03. February 2013
Isaiah 55:10-13; Luke 8:4-15
Another week. Another parable. Last week learned how outrageously generous our Heavenly Father is to us. He brings us into His vineyard without work or merit of our own and gives us His son’s merit and righteousness as our own. Even more, He gives this same gift of Christ’s salvation, life, and forgiveness to all, regardless of when and how they were brought into His kingdom. Thus, the kingdom of heaven is given to all with unbelievable generosity.
This week we continue with another parable of God’s kingdom. Again the earthly setting, characters, and actions defy logic. They don’t make any sense. Just as with the vineyard owner so also with the Sower. Just as with the workers so with the soils. Just as with the denarius wage so with the seed. To those without eyes of faith, the God in His kingdom is reckless, wasteful, and downright idiotic. The goodness of this flagrantly wild behavior is for those with eyes of faith. We see in these parables a God who is loving, generous, and superbly good.
Last week was about God’s call and gracious gifts. Today is about His Word and its work. By Word, we mean the Holy Scriptures. We usually call these writings the Bible. But this is misunderstood. Is the Bible information to be stored away and saved for the next time you play Bible Trivia Pursuit? Is it a manual of dos and don’ts for how to be good Christian boys and girls? Is it a handbook for life giving instructions to give you a better marriage, increase your riches, or being successful in business?
The problem is that the Bible can provide all these things. It’s full of historical details, strange facts, crazy stories, and catchy sayings. There are plenty of helpful lessons that can help form kids into moral people. The Bible is full of wisdom that will help in you in all areas of life. This is all found in the Bible. But is this the Word of God? Is this God’s purpose in speaking? He says, “It shall not return to me empty, but shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”
The difficulty we have with God’s Word is not its length, its sordid tales, its difficult lessons, or its grand scale. Only by knowing the purpose which God seeks to accomplish can we understand His speech. When we look for earthly wisdom and stumble upon the Sower, we pause and wonder why anyone would waste seed on obviously unfruitful soil. No right-minded farmer would chuck his seed on the road, the rocks, and in the weeds.
God as sower and His Word as His seed doesn’t behave like agribusiness of this earth. It does not purpose to give advice to the farmer or lessons about sowing seed. This shouldn’t bother you. You have ears to hear. For you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God. Only to those who are looking for something from the Word other than what it purposes to give will hear this as a crazy story.
What does God purpose to give by His Word for you today? First, the Word of God is purposefully sown upon the whole world. This Word is Law and Promises of God, their attached curses and blessings, damnation and absolution, threats and forgiveness. This is the purpose of the word that goes out from God’s mouth, and it shall not return to Him empty. It will succeed in the thing for which He sends it. This Word is preached to the ends of the earth and works despite coming from sinful mouthpieces. It calls to repentance and forgives for the sake of Christ. It binds the sin of those who do not repent.
Second, the Word is recklessly cast upon paths, rocks, thorny brush, and fertile soil, that is, people who may or may not receive it unto salvation. From the our perspective God is wastes His preaching of the Word by scattering it where it is snatched away by the devil, it can’t take root, or is choked by the cares of this world. It is not for us to say. We aren’ to judge who, when, and where the Word will work. Nor are we to judge its result. We preach. We teach. We forgive. We baptize. We feed with Christ.
Jew or Gentile? Black, red, white? Wealthy suburbanite or low-income south-sider? Immature child or gray-haired curmudgeon? Irrelevant. We didn’t create the soil. We don’t know what days, years, or decades of God’s persistent sun, pelting rain, or annual freeze and thaw will do to those hearts. Nor do we make the Word effective. No need to dress up God’s breath into digestible portions or attractive packaging. No need dummy God down for the young (or the old). Speak what God has said. It shall not return to Him empty. That’s His promise and you can take it to the bank.
But Jesus warns us to be attentive to ourselves. While we can’t tell who will receive God’s Word nor when, we can consider our own hearts. We should consider God’s description of the soils not to judge the potential of others but to be on our guard.
It is true that you can harden your heart to God and stop being receptive to His Word. You can refuse to hear preaching. You can stubbornly avoid teaching from the Word. You can hear in one ear and let it out the other. This makes your faith easy pickings for the Devil. He comes like a raven and snatches that Word away from you. Continued resistance to the Word can make your heart so hard that it becomes like stone. Stone that cannot receive the Word nor the rain and sun of God needed to nourish it. You can let other gods grow up like thorns, distracting you from the truth, and eventually strangling God’s Word with the errors of the world.
Faithfulness is not in vogue these days. People jump around from one church to another assuming it doesn’t matter. Lutheran or Roman Catholic? Baptist or no-name non-denom? Reformed or Bible church? We’re all Christian, right? We need to ask a deathly serious question. Do all these confessions share the chief purpose for which God gives His Word? If we don’t agree why God speaks do we share the same faith?
This is a serious matter. It affects many of you in this congregation. It probably touches every family in some way. If we can profess to be Christians together ought not we preach and teach the Word of God truthfully together? Go church shopping sometime. Consider the words of their singing. Listen to the preaching. What is the chief aim of the Word coming from the congregation and preacher’s mouth? Is it consistent to what comes from God own speech in the Holy Scriptures?
You’ll discover how easy it is to be trodden by false doctrine and become resistive to the truth. You’ll see how some are hardened completely to the truth of the Word. You’ll find some churches more concerned with the cares of this world than what God says in His Word. And the greatest sadness is that many or even most have lost sight of the purpose for which God sent His Word. God sent His Son Jesus to reconcile the world unto himself. The Word of God is the good news that in the cross of Jesus Christ you are given forgiveness of all your sins. In His resurrection you see the first-fruits of your own resurrection on the day of His return.
This is the purpose of God’s Word. He will accomplish the terraforming of your heart of soil into a fertile ground for salvation. His Holy Spirit will fall like rain and His Son shine like the sun to crack open the hard path, pulverize the rocks, and scorch the thorns. You can’t make your heart any more ready for the Word than God has already. The good work He has begun in you will reach its completion in the day of Jesus Christ.
After the Holy Spirit prepares you by the Word, that same Word takes root. It is nourished by the gifts of the Spirit. The springs of eternal life water that seed until it takes root and grows in you. It is fertilized with absolution. It is nourished with heavenly food. And Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, shelters His tender shoot from the pecking of Satan’s beak, from the suffering rays of the midday sun, and from the encroachment of the thorny cares of this world. This Word came forth from the Father’s mouth to forgive, to give life, and to take you into eternal salvation. All this He will do. He will accomplish it. He will succeed in it. Amen.
In Name of the Father, + Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Rev. Christopher R. Gillespie
Grace Lutheran Church