16 July 2023†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††† St. Athanasius Lutheran Church

Pentecost 7††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Vienna, VA

 

Jesu Juva

 

ďAbundant and Joyful SowersĒ

Text: Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23; Isaiah 55:10-13

 

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

 

Last week I told you about the blueberry plants we have growing in our yard. If you werenít able to make it to church last week, youíll have to go listen to that sermon - either in the recording of our livestream on our YouTube channel, or on our church website or blog.

 

This week I want to tell you about another plant in our yard, but this one, one that we did not plant. It just grew by itself. A tomato plant in our front yard. Now, we do plant tomato plants - in the gardens in our backyard. So we were surprised to find this one growing where it was. We think that either a squirrel or a chipmunk picked a tomato off one of the plants we planted in the backyard (Ďcuz they do that!), carried it around front, and after eating what they wanted, left the rest on the ground. And there it stayed - through the Fall and Winter and into the Spring - and then all by itself, it started to grow. And that plant we did not plant, I think produced more tomatoes for us than the ones we did! The seed just grew, and produced an abundant harvest.

 

The parable Jesus told today was about sowing seeds like that. Seeds that are sown that produce an abundant harvest. But this is not a lesson in agriculture. Obviously, the sower in this parable, who is throwing seed all over the place, abundantly, recklessly, carelessly, isnít doing this in the most effective or precise way. Heís just throwing it out and letting the seed do the rest.

 

Now I imagine the farmers who hear this parable have a hard time with it! For them, seed is expensive and valuable. They spend a lot of time selecting the right seed for their conditions, and try not to waste any of it. They try to maximize their return on investment. Like we do with the tomatoes we plant in our backyard. But the sower in the parable doesnít seem to care about that. Heís just throwiní it out - in the field, on the rock, on the path . . . sowing his seed! Sowing.

 

Maybe because he just wants to get the task over with. He doesnít really want to be there, doesnít really want to be doing that, so get it done as fast as he can. We all do that. And then he can go back and tell his master that he did his job. Maybe not the best he could have, but he did it.

 

But thereís another way to look at this as well . . . Maybe the sower is filled with joy! He loves being out there in his field, and, looking forward to the harvest this seed will produce, he just starts throwing it out. Heís happy to be doing so, even though he knows some will not produce. Some will be snatched, and some will be scorched, and some will be choked. But some will produce a harvest, too. And that gives him joy.

 

I think this is something to think about because one thing that we didnít hear today - that was contained in the chunk of verses that were omitted in the Gospel we heard - is that Jesus explains this parable only to His disciples. The great crowds that gathered about Him by the Sea of Galilee all heard the parable, but only to his disciples did Jesus unpack its meaning. Because they were the ones He was going to send out to be sowers. They were the ones who were going to be scattering the seed of His Word, and Jesus wanted them to be joyful, He wanted them to be abundant, and He wanted them to be realistic.

 

Jesus wanted the disciples to know that there would be a harvest. That the words of the prophet Isaiah that we heard today would be fulfilled. That

 

as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
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and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
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giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
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it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
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and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

 

So they should be joyful in their work, knowing that their labor would not be in vain. And they should also be abundant - donít be stingy with the seed, but sow it everywhere! They have an unlimited supply. So throw it out joyfully! And also realize that while there will be a harvest, some will also not produce. Some will be snatched, some will be scorched, and some will be choked. For we live in a sinful and difficult world. A hard and stony world.A world where the evil one is lurking and seeking to snatch the seed whenever and however he can.

 

So donít sow the seed of Godís Word according to some scientific method. So it joyfully, sow it abundantly, and realize that it may produce a harvest in places you donít expect . . . like a rogue tomato plant in my front yard. Godís Word will accomplish the purpose for which God sent it.

 

But this teaching to the disciples should also be applied to us. In this way . . . I think most of us, when we hear this parable, think about it scientifically. We try to figure out what kind of soil we are and how we can make ourselves better soil. How can I keep the weeds out of my life? How can I make my heart a little less rocky? How can I keep satan away? And we try to do those things. And weíre sincere and maybe you try really hard. And it doesnít work, right?

 

Because like those persistent birds I talked about last week, who keep coming back and stealing my blueberries, satan doesnít give up, but keeps coming back. He doesnít care how hard you try! Heíll match your effort and raise you! And he doesnít need sleep or rest, and he doesnít take a break. Heís not going to leave you alone. And no matter how hard you try not to worry, you do. No matter how hard you try to not let the ridicule or persecution of the world get to you, it does. No matter how many hard rocks you try to remove from your heart and life, thereís always more. And note that Jesus was telling this parable in one of the most rocky places on planet earth - they knew you couldnít get rid of all the rocks!

 

The point of this parable - for the disciples then, and for you and me today - is that despite all this, despite all this still there is a harvest! Still there are seeds that are not snatched, are not scorched, and are not choked, and which grow and produce a harvest. In you and your life. In your heart. And thatís not you - thatís the power of the seed, the power of the Word of God, and the Spirit working through that Word. Despite the devil, the world, and your own sinful nature, God is miraculously growing His Word in you. And producing a harvest - 30, 60, or a hundredfold.

 

Now, itís not wrong to try harder to hear the Word and keep the weeds of worry and the heat of persecution and the temptations of the devil from preventing its growth. Thatís good, in fact. But the point of this parable is not what you do or can accomplish, but what the Word does and accomplishes in you. The miraculous work of Jesus and His Spirit in you.

 

And so His Word is joyfully and abundantly sown here - in the Divine Service, in Bible Study, in Catechesis, and in your homes in your own reading and studying and discussion. It is poured on you in Baptism, it is sown into your ears and through your eyes, it is fed into your mouths in the Supper. And while sometimes the devil is right there to snatch it away, and sometimes the cares of life choke it, and sometimes the troubles you are going through scorch it, it also lands on good soil. For youíre not one soil or the other or the other - youíre all of the above.

 

But despite everything in the world and everything in your life, here you are. Which means the Word has done its work and brought you here. The Word is doing its work and working in you. And as you leave this place the Word is producing a harvest of good fruit in your life as you do those things God has given you to do. Good works in your vocations as a father, mother, son, daughter, husband, wife, or worker. Caring, serving, helping, teaching, comforting, and joyfully sowing the Word yourself as you speak to others. And Godís Word works . . . maybe even in places you didnít expect. And maybe that seed sits dormant for a while, for a season or two, and then grows at a time you didnít expect. Thatís on God. Itís His Seed. For the disciples, and for you and I, the instruction is just to sow it abundantly and joyfully.

 

And it will accomplish that for which God sends it. We know because the Seed is Godís Word, and Godís Word was made flesh, and that Word made flesh was once crucified, died, and planted in a tomb of pure rock where nothing can grow. And yet grow it did. On the third day rising from the dead and producing a harvest of souls that, as we hear in the book of Revelation (7:9), is a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages. Thatís what this Word can do, and will do.

 

So if youíve been sitting here today only half-heartedly listening to the Word, thinking about other things, worrying about stuff, being distracted, repent. If you havenít been spending time in the Word during the week, or not trying to live according to the Word, repent of that, too. If the troubles of life have been burning you up, return to your Baptism and let those waters of grace and forgiveness quench those flames. Jesusí forgiveness is here for you, always. And that forgiveness that you then hear, that is spoken to you, is the Seed of the Word as well, sown into your ears and heart, to grow in your life. To give you faith and joy. To produce a harvest in your life.

 

So if you donít see that harvest, what do you do? Get more Seed! More Word. More Jesus! Go to the Word. Come be forgiven, come be fed, come and have Godís Word thrown into you. And rejoice that you have a God and Saviour who so generously, abundantly, lavishly, freely, graciously, and joyfully sows His Seed. For you. And for the life of the world.

 

In the Name of the Father, and of the (+) Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

Now the peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, our Lord. Amen.