Sunday, February 7, 2010

Sexagesima Sunday

The Sower, by Norm Boeckler

Sexagesima Sunday

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson

Bethany Lutheran Church, 10 AM Central Time

The Hymn #190 Christ the Lord 1:52
The Confession of Sins
The Absolution
The Introit p. 16
The Gloria Patri
The Kyrie p. 17
The Gloria in Excelsis
The Salutation and Collect p. 19
The Epistle and Gradual
The Gospel
Glory be to Thee, O Lord!
Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
The Nicene Creed p. 22
The Sermon Hymn # 339 All Hail the Power 1:57

Jesus Extols Faith

The Hymn # 308 Invited 1:63
The Preface p. 24
The Sanctus p. 26
The Lord's Prayer p. 27
The Words of Institution
The Agnus Dei p. 28
The Nunc Dimittis p. 29
The Benediction p. 31
The Hymn #46 On What Has Now Been Sown 1:62

2 Corinthians 11:19 For ye suffer fools gladly, seeing ye yourselves are wise.
20 For ye suffer, if a man bring you into bondage, if a man devour you, if a man take of you, if a man exalt himself, if a man smite you on the face. 21 I speak as concerning reproach, as though we had been weak. Howbeit whereinsoever any is bold, (I speak foolishly,) I am bold also. 22 Are they Hebrews? so am I. Are they Israelites? so am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? so am I. 23 Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool ) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. 24 Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. 25 Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; 26 In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; 27 In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. 28 Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not? 30 If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities. 31 The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is blessed for evermore, knoweth that I lie not. 32 In Damascus the governor under Aretas the king kept the city of the Damascenes with a garrison, desirous to apprehend me: 33 And through a window in a basket was I let down by the wall, and escaped his hands. 12:1 It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord. 2 I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven. 3 And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) 4 How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. 5 Of such an one will I glory: yet of myself I will not glory, but in mine infirmities. 6 For though I would desire to glory, I shall not be a fool; for I will say the truth: but now I forbear, lest any man should think of me above that which he seeth me to be, or that he heareth of me. 7 And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. 8 For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. 9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

KJV Luke 8:4 And when much people were gathered together, and were come to him out of every city, he spake by a parable: 5 A sower went out to sow his seed: and as he sowed, some fell by the way side; and it was trodden down, and the fowls of the air devoured it. 6 And some fell upon a rock; and as soon as it was sprung up, it withered away, because it lacked moisture. 7 And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprang up with it, and choked it. 8 And other fell on good ground, and sprang up, and bare fruit an hundredfold. And when he had said these things, he cried, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. 9 And his disciples asked him, saying, What might this parable be? 10 And he said, Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to others in parables; that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand. 11 Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. 12 Those by the way side are they that hear; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved. 13 They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away. 14 And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection. 15 But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.

Sexagesima Sunday
Lord God, heavenly Father, we thank Thee, that through Thy Son Jesus Christ Thou hast sown Thy holy word among us: We pray that Thou wilt prepare our hearts by Thy Holy Spirit, that we may diligently and reverently hear Thy word, keep it in good hearts, and bring forth fruit with patience; and that we may not incline to sin, but subdue it by Thy power, and in all persecutions comfort ourselves with Thy grace and continual help, through Thy beloved Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

Jesus Extols Faith

In His well known Parable of the Sower, Jesus described what must be done with the Word and praised faith in the recipients of the Gospel Promises.

As gardeners know, some seed is individually planted, because of its nature, while other seed is broadcast. Pumpkin and corn are large seeds, so they are planted individually. Grass, dill, lettuce, and spinach can be tossed where the seeds will be expected to grow.
Some use rye seed for a winter lawn in Phoenix. That is also broadcast.

Broadcasting seed will always means that a fair amount of seed meets an unhappy fate. This parable is relatively clear for those with some experience, but it had the added advantage of being explained by Jesus.

The final result is that we understand
· the need to broadcast, to sow the seed of the Gospel with abandon,
· the reasons for disappointment,
· the final results which give an abundant yield.

This parable extols faith because there is no room for measuring success on man’s part. The parable also encourages faith because God is glorified and the good results do come according to His will.

There are four parts to this parable, which begins in simple, plain words – a sower went out to sow.

5 A sower went out to sow his seed: and as he sowed, some fell by the way side; and it was trodden down, and the fowls of the air devoured it. 6 And some fell upon a rock; and as soon as it was sprung up, it withered away, because it lacked moisture. 7 And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprang up with it, and choked it. 8 And other fell on good ground, and sprang up, and bare fruit an hundredfold.

Here are the four parts, which are not meant to suggest 25% of the seed in each case:
1. Some fell along the path, where the birds ate it.
2. Some fell on a rock, germinated, and withered.
3. Some fell among thorns and was choked by the weeds.
4. Some fell on good soil and grew up, yielding 100-fold.

Three parts deal with the loss of faith. Jesus gives us three causes.

Fell along the path and devoured.
Where people walk, the soil is hardened and becomes relatively infertile. The garden or farming plots were divided by pathways in Jesus’ day, so those pathways would be the places where seed fell and could not germinate. Birds are opportunist and they love human workers. A gardener is going to drop seed to eat or turn over soil and expose bugs and worms.

Birds quickly learn where their extra meals come from. Once I bought garbage bags of popcorn which could not be sold at community function. Soon after we had a heavy snowfall, so every day I took one of the bags out the garage and spread popcorn all over the area where birds liked to roost, among the pine trees and the branches I left on the ground for them. They got so used to daily feasts that they had a chorus of contented bird noises every time I came toward that area with the bag.

Likewise I could hear them talking when I got my shovel out in the spring and started to turn over soil. If I found a white grub in the soil, I put the wiggling white body out on a tree stump for a protein meal. The birds stayed to tend the garden, eating bugs and weed seeds. Starlings prowled the rows each day, often flipping a piece of leaf to get the bug underneath.

This part of the parable addresses those people who have the Word but it does not germinate in their hardened hearts. As Luther wrote about this sermon, these are the great and wise people of the church, the most holy people (by appearances). Mother Theresa is often used as an example of saintliness but she confessed that she never had a moment’s comfort from the Gospel her entire life. The most faithful Roman Catholic does not really hear the Gospel of grace but a system of laws, a series of threats, and the cold comfort of centuries in Purgatory to continue paying for the sins that Christ died to erase.

Seed needs a place to grow, to send down roots for moisture and food. I found canisters of seed in the church in New Ulm. They were so old that they finally died. We poured them on the ground and the animals refused to touch them. An indication of their age was a dead bat residing among the jars. He too must have given up hope after so much neglect.

Likewise, the great theologians of the church are often the same people who use their great learning to destroy faith because the Word has never found a lodging place in their hearts. Birds (Satan in Mark and Matthew) have stolen it away and their work belongs to him.

As Luther said, they have a carnal nature. Their use of the Gospel is to feed their bellies and provide luxury rather than the cross.

The solution is to provide the Law, which is a hammer to pound our hardened hearts, to prepare us to receive the Gospel. Many complain about a blog devoted to attacking apostasy, which is the teaching of the Law. Apostates do not want the First Table of the Law condemning their opinions and hardness of heart. They want to be praised as great saints, as saintly theologians, as pillars of the church. Some want to be identified with the church because it gives their illegal, fraudulent, or criminal activities the patina of righteousness and a gaggle of reverends to defend them. If challenged for poisoning thousands of people with salmonella, or selling them homes that sink into mire, they say, “Look at all the good I have done for Christianity. Tell em Rev. Tell em what I have done of my own free will.” That would be gold-ly contrition rather than godly contrition.

A heretic with millions is a hero, and one with a billion is praised into heaven, before and after his death. But we should always apply each category to ourselves as well. As the season of Lent approaches, we are constantly reminded of the need for repentance, involving both godly contrition and faith in the Gospel Promises.

Some fell on a rock, germinated, and withered.

This may seem wrong, but seed can germinate with moisture alone. On a rock, soil and dust can accumulate, enough to form a paste where seed can start to grow. I had a stump of wood on concrete. Underneath, without any effort, a group of earthworms took up their abode. They had the soil and shelter they needed for their creature comforts.

Seed is alive by nature (God’s Creation, God’s design), so it is always ready to pitch its tent anywhere. Gutters are full of hopeful trees every spring. Cracks in the sidewalk shelter various weeds and even an herb called dandelion (despised for its lust for life).

The Gospel seed never dies but always accomplishes its purpose. It either hardens or converts, blinds or enlightens. It is foolish to say, “I don’t see any effect,” although there is some honesty there. We do not always see the effect, but the effect is there. To say otherwise is a statement against God, blasphemy. His Word is always effective. Offer the Law and the Gospel to false missionaries and they will storm from the house yelling, even using foul language. That is an effect, and God knows how He will use it in time.

One man left the Mormon church for the Christian faith. His wife disowned him and kicked him out. That was an effect. But there was another effect. He left books around the house. She read them and became converted to the Gospel herself. She welcomed him back. His experience was cruel and harsh, but that is the cross. God uses the cross, so that experience became a little book to encourage others.

This part of the parable is about those who begin with a sincere faith in Christ. They know the Gospel in its truth, but they shrivel as soon as persecutions or hardships arise. They become deeply resentful about the Gospel as soon as they reject it.

Some of the great haters of the Christian faith are those people who first believed in the Gospel. I have heard them explain their change, from not having a given prayer answered how and when they wanted, from having a loss in the family.

Some fell among thorns and was choked by the weeds.

Here the Gospel seed was choked by the cares and riches of the world. This is a common problem today. The two-income family has made Sunday more of a recovery time or a replacement for Saturday sports tournaments. As the only totally free morning left in the week, it is the excuse for neglect of the Gospel.

But there are other ways. One can be surrounded by the trappings of religion while working against the Christian faith. J. P. Morgan used his vast wealth to take the Anglican leaders to conferences. Morgan paid for the tickets and went along on the train with the clergy, as a lay leader, taking his mistress.

I have to laugh or marvel when I see the staff of the great mainline denominations in the areas where they have prospered. The president of the Augustana Synod worked out of a roll-top desk in Rock Island. The Bishop of the Northern Illinois district has more staff than an Army general, and he is just as overbearing. Such luxuries have choked the Gospel, not sustained it.

8 And other fell on good ground, and sprang up, and bare fruit an hundredfold…15 But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.

The Word has this great power, the divine power of the Holy Spirit, always at work. Those who hear the Gospel and “hold it fast” [keep it] will bring forth fruit in great abundance.

The abundance comes from God. Those with an honest and good heart recognize the Gospel Promises as the great treasure. They will no more let go of it than a famous donor would let go of a dividend coming to him.

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