Thursday, February 24, 2011

Sermon for 2/27/11--Sexagesima (LSB 1-year)

The Seed Is the Word

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

We should fear and love God that we may not despise preaching and His Word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it.” Martin Luther used these words to explain the Third Commandment. However, they also provide a concise summary of the Gospel appointed for today. In our text, Jesus discusses the Word and how the world receives the Word. Though He told this parable nearly two-thousand years ago, not much has changed—not in how the Word goes forth from God, nor in how the people of the world receive that Word. It should come as no surprise that the Word of God is not always given a warm reception. We see that all too frequently. Homosexuality, for example, has gained a certain legitimacy as an accepted and viable lifestyle, though the Bible calls it “unnatural”, “shameless”, “an abomination”, “contrary to sound doctrine”. Life is a precious gift from God. We know from the Bible that those not yet born are persons in the eyes of God from the time of conception, and yet 53 million children have been murdered in the name of “choice” since the legalization of abortion in the United States in 1973. In addition, euthanasia has received legalization even in some areas of the United States. It has become the norm for men and women to live together outside of marriage. And these are just a few of the many examples of the world’s rejection of the Word of God. Even the Church on earth is not immune to this rejection.

We in the Church easily become discontent with this state of affairs. It’s not hard to become disappointed that we don’t have three-hundred people sitting in this sanctuary this morning—and not merely for the sake of the offering plate, but because the Word of God is preached in this place in truth and purity and the Sacraments are administered here according to the institution of Jesus Himself. Which of you in faithfulness to the Word of God would not want that Word to work faith in everyone? Of course you desire all people to be saved, even as that Word of God has worked repentance and faith in you. That is not a sinful desire.

But the Word does not have a magical or hypnotic power. The Gospel can be resisted and rejected. We see that even in the Church on earth, where we find those who consider themselves faithful Christians turning a blind eye to those things which God condemns and which separate sinners from the mercy of God. We see it in how supposedly faithful Christians look at the Word of God and in their so-called wisdom pick and choose which parts of that Word they will accept and believe. We see it in how once-faithful Christians abandon that Word of God in times of trial or temptation, relying on their own strength, giving in to temptation and then refusing to repent as if they’ve done nothing wrong. We see it in the indolence and laziness of Christians who think they’ve done enough, those who think they’ve earned God’s good will and no longer have to return to Holy Baptism through repentance and confession. The seed of the Word does not always find good soil.

To put it plainly, you are dirt. Soil. Dust. Our first father Adam was formed from dirt, and so it’s very appropriate that Jesus should compare the seed to the Word of God and the dirt as those who are meant to receive that Word. Because of our sinful nature, there is no heart that is naturally good soil, soil that is ideal for the growth of the that Gospel seed. It is the nature of the seed to bear fruit, but it does not bear fruit everywhere. It is the nature of the Gospel that it is not always received faithfully by those who hear it. Paul tells us that the Gospel is an offense and a scandal. Only a fraction of those who hear the Word of God will receive it in faith. It is only in Holy Baptism that this human soil is softened and made ready for the seed of the Word to do its work.

Do not overlook the expansive generosity of the One who sows the seed. He sows it by hand, scattering the seed abroad, tossing it here and there and everywhere. One doesn’t have to be a farmer to know that this is not a thrifty way to plant a field. But the Sower isn’t interested in a mere profit. He knows the seed will not grow everywhere that it is sown, but still He scatters it. He sends out His Word widely. The seed sometimes lands on the path, and on the path it may be trampled or the birds may consume it. The devil seeks out those who treat the Word carelessly and claims them as his own. The seed sometimes lands among the rocks, and among the rocks it may not receive enough moisture. The Word may reach the hearts of some, but trials and temptations may scorch a faith that is not deeply rooted. The seed sometimes lands among the thorns, and there it may be choked. The Word does not flourish where it is choked out by the desires and lusts of the flesh. But even on the path or among the rocks or in the thorns there may be soil in which the seed can take root, moisture to nurture the seed, and enough room among the thorns that the seed can sprout and prosper. The seed grows according to the will of God. God tells us through the prophet Isaiah, “For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and do not return there, but water the earth, and make it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.” The Lord keeps on sowing, sending out pastors to preach the Word and administer the sacraments so that the Gospel seed can nurture and grow. And that’s all that pastors can do. Pastors cannot make people believe; it’s their job to preach the Word. As St. Paul wrote, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.

Do not discouraged that we don’t have three-hundred people here to hear the Word and to receive the gifts of God this morning. What’s happening is exactly what Jesus said would happen. The Word will continue to do its work, sometimes in the most unexpected places. God will continue to give growth according to His gracious good will. He has sown the seed of His holy Word in you. He has made the dirt that you are pliable in the waters of Holy Baptism, and Christ continues to nourish you this morning with His body and blood. Trust in God to provide the growth where and when He wills, for “blessed are those who hear the Word of God and keep it.” In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.

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