PENTECOST 5, A – July 13, 2014

SCRIPTURES – Isaiah 55:10-13; Romans8:12-17; Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

My word shall not returnto me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed inthe thing for which I sent it. Isaiah55

 Doesn’tit often seem like things were better in the past; that as time goes on, thingsget worse? I recently saw clear evidence of this in The Hour newspaper. Last week Francis Fay, in his column The Way We Were, mentioned the death 25years ago of retired Norwalk Police Officer Jules Mangler. Officer Mangler was known for onceissuing a ticket to a horse that was standing at an overtime parking meter. Iposted a note about this at the Department, urging the officers, “Learn from this!” Such stalwart Policework was surely the reason why crime and vice then were well below what theyare today!

 “Learn from this!” This is also what Jesus was tellingthe crowds, and us, in His parable of the sower. Things had been going so well.Crowds of people had been coming to Him for help and to learn about God, withmore and more becoming His disciples. But, opposition was also growing.Recently the Pharisees had accused Jesus and His disciples of breaking theSabbath laws. They even accused Him of being Satan, and were discussing amongthemselves how to destroy Him. Things were changing! Many of the seeds Jesuswas sowing were not bearing fruit. “He who has ears, let him hear!”

 WillHis seed bear fruit in you? Well, why wouldn’t it? The Gospel of Jesus, thegood news of the forgiveness of our sins through His life, death, andresurrection for us is certainly good seed. It is God’s power to change ourhearts and give us faith and life in Christ! “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in JesusChrist, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by theGospel” we confess in the Catechism. The Gospel is the voice of God theHoly Spirit! It is filled with His power to open hearts and minds. Why wouldn’tit always bear fruit?

 Thereare many reasons. “Some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them.”The devil and his hosts are very present and active in our world. They areespecially present when Christ is proclaimed. But, notice: Jesus doesn’t say, “and birds with piercing cries, and bloodred eyes, and long talons sharp as knives, and powerful beaks to tear and rendcame and devoured them.” No, just normal, everyday birds came – and snatched awaythe seed. The devil and his hosts come very innocently, very quietly, and appearvery ordinary.

Ø Theyused the Pharisees, the respected and learned teachers of Israel, to opposeJesus and snatch people away.

Ø Theyspeak at times today through respected religious teachers and leaders who twistGod’s Word and don’t teach it correctly.

They come “whenanyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it;” andthis happens all the time. Satan loves confusion. So, if you don’t understandGod’s words, ask! Learn!

 Otherthings can also keep Christ’s words from growing in the heart and bringingforth faith unto eternal life. There is the harsh heat of persecution. “Whentribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he fallsaway,” Jesus says. Christians in Muslim countries endure this heat verystrongly. But there is also the heat that comes to you when God’s teachingdoesn’t line up with our wisdom. “Youdon’t really believe that, do you?” a friend says, and the heat ison. You may even feel it as your face flushes with anger or embarrassment! Whenthe heat of persecution beats on you because you believe in Jesus and hold toHis words, remember this: our wisdom is often good and has value, but it isonly for this life. Learn from this! Hold to Christ’s words! Only His seed canbear fruit for eternal life.

 Perhapsthe warning that pertains to us the most is when Jesus says, “Otherseeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them.” Howeasily and often in our society do the cares – and joys – of this world and thedeceitfulness of wealth choke the faith of people! Where does the hearing ofChrist’s words and the receiving of them in worship fall on your list of thingsto do? Again, remember: this life and world, and all that is in it, is passingaway. Only the Word of God – and those gladly receive it and hold in faith tothe Savior it proclaims – remain forever. Learnfrom this! Plant Christ’s words deep in your heart, your mind, and your life!

 Andas you do so, be encouraged. Although it is discouraging to hear that so few ofthe seeds Christ sows bear fruit, be encouraged by the devotion of the Sower.Your Savior is very present and hard at work in this world.

Ø Thevery fact that this parable was told by the Son of God with His own mouth; thatGod was among the people as a man, sitting there in a boat and humbly teachingthem, proclaims this. God is not far away! He is always among us to teach usand strengthen us and comfort us.

He continuessowing His powerful seed, the message of His love for us sinners and His redeemingof our lives by His death and resurrection, throughout the world, and will doso until this world ends. His seed has born much fruit, and will continue to doso. For, as surely as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and water theearth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread tothe eater, “so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth,” Godpromises. “It shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which Ipurpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”

 Ithought of this promise the other day when I heard that Islamic militants fromthe ISIS army in Iraq had taken sledgehammers to the tomb of the prophet Jonahin the Nineveh province. So, they think that by doing this they will turnpeople to their god? What fools! How much more clear and powerful do they makethe contrast between the God of Jonah and their god! They seek to conquer andkill and destroy and force people to obey; and all, they believe, at Allah’sbidding. Jonah proclaimed a God who is “gracious and merciful, slow to anger andabounding in steadfast love, and relents from disaster.” (Jonah 4:2) Hebrought this message to Nineveh, to people who were the enemies of God and Hispeople. That seed bore rich fruit. They repented and turned to the Lord, and Godreceived them as His people. To this day Jonah is revered by the people of thatregion, both Christian and Muslim alike.

 “Ithe Lord do not change,” Godsays in Malachi 3:6. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever,” weare told in Hebrews 13:8. Although many things change in our world and ourindividual lives, our Lord has not changed. He remains among us, sowing Hisseed and bringing forth a harvest unto eternal life. Confident of His savingpresence in His saving Word, we confess:

In this Christian ChurchHe daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers. On theLast Day He will raise me and all the dead, and give eternal life to me and allbelievers in Christ. This is most certainly true.

(SmallCatechism, 3rd Article of the Creed)