How many times have you heard this parable?
That doesn’t actually matter, just something to think about. I’m sure you’ve heard it several times. I’m sure it’s been referenced in your hearing several more times, and I’m sure you’ve spent not a couple minutes thinking about it.
But what matters, truly, is not how many times you’ve heard the parable, not whether you remember the details with perfect accuracy. What matters is that God still wants His Word to be preached to all the nations.
To you. To me. To all.
Because the most vital detail in the Parable of the Sower is to realize what grows and how.
There is not growth regardless.
It’s not the case that there’s a living thing either sustained by the Word of God, bearing fruit with patience unto eternal life—or—that living thing, sustained by the world until the devil snatches you away, or until, when tempted, you fall away, or when the cares of life choke the life out of you.
There is not growth regardless.
If we look around and see unbelievers—whether in our own congregation, our own homes, or our own families—we don’t actually see grown things sustained by either the Word or the world.
There is not growth regardless.
Before God made us alive together with Christ, we were dead in our trespasses and sins (cf. Ephesians 2).
That’s how St. Paul wrote it.
That’s how Scripture speaks.
If you’re not alive, together with Christ, a believer, if you’re not alive with Christ, you’re dead in trespasses and sins, an unbeliever.
I’m not breaking new ground when I say that.
If you’re not alive, you’re dead.
If you’re not with Christ, you’re against Him.
So when you’ve heard me say that only Christians do good works, this is what I’ve meant.
What good can a dead thing do?
How can a dead thing choose God?
How could a dead person choose to live?
The gospel lesson this Sunday is from Luke chapter seven—when Jesus raises the widow’s son.
It’s not that the dead man chose to live, it’s that Jesus called him out of death to life.
That’s the way of it.
In today’s parable, there is not growth regardless.
There’s only growth where the Word of God is preached purely—where the seed is scattered indiscriminately. There’s only growth when the Word is heard and held fast in an honest and good heart, bearing fruit with patience.
There’s growth only where and when the Word of God is preached and taught purely and the Sacraments administered rightly.
That’s how it’s always been.
From the Augsburg Confession—the quintessential document and definition of Lutheranism—we confess: “The Church is the congregation of saints in which the Gospel is purely taught and the Sacraments are rightly administered” (AC VII.1).
For five-hundred years, Lutherans have confessed that the Church gathers to hear and receive the Word of God with joy.
For two-thousand years, the Church has known and confessed that Jesus, His Word and reign, is where the Kingdom of God is.
They gathered there until His ascension.
And then they gathered where He promised to be.
And for 6,000 years, give or take, since those six days when God created the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land, and all things—by His Word—since then, it’s been that wherever God speaks, the faithful, there, should gather.
Also from the Augsburg Confession, we confess: “The Mass [the Divine Service] is observed among us in the following manner: On holy days, and at other times when communicants are present, Mass is held and those who desire it are [communed]” (AC XXIV.34).
It is the Church’s responsibility to provide the Mass so that terrified consciences may be comforted.
So that you will fear and love God such that you do not despise preaching, or His Word, but hold it sacred, and gladly hear and learn it.
I have, in the past and recently, believed that this congregation should have but one service, on Sundays, and everyone should get there.
I understand that faithful responsibilities, sometimes, prevent that, and so I’ve tried to be patient.
For two years, I have made it plain that I did not think it was necessary, here and now, to have a Saturday evening service.
I put it first in my report for over a year, I think, that I did not think that service necessary.
But two years of saying that something’s unnecessary—and then doing anyway—has changed me.
I will gladly preach and teach the Word of God to my congregation when and where it’s requested.
Of course, I will.
God scatters the seed of His Word with ludicrous indiscrimination. That is to say, He causes the seed of His Word to be scattered in a way far different than anyone plants a garden or a crop.
We’d all like the church to be like our gardens—clean rows, healthy plants, weeds and awful people burned with fire—or at least set outside the garden.
We don’t plant our gardens like God scatters His Word.
And that’s a good thing.
God still wants His Word preached to all nations—to you and me and all the world, awful people included.
We want church to be that ordered—and we’re free to choose to submit ourselves to that order, that could one day happen.
But until then, as it was spoken to me on one of the last nights I was a seminarian, and as it is written: Thus says the Lord through St. Paul: “I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.
For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry” (2 Timothy 4:1-5).
We know the things that make for peace.
We know that God gives the growth by His Word.
So we gather around it, we hear and sing it, we read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest it, that by patience and comfort of God’s Holy Word we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life which God has given us in our Savior, Jesus Christ.
By the Word of God alone is a dead thing made alive.
Rejoice, then, that God has caused His Word to be preached to you.
Rejoice, that God still scatters His Word indiscriminately, desiring that all should hear and reach repentance.
Rejoice that you hear the Word gladly and hold it fast in a heart redeemed from death by Jesus.
And now, bear fruit with patience.
In Jesus’ name, Amen!
Wednesday of Trinity 15, 2018
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt