March 13, 2019 – Sowing Seed, Faith and Good Soil- Mark 4:1-9, 1 Peter 3:14-16

Jesus teaching by the sea

Again he (Jesus) began to teach beside the sea. And a very large crowd gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat in it on the sea, and the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land. And he was teaching them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them:  “Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it.  Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil.  And when the sun rose, it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away. Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.” And he said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” Mark 4:1-9 (ESV)

The apostle Paul teaches us in Romans 10:17: So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. This is the reason why churches do VBS and Sunday School or Kids’ Worship.  This is why we do adult Bible studies and have Catechism for middle schoolers and teens.  How can we have faith in Someone we have never learned about?  Ideally parents will bring their children to the baptismal font as early as possible, for baptism is a means of grace and a tangible proof that God names, claims and chooses us.  In baptism we are given the hunger and thirst to hear and receive God’s word- but we are still in need of someone to teach it, and we need to be brought to hear it.

Not everyone has the advantage of being born to Christian parents or of being brought to the font as an infant. Even so, grace and faith also comes from hearing God’s Word. The only problem for us is we have no way of knowing if the seed we sow in preaching and teaching will fall on good soil or not.  It’s discouraging for parents and teachers when we teach God’s Word and it seems as if we are being ignored or outwardly mocked for teaching what we know is true.  However, Jesus warns us that not every seed we sow will fall on good soil, and that’s to be expected.  Sometimes we will get discouraged by the indifferent or hostile responses of others to the Word of God.

The fact that the seed of good teaching doesn’t always fall on fertile soil does not mean we should be silent, or that we should cherry-pick our audience as if we could know who will hear and believe and who will hear and scoff or ignore. How do we know if the Holy Spirit would use our words and witness to bring another person to saving faith in Jesus?  How do we know if He would work faith in a person by them remembering something we said many years prior?  People are still coming to faith in Jesus by the Holy Spirit-inspired words of the apostles and other human writers of Scripture, thousands of years after they died.  So how can we stay silent even if we know some people aren’t going to be “good soil?” Especially when we know that faith comes by hearing?

There will be people who will openly dispute or mock us when we share God’s Word with them. The apostle Peter tells us what to do when we are confronted or mocked:

But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. 1 Peter 3:14-16 (ESV)

Some of the seed of good teaching will be snatched away before it hits the ground. Some will fall on rocky soil. Some of it will start to grow and then wither away.  But the seed that catches in good soil is worth all the sowing and then some. God promises us that there will be seed that falls on good soil even when most of it might not, and that he will make that harvest very, very good.  In faith, we teach, we explain, we live as best we can, and in faith we trust the Holy Spirit works in and through our lives and witness.

July 17, 2017- So Great a Salvation- Hebrews 2:1-9

sow-seeds

Therefore we must pay greater attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it.  For if the message declared through angels was valid, and every transgression or disobedience received a just penalty, how can we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? It was declared at first through the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard him, while God added his testimony by signs and wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit, distributed according to his will.

 Now God did not subject the coming world, about which we are speaking, to angels.  But someone has testified somewhere, “What are human beings that you are mindful of them, or mortals, that you care for them?

 You have made them for a little while lower than the angels; you have crowned them with glory and honor, subjecting all things under their feet.”

Now in subjecting all things to them, God left nothing outside their control. As it is, we do not yet see everything in subjection to them, but we do see Jesus, who for a little while was made lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. Hebrews 2:1-9 (NRSV)

There is a great debate among Christian thinkers and theologians regarding free will. Some say that we humans have been given free rein over everything, which would negate the truth that God is omnipotent (all powerful) and omniscient (all knowing.)  Others say that God controls us much as we humans would play a game of the Sims, with every breath and every thought and every action preplanned. But God didn’t make us to be robots, and He’s not playing a video game.  The truth is probably somewhere in the middle. Wisdom would probably dictate that there is an element of mystery in that God does allow us to do our own things, and to screw up…to a point.  Suffice to say that God finds ways of using our free will to do His will, even if we don’t quite understand how that works.

As we learned in this week’s sermon text, (Matthew 13:1-9) God sows His word everywhere, lavishly, generously, almost wantonly, everywhere and on everyone.  Yet the word doesn’t always grow where it’s planted. Sometimes we get discouraged when we plant the seeds only to find that they wither and die and don’t grow.  When we get rejected or mocked for being Jesus followers it can be discouraging.  Sometimes life gets us down too and we get discouraged. We wonder, “What’s the use in following Jesus”, when our circumstances can be so awful.  Or sometimes we get so caught up in material things and so obsessed with God’s gifts that we forget the Giver.

Some have made the comparison that our journey as a Jesus follower is more of a marathon than a sprint. It’s a long haul kind of thing. Like any other relationship or achieving any kind of goal, being a Jesus follower requires effort.  God is in control, but He’s not going to do everything for us.  God expects to hear from us- all the time.  He expects dialogue with us.  He wants us to surrender everything to Him, especially those parts of us that aren’t pretty or that need work.  My grandmother once told me, “It’s OK to be angry with God.  Let Him know about it.  He is bigger than your anger.”  Nothing is off-limits between us and God, because God knows us inside and out anyway.  He’s just waiting for us to admit to ourselves what He already knows.

In our culture of instant gratification, it really is countercultural to be a Jesus follower- to wait on God, to follow His rules, and to live according to His expectations. Our culture says, “NOW!” and “Me first!,” while Jesus says, “Wait,” and “Others first.”  It’s not easy to wait.  It’s not easy to put other people before ourselves.  Following Jesus is not always an easy thing to do, but it is worth the effort.  Better yet, He is patient with us, and He forgives us when we fail.  Every day is a new day He gives us to wake up, put on our Baptism as daily wear (to quote Martin Luther) and try again.

Are we the “good soil” on which God’s word can grow and bring forth a good harvest? Are we willing to plant good seeds everywhere, trusting that our work for God’s Kingdom has a good purpose, and that it’s God’s work and God’s harvest?

Keep on planting.