Sermon Starters

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Thomas F. Fischer, M.Div., M.S.A., Editor

The Sixth Sunday In Lent--
Palm Sunday

Note: This set of Sermon Starters also includes several illustrations appropriate for Holy Week (below).

Option #1: "The Importance of Attitude"
Philippians 2:5-11
Rev. Wayne Dobratz

Introduction: Attitude is one of the categories on the report card. Students are rated not only on their performance, but on their ATTITUDE. Palm Sunday is very much about attitude--Jesus’ attitude. It’s about how Jesus thought of himself and of the work the Heavenly Father gave Him to do. Jesus’ ride into Jerusalem reminds us of THE IMPORTANCE OF ATTITUDE.

I. It brought him to Jerusalem

       A. Right before he wrote today’s text, Paul said: "Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others."

       B. When small children have guests, they may sometimes fight over toys. When a visiting child plays with a favorite toy, a child will say: "That’s mine! You can’t have it!"

       C. Jesus could have clung to his "rights" as God’s Son, but he "emptied himself...he made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant."

       D. The attitude of sinful mankind made it necessary for Jesus to empty himself. Illustration: the late Astronaut James Irwin commented: "As I was returning to earth, I realized that I was a servant, not a celebrity. So I am here, as God’s servant on Earth, to share what I have experienced that others might know the glory of God."

       E. This humble servant love is a lesson that Jesus had to teach the disciples often, as in John 13.

II. Jesus’ attitude laid him on the cross as a sacrifice for our sins--text, v8: "And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death--even death on a cross!"

       A. Jesus deliberately rode into Jerusalem knowing that his acclaim would lead to the cross--Lk 19:39 passim

       B. Jesus knew that the religious leaders were envious of his popularity with the people--John 11:48ff

       C. Jesus knew that he had to die in Jerusalem--Lk 13:33

       D. Jesus’ attitude of humble love brings those who trust in him to God--1 Pet 3:8 & Rom 5:2

III. Jesus’ attitude of humble servant love still changes lives today

       A. That was the purpose of the foot-washing lesson in John 13, especially v7

       B. How we imitate Christ’s life of sacrificial love will indicate our love for him, as in Matt 25:40. There was a deacon in a church in Boston many years ago who said to himself: "I can’t lead a Bible class. There are many things I don’t have the talent to do, but I can do this: I can put two extra dinner plates on my table every Sunday and invite two young men who are away from home to have a meal with me." He did that for more than 30 years. He became acquainted with many young men who attended his church and some of them have followed his humble example. When he died, he was to be buried in Andover, some 30 miles away. Because he was a well-known businessman, a special train had to be chartered to convey the funeral party. Any of his friends who had become Christians through his influence were welcomed to sit in a special car set aside for them. 150 of them came and packed that car from end to end. "Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever." (Dan 12:3)

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Option #2: "Fickle Crowds, Faithful Christ"
Philippians 2:5-11
Rev. Kelly Bedard

A. A righteous man without equal reduced to a man without equal rights

B. A level and humble man leveled and humbled by mankind

C. An obedient and responsive servant subjected to unresponsive and disobedient servants

D. A man of low and no rank elevated to the highest place (the cross)


1. kenoo (v7): make void, make of none effect, make of no reputation, be in vain; to empty, make empty; of Christ, he laid aside equality with or the form of God; to make void; deprive of force, render vain, useless, of no effect; to make void;
cause a thing to be seen to be empty.

2. tapeinoo (v8): hollow, false, humble, abase, humble (one's) self, bring low; to make low, bring low; to level, reduce to a plain; metaphorically, to bring into a humble condition, reduce to meaner circumstances; to assign a lower rank or place to; to abase; to be ranked below others who are honored or rewarded; to humble or abase myself by humble living; to lower, depress; of one's soul bring down one's pride; to have a modest opinion of one's self; to behave in an unassuming manner; devoid of all haughtiness.

3. hupekoos (v8): obedient, obey; giving ear.

4. huperupsoo (v9): highly exalt; metaphorically, to exalt to the highest rank and power, raise to supreme majesty; to extol most highly; to be lifted up with pride, exalted beyond measure; to carry one's self loftily.

5. Even our best attempts to imitate Jesus (WWJD) can be only that, imitation, aping the example rather than acting from a mind shaped by Christ. (Douglas Chamberlain)

6. We live in a society dominated by rights-activism, permeated with the philosophy of "me first," and molded by the corporate ideals of efficiency and success. The Church must be called to remember that demanding one's rights and privileges may be popular, even necessary in some cases, but if it does so at the expense of Christian unity and love, it is not Christian! (Dennis Bratcher)

7. Today's rooster is tomorrow's feather duster! (Some Wise Philospher!)

8. Jumpeth not on the bandwagon if there's a chance the wheels shall cometh off. (Guru Bob)

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Sermon Illustrations--Holy Week
Rev. Thomas Fischer, M.Div, M.S.A.

1) "The Winner...Dies"

The Mayan Indians had a kind of basketball game in which, at the end, the captain of the winning team was sacrificed--killed--by the captain of the losing team. His head was cut off. What was the message? For the Mayans, the "name of the game was to become worthy to be sacrificed to God."

The idea of being sacrificed, especially the winner being sacrificed, is an idea so foreign to our winner-take-all culture. Yet to the Mayans the sacrifice of oneself was demonstration of the highest ideal of victory. The one who was sacrificed was the one who was victorious. And the one who was most victorious was the one who was sacrificed.

We see the greatest example of the sacrifice as marking the victory in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. "Worthy is the Lamb who was slain," the writer of The Apocalypse recorded. It is because of His sacrifice that
Christians celebrate Christ as the Victorious King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

(Adapted from Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth, New York: Anchor Books, 1988, p135)

2) "Singing Unto Death"

Seventeenth Century Jesuit missionaries recorded an account of the capture and death of an American Iroquois warrior. He had been captured by another group of Native Americans and was about to be tortured--essentially filleted--to death. The young Iroquois warrior knew what was going to occur and the pain of this horrified ordeal and execution. Yet, to the Jesuits' amazement, the young Iroquois is singing and celebrating as if about to celebrate his wedding. He is decorated and loudly dressed. His captors treat him as if he is an honored guest. And the young Iroquois warrior plays along with the whole thing, knowing that he is about to die a most horrific, excruciating death.

"When they had sung a hymn," Matthew recorded, "they went out to the Mount of Olives." (Matthew 26:30)

(Adapted from Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth, New York: Anchor Books, 1988, p135

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