Monday, February 8, 2010

Sexagesima Sermon

(Sorry, forgot to post this yesterday. . .)

Sexagesima – Luke 8:4-15 – February 7th, 2010

In the Name of Christ Jesus, the Light of the World +
We are now in the season of Pre-Lent, the Gesima Sundays – Sundays that begin to focus us, prepare us for the season of intense repentance that is Lent. The Gospel lessons of these three weeks remind us of important truths about the Christian faith that we need to bear in mind as we ponder our Lord’s struggles against Satan and Sin and Death on our behalf. Last week, with the parable of the workers in the vineyard, we were reminded that we are saved by Grace alone. It is only because our good and gracious God generously calls us to His Kingdom that we have salvation. Today, we are taught another truth – that this power of salvation, that this calling out to us by God is done, is accomplished through His Word alone. This is the point of the parable of the Sower – and we are reminded again today what a precious gift God’s Word is and its proclamation, and the ways in which the world, Satan, and our sinful nature will attempt to make us despise and forego this gift.

We are familiar with the parable. A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell along the path and was trampled down underfoot, and the birds of the air devoured it. And some fell on the rock, and as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up with it and choked it. And some fell into good soil and grew and yielded a hundredfold. Now, let us consider the actions of this sower. They seem foolhardy at best. Now, I’m not a farmer, but I’ve done enough gardening at least to know that one doesn’t generally cast seed onto the path. If I want to grow green beans this summer I’m not going to throw seeds on my driveway – or if I want to try and grow some sweet corn I’m not going to just throw seed out back there in the brush. And yet, what does this sower do? Seed flung everywhere. Just casting it out wildly, not caring where it goes – just cover the ground with seed, and we will see what grows. This would have been strange to hear even in Jesus day – the thought would be, “What sower sows upon the path? Or into the rocks?” Seed is to valuable for that – why waste seed in a place where you know it isn’t going to grow?

But our Lord explains this parable, explains the actions of the sower very simply. He says, Now, the parable is this: The Seed is the Word of God. And now we begin to see and understand. The way in which God handles His Word is beyond what we would expect. When something is precious, our instinct is to horde it, to be very careful and cunning before we put it to use. That’s not what our generous God does – He simply scatters the Word all over the place – even to places, even to people we wouldn’t expect. There is no place where God hesitates to have His Word proclaimed, to have His Word preached. Let this be a lesson to us. There are times when we are. . . hesitant. . . concerning God’s Word. We can see someone, someone hurtful, someone foolish, someone mean – and we can basically write them off – assume that they are beyond all hope. God would have His Word scattered even unto them. We do not need to try to judge the hearts of men before we proclaim Christ’s Word – we do not need to sit and try and decide who is worthy to hear. Rather this – God’s Word is to be cast everywhere and to everyone. There is not a person who shouldn’t hear the Word – it is for everyone. And if a person rejects, ignores, spurns it – so what? For you see, God’s Word is limitless. If I am planting crops, I can run out of seed. We will never, though, run out of the Word of God – He has placed His Word upon our minds and upon our hearts and upon our lips – and it doesn’t run out – so we can be confident and bold and free in proclaiming the Word. And why? Because the only way that people will be saved, the only way that you yourself have received salvation is because someone else brought God’s Word of life and salvation unto you. This is the utter power and wonder of God’s Word – His Word of life and forgiveness that is to be proclaimed everywhere.

Our Lord goes on to explain the rest of the parable. The ones along the path are those who have heard. Then the devil comes and takes away the Word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. Now here is what we are going to do this morning. We aren’t going to try to figure out if someone we know is a “path” sort of person. I can’t see the hearts of men and neither can you, so any such thoughts and speculations along those lines would simply be arrogant and in vain. But rather this – what do we learn from this example? We see one of the ways in which Satan attacks people who have heard the Word. He takes it away from their hearts – or in other words, Satan tries to build up a distance between you and God’s Word – Satan tries to keep God’s Word as far away from your heart as possible. This is how Satan attacks you. When we talk about our heart, the things we hold in our heart, we talk about the things that are important and dear to us, things that we treasure. Satan will try to make you think the Word is worthless – to make you think that time spent in the Word, hearing it preached, receiving it in the Supper, studying it, that all this is worthless, he’ll try to make it seem distasteful. There are times we don’t always like what the Word of God says. The Word says, “You are a sinner and you deserve to die.” We don’t like hearing that – and so Satan slithers in, just like he did in the beginning, and he says, “Eh, you aren’t that bad, and you sure won’t die – just go ignore what God has said and do what you will.” Same old trick from Satan. So my friends in Christ, I encourage you – consider your own life and the ways in which Satan is tempting you to despise God’s Word. I can’t tell you specifically how he attacks you this way – but this is what the Devil does – be wary of it.

In addition to just general disdain for the Word, we hear another way in which Christians are attacked. And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the Word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in a time of testing fall away. The key phrase there is “time of testing.” Life in this sinful world is hard – and often, being a Christian makes it harder. Consider the Christians in Muslim controlled parts of the World – consider the Christians in Indonesia who have their churches bombed, or in parts of Northern India or Pakistan, or in Nigeria where Christians are in danger of being killed. Being a Christian makes their life in this world harder – but this should be no surprise. Christianity is not merely a balm for this life, it isn’t some worldly insurance plan, but rather it is a faith that confesses that this world is evil and full of sin and that God sent His Son to the Cross to suffer and die that we might have eternal life enduring well past this world’s end. But this is not the only testing that Christians might face. I don’t think any of us here are going to have to worry about being killed for our faith in the immediate future, but what of your own testing? Scripture calls you to love your neighbor? Do you – even when that neighbor is a nice collection of choice swear words? Scripture calls you to be bold in your faith. Are you, even when your friends, when people you like and respect mock your faith, brush it aside, treat it as unimportant? Consider the ways in which being a Christian, trying to live as a Christian, makes your life in this world difficult. And again, this will impact each of us differently – but consider this – and know that Satan will try to use that discomfort, that awkwardness as a wedge to drive you away from God, to dry up your faith and make you brittle, make you broken and fit only for the fire. Be on guard against his wiles this way.

However, Satan doesn’t merely use a stick to try and beat the faith out of us. Sometimes he uses a carrot as well. And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. So now the question becomes, how busy are you? Are you too busy for God? Whether you are running around with problems, or running around with good things and riches and pleasures – Satan will try to use them as a wedge between you and God’s Word. And in many ways, I think this may be the one we get the most of here in America. We are a busy nation, always on the go-go-go. We are always out to make more money, get better stuff, keep up with the Jones, be “successful” – so on and so forth. And what Satan will do is he will play up this attitude. Why come to Church when there’s something more profitable to do – work waiting to be done? Or why come to Church when there is great fun to be had Saturday night? Or why not just rest and relax and enjoy all the fruits of your labor? And then of course, time for the Word during the week is right out! So again, let me ask the question – what are the ways in which Satan attacks you along these lines? How does he try to weasel you away from God in this way? Be on guard for it, and know if for what it is when it happens.

Now, there is one more thing in this parable, something which stands out over and above these wiles of Satan. As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the Word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience. This is what God desires for you, and this is what God accomplishes and brings about in You by the power of His Word. The only reason any fruit is born, any crop grows, is because of the seed planted in the ground. Likewise, consider our Lord, and how often He gives you His Word over and over again. Have you been a bit hard hearted – have you been a bit rocky or thorny? Our Lord doesn’t write you off, but rather instead His Word is cast, is proclaimed to you, is given to you, so that you might grow, that you might learn to hold fast to the Word ever more and more, that you might find joy in living out your faith. This is why our Lord gives His Word to you in so many fashions. His Word is given to you in Scripture, His Word is washed into you by Baptism, His Word is proclaimed to you, His Word is spoken to you in the Words of Absolution, His Word takes root in bread and wine and thereby His gives you His own Body and Blood in His Supper – and all of these many ways are so that you might always hear the Word, be in the Word, that you might grasp it and hold fast to it and bear fruit in love. For know this, dear friends in Christ. Our Lord knows the wiles of Satan, He knows what the old serpent is up to – and our Lord attacks Him now in your life through His Word, just as assuredly as He attacked Satan when Christ Himself went to the Cross to win us life and salvation. And thus, we have life in His name. Lord, keep us steadfast in Thy Word. In the Name of Christ Jesus, the Light of the world +

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