Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
The parables Jesus tells are not meant to affirm the self-righteousness of the arrogant and unrepentant. In fact, parables hide God from the proud. Simple words and simple stories conceal God from those who are too self-important to believe that God is not like them. The point of the parable of the Sower is that God farms differently than man does. Some of you are farmers, but that doesn’t necessarily help you understand God or His ways. If you are a farmer—and those of you who tend to a garden will understand this as well—you work the soil using all your wisdom and experience and strength to make it productive.
But God sows the seed of His Gospel in what we would consider foolish places. He does not work the soil, for the seed he sows is good in and of itself, and men need that seed. The seed does its work. His ways astound and confuse us. He sows His seed in foolish and impossible places. He sows on the hard earth of a trodden path—the fruit may grow for a time, but the earth is packed so hard by those following the crowd in the ways of the world that the fruit of faith cannot take root. He sows among the thorns—the ground able to produce fruit, but the cares and worries of this life choke that fruit to death. He sows on the rocks—the hardened hearts of those who go their own way, doing whatever they want without regard for the command and promise of God. He sows the seed where it does not, will not, and cannot grow. Not even a drunken farmer on a moonless night would plant seeds so foolishly.
Some of you remember a time when every single pew in this sanctuary was filled to overflowing with people, so much so that we had to add chairs in the aisles to make room for everyone. Some of you are old enough to remember times when St. Peter had as many as twenty students in Catechism class to prepare for communicant membership. Some of you remember a time when every curtained partition in the basement of the education building was utilized for Sunday School classes. It seems like all that happened a very long time ago. There are plenty of open pews here at St. Peter this morning. There are five students in Catechism class this year, and in the five years I’ve been here, we’ve had a year when we haven’t had any students. And we only use two Sunday School rooms, both with plenty of seats to spare. We cannot force anyone to come and hear the Word of God, any more than a farmer can force seed to grow and be fruitful on a boulder. We cannot force anyone to allow the Word of God to overpower the cares and concerns of their life. We cannot force anyone to abandon what the world finds popular for the sake of the Gospel. Our numbers have declined and grown and declined again over the 125 years of our history; we have absolutely no control over how the Word of God does its work.
But that’s the thing, the crux of the matter: making this congregation grow is God’s work. God does give you important work to do: bring your children to be baptized, so that their hearts may be made fertile by those holy waters. Choose pastors who are faithful to the Word, and make sure they preach that Word even when the world would silence the Word. Come to hear that word yourselves, and allow that Word to continue to grow within you. Cry out for and receive the body and blood of Jesus, which feeds the seed of faith within you. Those are important tasks. But the growth of that seed is always a gift of God; He provides the growth where and when He wills it. He has planted that seed and watered it again this morning for young JennyLynn. And wonder of wonders, the seed finds fertile soil! In the most unexpected of places, even in places we would consider too packed or rocky or thorny, the seed grows. It may not happen as much as we might hope—and God Himself desires that every seed He plants would grow, though He knows that will not happen—but the seed of the Word, the seed of faith continues to grow according to God’s will. That’s all that we can hope for, and it’s more than we can make happen ourselves. The blood of Christ, shed on the cross, poured onto us in the waters of Holy Baptism, fed to us in His holy Supper, brings us to faith and nurtures and feeds that faith within us.
There nothing for you to add or prove or do. He has done it all for you. Foolish though it seems, Jesus has died for you; He does not hold it against you. He has sowed His Seed in you so that you would live and be loved by Him. He feeds that precious fruit of faith so that you would know the Father. In Him and at His Word, you are lush and fertile in redemption. The harvest has already been bountiful, just this year alone: our Lord has gathered up Geraldine, Edna, little Drake, and countless others—and the Church Triumphant grows with each one, for their labors have ended; they rest in God’s heavenly storehouse forever! And the harvest will continue to be plentiful, even here at St. Peter, regardless of how full or empty our pews may be, for the faithful Sower will continue to plant His seed here, will water it in Holy Baptism, will continue to feed and nurture us with His Word and Sacrament, and finally will gather you in with all the faithful. 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.