Listen To This

Text:  Luke 8:4-15

In the name of Jesus: Amen.

The farmer has to be crazy or maybe reckless, for who in their right mind would take handfuls of seed and liberally scatter them upon hard paths, rocky ground, and thorny earth?  This is wasteful and foolish at best, maybe even insane!  Yet, this is what we hear in our Gospel reading from this morning.  The sower – that is to say, a farmer – goes upon some land and casts seed upon hard paths, rocky ground, thorny earth, and dark soil.  He casts this seed everywhere – big scoops of seed thrown far and wide – without seeming to care where it lands. 

We should be thankful though that this farmer is not selective or stingy when he scatters of the seed.  Yes, we should be thankful that this farmer scatters the seed far and wide, for the seed represents the preaching of the Word of God into the ears, minds, and hearts of mankind.  That is right, the scattering of the seed represents the proclamation of the Word of God and the different types of land represent different hearers of the Word.  Simply stated, right now as I preach, metaphorically seed is being cast out upon you – the land.  Indeed, from hundreds of thousands of pulpits across the globe, seed is being cast onto various types of land and the Word of God is proclaimed.

Considering all of this, we are now confronted with a sobering question to consider.  That question is this, since the Word of God has been cast into ‘your’ ears, ‘your’ hearts, and ‘your’ minds, will it take root or has it taken root?  If it has taken root within you, will it remain to the end? 

Dear friends, the Word of God has been cast upon you.  It has been proclaimed into your ears; you have heard the Word of God from this pulpit and lectern.   However, if we are not careful, this Word will go in one ear and out the other.  Yes, like seeds bouncing off of a hard path, the Word of God can bounce off of us when we are careless, when we daydream, and when we don’t pay attention to it.  In other words, when we are unmindful of the Word of God, the devil comes along like a wicked bird and snatches it away, so that it is not received or remembered by us.  Beware dear friends, Satan – the hellish bird of prey and his despicable cohorts – love to come and snatch the Word of God from inattentive ears, so that we do not believe and are not saved. 

It is most certainly true that there is a danger of you and me carelessly hearing the Word of God, which leads me to ask: has the Word taken root, will the Word take root, and will it remain with you?  Has the devilish bird of prey been devouring seed – the Word of God – that has entered one ear and fallen out of the other ear?

There are other times that the Word of God has been cast upon you from the pulpit and you have heard it, resulting in your faith being strengthened.  However, in this circumstance be mindful that this faith can dry up and die.  Yes, the Gospel-seed is planted in you and me when it is preached; faith is created and grows; however, this faith that is planted in you and me must be tended to – it must be watered.  The Word and Sacraments serve that function though; they are given to you not only to create faith but sustain it as well.  As for all of this, you and I must be watchful, because sufferings and struggles and trials will come.  As they come, they will scorch the faith and we may forget to have this faith watered.  Case and point: tragically, mankind has a way of pulling within himself when trials come; it is easy to pull back and run into hiding when pain comes upon us.  But beware that when the heat of trials come our way, that this faith is watered and sustained, for without the Word and Sacraments faith dies.    

There is a danger of trials and suffering for you and for me, which leads me to ask, has the Word taken root; will the Word take root; will it remain?  Have the heat of trials and the heat of suffering cut you off from the Word and Sacraments?

If it isn’t the hellish bird stealing the Word of God or the lack of water and the heat scorching our faith, then my friends, it is the thorns.  

As it has been stated before, the Word of God has been cast upon you.  It has been proclaimed into your ears; you have heard the Word of God from this pulpit and lectern, but as soon as it is heard be alert, for weeds and thorns will come to choke and strangle your faith.  Like thorns and weeds that choke a growing plant, worries and pleasures of the world attack faith.  Undeniably, this plant of faith cannot grow and be sustained in the thick thorns of unbelief attached to worries about the materials of life.  If you are obsessed by worldly cares and if your sole concern is how high you can climb and how much you can establish your place in this world, faith will be choked out within you. You see, nagging worry, the desire for empty pleasure, and chasing the breath of cultural actually punctures and shreds faith, as well as the body and mind. 

There is a danger with the cares and riches and pleasures of life, for they can choke faith – smothering it into inexistence.  This lead me to ask, has the Word taken root; will the Word take root; will it remain?  Have the thorns and weeds choked your faith?

Dear friends, our parable from today’s Gospel reading is meant to show us that the seed is not only lost when it falls on the beaten path and is eaten up by birds, but that it is also lost when it withers without moisture and dies when it is smothered in unbelief and worry.  Furthermore, the Lord in this parable does not want to show us why some believe and others do not, but wants to deliver us a warning.  That warning is this: do not hear the Word of God in vain.  You, who allow the Word to go into one ear and out the other, listen!  You, who are within trials and risk your faith dying, listen!  You, who spend more time worrying about the checkbook than the Word of God, listen!  Yes, repent!  You, who have ears, listen and hear the Word of God!

Now, it would be easy at this point for you and me to believe that we should try to make our hearts into fertile soil.  We could say to ourselves, “I shall no longer be a harden path; I shall be rid of rocky soil; I shall avoid the thorns.  Yes, I will be that good soil, so that the Word of God can prosper!” 

Dear friends, do not believe this lie that you can make your heart good; do not believe that you can exterminate the pesky birds; do not believe that you can rid yourself of the rocks in your soil; do not believe that you can kill the thorns and weeds!  No, the truth is that when the farmer came to you and me to plant the Gospel-seed, it actually fell on a hard-rock; and where there were not rocks, there were weeds; and where there were not weeds there were birds in the air ready to devour the seed.[1]  However, contrary to what you might think, something profound happened.  You, who have ears, listen!  God’s Word came to your hard-heart.  It came to your ensnared ears.  It came to your dried up mind.  The Gospel-seed was ‘driven’ into you, and no matter how hard and how twisted and how dried up you were, the Word broke through and granted you living faith.    

You, who have ears, listen!  God’s Word is like a mighty plow that comes to you and me.  Through the Law our hard-hearts are ground into a fine powder; the conscious is heated and scorched to fine ash in repentance.  The mighty plow of the Law brings you and me to nothing and as nothing more than poor miserable sinners we shall not despair.  We shall not despair for the Lord does not despise the contrite of heart and He does not despise the broken hearted.    

Dear Baptized Saint, hear this most profound news of the Gospel that is 100% for you.  The Lord does not look for good soil to fall into, but rather, He creates the soil for the Word of God to be planted into - no matter how rocky, no matter how weedy, and no matter how thorny.  Yes, He chose you.  Christ Jesus chose to endure sacrifice rather than endure eternity without you.  He “chose to be devoured by the demons, strangled by the weeds of justice, buried in the earth, that He might have and keep you as His own.”[2]

Furthermore, God did not cast this seed into your ears, hearts, and minds one time and then abandon you.  Heaven’s no!  God – the Holy Spirit – has called and gathered you and me, placed us in this Christian church and promises to keep us with Jesus Christ.  As we are kept in the one true faith in Christ Church we are daily and richly forgiven of all of our sins.  From the church, the seed of the Gospel is generously scattered to you and to me week after week after week, despite the attempts of the devil.  From Christ’s church, we are reminded of our baptism, despite the scorching trials of life.  From Christ’s church, we are given the body and blood of Jesus so that our faith may be strengthened, despite the thorns and weeds of the world.   From Christ’s church we are made into hearers and receivers of God’s gifts until the Last Day when we are raised from the dead and given eternal life.

You, who have ears, you have heard. 

In the name of Jesus: Amen.

[1] Chad L. Bird, Christ Alone: Meditations and Sermons (Chad L. Bird © 2014), 131.
[2] Ibid.

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