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Sexagesima (60 days to Easter)

[Read Luke 8:4-15 - The Parable of the Sower]

Christ, the Seed Planted

The seed is the Word of God. Jesus is the Word of God. The Word of God preached - and the Word of God made Flesh - is planted in you, grows up in you, and accomplishes the purpose for which God sent it to you.

God is a sower, a planter, of seed – a planter of His Word. When the Word of God is preached, your ear receives, and Jesus, God’s Word made Flesh, is planted in you. Jesus accomplishes in you the purpose for which He was sent – your salvation. The Word which is heard becomes the “implanted Word” – “which is able to save your souls.” [James 1:21]

The Word of God that we preach is “Christ Crucified” – “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” [1 Corinthians 2:2]. Jesus, the Word of God made Flesh, was crucified and died on the Cross, once and for all, for all the sins of all the sinners. Fully and for all, by Jesus Crucified on the Cross, sin and sinfulness are atoned for, forgiven.

This Jesus, with His death and resurrection, is the Word implanted in you in Your baptism and in every occasion of hearing the Gospel preached. He is planted in you and is always being planted in you – in you who regularly hear Him preached. So, brothers and sisters, be always here hearing Jesus preached to you so that He is always being planted in you – He is the implanted Word which is able to save your souls.

However, our Lord Jesus Christ, who “desires all men to be saved and to come the knowledge of the truth” [1 Timothy 2:4], tells us a parable today, from our Gospel lesson in Luke chapter eight, about the sometimes heartbreaking reality of what too often happens when the Word of God is preached: Many, many hear yet do not hear. In so many, the Word of God seems to be a failed crop.

In this parable of our Lord, the preaching of the Word of God is compared to a sower, a planter, who goes out planting his seeds. “The seed is the Word of God”, Christ says. As the sower went about planting his seed, “some seed fell along the path and was trampled underfoot, and the birds of the air devoured it.” Jesus says that this is when some hear the Word of God but “then the devil comes and takes away the Word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved.”

This is what’s happening in those who hear the Word, but it seems to be falling on deaf ears – the devil is there, in hearts where he has found an easy home, snatching the Word away. Jesus says these are also men and women by whose feet the Word of God is “trampled underfoot”. These are the bulk of mankind who don’t value the Word, or who see it as useless, and therefore the preaching of the Word only seems to be wasted on them.

Other seed “fell on the rock, and as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture.” Jesus says the seed falling on the rock describes those “who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away.” There are many big-box churches who seem to always be growing and filling their gigantic square buildings – but these churches, in fact, tend to have enormous “turn around” in their membership - Many are flowing in the front door, and just as many out the back.

Conversion to the faith isn’t meant to be a flash in the pan. Faith in Christ is for the long haul – it takes time; it is planted and grows up slow like a newly planted garden; faith in Christ requires soil that is worked on, plowed, fed, and cultivated. Big numbers and big money are impatient and want to sell the Word fast. The true work of the Church is geared toward a lifetime of teaching and learning. The Word taught patiently over time grows deep roots which aren’t so easily pulled.

Still other seed, our Lord tells us, “fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up with it and choked it.” These are “those who hear [the Word], but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature.” Many, many are baptized, taught, go to Sunday school, get confirmed, but then, in perhaps the most critical years of their life – their maturing years – their years of maturing into high-school age, into college age, into family and career age – in these maturing years of life, they allow the Word of God to become overshadowed, not by grave and dark sins, but by life’s ordinary responsibilities and opportunities.

These are those who - when the part-time job comes along - when higher education comes along - when independence with friends comes along - when extracurriculars fall on the weekends - and when career advancements are offered – they choose to stop hearing the Word of God preached. They choose to stop being fed and nourished and cultivated by the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. They choose to stop worshiping God who supplies their daily life. Just as a plant can’t live forever in the shade of another, your faith in Christ will not endure forever when Sunday morning is overshadowed.

God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance [2 Peter 3:9]. This is not a negative or pessimistic parable, but it calls us to repent and to return to the seriousness of the hearing the Word of God preached and taught. Our Lord calls us to repent daily and, daily, to return to the implanted Word.

And our Lord Jesus gives us in this parable the good news of the abundant harvest - “And some seed”, our Lord said, “fell into good soil and grew and yielded a hundredfold.” Even in the face of many losses, we don’t lose heart – the implanted Word will yield its hundredfold harvest.

“Some seed fell into good soil and yielded a hundredfold.” What is “good soil”? “Good soil” does not mean “morally superior” soil. It doesn’t mean “sinless” or even “less sinful” soil. “Good soil” here means “cultivated soil” – soil that is broken up, plowed under, fertilized, and watered by all that God supplies for it – still just dirt, but dirt that has been prepped for planting.

God preps us by His Law. God’s Law breaks up our hardened hearts by revealing to us the real depth of our sinfulness – He dissolves away our more superior opinion of ourselves. God also prepares us with troubles and pains – our heart is plowed open to receive the Gospel planted.

Good, cultivated, planting-soil is plowed, turned over, and watered by a continuous shower of the Word. The hearing of God’s Word is not only the seed but is also the plow, the plant-feed, the Sunshine, and rain shower. Jesus, who is the implanted Word, makes ready a soil-bed for Himself.

“As for that in the good soil,” Jesus said, “they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.” An honest heart is a heart that admits its own condition – a heart that confesses sin. [1 John 1] “If we say we have no sin”, Scripture says, “we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. But if we confess our sins” – an honest heart – “God who is faithful and just will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

A good heart is not a sinless heart, but a sinner’s heart shaped by the Gospel - that is, a heart which knows it has been forgiven and therefore forgives. A heart whose sins have been blotted out by the blood of Christ, and therefore it overlooks the sins and faults of others. The implanted Word grows and matures in this heart which forgives because it has been forgiven.

We “bear fruit with patience”, not despairing or becoming discouraged by our many sins, but trusting in God’s forgiveness for us in Jesus – and understanding all the growing to be God’s work alone.

We live, not by our works or personal holiness, but by a trust in Jesus which takes root. We trust what God has spoken through His prophet Isaiah: “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” [Isaiah 55:10-11]

Through Baptism, through the preaching, through your hearing, and through the Supper – in these many ways – Jesus, the Word of God made Flesh, becomes the Word implanted in you. Jesus in you will accomplish that purpose for which God sent Him. Amen.

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