Sermon for Sexagesima, 4 February 2018
At Luther Memorial Chapel, Shorewood, WI
Rev. Michael Larson
This morning our Lord teaches us that the seed is the Word of God. He teaches us that there are four different hearers of the Word of God.
A sower went out to sow and some fell along the path and was trampled underfoot, and the birds of the air devoured it. Jesus says these are those who hear the word and it does not penetrate their hearts. They walk away Sunday morning totally unmoved by God’s call to repentance, faith, and love. The birds are Satan’s demons who snatch the Word of God away from their hearts before it can even begin to take root. God preserve us from this!
The second group receives the Word of God like rocky soil receives the seed. A thin layer of soil is warmed by the rock and there is initially lots of growth and excitement. They hear the Word of God and receive it with joy but there is no root. They believe for a while, and in a time of testing or tribulation, they fall away from our Lord altogether.
The third group are those who receive the Word of God as seed among many thorns. These are those who hear the Word of God and may even take it briefly to heart, but the thorns are the cares, activities, and pleasures of this life. Perhaps this is the most relevant among us. It’s no secret that church is not what it used to be on our priority list. The third commandment is shoved aside in favor of school sports, clubs, or simply sleeping in.
Quite simply, if we teach our children, or one another, that anything is more important than the Gospel and the body and blood of Christ on Sunday morning they will always find something more entertaining to do! If we teach our young ones that church is fine but only when it conveniently fits into our schedules they will notice that – and they will follow your lead. God has a word for anything that replaces proper worship of him – idolatry – plain and simple.
Jesus in our parable is warning us that our amusements, our pleasures, the things we think are so important can become thorns that can choke-out faith in the Gospel – which can wither and die. Our Lord is also teaching us that our worries, our anxieties, the cares of this life can snuff out true faith as well, where we become so obsessed with ourselves and our personal troubles that saving faith is extinguished, love of God snuffed out.
The fourth soil is different. The Word of God is preached, and this is a true disciple, who hears the Word and holds on to it. It doesn’t matter that the world is changing. It doesn’t matter that the culture is different. They know that the Lord God is the very source of their life - that His Word of forgiveness received in the Divine Service in absolution and body and blood is the one thing needful. These disciples consider themselves dying sinners in a dying world who are saved by the Gospel of Christ – and the love of God. There is no question what is most important in their hearts and homes.
If you are trying to figure out which type of soil you are that is not the really the point. When it comes to the sower and the seed, when it comes to the Word of God, it’s better to just confess that you are like the dusty path and the rocky soil. Confess that you have not let God’s love have its way with you. Confess that the cares and pleasures of this life have nearly overtaken you. Confess that your faith is shaky - and that you fear nearly everything except God. Confess that your sins are grievous and thorny and that your priorities are messed up too.
Confess because today there is comfort, and perhaps strangely it’s because Jesus shows us in this parable that he is not a very good farmer – at least not as the world goes. When we plant a garden we carefully pick the right spot. We till the soil. We carefully plant where the birds, rocks, and thorns are not a problem. We don’t like to waste seed.
But it’s different in the Kingdom of God because God scatters His Seed everywhere. In a way, he’s wasteful. He scatters His word recklessly. And yet this Word does not return empty. It accomplishes everything for which he intends.
And the seed is Christ, born of the woman to crush the serpents head. The seed of the woman who grows up to bear fruit for you through the forgiveness of sins. This seed is planted in the garden of gethsemane to sweat blood for your salvation.
The thorns which threaten to choke your faith have been pressed into his innocent head – carrying the sins of misplaced priorities and the sins of neglect of God’s Word, everything must be paid for. He was planted on the rocky soil of Calvary to bear fruit, and a tree of life sprang up as he stretched out his arms in love for those who made it their number one priority to put him to death.
He was placed in the soil of the earth but sprang forth again in His glorious resurrection. The stone of death was rolled aside, death cracked under his power, the earth shook, and Satan was cast down. The angels descended, the women ran with joy, the guards were stuck dumb, and the disciples all beheld Jesus alive and risen with their own eyes.
Even this morning you see God face to face in the sacrament. The seed that bleeds is He who has risen victoriously from the grave. This sower sows his love recklessly, indiscriminately and says to you your sins are forgiven, rise and sin no more.
So let us hold unto this life-giving Word, which is Christ, until the shadows lengthen, our work is done, and this busy world is hushed in death. And then after some rest, and a long winter we’ll sprout forth like saplings in spring – a new creation, with a body, shooting up in the resurrection of all flesh in glorious light, planted again in the soil of paradise, saints of God in full bloom, radiant and flowering before Him who has called you out of death and into eternal life. In the name of Jesus. Amen.
Prayer of the Church
Let us pray for the whole Church of God in Christ Jesus and for all people according to their needs.
For the Church, that all the baptized would continue to hear the Word of God, hold it fast in honest and good hearts, and bear fruit with patience, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.
For the Office of the Holy Ministry, that the seed of God’s Word would be sown and find good soil in many through the preaching of the Gospel and the administration of the Sacraments, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.
For the nations of the world and their leaders, that all who receive the sword as Your servants may bear it according to Your command, and that war, hate and bloodshed may be overcome by peace, justice and mercy, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.
For our Christian brethren around the world facing persecution and martyrdom, especially in the Middle East and Africa, that they may, by grace and the power of the Holy Spirit, confess the saving name of Jesus Christ in the face of their persecutors, remembering that He will confess them before His Father in heaven, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.
For the institution of holy marriage and the blessings of family, we give thanks to the Lord. That these gifts would be cherished and honored in our society, and especially within the communion of saints, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.
For Deidre and Temish Christiansen, that the Lord would be with them to serve your church in Germany. That God grant them safe travel and joyful hearts for the work before them in the mission field, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.
For this holy house and for all who offer here their worship and praise, that reverence and awe would attend them as they enter into the dwelling place of their Lord and Savior, especially as they approach the holy altar to receive the very body and blood of Jesus for their forgiveness and strengthening of faith, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.
For all the faithful, in whom the seed of God’s Word had been planted and cultivated until they departed this vale of tears in faith, let us give thanks to the Lord. Asking Him to bring us to share in the joys of the unending feast with them, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.
Into Your hands, O Lord, we commend all for whom we pray, trusting in Your mercy, through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord. Amen.