Monday, November 28, 2016

Sermon on Matthew 21:1-9, for the 1st Sunday in Advent, "Successful Journeys and Clear Destinations"

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen. Today the cycle of the church year begins anew, with the First Sunday in Advent. We renew a journey of sorts, a journey that lasts us one year—a journey along the places and paths that Jesus followed, from the time He was anticipated as Savior, to His birth in Bethlehem, through His ministry, suffering, death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven. This first half of the church year, we call the “Festival Season.” It wraps up with Pentecost, when Jesus sent the Holy Spirit, and follows with the part of the church year that we just finished, is the long “non-festival” season of the church year, or “ordinary time”. Sundays that review the rest of Jesus’ teachings, leading up again to the anticipation of His return. Along the journey, we get to know Jesus better and better, not as a friend who joins us occasionally, but as our constant companion who leads us and has finished the journey before us. Each year, this cycle and journey renews, as we renew our watch and waiting for the Lord’s return. Advent is a time of waiting.
Since Advent is the time of waiting and hope as we prepare for Christmas, it always strikes us odd that the first Gospel reading of the year is from Palm Sunday. Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. But for many centuries, Christians began Advent with this reading. It reminds us that successful journeys most often have an intended destination in mind. In Jesus’ case, the destination is clear—it’s not Bethlehem (that’s just the start!), but it’s Jerusalem, and ultimately the cross. Our reading gives us a preview, a glimpse ahead, of where Jesus’ journey will take Him. Advent and Christmas reminds us that He is the King born among men, the Prince of Peace—but the Palm Sunday entrance reminds us that He is the King who was born to suffer for our sins on the cross. Though the journey took Jesus on many paths unexpected to us—Jesus always had a clear sense of His purpose and final goal. He was on earth to bear witness to the truth and to obey His Father’s will to go to the cross for us.
The way that Jesus entered the city was clearly meant to communicate something very important to the crowds (and to us). Riding in on the donkey was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet: “Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’” Jesus riding on the donkey communicated loud and clear, that this prophecy from Zechariah 9, was coming true in Him. And they understood it—at least as far as recognizing Him as a King. They showed this by the correct “royal treatment” of spreading cloaks and palm branches on the road before Him, and raising shouts of acclamation to the Son of David. They saw their King coming to them, all right, and the actions played out that day by both Jesus and the crowd echoed the crowning of other kings from Israel’s history. Here was their new leader, a man descended from the royal line of King David, a popular leader and teacher, and One whom they hoped would take the throne and give the kingdom back to Israel!
Everything seemed to be shaping up as they might have expected…until the events that followed that week. The betrayal and arrest of Jesus on Thursday. His trial before the priests and Pontius Pilate that night and Good Friday morning. His crowning with thorns and a mocking purple robe, and being lifted up on a cross that noon on Good Friday. No! This wasn’t the way that His coronation as king was supposed to end! Not as a man falsely accused of revolution and executed by the Romans! But while the crowds had their own ideas about what kind of King Jesus should be, Jesus, as I said, always had a clear sense of His purpose and goal. This was not an accident or detour, but He was going on the correct path to His destination. Going to His true enthronement, first on the cross in contrasting humility and divine glory, but ultimately enthroned at God’s right hand, after rising from the dead and ascending into heaven. Jesus was ascending to a much higher throne and authority. His sacrifice on the cross, and His rising from the dead, would result in God giving to Him “all authority in heaven and on earth.”
All of it was part of God’s plan, and here at the start of the year, we get to glimpse the long range plan before diving into the story. We get to see down the road toward the finish line, where Jesus’ purpose and goal on earth would take Him. Knowing all along the way what He was aiming for, knowing what He must suffer and do. Listen again to the words of that prophecy: “Say to the daughter of Zion, behold your king is coming to you…”. Daughter of Zion, people of God. Your king is coming to you. So much is wrapped up in those words. God sent His Son as King to the earth. The King, not only for His people, for that would be too light a task—but a king for all nations. Luther said this shows that we did not seek the king…He sought us. We did not find the king…He found us. This shows us how completely God’s kingdom comes to us by grace. We did not work for it or engineer it ourselves—we did not bring it into existence and seek Christ to be the King. He came down to earth to us, to be our King.
You could search the whole earth, and down through all of human history, and you’d never find a king to compare with Jesus. Never a King so perfect and just, a King who bears the titles: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness. His government and peace spreads through all nations by His great commission—making disciples of all nations, baptizing them and teaching them. His kingdom is incomparable. Consider the description of historian Philip Schaff:
Jesus of Nazareth, without money and arms, conquered more millions than Alexander the Great, Caesar, Mohammed, and Napoleon; without science and learning, he shed more light on things human and divine than all philosophers and scholars combined; without the eloquence of school, he spoke such words of life as were never spoken before or since, and produced effects which lie beyond the reach of orator or poet; without writing a single line, he set more pens in motion, and furnished themes for more sermons, orations, discussions, learned volumes, works of art, and songs of praise than the whole army of great men of ancient and modern times.

The King with all the might and glory of an everlasting Kingdom—because it is ruled by the Son of God. The King whose kingdom is ever increasing and expanding, and will one day establish perfect and eternal peace. The King who rules with truth, justice, and righteousness. And this is the King who comes to you. Righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. The mighty, yet humble King? Yes, He dies on the cross. Who fights His enemies by laying down His life—so that He might consume sin and death forever. The King who has salvation? Yes, whose rescue for us is more than political or military victories—whose rescue is more than problem solving our national crises (a wish that the Jews and we might have in common)—but the King whose rescue is an eternal salvation. The rescue from sin and its power, from death and the grave. The salvation that envelops us even now in the Kingdom of Jesus, making us new day by day through repentance and the forgiveness of our sins. The salvation that He brings to us.
Your King comes to you…we were lost. We didn’t know or understand the journey…we’d fallen and gotten trapped along the way. But He found us, He came to us. He comes to us even today. Jesus is still coming, by the way. Advent is not just a historical drama, about events 2,000 years ago in Judea, with little to do with us today. Rather, we are part of that ever expanding kingdom of Jesus. The kingdom that first came to us through the preaching of Jesus’ Word; through the waters of Holy Baptism, claiming us as His own. The kingdom that came because Your king is coming to you. He still comes to us today, through the Word of God, heard here. Through His Sacraments, as He feeds us with His body and blood. Through the fellowship of His church, His citizens.
And His Kingdom still is yet to come. There is a promised day, when your king will come to you again. Jesus will appear to us, in the body, in full glory like the sun, with every eye on earth transfixed by His sight. For some it will come as a day of fear and judgment, because they did not believe. But for we who believe, it will come as a day of joy and excitement! We’ll lift up our heads, because our redemption will be complete! And so our King is every coming to His people. He came of old at Bethlehem. He comes to us in His promised gifts, meant to sustain His kingdom till His return—gifts of Word and Sacrament. And He will come again one day, to judge the living and the dead.
Today we renew that journey—a journey that is still ongoing—but one that is promised to be successful, because we have a clear destination and purpose. And we have One who has gone before us leading us on. So let us run the race that is set before us, with our eyes fixed on Jesus, the author and Perfecter of our faith! Amen.

Sermon Talking Points
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  1. Though it seems out of place to begin the season of Advent, the church year historically begins with the reading of Jesus’ triumphal entry to Jerusalem, on Palm Sunday. Though we are anticipating Christmas, this reading focuses us on the destination of Jesus’ journey on earth. What was the ultimate purpose for Jesus’ coming?
  2. Advent is a time of waiting and expectation. What is the past, present, and future coming of Christ? How is Jesus’ kingship uniquely shown in Matthew 21:1-9?
  3. What did the prophecy from Zechariah 14:9-13 foretell about what kind of King Jesus would be? The world is looking for peace without a messiah. How does Christianity show us true peace, that comes through the Messiah? John 14:27; 16:33
  4. Why did people lay downs their cloaks and palm branches before Jesus?
  5. Hosanna” is a Hebrew word that means, “save us now.” They are singing the words from Psalm 118:25-26. What expectation did the crowds have of Jesus? What were they thinking He would save them from? What did Jesus actually come to save us from?
  6. Palm Sunday began the week on a triumphant note, but how did the week end on Good Friday? The following Sunday?
  7. In Matthew 21:5 the prophecy says, “Behold, your king is coming to you”. Why is it so wonderful that God came down to us, rather than requiring the reverse? (somehow?) What does this teach us about grace?

Friday, November 25, 2016

Sermon on 2 Corinthians 9:6-15, for Thanksgiving Eve, "Living Generously"

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen. On Sunday we spoke of how we are members of Jesus’ Kingdom as fruitful branches growing from His Vine. Joined to Jesus we are green, alive, and bearing fruit. Today in 2 Corinthians 9, Paul zeroes in on one particular spiritual fruit: generosity. The well-known phrase, “God loves a cheerful giver.” Immediately upon hearing this phrase, our minds go to money, and our hands go to protect our wallet. Or they might, anyhow, if we think this passage is only about how generous our offering will be in the plate. But while Paul certainly appealed to the Corinthians for financial support for the Christians in poverty in Jerusalem—the Biblical picture of generosity is bigger than cash. It’s a stock phrase in churches, but true nevertheless, that stewardship can be described as giving of our time, talents, and treasure. That’s simply to recognize that there are more ways to give, than just your wallet.  And so also, generosity, as our passage teaches, is a heart attitude shaped by God—not a dollar value attached to the offering plate. And generosity creates thanksgiving to God—twice our reading says that, in vs. 11-12.
6 The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. This is an obvious principle, but if you just consider the relation of planting seeds, say grains of wheat, to the harvesting of the mature wheat—it’s obvious that a farmer won’t gather a big harvest if he is reluctant to plant his seed generously. If he tries to sow only a minimal amount of seed, his harvest will then be small. But if he plants generously, as Jesus says in another parable, the seed will be multiplied thirty, sixty, or a hundredfold. But the lesson from Jesus and Paul is not just agricultural, but the greater spiritual message is that the same principle applies to our giving and generosity. If we are stingy and plant small, we will reap small. If we are generous in sowing, the return will be exponentially greater. The word bountifully for “whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully” is the word for “blessing.” If we sow from blessing, we will reap blessing. And every Sunday, where do we sing all blessings come from? Ho’onani i ka Makua Mau…Praise God from whom all blessings flow. God pours out the blessing, and when we sow bountifully from that blessing, we harvest bountifully with new blessing. God has so ordered creation that He makes fruitfulness pour out of the generous use of His gifts.
7 Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. Let’s work backwards from the fact that there is a genuine joy to be discovered in generosity and giving. That joy of generosity can be discovered by any person—Christian or not. Many popular versions of the folk story “Stone Soup”, show how people can discover the joy of generosity, sharing, and the community that it builds. I’m even sure there are some great Hallmark movies showing around Thanksgiving and Christmas time, that show a generous and giving spirit is a blessing to any person. This is simply recognizing that it’s one of God’s good “First Article gifts”—by which I mean, the gifts of creation—that God has given to all humanity. These gifts, however, point us back to and remind us that God is ultimately the Giver.
Generosity is not the unique possession of Christians, nor the joy that comes with it—but Christians have a unique reason to be generous, and God’s good directions on the how and why. We can be generous because we know the constant gracious overflow of God’s gifts to us. The reading ends, Thanks be to God for His inexpressible gift! Mindful that God is always giving and supplying all we need, we can take a special delight in giving. But what violates this spirit of giving and generosity? Giving reluctantly or under compulsion. Being forced or driven to give, in such a way that we feel guilty or coerced, is not the right spirit in which to give. Then it becomes a lot more like taxation or extortion, and less like giving!
But God wants giving to flow from a free, cheerful heart. How? Give as he has decided in his heart. Giving is a voluntary detachment from our possessions. I set aside whatever I have decided in my heart, and become detached from it. I can freely give it away, because I’m trusting in God. Giving in this way is both an expression of our thankfulness to God, for the blessings He has poured out, but also an expression of trust in God, that we can live on what remains, and that God will faithfully continue to provide, as He always has. Giving reluctantly or out of compulsion means that we haven’t detached from what we are giving. Either selfishness still clings to it; or fear thinks that the gift might not be used well, or would be wasted; or lack of trust worries that God will still provide. In any case, these spoil the spirit of giving. God doesn’t need our gifts on these terms—He loves a cheerful giver. And cheerful giving does often take some practice to learn. By experiencing the joy of giving, or resolving in our heart what to give, God begins to overwrite our fearful, selfish, and mistrustful attitudes, with one of cheerful generosity.
In verse 10, it says: 10 He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. Here I just can’t resist a little sidelight: that is to mention the technological marvel of the seed. God supplies seed to the sower. But what a gift we take for granted! Living on Maui with our limited resources and growing population, or almost anywhere in the world, you often hear the buzzwords of “sustainability” or “renewable resources” or “self-sufficiency.” Humans are trying to battle our growing needs and consumption with clean and renewable supplies of food or energy. But what a technological marvel God has already given us, that already does all that! A humble seed is the basis of a self-replicating organism. Every seed is a massive DNA bank, but microscopic in size, loaded with all the genetic information needed to make a new plant. Seeds are a renewable resource that have feed thousands and thousands of generations, as long as we’ve lived on earth—grains, rice, taro—staples of the human diet for millennia. God’s amazing bioengineering marvel, that we all take for granted, but God supplies seed to the sower and bread for our food.
But if God is so generous with the physical world He has created, Paul shows us that even more God’s grace will abound and increase in us in every way. He will increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God. The Word of God is sown like a seed in our heart, and as miraculous and more than a seed of wheat, it contains all the marvelous information of God’s Word and Spirit to create in us fruitful, living branches of Christ our Vine. God’s Word increases righteousness in us as we mature and grow through His guidance and direction. This produces generosity in every way. Generosity is shown in our attitudes. Jealousy or envy of what others have or the successes they achieve, is the opposite of a spirit of generosity. A true spirit of generosity rejoices in the welfare and wellbeing of others, as Luther explained in the 7th commandment, it is to “help [our neighbor] to improve and protect his possessions and income.” Or in the 9th commandment, to “help and be of service to him in keeping it.” Generosity gives thanks when others give thanks, rather than being jealous. Generosity also recognizes when others are in need, and feels compassion to help.
Our reading also praises the righteous man, described in Psalm 112 and quoted in our reading: “He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.” The Bible often praises the righteous man who is generous and helps the poor and his neighbor, and doesn’t expect interest or repayment. We’re instructed that generosity and sharing with those who need it, are a sure way of storing up true treasure (1 Tim. 6:17-19). Again God has ordered things so that when His good gifts are given out and used generously, that it produces a great return, especially in the spiritual realm. Generosity is taking part in God’s helping of those who need it, so that we act as God’s hands and feet with love for the poor. Generosity has open eyes to see the need of others, and a kind heart that is moved to show compassion.
And this generosity overflows in many thanksgivings to God. People will thank God when they see, receive, or participate in giving. This is because living generously in heart, spirit, word, thought and action, is to live like God, who is the ultimate Giver. They will glorify God because of your submission flowing from your confession of the Gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others, while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you.  Praise goes to God when we live and act in the generosity of God. It flows from the confession of the Gospel of Christ. To believe and know Jesus is to know the ultimate giver, the one who was rich, but for our sakes became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich (2 Corinthians 8:9). When Jesus gave up the treasure and rule of His heavenly throne, and became poor and low, as a human being on earth, He sacrificed and gave everything up, not even sparing His own life, so that we might have true spiritual riches and treasure. And He has not stopped giving, but continues to forgive our sins and prepare for us the eternal home that He has made for the righteous in the heavens. He saw our need, was generously moved on our behalf, and filled and supplied our need as only He could. He paid the debts of our sin, filled our accounts with the overflow of His righteousness and innocence, and He makes His grace to abound to us, to abound in every good work (9:10).
This Thanksgiving, may you be blessed by God’s every good gift, and may it abound and overflow in you to pour out in a life of generosity lived after His pattern—in love, service, and help to our friends, neighbors, enemies, and to everyone in need. And may each act of kindness and generosity inspire us to glorify God and say: Thanks be to God for His inexpressible gift! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Sermon on Luke 23:27-43, for the Last Sunday of the Church Year, "I See a Gracious, Suffering King"

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Today marks the Last Sunday of the Church Year, which focuses again on Jesus’ Kingship. And Jesus’ Kingship is shown through the cross. The prayer of the day today states that Jesus reigns among us by the preaching of the cross. Unlike any earthly kings or powers, Jesus’ rule is marked by His self-sacrifice on the cross, His defeat of the grave, and the constant preaching of this good news, that has gone on for 2,000 years, spreading His reign to the ends of the earth. No other king has or ever will rule in this way. This understanding encircles the whole church year—we always watch for and live under the reign of our crucified and risen King.
What brought Jesus to this cross? It’s startling to realize that Jesus’ teachings and His love brought Him there. The other two criminals were brought there by their evildoing, as one eventually admitted. But Jesus came innocently and voluntarily. Not for punishment of any real crimes, but because this was the goal of His mission and His love. To sacrifice Himself for our sins. Not many of us will ourselves to follow a path of suffering. But He did, and even at the last moment when He was urged and mocked to turn back, He would not. How many of us would have pulled the “eject lever” immediately, to escape the torture and mockery? Yet Jesus did not. He was steadfast and immovable to carry out His will, the will of His Father. He was steadfast with eternal love so that you could be forgiven. Jesus was not only willing to trade places with you, for what your sins deserved—He did it! Jesus traded places with you, so that He could bear the awful curse of sin, so that we could be redeemed.
If that’s where the will of Jesus took Him, where did the will of the people lead? Just a couple verses before the Gospel reading began, it says: Luke 23:24–25 “So Pilate decided that their demand should be granted. He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, for whom they asked, but he delivered Jesus over to their will.”  They chose to free a murderer and to condemn Jesus, the Author of Life. Pilate gave Jesus over to their will, but was oblivious to the part he was playing in God’s greater will. Despite the bent and twisted will of men that shouted for Jesus to be crucified that day, it was the will of God, not the will of man that prevailed. But still it showed how evil the state of affairs had become that they were willing to crucify the One whom God has made both Lord and Christ. How sad it was that they would not listen to the truth that He spoke.
Jesus warns of a coming judgment that is going to fall on the city of Jerusalem. It would be a time of horrors, so evil that people would wish they had no children, or that they could be buried by the mountains to hide from that evil time. And many of Jesus’ listeners would have lived to see that awful day, when the Romans destroyed the city of Jerusalem in the year 70 AD, when the Jews revolted. Jesus redirects the weeping and mourning of the women who were crying over His innocent death, to pour out tears instead for themselves and their children, to have to witness such evil days ahead. Jesus, as many prophets of God before Him, was calling people to repentance, so that by any means God might relent from bringing disaster on them.
Jesus makes a puzzling statement: “For if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry” Green wood burns, but not well—but dry wood blazes hot in a fire. Jesus is essentially saying, if the green wood is burning now, what kind of blaze will it be when the wood is dry? The people were committing a terrible injustice against Jesus, but this was merely the beginning of the end. John the Baptist had preached similar things, when he warned that “the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire” (Luke 3:9). There is obviously a great difference between a living tree that bears fruit, and grows and is nourished by life-giving sap, and the dead, cut wood that is drying up and is ready for the fire.
The question is, what does that have to do with the spiritual condition of Israel, or our own spiritual condition? This imagery of a fruitful, watered tree, is a well-known image in the Bible. Jeremiah 17, for example, paints a contrast between those who trust in man and turn away from the Lord, who are like dry, parched bushes in the desert, and the man who trusts in the Lord, who is like a tree planted by water, that sends out roots by the stream, and stays green even in the heat, and bears fruit. Trusting in God is like being a tree rooted by the life-giving, nourishing waters of a stream. Psalm 1 begins the same way, describing a man who delights in the law of the Lord as being “like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither” (Psalm 1:3). Jesus says that to be living branches that bear fruit, we must abide in Him, the Vine. So when Jesus says, “For if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?”, what does this mean about their spiritual condition?
If cut off from the source of life…if cut out from the Living Vine of Jesus…one becomes like dead branches prepared for the fire. The people that had rejected Jesus had rejected the Living Water, they had cut themselves off from His nourishment and life. Do we thirst for the Living Water? Do we delight in the law of the Lord, and trust in Him?
One of the criminals who hung next to Jesus saw where his own life had led. In the very last hours of life, he came to a sober judgment of his own life. He and his fellow thief were hanging there justly, receiving the due reward of their deeds. Their choices and actions took them this far, and now they were under the sentence of condemnation. They were sinners and mockers who were headed the way of all the wicked—to perish in their sins. But now he saw clearly—not by any special illumination of his own—but by the illumination of Jesus, who was hanging between them. Through hours of cruel treatment, mockery, and torture, the thief on the cross only witnessed Jesus hang there silently, or speak words of forgiveness and love: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Jesus took no opportunities to lash back or curse those who mocked Him. The thief on the cross began to see that the mocking sign, “This is the King of the Jews”, hung over Jesus’ head, was actually true!
The Kingship of Jesus was being revealed in a most astonishing way. I see there on the cross a gracious and suffering King. The King who loves His enemies; who dies for them. The King who does not save Himself, because He came to save others. Suddenly, this thief on the cross realizes all the bad choices of his life and seeking his own will has led to this dark hopeless path—and at last the Light shines on a far better path. The Light shines on the true and good King. Suddenly the thief realizes, “I want to be part of His kingdom!” He asks Jesus, “Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” You are a King, Lord. Is there any way I, a sinner, can be a part of your kingdom? I deserve to be on this cross. My sins warranted it, but I see that you are a just and innocent man. And yet you love. You love in a way that is so pure and so divine, I know at last that it is true, you are the King of the Jews. Remember me.
Jesus’ glorious answer to the thief is, “Truly I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” And by Jesus’ word, an entire man’s life of sin was absolved—forgiven—not counted against Him. Jesus was next to him on the cross for that very reason, to bear all the sin of the world away—yours, mine, the thief’s and every other person. Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. By Jesus’ word, “Today you will be with me in paradise”, a frightened, guilty, humbled, and dying man, was suddenly given the ultimate and only way to die in true peace. His fear was answered, his guilt was paid for and cleared, and his humbled and dying head was lifted up with the promise of eternal life. All without having done anything to deserve it! Only by the innocent suffering and death of Jesus.
Jesus also promises eternal life to all who repent and believe in Him, so that we can die with this same peace and confidence. We each carry a life’s worth of sin, guilt, and shame. But if we confess our sins to Jesus, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. “Your sins are forgiven; your faith has saved you.” To believe in Jesus and receive His forgiveness is to have the tremendous burden of our guilt and sin lifted from our shoulders, and to be comforted by the rest and peace of God. To live in the kingdom of Jesus, and be one of His subjects is to follow in the same path of forgiveness, grace, and yes, even suffering, as He endured. Remember that Jesus’ kingdom is made of a Living Vine, with growing branches that spread through every generation and across every nation—fruit bearing branches that bring His same grace and love to the world. By being living branches of His tree, we are continually conformed to His will, learning to grow in His way. And life begins by believing in Him, our gracious and suffering King. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Sermon Talking Points
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  1. What had been decided by the will of the people? Luke 23:24-25. What was the will of Jesus, Son of God; and where did it lead Him? Isaiah 53:10.
  2. Why is the will of human beings unsteady and unreliable? Jeremiah 17:5-10, especially verse 9. See also Jeremiah 18:11-12. Matthew 15:19. Why didn’t Jesus trust men? What did He know about them? John 2:23-25.
  3. In Luke 23:28-31, Jesus warns of the coming horrors that will fall on Jerusalem, when it would be destroyed (by the Romans in 70 AD). When Jesus redirects their sadness and mourning to their own situation, what is Jesus urging people to do? Mark 1:15.
  4. What is the difference between “green wood” and “dry wood”? What warning does this mean for “the tree?” Luke 3:9. How does a tree, or wood, stay green and living? Jeremiah 17:5-8; Psalm 1; John 15.
  5. What reveals the kingship of Jesus as a gracious rule? Why was He willing to suffer, when the will of sinners was bent against Him?
  6. What suddenly dawned on one of the two thieves crucified with Jesus, about where their own will and actions had brought them? Luke 23:40-41. What did he see with his own eyes, about the will and the rule of Jesus, that made him want to be a part of Jesus’ kingdom?
  7. Why did the thief receive what he sought? Luke 23:42-43. How can we be a part of Jesus’ kingdom? How does the will of Jesus direct us in a better way? How do we remain fruitful and living “trees” or branches? See again Jeremiah 17:7-8; Psalm 1, and John 15.