Called to Sow Seed
Here we have one of Jesus’ parables again. And often when we are confronted with a parable, we want to look at it and say, “How do I measure up to what Jesus just said?” Look at how we look at the Beatitudes. Look how we look at the Good Samaritan. How am I supposed to now treat my neighbor? We have Jesus’ own explanation of the parable. And it’s from Jesus’ explanation that we can understand all the parables that Jesus gives us. This is Jesus explaining the parable to the Apostles. “Listen to what the parable of the sewer means.
When anyone hears the message about the kingdom,” what are the parables about? About the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of Heaven. How are things in the order that God has made, the Kingdom of God? He’s not saying how you’re supposed to act with your neighbor. He’s not saying what it is you should be doing. Understand what Jesus is telling us. This is the way God is working. And so when we come across a parable and we see the main character. And we come across the teachings that are in parable form and we say “One should be doing this”, we always have to remember God is the one who is the actor. And so in the Parable of the Sewer it is Christ Himself who is sewing the seed. That’s interesting because we know that the seed you’re hearing about here is the Word of God. And is it not Christ Himself who is proclaimed in Scripture as being the very Word of God? The Christ of God spreading the Word. What is the Word? What is the Word? What does the Word proclaim? It proclaims the reality of Christ Himself. Whether it’s the Word of the Old Testament talking about a Christ who will come or whether it’s the Word of the Gospel telling about a Christ who has come, or whether it is the Word of the New Testament Epistles who talk about the Church, the Institution of the Holy Spirit who continues the teachings of Christ.
What is it that Christ is saying in this parable? He’s saying that His Word goes out or as the hymn that we just sang, “that it goes out to men who like it or like it not.” The Word of Christ goes out into the world and it finds four kinds of places to land. The path where the birds pick it up; the rocky places where it springs up quickly but doesn’t last long in the scorching heat; among the thorns where it is choked out; or on the good soil. Now I know the tendency is still there. We’re looking at saying, “All right—am I the path? Am I the rocky place? Am I being surrounded by thorns? Or am I the good soil?” I think if I took a poll right now, most of you would probably say, “I’m the good soil! After all, I’m here in church! I am a Christian. I have accepted the Word. Look what I’ve done. Here I am.” And you know what? You’ll be missing the point again, because the parable is not about you specifically. It is about the way the Kingdom of God works. And in this case, what does the Word do? The Word does grow in the good soil, but you, my friends, had nothing to do with making you good soil. It’s good soil because it’s been watered and fertilized with the very water and blood that flowed out of the pierced side of Christ upon the cross. That is what makes the soil good – nothing you have done – nothing I can do – nothing St. Luke can do – nothing even Missouri Synod can do will make good soil. It’s the work of God! Jesus explains the parable. “Seed that is sewn on the path is snatched up.” The evil one comes into our lives and wants to take from us this Word, the precious seed.
And let’s make no mistake here; when we start talking about what the Word does, we are not talking about inefficiencies in the Word because it got snatched up. Or a Word that wasn’t strong enough because you didn’t put down roots. Or a Word that wasn’t protected enough because the thorns took it away.
The Word of God works. It’s the soil we’re talking about. Where is it sewn? If it was on the rocky place, the sprung up but it had no place to put its roots. It’s like the man who hears the word joyously and goes about his work but is not prepared for the disasters, for the questions, for the deceit that happens in this world. Then there is the Word that falls among the thorns. It’s like you and I who come Sunday after Sunday or Monday night after Monday night; we come to Bible study, we come to class; who hear the Word. At times we don’t invest enough in the Word. We hear it; it has a place until the world around us speaks louder than the Word. It chokes the Word out. You see, this is a parable about the Kingdom of God. And you, my friends, are children of God. This parable is not about the Word going out into the world – this comes later. This parable is about you and me, children in the Kingdom of God.
Some of that Word falls on fertile soil. It’s easy at times to say, “Well, I’m not this, or I’m not that…” I dare say that every one of you has been all of these at some point in time and you will be again. There have been times in my life where I have not devoted the time necessary and that Word has been plucked from me. There are times when it comes to me in great joy. But if I haven’t invested in that Word, in time it doesn’t last. There have been times where confronted by the problems of this world, I have let them speak louder to me than the promises of God. And I know it’s with you too. You see, you and I we have this same condition – you and I are both human. And while we are children of God, we remain ‘in the sinful flesh’ as Paul would say. We remain tempted by the world around us, ears for what the devil has to say to us. And that’s when we lose the Word, when we listen.
This wonderful hymn that we sang as our Hymn of the Day, “Preach Ye the Word”, if you look at the top of that hymn page, you’ll see it’s for Ordination and Installation. This understanding of the parable, being Jesus the Sower planting His Word, changes just a little bit because of Pentecost. It changes just a little bit because of Ascension, because the work that Jesus continues to do even though He’s not in this world. The salvation work of the Lord Jesus continues on now through the Church. After Jesus ascended, He said, “I am sending you the comforter, the One who will come.” And the Comforter doesn’t come with a new message; He comes revealing what the Apostles had already heard. The moment of revelation we hear in Acts after the Holy Spirit comes with power to the Apostles, is this moment of “AHA! So that’ what Jesus meant.”
See, the Comforter comes with no new message but with insight, with understanding of what Jesus had already said. Paul’s messages to Rome and to the Colossians and to the Church in Corinth are not new teachings but they bring the very teachings of Christ to light in their lives. And so too now the continued Word of God comes to light in our lives. How is that? As much as we’d like to, Jesus does not appear to us and speak those Words. But He has given that task to the Church. That’s what Pentecost was about. And the Church now has the duty in praise of all that God has done for us, to preach the Word, to plant it home to men who like it or like it not. This Word that shall endure and stand when flowers and men shall be forgotten, the enduring Word. Now you and I as members of this Holy Christian Church have this duty to spread the Word. And just like there are times when we find ourselves rejecting the Word, not hearing the Word, not abiding by the Word, not rejoicing in the Word.
We live in a World, my dear friends in Christ that does not want to hear what this Word has to say. Remember, the Word has one message – whether it be Old Testament or New Testament, whether it be Psalms or Gospels or Epistles or Books of History, it is the message of the Salvation of work of Jesus Christ and of Jesus Christ alone. Jesus Christ who is the only begotten Son of the One True Father; Jesus Christ who with the Father and Holy Spirit is triune; Jesus Christ, who as you heard last week in our readings, is the only Way to the Father. Jesus Christ, to whom the Father has entrusted everything, has entrusted to the Church the Word about Himself – the means to Salvation.
The only God has given us the only true message about the only way to be saved. The world doesn’t like to hear that we have an exclusive message. We have a faithful pastor in Dearborn who was maligned all over the free press this past week because he dared speak that there are not several ways to God and that while it may be useful for a community to live together, that the Church must speak an exclusive message. Pastor Baseley, pastor of a sister LC–MS congregation in Dearborn (MI) was labeled as being no better than a terrorist because his exclusivity (of doctrine) leads to prejudice, which then leads to hatred. The world does not want to hear that there is only one way to God. It rejects the Word. Society wants to say, “Let’s be in union.” We live under one God, isn’t that what we proclaim? And while it is necessary for our society, and it has been a key for success to our society for over two hundred years, to claim that we live under one God. And this is true, but that reality dare not bleed into the Church because the deism of the society we live in, order under God, allows the freedom for you and I to worship but also Roman Catholics down the road and the Baptists up the way and the Methodists and the Pentecostals and the Hindus and the Moslems, the Shiites, the Buddhists.
We are a strong society because we protect the ability for all of us to worship as we see fit. If that reality comes into the church, we will lose the Word because the Word speaks of One Way. There has been a time in the past where our Synod has had to speak to the exclusivity of the Word—the exclusivity of One Savior, the Son of the only God. It was a rough time for our Synod. There have been congregations who have been confronted with false teachings within their midst. And it’s always a painful time for a congregation to speak clearly. Maybe you have encountered it – where you speak faithfully the Word of God, the Word of Christ to have somebody reject that. It hurts. The Word will be rejected. And it hurts most when it is rejected within our own midst. It hurts most when we realize that in our own lives we have rejected it.
There will come a time again because the world just is the world, that we at St. Luke, or we as a Synod, will have to speak clearly again. But the seed which God has planted here, now we as a church must go and sew it again, must be clear. Listen to this verse:
“The Sower sows. His reckless love scatters abroad the goodly seed, intent alone that men may have the wholesome loaves that all men need. Though some be snatched and some be scorched and some be choked and matted flat, the Sower sows. His heart cries out ‘Oh, what of that? O, what of that?’”
Does that take you back a little bit? We cannot be the determining factor or think that we can look out and see the hundred, sixty or thirty fold work of the seed that we are sewing. This is the prideful part of us. The Word of God is not ours; it is God’s Word. It has been given to us to sew, not to determine how to sew it, where to sew it, but simply to faithfully proclaim – plant it home. When we get tied up with “What are the numbers?” “What are the results?” “Who is it who has said ‘yes’?” “Who is it who has said ’no’?”
Scripture truly teaches what this hymn proclaims. We must be able to say, “What of that?” It’s not very easy. I got caught up with it in my first months of being a pastor–I had begun to think “I have this Word; I have this Call; I have been given this position in this congregation—they called me here—so certainly the Word that I preach must have results.” I visited people, I had Bible studies, worked with the teachers in Sunday School, and preached and preached and preached. And in six months not one new butt was in the pew. And I became discouraged. Thankfully a brother in the ministry came up and almost literally slapped me in the face and said, “Wait a minute. Whose Word are you preaching?” “God’s.” “Whose ministry are you in?” Christ’s.” “Who is in charge of what the Word does?” “God.” “Then why are you looking for the results? Why are you trying to read hearts? Why are you trying to count what’s going on? Preach the Word; plant it home.”
It’s not just a message for pastors, it’s a message for the Church. Be true about what we do and God will take care of the results. The soil that is watered by the water and the blood of Christ himself continues to be fertilized, watered through Holy Baptism, fertilized by the very body and blood. You and I are that soil.
But you and I because of the commission given to the church at Pentecost are also sowers. Oh, yes, I have my role and you have your role and they are distinctly different, but we are together members of this church, here in this place, St. Luke. And whether it be to our neighbors, whether it be our family as parents or as faithful children, husbands or aunts and uncles; whether it be to our community or people we work with, we are called to do one thing—I was going to say “simply one thing” but it’s not simple. The message is simple. Take the Word, spread it. God will take care of the results. That is our message of hope because you see, we are not responsible for the results. We are called to simply do this work.
The parable of the Sower is not about you per se. It is about the Kingdom work of God. And we through the Church have been placed into the work of the sewer and we have the freedom to do that work and we have been given the blessing so that we can say, when it’s rejected, when we can’t see the results, “Oh what of that? Oh, what of that?” and know that the kingdom of God will still come. And those to whom the message of God is to be spread will receive it. And that all those for whom God has a place in heaven will be there—among them you and I. The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in the one true faith, Jesus Christ.