Sunday, February 19, 2017

Sermon: Sexagesima – 2017

19 February 2017

Text: Luke 8:4-15

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

Our Lord Jesus tells a parable, a story that teaches us about the kingdom.  And this story is both ordinary and extraordinary.  For what can be more ordinary than a farmer planting seeds.  This activity has gone on without fanfare around the globe since the Fall into sin.

For we don’t live in the garden of Eden anymore.  Cursed is the ground.  In pain we eat of it all the days of our lives.  Thorns and thistles it brings forth for us, and we eat the plants of the field.  By the sweat of our faces we eat bread, till we return to the ground.

And so year after year, the farmer, the sower, casts his seeds in faith that they will bear fruit, and through them, the Lord will provide sustenance and life.

In this story, we have a sower, and we have the ground.  We have a transmitter, and a receiver.  The one casting the seed is hardly remarkable.  He grabs the seeds and just throws them.  He has no power in and of himself.  All he does is cast the seed.  

And likewise, the soil is hardly remarkable.  It’s simply dirt. And most of the time, the soil provides impediments to growth, and the seed is prevented from bearing fruit, and in some cases, from even sprouting.  But even in the rare case where the soil is conducive to growth, there is no power in the soil.  At best, it doesn’t get in the way.

And so the power lies neither in the sower nor the soil.  But rather in the seed itself.

In a very real way, this transaction resembles radio broadcasting.  Even the word “broadcast” – which we associate with radio or TV (or even webcasting over the internet) – this word originally applied to sowing seed.  Just as a radio station broadcasts signals every which way hoping that they will be received by someone, so too does the sower broadcast his seed, casting it abroad, in faith and hope that the seed will germinate, break through the ground, grow, flower, and bear fruit.

For in the broadcasting of radio and television, there is a sender and a receiver.  But the really sophisticated thing, the part that has meaning, is the signal itself.  For the signal is encoded information.  It is broadcast by the sender, and it is received to the benefit of the receiver.  

And so is a seed, dear friends.  Seeds are encoded with information, strings of DNA data that cause the seed to germinate, grow, flower, and bear fruit.  This encoded Word is embedded into the very cell structure of the seed, and that implanted Word contains the explosive power to bear a harvest hundredfold.  From the tiniest of seeds grows the mighty redwood tree – all powered by the embedded and encoded data, placed there at the creation by the Creator, with instructions for growth and fruition.

And this is our Lord’s parable, dear friends.  

The kingdom of heaven is both ordinary and extraordinary, both mundane and miraculous.  For what is more ordinary than a preacher casting the Word abroad – what of that?  He doesn’t have much to offer of himself.  And what of the soil that receives this Word – “men who like or like it not”?  Some reject the Word outright to the delight of the devil who snatches the seed.  Some falls in rocky ground, initially showing promise, but quickly dying off due to a lack of being firmly rooted.  Some actually sprouts and grows only to be choked out by thorns: the cares and riches of this life.  And only the last kind of soil manages to get out of the way so that the embedded Word can do what it has been sent to do: to mature, to feed mankind, and to multiply and produce fruit.

And dear friends, what is more ordinary than dirt?  And yet we, mankind, were made out of this dirt, as Adam was fashioned from the soil itself.  

And while the seed seems so ordinary and lifeless, so small and inconsequential – it is anything but.  It bears life by virtue of carrying the divine Word, the instructions of creation: not merely the command to multiply, but the very means of multiplication itself.  The seed is the power, and the miracle.  The seed is how God created the plants of the field to reproduce, to multiply and to bear fruit.

And even in our sinfulness, even as we have corrupted the plants and cursed the soil, nevertheless, God Himself has provided the Seed of the woman to be cast upon the infertile soil of our fallen world.  This Seed dies and goes into the ground, only to rise again, and bear fruit a hundredfold.  And this Seed of the woman, is also the Son of Man, He is the divine Word by whom all things were made.  He is the one who commands and yet who provides the power to bring creation to fruition, all by His Word.

For our Lord Jesus is the Word, the Seed of the woman, the bread from heaven, our daily bread, the bread of life.  He is fruitful and multiplies, even as His Word is cast abroad, broadcast to every manner of soil on God’s earth: rich and fruitful soil, stubborn and rocky soil, soil that welcomes the Seed, and soil that closes itself up and refuses the Seed.

There are preachers to sow and there are hearers who receive.  There is the command to multiply, and there is the embedded Word that carries out that command in soil that doesn’t resist, in soil watered by baptism and fertilized by repentance.

Dear friends, the Seed is cast again this day.  It is sown by sowers in every corner of the globe.  This seed is cast upon you, here and now.  You are the soil that receives this broadcast, this Word of power and hope, this Word of repentance and of forgiveness, this Word that seeks nothing but to land upon good soil that it might do its work and bear fruit.

It is both ordinary and extraordinary.  For this has gone on since the Seed of the woman was first sown into the soil of the tomb.  For from the path, the rock, the thorns, and the good soil, the Seed is still proclaiming the Word of the Creator Himself, working redemption, and being for us the bread of life, won for us by the sweat of the face of the One who died upon the cross, whose flesh is offered the life of the world, whose forgiveness and life and salvation are borne by the preached Word, sown into your hearts, where the Word bears the power to yield a hundredfold.

And we pray, “Lord, keep us steadfast in Your Word,” the Word made flesh, the Word of forgiveness, the Word who comes to you now and even unto eternity!  Amen.

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

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