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LSB Proper 10A Sermon – Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

July 22, 2014

July 13, 2014 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church – Mechanicsburg, PA

“And He told them many things in parables, saying: ‘A sower went out to sow….’”

For the next several Sundays, you get to hear Jesus teach you and all who hear Him through means of parables. These are meant to convey great truths about Jesus’ work and the kingdom of heaven. They will push your hearts and minds. Jesus indicates this with His statement at the end of some of them: “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”

The first of these is the Parable of the Sower. Jesus speaks about a man who goes out with seed to cast: “A sower went out to sow.” He also gives details about where that seed was sown: “And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path…. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil…. Others seeds fell among thorns…. Others seeds fell on good soil….” Though each landing place was different, they each received the same seed.

But despite the same seed landing in each spot, the results were different: “Birds came and devoured them…. Immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched…. The thorns grew up and choked them…. [They] produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.” The different results arose due to the differences in the landing spots of the seed. 

Jesus provided the explanation of this story to His disciples. From that explanation which you heard, you know the point of the story. Jesus isn’t talking about a man that He witnessed farming in the hills of Galilee. He is speaking about Himself and the proclamation of the LORD’s Word that He was doing among the people. No matter where Jesus went, He would speak the LORD’s Word. Whatever His Father had given Him to speak, Jesus would proclaim—whether that was in the synagogues, houses, open spaces, or along the lakeside in a boat. Jesus is the Sower that He mentions in the parable.

In the Old Testament Reading, you heard statements about the LORD’s Word: “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall My word be that goes out from My mouth; it shall not return to Me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” That is what Jesus was speaking. The sowing of the the LORD’s Word happened among the people.

But Jesus’ parable notes that this same seed does not always produce fruit. It isn’t because of there was defective seed. It isn’t because the Sower put something on the seed that prevented it from sprouting. Jesus’ parable does speak about the problems with where the seed lands. In three of the places where seed hits the ground, there is something that interferes with the seed, so that it won’t produce the plants that it should. The seed hits the path, a hard ground, preventing it from going into the soil. Other seed falls in shallow, rocky soil, preventing plants from taking root. And there is the seed that goes into soil that is occupied by weeds, preventing the plants from having enough room to grow. 

In the explanation of His parable, Jesus points out what these interferences are. If the Word is heard but not understood, then it does not sink in: “the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart.” If the Word is heard and believed in only a superficial way, then it will not endure: “when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away.” If the Word is heard and believed but not treasured, then it will lose out when other things occupy the heart and mind: “the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.” 

The interferences that Jesus mentions are not just story elements cleverly drawn up by Him. They are what He witnessed—not only in His ministry among people as the Incarnate Word, but also in His observing humanity throughout history. Word heard but not understood; Word heard but not deeply believed; Word heard but not given priority: Jesus saw that in Israel’s history; He experienced it in the cities and villages of Galilee where He preached. In fact, if you would read through Matthew 12, the chapter just preceding the Gospel Reading for today, there are examples of interference taking place. Jesus speaks the Word; the seed is cast into the ground. But little to no growth happens.

The interferences that Jesus mentions in His parable are also what you witness. You can see it among people that you know have heard the Word of God: you see the same results that Jesus mentioned. But even more to the point, you can even say that you experienced it: that you were the path where the Word of God was heard but not understood; that you were the rocky ground where the Word of God did not take deep root; that you were the thorny soil where the problem wasn’t that the Word of God wasn’t heard and understood, but that all sorts of things took priority over it. 

The interferences that Jesus mentions in His parable is why the Church offers its traditional prayer concerning the Word of God on this day: “Blessed Lord, since You have caused all Holy Scriptures to be written for our learning, grant that we may so hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life.” Think about what is said in that prayer. The prayer is directed to the Author of the Word, the Sower of the seed. It asks for divine aid so that the seed may take root. All the interferences that Jesus mentioned in His parable are touched on. Help is asked so that the Word can be heard, marked, and learned, not just strike the eardrums but not be understood. Petition is made for the Word to take root—to be inwardly digested—not just to have a superficial understanding. And the Church prayed that there would be endurance, a clinging onto the blessed hope that the Word brings, instead of having other cares distract and deceive, causing the Word to be released. 

The prayer responds to the parable that Jesus tells. It addresses the interferences that He mentions. And even more, it expresses the desire to be the other type of soil that Jesus spoke of. So far, you’ve heard statements made about the three landing spots of the seed where no productive result was found. But Jesus spoke about another landing spot: “Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.” And He explained what that meant: “As for what was sown on good soul, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”

Being such a person that Jesus described is what you asked for in that prayer about the Scriptures. The Word is heard and understood. When this happens, then good things take place. It accomplishes the purpose for which it was sent by the LORD. The evil one doesn’t snatch it away; there is no immediately falling away when tribulation or persecution arises; no cares of the world choke it out. Instead, the descriptions made about the LORD’s people are spoken about you: “Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress; instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle; and it shall make a name for the LORD, an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.”

How is that going to happen? As the Spirit who works through the Word is present and active in you. For what the good soil produces is not in an of itself. No, it is when the seed is not interfered with and can actually accomplish the purpose for which it was sent. And that that is what the Spirit does in you: “For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” 

Not having the Spirit brings death. Not having the root of the Spirit brings death. Not having the Spirit work against the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches brings death. No plants growing there! But having the Spirit brings life: “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God…. The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provide we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him.” That description isn’t about a path where the seed never implanted or rocky soil too shallow for any roots or a weed bed where there is no chance for growth and maturity. No, what Paul describes is the full measure of the seed going in and bringing forth a harvest.

That’s what the LORD desires for you. He has caused His Word to be in your hearing. Each time that you have gathered here, that Word has struck your eardrums. But you have also prayed for what the LORD desires you to have: understanding of what He has said, deep set trust in what He has done, and a firm grasp on His teaching. And so He grants it. You are to be the good soil that produces the full fields. The LORD has given His promise for you and other such people like you: “My Word shall not return to Me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” Let that be the hundred, sixty, or thirtyfold harvest that He will produce in you.

+ In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

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