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|BETHLEHEM LUTHERAN CHURCH: | Mason City, Iowa USA | Pastor Mark Lavrenz|
Jul 16, 2017 SERMON ARCHIVE
Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
The text chosen for this morning's message is the Gospel reading from Matthew 13, the parable of the sower. There we read these words:
That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. And great crowds gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat down. And the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: "A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear."
We begin in the name of Jesus, AMEN
Dear friends in Christ! Parables are always rich in meaning, as is this parable of the sower. But a person must always be extremely careful to make sure that a parable be spiritually discerned. In other words, when a parable is approached apart from the aid of the Holy Spirit of God, it is filled with potential pitfalls in interpretation.
The parable of the sower is no exception. With this parable a person can very quickly get into trouble with its interpretation.
For instance, if the soils, the wayward soil, the stony soil, the thorny soil and the good soil are considered to be descriptive of the nature of those who hear the word - in other words, if they are considered to be descriptive of the nature of man, as if some by nature are good, some are more bad than good - and some are just down right poor and evil, if that is one's understanding of the soils then a godly interpretation of the parable is lost.
One can also get into trouble with this parable if he begins to find fault in the seed that is sown by the sower - as if the seed was life giving in some of the soils because it was intended to be life giving, while with the other soils it withered and died because it was never intended to give life. No, the seed is sown liberally by the sower and on whatever soil it falls it is intended to give life, just as the seed of the farmer gives life to the otherwise lifeless soil that he farms.
Parables can easily be misinterpreted and so Jesus says, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear." Ears to hear are given to you this morning by the Spirit of God who comes to you through the word to dispel erroneous opinions about this parable, first by keeping you straight concerning the nature of man.
You know, the fact is, no human being by nature is fertile soil for the planting of God's word. In fact, none of you offer a soil that is conducive to the production of fruit at all. I know, that is not what you are taught to believe in this world of ours. What you are taught is that some people are basically good and others are basically evil.
That is why so many people were drawn in by a recent "dateline" show on the mind of a man like Charles Manson. People want to know what made him tick, and what made him do what he did. Really, people want to think that, at least as far as human nature goes, they are a cut above someone like him, that the propensity for evil was present in him, but not in others.
But, what does the word of God say? It says that man is, according to God's own assessment, wicked and every intent of his heart is evil. That is what God said of the world right before He brought the flood of Noah on the land. You see, God has the advantage of being able to see deep into the heart and He doesn't have to wait for a "Dateline" special to see what is there.
Man's heart by nature is wicked and evil and you are all in the same boat. As am I.
None of you are fertile soil for the reception of such a holy word as God's word. And so, as one commentator put it, "for being part of humanity, you share in the radical depravity and perversion from God that we call "sin." In a work entitled, Our Faith, Emil Brunner says that "...we are all connected by hidden roots, like the runners of a strawberry patch, all of whose plants have developed from the one parent stock. There is a kind of common sin fluid that flows through the whole root system, and yet each individual knows it to be his or her own guilt."
Even those little babies that you bring here to this fount of blessing are not by nature the bearer of good soil. They all come to Christ, as do all men, women, and children, in need of Divine grace, in need of a new heart, in need of God's cultivating. And by grace, they left this cleansing water new creatures, children of God, bearers of good soil.
So, you see, the nature of men is all the same - all are evil in God's sight. The soils then in the parable are descriptive, not of the nature of man, but of the various responses of men to the seed, to the word. And what of the word, is there ever fault in the word? No, the seed is, says St. Paul, the power of God unto salvation.
It is living and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword. It is by the word, that God upholds all things in this world. It is the lamp unto our feet and the light unto our path. It is the revelation of Jesus Christ. It gives the gift of forgiveness. It makes what is old - new, and it is infalible, it is perfect, it is God's Word.
So the parable is not really about the nature of man. Nor is it about the power, or the strength of God's word, rather it is a call to watchfulness and a reminder that the strength of faith is always in Christ.
All of you are familiar, very familiar, with the temptations that come to you, even those of you who seem to have the seed, the word of God, so firmly planted in you. If you are not watchful and careful, if you do not continually recognize the threat against the seed, the temptations of the flesh and the world and the devil, you may find yourselves more representing the stony, or the thorny soil than the good soil.
Right now, as we read about the various soils mentioned in this parable, especially the "weaker" soils, your response should be, "Lord, is that me!!! Is that me!!!
"Am I the stony soil, or the thorny soil. Are the cares of the world, the tribulation and the persecution beginning to tear away at my faith? Oh, Lord, preserve me - keep me steadfast - uphold me by Your mighty right hand. Lord, let the word firmly take root in my heart. Let it be planted deeply, let it grow up, let it produce fruit!! Let me be yours forever, let me never turn from You or forsake You."
Send your prayer to God and He who sows the word will sow it plentifully in your heart. You have all seen baptisms take place here in this house. By those baptisms you were reminded that God did the same for you. He made you a new creature, He cleansed you of all of your sins.
And just as it was all in His hands then, it is, you are, even today in His hands. And so, your fears will be relieved as you remember that you were marked with the sign of the cross both upon your forehead and upon your heart, that cross that marked you as one redeemed by Christ the crucified.
Peace will fill your heart as you are assured that just as it was God who gave you your faith, it is He who will strengthen and preserve it. Like an immoveable rock you will stand, for Christ is the rock that cannot be moved, the fortress that cannot be breached, the valiant warrior that cannot be defeated.
You too are more than conquerors through Christ who loved you, died for you, and rose again for you. With complete confidence and assurance you can say with St. Paul, "neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate me from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
For He is the rock that cannot be moved, the fortress that cannot be breached, the valiant warrior that cannot be defeated. He is the giver and sustainer of faith. He is the strength of the Church and of all of her people.
In the words of the psalmist, "The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; My God, my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the strength of my salvation, my stronghold. I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised."
Christ Is Risen. AMEN
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