Hearing the Word
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
The Word of God is a funny thing. In Isaiah, the Lord says His Word goes out and does the thing which He says it will do. But then Jesus says that the very same Word which saves people when it is preached is the Word that keeps people from hearing and believing. Why do some people who hear the Word of God believe it and live lives that bear fruit while others fall away? Why does one kid who gets confirmed grow up in the church while another from the same class just vanishes? Why does one person to whom pastor speaks the Word repent while another gets mad and storms off?
The Word goes forth and does what the Lord sends it to do—and not just the Word written down or preached, but Immanuel, the Word made flesh, Jesus, who came to be that seed planted in the ground in death, planted only to spring up and give life. The Word comes to do what He says: to forgive sinners by taking their place, to carry the cross and be nailed to it, to bear our sins, to die; and then to rise from the dead. Jesus Himself is the Word planted in you by preaching, watered by Holy Baptism, and nourished and fed with His own body and blood.
So why then do some receive it and some don’t? All we know for certain is that Jesus says it will be that way. We ought to immediately recognize the things that keep the Word from bearing fruit. The birds are the devil; he comes and snatches away faith. The sun that withers the seed on the rock is temptation. The thorns that choke the plant are the cares and riches of the world. The devil, the world, and your sinful flesh are unholy enemies who seek to destroy your faith in Christ.
What is preached in church and what is given to you in the Scriptures is not just facts, history, and details. It is the living Word of God which has the power to forgive your sins and make you right with Him. It is the life-giving Word that gives you strength and, as it did to St. Paul, gives you grace in your weakness. Your sin is that you doubt its power and treat it as mere facts. Repent of thinking of the Word as just one more thing you need to cram into your head. Instead learn to rejoice that the Word of God is a holy and precious treasure that is more valuable than anything you think is important. The Word of God gives life. Don’t despise it. Don’t fear it. Learn it! Pay attention to it in the sermon. Read it every day. Join your brothers and sisters learning their Catechism and studying and growing in God’s Word. Cry out for that Word in your eyes, in your ears, in your mouth!
That’s Christ’s promise to you today. His promise is what He has said to His disciples: “To you it has been given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God.” To you has been given the Word which does what it says. The Word forgives your sins. It declares death cannot have you. It promises eternal life. It is that Word, given in preaching and teaching and with the water and body and blood, which Jesus plants in you to make you bring forth a crop of good works that glorify Him and serve others around you. Where the world says the Word is just more information to be learned once and forgotten, the Lord promises that His Word actually gives you life. Live in that Word. After all, that Word is Jesus, and He always accomplishes what He says—namely, your salvation and everlasting life. Where God’s people are, that’s where His Word is, and He always keeps His promises. “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” 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.