaimed that through his suffering and death upon the cross we have complete healing of mind, body, and spirit. And so Jesus also performed miracles, because He is merciful, but also to demonstrate His credentials as the Savior of the world.

Credentials?  Why does the almighty need to show His credentials?  So that when He comes as one of us we would know that He is oh so much more than one of us!  So that you would know that He truly is God in human flesh and that you may believe His Words so that your soul will live and receive complete healing from His greatest act of mercy and healing; His death on the cross in our place for the forgiveness of our sins.

Christ’s Credentials displayed in His mighty work, were also proclaimed by St. Peter in his Pentecost sermon. Listen: “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves know, this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.  God raised Him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for Him to be held by it.” [Acts 2:22-24]

Credentials were also built up and demonstrated by the apostles when they performed miracles as well. Their miracles were centered in God’s mercy as well, but the miracles they performed weren’t meant to bring them glory, but instead they were to glorify God by turning the hearts of sinful men and women towards Christ and His supreme act of mercy upon the cross.   Yes, the miracles were building their credentials, but only so people would listen to them as they spoke by the Holy Spirit the words that Jesus gave them to speak. [John 14:23] St. Paul says: “The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with utmost patience, with signs and wonders and mighty works” (2 Corinthians 12:12).

Now before we close, let’s turn our attention to our Old Testament lesson for today. [Exodus 16:2-21] Let’s think about who Moses was before God called Him.  Moses though born a Hebrew, was raised by the family of Pharaoh, as an enemy of God and His people.  He was disgraced and fled from Pharaoh and God’s people, but he could not flee from God.  God chose lowly and disgraced Moses as the one who would listen to God speak and then repeat His Words to sinful Israel.  Sinful Moses was empowered by God to speak to other sinners and then perform miracles from God, so that the people would be impressed and listen to the Word of God that Moses spoke.  The miracle of manna and quail was done through Moses so that the people would listen to the Word of the Lord he spoke.

You and I have diplomas and certificates that perhaps we frame and hang on our walls. Jesus, as well as His apostles, Moses and the prophets had living breathing credentials for the sole purpose of pointing people to the Word they spoke, because faith only comes by hearing the Word of God, which is the message about the Messiah, Jesus Christ.  [Romans 10:17]

Dear friends, Jesus is both the Bread of Heaven and the Living Word of God.  In Deuteronomy 18:15, Moses speaks about a prophet like himself coming to deliver Israel. In Jesus, One like Moses yet superior to Moses has come.  If we were to judge Moses’ credentials by the miracles he performed, certainly he by far surpasses all other Old Testament prophets. So to fulfill the words of Moses, Jesus performed an even greater abundance of miracles, so that we would know that He is the greater Moses who has redeemed us from our sins.

Yes, dear friends, you do need a miracle; you need this miracle.  You need the greater Moses who has come, born of Mary, suffered under Pontus Pilate, and through the greatest act of mercy ever performed, He died and was buried, but on the third day He rose from the dead, and He was lifted up from the earth that he might draw all men unto himself (John 13:31), to be with Him in Paradise restored, where there will be no need for credentials, miracles, or prayer; only songs of praise and thanksgiving. For there in Paradise restored, Jesus will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things (will) have passed away” (Revelation  21:4).  I pray that you will trust in this miracle that is yours now by faith and yours to come by power in Paradise, and I ask this in Jesus name… AMEN!

Know Your Enemy

February 28th, 2016

3rdSunday in Lent-HL, February 28th , 2016
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor
Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego, CA

Click here for audio of this message

The song you just heard, “Sympathy For the Devil” by the Rolling Stones will be our mental and audio hook to hang our message on.  Contrary to what Mick Jagger just sang, not only does the Devil not want you to identify him, he doesn’t even want you to believe that he’s real.  But Scripture makes it clear that Satan and the devils do exist.  However shocking that may be to some people, we have to get this settled as a fact; you see without this truth being known and believed, we will easily fall for any and all of Satan’s dark traps and illusions. The Devil is mentioned in the Bible’s most important sections, in the Gospels, and in the very words of Jesus; his existence is an entirely unavoidable reality of life.  So, let’s look at first what Jesus says about the Devil, and then will discuss why he isn’t a threat to we who are baptized and trusting in Christ for our complete redemption and salvation.

Jesus often calls the devil Satan.  This is a Hebrew word which means enemy or adversary. Satan really is the enemy of God, and at every turn he fights God and tries to prevent His good purposes, and those purposes of God are to save sinful humankind.

Satan is the source of all evil in the world.  From Him come all of our evil purposes and sinful decisions.  From him came all things that create pain and tragedy; all things that break down bodies and souls, families and whole communities.  It was Satan who put it into the mind of Peter to attempt to persuade Jesus to avoid His trip to Jerusalem where He was to be crucified upon a cross that would ultimately defeat Satan and destroy his claim over you.  It was Satan who put it into the mind of Judas to betray Jesus.  It is he who sows the tares among the good seed of God’s Word.

Satan is also called the devil.  This is a Greek word, which means “the Condemner.”  This name reminds us of another side of his nature.  He accuses us before God.  But the devil doesn’t just accuse us for sport; he accuses us because he is trying to trick us into falling away from God.  He wants us to think that we have disqualified ourselves from God’s mercy because we have sinned beyond God’s grace.  When Satan accuses us in this way, he is showing his evil lust for our souls, in that he is trying to make us turn from God’s Kingdom of grace and power, and then embrace his own kingdom of evil and death, which only is an illusion of power.  He is trying to trick us into thinking that we belong in his kingdom, not God’s.  And if we believe Satan’s lies, that is if we reject God’s truth, we can sadly become what Jesus called “children of the devil” or children of evil who do what their father, the devil, desires.  Therefore Jesus calls him a “murderer from the beginning,” that is, a destroyer of souls that rejoices to bring humankind to destruction.

Here is a truth worth remembering: All of humankind are separated from God at birth, and we are naturally under the dominion of the murderer of souls, Satan.

Jesus called him “the ruler of this world.”  He speaks of the devil’s kingdom and compares Satan to a strong man who guards his household, armed to the teeth, watching over his treasures.  But note the stronger One, Jesus Christ has come and has conquered him and taken from him all his weapons.  That means that Christ has redeemed us from our sins.  The devil has to shut his stinking and accusing mouth around our King Jesus, and he has no claim over we whom Christ has redeemed and claimed as His own.

As the tempter, the Devil can continue trying to entrap and snare us.  But he knows that his days are numbered.  We who believe in Jesus are safe and secure.  But we are not safe and secure because of anything we have done or think we can do, but instead all of our salvation rests solely on what God has done both upon the cross of Christ, and within the waters of our own baptism.

Upon the cross of Christ, God has freed the entire world from the penalty of sin by placing that chastisement upon His Son.  This is a gift that is completely free and universal for all sinful mankind.  But this general gift must become personal for each and every sinner.  And in Holy Baptism God does this very thing; He saves YOU from YOUR sins.

In our Old Testament lesson we see a glimpse of this strategy, when God spares the Israelites who were living in the land of Goshen from the swarms of flies.  He would use this same strategy another time after He sent the angel of death into the land of Egypt to strike down the first born of both humankind and animal kind; all first born accept the homes of the Israelites that applied the blood of a lamb to the door posts of their homes.

In Holy Baptism, in your baptism the blood of The Lamb of God, Jesus Christ was applied to the door post of your very heart and being.  It is a hedge of protection that God has emplaced both around and within you, which tells the devils very clearly, “Hands off; this one is mine!  I have bought this sinner by paying a dear price.”

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” [Ephesians 5:1]

Do you understand that through Christ and your baptism, you are actually a child of the Living God?  And what child who is loved and cared for by their parents, would not want to imitate and learn how to live from them?  So too, we as legitimate sons and daughters of God have both reason and motivation to imitate Him.  We are His beloved children.

How do we imitate God?

We imitate God in love.  As God loves us, so too, we learn to love Him; not with our own natural love but with the superior heavenly born love that He gives to us.  There is a very special model of love we are to mimic and follow and it was spoken of in verse two of our Epistle lesson (Ephesians 5:1-9), listen: “And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

How did Christ show His love for us?  He gave Himself for us.  The Holy Spirit is ever working to cause us to remember this, even in the midst of the terrible attacks of the enemy, He reminds us that God loves us and hasn’t abandoned us.  The Father proves His love for us by sending His only begotten Son to die for us, in our place, so that we too, may each become sons and give ourselves to Him.  The Son of God, Jesus Christ proves His love for us by not only coming to us as one of us, but also dying for us, in our place.  But then He does something marvelous, He takes His life back up again from the dead and ascends back to His Father.  And then He does something wonderful; He promises us that where He goes so too, we shall follow Him and be with Him.

So, “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things (these empty and meaningless words) the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.  Therefore do not become partners with them (don’t mimic them or want to be like them, because that would be going backwards into enslavement); for at one time you were darkness (like them), but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.”  [vs. 6, 7]

You dear saints have been covered in your baptism with Christ’s very own robe of righteousness. To our Heavenly Father, you are that same fragrant offering and sacrifice of Christ that pleases Him so.  That being said…

Why would you want to go back to the stench of sulfur, the smell of the lord of this dark world?  Why would any of us want to turn our backs on the Kingdom of Light only to re-embrace the kingdom of darkness?  In this world, the lord of flies, Beelzebul reigns but only for a time.  His kingdom only exists of death; rotting flesh and flies.

The Kingdom of God is for us the Kingdom of Grace.  It is the rule of God’s grace here on earth, and of power and glory to come for us when we are called to our place of glory in heaven.  It passes far beyond our temporary existence of flesh where sickness and disease exist and it passes into eternity where our inheritance and glory in God’s Kingdom of Glory is waiting.

Unlike kingdoms here in this sinful world, where the kingdom makes the king, in heaven, the King, our King Jesus makes the Kingdom.  We haven’t been invited and accepted into His Kingdom as subjects, but rather we will be welcomed as heirs, joint heirs with Jesus; that means that we have an inheritance waiting for us in Christ’s Kingdom. [Romans 8:17]

Dear friends, don’t let the devils deceive you. Don’t think for one moment that the devils may not be watching you.  “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” [1 Peter 5:8]  But don’t look for a scary red skinned demon with horns.  That is simply a fairytale depiction for weak minds.  Instead, be on the lookout for regular folks that are either flirting with the kingdom of darkness or may even have both feet firmly planted there.  They are the tools that Satan will use to entice you to first doubt His existence, and ultimately the very person of Jesus Christ, your Champion who freed you from that world.

May this knowledge of the enemy and the greater knowledge of your Lord Jesus keep your hearts and minds in the peace and power of God until the day He calls you home to receive the inheritance He has prepared for you.  I ask this, in the name of Jesus… AMEN!