Sunday, February 12, 2012

Sermon: Sexagesima – 2012

12 February 2012 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: Luke 8:4-15

In the name of + Jesus. Amen.

Our Lord’s parable is as fresh and new today as it was when He perplexed and stunned His hearers with it twenty centuries ago. It is as vibrant and alive for us as is any living fruit hanging from a tree just waiting to be plucked and eaten, even as its seeds likewise bear continue to bear the promise of new plants and trees in a grand succession from creation until the end of time.

As with all of the Lord’s parables, this Parable of the Sower teaches us poor miserable sinners trapped in a poor miserable world what life in God’s Kingdom is like – and it is the very opposite of poor and miserable! For in this fallen world, without some kind of grounding in our own life and experience, without the Lord’s pulling up the blind just a crack to give us a little peek into heaven, we could never even begin to understand the Kingdom.

For a world without sin, a world of eternal joy, a world bereft of death itself is as unseen to us as what goes on inside a microscopic cell as it divides and grows. It is as complex as the DNA codes studied by scientists who become more amazed at creation as mankind’s knowledge of life’s intricacy increases. And yet, there is an element as easy to grasp as a child planting a sunflower seed in a Styrofoam cup, pouring water on it. And watching the results.

Our Lord challenges us to think about the Kingdom, even as He invites us to live in that Kingdom. And He asks us to ponder the mystery of the life of that Kingdom that He gives to us yet again this morning, dear brothers and sisters!

And think of this mystery as a question: “What is more powerful, the earth with its diameter of about 7,900 miles and a mass of over six-sextillion tons, or, a single mustard seed that is about a sixteenth of an inch in diameter and weighs about seven hundred-thousandths of an ounce?

The world scoffs at such questions, because to our sin-impaired eyes and minds, bigger is better, might makes right, and that which is small appears weak and not worth considering.

But consider this, dear friends: the world cannot replicate itself. The world does not contain the microscopic hidden codes imbedded by the Creator to reproduce itself. The world is not encoded with the machinery to heal itself. In short, the world is not alive.

But the tiny seed is!

The seed is more mighty than the world because it has buried within it something more powerful than the tallest mountain, the mightiest waterfall, the most awe-inspiring ocean, or even the most terrifying hurricane or tsunami. The tiny seed has information. And this information, this “word” if you will, comes from God Himself. This “word,” that is, the encoded DNA of the tiny seed, has the power to procreate, to feed the entire world’s population of animals and humans from its offspring, to turn the power of the sun into living, breathing organisms. And it is so perfect that a single error in the DNA could even destroy all life on the planet.

This is the power of the Word of God.

We are only now figuring all of this out from the scientific angle. But, dear friends, Jesus, being the Creator Himself in the flesh, knew this two millennia ago. And He uses this knowledge of how seeds reproduce to teach us about God’s Kingdom! “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

The power is in the seed, that is, the Word. The power is not in the world. Soil cannot produce life. Not even mountains and oceans and canyons and the depths of the sea can transfer the building-blocks of life. But keep in mind what the world can do: it can interfere with life. And in this fallen life, it most certainly does.

In the parable, the life-bearing seed is stifled by the world in three scenarios.

In the first scenario, the seed lands on “the path” where it is unable to germinate. The path can block the seed’s DNA from carrying out God’s wishes. And as the Lord explains, this is like the Word of God being heard but not taken to heart by those who hear. And just as a bird will come along and snatch the un-germinated seed, so too does Satan take away the stillborn faith of a person who allows the world to prevent the Word of God sinking into his heart.

In the second scenario, it lands “on the rock, and as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture.” The seed begins to follow the DNA sequence, it sprouts, it grows, it raises its leaves sunward, but lacking a decent root system, it is doomed to die. The Lord explains that these are “those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away.” The world cannot create faith in the believer, but the world has the power to interfere in the grounding that a believer has in God’s Word. When our faith is shallow, it will fail under the wind and storm, under the scorching heat and drought conditions that we suffer in this fallen world.

In the third scenario, the stubborn little seed finds itself “among thorns, and the thorns grew up with it and choked it.” It dies before reaching its full destiny as life-bearing and life-giving fruit. Our Lord teaches us that many indeed hear God’s Word and have a depth of being rooted in the Word, and yet “as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature.” The world has no power to create life, but our fallen world, by its hostility to the Word of God, with our help, finds ways to pull the plug on the remarkable power of God’s Word to bring forth life, growth, fruit, and multiplication.

But there is a fourth scenario, dear brothers and sisters, a scenario of hope that the Lord offers us by His power and according to His good and gracious will, by the mystery of His cross, watered by baptismal mercy and nourished by His very body and blood. For even if only a small minority of seeds ever germinate, set down roots, survive the dangers of the world, grow to maturity, and bear seeds hundredfold, we know that it happens! Life is indefatigable, and not even the world’s hostility can stamp it out!

You can see evidence of this every time your eyes behold a blade of grass, every time you gaze upon the beauty of a luscious orange hanging heavy with juice on a tree, every time you bite into a sweet crisp apple, and with every beautiful flowering plant you see with your eyes to give you peace and joy, a token and reminder of the ancestors of these same plants who shared the Garden of Eden with our own ancestors, a token that serves to remind us of the joys to come in eternity. And through the wonder of DNA, God’s imbedded word in His creation, there is indeed an unbroken chain of life extending back to the Genesis and Paradise itself, DNA that in Christ is now part of the Creator as much as it is a part of the creation.

Though our world is broken, and in spite of the “culture of death” that has plagued our race since that most terrible of days when we first disobeyed God’s Word, the Lord Jesus came into our world to make us receptive to life once more! The Lord Jesus came into our world as a single Seed Himself, the Seed of the Woman, who germinated with the DNA of the Creator imbedded with us on a mission of mercy to the whole creation!

Our Lord turns our rebellious nature into good soil. He is the living Word, the Seed that falls to the ground and dies, but rises to multiply by the billions. His Word is spread by humble sowers over the 7,900 miles of the world’s expanse, and yet the Word they proclaim has the smallness of a mustard seed and the exponential power of God’s promise.

Dear friends, the world may be mighty in its opposition to the Word. But the Word has the power! The Lord Jesus seemed so tiny as the Babe in the manger, as the dying Man on the cross, as the corpse in the tomb – but He carries with Him the power and might of the living Word. And He has the power to transform our own hardness of heart that resembles the path, our own shallowness that resembles the rocky ground, our own distractions that resemble the thorns, and make us the Good Soil of the Church, those who receive the Word and yield a hundredfold. And we know that Word creates faith – faith by hearing – even as our Lord Jesus invites us to hear: “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

The Word of God is the DNA that bears fruit, that brings forth life, that perpetuates and replicates itself unto every generation. The Word of God is information – but it is not just a bunch of zeros and ones in a computer program. The Word bears information that is proclaimed in preaching, and it is Good News. The Word of God is the forgiveness of sins won for us by Christ’s coming into our world, the Seed of the woman who bears this perfect DNA, who falls into the soil of a grave, and who bursts forth alive according to the Word begotten of the Father – the Word made flesh in His flesh – the Word spoken over bread and wine (also of seeds), a Word that transforms that bread and wine into the very Word made flesh, given to us for the forgiveness of sins.

And the Lord continues to throw the seed of the Gospel to every generation, multiplying His life-giving Word and imbedding it into good soil so that it may multiply and continually create new life. This is the power of the Word, dear friends, and it is implanted in you anew this very day!

“He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” Amen.

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

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