Sermon 7/13/2008 – The Seed is the Word of the Kingdom

July 15, 2008 at 10:08 am Leave a comment

Proper 10A (Pentecost 9)

Messiah Lutheran Church

13 July 2008

 

Green is the liturgical color for the season after Pentecost.

It represents growth,

the growth of God’s life within us

as we are nourished in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit.

We are reminded of our Lord’s parable of the sower,

where he speaks of the seed which fell on good soil,

that grew and produced a great harvest,

an abundant crop.

 

Of course, our Lord is not intending to give us gardening tips.

His original audience would have known quite well

that seed that falls on a hard, stony path

does not produce and is bird feed,

that plants can dry out quickly without deep roots to reach underground water,

that weeds can choke out and starve other growing things.

Jesus speaks about seeds, and birds, and plants, and the green things of the world

to speak about something that is not so visible –

how the Word of God

produces the life of the Spirit within human beings –

and even sometimes why it doesn’t.

I’m sure his disciples wondered

why it was that the one whom they had followed

couldn’t get some others to follow him.

Was it some deficiency on his part?  Was he having an off day preaching?

Was it that the Word was not as effective as they thought?

Or was it something else?

 

Jesus identifies three causes of spiritual crop failure:

the first, when people don’t understand the word.

The Greek word is actually more like “putting it together.”

I like that.

When people hear God’s Word but they don’t put it together in their head,

it is of no use to them.

When we say “understand,” we often think of it like a flash of insight,

as if it comes automatically.

But if we say, “putting it together,” that’s a little bit more intentional,

a little bit more of a long-term process.

It involves a little activity on our part.

So that’s the one reason for spiritual crop failure:

a failure to put the Word together.

 

 

But there’s a second reason:

The second reason for spiritual crop failure

is that when God speaks his Word to us,

we become accountable to it,

and that can lead us into situations where we are asked to choose

between easy living without the Word

and harder living with it.

These choices can be as simple as

“Am I going to get up this morning and go to church?”

For me, I have to get up on Sunday morning and go to church –

you’d miss me if I didn’t.

Maybe I miss you when you are not in church,

or maybe someone else misses you –

or maybe God misses you because he longs to speak the Word to you,

because he wants you to come to the table and receive the body and blood of Christ.

But we have to choose sometimes, if we don’t have a job at church,

whether or not we are going to show up

because we might miss something in the world if we do –

like sleep, or the opportunity to get some other stuff done, or something fun.

Now I don’t have that choice because I have to show up on Sunday,

but I do have a choice other times,

when I choose whether or not I am going to do the routine of my daily prayers.

There are all sorts of choices I have:

I could be reading a book, or surfing the Internet,

or getting some stuff done that I need to get done,

or sleeping a little longer

And sometimes I choose those.

I don’t want it to seem like I’m a good person for always showing up at church.

Like I said, I have to be here.

But we all have that struggle,

and of course when Christ talks about persecution,

he’s talking about a lot more than this.

Isn’t this the same thing, though,

that life is harder and difficult if we’re taking God’s Word seriously

than if we are not?

And if we can’t make the so-called easy decisions like encountering the Word

and coming to listen when God wants us to hear,

how would we ever stand up under real persecution?

 

The third reason for spiritual crop failure is the cares of the world

and the lure of wealth.

If we don’t consider ourselves particularly rich,

and most of us don’t,

we might think we’re immune to this particular blight.

But let’s be careful.

A life that revolves around the problems and possibilities of money,

no matter how much or how little the actual amount is,

is a life that risks failure of the crop.

 

So we’ve identified three reasons for spiritual crop failure,

and one of course for success:

hearing the Word and understanding it.

But we haven’t even considered these questions:

Where do we hear God speaking,

and what is the Word which he wants us to hear?

 

The simple answer is that the Bible is the Word of God,

and that answer has the advantage of being true.

But there’s a little more to it than that.

Just to belabor the obvious,

when Jesus was talking about the Word,

there was no such thing as the Gospel of Matthew or the New Testament.

So it cannot be just that.

 

Lutherans have always said that we hear the word of God in preaching.

But not just any preaching, as if I could stand up here and say anything

and it would be the Word of God.

It is the preaching of the Gospel which is God’s Word,

the sending forth of the good news

that though we are sinners, God rescues us in Christ’s life, death, and resurrection.

It is preaching like in St. Paul’s letter to the Romans,

“There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

The Bible contains that message,

therefore it is the written Word of God.

 

But there is yet more.

What does the Bible tell us in the first chapter of John?

In the beginning was the Word,

and the Word was with God,

and the Word was God…

And the Word became flesh and lived among us,

and we have seen his glory,

the glory as of a father’s only son,

full of grace and truth.

Jesus himself is the Word of God.

When God the Father wished to speak once-and-for-all

to humankind,

he clothed his Son Christ Jesus in flesh

so that his life would be the speech of God to us and to all people.

The Bible, the written Word, brings us Jesus, the living Word, the Word-made-flesh.

 

 

That is why it is so important for us as Christians to read and understand the Bible,

because it holds Christ, like the manger held him in Bethlehem,

and Christ is the living Word we need to hear.

You may have heard that we ELCA Lutherans

are trying a nationwide initiative called “Book of Faith.”

This has come about partially because we have lost our biblical literacy as a church.

About two-thirds of Lutheran youth come to confirmation classes and are confirmed.

Thereafter, only about one-fifth of us participate in Christian education.

We’re a lot better at doing things when we’re expected to show up.

So we have decided, as a church,

that we need to read the Bible.

But immediately, the excuses come, even from pastors:

“It’s too hard to understand,”

and, “What if people think I’m strange,”

and, “There are so many other things in my life, I’m too busy.”

Sounds like a recipe for spiritual crop failure.

Sounds like Jesus knew a thing or two about what keeps us

from growing and thriving in the life of the Spirit.

 

But for those who take the time

to “put things together,”

to stand under the Word until they understand it,

to clear away all that would choke it,

and allow God to root the Word deep within the self,

God promises a harvest,

a growth that will come in his time

and by his good pleasure.

May God grant us the grace

now and always to hear his Word and understand it,

that we might be an abundant harvest in his name and for his glory. 

 

Amen

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