February 7, 2020 A+D
Luke 8: 4-15
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The parable of the Sower describes a rather indiscriminate Sower and four different types of soil. Christ tells us that He is the Sower and His Seed is His Word. The types of soil are different types of hearers. All the good gifts of God are abused by the children of this world and the children of God are always a minority. Many are called but few are chosen.
The first group never gives the Word a chance. They reject it out of hand. The devil comes and snatches it away from them. The next two groups are similar. They both believe at first but then give up. Some have no root. They go looking for satisfaction in pleasures of the flesh. Others have their faith choked out by fear for their lives or other losses. The last group is where we want to be. They hear the Word with good and noble hearts. They keep it and bear fruit with patience.
Rather than hearing this as a description of four distinct types of people, we do better to hear recognize ourselves in all of them. We need to face the reality that we have occasionally flirted with the devil. We have rejected preaching because we didn’t like the preacher or because we thought we were too mature and had nothing else to learn, or we were just afraid that God was asking too much of us.
God instituted rest to honor us and our work. It is meant to recreate and restore us through His Word. Humans need rest. Yet we have sometimes acted as though what we needed was entertainment. We have sought luxury, amusement, and pleasure. How many times have we been told by earnest people that they don’t come to church because Sunday is their only day to sleep in? Repent lest the devil snatch the word out of your heart.
Other times we have heard the Word but quickly given it up, pushed it away, so that we might enjoy our sins. We haven’t trust in God to protect the things we wanted protected. We have sinned against our consciences, doing what we knew was evil and hoping to somehow get away with it. This parable is a warning for us. Don’t fool around with the devil and sin. Trust God’s Word. Wait on Him and His promises.
In the Old Testament the Lord declared that only animals that chewed the cud were fit for sacrifices. Johann Gerhard thought was meant to be a reflection of what God wants in His people. He wants us to not only come to Church and read the Bible daily but to ruminate on it in order that we would continue to derive nourishment from it. For man does not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.
You have the Spirit. By God’s grace, He has caused the Word to take root in you. By His Word He hangs on to you, transforming your heart into good and noble soil that keeps His Word, loves His Word, and even grows in patience, and brings in a harvest.
The promise that God has made to you at Baptism is meant for your confidence. You can trust it. God’s Name is upon you. He loves you. But that promise doesn’t eliminate the warning of this parable. You are called upon to be a doer of the Word as well as a hearer, to be holy even as God is Himself holy, to follow Jesus’ example and receive His Word in a good and noble heart. To chew it like a cow chewing cud. Spiritual warfare doesn’t often happen in public arenas with great fanfare. It isn’t even often recorded in heroic tales of Church history. It happens mostly in your heart and mind, often when you are alone or someplace you don’t belong but also while you sit right here in these pews or kneel at this rail and fight to pay attention, to stay alert, to receive what God is giving.
Gerhard has some advice for you. He says the true children of God begin their day with God and with prayer. Do that. Pray in the morning when you wake up and take at least a minute or two to recite a Bible passage or read a bit in the Bible. You might take home our Congregation at Prayer sheets and stick it on your bathroom mirror. The weekly memory work would be a great morning start.
Gerhard says also that the true children of God not only hear the Word of God with devout attention at Church but they deliberately repeat what they heard at Church at home. He says they write it down and rejoice over it, as over a great treasure, thinking of it all week and striving to live according to it.
To you it has been given to know the mystery of the Kingdom of heaven. In this God has not made you slaves but sons. Salvation is passive but faith is not. It is active and living, cooperative and fighting. Fight as one who fights for His King and who has something worth fighting for and know that your reward is not only contentment and peace in your heart here on earth but also a heaven to come.
In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.