What you are to learn, above all, from the Parable of the Sower, is that everything depends upon the Word of God in Christ — who is Himself the Word-made-Flesh. Everything depends upon God’s Word, and specifically upon His preaching of that Word, His sowing of that Seed.
Apart from the preaching of this Word of Christ, there is no Christianity; there is no genuine faith, no discipleship, no forgiveness of sins, no real life, and no salvation. There are no such things at all except by the preaching of Christ Jesus. For His Word is all knowledge, all truth, and all faith.
Those who claim to worship any god at all — by whatever name — apart from the Word of Christ, are idolaters. They have been deceived, and they have become deceivers.
But let us get personal and right down to it. The Word of God in Christ is your true spiritual food. It is your sustenance, your breath of life, and your hope for the future. In short, the preaching of His Word is the source and substance of your entire Christian faith and life.
Here then, from this pulpit, is that Seed which is the Word of God, which even now is being sown among you by the Sower, who is none other than your Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. If you have been given ears to hear, therefore, hear what Jesus says to you this morning. Receive His Word into your heart, and keep it always close at hand. That is what it means to be His disciple.
It is by this preaching of His Word — by this sowing of His Seed — that Jesus Christ, the Word-made-Flesh, gathers people from all nations to Himself and calls them to discipleship. And it is then to His disciples, by the ongoing catechesis of His Word, that Jesus explains the Parables and reveals the Mysteries of the Kingdom of God, which cannot otherwise be known or understood.
“Discipleship” and “Catechesis” are two sides of the same coin, two sides of one and the same way of life in Christ. That is the life that is lived by faith in the preaching and teaching of Christ. It is not optional but essential, not as a means to some other end, but as your very life with God in Christ Jesus. For the “knowledge” of His Mysteries is not an academic exercise, nor simply a matter of memorizing theological facts, but a living and active relationship with the Lord Himself.
Such life with God in Christ is rooted in the Ministry of His Gospel, by which He accomplishes His purposes in you. He plants the Seed in your heart by the preaching of His Word. He waters that Seed and causes it to thrive by your Holy Baptism and its ongoing significance. He prunes and cultivates the plant that emerges, and He weeds and plows your soil, with His Law and His Gospel, especially in Confession and Absolution. And He nurtures the growing plant within your body and life by the means of His own holy Body and His precious Blood in the Holy Communion. It is thus by His Word and Sacraments that He bears His good fruits in you a hundredfold.
It is Christ Jesus, the incarnate Son of God, who accomplishes all of these good works by His grace. For the Mysteries of the Kingdom are found in Christ Himself, in His own flesh and blood, conceived and born of St. Mary, in His Cross and Passion, and in His bodily Resurrection from the dead. But these great Mysteries of God are made known to you — indeed, they are given to you and shared with you — in the Mysteries of Holy Baptism, the forgiveness of your sins, and the Body and Blood of Christ, given and poured out for you and for the many by His grace alone.
Bucking up against this gracious work of Christ Jesus, every catechumen, every Christian, every disciple of Jesus is hindered by the devil, by the world, and by the sinfulness of your fallen flesh. Those enemies conspire to snatch the Word from your ears, from your heart, and from your life.
So are you tempted to sin, distracted from the way of life in Christ to which you are called, and driven from His Word into false belief, despair, and all manner of shameful vices. Sin, death, and the devil are out to end your life forever. They aim to prevent you from the final resurrection of your body from the dust of the earth on the last day. And they will stop at nothing to destroy you.
The devil, to begin with, is a wicked and powerful foe, who will lie, cheat, steal, and do whatever it takes to drag you from the Word, and the Word from you! He is like a roaring lion, St. Peter warns, always on the prowl and seeking to devour you, as surely as his birds devour the Seed.
As if that were not bad enough, the devil is aided and abetted by your own flesh, which hardens itself against the Word of Christ and constantly resists the dying and burial of your sinful nature, and so also the rising of the New Man in your body and life. You resist and flee from the Word of the Lord, because you love and trust yourself more than you fear, love, and trust in Him.
Not only that, but all around you the world with its treasures and pleasures entices you with its false and empty promises of life and happiness. Thus are you so easily entangled by the passions and pursuits of sin, whether gluttony and pride or jealousy and bitter resentment. Either way, the Seed of Christ is choked and suffocated and prevented from growing and producing fruit in you.
But now, let us think about these challenges more concretely, with specific reference to the actual life of the Church. As of this Sunday (Sexagesima) we are roughly sixty days from the Feast of the Resurrection of Our Lord, eight weeks from those most sacred and life-giving Mysteries of the Kingdom of God, which are the Cross and Resurrection of our Lord. It is therefore not long before the season of Lent will begin, for the purpose of preparing you for those life-giving Mysteries by the means of the Word of God, by His Law and His Gospel, calling you to repentance and faith.
So the question is, Will you hear that Word of God and keep it? Will you read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest it? Will you hungrily consume every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God? Or will you despise God’s Word and turn a deaf ear to it? The Third Commandment has taught you to fear and love God by gladly hearing and learning His Word and the preaching of it. But do you? Are you truly glad whenever you are told, “Let us go up to the house of the Lord”?
It is fine that you are here this morning. Christ be praised! But is the Seed penetrating your ears into your heart? Or does it enter one ear and exit the other? Are you hearing and heeding this Word of the Lord, or is your mind wandering elsewhere? Are you eager and delighted by this Word of Christ, or must you constantly fight the urge to check your watch or drift off to sleep?
Do you seize every chance to be planted with the Seed that is sown? Or do you perhaps consider your Sunday morning brunch to be more satisfying and worthwhile than Bible class?
Do you give attention to the Word of God throughout the days of your week? Are the rhythm and routine of your life governed by the prayer and confession of His Word and faith in harmony with the liturgical life of His Church, or by politics, sports, and the entertainment industry?
How often do you remember your Baptism and what it means for your life and behavior as a child of God? And how often do you practice what the Catechism has taught you — which you swore to uphold, even at the cost of your life, when you were confirmed — that is, to consider your place in life in view of the Ten Commandments, and on that basis to confess before your pastor those sins which are brought to light in your thoughts, words, and deeds? All for the sake of hearing and receiving that most precious Word of Christ: His Word of Holy Absolution.
Actually, each and every Word of Christ is so precious — and so vital to your Christian faith and life and salvation — that you ought to be scrambling to lay hold of every Seed that you can. There should not be a single Seed wasted! But it would seem that the devil knows better than you do how essential that Seed is; for he knows that, without the Word of Christ, you are not able to believe, you cannot live, and you will not be saved. How tragically sad, that the devil and his birds are more zealous to snatch the Seed away from you, than you are to hear it and take it to heart!
As Dr. Luther chastised the people of Germany in his day, where such contempt for the Word of the Lord persists and prevails, He will send such a famine of His Word upon you that you will finally learn to hunger for it, and yet you will find nothing, and you will perish forever without it. That is what ingratitude for His Word and neglect of His Word rightly merit and deserve.
Thanks be to God that He has not taken His Word away from you. Not yet. The Sower continues to sow His Seed here in this place, in your hearing. Indeed, He is so reckless in His grace and generosity, so foolish in His divine Wisdom, that He sows the Seed even where it would seem to have no chance whatsoever of growing: By the wayside, on the rocks, and among thorns. Which is to say that He is so reckless, and so gracious, that He preaches His Word even to you!
Not only that, but the Word that Christ the Sower preaches to you — the Seed that He sows — is chiefly His Word of the Gospel, that is, the forgiveness of all your sins, by which He also changes your heart of stone into a heart of flesh. And by its own mysterious power, which is the power of the Cross and Resurrection of Christ Jesus, this Seed, the Word of Christ, is able to implant itself within you, and to convert your trampled, rocky, weed-infested heart into a noble and good heart.
Do you see, and do you hear and understand? It is not the soil but the Seed, that is, the Word itself — the Word of the Gospel of Christ — which grows and brings forth fruit. And as such, the key to the good soil, and the key to its fruitfulness, is entirely in the hearing and keeping of that Word.
The only way by which the enemies of the Word are overcome is by the hearing of the Word, and by continuing to hear it; because the Word itself is the only remedy for all that stands against it.
It is a sure and certain remedy, because it is a sure and certain Word. “My Word, which goes forth out of My mouth, shall not return to Me empty, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the purpose for which I speak it.” Thus says the Lord! And as He has spoken, so has He done, according to His good and gracious Will.
As God the Father has spoken to you by His Son, the Word-made-Flesh, even unto death on the Cross, so has He raised Him from the dead as the Firstfruits of the New Creation. And the same Lord Jesus Christ has called you to Himself by the persistent preaching of His Word, by the faithful sowing of His Seed. He has thereby made you His disciple. And He has made known to you the truth, even the Mysteries of His own divine Kingdom.
He has not only caused you to hear His Word, but He has also enabled you to “keep it.” And what is more, because that Word is chiefly the Word of His Gospel, “keeping it” means, primarily, not obedience (as to some rule or command) but receiving and trusting (as with a gift and a promise).
Thus does your Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, sow His Seed within your heart, and cultivate your field, and bring forth in you the fruits of faith. And so shall He also raise you up in the flesh on the last day, and bring forth you and all His disciples as the fruits of His own Resurrection. From start to finish, it is His preaching of His Word that accomplishes everything for you, and in you.
So, then, at all times and in all places, in every situation and circumstance, take it to heart that everything depends upon the unfailing Word of Christ: Not upon you; nor your own goodness, which is nothing; nor your sincerity, resolve, efforts, or striving, none of which are capable of producing anything but more and more sinfulness apart from Christ. But everything depends upon His Word, which will not fail to accomplish the purpose for which He continues to preach it.
By His Word, He has forgiven all your sins, and He continues to forgive you. He has granted you faith in Himself and in His Word, and by His grace He keeps you steadfast in His Word and faith throughout your life. He has made known to you the Mysteries of His Kingdom, which He also bestows upon you and shares with you here and now, by and with and through His Word, in the gracious giving of His own Body and Blood, which are indeed the firstfruits of His Holy Gospel.
In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.