Holy, Holy, Holy Triune God

May 22nd, 2016

Trinity Sunday-HL, May 22nd, 2016
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor
Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego, CA

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“Whoever wants to be saved must, above all, hold the catholic faith. Whoever does not keep it whole and inviolate will doubtless perish eternally.  This, however, is the catholic faith: that we worship one God in trinity and the Trinity in unity, neither confusing the persons nor dividing the substance.” [Introduction to the Creed of Athanasius]

That dear friends is the truth that the historic Christian church has always declared and always defended.  There’s just one problem though, and it’s a big problem; by nature, we don’t like to hear God’s truth because…

We are people of unclean lips, and we dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips. And in the revelation of the One true God in Trinity and unity, we see the King, our King, the LORD of hosts and we know that because of our sin, we must die.

We know that we must die because unclean lips are only the symptom of the true disease… our hearts themselves are sinful and unclean.  We have done things we should not do and we fail to do the things we know we must do.  What we fail to do is to love God with our whole heart, soul, and mind, and we fail to love our neighbor as our self.

But God has sent His servants to you to declare a way out this sinful mess; a way out of no way.  His servants have been called to teach you of God’s solution; to repeat the solution over and over. But to receive the solution and live you must receive the God who gives this gift.  The solution is the hot coal of Holy Baptism that works to take away your sin; to wash you with simple water and the purifying flame of the Holy Spirit of God.  But our sinful nature scoffs at such a simple solution to our sin problem.  Simple?

God’s solution may seem simple to sinners such as ourselves; it may even seem to good and easy to be true, but behind the simple water and the mysterious work of the Holy Spirit is the life and death of the very Son of God, Jesus Christ.

This Jesus, whom you crucified with your sins, suffered and died for the sins of the world.  On Good Friday, God in human flesh, our flesh did something that is impossible for our created sinful minds to comprehend… He died.  God who is eternal, immortal, invincible, did the impossible… He died.  Now before you say, “No, it was only Jesus body that died” remember, Jesus’ two natures are forever connected; that is they can never and will never be disconnected.

So on Good Friday, because Jesus died, God died.

“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?”  [Romans 11:33-36]  Indeed, how unsearchable and inscrutable He is, unless He reveals Himself to us.  While we can never give a gift to God that would put Him in our debt, He has given us one; through the giving of His Son upon the cross, He also allows us to know Him as He is.

He is one God in trinity and the Trinity in unity.

Let’s get one thing stated from the beginning: The word “Trinity” won’t  be found in the Bible.  But the name of the Triune God is found in two of the most important passages of the New Testament.  The first one is the baptismal command of our Lord, which we have by command repeated for all when they are baptized in the “name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” [Matthew 28:19]  And the second is the apostolic benediction which has so many times been spoken to us: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” [1 Corinthians 13:13]

When we speak of the Trinity, we must first remember what the Bible so often insists, that God in His nature is inscrutable and incomprehensible.  No one comprehends the thought of God except the Spirit of God.  [1 Corinthians 2:11]  What we know about the Trinity of God is simply what He has revealed to us.  It is not a matter of logical deductions or deep philosophical thought.  The simple truth is that what we know about God is only a fragment.  About this fragmentary knowledge we must say, as of all such knowledge, that we cannot always fit it together into a logical and systematic doctrine that has no mysteries.  We neither can nor need to fill in the revelation with our own theories.  We can only confirm what God has already said about Himself.

God’s Word insists, first of all, that God is One.  This was the core of the creed of Israel: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is One Lord.” [Deuteronomy 6:4]  Jesus says that this is the first pillar of the law of God. [Mark 12:29]  The apostles claim the same as the most certain doctrine of all the faith, God is One.  We know that there is only One God.

But it is just as clear in the Scriptures that there is a triune nature in God’s being, which is so essential and so profound that it can only be expressed by our word “person.”  By person we mean, a being that possess both will and self-consciousness.  This is why Jesus speaks of His thoughts and His will, just as the Scriptures speak of the Word of the Spirit, His comfort and warning, His decisions and His intervention.  Both the Son and the Spirit speak with the Father.  And yet the Son and the Spirit are inseparably bound together with the Father.  They are One.  How this can be is one of the many mysteries of God, a mystery which we cannot possibly understand completely.

Both the Son and the Spirit are as eternal as the Father is eternal.  They were both present in the beginning and shared in the creation of the world.  They are just as divine as the Father Himself.  Therefore Christ has received the name of God, the Lord, and is worshiped as God by the disciples.  So, the Word of the Spirit is God’s Word, and when the Spirit witnesses, God Himself speaks.

People usually first know something of the being of God the Father.  He can be traced in the world of nature and in all the good gifts He gives to us.  Christ too can be describe as a tangible figure, without too much difficulty.  We understand that He is the Word that became flesh.  But in regards to the Holy Spirit, as we discussed for the last two weeks, things get a little harder for our small, created minds to understand.  The Spirit lives and is at work in the church, in Word and Sacrament; He works to point our hearts and minds to Christ.  Therefore it is in the New Testament that we find the clearest report of Him.  Yet still today, no one can truly know the Holy Spirit except as He lives in the life of the church and as He uses the means of grace to work upon our hearts.  It is then that we first learn to know the Triune God—in as far as it is possible to know Him from this side of glory.

And that is why you are here today; you are here to know who God is through the proclamation of His Word, a word about His Son Jesus Christ.

As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness to save sinful Israel from the venom of vipers, which was God’s punishment for their willful disobedience and their stubborn sinful natures, so the Son of man was lifted up for you upon the cross, for the sins of the world. [John 3:1-16]

Unless you are born again in the washing of the water and the Word you cannot see the kingdom of God.  And even now, as your sinful nature is struggling with these truths of God because they are so beyond your comprehension, even now as that nature is silently asking, “How can these things be?” God is answering you with the next two verses that follow our gospel reading found in vs. 16 and 17: “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.”

And now you know the rest of the story… God loves the world, He loves you, because He exists in a unified love for Himself.  The Father loves the Son and the Son loves the Father, and together they love the Holy Spirit who because of divine love, desires to come to you and share God’s love with you.  But if it simply ended with you, where would the love of God be for the rest of the world that is lost in sin and death.  No, the love of God can not stop with us, it must proceed out of us and to our neighbor so they too may be born of water and the Spirit and recreated in love.

“Oh the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!  For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things.  To Him be glory forever.  AMEN!

Now, may “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”  AMEN!

Witnessing Jesus Part 2

May 15th, 2016

Pentecost Sunday-HL, May 15th, 2016
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor
Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego, CA

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“And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” [Acts 2:21]

That dear friends was the whole purpose of the miraculous gift of the Holy Spirit on the first Pentecost of the New Testament church… so that all would be moved to call upon the name of the Lord and be saved.  But everyone does not call upon the name of the Lord, and here is why…

Because we are fallen, sinful creatures separated from the Creator with no true desire if left on our own, to ever get back to Him on His terms and be right with Him.

In our Old Testament lesson (Genesis 11:1-9) we see just how true that statement is.  These people who are building a name for themselves are just a few centuries old after the flood.  We are told that the whole world had a single language. Since all people came from the family of Noah, it makes sense that their vocabulary would be the same. While it was true that their language hadn’t changed, their attitudes towards God certainly had—and not for the better.

Noah’s descendants started out well. From Armenia, where many believe the ark had come to rest, they journeyed down into the Tigris-Euphrates valley, often referred to as Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq). The direction of their migration was to the southeast; in the Bible it’s described as “eastward,” because the Hebrew language only had expressions for the four points of the compass.

“They found a plain in Shinar and settled there.” A well-watered plain would naturally look good to farmers, and in disobedience to God, they decided to stop their migration and settle down. It didn’t matter to them that God had said, “Be fruitful and multiply.  Fill the earth!” They answered: “Why should we? It doesn’t get any better than this spot!”  They had forgotten that even that spot belonged to God.

The settlement they planned to establish was not a temporary one either. Remember they said, “Let us build ourselves a city,” that sounds pretty permanent. And the materials they chose also make it pretty clear that this settlement was meant to last for a long time. Instead of sun-dried clay, they chose fire-hardened brick for their building project, with tar for mortar instead of the customary mud. And look at the stated purpose of their building project: “so that we may make a name for ourselves.”

“Glory to man in the highest!” They turning God’s plan for us upside-down. They rejected his goal for their lives (to glorify God), and substituted it with a goal of ther own. Sustenance (food and shelter), security, status—these were the life goals the descendants of Noah had adopted to replace God’s call to glorify Him alone as provider and sustainer of all these things and indeed, their very lives.

It shouldn’t surprise us that God through the Holy Spirit intervened in judgment to stop their building project.  “I am the Lord”, He has told us.  “I will not give my glory to another.” [Isaiah 42:8]  And to prove it, the Holy Spirit worked to confuse their languages and through that work cause division and strife, making the completion of their building project impossible.  But on the first Pentecost for the new church, God the Holy Spirit would physically, for a moment in time, undo that work and bring clarity in His message of repentance to His fallen people.

So Who is the Holy Spirit? The immediate answer is that, “He is God!”  He always has been God and He always shall be.

First perhaps it ought to be said that the Holy Spirit is not and invention of the church and it’s theologians.  Among the many lies that unbelievers love to spread is the assertion that Jesus Himself never taught anything about the Holy Spirit.  Oh, is that right?  No it isn’t!

Jesus has a great deal to say about the Holy Spirit.  As we discussed last week, when Jesus was about to leave the disciples and ascend into heaven, He promised them that the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, would come to them.  That’s why they were to remain in Jerusalem until they were clothed with power from on high.  The Spirit would make it possible for them to continue the work of Christ.  He would give them wisdom to be able to speak before governors and kings.  He would teach them all things and lead them into the whole truth.  He would witness to them about Christ.

But then how are we to think about the Holy Spirit?  Well, we should actually not “think” of the Holy Spirit at all.  He is not a product of our intellectual abilities and He can’t be comprehended by our minds alone.  We can learn to know Him only through the work that He has done and is doing among us.  And His work is not to reveal Himself, but to glorify Christ.  He doesn’t seek to describe a likeness of Himself to us, but instead He causes the picture of Christ to come alive before our eyes of faith when the Spirit is at work.

And how does He do this?

The means, which He uses, is the Word of God.  He teaches all that Jesus taught and reminds us of what Jesus said.  It is the work of the Spirit that moves us to perceive the presence of Christ in Holy Scripture.  Through the work of the Holy Spirit, Scripture  becomes the living Word so that we can be confident that Jesus speaks and deals with us still today in the Word and by the power of the Spirit.

As I said earlier, one of the most important things the Holy Spirit does for us is to convince us that we are sinners.  The Holy Spirit is ever working to move our hearts and minds to understand just how twisted and out of balance with God our lives are.

But we also learn through the Word what Christ has done and given to us, which makes all the difference’ it makes us right with God.

In our gospel lesson Jesus tells us that “If anyone loves me, he will keep my Word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” [John 14:23-31]

If you do not read this with the understanding that Jesus is giving the wonderful gift of the Holy Spirit, then you might receive this Word as just another Law of God.  Love me or else!  But that is far from what Jesus is saying.  Just a little further on in His dialogue, Jesus promises that this ability to love Him, to love God will find its origin outside of our selves; He says that it will be a gift from God.  Listen: “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, who the Father will send in my name, He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”

Do you understand now?  Can you see that this is all a work of God the Holy Spirit who is your Helper, your comforter, and friend.  Once you hear these Words of Jesus as good news, the Holy Spirit brings peace.  “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.  Not as the world gives do I give to you.  Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

The work of the Spirit then is to lead us to the assurance of faith that now rests in our hearts through Christ alone.  So we can agree that “the Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.”  Christ has given us “His Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.”  It is through the Spirit that we learn to say “Aba Father” or dear Father in Heaven.

You know the truth is, we won’t always feel the great power and assurance of the Spirit’s presence.  But even when we are overwhelmed with worry and fear, and even at the lowest and weakest times of our lives, the Spirit is at work in our hearts. The sign that He has not forsaken us is the fact that we have not forsaken His Word and that Word is constantly awakening repentance and faith within us.

The Holy Spirit cannot be known or possessed unless we have been brought to faith in Christ by the Word.  This is the precise reason why some people cannot possibly understand the meaning of the Holy Spirit.  He is “the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him, nor knows Him.”  But you know Him dear saints, and that makes all the difference!

On the day of Pentecost the disciples were moved by the Holy Spirit to remember all of Jesus Words of Comfort.  And on that day, we could say the agape love of God, as demonstrated through the Passion of Christ the Son of God became the most powerful gift they would ever receive.

Christ did what He said He would do; He made all things right between God and men.  He empowered His church with the love of God and the Holy Spirit to go out into a world of confusion, division, and sin, and speak the need for all men to repent and be baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Why?  So that through Christ’s Word and Sacraments empowered by the Holy Spirit we could once again be united in the love of God unto eternal life.  May this be our truth now and forever more… AMEN!

Witnessing Jesus

May 8th, 2016

Easter 7-HL, May 8th, 2016
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor
Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego, CA

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Here’s a truth that each of us must understand this morning before a single word of gospel hope is declared: Living out our Christian faith, let alone witnessing to it, would be impossible unless God the Holy Spirit was powerfully working within us and among us through His chosen means of grace.  But once the Holy Spirit enters our lives and our hearts, living out our lives becomes a whole different experience.  With the Holy Spirit, the church armed with the Word of God and Christ’s Sacraments (Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper), is equipped as a body and as individuals who are part of that body are sent forth to witness to God’s presence in both our lives and indeed the entire world.

This last Wednesday the universal church celebrated the high and holy day of Christ’s Ascension. As we think about that day this Sunday, we also can’t help but put our selves in the shoes of the disciples.

In addition to awe and wonder as the they witnessed their Lord ascend into heaven from the Mt. of Olives, they also must have been dealing with a sense of fear and worry: “Now what are we suppose to do?”

When the disciples went back to the upper room, back to their normal lives, they perhaps knew more about Jesus than any other people in the whole world would ever know.  So it is fair to say that if Christianity had simply been a matter of knowing Jesus and His teachings and then living by that knowledge, then they could have started to preach and witness about His Kingdom of Grace immediately.  But instead, they were instructed by Jesus to wait patiently in an attitude of prayer and supplication until the gift of the Holy Spirit was given.

So what was it they were lacking?

The disciples lacked the very thing that Jesus promised to give them… the power and comfort of the Holy Spirit.

Let’s think about that for a moment; think about the work that God had prepared for them to accomplish.  They had been given the responsibility to witness about Jesus.  They’d been with Him from the beginning.  They had seen it all and had been taught by the Lord Himself.  Above all, they were witnesses to both His resurrection and His ascension.  But the truth they were to proclaim was also an insurmountable challenge for mere followers of Jesus.  You see…

The man they were to bear witness to had been executed as a blasphemer and a troublemaker.  And what’s more, they too, were promised by Jesus Himself that they could expect to be met with the same violent resistance.  Hadn’t Jesus told them many times that they would be persecuted; that the disciple was not above his teacher? Jesus even said that if they had called the master Beelzebub, what would they do to the servants?  But along with these truths of coming trial and tribulation, Jesus also implied that when the time of testing arrived they were to confidently stand their ground and not fear those who can destroy the body but not their souls.  By now, they must have been thinking, “Easier said than done!”

So now safe and secure in the upper room, their task must have seemed to be impossible.  They were to go out amongst the same people who crucified Jesus and preach and witness that the Man they killed was not only the Messiah but in fact, He was their only hope for eternal life.  And so we can see why the disciples must have felt alone and afraid; their task was to break through the wall of impenitence and hatred that even the Lord’s own words would not shatter.

But there’s still more they had to consider.  Through out all of their living out and proclaiming Christ, they were also called to preserve the purity of the message.  They had to preserve the unity of the church, stick together even when there was no Master among them, and they must preach the gospel even though there was no one with them physically to counsel with.  All of this demanded more than mere human powers could supply.  But Jesus had never expected them to fulfill their responsibilities alone.  God Himself would fulfill the task with them.  He would clothe them with power from on high.  He would open the way for the Word by convicting men of sin and of righteousness.  He would give His messengers a power and a wisdom, which would overcome their enemies.  He would lead them in all of God’s own truth.  He would preserve the vision of Christ living and untarnished.  He would Himself speak through their tongues and words.  And …

To accomplish this miraculous task, Christ would gather is little lambs into one body, His body the church, and He would do it all through the work of the Holy Spirit.

Through the church, God would gather His eternal and spiritual Israel, His faithful saints.  He would gather them from all the nations and ethnicities throughout the world and bring each of them into their own country the church, which would be for them a foretaste of their eternal Home in Paradise, a place that had been prepared for them by Jesus Himself.

Through the preaching of the Gospel of hope, the washing of Holy Baptism, and the sustenance of  spiritual food and drink received at the Lord’s Holy Table, Christ through the work and power of the Holy Spirit would create and sustain His dear saints.  That is by the grace of God and the gift of the Holy Spirit that comes from God through the Word of God Jesus Christ, God the Father would created, gather and send out His children of faith through the power and direction of God the Holy Spirit to speak to and gather even more redeemed sinners into the Christian faith.

All of this is taking place even today by God through you and me, by the power and work of the Holy Spirit.  You see…

Christianity is not simply knowing about Jesus and following Him.

Our Christian faith, and indeed our entire lives is something that can only be experienced where God is at work in the presence and person of the Holy Spirit.  For the disciples this was a daily experience.  That’s why they spoke of witnessing together with one heart and mind through the Holy Spirit; that’s why they could insist that they and the Holy Spirit acted together, as they walked in the Spirit and by the Spirit.

God the Holy Spirit promises us today just as He promised the disciples who witnessed Jesus ascension long ago, that as He has changed our hard and unbelieving hearts and sustains new life and faith within us, He desires to do the very same thing with those we come in contact with as we share with them the story of Jesus and His victory over sin, death, and the devil.  A victory that was accomplished through His passion and death upon the cross, the empty tomb of His resurrection, and His return to the right hand of the Father through His ascension.

Dear friends, Christ did not want you to be trapped by ignorance of the hard times that lay ahead for the church, His church.  He clearly described the resistance that we would face as together we witness to the “one thing needful” for salvation… faith in the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ.  If we try to go about the calling of Jesus to seek and save the lost on our own with a different message, we will only discover failure and misery.  But if we go out living our lives within the various vocations we find ourselves in, we will find both success and joy in our calling to be witnesses to the love of God, which is ours through Christ Jesus.

Our task and calling today as both individuals and members of the universal body of Christ is to spread the knowledge of Jesus.  Not to declare a message that makes us comfortable or will make our neighbors comfortable, but the truth that Christ died for sinners of which you and I are the chiefs of, and so are they that we witness Christ to.  Not only does God want to be a part of our sometimes-mundane lives, but He wants to be a part of our neighbors’ lives too.  He wants to offer His gift of salvation to others through us.

No wonder we talk about joy in the Holy Spirit.  What a tremendous reason to be alive in this world today.  What a tremendous reason to look forward to what every tomorrow holds.  God wants to use you… He wants to work through you… He wants to show Himself to other people both here in this place of worship and in your life as you lead them only and always to Christ alone; as you declare the Easter message: “Christ has risen, indeed!  AMEN!”

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

Click here for audio of this message

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!