Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Sermon for 10 July 2011, Proper 10A

The Rev. Paul J Cain
Matthew 13:1–9, 18–23
One Who Hears the Word
Proper [10] (A), 10 July 2011
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming

In the Name of the Father and of the T Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
What is that person like, One Who Hears the Word? Jesus tells us Himself.
1That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. 2And great crowds gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat down. And the whole crowd stood on the beach. 3And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. 4And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. 5Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, 6but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. 7Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 9He who has ears, let him hear.”
How successful is this farmer? His crops didn’t get killed by frost, hail, or flood. There were other causes. It sounds like he could have used a scarecrow. Even clippings of human hair would have scared birds away. Birds tend to like seeds. That’s why we often buy them and fill bird feeders with them. But we don’t like it when planted seeds are devoured.
Rocky ground isn’t good for farming or gardening. When the sod was broken on the prairie, the rocks were removed. They could do damage to the precious plow.
These seeds weren’t Roundup-ready, either. They were susceptible to thorns. Weeds can still be a problem for farmers today, especially those who plant popcorn.
Birds and rocks and heat and thorns. This sower had it rough on his farm. But something doesn’t quite click. That’s a good thing in a parable. Look for the thing that doesn’t make sense. Why would a farmer sow without fighting the hungry birds? Why would he not remove the stones from his field? Why would he put up with weeds and thorns? No, even though agriculture may be on many of your minds, this parable isn’t about farming. What is it about? What does this mean?
18“Hear then the parable of the sower: Let’s all put our thoughts aside and listen to Jesus. He will interpret His own parable this morning as well as next Sunday.
19When 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.
Jesus is the sower. He sows the seed of His Word, the Word of the Kingdom of God. He sows the Word so that all who hear would have faith in Him. The bird wasn’t a bird. Seed won’t grow on a path.
The devil, the evil one himself, struggles against us. He does not want anyone to come to faith, believe in Christ, go to Church, live like a Christian, make peace with anyone, or go to heaven. He will do anything he can to lead you away from Christ.
Jesus’ warning is an important one to remember. We are to resist the devil so that he flees from us. We dare not let unanswered questions we have about faith and life and Scripture lead to doubt and the death of our faith and loss of salvation. If we see a fellow believer struggling, especially one with weak faith, the law of love commands us to bear one another’s burdens. You may be thinking, “But I might not know the answer, either!” That may be the case. You should have your Bible, hymnal, and catechism as resources at home. You also have a pastor. All that training, his books, and his daily study prepare him to serve you on Sunday morning, afternoon and evening visits, evening meetings, and those 24/7 emergencies. I may not know the answer either, but we can search the Scriptures together and ask other pastors, scholars, and Christians for help.

20As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, 21yet 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.
In this case, the one who hears the Word is a new Christian. Without deep roots in the Word, the troubles of the world are a great discourager.
We rejoice when someone hears the Gospel for the first time. We rejoice when the Holy Spirit creates faith in him or her. We celebrate with such a one when he or she confesses the faith before God and man and joins us for Holy Communion the very first time.
And then comes the hard part. The devil again is working against new believers. It is as if a fire alarm goes off in hell every time a person is baptized and confesses the faith. The devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh are alerted to fight against us. Life happens.
One Sunday away from Church becomes two. Then a month. Then several. And then either Easter or Christmas comes and a sense of obligation to go to services may kick in. Or, it may not.
Our role as a congregation is clear. When we notice that a brother or sister in Christ is missing, why couldn’t we pick up the phone and call to see what’s wrong? Often there may be an illness or family emergency. Sometimes a person may be out of town. Sometimes the cozy bed is very tempting.
Being in the Word and receiving Holy Communion regularly helps grow your roots in the Christian faith. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. That’s true for Church, too. We all should realize that the phone and the street work both ways, from a person on rocky spiritual ground to the congregation and from the congregation to that person. Out of love, we should reach out. It is the pastor’s job. And it is not only his, but the whole congregation, together.

22As 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.
The devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh are at it again. Jesus has told us before that a man cannot serve two masters. He cannot serve both God and money.
What can we do as a congregation to pull up these weeds, these thorns that choke faith? Let’s keep an eye out for those in need. Christian love provides for those in need of food, drink, clothing, and shelter. Christian love visits the sick and imprisoned. At the same time, we also watch for those who forget God in all their abundance, people who often forget who gave them their daily bread and every good and perfect gift.

23As 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.”
Martin Franzmann, author of the hymn “Thy Strong Word,” wrote another hymn, “Preach the Word” which speaks of a sower like the one in Matthew 13. “The sower sows; his reckless love Scatters abroad the goodly seed, Intent alone that all may have The wholesome loaves that all men need.
“Though some be snatched and some be scorched And some be choked and matted flat, The sower sows; his heart cries out, ‘Oh, what of that, and what of that?’
“Of all his scattered plenteousness One-fourth waves ripe on hill and flat, And bears a harvest hundredfold: ‘Ah, what of that, Lord, what of that!’
“Preach you the Word and plant it home And never faint; the Harvest Lord Who gave the sower seed to sow Will watch and tend His planted Word” (LSB 586: 3-6).
Your Lord sows His Word in this place. Sundays are the most obvious time, when the Lord gathers us for Divine Service, Bible Class, and Sunday School. A personal invitation is always better than a bulletin announcement. Opportunities abound for you to grow in faith and knowledge.
Your Lord, the Sower, may be “reckless” in spreading His Word so widely, even though some refuse to hear, some reject Him, and some do fall away. The Sower gives You Himself, Jesus, the Word made Flesh. He sows the seed of His word for the sake of One Who Hears the Word. He shares His Word and His love for the sake of you who believe. Amen.
In the Name of the Father and of the T Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.