Undeserved Rewards

Sermon for Septuagesima based on Matthew 20:1-16

Dear labourers in the vineyard: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

God has promised great blessings to those who keep His commandments. For instance, Psalm 19 says that there is great reward in keeping God’s rules (v. 11). Proverbs 29 says, “Blessed is he who keeps the law.” (v. 18) Psalm 1 says, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers.” (v. 1) Proverbs 3 tells us to write God’s commandments on our hearts so that we will find favour and good success in the sight of God and man (v.3-4). The Fourth Commandment has a special promise connected to it: Honouring your father and your mother is rewarded by God with long life (cf. Ex. 20:12). Malachi 3 says giving a tithe to God will result in God opening the windows of heaven for you and pouring down on you a blessing until there is no more need (v. 10).

Do not let the blessings God gives you confuse you into thinking that you thereby earn favour with God through following His commandments. This can never be, but this is the error into which the first labourers of the vineyard fell, and the error into which we fall when we think that God owes us something.

The workers who worked all day grumbled because they thought they were entitled to more than they received. They thought they deserved to be rewarded. If the workers who worked for only an hour were given a day’s wage, surely they thought they deserved more than a days wage, having borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.

When it comes to business, this is certainly true. You cannot run a business paying workers who work for only one hour of the day the same as the workers who work twelve hours of the day. No one would be willing to work for you more than an hour in a day.

The whole point of Jesus’ parable is that the kingdom of heaven is not like a business; it is not like life on earth. You cannot work your way into it. You cannot deserve it. Entry into the kingdom of heaven is by grace, and only by grace. The workers in the vineyard were rewarded for work they did not perform. So also you will be rewarded for work you have not performed.

The simple truth is that God owes you absolutely nothing. He doesn’t owe you health or wealth. He doesn’t owe you clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, animals, or anything that you have. Most especially, God does not owe you entry into the kingdom of heaven.

This is contrary to popular opinion which holds that everyone should go to heaven. Everyone is entitled to grace. Sins don’t matter. Everyone getting into heaven is right and just. We all deserve heaven.

This is of course nonsense. No one deserves heaven. We all deserve the torments of hell. What we deserve is far worse than a miserable, pathetic life on earth filled with suffering and affliction, poverty and sorrow, illness and a slow, painful death. Because of our sins, we all deserve nothing but punishment.

If you realize that you only deserve punishment, then you realize what Jesus is teaching in this parable. God doesn’t think like you. He doesn’t reward workers how you reward workers. If God rewarded us as we deserve and paid us for what we have done, we would all end up in hell for eternity.

God out of His great love for you, without owing you anything, gives you what you do not deserve. He welcomes you into His kingdom because of work not done by you, but by Jesus. Jesus did the work that you could not do. He did what the Law demands of you but you could not fulfill. He suffered a brutal and bloody death to pay for your sins.

This is the heart of the Gospel: God rewards those who do not deserve it. He loves poor miserable sinners and gives them eternal life. He is so generous that He gives eternal life to those who deserve eternal death.

Do not begrudge His generosity. Is He not allowed to do what He wants with what belongs to Him? If God gives unbelievers their daily bread why should this bother you? If you see the wicked prosper, do not be envious of them (cf. Ps. 11, 73). God makes His sun rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust (Matt. 5:45). This is God’s generosity, that even unbelievers benefit from His grace. When an openly public sinner turns from the vileness and wickedness of his ways, do not begrudge God’s generosity in showing him mercy.

Do not ask God to give you what you deserve. Even if you have to bear the burden of the day and the scorching heat, God owes you nothing. Yet, by His grace, He gives you everything. He gives you everything you need for this body and life, and He gives you entry into the kingdom of heaven.

Grace is undeserved and unearned. Grace is a gift. God has given you His only Son and brought you into His kingdom through water and the Word as a free, undeserved gift. You are thus not just a servant or labourer, but an adopted child of God and an heir of the kingdom. He grants you a place at His table where He gives you Jesus’ body and blood and He blesses you so that your cup overflows.

Entry into the kingdom of heaven is not owed to you, but is given to you by grace. You are rewarded with work that Jesus has done for you. Praise and thanksgiving be to God for His generosity. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

Mere Words Save

Sermon for the Fourth Sunday after Pentecost based on Mark 4:26-34

Dear pleasant planting of the Lord: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

Talk is cheap, it is said. This is of course true of man’s word. It is far easier to talk of great things than accomplish them. It is easier to say that you care than to show that you care, just as it is easier for politicians to make promises than to deliver on those promises once elected.

We are so experienced and familiar with empty talk and vain words, that we tend to hold words to be of little significance or value. Even worse, we recognize our own gossip, slander, complaining; our own name-calling, cursing, and lying and we may indeed say silence is better than words.

Yet God has chosen to save us through words. Not just any words, but His words. God has chosen to save us not through miracles that we witness; not through astonishing incidents we experience; not through overpowering sensations we feel. God has chosen to save you through the humble means of human words. He has chosen to save you from eternal death and hell by His Word.

They are very particular words that save: words that express the Gospel – that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, died for your sins on the cross; particular words that tell you that God loved you so much that He sacrificed His Son for you; particular words that proclaim you justified, that is, declared not guilty for Christ’s sake through faith, when you believe that you are received into favour and that your sins are forgiven for Christ’s sake.

These words are sown into hearts. The sower sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. The sower simply scatters the Word. He’s not worried about the outcome.

Anyway, the growth is not in his hands. The earth automatically produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear.

It may seem like a small, insignificant seed. Just mere words. But these seeds grow up and become larger than all the garden plants and put out branches so that birds can make nests in their shade.

God’s Word produces. It produces faith – saving faith which brings us to heaven. It produces works – good works which serve our neighbour and supply the proof that faith is living. God’s Word produces. It does not return to Him empty, but accomplishes that which God purposes, and succeeds in the thing for which He sends it (cf. Is. 55:11)

This is true for Baptism and the Lord’s Supper as well. Without God’s Word, the water is plain water and no Baptism. But with the Word of God it is a Baptism, that is, a life-giving water, rich in grace, and a washing of new birth in the Holy Spirit.

Without God’s Word, the bread and wine are plain bread and wine and no Lord’s Supper. But with Christ’s words, “This is my body… this is my blood… given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins,” He gives us exactly what He promises: His body and blood for the forgiveness of sins.

God’s Word does what it says it will do. It produces faith and it produces good works, which are the fruit of faith.

Jesus continued the parable saying, “But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.” Scripture often calls the close of the age or Judgment Day, the harvest. Once the grain is ripe, it is harvested.

There is only one Judgment Day, but in way, it does not come at the same time for all of us because we all die at different times. As the book of Hebrews tell us, “It is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes the judgment” (Heb. 9:27) After death, there is no opportunity to repent or believe or do good works – these are all to be done while we are still alive.

Do not look at death from an earthly perspective. Look at death from God’s perspective. When the grain is ripe, He puts in the sickle because the harvest has come. When God has called His elect to faith and He has produced growth in them so that that are ripe, He harvests them into His barn. He takes them home to heaven.

From an earthly perspective, we sometimes hear it said that it was too soon. My parents were taken too early. My spouse died too soon. My poor little child died too young. God says, when the grain is ripe, He puts in the sickle because the harvest has come.

The earthly perspective forgets that heaven is our aim, our goal, our home. It is God’s aim, goal, and home for us. When our loved ones die in the faith, that is God harvesting His ripe grain. It is God taking His children home.

We have the same aim and goal as all believers – to be forever with the Lord. However, since we are still here on earth, that means it is not yet time for our harvest. It means that we are not yet ripe. We are still here to grow in faith and produce the fruit of faith. Even bed-ridden believers can pray for others while on their deathbeds and provide a witness of hope in God’s promises to their families. We can grow in faith and produce the fruit of faith until we are ripe, and then the harvest comes.

The harvest will come. The time will come when your appointed time to die arrives, and then comes the judgment. Because God’s Word has been sown in your heart and faith has sprouted and grown, you will be ripe for the harvest.

You have nothing to fear in death or on Judgment Day because Jesus has already been judged for your sins. You are baptized into His death and resurrection and you eat His body and drink His blood for the forgiveness of all your sins, so you will receive your promised inheritance of eternal life.

This is not empty talk or vain words. It is almighty God’s promise to you that is sure and certain. Heaven and earth will pass away, but God’s promise to you will not pass away (Matt. 24:35). Man’s words are empty. But when God speaks, it is already done. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

Branches in the Vine

Sermon for the Fifth Sunday of Easter based on John 15:1-8

Dear branches in the true vine: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

When it comes to bearing fruit, do not focus on the branch. There is nothing but despair as far as the branch is concerned. Jesus says that every branch of His that does not bear fruit is thrown away and withers, and is then gathered, thrown into the fire and burned.

This makes sense. If you have dead branches on your fruit trees that produce no fruit, would you not cut them off and throw them away? Dead branches steal water and nutrients from living branches and yet produce no fruit. For the good of the whole plant, you cut off dead branches. A fruitless branch is useless.

But don’t focus on the branch. Focusing on the branch is focusing on yourself and what you produce. Are you producing enough fruit of the Spirit? How have you shown that you love your neighbour as yourself? Have you not rather loved yourself above all others? Where is your joy? Is your joy in the Word of God or in what this world has to offer? Where is your patience? Do you wait patiently for God’s good timing to save you from trials, temptations, and suffering, or do you complain and grumble against God as if He desires something that is harmful for you? The same could be said of peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, the other fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23).

Don’t focus on the branch, because a branch by itself can produce no fruit. Whatever love and care you give the branch, by itself it remains dead. Disconnected from the vine it is worthless. You can water it and fertilize it and prune it. You can give it just the right amount of sunshine and just the right about of shade. Yet, the branch that is disconnected from the vine can produce nothing. Thus, Christ says, “Apart from me you can do nothing.”

You cannot produce love, joy, patience, or any other fruit of the Spirit by yourself. It’s called the fruit of the Spirit because the Holy Spirit is the source of the fruit. Abiding in Christ, the vine, the Holy Spirit produces fruit in you.

What does it mean to abide in Christ? There is no way to abide in Christ apart from Baptism, the Word, and the Sacrament of the Altar. These are the only connection Christ has with us. Apart from these Means of Grace, we are disconnected from the vine and fit only for the fire.

Through these Means of Grace, we abide in Christ and Christ abides in us. Baptism joins us to Christ, the vine. God’s Word and Holy Communion feed us and nourish us keeping us in Christ. Whoever abides in Christ bears much fruit.

We sometimes wonder why we’re having so much trouble being loving towards our neighbour or being joyful no matter our situation. We wonder why we are impatient or discontent. Yet it is because we have neglected our Baptism, the Word, and the Lord’s Supper. We haven’t been nourished as we should, so we have languished. We have mistakenly thought that God is working in our hearts apart from His Word, thus we have mistakenly thought we are self-sufficient branches with no need for the vine. Apart from Christ, the vine, we can do nothing. Apart from Christ we are dead branches destined for fire.

In Christ, however, we are alive. His forgiveness flows to us through His Means of Grace. Every sin we have ever committed is forgiven because we are in Christ. He died for our sins and rose again from the dead, so in Him, the devil and hell have no claim on us. Death is now our doorway to heaven. We will rise from the dead as surely as Christ is risen from the dead. Christ keeps strengthening our faith through His Word and His body and blood. He keeps forgiving us our sins so that we are blameless and righteous in His sight.

And God the Father prunes us. Pruning isn’t pleasant for us, but it is necessary. For plants, pruning is done to train a growing pattern, to improve plant health, and to increase the quality and quantity of fruit. This is the same for us. God prunes us to train us in godly living, to strengthen our faith, and to increase the quality and quantity of fruit we produce. God prunes things out of our lives to which we cling too closely; things that have become too important for us; things that have become idols for us.

This pruning isn’t for dead branches. Dead branches are thrown into the fire. This pruning is for branches that are in the vine and are producing fruit. This pruning is for you and me.

God the Father prunes us through sending sickness, suffering, and affliction into our lives. He doesn’t tell us why He sends particular trials our way. He doesn’t say, “You lost your farm because you spent too much time working.” He doesn’t say, “You got cancer because you don’t go to church enough.” He doesn’t say, “Your child was hurt because hockey became too important for your family.”

God doesn’t tell us why He prunes us the way He does, but we do know that all His pruning is to train us in godly living, to strengthen our faith, and to increase the quality and quantity of fruit we produce. The pruning of our loving Father and vinedresser turns us away from ourselves and everything in this world. His pruning works repentance and faith in our hearts.

Pruning is painful, but do you know what? We should pray for it! We should pray, “Heavenly Father, prune from my heart every desire for riches and fame. Take away from me everything that is important to me in this world. Destroy everything and anything in my life that I hold dear until I realize that You are my priceless treasure and that when I have You, I lack nothing and have everything. Destroy and burn down everything in this congregation and in our synod that man has built, until all that remains is what You have built.”

We do not pray this way, but we should. We should pray that God cuts from us everything we try to produce on our own and that He would keep us in the true vine so that we will bear much fruit and so prove to be disciples of Jesus.

Fortunately for us, even though we fail to pray this way, the Father still prunes us and keeps us in Christ, the true vine.

In the true vine, we are continually nourished by what Christ gives to us – His body and blood, given and shed for us. Connected to Christ, the vine, we abide in Christ and Christ abides in us.

Abiding in Christ, you will live forever. On the Last Day, you cannot be judged for your sins because you are in Christ. Christ was already judged for your sins in His death on the cross. In Christ, your sins have been taken away from you and drowned into the depths of the sea. In Christ, your sins have been removed from you as far as the east is from the west.

So, do not be weary or angry with God when He prunes you. It is not pleasant, but it is for your eternal good. And don’t focus on yourself as the branch or what you can produce. Focus on Christ, the true vine, who feeds you and nourishes you, and produces much fruit in you to the glory of God the Father. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

Christ’s Letter to the Church in Sardis

Sermon for Midweek Lenten Service based on Revelation 3:1-6

Dear conquerors who will be clothed in white garments, whose names will never be blotted out of the book of life, and whose names Jesus will confess before His Father and before His angels: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

The church in Sardis was the big church with a full schedule every week. Moms and Tots on Mondays. Quilting and youth group on Tuesdays. Free suppers for the homeless on Wednesdays. Serve your neighbour Thursdays. Clean up the city Fridays. Men’s groups, ladies’ groups, young adults’ groups, youth groups, children’s groups, family groups. You name it, they had it. They thus had the reputation of being alive.

They had the reputation of being alive because of all the works they did in their communities, all the help they offered to the needy, all the funds they raised for relief efforts around the world. They had the reputation of being alive because they had the numbers – big attendance numbers, big event numbers, big dollar numbers collected in offerings.

Yet, Jesus says they are dead. The reputation they had before men was a lie. Men judge by outward appearance; God judges by the heart (I Sm. 16:7).

Hebrews 11 tells us that without faith it is impossible to please God (v. 6). Romans 14 tells us that whatever does not proceed from faith is sin (v. 23). We also heard from John chapter fifteen where Jesus says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (v. 5) This means that even works that are excellent and praiseworthy in human eyes are sin before God if they are done without faith. Without being in Christ, we can do nothing good; we can bear no fruit.

The church in Sardis got completely wrapped up in every imaginable purpose except matters of faith. The church had become a community club where the members gathered to do things, but they did not gather for the purpose of hearing God’s Word and receiving His forgiveness. The church came to have a life of its own, apart from life in God, and thus Jesus said that they are dead. They were dead branches cut off from the vine.

This is not an uncommon occurrence. Churches that have been around for a long time can forget their reason to exist. Churches can even be started for the wrong reasons. People go to church, they attend services, but they don’t know why they’re there. They go through the motions. They say sing the hymns. They say the responses. But their hearts aren’t into it. Their minds are preoccupied by other things.

Christ says, “Wake up!” Don’t get distracted or caught up in events and programs and groups and committees. Come to church to hear God’s Word. Yes, in church you hear the very words of God Himself written for you and spoken to you. Come to church to receive the body and blood of Christ for the forgiveness of your sins and the strengthening of your faith. This is where sins are forgiven and removed from you as far as the east is from the west. This is where God takes your sins from you and throws them into the depths of the sea.

Don’t even get caught up in good works. Yes, those who have been reborn and renewed by the Holy Spirit are obligated to do good works. In fact, they cannot help but do good works because they have been freed from the slavery of sin and have been filled with love for God and for their neighbour. God Himself has prepared good works for us to do (Eph. 2:10). Abiding in the vine, the branches will bear fruit.

However, let your focus always be the Gospel – the forgiveness of sins Christ has won for you and gives to you freely. It is Christ’s death for you that gives you eternal life. It is His Word and His body and blood that strengthen you through the trials and tribulations of this life to eternal life.

It is also the Gospel that motivates you to do good works. The threats of the Law may get you to begrudgingly do what it demands, but these are not good works before God no matter how much men may praise you for them. The threats of the Law may compel to a full schedule of events and programs to help others, but without faith it is all sin. Without faith, even works that are excellent and praiseworthy in human eyes condemn to hell. Without faith, you may have the reputation of being alive, but Jesus says you are dead.

Do not turn inward, however, to try and find faith. Faith does not come from within us. Faith comes from outside of us. Faith comes from God.

Faith comes from God when He tells you that He has clothed you in white through Baptism, covering all your sin. Faith comes from God when He tells you that He has written your name in the book of life and He will never blot it out. The devil cannot blot your name out because he’s been thrown out of heaven. Your sins cannot blot your name out because you are clothed in the white robe of Christ’s righteousness. Your name will never be blotted out of God’s book of life, because no one can snatch you out of God the Father’s hand since He is greater than all (John 10:29).

Finally, Christ says He will confess your name before His Father in heaven and before the angels. He will shut down every accusation against you. Clothed in the robe of forgiveness, Jesus will claim you as His own. He will confess and acknowledge that you belong to Him, and you will thus enter the holy city, which comes down from the new heavens to the new earth (Rev. 21:2).

You are alive. Not because of your busyness with programs and events and good works or because of your reputation before men. You are alive because you abide in the vine, Jesus, in whom you will bear much fruit. You are alive because you are in Christ, and He is alive, and because Christ is alive and will live forevermore, you are alive and will live forever. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

Christ’s Letter to the Church in Ephesus

Sermon for Ash Wednesday based on Revelation 2:1-7

Dear church of Christ who will eat of the tree of life: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

Christ Jesus, the Lord of the Church, sent seven letters to seven churches. Tonight, we focus on His letter to the church in Ephesus.

Jesus starts out with commending them for their works, especially in recognizing false teachers. He praises them saying, “You cannot bear with those you are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and have found them to be false.”

The church in Ephesus was enduring and bearing up under the great difficulty of having false teachers in their midst. Jesus specifically praises them for hating the false teachings and works of the Nicolaitans, which Jesus says He also hates. The church in Ephesus was clinging to the truth of the Gospel in the midst of trying times and false teachings.

Jesus does have something against them, however. They had abandoned the love they had at first.

When the Gospel had first reached Ephesus, those who believed the Gospel had responded with great love. They loved gathering to hear God’s Word in church. They loved sharing what they had with the needy. They generously gave offerings to the church so that more people could hear the good news that had saved them. They did good works in the community out of love for God and love for their neighbour. They did these good works since they were so filled with love because their sins were forgiven and they had the promise of eternal life.

Over time, however, their love had grown cold. They no longer had the same love for God which they had at first, so they did not do the same works they did at first. They no longer showed love for their neighbour. They no longer showed love for hearing God’s Word.

Jesus warns in the Gospel according to Saint Matthew that in the latter days, “Because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold.” (Matt. 24:12) This happened in Ephesus already at the time of Jesus’ letter to them.

Lawlessness was great in Ephesus. This is evident from the influence of the Nicolaitans in Ephesus. The Nicolaitans were an antinomian cult participating in offering food to pagan gods and cult prostitution, quite likely connected to the popular goddess Artemis of the Ephesians. There is documentary evidence of the worship of up to 50 gods in Ephesus, but all paled in comparison to Artemis, the temple built to her being numbered among the seven wonders of the ancient world.

Jesus commends the church in Ephesus for hating the works of the Nicolaitans, but these evil works around them still influenced their love to grow cold.

The church had condemned the works of the Nicolaitans, but they still lost members to the cult. They had done outreach to their pagan neighbours, but their neighbours didn’t come to church. They had helped the poor and needy in Ephesus, yet they still had the poor and needy around them. They had taught their children the faith, yet their children were being lost to the world and its enticements. All their works did nothing. Their love grew cold.

It’s not just their love for good works that grew cold. Their love for God grew cold. These are really one and the same. Their love for God grew cold, because they thought He should be doing more in Ephesus. They thought God should knock over the great temple built for Artemis; that God should take care of the poor and needy; that God should bring these worshipers of false gods to a knowledge of the one and only true God.

Because God didn’t do what they expected Him to do, their love for Him grew cold, and they stopped inviting their neighbours to church. They stopped helping the poor and needy and reduced their offerings to God. They stopped teaching their children the faith.

Jesus knows all His churches and all His people. Therefore, He writes a letter to the church in Ephesus saying, “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.”

In the first chapter of Revelation, we heard that the lampstand is the church. Thus, Jesus is saying, if you don’t repent, I will remove the church out of Ephesus. If you do not repent, I will take away my Word and Sacraments from you.

If Jesus wrote a letter to the church in Melville, what would He say? Has our love for God grown cold because of lawlessness that God has not curtailed? Has our love for our neighbour grown cold as there continue to be poor and needy even though we have helped them? Have we stopped doing the works we used to do because our invitations to our neighbours and children and grandchildren to join us in church have gone unheeded?

Christ’s warning to the church in Ephesus is His warning to the church in Melville and to the church in every city in the world. Repent. If you do not repent, I will remove the church out of your midst.

What is it that Christ is calling us to do? Grow the church here? Eliminate poverty? Turn unbelievers’ hearts? No. We can do none of those things. God, and God alone gives growth to the church and turns hearts to Him (I Cor. 3:6-7), and Jesus said, “You always have the poor with you.” (Matt. 26:11)

Jesus is simply calling for us to love Him and trust Him, even if He doesn’t do what we think He should do. And since Scripture teaches that faith without works is dead, that is, it is not true faith (James 2:17), we strive out of love for God to serve our neighbour. Not to earn salvation, for this we can never do, but willingly and joyfully because we are already saved.

Galatians teaches, “Let us not grow weary of doing good… as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” (Gal. 6:9-10) This does not mean that our invitations to others to come to church will be accepted and our church will grow. It does not mean that our congregational budget won’t be tight. It doesn’t mean that there will be no more poor.

It means that out of our love for God, we do good, regardless of the outcome, regardless of success or failure, regardless of the lawlessness around us.

Jesus promises, “To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.”

Revelation twelve tells us that Satan has been conquered by the blood of the Lamb (Rev. 12:11). Romans eight tells us that we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us (Rom. 8:37).

In Christ by faith, we are conquerors, and will eat from the tree of life in paradise. Adam and Eve did not get to eat from the tree of life which would have caused them to live forever as sinful beings (Gen. 3:22), but when we are brought into the joys of paradise as sinless people, we will get to eat from the tree of life and live forever.

In fact, we already get to eat from the tree of life. Not the one in paradise, but the word Jesus uses which is translated as tree, is more often used to refer to wood which has been cut down, and thus points us to the tree of the cross. The fruit of the cross is the forgiveness of sins, which we eat every Sunday in the Lord’s Supper, and which we eat again tonight. This fruit of the cross keeps us in Christ, so that we are conquerors, and will be strengthened in faith and in good works until we eat of the tree of life in paradise.

Because of the fruit we eat from the tree of life now, we receive the forgiveness of sins. Because we receive the forgiveness of sins, will live forever, and will join Christ our dear Saviour and Lord of the Church in the paradise of God. Christ has made sure of it by shedding His blood on the tree and thus conquering Satan. Christ has made sure that we will eat of the tree of life in the paradise of God by giving us the fruits of the tree of His cross in His body and blood given and shed for us. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.