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Sixth Sunday After Pentecost 2020
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kamps
July 12, 2020

 

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Our text for consideration this morning is the Gospel lesson and is commonly called The Parable of the Sower.

Grace mercy and peace be unto you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

This Gospel reading of the parable of the Sower this morning can also be found in Mark chapter 4 and Luke chapter 8.  In each case, the three Gospel writers not only record the parable itself, but its explanation as well. Because we have Jesus’ explanation, this parable is valuable on two levels.  Jesus’ explanation not only gives us the spiritual truth of this parable, but it also gives us guidelines that help interpret other parables. We know that a parable is the explanation of a Divine truth using the word picture of an earthly story. As many of us learned in Sunday School, it is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning.

The story in today’s Gospel is simple enough. As I read or hear Jesus’ words, it’s easy to imagine a first century farmer walking in a field with a bag of seeds slung over his shoulder. As he walks, he rhythmically grabs a handful of seeds from the bag. and scatters them onto the field. The idea of course was to distribute the seed over the whole field so that it would grow and produce a crop. It was probably a scene that was quite common during the planting season in that day.

What is different here in Jesus’ story, is that this farmer seems to be indiscriminate about where he sows the seed. I could see a farmer coming to the edge of a field and trying to cover every square inch of the field with seed. It is entirely possible that a few seeds then might overshoot onto the soil surrounding the field.  In this parable, however, the farmer seems to be throwing the seed willy-nilly everywhere – not only on the good soil, but also on the road, the rocks, the thorns – everywhere.  This farmer doesn’t seem very accurate in his distribution of the seed.

As Jesus explained the meaning of this parable, He asked His disciples to concentrate on the activity of the seed as it interacted with the variety of soils. The seed represents the word of the kingdom – the proclamation of the salvation that Jesus Christ earned for us on the cross. The scattering of the seed represents the preaching of the word of the kingdom.  The soil types represent the different types of people who hear the preaching of the word of the kingdom.  Jesus began with those who simply reject the Word. He said, “When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path.” The Bible tells us that [1 Timothy 2,4] God our Savior desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. Nevertheless, some people reject the Word and resist the Holy Spirit.  They remain in unbelief and under God’s judgment by their own fault.  Eventually, God allows the devil to take the Word away from them.  They have hardened their heart against the work of the Holy Spirit by simply refusing to believe.

The next scenario began on a hopeful note but ended in tragedy. Jesus said, “As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away.”  Here the seed produces results for a while.  This type of person receives the word with joy.  He joins a local congregation.  He may even become quite active.  Then something comes along to test the faith and he falls away.

In Jesus day, many fell away when Jesus began talking about His future suffering, death, and resurrection.  They could not accept that teaching.  We often hear of those who, during the persecution of the early church, gave up their lives rather than deny Jesus, but there were others who fell away from the faith rather than surrender their earthly lives.  Today, there seem to be many who fall away when they find something in the Bible with which they disagree – they would rather forsake the Word than have it change them.  Six years ago, I preached this very same text at Mt. Calvary, in Dayton.  Back in 2014, The Lutheran Witness, The Voice of the Martyrs Organization, and many others were reporting world­wide Christian persecution by Muslims who were murdering Christians because they were converting from Islam.

I moved beyond that portion of my sermon to cite religious persecution in our public schools, where; school children have been disciplined for such things as distributing Christmas cards.  Students have received failing grades for submitting artwork and essays that included Christian themes. Today I would add the 1619 Project.  If you have not heard about it; 1619 is already curriculum in New York, Chicago, the liberal state of Virginia and many more to be added.  To close out that section of my thoughts regarding persecution I said something to the effect of: “We thank God that at least here in the United States, we don’t have to worry about the police or the National Guard breaking in on our service this morning and carrying us off to prison.”  OH-OH-OH. How rapidly things can change!  Because the public media continually portrays Christians as ignorant, bigoted, narrow-minded, self-righteous fools; the mainstream media of 2014 would rarely even mention outright bigotry or Christian persecution.  Christian persecution is now the order of the day and the covid-19 pandemic has given them free reign.  Case-in-point, in California churches NO SINGING ALLOWED.  Last Monday Pastor Samuel Rodriguez the president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference addressed California Governor Newsom‘s order in part…” I believe Newsom‘s order regarding no singing is completely discriminatoryHow can you permit, not for one day, but for many days, tens of thousands to march in protest without wearing masks and then demand that 100 worshippers refrain from singing?”

My wife Jan’s brother and family from Wisconsin have spent the last few days with us and much of our conversation has been regarding local congregations’ actions and reactions of their responsibilities during this crisis. It is fair to say that while many members have been content with past worship practices, they now have differing opinions regarding what worship in 2020 should look like.  Who needs to sing hymns anyway?  Who needs the personal touch from passing of the peace anyway?  While we all should be certain of our deep Christian roots, what about those who are continually persecuting Christians? Persecuting our Judea-Christian history? Persecuting our congregations? Persecuting us as individuals? Jesus’ own words in verses 10-17 speaks of them; To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.  Indeed, in their case, the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says:  You will indeed hear but never understand and You will indeed see, but never perceive.

Our Gospel lesson is a great comfort for persecuted Christians everywhere.  Because in our soil the roots go deep.  We are not on rocky ground. One sidelight to this rocky ground type of soil is that it is the sun that dries out the rootless plant.  The same sun that provides energy for growth to the fully rooted plant withers the rootless plant. In a similar way, the same persecution that withers a rootless faith strengthens a well rooted faith.  So, for persecution which may come to where you live, stay in the word.

Notice though, that even the good soil is dead until God’s Word takes root in it.  The power comes from God and He uses His Word to distribute that power. God works in us as we read or hear the Word.  He brings us into His family as that very same Word combines with the water of Holy Baptism to join us to Christ in His crucifixion.  He sustains and strengthens our faith with the Word combined with bread and wine as He offers Himself to us in His body and blood.  These are the Means of Grace whereby God works the power of His Word in us.

The third scenario illustrates a similar tragedy. Jesus said, “As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.” Once again, the seed sprouts.  Once again, this type of person joins a local congregation.  The problem here is that the cares of this world are more important than the Word of the kingdom.  A late-night party or even late-night television is more important than being rested up enough to receive God’s Divine Service.  Basically, there are so many things to do in this world that God’s Word becomes an afterthought instead of a priority.  The types of people represented by both the rocky soil and the thorny soil have rejected God’s Word just as much as the people represented by the path. In the end, they have resisted the Holy Spirit and are under God’s judgment by their own fault.

The last type of soil illustrates the fruit that God’s Word can bear.  Jesus said, “As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”  This time, the roots of God’s Word run deep. It thrives and produces a harvest.

Notice though, that even the good soil is dead until God’s Word takes root in it.  The power comes from God and He uses His Word to distribute that power. God works in us as we read or hear the Word.  He brings us into His family as that very same Word combines with the water of Holy Baptism to join us to Christ in His crucifixion.  He sustains and strengthens our faith with the Word combined with bread and wine as He offers Himself to us in His body and blood.  These are the Means of Grace whereby God works the power of His Word in us.

The fact that the farmer is reckless as he sows the seed illustrates the recklessness of God.  God is reckless with His salvation.  Let me repeat that and explain it.  God is reckless with His salvation!  He spreads His Word throughout the earth to all peoples in all times and in all places.  He withholds His Word from no one just as He withholds His Son from no one.  He does not aim it at any one people or any one place or any one time.  Jesus Christ died on the cross to take away the sins of all people in all times and in all places.       He rose from the dead to declare His victory to His disciples and He told them, in Acts chapter 1: verse 8; “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” In this way, God has promised to sow the seed of His Holy Word to the ends of the earth.

There is another reason that God sows the seed of His Word so generously.  Today’s Old Testament reading tells us, “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth: it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose.”  The church belongs to God.  It is His creation, and it is His work. He created it by the power of His Word.  When we want to see the Church living and thriving as God would have it thrive, all we need to do is faithfully hear His Word and proclaim His Word and share His Word wherever God has placed you in your vocation of co-workers, family, friends, and neighbors.        If we are faithful and live in and under the Word, then our families and our churches will be precisely what God intends them to be.  That is His promise for you as you become the SOWER and not the seed of the parable.

You see, as an earthly story, a parable has limits.  It can only illustrate a few spiritual truths at best.  So, it is with the Parable of the Sower.  Although there are many ways in which God’s Word is like a seed, there are some things God’s Word can do that seeds cannot.  A seed cannot change the soil on which it falls, but God’s Word can and does change the heart. The message of the salvation that Jesus earned for us on the cross can soften the hardest heart.  It can break up the rocks and overcome the thorns.  God does not sow His Word once and then give up.  He sows His Word generously season after season.        He sows His seed with a loving, reckless generosity.  We are all born hard, rocky, and thorny, but season after season, God applies His Word.  God sends parents, teachers, friends, and pastors to bring His Word to us.  Eventually, the word sends its roots deep and the Holy Spirit creates the faith that trusts in the crucified and risen God-man, Jesus Christ, for salvation.  The windows of heaven will open, and that faith will receive all the gifts that God wants to pour out on us.  He will give us the forgiveness, life, and salvation that last forever.  Through His Word, He promises to be with us here on this earth and that one day He will take us home to live with Him forever; all because you are forgiven of all of your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen

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