March 14, 2018
Tree to Tree: The Tree of Life to the Cross
God created man, and man began his journey in the Garden of Eden. In the midst of that garden were two trees more beautiful than the rest. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil and the tree of life—what joy for man to come to these trees and worship, giving thanks to God for His good and gracious gifts. But one day there was an unwelcome visitor to their worship service—Satan. He had things to say, wise things to share with man. They were lies, but man followed. Sin came, and Adam and Eve were exiled from the garden and from the tree of life. How they longed to return to the garden and the beautiful tree, and God promised that He would lead the way. Jesus Christ leads us from one garden to the next and from one tree to the tree of life in the courts of heaven. It was a hard and treacherous journey for our Leader, and it required a stop at another tree, the cross. But the evil Satan, who used a tree to bring sin into world, was conquered by another tree, and our sin was washed away.
Vespers normally does not have an opening hymn. After the bells ring, we begin with the Opening Versicles.
1To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
2O my God, in you I trust;
let me not be put to shame;
let not my enemies exult over me.
3Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame;
they shall be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.
4Make me to know your ways, O Lord;
teach me your paths.
5Lead me in your truth and teach me,
for you are the God of my salvation;
for you I wait all the day long.
6Remember your mercy, O Lord, and your steadfast love,
for they have been from of old.
7Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions;
according to your steadfast love remember me,
for the sake of your goodness, O Lord!
8Good and upright is the Lord;
therefore he instructs sinners in the way.
9He leads the humble in what is right,
and teaches the humble his way.
10All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness,
for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.
11For your name’s sake, O Lord,
pardon my guilt, for it is great.
12Who is the man who fears the Lord?
Him will he instruct in the way that he should choose.
13His soul shall abide in well-being,
and his offspring shall inherit the land.
14The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him,
and he makes known to them his covenant.
15My eyes are ever toward the Lord,
for he will pluck my feet out of the net.
16Turn to me and be gracious to me,
for I am lonely and afflicted.
17The troubles of my heart are enlarged;
bring me out of my distresses.
18Consider my affliction and my trouble,
and forgive all my sins.
19Consider how many are my foes,
and with what violent hatred they hate me.
20Oh, guard my soul, and deliver me!
Let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in you.
21May integrity and uprightness preserve me,
for I wait for you.
22Redeem Israel, O God,
out of all his troubles.
The Tree of Life
© 1993 Stephen P. Starke. Used by permission: LSB Hymn License .NET, no. 100011256.
© 1995 Bruce W. Becker. Used by permission: LSB Hymn License .NET, no. 100011256.
Readings From Holy Scripture
Old Testament Reading
15The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.
22Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” 23therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. 24He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.
21For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. 22He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. 24He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 25For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
Because standing for the reading of the Gospel has historically been connected with the presence of Christ in the Eucharist (Holy Communion), the traditional rubric for the Vespers is to remain seated during all of the readings, even those from the Gospels.
14And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
(Click on link above to hear the sermon.)
The Offering, gathered at the entrace to the service, is now presented to the Lord.
C Our Father who art in heaven,
Thy kingdom come,
Collect of the Day
P We praise You, our Father in heaven, that Your Son, Jesus Christ, accomplished the salvation of mankind by the tree of the cross that, where death arose, there life also might rise again and that the serpent who overcame by the tree of the garden might likewise by the tree of the cross be overcome. Keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, that we may lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord.
Additional Collects of Intercession and Thanksgiving
P Gracious Creator, when You look for us, we hide because all of creation is infected with the parasite of sin. Have mercy on us. We thank You that You have covered us with Christ in Baptism instead of flimsy leaves. Therefore, give us hope to share in the better leaves of the tree of life which are for the healing of the nations, that we may always live before You as You created us without sin; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.
Collect for Peace
L O God, from whom come all holy desires, all good counsels, and all just works, give to us, Your servants, that peace which the world cannot give, that our hearts may be set to obey Your commandments and also that we, being defended from the fear of our enemies, may live in peace and quietness; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
In the Cross of Christ I Glory
Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Created by Lutheran Service Builder © 2006 Concordia Publishing House.