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Sermon, July 12
Isaiah 55:10-13 | Psalm 65:[1-8] 9-14
Romans 8:1-11 | Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23
Through the 12th Chapter of Matthew, which we don’t have before us, we are told several stories, particularly concerning the Pharisees and the religious leaders, having conflicts with Jesus and his message. That isn’t too surprising. It flies in the face of the accepted Jewish understanding of God and God’s relationship with humanity. Basically, they reject Jesus and his message. In fact, in Chapter 12, after an argument over healing on the Sabbath, we are told that the Pharisees depart to plot how to kill Jesus – most of us, usually think this comes later in the Gospel story. Things are coming to a head already, and we aren’t even halfway through Matthew’s Gospel. By the end of Chapter 12, even his mother and brothers aren’t sure what to think about Jesus. In light of these events, Jesus tells the Parable of the Sower, which we have today, at the beginning of Chapter 13. It explains why some people have faith, and others don’t, markedly in light of the arguments of Chapter 12. By the way, it is told to the crowds, but notice that it is only explained to the disciples (the ones with faith). It describes 4 basic situations – which pretty well describe reality as I’ve experienced it.
The first situation, the path: It reminds me of seeding along the back yard fence – hard ground, no water, direct sunlight, almost nothing ever sprouts, let alone thrives. The Path is those who hear the Word of God, and don’t understand it. They lack understanding. There are more of those out in the world, in this country, indeed, in this area than many of us suppose. For too long, we, the Church – its leaders and people have assumed that we live in a Christian world/nation/neighborhood. We don’t. Period. That has never been true, ever. Throw that idea completely away. It is, and always has been, a time for Evangelism (that great terrifying word for Lutherans). Evangelism is something which all Christians are called to do. And, it is an ongoing task. For every newborn babe, there is someone who needs to have the Gospel shared with them. That is our task as Church, as disciples of Christ himself, to tell his story, because not all have heard it! That is part of the task. Another important task of the members of the Church, is to explain the message. More than ever, I believe that that is the most important part. I have heard a number of non-believers over the years tell me what they think the Gospel is, and I am astounded by what they tell me. And they usually tell me in anger by the way. They are on the path, and ground underfoot and trampled upon by those who don’t understand. They are usually quelled to calm when I correct them, teach them. We are to be evangelists and teachers.
The second situation is what I call fox hole Christians. They are looking for a place of safety and security, perhaps to hide from the world, to get some personal issues resolved, to get some personal needs met (which is okay). But, they have no root, no Christian background. They want the joy and hope, but lack commitment. They will sprout and endure for a while. But, they are on rocky ground. If Christianity, or their perception of God, does not become the “fix it all” which they feel they need to get their lives in order (usually without any effort on their part – only divine intervention), they fall away. This group tends to be self-seeking, not God-serving. Although we may hope that they will find commitment, and guide them in that direction, to be strengthened in faith through Word and Sacrament, because of that lack of rootedness, this type of faith will wither and fall away.
Third, are those who have every chance to grow in faith, except that they are overwhelmed by the world. They fall among thorns. It reminds me of my garden. The weeds spring up and surround what I planted, and chokes them off. These people can no longer hear God because the cares and desires of the world deafens them to God’s call. It is hard to fight the world when you face it alone. They cannot see the sunlight of God’s love in Christ, because of the darkness of the world. They are suffocated by that which surrounds them and the seed of faith dies of starvation. It’s kind of like the beans that I planted this year. They’re gone.
I would like to add another type to Jesus’ examples that kind of goes along with this type. Looking at the plants in my yard, and what goes on there, I think we should call them the “Squirrelled Christians.” I’ve notice that squirrels are really good at finding flower pots where something has sprouted, and then digging in and tearing up the plants in the pot as they look for walnuts that they buried last year, or thought that they buried in that place. I’ve been told that squirrels only remember about 10% of what they bury. The world and evil can do the same thing to this type of Christian, tear them out by the roots and discard them to the side. My solution would be to kill the squirrels (bushy tailed rat), unfortunately, I live in town and the Police Department said no. However, for a couple of years, my neighbor had a nesting pair of hawks in their tree. That worked, the squirrels didn’t go out much. Especially since the male hawk liked to rest on Colleen’s old swing set. Maybe we need to pray for some more angels to look out over us, or an occasional lightning strike to keep us safe….
Then there is the last type. Everything is right. The soil is good. They are properly nourished in the Church, in Word and Sacrament. They have the strength of a whole community of faith from which to draw upon. Their roots run deeply into the Gospel. These are the disciples who are the heart of the Church. These are the saints whose labor for the Gospel brings a great harvest for our Lord. These are the ones, who no matter how many times they are trampled or cut down by adversity, they still grow. Their faith is even strengthened by the adversity. These disciples are the ones who show us the power of the Word, for it dwells in them bodily. Disciples of this kind strive to always follow the example of Christ and his love, for they know it well. Indeed, faith is even proclaimed through them by the examples of their lives. These always amaze me by their faith, love and commitment to Christ. They are a rich harvest to God’s glory.
May each of us continue to grow in faith. May the Spirit nourish our faith, so that our lives proclaim our Lord Jesus Christ in word and deeds, who sowed our faith and claims us. And may we help to bring forth his harvest in ourselves, and in our examples, and so glorify God our Maker.