16 July 2017

Receiving the Seed of the Sower

Everything depends upon the preaching of God’s Word.

For this reason, throughout the history of the world, He has never failed to raise up preachers and teachers of His Word.  From the holy Prophets and Apostles, to the ends of the earth and the close of the age, He causes His Word to be preached in order to accomplish His gracious purposes.

At the heart and center of it all, the Lord Himself, the almighty and eternal Son of God, in mercy and compassion, He has come down from heaven to preach, and by His preaching to gather people to Himself, into His Church, and thereby to His Father in heaven.

So does He still come to you and preach His Word to you by the Ministry of the Gospel.  Listen to Him.  Hear and receive His preaching, and cling to it for dear life.

So important is the preaching of Christ that the emphasis in this familiar Parable is not on the content of the preaching per se, but rather on the preaching itself, and on the Preacher, the Sower of the Seed.  The focus is on the character and the consequences of His sowing.

For your part, if you are to live and bear fruit in the Kingdom of God, it all depends on receiving that Seed from the Sower and hanging onto it.  Not giving it up or letting it go, but continuing to hear it, to consider it, to remember it, to pray and confess it, and to live according to it.

Everything depends on the Seed.  And yet, it is a mysterious and elusive Word, which is attacked and hindered on every hand.  It is hidden by God Himself from the wise and the intelligent, and revealed by His grace alone to babies and infants, and to those who become like little children.  Thus does Jesus speak in Parables, that the Mysteries of God should be hidden from the crowds and explained to His disciples within the household and family of His Church.

You cannot receive, believe, or hang onto the Word of Christ except by faith.  And yet, such faith comes only by the hearing of His Word; it is not something you can choose or decide for yourself.

There is nothing you can do but listen to the preaching, and everything else must flow from that.  But consider how difficult and precarious it is to be a hearer of this Word.  Which is what it means, first and foremost, to become a disciple of Jesus, to be a Christian: To hear and learn His Word.

If you wander off the road to the left or to the right — if you neglect the catechesis of His Word in the rhythm of your life at home and here within the Liturgy of His Church — then how quickly and easily the Word is snatched away from you, and you are lost.  And how sad and tragic it is, that the devil’s “birds” should be hungrier for the Word of God than you are!

Therefore, parents, understand how absolutely critical it is that you catechize your children with the Word of God and prayer in your home, and that you bring them to the Lord’s House, as well.  There is nothing more important that you do as a father or mother, than to give your children the Word of God and bring them to the Body of Christ.  To catechize them.  To share the Scriptures with them.  To pray with them.  To teach them what Baptism means.  To emulate the Christian faith and life by your example.  And to bring your children to church, week after week throughout the year, as surely as you feed and clothe them and care for their bodily needs every day.

It is in fact even more important that you care for your children with the Word of God than it is to meet the mundane needs of their bodies in this world.  Their eternal life in body and soul depends on the hearing of the Word of Christ, lest they be devoured by the devil.  If you have seen to it that your children (and grandchildren) have been baptized, it is equally essential that they continue to be catechized in all that Jesus has commanded.  His Baptism and His catechesis necessarily belong together.  And that is the case, not only for the little children, but for every disciple of Christ Jesus.  Whatever your age, you need the catechesis of His Word if you are to be and remain a Christian.

Without the Word of Christ, there is no life, there is no growth, there is no fruit, and there is no harvest.  It doesn’t matter what the soil is like.  If there’s no Seed, nothing happens.

But when the Seed of the Word of Christ is heard and received, it does bear fruit in abundance.  Fruit after its own kind.  Fruits of faith and love, like those of Christ, the beloved and well-pleasing Son of God, borne upon the branches of His Cross.

So, then, where and what are the fruits of faith and love in your life?  What is the produce in your words and in your actions?  A hundred-fold?  Or sixty-fold?  Or thirty-fold?  Or anything at all?  Are you a Christian in name only, or in deed and in truth?

Perhaps you have been eager to begin with, full of zeal for the preaching of God’s Word.  But where has your enthusiasm gone?  And what has transpired in your faith and life?  When the Word of Christ has brought difficulties and hardships, have you clung to it, or have you given it up?  Or, if you have not suffered for the Word of Christ, why not?  Do you imagine that being a Christian and having faith are about feeling good and having a good time?  That is surely not the Word and promise of our Lord Jesus Christ, who says that discipleship is to bear the Cross after Him.

Is it sometimes the case that even the hearing of the Word of Christ is a heavier burden than you are willing to bear?  To get out of bed and drive or drag yourself to church, or to gather your family back around the table and to pray?  You’re here this morning, Christ be praised!  Hang on to the Word that is preached to you by the gracious providence of God: In your head.  In your heart.  In your life and practice.  It is the most precious thing entrusted to you in this body and life on earth.

Do not be persuaded and driven about by the deceitfulness of riches (of whatever kind), as though worldly wealth were the real secret of success and satisfaction and security.  It’s not.

Chasing after wealth and riches will choke you.  Jesus says so.  It will kill you, and it will rob you of life, now and forever.  It’s all a big lie, anyway.  It’s a trick, nothing but smoke and mirrors, hiding a deadly and damnable deception.  The love of money is the root of all evil; not that it hurts God, but that your lust for wealth and riches hurts you, and it hurts the neighbor you are to love.

So don’t allow the money in your hand or in your pocket to control you, but receive it from the Lord and use it with thanksgiving to care for your family, your neighbors, and the Lord’s Church.

Do not let go of God’s Word for any amount of money. Rather, spare no expense at all to hear it.  And see to it that others are likewise able to hear God’s Word and the preaching of it.  That is the fundamental purpose of your offerings; that the Church on earth and the Ministry of the Gospel be supported, maintained, and extended, all for the preaching and hearing of God’s Word.

Refusing to hear and heed the Word of Christ, in favor of money or whatever else you may prefer, is a rejection of the Kingdom of God.  It is a rejection of His righteousness.  It is to say no to His life and salvation.  For all such idolatry and unbelief in your heart and life, repent.  Repent.

But how?  There is no power in you — there is no ability in you — there is no capacity or wisdom in you — to hear and comprehend the Word of God, which is your only hope and salvation.  You cannot believe it, you cannot keep it, and you cannot do it, not by any reason or strength in you.

The Seed has to be revealed to you, it has to be given to you, it has to produce its fruits in you — or else nothing!  Hear, then, the Parable.  It is not the parable of the soil, but of the Sower and His Sowing.  And in this case, the Sower is the Seed.  He it is, and He alone, who bears much fruit.

For He is the One who has not only come down from heaven and gone out to sow, but has made Himself nothing and willingly gone to the Cross and humbled Himself unto death.  As the Seed of God and the Seed of the Woman, He has planted Himself into the ground, in His death, in order to be raised up and bear abundant fruit — for you and for all.  In order to become the First Fruits of the New Creation, and the Firstborn from the dead, the Firstborn of many brothers.

All the devil’s temptations He has suffered, and He has overcome them in steadfast faith and love.  He has gone without food rather than forego the Word of God.  In love for His Father, and in love for you and all people, He has gone to the Cross and died.  And in His Resurrection, He has given you new birth and new life through Holy Baptism.  By the means of that Holy Sacrament, and by its ongoing significance, He waters His crops generously with the life-giving Spirit of God.

You flourish and grow — and you do bear fruit, whether you realize it or not — by that Word and Spirit of God.  Because the Lord Jesus, who is both the Sower and the Seed, He has borne the burden of the Cross and the burning heat of the day, and He has endured to the end.

Far from succumbing to the weight and worries of the world, He has carried it all upon His back and shoulders.  He has borne it in His Body to the Cross for you and your salvation.

And rather than selling out to the deceitfulness of riches, He has made Himself poor in order that, by His poverty, you might become rich and inherit all the treasures of the Kingdom of God.

The thorns and thistles of Adam’s fall into sin have not been able to choke this planting of the Lord forever.  They have done their worst and brought Him to shame and death, but by His bloody Cross and Passion He has borne the fruits of the Tree of Life in His Resurrection from the dead.

Here, then, there is a harvest a hundred times over.  His Tree of the Cross thrives and bears life-giving fruit, even in the desert, even in the wilderness.  Here and now He feeds you from that Tree of Life.  And just as He is both the Sower and the Seed, so is He also the Harvest and the Meal.

Eat His Body.  Drink His Blood.  These fruits of Christ, the Word-made-Flesh, bear fruit in you after their own kind: Fruits of the Spirit.  Fruits of faith and love.  Fruits of patience under persecution.  Fruits of kindness, generosity, and forgiveness for every wrong.  Thirty-fold.  Sixty-fold.  One-hundred-fold.  Seventy times seven.  Never stopping.

Do not make excuses for yourself.  But neither suppose that you will bear or produce anything on your own apart from Christ.  Apart from Him, you can do nothing.

Rather, as He has given you ears to hear, listen.  For He keeps on preaching to you in love.  And open your hands to receive His good gifts, which He freely pours out for you.  Open your mouth and be fed.  Hear and receive the Seed of the Sower, that is, the Word of Christ your Savior.

He is full of compassion and mercy.  He is slow to anger and full of great kindness.  He does not deal with you as your sins deserve, but He remembers the Covenant of His own flesh and blood.  His merciful goodness endures forever, and by His righteousness He forgives you all your sins.

The grass withers, and its flower fades, but this Word of the Lord abides — for you — and bears much fruit, unto the resurrection of your body and the life everlasting of your body and soul.

In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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