Sunday, February 15, 2009

Sermon: Sexagesima

15 February 2009 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: Luke 8:4-15 (Isa 55:10-13, Heb 4:9-13)

In the name of + Jesus. Amen.

“To you,” dear brothers and sisters in Christ, “it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God.”

For on this day, we have not only heard a parable of our Lord, we have heard the Lord Himself explain its meaning. And what a treasure this parable is, dear friends, for in it, the secret of the kingdom is revealed. How very sad that so many of our brethren are not here, refusing to hear the good news as well as the warning of our Lord.

The secret of God’s kingdom is in its propagation. Every time you eat an apple or orange, every time you spit out a cherry pit or a watermelon seed, you are being reminded of our Lord’s parable about the kingdom of God and how it grows. For sadly, not every seed of every fruit you eat is destined to become a tree or vine. In fact, the vast majority fail to germinate. Every seed bears the potential of not only life, but a fruitful life – and yet, most seeds never make it to the soil. Even those that do are often eaten by animals. Even those that sprout often die off very soon thanks to adverse conditions.

So very few grow to maturity, to bear fruit, to provide seeds themselves as a continuation of the chain of life that spans from the present, generation by generation, back to the original six days of creation.

The seed is a metaphor for God’s kingdom, which propagates from a minority of fruitful seeds planted into good soil. And in spite of this minority status, the miracle happens, life struggles against the forces that would snuff it out, and we do indeed see glorious trees bearing luscious fruits that not only feed us with the nectar of life, but themselves provide hundreds or even thousands of new seeds spreading the Lord’s creation thousands of years after the Word of God first said: “Let there be….”

And that is another revelation in this remarkable parable: the Word. For “in the beginning was the Word” and the “Word was with God” and the “Word was God.” And “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” Through Him all things were made. This Word through whom God creates is also the promised Seed of the woman, who crushed the head of the devil, who ransoms sinners, and who destroys death. Truly, truly, He has said to us, “unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” He is that Seed that died, was buried, and yet rose to bear much fruit.

The Seed Himself told us in His own Words: “The seed is the Word of God.”

The Word of God is the Bible, to be sure. The Word of God is preaching, to be sure. The Word of God is Holy Absolution, to be sure. But the Word is ultimately not a “what,” but a “Who.” The Word is not merely scribbles on a page or vibrations hitting our eardrums. The Word is Christ, and Christ is the Seed. And the Seed is life.

In this Word, we find the words of eternal life. In this Seed we find life in the most unlikely of places.

For to the naked eye, words are powerless, and seeds are of little consequence. But when the Word is Christ, that Word is omnipotent, all-knowing, and true. That Word creates, redeems, and hallows. That Word gives life and gives it abundantly. And the living, incarnate Word Himself taught us not to judge by what the naked eye sees – for if we have faith as small as the mustard seed, which looks insignificant to the eye, we can move mountains. For the little seed grows to be a tree, capable of providing a place for birds to nest, to lay eggs, and to raise their own young, a place of nurture and of life, of the miracle of procreation, and of propagation.

The kingdom of God is spread by tossing about the Seed, that is, by casting Christ in every which way: on paths, on rocks, among thorns, and on every kind of soil. For the sower has no way of knowing where the Seed will end up, which ground will be receptive, or which individual seeds will survive. But the sower has a promise: “so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty.” Whether a particular seed sown at a particular time upon particular soil produces or does not is not his concern. When it comes to the Word of God, there is no science, no husbandry methodologies, no techniques to increase yield. There is just a man tossing seeds in what seems to be a terribly inefficient way.

As the hymnist puts it, the sower plants it home “to men who like or like it not.” For the “sower sows; his reckless love, scatters abroad the goodly seed.”

For the power is in the tiny seed itself, not in the muscles of the arms of the farmer. The power of the Word is in the Word, not in the preacher of the Word. For it is the Word of God, the Seed of the woman, “that bears a harvest hundredfold.” For “the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit.” The power of the seed lies within the Lord’s Seed itself – our task is merely to cast it around.

Obviously, the preacher has the task of casting the Seed of God’s Word from the pulpit, in the classroom, and even to those on the highways and byways of the world. But all Christians likewise cast the Seed of God’s Word in their own way as well – in teaching your children the catechism, in praying before meals, in bringing your family to where the Word is proclaimed and the Seed is implanted into their hearts. All Christians are themselves offshoots of the Holy Vine that is Christ, commanded to bear fruit themselves – for such fruit also bears seeds.

To us “it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God.” In whatever way we are called to do so, we are to sow the Seed of Christ, we are to speak the Word of God, we are to scatter the Lord’s reckless love, “intent alone that all may have the wholesome loaves that all men need.”

For seeds not only sprout in the ground, they are also ground into flour that becomes the bread that sustains us: “giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater.” But we do not live by bread alone in this kingdom, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.

Let us sow in whatever way the Lord calls us to sow. Let us do so in love, knowing that the seeds we scatter are givers of life. Let us do so in humility, knowing that the power is not in our eloquence or piety, but only in the Word’s itself. And let us do so without growing discouraged, for the Lord Himself has given us His Word that: “It shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”

Preach you the Word and plant it home
And never faint; the Harvest Lord

Who gave the sower seed to sow

Will watch and tend His planted Word.


In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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