In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
Salvation takes work. Redemption demands blood and sweat and tears. Forgiveness and mercy and grace requires dedication and commitment and more than a little bit of hard labor.
That is one of the themes presented as Jesus puts his parable before you this morning. And it isn’t the parable of the good soil, or the parable of the weeds or scorching heat or attack of the birds.
But that hasn’t stopped generation after generation of well-meaning individuals on both sides of pulpit and pew to follow their own, worldly, fallen, sinful nature in interpreting this beautiful parable in completely the wrong way.
This morning, Christ would have us listen to his Word with the ears of God-given faith. Jesus would have us read his words with eyes that look to him and his Cross to properly interpret what this parable is all about, and what it is not.
God, in Christ, through the Holy Spirit give us sanctified ears and redeemed eyes as this parable of our Lord is placed before us. Amen
Well there seems to be plenty of material for the Christian pastor to preach on this morning, using Jesus’ famous parable from the 13th chapter of Matthew as a good diving board to plunge into the waters of how salvation and redemption and forgiveness work.
And so, in other congregations there will be emotional appeals from the pulpit (if the congregation still has a pulpit) to those in attendance: “You must become the good soil if you are to glorify God and produce fruit for his Kingdom.” The pastor will say, “Do you want peace, and the certainty in your life that God will bless you? Do you want to know in your heart that you are one of God’s elect and a child of heaven? Then make your heart good soil. Make yourself worthy of the seed that God wants to sow in you. If you are to be saved,” the pastor will say, “then you must defeat the wiles of the devil, conquer worry and the cares of this world, and constantly be attentive to God’s Word and always have his Word in your ears and in your mind, heart and mouth.”
Have you every heard a sermon take the parable of the sower and spin it that way? In a way that puts the focus on what you are doing to make yourself the good soil in the parable? In a way that makes your salvation all about you and your work and your blood, sweat and tears? In a way that makes this parable all about your dedication and commitment — about your hard labor?
Well, let’s see what happens if we walk down that road. Where will the parable take us if we want it to be about making our weed-infested, drying-up and beginning to wither, under constant attack from the devil, the world and our old sinful nature dirt into super-soil.
Actually, attempting to walk down that road of making self into super-dirt describes much of my teenage years. Giving all the right answers in Confirmation class. Attending youth group and Sunday services and volunteering Saturdays to trim the bushes around the church and scrape off old paint around the windows of the fellowship hall. Behaving myself. Being a good kid and a good student and a good Christian — all so that I would be sure I had made myself into soil that God could use and forgive and redeem and make worthy of heaven.
Maybe that’s the same road you tried to walk down this last week. Making all the big promises to God that you will straighten your life out and fly right so that he can reward you and plant some blessings in your life.
Well, how’s that road working out for you? How’s your struggle to make yourself into super-soil going? It went just fine with me. I was proud that I wasn’t like those other people who hadn’t rooted out all the weeds in their lives. All those other people who hadn’t accomplished all the Christian things that I had accomplished. All those people who didn’t have the smarts to make themselves into super-dirt — soil that God couldn’t but notice and smile over and bless.
And so everything was going fine — for a while. Until God’s Word had its way with me. Until the Law did its irresistible work of showing my pride for what it really was — sin that I could not rid myself of. Sin that stole the work only Jesus could do. Sin that made me my own savior and redeemer and deliverer.
So, Jesus is giving each of us a warning this morning in this parable of his. This is Jesus’ parable of the sower. Not the parable of the made-itself-worthy soil.
Who does the saving work in this little earthly story with a heavenly meaning? It’s all about the sower and his crazy approach to sowing the good seed of his Word.
Because, as Pastor Chad Bird has said, our merciful, gift-giving Father in heaven sows seed with a blindfold on. Talk about nutty. Talk about insane. Talk about wasteful and irrational behavior. The sower sows indiscriminately. The sower sows his good seed among people the world (and our old, worldly nature) think is a complete waste of time and energy and resources.
The Parable of the Sower warns us as a congregation that we are not to withhold the Word of God — we are not to withhold Christ’s mercy — to those our old nature believes are unworthy of it. Those who won’t become a member and contribute to the offering plate. Those who come from a culture we just don’t like. Those who are too young or too old to attend a voter’s meeting. Those we have determined aren’t the best candidates to be Christians. Christ announces this morning that his word rains upon the unjust, the unworthy, the “will probably never believe.” And his Word does its work whenever and wherever the Holy Spirit wills. Even upon two-year olds in the preschool and twenty-year olds living right next door to this campus. Even upon ninety year olds in senior apartments a stone’s thrown from this sanctuary — regardless of the color of their skin or what language they speak in the kitchen.
God in Christ through the Holy Spirit sows his seed, and he does it with jaw-dropping abandon.
And what is crazy news to the world is good news to you. Because the Almighty sows the good seed of his Word — his Word made flesh to do your hard labor, to work salvation for you, to give his blood, sweat and tears for you, to give his holy life for you. And he sows that seed — even in the “doesn’t have a chance in hell to sprout and grow and bear good fruit” soil of your heart.
“Outside of Christ, there is no good soil within me.” That is the witness of the Bible, the witness of the Creed, the confession made at the Baptismal font and the Table of our Lord.
But the Father of all mercy and comfort has sent his life-giving seed — has sent his Son — and planted him firmly in your eyes and ears and mind and heart. His word has done the miracle greater than the Almighty creating heaven and earth from nothing.
He has taken your sinful, worry-infested, dried up, withered and dead as a doornail heart. And he has created good soil that produces the greatest of good fruit: trust and faith and hope and joy that sings back to God and to neighbor, saying: “God has sent his Son into a dark and dying world. Into my dead and cold heart. And troubles and temptations not withstanding, nothing shall uproot his good work in me — and in all who look to Christ’s sacrifice for their redemption.”
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit