Sexagesima - Luke 8:4-15 - January 31, 2016

Order of Service - Pg. 15
Hymn #296 Speak O Lord Thy Servant Hearth
Hymn (printed) Lord Keep Us In Thy Word and Work
Hymn #49 Almighty God Thy Word is Cast

Isaiah 55:10-13
2 Corinthians 11:19-12:9
Luke 8:4-15

Collect for Sexagesima Sunday
O God, Who seest that we put not our trust in anything that we do, mercifully grant that by Thy power we may be defended against all adversity; through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

Sermon on the Holy Gospel

Grace and Peace be unto you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

1)         This sower is quite reckless. He does not soil testing. He does not cultivate the field. The whole earth is his field. Every terrain is pregnant with possibility for the seed. He reaches his hand into his sack, pulls out a fistful of seed, and broadcasts it all over. Some of the seed falls by the wayside. There it is devoured by birds of the air, never having the chance to sink into the soil. Some falls on rock, springing up quickly in the shallow soil, but it can’t develop a root system because there is ground is too hard just beneath the surface. Other seed falls among thorns. The thorns spring up alongside the fruit of the seed and strangle it so the seed cannot grow to maturity. The crop it bears remains stunted. Still other seed falls onto good soil. This seed takes root, grows, and yields a crop, bearing much fruit. To the modern farmer this makes no sense. Seed is expensive. Seed is an investment. You don’t go throwing it into the air and letting the four winds decide where it is going to fall. That is, unless the seed isn’t seed at all. The seed is the Word, Jesus says. The sower goes out to sow his seed, that is, preach the Word. Christ, who is the sower, doesn’t care about the state of the soil over which the Word is cast. His only concern is to sow the seed of the Word abundantly. Through the preaching of the Word of God Christ sows His seeds in the hearts of men so that it might take root and sprout into a beautiful planning of faith which brings forth the fruits of repentance, confident faith, and the new obedience that flows from faith.

2)         The chief sower, Christ Jesus, has ascended into heaven and bestowed on the church the preaching office to continue His work of sowing the seed of the Word. He tells His apostles, Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature (Mark 16:15). He tells them, Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you (Matthew 28:19-20). The apostles are tasked as sowers of the Word. They are to preach the Word. They are to teach the Gospel. And they are to do so in the same manner as the chief sower of seed. St. Paul tells Bishop Timothy, Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. Be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry (Timothy 4:2,5). Timothy is to sow the seed of the Word in season and out of season, meaning when it seems like conditions are favorable and when it seems like conditions are unfavorable. The conditions don’t matter just as the state of the state of the soil does not matter to the chief sower. Neither are Christ’s ministers to be stingy with the Word, holding it back in their seed pouch to keep it safe or conserve it for a better time. St. Paul commends the same reckless sowing of the seed as the sower in Jesus’ parable. He writes in 2 Corinthians 9:6, He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So preachers are to preach, bountifully sowing the seed of the Word wherever God the Holy Ghost gives them opportunity.

3)         Preachers are sowers of seed, called and ordained by Christ for this task, but that does not mean that everyone else is exempt from sowing the seed in their own vocations as they are given opportunity. Christ tells a would-be disciple in Luke 9:60, Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God. This doesn’t make that man a preacher in the vocational sense. It makes him a preacher within the vocations the Lord has already given him.  In Mark 5 Jesus heals a man possessed by a legion of demons. Afterwards, the man desires to go with Jesus. Jesus tells him, Go home to your friends, and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He has had compassion on you (Mark 5:19). In this way every Christian is a preacher within their vocations, for every Christian can tell their friends, family, and neighbors the great things the Lord has done for them in the Gospel. The Christian is to always have the praise of God upon his lips, for Paul writes in Hebrews 13:15, Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. And as you preach the Word in your vocations as you have opportunity, as you speak the Law and the Gospel to those around you, with whom you interact, you are to sow as the chief sower sows, abundantly, and without regard for how it is received by the soil. This is also true congregations. Many congregations see the seismic demographic shift occurring. The pews slowly empty through attrition and a new generation of Christians is mostly absent. Many preachers and congregations turn to marketing techniques, gimmicks, and results of church surveys to attract new people to join their church. They fear the death of their congregation more than they trust Christ to provide when and where it pleases Him. They see the seed, which is the Word, not doing what they want it to do, so they imagine that the see of the Word is not effective in and of itself. They imagine it must be gussied-up or made more appealing to the world. But friendship with the world is enmity toward God. And making the church in the world’s image is a recipe for spiritual disaster.

4)         Do not worry about the future of your congregation either. It will be hear as long as the Lord wills it to be here. It’s not our concern if “we’re growing” the way that we think we ought to be. We must fight the temptation to view the fruit of the seed as bigger buildings, bigger budgets, and more bottoms in the pews. Of course we want our congregation to grow numerically, but not for our sake. We want it to grow numerically for the sake of those whom the Lord will draw to us, for their hearing of the Gospel, for their salvation, and for their fellowship with Christ by faith. Don’t imagine that the Word isn’t doing anything here just because we don’t see droves of people beating down the red double doors to get in. Remember, the world is wicked and hates the Gospel. But take heart that the seed we sow is the Word of God, and the Word of God is always effective. Take heart in the sower who goes out to sow His seed, the sower who broadcasts it abundantly, almost recklessly, having no strategy, no plan, no soil sampling and fertilizing. The sower chucks the seeds into the hearts of men and we know that that seed will accomplish what God wills. The preaching of the Word, publically in church and privately in your vocations, has the promise of God. The Lord says, It shall not return to me void, but it shall accomplish the thing for which I send it (Isaiah 55:11). Paul says the Gospel, not anything else, is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes (Romans 1:16).  You cannot see what a seed is doing once it is sown. Nor can you see immediately what the Law and the Gospel do in the hearts of men either.

5)         So don’t worry about what see, or don’t see, when the Word is broadcast. Appearances are always deceiving when it comes to spiritual matters and the things of faith, since faith is the assurance of things unseen. Jesus comforts our worried hearts with this image, for He is the chief sower, who continues to sow His seed into the hearts of all kinds of men, including you. And that is the other side of the parable. We are often tempted to worry about how others are hearing the Word that we easily neglect to consider how we are hearing the Word. We are often too quick to judge the soil condition of the hearts of others when in reality we have no idea, when in reality the Lord Jesus explains this parable so that we might turn our attention to the soil of our own heart. The seed falls on four types of hearts. The first falls on the wayside. Those by the wayside are the ones who hear; then the devil comes and takes away the word out of their hearts. This in an unbelieving heart, a soil too hard and compacted to receive the Word. It is heart that is under the control of the Devil and no care for the Word, forgiveness of sins, and the things of God. The ones on the rock on those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, who believe for a while and in the time of temptation fall away. This is the shallow heart who assumes that faith in Christ will transform the entire life and make everything lollipops and unicorns. Sins will be put away for good, temptations will cease, and life will be grand. But when temptation raises its head and the lusts of the sinful heart overpower the shallow heart, it falls away, thinking that it has failed, or that the seed of the Word was of no effect. This is the heart whose faith faints and the first sign of suffering and cannot stand the thought of bearing a cross. The ones that fell among the thorns are those who, when the have heard, go out and are chocked with cares, riches, and pleasures of life, and bring no fruit to maturity. This is the heart that believes the Gospel but still yearns for the ways of the world and desires to protect its favorite sins from God’s condemnation. This heart is stunted, the pleasures of this life being more important than the pleasure of knowing Christ and suffering with Christ for the Word.

6)         The ones that fell on the good ground on those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience. This is the heart that acknowledges its wretchedness and desires to hear the Word of God. It is only good and noble because it receives the seed of the Word, not because it does great works or has a great piety before God. It receives the implanted Word which is able to save, and that seed sprouts forth and grows into a beautiful plant bearing much fruit. The fruit is daily repentance from sin, daily believing the Gospel for the remission of sins, and daily striving for the new obedience which God implants in the heart, which is the life of good works, acts of love and service for the neighbor who is in any need. Christ tells us this so that we may keep watch over ourselves. We are not always the same type of soil, but we fluctuate so we must be vigilant against the bird of prey, Satan, who wants to take the word away from us, just as we must be vigilant that we hear the Word gladly and joyfully, studying and contemplating it so that it deepen its roots in our heart. We must be on guard against the thorns, the cares and pleasures of this life, lest they retard the seed and its fruit in our life. Watch how you hear the Word, so that you always receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls (James 1:21). Amen.

May the peace of God which passes all human understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

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