June 16, 2024


Trees - Fourth Sunday After Pentecost

Trees - Fourth Sunday After Pentecost
Trinity Lutheran Church, Greeley, Colorado
Trees - Fourth Sunday After Pentecost

Jun 16 2024 | 00:16:53


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[00:00:00] Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our father and from our Lord and savior, Jesus Christ. Amen. [00:00:07] This hymn is more recent. It's by Stephen Starkey, who's written some newer hymns, but he pulls together the connection that we probably make fairly often between the tree of life and the tree of the cross. And then, of course, in revelation, revelation 22, the tree reappears. The tree of life is there in the city of God. The river of the water of life is flowing from the throne and from the lamb. [00:00:36] And then there's the tree of life there, and it says on both sides of the river and bearing fruit and such. So anyway, so we have the tree all the way through. Kind of interesting. I mean, it makes it kind of the image of images in a way. I mean, the tree of life there in the garden and the tree of life there at the end. [00:00:57] What makes it such a special image? [00:01:00] I wrote about trees in the newsletter blurb that I write every month, and I don't remember what I wrote, so you can go check it out. [00:01:18] So a tree. [00:01:20] The tree is this interesting, interesting image. It holds together so many things in just one trunk. It's an image of unity and diversity within that unity, and it's holding it all together in a way that makes sense. [00:01:39] In fact, the pattern of a tree is pretty cool to think about. You know, if you took. I don't know if I've said this before or not, if you took a massive branch from a really big tree and you stuck it in the ground, it would look like a tree, right? Like, you wouldn't be able to tell the difference necessarily. Maybe, you know, it probably depends on the tree. Okay. But if you stuck it in the ground, it would look like a tree. And then if you took a big branch from that branch and stuck it in the ground, it would look like a tree. And if you took a little branch from that, you know, you could keep going down to, like, just a twig with a couple other twigs on it, stick it in the ground, it's going to look like a Charlie brown tree. It's going to look like a tree. Right? [00:02:22] So the tree itself is this. It's this pattern within patterns. It's repeating patterns. They're all the same repeating patterns. Everything held together in this orderly way in the one tree. What a fitting image to have at the beginning and at the end, and to think of Christ as the tree, right, or the tree of the cross as the tree that's holding everything together. There are actually a couple Bible verses that explicitly say, like in Ephesians 110 or it might be 20, actually, something like that. Anyway, and then Colossians three has the same kind of thing going on where it says that, that Christ on the cross, that through Christ on the cross, God united all things in heaven and on earth. Okay. I mean, that's the image of a tree holding together. I don't know how many leaves are on a tree, actually. It's kind of funny. I was in Chicago recently, a few weeks ago, and it's a little more humid there. Things grow a little better. So you're outside and you just hear. You hear so many birds, and you look around and there are tall trees. Actually, more recently, we were in Virginia, went to Washington, DC, and saw the sights. And some family in Virginia, and, man, he can't see the sky because there's so many trees. Anyway, all this to say in places like that, places like that make me think, wow, growing up in Denver, I pictured this little tree as the tree of life. [00:04:00] I should have been picturing this huge tree like the ones that I saw in those more humid places. Okay, so you got to picture there's a massive tree that does this thing that holds everything together in unity, all things in heaven and on earth. [00:04:15] Jesus Christ, is that for us? [00:04:19] All right. So holding the tree imagery in mind, I want to look at this interesting passage from Ezekiel, our Old Testament reading. [00:04:30] Thus says the Lord God, I myself will take a sprig from the lofty top of the cedar and will set it out. I will break off from the topmost of its young twigs, a tender one, and I myself will plant it on a high and lofty mountain. On the mountain height of Israel will I plant it, that it may bear branches and produce fruit and become a noble cedar. [00:04:53] And under it will dwell every kind of bird and the shade of its branches. Birds of every sort will nest, and all the trees of the field shall know that I am the Lord God. I bring low the high tree and make high the low tree, dry up the green tree and make the dry tree flourish. I am the Lord. I have spoken, and I will do it now. Earlier in this chapter of Ezekiel, Ezekiel's, he's recounting a vision, and he says that an eagle. An eagle took. [00:05:25] Took the top off of a cedar and planted it by a stream of water. [00:05:32] All right, so. And I'm not. I've never done this with a tree. I know you could do it with some trees. Can you do that with a cedar tree, like, just naturally? I don't know. I don't know. That'd be pretty cool, though. So anyway, so the eagle comes and it plants the, the top of the cedar tree for it to become a big tree. What happens is that the tree ends up looking to a different eagle, which is kind of interesting. Looks to a different eagle to get water. It says that it turned its roots toward a different eagle. And then we hear that this is speaking about Israel's choice to look to Egypt for help instead of God. [00:06:11] So this is right before Israel is taken over by Babylon and all their best, their leaders, the best and brightest of Israel, is taken back to Babylon and Jerusalem is destroyed. [00:06:25] Israel is in exile. It's kind of all over for them. Just before that, God says, look, you've got to submit to Babylon. You got to submit to Babylon. And the king says, nah, and goes down to Egypt hoping that with Egypt they'll be able to take on Babylon. And, well, no, it doesn't work, right. Babylon takes him over anyway. But. So they look to a different eagle, which eagles are lofty, high and lofty. [00:06:55] The kingdom of Egypt was certainly, it was a big deal. High and lofty could make a lot happen. [00:07:04] But they looked to Egypt and not to God, which was foolish. God had planted them there. So here in our reading, God promises, I'm going to take a branch. I myself will take a sprig of the lofty top of the cedar and we'll set it out. And it sounds like maybe even a smaller twig of that sprig. I will break off from the topmost of its young twigs, tender one, and I myself will plant it on a high and lofty mountain. So this is promised that after the ex, that the exile will end, that Israel will return to the land and that they'll be a cedar once more through a twig. Right? Who's that twig? [00:07:50] Jesus. Now, kind of cool that it comes from just a, a little twig of a sprig of the top of a cedar. [00:07:59] That Jesus would be just a little twig. He's not like, I'll take the best cedar from Lebanon, where the cedars were famously, I'll take the best cedar and I'll stick it on the mountain top in Israel. He says, I'll take a little twig. [00:08:20] God works through weakness, through foolishness, foolishness of man, of God is wisdom. [00:08:30] He works through foolishness and weakness. This little twig, Jesus didn't look like a whole lot. If you knew Jesus, you wouldn't have been like, oh, wow, this is going to be great. You'd just be like, hey, my name's Josh. Right? [00:08:45] But as you get to know Jesus, then you see amazing things, but still through this weak vessel, just kind of a regular human being. And then you see him on the cross, right? The cross that would become this tree of life that's going to become a noble cedar that's going to hold everything together in heaven and on earth. [00:09:08] The cross doesn't look like much, certainly. In fact, I mean, it does the opposite. You look at the cross and Jesus dying on it, and you go, whoa, that's not a pretty picture. That's not something glorious. [00:09:23] But Jesus says, yeah, this is when I'm glorified, when I am crucified for you. [00:09:32] The noble cedar doesn't come from nobility, so to speak, comes from weakness. [00:09:42] God promises Israel glory, but from weakness. [00:09:51] All right, we've got kind of a similar image, but different in the gospel reading this time we have a mustard seed, which is the smallest seed on earth. Jesus says, all right, if you've ever held a mustard seed, it's. Yeah, it's pretty small. [00:10:06] I know of smaller seeds, but maybe, I don't know, a true mustard seed. [00:10:13] Maybe these have been genetically modified. I don't know. [00:10:17] I don't know. I don't know. But the point is, from this little tiny seed, you're seeding things in the garden, from this little tiny seed comes a big plant. It's not a noble cedar, but in the garden, things that you're. I guess you cultivate mustard plants for the mustard seeds, like you would cultivate other things in the garden for food or things like that. [00:10:40] Just this little tiny thing that you wouldn't expect to become much. You stick it in the ground and it becomes something great. [00:10:49] Jesus doesn't look like much. And then on the cross, boy, certainly doesn't look like much. [00:10:56] In Jesus in Christ crucified, there we have heaven and earth held together and we're brought up into this noble life of Christ. [00:11:11] And finally might as well hit the epistle reading. I'm just going to skip to the end of it, for the love of Christ controls us because we have concluded this, that one has died for all, therefore all have died. You see how all are held together in Christ's cross, therefore all have died. [00:11:33] And he died for all that. Those who live might no longer live for themselves, but for him, who for their sake, died and was raised. So being taken up into Jesus, being incorporated into his body, being grafted into his tree, in whom all things hold together, it's no longer about us. [00:12:00] Because if it were about us, it'd be like sticking a little. [00:12:04] All right, take the branch off the tree, and it's going to wither and die, right? But now we have this new life. If anyone is in Christ, he's a new creation. The old has passed away. Behold, the new has come. So we've got this new reality of not being independent, but being grafted into Christ. Everything that we have, which is a whole lot. Right? In the previous chapter, Paul calls it treasure. But treasure in jars of clay. [00:12:33] It's not ours. We're just a vessel. And we're holding this treasure that we're given in Christ. [00:12:39] But we have this new life, and it belongs to God and not to us. Right? The power. So we're a new creation. The old has gone. The new has come. And that means a different kind of reality for you and me. [00:12:54] We recognize that. [00:12:57] Well, that everything good that we have, which, again, is considerable, right? Eternal life with God. Knowledge through Jesus Christ. Knowledge of God and therefore of creation. That he made knowledge of ourselves through Christ. [00:13:15] All the fruits of the spirit. [00:13:18] We have the Holy Spirit and Christ living in us. And that's not something to. [00:13:26] You know. What do you say? [00:13:30] I don't know. I can't think of the phrase not something to just blow off like, it's no big deal. We have everything in Christ, but the key is in Christ. We must remember that from now on. Therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Okay? According to outward appearance. Paul says elsewhere in this passage, we regard no one according to the flesh. According to outward appearance. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away. Behold, the new has come. [00:14:10] We're going to leave here today and, you know, maybe turn on the news, and we're going to see what things look like according to outward appearance. [00:14:19] Or we'll start evaluating ourselves, our value and worth based on our accomplishments or what we have going on. Our family, our connections, whatever it is. Those are our temptations. [00:14:36] To look at outward appearance and to judge ourselves that way. [00:14:41] For better or worse. [00:14:44] That's our temptation. We no longer regard anyone according to the flesh, not even Christ. [00:14:50] If anyone's in Christ, he's a new creation. The old has passed away. Behold, the new has come. [00:14:58] You don't have to cultivate your own orchard or develop something powerful or glorious because you've been grafted into Christ, the tree that holds everything together, all things in heaven and on earth, and he's lifted you up into that life. And from here, we could talk about SAP and things like that, right? But we better wrap it up. No, actually, I just want to mention the cedar keeps coming up in the readings this morning and even in the intro, it and the cedars of Lebanon were. [00:15:34] Well, they were famous, right? [00:15:37] They're the materials used for, like, the phoenician ships, you know, there in the Mediterranean. And the Egyptians used SAP from the. [00:15:49] From cedar trees for mummification, you know, for making their mummies. And, you know, the list could just go on and on. They were used in the temple. So the cedars of Lebanon, I mean, they were, they were famous and renowned and used for everything. [00:16:05] They smelled good, right? Just like mustard seeds, actually. Mustard seeds smell good, right? [00:16:12] So anyway, so, all right, so Christ is this cedar, right? This twig that becomes a noble cedar, famous, right? Higher than all the other trees. All the trees of the field will know that he is the Lord, right? This is no small thing. And you've been grafted into that. [00:16:30] Jesus Christ is. I mean, he has all power and authority in heaven and on earth. He's above all things. Nothing can touch you, not political situations or anything else in Christ. This is a new reality that we live in. [00:16:45] If anyone is in Christ, he's a new creation. The old has passed away. Behold, the new has come. Thanks be to God. In Jesus name, amen.

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