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February 18, 2017 A+D
St. Luke 8:4-15
In the Name of the Father and of the X Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
There are two antithetical (or contrary) sowers in this world. After God had created the heavens and the earth and everything in them, after He had created man in His own image with divine righteousness and perfect love for God and neighbor, when man’s heart was perfectly good soil, the devil sowed the seed of doubt and unbelief. It took root and immediately bore the fruits of death. There was now a broken relationship between man and God and between man and woman. Man fell into sin and lost the image of his creator. Sin had caused the heart of man to be at one time hard as rock resistant to the Word of God and susceptible to weeds, thistles, and thorns that sought to choke out any Word that tried to take root. As Luther well puts it, man is now plagued by the devil, the world, and his own sinful flesh. This original sin is passed down from generation to generation, corrupting man’s heart from the womb; for a seed bears fruit according to its kind, and Adam and Eve were now sinners passing pain and death down to every future generation. No one born according to nature is exempt from this death-causing sin. It infects us all.
But immediately after the Fall, God made a promise and became the Sower of another Seed. The Seed of promise that sin’s consequence, eternal damnation, would be paid one day by the woman’s seed who would come to crush the devil, overcome the world, and give new-birth to all flesh. So down through the ages both sowers continued to sow, one the evil sins of false-belief, despair, and other great shame and vice; the other, through prophets and patriarchs, the promise of salvation, restoration, and eternal life. Both sowers faced off when the promise was fulfilled, when the Son of God was born in the flesh. Jesus came to preach the mysteries of the Kingdom of God, the Good News that God loved all people despite the original and ongoing rebellion of sinful man. That’s Jesus’ parables tell us. They give us insight into the heart of God and the nature of His kingdom—of heaven.
Thanks be to God that Jesus himself gives us the key to the Sower parable. It isn’t left to doubt or speculative interpretation. It’s a good thing He told us, because we might mistakenly think that the seeds represented people like they do in the parable of the wheat and tares. However, here in the Sower parable the seed is the Word of God—the Good News of the Kingdom of God (Matt 13:18), what we call the Gospel. The Sower is the messianic, prophetic character preaching the Good News to the poor. The point is that Christ sows the seed with reckless abandon and spreads it everywhere. The Word of God goes out to everyone. No one is left out of the proclamation that God has fulfilled His promise to come into the world to save sinners, that God loves the world. It doesn’t matter whether their hearts are hardened against God, not capable of supporting roots, or whether they are full of weeds or thorns that would choke the seed. The seed is good and it does only what good seed is capable of doing, falling to the ground where the sower sows and growing.
This isn’t a parable about what conditions are best for mission work, what people are most conducive to receiving the Word. It is a parable about the generosity and super-abundance of the Gospel, and a warning to all who hear the Word and either reject it out of hand, or allow the world or the flesh to snuff it out.
The good soil is faith. Faith is the only disposition that receives the Word of the Gospel, holds it fast in an honest and good heart and bears fruit. But here is the Divine irony in this parable. Faith comes by hearing. Hearing transforms the soil and bears a hundredfold. The Seed changes the soil through the ear. “He who has ears, let him keep on hearing” (present participle; Matt. 13:9). The Gospel creates that which is needed to receive it. The sinner is converted and becomes a child of God. The image of the creator which was lost in the Fall is planted again and begins to bloom in sinful man by faith. Christ’s righteousness and His love are planted in the sinner by the Word and begin to bear fruit in love toward God and in love toward neighbor.
Your hearts have been made good soil, despite being born hard as stone and susceptible to every weed and thorn that comes along. You have been converted by the Word. You have been re-created in the waters of Holy Baptism. Your heart of stone has been replaced with a heart of flesh—a heart conducive to receiving the Word. You have been born again into God’s family. The Sower came for you and continues to have His Word sown in your ears. He keeps you in the true faith.
But lest you miss the other side of this parable. It also comes with a two-fold warning. Not all who hear are converted. There are hardened sinners who refuse to believe the promise of salvation. The devil, the world, and sinful flesh trick people into believing lies. And the other warning is for you. You are still in this world. The devil, the world, and your flesh never rest from their attacks on you. Faith can be lost by either apathetic or willful despising of the Word. Temptations are real. Your sins are serious. God does not wink at you when you dishonor your parents and other authorities, hurt or harm your neighbor in his body, indulge your sexual lust, take what does not belong to you, slander or speak ill of your neighbor, or become displeased with what God has given you in the First Article. These are real thistles and thorns in your life seeking to choke your faith. Out of the heart proceed all manner of evil, therefore the heart constantly needs to be rescued from these thorns and vices. This happens when the Law convicts you of your sin either by the Word of God or the word of another person, and you respond in the only Christian way, humble yourself, repent, apologize, seek to do better, and believe that God saves sinners. You are going to sin and make mistakes. You are going to inadvertently or purposefully hurt the people near you. But the Lord provides the way forward through repentance, faith, and restoration.
These things are real to us every day. That’s why the collect for today is so comforting and ought to be prayed from the heart: “O God, the strength of all who put their trust in You, mercifully grant that by Your power we may be defended against all adversity…” Trust is another word for faith. God is the strength of all those who have faith in Him. And in Jesus, He not only defends you from adversity, He also generously grants you forgiveness every time you repent. The Sower parable is about heavenly generosity and the lavish riches of the Kingdom of God granted to you through Christ’s death and resurrection. With God, it’s never about having just enough. It’s always about superabundance, more than you need. When Jesus died on the cross He forgave you all the sins of your past, your present and ones to come. There is no sin that you were either born with or commit yourself that He can’t forgive.
By the Holy Spirit, sowers continue to sow today. Pastors continue to preach in the Messianic, prophetic, and apostolic ministry, calling you by the Gospel, enlightening you with His gifts, sanctifying and keeping you in the true faith. To you it has been given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God. Come now and receive such a mystery in the body and blood of Christ given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.
In Jesus’ X Name. Amen.